This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"Are there any friends of yours left you haven't tried to kill?"
11943 members | you are not logged in | 17 April 2014












April 17 2012

(SPOILER) Is "Cabin in the Woods" something different, or Whedon repeating himself? Movieline's Maria Aspan claims the movie is a checklist of tropes that Joss uses in his TV shows and Dr. Horrible. The cliches she identifies includes the "banality of evil", a wise-cracking guy, and the Big Bads lurking underneath.

It also criticizes how the movie portrays Jules and Dana although Joss calls himself a feminist. It does like the dark ending of the movie, and compares it to the end of Buffy's fifth season.

Point two seems to miss the point of both Cabin in the Woods and Dollhouse. I'm fine if you have issues with the female characters in Cabin, but this quote drives me up the wall: "There are some particularly lascivious camera shots up the long legs of one character, whose blonde hair dye literally turns her into a sex-crazed “whore.” (Yep, the two main women in the movie are slotted into the ritual-sacrifice roles and horror-movie tropes of “virgin” and “whore.”)" ...um, yes? A movie about horror-movie tropes, uh, employs horror movie tropes?

In twice the length, the article lacks half the nuance of the previous article posted.
I had really, really gotten the message: corporations are evil, and evil is often mundane


But the corporation isn't actually evil, it's saving the world time and time again. They have no choice in what they do. Marty and Dana are actually the villains because they chose themselves over the rest of humanity. Or something like that.
Ugh can people stop over analysing this movie? This why i hate reading meta and most reviews. It takes out all the fun and leaves you underwhelmed by a movie/book/tv show you really loved the first time around.
Alternatively, those who don't like analysis could not read analysis.
Having the Ancient Ones directly beneath the final circular platform did remind me of the Buffy quote:
"From beneath you it devours."


(... earlier mistranslated by Andrew as, "It eats you, starting with your bottom.")

[ edited by SteveP on 2012-04-17 22:45 ]
Interesting parenthetical in 2: "Yep, the two main women in the movie are slotted into the ritual-sacrifice roles and horror-movie tropes of “virgin” and “whore.” Yet, it completely ignores the other "ritual-sacrifice roles and horror movie tropes" of "stoner," "jock," and "black guy who dies." And in terms of being a wildly inconsistent feminist, in terms of her portrayal of Dollhouse as a "rape fantasy," it wasn't just women being raped. Adelle used the guise of Ms. Lonelyhearts to hire Victor as her lover and fantasy.

While I hate to be the fan that says she doesn't get it...I think she just doesn't get Whedon. On some level, you just can't have a discussion about feminism without first noting the issues, such as the exploitation of women in the media.

And while loveable slacker idiot is a consistent character with Whedon, he's not always a hero. Lest we forget, Xander ran away from his marriage, Wesley kidnapped Angel's son, and Wash threw a fit and nearly got himself and Mal killed over jealousy about Mal and Zoe's war stories (hey, episode title!), and Billy ends up killing Penny. It's not that I think she doesn't have a good point about Whedon and tropes, to a degree, it's just that she's not doing a real good job of making it.
Not to play who's-the-better-fanboy/girl here, but someone who writes off Firefly, Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible isn't exactly what I'd call an expert on the man. Now, I do find myself veering back and forth somewhat wildly on whether or not I found Cabin to be successful--leaning towards yes, but needing a second viewing--so I don't think it's required that someone like almost everything an artist has produced to have a valid opinion on them. But half the things she lists are simply key aspects to what this particular artist has always done and probably always will do, and the other half seem to be sour misinterpretations at best.
For anyone interested (and for some reason I can't post anything right now), here is an article from Rope of Silicon in which site owner Brad Brevet elaborates on how he wishes "Cabin" would have ended: http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/how-i-wish-cabin-in-the-woods-would-have-ended/
I read an article (or perhaps it was an interview...?) once by Robin McKinley. In it she talked about how important the story of Beauty and the Beast was to her. She said something to the effect that storytellers tend to have one story in them that is their story and they tell it over and over again. (She's done three versions of Beauty and the Beast - one with a vampire.) I don't know if that idea holds up to wide scrutiny, but I'm not sure why it there is something wrong with the concept if it's true. We are who we are, we are concerned about what we are concerned about, and then we make art from it - especially if we feel like no one is listening. Until the ELoE passes out black hats, the light needs to be shined on the mundanity of evil so that we can learn to recognize it when confronted with it in life.

