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I Went to the Wrong College
July 19, 2005 10:58 PM   Subscribe

In this graduate seminar we will investigate the world -- the "Jossverse" or "Whedonverse" -- of Joss Whedon (1964- ), third generation television writer (both his father and grandfather wrote for the medium), creator of three television series (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly), script doctor for a variety of films (including Speed, Toy Story, Alien Resurrection), and comic book author (Fray, Astounding X-Men).
posted by BackwardsCity (26 comments total)

 
Weird. Does the prof just have some sort of fetish for this guy or...? Can we Canadians have a course on the several incarnations of Degrassi?

"My dissertation will be on the musical history, influences, and ultimate demise of The Zits."

Heh. From one of the student biographies: "A graduate from Western Kentucky University, I am happy to at MTSU."

to learn at MTSU?
to study at MTSU?
to omit words at MTSU?
posted by ODiV at 11:06 PM on July 19, 2005


Ha, I was just reading a novel by Greg Egan where one of the characters has a masters degree in Buffy studies.

BTW, wasn't the band called Zit Remedy?
posted by fleetmouse at 11:22 PM on July 19, 2005


Does the prof just have some sort of fetish for this guy or...?

Can't be much of one if he gets the title of Astonishing X-men wrong.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:31 PM on July 19, 2005


BTW, wasn't the band called Zit Remedy?

On reflection, I think you're right. It's too bad I already handed in my dissertation. I'm totally going to get a bad mark now.

Not that I don't really like some of Whedon's work, but why focus on him? I think a course covering "Modern television" or "The rise of the dramedy" or "Fantastic television" might be specific enough.

In the final week section it is written "Why TV is Better Than the Movies". That makes me a sad panda. And it's film damnit.
posted by ODiV at 11:36 PM on July 19, 2005


Just pretend it is about the comic Zits, but that wouldn't explain the "The."
posted by drezdn at 11:39 PM on July 19, 2005


Haven't you heard? Canonical literature is being phased out of the English curriculum in North America, in favor of identity politics and pop culture.
posted by ori at 12:09 AM on July 20, 2005


My thesis supervisor has written on Buffy and Angel, and is currently working on editing a book on Stargate. The Whedonverse is popular fodder for television studies. Me, I've had an article on Deadwood accepted for publication, and the editor of that book has also worked on the Whedonverse (among many, many other things), and is the professor of the class we are discussing. here on the blue.

We just had an MA grad in (I think) Gender Studies who wrote on Buffy, and another who worked on Lord of the Rings (the books, not the movies),
posted by synecdoche at 12:09 AM on July 20, 2005


"My dissertation will be on the musical history, influences, and ultimate demise of The Zits."

"Popping the Zit: The Construction of Teen Identity in 1980s Canadian Pop Culture"

This shit will get you tenure, bro.
posted by ori at 12:17 AM on July 20, 2005


With all the rabid Buffy and Firefly fans out there, this was just a matter of time. My roommate got me watching Buffy, and I sought out Firefly on my own. I think his writing is mostly good, innovative, even, but a lot of it is pretty standard TV filler. (I've never seen Angel 'cause that lead actor looks like a Neaderthal.) Having said that, I'm looking forward to the Firefly movie later this summer.
posted by zardoz at 12:38 AM on July 20, 2005


In junior high they were The Zit Remedy. When they went to high school, they shortened it to The Zits, thereby forever irreperably damaging the prosidy of these lines from what seemed to be the only song they knew, called "Everybody Wants Something":

Everybody get ready
And get into gear
The Degrassi sensation
The one and only
Zit Remedy is here


There's no good reason for me still being able to remember this.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:01 AM on July 20, 2005


I hate it when people get all pretentious about stuff like this.
posted by speicus at 3:12 AM on July 20, 2005


There's a lot of meat there, particularly in episodes actually written by Joss. Just last night FX ran "Restless," the Buffy season 4 finale, which is largely composed of a four part dream sequence with layer upon layer of hidden meaning. Several years back someone wrote a very deep analysis entitled "A 'Restless' Exegesis," and I was sorely disappointed to find that it seems to have fallen off of the web.

"I've made a little space for the cheese slices."
posted by Galvatron at 6:10 AM on July 20, 2005


I don't think that defenders of English literature need fear when a professor teaches a cheesy pop culture course at Middle Tennessee State University. And let's admit that some more time is required before Buffy can be received into the canon.
posted by Scooter at 8:46 AM on July 20, 2005


Never could get into Whedon's tv. Just don't see the appeal of Buffy or Angel.

Speaking of Degrassi, I had a weird experience a few weeks back. Was in a convenience store, and the theme song from Degrassi was playing. This weird guy just randomly comes up to me and starts talking. "Do you know why they put Degrassi High on tv? The WB execs wanted a show that was about sex. It's true! They said 'We always want something sexual going on.' So in every scene, someone's talking about sex, or kissing, or touching, even if its in the background..." The dude just kept droning on and on and on as I slowly backed away and ran out of the store. Spooky.
posted by papakwanz at 8:48 AM on July 20, 2005


Ugh. I think Whedon is one of the worst TV writers and he's in a large club.

synecdoche, how dare you even mention Deadwood in the same breath? :)
posted by dobbs at 9:01 AM on July 20, 2005


Hee. This professor is the lead contributor for Slayage Journal. I'm a librarian at this university. I've been to a few of his honors courses that are open to the public about Buffy and the Whedonverse and he's very dedicated and quite the adoring fan.

Of course, he also wrote a book on interpreting the X-files, and one on the Sopranos. He's very into pop culture and what it reveals.

