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April 02 2005

Buffy is the second most influential SciFi Show of the '90s. "Though many other shows have tried, they haven't quite been able to mimic the complex character development or the originality of this truly great series".

Think I would have pick 'Farscape' over 'Babylon 5', but otherwise, I agree with Lee's choices. All of these series had episodes that were outstanding and they'll become time-honored classics in due course.

What about 2000? Which series do you feel will have an affect on this decade? Out of the box, I'll nominate 'Lost' though I'm torn from my other favorite, 'Battlestar Galactica'. Choices, choices. So few, yet so hard. Really need another Jossverse story here. After BtVS and AtS, it's hard to evaluate another show.
For this decade I would nominate Medium - it's such a beautiful show that has been able to resonate with a massive mainstream audience... Patricia Arquette's portrayal of the character would have to be the major factor, she's just fantastic
Like the list, never seen Farscape, everybody keeps raving about it, seems I should try it on DVD, dont remove B5 it really belongs there just add to the list.

If you want to make such a list for this decade I believe there needs to be a longevity criteria, only shows that lasted at least three seasons should be considered.
That seems to leave very few shows, Alias ? not really sci-fi.

A lot of people seems to like Lost, but the writers there still have to prove that they can answer questions as effectively as they can put them forward, so far I have seen little proof of that.

[ edited by jpr on 2005-04-02 13:25 ]
David Fury, Drew Goddard, and (wink,wink) Jeffrey Bell have already proven their stones here. Wish I could be a fly on the wall when these guys break their stories to JJ. Throw Joss and Jane in the mix and I'll be a fly in heaven.
How is 'sci-fi' defined exactly? It's very hard to classify Buffy because it takes elements from so many different genres. Teen drama. Comedy. Action. Fantasy. It could be considered to fit in a lot of different types of show so it's hard to say. I'm not sure personally that I would classify it as science-fiction.

Alias is also hard to judge, possibly even more difficult than Buffy. Buffy combined realistic characters and emotions with vampires and demons. Alias treads the line between fact and fiction a little more carefully, because you have the human drama alongside a spy drama which in itself is a surreal concept but is often played realistically. Then you also have times when the more fantastical elements of the show are played up, such as Sydney's aliases. It's almost realistic enough to be believable, but not completely so.

I'm not a big sci-fi/fantasy person in general, I am a big fan of Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Alias, although I don't mind stuff like Farscape.

Anyone find it strange that Buffy is often mentioned in these kind of lists or polls, whereas Angel isn't mentioned as frequently? I suppose part of it is that Angel was a spin-off from Buffy and therefore the two could be considered the same, but what do you all think? Is Buffy more influencial and iconic than Angel because it came first, or is Angel just as worthy in those respects?

Personally I love both Buffy and Angel but I think Buffy does have some sort of advantage over Angel because it came first. I think for example if you were to ask the average person you meet on the street they would be more familar with BtVS than AtS.
I think sci-fi has come to application across a broad range of texts in recent years - the general definition now is that a sci-fi text is distinguished by the inclusion of a subject that is validated by cognitive logic... in other words, something that exits in the fictional world that doesn't exist in our own
Angel is like Deep Space Nine. Brilliant TV with epic story arcs, superbly written characters and dark adult themes but they both ignored a lot when it comes to lists like this.
Hmm, I am find myself in a complete agreement with this list. Especially the part where Buffy stands out in complex characterization. BtVS uses fantasy, science fiction, arclines, etc to develop the characters and in this they are unique and damn good.
Razor nails it in his first paragraph:

"It's very hard to classify Buffy because it takes elements from so many different genres. Teen drama. Comedy. Action. Fantasy. It could be considered to fit in a lot of different types of show so it's hard to say. I'm not sure personally that I would classify it as science-fiction."

That's the reason Buffy never got "official" recognition from the Emmy people...how to classify this genre busting, genre exploding show? You simply can't...it defies categorization.

On another note, I seem to recall that noted author Harlan Ellison hated the term "science fiction", with its almost inevitable invitation to think of BEMs (bug-eyed monsters--i.e., aliens)preferring "speculative fiction" to describe his writing. Given that Joss eschewed BEMs on Firefly, maybe he'd agree.
I'm not sure personally that I would classify it as science-fiction.

Me neither. Buffy is quite clearly a fantasy drama with a healthy splash of comedy.
Grounded, I like your definition fantasy drama with a healthy splash of comedy. though I usually prefer to use the combination sci-fi/fantasy just because to me the line between them isn't that clear ( and robots dont forget the robots).

