Whedon and Company: Worlds Await

Rhonda V. Wilcox

The formal creation of Buffy Studies -- and therefore Whedon Studies -- was born with the creation of the online journal Slayage 10 years ago. Here the coeditor of Slayage, Rhonda V. Wilcox, offers some reflections on our obsessions with the output of a certain TV creator.

If Shakespeare were alive today, where do you think he'd be working? I suspect he'd be in Hollywood; it seems the man did love an audience. The essays in the PopMatters Spotlight on Whedon give voice to some of the most invested members of the audience of Joss Whedon and company -- an audience that continues to grow. Currently Nikki Stafford is running the Great Buffy Rewatch -- a year-long rewatching of the 144-episode series, designed for the pleasure of longtime viewers -- but also arranged to entice new viewers. New viewers keep coming to Firefly/Serenity and Dr. Horrible, and Angel, and (don't take the modifier the wrong way) even Dollhouse. Those who enjoy spending part of their mental and emotional lives with Whedon and company include scholar-fans and fan-scholars. There are blogs and essays across the Internet; and scholarly books are being published on the Whedonverses at a faster rate than any other single television subject. With its latest online issue, the Slayage journal -- devoted to all creations of Whedon and his associates, and published by the Whedon Studies Association, an educational non-profit -- entered its tenth year. Conventions still gather, and there continue to be academic conferences, including the biennial Slayage conferences: the fifth (and yes, everyone is invited) will be held July 12-15, 2012, in Vancouver, Canada, at the University of British Columbia.

There might be something to this Whedon fellow.

The PopMatters Spotlight itself clearly indicates that intense, thoughtful interest in the work of Whedon and his associates continues. The essays here constitute a couple of books' worth of material, and are written by a marvelous variety of authors on an equally marvelous variety of subjects. Robert Moore's pieces help us to see the big picture of television, and Whedon and company's place in it. Tanya R. Cochran's well-informed, thoughtful interviews of Tim Minear and Harry Groener help us to understand the labor behind the scenes. And there are all sorts of specific delights, such as the sharp textual reading of Buffy slipped into Raz Greenberg's discussion of Alien Resurrection; Jessica Ford's focus on Willow's sexuality; Kyle Garret's sensitive assessment of the rhythms and peaks of Xander's journey; Ian Mathers' connection of Dollhouse to Philip K. Dick; and of course I could go on.

As I read, I kept thinking of those prompts we get from and Netflix: "If you like this, you might enjoy..." If you like Laura Berger and Keri Ferencz's essay on "Restless," you might enjoy Matthew Pateman's chapters on it in The Aesthetics of Culture in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you like Nick Bridwell's piece on Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, you might enjoy one of Stacey Abbott's several pieces on him, including her work in Reading Angel. If you like Chris Colgan's Firefly essay "The Death of Utopia," you might enjoy Sharon Sutherland and Sarah Swan's "Dystopia" essay in the Investigating Firefly and Serenity collection. If you like Kevin M. Brettauer's discussion of Penny in Dr. Horrible, you might like Alyson Buckman's essay on Dr. Horrible in Slayage. (Has anyone, by the way, talked about Billy Buddy and Melville's Billy Budd?). If you like Cynthea Masson's and Glenn Brown's essays about choice and consequences, you might like Dale Koontz's Faith and Choice in the Works of Joss Whedon, or Mike Richardson and Doug Rabb's The Existential Joss Whedon. If you like Ryan Jawetz's essay on identity and memory in Dollhouse, you might like the Jane Espenson edited collection of essays on Dollhouse, or the Slayage special double issue of essays on Dollhouse. And I could, again, go on.

Much more to the point, Whedon and company will go on. As we wait for The Avengers, it is an exciting time for those who enjoy immersing themselves in the creations of Whedon and company. And I do use that "and company" with full intention. As Tim Minear said, Whedon is known for "wanting the people who worked for him and with him to succeed," and television series (and films, and webisodes) do have many parents. One of the pleasures as we proceed is expanding the discussion: talking more about the music; the art direction; the acting, for heaven's sake. And always, always, the writing -- by Tim Minear, Jane Espenson, and all the other creators. Consider how much mental energy Joss Whedon has given rise to on both sides of the screen. If you are reading this, you are part of that creativity of thought. Let's thank Joss Whedon, and keep thinking.

-- Rhonda V. Wilcox

P.S. Thanks to Robert Moore and PopMatters, too, for putting the Spotlight on Whedon.

RHONDA V. WILCOX, Ph.D., is a professor of English at Gordon College (Georgia) and the president of the Whedon Studies Association. She is the editor of Studies in Popular Culture and the coeditor of Slayage: The Journal of the Whedon Studies Association. She is the author of Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the coeditor, with David Lavery, of Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; with Tanya Cochran, of Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier; and, with Sue Turnbull, of Investigating Veronica Mars (just released).

Dear reader:

Joss Whedon’s importance in contemporary pop culture can hardly be overstated, but there has never been a book providing a comprehensive survey and analysis of his career as a whole -- until now. Published to coincide with Whedon’s blockbuster movie The Avengers, Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion by PopMatters (May 2012) covers every aspect of his work, through insightful essays and in-depth interviews with key figures in the ‘Whedonverse’. This article, along with previously unpublished material, can be read in its entirety in this book.

Place your order for Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion by PopMatters, published with Titan Books, here.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.