Joss Whedon on Comic Books, Abusing Language and the Joys of Genre

Geeks love Joss Whedon. In his TV shows and movies he gives them not necessarily what they want, but definitely what they need.

His characters are smart and self-aware. He’s steeped in pop culture and has a clever way with the twists and turns of science fiction tropes. And he infuses the potential clichés of genre writing with emotion and heart.

Not many writer/directors get to see their names go adjectival, but we all know what we mean when we say something is “whedonesque.”

Another thing that makes Whedon so lovable is his willingness to talk. In interviews Whedon is typically candid, funny and wide-ranging. He’s honest (perhaps to a fault) about his own work and sometimes that of others.

Wired: Your characters don’t talk like other writers’ characters.
Joss Whedon: I have abused language. I love it and I abuse it…. I don’t write just to be clever. But sometimes I do. And if you don’t have an understanding of the language, then the way in which it’s bent doesn’t actually register. It’s the old you-gotta-paint-like-them-before-you-can-paint-like-you thing.

Different vernaculars say something about who the character is, right?
Absolutely. People always say I write a lot of pop culture references. Can somebody please count the pop culture references in Firefly? Because I don’t know how to put this to you, but there was one. I referenced The Beatles in the pilot. Now people are saying, “Oh, now The Avengers is going to make a lot of pop culture references.” They’re not going to make none, but you can bury yourself in that stuff if you want anything to be remotely timeless.

So when people are hearing pop culture references in your work, what they’re really hearing are modern cadences?
Both. Sometimes you mention Keyser Söze. And if you brought him up now, teenagers would go, “WTF?” Or probably they wouldn’t, because they probably don’t say that anymore. When I first wrote Buffy, and it’s something I have said before, I was looking at teenagers and — hmm, maybe I should rephrase that. I was listening to teenagers. And everything they said was from Heathers. I realized, you can’t ape the way they talk. You can only ape the fact that the way they talk is going to change and is going to roll through some reference and then past it, or some phrase and then past it. And if you’re going to write teenagers that teenagers believe, you can’t write the way they talk, because of lead time. So I just talked the way I wanted to talk. And they’ll either recognize it as something alien but not pandering, or they’ll start to talk that way.

So you can get at truthfulness in the way they’re speaking?
Yeah, but fake truth is better than outdated truth. And a lot of my stuff that, particularly in Firefly, but even in Buffy, is twisted Elizabethan. A lot of it is stuff taken from Westerns or movies from the 1940s, or things that have gone so far out of style that you can create your own version. I just love language. I mean, I love it. I love stage directions. Any opportunity to write. I hadn’t written in so long, I get very crazy and miserable. I — it’s like not seeing my kids, I can’t do it for very long.

Do you have writing rituals? Do you work on a computer? Do you have to be by yourself? Do you put on music?
I do listen to music. Movie scores, exclusively, because it’s all about mood and nonspecificity. I love the way modern movie scoring is all about nonspecificity. You know, if I shuffled the tracks from Inception, I challenge you to tell me which is which. But … you feel incredibly heightened during all of it. I don’t know what I’m very excited about but I’m very excited. Or worried. Or sad, I’m not sure which, but it’s all happening. And that’s really great. Whereas, you know, your old-school, very theme-specific music, which is the kind I like to actually use in my movies, is useless to writing.

Can you listen to music with lyrics?
Only if it’s supervapid. Very beautiful and supervapid and I’m not listening to it. It’s been like two albums ever, and I don’t even want to say what they are because it’s embarrassing.

And does it have to be in a specific place, or can you just go somewhere and type?
I need to create that space. And very often I write in restaurants. Lately I’ve been trying to write more in cafes and not go to restaurants as much so that I don’t become enormous. But I like to be in a public space, which is part of why music is great, to shut things out. And I think part of it is embarrassing, like I need a reward, you know, like my tea or some nice food or something. And I think part of it is even more embarrassing — I think I just like to be seen writing. I’m not positive, but I feel like it’s like if you get hurt you want a boo boo so you can get a Band-Aid. It’s not like I want to engage with anybody. Or it’s not even showing off exactly, I think I just want someone to know it’s hard work that I’m doing.

And are you just head down and go or does the internet beckon?
If I’m at my desk the internet might beckon. Although I’m so bad at it that it doesn’t last very long because I only know like three sites. Like the other day I was like, what is this, Amazon, you can buy books? It’s like a bookstore, but it’s virtual! Wait until I tell everybody. But I only do that after years of going to bookstores and recently realizing that they weren’t there anymore. But when I’m writing, it’s just a few minutes to sort of lock into the zone. Then it doesn’t matter where I am. If I’m there, I’m in heaven.