As far as I can see the reason why BtVS usually is mentioned in lists like this and AtS is not is that while BtVS really broke new ground, defining a new world, the early seasons of AtS to a large extent built on already existing characters and background, Angel, Cordelia, Wesley, Darla, Faith where all defined as part of BtVS and it took some time before they developed into something new.

Also right or wrong, AtS might not feel as unique as BtVS, critics can usually come up with some other shows to compare with, Angel not exactly being the first guy walking the streets at night fighting evil and seeking redemption, comparing BtVS with something else is a lot harder, some anime maybe, is there anything else ?

Madhatter, Not questioning the LOST writers credentials, the structure of the show just does not work for me thats all, to me it looks to much like having someone dangling a carrot in front of me saying - just one more show, just one more season.
Some people actually enjoy the teasing, I dont, as usual YMMV.
Grounded, I like your definition fantasy drama with a healthy splash of comedy. though I usually prefer to use the combination sci-fi/fantasy just because to me the line between them isn't that clear

Fair enough. However I'm curious as to which aspects of Buffy people think relate to science fiction. As far as I can see, there are none.
Cheers to you, Simon, for hitting the proverbial nail directly on it's head !
Chris in Virginia said,
I seem to recall that noted author Harlan Ellison hated the term "science fiction", with its almost inevitable invitation to think of BEMs (bug-eyed monsters--i.e., aliens)preferring "speculative fiction" to describe his writing.
I have agreed with Ellison in the past that "speculative fiction" is a better moniker for lumping all fiction that speculates into the same category, while most people prefer to further classify stories into two separate categories: science fiction and science fantasy. Such Felix-Unger-like diminuitive classification is petty and unnecessary. I've often found this amusing, because I don't recall agreeing with Ellison on anything else, but at least I can find common ground with him here. To a point.

Buffy would (on the surface mind you) most undoubtedly have to fall into science fantasy, because it includes elements that fall into a modern-day equivalent of sword and sorcery epics, although it maintains a semi-realistic world. Scifi purists can't accept sword and sorcery in their science fiction, so Buffy is therefore pushed into science fantasy by default. This is precisely why Ellison preferred the phrase "speculative fiction," in order to subvert such anal-retentive purists.

Although many paranormal elements are introduced, Whedon's intent is to keep the fictional universe he creates as close to ours as possible, so that we can more readily empathize with the plights of our Scoobies aka 'white hats.' So Whedon's "BuffyVerse" maintains elements of both science fiction and science fantasy, which ticks those anal purists off. They don't know what to do with her. Were this story to take place some place other than Earth, we wouldn't care because we'd have no frame of reference to empathize with these characters. So Whedon sets the story on Earth, in a town not too far removed from yours, wherever you happen to be on this planet.

However, at the same time the story takes place on an Earth that has an entire city which is not on our map. So although it resembles our Earth, Whedon is careful to let us know up front this is not OUR Earth, but a speculative fascimile. In this alternate Earth, he speculates what our Earth might be like if actual mystical mumbo jumbo were more commonplace. However, he approaches this from a more realistic perspective than the classic black and white horror films like Frankenstein, Dracula or the Wolfman from which he obviously is influenced.

Even seemingly classic examples of "science fiction" elements have a potential for paranormal influence in Whedon's world. For example, normally if a story were to involve humanoid robots or androids, one would naturally assume we're dealing with b-movie science fiction and not the supernatural. However, it's never made clear that Warren was utilizing pure 'scientific methods' to concoct his robots. Surely he was too young to have single-handedly mastered capabilities that countless companies and inventors in our reality have failed to conjure up for over a century. Warren didn't come from a wealthy enough family to be able to have the equipment and resources to invent such realistically humanoid robots without a little help from the dark arts, yet the narrative never admits this either. We're left to speculate, hence the term. Whether Warren realized consciously or not that his expertise was being assisted, we just don't know. Either he asked for Jonathan to help out or perhaps simply living on the Hellmouth allowed scientifically implausible things to occur more easily and readily than other parts of the world. This is not to insinuate that had Warren's robot successfully left Springfield it would have suddenly fallen apart. The fact it was invented in Sunnydale would have insured its continued existence elsewhere... but again that's all speculative.

So "speculative fiction" allows one to put all this stuff in the same category, making Buffy slightly less genre-bursting. The problem with the phrase spec-fic is that some purists don't like sword and sorcery fantasy (speculating what the world would be like with dragons and sorcerers and the like) lumped in with works that seriously attempt to explain implausible events with known scientific theories (what if one or two slight new discoveries in physics or genetics were made tomorrow). It's too broad for some, which is why scif/fantasy is considered a suitable compromise for many. They're two separate categories and yet they are not. Both extremists in the debate win, and yet no one's a loser. Excepting of course for Mr. Ellison and myself.

