Buffy Meets The Academy edited by Kevin K. Durland (book review).
The sub-title of ‘Buffy Meets The Academy’ is ‘Essays On The Episodes And Scripts As Texts’ which roughly translates into an emphasis is looking at what is the definitive stories as there have been various cuts for TV, not to mention abroad, and even the DVD release, although it does appear that this isn’t emphasised in twenty articles. When I watched the DVD boxset last year, it became pretty obvious that we had a cut the bad language version when it was shown on the BBC, despite the fact that it was on after the watershed. Time to pick out highlights.
Editor and key writer Kevin Durland points out that when Buffy was first killed in the first season and brought back to life, when her successors Kendra and later Faith also became slayers that she was in fact an abandoned side-channel from which no other Slayers would inherit from. That is, when she died again, as indeed happened at the end of season five, she wouldn’t have started a second line of slayers. That made me think for a minute and wondered that although we never know the fate of the dead slayers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they all go to heaven. As it was something I addressed in an article a few years back, there is still a problem as to what is passed from slayer to slayer if Buffy can still have her own powers?
The focus of this book isn’t actually all about Buffy but explores the Scooby gang and even on to the ‘Angel’ TV series as well. Hardly surprising really when so many of them started off on the parent show.
I’m not entirely sure if ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ is all about female empowerment though because it draws fans of both sexes, it’s not exclusively about that. From my perspective, I see it as more a matter of balancing the books. All too often, it’s the macho male who leads such adventures and there are very few female led shows in comparison let alone created by female writers. I had a think about that and came up with some, although none within our genre. ‘Honey West’ was originally books created by a married couple, Gloria and Forrest E. ‘Skip’ Fickling, probably being the nearest to that and the development for TV was by Gwen Bagni and Paul Dubov, although had male writers. ‘Cagney And Lacey’ was created and written by women, the two Barbaras, Avedon and Corday. In the UK, the nearest equivalent was Lynda La Plante with Dolly Rawlins in ‘Widows’ (1983-85) and Jane Tennison in ‘Prime Suspect’ (1991-2006). Even with these examples, it’s more to do with how women do what would be normally seen as a man’s job or crime. The likes of ‘Wonder Woman’ and even ‘Buffy’ were created by men. I suspect that is true across all the genres is doubtful. Whether this is because more women aren’t in a position of power or can’t sustain more series really needs some discussion.
There is a lot of discussion about the significance of the crucifix and the effect on vampires. I do wonder as to whether it’s the belief as what it represents that makes it dangerous to them than any symbolic representation. After all, the crucifix represents both self-sacrifice and redemption. Both of which, by becoming vampires humans have rejected for their own limited, unless you end up at the end of a stake, immortality.
The observations by Melanie Wilson comparing Spike to Angel that the former sought his own redemption as opposed to the former because of a spell, actually reveals the difference between the two vampires. Makes you wonder what having a soul is all about, doesn’t it?
Kevin Durland points out the effectiveness of control by the Watcher Council is because the Slayers bow to their knowledge but without that or even a Slayer, they are effectively useless in combating vampires. Mind you, considering that both Rupert Giles and Wesley Windham-Pyrce both took the offensive doesn’t suggest that all they do is talk. Maybe they’re taking the term ‘Watcher’ too literally. You would have thought that rather than act more like an instructive fan club to the Slayers that they should have been more pro-active.
Keith Fudge’s analysis is very informative. Covering Whedon’s own history at a single sex school of being very much an outsider and geek does seem to be at odds with the educational establishments that Buffy and her friends attended. However, what they do share with Whedon is that they are all outsiders and that is an important connection. After all, is there anyone reading here who doesn’t consider themselves as an outsider, earlier in life or even now? The connection is what drew us to the series. Each of the Scooby gang represents different facets of outsider. There’s something there for all of us. Even Giles is an outsider, being both a Watcher and librarian. How often did he attend other school duties and apart from one dalliance with Jenny Calendar, doesn’t even see other teachers or even hint he has to attend staff meetings? Interestingly, even in the group, Xander Harris is still bottom of the outsiders, having no powers and clearly outclassed by everyone else in the group. No doubt, he is the everyman outsider for normal viewers to associate with.
I think just the result of my discussing various points from this book means there’s a lot her for the Buffy fans out there. As it was released in 2009, you might already own a copy. If you don’t, then it’s another one to add to your collection.
(pub: McFarland. 289 page indexed medium softcover. Price: £40.95 (UK), $35.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7864-4355-0)
check out websites: www.mcfarlandpub.com and www.eurospanbookstore.com