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February 11 2012

(SPOILER) Joss Whedon gets political with Buffy. A full-page article looks at the controversy aroused by the events at the end of issue #6.

Not sure that I'd really lead your post with the most inflammatory line of the article - Mr. Freiburger's quotes were just the obligatory "on the other hand, someone somewhere disagrees" section that differentiates news and op-eds, and weren't reflective of the main point the author was making.

Still, a good find and post.
Yeah, I find the title a bit... sparky. The article is well-balanced and informed, so it seems odd to lead with a quote like that.
Ooh, fun. The guy quoted about Joss's perceived lax view was referring to several episodes of Firefly. Let's try to guess what it was. Heart of Gold probably. Or maybe it was just random things such as Kaylee's general "Have good sex" attitude or Inara's profession.
The fact that Mal finally succumbed to Saffron? Inara's sponge bath? Wait, I finally have it: the strawberry.

Seriously, since "mores" refers to characteristic customs of a community, and not necessarily to the theoretical ethical views of its members, (mores are what people do, rather than what they say,) Freiburger could hardly object to the existence of prostitutes in the show.

[ edited by Mercenary on 2012-02-11 14:51 ]
Wait, he's commenting on Buffy when he's only seen Firefly? :/
And here we go...
It's frustrating to me that this point at which Buffy gets pregnant and considers her options is being interpreted here as Buffy "getting political," as though the narrative was not political before. It's a common rhetorical tactic of power to portray dominant viewpoints as normal and expected, and then to paint dissent/alternatives as "political" (which is coded to mean controversial, having an agenda, being suspect, etc). This kind of rhetoric often leads to dismissing the alleged "politics" as though they taint the story somehow, and to ignoring the very real ways that Buffy--and ALL Whedon's works--already are/were political before. For example, I'd say Nikki's decision to keep and raise her baby is just as political as Buffy's decision to not keep hers, as they're flipsides of the same decision that many women face whether they think of themselves as political beings or not. Not to mention the political complexities of the history of abortion and its availability to white women vs. women of color (what a Nikki/Buffy pregnancy comparative analysis reveals about race and class in the Whedonserses could be the topic of another article altogether!). But were there outcries and accusations of being "political" with the TV show's reveal that Nikki was Robin's mother? (honest question, if anyone has any links re: that, I'd love to read them).

This is why I love Joss so much. It's so much fun to nerdily analyze (nerdalyze?) his stories down to every little detail (in my opinion, anyway). What do other people think? Do you think Buffy has always been political?
I'm with you, Mare. When was Buffy not political? The third season was all about her literally fighting City Hall. And you're quite right that the term can be used dismissively, though I am not saying anyone here has used it in that way.
Mare, there was actually an implicit reaction within the show - everybody was astonished that a Slayer had had a baby. Granted, back when Nicki had her child, a safe legal abortion might not have been an option. (Haven't read the issue yet, so don't know if this is discussed as a factor in Nicki's decision *not* to abort.) Since nobody is surprised about Slayers having sexual relations, unless Buffy is the first Slayer other than Nicki known to have had heterosexual relations, there is the implicit possibility of other Slayers having terminated pregnancies, as opposed to never getting pregnant in the first place (or dying while pregnant).

(edited to fix typo)

[ edited by Shapenew on 2012-02-11 17:28 ]
That's quite true, Shapenew. And now, you're making me think about the sex lives of the known Slayers (teehee!), and I'm trying to remember if birth control/pregnancy are discussed elsewhere. We know Faith is confident in her sexuality and enjoys sex (at least when we first meet her) -- can anyone remember Faith discussing birth control or anything like that? And Kendra, if I recall correctly, was not allowed to talk to boys . . .
The depressing thing is that at one time abortion wasn't that political in terms of GOP/Democrats. During the 70s and early 80s there were plenty of openly pro-choice Repubicans. Betty Ford was ardently proi-choice.
I have a vague memory of one of the Slayers featured in the Tales of the Slayer books being pregnant, though it's been so long since I read them I have no idea which book it was in...
Shapenew; Roe v Wade was when I was in high school, and Nikki died in '77, so it might have been available to her. I don't know if New York had legalized it earlier.

I just find this another uninteresting development in an uninteresting season. And I Find it interesting Joss apparently regards this as a normal occurence of "being a twenty-something screw-up." Maybe it *is* (I've always been naive,) but still, fictional choices do say things about the author.

Full disclosure, insofar as it affects how you read my posts: I'm a hard-core pro-life Republican. But right here right now real life, it's legal and I don't go judging *individuals* about it.
There were and are openly pro-life Democrats, Reddygirl. You may recall that the all suspense about the 2009 vote on the healthcare law in the democrat-controlled House hinged around addressing the concerns of a coalition of some 40 pro-life Democrats (or about 20% of their caucus) that the healthcare law not be used to impose violations of religious conscious clauses vis a vis abortion and contraception. Their concerns were (rather disingenuously, it's turned out) satisfied with promises and reassurances and they voted for the bill. Whereas libertarian-leaning GOP members support abortion rights up to and including on-demand abortion. You don't need to go back to the 70s or 80s to find abortion is not an issue of strict partisanship.

I have always enjoyed that "Buffy" was political, but it was always a big tent brand of feminism. Abortion is nothing if not an array of small tents, and there is no one gradation of abortion policy or ethical stance that is the officially and singularly feminist position. Even under the banner of 'pro-choice', there is a lot of differentiation between "abortion on demand" pro-choice, between pro-choice at any stage of pregnancy, abortion only in select circumstances like rape, abortion only for medical necessity, and that's without even engaging the question of whether or not someone holds that position because they don't think there is any human rights vested prior to birth or if they have a moral stance against abortion but simply respect it as a legal choice. None of these stands alone as the official state policy of Feministan, but now at least one ostensibly stands as the official state policy of Buffystan. No matter how you slice it, the "tent" under which the Buffy audience is invited to party got smaller this week.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2012-02-11 19:36 ]
Out of interest (and because it's only occurred to me now), has there been any noticeable exodus of fans leaving the fandom due to the abortion plotline?
After reading issue #5 I was nervous about where they would go next with the story. My friend and I discussed it in great detail, and we both held some worry that she would go straight to accepting the pregnancy and seeing it through without weighing all the options. So of course issue #6 took be my surprise by doing the opposite, and actually decide on abortion. I'm much happier that this was route that was taken. It was responsible of Buffy to consider the options and talk to different people for their opinions, from Dawn to Robin. She's going about it maturely, so I think her final decision should be respected. I think the writing on issue #6 was very respectful of the subject matter.

I'm still not sure if Buffy's abortion is 100% going to happen. This is a two-issue arc after all, and just as #6 went somewhere different than I expected after #5, maybe #7 will also see an unexpected turn. This is an important character arc, regardless, and if she goes through with her abortion, I see it having a strong influence on her throughout the rest of the season.
Honestly, Simon, I heard more people threatening to quit Buffy because of the Space Sex than I have over the abortion plot. Plenty of opinions on both sides of the debate but very few people actually angry enough to walk away.
I also think the Twilight-Angel reveal would have lost more fans. Buffy usually attracts some open minded audiences; I've never really seen people quit on the series because of conflicting personal or political beliefs. I guess not until now.
King, yes there are pro-life Dems but the the reality is that pro-choice is now seen as a Democrat "issue" and pro-life as something the Republicans push. It sort started happening when George W. H. Bush suddenly switched positons after he was tapped to be VP by Reagan.

Certainly the two ladies from Maine are leading voices for choice in the Republican party but as a rule the issue of choice has really become more about partisan politics than it was during the 70s and early 80s.
In response to DaddyCat, no it's not like every woman in America is faced with an abortion choice. I think Joss's point was about 1/3'd of American women make that choice and there have been a dearth of fictional plot lines about it. But saying 1/3 of American women do that is NOT the same as saying it's typical.

Simon - It's possible but I haven't noticed. Joss had to know that might happen though. In the US at least, Pro-Life groups are very good at targeting things they don't like so the idea he lost fans who are now actively boycotting him would not shock me in the least. To a large extent, it's WHY you rarely see abortion story lines in anything larger than an art house film.

That said, I've gotten tired-head with people threatening to leave over things they disagree with. There was a time when people would consume art/media to be challenged. Even half the twists in Law and Order, factory made as they were, were made to be challenging on some level. That obsession with bland plot content over plot quality is why I've had to endure 2 meh Transformers sequels, 3 boring Pirates sequels, and a whole set of movies recently released back into the wild... IN 3D!!! Sign me up for more movies like The Wrestler, Drive, or Inception.

Re: Angel/Twilight... that's one I actually understand. I didn't throw up my hands and quit, but I understand the outrage. He was my favorite character and I stopped recognizing him. That's a dangerous risk to take with a guy who starred in his own series.

