I Know What Movie You Did Last Summer – Peter Mattessi

Focusing on Vera Dika’s idea of audience ‘game play’, and the increased intertextual awareness of contemporary audiences detailed by Jim Collins, Peter Mattessi demonstrates that a new level of reflexivity, inspired by Scream, has entered the realm of the teen slasher film: that of actor recognition and identification. Repetition and variation within the generic framework has been extended to include the repetitive use of the same actors, and variations on their other roles. The result is that a hyper-aware audience is placed in a situation where much of the fun of the shared horror experience is the communal identification and dissemination of familiar faces, and the importation of generic elements carried with them.

How’s this for a seemingly innocuous scene: a bunch of college students sit around a film class talking about sequels.  Harmless enough?  Well, no, actually.  In Wes Craven’s Scream 2 (1997), this scene is filled with more intertextual information than you can poke a remote control at.  Two of the film students are played by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Joshua Jackson.  To the uninitiated, these names mean nothing, but to the pop-culturally aware, they are the vampire-slaying Buffy and Dawson’s Creek’s Pacey Witter.  They could also be Helen in I Know What You Did Last Summer (Jim Gillespie, 1997), Kathryn and Blaine Tuttle in Cruel Intentions (Roger Kumble, 1999), or Damon in Urban Legend (Jamie Blanks, 1999).  And though the fast-paced, movie-related dialogue is a highlight of the scene, the real excitement comes from identifying the faces and recalling their other roles. Thus before a word has even been uttered, the film has asked its viewer: ‘where have you seen these faces before?’  And part of the fun of the modern horror film is the race to answer.

With a focus on Vera Dika’s idea of audience ‘game play’ (1990:22), and the increased intertextual awareness of contemporary audiences detailed by Jim Collins (1991:165; 1995), I will demonstrate that a new level of reflexivity, inspired by Scream (Wes Craven, 1996), has entered the realm of the teen slasher film: that of actor recognition and identification.  Also, ‘repetition and variation’ within the generic framework (Neale 1990:56) has been extended to include the repetitive use of the same actors, and variation on their other roles. [1]  The result is that a hyper-aware [2] audience is placed in a situation where much of the fun of the shared horror experience (Paul 1994:4) is the communal identification and dissemination of familiar faces, and the importation of generic elements carried with them.

The ‘video game’ nature of the slasher film (Dika 1990:22) relies heavily on a spectator who is aware of the genre’s conventions.  However, her construction of the stalker film [3] as ‘a product of a postmodern impulse, a contemporary condition that has influenced the products of both high art and mass culture’ (1990:19) may explain the popularity of slasher films between 1978-81 (the focus of her study) but it doesn’t begin to account for the mid-90s resurgence in slasher horror led by Scream.  Collins describes any argument based on the idea that ‘popular films reflect some sort of unitary, mass consciousness’ (1991:130) as problematic for genre theory, and it at least seems logical that audiences enjoy slasher films for different reasons, and in different times, without any one unifying cultural factor.  Dika’s analysis requires some expansion outside the limits of a specific period of cultural construction in order to account for horror’s massive popularity with 90s audiences.

The continuing popularity of the slasher film may be the result of something more communal, the ‘fun’ of the film viewing process observed by Paul (1994), and how it relates to the game that the film plays with its audience. [4]   The opening scene of Scream 2 presents us with an anti-horror crusader’s worst nightmare: a cinema filled with crazed teenagers wearing masks and brandishing knives, so enthralled with the filmic violence that they fail to notice a real life murder taking place before their eyes.  However exaggerated this construction may be, [5] it reveals the communal nature of horror spectatorship:

the audience does not merely “root” for the “home team” (the hero) in silence; instead, it behaves boisterously.  It cheers, hoots, and encourages the events on screen, and it does so as a group (Dika 1990:17).

When Maureen (Jada Pinkett) refuses to participate in the communal experience by insisting Stab’s Casey Becker ‘hang up and star-69 his ass’, she is jeered and shushed by the crowd for spoiling the fun.  The audience of Stab – like the audiences of horror films – is aware of the repetitiveness of the genre, but enjoys the game of recognising generic traditions like the phone exchange between Casey and the killer.  Paul’s emphasis on ‘rousing rabble’ (1994:21) – the shared experience of horror films – is consistent with the elements of intertextual reflexivity which will be explored here, in the sense that part of the fun of this reflexivity is shared appreciation and dissemination not only of generic repetition and variation, but repetition and variation of familiar actors, reliant on intertextual awareness. [6]   It is an important element that goes a long way to explaining the continuing popularity of seemingly repetitive slasher films, especially in the last five years: ‘what the critics … regarded as endless and inane repetition, the audiences themselves saw as endless variation’ (Paul 1994:4). 

Henry Jenkins notes the extremely active nature of television spectatorship: ‘fans cease to be simply an audience for popular texts; instead they become active participants in the construction and circulation of textual meanings’ (1992:24).  His argument is applicable in many ways to contemporary horror spectators, who ‘read intertextually as well as textually and their pleasure comes through the particular juxtapositions that they create between specific program content and other cultural materials’ (1992:37).  Post-Scream horror is fun because it places familiar actors in unfamiliar, usually fatal environments, allowing hyper-aware viewers to ‘read intertextually’ to construct and circulate meanings. However, before investigating intertextual reflexivity, it is necessary to point out that it is not the only way in which modern horror texts engage their audience in processes of active spectatorship.  As both Dika and Neale suggest, the circulation of generic traditions is common to genre texts like horror films.  However, problems arose with the slasher’s 1995 revival through Scream: many ‘new’ horror viewers were unaware of the genre’s conventions, and you can’t play the game unless you know the rules.  Noël Carroll notes the two-tiered nature of allusion: an audience containing both the ‘film gnostics’ who recognise and appreciate the allusion; and the unknowing viewers, who engage with the film solely on the level of narrative (1981:56). 

Films like Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1980) and Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987) operate almost solely on allusion, with little narrative to engage unknowing viewers – at least in the Classical Hollywood, cause and effect sense – and instead exist to push conventions of genres to their absolute limits, excluding all but the ‘film gnostics’ from participation.  However, the Scream films have chosen a different path, and educate [7] their audience through the character of Randy, whose precis of generic rules – ‘there’s a formula to it, a very simple formula!’ – contains the necessary generic information.  Through Randy, Craven is responsible for educating a new generation of horror filmgoers about the genre’s conventions, without them ever having to acquire the knowledge themselves by seeing the earlier films.  So later films in the Scream tradition operate within a generic framework to an audience aware of the ‘rules’ – albeit in Randy’s shorthand form.  Thus, contemporary slasher filmmakers have been able to inject into the genre a new type of reflexivity based on actors, and their position within the pop cultural makeup.

Because of Randy and Craven, generic game play can now exist alongside intertextual reflexivity.  For example, Urban Legend’s Damon turns off the car radio in disgust when he hears the Dawson’s Creek theme song, and the scene continues.  But aware viewers will have recognised that Damon is played by Dawson’s Creek’s Joshua Jackson, and by referring to one of its actors, the film announces that it is aware of its place as an element of pop-culture.  Earlier horror films displayed a generic awareness, indeed, the nature of genre is that it requires both text and audience to be aware of its conventions.  But contemporary horror displays not only generic awareness and reflexivity, but also intertextual awareness of their place within a cultural array, responsible for circulating certain signs (the actors).  The Joshua Jackson joke relies exclusively on an aware viewer to recognise the song and associate it with Dawson’s Creek; and though it comes partly from juxtaposing familiar elements in order to elicit a laugh, there is also the added humour embedded in Jackson’s reaction to the song.  Recognising Pacey and the song is one thing, seeing him turn off the radio as if it was the worst thing he had ever heard – deliberately rejecting Dawson’s Creek as a noisy irritation – is another, far more amusing one.

The genre texts of the late 1980s to early 1990s demonstrate an even more sophisticated hyperconsciousness concerning not just narrative formulae, but the conditions of their own circulation and reception in the present (Collins 1995:133).

Obviously the Dawson’s Creek joke requires a high level of popular-cultural awareness, and as Collins notes above, the hyperconsciousness of cinema and its audiences is an important element in contemporary film.  In the late 1990s, with the further mass dissemination of cultural information and interaction through the internet and newsgroups, [8] audiences have access to a much broader array of texts across even more media.  In reference to Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) and Phantasmagoria (Sierra, 1995), Angela Ndalianis identifies a ‘complex interchange between contemporary entertainment industries’ (1999:88).  While her argument is based on an exchange between slasher films and interactive computer games, it is equally applicable to the modern exchange between film and television genres represented by the crossover of stars from television shows like Dawson’s Creek and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer into a number of different, often slasher, films [9]

In fact, a focus of the post-Scream horror film is a cross-media reflexivity that relies on a hyper-aware spectator.  As Collins notes above, modern texts are aware of both their places in generic history and cultural reality.  And thanks to Wes Craven and Randy’s rapid dissemination of the horror genre’s rules and conventions throughout the Scream trilogy, new horror viewers are already well aware of the genre’s history, and are able to engage with texts’ ‘conditions of their own circulation and reception in the present’.  This engagement is not at the expense of historical play – when the killer quizzes Casey Becker in Scream, it is really Craven quizzing the horror fans – but there is a certain pleasure taken in the exclusion of this history in favour of contemporary reflexivity: ‘if you’re middle aged and childless, these titles, these “stars” may mean nothing to you … well, frankly, you don’t matter’ (Corliss 1998:66). 

Scream’s Tatum crudely dismisses the work of horror legends Craven and John Carpenter by referring to ‘Wes Carpenter flicks’, Sidney wonders why ‘all these movies have Jamie Lee Curtis in them’, and Stu is more interested in when he gets to see Jamie Lee’s breasts than he is in any discussion of horror films.  Even when Craven does refer to traditions of the genre, it is often to challenge them or reveal them as contrived.  Thus Sidney disparages horror films as being about ‘some blonde girl with big breasts who can’t act running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door’, before she does the very same thing.  The generic allusion is present, but overshadowed by the cynicism with which it is treated.  Significantly, the film kills off Henry Winkler, an icon of the 70s in Happy Days, and Drew Barrymore, an icon of the 80s in ET (Steven Spielberg, 1982).  It is almost as if modern horror filmmakers and their audiences are creating a self-contained teen textual universe by rejecting any others: ‘sex and pop culture are now the only realities for the teen generation’ (Leo 1998:9).  Films like Scream illustrate this by containing all the required generic information within the text, so that the ‘teen generation’ can engage with the film on both a generic and a cultural level.

In order to demonstrate the impact of the new slasher film on genre, and to highlight the importance of repetition and variation of actors, it is useful to adopt Rick Altman’s semantic/syntactic model for genre analysis.  He argues that his

dual approach permits a far more accurate description of the numerous inter-generic connections typically suppressed by single-minded approaches.  It is simply not possible to describe Hollywood cinema accurately without the ability to account for the numerous films that innovate by combing the syntax of one genre with the semantics of another (1989:97).

What happens if we consider Sarah Michelle Gellar, in terms of Altman’s model, as a semantic element in many texts: Buffy, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2, Cruel Intentions?  Her syntax remains fairly consistent: she is usually left to fend for herself – whether it be against a killer or her step-brother – and it is consistently in a situation that involves absent or ineffectual parents. [10]   Some other semantic elements are reasonably consistent: the high school/college environment, the costumes (‘teens in tight sweaters’ (Corliss 1996:29)) for example.  The innovation that Altman mentions comes specifically in the nature of her character: goody-goody Buffy, beauty queen Helen, helpless sorority girl victim Cici, or evil minx Kathryn.  Spectators familiar with Buffy may enjoy watching Gellar ‘drive a stake through her righteous TV image as Buffy’ in Cruel Intentions (Johnson 1999:8), or they may prefer the variation provided by Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer, where Buffy is a helpless victim.  Regardless of who is their favourite Sarah Michelle, the variation on her characters is the ‘innovation’ which is the ‘very site of negotiation between Hollywood and its audience’ (Altman 1989:98).  The repeated appearance of Gellar and other teen actors [11] in various teen texts, whether it be on television or in film, represents a dialogue between the text and its audience which requires an appreciation of both the syntactic structures that have previously framed them, and also the repetition and variation of surrounding semantic elements. [12]

Intertextual reflexivity is not the only common element of contemporary texts.  Though it is possible to link almost any two pop-cultural texts by someone involved it their production, many are also linked by shared ideological concerns, which can be traced to the stalker films of Dika’s study, and even as far back as Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960).  The strongest of these is the emphasis on familial breakdown as an influence on the horror, whether it be a slasher or otherwise. [13]   Laurie’s role as a babysitter in Halloween signified the film’s concern with the absence of parental influence, symbolic of the society that was producing the ‘monsters’ in post-Psycho horror.  Contemporary texts continue this tradition: Sidney’s mother in Scream was murdered, and her father pays little attention to her; there are no stable family structures in Dawson’s Creek; the Salingers’ parents in Party of Five were both killed; and Buffy features no parents at all. [14]   Other symbols of society are also weak, absent, or a negative force: teachers (Teaching Mrs Tingle (Kevin Williamson, 1999), recent Buffy); and police (Urban Legend, Screams).  Having earlier considered Dika’s argument about period-specific genre definitions, I am not suggesting that contemporary horror creates any ‘cultural meaning’ specific to its period of reception, only that its concern with familial breakdown, so evident in earlier developments of the genre, is now reflected across a broader range of texts in different genres and media.  Specifically, this illustrates the expansion of the slasher genre through a process of intertextual reflexivity to include a broader array of media and texts; many of them sharing the ideological concerns of classic horror films.

The contemporary slasher and its cross-genre, cross-media offshoots also share a noted cynicism about the progress of their ‘information society’.  Muir suggests that contemporary teens are ‘callous and cynical’ because of their ‘intense exposure to television, movies and music videos’ (1998:205).  Scream marks this cynicism as Dewey and Gale try desperately to find the killer who is taunting Randy on his mobile phone.  The realise it is hopeless, as every second kid on campus is chatting on a cell phone, and Randy is dead.  Likewise, each film revolves around a media event which provides some sort of motivation for the killer.  Scream around Gale’s book; Scream 2 around the opening weekend of Stab (based on the Scream killings) and the ensuing media circus; and Scream 3 (Wes Craven, 2000) around the making of yet another film.  This hostile treatment of 1990s techno-culture is more subtly dealt with on television in Buffy, where all the technology of ‘The Initiative’ is no match for good old-fashioned stakes and crossbows; and Dawson’s Creek, where Dawson’s obsession with the saccharine worlds of Spielberg distorts his view of reality.  This demonstrates that intertextual reflexivity based on familiar actors is not the only link between contemporary slasher films and their teen-based counterparts; there are ideological links that relate these texts more closely than actor recognition could allow.  However the presence of these actors within teen texts may alert the aware spectator to common ideological concerns.  In a sense, certain actors become associated with certain ideas: particularly problematic family structures and cynicism about a media-saturated culture.  The reflexivity built into the contemporary horror film and its parallel teen texts serves not only to enhance the shared experience of the audience, but also to draw attention to the film’s social concerns.

The end result is more and more levels of meaning embedded in contemporary texts.  No longer is it enough for the horror spectator to merely be aware of the genre’s conventions; they now have to recognise the face of every actor, and access instantly the texts they have seen him or her in before.  There is audience participation and game play in the ‘repetition and variation’ of certain actors as well as generic elements.  This reflexivity draws audiences into cross-textual identification of familiar faces – achievable only with a large intertextual base of knowledge – further enhancing the highly active nature of contemporary spectatorship, and the shared experience of horror.  When Alfred Hitchcock made The Birds in 1964, his title sequence read ‘Introducing ‘Tippi’ Hedren’.  In the world of contemporary horror, introducing a new actor would just be a waste of valuable intertextual information which could be achieved with a member of the ‘instant generation of movie stars’ (Johnson 1999:48).  Whereas once the horror audience screamed at the screen for the heroine to avoid the killer, now they scream at each other in a mad competition to identify the faces on the screen.  So in Scream 2, just for a wonderful moment, we can imagine a world where Buffy and Pacey co-exist.


Altman, Rick, ‘Reformulating Genre History’, The American Film Musical (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987) 110-9.

Altman, Rick, ‘The Problem of Genre History’ The American Film Musical (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987) 90-102

Bowman, James, ‘Ain’t Getting’ Any Older: the Bizarre Triumph of Youth’, National Review, 51:21, November 8, 1999, 44-6.

Carroll, Noel, ‘The Future of Allusion: Hollywood in the Seventies and Beyond’, October, Summer 1981, 51-81.

Cawelti, John, ‘Notes Towards a Typology of Literary Formulas’, Adventure, Mystery Romance: Formula Stories as Art and Popular Culture, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976) 37-49.

Clover, Carol J, ‘Introduction: Carrie and the Boys’, Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992) 3-20.

Collins, Jim, ‘Batman: The Movie, Narrative: The Hyperconscious’, in The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media, eds Roberta E Pearson & William Uricchio (London: British Film Institute, 1991) 164-81.

Collins, Jim, ‘Cultural Fragmentation and the Rise of Discursive Ideologies’, Uncommon Cultures: Popular Culture and Post-Modernism (New York: Routledge, 1989).

Collins, Jim, ‘When the Legend Becomes Hyperconscious, Print the …’, Architectures of Excess (New York: Routledge, 1995) 125-56.

Corliss, Richard, ‘Scream’, Time, 148:29, December 30, 1996.

Corliss, Richard, ‘The Class of ‘98’, Time, 152:5, August 3, 1998, 66-68.

Dika, Vera, ‘Introduction: Methods for Classification and Analysis’, Games of Terror: Halloween, Friday 13th, and the Films of the Stalker Cycle (London: Associated University Press, 1990) 9-29.

Doherty, Tom, ‘Clueless Kids’, Cineaste, 21:4, Fall 1995, 14-6.

Jenkins, Henry, ‘”Get a Life!” Fans, Poacher, Nomads’, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (New York: Routledge, 1992) 9-49.

Jenkins, Henry, ‘How Texts Become Real’, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (New York: Routledge, 1992) 50-85.

Johnson, Brian D, ‘Cool Intentions: Today’s teen flicks have come a long way from ’60s fare like Beach Blanket Bingo’, Maclean’s, March 22, 1999, 48.

Koehler, Robert, ‘Scream Catalyst for New Horror Era’, Variety, 368:10, October 13, 1997, M5.

Leo, John, ‘Raging Hormones on TV’, US News & World Report, 124:4, February 2, 1998, 9.Muir, John Kenneth, Wes Craven: The Art of Horror (Jefferson: McFarland, 1998).

Ndalianis, Angela, ‘Evil Will Walk Once More: Phantasmagoria – The Stalker Film as Interactive Movie?’, in On a Silver Platter: CD-ROMs and the Promises of a New Technology, ed Greg M Smith (New York: New York University Press, 1999).

Ndalianis, Angela, ‘The Rules of the Game: Evil Dead II … Meet Thy Doom’, in Hop on Pop: the Politics and Pleasures of Popular Cultures, eds Henry Jenkins, Tara McPherson, Jane Shattuc (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995).

Neale, Steve, ‘Questions of Genre’, Screen, 31:1, Spring 1990, 45-66.

Paul, William, 1994, ‘Rousing Rabble’, Laughing Screaming: Modern Hollywood Horror and Comedy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).

Prouty, Honor, ‘Rebecca Gayheart: Star of Urban Legend’, In Style, October 1, 1998, 195.

Sharrett, Christopher, ‘Fairy Tales for the Apocalypse: Wes Craven on the Horror Film’, Literature-Film Quarterly, 13:3, 1985, 138-47.

Tietchen, Todd F, ‘Samplers and Copycats: The Cultural Implications of the Postmodern Slasher in Contemporary American Film’, Journal of Popular Film and Television, 26:3, Fall 1998, 99-107.


A list of some of the players in the teen reflexivity game.

Neve Campbell – Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, Party of Five, 54.

Sarah Michelle Gellar – Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cruel Intentions.
Joshua Jackson – Dawson’s Creek, Urban Legend, Scream 2, Cruel Intentions.
Katie Holmes – Dawson’s Creek, Teaching Mrs Tingle, Disturbing Behaviour, Go.

Jennifer Love Hewitt – Party of Five, I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.
Rebecca Gayheart – Scream 2, Urban Legend, Jawbreaker.
Ryan Phillippe – I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cruel Intentions, 54.

Breckin Meyer – Clueless, Go, 54.
Kevin Williamson – Teaching Mrs Tingle (dir), Scream, Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty (scr), Dawson’s Creek (cr).


54 (Mark Christopher, 1998).

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984).
American Pie (Chris & Paul Weitz, 1999).
Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995).
Cruel Intentions (Roger Kumble, 1999).

Disturbing Behaviour (David Nutter, 1999).
ET: The Extraterrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982).
Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1980).
Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (Sam Raimi, 1987).

Go (Doug Liman, 1999).
Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978).
I Know What You Did Last Summer (Jim Gillespie, 1997).
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (Danny Cannon, 1998).

Idle Hands (Rodman Flender, 1999).
Jawbreaker (Darren Stein, 1999).
Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960).
Scream (Wes Craven, 1996).

Scream 2 (Wes Craven, 1997).
Scream 3 (Wes Craven, 2000).
Teaching Mrs Tingle (Kevin Williamson, 1999).
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974).

The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964).
The Faculty (Robert Rodriguez, 1998).
Urban Legend (Jamie Blanks, 1998)



Or otherwise.  Joshua Jackson’s Damon character in Urban Legend is pretty much a carbon copy of Pacey, albeit with bleached hair and a poor attempt at facial hair.


A useful word which encompasses both the extremely high level of cultural awareness of the contemporary spectator, and also the energy required to identify all the famous faces and film references in, say, the Scream 2 film class scene, before the person sitting next to you does.


Vera Dika adopts the term ‘stalker’ to describe the films of her study, whereas Carol Clover prefers ‘slasher’.  I will use slasher, as it better represents the contemporary horror film’s focus on elaborately bloody killings, and its placement of less emphasis of pursuits like the opening of Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) (though the chase of Sasha in Urban Legend is a spectacular exception).  See, eg, the stabbing, disembowelling, and hanging of Casey Becker at the very beginning of Scream; Randy’s absurdly bloody demise in Scream 2; the beheading of Sasha at the radio station in Urban Legend (Jamie Blanks, 1998); and the brutal torture and murder of Parker in his bathroom (shot Texas Chainsaw Massacre style – a call back to the brutality of Hooper’s 1974 film) also in Urban Legend.


Dika also notes John Cawelti’s discussion of the shared experience of Western viewing as a possible parallel with the stalker film (1976:16).


And it seems the fears of anti-horror crusaders are not completely unfounded.  See Bergman, Brian, , ‘A teen says Warlock drove him to murder; did a horror film spark a brutal child slaying?’, Maclean’s, 109:27, July 1, 1996, 22.


During the film class scene in Scream 2, my brother and I missed most of the dialogue because we were shouting over each other in a race to identify all the familiar faces: Buffy, Pacey, and Timothy Olyphant from Go (Doug Liman, 1999).  Sadly, Pacey was never to return.


Or re-educate.  Not all viewers of Scream were unaware of the genre’s historical development.  A simple test, created by Craven, was whether they correctly answered the Friday the 13th question that the killer asked Casey in the opening scene.


See eg: alt.tv.dawsons-creek, alt.fan.sam-raimi, aus.tv.buffy.


The interchange extends to music as well: Jennifer Love Hewitt and Brandy star in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, and Hewitt has a song on the soundtrack (‘How Do I Deal’).  And Britney Spears has appeared in Sabrina: the Teenage Witch, with Melissa Joan Hart repaying the favour by appearing in Britney’s ‘Crazy’ video.  Of course this is nothing new; think only of the Rat Pack, Elvis Presley, the Partridge Family, Barbra Streisand etc.  However cosmetic endorsement is becoming popular, with Sarah Michelle Gellar recently becoming a model for Maybelline, and Rebecca Gayheart, formerly the ‘Noxzema Girl’, helping out those less fortunately beautiful than her.  See Prouty, Honor, ‘Rebecca Gayheart: Star of Urban Legend, In Style, 152:5, August 3, 1998, 66-68 for information about her daily beauty routine.


Mrs Summers in Buffy is very nice, but fairly useless, as demonstrated by episode 4.15 – ‘This Year’s Girl’ (24/5/00), where Buffy rescues her after she is beaten and tied up by Faith.  Helen’s father in I Know What You Did Last Summer is a tv-zombie drunk, her sister is a sadistic bitch and the mother is absent.  In Scream 2, Cici is a sorority girl, and very far away from the reach of any parents (and even the campus security are useless).  And Kathryn in Cruel Intentions has divorced parents, an absent father, and a mother with no impact on her life (she snorts cocaine from a silver crucifix!).


See Appendix.


Henry Jenkins addresses the common misconception of television viewers as passive, distracted and domestic, and rejects it in favour of a far more communal and focused viewing experience (1992:55).  His analysis is appropriate to contemporary teen television texts like Buffy and Dawson’s Creek, as fans of these programs also congregate to view and analyse.  I am part of both a Buffy and a Dawson’s watching group, and can attest to the highly active participation of modern television viewers.


Aliens in The Faculty (Robert Rodriguez, 1998); demonic possession (of a hand, no less) in Idle Hands (Rodman Flender, 1999); The Mayor in Season 3 of Buffy; or even the main characters in Jawbreaker (Darren Stein, 1999).


Though there is Giles, who is as close as the show gets to a stable, positive adult influence.

Peter Mattessi can be contacted on p.mattessi@unimelb.edu.au


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