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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

A Father-Son Dialogue about Buffy

Thursday 11 December 2003, by Webmaster

"’The Monsters Next Door’: A Father-Son Dialogue about Buffy, Moral Panic, and Generational Differences"

by Henry Jenkins III and Henry G. Jenkins IV

Henry Jenkins III: Television, Neil Postman warns, is a "total disclosure" medium, which exposes children to adult secrets: "For in speaking, we may always whisper so that the child will not hear. Or we may use words they may not understand. But television cannot whisper.... By definition, adulthood means mysteries solved and secrets uncovered. If from the start the children know the mysteries and the secrets, how shall we tell them apart from anyone else?"(1) Yet, adults are not the only ones who "whisper" in order to preserve their "secrets". Television may enable adults to better understand their own children through encounters with programs, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which grant them access to anxieties, fears, and aspirations that are also often hidden behind bedroom doors.

The moral panic following the Columbine Massacre revealed a communication breakdown between adults and adolescents, as adults acted out of fear of their own children and out of ignorance of the cultural materials so important to them. Often, adults expressed concern that the Internet was a new space of "secrets", "of covert communications closed to adult supervision."(2) At the same time, the various government investigations made little effort to actually include youth in their hearings. This whole experience indicates the need for new forms of communication between an emerging youth culture and an anxious parent society.

In this dialogic essay, we will explore ways that Buffy might enable conversations about (and across) generational differences. Starting with how a shared mythology places both participants on a more or less equal footing, allowing parents and children to get some distance from old fights. Discussing television characters can encourage a process of introspection and speculation, which often opens up fresh ways of thinking and talking together. Sometimes, you can hide behind the characters and sometimes, they can help you find ways to bring thoughts and feelings into the open.(3)

If, in the aftermath of the Littleton shootings, the news media often pathologized youth as "the monsters next door" (Time)(4) , Buffy reversed the polarities, playfully demonizing adults and their will to control teens. Yet the series also presents several figures — most notably Spike and Giles — who mediate between adults and teens. We will use "Gingerbread," "Band Candy," "Becomings," and "Fool For Love" as points of departure for a far-reaching discussion about the moral panic over Columbine. Buffy entered the Columbine story when the WB network delayed the airing of "Graduation" because it might inspire high school violence. At the same time, the "Hellmouth" analogy was widely applied to the more painful aspects of contemporary high school which some — most notably Slashdot columnist Jon Katz — felt had fueled school violence.(5) What Buffy can tell us about Columbine doesn’t begin and end with its literal representations of youth wielding weapons. By focusing attention on tensions within high school culture and within the family, Buffy presents us with an emotional context for Columbine and its aftermath. The culture war discourse following Columbine displaced attention from school culture onto media violence. To focus on episodes like "Graduation" here would be simply to amplify the confusion. Instead, we will examine episodes that address the rather different ways teens and parents understand the line separating adolescence and adulthood. In some cases, this means looking at episodes, such as "Band Candy" and "Gingerbread" that foreground adult-teen conflicts; in others, episodes, such as "Becomings" and "Fool For Love", that explore how teens make choices that help to define their adult identities.

The prominent focus on media effects research contributed to the moral panic about popular culture, especially in the absence of a sustained critique from other perspectives. The media effects researchers and their allies among the moral reformers are adept at developing sound bytes which can be mobilized on the news or in political rhetoric. Scholars in the Cultural Studies camp found it difficult to get their ideas before policy makers, in part because we have not yet found ways to translate our theories of media consumption into a vernacular language. This essay hopes to model a form of cultural criticism that could speak to a larger audience. I hope it will be judged less according to its theoretical sophistication than on its immediate use value for parents and teachers. It should be considered an intervention in the public debates surrounding Columbine.

Henry IV: When I first heard that Kristy Swanson’s farcical 1992 comedy, Buffy theVampire Slayer, would be made into a TV show I was underwhelmed. The movie had been released when I was in junior high school and, even at the time, had struck me as simplistic.

"The show’s cheesy," my friends told me midway through the first season. "[The writers] wouldn’t know a teenager if one shook their hand." For three years I dutifully avoided the show, cringing when a culturally inept freshman would show up raving about Sarah Michelle Gellar. During that time I began watching Dawson’s Creek on a weekly basis but never once would stay tuned for the Slayer. That is, until my parents started watching. My parents and I have always been close and media has been one core thing we’ve had in common. Since the days of Pee Wee’s Playhouse we’ve had some common series interest, something to sit down and watch together. So it rather surprised me that they were watching such a juvenile show. Curious to know what they, well educated media scholars, were getting out of such a series, I watched one night and found myself really responding to the human characters and their repartee. But as I stayed up all night watching the better part of the first season on tape, I found that most of the episodes had a point. Even when Xander’s teacher turned out to be a praying mantis, even when he was overcome by a hyena within himself, the overblown monster metaphors stood in for experiences I could relate to. Coming back to my friends and telling them I liked Buffy meant dangling my head over the social chopping block. It was, after all, uncool to be sixteen at sixteen. But the more I stuck my neck out on the issue the more I found that I wasn’t alone. Some of my best friends were silenced Buffy fans ecstatic to share their favorite moments with me. I was rather glad, then, that I’d taken the time to understand my parents culture.

Teenagers and adults live together in society. Whether in the home, the schools or even the workplace they interact on a daily basis. But the way parents, teachers and administrators have reacted to the tragedy at Columbine by shutting out youth culture and shutting down youth privacy is evidence to me of just how little the two sides communicate. Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a show about teenagers written by Gen Xers at an adult reading level. The characters are not all shallow teens and beauty queens, as I once believed, but also the middle aged men and women they must deal with in their lives: the monsters and the mentors. The fact that the series opening and the "previously ons" are narrated by Giles, Buffy’s father figure suggests that the series could be seen from multiple points of view. It’s as much my parents story as my own. In this essay my father and I will attempt to reconcile these two sets of characters in relationship to ourselves as well as the children and adults we see around us. We will suggest a social relevancy readily found in the stories Buffy tells and, implicitly, model the kinds of discussions we believe more parents should be holding with their children to prevent tragic culture wars and everyday miscommunication from occurring.

