This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"Also, I can kill you with my brain."
11944 members | you are not logged in | 29 July 2014












July 13 2007

Celebs going online with viewers. Variety looks at celebs and their internet fanbases and uses Joss as an example for using this site to "keep his many followers informed of his doings". There then follows perhaps a somewhat jaw dropping comment from an Universal marketing executive regarding Serenity.

That is soooooo wrong, I know many people personally, who had never been interested in anything "Whedon" and after being convinced to watch Serenity went on to buy Firefly, Buffy and Angel. This makes me sad.
Emailed her to help with the whole "Brown shirts" thing...a small point in a very uninformed article. (about us, that is.)

[ edited by mifeng on 2007-07-12 23:33 ]
Was said marketing exec evidencing self-awareness of Universal's poor marketing strategies for Serenity (in my book anyway)? Like, that "mainstream marketing" in the case of Serenity wasn't well carried out? Huh. Or is my reading rooted in wistful desire for a mea culpa by the suits for a marketing campaign I found rather lusterless?
"That's what mainstream marketing is for."

I'm sorry - did I miss that part of the strategy?
Brown Shirts? I don't feel like a member of the SA. Last I checked I was not a Nazi marching through town. BROWN SHIRTS? "Hello, fact checking? Oh, sorry, I guess that number has been disconnected."
At our CSTS screening, we were asked if we were Nazis, re: browncoats.

The volunteer asked said no and nicely explained. She is a better person than I am.
The DVD was such a hit that Universal produced "Serenity," banking that Whedon's loyal "brown shirts" would launch the movie. Unfortunately, "Serenity" never broke beyond those cult followers. "He was not persuading anyone who didn't have a vested interest," says one Universal marketing executive. "That's what mainstream marketing is for."

Wow, did I join a German Nazi paramilitary organization by mistake? I so did not mean to.

And does Universal not know that Mary Parent - at Universal - was involved in Serenity way before the Firefly DVD sales?

"People assume they decided to do it after the DVD sales. But they’d been in it for almost a year before that. Based on the shows, the cast and the world they said 'Yeah there’s a movie in there.' " - Joss

Huh. And it's good to finally hear what mainstream marketing is actually for, 'cause I thought all these many years it was there just to annoy me.
Huh. And it's good to finally hear what mainstream marketing is actually for, 'cause I thought all these many years it was there just to annoy me.

Or, in the case of Serenity and Universal, it annoyed us by its absence.
Wait... huh? This article isn't the best written one in the world. I too am confused by the "that's what mainstream marketing is for.." comment.

I assume that it's directed towards online, fandom and viral marketing... which big business just does *not* have a handle on how helpful it is. Or the ideas that Joss goes online for his fans (not the mainstream).

Yet, I'm fairly sure there's been no small number of people who have been recruited to see the movie based on the viral marketing videos (The River Tam sessions). And having people online generate buzz over a movie is nothing short of free advertising (i.e. Joss comes online we all go crazy and tell our friends).

What do I have to say about this article? Ignorance, misrepresentations, misunderstandings, slurs and allegations.
Looks like the "brown shirts" mistake has been sorted out. Never owned a brown shirt in my life, gorramit!

The thing is that Joss did convince many people to watch Serenity that had never seen Firefly or anything he had done before, simply by having us around to get the word out. I know of at least seven people that I was able to convince to give the movie a go, several who own the DVD now and at least two I know who went as far as to buy the Firefly DVD boxset as well. We may not have been able to have the effect we wanted but I find it offensive that what we tried to accomplish can be so casually ignored and swept under the rug by some nameless marketing exec. Hell, thanks to me my nan has seen Serenity and loved it (the bits she understood anyway, bless her).

"Unfortunately, Serenity never broke beyond those cult followers", indeed? Yeah, my nan is a regular at Trek conventions. You should see her Klingon outfit. ;)
Oh boy, that's some bad-smelling journalism, or whatever you call what Variety does. It's called a "trade" for a reason, I guess. The fact-checking has never been NYT-level. Besides the "Brownshirt" thing, she should have checked on the ownership of this site.
I became interested in Serenity after hearing a certain name associated with (I forget, Josh someone) and seeing the trailer online. Most importantly there was a brief shot of River hiding from the Operative on the ceiling. That got me into the theatre, and then the dinosaur toys, cozy kitchen, and jokes I only partially understood got me into Firefly.

