Whedon and Bureaucracies of Evil

Looks as though Alyssa Rosenberg eagerly anticipates writing more about the upcoming Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard horror movie, The Cabin in the Woods.  She withholds overall judgment, but confirms that the film is about the bureaucracy and beauty of evil, reoccurring and important themes in Whedon’s work.  Rosenberg:

Over the course of Whedon’s career, he’s shifted from writing purely about the people who escape from bureaucracies and started to spend more time on the people who participate in running organizations, some of whom commit significant evil in the course of their work.

That sounds about right.  The last season of Angel saw the gang literally going to work for their longtime nemesis, Wolfram & Hart, with tragic consequences.  Dollhouse, Whedon’s most recent television venture, features the agents of the “evil bureaucracies,” their moral trials and tribulations, and the human costs to their decisions as members of villainous organizations.

To work for the dollhouse, you have to be morally compromised.  Unless you’re Topher, in which case having no morals seals the deal.  To Whedon’s credit, his immoral and amoral protagonists are not caricatures, but believably flawed people.  They have moral limits as well: much of the drama in the second season comes from DeWitt, Topher, and Ballard challenging and being challenged by the moral boundaries they’ve set or reset for themselves.   And because they’re part of a bureaucracy that’s organized toward evil ends, they cannot elude the conscience-panging designs of those above them.

Cooperation with evil isn’t optional: it’s the necessary price of operating within an organization.  The corruption of a part negatively affects the whole.  Whedon understands this dynamic, and he knows how to use it for dramatic effect.  It’s good to hear he’s continue to explore the theme.

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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2 Responses

  1. Tod Kelly says:

    “Cooperation with evil isn’t an option: that’s the price of operating within an organization. ”

    Though I would point out that in the Buffyverse, both TV shows had a lot of episodes where they used evil demons and vampires in similar ways to noire cops and PIs using low life criminals to get information.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      True. What I meant was that cooperation with evil isn’t an option; it’s a necessary fact of acting within an organization. I’ll revise the sentence to make that clear.