"Gingerbread": The Witch Hunt

Henry IV: Writer Jane Espenson’s powerful third season barbecuing of censorship politics, "Gingerbread" seems like a point by point laundry list of the major battles following Columbine: various well known civil cases, the Congressional hearings and national parental overreaction. Kids wind up dead and the concerned adult community chooses the entire Wiccan culture as a scapegoat for their aggressions — burning books, searching lockers, shutting down the internet, locking their kids in their rooms and throwing away the key, the very same things I saw happening around me. But what amazes me is that the episode was in no way inspired by Columbine. "Gingerbread" was filmed over four months prior to the massacre. So how could she have so eloquently captured the voice of America’s patronized youth?

Henry III: Columbine was the immediate catalyst of the moral panic, but the moral panic did not start at Columbine.(6) The anthropologist Mary Douglas has written about witch hunts in traditional societies. A witch hunt may be triggered by an unspeakable and incomprehensible tragedy, but it quickly gets directed against the "usual suspects."(7) Many people may be accused, but the accusations that stick build on existing fault lines in the community. Giles offers a similar explanation in "Gingerbread" when he describes the empathy demons as working on our darkest fears to transform peaceful communities into mobs of vigilantes. If we were not already afraid, such demons — real or metaphorical — could not create such dark mischief. The real-world moral panic erupted around two fault lines: first, the increased visibility of youth culture at a time when our society is just starting to absorb a new demographic bubble as large as the baby boom itself and second, a considerable generation gap in terms of access and comfort with digital technologies. These concerns surfaced in popular culture well before we were fully conscious of the growing tensions between adults and teens. Many of the works that came under attack (Basketball Diaries, Kids, Marilyn Manson, Buffy), articulated youth perspectives on the growing conflicts between parents and children. Politicians like William Bennett or Joseph Leiberman sought to demarcate the line between "meaningful" and "gratuitous" media violence along ideological and generational lines. You know, Basketball Diaries were bad violence, Clear and Present Danger good violence. The congressional hearings may have focused on the entertainment industry, but on the local level, the focus was on kids and their culture.

Henry IV: The parents in this story, much like their real life counterparts, ignore the unique qualities, strengths and weaknesses of their own children when judging what restrictions those children should confront. In the episode, Willow’s mother notices her daughter’s new hairdoo. "I got it cut last August," Willow reminds her. Mom hasn’t so much as looked at her since August. When they speak Mrs. Rosenberg stares at a church program, the coffee table, the floor and even Willow’s shoes. But she’s almost never able to face her daughter directly. To my mind this is precisely where the ignorance comes from. She ignores Willow, sees her simply as a pot of soup to keep from boiling over. Even when she believes her daughter may be in trouble she won’t stop fidgeting long enough to find out what’s been happening. "Go to your room," Mrs. Rosenberg tells her. And thus the dialogue ends.

Such conversations are common not only on Buffy but in homes across America. I have always been fortunate enough to live in a relatively stable and well adjusted family. My parents and I argue all the time. But usually our conflicts end in some sort of helpful discussion. My friends have never been so lucky. Several of them have not only been sent out of the room but out on the street. One of my great nemeses in high school often slept in the school music building rather than fighting for the opportunity to sleep in her own bed. She was viewed as very promiscuous because she so often slept over at her boyfriend’s house. Most of us never understood that, to her, this was as much necessity as luxury. She relied on the charity of her friends just to eat. Parents cannot in good consciousness let this happen to their children, even if they do act like witches sometimes. We must face our problems and our daughters.

Henry III: Willow’s mother never asks her any meaningful questions, because she thinks she already knows the answers. As Willow protests, "The last time we had a conversation more than three minutes long was about the patriarchal bias of the Mr. Roger’s Show." Mrs. Rosenberg is a painful caricature of the academic parent. Confronted by fears about her daughter’s involvement in witchcraft, she explains, "Identification with mythical icons is perfectly typical for your age group. It’s a classic adolescent response to the pressures of incipient adulthood." Once she has labeled and categorized her daughter, she doesn’t need to listen to what Willow has to say. If the daughter has a different perspective, she’s "delusional." If she stands up for her culture, she’s "acting out." And if she continues to defy her mother, she’s grounded.

Henry IV: Willow’s response is one of disbelief. How can her mother believe surveys in an anthropology textbook over the girl standing right in front of her? How can she ignore the special circumstances Willow faces, the traits that make her an individual? "I’m not a part of some age group," she explains. "I’m me. Willow group." The kids at school have never seen Willow as fitting in with her peers. In their minds she’s an alien, an exception to every rule. She’s a Jewish kid growing up in an all-blonde California beach town. She’s a girl who likes technology — a bumbling, stumbling lab rat in purple overalls. Yet her mother sticks her in the same group as those who torment her. Perhaps parents have a blind spot in dealing with their teenagers. Kids don’t like to tell their parents about getting thrown around or humiliated at school. I can say from some experience, it hurts bad enough just trying to tell your friends. Parents pressure their kids to fight age-old battles, to be popular where they went it alone, to be more successful in the bedroom than dad was at sixteen. Willow faces enough pressure trying to live up to the standards Cordelia and the other girls set for her.

So she alienates her mother — tries to factor her out of the equation. And then she can’t understand how her mother could be so uninformed. Poor communication in families is the fault of both teenagers and adults. It becomes a struggle between parents’ desire to understand and control and teenagers’ desire to find their way through life without their parents meddling. They push and pull on this independence until the family is stretched tight as a drum. As in any struggle, both sides win a battle and lose a battle. But the war rages on forever. Parents never let go and teenagers never stop running. No one ever wins because, if they did, they would be alone.

Henry III: The episode shows us three very different adult responses to moral panic. Mrs. Rosenberg over-intellectualizes, because she is so removed from Willow’s life. Joyce Summers starts out the episode trying to bond with her daughter, taking a bag lunch and thermos on patrol: "It’s such a big part of your life. I’d like to understand it. I thought it was something we could share." Buffy finds her mother intrusive. When her mother shows up in the lunchroom, Buffy protests, "This hall is about school and you’re about home. Mix them and my world dissolves." Joyce can’t keep her daughter’s secrets and pulls the whole community into her campaign to restore adult control over Sunnydale. In her parent’s meeting address, she moves from an abstract concern about "monsters", step by step closer to her daughter’s own world, "witches and slayers." Her campaign to protect the "children" becomes a war against her own daughter and her friends.

