On this eighteenth episode of The Pop Culture Lens, we present the recording of a second roundtable discussion from the 2015 Midwest Popular Culture Association Conference. This roundtable discusses the topic of director and showrunner Joss Whedon — and how much of a controversial figure and person he is for so many people, including his fans.

Now, to be fair, I would be one of those people who for a long time was thinking that Joss Whedon could do no wrong. I have been a fan of everything he has done — I even enjoyed (and not ironically!) the Buffy movie that started it all. So to think that he could do wrong, well, I would get defensive and argue vehemently against that idea.

Since I started working on this fractured fandom concept — and perhaps since growing up and seeing way too many of the things I grew up with being rebooted and reimagined — I have softened my vehemency and passionate defense to try to understand why there exists the range of reactions to Whedon. I think this roundtable discussion really gets at many of these reasons, while also recognizing that we can still like Whedon and his work even if we find aspects of either or both problematic. And so I present to you this recording of that conversation, via The Pop Culture Lens podcast.

Four people constituted this roundtable. Each discussant brought a different focus to this topic. Kadee Whaley (University of Kentucky) organized and moderated this discussion.

  • Art Herbig (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne) discusses his analysis of the discourse surrounding Joss Whedon as a feminist and how this creates who Whedon is for the world.
  • Laura Stolzfus-Brown (Pasadena City College) discusses the controversy of the scene between Black Widow and The Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron that caused Whedon to abandon social media in May, 2015.
  • Katie Wilson (University of Louisville) discusses her struggles as an acafan or fan-scholar and being able to criticize Whedon when she is such a big fan of his work.
  • CarrieLynn Reinhard (Dominican University) discusses how she sees the various types of anti-fans or apologist fans circling Whedon and the reasons for their angst, annoyance and disgust with the man and his work.

As a roundtable discussion, anyone in the audience of this podcast should feel free to engage in the dialogue about these issues, here and on our other social media accounts. You can also talk with Christopher Olson on Twitter (@chrstphrolson) and at his academic blog seemsobvioustome.wordpress.com. And you can talk to CarrieLynn Reinhard on Twitter (@mediaoracle) and at her website www.playingwithresearch.com.

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