The Conflict of Buffy: Examining the Good and Bad of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer Remake

Buffy_logo_0001The word that Joss Whedon’s super hit television series Buffy The Vampire Slayer was being adapted into a new feature film has been circulating on the web for a couple of years now.  The news continues to be met with a mixture of excitement and dread. Mostly dread.  Even Joss Whedon isn’t looking forward to it.

I am a Buffy the Vampire Slayer devotee and I believe, in many ways, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a perfect television series.   When I first heard the news, I was appalled and devastated, especially for the fact that Joss Whedon would not be involved with the project.   While I still harbour no doubts that the film will be an absolute train wreck, recently I have been thinking that perhaps a new movie is not such a bad thing for Buffy Summers. Surely though there has to be a better way to get the Buffyverse to the big screen without ruining everything that’s already perfect about it.  There is. Her name’s Fray.

Buffy Summers aka Rhonda the Immortal Waitress – A Brief History
Joss Whedon created the character of Buffy to subvert the horror movie standard of the helpless blonde girl who hasn’t a chance in hell against the attacking monsters.  What if that seemingly insignificant blonde girl fought back? And kicked some serious monster ass?  And so Buffy Anne Summers was born. Or rather, Rhonda the Immortal Waitress, the first incarnation of Whedon’s idea, was born, but Buffy wasn’t far behind.

Buffy_The_Vampire_Slayer_MovieWhedon developed the idea into the screenplay that would become Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the 1992 film starring Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry, Donald Sutherland and Rutger Hauer.

The film bombed, and with reason.  And that was the end of that.

The germ idea that Buffy Summers embodied refused to fade away, and Whedon leaped at Fox’s offer to adapt the character into a TV series.   With a shaky start, Buffy Summers was transferred onto the small screen premiering March 10, 1997. Seven seasons later Buffy the Vampire Slayer had become one of the most popularly and critically acclaimed television series. Ever.   No other TV series has received as much scholarly attention as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even inspiring an academic journal Slayage devoted to ‘Whedon Studies’.

After Buffy ended in its 7th Season, Whedon took the Buffyverse over to Dark Horse Comics and continued the story in comic book form as Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season EightBuffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Nine has just started publication.

buffy season 8

The character of Buffy was, and always will be a tribute to female strength and power, an ideal Whedon has described as his very first mission statement.

“When I created Buffy, I wanted to create a female icon, but I also wanted to be very careful to surround her with men that not only have no problem with the idea of a female leader, but were in fact engaged and even attracted to the idea.” ~ Joss Whedon

 

Buffy The Vampire Slayer – The New Movie Development
Several years ago, Buffy copyright owners Kaz Kazui and Fran Rubel Kazui expressed interest in making a new Buffy movie, claiming they wanted to explore a “darker side” to the slayer story.  My first thoughts were, NOOOO! My second thought was, “A darker side? Have they never watched the show? It’s plenty dark already.”

It was later reported that Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) had been offered the lead role of Buffy.  Again, my NOOOOO! could be heard in many far off corners. And then the project seemingly disappeared and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

In November 2010, Warner Bros. announced that they were green lighting the project. What’s more, they were running with it with no involvement from the shows original cast or crew. Cue screaming…………..

Why Buffy the Vampire Slayer Should Not Be Remade into a Movie
The key strength of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the writing.  The team of Buffy writers including Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson, David Fury, Drew Goddard, Drew Greenberg, David Greenwalt, Marti Noxon and Doug Petrie crafted the story arc so carefully, it can seem even from early episodes that the final season was already in development.  But it’s not all about foreshadowing and back tracking stories. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, dialogue is King…or in keeping with the female empowerment motif, Queen.

Buffy and her team (most often called Scoobies, but also referenced as Slayerettes) had a most unique way of talking, a kind of postmodern teen slang, always beguiling the flustered Giles who was not himself innocent of slipping into some curiously offbeat phrasings.  There was a flow to the dialogue, often ending in funny moments. The juxtaposition of drama and comedy in the show was perfect, unmatched except by a certain space-western that never made it past 14 episodes.

This impeccable writing would not have been possible without the strict control of Joss Whedon overseeing every aspect of the creation. This was his baby. He knew what was right. And he made sure it happened.

Kristin Dos Santos from E! approached Joss Whedon for his thoughts on the new adaptation. Here’s his reply:

Kristin, I’m glad you asked for my thoughts on the announcement of Buffy the cinema film. 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.

