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March 29 2005

The Wit and Wisdom of Joss Whedon. Ten pages featuring some of the best Joss quotes around (pdf reader req).

Via Slayage.tv which is a really great site which everyone should check out.

Simon, that was just terrific! What a cool find. I printed it out immediately. To have that many of Joss' words all in one place is just wonderful. I'm getting some new t-shirts. :)
“I hate it when people talk about Buffy as being campy . . I hate camp. I don’t enjoy dumb TV. I believe Aaron Spelling has single-handedly lowered SAT scores.”

So true!
“I hate it when people talk about Buffy as being campy . . I hate camp.

Oops! Do I misunderstand the word? Buffy season 1 is campy to me. The entire show has campy elements. Camp to me is the hokey monsters. The difference with Buffy is that it is self aware, and it makes fun of itself. And the "camp" is funny, but it doesn't take away from the emotional resonance of the show.

Come on, you can't tell me Mr. Sharky in Tabula Rasa wasn't campy.

[ edited by electricspacegirl on 2005-03-29 21:18 ]
camp=so dumb/silly that its funny. Buffy was never dumb.
Really depends on one's definition of camp. The exultation in bad taste might be something against which Joss is reacting. Susan Sontag said that in camp "It is beautiful because it is awful." Under that definition, the show would only be camp if it were saying that these hokey monsters were aesthetically important precisely because they were so hokey. From the tone of Joss's comments, it sounds like he would feel that that kind of attitude would cheapen the show. We take the monsters seriously because they're metaphors for deeper ideas, not because they're so ridiculous.

At any rate, just trying to understand why Joss would reject camp like that. There are plenty of other definitions of camp that are broad enough to include Buffy without denigrating it. Not sure whether Mr. Sharky was campy so much as a silly pun, but again, it's all in the definition. Please feel free to disagree with me.

[ edited by Biff Turkle on 2005-03-29 23:00 ]
...dozens more reasons why I love and admire Joss....
At some point in the last six months or so there was a marathon Whedonesque discussion on whether Buffy was "campy" or not. I'm sure a search would turn this rather fascinating discussion up. If I recall correctly, the majority opinion held that Buffy was not campy for some of the reasons Biff Turkle gives. But as Biff Turkle also says, I suppose it all depends on how you define "camp"/"campy." Joss clearly defines it one way and not to be slavish or anything, I agree with his interpretation.

Great resource, Simon. Thanks for posting it.
I don't know what camp means but if Joss says it's not then I believe him.
Thanks also to Simon for highlighting the Slayage site. Created by academics devoted to Buffy Studies, the site has lots of wonderful stuff on it. I've long enjoyed periodically visiting the section "Discovering Buffy," which is an alphabetical listing of conversion stories -- how and why people who love BtVS came to do so. The stories come from people from many walks of life and it's a lot of fun to read. I believe they're always interested in more submissions so maybe a few Whedonesquers could add to this clever oral history project.

Another, new, section on the site is Dark Blade: The Buffy Literary Project. The Dark Blade founder has some plans on building a community effort towards publishing more Buffy books/novelizations. The eventual goal of this project is drumming up enough commercial interest to generate a big-screen Buffyverse movie.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2005-03-29 23:00 ]
I have to say I just spent the last half hour squeeing like a the fangirl I am over this post. Thank you so much, Simon, for finding this and posting it. This means a lot to me.

My biggest love of the entire Jossverse; Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Fray, etc., is the man behind it. I love Joss Whedon's brain. And he's so right on about feminism and how to make positive changes in culture. And the fact that he was successful. Wow. I can't gush enough over how brilliant his feminist vision in storytelling is. I know, I'm getting all choir-preachy here, but I'm just saying. Love the Jossman.

All these quotes resonate with me to the fullest extent possible. Everything he says in them is the definitive reason I love this man and adore all his shows like no other. Too bad he's married. Kai's a lucky woman.

