By Jerry Chandler
One of the bits of news that came out of 2018’s San Diego Comic Con news dump was the return to television of Buffy Summers and her quest to kill every vampire she comes across other than the ones that qualify as good dating material. This was met with some positive reactions in fandom, but the positive reception of the news hasn’t quite been universal. The reasons for this have been the details around the news. First, it’s a reboot. Second, fans of the official continuation of the Buffy story, the comic series, are suddenly having visions of their beloved stories getting junked and declared no longer official ala Star Wars properties in the era of The Mouse running the franchise. Third, the announcement was big on emphasizing that this will be a reboot featuring the exploits of a black Buffy Summers.
Believe it or not, some of the complaints about that last bit aren’t what you likely think they are or from the sources you likely think they’re coming from. But, taking those in order…
There’s some complaint about the series being a reboot and not a continuation. Well, while I sympathize with those wanting a continuation due to my own attachment to other franchises that got rebooted over continued, I’m not sure they didn’t really write themselves into a corner on the series finale when it comes to doing a continuation. It’s been 15 years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air. While the Buffy comics I’ve seen can play with picking the story up not long after those events, it would be a little difficult to try to do a series set only a few years after the original. It would have to be set, well, now.
The original cast is older. Granted, they’re not so old that they can’t still be convincing monster hunters, but there are other things that happen with growing older other than just feeling the physical effects of aging. While the comic adventures may have attempted to address some of these things in later “seasons” of the comics, a TV show will have to address them. What things, you ask?
Most of the characters are old enough that they would probably be doing the family thing by now. But, even if they don’t go that way with the characters, a decade-in-a-half has gone by. The characters are not going to be the same people they were in the season finale, and, frankly, they would look a little goofy acting like they were. While it might be interesting to be dropped into the characters’ lives this far along and seeing what’s changed even as we’re seeing the beginnings of new adventures, I’m not sure how the changes would play for fans.
We’re likely not getting Buffy and the Scooby Gang as they were or working as they did; especially given the fact that we supposedly saw the awakening of slayers all over the world when we saw Buffy grinning into a camera for the last time. The start of the canonical continuation in comic form established a number of close to 2,000. Even if they scale it back a bit, that’s a lot of slayers. It would be kind of foolish to have normal humans on the battlefield with the ability to have units of slayers; especially as the normal are reaching the years when they’re going to be slowing down a bit.
But what about those other slayers? How about a passing of the torch series where we see the old gang still training and building the new slayer armies? Again, it’s been 15 years. I don’t think it would be any great service to the slayers who were born in the season finale if they still need a lot of training and hands on guidance 15 years on. If you continue the series as we left it, we’ve had 15 years of a slayer army doing their thing and settling into their roles. The odds are slim (even if they got everyone to come back to the show) that we see a group or show dynamic that we know to be “right” when a continuation series starts.
Besides, what’s been going on in their world since 2003 now that there are thousands of blossoming slayers and how have they kept it totally under the radar?
Well, if we go by the comics, a lot. But even if we don’t go by the comics, there had to be a lot going on. It doesn’t quite feel right going in 15 years later and seeing the status being largely quo as we knew it. But let’s go back to the comics for a moment.
They expended the hell out of the Buffy universe in that series. A lot of the things they came up with might be hard to do on a TV budget even with modern visual effects and production budgets having some occasional “event” leeway. Plus, well, they really expanded the hell out of that universe.
They introduced new threats, new magics, and, through some of that, new versions of old threats with new abilities. Did you know about the new breed of vampires that are harder to kill and can walk in sunlight that Buffy and the Scooby Gang fought? Probably not, because most of the people who watched the show didn’t buy the comics. I didn’t, I just read some my friends have and not even all of them. The odds are, even as Joss oversaw the books, Joss knows most of the TV audiences tuning in to a continuation don’t know anything about what’s happened in between 2003 and new series on TV. It would be dropping fans into a radically different world when they’re expecting a return to what they knew. So, he likely wouldn’t go that way on TV. What does that leave? He (and the money men) most likely saw a reboot as the best way to go. Return Buffy to the airwaves as people (mostly) remember her.
So where does that leave the books? Well, hopefully you hardcore Buffy extended Universe fans know some Star Wars fans who can lend a sympathetic shoulder, because they’re likely over and done with for good. They’re not going to build a new TV series on the comic books’ canon, and they’ll likely not keep any old series continuations going for long with a new series on the air. So, yeah, get used to the idea of a reboot and likely seeing original series continuations going away. But, hey, they’re not erased. You have them. Enjoy what you have.
So, we have a reboot. We have a reboot with a stated goal of having a black Buffy. That might not be a good thing, and, as I said before, not for the reasons you might first think some people will say it’s not really that great of a thing.