Besides, everyone knows there are really only 20 basic plots in the world, right?* ;-)

*Or 1 or 3 or 7 or 36 or...
I fall into the "She doesn't get it" camp, I fear.

It was this that convinced me:
... not to mention the regular slut-shaming of Firefly. (Prostitution is honorable in this futuristic society – but you should still be ashamed of your profession!)


I didn't take that away from Firefly at all. In fact, I took away the opposite. Every time Mal (or anyone, really) criticized Inara for her profession, it seemed clear to me that they were supposed to be the wrong ones, not her.

This list of overused tropes is kind of a list of the stuff Joss does that I love. If you don't love at least one of these things, I'm not sure you love Joss's work. That's totally okay, but I feel like it would be more accurate for this writer to say she loves Buffy and Angel (and Serenity, I guess?) than that she has "bona fides" regarding Joss's entire corpus.
But the corporation isn't actually evil, it's saving the world time and time again. They have no choice in what they do. Marty and Dana are actually the villains because they chose themselves over the rest of humanity. Or something like that.


Which in itself is a subversion of what Joss usually does which is "individualism is awesome and never comes to a bad end." Or what I like to call, Firefly. It's also an inversion of S5 Angel which by sacrificing individual morals to work within the system, bad things occur. This is, by failing to conform or sacrifice, bad things occur.

This is not to say Joss doesn't overuse things. But I come from the camp of... well he was repeating himself as early as Angel, why is this a problem now?

And I'm not sure there was "slut-shaming" in Firefly either. I always read that as Mal's attraction manifesting in snide remarks. He's being a cad, she maintains her dignity.
She's right in that Joss & Drew used a lot of the same old tropes they've used before. Where she falls short, though, is assuming that's a bad thing. Heck, it's pretty much the point of the film.

And Joss uses a lot of the same tropes because that's how he thinks, and how he writes. As a fan of Joss but not of horror, the familiar themes helped keep me in the flow rather than being jolted out when things got horror-y.
Well, many things I do disagree with here, but the central idea that Joss repeats themes and styles is accurate. To which I reply with a big "So?" Name an auteur that doesn't have repetition within their body of work.

That doesn't stop Cabin from being completely different to anything I have seen before, let alone anything Joss has done.
After years of Hollywood script doctoring, 7 years of Buffy episodes, 5 years of Angel, baker's dozen + movie of Firefly, a couple of dozen Dollhouse shows, almost a hundred comics written/co-written/edited, and now CitW and Avenger... is it really a surprise that there are *some* elements that we've seen before?

As they mentioned in Dark Knight, "you either die the hero, or you live long enough to become the villain".

edit: To be fair, I remember watching CitW and picking out familiar themes. But then I had the same thought as Vandelay... There are a lot of cooking shows on TV, maybe I should get upset that they are using the same list of food ingredients over and over (to make who-knows how many recipes).

[ edited by OneTeV on 2012-04-17 23:35 ]
Evil corporation? Where does the movie say that the basement people are even part of a corporation? Did I miss that? I assumed they were part of the government - like The Initiative.
They are a multinational so I doubt it's the government. But I don't think it matters to the story which is why I don't think it's actually specified.
Actually, the corporation is entirely evil, and is saving the world, such as it is, over and over again. There is nothing good nor admirable about that outfit, and I took great pleasure in watching their toys loosed upon them; it was probably the most enjoyable part of the film.

And, no, they aren't named as a corporation explicitly, but they are clearly a bureaucracy, and the trappings sound much more private sector, with talk of bonuses and such.
Azzers - I agree that it doesn't matter. I was sort of trying to make the point, without doing it very well, that she makes some assumptions about the tropes Joss is using (such as the evil corporation) that aren't necessarily supported by the content of the movie. And not that it matters, but I think it's probably more likely some sort of multi-governmental consortium, like NATO, maybe SAGO (Subterranean Ancient Gods Organization) - or something better than that.

ETA - the other thing that makes me think it's not a corporation is that this appeasement of the Gods has apparently been going on for centuries (based on the pre-movie graphics) and corporations are a relatively recent historical development.

