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August 27 2005

Short Serenity review from 116th st. From the perspective of one who finds Whedon fans "personally indentured apologists". Next to last paragraph, no spoilers.

I hate it when people sneer at geeks, then take the insult further by automatically dismissing anything that geeks might find of interest. The whole tone of that paragraph irritated the crap out of me.
I agree, Willowy. Anyone who takes a mean poke at fans of anyone SIMPLY because of their level of enthusiasm, without any supporting evidence of why they think Whedon or whoever is 'overrated', is just basing their 'argument' on geek stereotypes. Utterly dismissible IMHO.
Rather rude also, I mean, the guy was at ComiCon. Chock full of geeky Goodness.
Oh I hope so much that Serenity becomes huge; just to wipe smug looks from some ppls faces.
So that I can perhaps put on my own smug look. ;)
Such lofty wording as well.

Who the hell writes like that? "insular" and "personally indentured apologists"?
*raises hand*

I do, for one. I didn't write that, certainly, but it bears a striking resemblance to my usual verbiage. I think the writing is rather judgmental myself, but I have no problem with how it was written.
I found the whole article offensive. The writer had something to prove, and really didn't care whom he stepped on to prove it. This guy must be the picture of Dorian Gray in someone else's attic. <meow>Like Jim Profit, maybe.</meow>

Not that I would  ever  be catty myself.
Um, I actually kinda liked his writing. Utterly disagree with his opinion, of course, but I like the style he's aspiring to. "Personally indentured apologists" - I mean, you don't find that combination of words co-existing too often, do you? :)
My oh my, that was....chock full of fresh roasted collegiate pretentiousness. Did anybody else get a mental image of Andrew in his smoking jacket, in his Masterpiece Theater armchair?
I just don't understand people who need to go to the far reaches of the English language to state something fairly simplistic. It's something I've noticed much since I've been here in the USA, as in Australia we're a plain speaking folk. Just because we know the big words doesn't mean we need to use them constantly when the meaning is adequately put across in simpler terms. Unless the meaning is "I'm smarter than all of you, as I use hugely eloquent phrasings".
It wasn't the "I'm smarter than you" attitude as much as "I'm better than you" while immersing himself in all the stuff that he's putting down. It was just pure arrogance.

And yes, Andrew in Storyteller is a good analogy. I really don't like Andrew, either.
Some people live to tear other people down. I suppose they feel they are just too smart to get suckered into whatever it is others are excited about, but look at that rube over there, they feel, he actually fell for it! Probably everyone is guilty of that, to some degree. I guess the "sin" lies in how vocal you are about it.
My oh my, that was....chock full of fresh roasted collegiate pretentiousness.

Indeed. I'm all for an expansive vocabulary, but this was just sesquipedalian polysyllabification for its own sake. What's more, the vocabulary he uses is just a little beyond his grasp (e.g., the way he used 'fallacious' made me think of Inigo Montoya: "I do not think that word means what you think it means"). And the whole article reeks of the bitterness the almost-clever feel toward the genuinely clever.
Ah, a thesaurus masticator. My favorite. A pleasant wash, eh? Interesting verbage. An overall underwhelming mini-review, if I do say so myself.
as the film assumes the viewer is so acquainted and involved with its pre-existing protagonists that it doesn't bother rebirthing them or articulating the world they inhabit

I think that some people get scared at fiction that assumes the viewers are intelligent enough to work out what's going on without making it overly simplistic or ramming it down their throat. The movie gives new fans enough background to understand the 'verse and speculate the rest. We don't need to know or see the Alliance leaders or know their names or the rarefied world they inhabit, our story is the little guy being stepped on and fighting back.
No problem with the style, but the substance is, from the perspective of this personally indentured apologist, pure and pueurile, unadulterated drivel.

