I Love You for Your Body (of Work), Mr. Whedon


I went into my opening night screening of The Avengers convinced that I was going to love it. And it wasn’t just because I let the hype and positive reviews raise my expectations. My mind was made a long time ago, when it was announced that geek demigod Joss Whedon had been hired as writer/director. (Though, I did harbour conspiratorial concerns that somehow the project was going to get taken away from him, or that the studio and other stakeholders would interfere with his vision and ruin everything. See: Dollhouse.)

After all, who else could direct an ensemble of scrappy, squabbling (anti-)heroes with such finesse, or combine well-paced tensity and humour that really respects its characters and their relationships without sacrificing badass action sequences? Few others, if any. Plus, he knows his comic books. And now that I’ve seen it, I am in awe of his accomplishment, not because the movie is perfect–it’s not–but because it was a difficult movie to make (in bridging preceding and succeeding movies, and in handling multiple protagonists and storylines) and, somehow, it works.

Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Joss Whedon (writer/director), Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Chris Evans (Captain America) on set.

And it works despite its flaws. [SPOILERS AHEAD] Loki’s Big Evil Plan is a little easy, especially when you compare it to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, where villains have nuanced motives beyond “I want to rule the world. Send in the space army!” I enjoy Tom Hiddleston’s creepy turn as Loki, and it’s not that he lacks a good backstory, it’s just that his scheming clearly functions merely to force the Avengers Initiative into action. Of course, it’s happening so fast and the reaction from S.H.I.E.L.D. is so entertaining, you hardly notice.

Secondly, sprinkling attention among the ensemble makes it difficult for Captain America, the unequivocal leader of The Avengers, to really rise to the level of protagonist, though that would have been a risky move, what with Steve Rogers not being even half as interesting as RDJ’s Tony Stark. (There are a few reasons for that, which I discuss in this podcast I co-host! GO FIGURE.) In the end, trying to balance all the different characters leaves little room for any individual character arcs (exception: Bruce Banner/The Hulk, who was handled magnificently). But what you have to remember is, this isn’t the story of any one character; the character is the group, and in that way, it works.

(I like to think that if The Avengers were a TV series, or if it becomes a trilogy, Joss would have the space to give each character the arc he/she deserves, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.)

But back to my obsessive adoration of Joss Whedon. If you know me, you know that I’ve been a fan of his since Buffy premiered in October 1997 when I was a mere 12 years old, and that I’ve followed his projects ever since. I even went to see him at San Diego Comic-Con in 2009. (And almost met him! It’s a very sad story full of woe and regret; ask me about it sometime.) You could say I’ve grown loyal over the years, though hopefully not to this extent

Me too, Gabe. Me too.

All that being said, I don’t want to be accused of a particular kind of loyalty, the kind that inspires eye-rolling pop culture commentators to accuse fanboys/girls of being unconditionally allegiant to the point where they’re incapable of being objective and will start campaigns to save a show before it even airs. No, I like to think my kind of loyalty is of a different brand.

I don’t think Joss Whedon is infallible. I just love the things he makes, and it’s a very pure love. I look forward to his projects, and generally feel great affection for them despite their flaws (the ones that stand out to the critic in me), because when I watch or read something where he’s had a controlling creative influence–that hasn’t been messed up by meddling forces–there’s something purely JW in them, something that I would say is an extension of his personality. The witty dialogue, the way he manages relationships between characters, his balancing of drama and humour: when he gets it right, it appeals to something in my personality.

On that note, this combination of elements is something I try to achieve in my own writing because it’s the kind of chemistry, a perfect storm of wonder and beauty, that makes people fall in love with a story and its characters. Joss Whedon fans are as fervent as they are because they don’t just love shows like Buffy and Firefly, they fall in love with them. (Whoa. Too much? Are you tearing up?)

When The Cabin in the Woods came out a couple of weeks ago, I had a similar reaction. You could tell how much fun Joss and Drew Goddard (co-writer, director and Whedonverse alum) had making that movie. And if you love horror movies and monsters the way they do, and the way I do, you’re going to love this movie. Not because it’s flawless, but because it speaks to something in you. You’re kindred spirits! We’re kindred spirits!

This is also how I feel about a lot of books, like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, and TV shows like Lost, which I’ve written about before. Yeah, it fumbled a lot and didn’t live up to everything that it could have been. But I love that series and I love Whedon’s ouevre* for being whimsical, for being mysterious, for having fun with the genre, and for creating character ensembles that I care about. I love them not because they’re the best things being made from a critical standpoint, but because they speak to something in me. I love them for everything that they try to be and for everything that they very often are.

