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July 28 2010

An Open Letter to Joss Whedon. An academic wants Whedon to focus on what he does best: show us the love, Mr. Whedon!

I'm just going to plainly say that while the author of the letter seems to be a fan, telling Whedon he has to write more heart or "love" into the Avengers is like telling Einstein he needs to focus on math and science more. The letter seems unnecessary and a tad condescending.

[ edited by muviefan02 on 2010-07-28 20:35 ]
Eh. I disagree with the author of the letter (pretty much what muviefan02 said), but regardless of that, why should this even be on Whedonesque?

[ edited by kumarhk on 2010-07-28 18:05 ]
I agree with kumarhk. But because I read it, I have to ask, don't we already trust Joss to do justice to these characters based on the evidence we've poured over for more than a decade?
Adding this to my favorites in case it goes away.
You just have to sign in to blogger or google, I believe.

edited to avoid further unnecessary drama.

[ edited by almost cookies on 2010-07-28 21:17 ]
How is this writer a troll? They wrote an open letter on their own blog. Feel free to disagree as vehemently as you want, but that is not troll behavior.
The author of the letter made one decent point, that love is essential to Joss's work, but this is a massive case of teaching one's grandmother to suck eggs. I mean, Joss has already said that he's working on the Avengers from a family angle. Which is what he did in Buffy. And Angel. And Firefly. Really well.

I opine that this is up on Whedonesque so that we can feel superior about it.
Didn't seem that bad to me, so if we could avoid the drama and insults that would be great. Otherwise stompy feet will come into action.

[ edited by almost cookies on 2010-07-28 21:17 ]
This person wrote an open letter on their own blog space, then someone else linked it here on Whedonesque. They presumably had no control over their letter getting "hits from all of the Whedon fans". It seems the fan's sentiments are heartfelt and I don't read any motivation for provoking fans at all.

As for truth in what they're saying, it's not like we're talking about science here. The writer's opinion may not be true to how you see the subject, but that doesn't mean the perspective is invalid.

Why can't we talk about the ideas and how we disagree instead of summarily dismissing the blogger because of alleged (and from what I can tell, baseless) troublemaking motives?
It was a well written article, but unnecessary: I have no doubt that Joss will manage to tell a story which is ultimately about love. He has said that he'll start from a place of people who don't get along, who have nothing in common, and we all know he wants his characters to grow throughout the action of the film.

I can understand Whedonesquers feeling that this was patronizing, I don't think the writer was trying to make trouble, but certainly seemed to think Joss needed 'help'. And I can't help but wonder if the writer would pat themselves on the back when Joss writes a brilliant story line that will show how these people manage to become an effective team who can trust and depend upon one another.
Simon - I agree we shouldn't be insulting. We can disagree with the tone of the author of the letter but let's keep it constructive.

[ edited by muviefan02 on 2010-07-28 20:40 ]
I don't think Mr. Whedon will ever read this guy's opinion and if he did I don't think Mr. Whedon would lose any sleep over it.
I thought it was OK. It's someone's opinion- if the letter had been really insulting, and clearly written by someone who didn't understand his work, or wasn't a fan, then I would be seething- but the writer clearly cares. Avengers is a massive project- there's going to be some negativity. Buckle up.
The writer is voicing her opinion about something. She did so in a reasonable & respectful fashion. Hers might be a minority view in the fanverse, but there's no need to namecall. We have a right to our opinions. (&,for the most part, I agree with this blogger....While I enjoyed & needed the action sequences (esp. the Buffy & Angel fight choreography, which was visceral & satisfying)--the deep scenes of familial/human connection & also the erotic/romantic undercurrents & connections--are what drew me into Whedon's work.)

[ edited by stellabee on 2010-07-28 19:06 ]

[ edited by stellabee on 2010-08-05 17:26 ]
"Love keeps her up when she ought to fall down, tells ya she's hurtin' 'fore she keens, makes her home."

