Joss Whedon

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Name: Joss Whedon
Also Known As: Joss or Whedon
Writer, director
executive producer, creator, showrunner, writer, director, cameo actor, diva
Medium: Film, Television, Comic
Works: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly/Serenity, Astonishing X-Men, Runaways, Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse, The Avengers Movieverse (MCU), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Much Ado About Nothing, Justice League (2017)
Official Website(s): Occasionally blogs at Whedonesque
Fan Website(s):
On Fanlore: Related pages

Creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly/Serenity (known in various combinations as the Buffyverse or Jossverse.)

Was recently (in 2020s) favored with his directing of The Avengers film, leading him direct involvement with its sequel as well as the TV spin-off series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..

Has an unusually friendly relationship with fandom and is one of a handful of creators who had more or less his own fandom, not just fans of individual shows, as demonstrated by the instant success of his made-for-the-internet film, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and the number of fans who followed him into comics fandom when he began writing Astonishing X-Men.

Whedon and the Fandom


Many phrases from Whedon's shows have become common in some fannish circles, such as I'll be in my bunk or referring to a specific canon as a "Verse"; also, the phenomenon of having one's fannish theories or fanon invalidated by new canon has become known as "being Jossed."

The first WriterCon, in 2004, was explicitly focused on the works of Joss Whedon.

Similarities in Style, Themes Across All Works

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Notable Interactions With Fans

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Opinion(s) on Record about Fandom, Fanfic, Etc.

Whedon is on record as being pro-fanfiction and other creative works; in one interview, he said

"That's why I made these shows. I didn't make them so that people would enjoy them and forget them; I made them so they would never be able to shake them. It’s the way I am as a fan. I create the shows that would make me do that."[1]

In another interview he answered the question: Do you share William Shatner's opinion of the most ardent fans that they need to get a life?

Whedon's reply:

"I have never had any particular life of my own, so I don't see any particular reason why anyone should run out to get one. Of course, if they're dressing up like Willow and staying in their basement for nine months at a time, that's not good. But the show's designed to foster slavish devotion; it has it from me, and I entirely respect it in others." [2]

Notable Fanworks

Controversies and Criticisms


Whedon gained a reputation as a feminist during his years doing Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not only was the show centered around a kickass heroine, but she also had a variety of female friends and foes. Meanwhile, many academics have analyzed the show from a feminist perspective, covering the show's treatment of gender roles, female empowerment, and other potentially feminist aspects.[3] However, both academics and fans have pointed out that Buffy fails at intersectionality, its emphasis being white middle class feminism.[4] Some fans have increasingly begun to question Whedon's feminism; Dollhouse was the breaking point for several of Whedon's supporters.

A fan in 2006 said:

Joss Whedon, you're not as feminist as you think you are. Fandom, stop forgiving everything he does/writes because he created Buffy. Buffy is not a get out of jail free card. [5]

People who are not long-time fans of Whedon criticize his other work like Buffy and Firefly too, often finding the female characters more failed attempts at kickass heroines than actual kickass heroines. In 2009, Daniel Hemmens, writing for FerretBrain comments:

Basically, Joss Whedon's portrayal of women tallies almost perfectly with the phenomenon known generally on the internet as Nice Guy Syndrome.

Just to clarify, the term “Nice Guy Syndrome” has two essentially contrary meanings (check out the Urban Dictionary Entry. Its first use is the perceived phenomenon whereby women date “jerks” because they're stupid/insecure/oppressed by the patriarchy/have Stockholm Syndrome when they should really be dating “nice guys” like – well – whichever guy is using the phrase. The second meaning of the phrase is the phenomenon of creepy, insecure guys who can't get a date because of the messed up way they treat women (usually by pretending they want to be “friends” with women they actually want to sleep with) who ascribe their lack of sexual conquests to their being “too nice”.[6]

From a fan in 2010:

Also, for all that he likes talking about writing girls, lately, he's not even pretending to give a preference to them. Can fandom please stop talking about how awesomely feminist and how supremely women-positive and women-focused he is now? [7]

From a fan in 2015:

They took away Natasha. She wasn’t a person anymore. She was a rubber stamp, a label marked LOVER, or maybe GIRL WAITING FOR GENTLE SAVIOR WHO IS THE ONE AND ONLY MAN WHO KNOWS THE REAL HER. She wasn’t a person anymore. She was a plot filler.

Marvel meant so much to me. All the time their characters taught me new things: how to be brave, how to hang in there, how to be a better person.

And I can’t help but think that what they just taught me was, “It doesn’t matter who I am, one day I will be just WIFE or MOTHER or something else, and that’s it for me.” And it’s not just because I’m a woman, but because this was my HERO, and they reduced her to so little. But she’s not supposed to be that way.[8]

Instead of wading into the “red ledger” of a complicated person who did seriously heinous acts and is trying desperately to buy redemption with good deeds, we get the character who feels ruined by her barren womb. And even worse, the movie tries to fix it by infantilizing another character into her big baby. [9]

The backlash regarding Age of Ultron caused him to delete his Twitter in 2015.[10]

Whedon worked on Justice League (2017) as a writer and director of additional scenes for the remake following director Zack Snyder's departure from the project. A lot of criticism has been leveled at this version, especially after the release of the Snyder Cut in 2020, with frame-by-frame comparisons and denunciations of male gaze and hypersexualization of women - in this case Wonder Woman by Gal Gadot.[11]

Misogyny and the "Mewling Quim"

