Monday, February 13, 2012

Buffy's Choice and the "Evils" of Free Speech Fallout

One of the things I love about free speech is that it grants you the right to have--and express--your own opinions about anything you want.  You don't have to take small little things like etiquette, dignity, and respect for others who might be more involved in an issue, into account--and this of course is the hallmark of so many citizens of the Internet, who often feel that their views on something trumps everything else.

Including, apparently, their own dignity.

When I finally read about the goings-on in the current issues of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was shocked at the developments.  Buffy Summers, the heroine and protagonist, had apparently made a bad decision at a party, gotten black-out drunk, and ended up sleeping with some guy.  She was too wasted to even remember who it was, but apparently she became pregnant as a result.  In thinking about her circumstances--which are, to say the least, unique--she has apparently resolved to have an abortion, reasoning that she simply doesn't feel ready to bring a child into the world.

It is, of course, at this point where the free speech kicks in, and every anti-abortion crusader from underneath the rock springs up and decries what a horrible development this is.  They berate everything they can: Buffy is supposed to protect the weak; Buffy shouldn't have made such an irresponsible decision; why can't she just consider adoption; and so on and so forth.  I've seen articles and comments from idealogues galore--many of whom freely admit they've never read this comic or seen the television series, but still feel they have the proper context to argue about this particular story.

Never mind that you had no interest in this series or story until it told this particular story, about this particular issue, in a way that seems to avoid the ending you'd want it to.  Never mind that you're now condemning Joss Whedon and his creative team based solely on this issue.  Never mind that this decision is rarely addressed in a respectful way in the mainstream storytelling media--it's not going the way you want it to, so you're going to scream and shout and bitch to anyone who will listen that this Joss Whedon and all these evil liberal leftist comic book readers are tearing up the nation and sending it straight to hell in a hand-basket.

Ah, irony.
I'm usually not given to this level of derision, but I've seen so many posts that support this stance that I can't help but transfer the sentiment to this one.

I probably won't be reading the current issues of Buffy anytime soon.  I don't know all of the specific details of that plot, aside from the occasional sample page put out on the Internet.  But I do have an abiding faith in Joss Whedon's ability to tell a story that is involving, insightful, and above all, respectful of the human issues involved.  That's simply what the man does: he tells stories well.  They may be stories about vampires and monsters and captains in tight pants, but they are also stories about suddenly losing a family member, dealing with a betrayal from a friend, and struggling through drug addiction.  They are stories of human beings: wonderful, horrible, flawed, fantastic human beings, and if we know anything about Buffy, she's one of the most human protagonists he's come up with.

And humans, as so many of us know, are prone to make at least the occasional bad decision.  And those bad decisions often end up coming back to haunt us, and force us to confront them, however uncomfortable they may be and however much we'd like to simply ignore them or gloss them over.  That's exactly what Buffy is doing right now, and we as observers of this story should think about the agony, the seriousness, and the life-changing potential of that confrontation--not doling out knee-jerk reactions immediately based on our own personal beliefs.  It's fine to have your own opinions about abortion--but focusing only on the outcome without respecting the heroine's struggle through the narrative is, at the very least, flagrantly insensitive.

And, while I could be wrong, I get the distinct feeling that most of the pro-lifers here have simply gotten word of this headline, and then set out to spread their displeasure about it without even giving the issue a read.  I point them out mostly because they appear to be reacting negatively to the apparent direction of the narrative.  I have yet to see any pro-choice posts trumpeting this as "Abortions for all!" or anything like that.

If the Komen Foundation debacle has proven anything, it's that pro-lifers have a long way to go before they're going to take away a woman's right to choose.  The fact that women mostly have the right to choose in this country is not something you'd know by watching the mainstream media these days, astoundingly enough, and that is undoubtedly due in no small part to influence from those who are outraged at the very notion that some woman somewhere should have the right to decide what's going on in her own body.  With this story at least, now even that is under fire.

I don't mean for this post to be political, even if my loyalties are very clearly showing.  My main goal is to argue for the sanctity of storytelling, and respect for its ability to start a dialog about topics that are controversial or uncomfortable.  Many of the people and organizations that have responded to this news item have only argued their own points, seemingly just from the idea of this story's very existence, without having read it.  I think that's deplorable, and to me at least, it demonstrates a complete lack of respect for not only those who tell such stories and their fans, but also anyone who may have lived another version of the same story.

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