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2005-08-27 21:25 ]
I didn't find the vocabulary all that expansive. My college freshman students are prone to equally prosaic emptiness. I haven't yet seen the movie, and I actually suspect (from what I've heard) that it is indeed more for the fans than the general public. I, for one, am ready to eat that particular criticism, knowing that many in "this town" suspect it doesn't matter one way or another. Browncoats are becoming more and more ubiquitous. That having been said, the guy needs an editor. There are some fairly pathetic typos included in his supercilious rant that undermine his validity nearly as much as his tone.
Inconcievable!!
Don't go all waxing lyrical on us now tehipite_tom!
I liked the wording, I don't mind sometimes having to pull out the old dictionary.
Don't so much like the superior attitude. Ah well, just means he'll have further to fall.

I think I my view of this kind of attitude falls in line with The Hitchikers Guide's description of the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as

a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes
Serenity is a friendly wash.


Not only a nonsensical phrase, but he doesn't even know enough to capitalize a character's name. Should be:

Serenity is piloted by a friendly Wash.
There are some fairly pathetic typos included in his supercilious rant that undermine his validity nearly as much as his tone.


This is a sexy sentence.

Also? I am not an apologist. Do I own two domain names with the name "Joss" in them? Yes, yes I do. But when I think the man's fallen down on the job, I'll be first to admit it - and he hasn't with Serenity. A friend last night asked what I'd give it on a scale of 1 - 10, and I said 9.9. He said, "Why not a 10?" My response was, "Nothing's perfect." I then elaborated, mostly saying there were questions I wanted answered that the movie didn't have time to answer. That's not spoilery, is it?
tehipite_tom, thanks for the Inigo Montoya quote (love that movie) and for straightening me out: I always thought sesquipedalian was a 110' long herbivore from the Cretaceus period.
Personally indentured apologists? Truthfully, from what I've gathered from online message boards, websites, and other fan groups, Whedon fans are very critical about Joss Whedon's work. And by critical I mean they analyze, criticize and actually do find fault in storylines, pairings, plot twists, etc. They love the Joss but they aren't always happy with what happens to their favorite characters and they're very vocal about it. I wouldn't call them apologists at all.

This man knows not what he speaks.
The entire article had the typical sneering aloofness of a Hollywood commentator that feels he's above such lowely creatures as 'fans' or 'geeks'.

Personally indentured apologists? Truthfully, from what I've gathered from online message boards, websites, and other fan groups, Whedon fans are very critical about Joss Whedon's work.

That's what I was thinking too. Whedone fans are often among the more intelligent from what I've seen. (The odd Bangel-Spuffy Wars not included;-) I'm getting quite sick of the insults and name calling leveled at Whedon fans, or fans in general. Does anyone talk about sports fans that way? Who wear tshirts of their team 24/7 and paint their faces as they go screaming to stadiums? Hey, more power to them, but that's as 'geeky' as anything I've ever seen at the Comicon. Really.

As for 'Serenity' I still strongly disagree that you 'need' to've seen the show. You will get more out of the personal moments of the cast if you've seen the show, but everything you need to know to see the movie by itself is all up there on the screen. (If you, you know, pay attention or something silly like that) Plenty of movies introduce characters who already know each other without giving us an entire backstory or flashback-resumes. It's only when people know you had a TV show before this that they start levelling these complaints.

Anyone seen Cameron's 'Aliens'? I got a good sense of the marines, their personalities and their relationships, all from the dialogue they had among each other that didn't just sum up their pasts. No flashbacks no long tales of their histories. And it worked fine, just like with Serenity. But no one ever said about Aliens that 'Huh if only there had been a TV show about those marines before the movie...then I would've gotten it.'
This type of writer really bugs me, and that has nothing whatever to do with his "Serenity" opinion. (I don't really know what an indentured apologist is, and I suspect the writer doesn't either. Does it mean I have to give Joss half my salary. There might be a week coming up when he actually gets it, but that's another story.)

Basically, he's just another Pauline Kael wannabe who thinks that the way to show your perception is to sneer as at many popular things as possible. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" the worst movie of the summer. Haven't seen it yet, but is it really worse than, say, "Stealth", "Dirty Deeds" or "Undiscovered"? (okay, haven't seen them either, but it seems like a safe bet) But, since most critics liked it, he think he's being tres cool by dissing it to an extreme degree. Same goes for "Red Eye." Love it when we hacks call directors "lazy." I made a student film once. It's safe to say that no director is "lazy," not even Joel Schumacher. Not even Chris Columbus.

I was at the David Cronenberg panel and, while the moderator was quite openly and (I thought) sincerely an admirer of Cronenberg, it wasn't James Lipton time or anything. Cronenberg was actually quite engaging. (Or, was that "fellating" Cronenberg? Or how about when I say I think he's a pretty brilliant director. Now, there I go, osculating the privates of talented people....)

To paraphrase "A Fish Called Wanda"

"Apes don't read the Village Voice."

"Yes they do, they just don't understand the Village Voice."
I think we should go with this. Joss's Personally indentured apologists. It kinda has a nice ring to it. We could call ourselves J-PIDs. We can have t-shirts, mugs - the possibilities are endless!
Ah, nixygirl beat me to the Vizzini quote that precedes tehipite_tom's delightful Princess Bride memory. Inconceivable, indeed.

As a fan, I'm always going to be a little hurt by a less than glowing review. But as a sharp-tongued, opinionated human being, I can understand a cynical attitude towards things that don't tickle your inner fanboy. Don't we all give a little bit of a hard time to the things that we don't love or understand when it comes to our entertainment? I don't understand Lucas worship, and would be likely to use the term "indentured apologists" to describe costumed fans sleeping online for the next Chewbaca movie. Just the way of things, I suppose. And there are some compliments in there, (albeit wrapped in bitchy scarves.)

But on to happier things. Just came upon a delightful little shoutout to Serenity in the (more mainstream) press. Check out the September issue of In Style magazine -- the one with Jennifer Garner on the cover. There's a fun little piece entitled "25th Century Style" about the evolution of futuristic costume design in the movies. Serenity is featured on page 368, with the correct spelling of Joss' name, quotes from the costume designer and three photos. (River in the ceiling, the oft-seen crew shot, and a beautiful one of Inara that was new to me.) I know, I know, it's a fashion mag, but one with an enormously high international readership, so that's cool, right? (Oh, and SMG is on page 392, for those who keep track of such things.)

eta: No available link that I can discern, but I'll keep trying to get my scanner to behave, in case anyone wants a copy of the piece.

[ edited by barest_smidgen on 2005-08-27 20:59 ]
Wow, it's really hard to respond to this without getting nasty. I don't really care what he thought of Serenity, but the college-freshman style and condescending tone were just nauseating.
See, I missed the part where he called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the worst movie of the summer - but knowing he did, I now feel no remorse at rejecting his opinion entirely - his tastes clearly don't line up with mine.
Wow, guess he really struck a nerve with y'all. For myself, I just didn't think it was that bad. I think he rather liked the movie. And as for the style - I'm a connoisseur of bad college writing as much as the next elitist, but this piece didn't land on me that way at all. He's stretching his prose wings, certainly, but why not? It's his blog.

And I still like the phrase "personally indentured apologists."
As someone who has not yet seen the movie, and is dying in anticpation, do those who have seen it feel that the movie is somthing only that us fans will appreciate? I mean I know we all are looking for a trilogy here, and there have been plenty of posts raving about its awsomeness (which i never doubted that it wouldn't be). Does it however appeal to a broader audience? Can people who have never seen "Firefly" still identify with the characters just from seeing the movie. Sometimes I feel like us Whedon fans have a different sense of taste. I've tried numerous times to get my friends into "Firefly", only to have there ADD kick in. I can not wait to see it, and if dosn't appeal to a mass audience then so be it. I just want Joss to get the recognition he deserves, and the credit for making what everyone says is a BIG DAMN MOVIE!
I'm sorry but I'm not an apologist.
Simply put: I found it offensive and condescending.
I didn't find it particularly offensive. There really wasn't enough of substance to be offensive. But there were some shiny words there.

