Hi, my name is Shana, and I'm a former Whedonite.
Don't get me wrong, I still love Buffy and Angel, his runs on The Runaways and Astonishing X-men comics, and I do still love Firefly. It's just not quite like it uused to be. Fandoms have changed. I have changed. I went to Dragon*Con once almost ten years ago and my true "fandom community" moment was waiting outside the Firefly themed dance party. When we had to wait, the entire line of 100+ Browncoats sat and sang the theme song. Of course, it was a few too many times and woefully off-key but that was the joy of it. That's still the joy of being a Whedonite. The Whedonverse is vast and has various sundry geek-uttantes that have reached various levels of notoriety. Even not so famous actors can still be featured in videos, like Whedon's newly produced political ad against Orange-Zombie-Hitler, and draw squeals from those loyal Whedonites who know all appearances of all Whedonverse actors anywhere.
What made me stop loving Whedon?
I started to expect more. Now that he's moved onto working on Marvel movies and finding the happiest medium for large superhero-loving audiences, Whedon's older work has remained popular. Hubs of fandom like Tumblr show the ongoing love Browncoats hold for Firefly. As time goes by, the fandom becomes more blind in its loyalty and while much of its audience is aging into questioning certain Whedon-tropes there's enough room for the subtle MRAs to find affirmation in older texts. What do I mean? To really talk about that, I have to start identifying the Whedon-tropes that have left me questioning him.
1. The Not-my-Father/Not-your-Daughter Relationship
Whether it's the lack of variety in her (all-cis-het-white-male) guardians that Buffy has between her movie, television, and comics series; or the questionably appropriate relationship between Simon and River on Firefly, Whedon's "strong young female" characters are almost always reliant upon an older male "father" figure to achieve their goals. They're there in "Dollhouse," sometimes in the body of a woman. While it's clear that Whedon wants to empower his women, it's generally to make them more complicated objects of the male gaze. Reminiscent of Lolita and Dd/lg BDSM relationships, the list of problems that make this relationship dynamic problematic are as long as the reasons why people enjoy watching it. And most likely the same list.
2. Say What Now?
Part of what Whedon's writing style assumes is that you're along for the ride. It's not to say that this is always a bad thing but it rarely holds up to more rigorous criticism. It makes in-jokes with its fans and relies heavily on references to current pop culture, which has the devisive effect of splitting the audience base. If you don't like one thing Whedon dooes, it's not likely you'll like his other work. His style is as familiar and imitated as more stylized and critically praised filmmakers like Wes Anderson or Tarantino. Whedon, who is a third generation Hollywood writer, feels like a Hollywood writer. Maybe that will be an essay of its own someday. Either way, Whedon's style hasn't been forced to grow. He's tackled several mediums of entertainment and been successful on a huge scale. However, I'd argue that he's still writing at about the same level about the same stuff, with the same kind of general point of view.At the end of the day, if he isn't still learning and growing then I'm really not interested in hearing more of what he has to say.
3. Always a Browncoat, Never a Reaver
As the MRAs and other aggressively anti- groups tend to pervert all that is good, it's easy to find Firefly fans that don't seem to like it for the "right reasons." We'll all disagree on what those reason are to some degree but, if you're ready to be critical, there is not way to look at a show from this distance without a "Make America(n Television) Great Again," detachment from intersectionality. I still love Firefly for what it meant to me when I was first watching it with my mom. Those fans who still wear Browncoat gear almost begin to feel like they're wearing some skins from the past. The fonts are outdated and the tenor behind the loyalty is often tinged with aggression for the time when Mal was considered an apex of manliness. Browncoats are becoming MRAs and trolls and, like all sub-genre of geeks, becoming the very Reaver assholes we flee to fandom to escape.
There's something to be said for fandom that interferes with the enjoyment of a text. Fandoms now have followers that give them reputations among the larger mixed fandom communities for treating each other badly. They seem to guard their fan properties with such zeal that people come to form opinions about texts that are negative for the sake of wanting to distance yourself from that "type" of person.
I'm not blaming Whedon for how politics trickle down into geek communities but the Whedon fan communities no longer felt as welcoming as they had that night at Dragon Con.
I love Firefly. I love it without much defense or consideration and that's why it was never meant to be something that I defended in a podcast. That's why it probably never should have been a podcast I did with someone who was not an already dyed in the wool Browncoat. I'm looking forward to starting again with Jessica
and look forward to hearing her point of view on all things Whedon. Most of all, I'm looking forward to discussing the emotional nostalgia and sentiment that I associate so strongly with these characters. I may have outgrown them but I can still appreciate what they have meant to me over the years.
Don't worry about Daniel, he's got a dozen other podcasts to worry about.
I may not love Whedon enough to defend him against his detractors but I look forward to chatting with someone else whose coat is still a little brown after all these years.
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