A lot of industries are still adapting to the internet and are yet in an early stage of understanding it. Joss is a geek, so he's well ahead of the curve on that. It's hard to get execs to understand what the internet is and what it isn't, especially since that's a moving target.

And having people online generate buzz over a movie is nothing short of free advertising (i.e. Joss comes online we all go crazy and tell our friends).

It is free advertising, but it can't carry a major motion picture alone. I think Universal learned that the hard way, unforunately.

The DVD was such a hit that Universal produced "Serenity," banking that Whedon's loyal "browncoats" would launch the movie.

That's the studio's job. Fans help you do that, but they do not do it for you. Not at a movie scale anyway.

Unfortunately, "Serenity" never broke beyond those cult followers.

It did but not at the scale and speed Universal was counting on.

"He was not persuading anyone who didn't have a vested interest," says one Universal marketing executive. "That's what mainstream marketing is for."

Not enough of them to make a big profit, anyway. Thus endeth the lesson Universal has learned. Possibly. They aren't wording it very well here, though.

I'm curious-- is Whedonesque usually referred to as "Joss Whedon's blog" in mainstream press pieces? Or just in the ones I happen to read?
It usually is, Sunfire. Many times over, in fact.

And I really want gossi to comment on this article...
I think so, Sunfire, but I don't think it's surprising - even though we know it's Caroline's weblog about "Joss The Way We Like It," its coded title (see "View Source") is:

"Whedonesque : Joss Whedon weblog"

I've always thought it kinda understandable that many people think that it's "his." I did so, at first...

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2007-07-13 01:18 ]
To those who've turned people on to Serenity first, did they understand it?

I lent Serenifly to my brother, with a note to NOT watch the movie first, as I figured the movie makes more sense after seeing the show.

I watched the show dvds first; maybe that's why I think that.
I'm one of those who missed Firefly when it aired. Had it not been for other Joss fans, I'd never have discovered it and I was already a fan of his work. I already knew about Serenity from Browncoats before I saw my first television ad for it...not that there were many of those or that they appeared in the right places.

The fans convinced me to go see Serenity in the theatre, not Universal's marketing. The film is what made me want to watch the series. I came home and bought the Firefly DVD set right after seeing the film. Over the last 2 years, I've made several new Browncoats that weren't fans of Joss' other work. I admit that I'm not a marketing whiz, but I fail to see how Serenity was promoted as it should have been. When you consider the fact that I'd probably have missed it too had it not been for other fans online, it really makes one pause for thought.
To those who've turned people on to Serenity first, did they understand it?

Not overly well. But I knew enough about scifi to understand that it was something new, and very interesting, and that I should learn more about it. I came into it understanding the general rules of the genre and I caught where some of them were being reimagined (possibly ignored outright) in important ways. Plus the writing was good-- I got the emotion even if I didn't understand the context around it so well. Many sci fi movies I leave the theatre with even less understanding than that, so it is something. But I would say I was more intrigued than anything else-- not quite understanding. The context was just hard to get.

I recommend that people I know who express interest in it watch the tv series first. There is more Wash there and more Western.
To those who've turned people on to Serenity first, did they understand it?

Everyone I've shown it to has understood it and loved it. Seriously--I've never had a lukewarm reaction. The problem wasn't that it didn't grab people, the problem was getting people's butts into theaters to be grabbed.

Er. Yes. Anyhow, that leads us to this:

"That's what mainstream marketing is for."

Maybe some mainstream marketing would have been a good idea.
I had never heard of Firefly, Joss Whedon, and had never seen a single episode of Buffy when I first started hearing about it online.

Serenity got mentioned on Slashdot, a site I liked and is pretty respected for geeky news. Then one of my favorite online comics, Penny Arcade, mentioned it. I thought what the hell, and checked it out. Fast forward to now: I have all the Serenifly DVDs, watched em about a billion times, and became a browncoat.

After that, I found out that this Whedon person was apparently responsible for Buffy, so I checked out that too. Fast forward again: I've got the Chosen Collection box set and watched that a billion times too.

