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September 03 2003

Why Buffy Kicked Ass A brief summing-up of the latter-day Buffy era from ReasonOnline.

I work for Reason, and Tim and I both noticed the error in the first paragraph (Buffy premiered in 1997, not 1996). I'm not sure when he'll fix it.
You're forgiven... hey I've even mixed up a season once in a while...

Great article, loved the points made. More should be written like this. Thanks!
Excellent article; the author really breaks down many of the key values and beliefs underlying the show.

I'm not sure I buy the argument that "Buffy" illustrates America's consensus morality, though, at least no more than any other show on television. Certainly, Ms. Postrel misses one of "Buffy"'s central precepts: distrust and defy authority. The Council, the Mayor, and the Initiative (and probably more authority figures that I can't think of right now) all proved to be either ineffectual and misguided or just downright evil. Buffy has always followed her own head and heart, even when, as in "Chosen", it "flies in the face of thousands of years of tradition."

I, at least, felt that Buffy's rebellious spirit was woefully absent from America's response (to the extent that you can talk about "America" as a monolithic whole) to September 11th.

And it's definitely odd for an article about "Buffy"'s politics/morality to never mention the words "feminism" or "lesbian".

[ edited by bobothebrave on 2003-09-03 04:57 ]

[ edited by bobothebrave on 2003-09-03 12:36 ]
Great article--excellent points made
A number of lefty or liberal weblogs (Eric Alterman was one) got annoyed with S7, claiming Buffy had turned into Donald Rumsfeld and was turning everything into a battle of good vs. evil. That stuff stuck in my craw, so I liked Virginia's thesis.

Of course, people who didn't like the good vs. evil aspect of Buffy (and seriously, that's pretty silly) should go henceforth to the 2001 CSIS report on "The Buffy Paradigm."

Clarification: I did not write the Reason article. I have written other pieces for the magazine. E-mail Virginia at vp-at-dynamist.com if you dug this.
As Joss put it: "Horror is reactionary. I'm a liberal. Somehow, we get along."

As a "lefty", I will say that I have made my peace with the politics of Season 7 by understanding that the evil that Buffy fights is, primarily, a metaphorical one (supposedly this is how Gandhi could say that one of his favorite books was the Bhagavad Gita), and that even in this fantasy universe, evil isn't always something that you can go out, spot, and kill. More importantly, as "Buffy" has gone to war, the show has never lost sight of the *cost* of war. Ms Postrel herself quotes, "War is about death. Stupid, pointless death."

Joss on the parallels between Season 7 and the war in Iraq (this was in the April 22 issue of the New York Post, but you have to pay now to access it online):

"Meanwhile, as the series has been building to a violent, all-or-nothing war between spirit forces at the end, some critics have pointed out that the characters on "Buffy" are going through much the same turmoil people in the real world have experienced with war with Iraq.

"The last thing I ever wanted in the world was for any of 'Buffy's' rhetoric to be compared to anything [President Bush] was saying," Whedon says.

"Yet he goes to war and ostensibly we have a war on 'Buffy,' " Whedon said.

"So I think it was very much a concern to the writers and myself that we try and stress the pain and the uncertainty and the emotion of it as opposed to the gung-ho 'let's-go-get-'em' of it.

"None of us advocates the idea of war and I certainly didn't support the decision to go in during this particular action [in Iraq]," he said."

[ edited by bobothebrave on 2003-09-03 11:51 ]
Oh, and a quibble:

"We don't get to choose our reality."

That's true most of the time on "Buffy". Except when it isn't. The obvious example is "The Wish"; also, to a lesser extent "Normal Again".

This is, of course, a rather literal-minded response to more nuanced point, but since Postrel gets pretty literal-minded in her take on "Buffy"'s view of good-and-evil ...

I only point this out because Postrel's view seems to be that we have to accept the world as it is, and can only try to make our own lives meaningful. Which is true to an extent, as long as it doesn't obscure the message behind two of my favorite lines from "Chosen":

"We saved the world."
"We CHANGED it."
As an European I found that article quite depressing.

There is a reason why it's called fantasy.

"Vampires are real."
"That explains quite a lot actually."
What I took from the "politics" of Chosen is that we may have no control over what we are, but we do have control over what we do. Buffy was never asked if she wanted to be the Slayer. She just was. With her actions and the help of her friends, she was able to change what it means to be a Slayer.
"In my defense, some crappy wallmanship."
That said, I read about one third down Virginia Postrel's piece before I realized I hadn't the slightest idea where she was coming from, or where she was going, or what point she was trying to make along the way. Then I scanned down the rest of it and realized she was using some kind of scattergun technique to beat around the bush. I'm sure the fault is mine, but I think she lost me about when she alluded to wise men shutting up on Nine Eleven. And something about the Nike ads.
"Gee, can you vague that up for me?"

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