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Some thoughts about Buffy the Vampire Slayer

August 3, 2010

I’m not new to Buffy, nor the work of Joss Whedon. I remember when I was, gosh, 12 maybe, I first saw the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie with Kristy Swanson, at least most of it. Right during the climatic battle where everything is looking dark for the slayer, Chet, my grandmother’s husbandm came in and turned the movie off. Having only seen flashes of the movie while walking by to check on me, he determined that the movie promoted violence towards women, and that was something that would not stand in this house. I tried arguing that Buffy was the Slayer, she was fighting the men, she was gathering inner strength, but Chet would not relent. The movie went back to Blockbuster, the ending unseen. It still bothers me that I haven’t seen the end of the movie. Perhaps this is the root of my insistence on watching even the worst movie to the bitter end, even if it means fast forwarding (see: Little Children, There’s Something About Mary). I have rarely left a movie incomplete since then, and I cannot recall another time someone else forced me to turn off what I was watching.

It would be another few years before my next run in with Buffy.  I used to catch random episodes on TV after biking home from my Tae Kwon Do lessons. Only a few episodes stick with me from that time — Witch, I Robot…You Jane, Surprise, and  smattering of Season 3 and 4. Despite have seeing some of the absolute worse episodes in the Buffy canon (I Robot…You Jane is right there at the bottom), and not knowing some of the meta narrative which drives each season, I was still intrigued about what was going on, maybe because I was going through the horror of high school myself.

In high school, I knew a kid who was a Buffy obsessive. Later, when I learned about the show’s semi-prominent status in the LGBTQ community, his obsession made a hell of a lot more sense. However at the time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was uncool, because there were obsessives out there, and they made watching the show feel like a weird competition. In college, I met enthusiasts who explained that the show offered satisfying narratives with feminist themes throughout the run. Nevertheless, I was a bit daunted by the sheer volume of episodes, while balancing school and other viewing habits. At the time, I was ingesting a near inhuman amount of Futurama, Simpsons, and zombie movies.

When I graduated from college and suddenly had a lot more time to watch the TV and movies I wanted, and read the books that had gotten pushed out the way for class assignments, I started my project — read a book a week, watch a movie a week. This is my second year of the project, and I am halfway through the year. I’m about a week behind on my book reading (which up until this point, has been admirable, actually getting ahead of myself), but Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been consuming my life.

I’ve had been chewing through other big TV shows — I started watching the new Doctor Who seasons last December and finished them just in time to start watching Season 5 air, which finished in late June. I blew through everything Glee had to offer in two short weeks in late May and early June. So, around mid- July, I was hungry for another season of TV to watch. Then, July 20th, I was unexpectedly called to cover the overnight shift at work. I knew that if I had a regular TV show to keep me company, something good and involving, I wouldn’t fall asleep. My friend Maddo has been re-watching the series on Netflix (she loves Buffy and they have all 7 seasons), so I thought I’d take a chance.

I went through six episodes in one night. 12 days later, I just wrapped up season 2. You could call me a fan.

Part of me is very sad that Buffy is not a show I can surprised by, as it is no longer airing. This is not to say that I won’t be surprised, but watching a TV show week to week can build suspense and create tension that DVDs lack. Watching Battlestar Galactica while it aired is proof enough of that. I know the show ends, as does Angel, not necessarily on its own terms. Such seems to be the fate of Joss Whedon’s work. Over time, I’ve gotten used to shows that choose to end on their own terms: The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, etc. So knowing that Angel and Buffy will eventually be yanked from me is a hard fact that I will eventually reconcile with.

But for the moment, I am enjoying all the Buffy I can get. When I’m not watching Buffy, I want watch more Buffy. The story of the young vampire slayer is interesting compared to the rest of the vampire stories that we’ve been enduring for the past decade, especially the way that Buffy vampires (save Angel) are cut and dry evil. It also helps that the shows narrative is excellent, the dialogue is catchy and fun, and the show approaches issues like feminism, growing up, love, and everything else that comes up dealing with supernatural creatures in a fascinating way that has endured the past 10 years.

At the moment, I’m trying to reconcile issues I have connecting with the show. I still don’t feel as if I’m as connected to some of the characters as I may have ought to be and I wonder if that’s because I’m trying to intellectualize the themes too much. I know Joss Whedon is clever enough to be talking about several things at the same time, so while I am connecting to the characters on an emotional level, I’m also thinking about why I’m connecting– analyzing rather than feeling. This is a bit of a life problem for me, I’m a bit afraid of opening myself to shows I otherwise like because I’m afraid of getting hurt. I very much believe that a relationship with a book or TV show can have the same emotional roller coaster that a relationship with a person can have. Of course, it does not help that there are several cultural critics I respect writing about the show. This encourages my intellectualizing, but can also stymie some of own opinions about the show. But, their analysis has also encouraged me to reformat this blog, and try to get back into the criticism game.

So, in many ways, re-starting this blog as an analysis of TV shows, books, and films is a way to encourage myself to think more critically about what I’m watching and reading, but also a way to encourage me to articulate what I’m feeling, as smart criticism does both. So, that’s what I’ll be doing for the next year (hopefully. I may have to take to reviewing my text books come fall).

One Comment leave one →
  1. jessica permalink
    January 5, 2011 7:07 am

    “I know the show ends, as does Angel, not necessarily on its own terms. Such seems to be the fate of Joss Whedon’s work. Over time, I’ve gotten used to shows that choose to end on their own terms: The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, etc. So knowing that Angel and Buffy will eventually be yanked from me is a hard fact that I will eventually reconcile with.”

    Actually Buffy does end on its own terms. It wasn’t yanked from TV. Joss Whedon planned for Season 7 to be the last. Any Buffy fan who tells you differently is just being a drama queen. (Angel, as well as every other Whedon show, are different matters.)

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