Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Buffy without Joss: Story in Culture

The big buzz worldwide on the internet today is the outrage over the fact that a hugely beloved series is being brought back/rebooted cinematically without the involvement of its creator. Admittedly, it seems like a really dumb idea. Why would you consider telling a Buffy the Vampire Slayer story without Joss Whedon, one of the most talented story-tellers out there today?

This is just the latest in a long stream of examples of world-wide “geekdom” the guardians of popular culture’s most important stories, rising up to protest details or approaches to telling those stories. George Lukas and Steven Spielberg are continually critiqued for the way they have changed or added onto the stories they initiated in the seventies and eighties. Fantasy films like the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises are nit-picked for every casting decision and change that is made from page to screen. Comic book geeks can be the worst.

The fact of the matter is that Story has always been an important part of human culture. It is even more so now in the times of Postmodernism and all the emerging post-postmodern philosophical streams. Whether it is stories that are based on real events and history, or stories made up from some person (or group’s) fertile imagination, stories have the capacity to communicate important truths. And that is what is really important in the end.

Will the new Buffy (if it ends up being made) tell a good story, and communicate something worth thinking about? Joss Whedon didn’t always hit a home run with every episode or season of the show. (Remember the climax of season 4, or how about all but one episode of season six?) The movie will probably fail to capture the magic that the series did, but why judge it before it even has a chance to be told. Why are we so protective of the stories we love that we don’t give new ones a chance? That too seems to be a pervasive problem in human culture.

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