Henry IV: Joyce won’t let Buffy go. Every where Buffy turns, everything she says or does or even thinks, Big Mother is watching. Joyce is being difficult. But then she commits the ultimate act of betrayal. Buffy has told her a secret in confidence and she shares what she’s learned with everyone else in ways that will adversely affect her daughter’s happiness. This is why teenagers don’t tell their parents anything. They have nightmares that their trust will be betrayed in just such a manner. Any high school students know there is a difference between telling a girl about a crush and telling her yourself. But unlike a bad friend who betrays your trust, you can’t say goodbye to your parents. You have to come home again and try even harder to keep your parents out the next time. Joyce’s desire to share with the larger community crushed her immediate family community. Was this the choice she really should have made? Perhaps families should be discussing this.

Henry III: The third perspective is embodied in Principal Snyder. Snyder has always been an authoritarian but public opinion has held him in check. When the parents panic, he orders a locker search: "This is a glorious day for principals everywhere. No pathetic whining about student’s rights. Just a long row of lockers and a man with a key." Public demands to get rid the library of "offensive" literature provide a pretext to settle old scores with Giles. Principals around the country used Columbine in precisely this way; to crack down on kids who annoyed them.

Henry IV: Isn’t it funny how much Snyder’s official decisions satisfy his personal desires? How anyone who crosses him soon runs out of funding for their students or is subject to police investigation? Clearly he views himself as an uber-parent, a vocal upholder of adult authority rather than an aid to students. On this front the show couldn’t be more realistic. A school system near my college banned all of their students from wearing heavy coats two winters ago. Not only couldn’t the kids wear black trench coats, they couldn’t wear Orioles jackets or Old Navy polar fleeces. Many of the parents complained that their kids had caught pneumonia. But the principal stood by his decision. Are these uber-parents protecting the children? Or making a public spectacle out of them? In many ways Snyder has been polished up for television.

Henry III: The school bullies also use the adult panic as an excuse to beat down the local Goth population. This also has resonance with Columbine. A GOP operative Mike Murphy protested, "We need Goth control, not gun control."(8) And I’ve heard from Goths all over the country who were chased down the streets by people accusing them of being part of the "Trench Coat Mafia" and now wear pastels because it was too dangerous to leave home wearing black.

Henry IV: Even apart from this hysteria a general phobia or distaste towards Goths is much more deep seeded. I myself have received numerous jeers about the black velvet jacket, black jeans and heavy trench coat I like to wear. "You have no idea how you look to other people," one girl told me recently. "Those clothes show a complete lack of self respect. People aren’t going to want to be close to you as long as you look like that." The clothes were relatively new. I wore them carefully so that they didn’t pull awkwardly on my stomach. The only thing I can figure is that she didn’t like the colors and fabrics I wore, especially since she’s not the only one to make such comments. The media has sandblasted an uneasiness about the Goth lifestyle into the minds of media consumers. This nervousness is often much more subtle and beneath the surface than the outright bigotry portrayed on the show. But it’s still unsettling.

Henry III: Student rights often get violated because teachers and administrators want to make our schools more "secure" but "Gingerbread" suggests that once we turn our schools into a police state, all teens feel threatened. Cordeila acts smug about what happens to Michael, the local Goth, who she calls "a poster child for yuck," but by the episode’s end, her parents have confiscated her black dresses and her scented candles. When the lockers are searched, Willow feels at risk because of her "witch stuff" while Xander worries "It’s Nazi Germany and I’ve got Playboys in my locker."

Henry IV: So what about Giles? He’s an adult. But he’s not scary at all. He hangs out with the kids. He attends birthday parties for them. He dresses up in ridiculous costumes and has them over for Halloween. He stands out in every shot of the Scoobys as "the tall one in the suit." But most importantly, he gives them the adult authority they need to win their battles. He can fight the battles Buffy can’t — the ones in the real world. I think I’d like to have him around. What’s his role in the story?

Henry III: Giles embodies the good teacher who shares the risks with his students. When Snyder cracks down, he attacks Giles and his suspect books, leaving him to confront his students’ problems armed only with "a dictionary and My Friend Flicka." When the parents burn their children at the stake, Giles’ books are the kindling. Giles remembers what it was like to be a teen outcast and feels personally implicated when his students are threatened. There is a lot of acting out in our schools, teachers who punish students for what they say on class essays or in discussions, who send their charges into therapy because of the music they like or the movies they watch. But, in many schools, there are also brave teachers like Giles who really care about their students, who take the time to understand their subcultures, who publicly defend their rights or teach them "subversive" ideas in class.

"Band Candy": The Teen Within

Henry III: "Band Candy" is another episode where the "monsters next door" are the adults, not the teens. It opens with anxieties about adult control. Having run away from home, Buffy finds herself under tight scrutiny from both Giles and her mother. Yet, she is even more frightened and confused when adult control breaks down. Demonic band candy causes adults to revert into their adolescent identities and run wild in the streets. As Buffy explains, "They are acting like a bunch of us ... No vampire has ever been that scary." What does she find so terrifying?

Henry IV: Many seventeen year olds want to be grown up and powerful, like their parents. But few of them want their parents to be adolescent and powerless, like them. Teenagers perceive themselves as being midway through a difficult learning process. They feel burdened by the expectations of overnight growth placed upon them even as they pressure themselves hardest of all. If they admit that they’re young and needy they lose all power, control and credibility in making their own decisions. But to do what’s necessary to get out of their parents house they need to force themselves to grow up faster than they’re ready and, if they don’t meet society’s deadlines, to bluff about it and pretend that they’re more secure than they are. Let’s not underestimate the degree to which many teenagers depend on their parents as pillars of support. They put food on the table and in the refrigerator. They make sure you can get to school. And even if you lost all of your other friends and had no one, they would still be there. If it weren’t for the constant presence and eternal patience of parents no one would have the strength to get through such a depressing and seemingly endless process. When you take the parents away, maturity is rammed down teenager’s throats faster than they know how to swallow it and they throw up all over the freshman dorms at college. "Band Candy" is a story about sudden graduation that tells teenagers to know their limits and remember who they come home to at night.

Henry III: If "Gingerbread" shows what happens when the adult will to control teens gets out of control, "Band Candy" suggests that adults may, actually, desire the freedom and license they would deny their children. Teachers want to cut classes, mothers want to make out and drink Kahlua with their boyfriends, the watcher wants to form his own rock band and picks fights with the cops, the town doctor strips off his shirt and leaps into the mosh pit, and Snyder is just another geek who can’t get a date. Oz suggests that this is "a sobering mirror" for the teen characters, but do you think that is fair? Buffy or Willow don’t act like that!

