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Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ Slut-Shaming, And Hero And Claudio’s Story

By Alyssa Rosenberg  

"Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ Slut-Shaming, And Hero And Claudio’s Story"

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I’m hoping to catch Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing at South By Southwest, though it looks like scheduling may not allow for it. But looking at the trailer, I’ve got two thoughts:

First, I love me some Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, but I think it’s going to be hard for me to see them not in the context of Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson’s performances in those roles in from twenty years ago. Acker’s so good at retiring roles that it’s hard for me to really imagine her with a delightfully poisonous tongue.

And second, I’m curious as to how the adaptation is going to handle Hero and Claudio, played respectively by Jillian Morgese and Fran Kranz. Their story, in which Hero’s chastity is called into question, the wedding between the young lovers is called off, and Claudio is made to feel guilty by being told that Hero’s literally died of grief is a much harder thing to bring into the moder era than a clash of wits between a much more contemporary couple like Beatrice and Benedick. There’s very interesting stuff to be done with Hero and Claudio about anxiety about relative sexual experience, slut-shaming, and the anxiety of marriage. But getting there and doing it right in this setting probably means jettisoning the set-up in which Claudio believes that Hero is dead. I’m curious to see how Whedon will work it all out. Giving us modern screwball with Beatrice and Benedick is awfully fun, but it’s the easy lift here. Transforming Hero and Claudio and doing it well will be the much more impressive feat.

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