The recent resurgence of vampires in popular culture has led to myriad discussions about the meanings of these and other “demons”. In contrast to the “demons” they need to dispatch, the heroes become champions of light and truth (in, for example, Dracula – either the novel or the various movies), representations of ‘girl power’ and maturation (Buffy), or symbols of the power of (and struggle for) personal redemption (Angel). Jennifer Dowling takes a different tact by delving into the characterization of the heroes on the television programmes Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. The focus is on the main protagonists, and more importantly, the cluster characters – those with whom the audience tends to empathize. A discussion of these heroes as they mature into adulthood or come to terms with their often self-imposed exiles will show that, as the shows evolve, cultural and ethnic heterogeneity is erased and the characters become increasingly homogeneous.
Edwina Bartlem explores the representations of lesbianism and coming out in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Historically, lesbianism was almost invisible in mainstream cinema and television until recently. When it did appear, it was highly coded and the lesbian characters were often depicted as psychotic killers, vampires, satanists, witches and ball-breaking bitches. Alternative representations of lesbian characters fortunately began to appear more in popular culture during the 1990s – as is evident in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This article traces the transformation of Willow from a mild-mannered, geek-girl to a powerful, magic-addicted, dark-witch. It considers how Buffy the Vampire Slayer has, on the one hand, reworked representations of lesbians in the vampire genre, while, on the other hand, has perpetuated some stereotypical and stylistic tropes of lesbian vampire films.
In this essay, Erma Petrova argues that, whereas the first seasons of Buffy focused on external threats that sought to corrupt the order of the world, the later seasons shifted the threat towards the internal – the result being that the show’s main characters embraced a side of themselves that was also evil, irrational, or dangerous. The Slayer is the one who must maintain the difference between good and evil and makes sure that good doesn’t become evil. At the same time, she is the most ambiguous one, the one who is ready to cut all ties with family and friends and kill people she loves, if necessary. The requirement that she know exactly which side she must stay on (regardless of where those she loves are) gives her the responsibility to keep the other “other” at all costs even at the cost of becoming an “other” herself. Paradoxically, she protects the line that separates good from evil by crossing it and by becoming more and more “other.”
Series creator Joss Whedon has said that the idea for Buffy came from all the horror movies he had seen featuring a helpless young blonde who would almost always be the first to die. He felt she ‘needed a better image.’ Janelle Tassone argues that that image can be found in the status of Buffy as a Valley Girl – starting from her first appearance on the big screen in 1992 when audiences were first exposed to Buffy’s bleach blonde Valley Girl roots. By combining this persona with the traditional female hero of horror films, Buffy has evolved into a transformed Valley Girl: a strong and improved valley girl. But just how does Buffy represent the Valley Girl and the heroine if she does not possess one of the most significant indicators of teen independence and coming-of-age: the driver’s license?
Matthew Sharpe brings the Lacan-informed critical theory of Slavoj Zizek to bear upon Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This essay looks at both the diegetic universe of Buffy, and considers television. as a ‘symptomatic’ product of the current later capitalist culturo-political conjuncture. In particular, as the subtitle indicates, Buffy is considered in order to raise questions concerning where we might stand today vis-a-vis the enlightenment project of opposing all things spectral and vampyric in the name of rendering social and political life transparent to reason. Following Zizek, who argues that later modern social reproduction is entrenched in an essential cynicism, it is suggested that contemporary power can always laugh at itself. How this positions Buffy’s light-hearted self-referentiality is the concern.
Feminist critique of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has tended to describe Buffy as a symbol of female empowerment. In this essay, Gwyneth Bodger considers both the character and the series to be very problematic, and undertakes a revised feminist critique of the show. Exposing the Buffyverse as patriarchal fairy tale that seeks to subvert rather than promote feminism, she suggests that women in the series are portrayed in stereotypical ways that serve to empty femininity, leaving the women as functional (fantasy) symbols only: the bluestocking (Willow, Jenny Calendar), the dumb but pretty cheerleader (Cordelia and Harmony), the witch (Willow, Tara), the sexual hysteric (Dru), the madwoman (Glory). The defining feature of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a liminality that, at once, advocates and refutes positivist feminist readings.