Tag Archives: Buffy

Secondary Sex Characteristics

Enrico just came back from his US trip with a copy of Playboy magazine. Not something he normally buys, but this issue features Charisma Carpenter, a long-time favorite from Buffy and “Angel,” more or less in the altogether. The last time I saw the inside of a Playboy was over 20 years ago – back Read More…

Enrico just came back from his US trip with a copy of Playboy magazine. Not something he normally buys, but this issue features Charisma Carpenter, a long-time favorite from Buffy and “Angel,” more or less in the altogether.

The last time I saw the inside of a Playboy was over 20 years ago – back in the days when women had pubic hair. My dad used to have Playboy and Penthouse around the house, and let me look at them. I read them for the articles – doesn’t everybody? <grin> Actually, I mostly read them for the jokes and cartoons, but of course I couldn’t help noticing the naked women.

My early exposure to nekkid pictures never did me any harm that I could tell, but I did conclude that I would never be shown naked in one of those magazines. Not because I had strong feelings against it, but because I didn’t have enough hair (on my head). All those women had thick, shiny manes, wavy or curly, heavy and rich. My own hair is thin, fine, straight, and limp. No matter my figure, I’d never be a Playmate.

Life Without Buffy

We’re suffering Buffy withdrawal. Angel, the show which spun off from Buffy four years ago, is good, but it’s pretty much guy-centered. I have no complaints about watching all the good-looking men on “Angel,” but I miss the presence of powerful women, and the role model that Buffy provided for my daughter. Ross started watching Read More…

We’re suffering Buffy withdrawal. Angel, the show which spun off from Buffy four years ago, is good, but it’s pretty much guy-centered. I have no complaints about watching all the good-looking men on “Angel,” but I miss the presence of powerful women, and the role model that Buffy provided for my daughter.

Ross started watching Buffy when she was 10, and at age 14 said that she would have grown up a different person without the show.

Hurt, I responded: “You weren’t exactly lacking for a strong female role model at home.”

“Yes, but Buffy made it cool.”

Which is a very good point. Being a strong, self-confident female is not easy at any age; strength is a characteristic not appreciated in women by most cultures or individuals (male or female). It wasn’t easy for me to grow into my strength (compounded, as it is, with geekiness), and I certainly wasn’t comfortable with it as a teenager, if I even had it then. And I spent most of my adolescence in the nurturing environment of Woodstock School, more accepting than most schools of student diversity. So I wouldn’t know how to advise Ross how to feel comfortable in her own skin at this age and place, if it weren’t for Buffy.

But don’t take my word for it. “[Father John] Pungente used Buffy as a role model for conveying solid values for teens. ‘She is smart, willing to learn about herself and live with who she is, even if she happens to be a vampire slayer. She is independent, reliable, maybe too much a Type-A personality, but still an entirely credible 1990s teenager. Other shows deal with teenage problems – love, sex, peer pressure, school work, family problems, body image, dreams, insecurity, self-esteem – but Buffy adapts a literary and film genre for television. The vampire myth and the sexuality it evokes speak powerfully to today’s teenagers.'” (MARTIN O’MALLEY: Orange County blues, CBC News Viewpoint | November 14, 2003)

A point often overlooked by writers about “Buffy” is the role of Xander, Buffy’s average guy friend who, unlike her other friends, has no special powers (magical or intellectual) to help him fight the forces of darkness, both interior and exterior. “You know, Xander is as important a role model as Buffy and people will never really get that, I think, most of ’em. But, the fact of the matter is that I had a two-fold intent, which was to create a role model in the idea of a girl who’s a genuine leader and the role model in a man who is not only comfortable, but turned on by that.” Joss Whedon, MSN Interview

Hear, hear. The world needs not only more women like Buffy, but more men like Xander. Unfortunately for Ross, I don’t think she’ll find many such in Italy, and even fewer in her age range.

