A deeper look into Joss Whedon
Is screenwriter Joss Whedon, the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Firefly," "Angel," and others, delivering a consistent political narrative, or just making observations on today's society?
That theme surrounded a discussion Monday led by Dr. Joseph Foy, assistant professor of political science and law at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Foy was joined by colleagues from UW-Waukesha, Dr. Lisa Hager, assistant professor of English, and Dr. Dean Kowalski, associate professor of philosophy.
"Whedon's work has been labeled as liberal, as libertarian, as feminist, as progressive, as radical and as reactionary," Foy said. "Some of these things are incompatible with each other. If Whedon was projecting all of these, then he is really not offering us any kind of consistent political narrative, he's just throwing it all out there and making observations."
However, Foy argues, that is not what is occurring. Researchers and fans alike, he says, pick out elements of Whedon's work and then try to extrapolate an entire political theory.
Foy sees a common thread. When the individual is displaced, that is somehow evil. Whedon creates characters that work to prevent the creation of a society where the individual loses his or her moral autonomy and loses their sense of self.
"He creates, then, these heroic figures, these super-heroic figures in some cases or rebellious figures in the case of Captain Malcolm Reynolds [Firefly], who are struggling to recapture individualism," Foy said. "To recapture the self and to liberate a society so that all people can enjoy that kind of moral autonomy."
Kowalski is co-editor of the book "The Philosophy of Joss Whedon." He also wrote the introduction and one chapter. Hager is a scholar of Victorian literature and has an interest in steampunk, a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, and alternate history.