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BethR

What Would Buffy Do?

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It seems there are a few who want to discuss Buffy the Vampire Slayer and some who don't care, and some who never liked it. I'll just try to get things started.

The series has ended now, of course, after seven seasons. A pretty decent run for a "cult" show that ran on two minor networks (WB and UPN). The TV Critics Association just gave it their "Heritage Award," for "programs that have a lasting influence on pop culture and society."

There was a Buffy movie (1992), which is kind of a hoot, but very campy and much more of a spoof than the TV show. I liked the movie, though--I like spoofs of horror, though I don't like straight horror or the gothic particularly--and that's why I tuned into the first episode of the show in 1997. It was much, much better.

The metaphor of BtVS, originally, is that high school is hell. If your high school years weren't, then lucky you. But eventually, this metaphor broadened to "growing up is hell." And Buffy, "the one girl in all the world who can fight the forces of evil" became more and more obviously (to many viewers) a Christ-like figure, especially after she sacrificed herself to save her sister, and the world.

In 2001, The Door named Buffy their "Theologian of the Year"

<http://www.thedoormagazine.com/archives/buffy.html>

Christianity Today noted the virtues (and vices) of the show:

<http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2002/136/31.0.html>

And National Review Online called it "one of TV's most morally serious shows:

<http://www.nationalreview.com/weekend/television/television-rosenberger052601.shtml>

The Door article speculates the the creator of the show (and one of its principal writers) Joss Whedon, might be a Christian. In fact, he's described himself in several interviews as "an angry atheist." It's known, however, that some writers on the show are Christians. To me, it's a fascinating study in the way the true narrative of redemption insinuates itself even into the hearts of unbelievers. Whedon has also said that he's ""fascinated by the idea of devotion." Spiritual issues are more frequently dealt with on Buffy, literally and allegorically, than on any other TV drama except "Touched by an Angel" (also cancelled--and too sentimental for me)

I don't deny that there are controversial issues--violence, pre-marital sex, lesbian Willow, the presentation of the occult. But I think the show is much more than fluff, and if viewed metaphorically, has much to offer.

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I might be wrong, but I think Sarah Michelle Gellar got out of an elevator right in front of me yesterday. I did a double-take, but it was too late, that slayer was gone.

I was never faithful enough as a Buffy watcher to tap into its metaphoric journeys, but it sure has a healthy following in Christian communities.

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I've been skimming through Slayage -- a very broad range of topics. I got started on BtVS about the time they got out of high school, so now I'm catching up via DVD and watching reruns on FX. And I'm dragging my feet watching the last couple of episodes of this season.

One of the things that always struck me was the tension of the one and the many. In theory, Buffy is the only one in the world to face this evil and is gifted for that task, but in reality, she would never get by without the community (Scooby gang). To be sure, there are those people called to greatness, but rarely do they do it by themselves.

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I first got into Buffy during the gang's first year in college (though I think Earshot was actually the first episode I saw--A great choice for a first ep. to see).

At the time, I happened to be struggling with the fact that everyone around me saw the world, good and evil, etc., only in black and white terms. That particular season of Buffy really resonated with me because a lot of the storyline that year, particularly for Riley, had to do with learning that it's not all humans good/demons bad. (Of course, in real life, demons are always bad, but in the Buffyverse, demons seem to really stand in for people who are different, out of place, etc.) One of the things I like most about Buffy is that nothing is ever simple and clear-cut. Even the heroes act like jerks--as I think Buffy did for a lot of the last season. And sometimes the villians aren't so evil after all.

I discovered Slayage a while back--I heard a story about it on NPR. I haven't gotten a chance to do much more than skim the titles of the articles. I keep meaning to go back and actually read some of it. It looks pretty interesting.

--Teresa

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teresakayep wrote:

: Of course, in real life, demons are always bad, but in the Buffyverse, demons

: seem to really stand in for people who are different, out of place, etc.

Hmmm. It's an interesting question, though, whether a demon could ever repent. When I was a kid, I was told that angels were only God's servants, and thus God would never try to save them, whereas humans were God's children, and thus the Holy Spirit was actively trying to save (at least some of) us. I'm not sure what I make of that any more.

Another interesting question is how much an angel can be allowed to struggle with God's will before he/she turns into a full-fledged demon -- are the angels allowed times of trial, times of temptation, or do they instantly become "always bad" the moment they have a doubt about their vocation? If they are allowed times of temptation in one direction, it might become easier to imagine times of temptation in the other direction, too.

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One of the things that always struck me was the tension of the one and the many. In theory, Buffy is the only one in the world to face this evil and is gifted for that task, but in reality, she would never get by without the community (Scooby gang). To be sure, there are those people called to greatness, but rarely do they do it by themselves.

