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October 31 2008

Mother Jones Interview with Joss (Audio only). 39 minutes of Joss discussing his thoughts and opinions, and how they are reflected in his work. Subjects mentioned are too numerous to list, but include feminism, the writers' strike, and his relationship with Fox/News Corp.

Wow, what a great interview! I think this is one of the most indepth interviews I've heard. The interviewer really deserves a lot of credit for getting Joss to open up about so many of this thoughts. Thank you for finding this megaboz!
edited to add: What do you all think about Joss getting turned off of 'Cold Case' (which I don't watch so I didn't see the offending episode) for violence, while he clearly loves 'Dexter'? I also love 'Dexter' and I do feel that the gore and violence (and there is a LOT of it) is paid off by the conflict and weird moral code that Dexter is constantly wrestling with. Basically Dexter is such a layered character with such a painful arc that I can accept even his darkest moments.... And of course he never preys on anyone who is innocent.

[ edited by embers on 2008-10-31 04:11 ]
Only like a third of the way through, but this so far is one of the best interviews with Joss I've heard. I love his explanation of his discoveries writing Alien: Resurrection and what it taught him about telling stories.
I don't think Joss's take on history is accurate here. I don't recall the details but I'm pretty sure what I read in my history and anthropology courses thoroughly debunked the idea of matriarchal culture preceding patriarchy. And those were taught by feminists. But younger faculty, and they explained the older theories and how they came about, and very much looked at the problems of patriarchy. It seems there were some pretty egalitarian cultures where women had strong roles but not so much with the matriarchies.
I want to hear more about when he pitched Dollhouse to Equality Now.
Not that I want to discourage anyone from visiting the (very good) Mother Jones site, but you can also use this link to download the mp3 directly.
This is another example of the awesomeness of the Internet. The physical magazine has some very limited selections from the interview. The conversational flow is absent and you miss a lot of the depth in both the questions and answers.
I would love a transcript of this.
It's 4:49 AM, and I do not regret clicking that. In fact, I'm very glad I did. Excellent interview.
If someone knows how to rip it to mp3 for me so I can stop-and-start more easily, I'll transcribe it. It's already one of my favorites.

Thanks, keever - I missed your post before I wantonly posted.

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2008-10-31 04:51 ]
QG, someone just linked to the mp3 several comments above you. The actual one from MoJo, because they host their stuff on archive.org. (At least I assume it's the actual one, because the link is to archive.org, and that is where MoJo puts their stuff, heh.)

ETA that if you want other formats/sizes of the audio, they are all here, and under a Creative Commons license.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-10-31 04:53 ]
I don't think Joss's take on history is accurate here [...]

One thing I learned in my 6 years of college and ten years as a ghostwriter of papers is that the past is quite fluid. Don't like the current version? Wait a few years. Like the current version? Prepare for disappointment.
That was excellent... When was this recorded? By the sound of it it doesn't appear to be too recent.
Archive.org must be getting hammered - I've tried both of those links twice and bombed out. Not that I object particularly to going to the original link, but for a 30-minute interview, I'd rather download it and listen while I do other things. Oh, well, maybe later.
That was an excellent interview. Does anyone else just really like Joss's voice? I could fall asleep to it.
Thank you, Keever! I don't have time for this now, but I just downloaded it onto my mp3 player and I'm VERY excited to listen to it later.
Sunfire dreamlogic ; JOss is only about 9 years younger than I am, so I'd imagine this would still have been taught when he was at uni.
I was actually going to post this, having been the delighted recipient of a preview copy of the magazine. The audio is way more in-depth, but I found both to be utterly lovely and quite worth the time.
Tragically, government controls over women's sexual pleasure have emerged at the state level right here.
Footnote force:

The Slotkin Joss mentions is Richard Slotkin, Wesleyan film prof famed for writing Regeneration Through Violence, a study of early colonial/U.S. literature placing central importance on captivity and rescue narratives. He wrote two more books tracing the evolution of these narratives, The Fatal Environment and Gunfighter Nation. The last one focuses on movie Westerns, with genre sidetrips down the mean streets of detective fiction and into outer space for some Edgar Rice Burroughs sci fi. I enjoyed it more than the first two.
Sunfire dreamlogic ; JOss is only about 9 years younger than I am, so I'd imagine this would still have been taught when he was at uni.

