Why we love The Joss Whedonverse

1:00 pm EDT, June 23, 2013

Here at Hypable it is no secret that we adore Joss Whedon. And we will use absolutely any excuse to celebrate him.

The first show featured on our Rewatchable podcast was Firefly and we did a Buffy-specific episode of Vampire Hype (and behind-the-scenes, it was a Battle Royale-style fight to determine which of the many Buffy fans would be on it).

More recently, we have extolled the virtues of Much Ado About Nothing and The Cabin in The Woods.

Whatever Whedon touches, turns to shiny fandom brilliance – whether or not network television agrees (we’re looking at you, Fox).

From cult television masterpieces like Firefly and Dollhouse, to the third highest grossing film of all time in The Avengers, it seems like Whedon has done a bit of everything.

And to have accomplished all this by the age of 49 (as of June 23) is no small feat. So happy birthday Joss Whedon. Here at Hypable, we love you – and this is why.

Why Marama loves…

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’

buffy the vampire slayer
Buffy found its way into our hearts and it has never left. Whether you watched the series when it aired, or have since marathon-ed the lot, there is something about these young adult vampire slayers, witches, vampires and demons that got under our skin. Plus, this had vampire romance way before it was cool.

The show is only dated by the hilarious 90s outfits (ahem, leather pants). The issues Whedon addresses are just as relevant, and the jokes still get us giggling. Even better, in an age of dumbed-down television, Buffy makes us think, with its casual subverting of common television tropes, and incorporation of various styles and genres.

As a character, Buffy herself demonstrates Whedon’s commitment to creating compelling and realistic women (well, as realistic as a vampire slayer who has died twice can be). From Cordelia to Buffy and Willow, Whedon made his women just as funny, complex and fallible as his men.

From the Emmy-nominated “Hush” to musical masterpiece “Once More With Feeling” (in which Whedon gives us a song about drycleaning – what more could you ask for?), the seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer encompass some of Whedon’s best work.

With writing that was equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, it is nice to know that we can return to Sunnydale anytime we like.

Why Michal loves…

‘Dollhouse’

dollhouse
In the scope of its creator’s career, Dollhouse (or, as it is often known, “That Other Canceled Joss Whedon Show”) doesn’t cast a very long shadow. The show ran for two brief seasons and concluded quietly, with neither the vast cultural significance of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or the magnetic devotion of Firefly.

The story of Echo, a young woman who lives without her memory in a “Dollhouse” full of rentable people, was eerie and complex, and the show faced the considerable challenge of bonding viewers to characters who were literally different people every time they appeared.

Dollhouse turned out to offer much more than just the week-to-week adventures of people with programmed memories, though as the show progressed, it became a story about an idea – the value of the self, and how that self is challenged by technology.

But even Joss’s most philosophical work offered a terrific line of characters to love (and love to hate!) sprinkled across a vast moral spectrum. From the resilient Echo/Caroline to the stoic Paul Ballard, and all the way to the fascinatingly repugnant Adelle and Topher, Dollhouse made us laugh and weep and feel as sharply as Whedon ever has.

In the end, like the best of fiction, Dollhouse was a metaphor – and not a static one. The questions it raised about morality and technology were challenging and painful, and defied easy resolution. As it continually raised the stakes (the show is not Whedon’s only work to threaten the existence of humanity within its workings) Dollhouse looked its viewers in the eye week after week and demanded “What would you do?”

Though we didn’t get much time to answer, we’re glad really Joss asked the question.

Why Laura loves…

‘Firefly’

Firefly
Two words: space cowboys, who else other than Joss could possibly make this concept work? Not only does he make it work, but he avoids most of the cliches associated with each genre. Inara isn’t just “the hooker with the heart of gold” and Book is anything but your typical preachy preacher.

The thing that really solidifies Firefly are the nuances to the characters. You feel as if you have known each of them for years. One of the series’ best scenes was in “Out of Gas” where the entire crew is sitting around the table chatting like old friends until disaster strikes. It’s hard to get that sense of camaraderie out of actors in the first season of any show; however, with Joss’ writing it’s believable and a breeze.

