When Joss Whedon deleted his Twitter account yesterday, certain segments of the internet were sure they knew the reason. The Buffy creator, fresh off the back of a directing gig on the second Avengers movie, had received so much criticism from feminists about his portrayal of Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow in the recently released Age of Ultron that he couldn't take it any more and ran for the hills. But there's a problem with that narrative — Whedon himself says it's "horseshit."
"Believe me, I have been attacked by militant feminists since I got on Twitter. That's something I'm used to," Whedon said in an interview with BuzzFeed News on Tuesday. "I saw a lot of people say, ‘well, the social justice warriors destroyed one of their own!' It's like, Nope. That didn't happen." The real reason for his departure, he said, was his return to writing after a frustrating creative process and his need to shut out the noise of Twitter in order to do so. "I just thought, 'wait a minute, if I'm going to start writing again, I have to go to the quiet place — and this is the least quiet place I've ever been in my life."
The director said he was addicted to checking Twitter
Whedon — who had spoken in the past about possibly quitting Twitter because people kept begging for a Buffy remake — likened trying to write while monitoring the social media service as "taking the bar exam at Coachella," but admitted that it was his desire to keep checking the service that was the problem. "Twitter is an addictive little thing, and if it's there, I gotta check it." Whedon described his situation as hitting rock bottom for an addict. "I just had a little moment of clarity where I'm like, You know what, if I want to get stuff done, I need to not constantly hit this thing for a news item or a joke or some praise, and then be suddenly sad when there's hate and then hate and then hate."
Certainly some of that hate has emanated from feminist sources in recent days. Whedon noted as much, telling BuzzFeed News that by supporting feminist causes, feminism became the barometer for all he did to some people. "If you don't live up to the litmus test of feminism in this one instance, then you're a misogynist," he said. But while his newest movie took criticism from notable feminist sources, Whedon said the comments were nothing to make him question his safety, and nothing close to the torrent of abuse feminists such as his friend Anita Sarkeesian have received.
Whedon said the rumor feminists drove him off was "horseshit"
"For someone like Anita Sarkeesian to stay on Twitter and fight back the trolls is a huge statement," he told BuzzFeed. "It's a statement of strength and empowerment and perseverance, and it's to be lauded. For somebody like me to argue with a bunch of people who wanted Clint and Natasha to get together [in Age of Ultron], not so much." The director said Sarkeesian even contacted him shortly after he disappeared from the service to check he was okay, but that he had been conditioned to expect vitriol from comic book fans by writer Brian Michael Bendis many years before.
For Whedon, it wasn't even just hate that was the problem — the director questioned how much more positive reinforcement he needed from appreciative comments, worrying that he was becoming "a little compliment leech." The writer and director says he'll consider joining Twitter again at some point, but for now, he's going to "live like a person." Explaining his reasons for leaving, Whedon said he felt like the old man who didn't understand new technology. "Right now," he told BuzzFeed, "I'm the man who thinks he could do better without it."