Joss Whedon: The Biography is written by someone who seems to adore Joss Whedon even more than I do. Seriously, the amount of adoration in this biography is a little unsettling, and it means that the biography is interesting and enjoyable but without depth.
This biography opens with an introduction by Nathan Fillion. Nathan Fillion has always sung the praises of Joss so it’s no surprise that the introduction is glowing – and Nathan Fillion is a smart guy, so it’s no surprise that the introduction is well written. The author, Amy Pascale, interviewed Joss, Kai Whedon (Joss’ wife) and many actors and crew from Whedon shows and movies. It covers Joss’s childhood through the release of The Avengers, Cabin in the Woods, and Much Ado About Nothing. It’s a full-length biography, but not a 500 word plus scholarly tome.
I enjoyed this biography, and I learned some things from it, but I wished it had been more in-depth. There’s so much stuff about Joss online that honestly for once I would have loved a scholarly tome that would fill in the gaps. I was left with a lot of unanswered questions. For example, how did having children change his work (if at all)? What’s it like for him to work so closely with his brother, especially since they spent most of their childhood apart? This book careeens from project to project without getting into details of either the shows or their creator.
Joss is known as someone who is enjoyable to work with, but there were a lot of tensions on Buffy and I would have liked to have heard more about that. It’s suggested that some of those tensions came from the fact that it was his first directing and producing job – so let’s hear some details! It’s not that I want tons of scandal (I’m a Joss fan after all) but it seems like I would have a better understanding of how the show was put together and how Joss learned (if he learned) from his mistakes if the biographer had explored both conflicts and friendships. The biography is a nice, manageable length but that means that the biographer has to cover tons and tons of stuff and can’t go deep anywhere.
I didn’t feel like this left me with a deeper understanding of how the TV or Film industries work. It did leave me with a slightly more nuanced understanding of Joss as a person who has truly earned the adoration of many but who can also hurt people’s feelings by sticking to cliques and who is willing to play hardball. But I felt like I had to read between the lines to figure this out.
What I think is most interesting about this book is that there’s a perception of Joss as someone everybody loves, and it seems more accurate to say that everybody has strong feelings about him – people aren’t saying, “Oh, yeah, Joss, he’s boring, I have no opinion”. It also seems that even people who dislike him or who are in frequent conflict with him respect his work. I would have liked to have learned more about the conflicts and more about how his family and his work intersect.
This is a solid book with impeccable timing – who doesn’t want to rush home from Comic Con and read a book about Joss Whedon? My only criticism is that I wanted more of it, and I wanted a biographer who was not afraid to be critical of Joss. It’s my job to follow Joss Whedon around like a puppy. It’s the biographer’s job to see the whole picture, and there are plenty of hints that the whole picture is complicated. I adore Joss, but he is a person, or so I’ve heard, and any person has flaws. A biographer should not be afraid to explore those flaws as well as the more exemplarily aspects of the subject’s personality.