Joss Whedon's FRAY, Gender, and Religion




In my first post on Joss Whedon‘s character, Melaka Fray, I wrote about socioeconomic standing, futurism, and religion in this comic book series [see linked]. As a follow up post, I want to talk about gender, religious meaning, and Fray. For those unfamiliar with the Slayer mythology, the narrative goes something like this: “a girl, the Chosen One, to save us from the vampires, the demons, the monsters.” Now, funny thing is, I introduced just last week a neighbor’s kid to Buffy, and he asked why do only girls get to be Slayers. I had to explain to him that Joss Whedon the creator of the Buffyverse was tired of seeing in horror movies, women being the victims, and so he wanted to do an inversal of that trend. Therefore, 1992, BtVS the original movie (and a personal favorite of mine).

On BtVS the television series, Buffy finds her identity as fitting the traditional feminine consumer role, she wants to be a cheerleader, talk about boys all the time, ya know, live to go shopping. Because Fray as a comic series had different class sympathies than Buffy, Fray’s identity is framed in a quite different manner. Fray sees herself, and calls herself over and over, “Gunther’s best runner.” Yet, Gunther is the character who sexually objectifies Fray the most. He asks her, “Why doesn’t she come visit her in a skirt?” and addresses Fray as “princess” even after her military victory over the demons and Lurks. Melaka Fray, therefore, as a female member of the proletariat, tolerates her own oppression based on gender because she finds pride in her work as a thief. Gender roles that remain constructed for women in Fray’s 23rd century, such as mother and sister, are always the grounds of critique by Fray’s opponents. Fray’s sister Erin, her brother Harth, and the vampire/lurk Icarus make it a point to frequently question Melaka Fray’s maternal instincts. She is told time and again, she can’t take care of anyone, let alone herself. Fray does not fit the mold of the rich white male moral agent that society uplifts.

In politics, it is not unusual for poor women to become scapegoats. Specifically when it comes to social programs, the demonization of poor women (usually of color), comes from Democrats and Republicans looking to score points against “welfare queens” and “pregnant teenage girls.” The scapegoating mechanism has recently been observed by philosophers and religious scholars such as Rene Girard. In times of crisis, societies, rather than having outbreaks of riots within populations, will choose a small segment of the group to exert violence upon. These sacrifices are seen as appeasements to the gods. For Whedonites, the work that addresses this phenom the most is Joss Whedon’s horror film, Cabin In The Woods. Outside the Whedonverse, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008) comes immediately to mind. On a smaller scale, however, in Slayer Mythology, the second season of Buffy has a few images of the Slayer as Scapegoat, like when Principal Snyder placing blame on Buffy for all of Sunnydale High’s troubles, even a murder.

In the Bible, the story of Jonah has been received in the Christian church as an anti-scapegoating narrative. According to S. Mark Heim in his work, Saved From Sacrifice: A theology of the cross, Christians in about the Fourth century Common Era (4C.E.) placed images on caskets of Jonah. All four chapters of Jonah were even read during services back then during Maundy Thursday, the day before the vilest sacred of days in the Christian calendar, Good Friday (when Christ is crucified). The Resurrection of Jonah (out of the fish’s belly) and the repentance of the humans and animals from ancient Ninevah testify against the crew members who cast lots to throw Jonah off of the boat. Jonah Arisen and Ninevah are the ANTI-scapegoating mechanisms.

In a similar vein, Fray herself is the ANTI-scapegoating army against the Laws (police), the Lurks (vampires), and Gunther (the sexists). Fray is swallowed up by the demonic dragon, called forth by an evil Leader of the Demons. She forces that dragon to open up with her axe, as she saves the world, and uses her agency to destroy that which would make her a scapegoat. After her rebirth and resurrection, Fray violently opposes the angry, impatient ways of Urkonn, who does not value human life. Melaka comes to the realization that her life has value, and that she in her freedom creates that significance which she will call her destiny. In telling the story of Melaka Fray, just as he does in Cabin In The Woods (2011), Joss Whedon is telling us that scapegoat mechanism should not be there in the first place.

For more comparisons on the book of Jonah and Joss Whedon’s FRAY, I have made a chart (pdf file) which you can access here: Book of Jonah/Fray comparison Table

What persons of religious commitments can take away from the graphic novel Fray is that part of accepting prophetic callings to justice is to do two things: first, reject whatever scapegoat mechanisms exist in your community, and second, to probably anticipate being made the scapegoat yourself. Fray has an eye for the margins, providing care to the least of these in the character we come to know as Loo, a 5 year old child who has physical and mental disabilities. Similarly,The Body of Christ is called to stand up for the excluded, and preach the wideness of God’s mercy and love.




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3 thoughts on “Joss Whedon's FRAY, Gender, and Religion

  1. Pingback: Sunday Funnies:How Jim West Found My Superpowers |

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