ⓘ Buffy studies

Buffy studies

ⓘ Buffy studies

Buffy studies is the study of Joss Whedons popular television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, to a lesser extent, its spin-off program Angel. It explores issues related to gender and other philosophical issues as expressed through the content of these shows in the fictional Buffyverse.

Neda Ulaby of NPR describes Buffy as having a "special following among academics, some of whom have staked a claim in what they call Buffy Studies". Though not widely recognized as a distinct discipline, the term "Buffy studies" is commonly used amongst the academic Buffy -related writings.


1. Development as academic field

The debut of Buffy 1997–2003 eventually led to the publication of a number of books and hundreds of articles examining the themes of the show from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives including sociology, psychology, philosophy, theology and womens studies. Since January 2001 Slayage: The Online Journal of Buffy Studies has published essays on the topic quarterly, and it continues to do so. Fighting the Forces: Whats at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer was published in 2002, and since then many more Buffy books have been published by academic book publishers. There have also been a number of international conferences on the topic. "College courses across the globe are devoted to the show, and secondary schools in Australia and New Zealand also provide Buffy classes." The topic can even be undertaken as part of a Masters degree in Cult Film & TV at Brunel University, London. Increasingly, Angel is being analyzed alongside its predecessor, e.g. in the 2005 publication, Reading Angel.

The creator of Buffy, Joss Whedon, has responded to the scholarly reaction to his series: "I think its great that the academic community has taken an interest in the show. I think its always important for academics to study popular culture, even if the thing they are studying is idiotic. If its successful or made a dent in culture, then it is worthy of study to find out why. Buffy, on the other hand is, I hope, not idiotic. We think very carefully about what were trying to say emotionally, politically, and even philosophically while were writing it. it really is, apart from being a pop-culture phenomenon, something that is deeply layered textually episode by episode."

The Third International Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses was held June 5–8, 2008 at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

The response to this scholarly attention has had its critics. Jes Battis, who authored Blood Relations in Buffy and Angel, has stated that study of the Buffyverse "invokes an uneasy combination of enthusiasm and ire", and meets "a certain amount of disdain from within the halls of the academy".


2.1. Examples of explored themes Gender studies

  • Lorna Jowett, 2005: Sex and The Slayer: A Gender Studies Primer for the Buffy Fan. In this paper, published by Wesleyan University Press, Jowett, senior lecturer in American Studies at The University of Northampton and Buffy fan, states that Buffy may be" Barbie with a kung-fu grip”, but she is still Barbie’ p. 197. Jowett identifies the show as being" post-feminist”, while arguing that it fails to challenge gender stereotypes in meaningful ways. Jowetts books first 3 chapters are entitled: Girl Power, Good Girls and Bad Girls, in which Jowett dissects the stereotypes within the female characters that, she argues, are reinforced by the show. The next three chapters are broken into the male stereotypes: Tough men, New Men and Dead Boys. Jowett states that reinforcement of stereotypes exists within the show for male characters as well.

2.2. Examples of explored themes Pop culture studies

  • Dee Amy-Chinn and Milly Williamson, 2005: The Vampire Spike in text and fandom: Unsettling oppositions in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Amy-Chinn, senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and Williamson, of Brunel University, focus on a specific character in this paper, Spike, who as argued by the authors, embodies" the simultaneous expression of erotic repulsion and attraction” and a" fear of and desire for the other’”. The authors compare and contrast the character of Spike to the show’s general treatment of sexuality and self.

2.3. Examples of explored themes Media studies

  • Wilcox, Rhonda & Lavery, David, 2002." Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake for Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” "Fighting the Forces” explores the struggle to create meaning in an impressive example of popular culture, the television series phenomenon" Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. These essays analyze the social and cultural issues implicit in the series and place it in its literary context. Editors Wilcox and Lavery have opened an intriguing doorway to fans of this show," Issues of gender, generations, race, class, and violence are treated seriously, through an in-depth analysis of both main characters and sidekicks. Class and race are discussed through a study of Buffy’s and her friends’ relationship with the two "other" slayers, American white trash Faith and Jamaican Kendra.” Wilcox and Lavery analyze these many concepts while critiquing other scholarly essays such as" God, New Religious Movements, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and" Everything Philosophical About Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
  • Rhonda Wilcox, 2005: Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Why does Buffy Matter? In this paper Wilcox makes the attempt to bring this television show into perspective for us. Wilcox says," It matters because it shows that television can be art, and deserves to be so studied…the depth of the characters, the truth of the stories, the profundity of the themes, and their precise incarnation in language, sound and image – all of these matter.” Wilcox 419. While giving in depth details of all of these elements and also drawing on other academic articles about Buffy, Wilcox helps to bring this television series to the same page for all fans interested in Buffy; from those who are a bit unsure about the series all the way to those die hard fans.


2.4. Examples of explored themes Family studies

  • Burr, Vivien., and Jarvis, C. Sept. 2007." Imagining the Family Representations of Alternative Lifestyles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” This paper offers studies of the family and how media families affect the views of young people. Through the television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Burr explores the dangers and advantages of non-normative family forms, especially the non-genetic or chosen’ families. Burr There is also a focus that Buffy" endorses a non-hierarchical, democratic vision’ of the family. Giddens, 1992 Also, Buffy can generate interactive social worlds’ that are a main focus of the spreading of new social, familial practices Plummer, 1995. Family is viewed in a new and different way through Buffy that leads to such innovations as well in practice and research on the subject.

2.5. Examples of explored themes Aesthetics

  • Kociemba, David, 2006:" Actually, it explains a lot ": Reading the Opening Title Sequences in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” This paper examines the opening title sequences of the television series in detail, looking at the use of imagery, color, editing, logo, credits, title, and scoring. The opening title sequences of Buffy the Vampire Slayer function as a microcosm of the series itself. They reveal the influence of the creators’ perception of their audience and their own work, the mediums narrative and artistic conventions, and the media industrys own practices. They construct the series’ past, shape the viewers present experience of the episode, and prepare the way for future narratives. This article won the "Short Mr. Pointy" award for excellence in scholarship in Buffy Studies from the Whedon Studies Association.
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