Saturday, 4 August 2012

Joss Whedon

 By Ashley Lister 

 “You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other until it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. Love isn't brains, children, it's blood -- blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it.
Spike, BTVS, Season 3

For those of you unfamiliar with Joss Whedon as a writer, take the time to check out some of his work. He wrote the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS). He wrote the TV series Angel. He wrote the TV series Firefly (and the related movie Serenity). He wrote the online mini-series Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog. He has screenplay credits for films as diverse as Toy Story, Alien Resurrection, Avengers Assemble, The Cabin in the Woods and the forthcoming screen adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing starring Nathan Fillion, Ashley Johnson and Amy Acker.

Whedon is a master of dialogue. He’s a master of strong characterisation. He’s a master of the complex plot. And he refuses to be bound by genre. I could wax lyrical for hours on what I like and love about Whedon and his writing. However, my favourite thing about his work is that he refuses to remain confined by a single form. He writes TV series, comics, films and musicals. And, with masterful skill, he blends genres and tests the limits of every form with which he works.

There was an episode of Buffy done with almost no dialogue. There was an episode of Buffy performed as a musical. Firefly (and later the film Serenity) blended western and science fiction, almost steampunk in construction and conception, but with a level of realism that made the fantasy enormously powerful. Dr Horrible combined a comic book style superhero and an unforgettable antihero with strongly written musical songs and erudite comedy. Dr Horrible was presented exclusively through the internet as a very successful mini-series.

Whedon was the man who wrote with profound simplicity: “The hardest thing to do in this world is live in it.

Perhaps Whedon’s work is not commonly perceived as highbrow or intellectual writing. But it’s writing that’s moved me to the most delicious extremes of laughter and it’s writing that has oftentimes left me sobbing in empathy for the fate of his affable and relatable characters. And if a writer can manage that much then, in my opinion, they’ve succeeded at their craft.  

These final words comes from the episode I quoted at the start of this blog post. This is Spike’s realisation of his own way to achieve true love. And it’s typical of Whedon’s quirky, honest and whimsical writing style.

I've been all wrongheaded about this - weeping, crawling, blaming everybody else. I want Dru back, I've just got to be the man I was. The man she loved. I'm going to do what I should have done in the first place. I'll find her, wherever she is, tie her up, torture her until she likes me again. Love's a funny thing.” 
Spike, BTVS, Season 3


Rachael Hirst said...

Excellent Blog :)

Lindsay said...

I watched and adored every episode of Buffy and Angel. Witty, bloody hilarious and have moved me to tears (not any easy task unless Disney is involved, it's the music the bastards) I never watched Firefly as our sky ran out and i was busy studying to watch it on borrowed DVD. But I have to agree, Joss Whedon is an excellent writer and as I am a sad bastard I bought two of his Buffy scripts, car boot 50p each, bargain.

Anonymous said...

Such a huge-huge fan. Not just of Whedon and BTVS etc. but of Spike and bits of dialogue just like that!


Melissa Bradley said...

Wow! What a passionate piece. I've worshipped at the temple of Whedon for a very long time. You have eloquently described the spirit of his writing and why there are so many lovers of his work.

Ashley R Lister said...


At the next DGPS we're going to have chat favourite Buffy shows.


Ashley R Lister said...


I've got Firefly and Serenity on DVD whenever you want to borrow them. Let me know when you're "between MAs" and I'll happily trot them over to your house :-)


Ashley R Lister said...


I think it's a writer thing - Whedon's dialogue just makes us all think, "I wish I'd written that."


Ashley R Lister said...


Thank you! I kept trimming pieces off this blog entry before I published it. I didn't want to come across as a starry-eyed fan - but it's hard not to be impressed by a writer with such strong principles and such stylish writing skills.


Jo said...

I miss Buffy and Angel so much it hurts. And Firefly. Adore*

Ashley R Lister said...


I don't think you're alone. Even characters who initially started out weak, such as Giles or Wesley, developed to become icons of heroism.


Elise Hepner said...

Wonderful Blogpost. Been a fan of Whedon for quite some time and he's insanely good inspiration for my writing career. Oh, and you forgot Dollhouse. Dollhouse was genius.

Ashley R Lister said...


I'm going to have give Dollhouse another shot - I couldn't get into it the first time but I know it stars my all-time favourite crush Eliza Dushku - so I'm going to have to try it again :-)


Christo Heyworth said...

So pleasing to discover that, like a Vampire, I need not be alone in liking what so many dismiss as "kids' stuff".

Joss Whedon has just so much talent. As George Bernard Shaw once wrote of Shakespeare "If someone will tell me where he is buried, I'll dig him up and dance on his bones".

Envy among writers is such an ugly thing.

Thanks for reminding us, Ashley.

Ashley R Lister said...


I hope you've misunderstood me. I don't envy Joss Whedon. I was simply writing to say how much I admire him for his innovative style, his knack for developing powerful characters, his incredible wit with dialogue and his ability to write a complex story arc without being restricted by genre.