Probably, the best tribute that any writer can receive is for people to care about their work years after its debut. One of the more amazing things about Firefly, is that ten years after its untimely cancellation, it’s still gaining fans and the fandom is still as strong as ever. Name any other cancelled-after-one-season show that has achieved that.

In 2012, Firefly celebrated its tenth anniversary at Comic Con with an audience filled with Browncoats. There wasn’t a dry eye on the panel that included stars Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, and Adam Baldwin along with Joss Whedon. The actors all gave Whedon full credit for the show launching their careers. More significantly, Whedon cites the show as the most important thing he ever did.

So, if you haven’t been converted yet, the next rainy Saturday you have, marathon the series. If it doesn’t make you want to take a trip around the ‘verse aboard Serenity, you’re probably sou-less and better off as reever fodder.

Why Karen loves…

‘The Avengers’

The Avengers
Making The Avengers was never going to be an easy task, no matter who took it on. It took five movies to prequel this film. There were several huge and well-loved characters and actors vying for the main spotlight. Not to mention the sheer scale of the story and the impact it would have on the Marvel universe.

In layman’s terms, it was a huge ass deal.

And let’s be real. If handed over to any number of other people, it probably would’ve still made tons of money. But would it have satisfied fans? Maybe not.

In the end, as we all know, it went to Joss “That Guy That Did Buffy And That One Show That Got Cancelled” Whedon, and he delivered everything the fans wanted and more.

He’s a genius with dialogue and a genius with characters. You would think it’d be easy to take already established characters and just keep writing them as they always have been. But it’s not. This project had unbreakable rules, and yet Whedon had to put his twist on it and make it his own.

And he handled it seamlessly. Tony was just as sarcastic, Cap was just as noble, and Thor was just as muscular godly.

He even made the Hulk cool again.

The Avengers appealed to fans of the comics, to fans of the characters, and to fans of the previous movies. Hell, it appealed to people who didn’t even know who Iron Man was before 2012. Needless to say, Whedon was in his element, and it came through in every single frame of the film.

We already knew Whedon was awesome, but now, thankfully, the rest of the world does too.

Why Caitlin loves…

‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog’


Written and produced during the 2008 Writers Guild of America strike, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was Whedon’s first attempt at getting web-savvy. Whedon self-funded the webseries, which stars Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day.

On its own, Dr. Horrible is over-the-top and full of heart (and, in true Whedon form, heartbreak). The tragicomedy makes us root for the character with a “Ph.D. in Horribleness.” The “hero” is a self-absorbed jerk, and the love interest remains clueless about who truly cares for her to the very end.

It’s both a parody of superheroes – which is even more fun in hindsight considering Whedon’s involvement in The Avengers – and a human story. And then there is the soundtrack, which includes quirky songs like “My Freeze Ray” and “Bad Horse Chorus” that make us laugh out loud.

But what’s truly remarkable about Dr. Horrible is the ground it broke for web entertainment. After being streamed for free, the series went to iTunes and topped the charts for five weeks.

The soundtrack followed the series at No. 2 and also entered the Billboard Top 200 at No. 39, impressive for a digital-only album. And Time magazine listed it in their Top 50 inventions of 2008 at No. 15, praising the success of the unconventional musical.

So, while we love Dr. Horrible, Captain Hammer, and Penny, we’ll forever remember the series for bringing digital entertainment into the mainstream.

Why Louie loves…

‘Toy Story’

toy story joss whedon

Wait, what?

While it won’t come as a surprise to his most hardcore fans, others may be surprised to learn that Joss Whedon was one of the writers on the original Pixar movie, Toy Story. Along with Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, and Alec Sokolow, Whedon wrote the screenplay for what would become one of the most influential movies of our generation at the very least.

When I think of Whedon, I think of near perfect characters and dialogue. Whedon only has a screenplay credit and not a story credit, so that means he didn’t create any of the characters. We did, however, likely shape the way those characters are brought to life, and Toy Story and the following sequels (which he didn’t work on) would have never been the same if he hadn’t shaped the characters and the dialogue they spoke.

