Since the cancellation of Dollhouse in 2010, Joss Whedon has kept himself occupied with numerous projects. He completed the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight comic book series, co-wrote and directed the highly anticipated summer film, The Avengers, and directed a film adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. His film Cabin in the Woods, which was completed in 2009 has also been given an official 2012 release date. Suffice it to say, it is a splendid time to be a Whedonite and the momentum exhibits no sign of slowing down. In October, Whedon's newly created studio, Bellweather Pictures, announced the production of a second film titled In Your Eyes, which he has written. Whedonites all over the Internet have gone to social media platforms to express their content, but I am left wondering what his burgeoning film career will mean for television, the medium that helped create the Whedonverse.
There is no denying that Whedon has had a turbulent relationship with network television. Three of his four shows were cancelled of which Firefly was never given a proper series finale, and his shows never garnered the ratings of CSI or Law & Order. His shows were never the procedural drama common in network lineups but that is what sets them apart. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse were unlike any other shows on television at the time and Whedon developed a cult following for it. Whedonites, as they are commonly called, are loyal fans known for organizing conventions, buying memorabilia, raising money for Equality Now, and supporting the actors from the aforementioned shows. Whedonites are resilient and devoted. Twenty years from now, fans will still be singing their favorite songs from the musical episode "Once More, with Feeling," quoting Jayne, impersonating Angel's brooding stare and wondering how Enver Gjokaj gave an impeccable performance as Topher. Whedon and his television shows have solidified their places in pop culture history being referenced on numerous network programs such as The Big Bang Theory, Castle, Charmed, Community, Friends and Supernatural among others. This cult following of course did not occur by chance.
If you ask a fan his or her favorite characteristic about a Joss Whedon show, common responses may include his dialogue, his portrayal of strong female characters, and his balance of comedy and drama. Whatever the answer is, it can most likely be traced back to the creator's mythology. Whedon is a master storyteller, creating epics filled with heroes and villains, events of betrayal and triumph, and death. His stories take place in space and worlds populated by demons and vampires, yet the underlying theme is always the exploration of the human condition. Buffy's fight with the demon of the week was a metaphor for the obstacles most face in high school. Whedon's extended narratives found a home on television where characters have the freedom to develop over years instead of the two hours on film. There is a beauty to watching and hearing Whedon's story unfold on television that film can never achieve. Television shows are ritualistic having viewers tune in every week at the same time and day and they are never fixed. They respond to the reactions from viewers and adapt accordingly. They beckon viewers to participate not just watch, and fans did exactly that with Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse. Television is just as responsible for creating the Whedonverse as Joss Whedon is, but it may be a while before viewers see another series created and written by him.
Whedon's increasing involvement in film is great news to fans wishing to see more from this talented writer and director, but it has also marked his television career with a question mark. Perhaps he will find a balance contributing to both like film director J.J. Abrams who still serves as an executive producer on various television shows. Abrams though has not returned to his full capacity as writer and producer throughout a show's run. There is no book in Giles' library that will tell us what path Whedon's television career will take, but I am hopeful he will return. I am a Whedonite like many others and though I am saddened by the prospect that he may not return to television in the near future, I will excitedly wait for the release of his films. One thing we can all celebrate is the fact that his expanding involvement in film will provide a new galaxy to explore in the Whedon universe.