I would like to add at this point that I often use the phrase "science fiction" or "scifi" out of habit and to sorta fit in I guess you could say, but when I do I'm almost always meaning to say "spec-fic" and I should probably start doing so more readily. Say what I mean and mean what I say and what not. It's just that doing so often threatens to bring up this very debate, which leads to long drawn out explanations like this one, and saying "scifi" instead just allows me to use less words for a change. However, far as I'm concerned, any fiction that speculates what the world might be like if it were a little different from reality is speculative fiction, whether it includes magic or robots or a time machine or the Nazis winning world war two or a frozen Sherlock Holmes that gets thawed out in present day, etc. They're all variations on a very broad "what if" theme.

And now for something completely different. JPR said,
If you want to make such a list for this decade I believe there needs to be a longevity criteria, only shows that lasted at least three seasons should be considered."
With all due respect JPR, that's poppycock. Were we to make a similar list five or ten years from now, Firefly would have to be included. It's already influenced other shows since, and will continue to do so, yet it lasted less than a full season.

[ edited by ZachsMind on 2005-04-02 17:40 ]
"It's too broad for some, which is why scif/fantasy is considered a suitable compromise for many. They're two separate categories and yet they are not." Yeah, Zachsmind. You said it.

If it helps any, I've read the SciFi Channel website's FAQs, where they sometimes are questioned about their choices in programming. They feel pretty much like your explanations above, Zachsmind, that scifi includes fantasy, otherworldly, horror, etc. (Interestingly, it's how I learned climactic changes are correctly identified as scifi, just like stories in other times.) That's why SciFi might choose to air a movie like "Fright Night" -- note that vamp movies often have comedy, or even Clan of the Cave Bear, WaterWorld -- which I liked! (Joss did a bit on that script, I heard later) or any of a long list of from the fantasy category. This compromise in programming pleases both the purist and fantasy fans, lots of whom crossover into the other programming as well, I assume. I'm one of those non-purist scifi types, I loved all of Star Wars and never watched Star Trek other than the original. *shrug* Gotta have my vamp stories, too.

My guess is that the SciFi channel would love to air any Whedon reruns and I'm all for that. The purists don't like it, but why should scifi be restricted to spaceships and aliens? SciFi implies "otherworldly", imho.

[ edited by April on 2005-04-02 17:44 ]

[ edited by April on 2005-04-02 17:49 ]
zm, sorry Firefly might have influenced other shows but no more than all shows influence and build on each other, for the show to really make a mark outside of the fandom Firefly needs to be given more time to expand its universe, characters and stories there just isn't enough material there for it to claim to be very influential.
I could also argue the heretic thought that Firefly just doesnt break enough new ground to make any such list, it needed more time to develop into something truly original.

Grounded, I think zm said it well, I'd trade sci-fi/fantasy for speculative fiction any day if my brain wasn't so stuck in old tracks. But even if I think 'Ted' and Warrens robots, invisibility ray and jet packs and the Initiative might fit into a wide definition of fantasy I still prefer to use the wider sci-fi/fantasy, basically why limit the definition unless you have to.
Angel is like Deep Space Nine. Brilliant TV with epic story arcs, superbly written characters and dark adult themes but they both ignored a lot when it comes to lists like this.

Simon




Angel pretty much was a show to start the 21st century really, how can we put it as a show of the 90s? As it had just one season in the 90s, the first season, 1999.

[ edited by SeanValen on 2005-04-02 18:29 ]
Yea, I'd agree with that list. X - Files was definately more influential. I loved Buffy more tho.
JPR, did we see the same Firefly DVD? Granted, it would have been nice to see three or more years of it, but in just over a dozen episodes, Whedon and the people behind Mutant Enemy accomplished more and made better strides in television mastery than most television series that last ten years or more have accomplished. While I adore the tv series Quincy, it was nothing if not predictably formulaic. The tv series Emergency with Randolph Mantooth, while also adorable has painfully suffered from time not at all being good to it. Many shows since have done much better at the hospital and paramedic drama motif.

