The Existential Joss Whedon

Evil and Human Freedom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Serenity


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About the Book

This study examines the major works of contemporary American television and film screenwriter Joss Whedon. The authors argue that these works are part of an existentialist tradition that stretches back from the French atheistic existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, through the Danish Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard, to the Russian novelist and existentialist Fyodor Dostoevsky. Whedon and Dostoevsky, for example, seem preoccupied with the problem of evil and human freedom. Both argue that in each and every one of us “a demon lies hidden.” Whedon personifies these demons and has them wandering about and causing havoc. Dostoevsky treats the subject only slightly more seriously.
Chapters cover such topics as Russian existentialism and vampire slayage; moral choices; ethics; Faith and bad faith; constructing reality through existential choice; some limitations of science and technology; love and self-sacrifice; love, witchcraft, and vengeance; soul mates and moral responsibility; love and moral choice; forms of freedom; and Whedon as moral philosopher.

About the Author(s)

J. Michael Richardson is a professor of English at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. A specialist in Early Modern Literature he has written a number of articles on Shakespeare and popular culture.
J. Douglas Rabb is a professor emeritus of philosophy at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, and an executive member of the Centre for Health Care Ethics, also at Lakehead University.

Bibliographic Details

J. Michael Richardson and J. Douglas Rabb
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 204
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2781-9
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5530-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction      1

1. Russian Existentialism and Vampire Slayage: A Shestovian Key to the Power and Popularity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer      7
2. Moral Choice in Buffy, Angel and Firefly: Ethics in the Whedonverse      18
3. Buffy, Faith and Bad Faith: Choosing to Be the Chosen One      26
4. Slayer Authenticity: Constructing Reality Through Existential Choice      48
5. Riley and the Initiative: Some Limitations of Science and Technology      63
6. Darla, Spike, and Xander: Love and Self-Sacrifice      75
7. Willow and Tara: Love, Witchcraft, and Vengeance      90
8. Angel and Spike: Soul Mates and Moral Responsibility      106
9. Angel in Hell: Love and Moral Choice      122
10. Firefly and Serenity: Two Forms of Freedom      137
11. Myth, Metaphor, and Morality: Joss Whedon as Moral Philosopher      150

Bibliography      175
Index      193