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June 17 2006

Joss is making us smarter. The author of "Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter" gives props where props are due.

"'In some ways the Buffy fans were a glimpse of the future, because they were doing these things before anyone else was,' Johnson said during his presentation, where he showed pages of analysis of the Joss Whedon series from buffyology.com and Wikipedia, as well as Buffy Meetup groups across the United States, demonstrating how television shows are being used as ways of making real-life social connections."

I'm confused--it says he didn't, then he did mention BtVS and even Firefly. Whatever the case, I saw the author on the Daily Show with John Stewart and I thought "right on, man, Buffy gave me A LOT of knowledge" and I'm not even kidding. Vocabulary and even a philosophy on life increased expoenentially in those seven years. But since it's early Saturday morning, I can't make it seem so.
CaptainB: I think that he didn't discuss "Buffy" in the book, but did in the festival. Does that make sense?
I think the more accurate term is he's expanding our minds. I'll use this room as an example. I've never meant so many brilliant minds as I have in this room. Day after day, I'm truly amazed by the thoughts and feelings of our fellow members. And, what bought this together? Joss (and Caroline, of course.) As always, helps when you read between the lines.
Not to mention as a tool to study biological warfare in a nearly 6-year old study from the Center for Stragic and International Studies, a DC "think tank"...(pretty sure this has been posted before, but it seems relevant to this thread, and newer Whedonesquers may not have seen it before.)

http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/buffy012902[1].pdf
Joss is making us smarter.


And taller too. Fact. Joss fans on average are two inches taller than other fans.
Is that so? And yet I've always noticed how short Whedon fans are. Huh, maybe it's just that way in Australia. Haha
A few years ago I was a regular on a forum with Buffy fans from 13 to sixty and we discussed every episode in very great depth. Then one of the 14 year olds got an assignment at school to read a book and write a paper on the main characters motovation. While the rest of the class panicked at the task she realised "Hey! I do this every week with Buffy!"
She got an A.

Mind you, I just watched it for the hot babes.
I'm 6'2". Does that take me to the head of the class?

Simon, you are indeed a saint. Bless your heart.
Mind you, I just watched it for the hot babes.

Back in 1998, a good and very intelligent (if rather short) friend tried to interest me in Buffy. I was derisive and dismissive, saying, "You only watch it 'cos it has hot babes in tight pants kicking ass." He said, "Well, that's there, yes, but believe me, there's a lot more." My skepticism was, I'm embarrassed to say, impregnable until my wife finally won me over 3 years later.

I'm lots smarter now!
escapist_dream, it's because you're in the Southern Hemisphere. Whedon fans grow taller in the Northern Hemisphere and shorter in the Southern Hemisphere, just like it's summer here and winter there. Only at the equator do Joss fans' height remain unaffected.

CaptainB, I thought I saw this guy on The Colbert Report, not The Daily Show...Colbert's throwing his book away rudely ("I don't believe in books!") and discussing whether carjacking in video games is fulfilling a need.

And yes, I think Buffy made me smarter: I now see a lot more when I look at works of art, in terms of structure, episodes internal rhymes, overarcing themes. (And plus, I see more beautiful people than in certain other shows. So it helps.)
Oh! I just saw him on the Colbert Report. I *heart* Stephen. Stephen makes me smarter. Sorry, off topic. I wonder how many other TV shows have been used like Buffy in schoarship. It's really quite amazing, I can't think of many others that have prompted so much study. Props indeed.
And taller too. Fact. Joss fans on average are two inches taller than other fans.


Then fans of other shows must be really short, because I'm only 5 feet tall - and the woman who turned me on to Buffy is 4'8".

A few years ago I was a regular on a forum with Buffy fans from 13 to sixty and we discussed every episode in very great depth. Then one of the 14 year olds got an assignment at school to read a book and write a paper on the main characters motovation. While the rest of the class panicked at the task she realised "Hey! I do this every week with Buffy!"