Firefly: Joss Whedon’s Space Opera

If you never saw Joss Whedon‘s short-lived series “Firefly” when it was running on US television last fall, now’s your chance. It’s, um, well, hard to explain… a science-fiction western? It takes place 500 years in the future, in a universe populated only by human beings (so far as we know), just after a civil Read More…

If you never saw Joss Whedon‘s short-lived series “Firefly” when it was running on US television last fall, now’s your chance. It’s, um, well, hard to explain… a science-fiction western? It takes place 500 years in the future, in a universe populated only by human beings (so far as we know), just after a civil war reminiscent of the American Civil War. Our hero, Captain Mal Reynolds, was on the losing side; now he does his best to keep his beat-up starship and crew alive, taking on whatever work they can find – legal or il-. The crew includes a variety of types and backgrounds; I won’t say more so as not to spoil anything. Suffice to say that, thanks to sharp dialog, great stories, and very high production values, you come very quickly to care about these people and what’s going to happen to them. No, you don’t have to be a Buffy fan to like it.

The show was untimely cut off by Fox after only 12 episodes, in spite of a large and growing following. Three additional episodes were shown in the UK; all 15 will soon be available on DVD, with commentary on every episode, and probably some nice extras as well. Buy the DVDs

Best news of all: the Firefly movie, Serenity, with all the same cast, is fantastic, and will soon be available on DVD.

That Vampire Thing: Story of an Obsession

I had a thing about vampires long before Buffy the Vampire Slayer came along. It began in the summer of 1978, when I traveled to the US with my folks on home leave. The hit Broadway production of “Dracula” had been made into a movie, with Frank Langella reprising his title role. I was 15 Read More…

I had a thing about vampires long before Buffy the Vampire Slayer came along. It began in the summer of 1978, when I traveled to the US with my folks on home leave. The hit Broadway production of “Dracula” had been made into a movie, with Frank Langella reprising his title role. I was 15 years old, and for the first time in my life got a crush on a movie star. (Of course it’s entirely accidental that the man who later became my husband looked like him!) I saw the movie two or three times, and read the movie tie-in edition of Bram Stoker’s original book. By the time I returned to school, I was hooked on all things vampiric.

When I got to college, I began collecting vampire books. I’ve kept only the best ones over the years, including a complete set of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Saint-Germain series. Saint-Germain is a very sympathetic vampire, who has lived for about four thousand years. This gives Yarbro plenty of scope for the deep historical research she clearly loves; the books are richly detailed snapshots of certain times and places in history, in which the “bloodsucking fiend” is usually the most humane creature around, striving to save those he loves from the cruelty of other humans. I should also mention that Yarbro is a VERY good writer.

Laurell K. Hamilton’s series Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter is also worth a look. I read the first few thanks to a friend from St. Louis, who had them because the writer is from St. Louis and sets her books there. The writing was rough at first, but Ms. Hamilton has improved at her craft over the course of 12 books or so (and a new, different series just started), and the premise is fun: vampires, werewolves, etc., really exist, and have been granted civil rights by the US government – so long as they behave themselves. When they don’t (which is often), bounty hunters like Anita Blake step in to take them out. (2006 – Recent books in the series have become a strange sort of horror-porn – fun, but not exactly high literature… )

I was a big Anne Rice fan, at least for the first three Louis/Lestat books, and was thrilled when “Interview with the Vampire” was made into a movie. Which had its flaws; couldn’t they have gotten anyone but Brad Pitt to play Louis? But Tom Cruise was excellent as Lestat, and one of my favorite film scenes of all time is the final one, with Lestat speeding across the Golden Gate Bridge in a convertible (at night, of course) with “Sympathy for the Devil” blaring out of the radio. I actually never saw the movie til I got it on video. Rossella was young then, and I figured it wasn’t suitable for her, so I watched it when she wasn’t around. But she saw it on the shelf and got curious, and when she was 9 or 10 I let her watch it. Then she got into vampires. I dunno, maybe it’s genetic?

