Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale
Edited by James B. South
Open Court
335 pp; $17.95

It might be a stretch to get him to publicly admit it, but Buffy creator Joss Whedon likely loved the last chapter of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale.

For 293 pages, scholars have been prattling on about Buffy-and-feminism, Buffy-and-religion, Buffy-and-science, Buffy-and-Plato (-Aristotle, -Kant), Buffy-and-politics. Along come Michael Levine and Steven Jay Sneider to argue that the show's success does not rest "on innovation in genre or in any other area, nor does it rest on anything remarkable … about the series, its scripts, acting, language, or message." Rather, people watch the show for a much more simple reason. They're turned on by the lead character, a classic blonde "girl next door" type, albeit one with superhuman powers.

I think they're dead wrong, and I would propose another reason for the show's success—but it's this same reason that leads me to believe Whedon would appreciate their contrarian effort. Both Buffy and the spin-off series Angel succeed by consistently and stubbornly refusing to give viewers what they want. Just when you get attached to a character or comfortable with things as they are, watch for the narrative hand bunching up the edge of the carpet. People die unexpectedly and relationships sour like milk left out too long.

Some Buffy watchers believe the show to be not only entertaining but important as well. When English professors David Lavery and Rhonda Wilcox solicited contributions for Fighting the Forces: What's at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer?, the response was so overwhelming that they created the online interdisciplinary ...

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