The dilemma of losing heroes
Growing up consists of countless moments, but one consequence of it is a sense of disillusionment. Learning that an icon from your childhood retired and that a castle you saw on film was only a façade enlarged through camera tricks are fairly wholesome discoveries. It’s like debunking mysteries that the younger me always wanted to know, but I realized that some disillusionments are not always so lighthearted.
I love films, but I love reading their trivia more—whether it be the behind-the-scenes stories or reviews on them. This includes both good and bad ones, and I will not overlook these controversies. Certainly these aren’t easy reads because when I like a movie, I get emotionally attached to it. Reading something damning about a movie or director that inspires me feels like the universe is trying to tell me to turn away. Recently, it happened again.
Director Joss Whedon was once a hero of mine. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s strong female lead was a sharp turn from the damsel-in-distress trope in early 2000s shows. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s stellar performance as Buffy and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters were only some of the aspects that were rightfully raved by audiences. Fans anchored this success on Whedon because after all, he was the showrunner.
But Whedon has been taking some heat lately. First, a leaked Wonder Woman script he wrote in the early 2000s has been described as misogynistic and inappropriate. Now, an elaborate statement was released by his ex-wife, Kai Cole, detailing alleged affairs during their 15-year marriage. Cole claims that her relationship with Whedon was merely a “shield” to protect his male feminist reputation. These controversies strained Whedon’s feminist and cult hero persona that he has kept for nearly 20 years. Fans have gone so far as to urging Warner Bros. to drop Whedon as the director of the upcoming Batgirl movie.
So why does his personal life matter to the audience? In the age of social media, fans have had the luxury of learning a little bit more about the personal lives of their favorite celebrities, on top of already having an ideal public image of them in their heads. When those two things do not match, it causes a strange dissonance that tends to become reactive and violent.
I can’t say that I’m not disappointed in Whedon, and I don’t blame people who are vocal about wanting him ousted on films. But what irks me about this whole situation is that people snub and boycott films just because the creators are dodgy. I personally believe that what directors, actors, and even celebrities create is separated from them once they hit the screens: Moonlight in Paris (2011) and Woody Allen, Manchester by the Sea (2016) and Lee Chandler. It is up to the audience to decide whether or not they like them.
While I can’t say Whedon is still a hero of mine, I might still see Justice League in theaters, watch reruns of Buffy when it’s on, and talk about The Avengers movies when they come up in conversations. This doesn’t mean I condone what Whedon allegedly did, but I will not let it stop me from rightfully appreciating art and movies that are able to surprise, inspire, and let its audience have a good time.