Jul 13 2012 2:00pm

My Obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This is a scientific depiction of obsession. We are 100% sure this is at least 50% accurate.Obsession. The grand passion that drives a nominally sane member of society to destruction, murder, and madness. Great literature of every era has explored this topic: Ahab’s obsession with his white whale, Othello’s obsession with the fair Desdemona, Gollum’s obsession with the One Ring, and of course Plankton’s obsession with the secret recipe for the Krabby Patty. The lesson learned, the inevitable moral in each literary morality play, is that the obsessor will inevitably and thoroughly get his heinie kicked into the middle of next week. 

But if the middle-of-next-week rule applies to the grand obsessions in life, what about the smaller obsessions? You know what I mean. The mild-mannered, second-cousin-once-removed distant relative of a real obsession. For example, the way I feel about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Surely that can’t do any harm, right?

For whatever reason, I missed Buffy during her 1990s to early 2000s original incarnation. Unlike my admittedly luckier peers, I was completely oblivious of the exploits of the most famous high school vampire slayer of the age. I missed the water cooler talk, I skipped the weekly suspense of waiting to find out what would happen to Angel or would Buffy’s mom ever win that coveted Worst Mom in the Universe award. Clueless and happy, I passed a decade or so without knowing what I was missing. Then, after watching and loving an obscure science fiction series called Firefly, I looked up information about writer-director Joss Whedon, and that led me to another of his creations: Buffy.

Buffy the Vampire SlayerThe thing I find most fascinating about Buffy is the juxtaposition of the concerns of a high school girl (boys, hair, boys, makeup, boys, parties) with the whole vampire-slaying thing. Hey, vampire slaying is important, but it better not damage the new outfit. A hell mouth in the school basement (which I suspect lurks in every high school in the country) means that every evil thing on earth and below is drawn to poor old Sunnyvale High.

I absolutely love that the parents and administrators don’t seem to find the weekly body count cause for concern or even comment. Buffy’s mother (possibly the least sensitive woman on the planet) dates a controlling and abusive stepfather wannabe who is determined to keep Buffy in line . . . oh, and who turns out to be an android. The principal, extremely upbeat and positive, has sold his soul for power (another thing I suspect isn’t all that uncommon in principals), and eventually turns into a giant snake monster.

Buffy’s friends, the Scoobies  (a tip of the hat to the old Scooby-Doo cartoons), are always loyal, but they’ve got problems of their own. Tests, studies, and oh yeah, one of them turns into a werewolf each month, another’s a witch, and one’s a reformed vengeance demon.

Then there are Buffy’s enemies: from the vampire who is “cursed” to regain his soul and falls in love with her to the bleach blond bad boy who loses his power to attack humans (ah, Spike). Although serious and scary at times, the series is all about the humor. My very favorite episode (so far at least) has to be the one where the town is cursed to live out the day in a musical, and the characters break into song and dance numbers at every turn.

Thanks to the magic of Netflix, I can now watch one Buffy episode after another, undiluted by either commercials or the weekly wait between episodes. Seven seasons, 144 episodes—my television is now permanently stuck on the Buffy channel: All Buffy, All the Time. Right now, I’m in the middle of season 7, which means I’m . . . sob . . . almost finished with the series. Thinking about it gives me cold chills in the middle of the night. What will happen when I’ve seen them all? What will I do after dinner? What will be the point of getting up in the morning?

So . . . does loving a ten year old B-grade television series about teenage vampire hunters qualify as an obsession? I like to think so—obsessions are edgy, even if they’re on the low end of the danger spectrum. Let’s face it, if Ahab had spent his summer watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer instead of chasing Moby Dick through the seven seas, his heinie would have ended up large and flabby instead of kicked. Pretty hard on literature, maybe, but a whole lot better for Ahab himself. Give me Buffy any day.


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Janice Hamrick is the winner of the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition. Born in Oklahoma and raised in Kansas, she now lives in Austin, Texas, with her two daughters.

Read Janice Hamrick’s other Criminal Element posts.

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Clare 2e
1. clare2e
Hmm- I've carefully examined the detailed data on your chart, and nope, can't find a single flaw in your reasoning, Janice!