It’s the same way, I suppose, that you’d love a person.

And now, I leave you with this letter from Mr. Whedon himself, which was the impetus for this post. Enjoy.

*Does that sound dirty? I think it sounds kind of dirty.

And found.


One year ago, Lost aired its final episode. And though I had never seen a single episode before (that’s a lie, I saw the last five minutes of the season 1 finale when it was on TV for some reason), I live-blogged the whole thing. Since then I’ve gone back and watched all six seasons of the series because, as a friend of my mine said to me, it just seems like the kind of show I would watch.

And it was! It was pretty epic. Though I shed a tear or two for having missed out on the experience of watching it as it aired so I could commiserate and squeal and ponder with other fans, one upside was that I didn’t have to wait in agony between cliffhangers and I got to miss out on that whole gap in the third season that seems to have scarred some people. (By the way, I tweeted while I was watching the episodes, which you can find here if you go back, I suppose.)

It wasn’t all perfect, of course. I kind of shot myself in the foot by watching the series finale first. There were some *ahem* missing gaps. Some disappointments. And I really missed Locke’s character in the sixth season (the Man in Black does not count). But there were also fantastic, compelling, epic parts. And, because they’re worth mentioning, here they are (streamlined down to the top 11*):

#11 When that couple got buried alive.

Dark humour at its (near) best, I have to say, I loved this departure from the season’s regular plot lines, especially the way they poked fun at the extra-ness of the random non-characters on the Island. And who doesn’t love a good twist? It reminded me of those old Tales from the Crypt episodes (the bloody live-action series, not the cartoon).

#10 When the timer in the bunker flashed to those crazy red-and-black hieroglyphics for the first time.

A lot of the things that made the show so cool were the random clues and teases that made you wonder. Wasn’t it exciting trying to figure out what they meant? In equal measure, that circular map thing that showed up on the wall when they didn’t punch in the Numbers made me hit pause and stare for a while. Whether or not they were satisfactorily explained later on is a mute point for me.

#9 When we discovered the little piece of suburbia where the Others lived:

One of the best WTF moments of the series. When I used to hear other people talk about this show, I used to think “how much could possibly happen on a deserted island?” I was so wrong.

#8 When everyone is ignoring Hurley and then he just drives the bus onto the beach and saves Bernard, Jin and Sayid:

Character arcs are important. And who doesn’t love seeing the underdog kick some ass? Hurley was one of my favourite characters (right after Locke, I would say) and I like that they can undercut heavy-handed drama with his character. Seeing him come barging in to save the day after being ignored  (this was when they tried to lure the Others to the beach and blow them up while everyone went to the radio tower to get rescued). Honorable mention: when Hurley’s walkman batteries die while he’s sitting on the beach early in season one. Fantastic.

#7 When those two nerds at the end of season 2 call Penelope to say they’ve found something.

I really like how the show resuses phrases and embues them with meaning in a way that’s very neat. This is a great example. In a flashback, we see Penelope tell Desmond “with enough money and determination, you can find anyone” and the sentiment takes on a whole new meaning with this awesome season finale surprise.

#6 When Jin whispers “Others” and we see Mr. Eko, Ana and Libby walk towards them.

At least, I think it was those three. In any case, there was so much mystery surrounding the Others at that point, and the shot was really well filmed. Very creepy and exciting. Excellent final shot.

#5 When Miles and Hurley argued about time travel:

It’s never not funny when people argue about the rules of time travel, especially when one gets all his information from pop culture. This is especially true because Hurley was just so stubborn about it, and ended up confusing Miles. Honorable mention: when Miles finally voiced my belief that they were actually CAUSING the Incident and not preventing it.

#4 When Sawyer tells Jack about meeting his father.

Though I still have mixed feelings about the finale – it just could’ve been MORE, you know? – I still agree that the real driving force behind the series were the characters and their relationships. So when Sawyer, thinking he’s never going to see Jack again, chooses to tell him about meeting his father in Australia and giving him that bit of consolation, it was a great moment both for Jack and for Sawyer’s character development. I’m not ashamed to say I cried.

#3 Locke yelling ‘Don’t tell me what I can’t do!’ in Australia.

