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Joss Whedon

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Joss Hill Whedon (born Joseph Hill Whedon[1] on June 23, 1964 in New York) is an Academy Award-nominated and Hugo Award winning American writer, television director, executive producer, and creator and head writer of the well-known television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. He has also written several film scripts and comic book series. After finishing at Winchester College in England, he went on to receive a film degree from Wesleyan University in 1987.

Career Edit

Television work Edit

After moving to Los Angeles, California, Whedon secured his first writing job on the television series Roseanne. After several years as a script doctor, he went back to TV, where he created three TV shows. In addition to writing and directing, Whedon had cameo appearances in his shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, along with a guest role in an episode of Veronica Mars. He directed the 2007 episodes of The Office entitled "Business School" and "Branch Wars".[2]

Whedon has been described as the world's first third-generation TV writer. He is the son of Tom Whedon, a successful screenwriter for The Electric Company in the 1970s and The Golden Girls in the 1980s, and the grandson of John Whedon, a writer for The Donna Reed Show in the 1950s. His brother, Zack Whedon, worked as a scriptwriter on HBO's Deadwood and John from Cincinnati.

Years after having his script for the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer filmed (the interpretation by director Fran Rubel Kuzui having been poorly received by critics[3] and audiences[4]), Whedon revived the concept as a television series of the same name. Buffy the Vampire Slayer went on to become a critical and cult hit, with the episode "Hush" (written and directed by Whedon) receiving an Emmy Award nomination for outstanding writing in a drama series in 2000. The show ran for five seasons on The WB Network before transferring to UPN for its final two seasons. Though it premiered on Mondays at 9 pm, Buffy ran from the middle of the second season on Tuesdays at 8 pm.

Angel was a spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, featuring Buffy's vampire-with-a-soul boyfriend as the title character. It was created by Whedon in conjunction with David Greenwalt. Tim Minear also contributed at essential key junctures. Debuting in September 1999 on the WB, the show was broadcast after Buffy on Tuesday evenings. After Buffy switched networks in 2001, Angel aired in a number of different time slots, and occasionally managed to attain the ratings of its predecessor, though the series finale pulled in more viewers than the Buffy finale. Joss Whedon made a cameo appearance as the character 'Numfar' near the middle of its run. The WB canceled the show in February 2004 while it was in its fifth season. While Whedon had no intention of ending Angel, the WB felt that a reality show would bring in more viewers, forcing Whedon to change the arc and ending of both the final season and the series. The forced cancellation triggered numerous "Save Angel" campaigns and other similar Angel support groups. Thousands raised money to support the cause of Angel returning for another season and even raised money towards a movie starring Spike. WB president David Janollari said there might be such a film,[5] but no such project has been announced.

In 2002, Firefly, which Whedon produced with Tim Minear, was canceled by Fox Broadcasting Company after only 11 episodes had been aired, out of intended sequence, from a total of only 14 produced (including the original two-hour pilot, which was the last episode to be aired on Fox). Whedon had been writing a movie script based on the TV series for Universal Studios for about a year when the Firefly series was released on DVD. The excellent sales of the DVD set ensured the movie would be produced, and in early 2004 Whedon announced that his proposal for a Firefly movie had been greenlit by Universal. Shooting started in July 2004, and the film, Serenity, went into wide release in the United States on September 30, 2005. The treatment that Firefly received at the hands of Fox executives caused Whedon to state that he would not work with Fox again.[6]

Numerous grassroots campaigns were developed to save the Firefly series. At the forefront of these was a group of fans called the "Browncoats," after the nickname for the anti-Alliance rebels of the show. The Browncoats arranged several events in order to keep the franchise afloat, notably "Serenity Day" on June 23, 2006, during which fans were encouraged to buy copies of Firefly and Serenity DVDs.

