Thursday, July 31, 2008

Allecto Considers "Objects in Space"

Well, Allecto has spoken about Joss Whedon and Firefly again. I've delayed any sort of response to this for a long time, since at first glance it looked like she was hardly addressing the subject matter. I've finally gotten around to reading the whole thing, and she really doesn't, but she manages to completely analyze Joss Whedon (and all male writers) from two paragraphs in a video commentary (is your sarcasm detector working).

Ok, so I’m currently thinking a lot about the episode of Firefly, "Objects in Space". This was the last episode of the TV series before production was stopped. And as such it became one of the most important to the fans of the series. Now I did want to talk about the racism of this particular episode. And I will. I will be focusing particularly on the construction of lust, both in this episode, and in the series as a whole. But first I wanted to talk a little about male philosophy as Wank.

Since the villain in this episode happens to be a black man, it comes as no surprise that she's going to declare it racist. We'll see if she has any decent reasoning other than "there's a black man who loses to some white folks". First, however, we have to wade through a long philosophical digression, in which she will claim that Whedon (along with a lot of well-known philosophers from history) is a self-obsessed misogynist who can only write stories that promote male supremacy and reduce women to sex objects. According to her, he has something called Male Artist Syndrome (a term coined by another radical feminist she refers to as Dissenter, with a link to her blog), which makes him incapable of recognizing women as creative beings. In his writings, women only exist to boost his ego by agreeing with his ideas and adoring his work.

She quotes from Whedon's commentary on the episode, in which he describes a "philosophical epiphany" he had while watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which started him thinking about his existence and place in the world. He subsequently read Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, which he says made him think about "the pain of being of things and their existence outside of their meaning". Allecto decided that she needed to read Nausea to see what so fascinated Joss Whedon, and concluded that Sartre is a narcissistic misogynist obsessed with sexual exploitation of children. I haven't read Nausea and have no inclination to do so, so I have no idea whether she's close to the mark, there. If the quotes that she provides are any indication, I'm not missing anything.

There are many more disturbing things about the book Nausea but I am not going to list all of them. I just wanted to make the point that the book is sickeningly sexist. And Sartre, like Whedon, suffers from an acute case of Male Artist Syndrome.
The quotes she provides are unquestionably disturbing, but whether these kinds of passages are what caught Joss Whedon's attention is completely unknowable. She has a pattern of latching onto the worst possible statements or events in any given story or writing, though, so I don't really know if they're characteristic of the whole book.

But let’s go back to Whedon’s little existential epiphany. I would argue that straight, white, rich, Western men like Joss are the only ones who have the luxury of waiting until they are 16 in order to realise that they exist and that their existence is meaningless. Straight, white, rich, Western men are the only ones who have the luxury of realising this and calling it philosophy. So Joss shared his touching memory about realising that he existed and that life and death happened. He called his Wank an epiphany even, as he sat in his rich, white comfort, watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
I don't know much about Joss Whedon's background. I don't know whether he was "rich" back in 1977 when Close Encounters came out. His father was apparently a successful TV writer for some sitcoms, so he probably wasn't suffering. At any rate, he apparently had a much more comfortable childhood than Allecto, who relates her own "epiphany" story of how she contemplated suicide at age eleven.

I did not have the luxury of waiting until I was 16 to have an epiphany about the fact that the world existed, that I existed and that I was meaningless. I did not have the luxury of realizing that death existed in an abstract fashion while sitting in a cinema. The knowledge of death, for me, was graphically represented by the thought of my body lying lifeless on the concrete. My knowledge of life and death, my struggle to exist as a multiracial female under white male supremacy has been a struggle since the day I was born.

There were never any easy answers. But this story is not one about an epiphany, this story did not make me who I am today. The only thing that I learnt from sitting on that balcony was the fact that I am too spineless to kill myself.

But men like Whedon and Sartre take one look at the fact that their lives are meaningless and their next step is to make books and TV shows about meaninglessness and they call it philosophy!!!
Apparently if you didn't have as difficult a childhood as Allecto, you aren't entitled to think of any thoughtful moment in your life as "philosophical". Not that I think her characterization of his "epiphany" is all that accurate, since I don't think his quote shows that he suddenly started feeling that life was "meaningless", nor do I think that "Objects in Space" expresses such a sentiment.

EDIT: Nor does Joss Whedon say it's about meaninglessness. Here's his statement from an interview.
It was very much an existential statement on the meaning of objects in space and how they contain meanings within themselves; how we approach that and about two people that see them in a way that every day people don’t, and what the essential difference is, which is that one of them, the bounty hunter, is innately bringing evil with him and one of them, River, is innately bringing love.
Back to Allecto.

My discussions with Dissenter have provided valuable insight into the reasons that men Wank and call it philosophy. "Men’s lives are an exercise in futility," she says, "males are essentially pointless so they have to have all of this existential angst about their lives." This is true. Men, being rather superfluous creatures, must excrete Phallosophical Wank and believe it to be meaningful.

For women, life is not about meaninglessness. For women, life is a struggle to create meaning. Women do not write books about being nauseated by our own existence. There is a whole world FULL of men out there who are already nauseated by our existence. Women write about the power and the meaningfulness of existence, of life, in its own right. This is powerful magic; the beauty of existing, the beauty of surviving.

And Allecto's own prejudices come bubbling to the surface in a stream of anti-male BS. To all men life is meaningless, but to all women, life is a struggle to create meaning. I wonder if she has any clue what a hypocrite she is.

And after all that, she never actually got around to addressing the content of "Objects in Space". Apparently it was just inspiration for a tirade against men who have the audacity to think they've had moments of philosophical insight. This post doesn't even rate a summary of her points, since she only has a couple that really address the content of Firefly.

Edit: She does eventually address the actual content of "Objects in Space", though.


Saranga said...

I haven't read her new post yet. It's on my list of things I should do when I have time to sit and think.

missbittens said...

I've read about half of Nausea, and I can tell you that it's not all like that, and the guy in it is sort of going a little nuts through the whole thing as a result of his realizations about existance.

Also, neither the book nor the episode were about meaninglessness. You've probably seen the episode and commentary, but the book was about how abolutely everything existed so much, like every pebble was on the same scale as the entire planet. It was also acknowleging that things have no meaning on their own, we have to give them to them. A lot like the episode.

jacksoboy said...

I know this is a couple of months late, but wikipedia notes that "French writer Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre’s lifelong partner, claims that La Nausée grants consciousness a remarkable independence and gives reality the full weight of its sense." That Simone de Beauvoir happens to be one of the pillars of modern feminism.