Slayage.com : Buffy The Vampire Slayer & Angel The Series News
Slayage.com Articles
« FAQ | Main | Filtering »

April 29, 2003
ARTICLE
Buffy We Hardly Knew Ye
by Nikki Stafford
She has died twice, fallen in love with her vampire enemies and changed pop culture along the way. As Buffy the Vampire Slayer draws to a close, the show's fierce fans -- from teenagers to academics -- mourn the passing of a legend
This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail on April 26th, 2003.
Reprinted with permission from the author.

"If the apocalypse comes, beep me." And with those immortal words, a legend was born. Or, actually, a teenaged Slayer was defying her Watcher by dating a cute guy rather than fighting the forces of darkness. Same diff.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a show that was never supposed to last.

It had a silly title, an unlikely premise, and was based on a movie box-office flop. Its title still draws snickers from non-viewers, who don't realize they are ridiculing what is arguably the most intelligent and best-written series on television today, if not the past decade. Yet that same title contains the very essence of the show: It's a drama laced with comedy, just as a fluffy name, Buffy, is juxtaposed with a rather ominous signifier, Vampire Slayer.

After seven years of pain, pain, a few laughs, and more pain, Buffy is about to stake her last vampire. The final four episodes will run Tuesdays at 8 p.m., beginning next week.

It all began in March, 1997, when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was slotted in as a midseason replacement on the WB network. The show was about a girl, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, who was the Chosen One, the one who was destined to fight evil. It's the stuff of comic books.

Except this girl didn't want to be chosen. She wanted to be a normal teenager, and for the first season she dealt with the usual perils of teen angst -- divorced parents, new friends, problems at school, and a confusing love life -- alongside the not-so-usual perils -- having to patrol graveyards at night, discovering her boyfriend is a 242-year-old vampire, and trying to stop a nest of vampires from opening the mouth of Hell and bringing forth the apocalypse. By the end of the first season, she knew that her destiny was inescapable.

Now, seven years later, Buffy has grown up. She's killed her boyfriend (but he's feeling much better now), lost her mother to a brain aneurysm, acquired a kid sister, sacrificed herself to save the world, and crawled out of her own grave. As one character has commented, "I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of 'apocalypse.'"

Now, she faces perhaps the biggest threat the gang has ever seen -- a malignant non-corporeal entity that embodies the world's most primal evil -- and in the process viewers have watched Buffy grow from a 16-year-old girl into a 22-year-old woman, and suffered with her along the way.

Buffy is different from other shows on television. It might only have about five million viewers every week, yet its cultural significance far outweighs its seemingly small audience. In contrast, shows such as ER or The West Wing, both well-written, well-acted programs with four times the viewership, are not considered worthy of study and fan dissection, certainly not to the extent that Buffy or its spinoff show, Angel, might be.

On dozens of Web sites, its fans dissect everything from whether the lovesick, formerly evil vampire Spike is a proper consort for Buffy, to the criminal neglect that the show has faced from the awards establishment (even its best episodes, such as the near-silent Hush or the all-musical Once More, With Feeling have been ignored by the Emmys). Famously, Buffy also has a devoted fan base among academics, who parse its every shot and line of dialogue for cultural significance.

Buffy is the subject of four books of academic essays, and in October, 2002, fans from around the world gathered at the University of East Anglia in England to hear more than 50 papers on the "Buffyverse" delivered by academics. Topics ranged from "Queering the Bitch: Spike, Transgression, and Erotic Empowerment" to "Yeats's Entropic Gyre and Season Six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer." So what happened to the idea of this being a juvenile television show?

What sets Buffy apart is the writing. Joss Whedon, the creator of the show, had a vision of a series that was dramatic and mythic but still contained a lot of humour. Along the way, he developed an original language that found its way into the vocabulary of his viewers. He mapped out a seven-year arc for the show that he and his staff have followed religiously for the show's duration, with a few pit stops along the way. As such, the series has always had a forward momentum, a feeling that everything that has happened has had a reason.

David Fury, writer-director and co-executive producer on Buffy and consulting producer and writer on Angel (most fans will recognize him more readily as the Mustard Man from Once More, With Feeling) says the perception of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a pop-culture icon was a bit of a surprise at first. "Nobody sets out to be a cultural phenomenon," he says. "I can't imagine that Joss ever imagined that it would be that, but he's enormously gratified that it has, that what he set out to do has been recognized by the intelligentsia, and it's very rewarding for us. It feels really good to know we're respected like that."

