hh.sePublications
Change search
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf
Characters of Colour in the Whedonverse
Halmstad University, School of Education, Humanities and Social Science, Centrum för lärande, kultur och samhälle (CLKS).
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Early on, the works produced by Joss Whedon and writers associated with him were recognised as feminist. This pertains not only to the prominence of female characters, but to the emphasis on co-operation and power-sharing that appear in many of the works. However, there were, also early, concerns about the portrayal of people of colour. I will here consider the entirety of Whedon’s oeuvre, whether he has been writer, producer, or director.

Whedon’s works do not feature many characters of colour; characters played by actors of colour might also be presented as white, thus further limiting the number of openly presented characters of colour. The portrayals of those characters of colour that do appear in his work are also not unproblematic. One particularly problematic instance of this, which I will focus on here, is the depiction of people of colour (especially but not exclusively women) as expected to exhibit strong loyalty to a white person (especially but not exclusively men).

Characters of colour, regardless of prominence, often appear as subordinate to a white character, whether this is due to a formal chain of command or an informal hierarchy. Examples of this appear in Agents of ShieldFireflyDollhouse, and Angel, to mention a few. Obviously, the hierarchy is more or less formalised in these texts, but it is generally clear to the viewers even when informal. The moral quality of the characters of colour is repeatedly judged by how loyal they remain to the white person above them in the hierarchy; this judgement may be openly referred to in the text or consist of how the audience is expected to perceive them and their fortunes, or lack thereof, in the arc of the plot.

As viewers, we tend to accept the hierarchies inherent in the plot, whether formal or informal; we are presented with a leader and a group of followers, who might also have an internal hierarchy. We are invited to judge the performance of the leader, including on how well the followers follow them, and to expect, if we approve of the leader, to see loyalty from the followers. Nevertheless, the demands of loyalty from the characters of colour tend to go beyond the normal expectation that they carry out orders and offer input, if necessary, and often includes emotional and psychologial support. This support is generally not extended in the other direction, making it a power imbalance rather than mutual care, with the less privileged characters taking on the labour of making white characters feel better. This paper will discuss some instances of this, and how simply including more characters of colour does not in and of itself solve the long-noted issues of race in Whedon’s work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
Keywords [en]
Joss Whedon, race
National Category
Other Humanities not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-40547OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-40547DiVA, id: diva2:1350161
Conference
Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon, Dublin, Ireland, August 15-19, 2019
Available from: 2019-09-10 Created: 2019-09-10 Last updated: 2019-10-01Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

No full text in DiVA

Authority records BETA

Hildebrand, Kristina

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Hildebrand, Kristina
By organisation
Centrum för lärande, kultur och samhälle (CLKS)
Other Humanities not elsewhere specified

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar

urn-nbn

Altmetric score

urn-nbn
Total: 49 hits
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf