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May 05 2006

Buffy the sci-fi phobia slayer. Article about how Buffy cured one journalist of her phobia of sci-fi.

I love reading the experiences of people finding BtVS/AtS for the first time.
It's always great to hear of someone new enjoying the shows though without meaning to start a whole fairly point-free debate, I still don't think Buffy or Angel are sci-fi (though she does mention her definition is kind of broad). Hopefully this'll lead her to give other sf/f stuff a try though.

And she still sees Wesley as the mini-Giles (which he was in Ats S1-2). Man, is she in for a treat when she sees how he develops. Have to say i'm a bit jealous ;).
:D Always nice to hear about new people discovering the 'verse.

Also, I just have to comment on this:

"And she still sees Wesley as the mini-Giles (which he was in Ats S1-2). Man, is she in for a treat when she sees how he develops. Have to say i'm a bit jealous ;)."
Wesley, in a way, is the Super-Giles. He starts out as dorky, booky and clumsy, like Giles, only more so. Then he gets the same role on "Angel" Giles had on "Buffy" - "book-man". As Giles, he then slowly starts to be a more action-involved character, but he takes it further. Then he goes darker, less goofy, just like Giles did, but again, far more heavily than Giles ever did, mirroring the development but doing it far, far more pronounced. Just as Giles is the "for-the-greater-good"-character on Buffy (speaking up about considering killing Dawn, killing Ben, trying to kill Spike, etc) Wesley is the hard, "ends justify means" character on "Angel", who starts using modern age weaponry, kidnaps Connor, tortures people for information, and so forth.

That's not to say I think Wesley is a caricature of Giles in any way - in fact, Wesley is without a doubt my favourite character in the entire Whedonverse - but I do think it is interesting to see how many parallells he share with Giles, even after he changed shows.


I agree on the Angel/Buffy not being sci-fi, by the way. It has sci-fi-elements, sure, like droids and cyborgs, but genre is usually defined by plot, not by elements in the setting, and both series have clearly plots based in the fantasy-genre, not the sci-fi.
This article has a date of 2005 on it. If that is correct I would love to see an update of how she did with the rest of the seasons. (I also wonder how many e-mails she is getting/got saying, "Oh, I envy you seeing it for the first time, cause there's a lot more to come!"
I think that's a typo newcj. The server directory structure has the article under 2006/05/05.

I think there's some truth there, Loki. Though Angel adopts a more means/end approach in S5 i'd say he's uncompromisingly heroic in S3-4 when Wes is involved in some fairly dark goings on. One of the things I like about him is that whereas Giles' dark past is something we don't get to see much of, with Wesley it's not his past that makes him dark, it's the events we see him going through between seasons 1 and 5 so we actually get to watch him harden as he gradually loses (and sometimes regains) that which he holds dear. And we get to see him go out as the kind of magnificent loser that only Joss Whedon (and Alexis Denisof) could makes seem so totally heroic.

As such I think Wesley probably has the best arc of any character on either show (though Spike's a close second) even if he wasn't always my favourite character to watch.
I agree, Wesley's arc is one of the best, possibly the best, of all the Whedonverse's character-arcs.

What you said about season 5, by the way, that brings up an interesting point. Just as in season 5 on "Buffy", Giles is the compromising means/end-guy while Buffy is the pure heroine, Wesley servest the same function versus Angel in seasons 3-4 on "Angel". But in season 7, Buffy is suddenly as means/end as Giles is, just as Angel becomes in season 5...

Huh. There are ethically darker endings in both series than I had considered before now. Thanks, new insight is always fun, especially when they appeal to the cynic in me. :D
I noticed she didn't have much to say about Spike yet. Hee hee, bet that changes dramatically after she completes viewing the entire 7 seasons.
"I agree, Wesley's arc is one of the best, possibly the best, of all the Whedonverse's character-arcs.

