Coping With Grief and Joss
Blog Post by Jeremy Grayson (Jeremy G.)
[Television] Posted on January 14, 2014 / Last Updated on January 15, 2014
Note: The following article contains spoilers for the majority of Joss Whedon's shows!
Who is Joss Whedon?
To many, he is the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of great pioneers in recent television drama. To others, he is the mastermind behind Firefly, the criminally cancelled cult classic that still leaves fans pining. To others still, he is the director of The Avengers, one of Hollywood's all-time biggest blockbusters and the major climatic point of a film franchise that has spanned half a decade.
But beyond all that… who is Joss Whedon? Who is this man who has enraptured us in his works – who has made us think, has made us laugh, has made us cry?
In interviews, Joss is elusive. His responses to straightforward questions about his writings are laconic in their delivery, which only adds to the intrigue. Joss loves his fans, and he loves to love his fans, and he will often joke around with his fans while always assured that they're in on the joke. He doesn't talk down to those who respect and admire him. In fact, with his sharp wit and dry delivery, he appears a very simple, pleasant man. He makes use of self-deprecating humor, yet he does not directly insult his works. At a glance, Joss looks like he is the kind of man who pities himself and his writing, and given how successful his work actually is, we – the folks who revel in and enjoy it – love him all the more.
Perhaps there is something manipulative about the way Joss acts around his fans, offering sorrowful self-criticisms in hopeful exchange for more love. But here we must take into account one rather crucial facet of his influence:
People hate him.
Remember when Joss shot Tara? Or impaled Wash? Or slowly murdered Fred? And how about all those crash-and-burn romances which pepper each one of his shows? Joss has incited the anger of fans more than any other television producer, due to the numerous and terrible ways he has torn their emotions apart. He enjoys dangling beautiful and tempting objects before our eyes, before pulling back with a "Gotcha!", shattering our hopes and dreams, and turning the floor around us into a puddle of tears.
If Joss took these actions with complete seriousness in the eyes of his fans, he would likely have been crucified long ago. But Joss is not a serious man. He has survived many a contentious situation by showing his humorous side. (A classic example: When Buffy outed Willow and Tara as a lesbian couple, Joss responded to the ensuing controversy by going online and writing, "I realize that this has shocked a lot of people, and I've made a mistake by trying to shove this lifestyle – which is embraced by, maybe, at most, 10 percent of Americans – down people's throats. So I'm going to take it back, and from now on, Willow will no longer be a Jew.")
While some may question the effectiveness of Joss' tactics, he's proved remarkably versatile compared to many other showrunners. Lost producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse made the mistake of treating their fans and their own perception of the show with total seriousness, and it led to a wave of Internet anger and disappointment when that show finally ended. Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files, was also subjected to much criticism for the majority of that show's run, and much of that can be attributed to the way he defended the show's flaws with complete conviction.
Joss doesn't do that. He takes pride in a method that by all accounts seems like it should fail, but doesn't. He wraps us around his little finger, before twisting that finger and sending us spiraling into a stomach-churning void of pain, cruelty and emptiness.
And he keeps us coming back for more.
This is the most trying aspect of Joss Whedon. He has created some of the most likable and endearing characters to ever grace the small screen. Buffy, Willow, Spike, Angel, Wesley, Mal, River, Echo… the list goes on and on. Yet he takes every opportunity to put these characters through the wringer, showing them suffering more often than not.
Clearly, Joss is either a man of great courage or great foolishness. And given the quality of his writing, I think it's safe to rule out the second option.
Joss has written many marvelous works. And as long as he keeps on writing, it's a pretty safe bet that we'll keep on watching.
Who is Joss Whedon?
He is one awesome guy.
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