Henry IV: Parents are never there for their teenage daughter’s greatest triumphs. When a girl is being pressured into sex by her boyfriend and she says no, mom and dad are still at home with the lights on, worrying and completely unaware of her progress and maturity. When she gives a stellar report in school, they are at work, locked carefully outside of the classroom. Even if she tells them at dinner "I did an awesome job," it will only sound like bragging. But when she gets suspended for drinking in the girl’s room, they couldn’t be more involved. Teenagers need autonomy so they shut their parents out of their private affairs whenever possible. But the result is, parents never get a clear picture of how old they really are. This ignorance is most evident in how they deal with painful or embarrassing situations. When the adults revert back into teenagers, they don’t actually become mirrors of their children. They become mirrors of the way they see their children. Joyce wants to have a lot of promiscuous sex because she thinks that’s what Buffy must experience behind her back. She’s heard the previous season about Buffy giving her virginity to a much older "school tutor" and, rightly or wrongly, has a very low opinion of her sexual maturity. Joyce, a single mother, is jealous in a way. She probably hasn’t had sex in years. She’s more pent up than Xander. So becoming a teenager (for her) means embracing her fears of her daughter’s sexual independence. She doesn’t realize that this is completely unnecessary and that Buffy isn’t nearly as bad as she imagines.

Henry III: I was really moved by Joyce’s description of returning to adolescence as an awakening: "you know, like having a kid and getting married and everything was a dream and now things are back like they are supposed to be." For Joyce, the band candy represents a chance to reclaim aspects of herself she sacrificed in order to fit into the adult world. No wonder the adults seem so greedy to get their hands on more and more of it! I don’t know of any adults who really, deep down inside, feel totally grownup. For me, it isn’t that I want to drag race or smash store windows (things I didn’t do when I was a teen), only that I want to return to a time when I didn’t have to make all of the decisions or face all the risks. Yet, I feel anything but nostalgic about my own high school years. It is wrong for adults to think of adolescence as a utopian escape from adult responsibilities, as a pornocopia where all desires are gratified. Confronted with the reality of what many teens face every day, most of us would run like hell!

Henry IV: Adults, too, often remember high school as though it were a massacre. They remember the moments that hurt them and the ones they swore they’d never forget. But I often wonder why they don’t remember more. I want to ask them "Who used to tell the funniest jokes you’d ever heard? Who did you want to die for? Remember the time you were right? Remember the time you tried to smoke a cigarette and couldn’t stop laughing because it felt so strange? Remember the day you ran to school? Remember the day you didn’t leave when the bell rang?" In my experience, high school is no more a hell than it is a pornocopia. It’s not an alien world, you know. It’s a station of life like any other. As it happens, I think Joyce would eventually choose to go back to the adult world. When you’re an adult you can still laugh. You can still lust. You can still run. But you can do other stuff too. You get the "final say" in all disagreements. That’s why adulthood will always win out in your mind. But it’s not that bad being young. I’m not sure I’d trade up if I could. Not with all I’d lose. No, high school’s only hell on exam weeks.

Henry III: Maybe adults project our transgressive fantasies onto adolescence, imagining an escape from the frustrations of adult life. It is especially telling that the purpose of putting adults under the seductive spell of the band candy is so that they will forget about their own children, so the mayor and his minions can serve up the town’s babies to the demon. Pushed to its logical extreme, the desire to reclaim adolescence because a desire to take over our children’s lives. As Buffy notes: "I guess it is easier to live my life if I am not there."

Of course, my own fascination with Buffy is surely motivated by a mixture of nostalgia for the camaraderie of the Scoobie Gang (a social closeness I never enjoyed in high school) and satisfaction when the series skewers some painful aspect of my own adolescent experience. Am I watching this series as a utopian experience of a high school life I never had or because it acknowledges high school to be the dystopia I remember it to be? A little of both.

"Becomings": You Can’t Go Home Again

Henry IV: I once heard that the choices you make in high school affect the person you grow up to be. Some of these choices are obvious. The college application process, for example. Many decisions we make in high school are less dramatic. Will we cancel sleep over with our best friend to make time for a girl we barely know? Buy a soda or watch our weight? Choose the sausage roll or the falafel? The red pill or the blue pill? Often times these choices stay with us just as long as the obvious kind. Perhaps because they require less detailed thought, they reveal a lot about our natural character. Xander made just such a choice. Willow had just awoken from a coma. Xander’s rival for her affections, the better looking and smoother talking Oz, was kneeling by her bedside. Xander had to make a decision very quickly. Would he push in and comfort his friend, assuming the credit he deserved for drawing her out of the coma? Or would he do the responsible thing and leave in search of a doctor, allowing Oz to have a moment alone with her? "Becomes" is all about the choices that will determine who we grow up to be; the big and the small, the ones we anticipate and the ones we never do. Indeed, all of the characters make choices; Angel to guide Buffy and later to kill every man on earth, Snyder to ruin an innocent girl’s life, Joyce not to listen to her daughter, Giles to submit to his fantasies of Jenny Calendar. These choices shape the way audiences will see the characters. Joyce, until that point sympathetic, is cast in a negative light for believing the police over her own daughter. For the next season her image will continue to decline, passing through her "scandal" youth in "Band Candy" and culminating in her "Gingerbread" bonfire. In choosing to fetch a doctor Xander submits to the reality that he never will get the girl; a reality the show never goes back on. That would have been cheating. Part of what makes "Becomings" such a strong episode is that Joss honors the premise he sets forth. While every week on Dawson’s Creek might mean "nothing will ever be the same again," Joss respects his fans and his art. Like life the three seasons since have proven time and time again, the choices we make in high school really do affect us for the rest of our lives.

Henry III: Parents often think they see the choices so clearly — do this and you are never going to get into college. And we are often mystified when teens opt out of our binaries, choosing options we never offered them. We are starting to imagine how our children are going to survive without us. Or we become convinced our children are going to live in the basement apartment for the rest of their lives. So, we go back and forth between wanting to push them out of the nest and wanting to hold them close. Every choice becomes make or break, just as Buffy’s choices have the potential to suck the whole world into hell. Most of the time, when everyone backs down from a fight, not a whole lot has changed, but sometimes, we say things that are impossible to take back. That’s the place where Joyce and Buffy reach in this episode; a point of no return. Joyce tells Buffy that if she walks out the door, she can never come back and Buffy takes her at her word. We’ve had some pretty brutal fights. I’m happy we’ve never reached that juncture. The scene scares me because I can see how easy it would be to be pushed to that point and not know how to pull back.

