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Sunday Read: Meet Joss Whedon, Writer of Avengers, Buffy and Firefly and Creator of the “Whedonverse”

Joss WhedonThe Philosophy of Joss WhedonThere’s a scene in the recently released Avengers: Age of Ultron movie where Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, uses a cuss word during battle and Captain America reprimands him to the amusement of the crew when he calls out, “Language!”

These perfectly timed one-liners and witty banter have awarded writer and director Joss Whedon a cult following across generations – from the 90s Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans to the die-hard browncoats who still attend Comic-Con each year in the hopes of meeting the Firefly crew.

Whedon is well-known for his subversive world building skills (aka the Whedonverse). It was especially in Firefly where he showed his strength in creating strong, rich characters with memorable lines such as “Jayne, your mouth is talking. You might wanna look to that”, “Well, my time of not taking you seriously is coming to a middle” (Captain Malcolm Reynolds), “Terse? I can be terse. Once, in flight school, I was laconic” (Wash) and “Going on a year now, nothins twixed my neathers not run on batteries” (Kayle).

Firefly was cancelled after only 14 episodes and the Serenity movie was made to appease outraged fans and to tie up some of the loose ends. Yet to this day questions remain such as who was Shepherd Book really and why did Inara mysteriously leave the Companion’s Guild? The writer and his brother Zack Whedon have since attempted to sate curiosities with a series of Serenity graphic novels available from Dark Horse Comics.

Serenity - Leaves on the WindSerenity - Those Left BehindSerenity, Volume 3 - Shepherd's TaleSerenity, Volume 2 - Better Days

When it comes down to the bare bones of it, the reason why Whedon is so popular is because of his fearless writing style and his dedication to the story. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone Whedon spoke about what he’d set out to achieve with the new Avengers: “Find the next story, that’s all. That’s the only job, I wanted to make a completely new movie about these people, not just make another instalment.”

Read the article:

What is your mood when you finish something like this?

I’ve never done anything like this [laughs]. The burden of it, usually I can just like tune that stuff out. That’s not my job. I’m here to tell a story. But at some point your brain starts running numbers. There’s some weird choices in this movie. You know? There’s some genuinely strange stuff. It’s very new.

Yeah, the decision to make 40 minutes of it black and white and Russian was…

[Laughs] You know, with hindsight … No, believe me, it’s not that weird, but I was like, we’re definitely going to go left of center here. And that was an adjustment for people. So, I’m like, if this doesn’t work, they’re all going to go, “Well, you went left of center!” I just wanted to make it as interesting and complicated – not complicated, complex— as possible, and really get inside these characters’ heads.

Joss Whedon: The Biography by Amy Pascale was published by Chicago Review Press in August last year and contains conversations with the word-smith’s family, closest friends and actors who starred in his various projects. Nathan Fillion, the lead actor in Firefly and possibly the best Mal Reynolds Whedon could have asked for, wrote the forward to the book.

Tor shared an excerpt from chapter 18 entitled “Curse Your Sudden but Inevitable Cancellation” in which all signs showed that the gritty space western had been doomed from the start.

Read the extract:

At times, Joss’s new show seemed to be considered the bastard stepchild even within Mutant Enemy. While his other two productions were successful, long-running series, Firefly was the little show that couldn’t. And yet “we got the best people from those other two shows,” Nathan Fillion recalls—something the people on those shows didn’t always appreciate. “They’re looking at us going, ‘What’s happening? What’s Firefly got that we don’t got? You’re taking our best guy? C’mon!’ ”

As the other Mutant Enemy casts may have suspected, Firefly had quickly found a special place in Joss’s heart. He was passionate about the universe he’d created and—even though he’d impressed upon the actors that they were all replaceable—about the cast he’d assembled. “I never worked with an ensemble that meshed like that,” he recalled. He’d never felt so sure right from the pilot how a show was going to work. “It was Camelot. It was the best experience of my career.”

His actors were just as enamored with the experience. “I’ve always pulled at least one friend out of everything I’ve done. With Firefly, I think I pulled about thirty-five friends out of that thing,” Fillion says. “Not just cast, but writers and producers and crew. People I still call and people I still chat with. People I still hang out with,” Fillion says. “Joss did this great job of saying, ‘You’re going to be great at interpreting these words and you’re going to be great to have around.’ I made so many good friends. That was ten years ago and I’m still close to these people. I still love these people.”

Dean A Kowalski, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, and S Evan Kreider, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, edited The Philosophy of Joss Whedon in which they explore Whedon’s plots, characters and their moral decisions.

The first section entitled “You Can’t Take the Sky From Me” deals with freedom and personal limits, while “Live as Though the World Were as It Should Be” interrogates concepts of ethics and virtue. “I’m All of Them, but None of Them Is Me” looks into the nature of the human condition and asks questions about isolation, individuality and what it means to live a good life.

Whedon’s writing has left an imprint on the minds of his followers, his casts and the viewers and readers who wish they could live in his ’verse. Here’s a video of the Firefly theme song “Ballad of Serenity”, written and performed by Whedon:



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Image courtesy of io9


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