View Full Version : Scholars Lecturing on 'Buffy' - Seriously

29-05-04, 18:44
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (May 28) - It's tough for scholars to be taken seriously when their subject is a TV show about a California blonde fighting evil in a high school built on a gateway to hell.

Particularly when the title is as campy as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

But enough professors and writers study the comedic drama and its spinoff, "Angel," to hold a deadly serious academic conference here this weekend attracting more than 325 people.

Buffyologists from as far away as Singapore were presenting 190 papers on topics ranging from "slayer slang" to "postmodern reflections on the culture of consumption" to "Buffy and the new American Buddhism."

There was even a self-conscious talk by David Lavery, an English professor at Middle Tennessee State University, on Buffy studies "as an academic cult."

Lavery and Rhonda Wilcox, a professor at Gordon College in Georgia, co-hosted the conference and are known as the "father and mother" of Buffy studies. They acknowledged they have endured a lot of ridicule from colleagues, but said that's part of the topic's allure.

"It keeps the uncool people away. If you can't get past the title you have no business watching," said Lavery, who co-wrote a book on Buffy with Wilcox.

"It's a badge of honor," said Wilcox, adding that the feeling is similar to a central theme of the show. "The main characters are outsiders. Others are looking at them funny, but they know they're doing the right thing so they do it anyway."

When Wilcox first heard the show's title, she thought "it would either be stupid or the anti-stupid. Within the first few minutes I realized how wonderful and clever it was."

Wilcox, who wrote her doctoral thesis at Duke University about Charles Dickens, compared the show's depth and texture to his 19th century serial novels. "I think it's a great work of art."

It's also become quite a teaching tool.

College courses across the globe are devoted to the show, which was canceled last year, and secondary schools in Australia and New Zealand also provide Buffy classes. Episodes often are used to reach troubled teens, Lavery said.

Geraldine Bloustien, a professor who teaches Buffy among classes on communication studies and media production at the University of South Australia, coordinated a similarly popular academic Buffy conference last year in Adelaide.

"It's fascinating that here is a piece of television enjoyed all over the world," she said. "It has a coherence and a depth I hadn't seen for such a long time. It's like `Sesame Street,' which you can appreciate on several levels."

About a dozen scholarly books on Buffy have been written, including one from the prestigious Oxford University Press coming out next year.

Jana Riess, a religious book editor for Publishers Weekly, said she has received tremendous response to her book "What Would Buffy Do? A Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide." On Friday, the conference bookstore sold out its copies and she had to bring extras in from her car.

She said she first got "sucked" into the show when she was pregnant and up late one night. "I was so entertained, and then I was embarrassed that I was so entertained.

"But then some of the best conversations I had about spiritual and moral issues were sparked by scenes from Buffy, like what happens after we die and whether the needs of one should outweigh the needs of the many."

29-05-04, 18:55
This isn't anything new... http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/c-3.gif

29-05-04, 20:12
I know I did my sociology A-level on The Tomb Raider Community but that wasn't anything as major as this. http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/smile.gif I know that somewhere, you can study The Simpsons, David Beckham and English soap opera Coronations Street. http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/tongue.gif

30-05-04, 02:44
It seems kind of dumb to do studies on these types of things, but it's understandable when you take into account the impact that they've had on modern culture.

In the early 90s, The Simpsons made "Eat My Shorts, "Ay Carumba!", "Don't Have A Cow Man", and other sayings into popular catch phrases. Goes to show how much television plays into our lives.

Somehow, I don't see "Do It Like Rachmaninoff!" becoming very popular (even if Rachi has been dead a few decades ;) ).

Literatures from the 1930s had a revival in the late 80s and early 90s. I know I'm looking forward more to the next revival than any new trend set by shows.

30-05-04, 03:37
It's no more dumb than studying Shakespeare...

30-05-04, 18:31
There's a difference though in classic literature that's been around for centuries, and a tv show about a high school girl saving the world from vampires. :rolleyes:

30-05-04, 18:44
Ah...so we should lock all art and literature up until its 200 or more years old before it can be appreciated?

30-05-04, 19:07

I was saying that you cannot compare literature to a ridiculous tv show. Shakespeare influenced literature and set a standard for how it should be written. What will Buffy's contribution be to history? Nothing, because it's just part of the popular culture movement. Same as with Friends. As much as I loved that show, it has done nothing for history. Sure, it convinced a lot of women in the 90s to do the "Rachel", but that's it.

As dumb as your point was about locking all literature up, a lot of works do not gain significance until decades later. For instance, "Their Eyes Were Waching God" by Zora Neale Hurston was written in the 1930s, but was neglected because Hurston was a black writer, let alone a woman. "Their Eyes" didn't gain recognition until the literary revival in the 90s.

30-05-04, 19:15
Why not?

Shakespeare wrote plays, is that so different from a TV show?

30-05-04, 19:31
Again, it's the difference between classic and pop culture.

Macbeth, King Lear, Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, Julius Caesar; I could go on, are far beyond anything Buffy is right now or ever will be.

Let's go back about 30 to 50 years. I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, All In The Family; great tv shows, but that's it. Are they anywhere near to Shakespeare? No.

Shakespeare's plays were written at the time to entertain the masses, but we appreciate the plays now for what they have meant to literature throughout the centuries. I highly doubt Buffy will ever be regarded as being significant to literature, or even to television history. It's a fad that will die out in a few years.

30-05-04, 19:35
Well that is your opinion...

30-05-04, 19:44
10 years from now, we'll see whether Buffy has gone up any in appreciated value. The movie was forgettable, so why would the series be any different?

30-05-04, 19:55
The series was better... :rolleyes:

30-05-04, 20:34
Maybe in a few hundred years time, someone specialising in rare texts/TV shows may appreciate Buffy if it's forgotten. http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/smile.gif

30-05-04, 20:53
I doubt it will be forgotten, but one would hope it wouldn't disappear forever... http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/smile.gif