Tuesday, 23 November 2010

postheadericon News of a Buffy Reboot

I was just musing a couple of days ago, wouldn’t it be nice if one day, (many years), in the future, I could be involved with a reboot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I don’t get carried away by TV that often, but back in the late 90s, when Season 2 started to bite, (excuse the pun but if you know the show you know what I mean), I became a passionate follower. Having never really bought many films or TV shows previously I bought all seven seasons on video, (yes VHS!), and then again on DVD. It’s a show that I know and love better than any other so far. It would be, for me, like getting to work on the Doctor Who reboot after having adored it as a child.

However, no sooner has this idyllic thought popped through my head than I read today that Buffy is already scheduled for a ‘re-imagining’ in movie form! You can read the article in Screen International here

Now the show only ended about six years ago and was a massive hit with a still loyal fan base. Warner Brothers and Atlas Entertainment obviously hope to cash in on that fan base and on the teen/vampire mania of the Twilight series. Of course the idea of a Buffy movie franchise is good in principle but there are a few things that really define the Buffy universe for its fans. Is this project likely to please them or piss them off?

Well the first thing sending fans across the internet into a rage is the fact that creator Joss Whedon will not be involved in the project. Now if you want to look at a writer with a voice, you could hardly ask for a better example than Whedon. The humour and turn of phrase that was a trademark of the series was unmistakably, individually his and had a big influence on many shows that followed. Can someone other than Whedon himself update this style while at the same time retaining the core voice that people loved? This seems unlikely. Now, this would be fine if we were talking far into the future when times have fully moved on, (like, for example, updating The Avengers for 2012). Time would then be ripe to have a ‘re-imagining’, but this show is still fresh in everyone’s minds.

Another aspect of Whedon’s clear voice was his ability to perfectly balance the humour of the show with a genuine depth of emotion and emotional truth within the conflicts at stake. Yes the story had a supernatural fantasy setting, but the personal conflicts; involving issues with parents, peers, first love and betrayal, or dealing with our own desires and failings, were recognisable to any teenager or twenty something. When your heart is breaking for the first time it really does feel like the world is going to end and for Buffy it actually is. Although the show was always able to share a knowing joke with the audience about its own flaws and conventions, it was never tongue in cheek about the central emotional struggles of its characters. This helped create an audience that actually cared. Getting the balance exactly right; between knowing humour and emotional truth would be a sizable challenge for any writer.

Another thing that made Buffy what it was – it was set in a high school. The more she ages and the further she moves away from this basic principle, the more you’re messing with the central premise and strength in the idea. Buffy is essentially a girlie cheerleader forced to face up to the unimaginably huge responsibility that she alone can save mankind from the forces of evil. How do you deal with life when one minute you’re worrying about your prom dress and the next you’re having to stab your date through the heart? This gets you into all the juicy stuff about growing up and becoming a woman; about letting go of childish, romantic dreams and learning to stand on your own two feet. No surprise that more of Buffy’s core audience are women, or, perhaps, that the writer set to pen the reboot is a woman who watched the show as a girl.

The problem however is that in this new version, apparently, Buffy is not going to be a high school student anymore. To me this is not a good sign. The fact that the named writer; Whit Anderson, is a newcomer with no apparent writing credits also seems a bad sign. As others have noted; in her inexperience is she likely to have the strength of vision, or the clout, to withstand potential pressure to take the franchise the way of the Twilight crowd? – Essentially a story about a girl who's clinging so hard to her childish, romantic dreams that she acts much like a daughter to her wise and ancient boyfriend!

Buffy and Twilight are two very different animals. If this new movie messes with that it will alienate the loyal fan base and may well not be able to pick up the Twilight crowd on the other side. The danger of making a hash of it; not capturing the core magic, the premise, the themes, the voice, all seems a little too great. Even a young Whedon couldn’t get his vision for Buffy onto the screen in the original film, where it became twisted by various more powerful influences. For his opinion on the reboot read here.

For all I know Whit Anderson may be wildly talented and visionary. This may turn out to be a fantastic film. But the first signs don’t seem that good. I think its too soon. Buffy spawned a legion of shows attempting to cash in on the same magic. None of these have really come close, bar perhaps True Blood and Being Human. But by now don’t we all have vampire fatigue? Even the most die hard fans? Aren’t we all putting our vampire and werewolf related stories on hold with a view to digging them out down the line? Perhaps it would be ideal if they could do that with the Buffy reboot too. And by then, some years in the future, maybe I could be in the running to work on the new series!


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Sarah Olley
Hello. I'm a UK based script editor, development producer and writer working in film and TV. You can visit my professional website at: www.scriptsurgery.co.uk and the developers' group I co-host and organise at: indevelopmentuk.blogspot.com
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