I’m given ‘that look’ a lot. It’s the look that fellow genre fans give you when you confess that when it comes to Joss Whedon, you’re not a fan. But why? Why aren’t you a fan of Joss Whedon? How can you run a blog about genre and claim to be this huge genre fan if you don’t like – nay, love – Joss Whedon??
Let me start with a confession: no, I have not watched every single episode of Buffy and Angel and Firefly and Dollhouse. In fact, I’ve avoided these shows quite well. I’ve seen the odd episode of Buffy here and there, and bits and pieces of the others. But before the classic “well, you can’t judge it unless you’ve seen it” argument raises its head, let me nip it in the bud here. The power of these shows and the following that they inspire mean that I have absorbed plenty – certainly enough to have developed a relatively well informed opinion on them. Whedon’s body of work has penetrated popular culture to such a point that it’s almost impossible to move in these circles and not be exposed to it at some point. So I have seen his work on multiple occasions, had many conversations with fans (including some quite hardcore ones), read many articles and blogs about him, seen interviews, etc, etc, etc.
Now, I’m also not trying to be trendy by saying I don’t like something that is clearly popular. I’m not treating Joss Whedon the way that hipsters treat Coldplay. I have tried to connect with the Whedon universe in the past and I have always found the experience wanting. Since I’m a huge sci-fi fan, I decided to sit down and watch Serenity. I remember it being an uneven film; there were some great ideas packed in and some good performances. But it just didn’t come together as a whole. The film left me kind of cold, I had no desire to delve deeper into these characters by watching Firefly, because I felt that in those two hours I had seen enough to know them, who they were, how they interacted and it simply didn’t interest me. I have been told by several fans not to judge Firefly on Serenity, and of all the Whedon shows it’s the one I am most open to watching.
So what was the problem? It was the same thing that I found with another dissatisfying sci-fi film that Whedon was involved with, Alien Resurrection. Some good ideas, but let down by a screenplay that spoiled the mystique of the Aliens and reduced Ripley to a wise-cracking charicature of the person she once was. I know that it’s not fair to hold Whedon responsible for that film, and he has gone on record to say how upset he was by the whole experience. But I did find that its tone was remarkably similar to the other Whedon projects that I’ve seen. Wise-cracking cowboys in Firefly. wise-cracking space pirates in Alien Resurrection, wise-cracking teenagers in Buffy, wise-cracking demons and vampires in Angel, and on it goes.
Sure, that’s Whedon’s style, and that’s fine. I’m not saying that Whedon is bad, I’m not saying that you suck for liking him. I’m saying that his work simply doesn’t appeal to me. I know the arguments as to why his work is good, and I can see the way that he plays with genre. But perhaps that’s the problem – I haven’t liked his characters and I can see what he’s doing on the surface.