What kind of world do you want to live in? So asks Joss Whedon in a recently produced love letter to abortion giant Planned Parenthood entitled “Unlocked.” Whedon is a masterful storyteller who creates rich fantasy worlds. His grand ideas and strong heroines have enthralled audiences for decades. I count myself among his rabid fanbase, devouring the tales of Buffy, Angel, Mal and the Serenity crew, and Doctor Horrible, among others. At the core of his stories there is always heart, and the clear message that we all have our own power inside of us.
He is known for how he writes about women in particular; strong, flawed, soft, hard, complex. A Whedon heroine is a full person, responding to the situation at hand, not being run by it. They are the women who walk through the fire.
That’s why his new video that he directed for Planned Parenthood is so jarring; there are no strong women depicted in it. There are instead infantilized victims, hapless to take action in their own lives or control of their situation. The very antithesis of a Whedon heroine.
Featured in Whedon’s ad are a girl who, without Planned Parenthood, would be woefully uneducated about sexually transmitted diseases, and the lady who chose for some reason to not go to a federally supported clinic for a breast exam (but apparently could have been saved from her cancer if Planned Parenthood, and Planned Parenthood alone, still had tax dollar funds).
Finally, is the girl who sits, resigned, letters promising full university scholarships abandoned on the table in front of her. Her pregnancy, the message screams, has ruined her future.
Because no one can have a future if they end up pregnant, obviously, right Planned Parenthood? No mere girl could be strong enough to take on the challenges that come with early motherhood, right, Joss?
Of course, to Planned Parenthood, the crime here isn’t that universities aren’t being equipped to better support pregnant students, but rather that the teenage girl wasn’t able to acquire birth control on her own. Instead of encouraging mothers, empowering women, and working for better university support for pregnancy and childcare, Planned Parenthood once again pushes the destructive lie that motherhood will ruin your life.
It should be noted that in my own college classes, many of my fellow students are young, single mothers, and not a one of them is a failure because they gave life to their children. They are powerful and strong women who haven’t let setbacks keep them down. Sounds kind of like a Joss Whedon heroine, actually.
So what kind of world do I want to live in, Joss? The kind that doesn’t view women as incapable of caring for themselves. A world where pregnancy is viewed as a part of a woman’s story, not the end. Not the kind of world where a billion-dollar business is set up as all that can possibly protect us poor, pathetic women from ourselves.
Whedon is often asked in interviews why he writes such strong female characters. His reply was golden: “Because you’re still asking me that question.” Here’s the thing, though: the message that Unlocked sends only serves to reinforce why strong female characters are such a novelty. When faced with obstacles, we rise. We rise like Buffy, like Zoe, like Echo. To suggest that without Planned Parenthood we become weak and feeble is an insult to all young mothers, and to all women.
Ultimately, it’s a well-directed video. It’s also eye-roll inducing and heavy-handed. This “world without Planned Parenthood” can take its place among Whedon’s other fantasy settings. The clearest message of Unlocked is that Joss remains the king of fiction.