Whedon has been criticized for his treatment of Natasha Romanov in The Avengers Movieverse. One of these offenses is when Loki refers to Natasha as a "mewling quim", which is an antiquated term for "cunt"; Whedon said in an interview that this line was his "greatest achievement." [12]

Further Reading: "Mewling Quim"

Racism, Xenophobia and Whitewashing

In 2008, fandom discussions around race and appropriation, inspired essays critiquing Whedon's work. Origin Stories was a widely circulated vid at the time, examining and reframing the narratives of POC in Buffy. Although Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a beloved series, it didn't age well in its treatment of non-white characters. Thuvia Ptarth who had commissioned the vid, commented that,

Part of it is coming out of discussions of race and fandom and how the community deadbrowalking was named for Robin Wood -- because all the fans of color expected him to bite in s7, because the black guy always bites it. And Robin doesn't, and that's great, but he still seems to be kind of neglected in fandom, and a bit on the show, despite the potential for more. And I think the neglect is related to race and also to the way Buffy/Spike took over the show.[13]

In the same year Lierdumoa's vid How Much Is That Geisha In the Window? deconstructed Joss's series Firefly to highlight the over sexualized, fetishized and stereotypical representations of Asian actors. Although the series was heavily influenced by Asian, particularly Chinese culture, only one Asian character had a speaking role. Responding to a comment, Lierdumoa wrote,

And still I feel like there's so much I didn't get to say, about the treatment of black people, of women, of settlers vs. the reavers as an incredibly offensive metaphor for "cowboys vs. injuns," right down to Simon calling them "savages" in the pilot episode.

But, well, pick your battles. [14]

In 2015, the release of Age of Ultron reignited this discussion with many fans using #WhedonAndRace to express their displeasure with BtVS, Angel, Firefly and Agents of Shield. There were further complaints about the depiction of Pietro and Wanda Maximoff in Age of Ultron. In comics canon, they are ethnically Romani and Jewish, but the movie retconned their canon heritage, making the siblings citizens of a fictional country, Sokovia. Many fans were unhappy with the erasure of their ethnicity. [15]

Just process for that a minute — Joss retconned the Maximoffs into being white, non-Jewish, and willing volunteers for a Nazi organization. Joss has whitewashed before (iE, Firefly) but to make two canonically Jewish-Romani characters be volunteers for a Nazi organization has just went too far. To add insult to injury: Magneto and Magda (their parents) are Holocaust survivors. Joss made the children of Holocaust survivors be willing volunteers of Nazi organization.[16]

Joss attributed his decision to leave social media in 2015 to abuse he received from "militant feminists" following the release of Age of Ultron. However there is evidence in tweets aimed at Joss, that he also received abuse from people unhappy with his depiction of the Maximoff twins.[17]

His participation in Justice League (2017) was the target of harsh criticism, due to many of his racist actions and speeches, among them the animosity towards the actor Ray Fisher, who is African-American, who Whedon said would not be necessary at all to be in the film. Something inconceivable since he played Victor Stone, better known as Cyborg vital character to the film's plot.


Feminist Liana Kerzner has criticized Whedon for his lack of plus-sized female characters. Overall, he's been accused of fetishizing skinny women as feminist powerhouses (Buffy, River).

Further Reading and Meta Essay


  1. ^ Television's afterlife, 22 May 2004
  2. ^ from an interview (pre-2001) in "Science Fiction Weekly"
  3. ^ For examples, see the online Slayage journal, some essays in Fighting the Forces (ed. Wilcox and Lavery), and Reading the Vampire Slayer (ed. Roz Kaveney).
  4. ^ simplytoska, February 2014 Tumblr post
  5. ^ Vicious Wishes' Fandom Corner -- 12 Festivus Fannish Grievances (And so I'm a day late, but it's Festivus!), Archived version (December 2006)
  6. ^ I, Whedon on FerretBrain. Posted February 23, 2009. (Accessed September 23, 2010.)
  7. ^ Most Developed Character on Buffy: On Joss Whedon's Wisdom (Accessed Sept. 7, 2010)
  8. ^ realityjustisntenough, Why I feel betrayed by Marvel, April 30, 2015
  9. ^, Black Widow: This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things, 5 May 2015
  10. ^, Joss Whedon Didn’t Leave Twitter Because Feminism, But He Sure Has a Lot to Say About It, May 6, 2015
  11. ^ The Male Gaze of Zack Snyder’s "Justice League" by Bryana Fern
  12. ^ The link to the original interview is defunct: "RDA: What do you feel is the greatest achievement of “the Avoiders”?" -- "JW: Getting “mewling quim” out there to the masses. Also, Hulk."
  13. ^ Three origin stories, Thuvia ptarth's Livejournal, March 2nd 2008, accessed September 14th 2018.
  14. ^ Lierdumoa's response to comment, August 26th 2008, accessed September 14th 2018.
  15. ^ Luanna255 explains how Age of Ultron whitewashed Maximoffs, Tumblr post, 2015, accessed September 14th 2018.
  16. ^ BarbaraLance explains why they're not a big fan of Joss, Tumblr post, 2015, accessed September 14th 2018.
  17. ^ Joss Whedon quits twitter again article on, May 04, 2015, accessed September 14th 2018.

Related Links
People Alan MooreEric KripkeNeil GaimanTerry PratchettMoffat
Places Deadbrowalking: the people of color deathwatchWhedonesque
Things Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along BlogHow Much Is That Geisha In the Window?Slayage: The Journal of Whedon StudiesThe Rape of Inara: On heroines, consent, and women’s sexuality