And is that the outlining and structural stuff too, or when you’re into a script?
No, outlining and structure is a pain, it’s pain and bricklaying. And to me is completely essential. There have been two things I’ve ever written without an outline. One of them worked so I tried the other one. On Buffy, nobody ever went to script without an outline, so nobody ever came back with a script where we had to rewrite the story. The structure is [king] to me. But the fun is when you first get the idea, or you’re just floating in, “Oh, what if this, what if that?” That’s amazing joy. And then once you have the structure the fun is getting the meat of the scenes and finding the voices and actually writing it. That in-between part that takes the longest, that’s some rough sledding.

On your TV shows, did you do most of that outlining, or did you have a writers’ room?
We did it in the room. But I did most of the heavy lifting, honestly. In Buffy I had such a clear vision and I was such a new show runner that even though I was always desperately encouraging everybody to do their best, and I had amazing writers, I ended up breaking almost everything. Well, not breaking everything. That sounds super full of myself. But, you know, finding the moment or getting the key to something so that we could get through the process. And I found as I went on, on Dollhouse and Firefly, that people were more confident about bringing stuff to me that I could really use. I look back on Buffy and think, OK, well, those writers really are the best and the brightest, so I was doing something wrong.

Marti Noxon told me that when she started working on Buffy you gave her a bunch of books to read.
I gave her books?

And some movies. Harry Potter. And The Cutting Edge. Is that a common thing, for showrunners to give their writers defining books or movies?
I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of show runners. I mean I met a lot of them in picket lines. I’m not part of a, like, secret society or pickup basketball game. As far as I’m concerned, pick-up basketball games are secret societies. They confuse me. I’ve never been a networker or I’ve never been very social. You know, I like to have the party. But I kind of just sit in my cubbyhole and — I think it’s a bit of a problem actually. I have a slight problem with people. And I’d like to say that I’m working on it, but I’m not sure if I’m moving forward.

But then how did you know how to run a TV show?
Well, a few things. One is, I was raised by a tribe of comedy writers. So it’s not like the concept of doing a script was completely foreign to me. The second answer is that I didn’t, and part of what made the show work was my not knowing how a TV show works, because I kept being overly ambitious. And I was told at least once by an executive that, “You’re putting too much visual information on a page.” It’s like, well, you know I’m not going to be sad about that. Let’s reach for that. Because I wanted Buffy to be cinematic. I didn’t want it to look like what I refer to as “radio with faces.” Because back then, the technology still being somewhat antediluvian, it was like, “Well, I could light her head and her shoulders, but that will take an extra 40 minutes.”

And the third answer, and the most important answer, is David Greenwalt. He was more of a vet. And he sort of just very subtly put all the tricks in place while I went, “Uh, what if we did this?” He also came up with brilliant ideas that helped shape what the show was. Having somebody at my side who was never going to lord over me the fact that he actually knew what was going on was invaluable. At one point we were discussing the classroom set, for which we had no budget. He’s like, “Let me ask a stupid question. Do we need a translight?” And I said, “Let me top that. What’s a translight?” There were physical aspects of the things I didn’t know at all.

By the time you got to Dollhouse you had exterior shots!
I know, woo hoo. It was still pretty rough sledding budgetarily with Dollhouse. There are definitely a few things in there that look like the BBC.

My perception is that your shows all have fan love and critical success, except for Dollhouse. It kind of got beat up on both those counts.
Well the fans, bless their hearts, were all going, “We’re sure that it’s good, it’s Joss, we trust him. Maybe we’re missing how it’s good.” It was very sweet. And it does have fans. In fact, just the other night I saw a clip from it, and I was like, “Oh wait a minute, this show meant a lot to me and is meaningful and beautiful.” The problem was — look, with Firefly they just — they were out to kill us. But it came out fully formed, like no show I had ever done. I knew exactly what I was doing. And nobody cared. On Dollhouse, when the changes started coming I tried to ride with them. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had some of it — I had the idea of identity. I had the idea of moral culpability. But I lost one or two essential things. And that ultimately killed the show because we were dancing around them.

I mean it’s potentially the most offensive show in the history of television. And to me it’s also the most pure feminist and empowering statement I ever made. It’s somebody building themselves from nothing. As has been told in legend and is actually true, I thought of it because I was having lunch with Eliza [Dushku], and she was talking about what everybody expected from her. “Well, these people say I should be this, and these people say I should be that.” And I was like, oh, click, that’s the show. And I know what the name is. And when I know the name, that’s usually a bad sign. I literally went home and said to my wife, “Honey, I accidentally created a Fox show.”

And one of the things that we talked about at that lunch, one of the things that was the mainstay of the show, was sex. It was about how people relate to each other sexually, what they want from each other sexually, what they want from each other romantically, how these two things are interlinked and how they’re separate. The thing that makes people passionate and interesting and worthy. And people who are nothing, like Echo and the other dolls, are learning to be someone. And part of learning to be someone is learning to be someone that nobody else wants to be. Eliza said, “I want to explore sexuality. Not just wear sexy outfits,” although she’s like, “I would like to do that too.”

But you have Echo doing all of this potentially offensive but also potentially self-actualized feminist stuff, and being male-gazed at while she’s doing it. The risky part is that it’s still a girl in a dominatrix outfit getting beat up for entertainment.
Not getting beat up.

In fights?
Getting in fights I’ll take. Getting beat up, I won’t. I was very specific about it. That sort of weird, terrifying territory — is this about abuse? Who is this person? What does he want? It’s dangerous. So I shouldn’t correct you, because in something like this, more than anything else, you’re going to bring to it what you bring to it. You know, if you refer to it as glorified human trafficking, then yeah, guess what? Some men want something that is not OK.

Do you think it’s easier to do that kind of conceptual work in genre — in sci-fi and fantasy?
Genre is super important. But, you know, there are two meanings to genre right now, or even three. There’s the sort of science fiction/fantasy. Or Comic-Con comes up with the slogan “celebrating popular culture.” I was like, the banners on street signs in San Diego are just going to read, “Comic-Con: Things! Come to the things!” Because they’re so afraid of being associated with science fiction and fantasy, which no matter what will remain ghettoized in our society for a long, long while. For me, I love genre because you can talk about things more intimately and specifically than you can in a family drama or a cop show without being didactic. You can absolutely get to the heart of something very weird and very personal because you have that remove.

That’s what Gene Roddenberry figured out with Star Trek, right?
Roddenberry, I always think he’s one of those people who’s venerated for the wrong stuff. With Roddenberry, with fandom, it becomes about the thing itself, it becomes about the door and the costume. The stuff he did socially, the interracial kissing and the very bald kind of social commentary, which is so important to the show, that’s not a part of the new Star Trek. And I love, love, love the new one. I watched the new Star Trek movie more than any new movie since The Matrix.

Yeah. I just love it. And I’m not even a Trekker. I just think it’s dazzlingly well put together and just lovely.

It made me kind of nuts, for all the prosaic nerd reasons.
It may be that I’m not as invested. But I guess the thing that I want to say about fandom is that it’s the closest thing to religion there is that isn’t actually religion. The love of something and what it’s trying to accomplish or mean are usually very separate. The people who are like, “Well you can’t do it. That staircase was seven steps, not five.” They totally missed the point of this. When I first met the comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis, we were talking about comics and he told me his favorite letter was, “Daredevil would never say that. Die. Die. Why can’t you just die?”

Well, it makes a good point.
And Bendis can’t, by the way. Sunlight, stake through the heart, beheading, he won’t die. He’s actually very powerful.

I didn’t know that about him.
That he’s immortal? Yeah, you know, he likes to get his head cut off at parties. But that thing of needing to replicate and to venerate this thing that we love isn’t about that thing’s philosophy. Those two things are separate. Hopefully, the idea in Buffy was that they were so entwined that there wouldn’t be people who loved that show excessively that didn’t get it. The other thing I would say is, if I’m going to give it up for anybody, it’s Rod Serling. Because he came from a great drama background, and he was the first writer who was a television rock star.

He took all of the high drama tropes that early television was messing with and then inserted Venusians with eyes in their forehead.
Yeah. And he was able to say things other people just weren’t going to. And not just politically.

What’s it like for you to write other people’s characters? Your run writing Astonishing X-Men managed to do all kinds of new fun stuff, but still hearken back to Chris Claremont’s work in the 1980s and Grant Morrison’s completely weird stories.
Well those are the runs that I read. Those were, I thought, the two true golden eras of the X-Men and I followed each of them voraciously. Originally I was supposed to take over New X-Men. It wasn’t, “Do you want to start a new X book.” It was “Do you want to take over Grant’s book?” And I loved it. It was my favorite book. I thought he was really honoring the spirit of the book, because he was pushing the boundaries of science fiction and the emotion and really going out there.

If Morrison doesn’t have a good artist his books are completely incomprehensible.
It makes a huge difference. Anyway, that was the nerd fantasy fulfilled. I don’t feel like I ever have to have another one like that. Just being able to bring back Kitty Pryde, to give Kitty a journey. Kitty was the mother of Buffy, as much as anybody.

Like Kitty, your characters tend to have preternatural self-awareness though about their own emotional states.
It’s a flaw in my work that is enough of a virtue that I let it slide. But I make people ridiculously self-aware and articulate because first of all I hate deception, lies and misapprehensions. And I used to hide behind my chair, not during The Twilight Zone, but during The Patty Duke Show, because I also hate humiliation. And when something is based on a lie I either freak out or I’m bored. And I do honor everybody in my fiction.

No guys in red shirts?
Well, you know, I would want to know about the guy in the red shirt, especially if it’s Sam Rockwell.

Yeah, Galaxy Quest succeeds there.
When I started watching the movie I didn’t know why they had that character. I hadn’t done enough conventions, for one thing. But then when he had that speech I was like, this is the most important character in the movie, oh OK.

“Let’s get out of here before someone kills Guy.” That’s truly great writing. She internalizes his perception, and you’re expecting her to say, “We’re in danger.” She only thinks, “Get out before they kill Guy.” I admire that so much. But you know the problem is, if everybody states their case, where does the conflict come from? I write comic books. I write people who get a splash page, because I felt little and ignored and helpless and sad and pathetic, and I wanted my splash page. And the superpowered teenage girl is about that. This is about the feeling of helplessness. So my tendency is that everybody shines.

Was that true in your version of Much Ado About Nothing, too?
It’s literally one month and two days after we wrapped Avengers, 92 days of grueling, back-breaking filmmaking, and I’m making another movie. I shoot it in 12 days in my house, with my friends, in black and white. And it’s the antithesis. Late in the shoot, I was sitting having lunch with the cast, and somebody said, “This must be great because it’s the antithesis of what you just did, and it’s a nice palate cleanser.” I loved it more than anything ever. And it really helped me get through the editing process of Avengers because I could look with a more distant eye at and not fight for the things that actually won’t help the movie. Most of them. But at the time I said, “Actually I figured out that they’re pretty much exactly the same.” Because the whole thing for me in adapting the script was why is this person here? What are they really going through? When you know why they’re there, and you can tell the actor, and you design this scene so that everybody’s, point of view is showcased, everybody’s moment is worth having, then it’s the same as making a superhero team movie. It’s the same as writing The Avengers, it’s the same as doing Buffy. It’s everybody is here for a reason and they deserve, while they’re on film, or on the page, for people to know what it is, even if we don’t like it.

It seems like your best work has been with ensembles.
I almost always start with the idea of one person. Even on Firefly, Mal was the person. And Buffy was the person. Echo was the person. Angel was the person. By Dollhouse, I had learned that you need an ensemble to get through your life as a show runner. And your star needs it so that she’s not in every scene and hates you by episode five. But I don’t set out to do it, necessarily. I’m just I’m not interested in people that I’m not interested in. I’m not interested in putting something forth for no reason. I hate writing setup lines. I do it, of course.

Honestly, you don’t strike me as an Avengers guy. You strike me as an X-Men guy.
And I am an X-Men guy. But I did read The Avengers pretty religiously before I read X-Men. And The Avengers took comics a step towards the X-Men that I don’t think it gets credit for. Particularly the two most important issues of my childhood, Avengers Annual, and Thing Two-in-One Annual, by Jim Starlin. I was a big Warlock fan, and what Starlin did in those issues was elevated not just the meaning of The Avengers with Thanos and Warlock and tragedy, and basically killing off a bunch of characters and having all this stuff to say about our journey in life. It was also one page of Spider-Man fighting. He’s having an internal monologue but he’s also fighting. It was nine panels. And every panel is very elaborately the next thing. Like, I’m on this guy, then I’m flipping back on this guy. Then I’m over here like because this guy’s over here. Now I’m dodging this which you saw in the last panel. What he did, years before Frank Miller did it and everybody noticed, was make the action completely locked in real space while being superheroic. He turned it into an action sequence. He didn’t just throw up two cameras and say: fight. He directed it.

