Today I read this EW interview with Joss Whedon and I just had to share it. I love all things that Joss does, and if you haven’t seen any Joss creations like Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, or Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, I highly recommend that you pick one, call in sick to work, and just binge watch until you can call yourself a Whedon fan (just watching The Avengers doesn’t count. Everybody saw The Avengers). It’s totally worth it! (Okay it might not really be worth calling in sick to work, especially if you don’t get paid when you’re not there – if that’s the case, pick a shorter series like Firefly, or if you’re really pressed for time, the 45 minute total Dr. Horrible, and just wait for your day off to do your binge watching. There. Responsible advice achieved!)
If there’s one thing I know from having watched every TV series Joss has done, it’s that no matter what the premise/framework of the show is, he’s going to make one hell of a character piece. All Whedon’s work shares the same strength of really making you care about the characters. It’s something that other TV writers often miss – they get so caught up in the plot that they forget that if you don’t care about the people that these things are happening to, you’re just not going to care about the show. That’s why I am all in on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (sorry show, I am NOT taking the time to put all those periods in between the letters). I just know because Joss is doing it, it’s going to be great.
And now some favorite excerpts from the Joss interview:
When Twilight and The Vampire Diaries came along, what did you think about them?
A small part of you is like, “Well, you know, I did that first. I liked that band before they were popular.” The thing about Buffy for me is—on a show-by-show basis—are there female characters who are being empowered, who are driving the narrative? The Twilight thing, and a lot of these franchise attempts coming out, everything rests on what this girl will do, but she’s completely passive or not really knowing what the hell is going on. And that’s incredibly frustrating to me because a lot of what’s taken on the oeuvre of Buffy is actually a reaction against it. Everything is there except for the Buffy. A lot of things aimed at the younger kids is just Choosing Boyfriends: The Movie.
In an interview around that time, you said you’d always wanted to make blockbuster movies, and the interviewer called that “completely unrealistic.” You responded, “You don’t know, it could still happen.”
Nice. In your face, some guy!
S.H.I.E.L.D. follows the Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns of the Marvel universe, these government agents on the sidelines of the action. What appealed to you about that?
Anybody who’s ever seen one of my shows knows I love the ensembles; I love the peripheral characters. This is basically a TV series of “The Zeppo” [an episode of Buffy], which was a very deliberate deconstruction of a Buffyepisode in order to star the person who mattered the least. The people who are ignored are the people I’ve been writing as my heroes from day one. With S.H.I.E.L.D., the idea of [Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson] as the long-suffering bureaucrat who deals with Tony Stark’s insufferability is delightful and hits the core of something I’m also writing about all the time—the little guy versus the big faceless organization. Now, somebody might point out, “But isn’t S.H.I.E.L.D. a big faceless organization?” It absolutely is, and that’s something we’re going to deal with in the series. But what’s really interesting to me is there’s a world of super-heroes and superstars, they’re celebrities, and that’s a complicated world—particularly complicated for people who don’t have the superpowers, the disenfranchised. Now, obviously there’s going to be high jinks and hilarity and sex and gadgets and all the things that made people buy the comics. But that’s what the show really is about to me, and that’s what Clark Gregg embodies: the Everyman.
Fringe showrunner J.H. Wyman recently gave his take on the future: “I believe in hope, and I believe that we are good. And I believe that we are smart, and I believe that we are going to stop anything terrible from happening.” And I found that interesting because you once said the opposite: “I think the world is largely awful and getting worse, and eventually the human race will die out. And it’ll be our own fault.”
I think that’s absolutely the case. I think we’re actually becoming stupider and more petty. I think we have one shot—and that’s education, and that’s being defunded along with all the social services. What’s going on in this country, and many countries, is beyond depressing. It’s terrifying. Sometimes I have to remember who I’m talking to. I’ll say something about climate change, how terrible things are, and meaningless, and the world is headed toward destruction and war and apocalypse. And at one point my daughter goes, “Hey! I’m 8!” She doesn’t want to hear that stuff. But I can’t believe anybody thinks we’re actually going to make it before we destroy the planet. I honestly think it’s inevitable. I have no hope.
That’s surprising, because your work isn’t bleak. Bad things happen, there’s pathos, favorite characters die. But it’s not like the fifth act of Hamlet.
No. My stories do have hope because that is one of the things that is part of the solution—if there can be one. We use stories to connect, to care about people, to care about a situation. To turn the mundane heroic, to make people really think about who they are. They’re useful. And they’re also useful to me. Because if I wrote what I really think, I would be so sad all the time. We create to fill a gap—not just to avoid the idea of dying, it’s to fill some particular gap in ourselves. So yeah, I write things where people will lay down their lives for each other. And on a personal level, I know many wonderful people who are spending their lives trying to help others, or who are just decent and kind. I have friends who are extraordinary, I love my family. But on a macro level, I don’t see that in the world. So I have a need to create it. Hopefully, that need gets translated into somebody relating to it and feeling hope. Because if we take that away, then I’m definitely right. I want to be wrong, more than anything. I hate to say it, it’s that line from The Lord of the Rings—“I give hope to men; I keep none for myself.” They say it in Elvish, so it sounds super cool.
My outlook on life is all sunshine and rainbows and puppies, so I can’t say I identify with Joss’s dire feelings about the world. But I definitely do feel the hope in his shows, and it is beautiful. Watch Agents of SHIELD tonight! Become a true Whedon fan! It’s a fun club to be in.