Practice What You Preach: The Implications of Joss Whedon’s Hypocrisy

Over the weekend, Hollywood news site The Wrap published a piece penned by Kai Cole. Cole was married to writer/producer/director Joss Whedon, whose Male Feminist persona has earned him dozens of accolades. In her piece for The Wrap, Cole states that during the course of their marriage, Whedon cheated on her repeatedly with “actresses, co-workers, fans and friends”, which he confessed to her after their marriage ended.

Then later, after he confessed everything, he told me, “I let myself love you. I stopped worrying about the contradiction. As a guilty man I knew the only way to hide was to act as though I were righteous. And as a husband, I wanted to be with you like we had been. I lived two lives.” When he walked out of our marriage, and was trying to make “things seem less bewildering” to help me understand how he could have lied to me for so long, he said, “In many ways I was the HEIGHT of normal, in this culture. We’re taught to be providers and companions and at the same time, to conquer and acquire — specifically sexually — and I was pulling off both!” — Kai Cole for The Wrap

The essay is damning. It points out a level of hypocrisy that should seem unfathomable, but mostly doesn’t come as a surprise. Joss Whedon has been criticized for years for his treatment of the Strong Female Characters he claims to love. He’s notorious for dragging women through the mud, writing sexual assault plots, and forcing them into sexist subplots. Remember Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron? Remember Buffy and Spike in That Episode in season six? Or Dollhouse? Or that super sexist Wonder Woman script he wrote in 2006?

Joss Whedon has been demonstrating for years exactly the kind of man he is. Purporting feminism as The Cause and then never bothering to move beyond that Cool Badass Chick stereotype from the 90s isn’t progressivism. It isn’t good. And plenty of people have sounded off about Whedon’s garbage for years.

Kai Cole adding her voice to the narrative is just especially noticeable. That isn’t to say that it isn’t brave — it is. Cole’s essay is sharp, poignant, and to the point. It delivers paragraph after paragraph of genuine horror as she recounts how she has tried to reconcile her experience of her marriage with the truth. She said in The Wrap that she and Whedon were together for 20 years, and she encouraged him to develop Buffy for television. Cole helped Whedon launch his massively successful career, and for her trouble, he slept with whomever he wanted. He lied about it. 

What’s that saying? “Practice what you preach”? Apparently Whedon missed that lesson.

And now he’s slated to direct DC’s Batgirl. He’s taken over Justice League from Zack Snyder (following a family tragedy) and is supposedly re-shooting the movie’s ending. He’s everywhere, as always, but the cries for his removal from these projects is getting louder now. Whedon has always given off an aura of a man who can’t be touched, who can’t be criticized, who can’t be condemned. He’s a Male Feminist! He created Buffy Summers!

But alas, he couldn’t keep it in his pants. And there’s the rub.

Following the publication of Cole’s essay, long-running fansite and blog Whedonesque has closed its doors. It seems everyone is finally turning their backs on Joss Whedon, and for good reason. For emphasis: Kai Cole is incredibly brave. It’s appropriate that her essay has jeopardized Whedon’s career, since her pushing is what launched it in the first place. Take the power back, etc.

Now can we please find a better director for Batgirl?

Samantha Pearson is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager residing in southern New England with her partner and three cats. She likes Shakespeare, space babes, bikes, and dismantling the patriarchy. She also loves vegan food. Her work currently appears on Rogues Portal, SheKnows, Shakespeare & Punk, and The Tempest. For more, follow her on Twitter!

Samantha Pearson

Samantha Pearson is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager residing in southern New England with her partner and three cats. She likes Shakespeare, space babes, bikes, and dismantling the patriarchy. She also loves vegan food. Her work currently appears on Rogues Portal, SheKnows, Shakespeare & Punk, and The Tempest. For more, follow her on Twitter!

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