P.S. I teach Freshman Comp. I hate this kind of writing and trust me, I've seen it before. It's just a bunch of da xiang bao zha shi de la du zi.
Come on, guys, calm down and read what the fellow said!

As SoddingNancyTribe, I don't find his paragraph about Serenity that bad, either to the movie or us. He seems to have enjoyed a part of the movie:

1) "As perpetually clever as anything Whedon's singular mind has unleashed" - he tells that Serenity is a clever movie!

2) "Serenity's explicit political message isn't enough to sell the film to someone who is unfamiliar with the show that spawned the it (Firefly)" - he recognizes that Serenity has a political message, which he doesn't dispise at all...

He simply indicates weak points of the movie which, to his mind, will make it difficult to meet a large audience. Heck, that is one of my fears: that the movie does not meet a real audience outside firefly flans. We seriously cannot sweep it away; to me, any fan who does not recognize the risk that Serenity does not meet a large public completely deserves to be called "personally indentured apologist" (although I am not completely sure of what it means ;) ).

Anyhow, I feel no arrogance or "I am better than you" stuff in this paragraph. Only the review of a non-fan, who gives his opinion on the movie and points out that he thinks only fans will find the film wonderful. Yes, this is not a situation which we would like to see happen, but you can't be mad at the reviewer because he thinks this situation will happen.
GRRRAargh, I had enough trouble with the French thread the other day; now you go all Mandarin on me? Translate please? Oh, and I hope it's really foul.
P.S. I teach Freshman Comp. I hate this kind of writing and trust me, I've seen it before. It's just a bunch of da xiang bao zha shi de la du zi.


Sorry love, I don't speak Chinese. ;)
Well it is hard to know how a non-fan would percieve it, but from a logical standpoint, I think there is still much to enjoy. For instance, wit is wit, regardless of how well you know the characters, and the movie is genuinely witty. Likewise, action is more gripping if you truly care for the characters, but well done action is exciting no matter what, and the film has lots of well done action.

Serenity also has one of the most memorable villains of recent years, and you need no knowledge of the show to appreciate this character as he is new for the film. Lastly, while the character dynamics are maybe a little confusing to the uninitiated, the main plot is easy to follow. I think the biggest hurdle is not that people might be confused by the film because they never saw the series, but rather that people might not like the film for the same reason some people didn't like the series, such as all the western elements.

Also, just to clarify, I agree that the paragraph about Serenity isn't particularly bad - he seems to basically like it, and isn't too snobby. My earlier comments referred to his piece on Comic-Con as a whole, like the aformentioned comments on Red-Eye, Charlie, and Cronenberg.

[ edited by bonzob on 2005-08-27 23:09 ]
P.S. I teach Freshman Comp. I hate this kind of writing and trust me, I've seen it before. It's just a bunch of da xiang bao zha shi de la du zi.

Sorry love, I don't speak Chinese. ;)


"The explosive diarrhea of an elephant."

See the Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary for translations of all the Chinese in Firefly.
I scanned these comments first, and then read the review. I clicked the URL with my adblocker poised and ready to deprive him of any economic satisfaction from my viewing. But what I read was different than what I expected.

It is true that I started at the top, but skipped to the part about Serenity because of the verbose style. Quirky diction is among my favorite flavors of humor, but some people are better at it than others. But hey, people like different things. I like black coffee and this reviewer likes the word "singular." Though there's nothing really wrong with that I suppose, black coffee just tastes better to me.

As far as what he said about Serenity, it sounds like he actually liked the movie, but thought it was inaccessible to those who haven't seen the TV show. Which is why I think that "personally indentured apologists" was only meant to be funny, and not an honest assessment.