Shifting to why we love Toy Story, I mean, come on, who doesn’t love Toy Story? It was a groundbreaking film in terms of both animation and story telling, and it works on different levels for audiences of different ages. Previously parents had to sit through movies for their kids, but Toy Story was beloved by parents and children equally.

Whedon had a big impact on Toy Story and consequently the Pixar productions since, but don’t ask him about it:

Nobody wrote Toy Story. Toy Story happened to some toys.

Why Selina loves…

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (the, er, movie)

Buffy the movie
Forget the TV show! Selina is all about the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, y’all.

Oh, who is Selina kidding?

Buffy: the Movie is legitimately one of the worst pieces of cinema, and had the TV show not followed, the world would never have known that Whedon was actually trying to create a strong, empowered female superhero (as opposed to one who sensed vampires via PMS).

It completely suits the, let’s face it, super campy title, and as many critics have noted, not even the actors seemed to believe in the story they were trying to tell.

Luckily though, Whedon did not give up on the story he’d created (and which, allegedly, the Kuzuis are to blame for butchering), and we all know what happened next: the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show was amazing, and we all lived happily ever after. Or something.

But the fact that such a terrible movie turned into such a fantastic show makes the movie worth watching, only because we can laugh and throw popcorn at the screen and count our lucky stars that this is not what people think about when they think about Buffy.

And this is why I do, legitimately, love Buffy: the Movie. It is hilarious, and never fails to cheer me up. Come on, that 10-minute long death scene? That was like something out of Monty Python, made even better by the fact that the rest of the cast was playing it totally straight.

I do think that the Buffy movie is an important part of Joss Whedon’s legacy, if only because it reminds us that even the best idea can suffer from horrible execution, and is worth mentioning when celebrating this man’s amazing career and accomplishments.

Plus, Dollhouse was already taken.

joss whedon

Marvel revealed today that a new television series, Legion, has been picked up by FX for the 2017 season!

Legion has been picked up by FX for an 8-episode season to air early in 2017. The series is being described as, “The story of a troubled young man who may be more than human.” Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Jean Smart, Aubrey Plaza, Jeremie Harris, Amber Midthunder, Katie Aselton, and Bill Irwin are set to star in the series, which will begin filming this summer in Vancouver.

Legion will follow the story of David Haller, who has struggled with mental illness since he was a teenager. He’s been in and out of psychiatric hospitals ever since being diagnosed as schizophrenic. However, a strange encounter with another patient has David wondering if the voices he hears and his visions might be real.

FX President of Original Programming Nick Grad teased the series by saying, “We’ve come to expect excellence from Noah Hawley and with Legion he has delivered another major creative achievement. Just as he did in reimagining Fargo, he is bringing an entirely new aesthetic and sensibility to the enormously popular and richly represented X-Men world.”

Executive Producer and Head of Marvel TV Jeph Loeb added, “Marvel Television is thrilled to not only have our first partnership with FX go to series, but working with the enormously talented Noah Hawley makes it even better. From the first time we heard Noah’s vision to his exceptional script and cast through the extraordinary filming of the pilot, we knew the series would be incredible.”

In the comics David Haller is the son of Professor Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller. A mutant like his father, David also suffers from several mental illnesses, including dissociative identity disorder. Each of his personalities controls one of his superpowers. David eventually joined his father in the mission to help humans and mutants coexist. I’m intrigued to see how FX might connect Legion to the X-men universe.

Will you tune in to watch ‘Legion’ on FX?

Disney has just announced a few new details about their Mary Poppins sequel starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and directed by Into the Woods helmer Rob Marshall.

The movie is officially titled Mary Poppins Returns and will hit theaters December 25, 2018. The date is the same one Disney used for their 2014 musical adaptation of Into the Woods. Mary Poppins Returns is being billed as a sequel to the 1964 original.

