“Catching up with…Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
April 9th, 2010
Into each generation a television show is introduced.
One show in all of television, a chosen one.
One created with the strength and skill to spawn fandom, to spread their gospel and increase their numbers.
This show, of course, is Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the winner (along with Angel, which I plan to watch “chronologically” along with Buffy when the time comes) of the Reader’s Choice poll to decide which show would be featured first in Cultural Learnings’ Cultural Catchup Project (which will start in earnest tomorrow).
This is not a surprising result, of course: as Alan Sepinwall pointed out to me, placing a sci-fi/fantasy show in an internet poll against shows from other genres isn’t exactly a fair fight, so I knew going in that Buffy (along with Angel) was probably going to take this one. And if I’m being honest with you, this result is both tremendously exciting and sort of terrifying as we set out on this journey together.
On the exciting side of things, I’ll finally understand a whole host of conversations and references that have previously made very little sense. Firefly was my first experience with the “Whedonverse,” and while I’ve remained on the bandwagon with Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible there is still that sense that I’m missing out on something. I know that Eliza Dushku and Amy Acker were on Buffy or Angel, but I don’t know why I should be excited about that fact, or whether I would personally be excited about that fact at all. Through sites like Whedonesque I know that the Whedon fan base is extremely powerful and extremely loyal, and to know that it was Buffy that started it all makes watching the show akin to entering a whole new world: now, all of the discussions about the characters, the actors, the creative struggles of later seasons, and everything else will be conversations that I can take part in, and this seems like the kind of fandom that I want to be able to participate in and better understand.
However, on the terrifying side of things, a lot has already been written about the show, and I guess I worry about having anything new to add to the equation. While I generally think the argument that “someone else has said it before/better” is defeatist and that writing about things can help both author and reader hash through ideas from a different (if similar) perspective, there is still a worry that I’m entering into some very well-traveled territory with this particular strategy. As an example, Noel Murray wrote about the first four seasons of the show at The A.V. Club, and I have to presume (I’m avoiding spoilers) that those writeups are as intelligent and thoughtful as the rest of his work; as a result, there’s this prevailing sense that my plan to write about the show as I go along may be one large redundancy.
But after watching the show’s pilot, which I’ll be writing about tomorrow, I came to the all-important realization that the excitement of watching the show for the first time and finally being “in the know” is likely going to carry me past any sort of writer’s block that may occur. Heck, I wasn’t even really intending on writing this piece until I really sat down and tried to think about how to confront the two-hour pilot, so even the frustrations of this process are starting to force out some content before we even get going. This process may well become as much about my experience watching the show as it is about the show itself (I’ll try to keep things balanced), and I’m hopeful that those who voted for the show (or didn’t vote for the show but remain interested) will stick with me as I embark on this rather epic journey.
In terms of timeline, I really don’t know: I’m starting the show this weekend but don’t have a lot of time to devote to it in the next few days, so I’ll be starting in earnest later in the week. I’m sort of playing it by ear, similar to my plans for what I’m going to write about, and so I might be writing about Buffy and Angel into June or I might be finished with the shows by mid-May. Either way, the plan is to write about the show(s) every weekend, with either one longer piece or two shorter pieces (that, considering I am writing them, will still probably be considered long by 99% of you), and there’s every chance that I might even pop in with a brief weekday commentary (or a Twitter-based discussion/conversation) should the situation arise.
Otherwise, though, it’s just what it sounds like: it’s officially time to start catching up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer – see you at Sunnydale.
You can follow along with the project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be hosting a link to each installment.