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).
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 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…
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…
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…
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
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…
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)
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.