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"Here at Command Central, not so much with the hilarious. More with the 'What the Hell am I Doing'"
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June 26 2008

Buffy in one word. John Rogers - a good writer who's worked on some bad movies - gives his one-word summary of Buffy's theme. It might be the opposite of yours.

...or it might be exactly the same as yours, what do I know? His answer is perfect in its way, but as he says, it may say as much about the viewer as the show. I couldn't do a one-word answer I was proud of, but I like Marti Noxon's slightly longer take: Buffy is about the burden of having extraordinary powers that no one else shares - in other words, it's Joss Whedon's creative autobiography. Interesting exercise, maybe?

I saw this earlier, and his word isn't bad. "Alienation" might fit a little better. Buffy was rarely secluded and I don't believe she yearned for company. Rather, she was emotionally isolated and strived for understanding.

But then I think about it some more, and taking the full cast of characters into account I think something like "change" would be better. Putting it, according to Rogers' description, into the same barrel as Four Weddings and a Funeral.
"Solitude," "loneliness," "alienation," yes yes and yes but I might have said "friendship" first.
Yeah, read it earlier too (on one hand i'm happy he's busy on his show, on the other his posts have got few and far between ;).


or more positively, maybe

Ooo my final answer got sandwiched between my two runners-up.

Or , you know, what nebula said while I was posting my response. :-)

[ edited by OzLady on 2008-06-26 16:54 ]

Not by blood but by choice.
Although both words mentioned in the article are good, I'm going to have to agree with Rogers. "Solitude" is a better fit than "loneliness," since the latter comes from the former, at least in this case. Buffy's biggest issue came down to the fact that there was "one girl in all the world" and she was it. (Okay, for a long time there were two, but since Kendra died quick-LEE and since Faith was a psycho/in prison for so many years...)

This can especially be seen, I think, in her relationship with the rest of the Scoobies. Sure, she genuinely liked Xander and Willow. Sure, she leaned on Giles for guidance and support. Sure, she loved Angel, and Spike too, I suppose. (Poor Riley. Sniff.) And she needed their help to get through many of her various battles...I've often said to friends that if I had to pick a "pop tune" for Buffy's theme song, I'd have to pull a Wonder Years and choose "With a Little Help from My Friends." But at the end of the day, she shared a burden they didn't share. They could always choose to walk away from trying to save the world. She couldn't; it had been thrust on her. It's part of what attracted her to Angel, and later to Spike, I think--as opposed to Riley and Xander--this idea that they were damned creatures who were nevertheless fighting for personal salvation. She could relate. And it's also part of why she kept running away from her friends, to complete her isolation so that she didn't keep hurting the people she loved.

This is why I really loved the early episodes of Season 7, and the series finale. They said they were going back to the beginning, and they did, hitting Buffy's burden over and over (her "I am the law" speech in "Selfless," her soliloquy to Holden in "Conversations with Dead People). And then Joss found the perfect thematic note on which to end the series, going in one brilliant stroke from "one girl in all the world" to "every girl who could have the power, will have the power." With one big honkin' magic act, Buffy is no longer alone...she has thousands of comrades who are exactly like she is, who can help shoulder her burden. Her solitude is over, and hence, so is her loneliness. Problem solved. End of series.

My reasoning above, by the way, is also why I cannot and will not accept the Season 8 comics as canon, despite what Joss says...or at this point, even read them. Sure, every character's life goes on after their story is told, but Buffy's defining character trait was her ultimate solitude. That means you either have to find a new personal problem for your focus (but can anything be so deep-rooted as the first?) or you have to say, in essence, that the problem wasn't really solved after all (in which case, as far as I'm concerned, the ending of "Chosen" is almost completely devalued). Either way, the solution creates an insurmountable problem for my enjoyment of the original series.

[ETA: While I've been writing this essay, I notice a number of people have posted great one-word answers. I like 'em, especially Saje's selection of "isolation." So I'm now going with that. I'm given to understand that the Constitution of the United States guarantees me the right to describe Buffy the Vampire Slayer with any one word I want to, even if someone else came up with it first. Nyah nyah.]

