Academics Take a Stab at Studying "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
While "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" wrapped up more than 10 years ago, its cult status is alive and well.
While the show has been popular for its fantasy and feminist themes, and its sense of humor, it has also been appreciated on other deeper levels.
Joss Whedon's hit show has also grown in popularity among the academics (we're pretty sure Giles or Willow would be extremely happy to hear this).
So far, hundreds of scholarly books and articles have been written that explore the deeper themes within the show. There's even an entire academic journal and conference series dedicated to it, appropriately called "Slayage." The series has also paved the way for shows like "Mad Men," "The Sopranos," "The Wire," and "Lost." In general, students are inspired to learn more about popular culture studies.
A UCLA professor, Douglas Kellner, notes that television can definitely express society's subconscious fears and fantasies, and that "Buffy" provides useful examples. While other supernatural fantasy shows exist, "Buffy" sets itself apart. Scholars are especially intrigued by the allegory, cultural references, and myths featured throughout the series.
"In 'Buffy,' monsters act as physical stand-ins for societal differences and threats: Vampires symbolize sexual predators, werewolves represent bodily forces out of control, and witches tap into tropes about how female power and sexuality is seen as threatening," The Atlantic reports. "By fighting the 'Big Bad,' Buffy and her friends fight the monsters everyone faces — oppressive authority figures, meaningless rules, confining social norms, sexual awakening, loneliness, redemption — in other words, the terrors of growing up and finding one’s way in the world."
In an interview with The New York Times, Whedon said: "I think it's always important for academics to study popular culture, even if the thing they are studying is idiotic. If it's successful or made a dent in culture, then it is worthy of study to find out why."
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