Definitely. Aside from Spike, who was already mentioned, Wesley was one of the few characters with a developing arc that spanned several seasons. He was also one of the few who's character had the chance to really develop, change and grow (the core, for the most part, didn't change ALL that much). While Spike's development may be more obvious, what with going and getting a soul and going from true evil to good, Wesley's was more subtle, perhaps more REAL. Us mere humans can probably relate better. I find it interesting as well, that Wesley went from being relatively innocent and bumbling to something much darker and mercenary. He actually ends up in a place where the lines are a bit blurred and good and evil aren't so easy to separate.

I also agree, not so much sci-fi, but I think that many who don't regularly tread the waters of fantasy or Sci-fi tend to put it all in the same group. Always glad to see someone new find the verse as well.

[ edited by Grace on 2006-05-05 16:55 ]
Someone should email her and tell her to pick up Firefly DVD's and Serenity if she loves Buffy and Angel. Then she'll be on par with the rest of us. Waiting with bated breath like starving animals for the next scrap of entertainment scribed by the Masters hand.
Glad to see she's digging it!

I've always dug sci-fi/supernatural entertainment, but Buffy sounded just a bit ridiculous to me. Then I saw the first episode in 2001...and was hooked for life. I've seen the same happen to friends and family who hated the genre, and I love it!
One of the funniest bits concerning the way Buffy affects people was from Pennydreadful, who did reviews of movies on her site.

I quote:

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ~ Pee-Wee's death scene is the best. I still can't fathom what's so dang mindblowingly wonderful about the television show based on it, though (as opposed to my Blakes 7 obsession, which makes perfect sense).

Update: Okay, I am now watching the TV series, and I must admit, it's entertaining. Not deep in the least, but very entertaining.

Further Update: Oh dear. Now I'm obsessed by it. Reading episode analyses. Downloading screen-captures. Pondering the mystery surrounding James Marsters' true date of birth. Buying young-adult paperback spinoff novels. Neglecting to stalk Don McKellar. Oh dear, oh dear.

Further Update: All I want for Christmas is world peace and Spike Underpants.

Still Further Update: August 20, 1962. So much for that. And I can't link directly to the Spike Underpants. Bummer. None of which has anything to do with the movie. Which is still funny.

[ edited by spikeylover on 2006-05-05 17:30 ]
Spikeylover, that's hilarious. Very close to the same arc I went through--although I never have seen the movie. After a long period of assuming the show was stupid, I started giving it a chance. (Ironically, what may have done it was seeing the end of "Wrecked," now one of my least favourite episodes, but I did get that the show had genuine character conflict, and didn't have easy forgiveness.) And then came the "This show is funny, but it's not all that great" stage which lasted quite a while. And no matter how deeply obsessed I became, I still kept telling myself that it wasn't all that great...up to about "Passion," an episode so perfect that I couldn't possibly deny it. By season six, I was convinced that it was just about the best show I had ever seen. And then Angel came along, and made me start to doubt that conclusion.... And then I saw Firefly, and by the end of those 15 episodes it had displaced Joss' other shows, currently in somewhat of a dead heat with the edge to Buffy, as my fave.

I think most of the characters in the Buffyverse had great arcs; one thing that frustrates me abuot shows like (as per example) "Lost" is the way characters don't really seem to have any particular direction; characters keep getting killed off without ever really showing much reason for existence. If I had to pick a handful of arcs that I think are the strongest in the 'verse, though, I would name Wesley and Spike, as aforementioned, as well as Buffy, Angel, Willow (excepting the magic crack phase from roughly "Wrecked" to "As You Were," which was toned down well enough for me still to love the Dark Willow eps), and Faith, who gets the most mileage out of the least screentime of anyone. But I think even minor characters like Ben and Holland and Warren have fitting and interesting character arcs, both unto themselves and in how what happens to them affects main characters.
Loki, I agree with you to a certain extent. I kind of see the Giles & Wesley arcs as almost a reversal. Giles went through his dark phase as a teenager, but Wesley never did.

