The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room
The New Buffy Movie Has a High Bar To Clear

Elizabeth Grunewald | 23 Nov 2010 17:55
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Watching the episode, I began to feel genuine discomfort when Willow's reception to Buffy was cold. When their actual hard conversation began, my brain started replaying scenes from high school. The dialogue was exactly the same. I recall when, at the homecoming dance in the gussied-up gym, my buddy concluded, "She doesn't want to talk about it, we don't want to talk about it, so why don't we just shut up and dance?" The tough conversation, when my best friend and I were out of sorts, sounded a lot like Willow's "I, I'm having all sorts of... I'm dating. I, I'm having serious dating with a werewolf. And, and I'm studying witchcraft and, and killing vampires. And I didn't have anyone to talk to about all this scary life stuff." Maybe not all the same situations specifically, but the scary life stuff, and the need for a friend to help understand it all, is pure slice-of-life.The writers transcended ridiculous situations and captured the zeitgeist of teenage angst and communications, the struggles to relate, the difficulty of expression when so much craziness seems to surround you. The show balanced the exciting with the everyday, but the everyday is where it excelled. On television, at least, Buffy's honesty was so strong as to be nearly unmatchable.

What is the point of entertainment, if not to entertain? Buffy the Vampire Slayer was groundbreaking, intelligent, any number of fabulous things, but it wouldn't have run for seven seasons and been as explosively popular had it not been engaging, and creatively engaging at that. It played everything from the genuinely creepy ("Dirty Girls") to the supremely funny ("Tabula Rasa") and hit every note in between. People think of "Once More With Feeling," the musical episode, as the show's pinnacle of creative television, but Buffy experimented with its chosen medium time and again, like removing dialogue from "Hush," and background music from "The Body." Tropes are used, abused and turned inside out, ranging from invisibility ("Gone," "Same Time, Same Place") to dream sequences ("Nightmares," "Restless"). Buffy provided 144 episodes' worth of surprising inventiveness and irregularity. It was able to play all these notes across seven seasons of television, but to capture all the smart, funny, sexy, creepy entertainment the name Buffy has come to represent in a motion picture would result in a scattered film at best. To not represent these elements might result in something less than what Buffy has proven it can be.

I recognize Buffy was not flawless, and I don't blindly consume everything Joss cooks up. Riley and the Initiative proved a disappointment, but I can recognize their relevance beyond their own existence. In her freshman year of college, Buffy not only expands her academic and personal boundaries, as we all do, but the boundaries of her chosen calling as well. While their intrusion provided some of my least favorite characters and situations, the Initiative did produce Adam, and the manner of his inevitable defeat was a pleasant surprise. I also hated Kennedy, but I'm not sure there's any academic reason for that beyond my dislike of her characterization and performance. I'm not saying Buffy the Vampire Slayer was perfect television, I'm just opining it was a brilliant vision of what the Buffy story can be, and that the creative talent behind the movie have perhaps bitten off more than they can chew in trying to re-envision it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as it existed on television, was intelligent enough to be taught in institutions of higher learning across the United States, inventive enough that I can sing it in the shower, and impactful enough that keyboards across the world are being worn down in dismay. You can try to recapture that, Warner Bros., but the odds are decidedly against you.

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