Firefly Friday Focus: Joss Whedon

Attribution: Gage Skidmore (via Wikipedia)

Today he’s the self-described “consigliere” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the man who can “go in and fix a problem and then leave without obligation”. It is a position that’s well deserved – as writer and director, he did play a pretty big role in making The Avengers the fastest film to gross $1 billion worldwide. Now having signed an exclusive three year contract that ends in June 2015, which is just after the targeted release date of the Avengers sequel on May 1, it is pretty safe to say that Joss Whedon is the man.

Yet for those of us who have lauded his genius since he created the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer way back in 1997, Whedon has always been a Geek God, if not THE Geek God. Yes, it’s glaringly obvious that he has managed to endear himself to us all these years, simply because he is, and will always be, one of us – a geek. A geek who, in creating something that he himself really enjoyed, was entertaining hundreds of thousands of us at the same time.

In celebrating the 10th anniversary of Firefly, let me give Joss Whedon credit where credit is due – he has once again created something we didn’t even know we needed, until it became reality. In this case, it would be best described as a “space western” television series.

When it premiered back in 2002, Firefly quickly tore down perceptions of the genre, which up till then were invariably limited to the original series of Star Trek, with its “Wagon Train to the stars” concept from the 60’s, or Bravestarr, a popular animated series from the 80’s whose titular main character was literally a cowboy in space, or something in between. What Whedon did was not to reinvent the wheel, but to populate the ‘verse, with characters that we would root for, would write fan fic about, and just fall in love with.

Like so many of his characters, the main cast of Firefly were underdogs, people thrown together by desperation and becoming a team under dire circumstances. Originally a skeleton crew of four, the ship then includes a charming courtesan, a preacher with a dark past and an enigmatic pair of siblings. The resulting group dynamics are often all that drives each new episode, which is the basis of great storytelling. This concept of “underdogs” was also explored in Buffy and Dollhouse.

This is also why Whedon’s upcoming television series, set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and tentatively called “S.H.I.E.L.D.” is so exciting because in one interview, the man himself describes what makes the as yet unannounced cast of characters so special is “they’re not superheroes… but they live in that universe… that [lack of powers] makes them underdogs”.

Creating such endearing characters and making them work together is just one of the many reasons why the cult of Whedon has endured to this day. It is also no surprise that many actors who have worked with Whedon in the past continue to gravitate back to his genius, including Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds on Firefly but who is today probably better known as the titular character on the ABC series Castle.

We’ll take a look at Fillion’s career over the past decade, on next week’s Firefly Friday Focus!

Peter Lin

His teenage years spent nursing a giant man-crush on Steve Rogers, the first Captain America, Peter naturally found himself drawn to many other heroes who depicted strong, manly qualities, including the honour-bound warrior Worf, first Klingon in Starfleet, and the muscular rock hard abs of The Thing.

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