I suppose I should say something about Buffy's 20th Anniversary. I read some stuff yesterday, including an interview with Marsters and Boreanze. Weirdly, I liked the one with Boreanze better.
Boreanze mentioned that he had lunch once with George Lucas who was a serious fan of both series, Angel and Buffy, and had visited the set. Fandoms collide. Marsters has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth, sort of like Spike, and say more than he should. Although he did say one thing that resonated, which is that Buffy in some respects is even more relevant today than when it aired...with it's overall message - "Don't Give Up", no matter how impossible things seem.Buffy
....was in some respects my first and only internet fandom experience. I wonder sometimes if I would have been nearly as obsessed with it, if it weren't for the internet. Maybe. Maybe not. I haven't become obsessed with anything else to that degree. I met a lot of like-minded souls on the internet via Buffy. And because of Buffy, I'm on LJ and DW, although I suppose it's possible I'd have ended up on both another way.
I think the issues explored in that show, resonate over time, and even more so today...I was reviewing an old essay I wrote a while back and considered reposting it, but realized I'd have to heavily edit and revise it. (I can't read things that I wrote several years ago or even a year ago, without wincing a bit -- or rewriting the whole thing.) The essay was about "Dealing with Reality" -- it analyzed the events in Season 6 up to Entropy, before Seeing Red. And discussed how people skew facts or create a fantasy world, to escape reality. If you want to read it, I think you can still find it here
. I won't make sense to anyone who has not watched the series. And I can't read it without flinching. So...
At any rate, if it weren't for Buffy, I wouldn't have met many of you. I started watching it earlier than many online folks did -- in 1997. I'd followed Anthony Stewart Head to the series from VR5 which had originally been in the time slot. At first I liked VR5 better. Head seemed to have a minor role in Buffy, with most of the focus on Gellar, who I initially found annoying, having watched her on All My Children. (She was annoying on All My Children, and off-screen, a diva in training.) But the writing and the character won me over...as did the other characters. I think my initial favorite characters on the series were the male characters...Xander, Angel, and Giles. I watched it intermittently that first year...skipping some episodes, enthralled by others. It wasn't really until the second season that I considered it "MUST WATCH" TV. And got a VCR to ensure I didn't miss episodes or could re-watch them. I loved Season 2. Season 3 -- less so, but it was intriguing and I kept going to ACIN News for spoilers. I was a Bangle shipper during that period, and a bit frustrated with the on-again, off-again romance. Loved S2 and S3 at the time.
Season 4 almost lost me. It was an uneven season. And I was, at the time, a Bangle shipper -- well, up until the fourth episode of the season or was it the sixth? The writers successfully killed the Bangle relationship for me, during the cross-over episodes, in which the two characters no longer fit and just made each other miserable. Angel needed to be the hero, and couldn't quite handle the fact that Buffy was the hero, and he was well her sidekick. He wanted it to be the other way around. Actually, it turned out that Riley had the same problem. Cordelia worked perfectly with Angel, because she could be his sidekick. (In retrospect, that's actually an interesting commentary by the writers on our sexist society and how our society and media view women. The writers really weren't that interested in "the romance" and more interested in larger social issues related to the romance. Which often put them at odds with the fandom, who obviously was more invested in the romance or ships than larger social issues. I think that was what Whedon meant when he said he didn't want to give fans what they wanted, but what they needed. In reality, what he was saying was -- I'm interested in exploring broader social issues and commenting on our culture. I'm not interested in writing a story about Romeo and Juliet riding off in the sunset. To be fair, neither was Shakespeare, hence the reason Romeo and Juliet die. Which is why both writer's work endures. They had something to say. It wasn't just a puff pastry.)
Season 5 threw me, and I suddenly got invested in the character of Spike, who'd I always enjoyed, but in S5 suddenly became interesting and developed as opposed to comic relief. Surprised me a little, actually. As did, what they decided to do with Dawn and Joyce.
Season 6 -- turned me into an obsessed fan. Mainly because they started doing things in the series that I hadn't seen anyone attempt before. It felt a bit like watching a high-wire act. With no net.
Also, it appeared that they were planning on sending the characters careening off a cliff -- or it was "Six Characters on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown". I think two of the actors actually came close to having one. It was a risky season, and alienated many fans who wanted puff pasty, happy ever-afters, and chocolate...not a five course meal, with an in-depth examination of pop culture, and various social issues. Scholars, academics, and analytical sorts were in love with S6, those who watched it casually or more on an emotional level -- were pissed off. Guess which side I fell into?
(Helpful hint -- I wrote over 500 pages of meta or essays during that season, examining every character and facet of the series. And read over 1000 pages worth of essays from various people. Not to mention lots and lots of fanfic. It actually introduced me to fanfic.) Season 6 also inspired me to rewatch all the previous seasons of both Buffy and Angel. Including the ones that I skipped over the first go-around. And it introduced me to most of the people I met online.
There were obviously other things happening at the time. S6 did not appear in a vacuum. We had 9/11, the War in Iraq and Afghanistan starting, I was in the middle of a major social and career upheaval,
and on the verge of a nervous breakdown myself. Actually, I think I did have a nervous breakdown in 2001-2002. So S6 resonated for me. It was the only television series, movie, book, etc that did, at that time. Looking back -- I think in some ways S6 and my interactions with people on ATPO and Buffy Cross and Stake regarding the show...may have saved my sanity, if not my life. I'd had the rug pulled out from under me, and was able to retreat to the internet and Buffy as a lifeline. F/X helped by rerunning Buffy episodes. It didn't really have any other programming at that time. So it rerun Buffy each night, with marathons over the holidays. Gave me something to focus on that was not insane.
I remember a co-worker/friend at the time stating -- so your ATPO or Buffy board is a form of "group therapy"? It actually was. We discussed everything through the guise of Buffy.
S7 was disappointing. I wonder if it would have been less so, if I weren't so obsessed at the time and watching it with the internet? If I'd watched it like I do most television series, would I have liked it more? There were isolated episodes and moments in it that I thought were amazing. Beneath You - the tail end of it, Conversations with Dead People (which won the Hugo - I think it did), Selfless, Lies My Parents Told Me...all had lasting value, and explored various social issues in a visceral manner.
To say that I loved the series is perhaps an understatement. I was obsessed with it. I wanted to devour it whole and then again, and again. It struck a deep chord in me. And then, I found others who felt much the same way...which was magical.
To date, people are still teaching courses, presenting papers, and writing essays on Buffy. Many professional writers were fans. Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and The Catch) has stated that it inspired her writing and helped her launch her career as a television writer. RT Davies said that it inspired his version of Doctor Who, and Rose Tyler. George Lucas and Holly Hunter were fans.
Why? Because at it's heart the show as about the universal themes of "Not giving up". "Caring about Others." "Doing what we can to help, no matter what it costs us." And "forgiveness." It was anti-vengence, not a revenge fantasy by any stretch, and anti-guns. It showed how violence had consequences. It was about family, and how we can accomplish more together than alone. And it was about sharing power, not hoarding it.
In some respects, it was the antithesis of the reality series that pollute our media with their endless competitions and meaningless contests. It was about surviving high school, and adolescence, but also about surviving life's challenges.
But, alas, as in all things, it did not appeal to everyone. Never had the ratings of a West Wing or a Grey's Anatomy or an NCIS. And..that's okay. Different strokes...for different folks. For those it did appeal to...it was magical.