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April 15 2011

"I'd Very Still": Anthropology of a Lapsed Fan. A fantastic article about the old-school Buffy fandom.

Reading this brings it all back for me, and yes I do sometimes miss the "Buffy days" so to speak. Being a fan in Sweden with nothing in the way of Cons and the like I got my fan community input by listening to the classic Succubus Club radio show and slowly converting a lot of friends to the show. I also found a great Buffy forum to visit at all times, which now is dead unfortunately, so I can relate to the article.

The author have one thing right, Buffy definitely damaged my ability to watch tv. Now I've come to want actual quality in the storytelling. I also found it in Babylon 5, which by coincidence (?) was made more or less the same time and under mainly the same conditions as Buffy by Joe Straczynski, crews from the shows even played football. And even though it is great entertainment I'd say that Doctor Who does not meet that high standard.
Nicely written meditation on being a fan (and just the right length not to outstay its welcome too).
Personally, I find DW to be better written than the sometimes stiff B5. But then again, I was a DW fan long before Buffy.
I am glad to see Jenkins' "Textual Poachers" get kudos. It's an important book that provides grounding for understanding fandoms. I find fandom fascinating, and have participated in 3: this one here, yourtaxdollarsatwork.org (dedicated to the Grissom and Sara romance on CSI, now consummated as they are married), and letsrun.com. I left the latter as it descended into puerile adolescent meanderings- every post was hijacked, running no longer got discussed, and juvenile idiots turned everything into a big party. YTDAW was sort of neutered when William Petersen left CSI, as well as Jorja Fox(only to come back for this year). The romance was confirmed, they then married. Without the male lead, the fandom has withered, since the point of identification was the tension of the "will they, won't they, are they, they are!" was answered. Buffy fandom seems more long-lasting- Buffy has endless readings and interpretations, and even though most of us have long ago staked out various positions, we still find meaningful points of discussion, and books and articles are still very much active. I guess my question for everyone would be: why did you invest? Why did you go on this long trip and hang in there years later? What benefit do you get?
The answer's in the question Dana5140 ;) ("...Buffy has endless readings and interpretations, and even though most of us have long ago staked out various positions, we still find meaningful points of discussion..."). Only the other day someone suggested an interpretation of Faith's S3 arc that hadn't occurred to me but fit better than my own previous perspective and even now, years later there's stuff like that, still novelty and insight to be found (not usually, for me personally, from the academic stuff which too often views the shows through too strong a lens IMO - no-doubt it works for some but like borrowing someone else's glasses, it doesn't normally help me see more clearly).

That and it's nice to have a readily accessible place where people don't think you're a nutter for discussing in obsessive detail a TV show that's been off the air for nearly 8 years ;). I.e. to connect with (in some respects at least) like-minded people.
I found that to be a fantastic piece with some great wisdom.

I have to agree that those of you who were around during the show's original run must have had an extremely different experience than those of us who caught up after it was over. Same goes for other terrific shows like Angel or Babylon 5. I do think that there are advantages to watching Buffy for the first time ever in a week and a half to two weeks on DVD as I did (excluding one Ep.), but at the same time, so much must have been missed out on in anticipation and excitement, and having the chance to share it with other people. Nice to read about it, especially when it's written so well.
I miss OZ. sigh.
Great article. I enjoyed reading it very much. We are a unique bunch we fans. I have been hoping for my own personal fannishness to fade for a long time. It has a little, I'm at about 25% of what I was at one time. It still consumes too much of time I don't really have.
You know it's funny I - i never realized until I read that article that I am no longer a "fan" of Buffy. I mean i am in the sense that I will always love the show and often watch it for fun - but the fan community aspect has shifted. Sometime after Angel was cancelled I guess I became a "whedon" fan as opposed to a Buffy fan. And I also became a fan of a bunch of other shows including BSG, Doctor Who and LOST. But Buffy will always be special because it truly was my first.
I guess I was a Trek fan first, reading the episode compilations and the earliest novels to get started. Then the new Trek shows came along and the airwaves were saturated with all things Trek. Cool. Kind of gave me a distorted sense of what's possible, though, because in a just world, Firefly and Angel wouldn't have ended so soon. Or maybe it gives me hope that ten years on there'll be some resurgence of interest and new shows?

