Dear Joss Whedon, Thank you. Love, Me (and a lot of other people)

 (Or, why Buffy still rocks and no one will remember True Blood in a few years)

The complete series, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, is streaming on Netflix right now and a lot of the girls I follow in Tumblr are watching it; it’s making me all nostalgic and happy. (It’s also throwing a lot of Spike gifs up on my dashboard, so thanks for that, girls.)

Now, I’m a Buffy fangirl from way back.  In fact, I even watched the cult movie classic with Kristy Swanson in the titular role! (So, maybe it was because I was a Luke Perry fan, but that’s not examine that too closely, okay?) When the series started, I was hooked from the first season. Loved it. Felt it. Followed it. Watched it religiously.

I cried when she killed Angel. I sobbed when Joyce died. I drooled every time bad Spike strutted across the screen. (I still do that.) And you know what? I can re-watch that series anytime and still love it.

I bought the first season DVD set of True Blood. Watched it once.

I don’t dive into the whole “True Blood sucks” pool all that much. I’m quickly losing interest in the series as a whole, though I am a huge fan of the Charlaine Harris universe. But why has Buffy remained so popular, and True Blood so quickly alienated fans that should be its most loyal?

In the end (like so many things about storytelling) it comes down to character.

Joss Whedon loved his characters.  Good guys, bad guys, bit parts … whatever. You could see it on the screen.  You could hear it in the writing. There weren’t any extra people hanging around; every character contributed to the show.  That doesn’t mean you were supposed to like every character, but you could tell that the writers appreciated and valued them.

True Blood? I could see half that enormous cast killed off and not shed a tear.

In twenty years, I think there will still be Buffy fans. Will they do some horrible remake when my kid is a teenager? Probably. And original fans will cringe. In twenty years will anyone remember True Blood? Maybe? I kind of doubt it. It has no where near the staying power of Buffy for many, many reasons.

In fact, I would argue that much of the popularity of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and fantasy novels now is the direct result of Buffy fans growing up and starting to write and buy a lot of books. Let’s face it, that show changed how many of us saw female heroines, and there’s a little Buffy in most of the popular female protagonists running around the paranormal playground. (There’s a few Spikes running around, too. I’m looking at you Bones … and I like what I see.) I know I am a proud Buffy fangirl, and I always will be.

So … thank you, Joss! For a lot of reasons. (*sob* Firefly! *sob*) But most especially for loving your characters and giving us a kick-ass show that still resonates.

Thanks for reading,

E

Posted in Fandoms, Life, Random, Reading/Watching/Listening, TV, Writing and tagged , , , , , .

22 Comments

  1. I love Buffy too, but that show was also successful in alienating its audience from time to time for various reasons. Killing beloved characters, weird romantic entanglements/breakups, good guys gone bad, bad guys gone good, Riley, Dawn, Kennedy, season six – basically all the risky ideas that made the show so memorable.

    Personally I don’t watch True Blood; it doesn’t appeal to me (this might sound crazy, what with all the vampires and everything, but I don’t think it’s actually the same genre as Buffy). I suspect you might judge it more favourably in hindsight.

    • I never said I always loved it, and it had its controversial moments, for sure. I do maintain that the quality of writing and character development are far superior to much of what we see on television now. And you’re right, part of what made the show so memorable is those risks the writers took. Not all of them worked, but all in all, I think fans left that series really satisfied.

      And you may be right about True Blood and Buffy, genre-wise. It’s debatable. We’ll see about hindsight.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment!
      E

  2. Amen to that!

    NEVER in a million years would I ever think that Jason Stackhouse would be the most impressive thing in the episode before the season finale. Gotta give serious props to the guy for standing up to the vamps in defense of his sister. That was one incredible speech he gave! 🙂

    • Jason always surprises me. And he’s one of the few characters I really do like on True Blood.

      Can I continue watching a show for just a few characters? We’ll see after the end of this season.

      Thanks for commenting!

      E

  3. Ah, Joss. I love him too. I was an original fan girl. I grew up with Buffy—through those awkward “high school is hell” years, on to college where we dealt with the changes and monsters that accompany that, and then we entered adulthood and had to deal with the responsibility of being the one in charge of our families (yeah, so Buffy was responsible for the fate of the world, but it sure felt like I was too!).

