We all have that moment when the right fandom property at the right time changes our course, and we go on to dedicate our life to something. The Catalyst to My Fandom is a place for all of us to share those life-altering moments in fandom. For me, it was how Joss Whedon opened my eyes to how great film and TV could be.
Joss Whedon taught me to fully engage with a television show or movie. Before Whedon, I was a fan of TV, but it was casual. Truth be told, most of the TV I watched pre-DVR was sporadic at best. I watched TV when I could and only had a handful of shows that I made a point to watch or record on videotape. Firefly was the first show that I actually binge-watched. Whedon’s style has always drawn me in where I have a vested interest in the product.
Whedon has directed some of the biggest budget films of all time with The Avengers and its sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron. The studios chose Whedon for these projects in part due to his proven ability to manage drama with multiple main characters. The sci-fi/Western, Firefly, first showcased these skills. Firefly, in turn, introduced me to the world of Joss Whedon.
Getting his start as a writer on shows like Roseanne and Parenthood, throughout his career, he has written, directed, and produced for both the silver screen and the small screen. An Academy Award nomination and Emmy nomination are among the accolades earned for his writing. That being said, Whedon stands out for the unique product he puts on screen.
The Catalyst to My Fandom
Joss Whedon makes me an unpaid salesman for his product. I’ve always believed that his greatest strength was how he pushes the audience to care for all of the characters. Whether they are major or minor characters, his writing and directing conjure strong emotional attachments. My first inclination is to tell my friends about the show and push for them to start watching. I asked him about it once, and he really didn’t have an answer as to why. I believe that this feeling stems from the fact that he writes his characters as real. Even if they are superheroes, the characters have flaws, make mistakes, try to be the best version of themselves, and they bleed.
These are a few of the contributions that lead to my fandom:
Toy Story (1995) – Writer
Yes, Whedon collaborated on the inaugural film in the Pixar universe. Toy Story, the computer animated story about toys who come to life when they are not being played with, put Pixar on the map. This film helped make it one of the most popular production companies in the world. Many consider Toy Story the best animated film of all time.
I was not familiar with Whedon when I first viewed the film, but his fingerprints are all over the characters of Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen). They are flawed heroes, limited by their existence as toys, but they don’t let these limitations prevent them from helping others. People wanted to share this film with others. In fact, word of mouth was so good that the movie’s box office takings actually jumped in weeks five and six of its release.
Firefly (2002) – Writer and Director
Eight actors and a spaceship share headlining status in this short-lived but much-loved series. Firefly consisted of 14 episodes and a small initial viewing audience. Many blame bad marketing and constantly changing nights when the show would air for its low viewership. Nathan Fillion plays Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the transport spaceship Serenity. Business has been slow, so he is forced to smuggle goods. This gets himself and his crew in plenty of trouble.
After cancellation, Joss Whedon made the movie Serenity basically so he could throw every idea he had for the characters in 105 minutes. Many major confrontations take place. However, it was the minor conflicts where Whedon showcased his master storytelling by giving us a clear history of where they came from and why they did the things they did.
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008) – Writer and Director
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is probably my favorite stand-alone work that Whedon has done. The 45-minute, three-act musical was created during the writers’ strike and released free on the internet. Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris) is a villain attempting to get into the famed “League of Evil.” Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion) is the hero trying to fight Dr. Horrible at every turn. Despite that, we see that the Captain is more of a conceited jerk, and Dr. Horrible has a gentle heart. The music is fantastic, and the story is so fun I could watch this all the time. In fact, I screen it every year at my New Year’s Eve party. I’m waiting with bated breath for the sequel.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Writer and Producer
This clip (NSFW warning for violence and brief language, and contains spoilers) is visually one of my favorite scenes in cinema history. I am not a fan of the horror genre as a rule. I am a huge fan of Army of Darkness but am scared to death by Michael Myers. The Cabin in the Woods is like no horror film you’ve ever seen. Without giving too much away, what you might expect to see is not what you ultimately get. Chris Hemsworth and Bradley Whitford highlight an all-star cast. However, it was a review from Cinemablend that really hits at the heart of Whedon in the film:
“Even when the story sticks firmly in standard horror territory, this particular group of attractive kids is especially fun to spend time with… You’ll have to see it, and you really have to see it if you love horror, hate horror, or have any interest in seeing how the genre can function as a playground for something completely fresh.”
It seems like this critic gets the same feeling of attachment that I feel.
Joss Whedon brought out in me a passion for television and movies that I did not have before. His work forced me to take ownership of it and share it as if it was my own. To this point in my life, I had only experienced that type of fandom for my favorite basketball player, Vlade Divac. In the same way for both, I was on the front lines promoting and defending their work.
I have since found an attachment to many other pop culture offerings, and it was Joss Whedon who sparked my fandom flame.
Fandom is built on a foundation of passionate people with deep and unshakable knowledge spread across the entire pop culture landscape. The only way for that to manifest is timing: the right fan with the right property at the right time. Luminaries of film, music, television, games, and comics have all had that watershed moment where something infected them, and the impulse was too strong to ignore. We have shared some of those moments, and hopefully, you will join us in doing so as well.