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based on a true story | by maryann johanson

curated: Joss Whedon’s leaked Wonder Women script is sexist as hell

Assuming it’s the real thing, of course.


posted in:
talent buzz
  • RogerBW

    Yeah, Whedon does love his damaged women and emotionally incompetent men. I quite enjoyed Firefly, but I’m glad it didn’t get dragged out into years of self-indulgence.

  • Bluejay

    It occurs to me that Whedon will have a chance to do some Wonder Woman storytelling since he’s taken over Zack Snyder’s duties for Justice League. I understand that this script (if real) was merely a draft and is several years old; but if Whedon comes anywhere near treating Diana the way she’s treated in this script, I swear I am going to Break Things.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    There’s another good Twitter thread from a writer out there about the dangers of judging early drafts, how writers fall easily into tropes and cliches when they’re just trying to get the story onto the paper.

    Another Tweet from a different writer points out that scripts like this make a lot of money for uncredited script doctors like Carrie Fisher.

    Also, the recent explosion of Twitter threads has me yelling, “Jesus, people, get a blog.” at my computer screen with increasing frequency.

  • Tyler

    Whedon invented Buffy to break from the cliche of the helpless woman in horror/slasher movies. Yet he throws out all that hip self aware creativity and lapses back into the same tropes that he avoided to make his early career successes. Maybe the script was written on a bender of a weekend when his mind was scrambled. Personally I’ve felt Whedon is overrated as a script writer.

  • Tonio Kruger

    For some reason, the computer I normally use is having trouble linking to that Daily Dot article you mention.

    However, it’s hard to imagine even Joss Whedon at his worst writing anything worse than this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWiiXs2uU1k

  • RogerBW

    And the 2011 unaired pilot with Adrianne Palicki was, er. Oh dear.

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  • I think the real problem is that people expected a lot better from Whedon, even if/when he’s just noodling around. I mean, many writers would not fall into certain tropes and cliches even in their first drafts.

  • I hope we should be able to expect more from someone writing in the 21st century than we would have in 1967!

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    We expect that because we’re familiar with Whedon’s final product(s). And Whedon has never batted 1.000 on issues of gender (or race: https://xkcd.com/561/ panel 2) in his work. That was my original takeaway when this thing broke: “I’m shocked, shocked, to find that Joss Whedon wrote a bad script. Lucky for him this one didn’t get produced.”
    So what is the purpose of this analysis? To say, “Sexism is so entrenched in our culture even Joss Whedon falls into it”? To say, “See? Joss Whedon is a misogynist hack!”? Something else? And who are those writers? And how do their processes differ from Whedon’s, who has demonstrated at least some ability to avoid sexist tropes?

  • Danielm80

    I was reading this essay recently:

    https://mybrainmadethis.tumblr.com/post/143813350679/this-is-the-cast-of-the-hit-tv-comedy-Brooklyn

    It is precisely because the show features multiple examples of each of these demographics that they escape stereotyping. If you see one Latina woman who exhibits aggressive traits, you might think that all Latina women have anger management problems. If you see two Latina women, though, and one is aggressive and the other isn’t, you would not reach that conclusion. It would be impossible for someone to watch an episode of Brooklyn Nine Nine and come away thinking “ah yes, now I know what all Latina women are like” or “ah yes, now I know what all black men are like”.

    It is fine not to approve of tokenism in fiction. It’s fine! Including a character purely to check that character’s ethnicity or gender or disability or sexuality off of a checklist can be terrible writing. Token characters can perpetuate negative stereotypes, or even help to create new ones.

    But, if you don’t like token characters, the answer isn’t less diversity.

    It’s more.

    When there are only a small number of visible feminists working in Hollywood, they tend to draw a lot of attention. They get a lot of scrutiny from people on all sides of the issues. For example, people might say: How come the most visible feminist is a guy?

    As soon as studios start hiring hundreds of feminist filmmakers and making films with a wide variety of female characters in leading roles, then, maybe, no one filmmaker, and no one character, will get this level of scrutiny.

    Hollywood has only been around for a hundred years or so, so it should happen any minute now.

