It turns out that the guy who joked about raping House Speaker Paul Ryan with a rhino's horn is not that great of a person. If his repertoire of hateful tweets denigrating conservatives with the most vitriolic of language did not already prove that, then maybe the recent revelations of his ex-wife will.
For the record, I don't give a flying spaghetti monster about the skeletons in a celebrity's closet. We all sin, and doing a victory dance over our brethren's dirty laundry is contrary to charity. However, when someone like Whedon projects himself as the model of "male feminism," routinely writing strong female characters, awarded with feminist accolades, and promotes Planned Parenthood as a salvific institution, influencing the minds of young kids, his own hypocrisy suddenly becomes very pertinent.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's dive in to what Joss Whedon's ex-wife, Kai Cole, has to say about The Avengers director's "feminist" ways.
In an exposé piece for The Wrap, Kai Cole depicts a Joss Whedon contrary to the "girl power" persona he projects on Twitter and his interviews. According to Cole — and there's good reason to believe this is not just some disgruntled hit piece — Whedon had multiple affairs over their nearly two decade-long marriage, which he only confessed to Kai toward the end.
Her piece begins by clarifying that she does not wish to cause controversy and lives a private life, but events that were "out of her control" forced her to go public with her accusations, years after the couple's divorce was finalized. It is clear by the tone and message of her piece that she just wishes to clarify the record and warn people that the "male feminist" they hold in such high-esteem is a snake oil salesmen that lied routinely about his affairs and left his wife broken after 16 years of marriage.
I’ve been asked some questions by the press recently about my divorce from Joss Whedon, to whom I was married for 16 years. There is misinformation out there and I feel the best way to clear up the situation is to tell my truth. Let me begin by saying I am a very private person and the act of writing this is antithetical to who I am and everything I stand for. Yet, at the same time, I feel compelled to go on the record and clear up some misperceptions. I don’t think it is fair to me or other women to remain silent any longer.
She then describes their meeting in 1991, when his first Buffy script was adapted into a movie. That project ultimately failed, but after the couple married in 1995, Cole claims she pressed Whedon into turning the same source material into a television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which went on to become a cultural phenomenon in the late 1990s.
But once Whedon tasted success, Cole says, things between them changed.
There were times in our relationship that I was uncomfortable with the attention Joss paid other women. He always had a lot of female friends, but he told me it was because his mother raised him as a feminist, so he just liked women better. He said he admired and respected females, he didn’t lust after them. I believed him and trusted him. On the set of “Buffy,” Joss decided to have his first secret affair.
Whedon, Cole says, confessed to the affairs only after 15 years. After their marriage had ended, he wrote her a letter detailing his double life, ostensibly substantiating Cole's story.
“When I was running ‘Buffy,’ I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women," he wrote. "It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.”
“I would have to lie — or conceal some part of the truth — for the rest of my life.”
His letter stated how he hoped that one affair would be "enough," but it did not cure his ailments. He had multiple affairs, both emotional and physical, with actresses and fans over the years.
“I let myself love you. I stopped worrying about the contradiction. As a guilty man I knew the only way to hide was to act as though I were righteous. And as a husband, I wanted to be with you like we had been. I lived two lives.”
So why did he do it? Why did the prototypical "male feminist" treat his wife like garbage and women like cattle? Like any good social justice warrior, Whedon shifted the blame over to ...
“In many ways I was the HEIGHT of normal, in this culture," he wrote. "We’re taught to be providers and companions and at the same time, to conquer and acquire — specifically sexually — and I was pulling off both!”
Apparently, even his philandering on his wife is indicative of how much society really needs feminism, because, even as a self-described feminist himself, society pressured him to lose control of his baser urges.
Cole, of course, rightly strikes back, pointing out his hypocrisy.
Despite understanding, on some level, that what he was doing was wrong, he never conceded the hypocrisy of being out in the world preaching feminist ideals, while at the same time, taking away my right to make choices for my life and my body based on the truth. He deceived me for 15 years, so he could have everything he wanted. I believed, everyone believed, that he was one of the good guys, committed to fighting for women’s rights, committed to our marriage, and to the women he worked with. But I now see how he used his relationship with me as a shield, both during and after our marriage, so no one would question his relationships with other women or scrutinize his writing as anything other than feminist.
As a "male feminist," Joss Whedon boasted of empowering women through the characters he created, but his ex-wife claims she never felt empowered by him. Like one of his vampires, he sucked her dry, took her confidence, and alienated her from herself.
He made me doubt my own instincts and watched me move further away from my personal values and social mores, trying to connect with him, never telling me it was impossible. By the time he finally confessed the truth, 15 years after his first affair on the set of 'Buffy' I was broken. My brain could not fit my experience of our life together, through the new lens of his deceit.
My entire reality changed overnight, and I went from being a strong, confident woman, to a confused, frightened mess. I was eventually diagnosed with Complex PTSD and for the last five years, I have worked hard to make sense of everything that happened and find my balance again. It has not been easy, because even though in my personal life I have been completely open about what happened, publicly people only know his superficial presentation of us: him as the lovable geek-feminist and me in the background, as his wife and supporter.
Now that they're divorced, she has returned to her passion for architecture and finding her confidence. Her final message is to warn people to stop seeing Joss Whedon as some kind of demi-god.
I want to let women know that he is not who he pretends to be. I want the people who worship him to know he is human, and the organizations giving him awards for his feminist work, to think twice in the future about honoring a man who does not practice what he preaches. But no matter what happens, or how people interpret this statement, I no longer have to carry the burden of Joss’ long-term deceit and confessions. I am free.
The fallout of this shocking revelation Sunday has come swift for Whedon; his fan site "Whedonesque" shut down over the weekend, after 15 years in operation. Whedon himself has stopped Tweeting. His last missive is from Saturday: a Tweet poking fun at the handful of alt-right protesters who gathered for a "free speech rally" in Boston.
A spokesman for Whedon has stated the following: “While this account includes inaccuracies and misrepresentations which can be harmful to their family ... Joss is not commenting, out of concern for his children and out of respect for his ex-wife.”