Alright, so I have to say: I think we are entering into a Golden Age of creativity in our world today. A world where we are running into new technologies, new ways of doing entertainment, new ways of approaching storytelling. A world where there is so much quantity, but we still value the quality so much.
I submit to you that this, the world we are moving into, the Day and Age, the Zeitgeist – for the geeks, the barometer of this has to be the success of Joss Whedon.
A man who, constantly, has been shut down by the establishment. And who, when given the chance, creates the most beloved pieces of geekdom being produced today, outside of perhaps Doctor Who. Perhaps.
So join me for a few moments to consider where Joss Whedon has been, and where he has gotten to now, director of one of the highest grossing movies ever made.
Buffy and More
For instance, this is a man who gave us Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy, which initially gotten taken apart and turned into a movie which, while I loved it as a kid, does not end up with much bearing on the TV show Whedon eventually made.
A TV show which moved from one network to another, killing the protagonist in the mean time because it was unknown whether they would continue. Also: spoilers.
The way that stories were told in Buffy, in particular, was key. There was an overarching plot, but at the core, there was a monster-of-the-week. That seems so standard now, with shows ranging from Doctor Who to Burn Notice using the same sort of plot structure, but at the time it was revolutionary. You don’t have to take my word for it… we keep seeing Buffy come up high on lists of top TV shows.
And, between these Buffy and the spin-off Angel, there were twelve seasons. You would think this would be enough to buy you some time with a show…
Firefly and Serenity
But no, Fox, in their eternal decision to cancel shows starting in “F,” canceled Firefly. But the show did not die, it instead lived on with the fans, grew, and the movie was made. Joss was allowed to finish out the plot, tell the story that was being told, and complete a thought.
It’s sad, though, because the overall plot – much like with these other Joss Whedon shows – was only a small part of the whole. What we really had going on was a slice-of-life story, just like Buffy was a slice-of-life, just with the Slayer. Firefly was a slice-of-life story about living on the fringes of a galactic civilization. And for this sort of story, the best parts would have been not in the big payoff of the main plot, but in the weekly details.
Doctor Horrible and Much Ado About Nothing
I could mention other projects, like Dollhouse – which at least got to two seasons, and completed its plot in a rather sudden way as well – or Cabin in the Woods – which got delayed for several years before release – but let’s look at the new sorts of projects Joss has done instead.
One, which was the best result of the writer’s strike (the worst was probably Heroes dying), was Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. This was a three-part video, that we waited anxiously between videos for, that was available first for free, which was then eventually available for purchase on iTunes (bought it there), and then on DVD (bought it there… actually, I think Blu Ray).
And it was simple – there was a writer’s strike, traditional entertainment TV wasn’t happening, and so Joss Whedon got together some people he knew, and a production team including several members of his family, and made one of the most amazing products the web has ever hosted. Pulling in someone known for making something new on the Internet (Felicia Day) only helped with that, but then pulling in big names like Neil Patrick Harris, and Whedon favorites like Nathan Fillion, probably did even more for it.
If you have not seen Doctor Horrible, please feel free to go do so now. I’ll wait. Half an hour well spent.
So this project reminds me of this year’s Much Ado About Nothing. This film was again done low-budget, and around Whedon’s life (family, home), and it just looks like it was fun. Some actors got together, and enjoyed their profession, and made a movie out of Shakespeare while doing it.
I have never read or seen Much Ado About Nothing before, but I fully understood and got invested in the story with what Whedon presented us. This is one to also hunt down and see if you have not, once it is out. But more importantly, I hope this ends up nominated for some big-time awards, because it deserves it, and because this is a chance for Joss to see some potential for Oscars.
I mean, it’s Shakespeare.
And Then There Was The Avengers
Oh, right, so somewhere in there, Joss Whedon got involved in Marvel Phase One. Mildly at first, involved in pulling together the end-credit bits. But eventually, directing the Avengers. We’ve talked about the commentary for this with Joss Whedon, and that is fun to watch if you haven’t seen it.
One of the most interesting parts of this was Joss talking about how they did such a good job with the Hulk. Part of it was, they went in person (like, he and Mark Ruffalo), to the animation studio doing the visual effects for the Hulk. And they talked to them about the character, and what they were wanting to see. And everyone was stunned. Apparently, no one else does that. Here we are, relying heavily on all this CG stuff, and we’re just letting the animators free with it. The Hulk they produced was amazing, but it took the actor and the director being involved to fill them with the knowledge and sense of purpose necessary to do that.
So anyway, the Avengers was a huge success. No longer can Joss Whedon be ignored. No more should his shows be canceled, his projects delayed or taken over. No more should he have to be producing out of his own home.
Except, these projects have been great – so think what they could be like with serious financial backing and investment?
Agents of SHIELD
So here we get to the present. The company that has invested heavily in Joss Whedon, and let him pull together the Avengers, and watched it become one of the highest grossing films of all time, has given Joss a TV show.
Agents of SHIELD is coming this fall, and I can’t wait. For me, I hope everything I am saying here is true – that Joss has finally been accepted as a creator, backed, allowed to work. That we’re finally going to get a show that gets to play out as long as it ought to.
And which can have movie tie-ins, and guest appearances, and maybe even some hat tricks!
But really, I was also afraid it was hype. Hype in my own brain, I was putting there. Hype, in the minds of geeks everywhere, giddy, but also afraid of what would come. Or how long it would last.
So, how about watching this review of the Comic Con viewing of the pilot, to put your mind at ease.
People walked into this with huge expectations – and were blown away. Not only meeting, but exceeding our expectations. You know what? I think we are there. A Golden Age, wherein Joss Whedon is allowed to work, allowed to create, without interference, with support and backing. And that makes me happy.