THEY’RE SERIOUS ABOUT DOING A NEW BUFFY MOVIE WITHOUT JOSS WHEDON OR SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR?!
...Such were my thoughts, one cold November eve, as I picked up my trusty can of kerosene and made for the door, humming an ominous chorus of “A la lanterne.”
But I before I made it to the street one last link chanced to catch my eye. Instead of the writer-bot sent from the future to destroy all we hold dear, here was a surprisingly young screenwriter saying:
“I always watched 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer.' That was the one show I would watch when I got home. I just loved this character. I was the same age as Buffy, and it was so rare to have a female lead character on TV in those days who was strong and capable and smart but also allowed to be feminine.”
A young writer... who grew up with the show... and sounds kind of obsessed... same age as Buffy... wants to write her very own Buffy story... oh. Oh!
So it’s fanfiction. And then I relaxed.
I want to make this clear: I have put the torches and pitchforks down, but not away.
I remain in constant readiness. I reserve the right, at a moment’s notice, to go on a roaring rampage of ranty justice which may or may not be rationally consistent with what I'm writing now, or with any other logical argument, just because I can and because it’s BUFFY for Gawd’s sake.
But Anderson’s account sounds... familiar. I'm slightly older, and indeed, when I first started watching Buffy, I felt a bit embarrassed. I thought I was too old for it. I was... uh... eighteen. (This is a problem I’ve always had; I thought I was too old for The Little Mermaid when I was ten.) But, the sly humour, the action, the improbable fusion between kitschy hi-jinks and aching psychodrama ... there was only so long I could hold out.
My admiration for Whedon’s work is not unqualified. I have mixed feelings about his feminism. Blonde, nubile, teenage dreamgirl Buffy is a deft yet precarious balance between a male sex fantasy (like the gloriously OTT rescuer of this video) and a feminist avenger, and it’s a balance I don’t think Whedon has always managed to maintain in his other works, in which sickly sweet, wide-eyed, tottering child-women sigh and pine and get killed a lot and vacant women’s bodies get bought and sold while the narrative goes “Heheheh hot I mean oh no, BAD AND WRONG hehheh let’s glide the camera up and down her spandex-clad legs some more.”
Feminist issues aside, sometimes his characters get stuck droning out lines on exactly the same arch, glibly “quirky” note until everyone sounds alike. Sometimes things just don’t make anything like enough sense. Buffy itself unravelled towards the end, I thought Firefly was a mess, albeit a mess with wonderful characters I deeply wanted to see more of and would probably have become something great had it had the chance.
But still, I know what Anderson means: Buffy became the show of my late teens and early twenties too. I, too, "always" watched it. My carping and nitpicking is a FAN's carping and nitpicking, and the show will always have a significant place in my heart. And in showing that it was possible to combine adventure, a somewhat out-there premise with real emotional commitment and sincerity, I think it gave me a hint or two about the kind of writing I might want to have a go at doing.
So, on the one hand, I don’t want anyone messing with it. And if Buffy were a novel, if Whedon had been able to keep the copyright from the first film, there’d be no way this new project would be possible. The fact that it this legal loophole is being exploited so soon feels like an ethical cheat; a big part of me is still yelling, YOU, MADAM, ARE ONE LEGAL TECHNICALITY AWAY FROM BEING LADY SYBILLA, PISS OFF BACK TO LIVEJOURNAL WHERE YOU BELONG.
We’ve had the fanfiction debate (though we’ll doubtless have to have it a bazillion times more). Tl;dr, Fanfiction’s cool, (I’ve written it) but there’s a general agreement that making money out of fanfiction isn’t.
...except for how, eventually, it always is. The lines always get blurred, as Whedon himself wryly notes (in a quite wonderful post about the situation):
“This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths—just because they can't think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my Avengers idea that I made up myself.”
Being kept away from his own creation, whose “corpse” is barely cold. I feel horrible for him. Except... do I? And are the risks really that bad? Are there actually, any risks at all? As Roz said in her piece:
"[This]is a win-win situation, however personally and professionally galling it is to have his best creation taken away from him.
If the movie crashes and burns, the decision to leave him out of it becomes the reason for its failure; if, on the other hand, it succeeds, he gets the kudos for creating a modern myth so powerful that his stories can be told without his involvement. Actually, we already know the latter to be the case – because fanfiction drawing on Whedon's Buffy and its spin-off series Angel is one of the larger and better-written bodies of such work on the internet.
And... I had thought this was about some suit, heartlessly, soullessly plundering the backlist for anything marked “teen” and “vampire” in order to squeeze some more juice out of the Twilight audience. If a new Buffy film is going to happen – and eventually, of course, it will -- then I would rather it was some fangirl with a crazy dream and a story she’s desperate to tell, and the guy from Batman Begins saying, hey, this kid has something. I'd rather it was fanfiction, which entails some sort of passion, rather than mere recycling or cannibalising, which doesn't.
Because Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and the new Doctor Who (and arguably, quite a lot of the old Doctor Who) and the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes and the new Star Trek and everything that has ever been done with Greek mythology, including the actual Greek mythology... all pretty much fanfiction, and some of that turned out okay.
...On the other hand, it's too soon! I only feel really positive about “reboots” when times have actually changed and moved on since the last rendition of whatever-it-is; when one can honestly say, “we need a new [x] for our time.” This is why we do not need a new bloody Spiderman film, for God’s sake, we just had one. And surely, the original Buffy is still the Buffy for our time. Right? Right?
...but on the third or fourth or hundredth hand, I was first watching Buffy at eighteen, and that, alas, was quite a long time ago, and last time I rewatched it, it actually did seem just a tiny bit... dated...
All right, Ms Anderson, you may proceed.
But watch your back. Things can get stabby in these parts.