In August 2007 Eliza Dushku (whom Whedon worked with on Buffy and Angel) signed a development deal with Fox.[7] Shortly afterwards, Dushku and Whedon met over lunch to discuss possible ideas for a series for her. During the meal, he came up with an idea which excited both of them, and Whedon agreed then to write and oversee the pilot airing on FOX.[8] Whedon announced that he will be working with "a completely new bunch of people" who are "intelligent and supportive."[9] The show, Dollhouse, was announced by Fox in May 2008 to begin airing in January 2009.[10]

Ripper is a proposed BBC Television movie about Rupert Giles that was announced to be in development at the San Diego Comic-Con 2007. The development process was set to begin in 2008 and Ripper to be shown that summer.[11]

Feature films Edit

Whedon wrote or co-wrote several films, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toy Story, Alien: Resurrection and Titan A.E.. He was nominated (along with three other writers) for an Academy Award for Toy Story's screenplay.

He also wrote uncredited drafts or rewrites of Speed, Waterworld, Twister and X-Men—although, with the exception of Speed, little of Whedon's work remained in the final drafts of any of these screenplays. In interviews, Whedon disowned the latter three films. He claimed that he had a good script for Alien: Resurrection, which he felt was spoiled by its director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. His Waterworld script was thrown out, and only two of his lines were kept in the final script of X-Men.[12] Even the Buffy movie bore little resemblance to his original screenplay.[13] According to Graham Yost, the credited writer of Speed, Whedon wrote most of its dialogue.

He wrote and directed 2005's Serenity, based on his television series Firefly. Serenity won the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Beginning in January 2006, fans (with Universal's blessing) began organizing worldwide charity screenings of Serenity[14] to benefit Equality Now, a human rights organization supported by Joss Whedon. Over $160,000 Raised For Equality Now Since 2006. 2008's goal is to raise $150,000 with 55 cities participating.[15]

Whedon had been signed to write and direct Warner Bros.' adaptation of Wonder Woman but on February 3, 2007, Whedon announced that he would no longer be involved with the project. "We just saw different movies, and at the price range this kind of movie hangs in, that's never gonna work. Non-sympatico. It happens all the time."[16]

He is currently working on Goners, a supernatural horror thriller which has gone through several script rewrites, and has not currently been greenlit for production by Universal Pictures, which bought the script from Whedon around the time Serenity came out. In late June 2007, Whedon told a New Zealand radio station that "It's a supernatural thriller that I'm trying to get the studio to make. I'm rewriting it again. And it's a slow process, and after working in TV for a while, slow processes are a little frustrating. I'm working on some other stuff, but it's all too embryonic to talk about at this point. But hopefully within the year I'll be doing something other than turning in drafts of scripts, which after 18 months of Wonder Woman is getting a little old."[17]

One aspect of the storyline of the film X-Men: The Last Stand bears a strong similarity to a plotline in Whedon's comic book Astonishing X-Men: the notion of a cure for mutation. The scientist who discovers the cure in the movie is named Dr. Kavita Rao, as is the scientist in the comic book storyline, though the characters are quite different. Whedon's story in turn bears a striking resemblance to a 1993 episode of the X-Men animated series, entitled "The Cure", written by Mark Edward Edens.[18] In both Whedon's and Edens' stories, the scientist who claims to have discovered the cure is secretly working with a superpowered enemy of the team (Apocalypse on the TV show, (Ord in the comic book), a plot device that doesn't occur in the film script. According to Simon Kinberg, a studio executive who had read Whedon's comics asked him and Zak Penn to incorporate some version of the mutant cure idea into their script.[19] In an interview with Empire Online, Whedon expressed an interest in directing a Harry Potter movie, being a fan of the book series.[20] He has written several Harry Potter-related jokes in his stories.

Joss Whedon wrote a horror film entitled Cabin in the Woods with Drew Goddard which he might direct. He called it "The horror movie to end all horror movies... literally."[21]

Comic books Edit

Whedon, a lifelong comic book fan, is the author of the Dark Horse Comics miniseries Fray which takes place in the far future of the "Buffyverse". Although the miniseries took years to finish, it was a great success. Whedon has mentioned returning to Fray at some point when there is time in his schedule.