    Joss even got me into comic books through Buffy! I loved the new directions they went in season 8 and am anxiously awaiting season 9. In fact, I know there’s no way I would have graduated college with honors let alone gone on to graduate school if I had known about fanfiction back then, because I would have been writing in that universe.

    I love it. I love all the characters, but I think there is more to the genius of Joss Whedon than just the characters and the writing. He was an innovator. Would shows like Glee have ever been thought up without the help of the musical episode, Once More With Feeling? Has TV ever been more dramatic and creepy than the silent episode, Hush? No single episode of TV has ever made me cry more than The Body, where Buffy comes home to find her mother dead of natural causes.

    I think you’re right that there will still be Buffy fans in 20 years. I’m sure I’ll still be one.

    Yes, thank you Joss, from all of us.

    • So well put, and you pointed out three of my favorite episodes. Joss has always been an innovator. He’s very missed on my TV set.

      Fantastic universe. Fantastic execution.

      E

  4. I was late to the Buffy-love. Just watched the entire series last year and loved it. Then I ran out and bought the DVDs so I’d always have them to rewatch. I’m in awe of Joss Whedon. You’re completely right about Joss and the other Buffy writers loving or at least connecting with each character and making sure they all mattered to the plot. That stands in stark contrast to True Blood and Alan Ball. So many superfluous, one-dimensional characters, so little love. I often feel the TB writers hate the characters and us. TB Sookie is so often whiny, selfish, indecisive, and helpless she’s more Bella in Twilight than kickass Buffy. How many heroines are that unlikable? I think the only episodes I would enjoy watching again are the two Godric ones from Season 2. Such a waste! So I’m also grateful we’ll always have Buffy.

    • There’s a huge difference between the way Whedon writes female characters and the way they’re written on TB. Big. Huge. Massive difference. Buffy vs. TB Sookie is only one example.

      Glad you got hooked on the Buffy-love!

      E

  5. The completely weird thing is that I think that Alan Ball feels like he does love the characters and that his writing is envelope pushing. I have a feeling (Perhaps it’s just a stupid glimmer of hope) that there are a lot of underlying subliminal/subjective/bullshittyish hints and things going on in a layer beneath what we’re paying attention to. I know, I know. I’m probably insane. And honestly, I’m kind of afraid that they’ll run out of time and the craptastic spectacle that is TB will be canceled before AB can reveal it all. In the end, I think that will be the thing that determines how the show is remembered. If it can all be tied up somehow so that the bullshit all makes sense when all is said and done, people might hold onto it. If not – they can always read the books. They were better anyway.

    On that note, I share the Joss and Buffy love. Firefly forever. That is all.

    • I agree, AB probably does love his characters (in a twisted way), and probably does think he’s being innovative and creating layers to be uncovered in future episodes. But I just don’t care anymore, cause there’s so little of it I enjoy anymore. And I think Lost messed me up, waiting for a satisfying payoff that never happened, so I’m more inclined now to say the hell with crazy-assed twists and turns cause they could just mean nothing in the end. But I’ll probably still be watching TB next season cause I’m a masochist like that, lol.

      • I think he does like some of the characters, and has re-interpreted others so far away from the original that I can’t even compare them.

        I think he is playing the long game with the series, which I have a huge appreciation for, but if the intermittent writing and character development is so bad that I can miss four episodes and not really feel the urge to catch up?

        Yeah, not so good.

        I was really sold on Sookie at the beginning of this season, but I felt like the writing for her crumbled about half-way through. And she’s the heart of the show. If you can’t make the heart of the show an appealing character? Yeah, that’s pretty bad.

        I didn’t always like Buffy as a character on the show. Sometimes she did stuff that I hated, but I was always interested in what was going to happen next, and the supporting cast had great, complex side-stories that still added to the main plot. That, to me, is the main difference.