[ edited by azzers on 2012-02-12 03:40 ]
In four days? I don't even know how you'd quantify it. It's not like people go through the trouble of cancelling forum memberships, and nobody can vote with their pocketbook until next month (and I think 9.07 will spike up regardless); and even if the numbers drop precipitously after, that's a correlation, not a cause.

But, anecdotally, I can vouch for conversations with other pro-life fans who feel like this choice was almost a deliberate choice to alienate them, like we're deadweight to Joss suitable for throwing out. I maintain that a parallel situation might be if some other archly political subject matter that falls outside the exclusive rubric of feminism were to be brought up -- Iraq/Afghanistan, government spending, any other topic of the day -- you'd see a similar disillusionment from the people whose outlook was told to go pound sand by characters theretofore built to be much more widely relatable.

I've said before, as a religious man, I've always been grateful that Buffy's odd "religion? freaky" remark is attenuated enough for me to not react with "well, the characters (and those who write them) think I'm an idiot and don't want me to enjoy this". It's not like she's out there as a Slayer version of Bill Maher, openly antagonizing people with religious beliefs as being lower than dog mess on her heel. In this context, it's one thing for this Serious And Open Discussion to take place and for me to not feel like the characters/writers disagree with me so vehemently they'd rather I just go away, and another for them to go through with it.

It occurs to me that not everyone likes marriage, the institution itself, and might have been eyerolling at the idea that such an institution is anything other than a misogynistic form of control. In theory, they might have been put-off by the planned Xander/Anya wedding, and worse, that the fact that none of the characters was there representing anything like how they felt about it. But, then, they didn't end up actually getting married at all, did they?

It's a point that's pretty hard to articulate and I don't know if it's making any sense. But TL;DR is -- I don't know any fans who are feeling like walking away out of protest or anything so trite, but more like the book just might not welcome them any longer.
So, how closely is it necessary for a fictional character to mirror a reader's personal socio-political blueprint in order for the book to be "welcoming"? 'Cause I'm pretty sure that most of my own favorite characters have done something at some point that wasn't on my list of "things that are Done My Way..."
For the record, I too am prolife and profamily. And I mean, who isn't? We all like life and families. I am also pro-choice.

KoC, I don't know if this choice makes you feel as though Joss thinks you are deadweight, but one of the things I have always liked about what he has written is that he will write about things he doesn't believe in if it serves the story. Look at Shepherd Book for instance. Joss is well known to be an atheist but Book is a wonderful example of a religious person. So I think that you, or perhaps just your antichoice friends needn't feel that this is directed at you.
He is just balancing out what he sees as an imbalance in the media in stories like this. And, it serves the story at the same time.

[ edited by Lioness on 2012-02-12 15:31 ]
Should I even touch this one with a 10 foot pole? Last time, I had my head handed back to me with a "Thank You" note attached.
I suppose it comes down to this. In your world, do you only surround yourself with people that agree with everything you believe in? If a friend or associate suddenly takes an opposite political or ethical stance to you, do you walk away, never to share a conversation with them again? Or do you accept that they simply don't believe the same things you do and respect them and their freedom to choose who they want to be? Does that then extend to the characters you watch on television, or read about in books?

To tell a story, things need to happen. To progress a character, that character needs to make choices. Every choice has at least two sides. Whichever choice that character makes runs the risk of offending those that would have gone the opposite way. Why do you think shipper wars become such a ridiculous online bloodbath, and they don't even really matter. Have the choice be about something that does matter, abortion for example, and the reaction has the potential to multiply dramatically.

So the writer has a choice of their own. The first option is to avoid telling a story that risks offending people, to not put the character in the position of having to make a choice, to play safe. Or they can tell the story, have the character choose, and hope that the people who read that story will understand that what is written is just a decision made by one fictional character. Nothing more dramatic than that.

As Lioness pointed out, Joss isn't known for using his characters to push his own beliefs or political agenda. It's not really his style. So to now assume that Buffy's choice to have an abortion is anything more than just that, Buffy's choice, seems a little unfair to me. You can debate whether or not you think Buffy would really make that choice all you like, but don't make this a personal attack on what you believe yourself. Because why would it be? Why is Joss Whedon suddenly being that callous?
Madhatter, like you I decided to lay out on this one!
In your world, do you only surround yourself with people that agree with everything you believe in?

If this is what you come away thinking I'm looking for from the story, then either I articulate it poorly or I don't think you've done a very sincere job of trying to understand my position. "Buffy" and "Angel" routinely portray behavior that contradicts my preference of how the world oughtta be, but it rarely if ever features characters behaving in a way so fundamentally contrary to my values that it made it hard to understand them anymore.

I've tried this argument before -- if Buffy were to wake up and decide that she was a born again, Young Earth Creationist, and that the only reason she'd bother killing vampires is because it's God's commandment for her, and she weren't kidding, and there no ambiguity about her feelings. Would she still be someone you could access and relate to as well as before? At all?
Abortion hasn't been political since 1970. It's human rights.

It has nothing to do with feminism-- i.e., the kicking and screaming of people over human nature that will never change-- it's just flat out human rights. This is 2012. This is controversial?
Here in the UK this debate doesn't fall along any clear party political lines. This looks like a highly divisive and particularly American political issue to me. So like embers and Madhatter I want to stay well away from this one.
It is, dispatch, if you believe that life begins at conception (or implantation) - even there there is debate. Honestly, I believe that human life does begin then, but it's the ramifications I'm hazy on. It's the only instance where one life is contained inside another life and that person has rights. Being pregnant isn't easy - I've done it twice. Not to mention the difficulty of raising a child after it's born.

I've personally only known two women who told me they had abortions and one was to save her life. Undoubtedly I know others who haven't shared that information with me.

In any case, not an easy issue, certainly a divisive one, but in this case, I do think it's about Buffy's choice. It's also about Joss wanting to deal with the issue. And tell a story.

And make us think. It's certainly had that effect on me.
It is only political whereas christians want to tell the rest of us what to do. Luckily we get to ignore them on this one since the US hasn't quite been taken over by the christian taliban. Yet.
Not that we don't love hyperbolic rhetoric here...
KoC, I think I appreciate your position a little better than you might believe. If I didn't then I wouldn't involve myself in this conversation. I try to stick to the basic rule that if I don't understand both sides of an argument then I have no right arguing either one. That rule very much applies here. So please don't think I'm belittling how you feel regarding this topic as if it was no more important to you than if Joss had written a scene where Buffy was littering the street. This matters a great deal to you, that's very clear.

But as much as I honestly understand the depth of feeling behind your position, I stand by what I wrote, for all the reasons that I've already given above.

The 'Buffy finding religion' comparison doesn't really work for me, mainly because it's entirely made up and as such it's harder to take seriously than something that has actually been written into the story as fact. I can't realistically tell you how I would feel about something that I know isn't true and hasn't happened. So instead, let me offer the closest actual example I've been able to come up with.

I'm a big fan of The Shield. Loved the show from the very first episode. One of the most entertaining characters for me was Dutch. Okay, the guy was a complete loser but at heart he was a good person who could be depended on to do the right thing. Then he strangled a cat to death, just to see how it felt to watch it die. Ask anyone who knows me, I love animals. Particularly cats. I have four of my own and I care for and protect them as much as if they were my kids. Might sound silly but it's true. That being the case, I react, how can I put this, 'angrily' when I see cruelty to animals. When Dutch killed that cat a line was crossed for me as far as his character was concerned. I don't think I ever saw him in the same way again. But as much as I hated the act he had committed, I understood that the story had led him there. That it made sense, given his emotional state at the time. I never forgave what the character had done, but I accepted the story called for it. Hopefully the same will eventually be true for you regarding Buffy's decision.
Five I'm going to interject something into this, only because on this point I think what you're describing is a little bit wishful thinking. You and I probably agree on Buffy, but I don't buy the premise that the hypothetical is invalid, because I have an actual example I used from another thread.

When the BSG finale aired, I saw a remarkable difference in who hated it and who loved it. A lot of the love I saw came from people who had identified as theists or saw the threads connecting in a coherent fashion. In other words, either those who believed in god or believed in the internal logic of the story being maintained. A lot of the hate I saw kept coming from people who had identified as atheist themselves or harbored some issue with a "personal god" in the confines of a logical drama. They felt some rule had been broken. This is not meant to generalize everyone, but it was a noticable thread. Individual nitpicks aside, it seemed that once Moore definitively answered questions, in aggregate that's what I witnessed.

To me, this has a lot to do with the fact that we do tend live vicariously in what we're watching. When what we're watching or reading violates a core value that we have, it jolts many people out of the story. You described the phenomenon in your Shield example. At that point, we either reconcile or we declare that somehow the writer has failed us or is being political.

