Joss Whedon has always been with her, so to speak. On top of being raised by a “hard-core feminist,” he was bullied relentlessly during his formative years—the sorry plight of the androgynous ginger kid—and thus identifies with the helpless, the disenfranchised.
He attended Wesleyan University, a bastion of feminism (Michael Bay be damned), and his first writing gig was for the woman-fronted sitcom Roseanne. Heck, his dad was a staff writer for The Golden Girls.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Whedon has long harbored a predilection for female protagonists, from the titular ass-kicker in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Avengers’ Black Widow. And now, the filmmaker is doing everything in his power to help another intrepid, resilient woman triumph against the forces of “toxic masculinity:” Hillary Clinton.
“It’s fitting that instead of facing off against a man, she is facing off against maleness,” says Whedon. “She is campaigning against the male id—all the worst of toxic masculinity in this country. This huge fart, this empty skin that’s filled with gaseous hate, is a kind of Halloween monster of man.”
The “Halloween monster of a man” he’s describing is, of course, Donald J. Trump—a real-estate heir turned punchline-happy reality-show host turned Republican nominee for president of the United States. Whedon recently launched the super PAC Save the Day in order to encourage people, particularly the young and impressionable, to register to vote. And make no mistake about it: They want these registrants to vote against the orange guy with the tiny hands.
Save the Day kicked things off with a bang. Its first PSA featured stars like Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo urging American citizens to register to vote, with wry self-deprecation and the promise of a nude Bruce Banner. It’s since gone viral, garnering 7.5 million YouTube views and counting.
Whedon was inspired to start the anti-Trump PAC through a combination of what he calls “angry writer’s syndrome” and the Democratic National Convention, where, following the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails, many Bernie Sanders supporters believed the party conspired against their candidate.
“They were so fractious,” recalls Whedon. “Before Michelle Obama spoke and made everybody feel better, the Bernie bros were yelling, ‘Lock her up!’ and I thought, ‘Oh my god—we could hand Trump this fucking election if we don’t get our shit together.’ So I thought, well, I’ve never had the means to do this and the time, but I do now, and therefore I have an obligation to. As late in the game as it is, I’m just putting the pedal to the metal.”
Since its Sept. 21 launch, Save the Day has produced eight shorts, the most recent of which is “The Youth,” a cheeky piece featuring comedians Bill Hader and Nicole Byer that pokes fun at how adults tend to pander to millennials by trying to speak their language. All it took for Whedon to secure all the stars for his PSAs was to ask—as well as a little help from his talent agency, CAA. “Nobody said ‘no,’” says Whedon. “Everyone who we were able to get ahold of was game.”
The 52-year-old filmmaker is not just an acclaimed TV showrunner and filmmaker, but also a total news junkie. Whedon’s first celebrity autograph came from John Chancellor, the longtime NBC Nightly News anchor. He and his mother watched him every night.
Trump’s frequent criticisms of the media—that it’s “rigged” against him and doesn’t give him a fair shake—seem particularly ridiculous to Whedon, given that the blustering presidential candidate, who was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault (and was subsequently accused of sexual assault or harassment by 11 women), is best pals with CNN boss Jeff Zucker, who keeps a framed Trump tweet in his office, and has been propped up by the gossip rags and cable news channels for decades. This is a guy who used to masquerade as a publicist named “John Miller” in order to brag about his sexual conquests to the tabloids.
“All his criticism of the media is incredibly hypocritical, self-serving, and unreal. He is a creation of the media,” says Whedon. “The only person who’s ever really come out against him is him. All these ‘mean’ ads he’s complaining about from Hillary are just him talking. And they wouldn’t put Bernie on the air, and they air him and his rallies for hours every day. The media has helped him at every step, and they let him play the part of the crass, lovable rich-guy figure. Well, it turns out he’s not fucking lovable! And the person who revealed that was him.” “The least interesting thing about the rise of Donald Trump is Donald Trump,” he continues. “What’s great is, A) the hypocrisy that the GOP has descended into is being exposed by their Frankenstein creation, and B) conversations about race, immigration, sexism, and misogyny that were not taking place have begun to take place on a national scale, which is great.”
One of the more prophetic Save the Day videos was “Fraud Squad,” a bit about a team of voter-fraud investigators (played by Minka Kelly and Anders Holm) who are left with nothing to do because, well, voter fraud is by and large a myth. A 2014 study found that out of approximately one billion ballots cast between 2000-2014, there were only 31 incidents of possible voter fraud. So Trump’s incessant whining that the election is “rigged” against him due to widespread voter fraud is not only false—it’s dangerous.
“That scares me honestly more than anything else he’s ever said,” claims Whedon. “We made this video months ago, and the voter-fraud thing was very much about people paying attention to who was really trying to make voting difficult. We made this before Trump started saying, ‘Let’s monitor the polls and make sure no one’s getting in who shouldn’t.’ That’s terrifying as well. I almost changed the script to reflect that. But the fact of the matter is voter fraud is a GOP creation—that they can disenfranchise the poor and people of color.”
Whedon is referring to North Carolina’s Republican-pushed voter-ID laws, which were recently found by a federal appeals panel to be “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow” that targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision” who largely voted Democrat.
“They say elections are ‘rigged’ to distract people from the fact that they’re rigging them,” says Whedon.
While Whedon acknowledges that the rise of Trump and his army of acolytes isn’t due to “just racism in people,” and that there’s a sense “anger and fear about the economy and the way the world is changing,” he also believes the GOP has been “sowing these seeds” for years—from the “Southern strategy” all the way to the “birther” movement.
“Honestly, my favorite thing about all this was what they said on Saturday Night Live when they were doing Romney,” says Whedon. “He said, ‘We in the GOP… we do not say racist and sexist things; we imply them subtly over decades and decades of policy.’ So they’ve been sowing these seeds, and then they’re like, ‘Hey! Where did this guy come from?!’”
“[Mike] Pence is just terrifying. I think Trump picked him because nobody would ever assassinate Trump. It would be the worst thing that could happen,” he adds of Trump’s incredibly homophobic running mate. “People forget that the GOP fell out with Trump because he wasn’t conservative enough. Forget the fact that he’s just a racist, sexist horror who’s trying to incite violence in order to clinch his bid for power, there are people here who are running for office who are worse. They really lost touch with their constituency. They went to the fringes and found the dreck of political humanity.”
Whedon has been a Hillary Clinton supporter for quite some time, and thinks the unflappable former first lady, senator, and secretary of State is just the person to defeat Trump come Nov. 8.
“She’s fought longer and harder against very unfair odds than anybody I have seen,” he says. “I do think she has a real chance of slaying what is an actual beast—and then she can spend the next eight years dealing with amazing misogynist obstructionism, the way Obama got to do with eight years of amazing racist obstructionism.”