Henry IV: The scene starts out with a relatively small choice or, at least, a quick one. A vampire attacks Buffy’s mother. Will she stake the vampire (and reveal her secret identity) or let her mother die (and always regret it?) Buffy saves her mother’s life and, thus, upsets her so deeply that it breaks the family apart forever. No longer will Joyce look at Buffy as her "teenage daughter." She’s now become something impossibly different - a "monster daughter." Joyce, is disturbed by her daughter’s abnormality, by their difference from the rest of their white suburban neighborhood. She tries to reason with Buffy, to show her that she’s just made some sort of a silly mistake. "Honey," she asks. "Are you sure you’re the Slayer?" and "Have you ever tried not being the Slayer?" A picture begins to come into focus. Buffy has just come out of the closet. Joyce must have had all of these plans for Buffy — a happy married life with a handsome and affluent doctor — which have been called into question by these changes. All parents, especially on Buffy, want their kids to be normal — bright, clean and witchcraft free. Anything diverging from that vision stands in the way of their daughter’s happiness. In their mind, teenagers are not yet old enough to realize the importance of staying on a safe and traditional path. They’re corrupted by poor influences, black magic. Parents like Joyce see it as their responsibility to usurp their kid’s premature authority and restore balance and order to the family, to lead them by a dog collar along the right path until they choose to walk that way on their own. For her, slaying is just an intriguing but poor habit — a challenge for her to overcome. When Buffy protests that she has to save the world, the mother clings firmly to her authority. "You will not leave this house," she says. World be damned. Joyce never will understand or accept her daughter’s alternative lifestyle. Her daughter is just more queer than she’d like her to be.

Henry III: Your references to queerness are right on target. This is a coming out sequence and Joyce has to shift her perception of her daughter and of herself before she can accept Buffy’s revelations. Joyce has tried very hard to be the ideal mother, especially since her divorce; she has sought to be aware of Buffy’s interests and get to know her friends. Suddenly, she learns how little she knows: "Open your eyes, Mom. What do you think has been going on for the past two years, the fights, the weird occurrences. How many times have you washed blood out of my clothing and you still haven’t figured it out."

Whedon makes each line count; each phrase she utters represents a mental shift. Joyce struggles to hold onto something, anything, as her world crumbles around her. Her first response is one of denial, "Honey, are you sure," then, a desire for change, "Have you tried not being a slayer," then an attempt to locate causes — and as perhaps is typical for a divorced parent, to separate herself from the problem, "It’s because you didn’t have a strong father figure." Joyce appeals to outside authority — the police — in order to restore adult control. Her daughter can’t be responsible for the fate of the world. She isn’t ready.

Her responses are banal, predictable, and oh so familiar. They are things we’ve sworn we would never say and found ourselves saying anyway. Joyce knows they are inadequate even as she says them but what else can she say? What she needs to do is accept, give Buffy the room to do what she must do, and be there afterwards. Instead, she draws a line and forces Buffy to cross it. After that line, their relationship can never be the same. Either she doesn’t mean it and she has lost all credibility or she does and she has permanently shattered her family. Joyce knows this is a permanent choice; she has reached this point before with her husband. Buffy has no option. Suddenly, Joyce is what stands between her and her mission. She will slash through her mother just as she will stab her soul mate, because this is what she must do to save the world. Joyce feels like she has to do something, even if it is wrong and we reach that point, we usually do all the wrong things.

Henry IV: Interestingly enough the episode is written in such a way that teenagers, who hopefully have never been parents, can look ahead to adulthood and imagine what the conflict might be like if the shoe were on the other foot. It helps us to overcome the disadvantage in perspective we have as young people — the ’You can see inside of me but I can’t see inside of you’ paradigm. This is, in part, because Joyce is treated well. Even though her perspective is often portrayed with outright buffoonery (Anyone who has seen the show should get a good laugh out of "Have you ever tried not being the Slayer?") a certain amount of realism seeps through. Would you understand if your parents came to you and confided, "You know, son, I’m actually The Green Hornet." You’d think it was a very upsetting joke. I suppose in Joyce’s case she thinks it’s a plea for attention. Once she loses control Joyce is no more worldly than she was as a teenager. The anxiety and desperation she’s learned to stuff down inside comes roaring out like a fart at a dinner party. The curtain is drawn aside and the Great and All-powerful Oz turns out to be a very small and timid man after all. She’s almost adolescent.

Most teenagers are grasping for control themselves, trying to rip it away from each other, tie it to their ankles, stuff it down their pants and keep it for themselves no matter what. The teenagers on the show want to be ’adult’ more than they want to be an adult. Willow has taken over as the teacher of her own computer class, maintaining order over kids her own age. She’s a wonderful teacher — determined, passionate and personable. She hasn’t grown blasÚ about authority like the teachers shown in "Band Candy." Buffy was born forty. Maturity is a necessary skill required for work. The power and responsibility others seek is dumped on her in unmanageable quantities. She will always be the Slayer. No more, no less. She’s future-free. And that places her in a category somewhat removed from the other teenagers. No matter how young her body might look she will never know what it’s like to be sixteen.

Kind of like Spike and Angel — who don’t fit into normal categories of teenager and adult either. Angel was born in the seventeen hundreds. He could have been Benjamin Franklin’s babysitter. If maturity was directly correlated with age Joyce would have to bow at his feet. But instead he’s getting it on with her daughter. Most every plot line is in some way rooted in a human fear or problem. Most every character reminds us of someone we know. But who do the vampires ’represent?’ Old folks? Surely not.

Instead Whedon uses Spike and the other vampires as impartial commentators, mediators between the age groups. He’s never raised children. He’s never walked the streets as an adult or held a grown up job. He’s always been treated like a mature college student, a young man still coming into his own. If teenagers are stuck in an awkward phase between childhood and adulthood, this is ever so much worse for vampires. They simply get more and more worldly without ever receiving the respect they deserve. One fifth season episode, "Fool For Love," details Spike’s transformation from mental child to mental man, from frightened adolescence to commanding maturity. When I would come home from school and tell my father of the injustices I faced there, he would always tell me, "I was your age too once. But I got out of it." So how did he become a professor? And how will I become a writer? Will it come in a beautiful instant of transformation, a moment that opens my eyes to the world? Or will it come slowly and painfully over years and years of waiting and trying? Will I know when I’m an adult? In "Fool For Love," we follow Spike upon his quest — spanning centuries — for enlightenment and self esteem. We see teenager and adult reconciled as two ends of a single life process and see adults in all of our characters’ eyes.

