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September 02 2006

Buffy Deconstructed. More than three years after the last vampire was staked, the show's cult status continues to grow and perhaps more interestingly, it has become a favorite topic in the academic community.

Great article! And I love the picture of SMG and DB they used. Thanks.
Excellent read! I've always said BtVS will be a bigger cult hit 10-20 years down the road. Case in point....
It's official Buffy's smart TV :) Check out this wiki-article on Buffy studies.
Joss always said he wanted to create something that would last beyond the series itself (I'm paraphrasing very badly here).
Ahh. Articles like this always make me feel just a little bit better about myself and my strange obsession.
A couple of years ago, I took an intro Drama course where the professor showed clips of Buffy as examples. It was interesting to me even though I had never watched and six months later, I knew why she'd used those clips. There's alot to learn from Buffy.
I love the picture of SMG and DB they used.

Sarah Michelle's = Best. Face. Ever. (for acting)

That's why I didn't notice Boreanaz could act -- he was standing next to her.
Actually, the last vampire to die on Buffy wasn't staked. He fell victim to a little shaft of sunshine and then got buried with a bauble at the bottom of the Hellmouth. (ETA: Yeah, I know, I know, that's not what the author meant. Just going for accuracy...)

[ edited by BAFfler on 2006-09-02 18:19 ]
That's why I didn't notice Boreanaz could act -- he was standing next to her.
Marsters is apparently what distracted me. (My shock at Boreanaz's abilities shining in Bones was palpable.)

Every time an academic post like this comes up, I want to brag about having taken one of the first classes in this vein, three years back: Buffy as Archetype: Rethinking Human Nature. Lots of philosophy, psychology, myth, Joseph Campbell, Lacanian anaylsis, Simon de Beauvier, etc and so forth. It was my first quarter at the University of Washington, first class in my department, and it strongly shaped the way I teach today. A few years later, I ran my own version of the class, using Stargate: SG1 to discuss applied ethical issues, and I don't think I've ever taught a class where I don't use some television clips to illustrate points (admittedly, these days it's mostly The Daily Show).

But yeah, a big reason I teach the way that I do is because I believe pop culture brings a necessary grounding point to often heady, meta, in the cloud issues, and it's much easier to discuss Lacanian analysis with a tangible example in front of you. "But what, what does the cheese mean?" "The cheese is the belly button of the dream..."
Ha! Good stuff! I just asked my hubby, who is a philosophy teacher, if he ever uses pop culture refrences while teaching, and he said "All the time." Then I told him he should use Buffy refrences, then he says "I do!". I should have known :) He is my husband after all. Good man.
I'm at university right now and I'm so dissapointed I can't take a class like that.


I wouldn't even have to study!
Thanks for this article. I know I love discussing the show just as much as ever. Despite the fact I enjoy several shows on TV, I have no urge to join a board and talk about them the way I did with Buffy.

And everytime I rewatch the series I get a new perspective and discover something I never had thought of before with previous viewings. Recently I sat through 2 again and had a new appreciation for Angel and saw something much deeper in him than I had the first time around.
That sounds great, of course, as is a testament to the quality of the show. I very much doubt Charmed or Smallville will ever be discussed in such detail.

That aside, and this is only a minor note because sometimes I think we (and me especially) can be in danger of criticising almost everything, does anyone detect a faintly disbelieving, or mocking tone in the article? At the very least I get the impression the writer has missed the point a little when they use such terms as "busty blonde"?
I hope that teachers always remember that the main reason that Buffy is worth studying is that people love it. That's also the main reason Shakespeare is worth studying -- the works reach so many people so deeply.

It would be easy to teach Buffy as dully as Shakespeare sometimes is taught. The thing that makes Buffy fit one academic definition of "smart" -- the numerous pop- and high-culture references that could launch a thousand term papers or footnotes -- are not the show's heart.

I would hate for scholars to emphasize expert knowledge, the accumulation of which raises the social status of . . . scholars! It's the sort of thing that kills Shakespeare for people who might otherwise love a Hamlet with Ethan Hawke or a Romeo and Juliet with Clair Danes.

I find it fun to go through Joseph Campbell, Richard Slotkin, Jeanine Bassinger et al., but only because I love to find out more about what I love. If students are forced required to, however, the Whedonverse could become a hell dimension.
That aside, and this is only a minor note because sometimes I think we (and me especially) can be in danger of criticising almost everything, does anyone detect a faintly disbelieving, or mocking tone in the article? At the very least I get the impression the writer has missed the point a little when they use such terms as "busty blonde"?

I think it's fairly obvious that the article wasn't written by a fan, so I think it's more that she didn't know much about Buffy than that she was mocking it. And props to the author, too, because usually when these articles are written by nonfans, they're almost unbearably full of incorrect references and hasty conclusions.
The reasons people love Buffy and the reasons people love Shakespeare (and they do), Pointy are the same - they are both bloody good, and they take the watcher way beyond the simple story.