There’s something I’ve seen used, a name or term, and it’s something I just used. It’s just two words, but it seems to have a huge meaning and not merely the meaning some seemed to hope for. Most people using it don’t think twice about it. Some are kind of shaking their heads. Some are bristling. The two words? Black Buffy.
My first response to the news was to think, okay, we’re going to have a black Buffy, and then go on with my day. Typically, I take the attitude with these things of not being a fan of the idea of changing something like this just because someone somewhere declared that it was time, but, as I said about Doctor Who, if you tell good stories that hook the audience then you will have that audience tuning in loyally and telling friends. Deliver a good show with likeable characters and you will have a hit show. Yes, I know, Firefly fans, but, in general…
If the show does this, it’s going to find an audience. Will I be a part of that audience? Well, no, I likely won’t be. Does it have anything to do with having a black Buffy? No, it doesn’t, and my reasoning is something that one set of the people complaining about a black Buffy Summers should keep in mind here. I’m assuming if you’re reading this you’re a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and have been for years now. However, if you were a fan from day one, you’re probably not going to be a big fan of a rebooted Buffy the Vampire Slayer no matter what color the various characters are or are not.
I was 25 when the original series hit the airwaves. I hadn’t been a huge fan of the film, and even the discussions on genre bulletin boards and in genre news publications about how this was going to have a different tone to it didn’t really get my interest up. Why? Well, because I could have cared less about a high school based television series even if it featured vampires and vampire hunters. I couldn’t have cared less when I was hearing about the pining vampire aspect that Angel brought to it.
Some ladies I worked with convinced me get off of my horror high horse and to give it a watch. Well, actually they didn’t give me a choice on the matter since a bunch of us were over at one of their apartments working on some job related stuff and the TV rule when it was Buffy time was their place, their TV, and their choice on what was on it. I think they were into season 2 by then, and I didn’t find it as bad as I thought it would be with regards to the high school focus. Actually, I found it pretty fun and engaging. Sharp writing, good comedy and action beats mixed well, and a nice play on the vampire concept. Even a lot of the general teenage focus didn’t seem as bad as I thought based on some descriptions I’d heard. Teens and teen life hadn’t changed that much since I’d been one, so it wasn’t as if it was filled with things I didn’t relate to if only because I’d been there myself (minus the vampire killing) not all that long before then.
I am 22 years older now. Not only have I no interest in watching a show about teenagers in high school dealing with anything- even vampires -but many might consider it a little weird if I was. I can watch and enjoy the original for nostalgia reasons, but I don’t know that I’d want to watch a new show. Plus, well, teen life, while the basics are the same, is a lot different than teen life in the 1980s. While the targeting of the show in the 1990s didn’t move me too far out of the target audience if at all, a show in 2019 or 2020 targeted at a teen and twenty-something audience probably will move me way out of the target demo and the target audiences for getting the references.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Sarah Michelle Gellar and crew was my show. Buffy the Vampire Slayer with whoever fills all the roles in 2020 is really not my show; nor should it be. That nostalgia thing only works when looking at the original. It won’t work here. There are probably a lot of people who think that, and quite a few more who may find that out by tuning in.
Joss and crew likely know this. They’re not going to make a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer for us. Frankly, they shouldn’t be making it for us. It has to be for the new target audience that’s out there now, because that’s where the success of the show will be decided. So, it doesn’t matter what any of us as fans thinks about a black Buffy, pro or con, because this is not meant to be our show.
But there are those two words again…
We’re going to have a black Buffy. I’ve seen the expected grumblings. I’ve seen the screaming about PC, woke, and changing races and genders to sacrifice at the altar of SJW. What I’ve found interesting has been the other grumbling about this change. A big part of it is around the fact that this character is right now known as and likely will for a long time be known as Black Buffy because it’s not an original character. I’ve seen this complaint from a number of people of color.
How is that a problem as they’ve laid it out? Because, I’ve both been told and read in various places, it would be better to have new characters and new shows that some people can look at as their character rather than having an asterisk next to it in their heads and/or thinking of such things as a second gen *Black Buffy, *Black Charmed, *Black etc.
I can actually understand this line of thinking. This isn’t a Doctor Who situation where it’s an alien who changed genders for a regeneration or two. It’s an old character getting a reboot and a change in race and being held up as an achievement because of that. But it’s still someone else’s character that’s just got someone else living in its new skin. I’ve even seen a few people talking about how it’s almost an eye rolling bit of Hollywood treatment, because making a black Buffy and holding her up as an achievement almost feels like Hollywood is still saying that an original black character and show isn’t good enough to be mainstream popular rather than just black demo plus a little extra popular. A feeling made doubly eye rolling in the post Black Panther era. And, well, as several people have put it to me, knowing that this character will almost assuredly be known in fandom for some time to come as, even if not meant in any way at all to be derogatory in nature, Black Buffy is kind of annoying.
Unfortunately, while I can understand what this section of fandom is saying, I can’t blame Joss for going this path. No, it’s not because I don’t think an original black character in an original show wouldn’t find an audience, and I seriously doubt Joss thinks that either. I mostly blame Hollywood and fandom for making this path one of his likely only paths to take.
If you bring Hollywood a series about a teenage vampire slayer and her friends juggling monster hunting, studying for good grades, and starting and keeping a social life and a dating life that’s not already an amazingly popular book or comic series that’s not tied to Joss, they’re likely not doing it while citing Buffy. But what about Joss bringing them an entirely new show about a teenage girl hunting monsters with her friends and juggling that life against her “normal” life? Well, Hollywood might go for it, but fandom, especially the negative cesspool fandom on social media has become in many ways, would probably rip it a new one. Why?
Why can’t we have something new? Why retread old ideas? Has Joss lost his touch/creativity and all he’s got left is recycling ideas and “stealing” from his own best works in the hopes of being relevant and successful again? Why not just call it Buffy and be done with it since it’s basically just Buffy anyhow?!?
You do know that is the noise we’d be hearing right now if the announcement had been for The Adventures of Danai: Monster Hunter instead of a Buffy reboot. Plus, well, they’d be ripping on that horrible show name. You know, just like they ripped on the name Buffy the Vampire Slayer all those years ago, but likely with social media levels of worse.
So, like it or not, no matter your reason for not liking it, we’ve been given a Buffy reboot and a change in the look of the lead.
I can’t address the matter of the people who see this as a bit of an eye roll and a quiet comment by Hollywood that they’d rather go nostalgia power and claim “woke” status than go for something original that can be completely embraced as their own. Make more noise is about all I can say, because it would be cool to see new creations added into fandom and not just old creations redone and given a new paint job.
But to everyone else? To the people that hate this idea just because they can’t stand the idea of Buffy being black or for the people who are upset because this is a reboot and not a continuation?
I say again- This ain’t our show and it isn’t meant to be our show. It can’t be our show if it’s to find a new audience and survive in today’s TV landscape. As much as a lot of us- especially a lot of us over a certain age range -like the Buffy we’ve known over the years, this Buffy is not being aimed at us and we won’t be looking at a new high school slayer’s adventures with the veil of nostalgia over our eyes as we watch no matter who plays the role. Maybe aspects of Joss’s writing style will amuse us, but this show has a different showrunner than before, will likely have an almost completely new writing team, and an entirely different high school world to draw on to show the day to day life of its characters.
If you want to go outside of genre for a moment: I knew a lot of people who were big fans of Beverly Hills, 90210 back in the early 1990s. Most of them had no interest in tuning in to the modern 90210 continuation/legacy series, and the ones who did tuned out really fast. Good show or bad, they were no longer the target audience. This is a teen targeted show, and it’s not likely going to speak to the teen still buried inside of a lot of us.
If you want to be negative about the show, I certainly can’t stop you. But anyone who wants to be negative about the show should probably just go find something else to talk about. There is no way that a Buffy that hits the airwaves in 2020 is ever going to be the Buffy we remember as we remember it; certainly not the best of that series. Let someone else have it as their show now.
Let me try this. I was 13-years-old when The Transformers hit the airwaves. That original series and the animated movie it spawned is my Transformers. I hate the modern movie franchise. My 11-year-old son loves it, and he really loves some of the humor in it that I hate the most. Those movies, despite some nostalgia voice actor casting, weren’t made for me, and they’ve been increasingly less so made for me as they’ve gone along. They’re being aimed at my son and others who are not my age and who do not have a set version of The Transformers from the 1980s locked into their heads. The same is true for the modern animations. But my son loves them even as he’s lukewarm on the series I think of as the definitive version. The Transformers of this era are not meant for me. I can live with that. I may make fun of the movies, but that’s more about ripping on Michael Bay.
This Buffy belongs to a new generation of fans, not the old generation of fans. Some old fans may enjoy it, but, if most don’t it doesn’t matter because, again, this one is not ours and is not being made with us in mind. Let it go, let it find its new audience, and enjoy what you already have whenever the nostalgic mood hits you.
Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek who, while enjoying most everything fandom has to offer, finds himself most at home in the horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction genres. When not wasting too much time on social media, he can be found writing regularly here at Needless Things, but has also written for websites like Gruesome Magazine as well as remembering to put up the occasional musings on his on blog. He’s been a guest on several podcasts from the ESO Network, Decades of Horror, and the Nerdy Laser. He has also recently become a regular cohost of The Assignment: Horror Podcast.