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January 25 2009

The Chosen One: Heeb Magazine Interviews Joss Whedon. Instead of the usual, "why do you write such strong women?" question, this interviewer explores the influence of Judaism on Joss' characters.

"Since Buffy [2003], we’ve taken a giant eight-year leap back into the stone age"


Maths and timelines do seem to be slight blind spots for Joss ;).
Illustration by Simon Fraser?! That's never our Simon, is it? It's not an unusual name, but still...

Liked this:

“Anything that affects the culture is worth studying. Dynasty affects the culture, but fuck that shit. That shit is ghastly. But I still want to figure out the connection between that show and American culture.”

Oh, and amen to this, too:

"In the 1930s everything was Rosalind Russell and Katherine Hepburn, who were very interesting to watch. These women were replaced [in films] by a dim-witted blonde with very little to offer...”

Didn't know about Heeb Magazine but looks like there's lots of chunky interesting goodness in there - this shiksa must check it out.
"So, Joss, why do you write such strong jewish characters?"
;-D
lordsketch wins.

Fun article, and a GREAT illustration.
The name caught my attention too, QG. It really is a great drawing - the t-shirt plus all the characters. I reckon it's Wolverine, Inara, Mal, Spike, Faith, (Dark) Willow, Angel, Buffy, River and I'm not sure on the other guy (Andrew?). Anyway, either Simon has a talent he's kept pretty quiet or this guy's a Whedon fan. :)
I think the "other guy" in the illustration could be Book; he's certainly got his hands in that very Bookish position.

That said, great illustration and interesting article. (Though, I am a little nitpickish about the misspelling of Katharine Hepburn's name, silly classic movie geek that I am.)
Illustration by Simon Fraser?! That's never our Simon, is it? It's not an unusual name, but still...


Alas not. He's a comic book artist who has worked on the rather superb Nikolai Dante amongst other things. Also I can't draw for toffee.
I am a little confused about the Heeb magazine connection myself. Why Joss?
Part and parcel of Fox's promotional work for Dollhouse I'm guessing. We'll probably see Joss turning in magazines we wouldn't normally see him in.
Spider-Christ, Spider-Christ, he can do anything an earthly incarnation of the supreme deity can ... and also climb stuff ...

(if that's not Joss' next original web project I will literally not be surprised in any way)

Nice illustration though the article was maybe slightly, err, slight.
In context of Dollhouse - if personalities are loaded from hard drives, does that include religious beliefs? I'd presume so.
I think they already did Spider-Christ in Spider-Man 2.

[ edited by jlp on 2009-01-25 12:03 ]
I dunno, it doesn't look like he's feeding many people in that shot, i'm still not convinced.

... if personalities are loaded from hard drives, does that include religious beliefs? I'd presume so.

Whether they're believers or not I guess that's an absolutely fundamental part of many people's identity so it'd make sense.
Looking at the episode titles, I think we will have a Tim Minear episode early in the season dealing with that question.
Monroes iq was way above Joss and she certainly was more well-read. Not that i would watch one more of her movies.
'Tis true that Marilyn Monroe was no dim-wit (intelligence-wise) in real life. Yet the roles she played hardly evidenced that fact. It's all about image, and that is what Joss seemed to be alluding to. As for IQ measurement and who is more well read, that is, frankly, unprovable from our vantage point.

As for the article, it was an interesting read - not the usual. Great, great illustration by Simon Fraser.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2009-01-25 17:24 ]
I am a little confused about the Heeb magazine connection myself. Why Joss?

Heeb is targeted at hip young culturally Jewish people, and includes articles about subjects of interest to that demographic. This includes subjects that aren't inherently Jewish.
I am a little confused about the Heeb magazine connection myself. Why Joss?

My husband said that it reminded him a bit of Hugh Grant's Horse & Hound interviews in Notting Hill.

[ edited by BrewBunny on 2009-01-25 18:25 ]

It was like the introduction to a great interview.
I'm pretty sure that Joss was talking about the roles Monroe played and not the woman herself. His point was about the image of women in the culture-industry, not about women themselves suddenly becoming more stupid.
I actually don't think Joss was talking so much about Marilyn Monroe there (that was the writer of the article's assumption because of the picture of Monroe). While it's true her characters weren't your proverbial rocket scientists, they also were rarely one-dimensional. I could probably write reams about Sugar Kovalchik or her character in "The Misfits" -- she's still a vastly underrated actress.

I actually think he meant more the sort of generic hero's girlfriend, etc. characters that you see in standard-issue movies and TV...and it's not like Joss has some sort of anti-blonde-ditz rule in his own 'verse (i.e., Harmony).

[ edited by bobster on 2009-01-26 01:39 ]
Joss didn't say that he had her picture up ironically; the interviewer did. Could it just be the writer jumping to conclusions?
Ooh, I can't wait for Horse & Hound's Whedon interview, BrewBunny!
vaygr: "Monroes iq was way above Joss and she certainly was more well-read. Not that i would watch one more of her movies."

Um, you can't know this, so why say it? That Marilyn Monroe - the actual person - was smarter and better-read than the women she generally portrayed in film seems to be pretty generally accepted by those that knew her, but other than that, you really can have nothing to base this on - in terms of Joss, anyway. I thought this was a fairly rude thing to write, to boot.


bobster: "(that was the writer of the article's assumption because of the picture of Monroe)."

