Award-winning film and television director, producer and writer Joss Whedon ’87 is the subject of the informative and entertaining Joss Whedon: The Biography (Chicago Review Press) by Amy Pascale, a director at MTV.
The book begins by tracing Whedon’s growth from a creative child and teenager who spent years away from his family at an elite English boarding school (Winchester College in Hampshire), through his early successes—which often turned into frustration in television (Roseanne) and film (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The biography then covers his breakout career turn as the creator, writer, and director of the highly successful Buffy television series, which garnered a passionate fan base.
Following Buffy, Whedon directed, produced or wrote more television series (Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and the current ABC hit Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), several movies, Marvel comic books, and an innovative web series, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which gave him his first Emmy win. He went on to direct and write The Avengers film in 2012, which earned a worldwide box office of $1.5 billion. He followed this blockbuster with his film of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a critically acclaimed personal project shot in black-and-white at his home with a cast of friends.
One of the chapters of the biography deals with Whedon’s time at Wesleyan, where he majored in film. As an undergraduate, he further developed his keen interest in gender studies and feminism. He also wrote a paper on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which focused on four themes: the Watcher, the Watched, Isolation, and the Role of the Viewer, themes that would appear in his own creative work. Whedon became a TA for film classes and made a student film. He studied with Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English Emeritus, and with Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, who says: “His lectures were absolutely brilliant. They had … a kind of poetry that showed how his heart and soul really understood the medium, as well as his brain … He wasn’t just intellectually sharp about film, he was also emotionally, creatively sharp about it.”
Pascale conducted extensive interviews with Whedon and his family, friends, collaborators and stars, resulting in candid, behind-the-scenes accounts of the making of his groundbreaking TV series and films, and new stories about his work with Pixar writers and animators during the creation of Toy Story.