It was a good article, though I have to take issue with this line:

What is it about the busty blond and her hapless gang of Scoobies that is so appealing

Busty? Hapless? Gimme a break. Talk about simplifying something complex till it can't be recognised! SMG is very pretty, but was she ever busty? I think not.
I agree, Gill, on the bloody goodness.

And both authors do make sure their goodness is thoroughly bloody.

That doesn't guarantee good teaching or good scholarship in either case. The element of enjoyment is key to both authors. May it be so to their scholars as well.

More Free Bloody Goodness in Portland

[ edited by Pointy on 2006-09-02 23:28 ]

[ edited by Pointy on 2006-09-03 00:13 ]
All of the principal actors on “Buffy”, “Angel”, and “Firefly” were/are talented artists delivering consistently believable performances. Which makes it impossible for me to watch shows with less credible performances. Joss raised the bar for writing, set design, lighting, producing, directing, and acting, and his staff, crew, and actors all met his expectations. No wonder we keep watching - over and over and over again!
I can't wait until Wednesday - I'll be attending these seminars as it's open to the public and it's my hometown. Anything to share the obsession.

Anybody else here going to be attending?
kt, if you're referring to the UNCG Buffy seminars that've been discussed at length in another thread, I'll be going, too. Too bad there wasn't a BtVS minor there while I was in school!

It's true that both Shakespeare and Buffy could be dulled down into yawn- inducing incomprehensibility in the wrong hands. Luckily, Will and Joss realized early on that mixing aspects of drama, violence and sexuality with ruminations on deeper philosophical, moral and ethical issues would allow them to create something capable of appealing to huge numbers of people. Whether you're into BtVS on the most superficial of levels or are fascinated with dissecting every gesture and line, Buffy satisfies by virtue of its ability to successfully straddle the line between high and low culture.

The two aspects have never really been mutually exclusive (except in the eyes of those who misunderstand what each really represents), but Joss (and Mr. Shakes) made that connection explicit, and then went on to integrate, exploit and contort the well-worn tropes of those two conventions with a glee that continues to be felt and loved, and will be, for years to come.

Just as a general observation, how awesome is it that nerds need no longer be ashamed of their pop culture love? (Write papers for TV shows you adore! Whee!) It's also cool that you can watch Joss's shows and simply be entertained, no strings attached, while you continue to receive textual and subtextual messages insisting -- contrary to most other forms of mass-produced media -- that yor're smart and worthy of being treated with intellectual respect. So refreshing!
One advantage that Whedon has over Shakespeare is that we have the originally produced versions readily available to us. Until someone decides that students should be reading the Buffy scripts instead of experiencing them as performance pieces, Whedon should be fairly safe in staying interesting. Of course in 400 years, teachers may still have to explain that Whedon characters are speaking English and no, in 1999 people did not normally talk the way Whedon characters do...
Essentially, Buffy IS supposed to be the "busty blonde" type. She's forged from the typical stereotype horror film busty blonde who is a victim in every film from Halloween to The Grudge Two.

However, under Whedon's tenure, this stereotype becomes the predator and not the prey. In the end she becomes the archetypal hero character that Joseph Campbell showed in his work exists throughout human storytelling, practically from the Dawn of Man. Furthermore, from the episode 'Restless' to the very end of the series, Whedon was arguing that HIS archetype was THE beginning of all hero archetypes. He took his girl back to the dawn of time with The First Slayer and The First Evil and those three weirdo guys who we are led to believe are The First Watchers. Whedon was saying that everything from Homer's Illiad and the Holy Bible and the Quran and whatever the first books are in the far east? All that stuff? His girl started all that. The battle between good & evil? It's Slayer versus Vampire. The buck stops with her.

Joss Whedon's seven year stint on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a royal flush in his hand. He puts it down on the table before all the scholars and philosophers and monks and whatnot throughout history and says, "read 'em and weep, fellas." Of course, the fact that he stacked the deck a little by bringing his own cards can be forgiven. After all, he is only human.
So jealous, kt and Wiseblood! So reassured, newcj, although I would love to read a 25th Century Norton Critical Edition of Buffy scripts, if only for its footnote on "Scoobies."

[ edited by Pointy on 2006-09-05 00:59 ]
I really enjoy deconstructing Buffy myself and enjoyed the article as well. On a side note....what schools actually offer Buffy Studies???
There's a pretty comprehensive Wiki-entry on Buffy studies with some info on schools and classes. And what a list of scholarly book titles! (For a person whose most memorable interaction with a book occurred when she accidentally clobbered a future boyfriend on the noggin with one, Buffy's become quite the ironic -- and realistically complex -- representative of a literary community dedicated to examining every facet of her existence...)

I'm not sure how I missed hearing about the Angel book before now, but I'll be off to pester someone at B&N about it in short order.

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