August 11, 2002

Reading the Vampire Slayer

Ten academic essays on aspects of Buffy that range from Buffy's interpretation of (and commentary on) Southern California to its gender politics, its vague relationship to martial arts cinema, and its fan fiction. Brian Wall and Michael Zryd, for example, offer an intriguing essay on "Vampire Dialectics: Knowledge, Institutions and Labour" that does a nice job of illuminating why the introduction to this consumerist American television series features a heroine who wields a hammer and sickle, and why this image is neither cynical nor exploitative.

The authors of these essays must love Buffy: why else are they writing papers on the Buffyverse and not Lacan or Trollope? Still, this volume talks rarely about why Buffy is compelling or how it achieves its effects. West's study of "Buffy and East Asian Cinema" is one of the few essays that look at the way Buffy is filmed, but its conclusions are largely negative: there's a lot of fighting in Buffy, but its creators have forgone (or bungled) opportunities to connect that fighting with related traditions of Japan and Hong Kong. Esther Saxey tells us a lot about fan fiction and Buffy slash -- an area whose gender politics are enormously complicated -- but fails to indicate whether any of the mountain of Buffy slash she's read is worth the reader's time.