That just happened to be my top of the page quote. ;)

In my opinion, the reason why love tends to come up as a common underlying theme in Joss Whedon's writings is not because he "puts" it there, but rather, because it is a side effect of his attempts to achieve what I would consider to be the mecca of all good storytelling - authenticity. I think that for him to be working at this or any other project with a primary interest other than that of being as authentic as possible to its specific characters and universe would be a grave error - no matter how well intentioned - and would stand to ruin the project's chance of ever achieving the level of authenticity that is what ultimately makes his works so enjoyable.

ETA: Grammar, phrasing, etc.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2010-07-28 19:16 ]
almost cookies: if I though this person was trolling or looking for hits it would have been removed. muviefan02, there's expressing feelings and then there's asking for the author to remove the letter. I don't see this as insulting. Certainly we've linked to far far far more criticial stuff. Now if anyone wants to talk to me about what I've just said, do email me about it.

So just to reiterate: I have no problems with this entry being linked here. So if we could focus on the person's writings then that would be lovely. Otherwise we'll end up on fandom_wank and I have no real desire for that to happen.
I've got no problem with anybody having their own letter -- I don't even care that it was reasonable or respectful; it's not like Joss is gonna read it anyway.

I do think she's wrong though -- for one thing, Joss would be the last person to talk about action sequences and fights as his best stuff. Listen to any audio commentary he's pretty much ever done and he'll say he's not good at it. In both his Season 1 "Dollhouse" commentaries, he's pretty frank that the motorcycle stuff in "Ghost" and the fight scene in "Man on the Street" are stuff that only work because other people do them.

For a second thing, the very action-sequence discerning members of the audience would be right behind Joss in saying it's not the stuff he's best at.

I think my worries about "The Avengers" are pretty much the opposite of this bloggers -- that it will be very witty and well-paced (which is 75% of why the "Iron Man" movies work, so it is important), but that the big production pieces and fights will be... still very television in scale. I think that's a weakness even in "Serenity" -- the three best sequences for the action audience are River fights, both of which could be done on TV, and the battle between the Reavers and Alliance, which is something Joss mostly literally and figuratively ran from by keeping the perspective purely from their ship trying to get through it and away.

For that 25% of the movie (based on my arbitrary "Iron Man" analysis) that can't be made awesome by Joss' power with words and emotions alone, he needs to let his inner Baycamerondonnorwoo come out and play with the full high budget glory.
KingofCretins I think some of the most engrossing action sequences of all time have no special effects at all...I'm picturing the fight at the end of Rocky. It was loaded with ethos and pathos but has nothing to do with huge (and expensive) effects. But yes, I think there are definitely some high expectations for effects with the budget they're giving him...anyone know a real number on that yet? I'm guessing it'll be 150 million.

As for the article, I agree with brinderwalt. Further, I think asking Joss (or anyone) to focus on "love" is a fairly useless request. Kind of like asking to focus on "greatness."
I think my worries about "The Avengers" are pretty much the opposite of this bloggers -- that it will be very witty and well-paced (which is 75% of why the "Iron Man" movies work, so it is important), but that the big production pieces and fights will be... still very television in scale. I think that's a weakness even in "Serenity" -- the three best sequences for the action audience are River fights[...]

That just makes me think of a quote from the purple one himself in the Weekly Dig from some time ago: "You don't need supernovas and explosions when you have Summer Glau."

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2010-07-28 19:31 ]
Simon - I agree with your response to me, I've edited my response and taken away the "remove this letter" part. They have a right to post whatever they want and I have my right to disagree.
I'm with Emmie. I don't see why this article is revving people up. I tend to agree with the writer about the end of Dollhouse. It was extremely muddled in my opinion. That said, I am sure Joss is aware of his strengths.
Darn, I was hoping Joss would turn to hate.
I'm not sure how the blogger having an opinion on where the heart of where Joss's best work lies is offensive. We presume to dissect to bits, second guess various creative choices, and praise up and down aspects of his work all the time around here. Somewhere, waaaay back on a Dollhouse S1 thread I think I, myself, went off on a mini rant of how I didn't love or identify with any of the characters and I really wished they'd do something about that. I mean, there's just been a bit of a debate here in the black during the last week concerning the casting of The Avengers, which Joss proclaims to love and which numerous whedonistas here disagreed with. I really don't see any difference. It's just what they like best about Joss's work and therefore what they would like to see more of--no biggie.

