The World According to Whedon

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While watching “The Cabin In The Woods” last night, I couldn’t help but get nostalgic. A satire on horror genre in a more horrific Truman type setting, the movie, co-written and directed by long time Whedon collaborator and Buffy alum Drew Goddard, is such a delightful mish-mash of genre tropes, in-jokes, meta-references and black humor, it’s almost like Joss decided to make a film just to wink at his fans. An office betting pool in the anticipation of a massacre should not be funny. But it is. Because it’s so classic Joss Whedon. And the fans are winking right back. Already being proclaimed a modern classic, the film was an instant critical and commercial success.

I am not devoted enough to be termed a ‘Whedonite’, the whole idea of fandom is not very appealing to me. I don’t live in an alternate “Whedonverse”, I also don’t spend time on ‘Whedonesque’ (the man has his own dictionary at this point). It’s just that Joss Whedon is someone whose career I have followed closely and whom I have rooted for in the process, since first becoming obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer back when it started airing in India while I was still a student. It was probably the first, okay, the third TV show I ever freaked out over; after being nuts about I Love Lucy and Star Trek reruns as a kid. However, I was blown away when I started watching Buffy. I never knew television could be like that. Why was this tiny, slightly ditzy blonde, surrounded by nerdy friends and a baffled British librarian, spending so much time in graveyards while wearing super short skirts and heels?  The characters, the relationships, the dialogue. I couldn’t look away, I was hypnotized. Over the next few years, Buffy grew into an iconic cult phenomenon and Whedon became a household name, inspiring a whole generation of geeks and sending his collective internet fandom into multiple orgasms, every time he announced a project. After the Buffy/Angel twin series, a whole lot of disappointment followed, when his excellent space western series Firefly was cancelled before it could even take off. The powers that be obviously had no idea of the power of Whedon and the extent of his fandom’s devotion at this point though. The collective gasp over its cancellation caused a small rip in the Ozone layer and the murmuring of a second chance gradually became such a cacophonous roar, especially as it grew into its status as another cult show, that Universal finally picked it up as a movie sequel. Serenity, released in 2005, got a lot of critical acclaim and just about managed to recover its cost. But the power of The Joss had been established. Despite his new series Dollhouse not going far enough either (and probably his only work that doesn’t inspire too much nerd love), he had steadily climbed into the big leagues and ended up being roped in to direct the 2012 mega blockbuster ‘The Avengers’. I have to admit that despite being happy for his success, I was almost disappointed that the God of the small-but-cult-works had given in to The Man, that material such as this was not a good fit for him. I am happy to admit that I was wrong. I enjoyed every second of the crackling dialogue and the classic Whedon quips being delivered by the king of snazzy delivery, Robert Downey Junior. Being a self-proclaimed geek and comic fan himself, he was able to give the material his loving and personal touch. And he is thankfully still continuing to work on smaller projects, including the 2012 film Much Ado About Nothing.

There has been some criticism of the loose ends and especially the climax of The Cabin In The Woods. But as anybody familiar with Whedon’s work will know, underneath all the witty dialogue and pop-culture-reference-laden jokes, his body of work has always been a scathing indictment of human folly, the banality of evil and our fluid sense of morality. So when Dana wearily says “Humanity. It’s time to give someone else a chance”, and sits there with her friend watching the whole world crumble to pieces, I couldn’t see a more fitting end.

“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it” – Buffy

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6 comments on “The World According to Whedon

  1. So someone who claims that she does not believe in the concept of fandom, ends up righting a piece which is so rich in fandom stuff (and she also mentions that she was ‘obsessed’ with…hold your breath…Buffy)- ‘Irony’ just sucked its toe and ate an octopus :)

    On a serious note, this has to be the most important piece on the blog till now. In many it’s the first write-up which actually deals with a ‘pop-cultural’ phenomenon. Just wish it would have been longer, but even as it stands right now, it is a very rewarding note in more ways than one.

    One of the very important things your piece touches upon is the fact that among all of the meta-references, the one thing which stood was, to use your own words, Whedon winking at the audience throughout the film and especially in the last act. You of course have described it aptly in the last para.

    It’s also very informative- i have not followed Whedon’s career half as closely as you and I have never seen Angel or Firefly (though i do know that Serenity germinated from the latter series). So without making it into a cliched looking filmography of sorts, you have traced his career very well- love the way you interspersed his career chart with your own very personal thoughts on each of his works (thanks for the info regarding Much Ado…, had no prior knowledge of it).

    And then this piece mentions so many things which I love- S.Trek (was always a Trekkie), Serenity (this film was so much fun. I usually don’t like females as action-heroines, but this one could really kick some ass)- so i had a ball reading it.

