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Joss Whedon Re-examined

I had hoped that with all his shows cancelled, the Internet would take a break from slobbering all over Joss Whedon. But it never stops!

Yeah, the guy made some great TV. But not so great that anyone else who does a good show is now "Doing a Whedon." It's not like Whedon invented television.

Actually, that's part of what annoys me: There are people whose first exposure to silly sci-fi was Buffy. So when they see another show doing a plot that Buffy did, they say things like "They stole that from Buffy!" But the whole gimmick behind Buffy, at least for the first few years, was that it was doing absolutely generic horror-movie plots, but putting a spin on them.

I guess it's just that I don't think Whedon "reinvented" anything. He's good with dialogue, but I don't think his characterizations are all that great. And the long-term plotting on his shows is terrible.

Whedon's shows pretend to have a big story arc, but it falls down on close inspection. Take the introduction of Dawn, which seems like it would require a lot of retconning of the previous seasons. And the way vampires were originally evil "because they are half-demon," but after a few years, demons turned out to be just regular guys. A lot of the time, I feel like Whedon is doing "vaguely prophetic" things, like that one dream episode, with no idea of how he's going to tie it together. I never understood the whole Wolfram & Hart angle on Angel, and I really don't think any of the writers did either. This is an area where The X-Files would be a good comparison.

As far as his characterization, this might just be me, but I think the personalities of his characters vary wildly. Xander was sometimes an empathetic observer and sometimes the biggest idiot in the world ("Bitca?"). Willow was a computer nerd who completely forgot about computers for a couple of years so the show could do a weird magic-as-drugs plot. The early Spike has almost nothing in common with today's Spike, except for the accent. And so on.

I realize that some people (although not me) have identified strongly with various Whedon characters. But they tend to be the same people who say things like "Season 7 Giles must have been possessed by an evil entity" and "That's not Buffy. The Buffy I know . . ."

I'd rather see an episode written by Tim Minear or Ben Edlund than an episode written by Joss Whedon. I think Whedon's concepts are clever but, upon closer examination, usually incoherent. He's good at quips, though.

Maybe I'd like Whedon to come up with general concepts, leave the writing and plotting to other people, and then come in to add zingers.


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