Culture and Society

Joss Whedon Kills People

 [*spoiler* Tell me you cried when Wash died]

With several spoilers for a lot of Whedon projects that you may be planning on watching.

Joss Whedon kills people.

This is true. You may or may not have seen The Avengers movie by now. You may or may not have seen any of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly/Serenity, Dollhouse, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

You should.

Because Joss Whedon is good. But know this. And know this very well.

As a fan of one or possibly more tv shows and movies, we end up “connecting” to new characters and even end up forming an emotional attachment. When the continued success and profitability of a franchise depends on certain characters, killing off those characters can have dire consequences. Can you imagine something Sheldon Cooper dying a sudden but horrible death? Why would you kill a popular character who is not the lead character and does not have his/her name in the title of the tv show/movie?


However, Joss Whedon does not get this. He goes against convention and he kills numerous beloved characters. He does this with success.

The secret, invariably, lies in how he uses the deaths to pursue the reality that the audience sees and the characters live. Sometimes, it is the push characters need. Sometimes, the push stories need.

Now, if you have seen as many tv shows and movies as I have, you know that killing off characters is no big deal. I mean, death happens all the time. With speeches. With scenes.

But, damn that man, Whedon ’cause he kills them like one kills flies. No pomp and circumstance. All of them killed in an instant without warning and without the hoopla normally seen for major characters.

Each is killed in an impersonal and seemingly random way (sometimes sliced in half, one hit by stray bullet, and impaling by wooden missile) and their deaths remind us that death will come. We who would like to believe that good guys will always walk away and live to fight another day must suffer the yanking of the proverbial carpet by Whedon who says casualties are a by-product of war.

Whedon himself summed it up well in an interview for Serenity: The Official Visual Companion when he noted, “Dramatically, the more I worked on [the screenplay], the more it became clear that in order to make people feel that this was real, a certain shocking thing is going to have to happen.”

To think everything will end well is unrealistic even though the story is set in a fantastic world. Whedon strives to ensure that the characters are as true to life as can be. And sometimes mirroring the randomness of life, Whedon must kill innocent bystanders too.

No speeches. No death scene. Casual violence randomly perpetrated.

This is where Joss Whedon wins though. This is reality. This is how sh** goes down. Death brings heartache and pain with it. It also brings things like ‘looking at the bigger picture’, ‘not being selfish’ and ‘considering the welfare of others’.

‘Appreciate more fully the importance of having others in your life you care about and that care about you’.

Death brings reality crashing at your doorstep and boy, does Whedon know that.

For me, this is one reason why Whedon is such an exciting writer: his unpredictability. Most people would think twice before going all Norman Bates on indispensable fan favorites. But using their deaths to progress a storyline or evolve the essence of a character is reason enough for Joss Whedon.

Because Joss Whedon kills people.

His first name is Agent.

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