The Rise of Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon is having a great time. Hot off the success of the box office hit The Avengers and the critically acclaimed The Cabin in the Woods, Whedon is hard at work on the sequel to the superhero saga, a spinoff television series, AND a movie adaptation release of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. While certainly being quite the busy little bee, this is old hat for Whedon. A part of the industry for several decades, Whedon has always been a bit on the outskirts. His recent stardom is definitely a more mainstream move for him, but the man has had his own devout following for years and years past.
Whedon comes from a family of TV writers. His grandfather wrote for The Dick Van Dyke Show and his father wrote for Golden Girls, so Whedon is no stranger to the world of television storytelling. Oddly enough, besides his stint as a writer on Roseanne, Whedon began his career in film.
The idea that started it all – did you know that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was originally a film? Not many do, and that is because it was a disaster from start to finish. Whedon was tired of seeing the pretty blonde girl being the first to die in every movie and came up with the idea to turn that stereotype on its head. Why not have the innocent, little blonde girl be the one fighting instead of the one dying? However, his script was butchered by the time it reached the silver screen.
Moving past the Buffy movie debacle, Whedon went on to write the screenplay for Toy Story, earning him an Academy Award nomination. That’s yet another little known fact about Whedon and his history. He also wrote the script for Alien: Resurrection, which was another drastic change from his ideas to the final version of the movie.
Fed up with the world of film, Whedon turned to television and boy, did he leave his mark. Adapting his original idea, Whedon launched one of the most successful genre series in television history. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a midseason replacement show that aired on the WB network and became an instant success. The popularity of the show was off the charts, gaining new viewership for the relatively new and smaller WB network. Receiving critical and popular acclaim, Buffy the Vampire Slayer redefined the sci fi genre of television.
Whedon rode this wave of success into creating a spinoff series, Angel. Darker than its parent show, Angel had its own success and gained a large fan base. Yet the devotion of the fans was not enough to save both Buffy and Angel from cancellation. Whedon’s fans were dedicated but neither show was of interest to the mainstream audience, and could therefore not gain a larger audience.
Whedon continued in this vein with his next television series. Firefly was a space western that was just too unique to gain an audience. Only eleven episodes were aired of the fourteen produced, not standing a chance to garner mass viewers and was cancelled prematurely. Firefly’s fans were not happy, turning to the Internet to express their outrage. Apparently they screamed loud enough, because Whedon went on to make a follow-up movie, Serenity.
Trying once again, Whedon’s biggest TV failure was probably Dollhouse. Only running for two seasons on Fox, the show never got its feet off the ground. Stumbling through confusing stories and a weak plotline, Dollhouse never gained the popularity of Whedon’s other TV series. Whedon gave up on TV after yet another failed attempt but obviously nothing could keep him away forever.
Writing and directing The Avengers has opened many more doors for Whedon. The mainstream audience has finally realized what we’ve known all long – Joss Whedon is an amazing writer and creator. Marvel has continued to put its faith in him, leading to “The Avengers 2” and Whedon’s return to television. Based on the story from “The Avengers,” Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be Whedon’s first television series airing on a major network – ABC. It has already gained plenty of buzz and speculation, some believing it will be an unqualified success while others doubt Whedon’s ability to satisfy a mainstream audience, something he has failed to achieve in the past.
This brings us to present day, where Whedon is currently promoting his newest movie. His own adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing was filmed in just twelve days. Its cast is almost completely alums from Whedon’s shows. The movie has been receiving positive critical acclaim and will hopefully continue to do so with its release on June 7.
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