    As I said before, I am a naysayer on the film itself (and even on Avengers) even when i recognise its obvious strengths. Will try and write in detail if time permits, otherwise will keep coming back to this

    A part from something I wrote on Agent Vinod- http://minorquibbles.wordpress.com/my-royale-with-cheese-saurabhs-sense-of-agent-vinod/

    “Slowly, bit-by-bit, joy and fun is being sucked out of today’s films. Last year’s ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ and this year’s ‘Agent Vinod’ restored a bit of them because they both had a ‘hero’ in them, one who does not leave his humour behind while saving the world.”-

    The piece gave me almost as much joy as AV (and Eega) did, sadly the film came nowhere close to it

    • A film, which IMO is a much stronger and ‘purer’, than Whedon’s film is Eli Roth’s masterful debut Cabin Fever which works very intelligently around the ‘haunted cabin’ element. Sadly no seems to be putting this film into perspective while discussing CITW.

      And i linked the AV piece because you might find find quote a few pop-cultural references which would hopefully cajole you into watching it. I have been shamelessly promoting this unfairly maligned work. Rangan liked it too BTW

      • I don’t believe in ‘personal’ fandom, you won’t find me standing in line for an autograph ever (although I wrote a letter to Lucille Ball, which my dad helped me write, after reading her bio in a magazine when I was a child. I posted it but never heard back, heh! That was my first and last brush with fandom) or blindly worshipping a person due to their work or confusing their off-screen persona with their ‘image’. I am too cynical for that. But admitting your love for Star Trek and Buffy is basically indicting yourself as a certifiable nerd, that I am aware of.
        Neither TCITW nor Avengers is a flawless or even an excellent film (I actually found the basic conflict and climax in Avengers very lame), but they are very enjoyable for what they are. Haven’t caught Cabin Fever, will check it out.
        If you liked Serenity, you must watch Firefly.
        Tried watching AV when it came out, but it was a bad copy, will try again and get back to you.
        I like Iron Man movies precisely for the fact that the hero doesn’t take himself too seriously, haven’t caught the latest one yet.

  2. Knock knock—what’s Mr Anu upto? Well this ‘trope laden’ post reminded me of this.

    Why I find it difficult to write about Bollywood?

    Conversation 1

    D: Why don’t you write about a Bollywood movie and make a lot of references to obscure Japanese cinema and use words like ‘post-colonialism’ and ‘gender tropes’?

    K: I don’t know what a ‘trope’ is.

    D: I don’t think you need to know what it means to write about it. What movie have you seen recently?

    K: Bal Brahmachari, Maa, Kangan and Krodh. At the same time.

    D: Ok. So maybe not that.

    K: It was superintense and there was dancing.

    D: It’s weird that you’re watching these movies when you can’t actually understand Hindi.

    K: How is that weird?

    D: You know when they say something in Hindi? And you can’t understand what they’re saying because it’s in Hindi? And you watch the whole movie anyway?

    K: Yeah?

    D: Yeah, that.

    K: How about I write something like ‘Why I Love Bollywood Even Though I Can’t Understand Hindi and Don’t Really Know What Anyone is Saying’.

    D: I think you can only do that if you’re white.

    K: So now what?

    D: I think you should write something called ‘Bollywood Post-Colonial Perspectives Kurosawa Gender Tropes’.

    K: But I don’t know what a trope is!!

    D: Then write something mean about white people but with Bollywood and colloquial Tamil and ‘yougaiz’.

    K: You’re not helping.

    D: Write a story then.Your usual what-the-fuck stuff but in Bollywood.

    K: I’m going to talk to someone else who isn’t you.

    D: Write about a dead girl watching a Bollywood movie. And there are insects. Eating her left eye. AND IT’S RAINING BABIES!!! Hello?

    ***

    Conversation 2

    R: Write about how you deleted all the Bon Iver I gave you to make room for your Munni Badnaam remixes. Write about how you told me that you thought Bon Iver was Bon Jovi.

    K: They are both Bon-Bon, it’s an honest mistake!

    R: Your taste in music is gross.

    K: Why are you so racist against Bollywood?

    R: Why are you the only person on the planet looking for a remix version of Don’t Touch My Ghaghariya?

    K: Did I mention that I found this Trini-chutney remix of Show Me Your Jalwa? I can send—

    R: Good-bye.

    ***

    Conversation 3

    A: You should write about that time on Masterchef when Dalvinder won something and then everyone did that dance and they said it was a Bollywood dance and it made us feel embarrassed for them.

    K: And they made that noise.

    A: Right, that weird falsetto police siren thing.

    K: I actually thought they were doing a cultural Australian dance. Then they said it was a Bollywood dance and now I want to know what movie it’s from.

    A: I think it’s from Alice in Wonderland. The 1999 version. The cook does something similar when the Duchess sings that song about beating her boy when he sneezes. By the by, have you seen the So You Think You Can Dance Bollywood segments?

    K: No.

    A: You should.

    K: I’m scared to.

    A: Dude, you should totally watch them. Open a clip now on YouTube.

    K: Ok, hang on, let me just— aw man.

    A: Whatwhatwhat?

    K: There is a dude with a big blue bindi on his forehead and he’s dressed like Aladdin.

    A: Ok don’t watch that. Close it and don’t watch it.

    K: Maybe I should just find out what a trope is and write that Gender Bollywood Post-Colonial Kurosawa thing.

    A: A trope is a kind of fish, no? I think it is. I think I ate some once.

    ***

    Conversation 4

    S: You HAVE to write about how some people in this one number country watch Bollywood ironically. Write about how that’s a thing.

    K: That’s when you act like you like Bollywood but you actually don’t but you act like you do to prove how much you don’t. Right?

    S: Kinda.

    K: Why isn’t that called lying?

    S: Actually you should write about how some people really do like Bollywood and act like they don’t and then act like they do to prove that they don’t. When they actually do.

    K: What does irony mean anyway? Is it like a trope?

    S: Or you could write about how when you’re watching Hum and enjoying like anything some asshole will ask if you’re really watching it.

    K: As opposed to artificially watching it?

    S: As opposed to watching “something good”. Like Slumdog Millionaire.

    K: You wouldn’t know what a trope is, would you?

    S: It’s a riddle, isn’t it? Or a cave made of tarpaulin.

    ***

    Conversation Five

    N: I read with great interest your recent post on the actress Jayanthi.

    K: I wrote a post on the actress Jayanthi?

    N: I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this but when I was in India—

    K: You’ve mentioned it. Repeatedly.

    N: And I was such a great fan of the cinema there. Great food, great people. Really loved the energy.

    K: Who is actress Jayanthi?

    N: You just wrote about her.

    K: I wrote about Gandhi Jayanthi.

    N: Ok. And is that someone different?

    K: Little bit, yah.

    N: Member of the Gandhi family perhaps?

    K: I should go before I say something really mean.

    N: LOL.

    K: Okbai.

    ***

    Conversation 6

    K: So a trope is, and I quote from the indisputable Wikipedia, “the use of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning”.

    S: So what’s a gender trope then?

    K: It’s all what I just said except with genders in it.

    S: What does that mean?

    K: I don’t know. I felt a lot better when I thought a trope was a fish.

    S: So how are you going to link this to Bollywood?

    K: Well I thought about it a lot and I’ve decided to call the piece ‘Post-colonial Perspectives and Gender Tropes in Bollywood and Also Kurosawa Yougaiz HAHA White People are so White’.

    S: And?

    K: And the actual piece will be about this dead girl watching a Bollywood movie and there are insects eating her left eye and it’s raining babies.

    S: This will make everyone like you.

    K: Really?

    S: No, I just thought I’d say something nice to you today.

    K: Aw, thanks.
    S: Don’t mention.

    Ps: what the heck ??
    What IS a ‘trope’, godamm :-)

    Conversation 1

    D: Why don’t you write about a Bollywood movie and make a lot of references to obscure Japanese cinema and use words like ‘post-colonialism’ and ‘gender tropes’?

    K: I don’t know what a ‘trope’ is.

    D: I don’t think you need to know what it means to write about it. What movie have you seen recently?

    K: Bal Brahmachari, Maa, Kangan and Krodh. At the same time.

    D: Ok. So maybe not that.

    K: It was superintense and there was dancing.

    D: It’s weird that you’re watching these movies when you can’t actually understand Hindi.

    K: How is that weird?

    D: You know when they say something in Hindi? And you can’t understand what they’re saying because it’s in Hindi? And you watch the whole movie anyway?

    K: Yeah?

    D: Yeah, that.

    K: How about I write something like ‘Why I Love Bollywood Even Though I Can’t Understand Hindi and Don’t Really Know What Anyone is Saying’.

    D: I think you can only do that if you’re white.

    K: So now what?

    D: I think you should write something called ‘Bollywood Post-Colonial Perspectives Kurosawa Gender Tropes’.

    K: But I don’t know what a trope is!!

    D: Then write something mean about white people but with Bollywood and colloquial Tamil and ‘yougaiz’.

    K: You’re not helping.

    D: Write a story then.Your usual what-the-fuck stuff but in Bollywood.

