In 2005, in the middle of my PhD, I was also able to cross off item #61 on my To Do list.
I had heard that Joss Whedon was coming to Australia sometime in September, and as an ex-president of the Slayer Society, I simply had to meet him. However, not even google could tell me when he was exactly arriving. At the end of August I decided to call up United International Pictures directly, as I had read that they were the ones publicizing his appearance.
“Hello, I’m calling in regards to Joss Whedon’s upcoming visit to Australia”
“Who are you, and where are you calling from?”
“My name is Lydia, and I am calling from the Australian National University”
“Are you part of the media division, there?”
“Uh, not precisely…”
“What is the name of your student magazine there, Curio?”
“Uh, no that is the University of Canberra, ours is called Woroni”
“So you’re writing an article for Woroni, then?”
“So you want to be part of our round-table interview with Joss Whedon, then?”
“Yes. Yes I do”
Two weeks later, on Monday September 12 at 2:30 p.m., I’m on the top floor on the Hotel Intercontinental with ten other members of the street press. There is a spectacular view of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but I am too nervous to appreciate it. I band together with the geekiest of the geeks, and we calm our nerves by discussing the tv series Firefly, and how it was destroyed by Fox. Fox refused to play the first episode first. Fox refused to allow it to be broadcast in widescreen. And then, Fox suddenly axes the series in the middle of its first season. The general consensus: Fox is Evil.
Then talk turns to Universal. The studio that bought Fox’s rights to the show, and turned it into the first film ever written and directed by Joss Whedon. The reason why we are all here today. Serenity – “a science-fiction action drama about the price of freedom.”
Suddenly, I see some people walk into the room, and they are followed by some guy in a light shirt with an ink-stain, blue jeans, black Adidas socks, white and orange New Balance sneakers, and a receding hairline. That’s not some guy. That’s Joss Whedon. Here. In this room. Joss. Here. He sits down, and there is a long awed silence. I scribble in my notebook “Joss”. Then “Joss”, again.
Joss smiles at us all “So, you’re probably wondering why I’ve called you here today”. He talks about how he has not written Serenity for the fans, for the browncoats. He has written it for people who perhaps have no coats at all. It is written for the guy who has simply gone to see a film because it is raining outside. To do otherwise would be a grave disservice to the trust that Universal has placed in him.
His life’s goal is to change popular culture. He loves thoughtful humanistic movies, and he loves popcorn movies with lots of explosions, and he wished that they could somehow mate and make a child. So he wrote a story of a Victorian girl in a giant spaceship, probably because those are two of his favourite stories. Life is not anyone thing, so why should movies be restricted to specific genres?
He talked about the crew of Serenity. Seven people living in a boat on the outskirts of the galaxy. They have so little, so they must make it home. They nail a wooden table over the metal bench in the kitchen, because people like eating meals on wood. They stencil flowers on the hallways, because that’s also what people do. Science fiction doesn’t have to be antiseptic. It should be about earth, dirt, life.
I asked him about Mal. He has lost so much. Where does he get his strength? Joss looks at me, and furrows his eyebrows. It’s not about strength. It’s about not caring, and doing it anyway, even if you’re completely outgunned.
Still, he says, if no-one is entertained, then none of this matters.
I thank him, grab a photo, and then he is gone.
I met Joss.
Oh, and an excerpt of the above story was actually published in the Woroni student newspaper. They edited out the subterfuge, however, as they didn’t want to encourage any future rouge reporters.