That particular shift isn't all I meant. I'm pretty dubious of the idea that there was ever a human cultural norm. When and where would it have been?

Thanks for the info, Pointy, though the first bit is quite the bummer.

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2008-10-31 21:40 ]
Pointy: "Tragically, government controls over women's sexual pleasure have emerged at the state level right here."


Erases Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia from list of "Places I'd like to visit before I die." (Okay, some of them weren't on there already.)

Oh, Sweet Jiminy Jehosophat. That's just frakkin' sad.
They're not bad places. There's just a strain of social conservatism there that runs pretty deep and is in many ways institutionalized. By all means visit. Just don't stay if that's at odds with your worldview.
It's the "sting" operation that's the worst part. Presumably there's no actual other crime they could be investigating. Lucky Texans.

I'm pretty dubious of the idea that there was ever a human cultural norm. When and where would it have been?

But culture arises from our behaviour, right ? And a lot of our behaviours have biological origins and, certain aspects of our biology being universal to all "normal" humans (particularly sperm being teeny wee things that don't take much making and only need a second, ahem, hours and hours to "deposit" and eggs being not so teeny wee things that, when fertilised, spend 9 months stealing resources and leave their carrier, literally, holding the baby) doesn't it seem plausible that some behaviours might be widespread, if not necessarily universal ?

None of which makes it right of course and none of which makes it inevitable, not once we know about it, we're bigger than that (not seen much evidence for a wide-ranging prehistoric matriarchal society but it doesn't seem impossible to me).

Really interesting interview, the back and forth "it's a conversation" approach has its merits but I like interviewers that have a contribution to make but also give him space to talk. Myself, I might've pressed him on the violence issue a bit more. I agree that it's hard to ignore the fact that violence is exciting and a part of all of us but i've always been interested in River's big fight scenes in the bar and against the Reavers in 'Serenity' - the violence in those wasn't just exciting, it was borderline beautiful and I wonder why. Maybe I should read that Slotkin book ;).
the violence in those wasn't just exciting, it was borderline beautiful and I wonder why

Perhaps because, without making a value judgement on violence itself, they were a demonstration of some pretty remarkable things a human body can physically do. So, on the level of the bodily aesthetics and the grace of human movement, it might have been violent, but....
That's pretty close to my own take on it, that the body (River's body in particular) is an instrument that's capable of immense grace and beauty but, like any instrument, can be misused (or maybe more its uses can be 'misapplied'). And it's surely significant that she's someone else's instrument in the bar but very much her own woman against the Reavers, after her catharsis on Miranda. Against the Reavers her body is her instrument, almost like an inversion of objectification.

But i'd be interested (to say the least ;) in hearing Joss' perspective.
It's worth the long dig through Slotkin's prose to get to the shiny nuggets of Slotkin's insights.
I wasn't arguing against biology influencing culture, certainly not against sex as a part of gender roles, Saje, though I think "arises from biologically determined behavior" is farther than I'd go in that direction.

I can leave work now, so vamousing. Maybe I can get back to this later this evening, if I decide I'm too tired for the Dr. Horrible screening. Not that anybody will be here. Happy Halloween!
Oh, I'd nearly forgotten that I don't have the opportunity to attend a Dr Horrible sing-a-long.

But I do live in a state where television's Tina Fey could set an excellent sketch about it being illegal for a woman to set her cell phone on vibrate. You know, with intent.

ETA Gleemoticon

:D

[ edited by Pointy on 2008-11-01 00:13 ]
Hee, yeah, with intent. Good one.

Would you also like my opportunity to be racoon-eyed and drag-ass from a hard week, and looking at a 5:00 a.m. wake-up for work tomorrow morning? Moot. The screening starts in five minutes. Neither of us are there.

What I was really getting at, I guess, and hoping one of our resident biology geeks would chime in instead, is how hard it is to derive behavior from genes. And then from there to culture.

ETA: Then I could have come in with scathing remarks about academic fashion.

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2008-11-01 05:02 ]
Perhaps they fled in fear.

:O

[Ohnoticon!]
Are there any other alternate links to the mp3? My apartment building's wifi is blocking archive.org as a proxy site.
This interview makes me very envious of how Joss can be so fluently eloquent and well put together mentally. Also first post for me so… ya.

squee!
... is how hard it is to derive behavior from genes. And then from there to culture.