Like many other authors from the Buffy TV show, he also contributed to the show's comic book version: he wrote three stories in the anthology Tales of the Slayers (including one featuring Melaka Fray from Fray) and also the main storyline of the five-issue miniseries Tales of the Vampires.

The three-issue miniseries Serenity: Those Left Behind, based on the Firefly series and leading up to the film Serenity, was released June through August 2005. Co-written with Brett Matthews and pencilled by Will Conrad, the first issue featured covers drawn by John Cassaday, J.G. Jones, and Bryan Hitch, as well as other artists for the second and third issues. The first two issues went to a second printing. The trade paperback featured a new cover by acclaimed painter Adam Hughes.

A second three-issue Serenity miniseries Serenity: Better Days, was released in March, April, and May 2008. "Better Days" reunites Whedon, Matthews, Conrad, and Adam Hughes, who will provide all three covers. The three covers form a larger panorama of the ship's crew. "Better Days" is set before "Those Left Behind", and features the full crew of Serenity. A trade paperback featuring a cover by Jo Chen is scheduled for release in October.

Whedon has mentioned that more Serenity comics are planned for the near future, and will be based in the Firefly continuation of the series. Including one about Shepherd Book. Likewise, Whedon and other former Buffy writers have released a new ongoing Buffy which takes place after the series finale "Chosen", which he officially recognizes as the canonical "Season 8". The first issue was released on March 14, 2007 by Dark Horse Comics. Following the success of issue one of Buffy season eight, IDW Publishing approached Whedon about similarly producing a canonical Angel Season 6.[22] This project has been confirmed. Although Whedon will not have the time to write the twelve issue maxi-series, Angel: After the Fall, he will be executive producer for the series. Instead Brian Lynch will write season 6, starting in November 2007.[23]

Whedon wrote Astonishing X-Men in Marvel Comics' popular line of comics about the X-Men but finished his 25 issue run in 2008 and handed over the writing reins to Warren Ellis. The title, recreated specifically for Whedon, has been one of Marvel's best-selling comics as of 2006 and was nominated for several Eisner Awards including Best Serialized Story, Best Continuing Series, Best New Series and Best Writer, winning the Best Continuing Series award in 2006. One storyline from this comic, the notion of a cure for mutation being found, was also an element in the third X-Men film, X-Men: The Last Stand. Whedon also introduced several new characters into the Marvel Universe such as the villainous Ord, new Xavier's Institute students Ruth "Blindfold" Aldine and Hisako "Armor" Ichiki, and Special Agent Abigail Brand, along with S.W.O.R.D., the organization she commands.

Whedon is the second writer of the critically acclaimed and fan-favorite Marvel comic Runaways, taking over after series creator Brian K. Vaughan completed his run.[24] Whedon had been a fan of the series for some time, and had a letter published in the first volume, which was included in the Volume 1 hardcover.

Whedon's other comic-related work includes writing the introduction to Identity Crisis trade paperback and a contribution to the "jam issue" Superman/Batman #26 (to date his only published work for DC Comics), writing short pieces for Marvel's Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man and Giant-Size X-Men #3 and also being the subject of an issue of Marvel Spotlight (alongside artist Michael Lark).

Online mediaEdit

In 2005 Whedon released a series of online shorts titled the R. Tam sessions, starring himself and Summer Glau. They acted as a form of viral marketing for Serenity. In 2007, Whedon launched a free online webcomic, titled Sugarshock! It is hosted on Dark Horse comic's Myspace.[1] In March 2008, Whedon teamed up with Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day to produce the musical superhero spoof, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Whedon conceived of Dr. Horrible during the 2007–2008 Writers Guild strike. Filming finished on 21 March 2008,[25] with an expected releases during the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con.[26]

Common themes and motifs in Whedon's works Edit

Feminism Edit

Whedon identifies himself as a feminist, and feminist themes are common in his work. For his part, Whedon credits his mother, Lee Stearns, as the inspiration for his feminist worldview. When Roseanne Barr asked him how he could write so well for women, he replied, "If you met my mom, you wouldn't ask."[27]

