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Joss Whedon's Poetics of Space
probablecylon
    Joss' commentary for "Objects in Space", the concluding ep of "Firefly", offers a much more convincing case for the impossibility of carrying Buffy into two dimensions than any of the elaborate arguments against canonicity have done.

   He talks, first, of his own sort of epiphany concern the way objects exist in themselves without any relation to consciousness, that they exist whether we wish them to or not, without meaning, while watching "Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Director's Cut" as a 16-year-old in London. Those who experienced the movie in those pre-cineplex days will recall the impact that the mother-ship's descent had, and I wonder whether his realization came before or during those late sequences in the film. He realized that he had no belief in a divine or universal intelligence giving things, objects, meaning -- and a friend gave him a copy of Sartre's "Nausea", which helped him key on his understanding. His commentary for this ep -- after he says he doesn't want to be considered an intellectual -- is a fascinating meditation on emotions, on the way we impart meaning to things, and on the difference between the way River experiences objects & is distanced from their common meaning, and the way that Early, in his opposite way, does so. 

   He als offers an anecdote about how he spent a Saturday actually in the Serenity, passing through it, in order to get the key to the character of Early -- and all this truly lit up the importance, for Joss as a writer & dreamer, of working with actual sets. The relation of so many of his other shows, and the importance of the sets of the library, the Summer house, of the Factory, of Spike's crypt & the Magic Box, the Hyperion, of Serenity & the Dollhouse, appeared in a very new light. Joss' imaginative life was truly born during that experience in the theatre, -- he suddenly had access to all the questions about life & death that he'd previously taken for granted or simply not himself thought about -- 

   Whatever can be achieved or not in graphic form, Joss really made it clear, by his intensity & by his emotion, especially in light of other commentaries (like his explanation of how Xander actually moves through the standing sets of Buffy in his dream in "Restless" or his commentary on "Hush") what activates his creative vision, his feeling for the world and for his characters . . . and even if he's a comics fan, the source for inspiration isn't there. The whole conceit of using comics-style superpowers & references in comic-book form doesn't hook properly into the way he works, the way he works with actors, the way he works with set designers, and then the way he works with a camera. The power outage, the strange sloppy lack of principle in the comics, comes simply from someone who has revealed for anyone who cares to listen his own processes, motivations, even his imaginative birth, in the commentaries to his filmed work.

   If Joss never does television (or film work) again, he won't really ever create again.

 

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The poetics of space involves the exceptionality of the subject, that there are tetherless, meaning-imbuing persons in the universe of objects, we are things, not merely persons, are ourselves objects, inescapably so. The poignancy of this status, of mortality and, worse, of the abolition of person-status altogether, leads to River and then leads to Dollhouse.

Joss' topography is different and resistant to the discourses that it evokes, which is a positive thing -- it can't easily be schematized into 'here's his racist narrative, here's his misogynist narrative' -- though the work can cross those planes of discourse at any moment, it doesn't fall within them. The allegation, for example, that the Shadowmen are black men violating a white woman doesn't stand up, since the sole reason that the Shadowmen are African is that the First Slayer is African. The problem there was that one assumed (I did, anyway) that women were the agents responsible for endowing the First Slayer. Nor do I believe that the use of Chinese culture in the blend in Firefly, without Asian actors, is a sort of racist expropriation -- it would've been far worse to cast someone as a Generic Asian, as if Asian identity were a subset of Chinese identity, as if there were multiple ethnic & cultural identities in Asia. I can't recall the film flap a few years ago when a US production cast Japanese actors in Chinese roles or vice versa.

His politics seem to me to be left-anarchist, and anarchism always comes into conflict with communal-social political visions.

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No offense taken :) .

Actually, it inspired a post. Which, likewise, I hope is not taken badly.




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Buffy expropriated power & the task from the Watchers' Council, and the Shadowmen are operating primarily as male dominators, as the patriarchs of the Council: Buffy's objection is on behalf of the original, African woman -- "You violated her" -- something Buffy herself hadn't expected. A racist narrative is wrongly attributed.

[Certainly, one can find ways to convince oneself that a Joss narrative is not being bigoted, but that doesn't mean it necessarily isn't bigoted.]

The converse also holds. It's often easier to reduce an inherently difficult narrative to polarities which distance one from engagement & create a false elevation, both moral and social, above the situation. This is what drove me out of academic institutions years ago -- they were disengaging students from the very forms of discourse that the students needed to experience & engage in, in order to encompass them & weave them into a much broader & deeper narrative.





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At the time the First Slayer was created, there were no white humans. Had he made them white, he would have been racist for interpellating white men at a time when there were none.

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