I like me some Joss Whedon. I consider Angel and Firefly two of the best shows of the last 15 years. I "grr, arg" along with the end credits every time. The man knows how to write dialog, how to make badasses of the doofiest of nerds, how to make sexpots of the most unlikeliest of actors. He is a ginger titan, a colossus bestriding the tube of boob. Joss Whedon knows how to make great television. If only he did it more consistently, and without all the accompanying bullshit ...
Firefly fans loved Wash. Who didn't love Wash? Joss rammed a tree trunk through his chest for no reason. Penny from Dr. Horrible might be the most innocent, sweet natured girl Whedon's ever written. She ends Dr. Horrible bleeding out with a chunk of shrapnel stuck in her body, Normandy Beach style. Why? There is only one real lesson in Whedonland, and it's that loving cool people is dangerous because someone's probably gonna shove a flaming rock into their skull.
In fact, this is the only way Whedon characters achieve growth. It's a recognized cliche amongst his fanbase: If someone makes you happy when you see them onscreen, grab your balls, because he's going to lacerate them heavily. Sometimes I don't mind a good nut-stabbing. I like The Wire, I like Battlestar Galactica. But sometimes I just wanna sit back and watch Doogie Howser sing songs about horsies into his webcam. It's at those times that I'd rather Joss Whedon not pop up like the "Toasty!" guy from Mortal Kombat and pulp my yambag with senseless death.
Yeah, Buffy kicked unholy ass, Zoe was Mal's Terminatrix-like enforcer, Faith begat Echo and Echo is the baddest ass Kung Fu Whore TV has ever seen, and yet, aside from the fact these girls have done some push ups and punched masculinity in its shriveled balls time and again, the idea that Whedon is some sort of hyper-feminist stinks as bad as Eliza Dushku's "acting."
Joss shoots his actresses most lovingly when they're wet and crying and curled up in the fetal position, pressed up against a wall, broken, mascara running, bleeding, and reaching out. And what are they typically reaching out for? Some dude (or vampire or werewolf) and the dick he's attached to.
That's it. That's as complex as it gets. Sound familiar? That's because it's also the image of women we get from every other movie or show written by men. And yet when a lisping nerd who tritely describes himself as "a lesbian in a man's body" does it to a high-school cheerleader, it's "feminist." This is like when Toni Morrison called Bill Clinton "The First Black President." You could only say such a thing if you were THAT willing to settle. His two most artistically successful shows are Angel and Firefly, both centered on men, and written from a male point of view. If I wanted to be glib (and I usually do) Angel and Firefly worked because they're basically " Batman in LA" and "Han Solo, the TV Show," respectively.
I just made Star Wars 30-million times cooler. You're welcome.
Even the finest screenwriters shit the bed. It happens. William Goldman, Oscar winning mind behind Butch Cassidy and The Princess Bride, also wrote the adaptation for Dreamcatcher. Did he blame anyone else for that crap? Of course not, he's a pro.
Alien Resurrection is just as shitty. But that's not Joss's fault. According to him: "They said the lines ... mostly ... but they said them all wrong," he said, regarding his script for Alien 4: KY-Shitfest in Space, before going on to say, "They cast it wrong. And they designed it wrong. And they scored it wrong. They did everything wrong that they could possibly do." So according to Joss, putting Michael Wincott, Ron Perlman, Brad Dourif, J.E. Freeman and Sigourney Weaver in your ALIEN movie is horrible casting. And the director, who also directed City of Lost Children, might as well be Helen Keller. But the writer, the guy who gave Ripley a robovag sidekick more annoying than C-3P0, and made the main villain a fucking Muppet Baby? You insult him in a dream, you better wake up and apologize.
Muppet Babies, they'll eat your fucking skull...
We'll skip right past that bullshit line about electrocuted toads or whatever it was Whedon fed Halle Berry in the first X-Men movie. That was totally not his fault, either. The guy who writes Family Circus apparently did a dialog polish while Joss was coming up with new ways to get hot female co-stars to make out with each other onscreen (for feminism, of course.) Speaking of which, let's talk about Dollhouse.
Dollhouse isn't getting crappy ratings because it's a bad show with a goofy premise played way too seriously, centered around a vapid "actress" with all the personality of a petrified turd. It's getting crappy ratings because of FOX. Sure, the network mercilessly drowned the superior Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles specifically to give Dollhouse an undeserved second season, but FOX is the big bad here, FOX is the reason the show lays there like a dead fish week after week, only sporadically flickering to life, like how a caveman banging rocks together might accidentally start a fire. At this point I think the show exists solely to collect ex-Battlestar Galactica actors like Pokemon, so Joss can giggle and get them to sign his Hello Kitty backpack.
To be fair, this is a complaint you could levy against any major geek property. Star Wars fans are the worst part of Star Wars, Trekkies ate shit for about 30 straight years and online discussions of your favorite shows are clogged with "Shippers," who disregard anything interesting and insightful about a show, and focus solely on badly-written fanfic fantasies for frantic bean-flicking, their stories swapped between shawl-wearing, cat-owning knitting enthusiasts squeeling until their lungs burst on LiveJournal.
"Her dead Polar Express eyes tell me she loves me."
But hardcore Whedonites? They are to Trekkies what the Nation of Islam were to the Civil Rights movement. It's like they don't even WATCH his shows anymore. I don't mean they don't tune in. I mean they don't actively watch, in the way Woody Harrelson wasn't HEARING Jimi in White Men Can't Jump. The images and sounds just wash over their angry brains, a collection of details they can clutch in a puddly fist to swing wildly at anyone proffering a "meh" in their Lord Whedon's general direction.
It's like hearing someone brag about their personal library and you find out it's filled with nothing but Star Wars novels and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. I know they're printed on pulped trees and bought at a Borders, but that doesn't make them real books. Consuming those is an exercise in stunting your ability to appreciate real storytelling. I wouldn't trust a food critic if all he ever grubbed on were hot dogs, and I don't trust Whedonites when their experience with moving pictures begins and ends with Mutant Enemy productions. Once More With Feeling shouldn't be a goddamn Rocky Horror Picture Show. Fuck, it's not even a good musical. But then, you'd have to have watched another musical to know that.
It's as if just watching the shows and enjoying them isn't enough. You have to proselytize and spring out of the corners of the Internet like the Whedon Inquisition, demanding tithings and tributes to the man's genius. It's a cult of apologism advertising itself as the face of Whedon fandom, and it's probably the single hardest thing about being a fan of the man's work - others will just assume that an apologist, argumentative asshole is what you are, too.