One of the first thing that all creators learn is to separate the art from the artist. In context, I think it’s totally fine to like someone and separate the art from the artist and still like things that they did. Their actions don’t cancel out the joy that their work brought to people’s lives, even if it may bar them from achieving further mainstream success. Nobody should be told what they can or cannot like, as entertainment and preferences are subjective. In the case of Joss Whedon though, he is most certainty a woke misogynist. What this means is that he he stood for and promoted certain values with his work that he obviously did not personally live by.
Whedon’s star as an entertainer has obviously dimmed because of the spectacular failure of Justice League. With recent accusations from Ray Fisher and Charisma Carpenter, as well as accusations from his wife in 2018 of his numerous affairs on set, it is unlikely that we’ll see Joss Whedon again in any sort of mainstream capacity. His new show, The Nevers, is still going to be on HBO this summer, but he won’t personally be involved.
Still though, I think there is a reflex to say that because of his diminished career prospects that he was ‘cancelled.’ However, it is not a matter of ‘cancel culture’, but a matter of whether the public and producers want to continue to support his work. Certainty, Joss Whedon is a woke misogynist, but his actions are not the reason that he is being denied further work opportunities.
I don’t see it as a matter of ‘cancel culture’ as much as entertainers who hold themselves to a higher ethical standard (by creating feminist/socially conscious content) but not personally living those values. Loud voices on social media don’t themselves lend to ‘cancellation.’ It’s all about the type of controversy that producers and companies will tolerate, and risks they are willing to tolerate to their brand reputation and monetary bottom line. Someone like Whedon, who has largely made YA and Disney-associated content, is inherently going to be held more accountable than someone who makes edgier fare. Nobody has an obligation to employ anyone (that’s capitalism!) so it’s up to the industry to decide if they want to associate with Whedon anymore and produce more of his content. People on social media have no control over this.
Personally, I was never much of a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly. I couldn’t really put my finger on why at the time, but they were just not things I ever enjoyed and I barely watched them. As such, I just don’t have a strong emotional response to how I feel about him. To me though, it’s similar to how I felt about Louis CK and Aziz Ansari in light of their misconduct. Obviously none of them are Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby (they are not legally sentenced to prison for over 20 years!), but I think it is very difficult for a lot of people (including myself) to see someone like Aziz Ansari as the thoughtful feminist creator of Master of None and Modern Romance when his personal actions suggest otherwise.
I think the issue with the Joss Whedon specifically as an entertainer is that he stood for and promoted certain values with his work that he clearly did not believe in, which makes him a woke misogynist. That’s not to say that he was obligated to (again, separating the art from the artist) but I think a lot of people just personally felt betrayed by some of his misbehavior coming to light, especially as many people have felt that Whedon’s work has helped them come into their own identity.
Actors and actresses accusing Joss Whedon of being a woke misogynist not cancelling him. It does not diminish his previous contributions to culture and discourse. Someone can both still like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Avengers, and Firely and have learned values from these pieces of media and also understand that the actions that he took were contradictory to what he meant to his fans.
Despite what our current discourse would have you believe, nothing is a zero-sum game. You can hold contradictory thoughts and not everything needs to be ideological. You’re feelings don’t need to bet set or static on everything. However, when it comes to entertainers and artists, you can like the art and dislike the artist. You can still think Chinatown is one of the greatest films of all time but recognize that Roman Polanski sexually assaulted a 13 year old and deserves to be in prison.
The people who create for you are not your friends. They’re not your peers. They’re not people you interact with in the real world. But they are people that matter — often deeply — to their fans. To rethink Joss Whedon as a woke feminist and hold him to the standards that he himself set is not ‘cancelling’ him.
It’s just recognizing who he is.