As for Buffy as Sci-Fi? Yeah, I don't get that either. I've always seen it as a Fantasy-Horror show. Of course, people call Star Wars "science fiction", and it really really isn't. Star Wars is a fantasy action film... in space. I think people just go "Robots and aliens! It must be science-fiction!"
Well, all the main characters evolve greatly through the seasons imo; Wesley and Spike certainly, but Willow sure covered a lot of ground and Cordy (my personal favorite) went from the typical spoiled rich brat with a mind seemingly incapable of deeper thoughts than designer labels to a true super hero! Angel's evolution was in many ways more subtle but when you're over 200 years old, change has to be subtle!
When I first heard about a show called 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' I thought it was the stupidest idea ever. I had seen the movie and cringed to think that anyone would want to see something like that on a weekly basis. Then FX started running BtVS, much to my roommate's delight, and she forced me to watch a few shows with her. My first Buffy episode was Graduation. I was more than lost as to what was going on (and why high school students had access to flame throwers), but I thought it was ok and kept watching. And got hooked. I was so excited when FX ran through its collection of episodes (at that time the last one was Grave) so that I could see how it all started.

So here's the point of my history-with-Buffy rant:
Seeing the show by starting in the middle made me appreciate the arcs of all the characters. I never knew cute little long-haired Willow, Cordelia-loving Xander, or evil Angel (or any of Angel, really), so by the time FX started airing episodes I had already seen I could really see the major changes going on in the characters' lives... Plus I finally got the joke from The Replacement when Willow comments on how well she handled having an evil twin.
Yeah, I think a lot of people have been put off with the title, myself included - I started watching "Angel", and it took me well into the third season before I was so hooked I was willing to give the "mother-series" a chance despite its title.

I bought and watched "Buffy"'s entire series in less than two months, I think, so, safe to say I felt stupid about not giving it a chance earlier. ("Angel" is still my favourite by ever so slight a hint, though, but maybe that is because I watched it weekly over five years, while I saw Buffy in its entirety in so short a time... I guess I'll never know)
What I find interesting is most fans who come to the series late love all the seasons. When 4 first aired, many fans thought it was inferior to previous years. While I really enjoyed it, I didn't come to fully appreciate it until I rewatched it on DVD. And I know many posters who felt the same way and now love 4 after initially being less than enthusiastic.
It's great to hear other people talk about the way Buffy and Angel have affected their life. It puts me in the mind of AA.
Hi, I'm Cheryl and I'm a Buffy and Angel addict. The stories I could tell.
I agree Reddygirl. Season 4 was the first complete season I watched, so I didn't have the previous seasons to compare it to. I loved season 4 the first time through, but after finally seeing the first few seasons I could understand why people weren't happy. As a story arc, season 4 sucked. But if you ignore the arc you'll find some of the best Buffys ever!
I, too, had always assumed Buffy was stupid, having seen the movie at my sister's 13th birthday party.
I was introduced to the series about a year ago. One of my college professors is getting her Ph.D. in television studies, and she took a Buffy class from Dr. David Lavery, whose known as the father of Buffy Studies. She had a Buffy marathon at her house and invited a bunch of students (including me), and by that point, I had heard her talk about it so much that I figured there must be something to it.
We spanned the entire series, watching key episodes and having the established fans explain what was going on between eps. And when I left her house (very late that night), I could hardly wait to check out the dvds from our school library to watch all of them. I watched six and a half seasons over the summer and finished up during Christmas break.
What I find interesting is most fans who come to the series late love all the seasons. When 4 first aired, many fans thought it was inferior to previous years. While I really enjoyed it, I didn't come to fully appreciate it until I rewatched it on DVD. And I know many posters who felt the same way and now love 4 after initially being less than enthusiastic.

