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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Why Buffy slays us

Alice Clarke

Thursday 12 October 2006, by Webmaster

THREE years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended on free-to-air television in Australia (save the odd late-night re-run), old fans keep obsessing and new ones keep appearing. This weekend, obsessives will be converging upon the State Library to meet Amber Benson (Tara), Adam Busch (Warren), Danny Strong (Jonathan) and Tom Lenk (Andrew). These Buffy stars, who have been brought to Australia by a company established by fans, will talk about the show, answer questions, sign autographs and pose for photos. Fans can bid at an auction for Buffy memorabilia and mingle with their fellow geeks in an intimate setting.

So why are we still nuts about Buffy? Well, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a show unlike any other. It’s about outsiders making close friendship bonds and saving the world while the rest of the school is busy making fun of them and worrying about fashion.

An audience of viewers who never fitted in at high school because they were too geeky or nerdy or gay or uninterested in jumping on the bandwagon of the latest trend finally had characters they could identify with. It brought the freaks and the geeks together and gave them something to talk about at school.

At the start of the show, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has just moved to Sunnydale High after being expelled from her old school. Buffy has no friends, her grades suck and her father has recently abandoned her and her mother.

Her vampire boyfriend loses his soul, goes on a brutal killing spree, and tries to suck the world into hell as a consequence of sleeping with her. (Who knew boys changed that much after sex?) Buffy is then charged to protect mankind, and manages to avert eight or nine apocalypses over the seven seasons of the show. Who couldn’t identify with a girl like that?

Alongside Buffy are Xander (Nicholas Brendon), an unpopular geek who didn’t get into college with all his friends, and fellow slayerette Willow (Alyson Hannigan), the nerdy, techno-geeky, gay, Jewish, bookworm witch who loves school, has terrible fashion sense and gets heavily addicted to dark magic. They’re archetypes of alienated youth, easy to relate to.

For the most part Buffy doesn’t trade on scares, despite the presence of vampires, witches, warlocks, giant snakes, ghosts, demons, cheerleaders and other assorted manifestations of evil. The core of its appeal is the mythology on which it is built. It’s a complicated, confusing and continuity-deprived web, to be sure, yet it still manages to be coherent and dramatically seductive.

It is this rich grammar of metaphors that allows Buffy to deal with real issues. The show has dealt with adoption, the nature of family, grief over the death of Buffy’s mother and has challenged the teen practice of judging people based on looks by showing that not all vampires and demons are bad.

Buffy has been particularly notable for the mature manner in which it has portrayed homosexuality. Far from being a prurient girl-on-girl gimmick, the writers spent a long time developing the relationship between Willow and Tara (Amber Benson). Their first on-screen kiss - after 28 episodes - was no big deal and fell quite naturally into the middle of an episode about something else. By not relying on physical attraction as a short cut to showing their affection, Willow and Tara emerge as the most real couple on the show. You can virtually feel their love.

The show has a well-deserved reputation for thumbing its nose at TV convention. In Buffy you can’t rely on a happy ending. Just because a character is popular or likeable doesn’t mean they’re going to survive the episode.

There are also many experimental episodes for geeks to sink their teeth into. In "Hush", everyone loses their voices near the start and they don’t talk again until just before the end. The whole of "Restless" is told in dream sequences. "The Body" has no soundtrack, which is part of the comfortless reality of the episode. And there’s the crowd-pleasing musical episode, "Once More with Feeling". These aren’t novelty acts, either; the episodes tell their own important part of that season’s story arc.

The writers, headed by creator-writer-director Joss Whedon, care deeply about their characters and know their audience well enough not to speak down to them. And they know the importance of humour. The first thing you notice about any given Buffy episode is the hilarity of its one-liners. Sample this gem from "The Zeppo": "I laugh in the face of danger - then hide ’til it goes away." It’s a philosophy to live by. The Hub presents Amber Benson (Tara), Adam Busch (Warren), Danny Strong (Jonathan) and Tom Lenk (Andrew) at the State Library on Sunday. Tickets start at $50. www.thehubproductions.com

2 Forum messages

  • Why Buffy slays us

    12 October 2006 22:33, by BUFFY_FAN
    Well... That’s right For example LOL BUFFY SEASON FIVE is now airing in Portugal on SIC RADICAL network, where it is the most watched show with WWE LOL. Fans still love that sexy little slayer. For example ALIAS aired on SIC (the "mother" network) and the first and two season were a huge success, and then it lost viweres every week, and lost its timing... Buffy began on SIC and the firts two seasons were a success, then thrid season aired on late night, as CSI, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, SEX AND THE CITY... nowadys and then moved to SIC RADICAL where it competes with other series...
  • Why Buffy slays us

    14 October 2006 07:54, by SUZY Q
    Why do we (Australians)Still love "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"It is because its a great show that you can watch again and again and never get tired of seeing.....Angel is the same...Top shows even tho they have ended ,are being watched by new viewers either onTv late at night in Re-Runs or though others who have the DvD collection(Such as Me)and become Hooked and want more..How can You not Like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and her scooby gang.....Its even in your Video library Store ..Its every where............Isnt that COOL.

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