Soon after that I heard about “Buffy.” I only knew vaguely that it was about some sort of female teenage superhero, but I spotted a magazine about the show in the UK, and bought it for Ross. We were both skeptical: we like vampires; would we like a show that seemed, by its title, to be all about killing them? Still, I was curious enough to take up my friend Adrian on his offer to send us the videotapes (then commercially available in the UK, but not the US). As I mentioned, we were hooked within the first five minutes. I’ll spoil things for you a bit by explaining how.

Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, has said that he came up with the vampire slayer concept because he was tired of the many horror movies where a ditzy blonde wanders into a dark alley, is followed by some sort of fiend, and winds up messily dead (okay, I’m paraphrasing). He thought it would be fun to turn the tables, and have the blonde beat up the monster.

I didn’t know that when I saw the first episode. It begins with a small blonde, dressed in a pleated skirt like a Catholic school girl, and a slightly older-looking guy, breaking a window to get into a school at night. Science classroom skeletons and scary music create atmosphere. The girl is nervous. “We’re just gonna get in trouble,” she says. Big macho guy reassures her: Everything’s cool, no one will see them. “I heard a noise,” she says tremulously, looking away, down the dark hall. Scarier music. (And I’m practically hiding under the sofa – I am easily freaked out by horror movies.) The guy leers evilly behind her. “No one here,” he says. The music swells. “Okay,” says the girl. She whips around to face him, and is suddenly transformed, with fangs and yellow eyes. She sinks her teeth into the guy’s neck.

I knew right then, before Buffy herself was anywhere in the picture, that this was a great show. Oh, and it’s still okay to like the vampires. There are some good ones in “Buffy,” and they don’t get slayed. Slain. Whatever.

Martin Baynes as Renfield and Mike Nicklin as Dracula, Jakarta 1984

^ Martin Baynes as Renfield and Mike Nicklin as Dracula, Jakarta 1984

Nov 18, 2003

When I wrote the above, I clean forgot to mention one of the biggest vampire events in my life. In 1984, a brief visit to my dad in Indonesia turned into an extended visit when I couldn’t get a visa to study in India as originally planned. Although Jakarta is a big, bustling city, there wasn’t all that much for foreigners to do there in those days, so the expatriate community had to work to keep itself entertained. One means was amateur theatre, in which my dad and his friend Donna were enthusiastic participants.

While I was stuck in Jakarta, my friend Sue came for an extended visit from the US, and we were both happy to get involved in the Jakarta Players production of “Dracula.” The group was using the script by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, originally produced in the 1930s. This play had been revived in the 1970s, starring Frank Langella on Broadway, in the production which was then adapted into a film in 1979.

Indonesia had never signed the International Copyright Convention, so the Jakarta Players… took some liberties with the script, adding entr’acte vignettes more or less taken from the Frank Langella movie, along with a generally more sexy and romantic atmosphere. We even retitled it “Dracula, a Love Story.”

As you can see in the photo above, we stole the set design from Edward Gorey’s sets for the Broadway show, done in his characteristic macabre cartoon style. We also used music from John Williams’ score for the film for mood-enhancing background, and choreographed a dance for the big seduction scene.

Dracula poster, Jakarta Players, 1984

Sue and I helped out during many weeks of rehearsal, taking the opportunity to flirt with two cast members we liked (one was the British local head of an airline, the other a Scottish engineer working for an oil company). Sue was eventually appointed stage manager, and I was put in charge of sound effects, which I pulled off pretty well except for that one time when the wolves howling got swapped with the screaming loonies … Our friend Julie played the maid, which so thoroughly infected her with the theater bug that she now works at the Kennedy Center in DC.

A team built the 40-foot-high flats for the set, which were supposed to be painted black, white, and grey, just like the Gorey drawings. When we raised the flats on the Jakarta International School stage, however, they were brown and grey. The woman put in charge of set painting had gone to a shop in Jakarta which happened to be out of black paint; the shopkeeper there told her there was none to be had anywhere, here, have some nice brown instead. And she believed him. We all looked at the brown, and it looked pretty stupid. So Sue and I volunteered to repaint the entire set in the week we had left before opening night.

