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July 28 2006

Buffy, David, and the Religious Left. Interesting way of looking at religion through David and Goliath, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

"I think that anyone thinking about getting a religious left off the ground, and perhaps even engaging the religious right, has a lot to learn from young David of Bible fame, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of teen movie fame. "

"This truth of life, politics, sports and more -- has been a theme of stories from the Biblical tale of David and Goliath, (smart use of a slingshot by David, having identified Goliath's point of vulnerability) to the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, (in which the cheerleader Buffy, uses her "keen fashion sense" to defeat the big vampire). The latter is also an influential comedy and coming of age film. I think it is time for the religious left, or those who would comprise it, to come of age: which is to say, political maturity. And along the way, I think there is much for all of us to learn from David and Buffy."

The only thing I learnt from the Buffy movie was never to watch it again. I mean please, it's really bad.

The latter is also an influential comedy and coming of age film.

Eh? Who did it influence, what did it influence? If it's a reference to the tv series, fine but otherwise huh? I've never seen a director or writer say "The Buffy movie was a major influence for me".
Buffy movie didn't influence anything but people's opinion of the show.

I can't watch the movie. It hurts inside.
I happened to like the movie. It was fun and campy. And the paul reubens dath scene that goes on forever is just hilarious.
Am I the only person here who quite likes the film? It's faults, and there are many of them, are all too obvious, but I've certainly seen worse films than this and it does have its good moments. I thought Kristy Swanson made a great Buffy.
Well I will admit a fondness for Rutger Hauer's hair piece.
Only thing I liked from this movie was when Buffy caught the knife Merrick flung at her. Reminds me of when Angel shoves his sword at Buffy and she stops it with her hands in Becoming.
Was I the only one who loved seeing Kristy Buffy wearing a leather jacket, given to her I believe by her romantic interest, over her white dress? Sound familiar? That and Paul Rueben's death scene were about all the movie had going for it. ;)
I dont think the way to fight extremism is through extremism. You dont create a religious left, you fight extremism itself and show that moderation is better. Its like racism (which is another form of extremism), you cannot defeat racisim with racism because it turns into an unending cycle of human misery and suffering. LOL, In other words I think the author is wrong.
Remember that one scene where Paul Reubens with just one arm faces Buffy and says something like "I can do anything; I'm immortal!" Then Buffy says: "Clap."
The movie has its moments but I didn't really like the original Buffy characterisation and thought it was a bit too camp in general. Pee-wee's Big Death Scene was pretty funny though (also agree that it's not had much influence except I doubt Joss would work with Donald Sutherland again so it sure influenced him ;).

Yeah, I agree with that jerryst3161. I think what the world really needs is a 'religious centre' position but I wonder if certain aspects of being a moderate make a person less likely to be religious (or at least devoutly religious) ?

Note that i'm emphatically not saying there are no moderate religious people I just think belief in the biblical god requires a certain ability to de-emphasise rational analysis on some subjects which is something I think people on the political extremes find easier (even natural) and that since one of the pillars of most religions is that they are the 'one true way' a certain degree of intolerance for other world views is inherent.

That said, given the Bible's openness to differing interpretations I don't see any reason why the left can't develop a religion based agenda which (as the article mentions) emphasises a 'war on poverty' for instance (I know, 'war on poverty', crazy idea, right ? I mean, poverty is easily defined and has a clear end point where you can say it's been defeated ;).
I've known atheists I'd cross the street to avoid and met Christians that are the nicest people in the world. And vice versa. Umm there was a point to this.

Yeah the debate about the religious right and the religious left in the States bores me to tears. Those who like drone on about how intolerant the left is over religion or how the Religious Right is taking over government should frankly be bloody well grateful they are living in America. They've got a good thing going and should stop looking for easy targets to whine about. "Oh boo hoo some one said something nasty about my beliefs, I must go to my blog and attack them." Deal with it, get over it and then move out of your goldfish bowl.

You want to talk religion, come here to Northern Ireland. We're more messed up than what ever the extremist American bloggers/columnists could up come up with.
Well, true Simon to some extent they don't know they're born (it's still pretty rare AFAIK to be killed for your religious beliefs in the US) but I don't think it's wise to stick our heads in the sand either.

The rise of politicised extremist religious groups in America and elsewhere is an issue that affects the world. As you say, the Northern Ireland situation was/is much worse but it at least shows that the end results of persecuting a group of people for their beliefs over hundreds of years ain't pretty (it tends to come back and bite you on the arse). Can we really be certain that there's no danger of Muslims ending up in the position Catholics were in in the 17th and 18th centuries ?