I totally agree about late-comers enjoying all the seasons more. I think when you watch it on dvd, you view the entire series as one big story and are therefore more accepting when the series takes different directions than you had expected. This was especially the case for me, as I knew the entire basic story arc before I started watching the series ep by ep.
And I think the reason people may have disliked season 4 originally is that its arc is one of the weakest. But people enjoy rewatching it because the standalones are so awesome (Hush, anyone?). I was the same way with season 6 of the X-Files (the season right after the movie)-- I was horribly disappointed with it at first because I didn't feel like it moved the mythology forward, but now I love it because it has some of my favorite standalones.
Sorry this was so long! This is my first post; guess I got carried away . . .
In terms of quality, I consider 5 the best, a perfect season with an incredibly tight arc.

But, in terms of pure entertainment, I enjoy 4 the best. Greenhair is right. The arc wasn't that good but the individual epis are wonderul. Some of the funniest stuff of the series can be found in 4. And the two of the most original epis of not only the enrire series but in television history, Hush and Restless.
If I had to pick a best in terms of quality my choice would mirror that of Joss's favorite arc. Season 2 and Angelus.
Brilliant storytelling.
Purely on an entertainment level, it would be difficult for me to choose between season 1-3. All three were amazing. Original comes to mind for me here.

Season 4 would rate up there with the big boys if for no other reason than the wonderful cross-overs that transpired between the two series. BTVS and ATS.

It has been my experience that the late comers enjoy the latter seasons more than the first seasons. Some have admitted that they haven't even watched all of the eps from season 1-3. If I could tell them anything....you think you love the latter seasons, watch the first five.
Everything does make a bit more sense when watching beginning to end in the order written, imo.
On "Buffy" as sci-fi: there *are* robots and re-animating corpses and the Initiative's sci-fi layer and stuff. I think it's more fantasy, but it crosses the line back and forth quite a bit. Ditto on "Angel".
I watched Buffy from the first episode aired on TV and loved each season as I watched them on TV. While watching on TV season 4 did loose me here and there, the season that stood out to me (above all the others) was season 5. Now that I have them all on dvd it is hard to pick a favorite season however I'll stick to my guns that season 5 is the "most perfect", with great episodes and tight story arc.

With that said - I find I rewatch episodes from season 4 and 7 the most these days. I love the dialog in those seasons the most.
Great to see the appreciation but I respectrully disagree with the writer who classifies BtVS as sci-fi. Season 4 is closest to sci-fi standards but even that season looks more like "fantasy" than sci-fi.

Re seasons. I think later seasons have more substance - but I love all of them.
I'm a season five-fan as well, above all others. Although the season I connect most with is probably six...does that say something about me? But I would say seasons two through six of "Buffy" and seasons two through five of "Angel" are of roughly equal quality, each with their own srengths and weaknesses (more of the former than the latter, obviously). And I like one and seven too, just not as much. ("Angel's" first season? It has moments of brilliance, especially later on, but it's still the weakest Buffyverse season, IMHO.)
One reason BtVS is one of the best series in television history is it stayed strong right up until the end with great writing and character progression.

My feeling about AtS season 1 is they were unsure where to take Angel the character. It seems originally they planned to start much darker right of the bat and in hindsight, it was probably a good idea to right until the second season to meet the darker side of Angel.
I have seen all the seasons and I admit, five and six are my favorite. (I can't choose) I do enjoy all of them, INTERVENTION was the episode when I went from fan of the show to another level entirely. (I even remember the moment it hit me--It was when Spike was trying to open that elevator) After THE GIFT, it was BY FAR the best show I've ever watched.

I think season two has great episodes, but there are many that aren't so great. (season one would also fit the category) Season three is probably the best season besides five and six. Although not a big fan of Faith (yes blasphemy) certainly her arc resonates in season six, when Buffy faces becoming what she disliked back then. Also, six is so deep and dark with moments of hilarity (Life Serial, Tabula Rasa) Love OMWF beyond anything else, and the brilliant DEAD THINGS may go down as one of the greatest non-Joss written episodes. I think it definitely is one of the episodes with the most essays written about it in the verse.