This season, the show is going back to seasons one through six and using all of the knowledge viewers have gained over the years to bring it to a mind-blowing climax. Whedon has rewarded his loyal fans by bringing up unresolved events that happened years ago and finally offering an explanation for them. However, in doing so, he has made this a show that has become impenetrable to new viewers. This season the ratings have been lower, because while the adult viewership has expanded due to Buffy's darker and more complex plots, the teen viewership -- the staple of UPN -- has dropped (The show is carried on City TV stations in Canada).

But because UPN is one of the smaller networks, ratings don't really matter. "We don't register [the fact the ratings have dropped] because we're just doing the show as best we can, like we always have, and we know our fans and we know we're not a show based on ratings," Fury says.

Aimee Grosso, a fan from Chesterfield, Mich., believes the reason the show is so popular is because the writers "give the fans what they 'need' rather than what they 'want.' "

One factor that often kills good shows is when relationships are requited; when Mulder and Scully got together on The X-Files, for example, the tension was gone, and the show lost its viewers. But on Buffy, as much as the viewers want to see Buffy and her erstwhile mortal enemy Spike get together, the writers realize that what will be more intriguing to viewers in the long run is to make the characters suffer, doubt each other, and show their worst sides to one another before deciding if they should start a relationship.

Spike is a witty, generous, funny guy who truly cares for Buffy. Or at least the "man" part of him does. Spike (played by James Marsters) may be in love with Buffy, but he's a vampire with a demon trapped inside him along with the man. One minute he's pledging his everlasting love to Buffy, and the next his demon side emerges and he tries to rape her. It's these grey areas that act as metaphor for the complexities of human relations but also have alienated some viewers, while allowing others to appreciate the risks the writers take.

But these conflicts lend Buffy a realism that is lacking in other programs. Heather-Anne Gillis of Dartmouth, N.S., agrees: "Even though the struggle is couched in the life of a young woman, we see in her struggles the demons that we face every day." In reality, relationships are difficult; on the Hellmouth, they're practically impossible.

Spike isn't the only one with a dark side. Buffy's friends as well as her sometimes reluctant allies -- Willow, Giles, Angel, Oz and Anya -- have all recognized a frightening darkness within themselves. Even Xander, the heart of the group, fears that the alcoholism in his family might turn him into a monster some day. Each character has committed acts that are thoughtless and stupid, and much of Buffy is about the remorse and self-hatred they must live with.

Buffy, the one who is supposed to fight evil, has been living with the fear that she has evil within her too, and her struggle to overcome her fears, and not to succumb to a death wish, has given the show its dark edge for the past two years.

Rhonda Wilcox is a professor of English at Georgia's Gordon College and co-editor of Fighting the Forces: What's at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies. She was one of the organizers of the East Anglia conference, and she agrees that what sets Buffy apart from other shows is its epic quality.

"I think that Buffy has raised the bar for television art," Wilcox says. "While Twin Peaks was unprecedented in terms of its visual work and dream-like content, Buffy is unprecedented in its use of long-term narrative. The people who make Buffy have done so with great integrity -- with respect for the audience and with respect for their own text. The series' careful continuity has allowed for character development of a sort never seen before. This show has made it possible for people to see that while most of television is wasted mental space, TV can be art."

The writers knew years ago how season seven would end and, as a result, the show has a definite momentum, a feeling that we're moving toward something. But along the way the writers have had fun with more gimmicky episodes, such as Once More, With Feeling, the musical episode that cemented Whedon's reputation as a genius in song as well as script. Or Hush, which boasted 29 minutes of silence when the demons stole everyone's voices, yet the personality of each character still shone through.

So, to quote a song from the musical episode, Where do we go from here? The talk of a spinoff this fall has been quashed. The writers had hopes of developing a show about Faith (the darker, even more messed-up vampire slayer) before Eliza Dushku, the actress who plays her, accepted a role in another television pilot.