[ edited by BAFfler on 2008-06-26 17:18 ]
Oh, and sammiches.
RavenU - I totally agree - family is the word I would choose.
Pain. Pain, pain, pain!


More pain.

[ edited by Lady Brick on 2008-06-26 17:34 ]
Pain. Pain, pain, pain!


More pain.

You know, BAFfler, you wrote all the stuff talking about how Buffy was a series about a girl being isolated and that it shouldn't continue in a comic book form because that issue was resolved...



Also, they need to make another Buffy video game that plays like the original, none of this "Chaos Bleeds" stuff.
Peewee. (oops, wrong medium)
I've got the perfect word for the Buffy series: Whedonesque. ;-)
In all seriousness, my contribution'd be: self-sufficiency.
I was scanning this list thinking, "someone's got to say shpadoinkle." And crazygolfa didn't disappoint. Thank you.
Is "Life" too broad? If so, then I'm going with "Joan" just because I can.

ps, I love you guys.
Gotta third "family". I can't even make a joke, which is my usual default when posting. BUFFY and the theme of found family means way too much to me. I relate to the idea of making a family not from blood, but from those who love and accept you.

"Love" would be my second choice.
Well, the one the phrase that sprung to mind is 'growing up'. But that's two words. So I'm going to go with 'graduation'. Partly because that line was one of my favourite moments in my favourite season, partly because I have always thought of that moment of being pretty definitive of Buffy, and partly because it allows me to (almost legitimately) mention the fact that I graduated today - I am now Gil-Martin, M.A.!
FaithsTruCalling: The cheese will not protect you!

I don't think the show can be reduced to one word but if forced, I like "family" best of the suggestions made here thus far.

Which leads me to one I like a little better. I can't go with "isolation" or its ilk precisely because, as is pointed out again and again on the show, for all that she does indeed have a burden the others don't imposed on her, the thing that makes Buffy different from her predecessors is that she has friends who choose to help her despite not having to. So, my one word is "Choice."
So, what I'm taking away from all this is Buffy = Spiderman.

This seems right to me, very viscerally. Yes. Buffy should be Spiderman.

daedreams: Just want to be a pedant and point out that while Buffy is indeed shpadoinkle, Joss did not create the word shpadoinkle. To my knowledge it was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, whose Cannibal the Musical (wherein shpadoinkle originates) is one Joss mentioned in some interview sometime as one of the DVDs where you HAVE to watch the commentary. (And you do. It is too hilarious.)

[ edited by Kiba on 2008-06-26 18:54 ]
I think one review of the last issue of Astonishing actually described Spider-Man as Buffy in a Spider-Man outfit.

I don't know why, it just sounds right. That or "revelation".

[ edited by Mirage on 2008-06-26 18:56 ]
Buffy - Perseverance (although I really liked solitude as well. Aloneness would maybe work as an alternative. Lonely doesn't work too well since she has close friends/family. Although she was lonely and isolated at times, I don't believe these work well as descriptors of the entire series).

Angel - Redemption (without a doubt :)

Firefly - Little tough. I'd have to go with "Belief" at first blush.

[ edited by JossIzBoss on 2008-06-26 19:30 ]
(is that too trivial? It is why I never ever get tired of any of it).
I suppose you could read Rogers's versions as identifications of the problem, the overriding emotion, which Buffy's trying to overcome - with 'family' (or in two words, 'surrogate family' or 'found family') as the solution. 'Connection,' you might say. Which is maybe the central concern of any honest piece of socially-minded fiction but Joss has a certain explicitness, and a depth of isolation with which he tends to work (not least because 'happy Buffy = boring Buffy' and so forth).
Also, BAFfler - while I like your reading of the show, you should give the Buffy comic a chance. It continues to revisit old themes, but it also shows up the falseness, or perhaps just foolish optimism, of Buffy's purely personal stake in the TV series finale. Her inability to fully empathize isn't simply remedied by making lots more people 'just like her'; gorgeous as that ending was, one of the lessons of the show was always that life tends not to stop when we're 'done' (until the very end), and continuing Buffy makes a hell of a lot more sense than going on with Angel (which comic comes less strongly recommended for a variety of reasons).

