Against a Buffy Reboot

The LAT has a post up about the writer of the new Buffy The Vampire Slayer film reboot, Whit Anderson. The film is set to proceed without BTVS creator Joss Whedon, and Anderson calls on feminism to explain why she loves the character:

“I didn’t really watch much television at all, but I always watched ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ that was the one show I would watch when I got home. I just loved this character. I was the same age as Buffy and it was so rare to have a female lead character on TV in those days who was strong and capable and smart but also allowed to be feminine.”

Sure, that’s true. It was rare. (It still is.) But that’s a reason to write fanfic, not a new film.

Geoff Boucher explains that the film will be a completely new story, and that a reboot isn’t such a bad idea:

Anderson [...] said she will take the touchstones of the Whedon world but frame them in “a new story” that is very much of the moment. She cited Christopher Nolan’s revival of Batman as a supreme example of how a familiar character and revered mythology can be brought to the big screen with a vital new vision.

I think, for most Whedon fans who had a visceral objection to a reboot, there is a feeling that there’s no such thing as “a vital new vision” of Buffy, unless it’s been created by Joss.

This could be kind of a dangerous line of thinking, though, because Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the 1992 film, was perfectly terrible. As someone who owns it (in one of those Target two-movies-in-one package deals — it comes with the so-bad-it’s-good Drive Me Crazy, which was written by Rob Thomas, creator of BTVS heir Veronica Mars, which is an amusing pairing) I can say that and mean it. Whedon has also complained about the way his script was interpreted by the director, which may be why, as soon as he had the chance, he became the sole arbiter of Buffy mythology. He had a team of writers around him who advanced the plot, but it’s his vision they executed.

So the argument goes, that if it’s not Joss, then it’s not Buffy.

I have seen some people say that the new film is no different than the aforementioned Batman reboot, or any number of re-imaginings of superheroes on the big screen. I almost buy that argument. Comics are wonderful precisely because things like Superman: Earth One can happen: New art, new fights, and characters that retain the things you love, but are all slightly different.

But I don’t think this is the same. One person created this universe and has had near-complete control over it. Many of the things that make Buffy Buffy, are specific to Whedon. Watch Dollhouse or Firefly or Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog, and in addition to familiar faces, you’ll also see the same strengths (and weaknesses). Contra Anderson, what’s Buffy’s struggle with her duty and destiny if it’s not followed up by a quip or a Whedonesque bad joke?

And some things still remain unclear about the project, but since one of the producers has said this isn’t “your high-school Buffy,” it forces some questions. Is this a reboot of the film? Or of the series? Buffy the series wasn’t just about the slayer. Her friends, her enemies, and the high school all made the show what it was. Unlike most superhero mythology, the secondary characters don’t just serve as context for our heroine; they all have inner lives, and some, like Willow and Angel, are heroes in their own right. Even when an episode was Buffy-focused, her conflicts with friends and family often took precedence over fights with demons. And in the early seasons, the stress of high school and college events were often echoed in whatever Monster of the Week she was dealing with.

That’s not to say that Anderson can’t do a newly imagined Buffy or that it has to be terrible. As long as I’m writing this, I think it’s time for a little Real Talk™ about BTVS: A lot of it wasn’t great. The first season is remarkably bad. The later seasons have a tendency to be overwrought. The puns and quips become groanworthy. Angel leaves. Etc. And like I said before, Whedon’s weaknesses come through in his subsequent series.

With that said, the beauty of his body of work is that you know it’s his and, for good or ill, you know what you’re getting when you tune into a new Whedon project. I’m excited about him directing The Avengers because I know he can do amazing things with an ensemble cast. (Again, Buffy isn’t Buffy without the ensemble.)

Maybe I’m taking this too seriously, though. After all, Whedon’s statement poked fun at both Anderson and himself: “This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths — just because they can’t think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my Avengers idea that I made up myself.”

I have to be honest. I don’t like the idea of a reboot. I also don’t think it’s the worst thing to ever happen. I think it’s unlikely that it will be any good. But I doubt it’ll be any worse than the worst things Whedon has done to his characters, and it’ll probably go down in pop culture history as a blip.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Against a Buffy Reboot

  1. Pingback: Against a Buffy Reboot. « PostBourgie

  2. That last paragraph is quite right. Actually, this whole post is a solid take on the Whedonverse. Well done!

  3. Well, I can’t complain outright about it until I see it in action. Buffy is kinda fallen out of the loop, so how else could they bring it back to wring some money out of it? Have Geller return and now show how life is at work, in a world free of vampires and demons? What did she major in college anyway? Didn’t she die like twice during that time? Those enrollment papers must have gotten confusing after awhile…

    I think a reboot is the right idea. The ending seasons of Buffy were the worst of all in my opinion. I’d say if I could pinpoint it, was when Willow went all Black Witch and flayed the dude, if not the day she turned gay overnight because Xander was all over Cordelia and not her. After that point the show went from “Girl Power” to oppressive and merciless beating of the viewer that “women are strong and dag nabbit they have rights too!” (A billion slayers in training, Mary Sue ending that All girls are now awakened as slayers!, Spike suddenly wanting to rape an also suddenly powerless Buffy. She can beat him to a pulp, but can’t fight him off in that *one* scene suddenly? Contrived drama and info-tainment does not a good storyline make.)

    No, a reboot would be a great thing. They wrote themselves into one messed up corner, a deus ex machina is definitely called for in restarting from near-scratch. How this new team handles it, remains to be seen of course. Let’s hope they avoid Twilight/True Blood stereotypes, though. Unless she is shown slaying everyone related to those series as well, of course :P

  4. Pingback: Case of the Mornings | San Francisco, For the Win

  5. Pingback: On Whedon’s Feminism | Shani O. Hilton

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