All behaviour doesn't solely come from genes but at least some of it must surely (otherwise you'd have an uncaused cause - culture - which, without bringing superstition into the mix, you just can't have) ? It being hard to work out the connection doesn't mean there isn't one. And the idea that culture comes from our behaviour seems almost tautological to me (obviously including 'thinking' amongst our behaviours).

(some seem fairly self-evidently genetic of course e.g. learning is surely innate and - us being so visual - often related to what we see. Given how puny we are from birth and how most people feel about their kids, a predisposition towards nurturing our young would seem to be genetic. And though aggression and risk seeking in men is certainly more or less enabled by some cultures, it also seems likely it's not totally unrelated to us having more testosterone floating about and, as I say, because women choose who to mate with owing to their larger investment in reproduction)

"arises from biologically determined behavior"

Ah the 'd' word - in these conversations it's a bit like 'socialism' in a politics discussion. I didn't say this BTW, nor do I believe it in the sense that I suspect most naysayers would define it.
Apparently the hypothesis that there was one a universal matriarchal society is very controversial within the academic community... but I thought his womb envy idea was really interesting. Men do have a certain dissociation with the reproductive process, it's out of their control after a certain, very early, point.

And can I say, yay! awesome interview.
Yep, after a bit of googling, depending on who you listen to it's apparently controversial in the sense that intelligent design is "controversial" to evolutionary biologists ;).

Men do have a certain dissociation with the reproductive process, it's out of their control after a certain, very early, point.

In fact, in one sense it's always out of our control (i.e. a woman knows her offspring is hers, a man can never be certain - stats vary and some seem on very shaky ground but the best estimates claim that around 3 - 4 % of men that are raising children are, unknowingly, raising children that aren't biologically theirs).

(BTW, as i'm sure His Suffusion of Purpleness would be the first to point out, "womb envy" isn't his idea)
TOTALLY off the topic here - except that it's been mentioned briefly upthread - but I got back earlier from L.A. Doc Horrible/The Guild screening, where I also saw whedonesque's own Lady Brick and jcs and a few other nice folks who I'm not sure are members or not.

Anyhoo, Felicia was special guest & intro'd The Guild (dressed in a Lucha Libre costume) and The Guild went over well. Then Doc Horrible was a treat - group singing better than at ComicCon showing - some of it rather lovely - and lots of genuine audience reaction, not just set pieces.

After Doc Horrible, Joss and Zack and Jed and Maurissa and Nathan and Felicia came up on stage from audience, which was a huge surprise. Everyone (except the Jossir) was in costume... but I'm tired and will post more tomorrow 'cause it's 2:30a and I'm gonna crash. It was way fun, raffles and favor bags groovy, all happiness abounding... except that the damn thing is so freakin' sad and painful, only moreso on the big screen.

Well, when they all trooped up to the stage, all I could think of was that Joss must have heard the guy in the audience holler out "Screw you, Joss" when Penny died - which had made us all laugh. I hope he knew it was with love... 'cause it really was.

Sorry to be so not about the Mother Jones interview, but I thought you'all might wanna hear. (And also sorry you had to get up so early, dreamlogic, and hadda miss the show.)
(BTW, as i'm sure His Suffusion of Purpleness would be the first to point out, "womb envy" isn't his idea)

*sheepish* Shall google better next time... thanks
Welcome, silent knight and franklywarped and, no doubt, brandnewbuttotallyoverlooked!

(And the oh-no-ticon was to represent those fleeing fear of being scathed, which doesn't sound pleasant)

Looking forward to the Horrible/Guild-y reports/videos/effusions of fanjoy!
*deep sigh* Yeah, QG, I had a feeling it was gonna be awesome. But I just couldn't make it.
Oh wow, QuoterGal, thanks for the report! It must have been awesome (I wish I had been there, but I did have fun up here in Northern California anyway)!
I'm listening to Joss, and it makes me happy... and yes, I could defintely go to sleep to his voice... by the way, I had a sleepover with friends on Halloween, and I brought my Buffy eps and made a couple of new fans! I get the feeling its easier to get people to watch something with vampires on Halloween then it is at any other time... people feel like they should be watching vampires and stuff on Halloween, its like an obligation to their holiday spirit or something. :)
Hm. Now I feel slightly embarrassed to admit that I sat down last night to re-watch "Halloween" and "Lie To Me" in honor of the season... :-)

ETA: It was fun, too, even if the wide-screen version would have looked better on a wide-screen LCD TV than the 3:4 version did...