Speaking of the Master, where has he been?
I didn't take particular offense to this little blurb. I do disagree on a couple of points, however. 1. Much has been made of the fact that the BDM DOES walk the line on under/over-explaining things due to its pre-existence as Firefly. 2. Of those that I know who didn't watch FF (both personally and from reviews) it seems like around 65% or better who had no prior FF love did, in fact, love Serenity.
Here's the part I find most worrisome:

"Serenity's explicit political message"

Um, that can go several or even more ways, but our 116th Street guy seems to have revealed wisdom on it. I don't like it, no sir, I do not like it at all. I'm certain some politically oriented critics will see some political things in this movie, but I hope they don't overthink the political dimensions of the movie.

If I read in the Washington Post (as I'm sure I will) that this is a critique of US foreign policy in general or Iraq in particular, I will officially scream.
...It's not even the "apologist" bit that bugs me, it's really the "indentured." That phrase just seems like three words stuck together to me, with very little meaning when you put them together. Even so, there are compliments to the film in there, as others have pointed out. Still. I don't appreciate the sentiment (and I've seen it elsewhere) that fans are blind to the flaws of their object of fanaticism.
Personally I find it hard to take anyone opinion on how non-Browncoats will take Serenity when the person is already familar with Firefly. They are just guessing how it will play and often they make the assumption that the audience is basically quite stupid and that everything has to be spelled out to them. If they actually bothered to talk to non-fans who have seen the movie, they would have seen for the majority (that what I've seen so far, both in person and online) they have no problem understanding everything that happens in the movie. They may not have the emotional attachment to all the characters right away like those who have watched Firefly, but they do tend to enjoy the movie.

[ edited by Matt_Fabb on 2005-08-28 00:07 ]
I'm sorry but I'm not an apologist.


Heehee! Good one, Immortal!
They may not have the emotional attachment to all the characters right away like those who have watched Firefly, but they do tend to enjoy the movie.

That is it exactly. I've said it a number of times and I'll say it again.
My first viewing of Serenity, I had only seen half an episode on TV. I had no idea who any of the crew were. Except for the comments I'd read about them on Whedonesque, which I mostly skipped over.
And I absolutely loved the BDM!
I walked out of the cinema and went to a restaurant with a bunch of BC's (and hell, I didn't even know what a BC was!), and just started with the questions. I was mostly patted on the back and told "Oh just you wait till you get the DVD's"
which I had a few days later, thanx to Catalyst2.

My point is, I really enjoyed the movie, and the pace of it. I understood who the characters were, from the begining exposition, and basically was on the edge of my seat from the second act all the way till the end.
It's a great movie, fact. Not everyone will love it, fact. But I know that I have a whole group of friends who I can get into the cinema who will love it, that I would have had no chance of getting them to sit thru an episode of FF.

[ edited by nixygirl on 2005-08-28 04:26 ]
I do agree with SNT and the others about this being an ok review. In a sense it's more positive than negative. My comment won't be so much on the article, but something it reminded me while reading.

I don't mind the pompous vocabulary, even though I had to rely on a thesaurus while reading it. What must be bugging most people, is the way he patronizes and simply sterotypes Whedon fans. Well, I'll go a little bit further, fiction fans in general. I do understand the need that general media have to simplify matters, but it doesn't make this fact any less annoying. Maybe he didn't mean that, but it felt like that.

I do agree with Ed assertion about sport fans being as dedicated, or sometimes even more fanatics than a fiction fan can be. The differece it's on how the common public tend to see each group. Sport fanatics tend to be referred as a more common thing. Newspaper articles normally don't imply sport fans as some sort of "anormality". While an article from the same papers, when writing about some fan gathering, or a more "geeky" thing tend to imply that they're not really the "common folk, like you and I".

Maybe this is not something the reviewer is trying to state, but I felt a lot of this portrayal uneveness, while following the coverage of releases such as "Lord of the Ring" and "Star Wars Episode III" movies, and the latest "Harry Potter" book.

I got myself a copy of that EW a couple of days ago. The one with that fall movie preview, which features that 3 page article, about how "Serenity" came to be, well you guys may remember.