She got an A.


I homeschool my kids, and Buffy was the greatest show ever for us to come across. My three youngest kids and I all watched together, and spent hours and hours analyzing everything about the show. My twins knew what metaphors were at 9-years-old, and knew what real-life situations most of the metaphors on Buffy represented. Of course, we discussed more than this, and talking about Buffy (and Angel and Firefly) became practice for analyzing literature - both fictional and non-fiction.

As a result all three are very sharp when it comes to understanding whatever they read, and analyzing the intent of the author, the clues throughout that lead to the end, the use of language, etc. It's also helped them in their own writing and storytelling skills. Furthermore, Buffy became the measuring stick they use for determining whether other shows, movies, or books are done well. Not all popular culture is like this. Most shows and movies dumb people down. (Those aren't allowed on my television!)
Not only smarter & taller, but flawlessly good looking as well. And also, very, very humble. In fact, the humblest people of all.
On the other hand, overall, the cast of Buffy was short. Possibly even shorter than the average TV cast.
Thanks for posting this article. I'm going to show it to Mr Reddygirl.

I've tried many approaches to get him to finally watch BtVS, including trying to convince him Buffy was just like his all-time favorite series, Upstairs/Downstairs, only with vampires.
Quite literally my first class at the University of Washington was called Buffy as Archetype: Rethinking Human Nature in the Buffyverse. The syllabus is still up on one of the instructor's websites: http://www.ink-stainedamazon.com/chid496/index.html


I wasn't a Buffy-fan when I signed up for the class. In fact, one of the instructors strong-armed me into it, largely for my mythology background. ...and by the end of the quarter, I'd seen every episode, watching 5 seasons in 3 months, and some of my best friends to this day were made in that classroom. It was a fabulous way to learn about mythology, psychology, and philosophy. Utilizing popular culture was a great way to ground sometimes complex ideas (Lacanian anaylsis and the cheeeeeeese! Wanna slice of cheeeeeeese? Ahem. Sorry.), and I ultimately stole the pedagogical concept for my own class on Stargate and Applied Ethics (not to mention routine pedagogical methadology; last quarter was largely spent utilizing American Idol to illustrate the material nature of communication... whoa, I slipped into academese, sorry!).

Ahem. I digress, and geek out badly. Suffice to say, pop culture is a fabu way to teach, and I'm glad to see it gaining more prominence - means people look at me less funny when I tell them about my classes!
Very interesting about the height thing. Even though I'm 46, in the past two years I've grown a fourth of an inch. I was crediting it to my practice of yoga making my spine straighter. Now I realize it was from continuous viewings of Buffy.
Buffy has been the source of many personal life lessons as well as academic ones. I can't even count how many lessons I have learnt and implemented because of the show, its truly amazing. Kind of a random sidenote: For my Intro to Myth class, I had to propose my paper topic to my professor, and my topic of course, was Buffy-related..I was afraid it might paint me as "weird", but actually my professor thinks its brilliant (& is a fan himself!) wow!
Now I realize it was from continuous viewings of Buffy.


Exactly. Joss Whedon, he's the new Charles Atlas.
Pop culture is indeed a great way to teach. I keeps students interested in the topics, because they see "class" in everyday walking-around life. Yay Joss for making us smarter. Now what am I going to do with all this increased brain power?
I'm going to get the hang of this double posting thing someday.

[ edited by Samira327 on 2006-06-17 21:44 ]
I'm now convinced if I keep rewatching my Buffy DVDs I will someday, through osmosis, have superpowers myself. And be taller.
Joss Whedon, he's the new Charles Atlas.

Before Buffy "... I was a four stone apology. Today I am two separate gorillas !"

I think there may be some kind of inverse relationship between cast height and audience height. Buffy cast short, audience tall. Yet when I first watched Doctor Who (usually tall central character) I was only about 3 feet short. OK, I was 4 years old which might be skewing the stats a bit but still, bears investigation.