[ edited by Rowan Hawthorn on 2008-11-01 18:22 ]
I'm feeling those effusions of fanjoy from the Dr.H/Guild screening last night, but I don't really have anything to add to what QG said. It was a great night. I hope someone has better pictures than mine.
Rowan Hawthorn, those were the eps we watched... good times. Of couse, now I've just surrendered my season 2 dvds and I'm probably never going to get them back...

Also, the holiday spirit? Most definetly a good thing! :)
Rowan and pancakegirl - I watched Halloween as well. Good choice actually as I'd never rewatched it and liked it a lot better this time through. Dunno why.

Looking forward to the write-ups of the Dr Horrible screening indeed. Feel my jealousy... but also my vicarious enjoyment when I get to read about it. :)
"Womb envy" still sounds like a silly term to me. Seems more like "genetic certainty envy." But that doesn't have much of ring to it, I suppose.

I'd enjoy a discussion about biological you-know-whatism because the book I'm reading right now (about mirror neurons) describes some studies that are a bit damaging to the old free will. But I'm too tired & blissed out from last night still. So I guess I'll stick with Halloween part of this thread.
Done mourning, back to arguing.

And the idea that culture comes from our behaviour seems almost tautological to me (obviously including 'thinking' amongst our behaviours).

Almost what tautology, Saje? "I behave as I do because of what I learned in my culture which is based on X behavior - X = my, my parents', my tribe's, the species of yeast with which I share 80-some-odd% of my genes, whose?

I'm not being snarky, I'd really like your thoughts on this.

I suspect that I'm going to object to your position because your points so far seem to depend on an assumption of rationality (though not explicitly).
On QG's off-topic mention of last night's charity screening of Dr. Horrible and The Guild, here are some reports:


[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-11-01 22:04 ]
I like the HJ one so I'll create a front page entry for that.
Thanks so much for this, I was mesmerized. And yes, part of it is The Masters Voice ;), melodic and lovely it is, when he's being serious.
I loved the (old) Fox/Wolfram and Hart analogy, I was heartened by the comment about the new Fox folks being "supportive and intelligently critical".
I'll never totally agree with the "womb envy" thing, but whatever theory makes him the kind of feminist he is .... the kind who really gets it, .... is OK with me.

Too tired to get into the evidence of matriarchal society thing although I'm dying to, hopefully I'll be back for that one. :)

Joss, you are truly made of awesome.

*Waves hi to new guys*
Almost what tautology, Saje? "I behave as I do because of what I learned in my culture which is based on X behavior - X = my, my parents', my tribe's, the species of yeast with which I share 80-some-odd% of my genes, whose?

No, my point is much simpler than that and it's basically that culture, in one sense, is what we "do". Writing music is a behaviour, spanking your kids is a behaviour, creating organisations that institutionalise bigotry is a behaviour etc. Culture is the sum of our behaviours over time (including, as I say, thinking). This seems true to me regardless of which parts (if any) can be said to arise from innate properties and which parts can't.

I suspect that I'm going to object to your position because your points so far seem to depend on an assumption of rationality (though not explicitly).

And i'm buggered if I know what this means ;) - though admittedly I went to a party with friends i've not seen in years last night so i'm slightly the worse for wear ;).

We're using reason to try and work out if parts of culture arise because of our biology. So in that sense i'm assuming rationality (and i'm assuming it of you dreamlogic or else I wouldn't bother entering into a discussion with you). Beyond that you've lost me. Why would you object to rationality (i'm assuming you don't have some arational "earth goddess" axe to grind since in the past that hasn't really been your style) ?
Culture is the sum of our behaviours over time (including, as I say, thinking). This seems true to me regardless of which parts (if any) can be said to arise from innate properties and which parts can't.

