More proof that Buffy Rules

Paul Henry Rosenberg rad at
Thu Dec 31 10:21:26 PST 1998

James Baird wrote:

> Hows this for postmodernism?
> The current issues of both "In These Times" and "The Weekly Standard"
> both have articles praising "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The best thing
> is, both authors love Buffy, but give completly opposite reasons!
> To the guy from ITT (Title of the piece: "Buffy the Anarchosyndicalist")
> Buffy and her collective are teenage anarchists, smashing the
> authorities (parents, teachers, coaches) who are literal monsters. He
> pointed out something that I had completly missed: in this season's
> premiere, a church offering help to teenage runaways turns out to be a
> group of demons who take the kids to an alternate dimension, to slave in
> dark satanic mills until they are too old. Buffy leads a rebellion -
> and this is what I missed - with a hammer in one hand and a sickle in
> the other. (!)
> The Standard, on the other hand, sees Buffy as heralding a return to
> good old fashioned "morality" on the part of its teenage fans. He
> apparently sees Buff and crew as struggling against the relativism of
> their Boomer parents, reestablishing a god-centered moral universe of
> absolute good and evil.
> Now, the point is not that ITT is right and TWS is wrong. (That goes
> without saying, no matter what the topic...) The point is, here is a
> show that can appeal to polar opposites, who find "messages" in it that
> are not only different, but completly contradict each other!
> That, my friends, is Art.

Indeed, my friend, indeed.

What's really amusing, though, is just how wrong TWS got it. The real moral point of Buffy is that just because there's absolute evil out there doesn't mean the end of moral struggle with more perplexing and ambiguous human problems.

This is one of the most refreshing things about the show -- it completely subverts the usual move of the horror genre -- the conflation of otherness and evil, thus obliterating, in fact downright mocking the need for subtle moral distinctions. Buffy manages to encompass that POV -- there are the usual scenes where the grown-ups quibble while mortal danger is about to pounce -- without succumbing to it. It's part of the story -- but only part. Her frienships--even her relationship with her mother--mean something very important to her, they are just wooden signifiers of good, but are themselves the subjects of serious moral deliberation. This broader vision, encompassing, rather than succumbing to the conventional horror POV is, to my mind, far more subversive than the Anne Rice romanticization (which, BTW, Buffy took a wonderful swipe at in one delicious episode last season.)

-- Paul Rosenberg Reason and Democracy rad at

"Let's put the information BACK into the information age!"

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