It seems like everyone and their mother watched The Avengers and loved it, and for those of you who have had conversations about the Marvel film, you’ve probably had one person in the conversation saying “Of course it’s good! It’s Joss Whedon!” And if you have been exposed to that sentiment enough, without actually seeking out Firefly, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then you’re probably wondering why Whedon fans go so very crazy. Maybe you’ve seen an episode or two of Buffy and it was absolutely the cheesiest thing you’ve ever seen. So why does everyone love the man so much?
1. He loves what he’s doing. It is very clear to anyone who has ever seen even two minutes of footage of Whedon talking about a project that he is really happy to be working on that project. But it’s not just the behind the scenes stuff, it’s obvious in the passion that you can see on the screen, coming through the actors. It’s so clear that he loves what he is doing and having a grand old time, which makes the atmosphere on the set fun, which makes the actors do great work.
2. He has great female characters. The whole idea behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer is subverting the idea of the young blonde that gets brutalized in horror films. But he took that idea further and didn’t just make Buffy a mere spoof of what her inspiration was, Buffy became a full character, as did every female on a Joss Whedon show. While not all the female characters are perfect examples of feminism (and you could argue that most aren’t because Whedon was not approaching it academically), they are all interesting and go a lot farther than the standard character tropes.
3. He has great characters in general. But perhaps that is because, in general, the man writes good characters. He appears to genuinely think about what drives a person and makes that clear to the audience. It becomes easy to say “Well of course Mal did that! He is insecure!” without thinking about how awesome it is, as a viewer, to know that much about a character, so easily. It is obvious that he, and the many writer’s he’s worked with, really think about what a character would be thinking and feeling in a moment. Best example (SPOILER): In season 3 of Buffy, Giles has sex with Buffy’s mom, Joyce, and they listen to a record. In season 5 after Joyce dies, we are treated to a short, perhaps ten second, scene of Giles listening to that same record. While it’s just a little thing, it is a great example of how much Whedon cares about his characters.
4. He makes you laugh. There are so many classic funny episodes of Buffy, Angel and Firefly, as well as some great funny moments in The Avengers. When thinking about how characters think and feel, he also thinks about “what would they do in this situation?” and he puts his characters in some particularly hilarious ones.
5. And he rips your heart out. But comedy alone isn’t enough to keep viewers crazy about episodes that are nigh on 20 years old. The real reason that Joss Whedon fans are so absolutely fanatical about all things Joss, is because he understands emotional weight and he will really…hurt us. Maybe all Whedon fans are kind of masochistic, but maybe it’s just because he does it so beautifully. Either way, we really, in some perverse way like, even love, it when Whedon makes us cry.