buffy is awesomesauce.

| Friday, June 4, 2010
Today's Tune: Magic

In my obsession with all things YA, I also occasionally dip into youth culture - television, internet sensations, that sort of thing. It's helpful to have a bird's eye view of what teenagers are really into, and why they're into it.

As part of a recent binge on youth culture, I've been rewatching TV shows from my teen years. It's fun remembering how I felt the first time I watched certain episodes, and reliving it. Also eye-opening to look at them with fresh eyes and figure out why I enjoyed them so much.

One show in particular I adored as a teen was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I'd watch it with my mom every week. I'm a big Joss Whedon fan in general, and Buffy started that love. Watching now, I've really paused to wonder - why did I think this show kicked so much ass?

For starters: familiar characters turned completely on their ear. Buffy's blond, pretty, adored by boys, occasionally ditzy... sounds like your stereotypical blond cheerleader character, yeah? Or every girl in every horror movie ever who dies in the opening credits because she keeps looking behind her and trips. But wait! She's actually the self-sufficient, super-powered heroine of the story. The apparently frail, doe-eyed girl is actually a stake-wielding badass who can take down everything from vampires to THE OLDEST AND MOST ULTIMATE EVIL OF ALL TIME.

So, there's that. We also have the tortured vampire with a soul (which, okay, is overdone now, but Angel was the original Edward, really), the trusted adult mentor with a shady past, the shy little bookworm who becomes an immensely powerful witch... the list goes on.

Next, there was angst. Oh, such angst. No one does angst like Mr. Whedon. Not only was Buffy the defender against all things creepy and evil, she was a teenager. With teen issues. Feeling like she doesn't fit in, boyfriend troubles, friend troubles, no date to the prom, struggling in school... all incorporated into the show. This show was on the dark side, so there were also themes of death, loss, domestic abuse, even rape and drug use. Pertinent issues that were dealt with without turning every episode into a Very Special After-School Episode.

Granted, as Buffy the Vampire Slayer progressed and Buffy and her friends moved on to college, the show took on a much more adult tone. And yet, that was one more thing that I loved so much - it didn't remain stagnant. The characters grew up and progressed. You know, like real people. Several of the main players went through dramatic changes over the seven years the show was on the air. They battled personal demons, fell from grace, and had to find a way to fix their relationships and themselves.

One more thing Joss is masterful at? The well-woven plot. Not only was there a great deal of foreshadowing for future events (sometimes even several seasons beforehand), but he's amazing at adaptation. One of the show's best-loved characters, Spike, was a dark horse out of nowhere. He was only supposed to be there for a few episodes, but the fan base loved him so much that Joss figured out a way to weave him back in, and even make him integral to the storyline. It takes a good deal of talent and creativity to look back to what you've already written and figure out how to tie it together later in the story. It rarely felt forced or contrived.

So, we have atypical characters, balanced angst, progression, and well-drawn plot. But no discussion of Buffy would be complete without mentioning Buffy Speak. The dialogue of the show was witty, entertaining, and still believable teenspeak. Short quips, pop culture references that didn't sound forced, snark... even the whining was well done. It wasn't convoluted and pseudo-deep, or exceedingly childish and slang-filled. A great balance. Probably not something easily transferred to the written word (the actors' delivery of the lines is always half the charm), but worth checking out nonetheless.

And last of all, Buffy never got boring. The pace was always fast, the tension always high. When the interest in the paranormal waned, there were strong character-driven storylines to fall back on. Joss isn't afraid to kill his darlings - literally. When I watch Buffy or any other Whedon show, I know I'm going to be in for a fun ride with balanced action, tension, hilarity, and emotional wreckage. Plus awesome, powerful, flawed, amazing, fragile, kick-ass female characters, which I'm always a fan of.

Now, if only I could figure out how to capture something like this in the medium of the novel. Hm.


{ KarenG } at: June 4, 2010 at 11:42 AM said...

Capture it and you'll have a hit on your hands!

{ fairyhedgehog } at: June 5, 2010 at 1:55 AM said...

I was an adult when Buffy came out and I wasn't impressed at first but I came to love it.

What sold it to me was the characters and the interactions between them.

{ Tahereh } at: June 6, 2010 at 12:13 PM said...

it would be amazing if we could just bottle the essence of everything that's WORKED. haha. so true.

great post!!

and best of luck with everything :D

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