In another thread, Lola asked me to explain my contention that the show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is a post-modern masterpiece that many people just don’t get. As going into a detailed explanation in that thread would constitute something of a hijack, I’ve started this new one in order to give it my best shot.
Now, at the outset I want to state once more that my opinion isn’t that everyone should like Buffy. It has a lot of campy elements that many people find unpalatable and would rather not spend their time watching. This is fine. My beef is with the people who take one or two looks at the show and then dismiss the entire series as a cheesefest on the level of Charmed or Are You Afraid of the Dark?
I will now therefore list some reasons why I feel that the entire seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer stand as some of the best television ever created.
The bread and butter of good television is good characters. Most of Buffy’s characters are unique, well-rounded and hilariously conceived. Giles the librarian. Initially looks like your stock-standard British fuddy-duddy professor, but turns out to have a very particular dark streak and a chequered past. Spike the vampire. Looks like the archetypal 80s punk and is the meanest, evilest MF on the block, until you learn that before becoming a vampire he was a gentle-souled poet whose clumsy amorous advances got his heart broken one too many times. This is to say nothing of the character development these two characters go through as the series progresses.
Each season’s ovearcing plotlines present a veritable buffet of ethical quandaries, incisive metaphors and epic occurrences. And every time it looks like the sheer drama of it all is about to spill out over the top, the show checks itself with a well-placed joke.
Every once in a while, the show’s creators decide to take a trip off the beaten path and create an episode that breaks the mould in some significant way; many of these single episodes have gone on to win Emmys, and have been otherwise recognized as masterpieces of television. Lola, ask your wife about episodes like Hush, The Body, and Once More With Feeling and watch the expression on her face as she describes them.
The characters and circumstances of the show change from season to season instead of remaining static. In Season 1, Buffy and her friends are high school sophomores. Season 2, juniors. Season 3, seniors. Season 4, college. Etc. Characters die, characters leave, new characters are introduced. Things move on.
The show’s creators are incredibly adept at taking common real-life difficulties and creating analogs for them within the traditions of the horror genre the show ostensibly takes place in. There are layers and layers of subtext and meaning behind so many things on the show that multiple viewings are often required.
With all that’s gone before, you still may not like the show. That’s fine. It’s not for everyone. Some people have difficulty suspending disbelief in the face of the rubber vampire masks and witchcraft, some people don’t like the show’s quirky style of wordplay and sense of humor, and still others just plain don’t like it because it’s a “girl show.” But I draw the line at people saying the show is stupid or moronic, containing nothing of value outside a few cultural references, because that’s just patently not true. It means you’ve taken a surface impression of the show and run with it. It means you’re judging without knowing what you’re talking about. You can dislike it all you want, but don’t try to kid yourself or anyone else into thinking it’s not one of the highest-quality productions to come out of television in recent years.