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Joss Whedon Q and A


Warning: the big photo at the very top of the article I'm about to point to contains a casting spoiler for the final couple of episodes of Buffy. If you've seen the penultimate episode ("End of Days," the one broadcast this past week) then this won't be a surprise, but if you haven't, and you're trying hard to avoid any information at all about it, don't follow the following link.

(But this here journal entry doesn't contain any spoilers for anything.)

Will points to a cool quasi-interview with Joss Whedon, which (except for the abovementioned photo) doesn't contain any specific info about the upcoming finale. A couple of cute quotes follow.

Regarding academics analyzing the series:

I think "Buffy" should be analyzed, broken down, and possibly banned.

Regarding the show's portrayal of souls:

[Having a soul] has consistently marked the real difference between somebody with a complex moral structure and someone who may be affable and even likable, but ultimately eats kittens.

Regarding mistakes and guilt:

[T]he mistakes I've made in my own life have plagued me, but they're pretty boring mistakes: I committed a series of grisly murders in the eighties and I think I once owned a Wilson-Phillips Album. Apart from that I'm pretty much an average guy, yet I have an enormous burden of guilt.

The most interesting bit to me is his discussion of how the actors have influenced the development of the characters, but it's not amenable to brief quoting, so I'll just recommend going and reading it.

In unrelated Buffy news, there's an article at Salon titled "Why Spike ruined 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'," which claims that the show used to be all about the uncool kids, but now focuses on the obnoxious cool people.

Me, I'm in favor of any show that focuses on James Marsters, especially with his shirt off; and I think a fair bit of the article is just "I don't like the direction the show's taking" grumbling. But I think there are some interesting points mixed in. (Though I haven't seen most of the early seasons of the show, so I can't comment on the accuracy of the article's comments on same.)

The article contains spoilers up through "Conversations with Dead People," and the final paragraph of it contains a rumor about which characters will be continuing past the end of the series.

Oh, and to read the full article you have to either be a Salon member or get a "day pass" by viewing an ad for a new reality TV series.

The letters-page responses are kinda interesting, too, but I haven't checked to find out whether the author of that first letter is the Kelly Link.


out of curio... if you insert tags, will your script just ignore them and pass-through?

not a problem so far, but i read you through the syndicated feed, and so i get the whole message...

ha. of course, the tags got stripped. I try again:
I meant <lj-cut> tags, of course.

(it appears it does strip them ;)

Yeah, I've used lj-cut tags once or twice, and they work fine; mostly I just forget to use them. I'll try to remember more often.

And they don't get stripped; it's just that most browsers ignore any tag they don't recognize. If you do a View Source on this comments page, you'll see that your first mention of the lj-cut tag is there, it's just that the tag doesn't get displayed in your browser.


okay -- it is bedtime. i just actually READ your post (for real this time) and realised there were no spoilers in it. just spoiler warnings.

so very tired. meant to say earlier today -- i hope your cold is improving!

I suspect that there's more new things to be said about lj-cut tags than Buffy at this point in history, but hey:

For me the problem with Buffy lately has been that the Mutant Enemy crew seems to have fallen into the trap of needing ever-more-dire situations for Buffy to face.

[spoilers for the third-to-last (aired two weeks ago) Buffy episode ahead]

On the side of direct confrontation, we get abusive-yet-tedious fights with invincible monsters (Turok-Han #1, Caleb). On the character side, things look similar: for most of last season, Buffy's despair was monotonously untouchable; this season it's her alienation from the mundanes that has sucked the life out of the show. When the slayerettes kicked her out for an episode, I felt relief that at least ME would have to stop recycling the "Buffy knows best" speeches.

Did you catch Will Shetterly’s dissection of the last two seasons? Even for a non-fan (sorry; I was out of the country when the show started, my TV doesn’t get actual broadcasts, and I hate playing catch-up with trends anyway) it’s interesting for some of his discussion about characterization and the dramatic structure of an episodic series.

(I should note that Mr. Shetterly’s blog archive seems to be under attack by some sort of monster out of H.P. Lovecraft at the moment — intermittently disappearing and dissolving into gibberish halfway down the page — so you might want to start at the top. The Buffy stuff is mostly Saturday the 17th.)

