Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buffy Blog: Introduction

I didn’t watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it made its debut in on the WB in 1997. It is hard to remember why, retrospective memory sometimes plays tricks on you, but I think it was because I rarely watched the WB thinking it a network for tweens. And then there was the title. I had not seen the film and I seem to recall that when I heard it mentioned once on some media outlet my initial thought was that with a title like that it had to be the usual American teen fluff. I assumed the TV show would be the same tweeny fluff I assumed the film was. I didn’t realise that the TV show had a more dramatic thrust along with parodic and satiric twists than did the film.

It wasn’t until I was channel surfing one evening in October, 10 October 2000 to be specific, that I happened upon what turned out to be the Buffy episode “The Replacement”. I ended up watching the episode and was blown away by the depth, the emotional intensity, the thoughtfulness, the use of metaphors of fantasy to get at real life dramatic issues, and the superb acting in the episode. Those who made this show, I thought, were people, artists and craftspeople, who not only knew a little something about storytelling but also knew something about the visual grammar of cinema. Once I had sampled Buffy I became an addict. And since Buffy was in reruns at the time, the local WB showed Buffy season one and Buffy season three over the weekends, I was able to get my Buffy fix regularly and able quickly to catch up on the arcs at the centre of the programme. I had become a buffanatic.

As I began to look up things about Buffy online—Buffy hit as the Internet was becoming more prominent and there were tons of things about Buffy on the Web—I realized that I was not the only buffanatic out there. Additionally, and without me knowing about it, my best friend discovered Buffy around the same time I did allowing both of us to experience some of the joys of watching Buffy collectively as we dissected and analysed and reveled in the cinematic and narrative joys of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And this joy I have gotten from Buffy, intellectual, academic, and just plain storytelling, is the reason I have decided to blog about Buffy on this blogsite.

In my Buffy Blog I have tried to avoid looking at what others have said about individual episodes Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In this blog I have tried to do what was, once upon a time, thought to be essential to the study a text, start with the exegesis of the text and then and only then move on to hermeneutics or interpretation and homiletics or apologetics and polemics of a text.

Though I have tried to keep extra exegetic interpretation to a minimum I realize that even exegesis is not straightforward task and that sometimes it is necessary to go to other sources to help one figure out what a text means. I have on occasion gone to what the creators of the Buffy text, the writers and particularly Joss Whedon, Buffy's creator, have said about the episodes they wrote in order to ascertain the intent of the texts they wrote. Call me old fashioned if you want. But sometimes the old ways of reading a text are old because they have stood the test of time. My attempt at a hermeneutics, a hermeneutics grounded in exegetical analysis, of aspects of Buffy can be found in my Reading Buffy Synoptically Blogs here on I, Ron, Eek.

I offer this “old fashioned” old school approach as a corrective to the crystal ball textualism that dominates literature, film, and television analysis these days. While I agree that texts like Buffy arise in contexts, social and cultural contexts, a good old perspective that predates crystal ball textualism, I don’t think the literary, film, and television analysis that has arisen in the wake of the 1960s, an analysis that blends elements of Marxism, psychoanalysis, feminism into a kind of inherently inconsistent frankensteinian hybrid, is the way to get at the social and cultural contexts of literary, film, and television texts. I still prefer the old Marxist approach, the Marxist approach still represented in John Berger’s BBC documentary, Ways of Seeing, one of the fathers and mothers of the male gaze hypothesis. I still prefer the old standby that recognizes that authorial intent, complicated though it may be and socially and culturally contexted that it is, is still an essential part of a historically grounded textual analysis. Oh, and I still believe that a really good analysis of audience readings of texts must actually be based on the perspectives of readers in the real world of book reading, film watching, and television viewing rather than exclusively, as so many crystal ball textual readings are, on the perspectives of academics embedded in particularly temporal and spatial social and cultural contexts. Colour me skeptical of the academy.

The musings on Buffy that follow are not meant to be authoritative or comprehensive and are more informal than formal. They contain my “readings” of Buffy though I have tried to ground these “readings” in an analysis of the actual Buffy text.

I have some thanks to mete out before I fade out. I have relied on the shooting scripts put up online by Buffyworld so thanks Buffyworld. This doesn’t mean, by the way, that I think that the shooting scripts are gospel when it comes to the Buffy episode text. I have also watched each and every episode of Buffy by now, seven or eight times in fact, most but not all of these times on DVD. I have taken notes on each of the episodes as broadcast and these observations have found their way into this Buffy Blog. Finally I want to thank those who I have watched and talked Buffy with. So thanks Bonnie and Gerry for watching Buffy and talking with me about this wonderful television show. You have added immensely to my understanding of Joss Whedon’s truly great TV show. And oh yes, thanks to all the commentators on Buffy I have read whose ideas influenced me or which I have I ripped off, consciously or unconsciously, in this blog.

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