10 Questions for Joss Whedon

4 minute read
Belinda Luscombe

You made a Much Ado About Nothing movie in the gap between filming and editing The Avengers. You don’t like vacations?
I knew I needed a break from The Avengers. My wife knew I didn’t need to go and see beautiful ancient cities but to make another movie. My home literally was the set, and my friends starred in it, and the script had already been written in such a way that nobody was allowed to change it. I get a little twitchy about human interaction if it doesn’t have a point.

Was your family O.K. with using your home as a movie set?
My wife built the house. We knew it was meant to be a creative space. I wanted to film it, because I was in love with it. The furniture in there is ours, the silverware is ours, the Barbies are my daughter’s. What we didn’t do was have pictures of our kids or anybody’s underwear drawer.

You’re known for your strong female characters, but often they meet ugly ends. Is there a disconnect there?
If I create a strong female character, I’m going to want her to go through things. I’ve killed off characters, male and female, willy-nilly. I have a reputation for it. But if I’m not giving them real pain and hardship and tragedy, I’m not a storyteller.

You created Buffy the Vampire Slayer before vampires or female action heroes were big. Did you sense it in the zeitgeist?
I don’t know how much of the zeitgeist I’ve ever been a part of. I had a need to see a girl fight monsters and not die. I had a need to see somebody’s high school journey written large. Vampires are a wonderful metaphor, the sort of monstrous, isolated creatures that we all can relate to, especially when we’re in high school, but they happen to be the most beautiful, sexy, perfect, usually vaguely wealthy and well-dressed version.

You are the son and grandson of TV writers. What were family get-togethers like?
It was my dad and his comedy-writer friends, milling about till all hours, just being incredibly funny and me hanging out with them, waiting for the day when I would make them laugh. And when I did, Yeah, that’s right. I’m in the tribe.

Does being an atheist make it easier to conjure up a supernatural world?
I think that it gives me a need to write fantasies. I don’t have a fantastical belief, so it’s nice to create a world where there could be one.

At a commencement speech, you told students to embrace death. Is that a theme for you?
Well, it is the one universal truth, and our culture is so terrified of it. I work in Hollywood, where people routinely chop their faces in order to look younger and look like shiny, scary monsters. And everybody says, Well, that’s just fine. Death and life are part of the same thing.

You also said that identity is always being formed. Is that true of yours?
I’m making the speech to myself. I’m finding things out at the age of 48 that I’m embarrassed to be finding out. I look back on my work, and I see characters doing and saying things that I was either doing or needing to hear. I had no idea, all of my career, how much I was writing about myself.

A reader, Wilson Vega, asks, In retrospect, was Fox’s canceling Firefly the best thing that ever happened to you?
No. It hurts like a wound every single day. No. Boo.

Another reader, Pulak Kumar, asks, Do you have an entertainment guilty pleasure?
I find the term guilty pleasure not only idiotic but a bit offensive. I love some corny-ass stuff, and I’ve got no problem with it. I saw Newsies in a theater.

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