Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review: Reading the Vampire Slayer: The Complete, Unofficial Guide to 'Buffy' and 'Angel'

Reading the Vampire Slayer: The Complete, Unofficial Guide to 'Buffy' and 'Angel'
Reading the Vampire Slayer: The Complete, Unofficial Guide to 'Buffy' and 'Angel' by Roz Kaveney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Please note: Read and reviewed in August 2006; I'm adding some formatting to make this a bit easier to read.

Although I generally like everything to do with Buffy, this group of essays had to be taken as a group and given a mean average of stars - some very good, some were OK, some mediocre and some WAY too pretentious. Let's examine them:
She Saved the World. A Lot: Supposedly examines the themes and structures of Buffy and Angel. Actually shows the author of the essay to be overly obsessed with unlikely sexual overtones between characters that simply don't make sense (Forrest and Riley?? I don't think so). Sometimes, Ms. Kaveney, a cigar is just a cigar. 2 stars
Entropy as Demon: This is sort of a rambling bit comparing the ennui of S. Cal people about earthquakes to the fact that many of the people in the Buffyverse don't notice the supernatural around them, or if they do, they become somewhat inured to it. WAY too pretentious. 3 stars
Vampire Dialectics: The first of many that compare the group dynamics in Buffy to communism and the uprising of the proletariat. To prove this, they point out the scene in "Anne" where Buffy uses that nifty scythe thing and the hammer to fight the demon, saying it represents the sickle and hammer. PRETENTIOUS!! 3 stars
Laugh, Spawn of Hell, Laugh!: Ah, a breath of fresh air. An essay about the humor of the show, written in an accessible style without resorting to a condescending or low-brow style, that is unpretentious and interesting. Kudos to Steve Wilson. And hey, one of the few essayists that actually gets all the quotes right! 5 stars
It Wasn't Our World Anymore, They Made it Theirs: Examines the "places" in Buffy - not only the locations, but the sets and usages of sets, spaces, sounds and acting. This one swung back and forth between readable and pretentious. 4 stars
What You Are, What's to Come: Examines the growth of the characters from a slightly feminist perspective. The only problem is that this essayist, like another to come, used religious metaphors and anyone who knows anything about the show and Joss knows that he holds nothing but contempt for organized religion and is a confirmed atheist. Therefore, she loses a star because she doesn't truly understand the subtext of the show he is trying to create. 4 stars
Just a Girl: Looks at the show from an Uber-Feminist perspective - criticizes aspects of the show that the writer obviously didn't take the time to understand. I'm probably just biased; I liked Season 4 and just because the writer didn't like Adam doesn't mean that he was a poor Big Bad. Also, to nit-pick, the writer makes much about Buffy never wearing the same clothing twice, but several times I have picked up on her wearing the same pants, for example. So, I have to conclude that the writer really isn't a full-time viewer and just watched a few episodes and wrote the essay, trying to be a cool feminist by watching. 3 stars
Concentrate on the Kicking Movie: Using the concept of the Samuri, Ronin and various martial arts movies to understand more about the character of the Slayer and destiny. I didn't understand a lot of this, as I don't tend to be a fan of martial-arts movies. However, when the writer criticized Gellar for not doing her own stunts, that got my back up - TV actors are often prohibited from doing their own stunts by their agents and contracts. The writer, on the other hand, was very admiring because Kristie Swanson, who played Buffy in the movie, did her own stunts - but movies have different rules for their actors, since they are not a weekly thing and therefore if an actor is injured, they don't have to worry about being on the set again the next week. However, I suspect this was probably a fairly decent essay. 4 stars
Staking a Claim: This was about the series' "slash" fan fiction, which is apparently fan-fic that is written about loving or erotic relationships between characters, particularly two males, but more commonly now two females. While I personally am not particularly interested in reading about, say, Spike and Xander's exploits in Xander's basement, apparently this is getting to be quite a popular pass-time on the Internet. Fairly well-written essay explaining the needs of the fans to deepen or continue the stories and create further in the Buffyverse. 5 stars
They Always Mistake me for the Character I Play: Explores the development of the characters in the Buffyverse. This essay is uneven - parts of it are quite good, while others are horrible. For one thing, every single quote this guy puts in is wrong to some degree - for crying out loud, there are script books out there! Here is another essayist who is critical of Season 4, saying that we never get to see the Big Bads actually DO anything, we only hear about or see what they have done after the fact. He also talks about themes of Judeo-Christian redemption, which is so off the mark (see remarks earlier). However, he has brilliant descriptions and analysis of the development progression of the main characters, and even some of the minor ones. 3.5 stars

The book is finished off by a micro-episode guide, including a side-by-side guide to Angel seasons 1 & 2 by Buffy seasons 4 & 5, which is really neat, as you can see where and how they interact. However, episode descriptions are VERY bare-bone - just a sentence or two.

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