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"Yeah, I never told anyone about this, but I--I liked your poems."
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December 02 2007

'The Psychology of Joss Whedon' out now in bookstores. This collection of essays takes a look at certain aspects arising from Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Serenity and discusses them in a psychological context.

Nicholas Eaton, one of the co-authors, was kind enough to send me an email about the book a couple of months ago.

The book is a collection of essays written by psychologists, all of whom picked certain aspects of BtVS, Angel, or Firefly/Serenity that they found interesting and readily discussable in a psychological framework. I think the "psychological gravity" you mentioned deals with how Joss's shows tend to have a certain psychological depth about them ( e.g., very good character development), which allows for worthwhile discussion and analysis. The chapter topics are really diverse, and they include such subjects as love, pornography, neuroscience, women's issues, mental disorders, personality, free will, and so on. I find the chapters (other than my own) to be really interesting reads. I think the overall purpose a lot of us had in contributing to this book was to help fans gain new insights into, and appreciation for, their favorite shows by viewing them in new ways; we also hoped to make psychology approachable and easily understood by a non-psychological audience. :)

Definitely one for the Santa-list :)
Indeed, available in the UK yet?
Sounds very intersting. And that was sweet of Mr. Eaton to send you that Simon. Thanks!
A must buy. A scary thought to dive into Joss' brain though.
1. Joss tells a damned good story
2. His stories make emotional sense
3. His stories drip with broad political issues (as opposed to the West Wing which dealt with the minutiae and the human struggles behind that)

It's no surprise (to me) that Whedon stories continue to fascinate the "learned".

When I revisit the Buffyverse I am always surprised at how many chances he took-- storywise.

Buffy/Angel/Firefly do not fit nicely into any category. And because of that, Joss took chances all the time that other shows wouldn't have taken.

Had Buffy been a "vampire/horror" show, there would have never been episodes where someone becomes a werewolf because he gets bit by a baby-- Instead a lot of narrative time would have been spent trying to make the "werewolf" thing make sense. And if you were flipping channels, unkowingly, and come upon the scene where Oz is on the phone and says ,"How long has Jordy been a werewolf?"-- it may have looked silly.

THAT sort of moment-- which happened all the time...allowed Joss to really explore human issues "writ large"
..sans the obsession with the trappings of Gothic horror
..sans the NEED for "explanations" that make up the story

He used the metaphors of horror/sci-fi without spending time trying to explain the metaphors.... which is where his genius really lies.

Which , BTW, is why most horror/sci-fi leaves me cold now. Even Battlestar Galactica-- it's just so dreary and humourless.

IMHO, Joss (and his cadre of writers--Jane Espenson, Marti Noxon..etc) really did something miraculous.. they wrote succesfully in these genres WITHOUT getting caught up in the crap that makes those genres collapse under the weight of their own metaphors. I mean REALLY, just how many times has the vampire myth just been another excuse to show unrepentant ID.

Which is why these books will keep on coming out, even though the show is long since over...

For me there are highly personal reasons why Buffy made "psychological" sense (all tied up with Seasons 5 and 6) which I really won't go into here...

But I've always wanted to Thank Joss (and writing staff) personally for "The Body", "The Gift", and all of Season 6--- so if you're out there-- this fan boy wants to Thank you!
Ahh, if I could combine all the hours spent deliberating and discussing with my co-writer and friend the various attributes, character study/development, physiology, metaphor, analogies, etc, I know it would amount to more than the time I spent on my studies at the time. It is a never ending discussion and sadly I find it lost on too many people (even if they were three in our group of ten – that is too many! There should be none *form nod*) who only watch for the sake of watching (not a deplorable thing btw, something I find myself doing with other shows but not BtVS/ANGEL/Firefly and on a somewhat lesser extent House) perhaps I should get this book and read in it what we already know, and maybe pass it along to others who should learn to look beyond "pretty faces" and hear the words and the implication in how they are spoken.

*blush* Sounded a little passionate (a nicer word to obsessed), sorry! Add a thanks to the writers from me too. :)
Heh, i'm sure Joss will be happy to hear he has a genius for not explaining things. That's a rare talent ;-).

Joss writes about the stuff that matters but in a style as if it doesn't and that, for me, is part of his greatness. Any fiction that takes people seriously will have serious things to say about you ... us, us, I mean us ... close one Vlortifleeb, I think my cover is intact though, the writer doesn't need to [stentorian voice]lay it on too thick[/stentorian voice] (and any fiction that takes the human condition seriously will also have humour, it's one of the most serious things about us ;).

I seem to be lucky though, in that I can still appreciate all the other great genre (and non-genre) creators and their worlds (BSG is one of the great shows of the last 10-15 years IMO). Joss' stuff is brilliant, so is that of others. Big world, roomy, y'know ? ;)

This book sounds interesting, even though I don't know much about psychology. I'm hoping it's more to do with brains and less to do with psychiatry though, don't have a lot of patience for that stuff (and it's out here on January 2nd according to, at about 8. Something to spend all that Santa money on maybe ;).
I might have to beg for spare change on a corner to buy this, but I'll still do it.

Silly poor college student.
Heh, i'm sure Joss will be happy to hear he has a genius for not explaining things. That's a rare talent ;-).

What I was really trying to say.. is that the stories were never about "the monsters" but about the people.

The monsters--- well they just served as vehicles for everything else.

I mean... if you remember "Anne"-- Season 3-- that was brilliant and tight writing.
But does any one REALLY know just what those demons were "making" down there, or where they came from?

because the show was about about identity and it used runaways as the backdrop, and these weird demons (that apparently just worked you to death for no reason) had no connection to anything it seems.

There were similar great psychological moments in Angel-- "Fredless" was one of them (not written by Joss-- but it was very Jossy).
Yeah, I get that hbojo, and I agree, I just don't think it's particularly unique to Joss.

BSG isn't about spaceships or battles, it's about people and societies and belief and how far you can step over the moral line and still have something worth saving (among other things). "House" isn't about diagnosing medical conditions, it's about Truth and rationality and whether "mere" life is worth breaking every rule and crossing every line to preserve, whether a life completely stripped of the metaphysical trappings we're so keen to impose upon it is even worthy of the name (among other things).

My point is, all good drama (plenty of which is non-Jossian) is about more than the "monsters". Buffy is a fine example of that but not the only one. I'll gladly give Joss credit for the differential, i'm just not willing to accept that he invented the wheel ;).
OK, but his wheel is the funniest.
His wheel is hilarious. It's down to the spokes I think. Like, whenever Xander spoke, it was funny.

(and right there is where the metaphor's figurative brother swore deadly vengeance and vowed to track me down, no matter how long it takes)
I'm afraid I'll have to back him on that.
Imagine yourself being psychoanalyzed so publicly. Next comes the public denuding and autopsy.
Heh, Amazon just e-mailed me today recommending this.

Then again, they also thought I would like Transformers, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of a doubt.

[ edited by UnpluggedCrazy on 2007-12-03 19:27 ]
Can't wait for this!! Running back to order right now, although I should have been asleep hours ago. Damn you and your sexy brain, Joss.

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