As space stories go, Firefly proved for television what Stanley Kubrick proved for cinema a couple decades before: that space is supposed to be silent and this fact can translate very well into film if you superimpose the audience's expectation of sound with the use of well orchestrated music. It should be noted that since Kubrick, few film directors have had the guts to follow suit, opting instead to go the easy way and incorporate sound into the vacuum of space. I always felt the phrase "in space no one can hear you scream" was hilarious coming from the Alien franchise, which occasionally utilizes sound in a vacuum. So in the world invented for Alien, you can in fact hear a scream if it happened in space. Ridley Scott didn't have the balls that Kubrick had. But I digress, as usual.

April, the problem with the SciFi Channel isn't that it uses the more broad definition of speculative fiction to allow a wider selection of rerun potential in its repertoire of television series. The problem with the SciFi Channel is that it refuses to utilize any sense of quality, opting to include some of the worst television series in recorded history, just because it fits the broad definition. But then I still haven't forgiven SciFi Channel for cancelling one of my favorite tv series ever: Mystery Science Theater 3000, which lampooned the worst of all genres of cinema, by purposefully playing the worst films ever and making fun of them. I guess SciFi's executives at the time inadvertently took the ribbing personally, as well they should have.
This is why I dwell in this room. This level of intelligence is off the map. I pray I'll get a chance to meet everyone of you.

Sleep now.
I always got a kick out of the descriptive phrase 'nuts and bolts' science fiction as a way to distance it from, gasp, fantasy. Nuts and bolts seemed the furthest things from light years and black holes. Now we have Firefly and Serenity, where you can actually picture the characters asking for nuts and bolts. Sorry, I don't know where that came from. I really do have to find those meds. Speculative fiction is great as far as I'm concerned, and the anal and elitist amongst us can have many sub-catagories as they wish.
This is the first time I've actually seen one of these lists and agreed with it, for the most part.

Farscape is probably a better show than Babylon 5, but is it more influential? I don't think so.

Angel is a great show, but has it been all that influential? I don't think so either. I'd say it's more likely one of the influenced, than it is one of the influences.

On the topic of longevity; I don't think it's a particularly necessary property for a show to be influential. A star may burn briefly, but it can also burn very, very brightly for that amount of time. Is Firefly influencial? That remains to be seen. I think it can be, regardless of it's brief time on the air. But I also think we'll have to wait a few more years before we can really get perspective on things and see whether it's actually made a difference.
Played by the luminous Sarah Michelle Gellar


Oh, no, no, no. Irradiant's better.
Where the hell is Stargate SG-1!?
Sorry, Puck - there's only one suitable word for SMG: effulgent.....
Speculative fiction is great as far as I'm concerned, and the anal and elitist amongst us can have many sub-catagories as they wish.

So am I the only one who likes being anal and elitist? ;)
Maybe BUFFY is Speculative Horror Tragicomedy. Or "Spekhortrajco" for short.
I don't think of Buffy as sci-fi. I think of it as fantasy, the only sci-fi plotline I ever saw in the show was The Inititive.
eddy - and the Buffybot, and 'I Was Made To Love You' and 'I Robot, You Jane' to an extent, and 'Some Assembly Required', and 'Ted', and 'Listening to Fear'... even episodes like 'Go Fish' have a kind of sci-fi relation to the way that the stories progress
Ah right I forgot about "Listening to Fear". That snot slug monster thing was creepy, straight out of X-Files.
I think the term "Science Fiction" has been applied to so many disparate kinds of stories (and each of those in turn have their own trappings) that the term "Science Fiction" has come to define what it isn't rather than what it is. And if the term "Speculative Fiction" ever came into vogue I fear it would suffer the same fate.

If they ("they" being a website or TV Guide or some writer/critic) define a movie or TV show as Science Fiction or SciFi or SpecFic then you know you won't be seeing a story that "feels" like MEAN GIRLS or MILLION DOLLAR BABY or THE AVIATOR. But what WILL you be seeing if something is described as SciFi/Fantasy or Speculative Fiction? You don't really know. Could be BUFFY, could be XENA, could be FARSCAPE, could be GODZILLA, could be TIME AFTER TIME, could be LORD OF THE RINGS, could be BATTLESTAR GALACTICA 1 or 2. It has a chance of being anything like any of those but we just don't know what.

This is where I guess I think there's a problem--please bear with me. I have no problem saying that BUFFY is Speculative Fiction. Or saying XENA is Speculative Fiction. Or saying FARSCAPE is Speculative Fiction. Or saying TIME AFTER TIME is Speculative Fiction. Or LORD OF THE RINGS or either version of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, or GODZILLA. Individually those are logical statements.