[ edited by electricspacegirl on 2005-03-30 00:28 ]
Hmm. Here in the UK, campy means, well, you know, poofy. Aside from Clem, I don't think this rings true. (Sorry, Clem - it must be the kittens!)
From merriam-webster online.

Main Entry: camp
Function: noun
Etymology: origin unknown

1 : exaggerated effeminate mannerisms exhibited especially by homosexuals
2 : a homosexual displaying camp
3 : something so outrageously artificial, affected, inappropriate, or out-of-date as to be considered amusing
4 : something self-consciously exaggerated or theatrical

- camp·i·ly /'kam-p&-lE/ adverb
- camp·i·ness /-pE-n&s/ noun
- campy /'kam-pE/ adjective
I love 'camp' in several of its meanings as described above. 'Camp' in its 'so bad it's good' became really fashionable in the mid to late Nineties, at least it did over here in the Netherlands. Or maybe I should say in the Randstad (the cluster of larger cities in The Netherlands) You'd hear the word used all the time. Now, not so much. Things considered 'camp' have now become so accepted and mainstream the word is no longer needed.

The Eurovision songcontest is 'camp'. American Idol is too calculated to be camp. Buffy the Series simply isn't camp. Buffy the motion picture... hmm, comes close.
Ok, you guys convinced me. I will no longer call Buffy "campy". I never looked up the meaning of the word before. I never watched campy movies. I think I tried once and it was just BAD. I have a low threshold for bad acting too. I don't think I could enjoy camp unless it's a witty parody of camp disguised as camp itself.
One of the most famous essays of the last century was the late Susan Sontag's "Notes on 'Camp'", published in 1964. It's pretty lengthy, but the key quote I think is this:

"Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration."

I do think the Loan Shark in "Tabula Rasa" approaches camp, but that's pretty much the only instance in the entire series that something did.

Anybody interested in the essay can find it here:

http://pages.zoom.co.uk/leveridge/sontag.html

I'd recommend it only to someone suffering from insomnia.

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2005-03-30 00:10 ]
I think the third definition is what most people (at least in the U.S.) think of as camp. For me the quintessenitial example of camp was the BATMAN TV show of the sixties. ROCKY HORROR is also a prime example and it kind of combines definitions 1 and 3. IMHO, BUFFY rarely crossed the line into camp because all of the threats were serious and the humor mostly came from witty dialogue, the absurdity of the situation (a vampire having tea with your Mom), or finding the inherent humor in the characters (When Buffy reads Cordy's mind Cordy's thoughts are exactly what she says--that gag wouldn't work with, say, Willow). I would expect Joss doesn't want BUFFY associated with camp because you can't take camp seriously (like the BATMAN T.V. show).

I like "Tabula Rasa" a lot but I do think having the loan shark be a shark crossed the line into silliness.

One more thing: and this is what made me a BUFFY fanatic and an admirer of all things Joss. Joss is the only writer who has written stuff where characters wise-off and make cracks while in the face of danger and still made me believe the characters were genuine and the danger was real and the movie or show wasn't simply an excercise in ironic detatchment. That's a hell of a tightrope to walk and Joss pulled it off.
Wonderful! I'm using my zippy PDF to PDA converter so I can carry these words with me wherever I go... I tried to look around on the site a bit to track down the sources of these quotes - ie the "Longworth" article has lots of good stuff... where is that?
Chris in Virginia, thank you for the Sontag-link.
Gingeriffic, I did a quick Google, because I, too, wanted to learn the source of the "Longworth" quotes, and I came up with the following: Longworth, James L., Jr. TV Creators: Conversations with America’s Top Producers of Television Drama, Volume 2. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2002.

I love this link -- and I hadn't thought of transferring this to my PDA, but what a great idea. The one thing missing here are quotes from an article I read a year or so ago in which Joss talks about the mechanics of writing -- comments that I thought were wonderful and so useful in talking to students about writing. I printed the article and used it once in class, but have since lost it, and the source URL, and my memory fails me at this moment regarding the specifics. But, as with so much of what Joss says, his words were jewels, with a sparkle of humor.

