Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty: Joss Extravaganza: Commentary!

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So continuing my Joss extravaganza I thought I’d review the Dr Horrible DVD, and most importantly Commentary! The Musical.

For those of you who don’t know, Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog was Joss Whedon’s internet musical phenomena of last year. I don’t think it’s Joss’s best work, but it has some very funny moments.*
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The DVD came out just before Christmas, and is absolutely awesome. It’s geared very much to the focused fan, with lots of very difficult to find easter eggs (I’m lazy so I just went on-line and found all sorts of pretty things). There’s everything you could expect a commentary and making of documentary.

But there’s also “Commentary! The Musical”, which is what you’re sound. If you’re a Joss fan I’d recommend getting the DVD even if you didn’t like Dr Horrible, because Commentary! The Musical is awesome. They rarely talk about what’s actually going on on screen, so it’s less a commentary and more a musical radio play, without much of a plot.

But the song are brilliant. Most importantly to me is the song about the writers strike. Clearly Joss songs about strikes are my favourite things.

Most of the rest of the songs are about the personas that various creative people involved take on. Felicia Day’s overactive brain is as hilarious as Zak Whedon’s who wants to be street wise. Although Nathan Fillion as a self-important asshole is funnier than bother of them (his song is called “Better than Neil, and is just as great as you’d think it would be).

Like the greatest silly humour it’s extremely random – there’s a song dedicated to the iphone game Ninja ropes. And another song which is about itself (“It has internal rhyme, but not in every instance and the meter is occasionally a little bit bizarre).”

Most of the humour is silly and hilarious (there’s a great Nathan joke which revolves around the hammer being his bpenis). But there’s also some good satire. Maurissa Tancharoen (one of the co-writers and one of the groupies) sings “Nobody’s Asian in the Movies”, which I love as much for it’s faux resolution as anything else.

Although one of the people who co-wrote Commentary! The Musical, has executive produced 4 TV shows, and written and directed a movie. This gave him some power to determine how many Asians there were on movies and TV. Buffy was on for seven seasons and 144 episodes – and the largest recurring Asian part was Chao-Ahn, a Chinese potential slayer. One of Cordelia’s friends was played by an Asian actress, but she was a very minor character. And that’s it, in seven seasons (and if I’ve missed anyone it’s someone who was as part was as minor as the Cordette). Angel had precisely one recurring Asian character (Gavin) and Firefly/Serenity had no Asian characters at all (as far as I can tell from imdb – there might have been a small one shot). Writing funny songs about problems is a lot less impressive if you have had the power to do something about those problems and didn’t.

Then finally there’s Joss’s song about creation itself:

    A CAVEMAN PAINTED ON A CAVE
    IT WAS A BISON, WAS A FAVE
    THE OTHER CAVE-PEOPLE WOULD RAVE –
    THEY DIDN’T ASK “WHY?”
    WHY PAINT A BISON IF IT’S DEAD
    WHEN DID YOU CHOOSE THE COLOR RED
    WHAT WAS THE PROCESS IN YOUR HEAD
    HE TOLD THEIR STORY
    WHAT CAME BEFORE HE DIDN’T SHOW
    WE’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO

I think cavemen probably did get asked why they used the colour red. The division between artist and audience is a new concept, as it was only possible or expected due to the development of one to many technologies such as the printing press, radio, TV etc. That’s now been reversed by the many to many technology of the internet. To reify one sort of relationship as the natural state between artists and audience to ignore the material basis for these relationships.**

After listening to Commentary! The Musical, I’ve decided that should dollhouse fail I want Joss to make an internet radio show. That way I’d get my serial storytelling from him, and it wouldn’t need to be massively resource intensive, the way an internet (or actual) TV show is.

* I’ve been thinking about Penny and the feminist implications of her character. I think I’ve decided I don’t mind the story from that point of view. Jane Espenson makes a great point on her blog that dramatic characters are intentionally funny and comedic characters are unintentionally funny. Penny makes jokes – she’s a dramatic character in a comedic series. For me that works with the idea that these ridiculous men are fighting over her (it just doesn’t make the story any more resonant with me).

** I still haven’t decided how serious this paragraph is, if I figure it out I’ll let you know.

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