But if we agree that BUFFY, TIME AFTER TIME, LORD OF THE RINGS, and GODZILLA are Speculative Fiction, then aren't we saying those four movies/shows are essentially the same kind of movie/show just as we can say MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, UNFORGIVEN, and GUNSMOKE are essentially the same kind of movie/show?

I think we can say those four westerns I listed are essentially the same kind of "thing".

But I don't think we can say BUFFY, TIME AFTER TIME, LORD OF THE RINGS, and GODZILLA are essentially the same kind of "thing" because (and of course it's just my opinion) but they are just so very very different from each other. They all speculate about the (at least for now) impossible but that's about it as far as the similarities go.

You (the collective "you") may feel that we're not calling BUFFY and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA "essentially the same kind of thing" by calling them both "Speculative Fiction". But if they aren't the same kind of thing then why are they in the same genre?

Or you may feel they are the same kind of thing and they belong in the same genre. I would, of course, respectfully disagree with that opinion, but you're entitled to it.

Authors, writers, and critics (both professional and amateur) have individually come up with some perfectly reasonable definintions of "Science Fiction" (for instance, there's a poster named Zoid on Fireflyfans.net that came up with a very impressive one a few months ago, IMHO). But all that I've read (and course there are many I haven't) exclude many of the kinds of stories that have come to be called "Science Fiction" and none have been widely recognized. If anyone feels there is a definition of Science Fiction that has been widely recognized, please feel free to correct me.

If, for the sake of argument, there is a problem then the problem is this: Other genre terms like "western", "swashbuckler", "romantic comedy", "film noir", "spy", "slasher" have all enjoyed the benefit of being defined in a way that "science fiction" hasn't. And that way is particularity. When we use those other genre terms we are saying all we need to say. When we say "Science Fiction" or even "Speculative Fiction" we're saying something but we're just not saying enough.

At least that's just my opinion.

But we can all agree that Joss Whedon is a talented mofo and we can't wait to see more of his stuff!

P.S. RIP John Paul II and Mitch Hedberg.
Other genre terms like "western", "swashbuckler", "romantic comedy", "film noir", "spy", "slasher" have all enjoyed the benefit of being defined in a way that "science fiction" hasn't. And that way is particularity. When we use those other genre terms we are saying all we need to say. When we say "Science Fiction" or even "Speculative Fiction" we're saying something but we're just not saying enough.
But that's just it BatMarlowe. Genre categorization attempts to lump stuff together that doesn't belong together. One should perhaps try to use categorization to show the uninitiated what to expect from something they haven't seen, but it's gotten out of hand over the years.

Take any four films which are called westerns. Out of convenience we say that High Noon, Rio Bravo, Unforgiven and The Magnificent Seven are all pretty much the same thing so we lump them together as westerns with several hundred other works for either the small or large screen. That's belittling each of those works, and doing a disservice to those whom we try to communicate. I mean what classifies a western? Is it any story told in the time period of the early United States' exploration and development? Is Firefly a western? Was Brisco County Junior a western? Firefly takes the idea of western influence from the old west and sees that such influence still exists in rural America today, and that it's feasible rural parts of an expanding humanity would cling to such trappings hundreds of years from now. Brisco County Junior takes place in the conventional time period of western and used all the trappings, but included technologies that modern audiences would recognize, some they wouldn't, which decidedly don't belong in stories from that time. Both Brisco and Firefly are scifi/westerns, but they're dramatically different in tone and execution. How can they possibly be compared, in any way other than that they lasted about as long on prime time before being cancelled. Firefly's got many of the trappings for a western, but does it really belong stacked up alongside John Wayne's greatest achievements?

The only true purpose of genre use is not categorization but description. To call Buffy just "science fantasy" is a disservice to both Buffy and all that's come before it. Buffy includes elements drawn from science fantasy, but more specifically its influenced by comedy, action genres, sword and sorcery, nuts and bolts, suspense, thriller, murder mysteries, even splatter horror, cartoons, soap operas and stage musicals. Whedon's drawing on all of twentieth century culture to build a realistic impression of life for young adults in the latter days of a millenium. The sacred and the profane. The fantastic and the mundane. You can't pigeon-hole Buffy. You can try all you want but you'll fail, because it wasn't defined by any one model. Like Doctor Frankenstein taking bits and pieces of dead bodies and creating an all new body, Whedon made a masterpiece and a monstrosity out of previously used parts, yet gave those parts a modern sensibility and breathed entirely new life into it.

It's fun surely, to categorize. It's also maddeningly absurd. If we simplify this, so that when we do so its understood such categorization is intended for vague description and not intricate defining of these works, then each one can stand on its own merits, without being considered bad because it's just like everything else. Technically, all stories are speculative. They all start as a "what if" whether we're dealing with a Whodunnit or a space opera.

