A Shiny Review of Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them

On March 10, 1997, a few weeks shy of my 14th birthday, I sat down to watch the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For the life of me I can’t remember why. I was still very much ignorant of the world and pathetically innocent. I hadn’t yet begun to swear, dating and sex were things that only happened to people on my mom’s soap operas, and makeup and jewelry were foreign concepts to me. There was absolutely nothing that could have interested me in a show about a popular blonde girl who fought vampires in chunky heels and babydoll tees. Nevertheless, I clicked on the TV and my worldview shifted.

Buffy was me, or, more accurately, who I wanted to be. She was a powerful and wickedly clever girl who gave as much as she took and was loyal to a fault. Not to mention the construction of the show itself. Whedon gave me the words, the phrases, the style of speaking I had always longed for, and he gave me a role model of bravery and feminism I never knew I needed. The way I behave, intone, speak, write, and think today can all be traced back to that one fateful Monday night.

Not that you came here to read all about my boring teenage years in a boring little city where the only excitement in my life came from watching actors older than me pretend to be my age on the red-headed stepchild of television networks. But, really, that’s what Whedonistas! A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them, out today from Mad Norwegian Press, is all about.

Edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Deborah Stanish, Whedonistas is a collection of autobiographical essays and interviews. Much like its predecessor, Chicks Dig Time Lords, the women writing these essays aren’t just idle fans but fanatics. They are the kind of women who can watch Angel ep “Not Fade Away” and after bursting into tears can pull themselves together to have a feminist debate over Illyria’s behavior toward Wesley.

A few of the women in Chicks also make appearances here. Catherynne M. Valente crafts a fascinating discussion of corruption, righteousness, and masculinity and how, much like Fred, she found herself lost in a world she didn’t understand and it was the monsters that brought her back. Elizabeth Bear recounts her love of all that is Oz.

But mostly the articles come from new or unfamiliar voices. Sigrid Ellis writes about how she has, at various points in her life, been every character on Dollhouse. Pricilla Spencer recounts her backwards discovery of Whedon and her joy at watching Dr. Horrible unfold. And our own resident blogger Teresa Jusino details her childhood and how Firefly was the first TV show she ever related to. There are even interviews with TV veteran Jane Espenson and Juliet Landau, the actor who played crazy, creepy Drusilla.

Fans of Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible might feel a wee bit left out, since most of the articles are about Buffy and Angel—and to a lesser extent Firefly. But no matter where your affiliations lie (I will always love Angel the most, I mean, come on, Whedon turned him into a wee little puppet man!) if you’re a fan of Whedon you’ll have no reason to complain.

This book is essential reading for those of us who have dressed up as Oz dressed up as God for Halloween, who ran the width and breadth of Comic Con for a Jayne knit cap, who thought Kaylee and Simon were so damned cute, who watched an evil slayer become a living doll, and who wanted to give Wesley a hug and tell him it’d be alright in the end.

My generation had Clarissa Darling and Jen and Joey, the Spice Girls and Paula Cole, Dana Scully and Lois Lane, Princess Diana and Hilary Clinton, and with Whedon we gained Buffy, Cordelia, Willow, Fred, and Lilah. And with the next generation getting a headstart with Echo, Adelle, River, Kaylee, Zoe, and Penny I don’t think we have a lot to worry about. It’s us that Whedonistas was written for. We are women. We are fans. We are stronger and smarter and braver than you think. We are dorks and geeks and nerds, and we don’t care a gorram thing what you have to say about it.

Alex Brown is an archivist in training, reference librarian by profession, Rob Gordon and Randal by paycheck, novelist by moonlight, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare…


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