Thanks, Simon, for this link. Made my day.
Arguing over whether or not Buffy was campy is like arguing over whether or not it was funny. Both words are defined in vague, interpretative ways. Sometimes Buffy was funny. Sometimes not. There are campy moments in Buffy, so one can argue it's campy, just as they can argue that it's funny. One can also argue the opposite, because there are decidedly unfunny moments and decidedly non-campy moments. The scene at the end of Lie To Me comes to mind. Was that a dramatically intense scene or a set up for a joke? Was it over the top watching two people waiting for Buffy's old friend to come out of the grave so she could stake him? Or was it a touching and tender moment between a young woman and her mentor discussing the frailty of human understanding and how sometimes we lie to ourselves just to get through life's less than jovial realities? Was it real or was it absurd? The answer is yes.

The word campy has come up a few times in the course of Whedonesque's existence. Fifty-eight times according to Google. Usually any argument of this word's usage boils down to syntax and a mutual misunderstanding over what person A means when conveying to person B just what "camp" means to person A as compared to person B's suppositions.

The actual definition of the word leaves a lot to the interpretation of the individual. Perhaps the two separate schools of thought can be seen as those using "camp" to cite "vulgarity" of social behavior, and those using it to describe a program as "artificial" in story components. In the latter definition, one can argue a vast majority of fiction is campy, precisely because it reflects and distorts reality for purposes of storytelling. For example WordNet uses cites as an example of camp, "Hollywood musicals of the 1940's" but in truth any and all musicals are campy, because it's rare that any single individual would just break improvisationally into a song, and then by song's end have other cast members and any passersby happen to join him in the raucous chorus to ear-deafening applause. It's simply not realistic social behavior. Likewise, any human being who saw a menacing robot walking down a street wouldn't just rush into the middle of the street and start shooting at it with a gun, yet that happens all the time in cinema. We honestly don't know in real life how people would react to menacing robots. So far as I know that's never historically happened. So any response to it could be seen as 'campy' because we have no social frame of reference for the behavior patterns.

So anything that incorporates some elements of reality and then tosses something unrealistic into the mix, like say vampires, immediately becomes campy by definition. Playing poker with kittens, a shark shaped loanshark demon, two Xanders for the price of one, Buffy going Clan of the Cave Bear on us, Willow and Anya arguing with Xander as they're being attacked by a giant troll, blowing up a demon with a rocket launcher, then four years later Wood chasing Buffy in the background trying to take the rocket launcher away from her, these are arguably exceptionally unrealistic artifices for purposes of storytelling: i.e., camp.

The trick is how an artist uses camp in a project. The Doctor Who series included many campy elements, including the outrageous depiction of such villains as Cybermen or Daleks, and the wardrobe and demeanor of the Doctors themselves were certainly eccentric (he was nonhuman after all), but there are moments in the series which were far from campy. Even if surrounded by camp in costuming and set design, the acting and writing weren't always bad in a negatively campy manner. In fact the campy elements of Doctor Who lend to its charm.

Personally I see some elements of camp in the Buffy series. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The series itself as a whole wasn't campy, though Once More With Feeling certainly went over the top, I think to powerful dramatic effect and delicious entertainment value. Whedon shouldn't feel insulted by the use of the word. He imagined realistic characters in unrealistic situations. I for one am always disappointed if there isn't just a little camp in my entertainment. It's part of the fun!
Okay, a N.S. here but, it was a little thrill for me and alas I have no one else to tell *sob* so here goes. I was reading my book of the day and one of the characters said something about Five-by-Five. The other character explained that it meant "It's like loud and clear. Like I hear you fine. Everything's solid." Maybe it has been mentioned here before but I thought that it was so neat to find out what that meant. I guess it lends credit to the thought of Faith being a military brat.