So yeah, the internet can definitely reach people who knew nothing about it before. But then again, I never knew Whedonesque existed; I heard about it from other sites I liked, which led me here.
Let me chime in on this one. I, too, saw Serenity before knowing squat about Firefly, despite having been a Whedon fan for years. (Regarding that, let's just say the fall of '02 was a dark time, and leave it at that. And, of course, catching Firefly in network reruns was just not in the tarot cards. A pox on Fox! [nothing like a little Dr. Seuss curse]) At any rate . . . I went into the theatre because it was Whedon. I knew nothing about the characters, the storyline, the 'verse. (In fact, my initial reaction to Mal was, "Dear sweet God, it's Caleb!")

Two hours later, I was hopelessly in love with these characters and this intricate world that Joss had laid before me like a gift. And I must say, that movie ticket has had me travel a fair piece from whence I began.

So yeah. I got it.
The other day, I got my Firefly loaner DVD back from a person at work (person had it months--finally watched it--loves it now--gonna buy one at Targer $19.99--watching Serenity loaner now), So I'm trying to convince the next person to watch Firefly and another person grabs the box. "Hey, these look like the people from Serenity". FOUND ANOTHER ONE! Person who loves Serenity and even has the Serenity DVD at home and still did not know there was a TV show. That person has my loaner Firefly now!

Coulda, shoulda, woulda used some mainstream marketing. I think part of the problem was that Universal could not or felt it should not mention Firefly (20th Century Fox) in whatever marketing it did outside the Sci Fi channel.

At least you can now see the ship on the Serenity Collector's DVD.
170,000 myspace friends. Nathan Fillion only has 32,174 friends. 07/12/2007. But then he only started collecting myspace friends 11/09/2006 with 9 friends.

[ edited by Anonymous1 on 2007-07-13 04:59 ]
Thank you all for your answers. I got to Serenifly through the Buffmeister myself (own them both; can't afford Angel, which I've seen only twice). About Serenity herself. The first shot, I couldn't really see it. I did not react well, when I did. I mean, it was not big on attractiveness to me.

I Netflixed, then bought them all. I've finished the series for about the 4th time (movie next, of course). I had lent the whole ball of wax to my brother, who's been taking FOREVER to watch it. I just couldn't stand it any more; I missed them so. I finally broke down and put them on my Netflix cue. (I lent Buffy to a friend, who is now hooked, so, finishing Angel, I was going to be Whedonless, which I just could not face.)

When I saw that boat in space a flood of affection came over me. I NOW, finally, understand Mal's reaction when he first saw his future boat. It's Just Too COOL!

Months ago there was a discussion of whether Star Wars or Serenity is better. I tried to join to chime in, but membership was closed (and I didn't want to try to pose as Tony Head). I didn't care much for Star Wars. I like characters, dialog, and plot in my movies. Star Wars had effects and a bar scene AND cardboard, and hackneyedness, and "seen it; YAWN" -- I mean the only characters with any personality whatsoever were the bots.

I care not at all about horror or action or westerns; not that big a sci fi fan (unless it's got something besides sci fi to it), but DANG, I do love the actiony, horrory, westerny, beasts Joss built. Cannot get enough. Thanks for letting me share.

(tehabwa -- paragraphs (as I've edited to add) would be awesome, each line doesn't need its own doublespaced, erm, line. --Z.)

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2007-07-13 17:58 ]
Every time I read a piece from Variety, I'm reminded why I don't like to read pieces from Variety. Ech.

To those who've turned people on to Serenity first, did they understand it?

My mom, grandmother, and little sister all picked up on it fine. My mom called afterwards with a question or two about it, but nothing terribly major. Other than them, I've given everyone else episodes of Firefly first. Would have done the same for them, except my mom Netflixed Serenity based on my ravings.
To those who've turned people on to Serenity first, did they understand it?

When Serenity came out, I dragged ten or twelve friends to see it. None of them had watched Firefly and all of them were going on my word alone that it was worth seeing (a couple of them almost went to Wallace & Gromit instead).

Did they understand it? Depends on what you mean. One of them (a libertarian), fell in love with the movie, and Mal as a character, instantly. Another (big Star Wars fan) also loved it. The others--well, they understood the story, but my passionate love for the 'verse? Not so much.

