Ahh, it seems fitting to make this a Buffy the Vampire Slayer edition of Throwback Thursday. Yesterday, I watched this video of a commencement speech given by the amazing genius creator of Miss Buffy Summers, Joss Whedon. You think that's hyperbole, wait until you see the name the poster gave the video. All the video is missing is the drama button (which I totally want as my ringtone) before he utters, "You are going to DIE!"
This morning at my beloved Flavorwire I found this article, Joss Whedon's Guide to Life.
Back in 2005 I read a book called What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide. What can I say, I was always a huge BTVS fan and I was very curious as to what the author, Jana Reiss (Masters of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary; PhD in religion from Columbia University) had to say about Buffy and her role in higher thinking and spirituality. Without further ado, my review, circa April 2005:
This book was fascinating. I was really leery going in. I'm not a fan of self-help and guidance books. They don't seem to me to be the altruistic vessels of hope and promise they try to convince people they are. Instead, they are just a means to wealth for the author. He/she doesn't give a rat's ass about helping anyone but him/herself. Even the genre name is a misnomer. Self-help? But aren't you looking for help from someone else if you are buying these books?
After self-help books I have qualms with the whole spirituality, moral compass, religion thing. And, the cashing in by jumping on the gravy train thing, too. In this case that would be the popularity of Buffy and the spirituality, pop culture religion gravy trains in this case. As it turns out, education utilizing people's enthusiasm with pop culture staples is not necessarily a bad idea. But, every Joe Schmo publishing a book based on their ideas from a TV show they watched is crazy.
You know how you watch the news and they ask totally inappropriate and ridiculous questions of some toothless guy who's getting up to stretch after a fitful sleep over a sewer grate? Then they follow with some "career gal" type coming out of Starbucks. The idea is that we alll want to know what the "man on the street" thinks... about how long the quarterback held the ball... if the baseball player took steroids... about what Michael Jackson really did with those boys... whether they agree with a person they've never met on a decision they never had to make in a situation they know nothing about. It's ludicrous.
As far as the religious/morals books go, I'm not big on being told who's evil and who's not. Who gets to make that call? I don't get why anyone can speak with authority about symbolism they can't possibly prove. Don't tell me what you've decided is ruining civilization. You are in no better position to determine this than I am. Hey, the fall of Rome came way before the first violent cartoon or R-rated movie. It's easy for men to decide that abortion is wrong. People in positions of power make decisions that only affect others, and detrimentally, at that. I'm tired of people hiding behind God. It's usually like they're taking that position and using it to hold their hand over his head, like giving him the 'bunny ears' or 'devil horns.'
Not long ago the comic strip Non Sequitur showed a tombstone with the epitaph, "I'm telling God what you're doing in his name." A woman standing next to the grave explains that the deceased planned on there being more neo-conservatives at his funeral. So, I know other people see this. Why isn't everyone seeing this? The people who talk loudest and nonstop do not necessarily become right or worthy or good. They are just loud and obnoxious. Somehow this fact eludes people. Repeat after me. Opinion is not fact; loudness and aggressiveness are not truth or proof. If you print a zillion copies of it and stick it in the window of a bookstore, it doesn't prove anything - not truth - not readability - not anything!
So how did I come to read this book with a title reminiscent of dollar store key chains and bracelets? Well, it was a fluke. I was looking for TV programs on DVD in the library's computer system and stumbled across it. My curiosity got the best of me, so I requested it from the library and they very kindly delivered it to the branch near my office and I picked her up and took her home.
Jana Reiss is obviously a big fan of BTVS, as well she should be. I've seen every episode, with the exception of the musical one, and that was a matter of principle. I currently own the first four season on DVD and season one of Angel (Note: I've since added to that collection and watched all the episodes many times). I explained to my mother what I love about BTVS. 1) I like my evil overt. Scaly with fangs and horns. I want to be able to pick it out of a crowd. (Not that you truly always get that with Buffy. Often some of the best guys are fangy, to say the least and plenty of normal looking folks are really really evil) 2) Although for all intents and purposes this is a 'teen' show, Joss Whedon is my age. He writes stories I identify with. He throws pop-culture references into the mix that fit with my experiences. No one who was a teen when this show went on could possibly crack up over a Debarge reference. C'mon. What have El and Bunny and the rest of those sibs done for us lately? They had a seriously short shelf life.
Jana Reiss looks more deeply into BTVS. She picks out interesting things. She plots character development and themes from an objective distance, pulling out information that, on some level you got, but couldn't have really put together so succinctly in the episode by episode way you traveled through the Buffyverse. She parallels the characters and their story lines with various spiritual ideologies. It was really fascinating.
I liked that there was no moralizing, no judgment, just acceptance of the characters. Willow's sexuality is what it is. In fact, Ms. Reiss refers to Willow and Tara as having the healthiest of all relationships on the show. There is a right and a wrong. There are consequences for actions. These are lessons that people should learn. Jana Reiss embraces the sins and the sinners. She looks deep into the souls and not only likes what she sees, she tells you why. I actually enjoyed this book very much. I saw a different view of a TV show that I loved. I guess it's time to pull out the DVDs and watch Buffy and the gang with some of this new insight..
Okay. That's all for today. I hope you enjoyed my take on Jana Reiss's book. Until tomorrow, happy reading!!