As much as I'm enjoying Astonishing X-Men - and just generally love Joss' work - I have to admit that Karen has a damn good point. (caution: spoilers there and below for Astonishing X-Men and Serenity)
I think it's quite evident that Joss has issues with adults and authority figures in general, but he does seem to have problems with adult women more than adult men on top of everything else. I think Karen is right that a lot of this is ingrained and unintentional. I also think it's the type of thing Joss was trying to allude to in his little speech about inequality eating at everyone's soul - but that still doesn't excuse it.
Kalinara once argued that women were stuck in refrigerators not because they were women, but because they weren't the main characters. I responded that it's more than that. Since male is the default gender, it's not just that male heros mean more female love interests, it means that women are less likely to be anything but love interests.
For Joss, it's not so much female characters as it is characters that exhibit traditionaly "feminine" characteristics while still retaining their confidence and authority that he tends to write off. It was Wash and Book that bit it in the movie, not Inara or Zoe. I have a feeling that a lot of this comes from the mysogynistic tricks people get taught as storytelling techniques. Somewhere I have a half-written and never posted rant that I started about the epiphany I had after watching the season finale of Criminal Minds: even when women make it all the way to secondary/co- hero, they are usually the obviously expendable characters - and I think that has to do with "feminine" characterstics being considered expendable.
It was obvious from the start of Lost* that Claire and Shannon were more vulnerable than Kate to the whims of the writers because they were both written as more "feminine." A part of this is due to all of these stories being action stories - but only part of it. Many of the story arcs have been about people stepping up and displaying survival skills they didn't realize they had - a character that starts out vulnerable need not end up that way, and not all vulnerable characters need to be female. Part of why Sun and Kim's stories are so interesting to watch is because both of them are vulnerable at times and strong at others. They not only love each other very much, they have learned how to rely on and support each other.
Joss has the kick-ass teen girl down. He also does a hell of a lot better job than most when it comes to treating women as people and writing about women who have relationships to each other and not just to men, but I do think Karen is right. Joss e really needs to find a way to write about strong, feminine adults without having to kill them off all the time.
Betty says everything else that needs to be said over in the forums:
I think that Joss gets more than his fair share of criticism simply because he can support it. No one's going to bother spending more than five minutes on showing why, say Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire is problematic to feminists.*ahem - I should note that I've only seen the first third of the second season - so, sorry if what I'm writing doesn't make much sense in light of anything that happened after that point.
Alternately, he gets more than his fair share of criticism because he's not perfect, and he keeps on getting held up as the pinnacle of achievement by feminism in pop-culture. While Buffy is fabulous, I do hope that it's not the best thing feminism ever achieves in that medium. Onwards! Upwards!