[ edited by steverogers on 2012-04-18 00:14 ]
Tired tropes? I think I will stop at one paragraph of these analyses insulting Joss. Though I'll say that someone needs to get a book called "How to Read a Film". Knowing Buffy from the beginning doesn't put you in an expert position to think you know everything about how Joss approaches/writes/directs a project.
Let's try to keep the responses to the article and not the author (mind you, I understand the frustration at insulting analyses that don't seem to have necessarily seen the same movie, but...).
I know, sorry. Tired, brain on frizz.
I hear ya :) *group hug* *group beer*
So he repeats himself. So what?
At least if Joss repeats himself, it's something worth hearing again.
Mmmmmmm, beer. Can there be pie with the beer? :-)
Its interesting that people find fault in the fact that Joss repeats himself. To me its not so much repetition as it is consistency. Joss has been pretty consistent through his career and as such the themes he explores grow as he grows. Dollhouse is a perfect example of this. Its a much darker messier (in terms of morals) show that Buffy. there is no one "hero" or one "villain"
The movie is good. Joss is pretty consistent, you can see him growing as an artist through the years. A lot of artists have consistent themes through their work.

I feel like these article are super hyperbolic. it doesn't have to be a huge thing. People need to calm down.
Jules isn't literally a whore. She isn't taking money for sex. She isn't even being promiscuous. (And if she was, so what, but that's a different conversation.) She's a little more excited than usual about the prospect of having sex with her boyfriend. And Dana isn't literally a virgin - she's just had an affair with her married professor. The initial complaint of the article is either based on a mistaken premise, or the word "literally" is being misused.
Mmmmmmm, beer. Can there be pie with the beer? :-)


Absofrickinlutely!

or the word "literally" is being misused.


Strangely, it REALLY often is misused.
The critique of the virgin/whore thing seems odd. As Shapenew said, the labels didn't fit either of the girls in real life. The Puppeteers cast them in those roles, and then manipulated and coerced them into acting accordingly.

To me, it seemed pretty obvious that this was a way of asking why we, as a culture, are so invested in seeing this stupid dichotomy in our entertainment. I also saw the victims being forced into stereotypical roles as a comment on how society often casts us in roles we don't choose for ourselves, and defines our identities in ways that are limiting and reductive.
To me, it seemed pretty obvious that this was a way of asking why we, as a culture, are so invested in seeing this stupid dichotomy in our entertainment. I also saw the victims being forced into stereotypical roles as a comment on how society often casts us in roles we don't choose for ourselves, and defines our identities in ways that are limiting and reductive.


Yes, this.
Yes, erendis. And the film invites us to be lured by Jules' nudity, while at the same time forcing us to question our own tendencies by showing us the voyeurism of the control room staff. The film challenges our cultural tendencies by actually bringing these tendencies out and confronting us with: "Yes, this is who we are. And is it right?"
When there's a recognizable signature in an artist's body of work -- they either call you an auteur or a hack.

...Hitchcock sure had a thing for blonde women, amirite?
The critique of the virgin/whore thing seems odd. As Shapenew said, the labels didn't fit either of the girls in real life. The Puppeteers cast them in those roles, and then manipulated and coerced them into acting accordingly.


The labels didn't fit any of them (well, maybe Shaggy). There were five stone carvings, just line-drawings, and the five real people were forced into fitting into the molds of the line-drawings. So, blonde whore (though actually steady girlfriend to nice guy, and just dyed her hair blonde that morning, to mixed reviews); virgin (who's actually not a virgin and was sleeping with her married professor, which is more transgressive than the "whore" was being); "jock" (who's actually a sociology major and a good student); "scholar" (who's actually an excellent football player whose primary interest is athletics); "fool" (who is, well, okay, a party guy, stoned all the time, except he turns out to be the smartest of the bunch of them).

The whole point was the stereotyping of the five, forcing them into roles they don't really fit, and our role as audience, as seen by the puppeteers watching the big screen, in voyeuristically enjoying the spectacle. The ritual requires the sacrifice of the young; their actual characters are part of the sacrifice.

It is not anti-feminist to show in order to interrogate anti-feminist themes, like the stereotyping of female characters, or male characters for that matter.

That said, I thought that the thinking in Dollhouse was more complex; this feels like a late episode of Angel, which is not a bad thing, but his interests feel as if they've moved on since then. Of course it was written in 2008.
Germane to this is a comment Roger Ebert made about war movies: "It was Francois Truffaut who said that it's not possible to make an anti-war movie, because all war movies, with their energy and sense of adventure, end up making combat look like fun." I do not think one can show breasts as an anti-comment about the fact that movies often show breasts when there is no reason to do so. The breasts are still there, still to be visualized. I find it hard to understand how a strong feminist thinks most people will get the joke, or the metatextual meaning. To that degree, it is almost as though they made the movie to appeal to people just like them. Joss hates torture porn, and he hates offensive imagery, but then he apes their conventions to make a movie that is supposed to play against trope. I don't think this movie did that very well.
Her article is nothing I haven't read before about Whedon's work, but she lost me at 'loathed Firefly.'
Dana5140 - I've spent many a thread saying that yes it does need to show what it's trying to comment on, but I'll check and get back to you :). Or we could just re-read all of the Dollhouse threads. Jokey jokey aside, I do believe that showing what you are trying to comment on/subvert is important not only for impact, but to get the attention of the people who are in need of having said concept subverted for them and probably for other reasons that I haven't had time to think on it enough to quantify/qualify.

