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
"I played a very bad hand very well. There's a distinction"
11973 members | you are not logged in | 26 September 2020


September 27 2012

Deconstructing Joss Whedon's most (in)famous trope. A very interesting look at the role death plays in Joss Whedon's work.

There's no need for a spoiler tag here.
Interesting idea, but I'm not a fan of the organization. It seems to get to its thesis halfway through the article.

The point of there being no male victimized deaths is a compelling one. However, I'm tempted to classify Wash's death as a murder rather than a "Killed in Action," if only because his piloting didn't involve combat and his death came right after the action.
Er...should we tell the writer that Joyce's death had nothing to do with Dawn's arrival?

Otherwise, an interesting article, though I'm not sure I agree with his points about women's victimization; or his unfathomable love for Anya. ;)
I thought he killed people we love because we love stupid people.

Also, I think my favorite part of that article is the manner of Fred's death: "complications due to godhood."
Here's a list of deaths on Lost. It dwarfs the Whedon list pretty strikingly (although, to be fair, it's not listing only major characters). Here's a list of deaths in the Harry Potter books; again, it's a much longer list. Joss is no more or less inclined to kill off his characters than anyone else writing in this kind of genre and setting their action in a world where death is meant to be a real possibility. He just A) writes characters we care about so much that their deaths really affect us and B) was foolish enough to talk explicitly about killing characters as an important part of storytelling--something I'm sure he deeply regrets.

In short, stupid, baseless, self-reinforcing meme is stupid.
@aftertherockets, that was the death that popped out for me too.
Very true Yoink.
I'm not too keen on the way the author categorizes some of the deaths. For starters, I'd add both Fred and Shepherd Book to the "murdered" list. Though Book's is a strange case, it's true; maybe "murdered in action" would be the best way to put it?
Eh. Not loving this article.
Didn't like how it dealt with Anya's death, didn't like the categorization, didn't think it delved deep enough into purpose for death. It it claims to be "deconstructing" something, it shouldn't just tear off a couple hunks, and give the statistics on those, while leaving the structure as a whole largely intact. Metaphor over, now. Some interesting bits, but needed a lot more content.

Can we just get over the "Joss kills people" thing already? Yeah. He does. And it's emotional. And purposeful. And so does everybody else.
Interesting article but it's missing a few deaths, such as the murdered Jonathan and Lindsey. I see Kendra was mentioned but not Holland Manners or Principal Flutie or Principal Snyder.

Also, I wish people who wrote these things would get their facts right. Joyce's death had nothing to do with Dawn or the spell the monks cast and Anya was killed by a Bringer, not a vampire.

Edited to add: if you haven't seen "Cabin in the Woods" yet, don't read the comments section on this link. There is a major spoiler in there. :(

[ edited by menomegirl on 2012-09-27 23:10 ]
Must. Not. Bite. Must. Not. Bite.

(Though I would consider Book's death a murder, since the Operative notes that if you go to ground, you can give no ground; you remove all places your enemy could go. It is just not premeditated).
I do so enjoy reading a good analysis of Whedon. I like new ideas, opinions, and connections. I find myself often agreeing with the author. Then they get something so completely wrong that it just undoes any of the previously mentioned, well argued concepts.

Where on Earth did the idea that Dawn's creation caused Joyce's death come from? That's a fanwank right?

So now I feel like this piece just wasn't worth the time.

[ edited by hann23 on 2012-09-28 00:15 ]
So, I don't get it. There is one part of an article you don't like so the rest becomes meaningless? Come on. I am heavily invested in this topic, don't think this is the best article on that topic I have ever seen, but it does raise interesting points. Even if that part is wrong.
Where on Earth did the idea that Dawn's creation caused Joyce's death come from

Probably mostly from "No Place Like Home"--it is what Buffy thinks she's discovered from her trance-vision-thing. Of course, it is made pretty clear that she's adding 2 and 2 and getting 5, but the idea is floated in the series. The "DNA" thing does seem to be entirely extracanonical, though. Dawn is made of "Summers blood" but I don't recall any suggestion that Joyce was sacrificed to "make" Dawn--and I don't think Buffy's substitution for Dawn in "The Gift" makes sense if we do entertain the idea.
Also Joyce dies from an aneurism, not a brain tumor. Minor point but still.

Far more disturbing is the idea that Joyce's death is a form of murder by rape (as are Fred's and Mellie's according to the writer). "They’re all connected thematically to loss of personal control ....The violence in these deaths is abundantly precent (sic), it just happens to be metaphorical. Not only did Joyce have no choice in the matter of Dawn’s creation, the male monk’s who created her “daughter” never asked and wouldn’t have taken NO for answer, anyway."

I know there are a lot of people who considered Dawn a whiny pain in the butt, but I'm not sure inflicting her on Joyce really constituted violence - especially when Joyce considered Dawn her little pumpkinhead. No, Joyce didn't get a chance to say "no" to Dawn. As it happens, Buffy didn't get a chance to say "no" to being the Slayer. Giles didn't get a chance to say "no" to being a Watcher. Xander didn't get the chance to say "no" to having his eye poked out. There were a lot of bad things that happened to people in the Whedonverse that they didn't have the opportunity to say "no" to. That does not make all of them some form of rape.

I think the author does have the thread of an interesting idea of looking at the different ways men and women do get victimized in the Whedonverse. But that thread gets tangled pretty quickly in his own hands.
Penny's death falls under other, it was not a murder it was an accident.
There's some interesting ideas, though I also quibble with Joyce (the whole point being some people just die - well, everyone, actually, in some way) and find him selective in leaving out male characters, like, as is said, Jonathan.

Didn't Anya die because she Emma was the only one with no interest in doing a spin-off? I'd call Joyce, Tara, Wash and Anya senseless deaths, which is really what most of us get. Wash's death scene was cathartic after I lost my father to a sudden heart attack.
The idea that Joyce's brain tumor was caused by (also, the aneurysm was caused by weak spots left after the tumor was renoved, inevitable in surgery, sometimes thye heal up in time soemtimes not) the appearance of Dawn is something many fans imagined at the time, and many of them still stick to it.
No Lindsay mention? His was perhaps the meanest of all the deaths.
You kill me? A flunky?
especially when Joyce considered Dawn her little pumpkinhead.

barboo | September 28, 00:42 CET

Minor point: she was her little pumpkin BELLY. Much cuter nickname, IMHO. :)
Yes, but much grosser belly.
Touche, Jobo. Touche.
Well. If y'all are gonna be that picky, Dawn was Joyce's little punkin' belly.

Ah, dammit, menomegirl. I concede your point. ;)

*doffs cap*
"Penny's death falls under other, it was not a murder it was an accident."

That would be an interesting legal defense: "But it was an accident your honor, I was trying to murder someone else and got her by mistake...."
Point of fact: Capt. Hammer pulls the trigger on the Deathray, not the Doc.

Point of fact 2: Tara's death was also an accident. It's not like he was aiming for her.

I think both would belong in a "Innocent Bystander" type of category.

This thread has been closed for new comments.

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