In my opinion, a vast majority of hardcore fans of any franchise are self identifying in the storytelling. It is why shipping tends to exist. It's also why I feel series finales are always complained about; the story has to end in a finite fashion whereas an ongoing series does not. I don't begrudge people who feel that Buffy has somehow violated some core value that they thought she had. That is the danger of self identification. What makes something compelling is often the same thing that traps the writer of anything popular to take boring paths.

Buffy does tend to self-select a certain political bent. But as we're seeing, Buffy was always a bigger boat than that. I'll be interested to see how the story plays out in general.

[ edited by azzers on 2012-02-12 05:49 ]
I think the issue itself handles the question well. I'm pro-life, and I can actually read #6 in a pro-life way, though I won't bore you with that here. Reading the issue itself, I felt like Joss had done a good job that could be appreciated by fans with different views (although their interpretation of what was happening could well differ). (Specifically, on how to understand Buffy's choice to let the painful circumstances of her life force her to a decision she appears to not wish to otherwise take.)

Joss's interviews, on the other hand, were unfortunate. I've certainly always known where he sits on these matters, and the fact that he neither understands my faith nor the moral values that go with them. But to have him say it's consciously inflecting his arc makes me uncomfortable, and I have to say that now when I read that issue, it's got the spectre of pro-Planned Parenthood propoganda hanging over it. I hope I can remember and hold onto how full the issue read to me before I got to the interview.

The politics also seem likely to make me feel squeezed out of the fandom. It's too soon to tell. But the pro-life view is a minority view, and the issue is heated, and that's not a happy combination.

So I don't know. I expect I'll stick with Buffy. But Joss's own politicization of the issue has made it all less pleasant for me.
Dispatch, funny thing is I agree completely -- it is a human rights issue.
embers, think we made a wise choice there.
I'm amazed at the amount of discussion caused by a possible abortion. If the main market was targeted at the Netherlands (where I live) instead of the USA, no-one would've even cared.

And I not going to comment any further or vent my opinion, because I don't think that will be safe ;)
Reddygirl, regarding your noting how the political stances on reproductive rights has been split between the parties:

I imagine this is largely due to Schlafly's successful campaign STOP ERA which succeeded in defeating the ERA bill in 1982. After that serious defeat began a period of backlash against feminism. After the defeat of ERA, Roe v. Wade and abortion clinics became the biggest high priority target (remember the bombing of abortion clinics and the murdering of doctors who performed abortions?). While the Roe v. Wade decision itself hasn't been overturned, it's efficacy has been seriously limited in numerous ways. If abortion cannot be made illegal, then it will be made as inaccessible as possible.

There's definitely a noticeable polarizing trend between the political parties on the subject of abortion.

By the way, a UN official stated abortion is a human right this past September.

[ edited by Emmie on 2012-02-12 08:12 ]
If you all were looking for pro-life propaganda then you have been consuming the wrong verse.

Buffy has always leaned towards the left (liberal) of the political spectrum and she has always been intelligent. In what world is it the right decision for her to have a baby when she can't even support herself properly? She has a dead-end job and is about to be evicted. Buffy is not in the right place in her life to start a family. Getting an abortion is the smart, mature, and logical thing to do. Having a baby she can't take care of isn't.

And that is what I think everyone should take away from the story-line. I have been a fan of this verse since I was 12 years old and have been coming to this site for years (although my membership is new)and Joss has always done what he thinks is best for the story-line first, even if he disagrees with the politics. Buffy's choice makes sense for her and her situation. Having reckless sex in your twenties is something almost 90% of my friends have done. As a 24 year old (more or less the same age Buffy is being portrayed now) and having lived in various parts of the country I can say confidently that there are a lot more people in my generation having reckless sex than not. Things happen. We try to be careful, but sometimes we fail, and we make mistakes. Its normal. The morning after pill is extremely common and abortion, while not something anyone wants to do, is the common anticipated alternative to raising a child should anyone of my friends accidentally get pregnant.

Biologically, sentient human life does not begin until a few of months into the pregnancy. Theologically, when life begins is up for debate, but as Buffy has never been religious, she would not think that way.

Buffy's decision makes sense for who she is as a character and where she is in her life.

Right and wrong have nothing to do with it. There is no correct answer. If you are looking for character's who share your values, look elsewhere. If you are willing to be challenged then continue to consume the Buffyverse but stop complaining how you feel marginalized by Joss and Buffy's decision.
KingofCretins, if Joss made Buffy a born again Christian with creationism views and made it as interesting as issue #6, then I would have a problem with it, despite being an atheist. Especially if I'm able to see and better understand why someone would reach a particular view point that I disagree with. As I think that's one of the more powerful things that a writer can do is explain other people's view points.

As others have pointed out, despite Joss' atheist background he's managed to make some interesting stories dealing with religious characters like Book.

In the comic book world a really great and interesting comic is Cerebus by Dave Sim. It's 300 issues long done by the same writer and while the later volumes aren't that great the first half and a bit is really great comic. I bring it up because the writer Dave Sim, has some pretty horrible views on women as he basically sees them almost as vampires on men. Yet he manages to write some interesting well rounded female characters. At times he's tried to be political and write stories about why women are so horrible, yet the stories don't come off this way. Now later stories in Cerebus were more literal and over the top of him trying to smash his point home. Which I guess is the difference between good and bad writing, where earlier stories were written well enough that they were up to interpretation. Basically, despite the directions that certain characters take and even with a creator trying to drive a point home, I still think someone could look at it and see a completely different point.

Which is a long way of saying, someone with a pro-life point of view could see Buffy as making mistakes and the comic being pro-life. That she was being irresponsible and should be listening better to Robin Wood who gives some pro-life reasons. Even with Joss looking to get up on his soap box, that depending on where future comics go that there is still room for other points of view.
You could well be correct about my somewhat 'wishful thinking', azzers, but it's not a bad wish to have. Truthfully, I have no desire to force anyone to accept or believe anything they don't want to. If, at the end of the day, somebody genuinely cannot reconcile their personal beliefs with the events occuring in a story then they absolutely should walk away. Their personal beliefs are more important than any fictional tale, after all.

Battlestar Galactica actually works as another good example for me too. I'm follow a Pagan faith, and so my personal beliefs are much closer to those practiced by the polytheistic people of the Twelve Colonies before the fall. Given that the basic religious undercurrent of the BSG finale was 'There is only one true God. Quit your heathen beliefs and follow me to a new world' you would think that I'd have hated it. Actually I thought it was an awesome story. I've watched the entire series three times now and enjoyed it more and more each time. I total disagree with it's 'one true God' message as that goes against everything I believe in my heart, but that doesn't make the story any less satisfying.
Doh! The first 'I'm' of the second paragraph is meant to be just an 'I'. I reworded that sentence but obviously didn't reword that word!

Speaking of my talent for typos, quick question for the mods. How do you edit your posts? I've seen others doing it but haven't figured out how yet. Someone mentioned an 'edit' button in another thread but I've yet to see it. Also, and only in case it's related, I'm still not able to post my own threads yet. Is it still supposed to kick in after four days?
Emmie, the UN also considers paid vacation a human right, for what it's worth... and its universal declaration also contains what's basically a poison pill that nullifies the entire list, anyway (Article 29 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads "These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations." Put another way, you only have these rights if we like how you use them). Point being, the Universal Declaration is about as worthy and committed an authority on individual human rights as a cat is on individual mouse rights.

Buffy's decision makes sense for who she is as a character and where she is in her life.


Part of my major disagreement with all of this is that I think Joss has actually done an incredibly poor job of making that a true statement. First, I think the idea that (and I feel he implies this in his interviews) he has positioned Buffy as an effective poster-child for "not ready to be a mother" comes from what can only be described as a fairly insulated concept of just how bad off Buffy really has it. There are millions of single mothers in the US, let alone world wide, who would step over any one of our bleeding bodies in the street for the advantages that Buffy has at the time of this decision, and I think Joss or anyone else does a rather condescending disservice to them by implying that they either A) must be doing a bad job as a parent or B) were too dumb to realize they should have gotten an abortion, which is what I feel the implication is when we draw this bright line at Buffy's quality of life and say "of course she couldn't be a good mother right now".

But the other thing is also the manner in which we're getting the self-assessment from Buffy -- she is depressed, morosed, bleak, deflated, and defeated when she is talking to Spike, like she got a temporary boost from Wood, the air went out of it, and she was back down on the ground. Really from the time she woke up in 9.05, she's been looking like the same sorry thing she looked like when confessing to Tara about Spike in "Dead Things". She is treating herself like she's lower than dirt, and the idea is that rather than being asked by the story to say "well, Buffy, aren't you being a bit too hard on yourself and what you're capable of?", the second she says she wants an abortion, we're instead invited -- no, rather expected -- to say "yeah, you're right Buffy, good call". And even more bizarrely, those of us who are like "wait, no, you can actually do this Buffy, if you want to" are the ones who are mistreating or disrespecting her?

If her response would be "well, I don't want to", then I'd have much rather Joss just hitched his wagon to that -- that she's getting an abortion because she doesn't want to be a mom and doesn't know if she ever wants to, period. Or if she'd hitched it to the fact that she's the Slayer and she doesn't want to orphan her kid like Nikki, there's not much anyone can say about that since she could make that argument on the happiest day of her life as well. Maybe I'd buy this as an even-keeled, rational self-assessment if they had drawn it out for more than two pages, pages which followed what appeared to be a dramatic and flip-flop in her mood.

Five, editing is an unlocked privilege, I think after a certain time on the board or number of posts, but I remember I couldn't do it right away either back in the day.
Okay, thanks, KoC. I'd assumed that the ability to edit just kicked in after the four day pending period, but maybe the two things are unrelated. Hopefully won't be too long because I have a knack of missing some really obvious typos, as you may well have noticed!
Just because religion's come up in the discussion, I googled 'pro-life non-Christian' and got a lot of hits. And while I would personally not have chosen abortion (or had my life been threatened and I had to, would have been devastated) I don't deny that for others, but it doesn't mean I think it's okay. I believe someone dies. And I'm a very left-leaning woman. Real people don't fit into neat little boxes, as much as politicians might like it to be otherwise.
If Whedon wants Buffy to be political, then she will be. Buffy=Joss. You cannot separate them, ever. It is Joss's perogative to take his character where he wants.

We are left to determine if we want to continue reading or not.
The same applies to character relationships aka "ships", life style choices, orientation, jobs. I have let go of some of great stories becasue I disagreed with the author's intent.

[ edited by hann23 on 2012-02-12 16:04 ]
In the final calculus of this issue, I am pro-choice, but abortion is not a choice I could make and it makes me deeply sad that this is what Buffy has chosen to do.

I've read a lot of words thrown about with regards to Buffy's decision: "responsible", "brave", "courageous", "right", "smart", "mature"... and what's causing me a lot trouble with that is that this isn't just about "the choice". It's about choices and they're linked together. I suspect the circumstances may be changed from what we know now in upcoming issues, but the way it stands, Buffy's pregnancy is the result of getting drunk at a party and having sex with a guy she can't even remember. I don't see anything commendable about that. I can't see it as good or right. And I can't fathom celebrating the taking of this very unfortunate step to mitigate a consequence of gross irresponsibility as some kind of virtue.

To shrug this (drunken blackout party sex) off as "people in their 20's do irresponsible things"... well, not all of us do. I think it's not unreasonable to expect more from someone who is being propped up as an iconic hero/role model. And that is Buffy's role in the series - while other characters are allowed to follow other paradigms and possibly be more relatable, Buffy is setup to be a paragon of sorts. Her choices matter more because they inform the values of the series. At the end of the day, we expect her to do the right thing and save the world a lot.

What happens next matters. I can be at odds with Buffy's decision - that happens, but from a larger narrative standpoint, I believe the consequences of all her choices need to be felt. If abortion is portrayed as a clean slate, casual contra-post-conception solution and that's the end of the story... that would be deeply offensive to me. I'm trusting that Joss has other ideas in mind. And I'm trusting that somewhere along the line in S9, Buffy will make choices that I can admire and feel good about. We're not there yet.

For the record, I have canceled all my subscriptions to Joss' comics... but only because I've just discovered digital download through Dark Horse to my android tablet is so much more cool.

[ edited by BringItOn5x5 on 2012-02-12 17:53 ]
This is Joss we are talking about. Even if Buffy goes through with it, do you think he is going to make it easy for her? Or do you think he will will explore all of the consequences that come with this decision (both if she did it, and if she didn't). I'll eat my hat if there aren't some protagonists that will try to convince Buffy to change her mind. (Or antagonist who support her having an abortion.)

I remember an episode of ER that I thought dealt with the issue in an intelligent way. Or at the least, took the time to show more than one viewpoint.

There is at least one huge political land-mine that is partly related to abortion: artificial conception. The clinics have to make dozens of fertilized cells for the procedure to work. And that leaves plenty that are discarded after the procedure is over. If you believe that life begins at conception, then it would seem that the first step is to outlaw in vitro fertilization. (Or require that the prospective parents have to try to bring *every* fertilized cell through to birth.)
Right now, all we know is that Buffy doesn't remember what happened. She could have been supernaturally roofied and raped. We don't know. If our world, a similar circumstance could still lead one to wonder, "Roofie?" though not the rest of it. But we definitely don't know that Buffy got drunk and had sex with a stranger - which is a dangerous choice in itself (STDs, psychos), but not an illegal one.

Again, I understand that the pro-life readers believe that a cojoined egg and sperm have the same rights as a born human being. As such, abortion is murder and should be avoided. For those who *don't* believe this, abortion is not murder, so the question becomes, "You have inadvertently taken the first step to becoming a mother. Do you wish to proceed or not?" and it is not the same as taking a life. I'm radically oversimplifying here, but the starting premise is really different between the two schools of thought. I'm pro-choice, but I understand that if someone believes that a cojoined egg and sperm are the same thing as a person, why that someone would be opposed to *anybody* having an abortion and would feel the need to try to legislate it - if we had a law that let people kill each other on the street for some reason, I'd try to legislate against that. But for those (like me) who *don't* think that's a person at conception and don't feel that the possibility of it becoming a person must be fulfiled and outweighs the needs and desires of the woman who's going to have to carry it, then it's a whole different discussion. The subject hasn't come up in "Buffy" before, but we certainly haven't seen anything in the TV show or comics that indicates that *she* believes a human being is a human being from the moment of conception.
I do not wish to join in the discussion on abortion itself, but I will say this: I am a hardcore liberal pro-choice activist democrat. Having said that, I am incredibly sad Joss has gone down this road. No matter what his intent is, it is an unwinnable situation for him, and I think he has likely misjudged the political climate.

But what I think merits discussion is this quick comment from 5h: "I suppose it comes down to this. In your world, do you only surround yourself with people that agree with everything you believe in?"

Sadly, this is very much the case in a terribly divided and polarized country. By my saying that I am a liberal democrat, I have told you far more about myself than the words alone may indicate; you can now largely predict where I stand on a whole host of issues. (Of course,, there will always be pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans, for example, but those are the exception and not the rule). And in our country, we put ourselves in silos. We watch television programs and news which echos beliefs we already have; we buy books that parrot what we think, we hang out with those with whom we largely agree. Is this true categorically? Of course not. But while I hold a far-right republican as a friend here in Davenport, I do not share with him many of my beliefs that I know he strongly disagrees with. When a neighbor puts up a sign for Rick Santorum, I find that I begin to wonder what else he might believe in that I do not- does he dislike Jews, for example, for I am one? I begin to think he may be morally corrupt, because I believe so strongly in what I believe in that I do not always understand why others do not.

Joss walked into a battle he does not fully understand. Is it good to take a stand? Sure. But this comic is not the way to do it. You can hide behind the comic by saying it is only a story. I'd have preferred he go the route of his thoughts on torture porn or on human rights for women- we have seen this. This will open a wound. Some fans will be lost. Some will be angered. This will become part of a a larger narrative. I am saddened by this.

Tangentially, I will say this. I do not believe Buffy will go through with it. There is no story there otherwise, unless (1) the story is about how Buffy suffers after going through with it, or (b) we later find out the child was necessary to the future of the earth and humanity (and I cannot see Joss going there!). I believe Buffy will have the child, Dawn will be needed to do so and will sacrifice her life/keyness, and Buffy and Xander (who is dad) will be left to raise the child, with Buffy having no powers since the slayer line now goes through Faith.
Joss walked into a battle he does not fully understand


I would wager he probably does. He does strike me as the bright type.

This will open a wound. Some fans will be lost. Some will be angered.


And? That's been happening since the first episode of Buffy aired. You can never please all the fans, so why bother? Just tell the story you want to tell.

And as for this mantra of "this isn't the right time to tell a story about abortion", when is the right time? This is the first time in ages that I've seen abortion discussed outside the political arena. I wish this was more the case.
Y'know, it's one thing to say that "Buffy" has been angering fans since the first episode, but it's quite another to actually demonstrate it. Just when were all those story lines happening? Someone run it with me, where are the sociopolitical berserk buttons -- and I don't mean high level conceptual abstracts, I mean "stuff that happened".

Season 1? Nuthin

Season 2? Hyper chaste premarital sex scene? No major cultural radars going off by 1998.

Season 3? "Earshot" and "Graduation", but pretty much only because of the unfortunate timing with Columbine. The fact that they didn't write this expecting it to be a major hot button was Oz's glib reference to school shootings being trendy.

Season 4? Willow's sexuality, but honestly, when you get right down to it, Buffy/Riley caused a bigger divide in the audience itself.

