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Archive for August 13th, 2017

Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  A Discussion by Steve Sposato and Brian E. Wilson

Warning:  This discussion includes major spoilers and assumes the reader has seen the entire series.  Proceed at your own risk.  And now let’s cue the amazing Nerf Herder theme for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

buffycast

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer…

Brian:  I have written a few essays for Wonders in the Dark solo, but for this piece I invited my BFF (Buffy Friend Forever) Steve Sposato to join me in a Q and A about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  This groundbreaking series, set in Sunnydale, California, ran for seven seasons starting in 1997 and ending in 2003.  Based on a rather goofy 1992 cult film, the show (created by the movie’s screenwriter Joss Whedon) became one of the most acclaimed ever on TV with its surprisingly potent mix of supernatural horror, comedy, romance, and emotional drama.  Over seven seasons, viewers followed Buffy as she fought demons, vampires, monsters, other humans, and gods all the while trying to survive high school, then college, then life.  The series became quite existential as Buffy struggled with her role as the Slayer, her loneliness increasing with each new season.  Although she had a group of friends, affectionately called Scoobys by fans, attempting to help her, Buffy became angsty about being the one and only Slayer.  It became apparent from the start that this series was something special, trying new things, demanding a lot from its viewers, and rising above its jokey title.

Steve: People say we’re living in a golden age of TV, which is probably true, though I think current TV is sometimes self-servingly overhyped. To the extent that this is a golden age, however, I’ve always felt this VCR-era series has been underappreciated as a key show that paved the way. It departed from most TV of its time in ways that are now taken for granted: consistent quality, season-long story arcs (the season-is-equal-to-a-novel idea), and increasingly dark and edgy storytelling, violence and death exacting a toll on the characters. It’s not a show that re-sets at the end of every episode, although it easily could have been: Buffy saves the day, all’s back to normal again. How dull that would have been.

Also, it was aired on an outsider network (the WB for the first five seasons; UPN the last two) willing to support creative risks (though not always the budget for them) in pursuit of a niche audience, pretty much the standard model today. But Buffy wasn’t a male anti-hero, so she’s often left out of the Sopranos-based definition of the new golden era (which some have argued is over, anyway).

Brian:  Everything you say is true.  The creators of Buffy wanted to show that every action on the series had impact on its characters.  Things could not be undone. Everything accumulated, weighing down on Buffy’s shoulders by Season 7:  failed romances, fraught friendships, losing her mother, financial responsibility, moral responsibility, the constant being on call as the one and only chosen Slayer.  What I appreciate about the series is although we would sometimes get an angry and/or confused “I want to get away from this all” Buffy, the show ultimately didn’t make her an anti-hero.  She is the hero from start to finish, even though she makes mistakes and flips out in some key episodes.  When the burden is lifted from her shoulders in the series’ final episode, in the most beautiful way possible, I for one felt a sense of relief for her, that she deserved this happy resolution after 144 episodes. (more…)

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