    K: I’m going to talk to someone else who isn’t you.

    D: Write about a dead girl watching a Bollywood movie. And there are insects. Eating her left eye. AND IT’S RAINING BABIES!!! Hello?

    ***

    Conversation 2

    R: Write about how you deleted all the Bon Iver I gave you to make room for your Munni Badnaam remixes. Write about how you told me that you thought Bon Iver was Bon Jovi.

    K: They are both Bon-Bon, it’s an honest mistake!

    R: Your taste in music is gross.

    K: Why are you so racist against Bollywood?

    R: Why are you the only person on the planet looking for a remix version of Don’t Touch My Ghaghariya?

    K: Did I mention that I found this Trini-chutney remix of Show Me Your Jalwa? I can send—

    R: Good-bye.

    ***

    Conversation 3

    A: You should write about that time on Masterchef when Dalvinder won something and then everyone did that dance and they said it was a Bollywood dance and it made us feel embarrassed for them.

    K: And they made that noise.

    A: Right, that weird falsetto police siren thing.

    K: I actually thought they were doing a cultural Australian dance. Then they said it was a Bollywood dance and now I want to know what movie it’s from.

    A: I think it’s from Alice in Wonderland. The 1999 version. The cook does something similar when the Duchess sings that song about beating her boy when he sneezes. By the by, have you seen the So You Think You Can Dance Bollywood segments?

    K: No.

    A: You should.

    K: I’m scared to.

    A: Dude, you should totally watch them. Open a clip now on YouTube.

    K: Ok, hang on, let me just— aw man.

    A: Whatwhatwhat?

    K: There is a dude with a big blue bindi on his forehead and he’s dressed like Aladdin.

    A: Ok don’t watch that. Close it and don’t watch it.

    K: Maybe I should just find out what a trope is and write that Gender Bollywood Post-Colonial Kurosawa thing.

    A: A trope is a kind of fish, no? I think it is. I think I ate some once.

    ***

    Conversation 4

    S: You HAVE to write about how some people in this one number country watch Bollywood ironically. Write about how that’s a thing.

    K: That’s when you act like you like Bollywood but you actually don’t but you act like you do to prove how much you don’t. Right?

    S: Kinda.

    K: Why isn’t that called lying?

    S: Actually you should write about how some people really do like Bollywood and act like they don’t and then act like they do to prove that they don’t. When they actually do.

    K: What does irony mean anyway? Is it like a trope?

    S: Or you could write about how when you’re watching Hum and enjoying like anything some asshole will ask if you’re really watching it.

    K: As opposed to artificially watching it?

    S: As opposed to watching “something good”. Like Slumdog Millionaire.

    K: You wouldn’t know what a trope is, would you?

    S: It’s a riddle, isn’t it? Or a cave made of tarpaulin.

    ***

    Conversation Five

    N: I read with great interest your recent post on the actress Jayanthi.

    K: I wrote a post on the actress Jayanthi?

    N: I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this but when I was in India—

    K: You’ve mentioned it. Repeatedly.

    N: And I was such a great fan of the cinema there. Great food, great people. Really loved the energy.

    K: Who is actress Jayanthi?

    N: You just wrote about her.

    K: I wrote about Gandhi Jayanthi.

    N: Ok. And is that someone different?

    K: Little bit, yah.

    N: Member of the Gandhi family perhaps?

    K: I should go before I say something really mean.

    N: LOL.

    K: Okbai.

    ***

    Conversation 6

    K: So a trope is, and I quote from the indisputable Wikipedia, “the use of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning”.

    S: So what’s a gender trope then?

    K: It’s all what I just said except with genders in it.

    S: What does that mean?

    K: I don’t know. I felt a lot better when I thought a trope was a fish.

    S: So how are you going to link this to Bollywood?

    K: Well I thought about it a lot and I’ve decided to call the piece ‘Post-colonial Perspectives and Gender Tropes in Bollywood and Also Kurosawa Yougaiz HAHA White People are so White’.

    S: And?

    K: And the actual piece will be about this dead girl watching a Bollywood movie and there are insects eating her left eye and it’s raining babies.

    S: This will make everyone like you.

    K: Really?

    S: No, I just thought I’d say something nice to you today.

    K: Aw, thanks.
    S: Don’t mention.

    • Good to see you are still alive and kicking. When you use another source material in your comment, like the one above, please link it.
      I have just been busy with life and so is Saurabh it seems.

  3. So mr anu–cmon don’t pretend to say that u don’t ‘religiously’ follow the periodic ‘pearls of wisdom’ I impart around on other blog(s) (pardon my trademark ‘humility’).
    Btw wasn’t the above post fun :-)

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