However, they all liked it enough to watch Firefly with me . . . and they all loved that, despite their wildly different tastes in filmed entertainment. Several of them now own Firefly and have shared it with their families (though none, sadly, have continued with Buffy, Angel, or Whedonesque :-). And they all like Serenity better as a result of Firefly.
Y'know, for comments like that I just feel like boycotting the Serenity Special Edition DVD. And anything else Universal produces in future. Because damnit, we tried, Joss Whedon tried, the film itself tried, and it's you, Mr Universal Marketing Executive, who didn't bother trying, so stop blaming us for its apparent commercial failure.

[ edited by daylight on 2007-07-13 11:24 ]
"He was not persuading anyone who didn't have a vested interest," says one Universal marketing executive. "That's what mainstream marketing is for."

Err, what's wrong with that comment ? Anecdotes about how many we all took to the cinema aside, we clearly didn't break out into the mainstream, the numbers are very clear on that. And Joss posting on his fan-site is obviously not going to appeal to non-fans that much either (hint: they're unlikely to see his post ;). The exec's statement doesn't seem to ascribe blame either to Joss or us, it just says what happened.

(re: 'Serenity', a few weeks before the film came out I was a bit naughty and lent copies of DVD disks 1 and 2 to people on the solemn promise that they'd buy the set if they liked it - unsurprisingly they all have - so most of the people I took already knew the characters. The one that didn't didn't seem to have any problem following the film though obviously he missed out on the significance of stuff like Mal having found something worth dying for again by the end)
Err, what's wrong with that comment ?


From my recollection of events, that's exactly what Universal wanted Joss to do. Preach to the converted so to speak especially with the special screenings. And it seems there's a lovely turnabout where they pitch the blame elsewhere and not on themselves for marketing the movie properly.
"Err, what's wrong with that comment ? Anecdotes about how many we all took to the cinema aside, we clearly didn't break out into the mainstream, the numbers are very clear on that. And Joss posting on his fan-site is obviously not going to appeal to non-fans that much either (hint: they're unlikely to see his post ;). The exec's statement doesn't seem to ascribe blame either to Joss or us, it just says what happened."

I think what I found to be wrong with the statement was just that it's not very accurate, and for the most part for exactly the reason you mentioned yourself, Saje. We got people to see the movie that never would have done without a push and certainly not thanks to the marketing that Universal provided.

Obviously our actions alone were nowhere near enough. The numbers needed to be a lot bigger for Serenity to be seen as mainstream in it's truest sense. But what we did in our efforts most definitely did persuade people who had no vested interest. Most of the people I got into the movie had never so much as heard of Joss before then, other than during my occasional ranting at them about how good BtVS and Angel were. One person in particular couldn't have been less of a science fiction fan before Serenity but now owns not only that movie but also Firefly and the first couple of seasons of Farscape.

I guess it's just that the statement seems so dismissive of the effort we put in on behalf of the film and the results we did achieve, however minor that may have ended up being.
And it seems there's a lovely turnabout where they pitch the blame elsewhere and not on themselves for marketing the movie properly.

Yeah, but is that what that comment's saying Simon ? Cos I don't get that from it at all (and it's obviously very hard to judge the response without seeing the context or even the question that the exec was asked). You could easily (as phlebotinin did) read it as a 'mea culpa' for Universal's mainstream marketing deficiencies.

I think what I found to be wrong with the statement was just that it's not very accurate, and for the most part for exactly the reason you mentioned yourself, Saje. We got people to see the movie that never would have done without a push and certainly not thanks to the marketing that Universal provided.

Well, imprecise perhaps but i'd argue it's still broadly accurate. Reckon it's fairly safe to say that the exec is not claiming no non-fans were persuaded by anything we did, he or she presumably means they weren't persuaded in anything like the numbers required to make the movie a financial success i.e. statistically they were insignificant. And how can we argue with that ?

I can see how that might seem dismissive but as far as the bottom line goes (and be sure that that is what the marketing exec cares most about), we didn't make an appreciable difference.

