Commentary: Buffy Season 8

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a soft spot for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Critically acclaimed (TV Guide, USA TODAY, Entertainment Weekly) as one of the best written shows on television, it wrapped up its television run in 2003 after seven seasons on air. In March 2007, Joss Whedon, along with several of the series writers continued where the hit show left off. The story revolves around the activation of over two thousand slayers and how the world, and especially the US government, is coping with having a large contingent of super powered women on the planet. (More information can be found here.)

The most recent issue of the comic contained something that shocked long time fans. After years of unsuccessful relationships, Buffy bedded a fellow slayer.

In the words of Buffy, “Wow..”

Both the New York Times and ABC News covered the story on the same day the issue was released.

From The New York Times:

Experimenting in Bed When Not After Vampires

By GEORGE GENE GUSTINES

Buffy Summers, the vampire slayer of film, television and comic books, is all confidence in fighting the forces of darkness. But she’s often shakier in her intimate relationships.

Her liaisons include Angel, a vampire who is arguably her true love; Riley, a military operative who combats the supernatural; Spike, another vampire; and Parker, a fellow college student and one-night stand.

In a new issue of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” comic book series, being released Wednesday, Buffy sleeps with a fellow slayer. And, oh yeah, she’s a woman.

It’s an unusual development for a lead character of a series, whether on television or in comic books.

The story line “evolved naturally,” said Joss Whedon who created Buffy for the 1992 film and the 1997 television show, which ran for seven seasons. Mr. Whedon is also executive producer of the comic book, published by Dark Horse Comics and promoted as “Season Eight.”

He has written several stories for it, including an opening arc that introduces Satsu (pronounced SOUGHT-sue), one of nearly 2,000 slayers activated in the television show’s finale. One of Buffy’s prized disciples, she ends up sharing her bed.

Mr. Whedon has developed their liaison over several issues. In No. 3 Buffy is overcome by a “Sleeping Beauty” spell undone only by a kiss from someone who loves her. In No. 4 Buffy realizes that Satsu saved her. Last month the pair discussed Satsu’s feelings. Buffy, although flattered by Satsu’s attentions, said the risks of involvement were too great.

“People who love me tend to … oh, die,” she said. Or, she added, they leave, because “sooner or later everybody realizes there’s something wrong … something wrong with me, or around me.”

The matter seemed resolved, but in the newest issue, No. 12 — written by Drew Goddard, the screenwriter of “Cloverfield” — Buffy and Satsu are in bed, naked under the sheets. “It puts the reader in this ‘Oh my God’ moment,” Mr. Whedon said during a telephone interview. “And it puts Buffy in an ‘Oh my God, what did I just do?’ moment.”

But before fans start blogging frantically, they should know that Mr. Whedon is clear where this is headed. “We’re not going to make her gay, nor are we going to take the next 50 issues explaining that she’s not. She’s young and experimenting, and did I mention open-minded?”

This is not the first same-sex encounter to affect the Scooby Gang, as Buffy and her friends are known. Willow, the group’s spell-caster, came out in Season 4 of the television series. In response, Mr. Whedon said, “there was some prerecorded outrage,” including an Internet post from a fan who vowed never to watch again. He recalled his response: “We’ll miss you.”

Numerous fans appreciated Willow’s revelation. “When it became clear how much this meant to people, we knew we could not take it back,” Mr. Whedon said. “O.K., this was a life change.”

Not so for Buffy. “I wouldn’t even call it a phase,” he said of her intimate moment with Satsu. “It’s just something that happens.”

Still, most pleasing to Mr. Whedon is the feelings the encounter will evoke in the characters. He suggested that both Buffy and Satsu might think, “Did I use this person? I had a nice time, but does this make me a bad person emotionally?” Even more important, he added, is “the funny” it will bring: “Willow might be defensive about it: ‘Well, I didn’t want to sleep with you anyway.’ ”

He added, “It’s always fun to give Buffy something to feel awkward about besides ‘I’m lonely’ and ‘I don’t have a boyfriend.’ ”

And what of Satsu’s fate? “We’re not going to dump her off the face of the earth, unless we kill her, because we love to kill characters,” Mr. Whedon said in jest. “If we do, don’t worry, she’ll probably come back as a ghost.” More seriously, he said, “She’s in the rotation.” But then he added, “For as long as she can live.”

What of the viewer outrage when Willow’s girlfriend Tara was fatally shot?

“It’s something you have to factor in,” Mr. Whedon said. After Tara died, he said, he discovered that “there was a whole cliché about lesbians being killed.” He added: “You do have to be careful about the message you’re sending out. It’s a double-edged sword. You have to be responsible, but you also have to be irresponsible or you’re not telling the best stories.”

ABCnews.com took a different spin and wondered if Buffy’s one night stand was more of a marketing ploy. Whedon was quick to get things “straight”:

“It made logical, emotional sense and it was an opportunity for drama and character exploration,” said Whedon, who told ABCNEWS.com that while Buffy has not “all of a sudden turned gay” she is not “completely cut off from that particular enjoyment.”

Personally, what happened in this issue didn’t bother me. I’ll admit, I was shocked when I turned the page, but in the world of Whedon, one expects to be shocked regularly. Boil it down to what it really is and this incident has only explored another facet of an already interesting character.

The decision of both news outlets to cover this story is a real testament to the popularity of the series and the strong-as-steel fanbase that has followed it from network to network and even celluloid to paper. I can hardly wait to see what Whedon and the others have in store for my favorite fictional characters in the coming months.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s