The article states: "'These women were replaced [in films] by a dim-witted blonde with very little to offer,' he says as the conversation turns to Marilyn Monroe, whose face, ironically, is depicted on a mural just outside his office."

As written, the author says specifically that the conversation did turn to Marilyn Monroe - it is not written as an implication or assumption - so unless we want to say that the author is incorrect or misstating the conversation, Marilyn Monroe was discussed. And I would imagine that the mural is painted on the studio wall, rather than posted or placed anywhere in his office by Joss.

That said, I certainly don't believe that Joss was necessarily talking about the actress herself, but the characters she played: Miss Caswell, Lorelei Lee, Pola Debevoise, "Sugar Kane" and The Girl (for crying out loud) were all pretty dimwitted and ditsy and had little to offer in terms of brains, strength and three-dimensional characterhood - all the stuff that interests Joss. These Marilyn-type roles - and numerous other female characters from around this time - represented a regression from the kinds of characters generally played in the 30's and 40's by Hepburn, Russell, Colbert, Lombard, Stanwyck and Loy.

However, I would watch Marilyn Monroe anytime in one of those movies - she is fascinating to watch - magnetic and vulnerable and lovely - but that may be because of the legend of tragic Marilyn, and her early death, as much as anything else. Oh, and those are well-done movies, for the most part - occasionally annoying, but hard to discount.

But I know what Joss is talking about. It's quite a noticeable trend if you're a golden oldie movie freak. It's not about not having any ditzes in your creations - it's about watching the general tone of lead roles for women get dumbed down over the course of a few years - important, post-war years. There are a lot of theories about why this happened, but that it happened in American mainstream films isn't, I think, particularly controversial.
Harmony's always seemed to me to be a callback to a classic ditzy blonde but realized in a more complex and well-rounded way. She's got a lot of the traits but then she's also got complications and ambitions of her own.
Even if, by and large, they're ditzy blonde ambitions.

...it's about watching the general tone of lead roles for women get dumbed down over the course of a few years - important, post-war years.

That's interesting that it's a noticeable trend post-war, maybe there's an element of putting women "back in their place" ? I mean, WWI is seen as being a large factor in women getting the vote in the West (because, basically, with the men away women stepped up and showed they can fill most roles just as well), maybe folk (i.e. menfolk) were worried after WWII that women might get even more uppity and, y'know, ask for equality in the workplace or some such craziness ?
Harmony as a Marilyn character is a comparison I've often made; added to it is some of the pain the real AMrilyn lived with, tho.

As for Buffy being technically Jewish,w ell, amybe 220 years ago one of her male ancestors took a Jewish bride and there's been an unbroken line of girls all the way down to Joyce since so it could be in-terms-of-an-unrealistically-strict-reading-of-inheritance-laws possible. (Yes,of course I'm referring to my fics again,a time-travel tale.)

Kitty Pryde mentioned her Jewishness frequently in the 80s; maybe Joss picks up on different details from what I do.
As for Buffy being technically Jewish,w ell, amybe 220 years ago one of her male ancestors took a Jewish bride and there's been an unbroken line of girls all the way down to Joyce since so it could be in-terms-of-an-unrealistically-strict-reading-of-inheritance-laws possible.

Hey, what are the Slayers if not a "Chosen" people whose powers and credentials as members of the "tribe" pass through the female line?

As for Marilyn: frankly I think there is a kind of collective cultural guilt involved in modern-day assessments of her acting skills. It feels like complicity with the deeply sexist world in which she operated to point out that she was about the most one-note actress ever to appear in so many major roles. I've seen all her movies, most of them several times, and I'm yet to see any evidence that she would have been able to act richer and more interesting parts if she'd been given them. Some directors use her drag-queen caricature of the dumb-blond well ("Busstop"), some don't ("Seven Year Snore-Fest"), but she delivers all her lines in exactly the same way in every one. The only possible exception to all this is The Misfits--which I've not seen in a long time, but do remember as being a first (and last) glimmer of a different Marilyn.

Funnily enough, I do think she's a much more interesting singer than she's usually given credit for. She has a very limited voice, but she gets a lot of mileage out of it (listen to her singing "I'm Lazy" in "There's No Business Like Show Business" for example).
Definitely a different take of interview.

Aas to Marilyn, soem critics see her eprformances in the films noir Niagara and Don't Bother To Knock as showing a real range. And looking back at any well-known actor of the past, you get a notion of "Too bad he/she never tried this" or the "Thank Gosh..." opposite. But her usual "MArilyn character" was as has been said.
I'm not familiar enough with her biography to say anything about her on-paper IQ. I do know Kirk Doglas and others have pointed out she was a bland person off-screen. And Betty Bacall has said Marilyn never really did anything for anybody else but people couldn't help liking her. On the other hand, there's that downright spooky incident when she was walking down a street with Susan Strasberg and nobody was paying much attention to them. Suddnely Marilyn said to Susie "Wanna see me be her?" and within a few mintues they had a crowd of guys around them.

Y'know SLayers as a "Chosen People" with what that implies is an interesting metaphor. But I can't claim I was working on that. I just got an idea to bust Fourth Wall a bit and pay a nod to Sarah 's and Amber's real-life heritages. So Cyrano,a s he's taking his leave of Bufyf and Tara, tips his hat and addresses them as "daughters of Leah and Rachel." Buffy's a bit confused until Tara tells her they both have that ancestry I mentioned above, to which Buffy replies that answers some questions about herself and Dawn. And I stopped before specifiying the questions.

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