Buffy Goes Dark edited by Lynne Y. Edwards, Elisabeth L. Rambo and James B. South (book review).
If I included the sub-title of ‘Buffy Goes Dark’ with the indice above, you would instantly know the subject matter and know it has nothing to do with Buffy dying her hair, although it would probably swamp the title line. So, let’s put it here instead: ‘Essays On The Final Two Seasons Of Buffy The Slayer On Television’. If you’re familiar with the ‘Buffy’ series then you’ll know that show-runner Joss Whedon took a back-seat to work on another show, something to do with insects, around this time and left his team in charge. Reading this book, you can experience the fan reaction, albeit those who mostly who are American lecturers with degrees.
Much of this book’s analysis isn’t something I wouldn’t disagree with. Perhaps it rattles on a little too much about the sexual amours of the characters but that, as I understand, is typical of the fans. Considering that the writers in this book have doctorates, you might think they might have looked above this level of thinking. This does change about half-way through into covering other things but anyone picking this book off a shelf could well think this is all that is covered. Whether that’s all you want to read about it, I’ll leave you to ponder as fans of any subject can be fickle. I would have been more inclined to vary the subject matter more or at least re-locate it in the book. As the various authors do point out, the Buffy target audience was never young teens anyway, anyone sixteen and above shouldn’t be put off.
The book is divided into four sections. Oddly, the smallest section looks at the creators and how the fans focused on what they deemed Marti Noxon’s weaknesses. The characters section focuses more on Willow and Tara as an item and then Andrew Wells’ development from one-dimensional to having some character as he progressed through the seasons. Just in case you think Buffy is left out, her death and life is the focus of the third section. Reference is made to Buffy’s magical nature and obviously they never picked up on my article a few years back suggesting that she is a succubus. It is with this section where co-editor Lynne Edwards and her co-writer Carly Haines analysis that I found myself thinking they have more in common with my thinking on the series.
Although there is an obvious focus on the final two seasons, as far as story threads go, there was and is discussion of story-threads and conventions that were there from the beginning. Joss Whedon always wanting to break convention right from the first episode scene where it is the woman who is dangerous not the man who becomes the victim. It can hardly be any surprise when villains switch sides and even, in the case of Willow, the heroes can turn bad as well, although that’s been a common comicbook trope. Even Buffy sways a little and is not quite sure what she is after her resurrection. I never caught the metaphor of her seeing the Buffybot being destroyed as a symbol for how she felt until reading this book, all I saw originally was her replacement wasn’t needed. The Buffiverse isn’t really black and white or even good and evil, just a variety of shades of gray.
The examination of Buffy being the ‘father figure’ in the group by Lynn Edwards and Carly Haines isn’t something I really agree with. I always tended to put Rupert Giles in that position but that’s probably an American thing. For we British, a group has a leader rather than look like a family. It’s interesting how they place Cordelia as not really belonging to the Scoobie group and didn’t spend a couple lines saying whether they felt she fitted any better in Angel’s team.
When I was half-way through this book, I did wonder if I would have enough to say. As it turns out from the above, I did change my mind on that. The real question is whether you Buffy fans will find anything you haven’t heard before here. As I don’t really explore that end of the fandom tree, you’ll have to decide that for yourself. If you want to be more acquainted with that aspect, then ‘Buffy Goes Dark’ will undoubtedly bring you up to speed and give you a long list of books that you will no doubt go off and read as well. Please bear in mind that the book was originally released in 2009 but I doubt if that will interfere with you adding it to your collection.
(pub: McFarland. 2262 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: £31.95 (UK), $35.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7864-3676-7)
check out websites: www.mcfarlandpub.com and www.eurospanbookstore.com