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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"One of my imprints was an Eagle Scout. Another one was a sailor. There's a dirty joke in there somewhere."
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March 04 2011

Why cast a spotlight on Joss Whedon? PopMatters kicks off its epic Whedonverse essay series by looking at why Joss matters.

The first essay in the series (almost 60 essays!) is about the Buffy movie.

You might remember the call for papers for this series that was posted back in December of last year.

Good start. Looking forward to the rest. :)
Well, this is certainly hagiographic. And arguable: Firefly "went on to be one of the most loved series ever." As measured how? Based on what? Ratings? DVD sales? Lovability index? This article is replete with such writing, and I even, y'know, like Joss Whedon. But, really.
Also looking forward to the rest over the next few weeks. Should be interesting given that they're treading through many different areas. It's also particularly pertinent to a recent exchange I had with someone who hadn't heard of Joss. After giving a brief introduction to Joss' repertoire of work, she responded, "I'm not into that vampire stuff". Slightly frustrating when only "Buffy" is caught and latched upon. Fair enough that it's arguably the most prominent work of Joss', but even within the series, it's not just about vampires (despite the title)(...and the fact that it seems to be a common misconception among the uninitiated). /end rant

I am really interested to read the material on Dr. Horrible though, having not encountered much on it.
I'm unutterably proud that Joss' work is being analyzed in this essay series. Proud to have connected with his writing, his ideas, his thought process from the very beginning, the whole ball of wax that has resulted in events like this. He may be the only artist that I allow to remain on a pedestal, because I don't really believe in fan worship, but that pedestal is really how I sift and compare other artists.

2. Joss Whedon Thinks We are Smart

Thank you for spoiling us in this way. Your confidence that we will get what you do is pleasurable beyond belief.

3. Joss Whedon Truly Likes and Respects Women

That sentence alone makes me verklempt. Aye, not only in your work but in your Equality Now speech, which I watch at least once a year, if not more, not that I need a reminder.

I hope that the essay series and retrospectives, screenings and discussions go on and on, inspiring others.
Word, Tonya J. I feel much the same. I'm really excited to read the other essays. It's going to be a great month!

Also, I really want to offer PopMatters some help editing. Just... commas, syntax. A little structural clarity goes a long way.
Due to remarkably strong DVD sales, Firefly was continued in a feature film...

Aaaaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhhhh !

Very nice sentiments about Joss (and even better, accurate) though I agree it could definitely do with a proof-reader/editor (e.g. in what sense can it be said that Whedon/Cassaday's run on Astonishing "...created the Kitty Pryde story.", which one ? Definitely not the one since Kitty Pryde was around decades before, was in fact an early inspiration for Buffy so presumably there's a "...which was later referenced in..." or similar that should follow. Also, "...most unique..." ? ;).

And I guess the hagiographic aspect sets the tone for what's to come, not particularly critical looks but maybe some interesting insights (though to be Mr Grumpy-pants for a moment, the first essay about the film wasn't exactly stellar, not saying much new nor saying it particularly eloquently IMO. Early days though and if it gets new fans to jump aboard it can't be all bad). Or it could just be the opening essay that's like that and the rest will have teeth where it's warranted.


ETA: a crucial 'it'. Wouldn't have cared but it was directly after talking about eloquence and you can't feed the irony monster that much this early on a weekend, they'll gremlin all over the place.

[ edited by Saje on 2011-03-05 09:22 ]
I enjoyed the article more as a refresher course: an opener for the uninitiated. How many of those are going to read these though? Any idea of the traffic this might see? Just curious. And LOL Saje! (You left a parentheses open! Unless that's a semicolon, not a wink.) And agree, as an English Grad, about another edit on article.
That was an excellent read! Thank you for posting it, Simon :)

Why indeed do we love Joss' stories so? If you have to ask that question, then no amount of explaining will suffice. If you limit me to just three words, I say, "story, love, and understanding." And actually, it's as simple as that!
How many of those are going to read these though?


Well it'd be probably be around 12 a week. For a bit of fun we may link to them all.
*Please* Simon, do link to them all. I can bookmark the site, but it could then easily get lost in the "pile" of a gazillion other thinks I've bookmarked for "when I can find time".
Great article :) I love that they mentioned the William Burroughs lines from season four- that exchange makes me laugh every time.

Really looking forward to the rest of the essays!
If we're voting, I also vote for individual links. You never know, there could be some good ones that would just get lost on a big list otherwise. I'm going to be hopeful that the overall quality will be better than the one covering the Buffy movie and more in line with the overview.
I wrote two of these, so hopefully they all get linked. The folks over at PopMatters are super classy and wonderful; this is going to be a blast for all.
You could link it every couple of days, just aggregating all the latest essays. That way hopefully the discussions will include even more talking points. I'm pleased such an idea is being contemplated, I lose track of so many wonderful things without constant reminders. Heh.
Hi, first time ever post here. Simon granted me a membership because I'm the editor of the Popmatters event and the author of the first long essay (more about this in a second).

And hi Pat, good to see at least one person I know here (Pat wrote two of the essays on Joss's comics).