I don't generally disagree with any of the points you've been making (which is why I've kept pretty schtum until now) but would be interested in your thoughts on where any parts that can't be said to arise from innate properties can have come from? If in the amoeba-like beginning we had no culture, and all the culture there is arose from our behaviour down the millennia, all that behaviour must have been prompted by something innate... and so all culture is a product of innate behaviour (even if they're behaviours we may have lost during evolution)... no?

Thinking about this stuff is fun. :) (How do you use emoticons when you haven't got brackets to close, eh?)
OK, the footnote force is up with the seasonally adjusted sun, so . . .

"Incoherent text" is a phrase I first came across in Hollywood From Vietnam to Reagan by (Real) Robin Wood, who used it to describe 1970s horror movies that tried to revise the genre but could not quite. Since Joss did solve this apparently unsolvable, and invented his very own Robin Wood along the way, this is probably a significant text in purple intellectual history.

Probably more significant, and definitely more better, is Wood's Hitchcock's Films Revisited, which combines his early and beautifully written Hitchcock's Films with his later, not so well-written revisitation, to make a brilliantly incoherent text that nonetheless contains some diamonds of insight amid the dust of theory. High praise: I've read both several times.

[ edited by Pointy on 2008-11-02 13:47 ]
Hmm, think I see my TBR pile growing (actually as we speak, it's like it's alive, ALIVE ! ;). Are those books very 70s ish Pointy i.e. do they approach the films from a particular viewpoint (e.g. are they chock full of Freudian analysis) or are they slightly broader than that ?

... and so all culture is a product of innate behaviour (even if they're behaviours we may have lost during evolution)... no?

In a loose sense I think that's true, culture isn't "out there" in the world, waiting to be discovered, it arises from what we do and have done.

But thinking allows us to make up new behaviours not necessarily based on the world but based on what we want the world to be (or based on a faulty perception of the world). It's still true IMO that our "reasons" for doing so will often (or maybe always) depend on innate drives or on satisfying some innate desire, even if it's only because we've altered the nature of those drives and desires through being aware of them.

("reasons" in inverted commas cos I think I might have just figured out what dreamlogic means by "assumption of rationality" i.e. I don't think we always, or even mostly, consciously choose to do these things - or rather, we may choose to do them but without necessarily knowing the real reason why. The "rationality" in the system comes from evolution and how that forces us, in some sense, to conform to reality - which I believe, as i'm sure everyone's sick of hearing ;), functions along ordered, consistent lines)
Wood's got to be read to be believed, Saje. At his best, Wood is chock full of his own insights; at worst, 1960s and 1970s theories choke his voice like a Sith, while somehow opening his mind to new connections that might otherwise have gone unmade. He's a fun read when he's good and a wicked fun read when he's not. (See his essay on Star Wars in Hollywood . . .)

[ edited by Pointy on 2008-11-02 14:32 ]
Yeah, like I thought we disagree, Saje. I think rationality is weakly predictive. Here's a wiki that doesn't say much about the evidence against, but at least explains the theory.
We may disagree but you're apparently wrong about the reason dreamlogic. That link talks about making rational choices (as in conscious decisions) which is actually specifically how I say it doesn't work (IMO). As I said, the "rationality" is in the complete system of proposed evolutionary solution to a problem meets real world then succeeds/fails, next proposed solution etc. It's complicated by our ability to make rational choices (because, for good or ill, we can choose to act against "our" best interests from an evolutionary perspective) but it doesn't depend on it.

Or are you claiming the human brain and/or mind isn't a product of evolution ? Cos then we really do disagree and at a much more fundamental level than Wikipedia can probably convey ;).

At his best, Wood is chock full of his own insights; at worst, 1960s and 1970s theories choke his voice like a Sith ...

Ta Pointy, sounds like I could go either way on his stuff so i'll probably see if the library has it in rather than buying it.
Just a random thought: both the success of and general validity of proceeding from a strictly structured rational world view, has been discussed (from both sides of the issue) in existentialist philosophy.
The superiority of a purely rationalist approach to life in general, is by no means a universal belief. Which I think brings this back around to Joss's work and what it says on the subject.

Some fans probably see episodes (of BtS) like Primeval and Restless as simple fantasy, others see a metaphor for choosing the irrational/supernatural as a valid means of accessing information and taking action. (I'm firmly in the latter camp).

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