Good point. And one of my favorite episodes was the conclusion of season six, in which Buffy, usually the heroine, had pretty much lost her way. Willow, mad with rage and grief, was intent on destroying the world with dark magic, and only Xander, the ordinary Everyman (who happened to have a job as a carpenter), could stop her:

WILLOW: [scornfully] Is this the master plan? You're going to stop me by telling me you love me?

XANDER: Well, I was going to walk you off a cliff and hand you an anvil, but ... it seemed kinda cartoony.

WILLOW: Still making jokes.

XANDER: I'm not joking. I know you're in pain. I can't imagine the pain you're in. And I know you're about to do something apocalyptically [glancing back at the statue] evil and stupid, and hey. [spreading out his arms] I still want to hang. You're Willow.

WILLOW: [angry] Don't call me that.

XANDER: First day of kindergarten. You cried because you broke the yellow crayon, and you were too afraid to tell anyone. You've come pretty far--ending the world, not a terrific notion. But the thing is? Yeah. I love you. I loved crayon-breaky Willow and I love ... scary veiny Willow. So if I'm going out, it's here. If you wanna kill the world? Well, then, start with me. I've earned that.

WILLOW: [upset] You think I won't?

XANDER: It doesn't matter. I'll still love you.

www.buffyworld.com/buffy/season6/transcripts/122_tran.shtml

So Xander does the Christ-figure thing and saves the world for a change, while Buffy's stuck underground fighting root-monsters with her sister, Dawn.

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Well, having finally getting to the finale yesterday, I think it was interesting that for the big main event against the 1st evil, that the one assigned to kill Willow if she got out of control was her new lover.

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It's interesting going back to early Buffys after knowing where the story ends up. (Of course, I think there is a significant shift from WB Buffy to UPN Buffy.) This weekend I plan on working my way through season 1 DVDs. But the ones I'm watching on FX are pretty interesting too. (Right now the FX series is up to Angel having lost his soul after boinking Buffy, and Willow beginning to hook up with Oz.) There are a few inconsistancies, but also some interesting line. Tonight Angel tells Spike, "to kill her you have to love her." I'm sure there was no thought of Spike turning into an Angel back then.

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Tonight Angel tells Spike, "to kill her you have to love her." I'm sure there was no thought of Spike turning into an Angel back then.

I remember seeing that episode last summer and being absolutely convinced that Spike was giong to wind up killing Buffy in the end. Not that I thought that was part of the master plan when that ep. was written, but it occured to me that the writers had considered having the series end with Angel killing Buffy and were now going to substitute Spike.

There's a lot of interesting stuff to notice about Spike in season two. I rewatched all of season two when I got the DVD earlier this year and thought that even evil Spike's personality made his eventual re-ensouling a pretty natural thing--he just seemed more in touch with his humanity than the others. There's actually a season two ep. where this very thing is said of him (and of Dru--their relationship is said to make them "reek of humanity").

Of course, had I actually watched season two when it originally aired, I probably never would have seen Spike in that way--I was predisposed to like him having first encountered him as a somewhat harmless villian.

I'm only an occassional Angel-watcher, but I'm wondering how the fact that Spike now has a soul will affect all the prophesies mentioned on Angel. As far as I can figure out they really only refer to the vampire with a soul. Isn't there one about him eventually becoming human? Could that really be about Spike now--especially given how Buffy ended? I'll probably tune in to Angel next season just to see how they work Spike into the story--whether his presence there will make it worth watching regularly is certainly an open question.

--Teresa

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Talking about ET, Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

It's an ongoing failure of American artists (not art), I think... the obsession with epiphany stories, revelation stories, awakening stories... and the avoidance of what comes after, the hard work of living in the knowledge.

One of the reasons I like "Fearless" is that it BEGINS with an awakening and then takes you down the long hard road of realizing you need to live responsibly in view of that new vision.

From "American Beauty" to "Close Encounters", it's all about the BIG EVENT, the moment of Englightenment, and rarely or never about what comes after.

One of the rewards of BtVS is that in a season, the writers have 22 hours to develop a story, not just 2 or 3, and because the show as a whole has a metaphor of "growing up," the characters do grow and change each year (unlike, say Beverly Hills 90210. Season 5 ends with Buffy's heroic, salvific, sacrificial death and closes with a shot of her tombstone: "Buffy...She saved the world. A lot."

The series could have ended there and BtVS would have been one more example of just what JO was talking about. Instead, it ran for 2 more years, and season 6 begins with Buffy's resurrection! Now, Buffy may be a heroic figure, even a Christ-figure at times, but she's very human. She spent almost the entire season trying to get back her sense of purpose, dedication, joi de vivre, and failed again and again in some very serious ways. All her friends fell into various traps--the metaphor of the season was personal demons, with the villains being just three ordinary creepy guys who plagued the "Scoobies" with tricks and crime.