I'm glad there is a lot of interest in the Spotlight here (seriously, the folks here are without question a core part of our target audience).

The essays for the event are going to role out roughly in the order in which they appeared. So this Monday we'll get an essay on Joss's script for Alien Resurrection, and how it is possible to see much of the rest of his work as an attempt to do more successfully themes that appeared in that film. He also discusses the differences between the script and what finally made it into the final film. The writer is Raz Greenberg and is Israeli (we have contributors from the Israel, the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, and Australia).

The second essay on Monday (we'll average 2-3 essays each day) is entitled "‘Note to self, religion freaky’: When Buffy Met Biblical Studies" by Ronald Helfrich. The essay draws from some lessons about interpretation of texts in Biblical studies to counter critics of Buffy (who accuse it of sexism, racism, ageism, etc.) on rather thin grounds.

Looking at the essays as a whole, they are roughly split into two groups: 1) feature essays that focus on any aspect of Joss Whedon's output and 2) Joss Whedon 101 essays, which introduce all of his works to those who may or may not be familiar with them. All the shows are covered in the 101 essays, and we have 101 pieces on the two projects that have yet to see the light of day: The Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers.

Some of the highlights are two really great interview Tanya Cochran (who has published quite a bit on Joss Whedon and who will be a familiar to those who have read any of the books on Whedon that are out there) did. She first did a great one hour interview with Tim Minear. Now, he always gives great interviews (I actually think he gives the best interviews of anyone connected to the Whedonverse), but Tanya really did her homework. She sat down and read every interview that he has given, and then came up with a list of questions that no one else had asked.

The Minear interview was so impressive that when the opportunity came to interview Harry "The Mayor" Groener, I asked her if she would be willing to take this one on as well. Originally his publicist suggested a ten minute interview. She requested thirty. They countered with 20. But when they actually did the interview it stretched to 40 minutes. The interview gives some great insights to what is it like on one of Whedon's sets, and he reveals that frequently Whedon would be off to one side writing or rewriting pages while shooting was actually taking place.

We also have essays by some Whedonverse writers that people will recognize, like Rhonda Wilcox (who has written a commentary on the BUFFY Season Two episode "Passion") and Stacey Abbott, who has previously published two books on ANGEL. Stacey wrote the ANGEL 101 essay. We have other Whedon scholars that people who read a lot about him may know, like Cynthea Masson and Lynnette Porter (Lynnette is the secret hero of the event, having made many of the initial contacts with other scholars).

I couldn't possibly be prouder about all this. And it was a LONG time coming. I first made the pitch to the Popmatters editor in chief in January 2010 to do a Whedon spotlight.

In defense of Typos. I had half of a rough draft of the Intro piece and planned to spend an evening and then the entire next day working on it, when I was suddenly informed that the person who was going to design the layout was going to be out of town and needed the essay pretty much immediately. So I sat down and in three hours hammered out the second half of the essay and then did a frantic rewrite. I did not have time to properly proofread it. When I sent the piece in I said I was confident that there were many errors in it and would later submit a list of typos that needed correcting. I originally was going to have a longer list of the things that made Whedon so special, like:

Joss Whedon never always surprises us -- this would have pointed out the relative absence of cliche in his work. A great example is the body swap in Buffy 4. Dozens of shows have done body swaps, but they rarely are all that interesting and the vast majority are played strictly for laughs. I would then have contrasted the depth of "Who Are You?" with its usual treatment.

Joss Whedon like to Mix it Up: This would have been a section on genre hybridization on his shows and I wanted to focus on "Becoming Pt. 2" where you go from drama to comedy to drama to comedy to abject tragedy.

But running behind I had to jettison those two sections.

Anyway, my first post here is a length one. Sorry about that. But if anyone has any questions I can answer them.

Oh, and I'm really proud that we even have a Whedon 101 essay on Sugarshock. This might be the most comprehensive survey of Joss Whedon's career that has ever been done.
I'm really eager to read this series, Njal, thank you for sharing the behind-the-scenes!
Yep, the interviews make it even more appealing, consider our appetites well and truly whetted.

(You left a parentheses open! Unless that's a semicolon, not a wink.)

Nope, it's a wink hopitopia but mouths also close parentheses, 'twas ever thus (s'just how I roll ;).
Welcome, Njal. Think it's safe to say we're looking forward to the release of the essays. They'll be the talk of our little town!
Another warm welcome to you, Njal! Now I'm thoroughly excited for this series, can't wait to read the interviews. To some extent, I also agree that Time gives some of the best interviews, on par with Joss (can't beat those witticims). Great to see Stacey Abbott is involved; she's possibly my favourite Whedonverse scholar.
Jumping back in to also express my thanks, Njal. I can't thank you enough and PopMatters for putting this all together.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2011-03-05 23:28 ]
Three more essays are up at PopMatters. If the Mods have ideas about how to link them, I hope you will. I've read the Alien Resurrection piece (really good) and looked through the Religion Freaky piece for which I will need to set aside sizeable time to digest. Buffy Movie 101 up next. Good stuff.

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