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26 March 2008 @ 11:06 am
A public response from a Female Browncoat  
Some of you may be aware of the post made by _allecto_ in which the poster tries to make the case for Joss Whedon being (in the words of the OP) a 'Rapist' and uses examples of dialogue and character treatment in Firefly as 'proof'.

http://users.livejournal.com/_allecto_/34718.html is where this post can be found.

Since the user is busily deleting every comment that does not agree with her point of view, I'll respond here. (I've copied and pasted in those parts of the original post I want to address in italics.)

I find much of Joss Whedon’s work to be heavily influenced by pornography, and pornographic humour.

Welcome to the world of popular culture. Pornography, erotica, pornographic humour, is/are the basis of popular culture and has been since human beings developed leisure time. American popular television is just the latest in a long line.

The first scene opens in a war with Mal and Zoë. Zoë runs around calling Mal ‘sir’ and taking orders off him. I roll my eyes. Not a good start.

The first scene opens with Mal in command of the unit and Zoë as his second in command. This is a military environment, he is a superior officer; no subordinate would call him anything that 'Sir' unless they were looking to be the subject of a court martial.

The next scene is set in the present. Mal, Jayne, and Zoë are floating about in space. They come into some danger. Mal gets all panicky.

Zoë says, “This ship's been derelict for months. Why would they –”

Mal replies, (in Chinese) “Shut up.”

So in the very second scene of the very first episode, an episode written and directed by the great feminist Joss, a white man tells a black woman to ‘shut up’ for no apparent reason. And she does shut up. And she continues to call him sir. And takes his orders, even when they are dumb orders, for the rest of the series.

In that scene, they are operating an illegal salvage operation and are talking through the communication mikes built into their suits. They are being approached by an Alliance spaceship which has communications equipment on board and as such could conceivably pick up on the communications. Mal is still in command, he tells her to be quiet, she follows his order, and they avoid detection by the ship. Explain to me how that is a "dumb" order?

The next scene we meet Kaylee, the ship’s mechanic. <- Lookee, lookee, feminist empowerment. In this scene Mal and Jayne are stowing away the cargo they just stole. Kaylee is chatting to them, happily. Jayne asks Mal to get Kaylee to stop being so cheerful. Mal replies, “Sometimes you just wanna duct tape her mouth and dump her in the hold for a month.” Yes, that is an exact quote, “Sometimes you just wanna DUCT TAPE HER MOUTH and DUMP HER IN THE HOLD FOR A MONTH.” Kaylee responds by grinning and giving Mal a kiss on the cheek and saying, “I love my Captain.”

What the fuck is this feminist man trying to say about women here? A black woman calling a white man ‘sir’. A white male captain who abuses and silences his female crew, with no consequences. The women are HAPPY to be abused. They enjoy it. What does this say about women, Joss? What does this say about you? Do you tell your wife to shut up? Do you threaten to duct tape her mouth? Lock her in the bedroom? Is this funny to you, Joss? Because it sure as fuck ain’t funny to me.

Now I'll grant you that in black and white the dialogue does not look good. However, Jayne is presented physically here as a bumbling idiot who thinks with his muscles and Mal's inflection and body language clearly indicate that this is a banter that is shared between Kaylee and himself out of mutual respect. Kaylee's reaction conveys that she knows Mal is an idiot and she makes it clear through her actions that she knows it is banter and she is capable of being just as abusive (to use the OP's terminology). (I could go on to talk about how the banter between the two is turned on its head in episodes like Shindig, but I'm trying to stick to answering the OP's points.)

As to the second paragraph here, devolving into personal insults of a man the OP has never met and using such abusive language is not an appropriate way to present an argument. It' is, however, an appropriate way to bring oneself to the attention of entertainment lawyers who will easily make a case for a lawsuit for libel and defamation of character.

The OP goes on to remark on the scripted directions for the introduction of Inara's character (who we first see in the show mid-coitus) and then goes on to say:

But there is one really big question that does not get answered. The women who ‘choose’ to be ‘Companions’ are shown as being intelligent, accomplished, educated, well-respected and presumably from good families. If a woman had all of these qualities and opportunities then why the fuck would she ‘choose’ to be a man’s fuck toy? Would being a fuck toy for hundreds of men give a woman like Inara personal fulfillment? Job satisfaction? A sense of purpose? Fulfill her dreams? Ambitions?

Money doesn’t seem to be the motivation behind Inara’s ‘choice’ to be a ‘Companion’, presumably she just ‘enjoys’ swanning around in ridiculous outfits. And being used as a fuck toy by men is seemingly a small price to pay for the pleasure.

The role of 'Companion' in the Firefly "'verse" is not equated with prostitution in the current climate. Inara is not a call girl, a hooker, a whore, and definitely not a "fuck toy". It is clearly presented a complex life choice in which the Companion is in control of her own decisions and (as shown in Shindig and Heart of Gold) grants the (apparently entirely female) Companions a huge element of control over society. (Nobles can be scorned and knocked down a peg by being blacklisted by the Guild).

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Joss uses his own wife in this way. Expects her to clean up his emotional messes. Expects her to be there, eternally supportive, eternally subservient and grateful to him in all his manly glory. I hope the money is worth it, Mrs. Whedon. But somehow I doubt that it is. No amount of money can buy back wasted emotional resources.

Aside from women being fuck toys, property and punching bags for the men, the women have very little importance in the series. I counted the amount of times women talk in the episode Serenity compared to the amount of times men talk. The result was unsurprising. Men: 458 Women: 175. So throughout the first episode men talk more than two and a half times as much as women do. And women talk mainly in questions whereas men talk in statements. Basically, this means that men direct the action and are active participants whereas women are merely observers and facilitators.

Again - this argument does not merely verge on libellous - it is libellous. The OP shows no signs of being acquainted with Joss Whedon or Kai Cole and yet seems to be content to say that "beyond a shadow of a doubt" Kai is the victim of spousal abuse. Again, any potentially interesting discussion is shattered by personal bigotry and prejudice on the part of the OP.

The OP goes on to discuss the violent tendencies of the male characters in the show and states that "Completely unnecessary and unprovoked violence is a spontaneous result of this hypermasculinised male character." The examples given are taken out of context and as such are difficult for me to identify, however I do not remember any such 'unprovoked' violence on the show amongst the principal characters as described by the OP.

Zoë, the token black woman, acts as a legitimiser. Her role is to support Mal’s manly obsession with himself by encouraging him, calling him ‘sir’, and even starting the fights for him. Zoë is treated as a piece of meat by both her husband (Wash, another white male) and the Captain. Wash and Mal fight each other for Zoë's attention and admiration, both relying on her submission to them to get them hard and manly. In fact there is a whole episode, War Stories, devoted to Wash and Mal’s ‘rivalry’. By the word rivalry, I mean violent, homoerotic male/male courtship conducted over the body of a woman.

It is at this point that the question arises as to whether the OP has in fact seen the show or has simply read the scripts. Going on the script alone, yes there is apparent rivalry between the two men. However, on screen, it is clearly shown that Zoë not only takes the lead in all aspects of her marriage with Wash, but also that she finds the very thought of any contest in which she would be the 'prize' laughable. The OP seems to be trying to say that through this rivalry (which does not in fact appear in any serious manner in the show other than in Wash's worries) that Zoë is being objectified.

In fact the reverse is true, Zoë blatantly objectifies and subjugates Wash. "I need this man to tear my clothes off" is not said because she is being the good little wife who bends to her husbands every will, it's said (and acted upon by Zoë grabbing Wash's collar and leading him away) because she wants sex. To imply that Zoë is anything other than an empowered woman acting in a hierarchy that she has joined by choice is ludicrous to anyone who has actually watched the show.

The OP, of course, disagrees with this: Zoë, of course, is meant to be our empowered, ass-kicking sidechick. Like all sidechicks she is objectified from the get go. Her husband, Wash, talking about how he likes to watch her bathe. Let me just say now that I have never personally known of a healthy relationship between a white man and a woman of colour. I have known a black woman whose white husband would strangle and bash her while her young children watched. My white grandfather liked black women because they were ‘exotic’, and he did not, could not treat women, especially women of colour, like human beings. I grew up watching my great aunts, my aunty and my mother all treated like shit by their white husbands, the men they loved. So you will forgive me for believing that the character, Wash, is a rapist and an abuser, particularly considering that he treats Zoë like an object and possession.

Leaving aside the personal aspect of the OP's family history, since I do not know the OP and therefore cannot comment, I would like to point out that expecting the reader will 'forgive' the writer for believing Wash to be "a rapist and an abuser" is not something one would accept in a public post such as this without some form of evidence presented other than personal experience of mixed-race relationships.

I am in no way trying to dictate what the OP can or cannot say, however the libellous comments concerning Joss Whedon and Kai Cole are unforgivable. The OP is more than welcome to her opinions, however the basis of any free society is the concept of debate. By deleting or screening the comments of people she does not agree with, the OP is essentially holding a Kangaroo Court in which those who support her viewpoint shout down those who do not.

For the record, I am an educated woman. I am currently not in a relationship. I have (thankfully) never been the victim of spousal abuse (or the like). I am a strong empowered woman who firmly believes in the power of choice.

And I'm a proud Browncoat.

Edited to add ladybug218 has replied to the OP in an eloquent manner which tries to address the issue. As of right now (12:20 GMT 26th March 2008) the comment is screened. ladybug218 has reproduced her comment on her own journal.
Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated
the girl who used to dance on fire and brimstone: serenity - bastardsnowwhiskyinmind on March 26th, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC)
I must admit, I'll be interesting to see her take on River's characterisation throughout the show - and, if she continues, in the film.

The OP seems to have missed the point I made in conversation this morning (which I didn't include in this post because I was sticking to talking about the episodes/events the OP brought up): the male characters in Firefly are generally shown as ineffectual, bumbling, prone to mistakes. The female characters tend to be shown as settled, confident, accomplished in their chosen role.

River is a fascinating paradox though, and it would be good to engage in debate about that. Unfortunately, given the OP's rejection of debate, I don't think it will happen in this particular arena.

Edited at 2008-03-26 12:27 pm (UTC)
none of the abovefrogfarm on March 27th, 2008 01:59 am (UTC)