Sitting Down with Deborah Stanish of Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Sitting Down with Deborah Stanish of Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them
Interviewer:
Interviewee: Deborah Stanish
Date(s): April 27, 2017
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Jossverse
External Links: Sitting Down with Deborah Stanish of Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them; archive link
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Sitting Down with Deborah Stanish of Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them is an interview with a Jossverse focus.

It was conducted by, and posted to, Legendary Women, Inc., an organization devoted to promoting the empowerment of women, both in the media and in their everyday lives and endeavors.

"We were fortunate not only to have a prize given to us from Deborah Stanish of this compendium of Whedon fan essays but also to sit down with her to talk about her fandom experiences, what's good and bad about the Jossverse, and why there's always, despite its flaws, things to love about the universes of Joss Whedon."

Excerpts

Gotta ask, what exactly does the term "Whedonista" mean and how did you settle on it?

Since this book was part of the same line as Mad Norwegian Press’ Chicks Dig Time Lords we were challenged with finding a title that was slightly less creepy than Chicks Dig Joss which a) yuck and b) that’s like saying “kids like candy”, obvious and not at all witty. Lynne actually lit upon Whedonistas as being amusing, identifiably female while also being recognizable to the fan base.

Ms. Stanish, you mentioned in the book's opening how foreign it was or how you were nervous being at your first fan convention. How did you first get into the works of Joss Whedon and what prompted you to get to meeting "internet people" in person?

I actually came to Whedon’s work through Angel. I’d heard of BtVS sort of late in the game and since I hate starting things in the middle I was determined to not make the same mistake with Angel. Of course, Buffy is woven through Season 1 of Angel so before I knew it I was peeking at Season Four of BtVS and finding myself drawn in to that universe. Then I discovered box sets and it was all over.

As for meeting “internet people,” BtVS/Angel was my first online fandom and I was astonished at the depth of intellectual discussion surrounding these shows. I eventually joined the online discussion and became part of a community, connecting with people on a level I never could have anticipated. Meeting them in person seemed a natural progression even though, of course, everyone on the internet was an axe-murdering scammer (I actually had an older relative tell me this!). When the opportunity finally arose thanks to a small, local con I felt compelled to make that final connection.

What's your favorite fandom experience with "those internet people"?

Writercon 2004. This was a convention whose origin story started at a traditional sci-fi/fantasy convention. A group of women who had met online discovered that the best part of that weekend was the time spent by the pool discussing the shows, the meta and the fanfic surrounding BtVS and Angel. So they got together and created their own convention which was held in Las Vegas in July 2004. Over 300 fans from across the globe descended onto the tackiest casino/convention center in all of Las Vegas and spent three days reveling in academic discussions, fanfic seminars and roundtable workshops based on the works of Joss Whedon. The Guest of Honor was Jane Espenson who was hailed as a rock star. Although I wasn’t a fanfic writer I knew that some of my favorite fannish people would be in attendance and, despite being 32 weeks pregnant, I caught a plane for my first big convention. It was amazing.

What does being a feminist fan of Whedon's work mean to you all?

It means loving something that isn’t perfect. Rejoicing in characters that astonish you and frustrate you. And, at some point, realizing that for all of Joss Whedon’s brilliance in writing female characters, all of his sympathy and good intentions (and they are legion) he is still a man who can never entirely shed his privilege backpack. But the fact that he is trying puts him miles ahead of a majority of creators.

What do you honestly think can be problematic with Whedon's works from a feminist perspective? For example, many fans in Buffy season six were angry at the dead-evil lesbian cliché portrayed onscreen.

As I said above, he may be enlightened but he’s still a man and he’s not always going to get it right. And may not even understand why it’s not right. I was not a fan of Dollhouse and struggled with Penny’s fate in Dr. Horrible but for every Penny you get a Zoe so it sort of evens out. Do I wish we didn’t have stories that fell back on problematic tropes? Absolutely. But Whedon’s track record has more in the positive column than negative so I can only hope that his work continues to grow and that other writers look at characters like Buffy and Zoe and even Darla and take that strength even farther.

References