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Storytellers as Entertainers: Why I like Joss Whedon

Updated on July 3, 2011

When most people think of entertainers their minds jump to comedians, movie stars or even actors.  But even as a child my mind has always jumped to storytellers.  I've always found both the act of telling and listening to a story to be highly entertaining.  However, in our modern age you don't usually find storytellers speaking with an en-wrapped audience at their knee.  Today's storytellers often express themselves through the media of film.

I am not saying that there are not any number of storytellers that express themselves through the written word.  There are.  And I happen to enjoy a number of them.  However, I thought it would be more interesting to write about a type of storytelling that people don't often think about.  When you think about your favorite movies or television shows it is more common to speak of the actors then the writing staff.  However, with a lousy script even the best actor can only do so much.  Moreover, a great script can often make a lousy actor look good (or at least better).

So, if television and movie writers are the modern storytellers, who is my favorite film based storyteller? As is evident from the title I enjoy the storytelling of Joss Whedon. He manages to create a variety of characters that can change and grow but still remain true to themselves. For example, when Willow and Xander, characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, cheated on their respective love interests they had two very different responses. Xander wanted to seek revenge. He even went so far as to cast a spell on Cordelia. Where as Willow sought to beg for forgiveness again and again until Oz finally told her to back off and give him space.

Moreover, his characters are not perfect. At the beginning of Serenity the main character Mal had given up. It was an understandable reaction to everything he’d been through. And that’s what makes the characters all the more enjoyable. They behave in a way that people can relate to—even if they are battling demons or flying spaceships.

Also, the characters are not all striving to be good.  Jayne, a character on Firefly, attempts to subvert Mal.  He is interested in money before most anything else.  Faith, a character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is more interested in the power of a slayer than the duties of a slayer.  And, even when the character is striving to be good, they aren't good all the time.  The main character in Angel locks a room full of lawyers up with two vampires.  The main character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer lies to her friends about seeing her ex-boyfriend.  Even the so called "bad" characters are not all bad.  Spike and Dru from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are in love.  The mayor (also from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) loves Faith with the love of a father.  Joss Whedon does not create two-dimensional characters.

I also enjoy his sense of humor. Even in his commentaries he speaks with a self-deprecating humor. He manages to tell you his influences and technical information about creating the show or movie without boring his audience. As an avid listener of commentary tracks believe me when I tell you that this is a rare skill.

I also enjoy his stories because they tend to be outside the norm. Besides the fact that there is very little science fiction or fantasy on the air, his shows tend not to follow a set formula. Most shows have a formula that they follow from week to week. So you always know what to expect. That style is find form a criminal drama or detective type show, but it can easily become rather dull. Joss Whedon's stories don't have that problem. He has created musicals and silent movies all within the same television series.

If you've not watched his work before I highly recommend you watch.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer might be a story about a high school girl who fights vampires, but there is something in all the characters that you find yourself relating to.  Firefly will disappoint you only because you will start to invest in the characters and the story that Joss Whedon is creating just as the story is cut short.  (My husband is still bitter about this.)

Unfortunately, I don't have television.  (It wastes to much of my time.  Or more accurately I don't have the self control not to waste my time watching it so I choose to avoid the temptation.)  So I will have to wait for Dollhouse to come out on DVD before I can enjoy Whedon's new show.  But I hope you have thought a little bit about the storytellers in our modern world.  Perhaps you might even listen in to an entertaining experience that you might previously have missed.

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    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      6 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Yeah, my husband and I have budgeted for just one movie a month but if we have to include babysitting costs (and grandma and grandpa are moving so we will have to soon) then it'll be every other month. Of course this presupposes that we have the time.

    • profile image

      Cheryl Van Hoorn 

      6 years ago

      Mine are old enough to leave now but we haven't had the money to do it.

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      6 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Yeah, I haven't seen it yet either. Having kids really puts a crimp in your ability to go out and see movies. :)

    • cherylvanhoorn profile image

      cherylvanhoorn 

      6 years ago from Sydney

      Oh yeah. I will watch anything that Joss Whedon does. I have yet to see the Avengers but my kids have and it is apparently wonderful which I would expect no less

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      6 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      He does seem to be able to open worlds' of possibilities while many of the other shows seem rather repititious.

    • cherylvanhoorn profile image

      cherylvanhoorn 

      6 years ago from Sydney

      Love, love, love Joss Whedon. He brings to the mind such wonderful possiblities with his work.

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      9 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Yes, it seems there are very few good storytellers out there and very few new stories too.

    • profile image

      Eddie Perkins 

      9 years ago

      Joy,

      This informative.  I confess I didn’t know the name Joss Whedon, but I know you so I came by to read.  I love a good story teller and wish I had that skill, because I think it is a lost art. Or at least it seems to be lost.

      Thanks ~ eddie

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      9 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Great hub. I've always liked Joss Whedon's writing. I was a huge Buffy fan...

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