This wasn’t too difficult for the first six feet going up. Then we started standing on furniture and ladders. Then we had to pile things on other things, building up increasingly tall and rickety “scaffolding” so we could paint higher and higher up the set. When we got near the top, there was nothing else we could safely pile up. So the light bars were lowered down to the stage, we sat on them, and were raised 40 feet up so we could paint the top of the set. This was a supreme effort for me, because I am terribly afraid of heights. But we finally got it all done, and it looked good.

The show came together well, and was warmly received by the expatriate and Indonesian audiences. Best of all, it kept us all very happily busy for months. Jakarta Players went on to do still more ambitious productions, including “Cabaret,” “Pajama Game,” and “Greater Tuna.”

Vampire Stuff at Amazon

Saint-German books: Amazon US | UK

Dracula: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by John Williams (excellent, romantic score)

Anita Blake books: US | UK

Anne Rice’s Louis/Lestat books: US | UK

Interview with the Vampire on DVD: US | UK

Farewell to Buffy

We’re big fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and everything else by Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, that we can lay hands on). When Rossella and I attended a Buffy convention in London in 2001, we were almost the only mother-daughter pair to attend (the few other kids present were arguably too young to be Read More…

We’re big fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and everything else by Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, that we can lay hands on). When Rossella and I attended a Buffy convention in London in 2001, we were almost the only mother-daughter pair to attend (the few other kids present were arguably too young to be watching the show). George Hertzberg, the actor who had played Adam, a cyborg monster, remarked that it was cool that I share a passion for the show with my daughter. I explained one of my reasons: “Buffy looks after her friends and family, saves the world, and she kicks ass. What better role model could I find for a teenage daughter?”

Joss himself was at that convention, and he kept looking through the crowd at Ross, as if he wanted to hear what she had to say. But she was too shy to speak unless she could think of something intelligent to say; most of the other fans’ questions she overheard were fairly idiotic. Joss might have been more interested in her point of view than some others’; his aim with Buffy was to create a role model for girls, a strong heroine who can take care of herself and those she loves, no matter how big the baddies ranged against her. How many opportunities does he get to talk to a savvy 12 year old about whether it worked? ( I should admit that Ross didn’t really need Buffy to encourage her to be a strong, independent-minded young woman; she was already that, and more. Can’t imagine where she got it from. <grin>)

“Buffy” isn’t just a mother-daughter thing, though. It started out that way, because we received the first two seasons on video while my husband was away on a month-long research trip. Ross and I sat down to watch, were hooked within five minutes, and watched two or three episodes that first night. We continued at that pace until we’d watched every tape we had. When Enrico returned, we watched them all again with him. Since then, “Buffy” has been a family affair, and none of us is ashamed to say so.

Fortunately, the show was available on video in the UK shortly after each season finished, so we were able to catch up with real broadcast time by Season 4. For that year, we relied on a friend/colleague/fellow fan in the US to send us tapes she recorded. Season 5 began during my big California adventure, so I was able to do most of the taping myself. For seasons 6 and 7, we’ve found other arrangements. In the meantime, we’ve exchanged our tape collection for DVDs; I sold the tapes (half price) to another friend in Milan, for whose Buffy addiction I was responsible.

Yes, like all true believers, we are Buffy missionaries, trying to share the joy with a largely uncomprehending world. Many media commentators have done likewise, more influentially than we ever could, yet the show never got beyond cult status in the US. Don’t get me started on what people do watch…

Now Buffy is coming to an end; the last episode will air on May 20th. I’m glad they’re quitting while the show is still great, but we’ll miss it. Terribly.

If you’ve never seen Buffy, or have only seen an episode here or there (and didn’t know what the heck was going on), I envy you: you can start now, right from Season 1 Episode 1 (“Welcome to the Hellmouth”), and watch the whole, glorious epic from beginning to end. What are you waiting for?