Hillary would approve of Buffy's assertive attitude as her generation's designated driver of stakes. Think Gidget with a makeover by Xena, warrior hairdresser. And Bill, oh yes, Bill. "Man, wouldja look at those short skirts! And that tank top! Whooeee. No dear, I'm just admiring Buffy's tai kwan do kicks." (Softly) "Boy, I wonder who adjusts the camera angles?"
Sure, Buffy appears to be a babe out of a Michael Kennedy fantasy, attracting a legion of male fans. But her darkly comic series has also won a legion of female fans, and a host of World Wide Web homages.
As Cheryl Madden, 20, of Arlington put it: "Most TV shows, the guy always saves the girl. Buffy's so confident in herself. She can conquer her fear. That's a good message for women, and it's funny, too."
The series, which was spun off the movie of the same name, follows the adventures of the unlikely heroine Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and fellow sophomores Xander and Willow as they battle vampires, witches and self-combusting cheerleaders. They are aided by school librarian Giles and the mysterious Angel.
Buffy's sunny California school, you see, is conveniently sited above Hellmouth, the exit ramp for evil. Yet the show's campy tone seems hell-bent on humor as well as terror. As Xander tells Buffy, "There's something bad out there. We'll find. You'll slay. We'll party." Says 39-year-old Malden construction supervisor Paul Wilbur, "Most TV dramas don't appeal to me. I found this to be different, interesting.
"Buffy's real cute. Oh yeah. She's real cute. But besides being good-looking, she has this special responsibility and she's trying to be a regular teenager."
Besides, "I've been a fan of short skirts since `The Brady Bunch.'" Some fans see the vampires as an allegory of the real violence and drugs plaguing schools. "I like the metaphor of high school as hell," said Kathryn Johnston, 33, a Chicago-area librarian and fan. "A lot of teachers like it, too," said Dan, a 14-year-old Scarsdale, NY, fan. "My science teacher really likes it."
WZLX's Charles Laquidara is a fan of Buffy and "La Femme Nikita" (USA). "There's two things I'm afraid of: spiders and vampires," he said. "I love the fact that there are empowered women who kick ass." But even if Buffy's revealing outfits trigger, as one fan put it, "early onset of dirty oldmanism," she's more than La Femme Lolita. "To tell you the truth," said Rene Trevino, 23, of Pismo Beach, Calif., "when I first started watching, (the attire) was one of the perks. As I got more into it, the show interested me more. The story, the plot, distracted from what she was wearing.''
Not that women don't like eye candy, too. Giles (Anthony Stewart Head, the Brit from the Taster's Choice ads) has his own ga-ga Internet fan base as do Xander and Angel.
The show's quirky charm stems in large part from executive producer/creator Joss Whedon. The 32-year-old may have impressive writing credits ("Speed," "Twister," the upcoming "Alien 4" and the original Buffy), but he talks with the cadence of an overgrown kid. "I have this total fantasy where Chelsea is a big fan," said Whedon, who draws on his own high school demons as inspiration and whose mother was a high school teacher. Buffy was born out of Whedon's vision of a vampire-menacing, a bubble-headed Valley girl, who, surprise! dispatches her foe without breaking a nail. "I love stories about people you don't necessarily take seriously."
He admits he often sees a skirt on Gellar and utters, "Holy cow, that's a skirt!" And yes, he's had to adjust the camera angle many times. "You basically want guys to watch," he said. "This isn't Buffy the lesbian separatist." But, "if a guy starts to associate sexiness with intelligence and aggressiveness, it's not such a terrible thing." In shows like Buffy, "women are picking up on the subtext: there's nothing preventing you from being strong and assertive," said Merle Micklin, 36 of Glendale, Ill.
Perhaps Buffy's real foe is low ratings; the show ranked 104 out of 107 prime-time shows, although it's been
renewed. Lamented a 51-year-old Denver fan: "I really wish there were a Buffy out there fighting evil.
Unfortunately I'm not convinced there is."
Buffy the Vampire Slayer,
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer,