I really like the point you made about past versus ongoing.
So you talked about Joss Whedon, who was a poster boy feminist ally until Age of Ultron and the revelations made by his ex-wife. It’s easy to look back and see problems now in hindsight, but in their context, his female characters were groundbreaking. He took the cute blonde teenage girl who tended to be brutally traumatized in horror genre flicks, and he turned her into the chosen-one hero who chased the monsters rather than being chased by them. He took the space opera and made something in which half the main cast was female and all of them were different from each other (something that Star Trek and Star Wars refused to do— even the Kate Mulgrew-led Star Trek: Voyager series had 2:1 male to female ratio and catered to the male gaze). He took the already tokenized and sexualized singular female Avenger, who was refused the privilege of her own origin film, and he turned her into the breakout star of the first Avengers movie whose origin story everyone wanted to see after walking out of the theater.
But things have changed since then, and not just because of what Whedon’s ex-wife said. In a post-Hermione and Katniss age— an age in which we have seen women put into action roles and survive traumatic events without being fetishized or written as lazy tropes (Netflix’s Jessica Jones also comes to mind)— we can look back at Whedon’s women and see patterns emerge showing how his once-groundbreaking heroines are problematic. Maybe we didn’t notice before, because there was even less diversity then than there is now. And yeah, let’s call it out, and call him out. But it won’t change the fact that Buffy and Firefly and Avengers represented steps forward in their time, and meant a lot to many of us who had never seen women portrayed like that before.
I think another interesting example to tease apart is House of Cards. With allegations of Kevin Spacey’s abuse out, Netflix responded by suspending production and, eventually, handing over the lead to Robin Wright… which is great. But what irks me is that since then, I’ve read articles that seem to indicate that people knew all along but kept their mouths shut. There’s a CNN article in which production crew mention it was a toxic environment for young men on set, that Spacey’s predatory behavior was an open secret, and that crew were afraid to speak up at risk of being fired. So while it’s all well and good that Netflix has done the right thing by removing him from the show, it seems to me that there were five seasons of sweeping his problematic behavior under the rug. As a fan of the series, I have complicated feelings about that.
I’m more apt to blame the culture that has enabled powerful people to be problematic, rather than the people themselves. That being said, I totally understand if someone else wants to never see anything involving Spacey again, or Joss Whedon, or Johnny Depp, or Quentin Tarantino… etc. I get it. I really do. Do what makes you feel comfortable and alleviates your mental distress/cognitive dissonance. Seriously. But do I feel that need? Nah, not really. I still watch House of Cards, Firefly, Kill Bill, and Fantastic Beasts. For me, humans will always be humans, and although I think it’s good to be aware and vocal about these issues, I’m still not going to let a few problematic people behind a fictional story “yuck my yum.”