Maybe we'll have to agree to disagree. The Truffaut quote is fun, but I don't think that the point holds true for war movies either -- there are a lot of war movies that seem to start our making combat look fun and then showing you horror upon horror with seemingly no end in sight. You don't finish most of them thinking, "Gosh, I can't wait to see my friends/comrades in arms mutilated." Generally speaking :).

I find it hard to understand how a strong feminist thinks most people will get the joke, or the metatextual meaning.


Because he's also a humanist and has faith that people can learn and change and grow and that they aren't titanically unable to comprehend things that are laid out in what I think is a fairly blunt fashion.

but then he apes their conventions to make a movie that is supposed to play against trope.


All the while commenting on it by cutting back to the lab guys and simultaneously commenting on them and us in a really great way. The flick may have failed in some way(s), but I'm not sure I'd say subtlety was one of them :). If people don't get it? Maybe they aren't ready, but maybe it plants a seed.
It's not often that I read an article and disagree with almost every single sentence. So that was interesting.
"Joss hates torture porn, and he hates offensive imagery, but then he apes their conventions to make a movie that is supposed to play against trope."

I wouldn't say Cabin contained anything aping the conventions of so called torture porn. In fact, what surprised me most about the film was that it did not have anything to say about the now mostly passed trend of horror film that some argue encourages watching violence for violence sake (personally, I think they are just crap films that don't deserve any more attention, so I was pleased Cabin did not go down that route.)

The style comes from older 70's/80's horror films, which Joss has said he very much loves, despite some misgivings.

As for offensive imagery, that sounds like a rather broad and subjective tag. I certainly don't recall him ever being pro-censorship of imagery that some might find offensive. In fact, I would say he would have the complete opposite attitude. (Unless I have misunderstood your point here, which is entirely likely.)
Re: the Rope of Silicon ending - I totally accept my head canon of thinking something similar... just because we didn't see the film being passed to a studio and released doesn't mean they weren't making one. I totally assume they were recording the action and planning to release it.

I do like the idea of the billboard though 'First thing like it in six months' would have been a fitting, though unnecessary joke. Like a super blunt 'if you still don't get it' kind of thing...
"To that degree, it is almost as though they made the movie to appeal to people just like them. Joss hates torture porn, and he hates offensive imagery, but then he apes their conventions to make a movie that is supposed to play against trope. I don't think this movie did that very well."

Dana, please don't feel picked on by my using this quote yet again to comment on your point. I have probably seen a great deal more films that could be framed as "torture porn" than you have and some I haven't seen but watched scenes from because for at least a decade, I can't bring myself to watch them anymore. Just.can't. But I think you are judging Joss too harshly. The scenes depicted in CiTW having to do with the slicing and dicing of human beings, i.e. torture porn, were actually mild compared to what I've seen in the horror genre. Torture would be prolonged scenes of violence. Unlike a film like Hostel, which featured a woman hanging from a hook about to be slaughtered, or the film billboard Joss protested against on Huffington Post several years ago for the film Captivity, CiTW is mild in comparison. I guess I am positing that if the bear trap as weapon of zombie choice and decapitation depicted are too much, then the film hit the bullseye, and especially so if the message is, seeing multiple people die this way should not be everything a slasher/horror movie IS in its entirety which most of them are.
ZG- I think we get it, but I am not sure the general movie-going public gets it. You cannot subvert convention if no one understands that that is what you are doing. You might claim it, but proving it is another matter. I am not sure this movie works because I think that too many people do not understand all the meta built into. And as- wait for it- a good reader response guy, this movie- and the posts I have been reading on this and the other "negative" thread- are full of interpretative statements in which posters claim they understand the point of a given scene. Maybe, maybe not...

(ETA) To Tonya, who posted as I was writing: "CiTW is mild in comparison." I agree, but this is only a matter of degree. I am not trying to be harsh on Joss; there are things I do not understand, and I believe he may have failed in what he was trying to do, so much as I understand what I think he was trying to do.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2012-04-18 20:42 ]

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.



joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home