Considering the present amount of academic literature on the show, the end of Buffy could signal the true beginning of its study. Scholars will now have the entire oeuvre to debate, and perhaps only then can the true analysis begin. Which would be a fitting irony for a Slayer who preferred a good staking to a good book. "Introduction to the Modern Novel?" she says as she's choosing her university courses. "I'm guessing I'd probably have to read the modern novel.... Do they have an introduction to the modern blurb?"

For the viewers of the show, we'll be able to take our memories with us. The characters felt like people we all knew, and we could identify with Buffy's problems. For seven years, the series taught us that nobody -- not even the Chosen One -- is perfect. It left us with the notion that a petite blond woman can save the world, as long as she has friends in her corner. "You have to take care of each other," she says. "You have to be strong. The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me."

Nikki Stafford is the author of Bite Me: An Unofficial Guide to the World of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, published by ECW Press.

Latest Comments

I did not watch BtVS for the first 4 seasons and i started with Episode 2 in Season 5: "Real Me." I never thought that I would watch this show because I thought there was no way I would be able to relate because I had just graduated high school the year before. Fast forward 4 1/2 years later, I got tired of hearing all these great things about BtVS so I decided to watch an episode thinking that I was not going to like it. Boy, was I wrong!! Not only did i like it but this was the first show that I ever found myself getting emotionally attached to. I was lucky in that I moved into my own apartment where FX was available just before BtVS re runs started. I have now caught up on every episode and every season. Although I have only been part of the Buffyverse for, technically, 2 years...I still feel as if I was around 7 years. This show will definitely be missed and, no matter what, Tueday's will feel empty to me from now on.

Posted by: Katherine on May 23, 2003 05:16 AM

For 7 great years, you've never held back, and for that I am Greatful. I've shared mixed emotions with just one episode, and have fallen in love with all the amazing characters. Thank You All, you're in my heart!!!

Posted by: Mikey on May 15, 2003 04:14 AM

the comments before were spot on. no one gets it but us. Ive been watching the show since I was 7, and now its over. its just over. its so wierd to think about. I mean, before this, i never really worried about the show ending, because it just seemed inpossible. I have all the seasons af Buffy and Angel so far, but i know that no matter how many i get, they will never be enough. We've followed the plots, and barely made it around the curves, and now, here we are. there have been alot of curves. from angel losing his soul, to spike attempting to rape buffy, ive never had the slightest clue as to what was going to happen. I cant believe im about to cry right now. Every eppy has been laughscreamcryrepeat for me, and now thatz gone. even my mom thinks that the way i act when i watch this show, or talk to friends about it, or read fanfic, is stupid. But i dont care. 7 years of my life have been blessed with this show, this experience, these people that feel like my friends. The thing Im feeling most as the show comes to a close, is that ive grown up. This show has been with me through it all, and now its not gonna be there anymore. Theyre grown up, and I am too. All I can think is..... how am i gonna be able to make it to school on the 21st?

Buffy:I wish dating was like slaying. Simple, direct, stake to the heart.
-Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered
Buffy:I told you. I said 'End of the world', and you were like, 'poo poo. southern california. poo poo.'
-Doomed
Buffy: yuo know that thing with two worms where if you rip one in half, you get two worms? You think that'll work with you?
-No Place Like Home
Buffy: Is this a penis matephor? -The Zeppo
Buffy: The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.

Xander: To read makes our speaking english good. -I Robot, You Jane
Xander: Has everyone had their crazy flakes today? -Selfless
Xander: You're not speacial. You're extraordinary. -Potential

Willow:Im not stealing. Im just taking things without paying for them. In what twisted dictionary is that stealing? -Triangle
Willow:I knew it! Well, i knew it in the sense of mot having the slightest idea, but i knew that there was something i didnt know! -Innocence
Willow:This girl has a history of mental problems dating back to early childhood. Im a bloodsucking fiend! Look at my outfit!
-Dopplegangland
Willow: Occasionally, im callous and strange.
-The Zeppo

Giles:For God's sakes man, shes eighteen. and you have the amotional maturity of a blueberry scone. so just, have at it, would you? and stop- fluttering about. -The Prom
Giles:We have to find Buffy, something terrible has happened. Just kidding, Thought id give you a scare. -Homecoming
Giles:Do you like my mask? Isnt it pretty? It raises the dead! Americans.
Giles:Whatever you two are doing, stop it right now. I can hear the smacking.