Season seven could have been much more than it was, but you also had the final scene of BENEATH YOU, Anya's gorgeous tribute in SELFLESS, CWDP, TOUCHED and CHOSEN..

[ edited by spikeylover on 2006-05-06 18:45 ]
I enjoyed Buffy right from the start (even the movie although it can't compare) but for me it was Season 5 that pushed me from casual fandom to obsession.

Angel I always enjoyed but in a more casual way. I never rewatched episodes with the exception of Season 5. I eventually bought Seasons 1 and 2 for Into the Dark and Darla for Spike reasons. As I rewatched the sets I had a new appreciation for the series. I just never "fell in love" with any of the characters the way I did with Spike.

Regarding Firefly, I know I'm in the minority but I watched half the first episode and turned it off. It was the whole western thing. The sets, the costumes, the accents, the music, I was annoyed and bored. I tried again when the actual pilot aired and felt the same.

However, I bought the series for a friend who loves it and he made me watch the whole set. It is obviously a good series, I enjoyed a lot of it but I have no need to rewatch. My favorite characters were River, Zoe and Wash. I really didn't like Mal or Jayne so I didn't much care what happened to them.

HOwever I loved Serenity. Excellent movie all by itself. A lot of the western elements I hated were gone and since it focused on River, a character I liked, it was great for me.

I'm bringing this up because I really don't think that loving Buffy or Angel automatically transfers to Firefly. All three series are very good, well written and made with care and talent, but they are very different. Particularly Firefly. I don't care how well somebody makes the asparagus, I'm still not gonna like it.
Xane, that's a good point. And we know by the end of BtVS's 7th season, most Buffy fans weren't AtS ( I think the figure quoted was 75% were not tuning into Angel).

It's probably the devoted internet fans who were more likely to watch all three series. None of my four siblings ever went online to discuss Buffy, though they all watched and loved the show. Only one of them liked AtS and two of them got into Serenity. My brother had been a rabid Briscoe County Jr fan and that was it's initial appeal to him, that the series reminded him of that show.
Hi, everyone. Longtime lurker, first time poster here. I too am a little envious of the author working her way through the Whedonverse for the first time, although I think it's better to do it in the winter when the nights start early!

On character arcs: Nothing is more essential to Buffyology than the Buffy-Angel story -- it's a teenage girl's first love and so informs everything Buffy does thereafter, up to and including the end of Chosen. It was always interesting to watch the different ways those scars, both emotional and literal, would emerge in each stage of her life.

But I disagree about "Wesley's journey": if he went on a journey, he never actually got anywhere. From his very first appearance on Buffy, he was always the guy who made bad decisions based on faulty assumptions. Wesley's first big gaffe was sending the Watcher's council after Faith while the rest of the Scoobies are trying to reach out to her, and this pattern continues throughout in large and small ways, getting shot by cops because he doesn't know they're zombies, sending Pyleans to die while Cordelia has the castle doors thrown open, not asking out Fred when he has the chance, Connor of course. His most pronounced development in my book was a four o'clock shadow and evident weariness from suffering the consequences of his mistakes.

The only real character change I saw in Wesley was at the very end of Angel, where it's pretty likely he knows he's going to lose his faceoff with Vail and figures he's got nothing left to lose anyway. But maybe that's a bad call too -- who knows whether Fred would eventually have emerged somehow from Illyria's shell?
I think ATS season 1 was pretty darn good. I never got the impression that the writers wern't sure where to go with him.
He's pretty much always been the "Special vampire", cursed with his soul, seeking redemption.
IMO, that never really changed. Loved season 2, 4 and 5 too, for that matter.
I guess I was in that 25%, (not sure where that number came from but for entertainment purposes I'll go with it) that watched BOTH series religiously. Although the network wars did make it difficult to maintain the connection between the two series, with the insane rules placed on Joss, he did a fabulous job in keeping them in the same Universe. Add that to the WOW factor that is Joss Whedon. Sometimes one word, or an off screen cross-over makes all the difference. It's one of his biggest talents, imo. He doesn't have to hit you over the head with something to get his point. If you have to beat the dead horse to make your statement....how well did you really do?

