Joss Whedon is many things but what he is not is a corporate sell-out. Whedon fans are crazy about his movies but what some viewers of his films fail to see is his constant battle with small-screen networks. As his new series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., premiered last night, questions loom, such as How long will his series continue until network executives pull the plug because of creative differences? Will he give in to network execs to allow his series to go on? The latter might sound silly to Joss Whedon fans as he is known to be a writer and director who always does it his way.
Remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie? The movie – not the series. The movie was initially Whedon’s idea but, because of creative differences, Whedon took a hands-off role in the movie, which was basically his middle finger to the atrocity that was initially his conception but later given to director, Kazui, to complete. The movie was not well received by viewers. The casting, dialogue, even music was hard to digest and did not reflect Whedon’s style of directing at all. Even though Whedon was not involved with the making of the movie, viewers were reluctant to give the Buffy series a chance.
The Buffy series was a small-screen hit that gave Whedon what he wanted – creative control. Whedon’s concept of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one that portrayed a cute, blond cheerleader who was edgy and witty – not cute and clueless. The character of Buffy was portrayed well with many layers that complimented supporting actors. What made the series popular was the dynamic cast and dialogue that made for better story telling. Joss Whedon was brilliant in conceptualizing a teen vampire series, which was really a coming-of-age storyline that ran well for seven seasons, and as he does have the knack for visualizing every episode, it was amazing he did so in such a consistent manner his way. In 2009, rumors of the movie Buffy Reboot, an extension of the Buffy Series, circulated, and when it was finally proposed to Whedon, he declined to help write and direct it.
After the Buffy series, Whedon had other projects in line. The dark and futuristic series Dollhouse was a unique concept that alluded to fetish and fantasy themes facilitated by a futuristic brothel that catered to high-end clientele. The unique perspective had legs that ran about as far as Whedon’s patience with another round of creative differences with Network execs. From the first episode, conflicts were already brewing, tightening the leash on Whedon’s creative control. As the first few episodes were cranked out, Whedon had the task of making periodic press updates, explaining changes in staff and certain conflicts between him and the Network. Not again. After the second season, Whedon walked away and began working on other projects.
Firefly, a space cowboy series, had the markings of the Whedon wit that fans adored in the Buffy series; however, Network execs made it difficult for Firefly to succeed by literally rearranging the episode sequence shown to viewers. One week the network showed episode 3, while the following week the network showed episode 8, and so on. Such mistakes were too much of a coincidence to be taken as an honest mishap, and in turn, were recognized by Whedon’s camp as a ploy to force Firefly to crash and burn. After the 14th episode, Firefly was no more; however, it was only after the show ended that Whedon became aware of a loyal following of Firefly, which spring boarded a movie sequel to the series. Brown Coats, Unite!
The success of Cabin in the Woods and the Marvel films does not only show how Joss Whedon’s way – dark and edgy – works in mainstream films, but it also shows his integrity as a writer and director – a much welcomed quality in the industry today.
Written by: Dianna Coudriet