Season 5? Nuthin

Season 6? I don't remember much in the way of religious community pushback to Buffy having been in heaven, and most of the reaction to the sexuality and its rather darker quality were 50% or more audience 'shipping. So what we're left with are the AR and Tara being killed. Those were legitimate audience scandals.

Season 7? Once again, nothing.

Season 8? There was the faintest, faintest hint early on that the season might make a war on terror allegory archly sympathetic to the "terror" side of that equation, but it never went anywhere, and therefore raised no political stink.

So I personally count only three four culturally divisive issues brought up that stirred the audience's political sensabilities (two of which are intertwined, since the political problem with killing Tara was because of Willow's sexuality). I think the idea that "'Buffy' has been angering people from the start" has been more than a little overblown, and mostly serves to marginalize discomfort and upset in the audience this time around.

Now, I will agree with Dana on one point about Joss not realizing the fight he's starting -- it is *possible* from his interview that Buffy having had a candid, no euphemisms discussion about this and treated abortion as an equally valid solution to pregnancy next to childbirth (although still disappointed that no lipservice paid to adoption, not even to bring up the bodily demands of Slaying), is all there was to this, and that he means to have circumstances intervene in the next issue*. If that is the case, he will bring fire down on himself more intense than any of the relatively soft pushback myself and other pro-life fans have given. If she doesn't go through with it, he's going to get jacked up, basically, because I think there is a broad sense in which the choice is not the point, the abortion is.

*For all my prior joking about vampire pregnancy and the lore-breakingness of it, mocking the idea of a Spuffy-produce baby as the Blade-nesmeee Kwisatz Haderach, I could certainly see a scenario in which it were suddenly vitally important for the whole "quest to restore magic" that Buffy's child be born. Or any one of a number of scenarios.
For all my prior joking about vampire pregnancy and the lore-breakingness of it, mocking the idea of a Spuffy-produce baby as the Blade-nesmeee Kwisatz Haderach, I could certainly see a scenario in which it were suddenly vitally important for the whole "quest to restore magic" that Buffy's child be born. Or any one of a number of scenarios.

Didn't Darla try to get an abortion, but she couldn't because the baby was protected?
Y'know, it's one thing to say that "Buffy" has been angering fans since the first episode, but it's quite another to actually demonstrate it.


Ask anyone who lurked or posted on the major message boards at the time. If even the littlest plot point didn't go some fans' way, YAGE occurred. And I well remember the huge fan outcry in some quarters about Buffy and Parker and how she was deemed to be a slut as a result. Buffy has sex. Shock horror! She's evil! It happened with Angel, happened with Spike. God forbid a woman should be in charge of her own sex life. I don't think anyone was that bothered about Riley but all the same.

and mostly serves to marginalize discomfort and upset in the audience this time around.


How much of the audience is discomforted and upset? I've looked around, not really much happening.

ETA I forgot about the veiled racist comments about Buffy and Principal Wood that occurred in some places. And the homophobic slurs about Buffy and Satsu.

[ edited by Simon on 2012-02-12 23:01 ]
And in those areas you mention, Simon, I truly hope people were and are able to have their consciousness expanded by way of what Joss and the other writers, by extension, make us think about.
I'm discomforted. Isn't that a good thing? I think it is.
Simon, I was deliberately omitting normal fan nonsense as the "angering", I was talking about actual "scandal", the Buffyverse pushing political hotbuttons. That is what I'd say is significantly overblown.

I'm not surprised in the least bit that there hasn't been more vocal pushback. I think most "Buffy" fans who harbor even some relatively conservative positions know to keep their heads down most of the time.

I don't come to "Buffy" to have my "consciousness expanded" on questions I never asked. Expand my consciousness on core questions of heroism, or the value of found family -- things I come to fictional television shows to gain insight into. The idea that his television show is a place where I, or anybody for that matter, needs to go to have our "minds opened" on matters of law, morality, or public policy kinda puts me in mind of Allison Janney's awesome "what is your job title?" scene in the recently and unfortunately maligned Juno. I greatly respect his ideas of what resonates in romance and in family and what makes a hero and so on and have poured hundreds of dollars into my enjoyment of it. I wouldn't cross the street for a free coffee and donut for the Joss Whedon Lecture and Clinic on Law and Economics, for example. Love him, but relying on him for insight on all things is like relying on your 4 iron to go around a whole 18 at Augusta.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2012-02-12 23:27 ]
"It is only political whereas christians want to tell the rest of us what to do. Luckily we get to ignore them on this one since the US hasn't quite been taken over by the christian taliban. Yet.

IrrationaliTV | February 12, 03:52 CET "

Nice to see hyperbole and hate aren't solely the domain of the political right....
There are left-leaning Christians, and there's nothing about abortion in the Bible. Hyperbole not so good.
For me, this is where Buffy is no longer a hero. As someone of medical science and a student of philosophy, I cannot condone this action under her circumstances or any other.
Simon: "How much of the audience is discomforted and upset? I've looked around, not really much happening."

It's been 4 days. This has not really gone viral. It will be interesting to see what happens if- and that is a big if- it does. We are a small fandom, and may give ourselves more credit than we deserve. I do need to stay mindful that we pay a lot of attention to Joss Whedon, but not too many others do. In that sense, he may be too small to bother with. But truly, all it will take is one Brent Bozell picking this up and I think you may be surprised at what could then happen. I hold to Joss not really understanding what he is playing with here; we will respectfully have to disagree on that. I think he is brave, but I think this is not where he wants to go, when he has the Avengers down the road and could benefit from positive press rather than controversy.

I agree with KOC about there being only 2 real scandals in Buffy and both in the same episode- the AR and the death of Tara. The one that has resonated over time is the latter, and that one was not handled well at all by anyone involved in Buffy; there are scars to this day over Tara's death. Willow coming out, not so scandalous. Having Andrew come out would be braver.

zohrael- as someone of medical science and a practicing bioethicist, I can. But (1) I am not happy about it, and (2) She has not actually done it yet. It is just talk right now.
This discussion is making me think about all the times on Buffy that humans have hetereosexual sex and birth control/the possibility of getting pregnant are never.even.discussed.

Willow and Oz's first time -- both the (foiled) one she tried to orchestrate, and the actual one that happened during Graduation day.
Oz and Veruca.
Buffy and Parker's one night stand.
Buffy and Riley's entire relationship.
Xander and Anya's entire relationship.
All of Faith's sexcapades (including with Xander and Wood).
(who else? I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting)

Other than Bad Eggs and the sex ed class scene featured there, I don't think any of these couples discussed protection, the fact that pregnancy could happen, or what they'd do.

To some, abortion is a "sociopolitical berserk button" (I like your phrasing, KofC), and I can respect that. To me, the fact that young people are being sexually active and NOT discussing birth control and pregnancy is berserk. I know some might say Buffy had to please the network censors at WB, but I'm amazed that we live in a world where reproductive rights are the taboo, not the sexual activity itself. We can see them wanting to do it and doing it, but we can't see them protecting themselves or considering the consequences? Given how long characters have been sexually active in the world of Buffy, I'm just glad someone is finally articulating the consequences and choices involved in having sex.

(PS, whenever I say/hear/read "doing it," I always hear Xander in my head: "Will, if you're doing it, I think you should be able to say it")

This is as opposed to Angel, where people do get pregnant after having sex (although it's usually demon pregnancy) and abortion is usually discussed (though maybe not in those terms). Redeem147, you're totally right that Darla did try to terminate her pregnancy. I believe Wes and Angel wanted Cordy to abort when she was impregnated by that rich guy in Season 1. What's that say about the difference between the two shows, I wonder? Hmm.
Well, I wasn't speaking directly to you, KingofCretins, in what I said. One can only hope that art can inform. It is after all, often a reflection of real life. Also, the biggest thing I see here is that art cannot be dictated to, not in any of the examples Simon cited, nor now, so you either make a kind of peace with that, or not.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2012-02-13 00:03 ]
...there's nothing about abortion in the Bible

Come now. It's not like the RCC or the Southern Baptist Convention or whoever else are just making it up. This isn't a forum for debating scripture, but if you can't think of so much as even one verse that speaks on point to the general life-at-conception argument promulgated by the vast majority of Christian institutions, you haven't read enough bumper stickers.

Dana is right about Joss being small game in terms of political headhunting. This would be a much different situation if flyover America turned the channel from Jeopardy and saw a Talking Points Memo about this.
I've read the whole Bible. There is no particular verse forbidding abortion, though one can infer. But it's an inference.

And I've been one of those left-leaning Evangelicals. But no, not the place for debating Scripture.
I think it's monumentally insulting to just cavalierly brush off centuries of actual invested Christian scholarship and doctrine as wrong because you decided to vet their spiritual text for explicitly prohibitive language and didn't find it, as though that were even particularly relevant. But, your mileage may vary.

Tonya, I don't ask to dictate to art, and if I thought there was much "artful" to this development, I wouldn't have much to say. It's not as though I have a personal moral sanction of everything that's ever happened, but as it is artful I abide it on that basis. I found that scene, though -- especially filtered after the fact through his interviews -- to be pamphleteering. I've gone so far as to say that Buffy is acting as girl-in-fridge for herself, since for the first time ever we're being shown her as completely despondent and beaten down, and are expected to agree with that self-assessment.

BUFFY: I suck at everything ever.
EXPECTED AUDIENCE RESPONSE: No, Buffy, don't say that, you're the most capable --
BUFFY: No, I totally suck at everything, which is why I'm getting an abortion.
EXPECTED AUDIENCE RESPONSE: Oh, yes, then, you should get an abortion.

That's how that scene and the resulting discussion has felt to me. But the problem I really have is that that last response has an implicit "... because you are right, you do suck at everything ever".

Buffy blaming all these generic reasons why she wouldn't be a good mother make a good PSA, but a terrible character study. Would it have felt "cowardly", I suppose, to have her cite the things that are inarguably true, like that she's a Slayer, she doesn't want to orphan her kid like Nikki did? Or that she doesn't want to risk even carrying to term for an adoption because she'd be too vulnerable to the various nasties that want to kill her (a life of the mother argument if ever there was one)? I don't think nearly enough scrutiny went into "the Buffy of it" because the goal appears to have been for a high profile female pop culture icon to validate abortion-on-demand as some sort of "in yo face" to Judd Apatow or Diablo Cody.

Maybe I'm wrong and that was all done deliberately to give him an out (i.e. a burst of self-confidence) by which he can pull the string and have her not go through with it, and "the moment of decision" was the point -- but I think having her not go through with it would, bizarrely, probably bite him as bad or worse than killing Tara did.
Actually, KoC, I was just studying the Bible. If you know of some other info relating to the subject you can message me off blog. I wasn't vetting their text, I was reading mine.
Simon, seriously-meant question - is YAGE an acronym/combination word that I'm unfamiliar with, or was that a typo for "rage"?
DaddyCat: Abortion was legal in NY until 1828. It became legal again in NY in 1970. During the period it was illegal, many women continued to have abortions, but the procedures were much more likely to cause injury and death to the women. By 1967, a Baptist minister had organized other clergy to help women get safe abortions in NY. This is a fascinating story on the subject.

KofC, I agree that feminists have no way of stripping others of feminist credentials because of what they believe. But an overwhelming number of people who call themselves feminist believe that a woman should have the right to decide whether to have an abortion or not.

Here are my credentials to make that claim: I was a feminist before Roe v. Wade in 1973, I have a master's in women's studies, I blog on one of the larger feminist blogs.

To answer your question, sort of: If Joss became a Young Earth Creationist, I wouldn't be interested in his works anymore. If Buffy did, and Joss stayed the same, I'd still read. Please keep in mind that Joss and his views brought some of us to the show and then to the comics.

Dispatch wrote: "Abortion ... has nothing to do with feminism-- i.e., the kicking and screaming of people over human nature that will never change-- it's just flat out human rights." Are you saying that feminism has nothing to do with winning human rights for women? I must have missed the news when scientists agreed on what was immutable human nature and what wasn't.
Change of direction. I am thinking, of all things, of Orson Scott Card. When younger, I read "Ender's Game." Great SF, great story. I was interested in seeing where the story went when the story ended. And then I read about Orson Scott Card and his political beliefs. And they fly so radically different in the face of mine that I gave up reading the story, and anything Card has ever written, because my beliefs really do mean something to me and I have to take a stand on them- one can argue "art for art's sake" until the cows come home but in the end, if I cannot support the artist, I cannot accept his art. Joss would be no different, were he politically different than he is.

And I have a dilemma as a result. I love- more than Buffy, more than any cultural icon that exists- the French rock band Magma. I have followed them for 44 years. I have all their records, hundreds of live concerts, boxes of reprinted articles, am involved in several fandoms, am FB friends with members of the band, wrote about them in national publications. And I am reeling from the fact that their keyboard player quit the band after, he says, experiencing band leader Christian Vander go on a Nazi rant. Like a Mel Gibson thing. If true, what do I do? I'm Jewish! Do I love the art and hate the artist? Can these be separated?

Joss will lose some fans over this. He can try to argue that he is just telling a story but clearly his politics- which I agree with- are informing the tale. It is all about choice (bad analogy!) for him- and this is the choice he made, to go this route. Now, others will also make choices.

And yes, I did not get YAGE either.
I had to look it up (I think Simon is sleeping at this point being 8 hours ahead of the U.S.): yet another grand exit.
KoC, I understand your point about Buffy being self-deprecating and the audience supporting that. I think it's actually your strongest point, though I disagree with it. (Haha, saw that coming, huh?)

I think that this might be a product of the writing, but the way I saw it was that Buffy didn't consider herself mentally or emotionally ready to have a child. Not as a result of her life as a slayer (I believe the issue was spending its time trying to make us understand that Buffy COULD balance slaying and motherhood, unlike Nikki) or her financial/home situation. The reason she is choosing to have an abortion is because she is not ready emotionally. She is in "freefall," and I agree with her that she needs to figure out her own life and who she is as a person before she can be ready to have a child.

Of course, at the heart of this debate is an inherent difference in morality. I do not believe -- and I don't think Buffy does either -- that life begins at conception or that early abortion is morally wrong. You do believe it's wrong though, and as a result are seeing it in a completely different way. That's not going to change no matter what anyone says and no matter what Joss/Andrew writes. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I just think that you may have reached the point where your values and the creator's values are too out of sync for you to enjoy the story.

I'm sorry that you have reached this point with Buffy, but I hope you still stick around and keep reading because I've always enjoyed your comments.

Dana, it's interesting you bring up OSC, because I was thinking about exactly that the other day when I was talking to a friend. When I was younger I was a huge OSC fan. But as I've gotten older I've seen things I didn't like in his books and eventually found out the authors own personal views himself. I've never been able to get back to that again. My friend, on the other hand, still likes his books despite disagreeing with his views. I think that everybody has a different tolerance for this kind of thing. Mine doesn't seem to be very high, but my friend's is.

I think that's really what this whole issue comes down to.
I'm late in replying to this post because I was in church today. ;) For anyone interested in the Christian debate on when life begins or whether abortion is the same sin as murder, Wikipedia is a nice start. Lots and lots of Christians are pro-choice.

By the way, Diablo Cody and the wonderful Ellen Page (star of "Juno") both support a woman's right to have an abortion, what some of you call "abortion on demand." (You can't actually walk into a place that provides abortion and "demand" one any more than you can demand any other medical procedure.) Judd Apatow is "as pro-choice as you can get."
Suzie, I think the problem here is that "pro-choice" is not a term of art, it does not have a fixed and definite meaning. To paraphrase Maggie, a term that cannot adequately differentiate between someone whose philosophical position is "women should be allowed to get an abortion two months from their due date because it's supposed to be a wet summer and they might not want to give birth while its raining" and someone who thinks "women should be allowed to obtain a legal abortion if they are pregnant as a result of specific crimes/only for a certain amount of time before the organism becomes sufficiently anthropomorphic/only to save her own life, because those are the only times her interests outweight the rights of her unborn child".

People who want to play shell games with demographics would tell you both of those people are pro-choice. That they are diametrically opposed on just about every philosophical point of contact between their opinions is irrelevant. You won't find a poll anywhere that asks to differentiate between thresholds of choice and find any plurality support for abortion-on-demand, certainly not on the moral question and probably not on the legal question either. By baserate alone, I think we could eliminate that anything like a majority of self-identified feminists would agree that abortion-on-demand should be a requirement of law and isn't morally wrong.

EDIT: Suzie, the term "abortion on demand" refers to getting an abortion because you want one and no other reason -- no requirement of medical advice, no requirement regarding a stated reason. Like McDonald's is "hamburgers on demand" -- it obviously goes without saying you need to pay for them, wait in line, etc.

I also never said nor implied that Cody or Apatow weren't in favor of some degree or another of abortion rights -- just that Joss basically called them chicken for not having their characters talk about abortion explicitly. It troubles me that is may never have occurred to Joss that there's really no logical reason to pick that fight if it's not what your story is about; I think Diablo Cody would have had a much harder time getting her script made if it was a 20 minute short guest-starring Rainn Wilson of a girl who gets pregnant, gets an abortion, and walks out of the clinic with a pie-ball flavored lollipop.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2012-02-13 01:48 ]
When the reason for wanting to terminate pregnancy becomes a merit for granting or denying it, the whole matter of 'choice' gets thrown out of the window. Either the termination is a 'choice' for the potential mother ( and that includes daily taking the hormonal pills that prevent fetus from attaching itself to the womb ), or the matter of 'was it weather or rape' becomes irrelevant. It is purely logical,( and interminably sad), which does not make it any less logical. Either you let the mother decide or you cannot call it a choice.
Then there is already no "choice" in abortion, anywhere in the world to my knowledge. Legal prohibitions on the time within pregnancy during which an abortion may be elected are commonplace, and are a limitation on the circumstances in which the mother may choose. Therefore, per your terms, "the whole matter of 'choice' gets thrown out of the window". Roe nor Casey are "pro-choice" decisions at all, as it turns out.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2012-02-13 02:31 ]
@Shapenew: YAGE stands for "Yet Another Grand Exit," I believe, referring to fans constantly claiming that they're leaving fandom for good in a huff whenever things don't go the way they want.
You guys do realize that no matter how many times you repeat yourselves you will not: #1. change anyones mind here at Whedonesque, and #2. will not alter the story line which has already been written and is being lettered and drawn now for it's pre-scheduled publication. Just saying.
Prohibitions on time and prohibitions on reason are two different things, IMHO. The time that is usually given is more than enough to make a conscious choice and stick with it, or change one's mind.
Embers, we won't change the minds of people who are commenting, but, hey, aren't there 500 new members? That's #1, and #2 is: There's something wrong on the Internet and I can't leave my computer without correcting it!!!!111!!!

KofC, I mentioned the beliefs of Cody and Apatow to better explain why Joss was saying that people feared talking about abortion. To put it another way: You have producers, directors, writers, etc., who believe women have a right to abortion, but they don't want their characters to mention this option, let alone have an abortion, because they fear the wrath of people who want abortion to be illegal. The danger is not just people boycotting comics. Obviously, some "pro-life" people have killed doctors, staff and volunteers, and done great damage to clinics. Violence (and the fear of it) has greatly reduced women's access to this legal procedure.

I know how "abortion on demand" is used, just as I've heard the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice." I know we seem stuck with them, but I think they are vague. I find the first two misleading. Concerning "abortion on demand," here's an interesting article on the history of the term. When you talk about a woman having abortion against medical advice, yes, that's sometimes possible. But most women have to find a doctor willing to do abortions; they can't force doctors to do them.
One more thing, KofC, the overwhelming majority of U.S. women who identify as feminists support legal abortions without restrictions, with the exception of how far along the pregnancy is and the viability of the fetus. I didn't argue what the majority of people believe, just the majority of feminists.
Just to touch on both Apatow and Cody, lets also be realistic about their motivations here. Both were writing "heartwarming" comedies. I could see a Woody Allen "smart" comedy that involved abortion, but both Knocked Up and Juno really couldn't have gone that direction without changing everything about the respective movies up to and including the general mood. I think the danger from going from smartly comedic to flip is just extremely high with that subject. The silliness of those movies would not jive with the drama.

Even Joss himself is not writing a comedy about abortions, he's writing drama. No doubt there will be jokes. It just won't be a comedy.

[ edited by azzers on 2012-02-13 03:52 ]
There is a contradiction between declaring rules about when okay and rules about why invalid. Point being the idea that the only "choice" is categorical choice doesn't hold up to much in the way of scrutiny. To be honest, I'd love nothing more if a wave of purism took hold that demanded the term "pro-choice" only apply to people who want little or no restriction in terms of when an abortion is allowed, no restriction as to method, motive, any of it. It would lead to some illuminating poll results, I think.

Suzie, I'd like some data on that overwhelming majority. Maggie found a very topical May 2011 Gallup Poll --

"Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?"

May 2011:

Always Legal: 27%
Legal only under certain circumstances: 50%
Always Illegal: 22%
Unsure: 2%"

Now, for that poll to be accurate, Suzie, and for your claim to be accurate, it would mean that the overwhelming majority of American women who self-identify as feminists account for only 27% of a generic sample of Americans. I personally don't buy that, not even if every single vote of that 27% was a woman.
Regarding Buffy's "reckless" sex: as someone else already mentioned, we don't know what happened yet. IIRC, Buffy herself thinks (in 9.1) "I didn't even drink that much." Considering that the policemen who showed up (presumably because of a noise complaint) joined the party, I think it's safe to say there was something quite peculiar going on at that party. So I think it's a little early to judge Buffy's behavior--for all we know, the getting drunk may not have been her fault (not to mention the getting pregnant).

Also, since others have brought up Christianity: I'd just like to point out that American Christians come in a variety of flavors. I'm a church organist. I'm also pro-choice and pro gay marriage.
This seems to be veering into a general discussion about abortion rather than focussing on the implications for Buffy Season 9. So if we could get back on track then that would be appreciated.

It's been 4 days. This has not really gone viral. It will be interesting to see what happens if- and that is a big if- it does. We are a small fandom, and may give ourselves more credit than we deserve


Not really, we had instant vocal outrage over Buffy/Satsu and and Buffy/Angel in space last season. Huge fights all over the place. People leaving in disgust. Why should this plotline be any different? I'm beginning to think that the vast majority in the online fandom aren't that bothered.
I can only speak for the small number of Buffy fans that I know personally, both online and in real life, but so far I'd have to agree with Simon. Whether or not it's because 90% of them are from the UK, where this is much less of a hot topic than in the US right now, I couldn't say but frankly none of them really care. Those that have an opinion on this at all seem to be more concerened about not particularly wanting Buffy to be tied down with a child. Certainly no one I have spoken to about this, outside of Whedonesque, has said anything negative about her choice to have an abortion. Most seem to agree with the choice.
Simon- I am not worried about the fandom. It will do what it will, and again, we are pretty small. I am worried about what happens when this moves outside the fandom, when it becomes another node in an ongoing cultural divide, where it becomes nothing more than ammunition in that fight. I am hoping it does not happen. I am not convinced it won't.
I was at our monthly Buffy meetup the other night. I was the only one who read the issue, another person collects the comics and is way behind but heard what it was about (we didn't discuss it) and the rest don't read them. I think even within Buffy fandom, the majority don't read the books and don't know what's going on in them.

I did have one friend who asked if Giles was still dead.
Regarding Buffy's "reckless" sex: as someone else already mentioned, we don't know what happened yet. IIRC, Buffy herself thinks (in 9.1) "I didn't even drink that much." Considering that the policemen who showed up (presumably because of a noise complaint) joined the party, I think it's safe to say there was something quite peculiar going on at that party. So I think it's a little early to judge Buffy's behavior--for all we know, the getting drunk may not have been her fault (not to mention the getting pregnant).


At least in regards to my post, I did qualify that what we know may change in upcoming issues. Leading up to the decision though, the narrative is that she was simply drunk and had sex with a guy she can't remember. To put in an escape hatch now AFTER arriving at this decision in an attempt to exonerate Buffy from any fault... IF that's the way it goes, then we can just swap out "irresponsible sex" for "irresponsible writing". I don't think you can raise this issue in a realistic and thoughtful way, have Buffy arrive at the decision to have an abortion and then suddenly morph it into something so foreign to reality that all issues of responsibility and consequences become nonsensical mythical hypotheticals. Not objecting to a magic, because this is the Buffyverse, but I think it has to be used in a way that's analogous to the premise that's been created at this point - not as a device to sweep it under the rug.
I haven't gotten my issue from TFAW yet, and I generally avoid spoilers. So, I assume there may be others like me.

BringItOn: If you read the EW interview, to which the Guardian links, Joss seems to be saying that this isn't going to be normal in any sense. Keep in mind that she may have been raped, i.e., someone or some thing had sex with her when she was passed out and could not give informed consent. There's so much that we don't know yet.
"I'm barely able to hold onto a job. I live with roommates who are about to kick me out. And I can't even hold my alcohol well enough to remember who got me pregnant. I can handle the Slayer stuff Ö But everything else I'm not ready. At least not now."


Talk about being self-defeatist... she saved the world a lot - I guess we've found out what even she can't do: raise a child. If she was real I'd give her a hug (and hope to God that I didn't happen to be her kid, cus' that would really suck.)

On a more general note I will never understand the mentality that sees the outright killing of one's own offspring as a viable alternative to maybe screwing things up some time in the distant future. Yes - you and/or your kid's lives are probably gonna be crappy, but comparing that to having your life ripped away from you wholesale? Just doesn't compute.
In both cases, most of the press coverage has been what was heaved out at launch. I don't remember a significant media tick about 8.12 beyond the we-aren't-making-a-big-deal-of-this interview that SPOILED on the day of release and the same round of industry interviews. This has not been any different thus far in terms of broader media impact than 8.12 was. And I actually think 8.12 was noticeably less divisive. Not every nominally left-leaning social or political viewpoint is interchangeable; I don't really see a reason why audience reaction to 8.12 would or should be predictive of reaction to 9.06. Now, if Buffy goes through with it, that might jump up significantly, but it probably would have in 8.12 if, instead of "dabbling", Buffy had said "I'm cured, I want the girls!"

Dana is right about the fandom. "We are round, and roll as we do"; I don't think it will affect much in the way of existing fandom other than if some folk decide to stop reading. See, the only way to get real tension in the fandom is for people to hate what they see, but then carry on to talk about hating it to people who don't. Most folk, I think, vote with their feet and/or pocketbook and would just be lost audience. But since it's only a marginal percentage of us who really participate online anyway, you'd never know it.
I get what Dana5140 is saying, a while back Marvel came under fire because in an issue of Captain America had a panel with a Tea Party protest with a sign saying "Tea Bag The Libs Before They Tea Bag You". It got picked up on Fox News as they were upset that it was making fun of the Tea Party movement and that Captain America shouldn't be getting political. This caused a lot of controversy which got a lot of coverage in conservative media outlets and eventually Marvel apologize. However, at that point Marvel was part of Disney and were possibly worried about a boycott/protest against them across the company could do. Also it was a bit different happening inside of Captain America, which many put their own values against that character when it visibly gets liberal or conservative. The mass audience doesn't buy Captain America comics, but Marvel wanted as much of them to see the then upcoming Captain America movie.

I think Dark Horse and Joss could whether any political storm is this was picked up by Fox News. In the end it could be still good publicity rather than bad, in getting people to hear about the Buffy comic.
Boy, you know, that brings up another question, doesn't it? And this one has equally problematic answers, maybe. How did Buffy get pregnant? (No, I mean, by whom and under what circumstances?). Was she drunk? Drugged? If so, technically that might be rape. If she cannot remember, and it happened in the natural way (by which I mean, exlcusing some sort of cosmic influence and immaculate conception or cosmic frakking a la Twilight/Angel), I am not sure that is a place I want the comic to go, either. So, in the end, we might have a rape, followed by a potential abortion- maybe the idea here is to explore the ramifications of what it means to be pregnant against your will, etc. We are focused on the possible abortion without considering how she got in the family way to begin with, and this might be distressing as well.

Matt- you raise one other issue. Today, a loss for one side is a win for the other. Do we really want to bring more people to the Buffy comic by becoming involved in the culture wars? Is controversy just another means to market the comic, cutting out one side in order to bring in the other?

ETA: I just saw this comment from EJ Dionne in today's NYT, and it resonated: "Politicized culture wars are debilitating because they almost always require partisans to denigrate the moral legitimacy of their opponents, and sometimes to deny their very humanity. Itís often not enough to defeat a foe. Satisfaction only comes from an adversaryís humiliation."

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2012-02-13 16:17 ]

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2012-02-13 16:26 ]
So basically Buffy might have been drugged, forced to have sex against her true will and is now in a position where she wants to abort the entity she, however unwillingly, helped conceive?

Yeah, no similarities to the end of season 8 there at all then!
I am worried about what happens when this moves outside the fandom, when it becomes another node in an ongoing cultural divide, where it becomes nothing more than ammunition in that fight.


I've hung around far too many places where Joss' stuff gets praised or ripped to shreds depending on someone's beliefs. It's numbed me to the point that I just don't care anymore about the different social/economic/political interpretations of the Whedonverse. Other people do and I respect for them for it. But I'm burnout for the moment so now I've gone back to the beginning and I'm just focussing on the story and whether I enjoy it or not. And I enjoy Season 9.
"Other people do and I respect for them for it. But I'm burnout for the moment so now I've gone back to the beginning and I'm just focussing on the story and whether I enjoy it or not. And I enjoy Season 9."

In the immortal words of the mighty Hank Moody, true dat!
A couple questions:

I wasn't aware there was fan rage about the space frakk last season. Was it political, or were people just mad that the story had gone off the rails?

I was completely lost by the end of season 8, so I may be missing how it is similar to what's going on now. What's the comparison?

Just curious.
wanxins, thank you for explaining YAGE and Simon, thank you for introducing me to the term. As with so much of the Jossverse, it applies to so many situations inside and outside of both the story and the fandom :)
I guess I am kind of an opposite of simon's - I do not appreciate where the story is going in S9, nor do I particularly like the writing. Art is so-so. I don't recognize the characters voices from the show either. But I go with the flow because I find the fandom itself fun, and at least the latest message that supposedly was not even targeting broader spectrum of audience fits the set of my beliefs. Other than that, I won't be surprised at anything at this point - if say all the characters were turned into sentient centipedes with wings and continued their journey as such - it won't surprise me. There are different sorts of YAGE - one of them is total emotional detachment. I felt the same way when watching Dollhouse, by the way.

I hope this is a valid comment on the discussion of Joss' interview thread. I realize we are not supposed to go negative on the comics itself threads.

[ edited by dorotea on 2012-02-13 19:05 ]
I hope this is a valid comment on the discussion of Joss' interview thread. I realize we are not supposed to go negative on the comics itself threads.


You are actually. Read the rules. If you want it clarified drop me an email.
Show's been off the air almost 8 years and people are still talking about it. New people pick it up on DVD and Netflix all the time. You can read Lin-Manuel Miranda's entertaining commentary on Twitter as he makes his way through the series for the first time. Personally I think the state of the fandom is fine.

Buffy's a pop culture icon and in no way new to storylines with political implications or being brought up in broader cultural discussions. Joss got political with Buffy when she was still an immortal waitress named Rhonda and he hasn't stopped since.
Dana: What some people call "culture wars" are "human rights" to others. For example, you could call the U.S. Civil War a "culture war" because the majority of the male leaders in the North didn't want any more slave states and the male leaders of the South did. Doing that would trivialize slavery, however. It's also trivializing when rights for women and gays are lumped into "culture wars."
Let me be clear, Suzie. I am an advocate and an strong and outspoken activist over both women and gay rights, and those issues have been subsumed in the culture war. Call it what you will. It is part of a larger narrative struggle occurring in the US, involving not just gay rights and woman's rights, but also rights for the common folk, the divide between the 1% and the 99%, healthcare rights, and so on. It is by no means trivializing anything to acknowledge this and contextualize it. I frankly don't care what you call it or how you categorize it; I care only that the fight be fought. So if you want to call me out for using a term you disagree with when I am fighting the same fight you are, fine, so be it. But I think we'd do better if we did not aim our arrows at our allies.
Aim changed, hand extended in friendship.
What some people call "culture wars" are "human rights" to others.

Suzie, you simply must understand that abortion is a "human rights" issue to the pro-life people as well. If anything, we perceive it even more emphatically as one since the individual right with which we are preoccupied is life, whereas the individual rights at stake from the pro-choice perspective are, variably, due process/property/freedom/privacy.

You don't have to agree, I don't ask that you do, but please don't (to borrow the phrase Dana quoted above) "denigrate the moral legitimacy" of your opponent. There is nobody that approaches the abortion debate on either side, that I can think of, who does so out of a profound indifference to individual rights.

Sunfire, I think (correctly) saying Joss got political with Buffy from before she was a fully formed idea in his head rather misses a crucial point -- his gender politics and his perspective on the power inherent in human and their equality and even superiority to male counterparts as genre heroes and how they've been mistreated and misrepresented in genre fiction are not actually all that controversial and probably haven't been since well before he actually wrote the name "Buffy Summers" on paper. Maybe people weren't doing it very much before then, but it wasn't controversial. I can personally vouch that as a 14 year old seeing the 1992 movie, I never once found myself amazed or for that matter scandalized that a girl was doing all the buttkicking. And on my honor I can't think of a single article outside of maybe some cult's newsletter that actually vehemently protested the idea that women can kick monster ass just as well as the guys can, if not better.

Abortion is not that, abortion is something else together. It's not the "idea whose time has come", it's an entirely contentious, openly hostile cultural hot button and will not be anything else in this generation and maybe in the next few.

TL;DR, there's political and there's political.
Well, one thing's for certain. At 108 comments, we're definitely closer to having everything figured out and joining hands in an epic musical finale.
KofC: Yes, I understand that pro-life people see abortion as a moral issue. As do pro-choicers. Many of us feel that men set themselves up as the arbiters of morality (i.e., church leaders), torturing and murdering people who disagreed with them. They have tried to control women for centuries. Clergy (predominantly male) would still force their religious beliefs on women. To put it another way, some people who think a fertilized egg should have full human rights want to force this religious belief on women who don't believe that. Pro-choice woman aren't forcing pro-life women to have abortions.

Joss has made his moral beliefs clear. Shepherd Book, the respected clergyman, doesn't force his beliefs on others. Caleb does.

A woman kicking butt may not have been controversial in 1992, but it wasn't and still isn't the norm. Action movies and comics are still overwhelmingly geared to men, and so, when women kick butt, they have to be beautiful and slender, with at least some traditional feminine characteristics.
Suzie- hand shaken. :-)

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