“Hi, my name is Eddie, and I make things up.”
Probably not the best introduction to myself I could offer, huh? In a way, though, it’s sort of true. Well, it’s not true as much as I’d like it to be, although I am doing it right now. You’re actually doing something similar every day; you just don’t realize it.
Let me back up a little bit. A couple of weeks ago, I was at the local library and saw a copy “Serenity” on the DVD shelf (For the record, I hardly ever rent movies anymore. They’re free to check out at the library, and since I don’t watch that many movies anymore, I can usually find most of what I want to see there eventually.). Even though I had never watched a single episode of “Firefly,” I was on kind of a Joss Whedon high after seeing “Marvel’s The Avengers” (twice) at the theater, so I decided to check it out.
In case you’re not familiar with “Firefly” (or “Serenity,” for that matter), it’s kind of difficult to explain what the show (or the movie) was about. There was a civil war … and a unification of governments … and it’s set in outer space … and it’s got elements of old Western movies and television shows in it … and it stars Nathan Fillion. I can’t really think of anything I can compare it to … and I mean that as the ultimate compliment.
I was pretty floored by how Whedon had managed to create a world (or, in this case, a universe) which seemed to be completely original. He definitely plucked some traditional storytelling elements from other genres (the aforementioned Westerns, science fiction, action/adventures), but the dialogue, characterizations, and setting still seemed unique to me. The occasional use of the Chinese language, original slang such as “gorram,” and the details of the new government/class structure only added to the effect.
As I considered what Whedon had created with “Firefly,” some of his other projects came to mind, most notably “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” – two television shows I never watched and probably never will (I’m not big on teen angst … or vampires, for that matter.). I also knew he had co-written the script for the original “Toy Story” film and that he had worked on the X-Men comic books for a while. And, of course, I knew he directed “The Avengers.” It didn’t take much analyzing from there to come to one very obvious conclusion: Joss Whedon is a major geek.
Oh, and he’s also now the director of the third highest-grossing film of all time, which probably means he’s at least pretty close to being a millionaire now, too.
Obviously, there exists a contingent out there which would label Whedon as a very talented guy. In the same vein, though, you could just as easily view a large portion of his work as a complete waste of time and energy. A movie, a series, and then another movie about a female, teenage vampire hunter? A comic book whose most popular character can pop a set of claws out of each of his hands? A “space Western” that got cancelled before it even finished its first season? These don’t sound much like the endeavors of a grown-up with anything to contribute to society at-large.
Based on his level of popularity, though, it’s obvious that Whedon has managed to channel his ideas and interests into a successful career. In fact, you could even argue that Whedon has even managed to find his calling, which seems to be something every man and woman alive struggles with at some time or another. But wait a minute: Making up stories about spaceships, vampires, and super heroes can’t possibly be a real calling, can it? I mean, can you imagine the discussions this man must engage in on a daily basis? Conversations which include words such as “Tesseract,” “Hulk,” and “Chitauri” – nonsense to a vast majority of the population at large.
I believe to live in that kind of universe, one has to make a conscious decision to take up residence there. What I mean by that is, you have to surrender to whatever it is you intend to do. If Whedon, for instance, suddenly thought to himself, “Man, this is all kind of silly. I’m not so sure it’s worth it…”, he’d probably stop writing and directing and would go off and become an accountant or something like that. If an accountant suddenly thought to himself, though, that adding numbers all day long wasn’t really providing much of a service to mankind and began to feel embarrassed about his position in life, he might decide to head off to some different profession altogether as well.
It’s actually fairly easy to paint just about every calling or profession in life in an unflattering light. Computer programmer? Just sits in front of a computer all day, totally unconnected to reality. Doctor? Has to spend all day listening to people complain about their aches and pains, charges too much for what they do. Pastors? Unappreciated, underpaid, overworked, can’t possibly please everyone in their congregations. President of the United States? Power hungry, doesn’t care about “real” people, won’t be able to accomplish anything because of politics in the House and Senate. Give detractors a chance and they can poke holes in anything.
In her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” author Susan Cain writes about how introverted individuals can sometimes manage to overcome their shyness if they can find a field or cause they are passionate about. She suggests looking back on one’s childhood to rediscover what those things might be which evoke such feelings. This line of thinking makes a great deal of sense, but at the same time scares me to death because I spent a large chunk of my childhood making up stories.
I had bunches of Star Wars and Masters of the Universe action figures – but I hardly ever played with them using actual storylines from the movies or cartoons. My Star Wars figures were all superheroes I made up. He-Man and Skeletor? Wrestlers. A whole wrestling league of Masters of the Universe characters, each with a name and story of their own. This was probably in honor of my dad, who loved to watch professional wrestling (and I’m talking old-school, Lance Russell, Memphis Coliseum wrestling here). I played imaginary basketball teams in the backyard and pitched to my own league of hitters using a tennis ball and a brick wall.
So I grew up making things up. And then I graduated from college and started using facts to create stories as a newspaper reporter. And then I figured out how to start a blog and started stringing words together on the Internet. I believe all of this means I’m still making things up. That can’t be right, though, can it? I mean, shouldn’t I have grown out of this by now?
Well, maybe not. I’m starting to think I’m in the stages of seeing the neighborhood – the one where the Joss Whedons of the world choose to reside – but I’m not ready to live there yet. I still feel like there are more “proper” things to do. As hard as I try to maneuver myself into adulthood, though, I still find myself skimming comic book Web sites or browsing through the magazine section or quoting lines from movies I saw 15 years ago. Maybe this might actually be adulthood for me…
As you can tell from the length of this, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, and I’m not so sure I’m any closer to a conclusion than I was when I started typing nearly 1,300 words ago. What I know, at least, is this: My name is Eddie, and I make things up.