Opinion: Joss Whedon, King of the nerds

By ben Thomson, staff writer

There was once a time when writer/director Joss Whedon ruled the world. 

Early in his career, hits like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel skyrocketed the young showrunner into the stratosphere of geek godhood. Even his failures like Firefly and Dollhouse grew cult followings in his legion of loyal fans. 

This success gave him opportunities to dream bigger than he ever thought, allowing him to direct The Avengers, perhaps one of the biggest and most successful films of the 21st century. In 2012, everybody wanted to be Whedon. Now, in 2022, he’s the last person you’d ever hope to be.

In 2017, an essay was published by Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole. Cole chronicled her husband’s multiple affairs with other women, as well as his years of gaslighting and hypocrisy. Whedon, an outspoken feminist, lost the director’s chair on Batgirl as a result. 

Then, in 2021, multiple people who worked with Whedon came forward with their own stories of abusive conduct on the set of his films. Spearheaded by Justice League actor Ray Fisher, stories of Whedon’s condescending, sexist and sometimes violent behavior on set came to light, tarnishing the name of the once-beloved screenwriter. 

In 2022, Whedon participated in a profile with Vulture magazine, attempting to heal his image and refute the claims made by Fisher. It did the exact opposite.

There’s no denying Joss Whedon’s career has come to an end. He’s since been removed from every project to which his name was attached, and his reputation will forever be associated with that of an abusive, hypocritical man-child. However, it is for that exact reason Whedon is still the king of the nerds.

There’s nothing more poisonous than nerd culture. The 21st century explosion of superhero films, sci-fi epics and fantastical tales into pop culture should have resulted in these properties forming an inclusive fanbase for all. Instead, it became more exclusive. Hyper-fanboys resistant to any change took control and began the seemingly endless culture war over representation in film and television. 

Survivors of the Ghostbusters discourse in 2016 may remember the targeted harassment campaign against star Leslie Jones, whose personal website was hacked to display racist images and private photos of the actress. Who could forget the nuclear fallout that was the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a film whose biggest detractors chased actress Kelly Marie Tran off the internet for simply existing in a Star Wars film. And that’s to say nothing of the many mini temper tantrums grown men throw over writers trying to do anything to create a character for non-White, straight, cisgender men.

Whedon is by no means the cause of nerd culture’s current state. It is fitting, however, that the man who once dominated Comic-Con is a hypocritical, sexist manipulator. The man who uses feminist ideals to have multiple affairs with coworkers. The man who consciously decides to cut the Black lead of a superhero film down to a supporting role. The man who marketed himself as “the relatable nerd director.” Joss Whedon, the once and future king of the nerds.