The ongoing story doesn't invalidate the powerful message of 'Chosen,' it attempts to deepen it. Remember, had Buffy been cancelled after Season Three, we'd have had very different feelings about the story of Season Four (which I really like, for the record, particularly the hard-to-pin-down Riley Finn).

[ edited by waxbanks on 2008-06-26 20:17 ]
Congrats, Gil-Martin, M.A.!

Actualization. Bildungsroman.

Actually, I'll go with the second one more than the first one. And I also like Family. Oh, and Fruity. Or Empowerment.
Strength, not so much physical but whatever it is that keeps us trying, fighting, living and loving against insurmountable odds. (Sometimes giving up is all too appealing. Why we - or in this case Buffy et al- decide to continue struggling sometimes is surprising.) So yeah, strength. Or not, that's a hard one though to boil down to just one word.
"Heart" maybe onthedrift (like Rocky had ;) ? "It ain't about how hard you can hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward". But I guess that's more than one word.
I know off-topic but since it's been brought up:

BAFfler; Hmm, analogy has its weaknesses but let me try one. Put in place of BtVS a more melodramatic version of Romeo and Juliet where they get thru the whole business and manage to end up together, and it is still over-all a good story.
Then say the same writer some years later decides to write a domestic drama about problems with raising children and financial difficulties.
Are you saying you'd always prefer a complteley new set of characters for the second play, rather than re-visiting the first couple and seeing them with new problems.

Or is that the wrong analogy?

Faith's Tru Calling waxbanks
It seems impossible to encapsulate the show Buffy in one word. I had to think for a long time about our girl and how she carries the burden of the world on petite, yet brilliant strong shoulders:


Because, isn't that what she has always done, through everything? What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2008-06-26 20:55 ]
Obviously Buffy means a lot of things to a lot of people. I'm going to go with...UNEXPECTED.

Mainly because I had no idea that a television show could have such an impact on so many facets of me as a person. And because the show never fails to surprise.

That or pie. (Because ultimately, everything is about pie.)
Actually Tonya, what doesn't kill us, usually leave us weakened enough that the next thing to come along is able to do the job.
I have to fifth 'Family', but I think that can used for any of Joss's shows. Specifically for Buffy, I liked 'Graduation' cause it felt very much like a coming-of-age story.
onthedrift - "whatever it is that keeps us trying, fighting, living and loving against insurmountable odds. (Sometimes giving up is all too appealing. Why we - or in this case Buffy et al- decide to continue struggling sometimes is surprising.)"

Yeah, these were my sentiments when I chose the word perseverance. Strength doesn't fully encapsulate this concept for me.
LOL, April. I thought that song too but couldn't reduce the meaning of it down to one word.
Hey, I just had flashback, from back when Buffy, was moving from The WB to UPN, there was a series of 2 promos, with cast trying to define Buffy. Anyone remember those. I actually saved them in my video collection, they were pretty fun.

Early season 6, UPN definitely brought in some really good Buffy promos.
waxbanks: To answer your question, a quote from Holden's final monologue in "Conversations with Dead People," which I believe you were good enough to reference:

"...everybody feels alone. Everybody is. Until you die."

I always viewed that last look of Buffy's in that episode, as Holden explodes into dust, as a physical expression of the sinking feeling that maybe Holden had a point. Maybe she always would be alone. (I mean, after all, she just dusted the one person she'd really opened up to since, oh, Tara in late Season 6.) Because of that, I saw the typically Jossian "change the rules" twist in "Chosen" as a triumphant rejection of both Buffy's original problem and its underlying philosophy. It seemed to say, whatever your problems are, you don't have to be alone; you just have to find a way to do something about it. That cut through the original premise of the series beautifully, Gordian-knot style.

I've tried the Season 8 comics. I have the first seven or eight issues. But they didn't grab me, because I got the sense of peeking past the back cover. Buffy's biggest character desire was satisfied at the close of the series, which satisfied me -- and so, for me at least, the story is over and I can't move on to further adventures. Conversely, I think Angel can benefit from an additional run, and I've enjoyed "After the Fall" a great deal more, precisely because the message of that show was "The fight never ends" -- which seems naturally to lead into a continuation of the story. (You seem to be in a different place on both stories, which is fine...I'm not criticizing you or anything...I'm just not with you, and I never will be.)