Angel:I dont bite. -Welcome to the Hellmouth
Angel: yea, baby. Im back. -Surprise
Angel:If i can go a little while without getting shot or stabbed ill be alright. -Angel

Spike:I dont like him. Hes insipid. clearly human.
-Something Blue
Spike:I always wondered what would happen once that bitch got some funding. -The Initiative
Spike:I wont have you doing mojo on me if you cant read properly. You might turn me into a stink beetle. -Something Blue
Spike: Youre one hell of a woman. You're the one Buffy. -Touched

Spike: Were you there with me?
Buffy: I was.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
For Everything, and for Everyone involved. We Thank You.

Posted by: Mandie on May 14, 2003 08:37 PM

I have watch Buffy ever since I was eight years old. And now,15, and the show is ending. Everytime I even think about 'no more Buffy' I can feel the tears coming. And the truth is, Buffy isin't the most popular TV seris in my class, or even city. I am the most obbessive person I know that I have meet. Buffy has been way more than an TV show, it was a role model, inperation and so much more. I would buy clothes if I know that belonged to BtVS style. I would style my hair like Buffy's/Sarah's or any other female character. I even dyed my brown hair to blonde.
When the peopel who arn't obessive about a TV show see people crying, and mourning and waering black when its over, the just laugh. But we shouldn't be embaressed, because every person who has heard of the show, has either used to watch it, or has watched it a coupel time sbefore.

Posted by: Dee on May 14, 2003 06:14 PM

im am so sad buffy is going off. I laughed, i cried,i got angry at xander alot.my friend told me about buffy 3 months ago and now i am the biggest fan in my town. i have seen all season except some in season 4 and season 7. fx restarted the series and i have still rewatched the episodes. relive the pain and joy. remeber the friends i made because of buffy. and its spin-off Angel. I will never forget that buffy could never realize what she had in front of her like spike. he loved her and she was afraid to get her heart broken. she needed more than what she said. i like a show and its goes off air. god, im gonnna miss Buffy. Willow, Xander, Giles, Anya, Spike, and dawn. i'm going to get every dvd for the seasons so i can relive the joy and pain of buffy and so my kids can too. i hope there is another spin-off so the mythology and most characthers of buffy will live on. I also will never forget all the quotes like what spike said to angel and buffy in Lovers walk " Your not friends, you'll never be friends, you'll be in love till it kills you both, you'll fight and you'll shag and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, love isnt brains childern, its blood, blood screaming inside of you to work its will. I may be loves bitch, but at least im man enough to admit it" THeres a big message and a laugh in there.(all of that came off memory too.) well i have to go watch buffy now. she will live on forever in her fans hearts

Posted by: kayla on May 14, 2003 05:59 PM
Full list of comments (109) »

Post a comment
Name:


Email Address:


URL:


Comments:


Remember info?



Search:
Keywords:
In Association with Amazon.com
Privacy Policy | Copyright © 1999-2004 Slayage.com. All rights reserved.
"Buffy The Vampire Slayer" TM and (or copyright) Fox and its related entities. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, duplication or distribution of these materials in any form is expressly prohibited. This web site, its operators and any content on this site relating to "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" are not authorized by Fox.
Home | Reviews | Articles | Buffy Episode List | Angel Episode List | Trailers/Promos | Spoilers | Official Buffy Site | Videos, DVD's | Advertise on Slayage.com | Buffy Merchandise | Search | Join Slayage The Mailing List | Contact Slayage.com
Slayage.com is free to use, but not free to run. All donations are appreciated.
Make payments with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!
Show your love...link to slayage.com or if you buy this stuff through the site it helps out with running costs:

anything from blackstar, including:
NEW DESIGNS! Slayage.com t-shirts, mugs, mousepads. Got a suggestion?
Syndicate Slayage.com articles (XML)
Syndicate Slayage.com reviews (XML)
anything from amazon, including:
Support Slayage.com
NS, DS, KM, VL, CF, ES, SR, AF, SJ, CB, AA, JH, RG, LH, GF, DK, EC, LM, SH, CK, AE, EB, XW, DB, MC, MR
Slayage.com in other languages
Italiano, Deutsch, Espanol, Francais, Português
Rate Slayage.com
BuffySearch.com
BuffyGuide.com
Buffy-slayer.org