The original version of this article appears on Thought Catalog, but I decided that I’d missed a few key points. (And that apparently 1000+ words wasn’t enough in explaining just why I love Joss Whedon so much.)
I take pride in letting my geek flag fly pretty flamboyantly. I’d kill to be the Doctor’s companion, more space on my iPad is taken up by comic books than any other media form, and I’d split my soul into seven Horcruxes if it meant that J.K. Rowling would write more Harry Potter books. The crown jewel in my gallery of geeky loves, however, has remained the same for years and will likely never, ever change.
Joss Whedon, guys. I know that he’s pretty much the god of the geek-verse right now, especially with his recent “Zomney” video, but it still bears being reiterated. Joss Whedon. The man can do anything, and anything he does is guaranteed to be brilliant, witty, relatable, and absolutely tragic. Whedon could make a webseries musical about a wannabe supervillain played by Barney Stinson and it would be guaranteed to be awesome.
My love affair with Whedon started in high school. My mum would watch Angel, and I’d usually watch from our kitchen table while doing my homework. Months later, it became apparent just how much it had resonated with me; the last week of senior year, I dyed my hair with blue streaks, á la Illyria.
But it wasn’t until spring break of my freshman year of college, when I was felled by a nasty flu strain, that I really became a full-fledged Whedonite. Unable to do much else besides produce monumental amounts of snot, I spent a week working my way through the first few seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Once that was done, there was Angel to rewatch, this time with a devotee’s eye, and then Firefly, widely considered to be his masterpiece, to marathon through. And when Whedon’s return to primetime with (the much maligned, but still intermittently brilliant) Dollhouse was announced, I did my own version of a touchdown dance in my dorm room.
Joss Whedon taught me that girls can kick ass without apology. Inara, Zoe, River, Buffy, Tara, Echo, Fred, Cordelia, Faith, Kaylee, Anya…did Joss ever write a main female character who didn’t buck society’s expectations of her? In college, I even wrote one of my term papers on the fact that, in Buffy, feminine violence is largely sanctioned by males (mostly Giles), and therefore weakened by it. It isn’t till Buffy gives the male authority figures the middle finger and does things her own way (calling up the Slayer “army” with her scythe with the magic of the show’s other resident female badass, Willow) that she saves the world. Whedon might be male, but he’s not afraid to show how his gender and society as a whole can weaken females.
Of course, the Ripleys and the Jean Greys of pop culture had been around for years before Buffy stepped foot into Sunnydale High, but it’s a little bit difficult to relate to a mutant who becomes host to an all-powerful cosmic entity. A high school girl who sleeps with her sweetheart, only to find that he becomes a monster afterwards? Oh, Buff. I, along with the rest of the female population, feel your pain. Joss Whedon gets us, and he’s not the least bit patronizing about it, either.
Whedon was also my ‘gateway drug’ in a lot of ways. Once I’d worked through his oeuvre, it was on to Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Fringe, Supernatural, and the like. And while I’d always loved superheroes (Sorry, but if I ever get three wishes, I’m not wishing for world peace. Telekinesis, please and thank you.), it wasn’t until I became a Whedonite that I delved into them for more than just entertainment value. Not coincidentally, this was also the point at which I said “screw it” and torched any embarrassment I had about being a girl who loved comic books.
Whedon remains the only human to pen a comic book that could make me cry. In his run on Astonishing X-Men, he (spoiler alert) killed off Kitty Pryde in a way that was truly painful, not just played for the shock factor. And what he does to Echo and Ballard in the final episode of Dollhouse? That sound you hear is my heart cracking into a million pieces. Joss, along with George R.R. Martin, basically has the market cornered on killing characters that you love like family in ways that cause a little part of you to die along with them. Wash, Tara, Giles, Wesley, Fred, Agent Coulson…I mourn you still.
To put it frankly, Joss Whedon is my geek savior. “Five by five” and “safe as houses” are two of my favorite sayings. My favorite of my tattoos was inspired by Wash’s mantra, “I am a leaf on the wind…watch how I soar.” The soundtrack to “Once More With Feeling” remains my favorite thing to belt out on long drives. One of my greatest dreams is go to Comic Con in San Diego; if by the grace of the Powers That Be, I ever run into Whedon while there (dressed up as a Whedon creation, naturally; this week, I’m leaning towards seventh season Buffy, complete with scythe), all of my nerve endings will probably short circuit and I will melt into a puddle of overwhelmed goo.
Up until recently, Whedon has been a relatively cult figure. To those of us who love him…we downright worship the guy. To those who don’t know his work, he’s just that guy who wrote the space western people seem to love so much. When he was announced as the director of The Avengers, the geek community let loose a cry of superhuman magnitude. Here, finally, was our chance to present our champion to the masses!
When The Avengers came out to nearly universal acclaim (I was in Hong Kong on vacation at the time; I specifically chose a country that would allow me to see the movie as early as possible), my emotions were starkly divided. Half of me wanted to shout “I told you so!” from a rooftop like the one at Tony Stark’s NYC hangout to everyone who had previously been unable to “get” Whedon’s appeal. But part of me also got pretty territorial when everyone and their mother suddenly became a diehard Whedon fan. “I’ve been here for years! I looked up to Buffy way before you started gushing over ScarJo’s Black Widow!” I wanted to insist pettily. It was like when you have a favorite underground band that finally breaks out to a wider audience. You’re glad the brilliance is finally recognized by the masses, but also a bit sad that now it’s not just your thing anymore.
It’s for the greater good though, and I know it. A world with more Joss Whedon is a better world, no questions asked.
And to those people who still insist that Whedon is overrated and without any real talent: the man was part of the writing team on Toy Story that was nominated for an Oscar. If that doesn’t get you to admit the guy’s great, I’m pretty sure you have the same emotional/intellectual capacity as a Reaver. Sorry to break it to you.