by: Johnny Gall
Several months ago, it seemed that a stake was finally put through the heart of a proposed reboot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This news was met with much rejoicing by every Joss Whedon fan except for me, following Warner Brothers’ rejection of a prospective script from Whit Anderson. I can partly understand their concerns. Joss Whedon crafted an intriguing, complex universe, which occasionally delved into the dated, stereotypical humor of the 1992 film without ever doubting the strength and dignity of the character of Buffy.  He managed to cleverly mock the high school experience (then college, then post-college) without overdoing the satire, or neglecting the insight of it. To put it briefly: he done good. Some would say he did it perfectly, and they may not be far off. So, I understand why they wouldn’t want someone else potentially ruining the franchise.
However, I think Buffy can be more than a somewhat campy 90s movie and a seven-season television series. I want to see Buffy rebooted. And again. And again. I want her to be canonized in a manner which rarely occurs in our culture.
Think about Robin Hood. Or King Arthur. Or the Greek Gods and Goddesses. Figures of legend whose stories have been told so many times that the plot lines of their stories are no longer entirely clear. King Arthur, for instance, was definitely betrayed by Lancelot, who was sleeping with his wife Guinevere and was definitely murdered by Mordred, the son of his sister (and in some versions lover) Morgan le Fay. However, because the legend was told and retold before it was put in writing, there are a mass of details which vary and a mass of smaller sub-plots available. Yes, there are several somewhat complete texts, like The Once and Future King and Le Mort d’Arthur, but the legend itself is bigger than those.
This is what I want for Buffy, and I think—despite a profound lack of oral tradition in our culture—it’s attainable. There are some figures who have reached a similar height of canonization. Most comic book figures have had their stories told in so many different formats and different editions that their plotlines are completely malleable, yet they usually retain the essential elements. Yes, Spiderman is bit by a radioactive Spider, and he takes on the mantle of a hero after the death of his Uncle Ben. But that can be—and has been—told in so many different ways that only those most important elements survive: that he is blessed and cursed by a scientific warfare, and that the death of a loved one leads him to realize the responsibility of his gift. The story evolves from these points, but the idea remains strongly and clearly expressed, and the idea is stronger than the story.
Joss Whedon’s telling of the story is so well-crafted that I would certainly vote it in as the Once and Future King of the Buffy legend. However, the idea is what I’m in love with.
The concept of Buffy the Vampire Slayer completely subverts horror movie depictions of women. She’s not the scared screaming teenage girl we’ve all seen before. She’s not even the girl who gets sick of being hunted and decides to fight back. Buffy goes beyond that. She hunts down the big bads on a nightly basis because she feels a responsibility to make the world safer. She is the ultimate feminist hero, because she’s not the woman who fights against oppression (albeit, demon) when it confronts her. She’s the woman who seeks out oppression and does battle with it of her own volition. Why shouldn’t we be canonizing that?
Moreover, the Buffy legend gives us a nice out on being combative. I understand why most activists are opposed to violence. We should be. However, Buffy gives us the gift of vicariously taking out our frustration at the society we live in, without anyone even remotely human getting hurt. She kills demons. She kills them because they are awful creature bent on killing us. Of course, no one minds that. It’s all the satisfaction of violence without the worry of dehumanizing because they’re not human anyway.
It’s because I’m so in love with this concept that I don’t want to see it suffer the pitfalls of preservation. Yes, Whedon tells the story well, but no story will continue to live on in relevance if it isn’t given the freedom to evolve and grow with the culture. Every well-crafted concept that is published and gains notoriety eventually becomes a period piece. Even great novels eventually become period pieces. Huckleberry Finn is sometimes referred to as the great American novel, and so is The Great Gatsby.
In both cases, these books were originally recognized as brilliant stories and ideas, but now both have to be filtered through the culture they were written in. True, the ideas are still there, but the first thing to catch the readers’ eye will always be the time period, and the differences between culture at the time of writing and culture in the reader’s time. Legendary figures suffer this fate as well, of course, but not nearly to the same degree. The basic concept of Robin Hood—that of a man who steals as a way of subverting class system—could be as easily adapted to contemporary culture as any. The same with any figure who emerged from oral tradition.
I want to see Whedon’s Buffy survive, but I want the character to continue in relevance more, and to evolve with cultural understandings of strong women. If we continue to protest that any other adaptation will ruin the franchise, then in thirty years, the story will look as dated to viewers as The Breakfast Club looks to us now. That doesn’t mean the ideas won’t survive, but it will be harder for viewers to claim them as their own. And Buffy is a figure whom I think drastically need to continue to be owned.
Am I worried that a reboot might sink the franchise’s potential? Somewhat. However, that won’t matter as much if we continue to reboot it, over and over, until whatever bad version has been swallowed up by all the good ones, and the most powerful elements of the story have come through on the other side. In a culture which has, for the most part, abandoned oral tradition, this is the way we create a legend.
I also recognize that certain elements of the current story may not be as empowering as they have the potential to be. Some may object to Buffy’s profound submission to her love interests, especially to that awful affair with Spike which ruled over most of the two seasons I don’t like to talk about. Some may object to her constant pining to be a normal, pretty girl. In that case, I would say change it. Make her even more badass than she already is. The beauty of legends is that they’re shaped by culture, which means we have the power to define the figure for ourselves.
So, with this in mind, I believe we should stop whining about how awful we assume a reboot would be and how much it would ruin Buffy; instead, keep telling the story as often and in as many ways as possible. Write it. Draw it. Film it. Hell, do a slash fic or two.  Represent this amazingly positive female figure in as many as you possibly can so that it becomes both an example of our culture’s commitment to woman’s empowerment, and a driving force thereof. Let there be more than one Buffy. Let every potential become the Slayer.
Johnny Gall is so, so very close to completing his B.A. from NYU in English and Creative Writing. He has hopes of moving on to seminary, and then to ordained ministry and works with several groups which advocate queer equality in the Methodist church. He is a feminist, anarchist, person of faith, part-time librarian and an all-around good guy.
 Have you guys ever tried remarking upon the strength and dignity of someone with the name Buffy? Feels a little weird.
 Of which the last two seasons are seriously hit-or-miss. Mostly miss.