Buffy is solid awesome, and I was a big Angel series fan, too. Not high-school and not quite the same vibe, but still dark and twisted, funny and personally awkward. (The Big Bads aren't principals but corporate lawyers!) Maybe when you finish Buffy and have a sufficient grieving period for things that won't die...
Barbara Jackson
2. bleflarjackson
My husband was a Buffy freak. We have all the eps. on disk, I think. Personally, I was a Giles fan. I first spotted Anthony Head on a coffee ad and thought "Ooooh, he's way too good (looking and acting) to just do ads." He did a short stint in a short-lived SF series, then Buffy. Then Uther, of course.
Neliza Drew
3. nelizadrew
And now I miss Buffy.
Though I admit I refused to watch more than ten minutes of the UPN Buffy run. I preferred to have her dead after that leap into nothingness than all the existential teen zombie crisis stuff.
4. Jamarleo
I started watching Buffy at the very beginning when I was near(er) to their age-( or at least the age of the actors- do you know how old 'Spike' actually is?). I watched the scoobies through their radical changes while I experienced the more normal (but still thrilling-really!) road to coupledom and kids.
Now my first baby is a teenager and whenever I see an episode (which to be honest happens quite often) I find myself wanting to shake Buffy and tell her that her mom is there to help and Giles has far more life experience than she has and probably knows best. A few weeks ago I saw the ageing back episode and did a little cheer for Joyce and Giles.

Nothing like a mild obsession to remind you about the passage of time.

Can't wait to read your next book!
Janice Hamrick
5. JaniceHamrickAuthor
You all are awesome and make great points.

Clare2e - Yes, I'm going to have to try Angel - if I can get through this last season. I'm very concerned with how dark it is and I HATE seeing Nathan Fillion being so creepy and evil. Sniff.

Blefarjackson - I'm SO glad someone else knows that Anthony Head is Uther. My daughter and I have had such fun talking about all the Buffy magic is why Uther is so against all magic things in Camelot.

Nelezadrew - I know what you mean! That would have been a good ending point, in particular since a lot of the fun has vanished and there's so much more pain.

Jarmarleo - I'm still living the series, so I'm trying to pretend not much time has passed in the Buffy universe. And I'm really worried about Spike. I'm thinking things aren't looking so good for his future and the only thing that gives me hope is seeing his picture on the Angel series. I never did think Buffy's mom was going to win any Mother of the Year awards, but the thing with her and Giles was really fun.

Ah...obsession. Now I need to find another one. Besides Angel, any suggestions?
Laura K. Curtis
6. LauraKCurtis
Well, I am obsessed with both Justified (very dark, but very fun) and Longmire (less dark, but not light).
Janice Hamrick
7. JaniceHamrickAuthor
Hi Laura - I'm loving Longmire too! And I'll have to give Justified a try at least. I don't mind dark as long as it's not depressing.
Linda Rodriguez
8. LindaRodriguez
So nice to be surrounded by people who understand! I don't even watch TV--don't have one--but my youngest was a Buffy fanatic and bought all the boxed sets. When he would fix something techie for me at work--the same college where he was enrolled--he'd make me pay by watching Buffy or Angel with him. I protested loudly. Then I fell for Spike's snarky character and eventually became a huge Buffy fan, also. Janice, the musical episode, "Once More With Feeling," is an absolute classic!
Janice Hamrick
9. JaniceHamrickAuthor
Hi Linda! I wish I could pay for things by watching Buffy. And I'm completely with you about Spike. He definitely wins the funniest vampire (and favorite Buffy character) contest for me.
Clare 2e
10. clare2e
I'm going to mention, since we're talking unsung here, that on Angel, Lorne is a lounge singer and horned green demon also called The Host, played by the late Andy Hallett. Rather than the usual human-devouring, this black sheep of the demonic world runs a nightclub for hellspawn. He was one of the wryest, sweetest characters. I loved him.

Also, another fave Anthony Head turn for me was where he played the arrogant ladies' man and celebrity magician Adam Klaus on the BBC's Jonathan Creek, starring Alan Davies as the stage magician's nerdy but brilliant technical advisor (read: inventor of his illusions) who figures out how the impossible's done. He winds up solving crimes with a fantastically pushy freelance reporter played by Caroline Quentin. It's very funny and clever with a great relationship between the leads. I swear I'm done. Stop making me obsess!
Linda Rodriguez
11. LindaRodriguez
Oh, Clare, yes! Lorne! What a sweetheart--and a real turn-the stereotype-on-its-head character! Remember the episode where Angel and the gang had to save him from his family?

And I loved Fred/Alyria and Wesley, who changed from nerd to dark, tormented soul. *sigh* Just when Angel was finally getting good, they canceled it.

I will shut up now. I promise.
12. ElizabethL
I've never seen Buffy, but after such a great synopsis I feel compelled to watch the series in its entirety! Can't wait to read your next book!
13. Katherine H.
I love Buffy! My favorite part is that she can come up with witty puns and one-liners in the midst of fighting. Any girl who can do that is cool in my book.
Janice Hamrick
14. JaniceHamrickAuthor
Okay, Linda and Clare have now convinced me that I MUST watch Angel. Tell me true, though. Will I be happy with the last four episodes of Buffy? I almost don't want to watch because it seems so desperately grim.

Elizabeth, you're in for a treat. After you've seen a couple of episodes, let us know if you've joined the ranks of the obsessed.

Katherine, you nailed it. The best thing about Buffy, apart from the kick-ass fighting chops, is all the humor. It absolutely makes the series.
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