In nerd-world, my credibility is pretty good. Star Wars was the first movie I’d ever seen in theaters, I can name all the Super-Friends, read comics, I’ve sold a bunch of science fiction and fantasy stories, and I blog here.
However, my nerdish education and vocabulary has, until now, had a few embarrassing gaps.
Hi. My name is Derek and I have a problem. I never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, nor Firefly.
I have other nerd-world-related problems, like thinking Dr. Who is a bit dumb, never having cottoned to Lost, and not being that particularly drawn to zombies in any of their incarnations.
But, at least with Buffy, there’s no reason I can’t fix this. So, I’ve set out to correct this deficiency.
In the last 3 weeks, I’ve watched two and a half seasons. I have two sets of reactions: the frivolous ones and my reactions as a writer.
Derek’s Frivolous Reactions to Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Wow. At least one teacher or student dies every episode.
Hey look! It’s Quark, from Deep Space Nine! And he acts like he’s sullenly running a bar.
- Sunnydale School is remarkably poorly illuminated. So are the streets of Sunnydale and Buffy’s house. Is this an aesthetic choice or a season one budget problem?
- Hey look! It’s Jack Tripper from Three’s Company. And he’s a robot. This explains a lot about Three’s Company. But where’s Chrissy?
- What’s with this Master guy? Didn’t Dr. Who fight the Master? I think the original X-Men did too, when they fought Factor Three?
- Buffy’s pants: They’re really short. Like Star Trek: The Original Series short. Was that a 90s style I didn’t know about (entirely possible) or a ST:TOS Easter Egg?
- Wow. Cordelia is not nice. Really not nice.
- Is it me, or does the first season have a Scooby-Doo feel? Wait, in Season Two, Xander refers to them as the Scooby Gang. Nevermind. Scooby!
- Wow, a lot of plot problems end with Deux Ex Angelus. Lucky he’s around. And doesn’t need to breathe…
- Oh, that makes sense. I thought they said Aztec mummy princess…. My bad.
- Is the cave the Master lives in the same cave from every episode of DSP and Voyager? Where does Hollywood get these? ACME-Quick-Pour-Cave? Maybe the same place they got the dialogue for this Republic Serial Villain.
- Did any of you have frivolous reactions?
Derek’s Reactions as a Writer
I’ve heard people rave about BTVS for years, and I wanted to see what Whedon did to be so engaging. I have a few observations that may seem obvious, but they’re good reminders for my own writing.
- Exaggeration: Much like the Simpsons exaggerates its character, I found that Cordelia, Xander, Willow and Giles were all exaggerated, at least until season two. This is quick characterization short-hand. Willow is the shy bookish nerd. Cordelia is the monomaniacal narcissist. Xander is bafflingly inept with women (so much that my ten-year-old thinks he’s an idiot). Giles is the stereotype of awkward librarians squared.
- Romantic tension: The show runs on romantic tension. Xander for Buffy. Buffy for Angel. Willow for Xander. Cordelia and Xander for and against each other. Giles for Jenny. Angel for Buffy. Willow for the werewolf band guy. In the first season, the romantic tension is the B-Story or even the C-Story, but by the second season, the romantic storylines are occasionally the A-Story.
- Foiled romances: This is not surprising, but it’s interesting to see how much mileage Whedon gets out of dashing people’s hopes. Angel and Buffy almost get together, then she finds out he’s a vampire. Then they almost get together and that blond vampire messes it up. Then they actually plan a date and she sees him with Cordelia, and feels rejected. Same thing with Drusilla. Then. finally, when they really love each other and declare to each other, she accidentally sets his soul free, turning Angel back into the Angelus Arch-Vampire he once was. The others follow similar arcs of misfortune. It’s all very frustrating. Argh! Someone be happy!
- What did I miss?
I’m about half-way through season two right now and I’m enjoying myself enough that I’m going to keep watching. Any thoughts or warnings I should keep in mind as I go forward?
Derek Künsken writes science fiction, fantasy and horror in Gatineau, Québec. He tweets from @derekkunsken. If you want to listen to a British guy read Dog’s Paw, it is available for free here from the fine folks at Pseudopod.org.