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PhD student regrets choosing Buffy The Vampire Slayer as thesis topic
mercredi 28 février 2007, par Webmaster
Almost four years into her 100,000 word PhD in Visual Communications, Janet Wasserman is beginning to sincerely regret her chosen area of inquiry.
Her still incomplete thesis, entitled The perverse in the Buffyverse : RE:reading Performative Gender Roles and their subversion in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, has become something of an embarrassment to her.
"When I was finishing my Masters in Gender Studies, critical engagement with Buffy was all the rage," said the 29-year-old industrial music enthusiast.
"I’m going to finish just in time for it to be completely passé. All the important, exciting work now is being done on Angel."
Five years ago, Wasserman believed that Buffy was a "uniquely nuanced cultural text", a view she now believes was prompted solely by her enthusiasm for the popular TV show. "I thought that Buffy was a new type of cultural apparatus that could establish the co-ordinates of a more fluid, less repressive form of gendered indentity," she says. "But looking back, I think I just had the hots for Giles."
Studying Buffy for a doctoral thesis, an idea she once found politically progressive, now seems both cliched and rather childish, particularly now that the show is no longer on TV.
"My central, and really only idea was to look at how Buffy subverts gender norms by shifting the co-ordinates of received modes of performative gender construction. To be honest it’s just stuff cribbed from Judith Butler," she admits.
"Worst of all, it’s only good for about 20,000 words, and the rest is just repeating the same idea with different examples. Strengthening my case, or ’padding’ if you want to be more accurate."
Attending a conference on Buffy successfully destroyed her remaining faith in academia. "It was all goths, repressed gays and punnind session titles. After Fangs for the Mammaries, how could I go on ?" And her love for what was once her favourite TV is set to be the next victim. "I was naïve enough to think that I could never get sick of Buffy," she says. "Boy, was I wrong about that."
Chastened by her experience, Wasserman hopes her mistake can serve as a lesson to others.
"I’d say now that if someone wants to waste their time with on an exhaustive treatment of a flash-in-the-pan pop-culture phenomenon, they shouldn’t do it at University," she says. "That’s what Wikipedia is for."
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