Joss Whedon and Michael Bay throw down in pop culture lecture

Jacob Paker

Michael Bay’s and Joss Whedon’s films will soon be going head to head in a lecture at WKU.

David Lavery will present his book, “Joss Whedon: A Creative Portrait,” as part of the Thoughts on Pop series in Mass Media and Technology Hall on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

In an episode of the final season of Joss Whedon’s “Angel,” vampires Spike and Angel engage in a heated debate over who would win an unlikely battle between a caveman and an astronaut. A similar clash is now underway in the world of entertainment between Bay, a commercially successful but critically reviled movie director, and Whedon, according to the prologue of Lavery’s book.

Despite a common alma mater, Wesleyan University, Whedon and Bay remain polar opposites, as different as, well, a caveman and an astronaut: each an explorer of one pole of the contemporary media axis, each with his own “weapons” at the ready.

Lavery, an English professor at Middle Tennessee State University, has written several books on popular television series, such as “Lost.”

He said he’s always been fascinated by Whedon’s work. His lecture will focus on the specific chapter in his book about the differences in Whedon and Bay films.

“Not too many people know that Joss Whedon and Michael Bay went to college together and were in the same graduating class,” Lavery said. “They represent polar opposites of contemporary entertainment.

“If you’ve ever seen a Michael Bay film as opposed to Joss Whedon, it makes you know that Bay is pretty much as dumb as a rock with a tremendous ability to blow things up and shatter glass,” he said.

While Lavery will let the audience make up their mind as to which is the caveman and which is the astronaut, he thinks the answer will be obvious.

“Bay is a playboy, Whedon is a family man,” Lavery said. “I joke in the book that Whedon is the nerd and Bay is the guy who probably beat up on him in high school.”

Lavery plans to present material from the creators’ films to further his point.

“I’ll be showing clips from ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Transformers’ where there’s this battle to save the world,” he said. “In the Whedon film, you care about the characters — you don’t even know who these people are in Bay films.”