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Joss Whedon - "Serenity" Movie - Fighting For The Custody Of Characters

Scott Nance

Thursday 9 March 2006, by Webmaster

Emotional Resonance & Rocket Launchers

(March 08 2006) - Last fall as Universal was preparing to release Joss Whedon’s film "Serenity," an angry fan wrote in to say they were boycotting the movie because two main characters die in the course of the story.

"I know it sounds silly, but I disagree so full-heartedly with killing those characters off, that I refuse to go see the movie because of it," the fan said. "I almost, almost wish the movie crashes and burns because of it to teach Joss a lesson."

Just what lesson would that be, exactly?

And, more importantly, whose characters are these, anyway?This irate fan sounds just a bit proprietary when it comes to “Serenity”’s dramatis persona, don’t they?

Do they have a right to be?In a sense, that sort of outrage means a producer is doing is job—people care what happens to these people who are really fictional figments, after all. What happens, though, when in exchange for their emotional investment, audiences start expecting—and in some cases demanding—some ownership stake in a given set of characters or scifi universe?

Scifi fans, particularly, have always taken a bit more possession of their favorite series. Fan fiction, for instance, is just one manifestation of the control they exert. They take characters born from another person’s imagination and then basically do with them what they will.

Although he has always appreciated the fans’ interest and attention, Whedon makes it clear he is not there to cater to them.

Whedon says he’s there to be in service to the story that needs to be told."... I need to give them what they need, not what they want. They need to have their hearts broken," he told one interviewer. "They need to see change."

"They hated Oz, and then they hated that he left," he added, referring to the guitar-playing werewolf from "Buffy The Vampire Slayer." "These things are inevitable. If people are freaking out, I’m good. If people are going, ’Hmmm...well, that was fine,’ I’m fucked.

"Pretty tough stuff, for sure, but Whedon is absolutely right, of course. It’s that tough stuff that makes compelling drama.

And, ultimately, it is up to Whedon to see his characters through to the end, just as it’s up to Ron Moore to see his crew on "Battlestar Galactica" through, or the same for any producer and his or her creation.

They are the ones who struggle to create and define their characters, shape a dramatic world for them to inhabit and then basically find a home for them such that then we can eventually meet them and e ither love them or hate them.

They have to endure all of that work and if we keep meeting up with their creations, then they, the producers win. And to the victors go the spoils. In the great, ongoing custody battle we fans wage over our favorite the characters, we will never get full custody. The best we can hope for is perhaps some unsupervised visitation.

As for that fan who sat out "Serenity," I feel bad. It was one heckuva picture!....