Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale

Synopsis

How can Buffy's religious symbolism be squared with creator Joss Whedon's professed atheism? Is Buffy truly a Kierkegaardian knight of faith? Do Faith's corruption and return to the good life demonstrate Platonic eudaimonism? Or do they illustrate the flaws in Nietzsche's superman concept? What does the show's treatment of vampires, demons, and other entities say about ethical attitudes toward nonhumans? These are some of the questions asked and answered in this lively collection of essays that link classical philosophy to the long-running series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy's status as the leading vehicle for exploring the evil underlying everyday life has made it ripe for the kind of witty, penetrating philosophical analysis this book delivers.

Excerpt

Thanks to the organized efforts of fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS), I know that the origins of this book can be traced to April 21st, 1997, when I watched my first episode of the series. I wish I could say that I had seen the show from its beginnings, but like so many viewers, then as well as now, I had a near-visceral reaction to the show’s name. Why watch a show based on a harshly-reviewed movie from several years ago? Surely it was only a desperate attempt by a new network to curry favor with the coveted teen audience. And how are you supposed to take a character named Buffy seriously? However, in the five weeks between its premiere broadcast and the time I watched my first episode, I had heard enough from people whose judgment I respected to give the show a try.

In retrospect, it’s hard for me to see the show with innocent eyes. I recently re-watched the episode I saw first, “Witch.” I can see that there was some clever writing (BUFFY: Mom, I’ve accepted that you’ve had sex. I am not ready to know that you had Farrah hair. JOYCE: This is Gidget hair. Don’t they teach you anything in history?), fast pacing, and a rather nice twist in the plot late in the episode. However, on first viewing I would not have had an inkling of what the show was (having missed the two-part series opener) or what it was going to become. I would have assumed that the central guest character in the episode was just that—a guest character; not a character who would occasionally recur and then play a pivotal role in Season Six over 100 episodes later.

I found myself tuning in to another episode of the series, and another, and another. By June 2nd I was hooked, yet nothing I had seen up to that point prepared me for the Season One finale, “Prophecy Girl,” aired that evening. Joss Whedon, the series creator, has stated: “I designed Buffy to be an icon, to be an emotional experience, to be loved in a way that other shows . . .

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