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March 16 2007

(SPOILER) Thoughts on the influence of Buffy/Joss on TV. Matt Roush talks about the impact of Buffy/Joss on TV. Scroll to the end of the page. Spoilers for BSG and other shows.

Yes, agree, agree, agree. Like any innovation, Buffy broke new ground not by being wholly original -- it wasn't, one can find precedents for everything -- but by fusing and combining elements borrowed from other sources in a wholly new, and wonderful, way. A clear example of the sum exceeding the parts. What's fun (for me, anyway) is to try and trace where the borrowed parts come from. Buffy has clearly influenced other TV shows. What TV shows (and other narrative entertainments, such as comic books) influenced Buffy?
I love his comparison of Buffy's influence to The Sopranos, and I have to wholeheartedly agree. Pop culture's current darkness is a large part due to Tony and his family, just as buffy's genre fusing is now commonplace on network primetime.

Gotta say though, I never fully realized how wide the BtVs/AtS/FF writers had travelled throughout TV. I mean, I knew about all of them individually, but when you really see the whole list of Joss alum who are in genuinely powerful positions now, it is quite impressive. He sure can pick 'em
Either Picasso or T.S Eliot said it: Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.

Steal is perhaps a harsh word, but the point is like great scientists, great artists "stand on the shoulders of giants."

When once asked how he came up with such good ideas, Joss Whedon replied he took all the experiences of his life and put them in a blender. I suppose this means the real trick is getting the right consistency. It can't look too much like the raw ingredients or it becomes plagiarism. If its mixed too well, it becomes a gray, lifeless sludge (i.e. see most TV these days).
While I acknowledge TV's debt to Buffy, I think one of the first multigenre shows was MASH. Yes, it was mostly humour but there was some real pain in that show as well. I think that it showed that a comedy didn't have to be all about the funny.
I will probably post this again soon.. somewhere..
TV, right now, is in a bad place.
And I don't necessarily mean in quality.
I mean bad as in mean and bitchy.

From reality shows that show nothing but the worst behavior in people (New York Love, Simon Cowell..etc) to quality TV shows that are obsessed with portraying how low people will sink (DIRT, The Shield..and the Sarah Silverman show), we are really at a new low.

I'm no prude kids... I love John Waters... but what I'm seeing on TV is a country reveling in self-loathing.... maybe it's from political malaise...maybe it's from being involved in a war under false pretenses AND still trying to defend it...maybe it's leftover fin de siècle ennui...maybe it's just stupidity....but the current dark, mean, nastiness makes me pine for Whedon's optimism.

Never mind the carefully planned arcs, never mind the genre-bending, never mind the complexity...all those things were awesome... but the life affirming optimism behind so much of Whedon's work is inspiring.

Joss' work is so clearly humanist and existentialist without being preachy. And THAT is why it stood apart.

In these times full of fundamentalist (pick your freakin' religion/ideology) fervor, so certain of it's mission, faith and selfhood its a true gift to see someone say, "I don't know... I don't know...There is no endgame...I'm not sure and that's good..."

Instead, today's TV is giving us an almost medieval darkness that echoes orthodox Christian identity and eschatology-- "We are doomed to depravity...These are the end times..."

Fuck that

[ edited by hbojorquez on 2007-03-17 01:38 ]
I'll take hbojorquez's statement one further. We have a bunch of shows, like CSI:Miami and 24, where the lead character is "right", just because they are the protagonist. There is nothing like Caruso's character deciding to harass someone he doesn't like, without a shred of evidence.

I much prefer the flawed (and very human) heroes of the Whedonverse, who fight on despite their weaknesses because if they don't do the dirty work, there is no one else who will. There is a song by the Cowboy Junkies that starts out:
The beautiful is not chosen;
the chosen become beautiful.


[ edited by OneTeV on 2007-03-17 04:12 ]
hbojorquez, that was brilliant .... if really depressing. There are shows I wont watch because of the nihlistic factor &/or just exceeding my violence & brutality quota. I watched the first episode of Dirt & it left such a bad taste in my mouth, I crossed it off my list. On the other hand I've never missed an episode of The Sopranos, & my hands-down favorite film of last year was The Departed.
Sometimes art is dark & difficult, whether comtemporary or histoical .... thinking of Rome (the series) now. The first season, I didn't think I was going to be able to handle it, now I'm totally hooked because of the fine acting & overall production values. And it's not as if I didn't already know this history, it's just never before been served up so unvarnished, in the context of a "fictional" show. And who can watch this show without thinking of the state of the U.S. in the world today?
Joss's "clearly humanist" work .... what that means to me is that his work has *heart*, hope along with the dark themes, faith in individual redemption in a world populated with monsters and monsterous social constructs.
I think the closest thing on TV today is Battlestar Galactia. Without the eccentric humor, granted. So glad that Jane E. has found a home here. The SciFi/Fantasy genera allows for exploring the darkest themes from a slight remove, even while allowing yourself to become totally imersed in the human emotion contained within the stories. The genera is, IMO, our modern equivalent of the Greek myths .... the "hero's quest". And so I hope that Joss stays with the genera.
I also love that Marti Noxon has found a home with Grey's Anatomy. I think this show is really underrated. It ain't great art, but it has the two things I associate most with Joss & company's work, genera aside .... heart, and wit. And in that sense, there is Joss influence there. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here, with Marti now on board.
Not comparing the quality of my writing (that's for other people to judge, if I could get anyone ot offer an opinio, sorry,r ant over *grin) but I recall when I did my first and so far only novel-length manuscript in high school my basic writing style was Whedonish and when my teachers looked over some pages they could only think that I was writing satire.

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