As far as the love thing goes... Joss has stated that it will be about family, and when has the theme of family not ever dealt with love?

However, I think I know what the author is wanting to experience. Maybe. Or you know, possibly not. (Cause I'm just guessin' and extrapolatin' here.) I think they want more character moments. I think they want to experience the characters reacting and growing and changing because of the other characters and the events that occur. I think they want to experience the introspective feelings of individual characters and also of those between characters. I think they want some lingering. I'm not sure how much of that they are going to get though, because hey, he has ten(?) characters to deal with in a blatant super-hero action movie. That kind of exploration really seems to be what tv is best at--or movie dramas with more limited casts of alpha protagonists. Of course, we could be surprised. He does it all the time.
I'm only going to positively mitigate that letter a little bit. I think Joss has a dirty little secret despite his having revealed at Comic-Con that he identifies with his dark characters more, the offbeat, those that have something a little wrong and twisted going on. I think he loves and loves deeply but it certainly isn't all of him. We are all made up of the dark and the light, and while I think that letter goes way over the top and down the other side of a lovely ivy-covered wall, it does bear reminding that love in varying and infinite degrees does seem to be the center of Buffy and her ultimately self-made family, Angel and his fellow warriors who have to sort out their own crap, the ragtag band that makes up Firefly. Even Dollhouse has pure, misguided, and perverted love at its center.

But I do like the action. I think that whole sequence with Mal and The Operative toward the end of Serenity is still one of the best things I've ever seen, save some episodes of Angel. I felt every punishing fall, jolt, punch, stab and emotion Mal did. Yeah, Joss can do action quite, quite well.
Sure, action's exciting by its nature, i'm sure most of us like those bits. But it's meaningless without character and emotion behind it and if I know that then you bet Joss Whedon has a fairly solid grasp of it (River vs Reavers is a great action scene but would it have half the impact if it wasn't preceded by "My turn.", if it wasn't a blossoming as much as a fight ? Got my doubts).

I don't really get why it's revving people up either since it's fairly plainly wrong in its general thesis while making other points that're broadly accepted within the fandom (does even the most ardent fan of 'Dollhouse' think it wasn't rushed at the end ?). Read interviews, listen to commentaries and so on, as KingOfCretins says, at no point in doing that will you come away with the impression that Joss considers plot and action his main strengths, the opposite if anything in fact since he's said a few times if there's a choice between emotional truth or plot consistency then he'll go for the emotion every time (other ME staff have said the same of him).

I agree it's a bit patronising in its tone but in fairness, it seems well intentioned (albeit slightly clumsy) and by a genuine fan so i'm inclined just to click on through. Not much to see really, let alone get in a tizzy over.
With you there, Pointy, I think if Joss doesn't start writing about More Hate More Often, I'm turning in my Joss badge.

It's so odd to me that this is the blog that's causing folks to call Troll Shenanigans. The Call for Love has resulted in it being perceived as Troll-hate or something. Odd, to say the least. Maybe Joss' Big Gig has us all on edge a bit. (Imagine how he feels.)

I do know what the late Ninon de l'Enclos is talking about. ; > Certainly part of what seems important to me in Joss' writing has been his recognition that 1) lack of love is damaging and 2) love heals. I just don't tend to separate it out from the rest of what makes for authentic writing, nor do I think Joss needs tips on what makes his style so damn rich. But, you know, whatever about that.

