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June 14 2013

Joss Whedon and the pop culture canon. The Nation's Michelle Dean on "Much Ado About Nothing" when viewed within Joss's larger body of work and fandom.

Actually, I've found his, "pop culture canon" even more basic and simpler than that. Joss is a master storyteller from ages old. Well, I mean that in his form of delivery. It's an art and, appearently, a lost one.

Many of us have tried to describe the meaning behind his stories and it's literally impossible and frustrating because, how do you explain a feeling or thought?

That's the secret and curse.
"I have been known to sing to myself, as I leave the house in the evening, 'Every single night, the same engagement.'"
Been known to? This is a repeat occurrence, then? How embarrassing, so oft getting the lyrics wrong and then more or less bragging about it. Arrangement, dear Journalist. Arrangement.
But I jest. This was a pretty neat article, misquotings aside.
GreatMuppetyOdin, as soon as I hit that part of the article, I raced back here to make a similar comment. Engagement?!? More like ENRAGEMENT!

On a more serious tip, I think Whedon's Much Ado will serve as a crucial reminder that the distinction between "high" culture and "pop" culture is a false one. In his own time, Shakespeare WAS pop culture, or was trying to be, anyway. He was writing for the fancy box seats and the penny crowds alike. That's why there are high-falutin' philosophies right next to fart and phallus jokes in so many of his plays. I sincerely feel Whedon's Much Ado will turn a lot of folks onto Shakespeare who may have been previously turned off from his works by their reputation as high art not meant for the masses.
Also, I seem to be alone in this, but I do not think the "Ethiope" line was "expertly parried" as this author seems to. I thought it was jarring and made Claudio less likeable in the exact moment where he's trying to redeem himself in Hero's/the audience's eyes. Whedon said in the Q and A that he was going for a Michael Scott moment, but my issue with that is: we need to end up liking Claudio so that we're okay with how Hero's story turns out, and, um, this Michael Scott moment makes him less than likeable to me.

Whedon took out Benedick's "Jew" line b/c he knew it would make audiences uncomfortable in all its anachronistic weirdness. It felt a little weird that he wouldn't excise the Ethiope line by the same logic.
Riki Lindhome is a perfect Conrade. She and Spectacularly Evil Sean Maher make villainy as delicious and irresistible as a cupcake.

Mare, the Ethiope line took me out of the movie. If it's a "Michael Scott" moment, I would think that the rest of the ensemble would react like the ensemble in The Office, at least with their facial expressions. I've only seen the movie once, but I don't recall seeing anyone else's face change expression at all in response to what Claudio was saying--and there was more than one face plainly visible in the background. Of course, there was a whole lot going on, and I may find more on multiple viewings, which I'm delighted to say there will be lots of.

[ edited by Pointy on 2013-06-15 23:56 ]
Hmmm... "Jew" is one syllable, that's easy. What could have been used in place of Ethiope that still scans as as a dactyl?

"I'll hold my mind, were she an _____."
I'm glad that Shakepeare's words are still ruffling some feathers. They should.

I won't add any more that hasn't been argued for the past 400 years, hence....isn't Joss on the same path of creativity? Just thought I would toss that out there, you know, from a different stance.

Throw various meats and fruits kindly, please.
Bishop, how about ...
"an awful dope"
"a cantaloupe"
"a misanthrope"?

Haven't seen the movie yet so I can't judge that particular line or scene.
I'd trust the infinite creativity of Joss Whedon's brain to come up with better replacement-dactyls than I ever could (kudos on the prosody knowledge, Bishop! Shiny!).

More than just replacing the word, I'm thinking about how the inclusion of this line affects Claudio's characterization. He's trying to hold steadfast in his resolve to marry this unknown woman to prove he's not such a dishonorable jerk after all. So committed is he that he'd still marry her, even if she were a.... and that's where it kind of breaks down for me. If we're talking a synonym for "someone I'm so unlikely to marry that it's ridiculous to even suggest it"... well, punkinpuss has suggested a few starter options that would be more in line with the film's efforts elsewhere to modernize Shakespeare. I suppose it's intended to make Claudio look as ignorant/privileged as possible, in which case, I'd call it successful. I like what the BFI article on the front page has to say about it:

"Whedon’s Much Ado shows up the continuing survival of the double standard, revealing Claudio to be a callow, thoughtless boy (a point underlined by the film’s staging of his racist comment during the second wedding) and Leonato and Pedro hopelessly patriarchal. To do this, the film commits to, rather than fudges, the play’s unlikely twists and turns.....Through their fluid incorporation into the cinematic narrative, they suggest that Shakespeare created these coincidences and collusions to highlight the gender bind, and to argue for a form of true marriage that would undo it."

Madhatter, I absolutely respect Whedon's unique creative path. That's precisely why I devote time to thinking deeply about his creative choices and considering their various, glorious possible interpretations :)

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