Joss Whedon

On this date in 1964, writer, producer and director Joseph Hill "Joss" Whedon was born in New York City, where he grew up. Whedon attended Winchester College in England before graduating from Wesleyan University in 1987. He worked as a screenwriter in the early 1990s and wrote the Oscar-nominated script for “Toy Story” (1995) before creating the hit television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003). Perhaps best known for his work on television, Whedon went on to create and produce “Angel” (1999-2004), “Firefly” (2002) and “Dollhouse” (2009-10). In 2008, he released the Emmy-winning live-action musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” exclusively over the Internet.

In addition to screenwriting and directing, Whedon has written extensively for comics, including Marvel’s “Astonishing X-Men” (2004-07), as well as comics based on his television and other properties. With the “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight” (2007-11) comics, he took on the role of executive producer to retain control over the series without writing each issue himself, an unusual model in comics. He directed "The Avengers" (2012) and "Much Ado About Nothing" (2013) and wrote and directed the sequel "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015). He also co-wrote the script for the DC Extended Universe superhero film "Justice League" (2017) and directed reshoots.

In the space western show “Firefly,” set in the year 2517, the protagonist, Mal Reynolds, is portrayed as a Christian in a flashback and an atheist in the present day in the pilot episode “Serenity” (Dec. 20, 2002). The show also features a preacher, Shepherd Book, who causes conflict over whether to say grace at dinner (“Serenity”) and a schizophrenic genius teen girl, River Tam, who systematically defaces Shepherd’s bible. She explains, “Bible’s broken. Contradictions, false logistics — doesn’t make sense.” (“Jaynestown,” aired Oct. 18, 2002). Perhaps most subversive is “Dollhouse,” set in twenty-first century Los Angeles. Its premise is that a company has developed a way to “imprint” people with personalities not their own. Genuine religious belief is programmed on a computer and a miracle is manufactured in order to infiltrate a gun-running Christian cult (“True Believer,” aired March 13, 2009). 

"Faith in God means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers."

—Joss Whedon, accepting the Harvard humanist chaplaincy (April 10, 2009)

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski; photo by S-Bukley, Shutterstock.com

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