And that doesn't even touch on all the other complex issues that extreme religious belief is rigidly dogmatic about when the application of reason might be more beneficial (stem cell research, abortion, the teaching of evolution etc.).

There're pretty good reasons for the separation of church and state and it worries me that America especially (as a free world representative of the issue) seems to be taking steps in the opposite direction.
Well, I'm gonna jump right over the whole religious controversy thing, 'cause it also bores me to tears, but as an atheist Yank with a stake (yipes) in the governmental outcome, not quite, I imagine, in the same way as it does Simon.

Back to the rocky Buffy movie:

I remember thinking when I rented & watched it -- before the TV series but post its theatrical release -- something is very wrong about this movie: it's almost better than it is, if you know what I mean. You can feel it straining, like the Little Engine That Could -- but it Couldn't. It made better sense when I read this from the 2001 Onion AV Club Interview with Joss:

"O: How closely were you involved with the making of the Buffy movie?

JW: I had major involvement. I was there almost all the way through shooting. I pretty much eventually threw up my hands because I could not be around Donald Sutherland any longer. It didn't turn out to be the movie that I had written. They never do, but that was my first lesson in that. Not that the movie is without merit, but I just watched a lot of stupid wannabe-star behavior and a director with a different vision than mine—which was her right, it was her movie—but it was still frustrating. Eventually, I was like, 'I need to be away from here.'

O: Was it a personality conflict between you and Sutherland, or was he just not what you'd envisioned in that role?

JW: No, no, he was just a prick. The thing is, people always make fun of Rutger Hauer [for his Buffy role]. Even though he was big and silly and looked kind of goofy in the movie, I have to give him credit, because he was there. He was into it. Whereas Donald was just... He would rewrite all his dialogue, and the director would let him. He can't write -- he's not a writer -- so the dialogue would not make sense. And he had a very bad attitude. He was incredibly rude to the director, he was rude to everyone around him, he was just a real pain. And to see him destroying my stuff... Some people didn't notice. Some people liked him in the movie. Because he's Donald Sutherland. He's a great actor. He can read the phone book, and I'm interested. But the thing is, he acts well enough that you didn't notice, with his little rewrites, and his little ideas about what his character should do, that he was actually destroying the movie more than Rutger was. So I got out of there. I had to run away."
I recently rewatched the movie, which I originally saw in the theatre and liked. I can see Joss's dialogue screaming to get out. There is Joss humor in there, but it's muddled. It's not directed the way Joss would direct it, so the timing is off on a lot of it. I would have loved to see the dialogue Joss actually wrote for Donald Sutherland. It probably would have filled in some of the missing gaps in the movie. Basically, the movie was a diamond in the rough. It screamed potential, and was a worthy afternoon of entertainment - but we all know it pales in comparison to the TV series.

As for the religion argument, that's just some academic exercise over what to me is mythology (or an elaborately dangerous fantasy). It really doesn't phase me one way or the other. I do wonder, though, how his argument would pan out if he actually used the TV series to make his points.
I think the article would have been more credible had he used the TV series.
Tell me about it, Simon. Although I have luckily never really experienced anything really bad in Northern Ireland, and there are many postitive things about living here, the general attitudes of a lot of the people here make me just want to leave when I can. The world is so huge and there's so much more than this tiny place and some of the small minded, destructive and violent people here. And these people in exist in both "communities". I just want to see the world and live in places that aren't quite so backward in many respects.

As for the Buffy film, it's nothing compared to the TV series, of course, but it is worth the occasional viewing for silly entertainment. But I do think in the grand scheme of things that it probably put a lot of people off the series which was probably a negative thing. I'm glad that the TV series has pretty firmly became what people would tend to associate with the name, SMG is seen as Buffy.
I think the article would have been more credible had he used the TV series.

Not really sure why. I think the link between Buffy and his point is pretty tenuous to begin with (it's almost like he's heard Buffy appeals to young folks and hired the movie out of his local video shop to gen up). Sure, his examples would change but you could easily slot series examples in place of the film ones and leave the rest of it basically unchanged.

His main gist seems to be that any leftist response to the religious right is better off being loosely organised, flexible and grass roots based or basically a guerrilla organisation, he just doesn't want to put it like that because of the negative connotations (it's hinted at with his reference to 'asymmetrical warfare').

And if a religious right-winger's mean to you you should use hairspray to set them on fire (at least I think that's what he's saying).
My thoughts on this are that the author is trying to say, in as much of a roundabout way as possible, that to deal with the "religious right" (I hate that term!) you have to form the "religious left." But what will the "religious left" prove? That they're just as religious? That they have just as much political clout? It's not a game of religion, it has nothing to do with religion -- it's a political game that is wrongly using religion as a tool to propel a belief, the belief that "oh yeah? I can do that too!" Because some people feel they can't do the things the "right" can without building organizations (like they have) and linking them to the church.