Seriously, though? Not remotely troll-ish. And so don't want us to end up on the Dreaded Fan Wank for a Wankerama, 'cause grrrrrr.
Saje, Joss' forte with character and emotion is a given. If we didn't already care about Mal, that action sequence would be like so many in film history:

it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I'm also addressing, obliquely, people who have said Joss is terrible at directing action sequences, so thus The Avengers will be terrible. No, I don't think so.
I'm not sure that I see how the author is being insulting to Joss or his work. It seems that she expresses admiration for what she believes to be at the heart of his work. And like many of us she feels enough respect for him to express the places where she feels that this can get lost. Looking back at threads on every show and comic and I find lots of criticism (both well and not so well reasoned). Why is this any different?
I don't understand the author's point. All of Joss' creations have heart at the center of it. He doesn't write superficial stories. If he did then they might be more mainstream.
Dear Mr. Whedon,

Please don't let the sudden flow of obscene mountains of cash; the glittering lights of modern Hollywood commercialism; and the God-like power of controlling the destiny of Earth's Mightiest Heroes™ blindly lead you down the narcissistic path of mindless 'splosions! and super slow-mo! tracking shots. Please remember we worshiped you before the rest of the world did, back when the only thing we had was a bit of latex and a lotta love.

Gratefully yours,
I understand the writer's point. I'm anxious for Joss to make a good movie too, and I see the creative difficulties lying ahead of him.

The Avengers is unlike anything he's done before. It's a ginormous movie that's going to cost a ton of money, with a cast that Joss had no hand in choosing (the only people he reasonably could have cast were Renner and Ruffalo), with a set of well-established characters not of his invention, and dealing with a team of superheroes fighting together for the thinnest of reasons. Unlike the X-Men, say, where you have a group banded together by anti-mutant prejudice, there's no emotional core to The Avengers... though I'm not super-familiar with the source material, please correct me if I'm talking nonsense.

I think making The Avengers is an amazing opportunity for Joss Whedon; I also think he was smart to think about it first, and hesitate before accepting because it's not going to be easy to turn out the perfect movie. I want the movie to have a sense of fun, excitement, cool action and a true emotional core at its center. Not easy to do, even for our resident genius.
I think Kaan expressed a bit what this blogger did. A movie about super heroes could be all explosions and BIF! BAM! and she is expressing her hope that it will instead play to his strengths. We've never seen Joss do a movie like this. Of course we wonder how he will do.
dottikin; The Avengers originally came about when the Hulk (who is, let's face it, dangerous) was spotted heading to New York. The auhtorities tried to alert the Fantastic 4 (who'd fought him before) btu they were unavailable. Loki, seeing an opportunity to use the Hulk against thor, made sure his foster brother found out about it. Iron Man and Ant-Man & the Wasp intercepted the call and also went to intervene. Loki's involvemnet was discovered and they teamed up to put him paid and stuck together afetrwards.

I agree with the blogger on the importance of love in Joss's stories. That's probably what made me a fan, and the distintegration of those expressions of love binding his various groups is what has since turned me off, probably forever. (And I can see why the blogger might feel Joss doesn't quite relaize that, altho I don't agree.) But I also agree, the love arose from the authenticity even if I feel the parent outlived the child. Not really an impressive letter, to me.
I don't see what the big deal is about this letter...seems perfectly harmless to me. If anything, the fan is praising Joss rather than being condescending. At least, that's how I interpreted it...
It wasn't condescending IMO, a little too hearts and flowers for my taste, but it is presumptuous to imagine telling suggesting to Joss Whedon what he ought to be doing as a storyteller. If he ever second-guessed himself for a moment based on fan wants and needs, he wouldn't be an artist I'd want to hear from in the first place.
I was pretty okay with the letter. It essentially reiterated what Joss most likely already plans on doing. If anything - it's an affirmation.
While I'd gladly trade one of Serenity's fight scenes for some of Firefly's warm and fuzzy feelings, I'm not familiar enough with the Avengers to know if it is reasonable to expect anything BUT fight scenes from the Avengers film. Maybe the Hulk will kiss Wonder Woman in a tender moment.
Meh, my only issue is with the author's overuse of the word "we". I simply don't recall being asked for my opinion. Unless, it was last Wednesday, because I was very distracted that day.