I used to hate westerns. All westerns. I saw a couple westerns in my youth and found them needlessly violent, stale in character and formulaic in plot. So I disregarded the entire genre for well over a decade. Then I was exposed to the amazing Akira Kurosawa, and learned that he was influenced by Shakespeare (whose work I adore) and american westerns (which I used to abhor). He liked westerns, so I thought I'd give them a second chance. In recent years I've found my adamant arrogance against all westerns tempered and softened somewhat. After watching Seven Samurai, I checked out The Magnificent Seven which was strongly influenced by his work. I now realize I hate some westerns, and think other ones are great. Now I'm learning my folly. Some westerns are good. Some downright suck. Still others have some good qualities and some bad. Yet others are entertaining and fun to watch over and over again BECAUSE they suck. That B-Movie laugh at them and not with them mentality. Just like any other genre, there's diamonds and there's dreck. I have developed similar opinions about genres of music I used to find distasteful, like rap or metal or country. I now find that I have to give each work an equal opportunity, so that it can rise or fall to my mind on its own merits. I can't just listen to some critic tell me what genre something is and then immediately know whether or not I'll like it.

We can argue the semantics until Judgment Day, but really there's only two classifications for any and all television and film. Calling Buffy science fantasy is dismissive. Saying it's any one genre is unfair. You can't even call Buffy derivative even though it is, because the implications of "derivative" often seem insulting. Far from it. To make Buffy work, Whedon drew on what worked from easily a score of different genres, a century of previous storytelling, and built something that stands alone and apart while paying tribute to all that came before it. Calling Firefly just a derivative space western is also unfairly dismissive. Yes it's influenced by what we commonly refer to as the western genre and what we commonly refer to as scifi, but what really matters is does it stand up as GOOD or BAD? Not just is it a good western or a bad western, because it's also so much more, which helps lean it towards the good category.

I'm not saying to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Use of genre categorization can be useful in a descriptive manner, but to use it in a defining way turns people away. There are things in Buffy, Angel, and Firefly that people who hate one genre or another will still enjoy if they give it a chance. They're shows that illuminate the faults and merits of the Human Condition. What's there to dislike about that?
I tend to find arguments about labels silly. As long as I know what you mean by the word and it fits a dictionary definition, I don't need more. That said, I think Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, Lord of the Rings and Godzilla are actually surprisingly similar, and using a term that covers all of them doesn't seem too much of a stretch. I personally use a division between sci-fi and fantasy, but not everyone does. It all depends on what you want to do with the word.
Wow, zach's behemoth arrived right before I posted.

Out of convenience we say that High Noon, Rio Bravo, Unforgiven and The Magnificent Seven are all pretty much the same thing so we lump them together as westerns with several hundred other works for either the small or large screen. That's belittling each of those works, and doing a disservice to those whom we try to communicate. I mean what classifies a western? Is it any story told in the time period of the early United States' exploration and development?


What possible disservice does it do to these films to group them together? It's like saying that talking about Eurasia does the individual countries in it a disservice. Or that talking about Canadians does a disservice to all that individual people in Canada. If putting two items in the same category requirs them to be identical, we might as well throw out every single noun we have. Well, excepting proper nouns.

In order to group those movies under a single term, you simply have to identify traits they have in common, which then forms the meaning of your collective term.

Both Brisco and Firefly are scifi/westerns, but they're dramatically different in tone and execution. How can they possibly be compared, in any way other than that they lasted about as long on prime time before being cancelled. Firefly's got many of the trappings for a western, but does it really belong stacked up alongside John Wayne's greatest achievements?


Depends on what analysis you're making.

It's fun surely, to categorize. It's also maddeningly absurd. If we simplify this, so that when we do so its understood such categorization is intended for vague description and not intricate defining of these works, then each one can stand on its own merits, without being considered bad because it's just like everything else.
I think not. What you're describing is not categorizing, it's stereotyping. refusing to categorize at all, on the other hand, is maddeningly absurd. It's a recipe for unrelenting trivia. But you actually aren't interested in doing away with all categories, merely genres, because you want to privilege Buffy as too sacred for comparison. Now, obviously Buffy doesn't fit neatly into any particular genre. There are borderline cases in every category (is Libya part of the Middle East?). That doesn't invalidate the category, it merely suggests that this is not a useful schema for that particular item. There are, howeve, many useful categories we could apply to Buffy. Feminist fiction. Teenage superhero show. Television.

