I recently noticed that I describe Joss Whedon in two words, bloody brilliant. He is one of my favorite writers and directors. Not much for television, Whedon’s shows are the few that I can repeatedly watch. I’m more likely to watch an episode from Firefly for the tenth time than whatever happens to be on air. It’s because of friends “making” me watch the space age cowboy series on DVD that I began to appreciate Whedon’s work and how I grew to love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I couldn’t watch when it first aired in 1997. Sometimes, things deserve a second chance.
Since I first caught wind of it many months ago, I’ve been looking forward to Whedon’s new series, Dollhouse. The show is about a government organization that uses humans whose DNA and memories have been altered for different missions. Echo, one of the dolls, begins recalling facts and memories that weren’t completely erased. During an interview, Eliza Dushku, who plays Echo and played Faith in BtVS, says “the scripts are tight, solid, fast, action, drama, comedy. It’s really great.” When I first heard the title, Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House instantly came to mind. Aside from Echo and Nora residing in their physical and metaphorical dollhouses, it’ll be interesting to see if parallel commentary on society arises. Dollhouse premieres February 13 on FOX.
So, why Whedon? Aside from his excellent eye for imagery and directing, Whedon has a lot to say and does so well. Whedon is extremely vocal about being a feminist, which is why in 1992 he wrote and directed the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was tired of the stereotypical blonde cheerleader always being the victim and wanted to change that. Whedon later figured the movie wasn’t good enough and it could go a lot further so he began the series, which is a lot better than the campy comical film. Strong women and positive rolemodels abound in BtVS, its spin-off series Angel, and Firefly. In an interview with Mother Jones magazine, Whedon says:
“I’ve seen a lot of movies [written] by guys who set out to [create a feminist icon] and didn’t feel it. Look at A League of Their Own. All of the good lines are Tom Hanks’. Those guys are really fabulous writers, but it’s not enough to say, “This should be done.” You have to need to do it.”
Firefly‘s title song “Ballad of Serenity”, also written by Whedon, encapsulates the show’s themes of independence, freedom, determination, loyalty, and love:
“Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell ’em I ain’t coming back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can’t take the sky from me
There’s no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can’t take the sky from me”
In Firefly and its Hugo Award winning movie, Serenity, crew members on the spaceship Serenity fight to survive in the “wild west”, the new frontier, while trying to keep under the government’s radar. It has a stellar cast that includes Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Ron Glass, and Adam Baldwin, to name a few. In the usual Whedon fashion, the shows are witty, comical, and poignant.
Whedon’s characters are not infallible, in fact they’re far from perfect. Even those who have lost their souls or are villainous have emotions. No matter how hard some try, they’re always misunderstood or can never do anything right. Many have problems communicating their feelings, especially when it comes to love. Others are seen as evil, but have that one person who is their Achilles heel. Some feel guilty for a past wrong and try to redeem themselves. The characters aren’t so outrageous that no one can identify with them, rather quite the opposite.
Whedon is one of those writers whose projects one has probably seen without realizing. His writing credits include Toy Story (for which he won an Academy Award), Alien: Resurrection, and Roseanne. He hasn’t worn his director’s cap much outside of his already aforementioned shows. But he’s directing and writing Goners, a thriller due to be released in 2011. As with Dollhouse, I’m looking forward to that too. After all, I think Joss Whedon is bloody brilliant.
“When people stop talking, they start communicating. Language because it is so specific and constrictive can interfere with actual communication.” ~Joss Whedon, commentary from BtVS‘ “Hush”
“It’s through the pain that we find the truth of who we are. It strips us of our defenses. We are made innocent again like children. ~Angel