The character Kitty Pryde from the X-Men comics was an early model for Whedon's strong teenage girl characters: "If there's a bigger influence on Buffy than Kitty, I don’t know what it was. She was an adolescent girl finding out she has great power and dealing with it."[28]

Whedon was honored at an Equality Now benefit in 2006: "Honoring Men on the Front Lines",[29] and his fans raised a considerable amount of money in support of the organization.[30]

Homosexuality Edit

In his cinematographic works, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he includes gay characters among both the major and the minor dramatic personae. A major character in Firefly, Inara Serra, has at least one lesbian encounter. In early episodes of Buffy, he deliberately included scenes that suggested that either Xander Harris or Willow Rosenberg might be gay or bisexual. At the time, he was uncertain as to which character he wanted to come out. Ultimately, he decided that Willow would begin a relationship with another young woman, fellow college student Tara Maclay. Later, after Tara's murder, she developed a romantic relationship with Kennedy. Two minor characters in the series, Larry Blaisdell and Scott Hope, were also gay. The Angel episode "Power Play" implied a homosexual encounter between Spike and Angel.[31] In the canonical season 8 comic book, Whedon features straight protagonist of the series, Buffy, experimenting with (lesbian) Slayer Satsu.

Dialogue Edit

The dialogue in Joss Whedon's shows and movies usually involves pop culture references both notable and obscure, and the turning of nouns into adjectives by adding a "y" at the end of the word ("listy"). According to one of the Buffy writers, "It's just the way that Joss actually talks."[32]

Whedon also heavily favors the suffix -age (Linkage, Lurkage, Poofage, Postage, Scrollage, Slayage).).[33] Also, phrasal verbs usually ending with "out" are changed into direct verbs, for example "freak" rather than "freak out", "bail" rather than "bail out", or "hang" rather than "hang out". Whedon also tends to change adjectives into nouns such as "happy" (orgasm), "bad" (mistake), "funny" (joke). So many of Whedon's altered usages, new words, and heavily popularized words have entered the common usage that PBS in their article series "Do You Speak American" included an entire section on "Slayer Slang".[34]

Opinions on character deaths Edit

Many characters die in Whedon's shows, especially the long-running Buffy. Extras and minor characters die as expected in action-based shows and movies, but Whedon also kills off main characters in any manner or fashion even if it creates mixed reaction from his fan base and even the actors themselves. On the Serenity DVD commentary, Whedon says that he'd rather have fans say "Why'd they kill (that guy)? I liked him!" than "Oh. He's dead? Turn the page!" However, there is also a strong theme of redemption attached to these deaths, and the possibility of return.

Family Edit

There is a strong theme that one's true family is the group of people that you live your life with rather than the blood relatives who raise you as a child. This is a major theme for the main characters in all of his television series, particularly explicit examples including the BtVS season 5 episode "Family" and the "family meal" scenes (and homey set decoration) in Firefly as well as Buffy and Giles' father-daughter relationship. Season Four of Angel strongly focuses on the family of friends Angel shares, and his longing for a family is passed onto his son, Connor. The season begins and ends with scenes of group dinners, where a character proposes a toast: "To family".

Fatherhood Edit

Whedon sometimes portrays fathers in a negative light. Buffy's distant father was neutrally portrayed until later in the series, and most of his characters' fathers are never seen. Wesley's father was mentioned on several occasions to be abusive, and the episode Family showed Tara's father to be controlling and manipulative. Xander's father was portrayed as alcoholic and disrespectful of his wife and the fear of becoming like him is in large part what prompted Xander to cancel his wedding with Anya. Additionally, in an episode of Firefly, Simon and River Tam's father is shown to be very unsympathetic and unforgiving.

In lieu of a biological father, Whedon's characters often find an alternate father figure who takes the biological father's place. The most notable example is the evolution of Rupert Giles from a timid Watcher in the beginning of season one of Buffy to the father figure he became in the later seasons.

