Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
This week’s announcement of a new Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie without Joss Whedon may have set the internet aflame in upset, but… Is it wrong that I think it might be a good idea? Please don’t kill me.
I should start, I guess, by owning up to my own Whedon fandom: I liked the original Buffy movie, and was a massive fan of the TV series. Angel kind of passed me by until the third season – I tuned in occasionally, but it didn’t really gel for me – and pretty much missed Firefly until reruns, at which point I fell in love with it (Serenity, too). Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was pretty great, but I tend to think of Dollhouse as a misstep that may have been interesting, but certainly wasn’t good. Does that mean that I am a hater? I can’t quite tell, to be honest, because I’m certainly cautious about the idea of a Whedon Avengers movie and find myself hoping for the best for this Whedon-less Buffy.
Here’s the thing: This new Buffy feels like, at the very worst, an easily-ignorable addition to the franchise. It doesn’t mean that Joss has been robbed of doing more Buffy; unless I’ve missed something somewhere, he’ll still be involved with the Dark Horse comics – being relaunched and expanded next year – and it’s not like there was another Buffy movie or television series he was involved in that has been killed as a result of this news. It just means that someone will be doing a different Buffy that really, honestly, can be ignored if you’re not into it.
(I know, I know; this is the counter-argument to my feeling that Caprica somehow lessens Battlestar Galactica in retrospect. I am a fickle, contradictory beast, what can I say?)
And is it really that wrong to be curious about what someone else can do with the ideas behind Buffy? The notion that monsters and demons and horror ideas can be used as stand-ins for the teenage experience is surely potent enough to stand up to multiple explorations by multiple people, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t interested in seeing someone who’s actually been a teenage girl can bring to the whole “metaphor for teenage girldom” thing (Not to say that Joss couldn’t write teenage girls well, because – obviously, he could – but still). Am I sad that it’s going to be done as a reboot of something that ended less than ten years ago, and still exists in spin-offs and the hearts of fandom everywhere…? Well, yeah, to be honest – I’d much rather see a new idea than a rehash of an old one. But, to be cynical, any new idea would’ve just been branded a Buffy rip-off anyway, so at least this addresses the elephant in the room by… co-opting said elephant.
The oddest part of the whole thing – The part that, I think, catches a lot of folk off-guard – is that Whit Anderson, writer of the new movie, is a completely unknown quantity. No-one seems to know anything about her work, her style, her anything other than what appeared in her LA Times interview, and that brings with it all kinds of feelings for many people: What makes her the person to reboot this beloved franchise? Why is she so special? (A favorite comment from a disgruntled fan commented on the fact that the LA Times piece had such a large photo of her, as if the fact that she was attractive was enough to get her the job. Sadly, that’s not really the way Hollywood works, something I found out after years of expensive and ultimately useless plastic surgery). Admittedly, the fact that you can’t look at previous work and pull an opinion from that makes it so much easier to assume the worst, but I’m choosing to do the opposite: I’m going to hope that the only way an unknown writer gets a major studio to back such a potential nerdbomb as a Buffy reboot is by having an astonishingly good pitch that makes it worth all the hassle and ill will from fans who’d rather see the franchise dead than done without Joss.
I could be wrong. The end result might be a terrible, terrible thing that I’ll wish I could trade in for that amount of time and money back to use in similarly unproductive ways. But if that’s the case, then, screw it. I’ll just go to Netflix Streaming and watch “The Body” again, and think of happier times. Until then, though, I’m keeping fingers crossed and hoping that this reboot will mean more Buffy, and an introduction for all the people who never saw the show or read the comics or even knew she existed before. Once more, with feeling, you could say.