Also, can somebody tell me what time zone whendonesque is in? Right now, in Oklahoma it is about 5:15 on 3/29/05.
Not sure about the time zone, Lovella, but, apropos of nothing, has everyone read ZachsMind's user profile? Definitely worth a read! (And here in the UK, it's a little past midnight...past my bedtime...)
Oh, thank you SweetMarilyn for noticing, but to which version of my user profile were you referring? I've recently changed my user profile. It used to be a list of my favorite quotes from all three series, but it was rather cumbersome and unwiedly, because picking and choosing the best lines from the three series? Easier said then done. I kept finding more that I liked. A few days ago I opted instead to move that to my online journal and edited my profile to be something that might actually be useable for people: a collection of resource links for Whedon's works that I've found useful over the years.
Well, I'm glad I had a blast reading your profile, ZM, before you changed it. And thanks for letting us know it's in your journal. I had a blast one day not that long ago reading it all.
Again I'm forced to disagree with you, ZachsMind. Which is a shame, because you appear to be the only person here who writes as consistently long posts as I do.

A lot of your examples, such as shooting at a giant robot, might be unrealistic, but I don't see where they fit in with the definition of camp. Although there's a certain amount of interpretation involved in understanding the English language, definitions are still fairly clearly laid out in dictionaries. A lot of your examples... they just don't seem to fit. A mixture of things realistic and unrealistic does not mean something is inherently campy. Instead, the unrealistic element has to be of a fairly specific type.

I think the one major thing that electricspacegirl's definition missed out is the idea of viewing something with "condescending irony". The condescension comes from marking something out as being notably silly, over-the-top, wacky and unbelievable (different from merely unrealistic), and the irony comes from the other characters playing it straight regardless. A good example is the Batman TV series or Doctor Who, but Buffy? Not really. The various unrealistic elements of Buffy were rarely silly, OTT or wacky, if ever. The villians, for example, were serious to the end. And the only times it did border on campy - i.e. Mr Sharky - the other characters did not play it straight. They were always more than keen to point out when the emperor had no clothes on, and nobody pretended that these things were normal. Mr Sharky was self-conciously theatrical, but it ceases to be campy when the other characters are aware that he's theatrical and, quite frankly, ridiculous.

Willow and Anya arguing with Xander as they're being attacked by a giant troll? Inappropriate, sure. But artificial? Not really. Did it scream kitsch, was it saying "Look how silly this is!"? No. Inappropriate responses to situations provided a lot of the humour in Buffy, but I just don't see how this qualifies as camp.

I think the main reason Buffy is so often called camp, though, is in that blend of realism with fantasy. If anyone has seen Shaun of the Dead, it's the same thing there. There's something interesting and funny about seeing these villians, hereoes, monsters, and mythical creatures, in between their murderous rampages and epic battles. These archetypes not only have expected character profiles in our brains, but they also have specific situations, places, scenarios in which we imagine we'd see them in. Comedy relies on the unexpected, the twist, the thing you didn't see coming, and so there's a lot of comedy to be found in taking Spike out of the graveyard, and showing what he does during the day. There's a lot of fun to be had in watching him mix Weetabix in with his blood, and sitting down to watch Passions on TV. There's a lot of humour to be found in seeing the mutants in X2 returning to one of their parents' home, to see them try and tell their parents what they are. And it even goes so far that it can be funny to see the heroes doing much the same thing, in acting naturally to very bizarre circumstances. There's a habit in zombie movies of the good guys to quickly find themselves armed and ready to take out all the zombies, so when Shaun is forced to go at it with only what you'd really have available to you, like vinyl records and a cricket bat, it's fried gold.

Is any of this camp? Not by my definition, and from what I can tell, not from the dictionaries.

