Joss Whedon Once Said He ‘Was Raised to Be a Radical Feminist’

Writer-director Joss Whedon received recognition as a feminist for his film and TV work. He became famous for his work on top television shows like DollhouseFireflyBuffy the Vampire Slayer, and its spinoff, Angel. He also directed blockbuster Hollywood films like The AvengersAvengers: Age of Ultron, and the Justice League

Though previously lauded for strong female characters, Whedon became the center of controversy over the last few years. So his claims of being a “radical feminist” juxtapose these accusations of misogyny and toxic behavior in the work environment. 

Joss Whedon deemed himself a ‘radical feminist’

Joss Whedon looks ahead during a 'Dollhouse' panel in 2009.
Joss Whedon at a panel for his show ‘Dollhouse,’ one which was hailed as ‘feminist.’ | Wendy Redfern/Getty Images

In a 2012 interview with IGN, Whedon claimed he was “raised to be a radical feminist.”

“When you’re dealing with feminism you’re dealing with a lot of people who understand feminism better than they understand film,” he told the publication. His problem lies with having an “agenda beyond what the film itself is trying to say.” “Somebody bringing the knee-jerk feminist agenda to a text can be the most aggravating thing in the world,” Whedon added.

The creator produced several projects that earned devoted fans who considered him a feminist. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of course, fit the bill. Fans remained despondent over the end of his short-lived sci-fi series Firefly. And that year made him a Marvel celebrity when the blockbuster hit The Avengers debuted.

Allegations against Whedon contradicted him

In recent years, Whedon became the subject of many ugly accusations from actors who worked with him on these beloved projects and others. And it was a bit of a shock for fans when the allegations began, describing his behavior in recent years as cruel, discriminatory, and misogynistic. 

Actor Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia Chase on both Buffy and Angel, claims he mocked her for her religious beliefs. She alleged Whedon called her “fat,” among other toxic behaviors when she was pregnant, and he fired her. And Carpenter’s co-star Michelle Trachtenberg refers to a rule on the Buffy set where Whedon couldn’t be alone on set with her at any time. 

Justice League actor Ray Fisher was among the first to publicly accuse Whedon of supporting an unprofessional and toxic workplace on the film’s set, leading Warner Brothers to investigate the matter. And his co-star, Gal Gadot, alleged Whedon “threatened [her] career.” 

Whedon’s ex-wife called him out years earlier

The creator responded with a Vulture interview in 2022. He denied the worst of allegations. But in response to the Justice League fans who attacked him online, Whedon called them disingenuous. “They don’t give a f— about feminism,” he said. “I was made a target by my ex-wife, and people exploited that cynically.”

Whedon refers to an open letter published by his ex-wife, Kai Cole, in The Wrap. In it, Cole, who was married to Whedon during his Buffy days, deemed her ex “a hypocrite preaching feminist ideals.” In addition to revealing his multiple affairs, she purports “he used his relationship with [her] as a shield…so no one would question his relationships with other women or scrutinize his writing as anything other than feminist.”

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