There is a downright FUGLY drama currently unfolding on entertainment sites, gossip blogs and social media involving (former?) male feminist icon, nerd scion and one of my favorite writers of all time, Joss Whedon.
The creator of some of science fiction’s most fully-formed female characters – Buffy Summers, Echo, Zoe Washburne, etc. – has been outed by his ex-wife, Kai Cole, in an essay on The Wrap as an alleged “Hypocrite Preaching Feminist Ideals” for confessing to having several extramarital affairs throughout their 16 year marriage:
There were times in our relationship that I was uncomfortable with the attention Joss paid other women. He always had a lot of female friends, but he told me it was because his mother raised him as a feminist, so he just liked women better. He said he admired and respected females, he didn’t lust after them. I believed him and trusted him. On the set of Buffy, Joss decided to have his first secret affair.
But, according to Cole, it was not his last:
Fifteen years later, when he was done with our marriage and finally ready to tell the truth, he wrote me, ‘When I was running Buffy, I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.’ But he did touch it. He said he understood, ‘I would have to lie — or conceal some part of the truth — for the rest of my life,’ but he did it anyway, hoping that first affair, ‘would be ENOUGH, that THEN we could move on and outlast it.’… Joss admitted that for the next decade and a half, he hid multiple affairs and a number of inappropriate emotional ones that he had with his actresses, co-workers, fans and friends, while he stayed married to me.
Of course, as it is wont to, the Twitter-verse made up its collective mind:
“Obvs we only have KC’s account here, but a) Whedon’s personal response is NOT encouraging, and b) it fits a lot of other unpleasant rumors.”
– Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
“Also Joss fired Charisma Carpenter from Angel for getting pregnant sooo …”
– Molly Lambert
“I am not surprised. Personally, every man I’ve met who is a loud and proud feminist tends to be trash.”
“Reading this felt like a sick Mad Lib where you could replace ‘Joss Whedon’ with the names of various people I know.”
– Wikipedia Brown
Yes, it’s bad; especially in a society that tends to put its artists on pedestals, forgetting that they are flesh and blood humans with just as many (if not more) character flaws than us normies. Fans (especially the female variety) do have an absolute right to take their entertainment dollars anywhere that’s not under a marquee that says, “Written and Directed by Joss Whedon.”
But is this really surprising?
There’s a reason why marriages between people with fame or money or power or all three rarely last without a “just don’t embarrass me by ending up on the cover of People Magazine” clause built into the prenup.
It works for Dolly and Carl.
When no one ever says the word “no” to you, eventually you start to believe that consequences are for other people. Add being separated from your significant other for weeks or months at a time to the mix and eventually almost everyone will cave in to the temptation.
And it’s not just people in the “Whedon-tier” of fame and above:
As pro wrestling legend Jake “The Snake” Roberts said in the documentary Beyond The Mat:
The road really screwed up my sex life at home, man. You go on the road and get some type of fame or whatever … All of the sudden you can have it everyday. But then all of the sudden you want to get selective and … Then all of the sudden you … one a day’s not enough so, then you do two a day, then three a day … then two at a time … then two at a time with toys. Then two at a time I’ll just watch … then it just gets more bizarre and more bizarre. And it finally gets to the point that when you go home and try to make love to your wife … ain’t no way … ain’t no way because the mental stimulation is not there. And that’s bad … that’s bad.
Seriously, if Jake Roberts needed a deli-counter ticket dispenser to maintain a civilized order while throngs of willing groupies waited their turn each day, it’s a wonder that Whedon wrote anything ever!
I’m not going defend the man or his actions; if Cole’s account is true, he’s a selfish prick and not the plucky hero we’ve all fooled ourselves into believing him to be. But that doesn’t make his work any less enjoyable to me. He still gave us those iconic, heroic female characters, amazingly gripping stories, dialogue exchanges for the ages and he single-handedly made the color brown a staple at comic-cons around the world. I can not respect that man but still respect his accomplishments.
(And, yes, I do see the irony of my compartmentalizing of his compartmentalization.)
Besides, there are plenty of hypocrites working in Hollywood. And DC. And at the office, food truck, factory, school, hospital, etc. where you work.
Especially when it comes infidelity.
Tony Marion is a writer and filmmaker who splits time between Lancaster, PA and Baltimore, MD. He lives for the work of Descendents (the band), Chuck Palahniuk and Rian Johnson. Check out the digital embodiment of procrastination he calls his website here.