In the end, Xander, the most ordinary of Buffy's friends, saves the world with nothing but love--his willingness to lay down his life for his friend(s), Buffy climbs out of another grave to the strains of Sarah McLaughlin's setting of the Prayer of St. Francis as the sun rises, and somewhere in Africa, Spike gets his soul back.

A lot of fans hated season 6--too depressing, too dark, too grim. They thought the nerdy villains were lame. Season 6, all about "the hard work" of living a "post-resurrection" life, wasn't what they wanted from quirky, heroic, sassy Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it was the story Joss Whedon wanted to tell. For a man who calls himself "a very angry atheist," he really knows how to tell a story about "the dark night of the soul" and the dawn that follows.

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Apparently, the current cover story on the latest issue of Commonweal is on Buffy, an essay written by Cathleen Kaveny, "Buffy: A Girl with a Vocation."

I won't be able to get to a bookstore that carries Commonweal until next week, and the online site doesn't post articles until some months after the print version, so I don't know how good it is, but at least one scholar I respect says it's "good."

I'll keep you posted.

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I'll have to try to fit in a trip to the library to read that one. I'm way behind on Commonweal and Christianity Today.

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The Commonweal article is now available online. The full title is "What Women Want: 'Buffy,' the Pope, & the New Feminists," by Cathleen Kaveny:

http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/12003/no...3/1172003ar.htm

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Someone else thinks Buffy's occasionally a Christ-figure: "Pastor Steve" has an essays on Buffy and Angel as Christ-figures on his "Buffy page," and a friendly "fundamentalist alert":

http://www.mtcnet.net/~bierly/buffy.htm

I like him already.

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Today I lost my Buffy virginity. The girlfriend got the first-season DVD out of the library and brought it over, and we watched episodes 1, 2 and 4 (the first two because they were the show's pilot, and the other one because it was one of the few episodes the girlfriend hadn't seen yet; otherwise I would have insisted on seeing episode 3 next).

I guess it's too early to actually comment on the show, given that there are seven seasons' worth of material and meta-textual commentary out there. But what I've seen isn't bad. I rather like the British librarian, actually -- he keeps the stories grounded in something JUST a little bit other-worldly, at least compared to all the hip high-school talk.

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I'll be interested in your thoughts, Peter. Season 1 is not generally considered the best, but it has its highlights--the 2-part season opener, and the conclusion ("Prophecy Girl"), "The Pack" for sheer metaphorical gruesomeness and for demonstrating that this was not your ordinary high school show, and the conclusion and credits of "The Puppet Show," the rest of which is pretty forgettable--unless you really like a spooky ventriloquist dummy story with a twist.

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From "Stupidest Things Ever Said" Calendar on Mar. 8 (a correction from the Prague Post:

Correction: Last week's column mistakenly misidentified a source. The European Commission president is Romano Prodi, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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Correction: Last week's column mistakenly misidentified a source. The European Commission president is Romano Prodi, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Too bad, eh? Just think how much more exciting things would be in the European Commission...and probably much safer, too! :wink:

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Ok. I'm a 9 month Buffy fan, working my way through the seasons. Looking forward to a book called What Would Buffy Do? due to come out sometime this year, I believe.

Question: where does "Once More, With Feeling" fit into everything. I want to make sure I watch it at the right point.

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Ok. I'm a 9 month Buffy fan, working my way through the seasons. Looking forward to a book called What Would Buffy Do? due to come out sometime this year, I believe.

Question: where does \"Once More, With Feeling\" fit into everything. I want to make sure I watch it at the right point.

Season Six, Episode Seven

Like the recent Angel where he became a puppet, many of the plot points in this story either resolve some continuing storyline conflicts and help set up another storyline for the rest of the season.

I'd wait to watch it when it comes out on DVD later this year. The original broadcast was 8 minutes longer, and every broadcast since then has never shown the original cut.

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I'd wait to watch it when it comes out on DVD later this year.  The original broadcast was 8 minutes longer, and every broadcast since then has never shown the original cut.

Why was that do you think?

No worries on the waiting. I've only just finished season 3! I'm finding my life is too busy to work through them too quickly...for which i'm glad. That way I won't run out of Buffy too quickly smile.gif

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Why was that do you think?

Economics, I guess. UPN, the network that originally broadcast Buffy season 6, and FX, which has been showing most of the reruns (in some markets, WB also shows Buffy reruns), are primarily concerned about ad revenues. "Once More with Feeling" was allowed to run 8 minutes over the usual hour, including commercials. It was heavily promoted, and I suppose they counted on some extra ratings to make up for it.