Of course, if all these things are camp, well... camp is awesome. Camp is already good in Doctor Who, but it would certainly help its reputation if it was attributed more with Buffy than that old Batman TV show.
10 sweet pages of Jossie goodness - I am printing 200 copies and wall papering my entire house with this! In these days of severe Joss-drought, I have got to get something to fix my addiction! Looking forward to November immensely but 2 hours once a year is not enough for me! Great find!
And the only times it did border on campy - i.e. Mr Sharky - the other characters did not play it straight. They were always more than keen to point out when the emperor had no clothes on, and nobody pretended that these things were normal. Mr Sharky was self-conciously theatrical, but it ceases to be campy when the other characters are aware that he's theatrical and, quite frankly, ridiculous.

Maybe I never thought about it hard enough, but I always thought that when people referred to Buffy as campy, this is the sort of thing they were referring to. It took things that were "monster movie camp" (which might have it's own definition, completely removed from "campy"), and played it off self-consciously, in a way that is not often done. So the show wasn't campy by definition, but it contained elements of camp.
Thank you Gonnas for making my point. There are multiple definitions of the word "camp" and you're obviously not using the same definition(s) I'm using. That doesn't make you right and me wrong or vice versa. In fact, right or wrong is not relevant in the discussion of whether or not Buffy is "camp." Come to think of it, "camp" is actually not a useful word for describing anything.

Again comparing "camp" to the word "funny," I can tell you what I find funny, but I may not be able to properly explain why in a way that others would understand, and even if I could, why I find something funny may differ from how you find something funny, if in fact you found the same thing funny at all. Same with the concept of campiness.

Fade to suede.

[ edited by ZachsMind on 2005-03-30 05:04 ]
I'm going to print this out and make them into books and give them away to my Whedonverse pals. And I'll bring one to the next month's Whedonesque Meetup.

[ edited by electricspacegirl on 2005-03-30 06:07 ]
There are Whedonesque meetups where actual people physically get together? I'm not being sarcastic, I really didn't know that.
batmarlowe - we meet in locations across the globe too - check this thread out!
batmarlowe, they are new. I've been trying to get the word out on the Serenity Board, LJ, Flickr, etc. If anyone wants to spam journals or message boards where appropriate, go for it! I want to get this geek show on the geek road. I'm excited about Saturday. I hope people show up.


ETA: I can't type today.

[ edited by electricspacegirl on 2005-03-30 07:05 ]
Lovella we're in Central European Time at Whedonesque.
Slayage.tv is a wonderful site where I often go for a good read. I urge people to check out the articles under the 'Recommended' link. Also, their 'links' list is huge, you can spend hours surfing buffy sites.
This contributes nothing useful to the discussion, other than to say that I am glad when people here at whedonesque take the time and trouble to explain things properly. I never fully understood how camp is used in American English previously, because as somebody already pointed out, here in the UK it is really only used in the context of homosexuality. And actually it is used very rarely now because, same as with Caroline’s interesting observation, what once was camp has become mainstream.

Personally the only camp things for me in the verse are Spike and Angel’s wigs.
Personally the only camp things for me in the verse are Spike and Angel’s wigs.

Ha! Didn't Angel's wig jump when he bumped into William in either FFL or Darla? (can't remember which)

To get back on topic, I read through all these quotes last night. Great stuff. There was so much I hadn't heard before. Joss goes into great detail about ethics and feminism and subtext and narrative, etc. This is worthy of making into a little book and carrying it around with you everywhere you go. I plan to. Does that make me pathetic?
What like Mao’s little red book, only this time the reactionary version?

In case you think I have just gone mad, I am referring to the thread a couple of days ago about Joss (or Buffy to be precise) being described as reactionary by the leftists. And the fact that I can remember reading the little red book when I was a student just makes me feel old. And the fact that I now realise communism was always reactionary makes me feel really old. But Che Guevara is still hot, I don’t care what anybody says ;) And if you have no bloody idea what I am talking about, your history teacher was rubbish.
Guevara may have been "hot", Miranda, but not a really nice fellow, in any way. Ask your (non-Marxist) history teacher.

Way off topic, sorry!

But, I'd rather read one word of Joss than an entire book of Mao. Any day.
miranda: What about communism ist reactionary? AFAIK it has never been tried out on this planet :)

And to anyone calling Joss reactionary take a close look at "Anne":

May I quote "The Activist, the magazine of the Young Democratic Socialists"? (source: The Flummery Digest)
"Plot:
Street kids are kidnapped into an underground dimension called Hell, where they are worked until old age and then spit out. Once Buffy stops resisting her duty to save people from evil, she fights off the slave drivers with a hammer and sickle.
Socialist Subtext:
Hell is a sweatshop; a sweatshop is Hell. It steals the young, strips them of their individuality, then spits them back out. It should be rebelled against and fought. Being an activist is a choice you make, but once you realize its importance, you can't ignore your responsibility to fight injustice."
I’m so sorry mods for going off topic (send me to a gulag in Siberia), but PowerToThePeople – you made me laugh so hard I nearly cried!

‘Young democratic socialist’, that is one funny oxymoron. And if this wasn’t enough, bit of a flaw there in your dialectic thinking comrade: hell is a bourgeois-religious construct that has been abolished in communism. Typical socialist wishy-washiness. Two hours of self-criticism in front of your collective, followed by some rigorous re-education ploughing the land while singing Die Internationale. Alternatively you may sing along to OMWF. At the top of your lungs, because you know, Siberia is kind of a big place. :)

There just aren’t enough hard core Marxists left in the world. Sadly, since I am no longer 16, stopped trying to piss off my arch-catholic teachers by putting red flags in the classroom and acquired a mortgage, I find my revolutionary fervour is not what it once was. Good to see Joss is still carrying the torch.

(I only put that last sentence in so the mods would stop hitting me. Plus it would be great to give the PTC something else to whine about. But of course I just made that up. Joss is NOT a communist, because otherwise he'd give us all his money and Firefly DVDs for free. See how Marxism could be a good thing? :)
Whoa! This thread is getting a bit heavy! Good thing that tongues are firmly in cheeks (aren't they??)

Going back to ZachsMind's online journal (see his posting above); many thanks, ZM, for putting this where it can easily be found. I particularly loved the verbatim speech from the Mayor about the "soul bein' slipperier than a greased weasel". Greased weasel is in the top ten of my most favourite words. (And if you still haven't looked in on ZM's online journal, find it, and love it.)
I'm from the UK, and I'd say "camp" has all the same meanings in British English as it does in American English. Sure, it's most often used to refer to someone who is flamboyantly homosexual, but as far as I know the other meanings are in use too.
Thanks for the head's up, Simon. These quotes are super-spifftacular, and I'd only read about a quarter of them before, which means my head was full of new and interesting thoughts for hours afterward. Such a neat, smart, funny human being he is. I'm so glad he's on our side ;)
miranda: I actually don't know if Joss is a communist, but I know him to be an (to quote himself) "angry atheist". So he shouldn't have hell(s) or demons in his stories anyway according to your reasoning?! About givin' away stuff for free: Communism doesn't mean you shouldn't be compensated for your work. And as he lives in a capitalistic system I guess he hasn't any choice. Although I think he isn't in the business solely for money and will be able to produce great art after the revolution came. Espeacially with some Fox TV executives having been the first against the wall. And unfortunately you seem to be equaling Stalinism or Bolshewism to Marxism. Maybe you should go see a (marxist) history teacher ;)

[ edited by PowerToThePeople on 2005-03-31 13:17 ]
Socialism = people do the kind of work they can do and get compensated according to their accomplishments.

Communism = people do what they want and get what they need.

So in a communist society we would all be Whedon scolars and, of course, get Firefly DVDs for free :)
Sounds good, TactGuy! Sign me up.
In the socialist/marxist paradise Joss writings would be deemed to subversive to the state to be published he would have been sentenced to shovelling dirt on a state farm somewhere, no state controlled channel anywhere would be interested in a show called 'BtVS', why would anyone want to see that instead of the latest inspirational 10 Hour speech by the peoples dearly beloved president for life.

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