John Locke was my favourite character, by quite a bit, which was why I was disappointed he didn’t play a larger part in the series’ final few episodes. Yes, his death was beautifully tragic, but I would have liked to have seen him have more of a role in the epic finale. In any case,  he continues to be one of my favourite characters from any TV show, movie or book and it’s mostly because of the insane amount of pathos they created for him, and how it interacted with some of his less flattering qualities and poor choices. And, as another example of a phrase that became his mantra, “don’t tell me what I can’t do” came to epitomize his major struggles, character flaws and why I loved him so much.

#2 Charlie’s death scene.

Tragic. Beautifully heroic. And the perfect ending for his character arc. I almost couldn’t believe he was really gone, and – again – I’m not ashamed to say I cried. A lot.

#1 Jack yelling ‘Why do you find it so easy?’

One of the major underlying currents of the show, for me at least, was this dichotomy between Jack and Locke with the whole faith vs. lack of faith. So when they’re arguing about entering the Numbers and Locke says, “why do you find it so hard to believe?” and Jacks yells, “why do you find it so easy?” I have to tip my hat to two simple lines that perfectly encapsulated that struggle. I wish they had extended that dichotomy through to the end of the series – more than they did, at least. When I saw this scene, I understood that there was more going on here than I thought, and I found myself much more invested in the characters. It was the theme that defined for the show for me. Truly epic.

And now here is a tribute video that uses a scene from The Lord of the Rings (the Two Towers, I believe) to frame Lost as one of the Great Stories that it is. Kudos. And thanks.

*And if you’d like to know why there are 11 top moments here and not an even 10, well, I guess you’ll just have to mull that mystery over for a while and then wait for an explanation that I will NEVER GIVE YOU.

So lost.


I’ve never watched Lost before, but since I felt really left out with the series finale craziness tonight, I decided to watch anyway. Here’s how that went…

9 – 9:07 Very confusing bits and pieces. There’s a doctor, and a guy who I guess used to need a wheelchair.

9:07 Priest named Desmond is orchestrating some kind of hostage situation that involves a fugitive and a corpse. I think he’s part of a crossover with Touched by an Angel.

9:08 I think the girl escaped to an island. Good for her. But everyone seems to have emotional baggage. Jacob seems to have been born again, or something. Or something.

9:09 A mission! To destroy a magical leprechaun in the Heart of the Island. Fun banter. Ominous close-up. Credits. Commercials!

9:14 Another hostage situation with a confused fugitive. If he’s driving a Hummer he must be a bad guy. Hey! It’s either Merry or Pippen! And he’s… goth. I think the big curly-haired guy is another Angel. A very badass Angel with a tranquilizer gun.

9:16 I think someone should be tending to that girl’s wounds. I can see the blood and I think her arm is broken. Where are their priorities?

9:17 Aragorn is captured. He calls the bald guy “Smokey.” Is he the Smoke Monster I keep hearing about?

9:18 I think one camp likes the Island. And the bald-headed guy wants to destroy it. I guess I’m rooting for the Island to stay put.

9:19 More characters! I don’t recognize these people from EW. They seem nice, though.

9:20 The T.V. screen goes crazy. I’m scared.

9:21 Ha, the kidnapping priest Desmond is now the hostage. How the tables have turned. Commercials!

9:26 I think the little guy in the back with the walkie-talkie is going to betray the bald guy.

9:27 Gah! More characters to keep track of…

9:28 Of course the black smoke is evil. I thought we were post-racial. Wait, there’s another island?

9:29 Now it’s a CSI-type thriller, possibly in the past, or future, or alternate sideways universe. With bedside drama and the FBI agent from V!

9:30 Japanese lady is having déjà vu for two. 😦 They’ve had some tragic love story. I’d watch that movie.

9:31 Hey! They speak English… Liars, trying to make that nice doctor look stupid. Commercials!

9:35 Boromir is running away to join Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli.

9:36 More hospitals. I thought this was supposed to set on an island.

9:38 These guys are being pretty dramatic about a grey hair.

9:39 Another plane crash with new survivors? Or is the pilot an original survivor? How long has he been floating in that water?

9:40 Damn. She really hates that bald-headed guy. Where did that gun come from? This is probably how she ended up in jail in the first place.

9:41 Okay, I’m dropping the LotR metaphor now. Commercials!

9:45 Aw, they call each other “doctor”, like “honey” or “sweetie.” Gag.

9:46 Oooh, Desmond is a weapon. I’m intrigued. Although, why doesn’t Desmond just run away? The bald guy only has a little knife. Also, Jake is going to kill the guy whose spine he fixed? Is that irony?