        E

  6. Brilliantly expressed. I think you’re right about Joss influencing so many writers in recent years. I was in my 30s when I got hooked on Buffy and my 40s when I was inexplicably sucked into the Twilight universe. I actually ended up writing a fanfic with a major nod to the master. (Whedon, not S1 “The Master.” He was creepy.) Joss did love his characters and I’ve already introduced them to my daughter.
    PS: I was Team Angel long before there was an Edward;)

    • Yes! The original rivalry, Team Angel vs. Team Spike. Jacob vs. Edward? Pfft!

      I’m a Spike girl myself, but that could be due to a long-standing Billy Idol crush as well as his fabulous swagger.

      And yes, hugely influential in a great way. I hope he realizes what an impact that show had on popular culture. He should be really proud of that.

  7. Get out of mah brain woman! I was just thinking this last night!
    I’ve never seen a full ep of Buffy, and as soon as my download limit resets I’ll probably download them all because so many people in my life love the series.
    Firefly however I can watch over and over again and love every time. Something about Joss’ storytelling is just… memorable, lovable… epic. He’s an amazing storyteller and I’m forever peeved that they cancelled Firefly, I loved all those characters, even Jayne…*sniffle* I’m actually rewatching the series at the moment and I still laugh and cry with them even though I know the stories backwards.
    I was watching the ep where the bounty hunter shows up on Serenity and River is being River… see… even a character that makes NO SENSE is more lovable than most of the characters on TB
    You’re completely right that TB won’t be remembered the same way, there are only a few things I enjoy about that show and the writing is NOT one of them, the good thing about it is that it’s given a lot of actors some much needed publicity. Hell if Ryan, Nelsan, Alex and Stephen can pull off those storylines with a straight face they have to be amazing actors, yes?
    Bottom line? Allan Ball ‘Screwed The Pooch’ big time with the TB series, it had potential, it really did, but as Lantana said – the twists and turns he puts in are probably going to end up in a dead end like many fanfics tend to do… fantastic start, mediocre middle and you can’t even be bothered to read the end because all of a sudden Eric has morphed into Edward Cullen without the sparkles.
    Joss, you’re awesome and I think you should seriously get in contact with some of the Firefly fandoms – they want you back… I think there was a fundraiser a while back to raise money so Nathan Fillion could buy Firefly.. I don’t think he knew about it, but it happened! lol.

  8. “even Jayne …”

    EVEN JAYNE???

    It is only because I love you so much that I’m letting you get away with that statement! 😉

    I think you hit the nail on the head on your bottom line, though. A lot of the disappointment with True Blood is the result of fans finding so much potential in the series and then having some of their favorite characters fall victim to bad writing.

    As for Firefly …

    … I can’t. It’s too soon. I’m still grieving. *sniff*

    E

  9. I used to know every word to Buffy the movie, but I’ve never seen the show. Please don’t beat me up because of that though. When I finally became interested enough to watch it, my options at the time were reruns and trying to watch 7 seasons out of order didn’t appeal to me. I don’t have Netflix right now but if I sign up again, that will probably be one of the first things I watch. I have watched a good chunk of Angel though, which was a bit strange not having the back story from Buffy, and I loved it. But I was completely Team Angel, since David Boreanaz being the hottie he is. But I can understand what you all mean about the differences in character development between Joss Wheadon and Alan Ball. I’m pretty new to the SVM and TB fandom, I picked up Dead Until Dark in January and saw my first episode of TB probably in March. TB makes me want to pound my head against the wall at times, but season four seemed better to me then the rest, season two and the whole Marianne debacle being the worst. Though I disliked the idea of using Godric as Eric’s maker, I loved Allan Hyde and his portrayal of Godric. I thought the Dallas part of season two came out a lot better than the Bon Temps portion. But in the end, if TB became the Eric and Pam Comedy Hour, I’d be fine with that. Maybe Joss could take over and we’d be almost guaranteed an amazing show (I only say almost because their characters have been torn apart already). I’m also worried that the book series has been influenced by AB, and that’s why there’s been some issues in the last few books. It could also be that Ms Harris’ contract was extended for 2 or 3 extra books when she has said for quite a while that she knew what the ending of the series will be. Maybe she’s had to spread he major plot points over these extra books and use a lot of filler, and the whole AB influence is my imagination, which I really hope is the way it is.

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