Jonah Goldberg

I suppose I shouldn't be too dismissive of the professoriate's interest in all things Buffy, considering what a great show it was. It's just that, well, the American founding was pretty great, too, and very few professors teach that. Meanwhile, a Boston College professor can find time to present a paper on "Self Becoming or Becoming Self? A Comparative Study of Buffy and the Hindu Saint Antal on Identity and Self-Realization."

But I don't want to be curmudgeonly, especially when there are good reasons, even for conservatives, to cheer the immense popularity of the Buffyverse, which, in terms of cultural influence, will be for this generation what "Star Trek" was for the last.

You could always tell Whedon was deeply influenced by Marvel Comics (in fact, he's currently writing one of their X-Men titles). The overriding message of almost all Marvel stories from the 1960s to 1980s was, in the words of Spider-Man (or Peter Parker to be more accurate), "with great power comes great responsibility."

This was the unifying motivation for Whedon's heroes. "Do you think I chose to be like this?" asks Buffy. "Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous? I would love to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or ... God, even studying. But I have to save the world. Again."

In an age when the entire world seems to think "might makes wrong" when it comes to American power, the resonance of this message should be obvious.

Running like a steel spine through Whedon's work is the conviction that evil exists, isn't going away and must be constantly fought or it will win. Indeed, the series finale of "Angel" last month concluded on the eve a massive battle we'll never see, offering a simple message - redemption is for tomorrow, but the battle against evil is for right now.

This may not be how they teach things at Sunday school, but in secular culture, which often sniffs at the notion morality is real, this message is welcome.

Skeptics who think this is making too much out of "just a TV show" should bear in mind that viewers had lots of choices for monster-fighting fantasy, most of it forgettable. Buffy will endure (probably on the big screen), because there's something special to what Whedon wrought.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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