9:47 “I believe in you, dude.” Gag. I thought he was supposed to be badass. Where’s his tranquilizer gun?

9:48 So confused.

9:49 I guess that little waterfall is a wormhole or something. Cool. Commercials!

9:53 “You can’t let other people decide who you are, dude. You have to decide that for yourself.” Gag.

9:55 Syed to the rescue! Like Batman. Another love story… but inter-racial this time. So, do all these people have amnesia or something? Yay! Ian Somerhalder. I know him from The Vampire Diaries.

9:56 Another angry chick with a gun. Named Claire, apparently.

9:58 Desmond keeps talking about going towards the light. Does that mean what I think it means?

9:59 So confused.

10:04 Ohhhh, Claire is the pregnant sister. I’m getting’ it, I’m gettin’ it…

10:05 Angry chick reunion at a benefit concert with a very mismatched band.

10:07 The place at the bottom of that waterfall looks very mystical. No! Don’t step in the water! You’ll wake up the water zombies! Wait, no, that’s Harry Potter…

10:09 What the hell just happened? Did he pull out the stopper in some mystical drain to Hell? Uh oh…

10:10 Wow, Jake cannot take a punch. Commercials!

10:15 Damn, this show has everything. An impromptu birth backstage at a concert! Wow…

10:16 Damn, more déjà vu.

10:17 Oh, for heaven’s sake. Fastest delivery ever. Did she even cut the umbilical cord?

10:19 ANOTHER love story.

10:20 I can’t tell which one is the “real” world…

10:21 Earthquake! And panic music! And rain! It’s like someone is shaking the giant snow globe they’re all in.

10:22 Why didn’t they repair that plane five seasons ago? Locke probably stopped them. He’s super evil.

10:23 Showdown!… and commercials…

10:27 Gasp!

10:28 Gasp!

10:29 “What happened to your neck?” Oooooh, the worlds are bleeding into each other. So, is this going to be awkward when Locke wakes up?

10:32 All these moments where people are remembering their Island selves (I’m assuming…) are very touching. I’ve never even seen the things they’re remembering, but I’m so moved. Also, Jack is definitely going to be the last to remember. Loser. Commercials!

10:36 Where did those ladders on the side of the cliff come from?

10:38 All you need to fix a plane is duck tape. Noted.

10:39 Hmmm… maybe if you have that déjà vu experience in the sideways universe, you are free from the Island in the… uh, Island universe?

10:40 What is their attachment to the Island??? Gawd, learn to let go, guys.

10:41 They’re kissing each other goodbye, probably forever, and I’m just thinking about how uncomfortable it must be to be wearing wet jeans on a tropical island. Commercials!

10:46 Ha! See? Duck tape.

10:48 “Maybe you should read the machine its rights.” lol I’m going to remember that trick the next time a vending machine eats my money.

10:49 I feel a happy ending coming on. Uh, not that kind of happy ending. Commercials!

10:57 Somebody always has to be the suicidal hero.

10:58 “The Island needs you”? Is this like Little Shop of Horrors?

10:59 Ewww, don’t drink that dirty water. Magical dirty water.

11:02 How did she swim with what appears to be a broken arm?

11:03 Yay! Claire is going with them! No loose ends! I wonder where her kid is…

11:05 Yes, now put the phallus back in the hole and everything will be alright.

11:06 Free! Free at last! I hope they have enough gas to get… anywhere.

11:08 Jeez. Jack looks like he’s lost his mind. Commercials!

11:13 So is Ben going to just live out in that courtyard? Work out his issues?

11:16 Aw, Hugo is so sad. He’s got big shoes to fill… I’m assuming. Rise to the occasion, Hugo! Aw, he gave Ben exactly what he needed.

11:18 Everyone who’s had their memories restored seems so Zen. I guess Jack has the most emotional baggage.

11:21 Aw, it’s a little multi-faith chapel. How P.C.

11:22 Oh, snap. Someone lost the corpse. Oh, wait, not exactly… “Jack, I am your father.”

11:24 *tear* I guess dying can’t be easy… So, I guess the Island is, like, transitional therapy for newly dead people?

11:26 Wait, wait, no, the Island was real, and this sideways place is a place they made up to find each other… in death? Or, afterlife?

11:29 I still don’t get it. But at least everyone looks happy. Puppy!

11:30 To the blogs!