Obviously I have strong, mixed emotions about something like this. My first reaction upon hearing who was writing it was, “Whit Stillman AND Wes Anderson? This is gonna be the most sardonically adorable movie EVER.” Apparently I was misinformed. Then I thought, “I’ll make a mint! This is worth more than all my Toy Story residuals combined!” Apparently I am seldom informed of anything. And possibly a little slow. But seriously, are vampires even popular any more?

I always hoped that Buffy would live on even after my death. But, you know, AFTER. I don’t love the idea of my creation in other hands, but I’m also well aware that many more hands than mine went into making that show what it was. And there is no legal grounds for doing anything other than sighing audibly. I can’t wish people who are passionate about my little myth ill. I can, however, take this time to announce that I’m making a Batman movie. Because there’s a franchise that truly needs updating. So look for The Dark Knight Rises Way Earlier Than That Other One And Also More Cheaply And In Toronto, rebooting into a theater near you.

Leave me to my pain! Sincerely, Joss Whedon.

ustv-buffy-vampire-slayer-castWhedon imbued Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a unique sensibility in both form and content which was undoubtedly a key point to its massive success. Even the comic book series has the same ‘Buffiness’ that the TV series had.  Without Whedon, no unique sensibility, no ‘Buffiness’.  Without ‘Buffiness’, No Buffy.

The absence of Joss Whedon’s involvement aside, if it can ever be put wholly aside, a Buffy remake presents a whole host of other problems.

The characters grew as the series did, they matured and developed and deepened. Some of them even died. Twice.  Buffy ended seven years ago, the actors are long past playing high school kids, and even with a new cast  I struggle to think how those same characters could be transferred onto the big screen.  Does this mean then that the film will be taking the post-TV series route? Haven’t the comics already done that?

The only possible path I can imagine this even remotely working in is for the new film to take a completely different trajectory to the post-TV series than the comics did. But the problem remains that the comic series are canonical Buffy.  Ergo any plot trajectory explored in the new film would not be.

Why A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Remake Could Be A Good Thing
A year after the announcement, while  Joss Whedon’s sighs are still echoing and my own tears are starting to dry, I’m still not ready to suggest that a new Buffy remake will be a good movie for all of the reasons listed above.

The idea that I am working with here though is that Buffy Summers is a bona fide superhero in the same ilk as Batman, Superman, any of them.  Joss Whedon’s above letter makes a wry comment to his involvement with The AvengersThe Avengers is a film based on a pre-sold product, just like the new Buffy movie will be, and perhaps this comment reveals that Joss himself understands that sometimes superheroes change hands. Does that make their characters any less valid?

Not all of the Batman movies have been good movies, not all of the Superman movies have been good.   Some of the more recent superhero films, The Incredible Hulk (2008),  Thor (2011), The Green Hornet (2011) for example have downright sucked. But even so, I still consider them part of their respective superhero’s ouvre.

A new Buffy movie may very well lift Buffy Summers into the status of superhero that she deserves to be. And let’s face it, the world is not overflowing with female superheros these days. In all of the new superhero adaptations  that have come flying through our cinemas these least few years, how many of them have been women?  Wonder Woman can’t even get a TV series together.  It’s my only hope that a new Buffy movie will address this glaring absence of super women.

Buffy is a cool character. She kicks ass, but she also carved out a place, albeit an unfortunately small place, in the world of superheros for women.  As a testament to strong and smart and empowered women, to ordinary women who can do extraordinary things in a cinema culture overrun by men in costumes.  Perhaps it is time the Slayer came back.

The Solution – A Movie version of Fray
Joss_Whedon's_Fray_1

Fray is an eight part comic series created by Joss Whedon, based on the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fray is set in a future where demons have been eradicated at the hand of an unknown past slayer (but we really know who it was, hint… she was blonde). ‘Lurks, a new breed of vampire have risen and a new Slayer is called. Enter Melaka Fray.

Melaka Fray is in many ways a combination character of Buffy and Faith with Faith’s coolness and Buffy’s strengths and skills.  For all of the reasons I listed above why a Buffy remake would be a not-so-bad thing, Fray would make a great movie.

A movie version of Fray would also have the added benefit of, apart from a little Fray and Buffy cross over happening in the Buffy Season Eight comics,  being a new and fresh source. A film version of Fray would enrich the Buffyverse, adding further credence to the Slayer as a superhero without taking anything away from the existing specifics of Buffy Summers.

It’s Win Win!  Someone should let Warner Bros. know before they go and make a terrible mistake.

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Kate Krake

Kate Krake (aka Kate Murphy) is a writer with a long established passion for all realms of popular culture. She lives in Brisbane, Australia. Find out more on Kate's Blog.
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