  • Bluejay

    That link is an excellent essay on Brooklyn Nine Nine, which is a damn fine show. I would say the show’s writing is even better than that: not only does having more than one character per demographic avoid the “burden of representation,” but the individual characters avoid stereotyping as well. Rosa is not just “the angry Latina,” and Captain Holt is not just “the strict boss,” as the show continues to reveal different aspects to their personalities.

    But back to the topic: It’s interesting to see how defensive Whedon’s, er, defenders are. Yes, he’s generally progressive, and a feminist ally; yes, he has flaws (as we all do). Yes, this is a decade-old draft that never got made. Yes, there’s a chance that the continued writing/editing/filmmaking process could have weeded out the sexism. But look, it’s rare that scripts, even draft scripts, get leaked to the public; and now that it’s here and we see it, is it not WORTH pointing out its sexism? If sexism is revealed in the process, isn’t it worth calling it out, even if it isn’t the final product? Isn’t this how we all become aware, as a culture, of how to write women better, and how NOT to write them? If the end result of all this is that future writers of women’s stories now have the Whedon script as an example of what NOT to do, then it will have been a useful discussion.

  • bronxbee

    OH FFS — if it’s a decade old, perhaps he himself realized his writing needed to evolve and so we got Buffy and Doll House and Firefly… do we assume that something a decade old is what he would have written today????

  • RogerBW

    Well, two of those have badly broken women as major characters. Whedon likes badly broken women.

  • Bluejay

    do we assume that something a decade old is what he would have written today????

    Is anyone saying that? That is SO not the point of my comment. But the script IS sexist, and it’s fair to point out the sexism in it, as an object lesson to future writers – probably including Whedon, who has hopefully learned and grown since then. (Though as RogerBW notes, it’s worth noting that there are still problems with his female characters.) Let’s see how he does with Wonder Woman in Justice League, and with the Batgirl movie after that.

  • Bluejay

    “Badly broken” is certainly a storytelling option (though not the only one) for Batgirl, given the source material. Let’s see if he takes that route.

  • Danielm80

    Buffy premiered in 1997. Firefly premiered in 2002. The lesson, if he really wrote this script, is not that he’s evolved but that he’s human.

  • To say, “Sexism is so entrenched in our culture even Joss Whedon falls into it”?

    You think there’s no value in that? There are people who deny that sexism even exists!

  • Yes, this is a decade-old draft that never got made.

    A draft written *after* all the things that got his feminist cred.

    Yes, there’s a chance that the continued writing/editing/filmmaking process could have weeded out the sexism.

    Knowing Hollywood, unlikely.

  • But he wrote this AFTER the things (like Buffy) that earned him feminist cred.

  • Bluejay

    There are several lessons, I think. One is that he’s human. Two is that no one, not even a Champion of Feminism, should be declared exempt from scrutiny and criticism. Three is that, even when you’re trying to write (and direct) strong or nuanced female characters, the Male Gaze can still be a problem if you’re not alert for it. (What is the much-loved “I’ll be in my bunk” quote from Firefly all about? It’s taken from a scene in which a man ogles and is aroused by two women about to make out with each other – much as Diana’s implied bisexuality merely serves as a turn-on to Steve at the end of the script.)

    And really, I think the Whedon script is getting increased scrutiny because we can now compare it with an alternative; the script and the WW film together comment on and illuminate each other. What does it look like when a woman’s perspective is given priority, instead of the perspective of the male characters around her? Well, it looks a lot like Patty Jenkins’ movie.

  • Danielm80

    This particular script is such a mess that—if it’s real*—I suspect Joss would have insisted on rewriting it before it got made into a film. That doesn’t mean, of course, that he would have been aware of all his blind spots. He has lots of blind spots, as do we all.

    *Years ago, a fan asked him a question about the Wonder Woman script, and he said: I didn’t know I wrote a script. I wrote a treatment.

    I’m wondering if this very rushed-looking document is that treatment.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Now that I had the chance to read the article…
    Yes, it’s safe to say that effort is not likely to be counted among Whedon’s best work though I think the argument against it would have been a lot stronger had it not relied so much on the old “writer has evil characters say evil things so writer must be evil too” trope.

    That said, I’m hoping that the movie lives up to its hype and that Whedon learns something from it.

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