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Meryl Streep: Mothers are often the vanguard of cultural institutions and transformation, and tonight as well as paying tribute to Joss Whedon and the wonderful female characters that he's created, we'd like to pay special tribute to his mother, the late Lee Stearns. It's nice when children credit their mothers for their success, and I've heard a lot about Lee, whose radical ideas about women's strength and independence and passion and empathy inspired Joss to create not only "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but many other strong women characters in "Firefly," in "Serenity," in his other work. Lee Stearns also inspired the creation of this organization, Equality Now, which was co-founded by Jessica Neuwirth, one of Lee's favorite high school students. She would have been very proud of you, Jessica and Joss, for all you've done and continue to do, and her spirit is here with us tonight.

Joss also has an extremely energetic and ubiquitous fan-base that's organized fundraisers across the country for Equality Now, his superheroes' favorite charity. So it's my great, great pleasure to introduce our special honoree, Joss Whedon, the wonderful man who's about to bring us Wonder Woman. We commend him for his outstanding contribution to equality in film and television. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Joss Whedon.


Joss Whedon: Thank you. I didn't know when I came here tonight that that was going to happen. No, I knew I'd be here, the part about my mother, and I just want to thank Meryl Streep and everybody for speaking so eloquently about her.

I'm surrounded tonight by people of extraordinary courage, and I know a thing or two about courage myself because I read a book with some courage in it one time, and it sounds really like a lot of work so I'll just keep writing. The most courageous thing that I've ever done is something called a press junket, which is actually pretty courageous, believe me, because they ask you the same questions over and over and over and over and over and over. I've done as many as 48 in a day of these interviews, and they don't come up with the fresh stuff. There is one question that I've been asked almost every time I've been interviewed, so I thought tonight, briefly, I would share with you one question and a few of my responses. Because when you're asked something 500 times, you really start to think about the answer. So now I will become a reporter, it's going to be an amazing transformation.

Whedon as a reporter: So, Joss, I, a reporter, would like to know: Why do you always write these strong women characters?

Whedon as himself: I think it's because of my mother. She really was an extraordinary, inspirational, tough, cool, sexy, funny woman, and that's the kind of woman I've always surrounded myself with. My friends, particularly my wife, who is not only smarter and stronger than I am, but occasionally taller, too. But only sometimes taller. And I think it all goes back to my mother.

Whedon as a reporter: So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Whedon as himself: Because of my father. My father and my stepfather had a lot to do with it because they prized wit and resolve in the women they were with above all things, and they were among the rare men who understood that recognizing somebody else's power does not diminish your own. When I created Buffy, I wanted to create a female icon, but I also wanted to be very careful to surround her with men who not only had no problem with the idea of a female leader, but were in fact engaged and even attracted to the idea. That came from my father and stepfather, the men who created this man, who created those men, if you can follow that.

Whedon as a reporter: So, why do you create these strong, uh, how you say, the women--

Whedon as himself: I'm in Europe now, so it's very international. I don't know where though.

Whedon as a reporter: ...these strong women characters?

Whedon as himself: Well, because these stories give people strength, and I've heard it from a number of people and I've felt it myself, and it's not just women, it's men, and I think there is something in particular about a female protagonist that allows a man to identify with her that opens up something, an aspect of himself he might be unable to express; hopes and desires, he might be uncomfortable expressing through a male identification figure. So it really crosses across both, and I think it helps people in that way.

Whedon as a reporter: So why do you create these strong women characters?

Whedon as himself: 'Cause they're hot.

Whedon as a reporter: But, these strong women characters--

Whedon as himself: Why are you even asking me this? [Whedon explaining] This is like, interview number 50 in a row. [Whedon back into character] How is it possible that this is even a question? Honestly. Seriously. Why did you write that down? Why aren't you asking a hundred other guys why they don't write strong women characters? I believe that what I'm doing should not be remarked upon, let alone honored, and there are other people doing it. But seriously, this question is ridiculous and you just got to stop.

Whedon as a reporter: So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Whedon as himself: Because, equality is not a concept. It's not something we should be striving for. It's a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who's confronted with it. We need equality, kinda now.

Whedon as a reporter: So why do you write these strong female characters?

Whedon as himself: Because you're still asking me that question.

Joss Whedon: Thank you very much for including me tonight. Thank you, all. [audience applause]

There may be small errors in this transcript.

ORIGINAL: By Joss Whedon for Equality Now. To read a full transcript, click here.

You can start this video from the beginning to hear Meryl Streep's wonderful intro speech. Also, fellow curator Rebecca Eisenberg, out of the kindness of her giant feminist heart, gave me this video to write up. So you should also Like her on Facebook because she's funny and smart and talented and a way gooder writer than me.

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