Here’s Disney’s official synopsis for Mary Poppins Returns:

Blunt has been cast as Mary Poppins and Miranda will play a new character, a street lamplighter named Jack. Drawing from the wealth of material in P.L. Travers’ seven additional novels, the story will take place in Depression-era London (when the books were originally written) and follows a now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, who, along with Michael’s three children, are visited by the enigmatic Mary Poppins following a personal loss. Through her unique magical skills, and with the aid of her friend Jack, she helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.

Said Rob Marshall in a statement, “I am truly humbled and honored to be asked by Disney to bring P.L. Travers’ further adventures to the screen. The iconic original film means so much to me personally, and I look forward to creating an original movie musical that can bring Mary Poppins, and her message that childlike wonder can be found in even the most challenging of times, to a whole new generation.”

Mary Poppins Returns is the latest in a line of live-action sequels and remakes Disney has put into production. Others include next year’s Beauty and the Beast, which the studio just unveiled a trailer for. Last week we also heard that they’re working on a live-action Little Mermaid movie.

Are you okay with a Mary Poppins sequel?

The Harry Potter play Cursed Child opens in a week, and we’ve just got our first look at Ginny Potter née Weasley. But not everyone is impressed.

Harry Potter fans have long ago resigned themselves to the fact that Ginny Weasley, badass Quidditch superstar and Voldemort possession survivor, is doomed to exist on the fringes of the story.

Despite her undiluted badassery, Ginny floated on the edge of canon throughout the Harry Potter book series, and for this reason, there are unfortunately many fans who simply don’t see Ginny as anything other than Harry’s only heterosexual ticket into the OBHWF.

But while Hermione Granger (rightfully) takes up most of the spotlight as far as female representation is concerned, J.K. Rowling actually created an equally important female character in Ginny Weasley, despite — or maybe because — of her absence from Harry’s part of the story.

Related: 9 reasons why Ginny Weasley’s cooler than the movies give her credit for

Reading the book saga closely will reveal that Ginny Weasley was actually better than everyone (and she knew it). And the fact that she got to be such a quietly confident BAMF, without Harry ever being consciously aware of it (though clearly it made an impression!), definitely meant a lot to me as a young girl growing up Potter.

Ginny may not have been the Chosen One, or the Chosen One’s best friend, but she kicked ass — and continued to kick ass — whether or not anyone gave her credit for it.

Let’s recap the awesomeness of Ginny Weasley:

  • Ron may have been Harry’s best friend, but his little sister was the seventh Weasley child and the first girl in seven generations. Talk about your magic number!
  • By all accounts, she was an immensely powerful witch: Growing up with six brothers made her resilient and hard-working, and she seemed to have the same extraordinary raw talent as Fred and George (but she applied herself more).
  • She was possessed by Voldemort in her first year at Hogwarts, literally making her the only person even remotely qualified to understand what Harry was going through. This came to a head in Order of the Phoenix, when it was Ginny of all people who stood up to Harry and told him that he was being stupid.
  • She overcame her crush on Harry and went on to have a rich and interesting social life which didn’t involve him. When Harry finally noticed and fell in love with her, she didn’t let that slow her down.
  • She stood up for both Neville and Luna, clearly cool and self-confident enough not to care what anyone thought of her companions (unlike Harry, who was far more judgemental towards both Luna and Neville).
  • She was a professional Quidditch player, even taking Harry’s place as Seeker for a while before landing a spot as Chaser while still at Hogwarts.

For all this, Ginny never really amounted to the ‘fourth member of the trio’ fans might have hoped for ahead of Deathly Hallows. She didn’t join Harry, Ron and Hermione on the Horcrux hunt (solely because Harry wanted to ‘protect’ her), and yet her badassery continued to assert itself behind the scenes, as she joined Dumbledore’s Army at Hogwarts and fought in the ensuing battle.

To me, it always felt like the essence of Ginny, the soul of this character, simply would not be repressed no matter how much J.K. Rowling tried to bench her (and the benching in itself was not an issue; Ginny was never meant to be a main character, and as laid out above, it actually worked to her benefit).