"Fool For Love": Portrait of a Vampire as a Young Man

Henry IV: In public speaking class last year, I was to give a talk about homosexuality in the slasher movie. But my friend Warren, who went immediately before me, set a difficult act to follow. For seven minutes he spoke about sexually transmitted diseases — the different kinds, how you can catch them, what effects they will have on you. Quite frankly he scared the bejesus out of everyone in our class. He stared directly down the isle and into each students’ eyes. "One in every four sexually active teenagers is carrying a sexually transmitted disease," he said. "That means as many as five of you could well be infected." That number always scared me. In Russian roulette the player has a one in six chance of consequence every time the pull the trigger. To hear Warren talk every time a guy makes love he has a one in four chance of catching a disease. "That was such BS," he said later. "Did you see how intimidated Miss Miller looked? She’ll give me an A for sure." We both laughed. It eased the tension. But when you then walk out of the classroom and into the student center to see the night’s collection of tales from the crypt on the evening news, passing along the way flyers reading "IN IRAQ, A CHILD DIES EVERY TEN MINUTES" it’s hard to keep laughing. Teenagers today are raised to believe that they could die at any moment — that they face constant threat from school shootings, rape, disease, drunk driving and even video games. That the tap water they drink might be the very thing that poisons them. And even if we survive there are hundreds of thousands around the world who will be celebrating Christmas with Jesus this year. It’s completely sickening.

Buffy’s trouble is that she must visit the crime scenes night after night. She’s always checking the dead body for puncture wounds, seeing the dead rise from their graves. And worst of all, she often has to kill them again. Everyone she knows dies — even the people she tries hardest to protect. So when she herself gets stabbed while on nightly patrol she has no trouble imagining the worst. "At least none of my vital organs got kabobbed," she quips the next day. But the expression on her face tells all. She can no longer say, "I’m strong. I’m unique. It won’t happen to me." She must face the inevitability that it not only can but will.

The natural response to feeling threatened is to take action. When one feels ugly they go on a diet. When one feels violated they crave retribution. So Buffy tries to improve herself — to polish away any flaws in her fighting style. She goes to Spike, killer of two Slayers, for advice on personal survival. "It’s not about memorizing a list of moves," he tells her. Through the course of the episode he tells his tale — of the lust, the kill, the glory — but in the end she learns nothing. For her there is no sure method of preventing death, no way she can prepare. She can always reach for her weapon and cling tightly to her friends, as he suggests, but she had been all ready at the time of the accident. Death is a reality in her life — an intangible but unyielding force beneath her feet, stained in her clothes. It’s very easy for me after listening to Warren’s speech to imagine just what that would feel like.

Henry III: One of the reasons it’s dangerous to allow political leaders to use the term, "children," when they really mean adolescents is that our culture has so romanticized the myth of childhood innocence. We see childhood as a simple time, without anger or anxiety, protected from violence. As they move from parental protection towards autonomy, teens confront enormous anxiety. Since Columbine, concern about media violence has all but displaced any focus on real world violence. It is as if we felt it was more important to shelter teens from violent images than to protect them from emotional and physical violence in their real world environment. Adults looked everywhere and anywhere to understand the cause of these murders; most of the teens I’ve met have no trouble understanding where that rage came from. One of Harris and Kleibold’s classmates explained, "every time someone burst a bottle over their head or shoved them against a locker, they went home and plotted a little more."

Harris and Kleibold may have been drawn towards violent images but those media images didn’t turn them into killers. Violence begins much closer to home. Consider, for example, one of the high school football players whom Time interviewed: "Columbine is a clean, good place except for those rejects. Most kids didn’t want them there....Sure we teased them. But what do you expect with kids who come to school with weirdo hairdos and horns on their hats? It’s not just jocks; the whole school’s disgusted with them. They’re a bunch of homos, grabbing each other’s private parts."(9) His language is one of banal homophobia; he expects his opinions to be unquestioningly embraced both by other teens and by adult authorities. We will never know what Harris and Kleibold’s sexuality was. It doesn’t matter. Homophobia impacts every American teen in so far as it makes them feel fear or shame over the ways they are different from their classmates. I remember being devastated by those kinds of remarks in high school. I was ridiculed, spat on, called names, and beaten up in the locker room. Years later, I ran into one of my tormentors at our high school reunion and he said he didn’t really know why he picked on me. Everyone else was picking on me and he was afraid if he didn’t, they would start picking on him. Confronted with that homophobia, some teens commit suicide and others turn their guns on their tormentors.

"Fool For Love" explains what turns a sensitive young man towards violence and why Spike seems to always want to take on the world. One of the most honest moments in the episode comes when Spike calls Angel a "poofter," the 19th century equivalent of a faggot. Even Angel is startled by how quickly he becomes enraged by that particular epithet.

Henry IV: When Willow met her vampire twin in Doppelganger she was rather taken aback by some aspects of her persona. "I’m rotten and I’m skanky. And I think I’m kinda gay." The vampire’s strong sexuality embarrassed Willow, making her hide behind her boyfriend. "It’s a good thing who you are as a vampire isn’t a reflection of who you are as a person," she notes. Willow, of course, really is bisexual. Her vampire side has simply allowed her to break free of her inhibitions and realize her passions sooner than she would have on her own. But is there a power inherent in becoming a vampire that fills you with artificial, chemical or magical self confidence? Or is the difference more cultural than clinical? Vampires are already freaks of society. They have fangs, live in darkness and kill cows to drink rather than eat. As they’re constantly drinking from the necks of strangers, they get over feeling shy pretty quickly. Spike worked much this way. In life he was a soft-spoken poet, tragically in love with a woman who despised him. He was so sheltered that he wouldn’t even take note of the vampires overrunning the city. "That’s what the police are for," he explains. "I prefer placing my energies into creating things of beauty." When Cicely very cruelly rejects him, he runs away. He tries so hard to offer the world beauty and receives nothing but hatred in return. The object of his inspiration becomes his source of greatest despair, depriving him of dreams.