DaddyCatALSO: While I've got no issues with bringing back old characters for a new story in some instances, I do in others. I have no particular desire, for example, to pick up "Scarlett" and see whether Scarlett O'Hara really does find that "tomorrow is another day," nor do I think the world would benefit from a second film following Rick Blaine's fight against the Nazis after he lets Ilsa get on the plane with Laszlo. They had their big crisis, they made their great point, and any continuation would be superfluous.

There's a difference, in my mind, between bona-fide heroes like these and, say, Kevin Smith's Dante and Randall--with whose second outing I was both eminently satisfied (from a character perspective) and really grossed out (from a personal perspective). As I consider Buffy Anne Summers to be a genuine mythical hero, and a pop culture icon, I'm more inclined to place her with Scarlett and Rick than Dante and Randall. So my answer is, I guess, "It's certainly the wrong analogy for me."

[ETA: FaithsTruCalling...umm, thanks?]

[ edited by BAFfler on 2008-06-26 23:58 ]
Actually, from what you're saying, my analogy did describe it. The characters made their point, so move on. The plausibility of a sequel depends on the characters. The author said many times that The Color of Money wasn't a sequel to The Hustler it was just a ddifferent story about Eddie Felson years later. But seeing him that way makes the ending of The Hustler less powerful, since you know he isn't with her 25 years later.

I'm sure if Brazzaville had ever been filmed, it would have been agood movie, but you're right, it would *seem like* a bad movie because the aMerican and the Frenchman in it were Rick and Louis.
And I don't regard Scarlett as being about the same people, so I disregard it completely *g.

And I do have to wonder sometimes exactly why I'm buying the comics. Not that I'm not enjoying them,b ut what else am I getting out of them?

Which isn't to say my own take on the characters is the same as yours. Otherwise I wouldn't be writing fanfics about them as 45-year-olds with teenage children.
barboo: "Actually Tonya, what doesn't kill us, usually leave us weakened enough that the next thing to come along is able to do the job."

Hah! *wipes eyes.*

I'm still laughing from that, barboo - which hasn't killed me, but I guess it's left me in a weakened condition.

Buffy has always been about the brave. Making not the popular choices, or the cheap. Killing Angel to save the world, standing up for a witch that almost killed your sister, siding with a vampire to save the world, telling your mom that you're THE Slayer, taking on self-perpetuating toenails and Thanksgiving dinner...on and on it goes.

I'm going with Brave.

[ edited by Willowy on 2008-06-27 04:38 ]
I'd go with:


No, sorry, that's Seinfeld.
I feel what I take away from Buffy and all its wacky nephews (AtS, comics, etc.) cannot be boiled down to one word. Luckily I just finished rewatching a certain series finale, and it has provided me with a perfect way to cheat.

Therefore, my word is: Shanshu.
The only single word answer would be IMO, Complex. Which becomes kind of an oxymoron, if you consider the intent of the question. How about season by season?

1. Awakening
2.Becoming (not gonna second guess the Master)
5.Evolving (no one said it was easy)
The thing about Buffy, is that it is about everything. Power, Alienation, Family, Courage, Wit, Passion, Doubt: as soon as you think of one important, relevant word, another one pops up.

[ edited by toast on 2008-06-27 10:32 ]
And, what toast said. :)
With the best will in the world, yeah Buffy's about more than one thing but then so is every other show that reaches to be About (with a big 'A' ;) more than it's about (small 'a').

The original idea is to have one word that's the focus as it's being written, one word where, if you're in doubt, you think of that word and it brings you back on track. I'm not a writer but I suspect 'everything' isn't going to be much help in that regard ;).
True, Saje. It's just that, thinking about it, Buffy seems more about everything, and less susceptible to the one word keynote, than other shows with aspirations to be "About". Like, Angel, for example, where you really could say "redemption" is the word.
Or "atonement" or "guilt" or "adulthood" maybe ? As an 'everything' counter-example, i'd never say Buffy was about "adulthood" for instance (definitely not seasons 1-7 anyway). Redemption was certainly Angel's through-line but to me the show ultimately rejects that as a summary by showing it's unobtainable and that the characters accept that.

