J. Marcus here with another of my open letters to folks I admire. This time, I am addressing the one and only Joss Whedon, creator of such incredible programming as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse, as well as the man behind the Avengers films (to name but a few of his incredible accomplishments.) A lot has been said in the media lately about Mr. Whedon and by Mr. Whedon himself, and with all that, it seemed like a good time to put in my two cents, for what they’re worth. So here goes…
Dear Mr. Whedon,
I’ve been following your career with interest since I was first introduced to Buffy while in college. I had seen the original film and enjoyed it, and followed the show with increasing interest when I finally started watching it in the third season. I couldn’t tell you why it took me that long, but that once I found it I was immediately hooked. It was the freshest writing I had encountered on television in quite a while. It was an amazingly fleshed-out universe with an ensemble cast that was not only acting at the top of their game, but was treated with incredible respect by the production/writing staff by being given legitimate things to do.
Of course this continued through to Angel and the taken-too-soon Firefly. My adoration of your work was such that for the first time I was encouraged to write on the web in a targeted blog about your works with my fellow Podwit, Brian Zino, on a site called Jossolalia.
For a while, our cup runneth over with stuff to write about, but as the series ran down, so too did our blog. But that didn’t mean we were done. I followed with great interest to see if you would bring Wonder Woman to the big screen. When Warner Bros. let you slip away from that project, I knew it would be doomed. But as has been the case so many times lately, the good folks at Marvel seemed to pick up on what Warners were oblivious to. You need someone like Joss Whedon for a project like that. Unfortunately, there aren’t many like him out there, so we will all see where their hubris will get them.
Avengers was everything we could have wanted and so much more. I would be remiss (and Brian would chastise me for this) if I did not acknowledge the hand of Kevin Feige in this process and all due credit goes to him for assembling such an incredible creative force for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But having said that, Avengers has Joss Whedon written all over it (and not just during the credits). Your indelible stamp is all over the film. From characters that speak like human beings and not “super humans” to an ensemble cast that once again gets serviced by glorious moments big and small throughout. Of course, there is also that not-too-insignificant point of a story that actually holds together.
Knowing that you would then have a hand in Agents of SHIELD with Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, even if it was in an advisory status, and that you would be returning for Avengers 2, cemented with me the idea that we were in for some incredible times. Of course AoS is Jed and Maurissa’s show and I would not even think of taking credit from them, but you did help set that stage.
Hearing, however, that Avengers 2 would be your final film in the MCU has been a subject of much conversation between Brian and I on our podcast about the future of the MCU films. Brian has faith in Mr. Feige’s abilities and I do too, to a point. But looking ahead at how these films are continuing to grow in casts and scope, I do worry about whether they will be able to hold up.
But this is not about trying to convince you to return, an impossibility to be sure. This letter is to tell you how much I admire your abilities and how much I regret the unfortunate position you have been put in by a public that can be fickle and can have such a seeming lack of understanding.
Anyone who has seen the films or even the behind-the-scenes features can see that you put so much of yourself into these films—certainly above and beyond what many have been able to do. But beyond that, I’m an amateur student of film-making—especially when it deals with subjects close to my heart.
I read of the trials and tribulations that Richard Donner had to go through in making the classic Superman: The Movie and how he had to strike a balance between demanding producers and serving the story that he truly believed in, as well as how he felt he had to keep the drama away from the actors while keeping up an energy level that encouraged the making of one of the most epic superhero films in a generation.
From your tales, what you had to do almost makes Mr. Donner’s job seem easy. It’s the problem with a larger cinematic universe and a problem with making a studio film. Despite all of the problems that you have mentioned lately in the media, I want to make sure that you know, at least from me, that the final product was still incredible, as with your many projects.
Your work with Drew Goddard on Cabin in the Woods shows that it’s not the budget or the studio that makes your work so good. You don’t need any of that (though, I’m sure the money and support can help or hinder). And for those who feel that your work isn’t feminist enough… They clearly are unaware of your pedigree and your extensive body of work.
I’m sorry that you’ve left Twitter, though I understand your reasons as best as I can. I haven’t been truly active on Twitter in ages mainly because I don’t have time. I’m not a writer (at least not professionally) but I can understand that getting away from all that would go a long way towards helping you get back your true voice—away from all the chaos. It’s like trying to write in a crowded, noisy room; while not impossible, it is much more difficult.
While I haven’t been truly active on Twitter, it was nice to know that you had joined and I frequently checked in to see what you were up to. Mainly because I admire your work and was curious what you had to say from your own voice and not the one that you give to your characters.
Whether it’s true or just in my imagination, I’ve always looked at you in a similar light to Roger Corman—not because of the work or the subject material, but because of the “Roger Corman Film School.” So many of those who worked for or with Mr. Corman went on to become incredible filmmakers in their own rights. In that vein, I follow those who you have surrounded yourself with over the years because I feel in my heart that their connection to you is like a seal of quality. Since then, they too have demonstrated their devotion to quality work. These people include Jane Espenson, Marti Noxon, Drew Z. Greenberg, Steven S. DeKnight and Drew Goddard, among others. Through these associations I have found so much incredible programming and writing, that I feel blessed. I would never take credit away from them for their incredible accomplishments, but simply acknowledge that they were brought to my attention through you.
While I will mourn your departure from the MCU, I want you to know that I understand why you left and that it changes nothing in that I continue to look forward to whatever you decide to create in the future.
Thank you for sharing your incredible talent with us and for keeping us entertained all these years.