Bon voyage, Buffy
By Charles Shaar Murray
lundi 10 mars 2003, par Webmaster
All good things must come to an end. The seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, currently on Sky One, will most likely be the last. Its star, Sarah Michelle Gellar, has indicated that it’s time to hang up her stake in favour of her movie career and her recent marriage, and the show’s US network, UPN, has voiced disquiet over falling ratings.
You may well ask : "So what ? It’s a kiddie fantasy series. High-school kids fight monsters, right ?" In particular, you may ask why a childless fifty-something who, despite a lifetime fondness for fantasy and science fiction, nevertheless reads proper books and watches proper movies, should have the slightest interest in whether such a series lives on or joins the ranks of the undead in perpetual reruns.
Well, I confess all ... I’m an addict and the prospect of saying farewell to Buffy and her friends (and enemies) will leave a huge hole in my television life. But before you conclude that I’m a sad old git who’s finally lost it, hear my case of which I’m certain.
Well, the description of this show as "teens versus monsters" might well serve as a thumbnail, even though the cast quit high school at the end of the third season. But then Romeo and Juliet is simply the tale of two kids who fall in love despite their families’ disapproval, The Godfather a mere gangster story, and Animal Farm just Beatrix Potter with politics.
I nearly missed out on the whole thing because I wrote it off as just another teen TV fad. Then friends - all between their thirties and fifties - bullied me into checking it out. I rapidly became hooked.
It’s mildly embarrassing, I know, but at least it gives me something other than pop music to talk to my friends’ kids about.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been, quite simply, one of the best written, best acted, most ingenious and most inventive TV shows of its era. It has combined and deconstructed a fistful of notionally incompatible genres : teen soap, supernatural horror, social satire, gothic romance, action-adventure and comedy, of both the slapstick and sophisticated varieties, all served up with crackingly witty dialogue and Hong Kong-movie influenced martial-arts action.
In the world of Buffy - or, as the show’s fans call it, the Buffyverse - the traumas of teenage life take on an uncomfortably solid reality. When Buffy, grounded by her mother, is caught sneaking out of her bedroom window, her mom points out that all teenage girls feel that if they can’t go out tonight, the world will come to an end, except that in Buffy’s case, it will. All teenage girls worry that the first time they sleep with their boyfriends, he’ll turn into a monster in the morning. Guess what...
It is, moreover, a show where moral questions are rarely clearcut. Good people can do bad things and bad people good, for both the right and the wrong reasons. Beloved characters can die - Buffy herself has died twice - and sometimes these are not supernatural deaths reversible by magic.
The creation of screenwriter Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer succeeded against the odds. The character was first introduced in a botched 1992 feature film, starring Kristy Swanson, which was based on a fairly simple premise of reversing the standard teenslasher film, so that the cute, empty-headed high-school blonde is not a victim but the heroine.
Three years later, with his career in overdrive after writing Toy Story, Whedon tried again with a TV series. He managed to secure a commission for 13 episodes which would be held in reserve in case any of the network’s autumn line-up stumbled. Sure enough, a front-rank series foundered, and Buffy was tossed into the breach as a mid-season replacement. It took off.
Despite its title, Buffy is an ensemble show. The titular protagonist serves primarily as the focus for an assortment of quirky characters, several of whom would easily serve as the nucleus of a future series.
However, Whedon’s production company, Mutant Enemy, has suffered some recent setbacks. Buffy Animated failed to find a buyer, partly due to Gellar’s refusal to voice her cartoon incarnation, and his new show, the "space Western" Firefly, went down the tubes after only a few episodes. If Whedon’s company is to survive in big-league TV, it’s going to have to retrench around the audience for Buffy.
So, even if this season represents our final farewell to the Vampire Slayer, it seems possible that the Buffyverse may remain open for business for some time to come. I, for one, will not be complaining.
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