I do get what you mean though toast and I think it's because Buffy is essentially a rites of passage story - maybe the best and most complete one ever told on TV - and the journey towards adulthood is filled with pretty much every experience going (as far as life learning curves go that's probably the steepest point that a person is actually conscious of i.e. isn't a baby). By the time we get to 'Angel' the characters are already adults and have experienced quite a lot of what life has in store for them, it's not so much about discovering who you are (Angel, for instance, pretty much knows who he is but has an epiphany when he realises what the world is like) it's more about knowing who you are and living with it anyway ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2008-06-27 12:30 ]
It's true that Buffy doesn't deal-except tangentially, with "being" an adult, although it has a few issues-eg. the job which is totally necessary to pay the bills, but a complete waste of the person (Double-meat Palace) vs. the job which engages a person and/or contributes to their whole sense of who they are (Xander in construction)...

One of the amazing things about it, though,to me is that despite being such a complete rites-of-passage story, it has so many points of reference beyond the youthful the issues about power and stuff.... which makes it speak to much older viewers with more than nostalgic effect.

[ edited by toast on 2008-06-27 13:08 ]
Oh totally toast although I still think, for instance, the way power is addressed in Buffy is from the perspective of someone just realising they actually have some (in 'Checkpoint' for instance or later in season 7 where we see Buffy mishandle power it's a mistake of inexperience IMO).

But the things you learn while growing up are the sort of lessons you apply time and again as an adult (in theory ;) so, apart from nearly everyone being able to identify with the high-school/adolescent experience, the things Buffy goes through still apply, even later.

The endings tell the tale for me (i'll exclude the comics for now cos we don't know how they end yet). BtVS ends on a broadly upbeat note with a whole world there for the discovering (just like adolescence). Ats on the other hand ends with, on the face of it, death (just like adulthood).
Didn't mean to come across as bludgeoning you into "submission" BTW toast, hope it didn't feel that way ;).
Of course not. I basically agree with you, and don't need to have the last word. Or do I?
Nope, nor me, that'd be totally immature.

(turn-around-touch-the-ground-bagsy-the-last-word-times-infinity. No take-backs)
toast repeat after me (acoording to zeitgeist, everyone gets to say it at least once): What Saje said.
Though not as often as "WTF is Saje on about ?" ;).

(also, Numfar, dude, I totally said "times infinity" ;-)
Yeah, but I, like, had my fingers crossed. What's with this "adult" stuff, anyway?
This is getting ridiculous. Time was, people respected infinity bagsies, now look at us. Why don't we just sit in the passenger seat whenever we feel like it eh ? Or just go right ahead and take the top bunk without any sort of formal negotiating system in place ? Messrs Ro, Cham and Beaux must be spinning in their graves.

Anarchy that's where we're heading, anarchy I tells ya.
I have no idea what infinity bagsies even means. Is this like saying no backsies?
What Saje said. (Did I do that right Numfar?)
Time was people knew what infinity bagsies meant too.

In fact, it's mainly time's fault really, with its insistence on moving forwards. Bloody time.
"turn-around-touch-the-ground-bagsy-the-last-word-times-infinity. No take-backs"

Oh, I know this ritual. The ancient shamans were next called upon to do the hokey-pokey and turn themselves around.
So as I was thinking about this last night, with the computer off (yeah that thing I do), I thought of "atonement" for Angel, rather than redemption. Redemption is, in a sense a selfish goal, it's something the seeker wants to gain for himself, to be able to transcend whatever crime they committed in the past. But atoning is an act of selflessness; one does it in order to pay for the crime, whether there is forgiveness or redemption given or not. Angel, even when he doesn't believe in the possibility of redemption for himself anymore, goes on atoning for his past.

"Responsibility" for BtVS, because that is what it is all about. Whether as a metaphor for growing up or not, Buffy is handed a job that only she can do, and the entire series is built around how she accepts that burden or rejects it, how well she does at it or how she fails, and what the cost is to her of having that role. Yeah, her friends are there to help along the way, but ultimately she's been handed the ring of power, and she's the one who has to carry it to Mount Doom, whatever the personal cost to herself.