Spiritual and philosophical beliefs Edit

Whedon has identified himself as an atheist on multiple occasions. When interviewed by The AV Club on October 9, 2002, Whedon answered the question "Is there a God?" with one word: "No." The interviewer followed up with: "That's it, end of story, no?" Whedon answered: "Absolutely not. That's a very important and necessary thing to learn."[35] In one of the Buffy DVD commentaries, Whedon comments that "I don't believe in the 'sky bully'", referring to God.[36] In addition, during a question and answer session found on the Serenity DVD with fans of the Firefly series at Fox Studios in Sydney, he identifies himself as an atheist and absurdist.

Whedon has also spoken about existentialism. On the Firefly DVD set, Whedon explains in detail how existentialism, and more specifically the book Nausea, by Jean-Paul Sartre, was used as a basis for the episode Objects in Space.[37] On this commentary he claimed interest in existential ideas and described the impact of Nausea on his early life.


Awards WonEdit

Nebula Awards:

  • Best Script - Serenity (2006)

Awards NominatedEdit

Academy Awards:

  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen - Toy Story (1996)

Emmy Awards:

  • Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series - Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, for the episode Hush (2000)

Nebula Awards:

  • Best Script - Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, for the episode Once More, with Feeling (2003)
  • Best Script - Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, for the episode The Body (2002)

Saturn Awards:

  • Best Writing - Toy Story (1996)

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. *Joss Whedon: A to Z. Retrieved on May 5, 2007.
  2. *Joss Whedon to Direct Another Episode of The Office.. Retrieved on July 17, 2007.
  3. *Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)on Rotten Tomatoes.. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) Weekend Box Office. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 2008-02-29.
  6. Completely completed SERENITY screens at Comic-Con! And.... Ain't It Cool News (2005-07-25). Retrieved on 2006-06-24.
  7. Michael Schneider (2007-08-26). Fox, Dushku stake project. Variety. Retrieved on 2007-05-17.
  8. Maria Elena Fernandez (2008-05-15). Q & A with Joss Whedon, writer, producer and director. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2008-05-17.
  9. James Hibberd - Joss Whedon Returns to Fox With New Series 'Dollhouse' - TVWeek - Blogs. TV Week (2007-10-31). Retrieved on 2007-11-02.
  10. Gary Levin (2008-05-15). Fox's fall schedule sets up for '24' and 'Idol'. USA Today. Retrieved on 2008-05-17.
  11. IGN: SDCC 07: Whedon Says Buffy Spinoff Ripper Still Planned
  12. In Focus | August/September 2005 | Serenity Now! Uncut
  13. Joss Whedon - Web Exclusive | The A.V. Club
  14. Can't Stop The Serenity.
  15. Can't Stop the Serenity
  16. Whedonesque : Comments on 12385 : SATIN TIGHTS NO LONGER
  17. 95bFM | Alternative Radio Station in Auckland, New Zealand | NZ Music
  18. X-Men: The Cure Recap -
  19. IFMagazine
  20. Joss Whedon on Directing Harry Potter - The Leaky Cauldron
  21. IGN: SDCC 07: Joss Whedon Heads To The ''Cabin in the Woods''
  22. DiLullo, Tara, "Pieces of Eight", from The Official Buffy & Angel Magazine #93 (UK, April/May 2007), page 23-24.
  23. SDCC '07: BRIAN LYNCH ON ANGEL: AFTER THE FALL. Retrieved on 2007-07-30.
  24. Joss Whedon To Take Over Runaways. (9-12-2006).
  25. Buffy Reunion article.
  26. First Look at Whedon's Sci-Fi Musical, Dr. Horrible (June 25, 2008).
  27. The ladies' man - TV & Radio - Entertainment -
  28. Joss Whedon Goes Back To The Drawing Board
  30. Serenity
  31. In the DVD commentary for "A Hole in the World", Joss explicitly states that Spike and Angel have had an intimate sexual encounter at some point in their history.
  32. Buffy Season 4 DVD Commentary, Season 3 DVD featurette.
  34. Do You Speak American . Words That Shouldn't Be? . Sez Who? . Buffy | PBS
  35. Is There A God?
  36. Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVD series, episode 5.16 (The Body), commentary by Whedon.
  37. Firefly DVD series, episode 14 (Objects in Space), commentary by Whedon.

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