Henry III: Dru seems to understand Spike’s bruised feelings, saying the things he needs to hear: "I see you, a man surrounded by fools who cannot see his strengths, his vision, his glory. Your wealth is in the spirit and the imagination. You walk in worlds the others can’t even begin to imagine." I am reminded of another contemporary story about a wounded intellectual who comes to discover his specialness, Harry Potter. This is a story we need to be told over and over, because the best minds of each generation undergo such ostricization. After Columbine, teachers, parents and administrators often pushed those kids further away, pathologizing their imaginations, while comforting the "muggles."

Henry IV: When he crosses over moments later, the experience is so new to his virgin skin that he appears to be caught in the throngs of ecstasy. When next we see him, everything is different. His hair is shorter and better kept. He’s been working out. And most importantly he has the kind of security and self confidence that’s impossible to fake. Spike is becoming a "man." When he accuses Angel of being a "poofter" it’s with the greatest of pleasure. Spike’s been bullied his whole life for being too queer (even though he’s very obviously passionate about women.) To turn around and slam someone else with a homophobic joke of his own is to beat the world at it’s own game, to assert his newfound position at the top of the social food chain. Two beautiful women are following him around. He’s having some adventure. The whole thing gives him a new lease on death.

Henry III: Spike refuses to allow Buffy to trivialize this moment: "Becoming a vampire is a profound and powerful experience. I felt this new strength coursing through me. Nearly killed me but it made me feel alive for the very first time." Look at the expression on Spike’s face when he realizes what Dru is offering. Up until her fang face transformation, he probably read it as a sexual encounter. After Cicely questions his manhood, he was prepared to lose his virginity on the spot. Others have run away from vampires in horror, but Spike embraces the monstrous with intellectual curiosity. Spike is searching out new experiences.

Henry IV: When he first hears about the Slayer, he falls madly in love with the entire idea. To him, the Slayer is the alpha dog — the great bully that all vampires must fear. Spike no longer allows himself to be ordered around. He already is the new alpha dog of his own reality. Defeating the woman would be his way of proving independence (and as importantly, his masculine prowess) to all vampires everywhere. Just as Buffy tries to overcome her failings as a warrior, Spike must overcome his failings as a man. After killing the Slayer, the first thing he does is make love to Druscilla in a puddle of the fallen champion’s blood — desecrating the body, allowing his masculinity to proclaim it’s victory. Perhaps it was the most adult thing he could think to do.

As the decades have passed Spike has continued to invest a great deal in his sexuality. He’s the quickest of the characters to jump into bed with someone. He clearly craves a good fight — comes out to whoop someone for the sheer enjoyment of seeing them fall. But there’s no mistaking a part of the old William poet child that remains. He still uses an almost impossibly sharp and refined sense of wit and sarcasm as his primary tool for quieting potential pretenders to the throne. And as he remarks to Buffy near the end of "Becomings," "I want to save the world!" Simply the great vision he has to kill the Slayer — the optimism of the challenger beating the odds — suggests a romantic underside to his personality. When Buffy massacres him at the end of their conversation by quoting Cecile, he falls to the earth. No matter how hard he’s fought to obliterate any sign of William, he can’t entirely hide the remnants of a soul — his intellectual mind, willful naivetÚ, natural romantic impulses. He can never kill William. He can only hide him, a secret identity.

Henry III: I take exception to your suggestion that Spike’s hypermasculine behavior makes him more "adult." His posturing reflects a great deal of anxiety. It is pretty conventional to represent vampires as frozen culturally at the moment of their transformation. They dress in archaic clothing and speak antiquated language. They are ghosts of the past still walking among us. But Spike hadn’t fully defined himself yet. Across the flashbacks, he tries on one identity after another. He takes on a working class accent. Hoping to escape the sting of "William the Bloody," he changes his name to "Spike." Or in the 1970s, he punks out. Now a Goth, he wears a black leather trench coat and blackens his nails. No matter how many years he’s walked the planet, Spike is still trying to figure out who he is and still nursing the wounds of his youth. In "Becomings," he acknowledges that a lot of being a vampire is a performance: "We like to talk big. Vampires do. I’m going to destroy the world. It’s just tough guy talk, strutting around with your friends over a pint of blood." To me, the moment of real maturity comes when he comes upon Buffy crying on her back porch. He is ready to put aside his anger and allow himself to be caring again. He sees her as another person in pain. Spike’s gawky gentleness speaks volumes about his relative inexperience in dealing with human emotion. All the rest of it is just posturing.

Henry IV: You’re using the adult definition of adult. I’m using the adolescent definition. There’s only a passing resemblance. To be grown up at seventeen is to act nineteen. The mature boys I went to high school with had three traits in common: cars, cell phones and private entrances to their bedrooms. Some of them were intelligent and in touch with their romantic desires. But some of them were among the biggest blowholes I’ve ever met. Regardless, all they needed to do to ascend the social ladder was to have money, self confidence and a strong upper body. A lot like Angel (and eventually Spike.) The Williams I’ve known have taken a much broader range of forms. One suffered a nervous breakdown his Junior year and never so much as smelled the same forever after. Another guy had so little emotional control that when he lost his temper he picked a chair up and threw it at a girl, nearly spearing her. One was so shy that she could barely have a conversation without going into conniption fits of blushing and hiding behind her hair. Just like William is frail and sheltered, they too had fatal flaws. Some were incredibly mature, some were total children. But, like the "mature" kids, they weren’t judged by their intellectual ability so much as their sexual prowess. I think we are simply dealing with a difference in the way teenagers and adults use language.

Henry III: This sequence really makes your case that Spike is a mediating figure between teens and adults. Buffy is feeling enormously vulnerable; she has just learned about Joyce’s health problems. Consider how different the scene would have been if it had been either Giles or Xander who came to comfort her. Giles would have offered too much protection and Xander would have needed more help than he could offer. But, Spike promises a more complex and ambiguous kind of comfort. Spike understands more of the world than Xander and yet is less willing to take charge of her life than Giles would have been.

