Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In Which The Author Becomes A Rabid Fangirl

I'm breaking cardinal rule #2 of internet posting: posting before coffee (rule #1 is, of course, no PUI-posting under the influence). But I have quite the busy day ahead of me, so I decided that sleepiness was the better part of valor. What is so busy about today, you ask? Well, in an hour or so, I'm helping a friend move. Then I'm meeting another friend for coffee. There is, of course, the much-anticipated Netflix arrival of discs 3 and 4 of X-Files season 4 (which will get its own post momentarily), and let's not forget that pesky little dissertation. Notice it's last on the list? Right.

But as no power in the 'verse can stop me from posting pre-caffeine, I'm going to do it.

Whew. Sorry about that, Gentle Reader. You don't know it, of course, but I was just called away from this post by 1) a phone call from the husband reminding me of something, 2) which reminded me of my coffee with Mommy, Ph.D., 3) which further reminded me that one of the purposes of our coffee date, besides the fact that we are Very Busy and Important People (tm) and the stars finally aligned for us to meet, is to bring her our fondue pot, 4) which reminded me to get said fondue pot, 5) and plates, 6) and since I was up, I decided to make coffee.

Now, caffeine is coursing through my system--God bless you, Community with Chicory--and we shall begin.

Part II: The Whedonverse

I have a confession.
I didn't trust Joss Whedon until 2002.
I know, I know. Those Whedonites among you scream heresy and call foul. I am Less Than A True Fan. But please, let me explain.

I saw my first Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode when I was a junior in college (and that, Dear Reader, was a long time ago indeed). I was working that sometimes-dreaded but never-avoidable college job, Retail, and I was staying at my parents' house for the weekend, getting ready for work. As these things happen, and as one cannot dress and read at the same time, I had the television on. On the screen was a fascinating little show, something I didn't recognize. But there was a wee blonde girl, and several of her friends, and some odd British man all fighting against this one, rather attractive... vampire?
Hmm. At this time in my life, I was inclined to wear some dark clothing and read Byron and M. Shelley, so I was rather intrigued. I sat down to watch. And watch. And I fell a little bit in love with the fairy tale of the boyfriend gone bad, the girl who had to kill him to save the world, and that last moment in which he turned good again, got his soul back, and she had to kill him anyways.
It was the last episode of season 2 of Buffy.
As I was running late for work, I made a mental note: watch Buffy in the fall.
Then I went back to college and didn't have a television.

Flash forward several more years. I had long since abandoned my mental note: watch Buffy. In fact, I sneered, actually *sneered* at the idea of a petite blonde Vampire Slayer. What an asinine concept, I said. What utter balderdash. My students, my freaking high school students, begged me to give Buffy one more chance. I wavered, until I found out there was a musical episode, and the sneering, I'm sorry to say, began again.

That summer, before I left teaching high school to start the Ph.D. program, my then fiance (and now husband) watched the entire run of Buffy. Smart man that he is, he showed me choice episodes: "Hush," "Gingerbread," "Once More With Feeling" (the dreaded musical episode!). I was intrigued, but as I refuse to watch any television show unless I can see it from the beginning, he went out, bought me a DVD player and the first season, and sent me home.
Three days later, season two came out, and I bought that.
A few days after that, I was A Fan.

How to explain Buffy to those who are like I was, refusing to watch a television show based on such a seemingly silly concept? She's a Vampire Slayer, for Christ's sake. That already suspends disbelief. And a petite blonde with super-strength and a mission to save the world? Never has society encountered such dichotomy. Well, but it has, over and over again. See, that's what makes Buffy *smart*.

I watched Angel, too, and can honestly say that the second half of Angel Season Five is better than anything on television, ever. And Firefly? I watched it every Friday night of its short reign on television. I even delayed going out with friends, or going out at all, in the hopes that someone, somewhere, would know that I Was Watching, and wouldn't cancel the show.
(It was cancelled anyways, after a very short run, and I will never forgive Fox for it). I saw Serenity, opening day. I read Whedon's run of Astonishing X-Men. I wait with baited breath for Whedon's Wonder Woman movie because really, what man can write conflicted superpowered heroines better than he?

Absolutely no one.

I even went to the Buffy Academic Conference, boys and girls, and presented a critical paper to an audience of eager, academic fans. That, I think, demonstrates a level of geekiness even I didn't know I possessed.

But why, why, why? Everyone asks me why. Why Buffy? Why Whedon? Why a western space opera? Why a souled vampire private investigator? Why, why, why?
And why, why, why can I only answer with "it's the smartest stuff on television"? I've reached a point in my fandom that defies explanation. I find myself tongue-tied, blushing, and toeing the ground as I try to explain my brainy crush on three very odd television shows.

Why, you ask?

Because Buffy stretches the limits. It refuses a wheel of morality (turn, turn, turn--tell us the lesson we shall learn). It uses monsters to talk about school violence, or premature intimacy, or responsibility. It shows us, again and again, that the humans, not the monsters, are the scariest Big Bads. It takes a bizarre and insane idea, a musical episode, and instead of letting it be filler, uses it to reveal three HUGE storylines. And it does this through the figure of a diminutive blonde. That's just *smart*.
And because Angel redefines the idea of the tragic hero, constantly struggling against the scariest demon of them all: the demon inside. Whether through the figure of Angel, or Spike, or the once-loathed now-loved Cordelia, Whedon pens complex characters who try so very hard to Do The Right Thing (tm), regardless of personal cost. But they fall. As all tragic heroes do, they fall, again and again. And God, do we love them for it.
And because Firefly gives us a vision of the future that is not so different from our vision or now, or our vision of then. Because there are no aliens to fight out in the black; just men turned mad at the edge of space. Because that is scarier than any abduction, any probe. And also, because he takes the figure of the prostitute with the heart of gold--standard in any good Western--and makes her an elite member of society, with a position and caste respected and revered throughout the 'verse.

But the rabid fangirl in me is panting to be let free. She wants to tell you something.
Because it's *good*.

Trust me, yeah? I mean, come on. I'm smart. I've got fancypants degrees that attest to that. Give it a try, would you? I've got everything on DVD. You can borrow them, you know. All you need to do is ask.


At 6:55 PM, Blogger MegsG-H said...

All right, all right. I just know that you're writing directly to me (!), and I am tempted by the claim of the fancypants degrees. So I'm asking, just for a single season of Buffy to start. And if I fail prelims because of this, you've got some splainin' to do to the director!


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