I think these kinds of courses are good ideas, mainly because they focus on critical thinking skills on a subject matter that may be more accessible than more traditional subject. One of my favorite classes from my undergrad at MTSU days was the Science Fiction and Anthropology course. Damn fine course and focused strongly on the fact that anthropologist/scientists are the first to die in a horror movie.

Heh. From one of the student biographies: "A graduate from Western Kentucky University, I am happy to at MTSU."

to learn at MTSU?
to study at MTSU?
to omit words at MTSU?


Sigh...we didn't train that one up...Western Kentucky did. It's hard to undo decades of damage to the English language.
posted by teleri025 at 9:02 AM on July 20, 2005


(I've never seen Angel 'cause that lead actor looks like a Neaderthal.)

While the protagonist's overhanging brow is indisputable, I think Angel holds up better than BtVS in retrospect, especially in light of the enormous suckitude of the last two seasons of Buffy (the musical episode excepted). The Angel series finale, in particular, might be the most note-perfect hour of television ever created.

And the actor who played Angel should get a Most Improved award; his first appearance on BtVS was painful to watch, and by the end he had something approaching depth and range.

I hate it when people get all pretentious about stuff like this.

Pretention implies pretending, doesn't it? What are these scholars pretending at? There's a lot of complexity in the Whedon universe--they're not just making stuff up when they analyze it.
posted by jesourie at 9:28 AM on July 20, 2005


Ori: Because we all know that Shakespeare, Dickens, and Twain started out as classics, never once having to go through being masscult. I mean, it's not like Dickens was the John Grisham of his day or anything.
posted by absalom at 11:21 AM on July 20, 2005


I remember as an undergraduate, I saw an night course (awesome!) and jumped on it. Finally, something I don't have to wake up for! It turned out to be a class in English about Oliver Stone. It was awesome. We watched great movies, wrote essays, and made a web page at the end. Also, the guy teaching it had a real hard-on for the e-toolkit he got, so he made us all log in and chat online. While we were in class. So while we were in class, we were all sitting at our PC's, chatting with each other about an Oliver Stone movie. Instead of talking out loud to each other.

I got an A!
posted by illuminatus at 2:18 PM on July 20, 2005


Never could get into Whedon's tv. Just don't see the appeal of Buffy or Angel.

You should try Firefly. It's superb.

Whedon was script doctor for Alien Resurrection?! I'm sorry, doctor, but I'm afraid the patient died.
posted by chuq at 5:26 PM on July 20, 2005


Ori: Because we all know that Shakespeare, Dickens, and Twain started out as classics, never once having to go through being masscult. I mean, it's not like Dickens was the John Grisham of his day or anything.

Absalom, thank you for that.

As somebody who does study television-- I write about Deadwood, other westerns, and have presented on Star Trek and Doctor Who, among other things, I am quite sick of the people who don't like television for being pop culture when so many canonical "classics" were just that when they were created.

It is my philosophy that academic study of pop culture is only limited by the person studying it. I also feel that I should point out that studies of something like a television program has its own methodology and language that borrows from film studies, literary studies, and cultural studies. Television studies, for example, is not the same as any of those things (at least when done well) and should not be considered as such.
posted by synecdoche at 5:57 PM on July 20, 2005


For all the haters: hell, we don't have to even go all the way back to Shakespeare. How about people like Hitchcock? Spielberg? Godard and Truffault, whose love of cinema stemmed out of 1950s Hollywood? Popular culture always comes up for critical examination at some point after their moment has passed (and sometimes even during their moment, as in the case of Spielberg, Kubrick, etc.) It wasn't long ago that film criticism was seen as an absurd pursuit. But now you can have a film studies degree and be regarded with no more disdain than someone with an English lit degree.

To think that television, of all media, should somehow be an anomaly to this sort of critical discourse is somewhat absurd. For too long people have been led to believe that television is somehow beneath them, that it's an artform without grace or depth. Only recently has there been any recognition of television's cultural merit beyond popcorn fodder, and arguably we've finally reached the era of the auteur. Think about the number of times you've heard names like J.J. Abrams, Aaron Sorkin or Joss Whedon mentioned in a television conversation. Steven Bochco, Chris Carter, Gene Roddenberry—is there any reason we shouldn't consider these people from the same perspective we consider people like Fellini or Chaucer?
posted by chrominance at 7:37 PM on July 20, 2005


The Zit Remedy Song
posted by mr.marx at 2:33 AM on July 21, 2005


is there any reason we shouldn't consider these people from the same perspective we consider people like Fellini or Chaucer?

They're still alive?

Seriously though, I don't have a problem with studying contemporary pop culture. It just seems a little excessive to have an entire course on one guy, impressive though his work may be.

Sure, we have Nietzsche, Shakespeare, and Hitchcock classes, but their work has had a little time.
posted by ODiV at 6:59 AM on July 21, 2005


chrominance: My feeling though is that television is currently hamstrung in ways that really limit it as an artistic medium. You keep running into situations where really excellent TV like Carnivale and Farscape get canned not because it doesn't make money, but because it doesn't make ENOUGH money.

But personally, I don't see what the big deal is about Whedon. Normally I love Science Fiction television but Buffy just never captured my interest.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:25 AM on July 21, 2005


My problem with Buffy is not that it's pop culture, but that it's filled with embarrassingly stilted dialogue, predictably convenient plot contrivances, and boring characters. A few clunky references to other, better works of art do not equal "depth." Complexity does not equal maturity. Just because there's a lot of pieces of information to absorb doesn't make it worth analyzing.

Though to be fair I also think Dickens should be kicked out of the canon.
posted by speicus at 5:00 PM on July 21, 2005


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