Mentioning Faith...I have always hated her character with a passion, right up to the bitter end BUT I adore the Faith arc. Hating a character doesn't mean you don't like them in the story. I did, I do. It was one of my favorites.

Fleem, I'd have to agree with Buffy and essentials. I think the word Transcends has been used by a certain creator to make exactly that point. Everything in your life doesn't change, somethings remain the same, regardless of your surroundings or circumstance. If we don't maintain some resemblance of who we were in the beginning, aren't we then nothing but a shell?

I really like Wesley as a character and think he may be one of the biggest over looked in the entire Universe, along side Xander but I do see a certain degree of truth in your thoughts.
Wes stumbled and fell along the way many times but he wasn't always about making the wrong decisions. He basically lacked in the trust department and this was his biggest flaw, imo.
Welcome fleem and I couldn't disagree more ;). As mentioned above, Wesley started as a buffoon, a prat-falling comedy sidekick, almost completely innocent in his outlook and ended up a bitter, lonely, darkly ambiguous and morally pragmatic tragic hero. That sounds like a journey to me. It also sounds like character change (imagine Ats season 1 Wesley delivering 'I had my throat cut and all my friends abandoned me' with any truth cos it doesn't sound like the same fella to me). True, he started as 'the guy who made bad decisions based on faulty assumptions' and ended as the guy who made great (and difficult) decisions but still usually based on faulty assumptions and it's true that he never got anywhere but that's the nature of tragic heroes. Otherwise they wouldn't be tragic ;).

Probably his greatest flaw (IMO) was that he overthought everything (kind of like another tragic hero of some note ;) and didn't always act as he should but he inspired right action in others and though he may have died a loser, he did it with some style. We should all be lucky enough to lose so well.
"Nothing is more essential to Buffyology than the Buffy-Angel story -- it's a teenage girl's first love and so informs everything Buffy does thereafter"

Good lord, if that were actually true it would be the saddest, bleakest commentary on the human spirit I have ever heard.

Honestly can you really think of anyone in real life whose whole life has been determined by their first teenaged love? That thought is insanely scary!
Aye but Buffy isn't real life.
Xane, what Simon said. Although in real life I wouldn't write off the effect of someone's first love. Obviously, things that happen to us when we're young will permanently shape our perceptions thereafter. It's not sad; it's just life.

Think about the "cookie dough" speech in Chosen. In spite of the tortured metaphor, the point is that she's grown enough to know she isn't grown yet -- there's still intense chemistry, yet she's sending Angel packing, compared to IWRY, when she's sure there will never be anyone else. On the other hand, everyone she's been with gets compared to him, both by her and by the audience. Riley can't live up to him; Spike is Angel's shadow. The next guy she dates turns out to be his old nemesis. He's always there.

Oh, and re Wesley: I will amend my opinion to say that Wesley does seem to gain a modicum of self-awareness. But he doesn't seem to learn from it.

[ edited by fleem on 2006-05-07 02:43 ]
Is it wrong that what I love about Wesley's arc is that essentially he pretty much spirals deeper and deeper, and manages to change and improve and upgrade every part of himself but the fundamental, haunting problem at the source of it all? Every poor decision he makes comes down to a lack of trust in both himself and the world, and the ingrained Watcher mantra that in order to protect the world he has to do the "hard" thing. (The same motivation for Giles killing Ben--but Giles, I think, applies the mantra more judiciously, for the most part.)

And I agree with you, fleem, about Buffy and Angel, although I will add that I never really got her going out with the Immortal in "TGIQ." Having interpreted "Chosen" thematically and literally as Buffy accepting her humanity (by sharing her power and destroying Sunnydale, she doesn't have to be a martyr), her going off with another morally ambiguous non-mortal seemed...wrong, somehow. But she's still young. Maybe Joss' canon comics will help clear it up.

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