I found Firefly much harder to come up with a singular definition, in part I think because unlike the other two shows it isn't focussed on a single character. The other two may have ensemble casts, but the structure of each series is built on the titular character. Firefly, however much Mal may be the driving force, is built around all the characters. I finally came up with "Searchers." Interested in any comments on that.
Oops, sorry, I got all serious while people were playing. Oh well.
Well, toast, I think I've found a word (but then Saje goes & says it before me so it doesn't sound as "eureka" as I wanted it to).

My word: JOURNEY

And, just to fill black & make me feel better, I'll tell you why.

1) Yes, Buffy is a right-of-passage story on one level. She goes through several stages of her life that shape & mold her as she grows. She experiences family, friends, school, graduation, poverty, sacrifice, love, lust, isolation, fear, death, connectedness, betrayal, leadership, and acceptance.

2) We, the audience, also go through the journey. Week by week, we experienced something new and something we could relate to. Our past troubles and happy times were converted to metaphors. We grew with Buffy as her unofficial companions on her trek through the verse. We loved and cried with her. It was like the best road trip ever.

3) More importantly (well, to me anyway), is not necessarily the "right-of-passage" that Buffy deals with on a daily basis, but HOW she deals with it. You could relate to what I'm talking about by picking up your standard high school issue of Heart of Darkness. All there is is the journey, but not necessarily the physical, but the mental & emotional trek the character (hero) plays on his decisions as he descends into the darkest depths of his "soul". I feel Buffy goes through the Hero's Cycle very well, from being cast out of the realm of Innocense with the burden of her "Chosen"ness, and how she tackles (or attempts to) each situation from within to discover new depths of her persona. She's not just pure and fluffy, but dark and twisted. Not only can she be cold and stone, but warm and beautifully connected. It's not the loss and grief that's momentus to me; it's how she deals with that grief. That's why I love Buffy.

And, to sum it up and allow people to skim and still get the jist of my black rant, here's 2 quotes loosely remembered:

"If nothing we do in this world matters, then all that matters is what we do." -Angel

"It's not the destination that matters, but the journey itself." -Uh, let's say me! Copying someone smarter than me. :)
So as I was thinking about this last night, with the computer off ...

Aha, so that's what it does during power cuts, always wondered what that pressy thing on front of the case was for ;).

I think a single 'Firefly' word is harder from the writery point of view but i'd maybe sum it up with "autonomy" (or "freedom" but that's possibly too broad). A big part of it is about being trapped too but I can't think of one single word that covers it (Inara, Mal, Simon, River and probably Book are all trapped in some way I reckon).
Independence. Plus, you know, punny.
Yeah, that's better. And, as you say, bringing the funny punny.
Plus it's ironical because really there's all the dependency going on, to Mal's great annoyance.

Irony and puns, that's really why I am a Buffy fan. It's all about the entertaining death and the quip that follows.
If you were going for a one word common thing which is a central issue in all three shows it might be "family." As in what does it mean and who is it?
"Duty", although "responsibility" comes close.
barboo, not sure "atonement" fits Angel either, though I agree it's a better word than "redemption." I have in mind that stretch of Season 2 where Angel was neither being redeemed or atoning, but was instead going after Wolfram and Hart. Were he atoning for his past crimes at the time, the focus would have been on doing penance or helping people. Instead, the focus was on besting W&H.

I think maybe a better word is "helping," because that's what Angel gained from that stretch of episodes, which I would argue is the most pivotal run in the series...where it really discovered what it was about for the first time. Darla's death had made him lose hope in redemption, and Holland's superb monologue had made him realize there wouldn't be any final victory, so to speak. It was only after his trip to the "home office" that he was able to focus on fighting the good fight just because it mattered. Notice that even though he continued to lose his way, he was never again so lost, and he always continued to try and help people...just because. (Well, okay, until that whole killed-the-Circle thing, but let's face it, it was a great moment to go out on...and as for the consequences, wasn't L.A. already in hell?)
Actually, her whole "No one can understand" thing has always pissed me off. Back in High School, when Wil learned she was a witch, and tried to talk to Buffy about it, B kept shining her on. No, being a witch isn't identical to being slayer, but still.

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