ETA : Sudden thought! If this letter was in fact written incognito by the Queen of England, then your use of the word "we" is completely proper and perfectly acceptable, Ma'am.

[ edited by viewingfigures on 2010-07-28 23:15 ]
Ha! Now I'm imagining reading the letter and hearing Jon Stewart's impression of the Queen of England.
I've got to think Serenity (the movie) was a big factor in handing the reins of this project over to Joss. It balances insane measures of exposition, action, humor, and heart - and every nickel of budget is right there on the screen. That should come in pretty handy for this new thing he's taking on.
I don't really understand what the problem is - this person was very complimentary of Joss - and was expressing (I think) a hope that he will not bow to the pressure of the studio and mainstream audiences to make it all about the 'splosions.

Sometimes I think people are just trying to be argumentative for it's own sake.
I don't understand the problem either - seems like carping by the whe-who-walks-on-water crowd.
I've got nothing to say about this letter, but I can't let one of my pet peeves go by without commenting - people using "England" when they mean "the UK". There's been no separate English monarchy since 1603. The Queen is the Queen of the whole of the UK (whether we like it or not).
I don't have a problem with the letter at all. What made me love Joss Whedon is that his shows have heart and character. Yes, there are great fight scenes and explosions but it's the characters that make people fall in love with Joss' work. IMHO.
I don't really understand what the problem is - this person was very complimentary of Joss - and was expressing (I think) a hope that he will not bow to the pressure of the studio and mainstream audiences to make it all about the 'splosions.

But what if it's pressure from the source material itself that calls for 'plosions and the like? I think what riles a lot of people up about this well-intentioned sentiment is the implication that he should be aiming to portray things in a specific, arbitrary emotional context rather than fashioning a story based on what would seem to work best for the individual characters. I'd say chances are high - given the setting and characters involved - that many of these characters are likely to be much more in their element when there are explosions and mayhem running a muck than not.

It seems to me that anything which could get in the way of his efforts to do justice to the characters on their terms (imo a - if not the - definitive hallmark of his writing style) would be equally bad, whether it be pressure from people in suits for more explosions or pressure from people in academic dress for fewer. What matters is that the characters and story come across as being as authentic and real as the setting allows - an endeavor about which I'm inclined to let him decide exactly what it may or may not entail.
Um, the last Queen of England was actually in 1707, Queen Ann. And the current Monarch is not "Queen of the whole of the UK" she is actually "The Ruler of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland"

But if my usage of the term "Queen of England", as found in common parlance, caused any offence I do apologise, 'twas only intended as a joke.
In response to the article, I would also argue that Joss is just as good at developing and exploring the kind of love that (at least to me) can at times be THE BEST or most meaningful kind of love there is: the romantic/in-love kind.
And the current Monarch is not "Queen of the whole of the UK" she is actually "The Ruler of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland"

"... and of her other realms and territories ..." i.e. she still rules the various islands surrounding Great Britain, even though they're not explicitly mentioned in the Queen's title (they're also part of the UK even though they're not strictly part of "Great Britain and Northern Ireland"). The British Isles includes Ireland (to the chagrin of some) and then you have the Commonwealth and various Crown dependencies and protectorates and territories (like the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) to muddy the waters but the UK is as stated above.

And who the last sole monarch of England was depends on how you define England - in Queen Anne's time Wales was legally considered a part of England but I sincerely doubt many Welsh folk would see it that way ;). Anne was also Queen of Scotland and Ireland (even before the 1707 Acts of Union) BTW but I guess it's still true to say she was "the last Queen of England" (she was just also "the last Queen of Scotland" too).

