Sometimes it is brutally obvious that it is a terrible thing to mix culture and politics. Joss Whedon is a poster-child for cultural depoliticking.
Politics ruins everything, including as we just found, Mothers’ Day. The irony of ironies was probably found in the “pro-mother” social media pronouncements from Planned Parenthood and NARAL. Yeah, no further comment necessary.
There was one tweeted Mothers’ Day pronouncement from one self-identified member of the progressive side that really made me sad (language warning):
Today I gratefully give my mother the gift of having been dead for 25 years and not having to see what a tub of fuckery our country's become
— Joss Whedon (@joss) May 14, 2017
Why does that make me sad?
I’m a fan.
Yes everyone, grab your pitchforks and torches and come chasing after little ol’ me for daring to like what a progressive entertainer produces. I’m not going to throw everything Mr. Whedon has produced in the trash because of his politics, delight in his despair, and dance on his misery.
I’m sad because throwing everything he’s produced in the trash because of politics is exactly what he just did.
Twenty-five years since Joss Whedon lost his mother, taking us back to 1992.
Joss Whedon’s first screenwriting credit, the film Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was released on July 31, 1992. While his mother probably knew that her child had gotten to write a motion picture for a Hollywood studio, she probably never got to see it on the screen.
What else has she missed?
- In 1995, Whedon was credited as a screenwriter for Toy Story, the full-length computer-animated film that launched Pixar into our cultural consciousness.
- From 1997 through 2003, the television version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ran for 145 episodes, and launched the careers of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alyson Hannigan.
- Buffy’s TV spinoff, Angel, ran from 1999-2004 and 111 episodes.
- Whedon’s Firefly only got to show five episodes in 2002-2003 before it was cancelled, but amassed such a following that a feature film, 2005’s Serenity, was produced, and boosted the careers of Nathan Fillion, Morena Baccarin, and (gasp!) even a conservative: Adam Baldwin. Firefly/Serenity are also brilliant examples of unintended (based on Whedon’s own political statements) libertarian culture.
It gets worse.
- In April of 2010, Whedon was hired by Marvel Studios to write and direct The Avengers. The film premiered at Hollywood’s El Capitan Theatre on April 11, 2012 and went on to gross $1.519 billion worldwide, making it presently the fifth all-time grossing movie, without correcting for inflation.
- Whedon also wrote and directed the sequel for Marvel, 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was quite the follow-up: $1.405 billion in box office take and currently the seventh all-time grossing movie.
Set aside Joss Whedon’s politics. Set aside whether you’ve ever enjoyed any of his television or film products or not. Can you possibly be happy that his mother didn’t get to see his incredible success?
I can’t, and I won’t. I’m a parent, and there’s next to nothing that brings me greater joy than delighting in my children’s achievements, no matter how great or insignificant they may be.
Our culture is so politically poisoned that one of the most successful visual media producers of our time can’t separate his political worldview from his accomplishments which stand completely separate from politics. Joss Whedon writes off his and his mother’s loss in under 140 characters, simply because someone he doesn’t like is in the White House.
The rest of us are poisoned because we’re pilloried if we dare enjoy things that don’t stay on one side of a political “do not cross” line. “Only enjoy ‘conservative’ entertainment,” we’re told – even though entertainment that sets out to satisfy a political agenda generally falls flat on its face, regardless of the agenda being pushed. It works the other way too: lord forbid a progressive should take the slightest bit of enjoyment
Joss Whedon is successful because he’s a great storyteller, not politics. Our culture is better because he’s contributed to it, and his contributions can’t be lessened by who is or isn’t in political office, or whether you, me, or anyone else agrees or disagrees with his political positions. The Avengers didn’t rake $1.5 billion because he’s a liberal, and it didn’t fail to earn more because conservatives disagree with him politically.
If we’re going to be practical in our politics, if we’re going to reach people and change some thinking, we’ve got to stop casting everything in political contexts. Politics first means you surrender at least half of the available ears before you speak a word.
Here’s the kicker: if you truly believe in things like limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise, don’t sweat the culture and entertainers’ non-entertainment agendas. Heed Thomas Jefferson’s words in our Declaration of Independence:
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…
Remember what I said about the “accidental libertarianism” of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity? “Self-evident” truths and “unalienable Rights” can’t be hidden by any political agenda. Trust they will show through, because they always will.
No need to brickbat people with what are clear cultural examples in favor of liberty. Focus on what you enjoy and let the messages come through on their own.
You’ll enjoy life more, and you’ll make easier connections with people regardless of their politics. It’s through those connections that you can change people.