Actually, the bulk of my beef for this season of Buffy (and Angel too, actually) has been the pacing. It's horrendous. Major plot points are introduced one episode before they're to become important (hence the "oh yeah, let's throw this in!" effect). The season lagged for months and now it's moving at a bizarre stop-start. The suspense was killed by the pacing.

I've been thinking they just didn't have enough plot for a whole season.

Leah, I'm right there with you.

David, thanks for the link! I'm halfway through Shetterly's dissection, and I'm thinking I may have to add this blog to my to-read list -- if for nothing else than his use of Gilmore Girls to illustrate a point about BtVS.

The pacing problem is nothing new; it's been Buffy's Achilles heel as long as I've been watching the show. [Spoilage follows for those who haven't seen both past seasons and current episodes, but not for the final episode.] Season #4: Enter the Initiative, followed by weeks in which nothing happens, after which, in the second-to-last-episode of the season, three episodes worth of activity are crammed in, wrapping everything up. Season #5: Introducing Glory, followed by weeks of running and nothing happening, after which everything is finally wrapped up in the final episode. Season #6: Introducing Bad Willow and the Dork Troika, followed by weeks of drug metaphors in which nothing happens, after which everything is finally wrapped up in the final episode. Season #7... well, you get the idea. Really nothing new here.

I'd have to take issue with David's contention above that "this season it's her alienation from the mundanes that has sucked the life out of the show." Actually, that's been part of the interesting bit; I'd have liked to have seen more of how that played out. For that matter, they should have had matters come to a head earlier in the season, rather than cramming crisis-and-resolution into two episodes, for which see "pacing" above.

On the whole, I think this season's been a good one, generally better than season 6, probably because Marti Noxon was off on maternity leave. Admittedly, I'd have liked to have seen more of Dawn, Willow, Kennedy, Anya, Xander, and Faith, but certainly no less of Spike and Principal Wood, and not much less of Andrew. What currently seems as if it could profitably have been cut was was all the running in place with the Slayers-in-Training, but oh, well. Again with the pacing.

Interesting comments; thanks, all! I definitely agree that the big problem with Buffy this season (I only started watching regularly sometime around the beginning of this last season) has been long-term story-arc pacing; very interesting to hear that that's been an ongoing problem with the series. In a way, it's related to what went wrong with B5 (the last series I watched regularly) at the end, though I don't think that series ever spent several episodes dawdling and dissipating momentum between the introduction of a bit of tension and the resolution of that tension (or even between the resolution of one tension and the introduction of the next), as Buffy has done this season.

Thanks for the pointer to Will's Buffy piece! A lot of good stuff there. I would quibble with Will's #8 ("Don't marry off main characters"): attempting to maintain romantic tension between two characters who are attracted to each other just isn't feasible over more than a couple of seasons of a show, imo; keeping them apart eventually requires too many implausible and forced situations. (Though of course if you do let them finally get together, then suddenly a major motive force of the series has disappeared; you've gotta replace it with something, and/or find a way to keep the chemistry intact even after the couple has gotten together long-term.) In real life, situations can wander on muddily for years with no clear resolution, but imo it gets boring in fiction after a while.

I would also add another point to his list (closely related to "13. Burn through story"): be sure that your story arc has enough plot to fill the available episodes. If you want a season to have an overarching story, you gotta fill up most of 22 episodes; if your plot won't do that, then either you need to flesh out the plot or you need to make the story arc less than a season long.

Re: Shmuel's #10, the "this season it's her alienation from the mundanes that has sucked the life out of the show" quote was me, not David.

And to clarify: I didn't say that it couldn't be interesting, in the abstract. Both the alienation thing and last season's despair could have been the basis for lots of engaging activity in the show. Instead, both were implemented in such a static, bang-your-head-against-the-wall fashion that each week I resign myself to an enjoyable half-episode, filled out to an hour with life-sucking repetition of the Big Idea.

Sorry about confusing the names, Dan.

And I see your point, but I guess I just don't think the alienation theme sapped any of the vitality out of the show.

Then again, I also think Will Shetterly got absolutely everything wrong in his analysis -- from what I can tell, the guy would be better served writing about formulaic sitcoms -- now that BlogSpot has allowed me to read it, so maybe I'm just weird.

(His #10 might be the only exception in theory, but not in the details of how he applies it... especially considering that, you know, the final episode hasn't aired yet, so all statements about characters who didn't ultimately matter this season are premature.)