With 'The Avengers,' Joss Whedon Masters the Marvel Universe
You know you've offended Joss Whedon when he stops talking in Whedonisms. Usually the writer-director is funny, wry, and acutely self-aware -- just like the characters he creates for his shows and movies, from the cult TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the new horror flick The Cabin in the Woods. He’ll order a chardonnay at lunch and slouch sideways in a booth, riffing on geek tropes from Star Trek to Twilight Zone.
But suggest that his TV show Dollhouse was really just about a pretty girl in a dominatrix outfit getting beaten up every week and Whedon transfigures into Buffy’s erudite, ever-so-slightly supercilious mentor, Gile -- if you could imagine Giles in a hoodie. The words get longer, the references more arcane. He sits up and leans over his plate of scallops, elbows on the table. The professor has arrived, and class is in session.
Dollhouse aired for 25 episodes on Fox in 2009 and 2010. It was Whedon's fourth show, and it had all the elements that made Buffy so great -- ass-kicking ingenue, crackling dialog, plenty of sci-fi weirdness, and enough subtext to choke a lit-theory major. It was also, as Whedon himself admits, potentially the most offensive television program of all time. The story -- a secret organization mind-wipes attractive people, reprograms them, and pimps them out to clients -- was like an icky Fantasy Island with gunfights and psychosis. Even diehards who’d stuck with Whedon since Buffy didn’t get it. "Bless their hearts, the fans were all going, 'It's Joss. We trust him. Maybe we're missing how it’s good,'" Whedon says. "It was very sweet."