This week, I'm going to do something slightly different--in light of the intense media coverage of Joss Whedon's new show Dollhouse, I'm going to talk a little bit about my reactions to some of his shows. So there may not be a lot of writing stuff this week (unless I work up some extra posts), but I promise I'll get back to it.

A couple of things I want to get straight, right up front:

1. I haven't seen Dr. Horrible (although I want to), so I have nothing to say about it. Except that Neil Patrick Harris has a charming singing voice in the clip I heard on NPR the other day. Other than that--nothing.

2. ...okay maybe I just had one thing I wanted to get straight.

3. Oh, no, wait! One other thing--I didn't read the Buffy graphic novels, either. I prefer to stick to the original cultural artifact, and also didn't have the energy to track them down. So nothing I say here is influenced by them, either.

4. Oh, and another thing--I never got Angel. I didn't care for the character Angel on Buffy, and I didn't feel like the show centered around him had a good understanding of its direction, so, while I've seen some of the episodes because they run on TNT in the mornings while I'm at the gym, I didn't actually follow that show. I think that's it, now.

I fell in love with Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the middle of its fourth season. Back then, I was in law school, and being a poor law student, I didn't have cable television, so I was sort of stuck watching what was on the four (or five, depending on the weather) local channels.* And one night I turned on the WB** and there was this show. This incredibly scary show, with very little dialogue and a girl that kicked ass.

Yeah, that's right. The first episode of Buffy I ever saw was "Hush." Wanna make something of it?***

My love affair with Buffy lasted until the end of the television series, and I still watch the DVDs from time to time. The thing that attracted me (and keeps attracting me) to Buffy is, of course, the characters. Buffy is major. She's a Slayer, a girl chosen to fight vampires and other supernatural baddies, so she has super strength and speed and all that good stuff, but she's also (at the start of the series) a normal high school girl, who has friends, and likes boys, and wants to fit in. This dichotomy is the charm of Buffy's character--how she handles the stress of her responsibilities while at the same time maintaining a somewhat normal existence.

Her friends the Scoobies are also charming in their own ways. Nerd Willow and her best friend Xander, and Buffy's Watcher Giles (the sole adult in on Buffy's secret until the second season, when her mom finds out), form the core of a little family that helps Buffy maintain her equilibrium. People get added in to the Scoobies (Oz, Faith, Spike, Anya, Tara, sort of Andrew) and get removed (Oz, Faith, Anya, Tara, sort of Spike), but the core of the show remains the same for the whole seven seasons, and the relationships between them give the show a reality that is in opposition to its fantastic elements.

One of the other things I like about the show is its ability to show women in power. Buffy's basic premise overturns the idea that girls shouldn't (or can't) do stuff. The Slayers are always girls, and always have been. Buffy is the representation of physical strength on the show. Sure, sometimes her friends save her from things, but most often it is Buffy riding to the rescue and saving the day. She is the hero. There have been a ton of scholarly articles written about the feminism (or anti-feminisim) inherent in Buffy, but, long story short, Buffy kicks ass.****

Which was why, when Joss Whedon came out with another show, Firefly, I was interested in seeing it. Boy was that a mistake...


* Which is how I ended up watching Dawson's Creek. A post for another time.

** Back when there was a WB.

***For those of you not in the know--"Hush" is an episode of television in which there is no dialogue for almost 40 minutes. It's widely regarded as one of the best episodes of the show, and was nominated for an Emmy. Supernatural creatures called The Gentlemen (who are, by the way, the creepiest damn things I've ever seen) have put a curse on the whole town, so no one can speak. As a result, the characters have to communicate through writing and gestures. It's awesome. The episode resulted, in part, in response to the general critical opinion that Buffy was a very dialogue-based show.

****There are critical responses to this, of course. The Slayer was "created" by men a long long LONG time ago, and there are issues with this, but regardless of these origins (which aren't revealed until later in the show's seasons), Buffy is the day-to-day representation of women with power, and she's a fairly good one.


I was (and still am) a huge Buffy fan. I can't believe "Hush" was your first episode. I think that's one of the most brilliant hours of TV ever created, and I'm surprised the rest of the season didn't pale in comparison. But I guess most of the shows had lots of their own little brilliant moments. (Also love the musical--and the high school dance episode with "I Only Have Eyes For You.")

I was an Angel fan, as well, although that show had a much less solid foundation. Never watched Firefly, and have two episodes of Dollhouse waiting on TiVo... I'm not so sure I want to watch them, given the dismal reviews. I'll be interested to see what you say!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 10:31:00 AM EST  

You should definitely give Dollhouse a shot. The first episode is only so-so, but the second one is better. Not "OMG JOSS!" quite yet, but definitely an improvment.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 12:53:00 PM EST  

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