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April 25 2009

When Did Dawn Get That Cell Phone? NPR and Marti Noxon Bynum (!) discuss the inconvenience of texting and other technology when constructing a plot. Also, how well Buffy has held up, even though technology is more widespread now than when the series was written.

I'm only starting on the 2nd season of Angel at the moment, but I liked how they poked fun at this in War Zone :)

Wesley: "You should've tried to call us on your cell phone. - You probably forgot you had it."
Angel: "These things hardly ever work. Besides it was a lot easier and quicker to just (mimes punching a hole and grimaces, shaking his hand) - Look, I'm the boss here, I say when we use the cell phones and people are gonna die and - I have to go."
Angel's travails with his cell phone(s) are one of my favorite running gags of the series.
Buffy's High School Years look very dated. *cough* I Robot *cough* Willow's romantic in the computer, with Giles reluctance towards computers and how they are being taught computer programming in class. By Golly it looks old. On the other hand, Season 4 - 7's Apple macs are very pretty.
We were talking about cell phone useage in Btvs & Ats at the Bronze one day and I had to remind other posters that Cordelia had used a cell phone in Welcome To The Hellmouth. It's such a fleeting moment that it's easy to forget it.
"I Robot you Jane" has always been criticized for its lack of computer savy and subtlety. The point of the show, the danger of internet preditors, has however, become more of an issue than it was at the time.

Interesting that MN apparently doesn't remember giving them cell phones in S7. It has been a while.
It's true that internet predators are a pretty major problem these days, re: IRYJ. And it's interesting that Moloch thinks that he really loves Willow, which makes a connection to certain delusional internet stalkers (who really do believe that their love is completely real/pure) rather than generic baddies. But yeah, the execution of the ep is not so much.
Most teenagers didn't have their own cell phones in the 90's, did they?
I'll always remember how in Scream (back in late '96) the fact that one of the characters had a cell was enough to make them a suspect. One of the cops even asks that character what they were doing with a "cellular phone." Ha.
Yes, seriously, wasn't that stuff still new-ish at that point? Making "IRYJ" an appropriate artifact of its moment in time.

My own fic "Kind Hearts and Crossbows" was written in early '02 but set in 2026. (I did make one concession; if a character uses a house phone, I call it that.) I'd probably do it differently now that texting is a common thing; be tricky for Cordelia to be too busy to communciate her latest vision to the new hot young Watcher, so she writes it down and has Dawn deliver it over a romantic catered lunch.
I got a cellphone (only for emergencies) in high school, so 2000, and I think I was on the tail end of the trend since I usually am. But maybe I'm remembering wrong. (Funny note - that first phone was the exact same phone as Angel had. I never had those problems with it though!)
Off-Whedon-squee: Thomas Perry is the other writer interviewed for this story. In the realm of the written word, he's near the top of my list! If you like mysteries on the suspense-thriller side, sometimes with a side of black-comedy: highly recommended.
I had the same reaction watching the first season of The X-Files again recently. Mulder or Scully would get stuck in some terrible situation and I'd think "Why don't they just use their cell ph--ohhhh. Right."
It's a well known fact that Mayor Wilkins banned the construction of a mobile phone mast in Sunnydale specifically so that victims of demonic activity would be unable to easily call in help while on the run from a vampire/demon/giant snake thing.
I had a discussion with Ray Billingsley, the creator of the comic strip Curtis, about this very subject. He was talking about how he's done the strip for many decades, and how he's had to change or dispose of certain plots because it doesn't make sense in today's world. There was a running gag in the strips about one boy listening in on his brother's phone conversations, and how that doesn't work anymore with the ubiquity of cell phones.

Marti Noxon would have no problems with doing this, if she's working on period piece Mad Men. If anything, as she mentions, it's the opposite. You have to put yourself in that mindset for writing in that era.
Also, they specifically dealt with this problem in Harold and Kumar. I read somewhere that the writers kept saying "Why can't they just call their friends to pick them up?" so they wrote out their cellphones in the first 5 minutes of the movie. They get high and forget them in their room down at the end of the hall. Basically, they had to write it out for the sake of the plot.

"Dude, my cellphone."
"....Forget it. It's too far."
I still don't really get the mocking of I Robot... You Jane. Sure, it wasn't the greatest episode of the series, but I think it doesn't pale against other monster-of-the-week shows of S1. And the predator angle, it has a lot of truth behind it, and only recently that kind of things are getting so well-known that they can be ignored as well as the weird guys offering candy.

Also, the episode came out in -97. That was the time we were using modems to dial to BBS:s in addition to the internet, and only the tech savy slash rich dudes were in possession of ISDN digital phones... As computer sciense graduate I like the episode, and though the tech is indeed a bit funny in places, it's still good enough and vastly better than in many more recent shows (Alias comes to mind).
and yet Willow was perfectly able to find blueprints of the town's sewage system using only her computer...
I didn't get a mobile (or cell phone for you Americans!) until '03 but most of my friends were getting them around 2000. I've always thought IRYJ dates pretty well for it's subject matter (as pointed out the stranger on the internet and internet romance things are still big today), at least I don't think it's dated any more than the rest of the series (or maybe season one).

Possibly it's only problem was that it brought the computer issue into focus when computers on Buffy and Angel are just there for convenience - the apparent amazing hacking powers of Willow that could say something about her personality and ability but are never really touched on in that way (just watched Smashed where the gang are happy when they think she's hacking again which they see as preferable to magic even though her 'dabbling' with one is surely part of her lead up to dabbling with the other).

Angel's computer skills in City Of bother me though.

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