Syndicated reruns on FX are also edited down to allow for extra ad-time--a few lines or "unimportant" scenes are cut to make room for more commercials. In some cases these lines or scenes are more significant than they may seem to the casual editor. So if you can see the full versions on DVD, it's preferable.

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The Door article speculates the the creator of the show (and one of its principal writers) Joss Whedon, might be a Christian. In fact, he's described himself in several interviews as "an angry atheist." It's known, however, that some writers on the show are Christians.

Whedon has, however, expressed a great interest in basic Christian ideas such as sin and redemption. He had no problem, for instance, with fans taking a religious theme from season 3's "Amends".

A lot of fans hated season 6--too depressing, too dark, too grim. They thought the nerdy villains were lame. Season 6, all about "the hard work" of living a "post-resurrection" life, wasn't what they wanted from quirky, heroic, sassy Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it was the story Joss Whedon wanted to tell. For a man who calls himself "a very angry atheist," he really knows how to tell a story about "the dark night of the soul" and the dawn that follows.

It was my least favorite season. However, it had great moments. The musical was fantastic and entertaining. The whole idea that Buffy was HAPPY in death and after paradise, the real world felt like hell was a great twist (and Spike noting that she "came back wrong"). It never occurred to the scoobies that there might be *good* places some folks go after death? Just as with season one, which I found entertaining but only scratching the surface of the show's potential, it caps itself off brilliantly in the season closer(Prophesy Girl was the episode that told me the show was going to be great if it got the chance).

I did like the Triad...they were entertainingly geeky. But after such great villains like the Mayor and Glory. they seemed very unthreatening. But I am biased, I thought the Mayor was a wonderfully well done and menacing villain. Partly because he seemed so nice at times.

The sixth season's darkness was understandable. It represented the uncertainty of being in your twenties and not in college. The fear that maybe this is all there is. Or to quote Nicholson,"What if this is as good as it gets?" It served it's purpose, but at times I felt like it wallowed. And then the final two episodes happened and I was stunned. And Xander got a moment he well deserved. He was far to underused dramatically.

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I did like the Triad...they were entertainingly geeky. But after such great villains like the Mayor and Glory. they seemed very unthreatening. But I am biased, I thought the Mayor was a wonderfully well done and menacing villain. Partly because he seemed so nice at times.

The Mayor was indeed a brilliant villain--partly because of the way he was written--as you say, the combination of all-American niceness & deathly menace--and partly because Harry Groener played him so very well:

TRICK: Did it work?

MAYOR: Let's find out. Open the gate.

TRICK: You sure?

MAYOR: Oh! Hold on. [gives the caged vampire his sword] Okay. Now we're ready.

[Trick releases vampire, who attacks the Mayor. The Mayor isn't hurt & Trick dusts vampire]

MAYOR: Well!

[He reaches into his jacket, pulls out his daily planner and opens it to today's list. Some of the things included are:

Greet Scouts, Lumber Union Reschedule, Call Temp Agency, Become Invincible, Meeting With PTA, Haircut

He puts a check mark next to "Become Invincible" and puts the planner away.]

MAYOR: This officially commences the Hundred Days. Nothing can harm me until the Ascension. Gosh, I'm feeling chipper! Who's for a root beer?!

On the other hand, the Triad represents what Hannah Arendt famously called "the banality of evil." They do seem unthreatening, but that's exactly the point. Simone Weil said, "Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring" ("Evil," Gravity and Grace). The Geek Trio are as almost as close as BtVS has come to representing in imaginative form "real evil," and many viewers were not at all happy with it.

It's easy to distance ourselves from the magnificent evil of Mayor or Glory. But we all too easily recognize ourselves in Warren, Andrew, and Jonathan--and that's no fun. We'd prefer to identify either with the heroic goodness of Buffy and Angel, or, perversely, with the romantic evil of Spike, or the attractive, dramatic evil of a stupendous villain like Angelus. Creepy, ordinary guys like Warren and Andrew...who wants to admit how close their pathetic list of goals--"Control The Weather, Miniaturize Fort Knox, Conjure Fake I.D.s, Shrink Ray, Girls, Girls, Girls, The Gorilla Thing" (B6.4 "Flooded")--is to our own worldly desires?

And that is why season 6 was a work of genius!

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Oh, I'll get the season when it hits stores. I appreciated the idea...and there were good episodes. I mean season four isn't so strong-but it's got Hush, Fear Itself, a New Man*, New Moon Rising and Wild at heart to name a few.

*I would have liked a few more Giles and Xander centric episodes. Mainly because those were always strong episodes. Plus I think throughout the seasons they pushed them to the side. In Giles case, that had to do with Anthony Stuart Heads personal schedule. But suddenly they made Xander the weak link-when he never had been. He had been an a-okay fighter and all. On the other hand, I can relate to having confidence building moments in life and then falling into patterns of self doubt.

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