My own journey through Buffy fandom really began when I moved to a part of the world that didn't broadcast Buffy at all. I hadn't ever been very organized about recording episodes, and managed to record over them all without realizing (the only one I have left is the prom Slayer Fest episode, at the tale end of a tape, discovered by accident, much later), so suddenly I really was in a Buffy-less world.

I rummaged around online, kind of baffled at the fanaticism of those who'd set up some secretive way to download episodes (illegally, one assumes). I wasn't up to the challenge of those technical complexities, so the ethical issues were kind of moot.

At some point I made a friend online who was perfectly happy to make tapes of both Buffy and Angel (by then on the air) for me, and mail them, for no more than the cost of the tapes and postage. Beyond that, I never did engage much in online fandom, I was much more interested in the episodes themselves. This was back in the olden days before it was common for shows to be released on dvd as quickly as they do now, so missing episodes was really traumatic. I did spend a lot of effort printing labels for my VHS tapes, though. Some one of the fonts on our computer at the time was nicely evocative, and fit nicely on the labels.

A few years later, our cable company decided to make a stab at joining the modern world, and Buffy returned to my own tv, sometime impossibly late on Saturdays I think. They eventually made room for the actual network, so I was a bit less sleep deprived, but they didn't make room for any of the newer Trek shows, so I never did find out how DS9 or Voyager ended but there was Whedon, and it was good.
Thank Ever for posting this article - I loved my days on the Buffy Boards while the series was on - we had so many great discussions not just about the series but on politics and many other topics.

One thing is sure - I miss all those wonderful people - Life goes on but my Buffy Board memories are a happy stream.
I still get board rules sent to me from the old yahoo group "The Stakehouse". I don't think anyone has posted anything there since the end of Angel. I've considered deleting it hundreds of times but I never do. Buffy nostalgia runs deep.
A wonderful article. Reminds me of my stack of Buffy on VHS and simultaneously discovering the internet and Buffy; a friend on a Buffy site who sent me a recording of an episode I'd missed.
Great article. I've never been a frequent poster anywhere I've been, but The Bronze, Hellmouth Central... I can relate to being part of the fandom and its wane once the show stopped. And for me, there's never been anything quite like Buffy. There are certainly other shows I've cared about, but not the the point where I HAD to go online and read, discuss and debate. It was just a special show where the more you dug into it, the more there was to appreciate.
I like this essay a lot. When I got the submissions for the Spotlight, I instantly liked this one and thought: Final day of event. After all, even though a lot of the essays are academic, every single person who wrote an essay is, at heart, a fan. I just thought this essay struck the right tone and even though I was not big on either Oz or Tara, I felt nostalgic nonetheless.

I've been a rabid fan of shows three times. Well, correction, or maybe not a correction. I was absolutely rabid over Buffy/Angel. I then was absolutely rabid over Battlestar Galactica. And right now, this very moment, I'm very close to being, for the first time,a shipper (which I say both with great shock and considerable dismay), being absolutely fascinating and delighted by a romantic pairing on a show that I actually hate: Dan and Blair on Gossip Girl. I find myself utterly obsessed at their weird, strange, brilliantly written (on an otherwise appallingly written show) friendship/romance. But that is TV for you: sucks you in just when you don't expect it. I am, btw, considering doing my own editing of Season Four of GG, one in which I cut out all the many parts I loathe deep in my bones, and leave the 20% that gives me great joy.
Title correction: The quote is:

“I’d still if you’d still.”
“I’d still. I’d very still.”
—Willow and Oz, “Phases” (2.15)

It's not "I'd be very still," just "I'd very still."

Anyway! Lovely essay. I didn't do any of these specific Buffy related things because I didn't watch Buffy until 5 or so years ago.

My fandom when I was a teenager was actually with the book series The Dragonriders of Pern (such a geek) and I spent an inordinate amount of time on text-based RPGs writing about/pretending to be a character in Anne McCaffrey's world. Still, most of those points apply to me. We grew up and we had lots more things to worry about and do, and real life got in the way. I actually had a huge falling out with a person I had considered one of my best friends (internet or no) and then I lost touch with lots of them. Some people kept and still keep their own personal Livejournal. I actually still keep in touch on a weekly basis with a few of them, and Facebook is a wonderful thing for that.