But yeah, there’s a level on which you can’t approach The Avengers passionately, because they don’t make any sense.

I was hearing about it last night at a screening. Somebody said, “What are those people with no superpowers doing on the team?” I’m like, “Rocking my f**ing world is what they’re doing.” They’re awesome. I mean from the very start, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes — including Ant-Man. Really? Really? Like it just it makes no sense. That was basically what I wrote the introduction to The Ultimates, that was the premise I built it on. It makes no sense, and Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch made an argument for why we need them anyway.

AVENGERS Chris Hemsworth as Thor Chris Evans as Captain America

They don’t belong together. They all belong alone. The more they’re alone, the less useful they are. And there are a lot of elements of that that got thrown out at script stage, in editing stage. A lot of slightly darker things. But the one thing that did stay in there was the assertion that there are people who can’t be controlled, and we need as a human race to deal with it. We need something to stand up for us. We either need to fight them or we need to make them fight for us. And it doesn’t matter if they’re just kind of skillful or they’re the fricking Hulk. What matters is they’re all people, and they’re all dysfunctional on some level no matter how cool they are. And the dysfunction comes from their inability to work in a group.

The icy cold part is, I’ve wanted to make a comic book movie all my life, I’ve wanted to make a summer tent-pole movie all my life. I loved the book as a kid. I feel empathy for the characters. I have a take on the material. And this feels right. Now, that’s not so cold that artistic integrity isn’t involved, because I can’t live without it. I had the luxury of never doing a job I didn’t at least initially love. And I even include working in a video store.

Two things I wanted to make sure to tease you about. One is, so Black Widow’s pretty much going to be the hero, right?
She’s not the hero. Many of my favorite moments may or may not include Black Widow. There was a moment in the middle of the 92 grueling days of shooting away from my family that I really was not sleeping and angry at the whole universe, and I just looked around and said, “Where is my adolescent girl with superpowers? Pretty sure she should have showed up by now because I’ve been shooting for almost 50 days.” That’s the devil’s part of the devil’s bargain — I care about these people. I care about the fact that they’re isolated. I relate to them. But at the end of the day I’m also telling Marvel’s story.

The other thing is, I guess I have to figure out which character I like the most and make sure not to develop a relationship with that character, because that character’s getting the pipe through the chest.
I’m sure I don’t know what you mean. Yes. Most people don’t expect me to kill the Hulk.

Did you learn anything from Serenity that ported to Avengers?
In a sense it’s like raising a child. You can read all the books you want, but they’re not about your kid. For the most part I was like, it’s good, I’m good. But I had two anxiety attacks. One of them was watching Star Trek and thinking, this is so beautifully, watchmaker-constructed in how it reaches out to the audience at the very beginning. And I was just like, oh boy, I have a huge responsibility. That was a bit of a freakout. And the other was, at one point I went, oh that’s a lot of money. That’s really a lot of money. And my wife said, “Joss, it’s just the next story.” It was like that scene in Hoosiers where he measures the basketball net at the big stadium.

What do you when you’re finished?
I’m going to take a couple months off. My wife thinks it’s cute that I think that. But hey, I want to spend the summer hanging out being with my family. I hear that L.A.’s a fascinating town. I haven’t had much chance to explore L.A. because I’ve only been here for 23 years, so I’d like to see some of it. Sometimes I’m just like, we have to go somewhere old or I’ll die. Sometimes you have to go to the places where you can touch the originals, just to sort of feed the soul. On the other hand, I’m sure there’s a super awesome Hollywood party going on right now. I’ve never gone to one.

Really? You could.
I don’t know, I’m a writer. And by the time I — you know, I just like my friends and my family. I like dancing. And I like having a reason to go.

You mean gawking at preternaturally attractive people is not a reason?
Have you seen the women on my shows?

Good point.
Some of my best friends are preternaturally attractive. Sometimes it’s kind of annoying. Because I look in the mirror and I’m like … “I’m a freak. I should ring the bells.” But no, I just live in LA. The thing is all of the people in my stable, the people that I love, they have faces. They’re not generically pretty, they’re not forgettably pretty. They have great noses.

So Much Ado, it’s modern dress, it’s in your house, it’s an adaptation?
Yeah, I made cuts. It’s an enormously long play. I cut a couple of characters out, condensed a few.

Slightly less ado.
Slightly, but still quite a bit. It was all of these people who either knew people or just knew their reps or were from this show or that show or that show, all mingling, all just having the best time. The first day Kai, my wife, asked, “Are you happy?” And I smiled so hard I broke my face. I was happy but maybe not hydrated. But yeah, I smiled so wide I split my lip. It’s self-funded. It was done on a microbudget. We had an amazing crew. We’re about to make another small budget movie based on a script of mine that I’m not directing, Fran Hill’s directing. And my wife and I created a studio based on the idea of, just get it done. Like her philosophy is, you can do this. Make more.

You studied with the film professor Jeanine Basinger at Wesleyan. Did she teach a strong gender studies component?
No. She was teaching about genre and directors and the studio system. It was really, “What do you see? What do you feel? How did they do that and why?” That was her thing. It was very nonspecific. The thing that we talked about was a film student’s paper is only ever about themselves. The audience member only ever brings themselves to the movies. The whole point was you’re going to bring your obsession to whatever it is. But are you really looking at what they’re doing through the lens of your obsession, or are you trying to fit something into your agenda? Obsession and agenda not the same. My obsession was gender.

I remember thinking that my gender studies classes, especially literary ones, didn’t bring many tools to bear that I found useful for looking at text.
Yeah, the big thing I always get is, “That rape scene was offensive because it was disturbing.” I’m like, as opposed to the sexy rape scene? It’s so easy to be knee-jerk on either side. There’s this amazing film critic, Robin Wood, who I got to come and speak at Wesleyan. He talked about Ingrid Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock and it was just riveting. All his stuff. You know, it was seminal for me. But he talks about, I want to say from Roland Barthes but I’m not sure, the incoherent text. X-Men is an incoherent text. It’s a movie that’s saying one thing when it clearly or at least partially means another. It’s like when you’re saying “war is bad,” but don’t you just want to see Rambo suit up?

My favorite example is Die Hard. Die Hard was a game-changing movie because he’s a sensitive husband who feels like he’s blowing it, cares about his wife, just wants to like say I love you. He’s not a cop on the edge, he’s not Dirty Harry. He loves this woman, has a life, he has children, and that and Speed were really the two game changers in terms of being past the cowboy phase of superhero cops. But over the course of the movie, the way John McClane saves his wife is to destroy her workplace. Her boss gets killed. The way he finally saves her life is by taking off the watch that she got for being good at her job. And then we end the movie with her giving up her name. Like he deconstructs everything about her. The watch is particularly egregious.

Even though they set it up as a gift from Ellis, a prick that you’re not supposed to like?
It’s not from [the actor] Hart Bochner is it? It’s from Nakatomi. Hart’s gotta go. We all know Hart’s gotta go. Now, I would say a hilarious example would be Sucker Punch. This is the most exploitative movie about empowerment ever made. But while I recognize it as a hilarious failure, and I also recognize that I am both of the angel and the devil on Zack Snyder’s shoulder. I just think Snyder, who’s very talented, doesn’t actually know which is which. Since I was writing stories just for myself in my room when I was 14, I was worried about the politics of them. Of course, the more I worry about the politics, the less I’m writing. If you’re not exploiting the dark side of something, if you’re not saying that the urge to objectify exists, you are not going to make a meaningful piece of work.

The reason I felt like I had an in that most of my classmates didn’t in my feminism classes was, I was a f**ing guy, first and last. Male gaze? I was wearing those goggles every day. I was the enemy. I absolutely knew what the enemy was. I had sympathy for the devil. Not in a horrific way, but in a normal way. Sometimes you need to celebrate the darkness.

In service of story.
In service of story and in service of life. In service of story because you want to play on fear and you want to make people afraid, you want conflict, you want to make things sexy. You know, hopefully you want to be equal opportunity. Objectification, as we understand it, is reprehensible. Being attracted to somebody is necessary. And there’s somewhere in between there that’s where we’re going to live.

Fundamentally, aren’t movies just putting people up on a screen for other people to watch? There’s objectification built into the model.
Objectification and identification are at war but they’re at war in the way that people are, that narrative is, that creates art and humanity and life. Like they have to be at war. You have to root for the girl and the monster. It’s something nobody wants to admit. Nobody ever wants to admit that there are two sides to anything. They either want to be right or — no, they just want to be right. Sorry, I don’t know of that many people that want to be wrong. But the truth almost always lies somewhere in the middle.

This article has been edited for The complete story appeared in Wired May.2012.

May 1, 2012 | Interview | this post contains affiliate links