Because I'm working on a book, have a dog with a gravity-bending sense of entitlement and a 16-month-old daughter who rejects the "false choices" of the modern post-industrial economy, I don't get to do as much reporting - or anything else - as I would like these days. Usually, I don't mind because fresh air is overrated. But I'm really bummed I missed an "academic conference" in Nashville last week, particularly because I never got to say my goodbyes to Buffy.
"The Slayage Conference on Buffy The Vampire Slayer" convened the leading experts at wasting tuition money on geeky personal hobbies to present papers on the "Buffyverse," the alternative reality created by Joss Whedon, the creator of the now-defunct series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as well as the spin-off "Angel." "Slayage," by the way, is an Internet site which tracks all of this.
Oh, I guess I should also mention that "Buffy" is about a quick-witted California blonde who is a chosen warrior against evil, primarily of the demonic and vampiric variety. Angel is about a vampire imbued with a soul who has appointed himself a champion against the forces of darkness to atone for his past sins. "The elders conjured up the perfect punishment for me: They restored my soul," Angel explained to Buffy. "What, they were all out of boils and blinding torment?" she replied.
Buffy and Angel were more than fun TV. Yes, the stories were fun and the dialogue was great (and un-PC: "You're a vampire. Oh, I'm sorry. Was that an offensive term? Should I say undead American?" ). But the shows had a political and cultural relevance that dwarfed their many imitators.
Buffy was by no means culturally conservative in any conventional sense - one of the lead characters, after all, was a lesbian witch. But some life lessons still shine through.
"I told one lie. I had one drink," Buffy explains to her father-figure mentor, Giles. To which he retorts, "Yes, and you were very nearly devoured by a giant demon snake. The words, 'let that be a lesson' are a tad redundant at this juncture.'"
What's even more interesting, albeit ironic, is the show's popularity among religious people. Whedon says he's an "angry atheist," but his scripts are crowded with pagan gods, demon worship, witchcraft, agnosticism about the existence of the capital-G God, and other sorts of things to make Pat Robertson choke on his Corn Flakes.
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