CLOSE
Getty Images
Getty Images

17 Joss Whedon Quotes for His 50th Birthday

Getty Images
Getty Images

The man who brought you Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, The Avengers, and so much more turns 50 today—and he's said some pretty wise words along the way.

1. On Humor

"Humor keeps us alive. Humor and food. Don't forget food. You can go a week without laughing."

From an interview with Alan Sepinwall

2. On Fanfiction

"All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn't your pet—it's your kid. It grows up and talks back to you."

From a Reddit AMA

3. On Changing the World

"You are going to change the world, because that is actually what the world is. You do not pass through this life, it passes through you. You experience it, you interpret it, you act, and then it is different. That happens constantly. You are changing the world. You always have been."

From his 2013 Wesleyan Commencement Address

4. On how Close Encounters of the Third Kind Changed his life

"More than anything, seeing that film was a germ that opened my mind: the idea that Roy was going to leave Earth and travel through space, and that when he came back it would be several decades later and everybody he had known would be dead, hit home the reality of being human. It made me consider what we are, what we can be, what our limitations are. That blew the brains out of my head and I wore them on my shoulders as epaulettes. I became obsessed with the film. ... When I got back to school I told my best friend what had happened and he handed me a copy of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre. I realized, 'Oh! Other people have gone through this!' Basically, the film had made me an existentialist."

From an essay he wrote for The Guardian 

5. On Rebellion

"The greatest expression of rebellion is joy."

From the Emmy Acceptance Speech for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog

6. On Horror

"I think there's a lot of people out there who say we must not have horror in any form, we must not say scary things to children because it will make them evil and disturbed ... That offends me deeply, because the world is a scary and horrifying place, and everyone's going to get old and die, if they're that lucky. To set children up to think that everything is sunshine and roses is doing them a great disservice. Children need horror because there are things they don't understand. It helps them to codify it if it is mythologized, if it's put into the context of a story, whether the story has a happy ending or not. If it scares them and shows them a little bit of the dark side of the world that is there and always will be, it's helping them out when they have to face it as adults."

From an interview with NPR

7. On writing

“If I find out I have to write today and nothing else, that’s a perfect day. I know a lot of people who are great at it and make it look easy who are tortured and miserable people. Writing for me is perfect peace.”

From an interview with Entertainment Weekly

8. On Making A Connection

“This was one of the most important things I’ve ever learned, one of the defining things about humanity. ... [E]very time somebody opens their mouth they have an opportunity to do one of two things—connect or divide. Some people inherently divide, and some people inherently connect. Connecting is the most important thing, and actually an easy thing to do. ... I’m shocked that there are so many people that live to divide."

Speaking about what he learned as a writer on Roseanne during a 2003 interview with Ken Plume

9. On Buffy the Vampire Slayer

"I designed the show to create that strong reaction. I designed Buffy to be an icon, to be an emotional experience, to be loved in a way that other shows can't be loved. Because it's about adolescence, which is the most important thing people go through in their development, becoming an adult. And it mythologizes it in such a way, such a romantic way—it basically says, 'Everybody who made it through adolescence is a hero.' And I think that's very personal, that people get something from that that's very real."

From an interview with the A.V. Club

10. On obsession

“Obsession is beautiful. It's what makes art.”

Mother Jones

11. On Why He Creates Strong Female Characters

“There is one question that I've been asked almost every time I’ve been interviewed. So I thought tonight, briefly, I would share with you one question and a few of my responses. Because, when you're asked something 500 times, you really start to think about the answer. ...

“‘So, why do you write these strong women characters?’
Because equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity, we need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and women who’s confronted with it. We need equality, kinda now.

“‘So, why do you write these strong female characters?’
Because you’re still asking me that question.”

From his Equality Now Speech

12. On His Writing Rituals

“I do listen to music. Movie scores, exclusively, because it’s all about mood and nonspecificity. I love the way modern movie scoring is all about nonspecificity. You know, if I shuffled the tracks from Inception, I challenge you to tell me which is which. But … you feel incredibly heightened during all of it. I don’t know what I’m very excited about but I’m very excited. Or worried. Or sad, I’m not sure which, but it’s all happening. And that’s really great. Whereas, you know, your old-school, very theme-specific music, which is the kind I like to actually use in my movies, is useless to writing.”

13. On Humanism

"The enemy of humanism is not faith. The enemy of humanism is hate, is fear, is ignorance, is the darker part of man that is in every humanist, every person in the world. That is what we have to fight. Faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in god means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers."

Harvard’s Humanist Chaplaincy acceptance speech

14. On the Kinds of Conversations He Enjoys

“I always enjoy conversation more if there is some substance to it—which is a just incredibly hilarious thing for me to say because for many, many years I was the guy whose only contribution to any conversation was, ‘There was a funny Simpson’s joke about that.’ But I’m trying to evolve from that. I mean, just having a silly time and laughing your butt off is . . . don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it, but yeah, I have a problem with pointlessness.”

From an Interview with Fast Company

15. On Inspiration and Creation

"Actually, I don't think of myself as being inspired to create. I can't imagine doing anything else. It's like breathing."

From a Reddit AMA

16. On advice he’d give to geeks with good ideas

"If you have a good idea, get it out there. For every idea I’ve realized, I have ten I sat on for a decade till someone else did it first. Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE."

From a Hulu Q&A

17. On Happiness and Peace

"If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy. Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better."

From his 2013 Wesleyan Commencement Address

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images
arrow
Lists
15 Powerful Quotes From Margaret Atwood
MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images
MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

It turns out the woman behind such eerily prescient novels as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake is just as wise as her tales are haunting. Here are 15 of the most profound quips from author, activist, and Twitter enthusiast Margaret Atwood, who was born on this day in 1939.

1. On her personal philosophy

 “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

2. On the reality of being female

“Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

3. On limiting how her politics influence her characters

“You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

4. On so-called “pretty” works of literature

“I don’t know whether there are any really pretty novels … All of the motives a human being may have, which are mixed, that’s the novelists’ material. … We like to think of ourselves as really, really good people. But look in the mirror. Really look. Look at your own mixed motives. And then multiply that.”

— From a 2010 interview with The Progressive

5. On the artist’s relationship with her fans

“The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

6. On the challenges of writing non-fiction

“When I was young I believed that ‘nonfiction’ meant ‘true.’ But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth—there may be several truths—but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

7. On poetry

“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

8. On being labeled an icon

“All these things set a standard of behavior that you don’t necessarily wish to live up to. If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

9. On how we’re all born writers

“[Everyone] ‘writes’ in a way; that is, each person has a ‘story’—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at 20 is seen as comedy or nostalgia at 40.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

10. On the oppression at the center of The Handmaid's Tale

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here. Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” 

— From a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

11. On the discord between men and women

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’ … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

— From Atwood’s Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982

12. On the challenges of expressing oneself

“All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

13. On selfies

“I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature. And it does no good to puritanically say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,’ because people do.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

14. On the value of popular kids' series (à la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson)

"It put a lot of kids onto reading; it made reading cool. I’m sure a lot of later adult book clubs came out of that experience. Let people begin where they are rather than pretending that they’re something else, or feeling that they should be something else."

— From a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post

15. On why even the bleakest post-apocalyptic novels are, deep down, full of hope

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

— From a 2011 interview with The Atlantic 

arrow
History
15 Empowering Quotes From Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born on November 12, 1815 and dedicated her life to progressing the women’s rights movement in America. She organized, she rallied, advocated, protested, wrote, and, most importantly, spoke. Here are just a few of the activist’s most powerful words.

1. ON THE LIFE OF FRIEND SUSAN B. ANTHONY

"To live for a principle, for the triumph of some reform by which all mankind are to be lifted up—to be wedded to an idea—may be, after all, the holiest and happiest of marriages."

— From The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony

2. ON HER HOPES FOR YOUNG WOMEN

“I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives, but as nouns.”

— From an 1870 lecture called “Our Girls”

3. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF POLITICAL EQUALITY

“To throw obstacles in the way of a complete education is like putting out the eyes; to deny the rights of property is like cutting off the hands. To refuse political equality is to rob the ostracized of all self-respect, of credit in the market place, of recompense in the world of work, of a voice in choosing those who make and administer the law, a choice in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their punishment.”

— From “Solitude of Self

4. ON HOW THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE COULD USE AN EDIT

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”

— From "The Declaration of Rights and Sentiments"

5. ON THE CHANGING TIMES

“Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving.”

— From The Woman’s Bible

6. ON TRUTH

“Truth is the only safe ground to stand upon.”

— From The Woman’s Bible

7. ON KEEPING BUSY.

“In a word, I am always busy, which is perhaps the chief reason why I am always well.”

— From Stanton’s diaries

8. ON INDEPENDENCE

"Whatever the theories may be of woman's dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life, he cannot bear her burdens. In the tragedies and triumphs of human experience, each mortal stands alone."

— From “Solitude of Self

9. ON GETTING OLDER

“... the hey-day of woman's life is on the shady side of fifty, when the vital forces heretofore expended in other ways are garnered in the brain …”

— From Elizabeth Cady Stanton as revealed in her letters, diary and reminiscences

10. ON COURAGE

“The best protection any woman can have ... is courage.”

— From Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: Fighting Together for Women's Rights

11. ON BETTERING ONESELF

“Put it down in capital letters: SELF-DEVELOPMENT IS A HIGHER DUTY THAN SELF-SACRIFICE. The thing that most retards and militates against women’s self development is self-sacrifice.”

— As told to a reporter, via In a Different Voice

12. ON THE BOSTON TEA PARTY

“It was just so in the American Revolution, in 1776, the first delicacy the men threw overboard in Boston harbor was the tea, woman's favorite beverage. The tobacco and whiskey, though heavily taxed, they clung to with the tenacity of the devil-fish.”

― From The Women’s Bible

13. ON HOW TO BECOME A BETTER PUBLIC SPEAKER

“Dress loose, take a great deal of exercise, and be particular about your diet and sleep sound enough, the body has a great effect on the mind.”

— As told to Susan B. Anthony

14. ON LIVING YOUR TRUTH

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls. Every truth we see is ours to give the world, not to keep for ourselves alone, for in so doing we cheat humanity out of their rights and check our own development.”

— From an 1890 speech to the National American Woman Suffrage Association

15. ON MOTHERHOOD

“We are, as a sex, infinitely superior to men, and if we were free and developed, healthy in body and mind, as we should be under natural conditions, our motherhood would be our glory. That function gives women such wisdom and power as no male can possess.”

— From Stanton’s letters

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios