Volume 2, 2003

Special Issue on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

edited by Angela Ndalianis & Felicity Colman

On the 21st of November 2002, a Symposium called “The Buffyverse” was held by the Cinema Studies Program at the University of Melbourne. This volume of Refractory: a Journal of Entertainment Media includes some of the papers presented at this day’s events, as well as numerous new additions.

1. For a Newer Rite is Here: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
– Joseph W. Reed

2.Welcome to the house of fun: Buffy fanfiction as a hall of mirrors
– Linda Rust

3. ‘It all seems so real': Intertextuality in the Buffyverse
– Vivien Burr

4. “Family Blood is always the Sweetest”: The Gothic Transgressions of Angel/Angelus
– Lucy Nevitt & Andy William Smith

5. Is Giles Simply Another Dr Van Helsing? Continuity and Innovation in the Figure of the Watcher in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
– Coralline Dupuy

6. “Just a girl”: Feminism, Postmodernism and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
– Jim Thompson

7. Affective Entertainment In “Once More With Feeling”: A Manifesto For Fandom
– Jamie Clarke

8. ‘Bollocks!': Spike Fans and Reception of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
– Gwyn Symonds

9. ‘I think every home should have one of you': the serial killer disguised as the perfect husband
– Wendy Haslem

10. ‘We Are Not Demons': Homogenizing the Heroes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel
– Jennifer Dowling

11. Coming Out on A Hell Mouth
– Edwina Bartlem

12. “‘You cannot run from your darkness.’ / ‘Who says I’m running?': Buffy and the Ownership of Evil”
– Erma Petrova.

13. Buffy: the Evolution of a Valley Girl
– Janelle Tassone

14. Is Buffy a Lacanian? Or, What Is Enlightenment?
– Matthew Sharpe

15. Buffy the Feminist Slayer? Constructions of Femininity in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
– Gwyneth Bodger

“For a Newer Rite is Here: Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – Joseph W. Reed

Our allegiance to Buffy the Vampire Slayer depends on a remarkable emotional involvement with very young but very strong characters. Its meaning, the rhythm of the Buffy myth, the speed with which its world turns, are a product of our involvement in its characters. Joseph Reed takes us on a journey through the show’s rich tapestry of characters and its devotion to quality and originality. The ground rules of this continuing fable are variations on movies, especially of the Horror Picture, but Buffy finds ways to change or make exception to the rules: the addictive nature of the series also relies on the flexibility of story rhythm. Characters change, develop, are dynamic. As things shift, the series grows. The ground rules that ordinarily provide the necessities of a Horror Picture are, in Buffy, made variously flexible. Buffy changes the rules. Strong characters advance through time structured instalments and developed stories; and now and again the rules of the Buffy cosmos suffer seismic change.

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Welcome to the house of fun: Buffy fanfiction as a hall of mirrors – Linda Rust

Fanfiction has been regarded in the past by theorists like Henry Jenkins as a scribbling in the margins, a form of textual poaching. Linda Rust argues that Buffy has reversed this process, turning the fans into authors and allowing them to not only play with any aspect of the show, but also to influence the direction of the narrative itself. Joss Whedon has invited the fans to be more than just viewers and interpreters of the text, and so they have become authors in their own right. For the fans, the show is much more than just a television event that occurs once a week; it has expanded to include the writings of thousands of fanfiction authors. Authors write about fanfiction itself, parodying the entire process in a wickedly funny manner. This essay examines the interrelated nature of the fanfiction community, and just what makes Buffy fanfiction and its relationship with the text so different.

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‘It all seems so real’: Intertextuality in the Buffyverse – Vivien Burr

Through quotation and intertextuality Buffy the Vampire Slayer constructs a universe that is shared between viewer and character. The viewer is aligned with characters through shared memories and experiences. Viewers are positioned sometimes inside the text and sometimes outside of it. The vivid and personally engaging experience of TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer is central to enjoyment, and intertextuality plays a key role in producing this experience by psychologically aligning the viewer with the fictional space. While the problematic concept of identification goes some way towards explaining the psychological investment in particular characters through the creation of point of view, Vivien Burr argues that identification is not the primary means by which a sense of reality is constructed. Although it seems likely that some degree of allegiance is necessary in order for viewers to be willing to enter into and invest in the fantasy space, it is argued that it is intertextuality that provides its sense of reality.

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‘Family Blood is always the Sweetest’: The Gothic Transgressions of Angel/Angelus – Lucy Nevitt & Andy William Smith

The stylistic properties of Buffy the Vampire Slayer visualise the supernatural as a counterpoint to the cultural apparatus of American teenage life. Lucy Nevitt and Andy William Smith explore how the mise en scene and narratives of Buffy The Vampire Slayer draw upon a set of ‘Gothic’ conventions: the use of doubles, obscured family ties, incest, religious iconography and dreamlike states are all explicitly grounded in the fictional worlds of BTVS and its spin off series Angel. Rather than simply reiterating Gothic form, the series develops a ‘new Gothic’ that is dependent upon a shifting of audience expectations: the familiar cinematic genre of horror is combined with the recognisable cinematic genre of American high school drama/comedy. The ‘new’ Gothic is reliant upon a culturally resonant understanding of indexical monstrosity in order to achieve slippage between these genres – a recognition of the transference of the Gothic uncanny from 18th and 19th century fiction to 20th and 21st century cinematic representations.

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Is Giles Simply Another Dr Van Helsing? Continuity & Innovation in the Figure of the Watcher in Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Coralline Dupuy

Mentors feature prominently in the Gothic genre. From Dr Van Helsing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), who leads the young heroes into their quest to annihilate the Count, to Rupert Giles, the Watcher in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, older and more experienced adults have provided essential guidance for the younger protagonists of the genre. What also unites the novel and the series is the fin-de-si├Ęcle resonance, one characterized by sexually and socially subversive themes. Relying on an audience that is literate in media representations of vampirism, the creators of Buffy the Vampire Slayer need to challenge their audience through another aspect of the series. Cora Dupey argues that the show’s creators adopt a self-reflexive ironic perspective on the genre. This tenuous but innovative tension between borrowing from the tenets of the Gothic and moving away from them is especially appreciable when one evaluates the Watcher, Giles. Giles embodies both the principles of continuity and daring innovation that characterize the series and contribute to its appeal.

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“Just a girl”: Feminism, Postmodernism and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Jim Thompson

In this era of postfeminism, new avenues are being sought to spread the ideals of feminism and the potential of possible vehicles, such mass media, are being realised. However, when using mass media, such as television, in such a fashion, the intellectualizations of the highbrow modernist/feminist movements have been largely stripped away, leaving little but an easily digestible skeletal foundation. The aim of such a method is to target a younger demographic than traditional critique would usually focus upon. The television program Buffy the Vampire Slayer is such a vehicle, presenting feminism in a postmodern form ‘for the masses’. While this works to reveal an ‘acceptable’, albeit feminist, perspective of gender and identity, following such an avenue problematises both feminism and postmodernism. This in itself is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing; it simply ruptures the machinations of said ideologies, placing them in an arena whereby discursive discussion is a viable option.

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Affective Entertainment In “Once More With Feeling”: A Manifesto For Fandom – Jamie Clarke

Focusing on the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Once More with Feeling”, Jamie Clarke evaluates this episode in the context of the Buffy franchise, arguing that it exemplifies an entertainment strategy that courses through the Buffyverse. Traditionally, entertainment is either too often denigrated as a specific ideological formation that produces negative effects of audience passivity as against more overtly challenging texts, or, alternatively, entertainment is celebrated within a postmodern theoretical framework that views the multiplicity of pleasures afforded as inherently productive and even oppositional. Alternatively Jamie Clarke concentrates on entertainment for entertainment’s sake: as a dialectical operation that intermingles wish fulfillment and repression by arousing radical fantasies in order to contain them. Typical of the series and Joss Whedon’s strategies, the episode “Once More With Feeling” appears to willfully play with wish fulfillment/invocation that both figuratively and literally run the risk of arousing utopian fantasies that cannot be contained.

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‘Bollocks!’: Spike Fans and Reception of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Gwyn Symonds

Gwyn Symonds conceptualizes the ambiguity at the core of the representation of evil, violence and redemption in the Buffyverse through an analysis of fan perceptions of the vampire character Spike. These passionate and partisan perceptions of his heroic status are often in conflict with the content of the text and the views of him offered by some of the writers as to the meaning of that character’s dramatic struggle for redemption. It is argued that the nature of fan engagement that is activist in its dynamic response to the text, creates a volatile discourse between text, audience and authors that is emotionally charged and uniquely expands the text beyond the on-screen story. Fan reactions to Spike’s story, fate, and moral status challenge notions of textual determinism asserted by various writers of the Buffyverse canon. The richness of the character of Spike challenges the authorial and story canons of the Buffyverse itself.

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“Every Home should have one of You”: the serial killer disguised as the perfect husband – Wendy Haslem

In her book From the Beast to the Blonde: on fairy tales and their tellers Marina Warner states that “Bluebeard is a bogey who fascinates: his very name stirs associations with sex, virility, male readiness and desire. His bloody chamber which his latest wife opens with the key he has forbidden her to use, reveals the dead bodies of her many predecessors, and warns her of her impeding “doom” ( p. 241). Wendy Haslem focuses on one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ‘Ted’ (series 2, episode 11) as a contemporary revision of the ‘Bluebeard’ fairy tale. Crucial to ‘Ted’ and ‘Bluebeard’ is the charismatic, but ultimately duplicitous protagonist. Ted appears to be ‘the perfect husband’, but is actually a dangerous killer-robot, a throwback to 1950’s values trapped within an obsessive cycle of seduction and deceit. The links between Bluebeard and Ted are explored, as is the interdiction, its violation and the vital role played by curiosity in the tales. It identifies the complexity of vision as it conceals and reveals the secrets of the domestic space.

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