Maybe it's just me freaking about nothing, maybe I'm just paranoic. While re-reading it, it got to me how most general media is a little bit limited in the coverage. Like when calling, "Browncoats" the über dedicated fans that got the verse back to the screen, a lot of articles, try a little bit too hard to separate matters. They say something like "look here are the Whedon fans, Whedon fans are either buffyverse fans or browncoats". They say it like most of us are either one or the other, with no "both" in it. Just like saying if you're one, it's very unlikely that you're also the other. I think there a lot more general Whedon fans, than sorely Firefly fans out there.

Okay, as I've said, it's probably just me, freaking out about nothing. Maybe journalists just wants to play up the "Cinderlla Story" side of this tale, by implying how strong a small sect of fans can be. Just wanted to share these 2 cents with you guys, now I do feel better by getting this out of my chest.
"Personally indentured apologists"? What does that even mean?

This guy sounds like an overly caffeinated philosophy major.
Curious - would anyone be able to give me a condensed list of all of Serenity's latest mag mentions? (Wired, EW, In Style - what else?) I'd love to post a list at firefly-support.com.
Kiba -- There's an article in the newest issue of Sci-Fi magazine called 'Back in the Saddle' about the 'verse going from small to big screen (Oct 2005, Evangeline Lily on cover, also includes round table discussion with Whedon, Moore, and Goyer).
Kiba - there was a partial list posted on the official Serenity board at the begining of the month and there is a list of reveiws on Flickr - not all of which are mags/print.
I don't mind "personally indentured apologists" as a descriptive phrase in and of itself, but the fact that it's wrong in its application to me personally does bug. I don't ever recall Joss asking for my slavish adoration; just to be clear, it's always been given entirely voluntarily on my part.

Being a lifelong word-lover, I enjoy correct grammar and a facile, creative use of the English language as much as the next linguaphile*. As someone who's also guilty of occasional outbursts of polysyllabification, it would be hypocritical of me to criticize what I recognize in myself as an occasionally (and possibly, for all I know to any readers out there, perpetually) irritating trait. It's the fellow's condescension toward 'geeks' of a certain species (of which general tribe he is, undeniably, a distaff member) that I find objectionable -- yet there again, it's not as if he's unaware of this attitude in himself.

He also admits he's a film snob, which as forthrightness goes is somewhat admirable. It's certain he's self-aware enough to realize his comments will reach people who'll disagree, and he doesn't care to moderate his words to curry favor. That's refreshing in a way, when so many other expressive outlets these days have been carefully bled free of controversy and individual opinion. I don't have to like his opinion (and don't particularly, simply because of the tone), but I do appreciate his outsider's perspective (and suspect that, for all his cinematic hauteur, he's probably a secretly indentured apologist to some obscure director I'm too immersed in Whedon-dom to have ever heard of. Good on him. Someone's got to worship the lesser gods, after all, lest they disappear altogether ;)

In essence, this comes across to me as another "some will like Serenity, some won't" kinda thing. It appears to have struck him as neither terrible nor extraordinary, and he entertains thoughts that it might not capture the mainstream or, more to the bottom line, make a profit for the studio. That's no less a worry than I've had many times in the past year, but it won't stop me from going several times to see it on opening weekend to help prove him wrong.

[*I do take exception to his use of the word 'snide' -- meaning derogatory, deceptive and sneering -- in reference to JW's usual verbal style. If there's one (okay, three) thing(s) Joss doesn't do, it's disparage, deceive or condescend to his fans. Well, he does deceive on occasion ... but only for our own good, you know.]
That's a good point bringing up the "snide" comment. That struck me as off too. JW never comes across as snide. I can't imagine anyone getting that from his interviews.
Wiseblood, let me be clear - I love language. I worship words. I've always enjoyed a well-written piece. I do not, however, enjoy people who toss around language for the sole purpose of making themselves look important.
I found it quick & funny. Liked the use of language, if it is a little overipe at times. Personally loved Serenity but then again I am a personally indentured apologist from his POV... in other words, a fan

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