You can't even call Buffy derivative even though it is, because the implications of "derivative" often seem insulting.
This sentence is almost a parody of political correctness run amok. Call a spade a spade, I say.

I'm not saying to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Forgive me, but that seems like exactly what you were saying right up to this point. Calling categorizing "maddeningly absurd" is pretty definite.

Use of genre categorization can be useful in a descriptive manner, but to use it in a defining way turns people away. There are things in Buffy, Angel, and Firefly that people who hate one genre or another will still enjoy if they give it a chance. They're shows that illuminate the faults and merits of the Human Condition. What's there to dislike about that?
Perhaps people shouldn't judge what they like and dislike by genre. The category isn't supposed to tell you whether you'll like it or not, and people who use it that way are displaying immature taste IMO.

[ edited by Andarcel on 2005-04-03 08:24 ]
Well, I certainly hope nobody thinks I felt the merits of a movie or TV show could be judged by whether or not it could or couldn't be placed in a genre. 'Cause HIGH NOON? I think it's great! And it's a Western. And BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (the series)? I think it's great! And it's a Non-Traditional Super-Hero/Horror show that's witty and humorous and structured like a Teen Soap Opera. You know, one of them.

And like I said Andarcel, if you're comfortable with a term that you feel covers BUFFY, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, GODZILLA, and LORD OF THE RINGS, then who am I to argue? We just have different perspectives. You may look at those four and see four different breeds of cat, whereas I look at those four and see four different animals.

And I certainly agree that heated, yelling and screaming, AintitCoolNews kinds of arguments about labels are silly. But I think respectful discussions of opposing points of view are just fine.

I just don't think Science Fiction has actually been defined and I think other genres have been, that's all.
I don't know what or who Firefly influenced, so I can't call it influential. What I will call it is groundbreaking. While the Space in the Future/Cowboy juxtaposition isn't new, it's never been carried out in such a literal manner before, and the Space/civil war metaphor is similarly groundbreaking. The way it was shot, the music, the idea of the cultural melt, the Blue Sun/Alliance stuff, the companions. Rather than taking an entirely new idea (I'm frankly not of the opinion that Entirely New ideas happen), Joss Whedon built a completely believable universe that served as a brilliant metaphor for the struggles of our everyday lives. This is the genius of Joss Whedon- to allow the fantastical to echo and transform the mundane, so that we come back to the mundane ready to see the fantastical in our own lives. Tangent. It was the juxtaposition and character work that made the show groundbreaking not the There's a crazy girl who the government experimented on-ness of it. It didn't have a chance to be influential, and hopefullly Serenity will change that.

Angel doesn't get the same recognition as Buffy for being groundbreaking because, to my mind it doesn't deserve it. He didn't vastly change the landscape of television and the idea of a dark broody guy who solves crime isn't really new. Don't get me wrong. I love how the show was DONE, and I really enjoy watching it. I just don't think of it as groundbreaking. It bends fewer genres, and creates no new cultural icons.
"And it's a Non-Traditional Super-Hero/Horror show that's witty and humorous and structured like a Teen Soap Opera. You know, one of them."

That's part of my whole problem with defining Buffy as being in the 'sci-fi' genre. Although there are elements of sci-fi, you could argue that it is predominantly a drama because for most of us the focus is on the characters and their lives. I have found that a lot of sci-fi or fantasy I've seen tends to neglect this aspect of the story, and instead uses the characters as plot devices or as ways of justifying things like spaceships and laserguns and aliens.

So we have all basically agreed Buffy is difficult, almost impossible, to put in one genre, and that it probably shouldn't be because the subject matter and tone is so diverse that placing it in one genre neglects the elements of other genres it uses just as much.

I sort of agree with pixxelpuss about Angel. I really enjoy it, about as much as Buffy, but I just didn't think it was as original because in some ways they were quite similar shows (attractive lead, ensemble cast, similar plot lines- apocalypses and the like) and Angel was a product of Buffy so by definition, as a continuation of the Buffy-verse, couldn't break down the same barriers Buffy did.
"in just over a dozen episodes, Whedon and the people behind Mutant Enemy accomplished more and made better strides in television mastery than most television series that last ten years or more have accomplished" (Zach's mind on Firefly)

You are so right about that! I have rewatched that series so many times, and it is actually not possible to get bored of it! It is so amazingly brilliant in so many ways...... But Zachs Mind explained it all better above so, i'll sit out on this one!