Final Thoughts

Henry III: As I traveled the country speaking to various groups about adolescence and popular culture after Columbine, I was often asked how parents can open better communications with their children. And, I have suggested that speaking with them about shared television programs might be a good start. Buffy is a particularly rich series for fostering such discussions, because it so consistently raises issues about the relationship between adults and adolescents and because it consciously seeks to heal the scars we carry with us from high school. There are so many more episodes we could have, perhaps should have, discussed here, ranging from the representation of teen’s involvement with digital media in "AI Robot, You Jane" to the radical rethinking of the nature of family in "Family" or the series of episodes depicting Buffy’s attempt to deal with the shock of Joyce’s death. Almost every week, Buffy gives parents and teens something to discuss. My son and I have tried to use the series as, in Oz’s words, a "sobering mirror" that enables us to reflect on our feelings, values, and relationships.

All parties must enter into this process with trust and mutual respect. The goal should be better understanding, not policing taste. It is legitimate to ask about things that frighten or worry you, but you should do your best to lower the emotional stakes. For example, the teen shouldn’t fear retribution. And teens shouldn’t make low blows at their parents when their guard is down. Start with no fixed goals. The process is more important than any particular end result. For this to work, adults have to suspend their desires to control their children and must accept teens as their teachers.

The fact this exchange is going to be published made it much harder for me to be totally open and much harder for me to accept my son’s ideas without trying to reshape them. I remain too conscious of how this essay is going to be judged. Critical dialogue works best when it is conducted in private and neither side feels exposed. Yet, even in this somewhat artificial context, I have developed greater respect for my son. Though I see us sharing many common values, my son is also developing his own voice. Sometimes we agree. Sometimes we disagree. Sometimes we are watching the same program and seeing very different things. Through the years, I have learned to value his insights and to trust his judgements by testing them out on the hypothetical situations provided by television. I have also found such exchanges an important occasion for sharing things that matter to me.

Cultural studies has often framed itself as the study of everyday life. It will only truly achieve its potential for social change if it learns to move beyond academic discourse and into more mundane contexts; we need to develop new modes of theory and criticism which can be applied in our ordinary interactions with each other. Otherwise, the media effects community will provide the common sense categories through which parents make sense of their children’s media consumption.

Henry IV: Every teenager knows that the key to their heart can be found in the lyrics to their music. But how often do we really listen? I myself had heard Britney Spear’s "Oops I Did It Again" a hundred times in the background of friends’ rooms and dorm hallways before I ever once heard what it was about. "Oops, I did it again. I played with your heart. I made you believe we’re more than just friends. It might seem like a crush but that doesn’t mean that I’m serious, as to lose all my senses. You think we’re in love, that I’m sent from above. I’m not that innocent." I’d always heard she was an airhead. But her songs are actually very grim and true. We often believe what we hear about other people’s culture without listening for ourselves. We believe that a girl is simple because she listens to mainstream music. We believe that a movie will suck because it said so in a review. We believe that our kids are watching unpoetic garbage because a Senator in Washington brought it to our attention.

When discussing popular culture with your children it is of the utmost importance to listen to them. Look at them when they’re speaking to you. I hate it when I’m talking to an adult about something important and they are reading through the bills. Your kids have to see you’re paying attention. And when they finish talking be ready to pick up where they left off with answers that don’t sound pre-constructed or one size fits all. People respect few things more than good listeners.

The most important advice I can offer you, though, is "Never use what they tell you against them." Or they will never tell you anything again. Your teenagers are not selfless. Most of the ones I know are very hesitant to share themselves with anyone of any age because true understanding and acceptance is so rare. Even if you offer them your hand with the greatest sincerity they may not take it. Which is so hard for you. What can you do? Tell them you’re serious. Tell them you won’t try to regulate what they watch, that you’re not joining them to find out if they need to be stopped but who they are and how you can relate to them. I have faith that most of them will recognize sincerity when they encounter it.

Parenting is an enormous responsibility; a full time job that you can (and should) never quit. I myself couldn’t imagine taking on such a job at my age. I know some who have already, but I don’t even want to think about it. Many of the pressures put on parents are disturbing and horrific - but the ones I have described are not, in my opinion, unreasonable. Show respect. Treat people with respect. Be fairer than anyone else in this world has ever been to you or will ever be to your kid. Be heroic. Save their day. Watch TV with them and more importantly talk to them about it. Care about their lives, even when nobody else gives a damn. Ask them about themselves when everyone else is only talking. Find out which of the characters on Buffy they most identify with and why. It just might give you an insight into their world that they wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about directly. Make it easy for them to talk to you. Let them talk to you about the people on TV — fantasy, make believe. And don’t be alarmed if they like pro wrestling. It doesn’t mean they want to beat someone up. It just means they need a little excitement in their lives. Decoding teen speak and teen non-speak is tough. I don’t envy you the task. But you need to start by trusting them. It’s the only way to earn their trust. Don’t say no. Ask why. In the words of Madonna’s timeless poetry of adolescence, "Papa I know your going to be upset, cause I always was your little girl, but you should know by now that I’m not a baby. You always taught me right from wrong. I need you daddy, please be strong. I’m in a mess and I don’t mean maybe. Papa don’t preach."


1. Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood (New York: Vintage, 1994), p.88.

2. For an alternative perspective on teen’s use of the net, see Henry Jenkins, "The Kids Are Alright Online," Technology Review, January/February 2001 and Henry Jenkins, "Empowering Children in the Digital Age: Towards a Radical Media Pedagogy," Radical Teacher, Spring 1997.

3. Several other authors have used Buffy as a springboard for adult teen discussions. See, for example, Steven C. Slotzman, "Vampires and Those Who Slay Them: Using the Television Program Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Adolescent Therapy and Psychodynamic Education," Academic Psychiatry, 2IV:IV9-5IV, March 2000 and Richard Campbell with Caitlin Campbell, "Demons, Aliens, Teens, and Television," Television Quarterly, Winter 2001,

4. "The Monsters Next Door," Time, May III 1999, cover story .

5. Jon Katz, "Voices from the Hellmouth," Slashdot, April 2IV 1999 and subsequent issues. Katz is currently developing a book based on these columns.

6. For a useful overview of the concept of moral panic as it has been developed in cultural studies, see Martin Barker and Julian Petley (Eds.), Ill Effects: The Media/Violence Debate (London: Routledge, 1997).

7. Mary Douglas, Risk and Blame (London: Routledge, 1994).

8. See Henry Jenkins, "Lessons From Littleton: What Congress Didn’t Want You to Hear About Youth and Media," National Association of Independent Schools, Winter 2000, http://www.nais.org/pubs/ismag.cfm?file_id=537&ismag_id=14

9. "The Columbine Tapes," Time, December 20 1999