(no royalist myself BTW so you can take the piss out of The Queen 'til your heart's content as far as i'm concerned, just thought i'd point out a couple of slight misconceptions ;)
I think the blogger was writing a love-letter to Whedon, as well as talking about love. She has a focus on what she thinks he does best, and links it to what superhero films sometimes risk becoming. No problem, just a lot of Josslove. In every sense.
My but aren't we all prickly tonight? (It's 'tonight, where I am).

I thought it was kinda sweet. I did disagree about Serenity, but maybe feeling the love in the movie comes from familiarity with Firefly.

One thing I do find ironic is anyone here on whedonesque taking issue with someone "telling Joss what he ought to do". :)

Big smiley ..... really. ;_)

[ edited by Shey on 2010-07-29 11:17 ]

[ edited by Simon on 2010-07-29 14:18 ]
Shey, you've left the bold on. I can't turn it off. Just so people know I'm not trying to shout this whole response. ;)

Saje's already cleared up what I was saying (thanks), so I'll be brief. I was originally just making a quick point, rather than trying to get into an off-topic history debate. I know the title of Queen (or King) of England continued until 1707, but after the Union of the Crowns, I think it becomes misleading to only refer to them as such. They weren't a separate monarchy anymore. Hopefully Saje answered your UK point, because I didn't get what you meant.

But it's not really to do with the monarchy. It's the general usage of "England" when people mean "the UK", that annoys me. I mean, if we can't get it right, how on earth will the Americans ever get it right! ;)

Speaking of Jon Stewart, when he had Tony Blair on, he referred to him as the former Prime Minister of England. And, Blair of course, didn't correct him. Grrr Arrggghhh.
Tonya J:
It wasn't condescending IMO, a little too hearts and flowers for my taste, but it is presumptuous to imagine telling suggesting to Joss Whedon what he ought to be doing as a storyteller.

Yes; although, to be fair, there's a LOT of that goes on in the fandom.

If he ever second-guessed himself for a moment based on fan wants and needs, he wouldn't be an artist I'd want to hear from in the first place.

Word. So much word.
I mean, if we can't get it right, how on earth will the Americans ever get it right! ;)

Ooops, just realised viewingfigures is a Brit. Probably wouldn't have spelled it out quite as much if i'd known before posting ;).

(the details are pretty confusing so I can forgive even an apparently switched on American like Jon Stewart mixing England with Britain/the UK. But Tony 'born in Edinburgh' Blair should definitely know better, no excuses for him)
I've never gotten the sense that Whedon or anyone else thinks of plot as one of his strengths. Character, dialogue, story, tight theme/premise integration...but not plot as such. (The Wire is the canonical plotted TV show, as far as I'm concerned.) That seems a misreading, or projection, or just standard academic-invents-weak-counterargument stuff.

Well, no big deal.

I'm more intrigued by the claim that Firefly is Joss's masterpiece. Because my deepest personal connection to Joss's work is through Buffy, I tend to think of that as his 'purest' stuff, and his best from my perspective, though he's a better writer no than he's ever been, and I'd say Dollhouse is his most remarkable work overall - more ambivalent and emotionally unsparing than his pervious work, even Dr Horrible and the darkly rapturous 'Once More with Feeling.'

I wonder how the writer thinks of 'masterpiece.' I don't much care what advice fans give Joss Whedon, so long as he continues to ignore it.
@Saje and NotAViking.

Yup, no problem. I was merely pointing out that I did know my history, and the exact specific title of the current Queen, and that my usage of "Queen of England" had been somewhat ironic for the purpose of humour.

Maybe it's my Irish side but it always gives me a kick to call old Betty "the Queen of England". Having said that, during the last Olympics I myself was dismayed by how many British commentators referred to Team GB victories, as English victories, so I always give foreigners a bit more latitude. Anyways, hopefully no harm no foul all round :-)
Yeah, no harm done. Apologies for the (as it turns out) unnecessary detail above ;).

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