Fandoms are amazing, and I wish that I had the time I had in high school to bond with those kind of people. I don't know if any Pern-based MUD/MUSH/MOO's are active (really, truly active like they were) anymore. I know that people have tried and failed to create them just because no one can really participate anymore. But I do think that all of us benefited tremendously from that time of our lives.
I completely relate to this article. Though my sister was much more involved online with The Bronze at the time of Buffy's actual airing, I was more of a lurker. It was sometime towards the end of Buffy and Season 5 of Angel that I became active online. I was lucky though, Buffy was a family obsession in my household, so my sister, my dad, and myself spent countless hours debating the show. Buffy is my first and really still my only fandom. I have branched out into Firefly and my sister moved on to Lost, but Buffy is my true love. It still holds a very special place in my heart.

As I have gotten older and much busier I will go months without thinking about Buffy and then something will hit me and remind me of the show. All of a sudden I will find myself back here or on the phone with my sister (just like when we were younger) discussing the finer points on some analogy in Buffy and how it so still to this day relates to our lives.
It's not "I'd be very still," just "I'd very still."

"I'd very still" has been the title and (within article) quote since I first saw this link (at around 10 a.m. this, well, a.m.). Correcting that which is correct is non-trivial ;).
We still have a local group that gets together once a month, and we still talk about Buffy. :)
Thanks Saje, I was going to point that out. There was never a point where the posted title was "I'd Be Very Still."
Yes there was. A couple of hours after I posted the entry, I thought I made a mistake so I added a "be". It was only when I saw VeryVeryCrowded's comment did I correct it. It's a Be-story.
Err, wha ? You corrected it after 7:54 pm Simon ? That's genuinely very weird cos I saw it as "I'd very still" for the whole day before that. Minds are odd.

(unless you're being hi-larious - bit hungover, radar wonky)
I can't recall if it was Joss or a statement I read somewhere, but it struck me as a truth. "BtVS is like peeling an onion back layer by layer. Each time, you'll find different results."

I've found that statement true. Everytime I've watched BtVS, I've always catch something a little different than I did before. Now, the show didn't changed a bit, but the way I was perceiving it did. And, I've always found that amazing, how this show can cover just a wide area of perception. This show has just continued to keep me fascinated all these years.

Then again, maybe I just see Sarah and Aly as eye candy! :)
Reminds me of my own days as a teenager, obsessively taping every episode of season 2 as it aired, and that epic summer of 1998 spent debating "Xander's Lie" on alt.tv.buffy-v-slayer. What great memories.
Dana5140 Saje: It still happens. I just saw close parallells between the two conspirator students in "I Robot You Jane" and the similar pair in "Some Assembly Required." And a skewed simialrity in the Nerd Trio.
I enjoyed reading someone's unique take on their experience of shared fan interaction. I've never really fit into any neat description of being a Whedon fan; I don't identify as a Browncoat, though I'm perfectly fine with being termed a Whedonite. Finding a place where I felt comfortable discussing his shows was enormously difficult for someone like me, who tends to be more self-contained by necessity and choice, though I do enjoy interaction with other fans, to a degree. Please, no offense to anyone here who may have taken part there - this is merely a take on my experience, but I found the original Bronze to be incredibly insular and elitist. I finally gave up posting (I used a couple of pseudonyms, which don't work for me I found - I felt dishonest) and simply read, enjoying the VIP visits.

Until I started reading here for years before I became a posting member, I never really felt a part of the flow of fandom. I can't really, with ease, take part in group events. A few people at a time work better with me, so I may never do groups again, no matter how much I enjoyed the Browncoat cruise. It also made me feel like an outsider because I didn't know any of the people who had banded together for years, and that includes people who post here. Writing has always been an outlet for me, so I find it works better in terms of shared fandom. I think each person's experience is valid. Whether you still partake of it, only a little bit here and there, not at all anymore, or only in your memories, you are a fan for life. At least IMHO.
Funny to read that article on one of my very infrequent trips back to the black! I am still a fan of all things Whedon but have all but lapsed in terms of my online fandom.

This brings back some happy memories of the Buffy Cross and Stake spoiler board at Voy Forums - have just googled and they're still there!! Am off for a night of nostalgia.

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