We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Joss Whedon and discuss, among other things, The Avengers. You can read that interview in issue 46 of SciFiNow, but while we were there we also asked him to give his thoughts, in retrospect, on Firefly, Dollhouse, and leaving the world of television to work on a major blockbuster.
On Dollhouse and Firefly:
“The situation with Firefly was that I always knew exactly what I was doing and Fox was ignorant… The situation with Dollhouse was that Fox was trying to get it, but we had come at two different shows, we had done that accidentally, and it got to a point where I didn’t know what I was trying to accomplish, and you can’t go into a story room with that feeling, because it’s already really hard. I remember thinking this is the difference between this and Firefly, because with Firefly, I knew, and here, now I’m not even sure. I was just thinking, ‘I’m writing a shoot-out on a dock – I’m a whore.’ They’re like, ‘No, that doesn’t make you a whore,’ and I’m, like, ‘I’m fairly certain it does!’ They explained that, actually, having sex for money makes you a whore. But I also did that.”
On Dollhouse in retrospect:
“It accomplished some of the things I wanted to accomplish. The questions of identity and humanity I thought were out there front and centre, and I’ve heard people respond really well to that, and I’ve heard people say the show even helped them. I never conceived of a more pure journey from helplessness to power, which is what I always write about, and in that sense I feel we accomplished a lot of it. I do feel that part of what we tried to get at kind of got taken out at the beginning – and it really was more important to how the show would work than I even realised when they took it out – which was sex. The show was supposed to be, on some level, a celebration of perversion, as something that makes us unique. Sort of our hidden selves. You can talk about your hidden selves and identity, but when you have to shoot each other every week, you get a little bit limited. The show was supposed to flop genres every episode, and the moment we did that, they shut us down and said, ‘Quickly, have someone shoot at someone.’ I feel when we had to take sex out of the equation, it became kind of a joke or almost unsettling. Because we couldn’t hit it head on – and so much of our identity is wrapped up in our sexuality, and this is something Eliza [Dushku] was talking to me about, as something she wanted to examine before I even came up with the idea, and to have that sort of excised and marginalised and sanitised, and not to be able to hit on the head what they were doing, made the show a little bit limited and a little bit creepy at times. I think we still did some fairly out-there stuff, and I’m proud of what we did, given the circumstances, but with those circumstances, it was never really going to happen the way it should have.”
On leaving television for The Avengers:
“I think I already had left television. The plan had been to dive into the world of self-produced, internet, tiny stuff, which my wife was very excited about – I mean it, she said, ‘I’ve been waiting my entire life for you to do this’ – and then I turned around and said, ‘I’m doing the opposite’ and she said, ‘Great, okay!’ She’s good that way. Obviously there were basically two roads we talked about – one was a huge project that needs a total re-write that you can walk into and make, but there’s no reason to think that that would ever happen. And the other is self-producing stuff, either having something really big or really small, but not trying to truck down the middle road where you have all the interference of a big project, and the feeling of a small project. It’s more about doing it by the seat of your pants, but definitely one or the other. It doesn’t mean I won’t be doing TV forever, it just means it’s time to do something else.”