I could have chosen one of hundreds of quotes from various Whedon interviews over the years to set this brief (and somewhat random) rant off, but this is particularly apt:
“I love genre. I love fantasy. I love science fiction. I love horror. I love musicals. I love finding a different way to express what I want to say. And I think, ultimately, it works best for me—because otherwise, it would be boring and didactic and I wouldn’t know what the hell I was doing. Genre helps me with structure, and structure helps me get through the day.”
— Joss Whedon, creator of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly”
It says a lot about the state of the arts and of intellectual life in the West that, in the past couple of years, two of the most powerful critiques of the Bush doctrine have been campy space operas: The Chronicles of Riddick, which I reviewed back here and Serenity, which I recommend you watch after having seen the DVDs of the cancelled TV series upon which it is based. The latter I saw a week or so before I left Cambridge and was the best fun I’d had at the cinema in ages and—unlike most of the stuff that claims to do so—it really does make you think. As a writer for the screen Joss Whedon is up there with Billy Wilder and David Mamet—and I am not exaggerating. (Apparently Whedon is the third generation of scriptwriters in his family.)
Interestingly, Salon.com’s review of Serenity (cheekily reproduced from behind a pay-only barrier here) describes the TV show (as opposed to the movie) as being like a good novel. Current metropolitan opinion of what constitutes a good novel is John Banville’s The Sea and, unusually, I think if I read it I would agree. Even now, years afterwards, I think The Book Of Evidence is one of the finest contemporary novels I have ever read. I suspect this one is even better. But it’s so rare that I agree with “current metropolitan opinion” on any assessment it makes of what is “good” art. So much about the serious novel, or “fine” art, or contemporary music or art-house cinema isn’t just bad, it’s monumentally stupid. Why is high art so dumb these days and low art so exhilaratingly smart? Does the talent follow the money? Or are the offspring of the rich and dull who tend to make (0r decide what qualifies as) the former just congenitally slow?