Echoing MadHatter: You are all very very intelligent people!
Yes and I'll say it again. Brilliant thoughts from all and you left us much to ponder upon. But, if I may, I think we kinda' drifted from the subject of this thread. Why are these five shows so influential? What were within these shows that touched us so?

The scifi/horror/drama/monster mash gene has nothing to do with it. I think what draws us is the depth of the characters and how we relate to them. A mirror so to speak. And that reflection is how we judge ourselves. Wish I could make more sense in that.
It takes time to see what was influential, and the only critirion should be ...well...influence. It does not matter how long something existed, just how it changed the landscape. The first Star Trek would have barely limped into the 3 year rule if it existed, but it certainly had influence on many things that we now take for granted.

I think ground-breaking is a great distinction for some shows. Something can be ground breaking, but may not have the influence that something that comes after it and really catches the public's imagination might end up having. Could you say the first was the influential one because it was what the second show built on? Maybe, but it would be a tough sell for me. The first deserves recognition, but not full credit. Where any of this will leave shows of the 2000's I have no idea.

As for the genre debate, UGH! Like all labels, they are only helpful when they promote understanding in some way. As soon as they start impeding understanding or getting in the way, they are not serving their function.

I do not like the "horror" or "slasher" genre's. I avoid them because of how they make me feel. I internalize too much of what I see. That said, I am in the middle of introducing my friend who loves horror and has never understood what my problem was with the genre', to BtVS. After she finished my season 1 DVD's and was borrowing seasons 2 and 3, she said, "I just can't believe you're into this." For a minute I could not figure out what she meant and was a little insulted.

To me the horror aspect in BtVS is just a sometimes annoying device to tell the stories with interesting subtexts and explore characters that became more complex as the show continued. The fact that I got past the horror aspect the first time I heard the name (Am I the only one that heard the name and loved the potential for irony that it implied? I just wasn't sure it would deliver.) probably just means I do not pay as much attention to labels if I was not the one to label it.

By labeling something myself instead of taking someone else's label, I simply mean that if you decide everything that someone else labels "Western" is going to be something you don't like, than you will inevitably miss out. As someone pointed out, there is a range. I'll add "Support your local Sheriff" to the common definition along with "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", "Little Big Man" and lots of cheesy low budget movies that put a formula love story against a background of racist stereotypes. I like the first three along with most of the other Westerns mentioned on this thread. Do I need to say, I did not like the ones that were cheesy pieces of garbage? In my head all of these are in sub-genre's that I won't bother you with but catgorize them for me. I don't think "Western" even enters into any of them.

Although it is hard before seeing something, I try to consider the work before I accept someone else's label. So I am wary of movies that seem to fit in the "Creature Freature" category of is commonly called Science Fiction, because in my mind it is usually more horror than anything else.

If this seems totally self-centered and not in any way relavent to the discussion, you may be right. However, I think it is a reason why I am pretty good at judging what different friends and aquaintences would or would not like. It is also the reason that I count BtVS as my favorite television series even though I hate horror.
Wow, you guys makes my head spin (and I mean it in a good way :) I suck at writing and I don't articulate very well but I do know that since ME, I don't care for labels anymore. All I know is that ME shows have never cater to a specific category and that's what makes them exordinary. They make art that happens to use the medium of TV. I understand why people still catergorize them as Sci-Fi. I suppose the general public needs some sort of a reference point, if you will.
Well. My brain hurts. NewCJ said in two lines what I failed to say successfully in my 'behemoth' rant earlier:
As for the genre debate, UGH! Like all labels, they are only helpful when they promote understanding in some way. As soon as they start impeding understanding or getting in the way, they are not serving their function.
As for this being topic drift off the original link, I completely disagree. Such a list of "influential scifi" demands this kind of tangent. The very idea that one can make a list of the most influential scifi shows, throw Buffy into that mix, and think the list has merit, I find to be completely loopy. Predominantly because as has been pointed out by others in this thread, the term "science fiction" has yet to be properly defined. It means something different to everybody. Again, when we say western, we all think we know what we mean. Any story that fits into a time period of the U.S. expansion supposedly can be called a western. However, Firefly doesn't, but it's often referred to as a "space western." Ugh, indeed. The whole idea of trying to categorize anything is completely maddening.
But ZachsMind, we are people. We must have categories. Categories promote order and control. We like order and control. Give into the natural order of categorization.
newcj, outstanding statement which I'll have to think upon awhile. Again, there are so many wonderful minds in this room. I'm so glad you've join us.

ZachsMind, I was wrong in saying this topic was drifting off key. I was off in topic of this discussion. Sorry. I'll pay better attention next time.

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