Ginny Harry 2

But unfortunately, the Harry Potter movies have done a lot to undo the subtle ways in which Rowling empowered Ginny between the lines. With Ginny’s value in the story mostly inferred rather than expressly stated, it clearly became as easy of a subplot to trim away as Nearly Headless Nick’s deathday party.

Ginny had hardly any presence in the movies at all, peaking in Chamber of Secrets (because they couldn’t completely ignore her in that one) and otherwise having only a few scattered, out-of-context moments of empowerment that still paled in comparison to the material given to characters like Fred and George, Draco, Luna, and Neville. Heck, even made-up character Nigel had more of a presence in the movies than Ginny did.

And of course it didn’t help that Bonnie Wright (who is a talented actress — check out After the Dark and see for yourself) had no chemistry with Dan Radcliffe, and that they gave the best Harry/Ginny moment of the series to Ron/Lavender for some inexplicable reason.

But still she married Harry, and still they had three kids (all of whom were named after people important to Harry, but alright). The One Big Happy Weasley Family prophecy came true, and all was well…

Until now. (Dun dun dunnn.)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opens for previews in London next week, and everyone’s excited for the trio and their kids to return. Once again Ginny is getting second billing, not being announced as part of the main cast, but rather revealed a week before the show opens, along with a photograph of Poppy Miller in character:

ginny_potter_poppy_miller

There’s also a family portrait of Ginny, Harry and their son Albus, with Ginny holding on to her youngest son protectively (there’s that mother’s love again), kicking us in the feels because it’s pretty much exactly what Harry saw when he looked into the Mirror of Erised:

l-r Harry Potter (Jamie Parker), Albus Potter (Sam Clemmett), Ginny Potter (Poppy Miller)

And I actually love this. I love that Ginny is included (especially since, um, Harry’s other two kids are nowhere to be seen), front and center by Harry’s side.

As far as her clothes go, no, I’m not a fan. They remind me too much of movie-Ginny’s getup in the epilogue, and it’s just not what I’d imagine she’d wear. But it’s just an outfit; it doesn’t actually tell us anything about Ginny’s role in the play, so I’m not too worried about that.

What I am worried about is the fact that she’d be revealed here as part of Harry’s Erised fantasy. It’s doubtless we’ll see more character reveals over the coming days, and Harry will likely factor into more constellations (notably the Ron-Hermione-Harry group photo we’re all waiting for). Ginny probably won’t.

I’m worried that Ginny’s role in this story will amount to being Harry’s wife and Albus’ mom. Not that J.K. Rowling hasn’t full well established that The Power of Motherhood pretty much overrules everything else, but that’s not what Ginny is — or, rather, that’s not all she is. As much as I love Molly Weasley, Ginny represented a different kind of female character. I hope the play stays true to that.

ginny

As a long-time Ginny fan used to everyone overlooking and under-utilizing this fantastic character, I’m just desperately hoping now that the eighth Harry Potter story will give us the Ginny we know from the books, rather than her inferior on-screen counterpart. While Cursed Child isn’t and shouldn’t be about her, I’m hoping this is Ginny’s chance to reclaim some of the agency the movies robbed her of.

And call me an optimist, but I’m hopeful that this is exactly what Cursed Child is gonna give us. I trust that J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany don’t let the movies’ depiction of Ginny influence what is supposed to be the next installment of the book series.

In J.K. Rowling’s own words on Pottermore, Poppy Miller’s Ginny will be, “Kind and cool, exactly as I imagined her.” It’s not the bat-bogey hexing firecracker we know and love, but hey, everyone grows up, right? So even if we get just a couple of scenes with Ginny, let’s presume she’ll be her badass, Quidditch player self, and that she’ll be given space to exist in her own right, rather than as a prop in Harry’s perfect family.

She may not have been the most important character in Harry Potter, but she was my favorite, and Cursed Child has an opportunity to undo the damage the movies did to this fantastic, empowering heroine. Let’s hope they take it.

Are you looking forward to seeing Ginny Potter in ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’?