Oh, and the Buffy movie? Hated it! Watched it once, got the few witty one liners, but hated the movie. Long live Buffy TV!

[ edited by Browncoat on 2006-07-28 16:36 ]
Buffy movie was terrible, awful, and just hearing about it and seeing some clips from it was more than enough to keep me (and I bet a lot more other people) away from the show for years.

There is a religious left, and it's called liberation theology.:

I couldn't read the entire seemed overwritten and underthought to me.
As a liberal Democrat who happens to be a practicing Christian, I am interested in articles about the "religious left" but agree with Chris re this one.

I'm a firm believer in the separation of Church and State and prefer for the topic of religion never to cross the lips of any politician. On the other hand, I know churches were the driving force behind both the Underground Railroad during slavery and also the Civil Rights' Movement.
I don't think that Liberation Theory is quite like what the author is suggesting in this article. What he suggests comes across to me as something of a religiously-backed Libertarian political movement.

I don't think it's fair, though, to suggest counteracting the politics of the religious right by creating a religious left. It would establish an even more bitter political tug-of-war than we're already experiencing. The problem lies in the fact that there are people out there working very hard on bridging the gap between Church and State.

Clarkson uses the David/Buffy analogy to suggest that a fledgling religious left ought to find the weak spots in the giant religious right in order to bring it down. But he's missing the point. It's not about bringing down a giant - it's about preparing for our future. It's about raising and educating well-taught, open-minded youth so that they can understand the bigger picture, the greater worth of diversity and moderation. It's about teaching people that, yes, they should have a value system of their own, but that they also have no right to force that system upon others. And it's about letting go off all this them-versus-us crap. It exhausts us all.

Personally, I don't care if a person's politics veer left or right, up or down, backward or forward, as long as they're not shoving any of it down my throat.

Reddygirl: I'm a liberal Democrat and a practicing Christian as well. It's nice to hear there's another one out there :)
binkaboo, have you read any of Jim Wallis' stuff or Jimmy Carter's (the patron saint of liberal Christians) latest book?
I'm so glad to be living in a country that doesn't have all the religious stuff at the top of the list. I respect every living soul on this planet, but sometimes I get so tired of all the religious fights and discussions some people have. Live your lives and do not affect anyone in a negative way, that's what I think.

As for the Buffy movie: Paul Reubens was great. Rutger Hauer ( a fellow Dutchie ) was even better. The rest sucked beyond belief.
There were moments in the movie striving to be Joss moments, but I don't think the director (or producers or Donald Sutherland) "got" his writing at the time. They were the "seasoned experts" fixing his work to be palatable to the masses or at least go with whatever convention was driving movies in the early '90's. Of course now Joss's work has raised the bar on screenwriting, and has become a standard to strive for.

As for the religion angle, I'm staying out of any debate. A musical I wrote (that was butchered by the director) dealt heavily with religion, politics and war. I could go on forever about it, but therein lies madness... and then big men with a straightjacket.
But the thing is, he acts well enough that you didn't notice, with his little rewrites, and his little ideas about what his character should do, that he was actually destroying the movie more than Rutger was. So I got out of there. I had to run away."

This makes me so sad I want to puke. I don't suppose Sutherland tried that with Robert Redford on the Ordinary People set.

As to using Buffy's inventiveness in that article, I think I might utilize just that the next time, if ever, the religious people ever find me to knock on my door early Sunday morning to chat about why I'm going to Hell in a handbasket: "Hi, I'm Buffy ... the Vampire Slayer. And you are?"
I think the author makes a good point about the schisms due to wedge issues in the mainstream churches, and the unlikelyness of their either generating a new movement or being "taken back" by activists. I agree with Saje, though, about the glossing over of the less palatable aspects of asymetric warfare, and understand the distaste for that among the liberal Christians here. But how can separation of church and state be maintained when it's under attack from the highest political levels? I'd like to hear a good idea. I don't have one myself.

As for the Buffy movie, I don't dislike it as much as many here. But if the author thinks it's good pop-culture currency, he really needs to do better research.
This article is cross-posted on several liberal blogs. I, along with one other person, happened to mention that the TV show is better and would likely provide more useful metaphors to make his point (which I don't really agree with, but hey) and he seemed rather irrate that people would be discussing his Buffy reference rather than the point of his article and accused me of trying to hijack the thread.

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