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Joss: Still Boss

2011 November 2

Last week I discovered that some friends of mine had not seen Joss Whedon’s 2006 Equality Now acceptance speech. As I promptly sent them the youtube link, I remembered how powerful some of the phrases he uses are. For me it’s not about the endless frustrating fixation by reporters on his “Strong Women Characters”, but what Joss says when he pauses to talk about his feelings on sexism:

“Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We NEED it to stand on this earth as men and women.”

A quote typeset in black on a teal blue background, like a motivational poster. It is from a journalist asking Joss Whedon why he writes Strong Female Characters. Joss replies "Because you're still asking me that question".

Whedon in response to every journalist who has ever spoken to him. (Source: The Wellington Young Feminists Collective)

We NEED equality. That’s an incredible statement. It’s those capital letters which impress me – ignore that it’s a now-rich white guy saying it and look at the passion in those words. He’s saying that equality is not optional. It’s not something for only people with too much luxury and free time to turn their attention to.

And he makes it clear that this belief comes from his parents teaching him that the rights and respect we should give to ‘people’ don’t only apply to straight, white, cis males who behave in approved ways. It certainly doesn’t immediately stop applying to 51% of the human race – all other human beings get those rights as well. Why is this concept so revolutionary after all this time? Why are we having to campaign to stop homosexuality still being illegal in so much of the Commonwealth, for a start?

I certainly feel equality as something we ‘need’. I’m unable to hold my head up as a man while my country treats people in all the bigoted, ingrained ways it still does. It seems blindingly obvious to me, but in my case didn’t come from sentiments in the home growing up, or from the attitudes of my parents (who keep surprising me with how socially conservative they are). Yet the UK is far ahead of many others: I’m visiting Belgrade (the capital of Serbia) right now and the government recently decided not to allow a Gay Pride march because they wouldn’t be able to protect the marchers from massive violence. At least they’re not one of the countries handing out prison sentences, or death sentences.

Making a statement that I feel personally affected by inequality against groups I’m not technically part of is usually the point at which I’m told I’m not allowed to have an opinion – that I just have ‘White Middle-class Guilt’ for example. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that guilt as long as it leads to campaigning and action instead of the typical corresponding middle-class ‘slacktivism’. The idea that those outside of the group in question shouldn’t feel strongly about an issue would mean that straight people can’t be against homophobia – it’s ridiculous. And Whedon says so:

The misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who is confronted with it.

The imbalance affects him, and everyone else. Equality isn’t something to be sorted out after we tackle the other issues of society, it’s not an optional nice-to-have on top of the cake, it’s an urgent and real NEED which affects the whole population.

Whether or not you think Whedon succeeds in promoting gender equality in his movies and TV, that speech is still stunning. Every time I post the link new friends find it for the first time and are awed, and others feel the need to pass it on once again. Five years later and it still needs saying, so (almost exactly a year after that first BadRep post I made on it) I wanted to quickly share it in case we have even one or two of you who will see it fresh and feel inspired.

In less feminist-focused recent Joss news, he’s just filmed a version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in 12 days with a lot of his friends, which means people like Amy Acker (Angel‘s Fred) and Alexis Denisof (Wesley) as the lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Nathan Fillion and Fran Kranz are in there too. Oh, and he didn’t tell the press until shooting was finished, when it got ‘casually’ mentioned on Twitter. I’ve been a fanboy of his work for a while now and still can’t watch those two leads in the last season of Angel without blubbing, so the chance to see them in romantic roles is exciting.1 Also, he’s formed his own studio to make micro-films, and has a supernatural romance called In Your Eyes already planned. And then there’s his horror-comedy “Cabin in the Woods” starring the guy who played Thor and Whedon peeps Fran Kranz, Tom Lenk and Amy Acker again, which was actually completed years ago but will be released by the now-bankrupt MGM in April 2012. But you knew that already.

  1. For an extra frisson of excitement there’s the mystery of whether Joss can actually stand for characters to be happy, or whether he’ll just re-write Shakespeare and kill them all. You never know. []
One Response leave one →
  1. November 4, 2011

    For the record, Joss Whedon is most definitely not my boss.

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