The Aesthetics of Culture in Buffy the Vampire Slayer


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About the Book

On the TV screen as elsewhere, there is often more than meets the eye. For decades, television has offered not just entertainment, but observations—subtle and otherwise—on society. This book examines the cultural commentary contained in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, a show that ran for seven seasons (1997–2003) and 144 episodes.
On the surface, Buffy is the marriage of a high school drama to gothic horror. This somewhat unusual vehicle is used to present, via the character of Buffy, fairly typical views of late 20th century culture-teenage problems; issues regarding a broken home; and the search for meaning and validation. In addition, subtler themes, such as cultural views of knowledge, ethnicity and history, are woven into the show’s critique of popular culture. Organized into two sections, this volume offers an in-depth examination of the show: first, through the lens of Buffy’s confrontation with culture, and second, from the complex perspectives of the individual characters. Issues such as values, ethical choices and the implications of one’s actions are discussed—without ever losing sight of the limitations of a medium that will always be dominated by financial concerns. The final chapter summarizes what Buffy has to say about today’s society. An appendix lists Buffy episodes in chronological order.

About the Author(s)

Matthew Pateman is Head of School, Performance and Screen Studies at Kingston University Kingston, Surrey.

Bibliographic Details

Matthew Pateman
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 288
Bibliographic Info: appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2249-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0612-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
A Note on the Text      xi
Introduction: “What kind of name is Buffy?”      1

Part I: Aesthetics and Cultures in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
1. Aesthetics, Culture and Knowledge: “Everyone forgets, Willow, that knowledge is the ultimate weapon”      15
2. Aesthetics, Culture and Ethnicity: “Silly, silly British Man”      38
3. Aesthetics, Culture and History: “She lives very much in the ‘now’”      62
4. Aesthetics, Culture and Ethics: “You can tell it’s not gonna have a happy ending when the main guy’s all bumpy”      85

Part II: Restless Traditions: The Aesthetics of Involution in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
5. The Aesthetics of Involution: “I’ve got a theory”      109
6. Willow’s Dream: “It’s exactly like a Greek tragedy”      126
7. Xander’s Dream: “It’s all about the journey, isn’t it?”      146
8. Giles’s Dream: “There’s a great deal going on. And all at once”      164
9. Buffy’s Dream: “You think you know what you are?”      183
Conclusion: “I’d call that a radical interpretation of the text”      208

Appendix: Episode Listing      213
Notes      221
Bibliography      247
Index      263

Book Reviews & Awards

“a useful addition”—Communication Booknotes Quarterly; “from a complex meditation on its risible yet perfect title, to the most comprehensive examination yet undertaken of the masterful episode “Restless,” Matthew Pateman’s nifty musings on Buffy’s aesthetic dimension stands as one of the richest and most engaging contributions yet to this astonishing field.”—David Lavery, Co-Editor, Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies