Joss Whedon’s impact in popular culture cannot be underestimated. Since 1990, Whedon has consistently been on the TV and movie landscape, quietly carving a name for himself in writing roles for ’90s show Roseanne, and the short-lived Parenthood.
All that changed in 1997 when the first episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired on the WB. , Buffy was unlike much else on TV, and much else since. While Whedon had worked on some big productions prior to 1997 (Toy Story, anyone?), Buffy was his defining moment in the eyes of fans around the world. Combining genuine horror, intelligent dialogue and serious heart, Buffy also created some of the baddest, most memorable TV villains of all time — almost one for each episode! Then came Firefly, Angel, Dollhouse, Serenity and Marvel’s Avengers, all of which have shined brightly in the hearts of fans for years, and made Whedon a household name.
On the one hand, Whedon’s villains are not your usual cut-and-dry bad guys; on the other, some are so evil there is not an ounce of redemption left in them. This is why they make for such memorable characters, and why we root so much for the good guys in the end.
6. The First (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Season 7 was a harrowing, painful ride of a final season. We were introduced to so many new characters, and a brand new evil. In fact, we were introduced to the first Evil; the evil that created all other evil. The First was terrifying for 2 reasons:
1. It could mimic the dead. It could not touch you, or fight you physically, but it could get inside your head. It could torment you with your worst fears and feed off your pain (a la Spike).
2. It seemed pretty much entirely unbeatable. The big question was, how can you possibly beat something you can’t fight? Well, Sunnydale falling into the hellmouth will do it… for now.
5. The Alliance/The Operative (Firefly/Serenity)
was many things to many people; a show, a movement, a protest, a religion. As we watched our faithful Browncoats scavenge throughout space, we were introduced to the Alliance, a powerful super government which controls the galaxy. Why were they bad? Well, any super power that wants to control movement, freedoms and human rights is bad, right?
When Whedon released Serenity, the movie ‘sequel’ to the beloved series which was cancelled by Fox after just X episodes, we were introduced to The Operative, a black ops-type lone wolf who was tasked with tracking down River for the Alliance. He carries out his Alliance-ordered executions with a composure and serenity (no pun intended) which is truly chilling. However, as with many of Whedon’s morally ambiguous villains, the Operative has a change of heart once Mal reveals the horrific experiments done by the super government on Miranda.
4. The Facility (Cabin in the Woods)
It’s clear Joss Whedon likes his secret organizations, and the Facility is my favorite. Designed to keep the Gods of the underworld happy, the Facility, lead by none other than Sigourney Weaver, is tasked with pulling off the ideal sacrifice to postpone the end of the world.
Throughout the movie, the Facility is presented to be a bunch of normal people, doing a normal job, in a normal building. Oh, but they’re also tasked with murdering five teenagers with a variety of gruesomely nightmarish horrors. And, well, we all know how that ended for them.
3. Loki (Marvel’s Avengers)
I know Whedon did not create Loki but damn, did he MAKE Loki. Both Whedon and Tom Hiddleston were able to craft a timeless villain for both Thor and Marvel’s Avengers. Whedon put his own stamp on an already beloved genre, .
2. Sid (Toy Story)
Was there ever a kid more evil that Sid? Toy Story is such an iconic movie, but did you know that it might never happened if Joss Whedon hadn’t stepped in? Speaking in , Whedon says:
“They sent me the script and it was a shambles, but the story that Lasseter had come up with was, you know, they toys are alive and they conflict. The concept was gold. It was right there.”
Whedon then went on to work on the script for over four months, and one of the most terrifying concepts to come out of the rewrites for the film’s antagonist, Sid. Sid’s behavior was probably the precursor to a Dexter-like future, and his twisted toy torturing antics were abhorrent, making him one hell of a villain.
1. Angelus (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel)
Of all Whedon’s villains, his creations in Buffy were the most iconic. From the Master, to Spike, to Glory (and even Adam) — nothing compares to these guys when it comes to complex storytelling and true villainy. But there is one of Buffy’s many foes which stands out head and shoulders above the rest; Buffy’s former lover, Angel.
The story (for those that don’t know): Buffy meets sexy, brooding Angel in Season 1 and quickly falls in love with him. However, she soon discovers that Angel is a vampire who was cursed with a soul, meaning he cannot kill without remorse. Tragically, come Season 2, Buffy and Angel finally consummate their love, which breaks the curse and causes Angel to become Angelus, his original murdering vampire self.
The tragedy is palpable throughout, especially after Angelus murders Giles’s only love interest, Jenny. Buffy struggles to decide what to do because she is still in love with Angel, but finally she realizes she must kill him, and banishes him to a demon dimension… just as Willow grants him back his soul.
This is the tragedy and the genius of much of Whedon’s storytelling, it’s not black and white. While there is genuine evil in the world’s he helps create, there is also infinite love, sadness and strength. This is what makes Joss Whedon’s work so iconic, and so enduring.