I reckon pretty much any piece of pop-culture can be used as the jumping off point for teaching but sci-fi and fantasy probably tackle the big ideas in a more overt way than most non-genre works so I guess they're especially ripe. Buffy and Angel in their time asked pretty much every metaphysical question going so there's plenty of material there. In some ways I wish I was back at school ;).

(I remember having to make a fairly forcible case about using Hitchhiker's Guide and 2001 for a comparative book report because the teacher thought there wasn't enough substance to them to discuss. Riiight, just the origin of the species, the nature of fate and man's place in the cosmos, nothing substantial ;)
I was afraid it might paint me as "weird", but actually my professor thinks its brilliant (& is a fan himself!) wow!

I suspect that percentagewise, there are more Buffy fans (and also Star Trek fans) among professors than students.
I love pop culture references. When I hear something on Buffy and then in class, I'll know the answer to something thanks to Joss. It's awesome.
I own the book and just checked but theres no appendix, but I can't remember Buffy being mentioned. Good book though, would suggest it to any media students.
Ir's a wonderful book!
Buffy taught me the REAL meaning of necrophilia.

I also learned that while violence does not solve everything, it sure solves a lot. AND.. it's sexy!
Buffy tried to teach me 'beer bad'. Luckily, I proved immune to its corrupting influence ;).
Correct, it was the Report. The two blend together in my memory. Thanks.
Bad Kitty, you have a distressingly valid point there.

I've just started teaching Buffy to my Year 10 (9th Grade?) English class for their media-related coursework essay - "How Does Joss Whedon Use the Conventions of Horror Stories to Explore Issues Relevant to his Audience?" It gives me an excuse to watch at least three episodes and get the kids talking about metaphor in depth.
I used an episode of Buffy (Doublemeat Palace) in one of my college courses (Labor in Popular Culture) to start off my course. People who have never seen Buffy love it! I should really figure out reasons to show other episodes.
Gill, I wish my English teacher would have done that. She once told me how much she loved Buffy.
I'm only 5'3". I wonder how much shorter I would have been if I had not watched Buffy?
But Simon is right (as always). No one has kicked sand in my face in a long time.
EdDantes is 6'1 and I'm 5'3, but he started watching Buffy sooner than I did, so I think it's just a matter of time before I catch up to him.
"... I was a four stone apology. Today I am two separate gorillas !"

Speaking of pop culture references... :)
I love how you can use "Doublemeat Palace" academically: it may be reviled by many Buffy fans (I'm fairly neutral on the episode), but it's still Buffy.
I have a question: What kind of studies in media communications can you use Buffy as? Like what kind of episodes? w
Slayermuch - offhand, I've not consciously planned teaching assignments around Buffy for the material communications class. I largely used American Idol this past quarter, since that's what I've done my media studies research in (the construction of desire, time and the appeal of reality television). However, were I to go in with the idea of using Buffy, rather than just off the cuff it as example in class (which I'm certain I did), I'd probably start out using Hush. It's an elegant episode that highlights just how much we don't need language to communicate, and that our bodies convey an awful lot of meaning that we're quite often not consciously aware of.
Loiosh: Thanks for replying. I was thinking of Hush and Once More, With Feeling. But I agree with you that Hush is an elegant episode and that we don't need language to communicate because our body also responds in different ways. nice thought :) For an English class what would you have to do to write a good argument?
Johnson recounted an anecdote of appearing on British radio to defend his thesis. He was surprised when his supposed challenger responded by saying: "I have to say I was shocked that he managed to write an entire book about the intelligence of popular culture without once mentioning Buffy the Vampire Slayer," then launching into a discourse about the structural and philosophical complexity of that show.

This is the best part of the article.

I haven't read the book, but when it came out I read a bunch of reviews and immediately assumed Buffy would be his prime example. And then some interviewer brought up Buffy and he said that he hadn't ever seen the show, and I was shocked.

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