(tickles me that a few days ago we had a thread about how perceptions get distorted by the net and our investment in a particular fandom yet here we are, incredibly keen to believe something based purely on anecdotal evidence which is quite handily contradicted by the box office numbers ;)

edited to s/cupla/culpa/gi

[ edited by Saje on 2007-07-13 13:52 ]
No, we certainly can't argue the fact that the difference we made was not even close to being enough. The fact that Serenity 2 isn't on Universal's schedule is all the evidence we need of that. Again though, my reaction (and I guess this can be said for others who made similar comments) is that I actually made an effort and went out of my way to make a difference, however small. I've never done that for a movie before and unless Serenity 2 does suddenly go into production (or maybe the Buffy/Angel movie ;)) I can't see me ever doing it again. The reason I did what I did was because of my love of Joss' work and also partly because he asked us to. Therefore his communication with his fans online did make a difference. Just not enough of one.

All that said, you are absolutely correct about the context of the statement made being impossible to determine from the couple of lines we were offered. With that in mind it's probably true that we shouldn't read too much into what was meant by the comments and perhaps offer the benefit of the doubt that no disrespect was meant. Still, I'd hate to see the effort the Browncoats made be forgotten entirely. Especially as it was ten times the effort made by Universal.
What I think is odd about the "mainstream marketing" comment is that the mainstream marketing that was done for Serenity was still relying heavily on Joss' name rather than selling the movie itself. All the commercials and trailers I saw splashed "From the creator of Buffy and Angel" first thing on screen, then showed some jumbled images of a girl kicking people.

Sounds more like a bitter marketing guy trying to cast blame rather than a useful analysis.
To those who've turned people on to Serenity first, did they understand it?


Yes. I saw the film first and I understood it. However, if I had it to do over again, I'd watch Firefly first. I wasn't invested in the characters the way I would have been when I saw the film so some things didn't have the same impact on me that they would have had. I always recommend that people watch the show first.
I don't so much object to the comment "that's what mainstream marketing is for" other than thinking, "Well yeah. (Duh) That's why I kept waiting for some so that I could piggyback a word of mouth recommendation on to the name recognition that mainstream marketing would give the movie. Too bad it never came."

That is a drum I was beating at the time. It is almost impossible to word of mouth market a movie like that to mainstream audiences if they have not already heard of it. It just sounds like the ravings of a geek fangirl/boy and no one will listen who is not already inclined that way. When the marketing was such that I did not even notice that a commercial was on TV for it until I recognized a line or a voice, the marketing was bad. I remember the way that commercials for other movies would catch my attention right at the beginning using various tricks, but that the commercials for Serenity just blended right into everything else. So I find the marketing exec's statement of the obvious a littel annoying and frustrating for that reason.


I brought a friend to the CSTS screening last year in NYC who had never seen Firefly...or heard of Joss Whedon. She had no problem understanding it, but I did give her a run down of the characters before hand. She really enjoyed the movie, then watched Firefly and loved it.

She was sure she would not be interested in a show about a high school girl killing vampires so it took a couple months of mourning about Firefly to get her to start watching BtVS. She was hooked on BtVS by Puppet Show and is now up to Hells Bells on BtVS and somewhere in S3 of Ats.
My problem with that particular 'mainstream' statement about Serenity isn't that it is opinion - opinion is just that, and people are allowed to express it, but it being put into the article as "fact" is a problem. Also, what on earth does that quote even have to do with the article about celebrities going online to commune with fans have anything to do with it?

Also, aside from Joss Whedon, perhaps they should've mentioned the creators of Numb3rs (starring David Krumholtz), who regularly answer questions, talk with fans, post photos of production and behind the scenes stuff on a fan message board. Then again it's Variety, and anyone who isn't pumped full of botox and superficial small talk isn't welcome to read it, or have an opinion on it.
Can I just say something? Serenity was box office number 1 in the UK. It won the Film of the Year award on Film 2004/5? It worked here. Okay, it didn't make them a whole heap of money, cause we're a little island. But......it worked here!
HelloSpooky, I read Variety every day. It is a valuable tool if you have some connection to the industry (or are just really interested). I'm not so much into small talk (I actually abhor it) and no one will ever get near me with botox.

Can we cool the hyperbole and not paint too wide a swath with that brush?
TamaraC, in all fairness, I myself have read Variety quite a few times and I thoroughly hate it.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.



joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home