In case you haven’t heard the rights-holders to the Buffy franchise are thinking of “rebooting” Buffy with a movie – without involving Joss Whedon. It wouldn’t star Sarah-Michelle Gellar and familiar characters like Willow, Giles and Xander would not be in the script.
And I think it might not be bad idea.
Heresy? Unthinkable? Me, a self-proclaimed fan of all thing Whedon suggesting that this travesty not only be allowed to continue but that it might actually be a good thing?
Heresy is Good
At the very least I think the unthinkable should be thought about and that contemplating heresy is good for the soul every now and then. One of my favourite Depeche Mode songs is “Somebody” which describes the kind of person the singer is looking for and includes the lines:
Someone who’ll help me see things
In a different light
All the things I detest
I will almost like
I think it’s a truly valuable thing to be able to sympathise with a radically opposing viewpoint. To understand how someone could get there even if you couldn’t yourself.
So that’s the first thing.
Getting Films Made is Hard
Film-making is probably hard. In fact I’m pretty sure it is. But from the little I know and have heard/read that’s nothing compared with actually getting them made in the first place. Most films never get made. Most professional screenwriters have sold scripts that’ll never see a screen. Most actors and directors – big names with a successful track record – have projects that they’ve never quite managed to get made. And of the tiny number that do get made, most are unsuccessful – critically and financially. Remember Sturgeon’s Law – 95% of everything is crap.
That’s the second thing. Try to keep these in mind when thinking about the possibility of a Buffy movie.
Not Giving The Fans What They Want
There have of course been rumours of a Buffy movie for years. And they’ve been just that – groundless rumours, based not on real facts but speculation and fan longing. I can understand this. I too felt a loss when Buffy ended. I can understand wanting there to be more.
But that’s the very reason I never wanted to see a Buffy movie (though of course I would have gone to see one if it had been made). Because I love movies and have done since long before I ever heard of the idea of Vampire Slayers. A Buffy movie would have been more of the TV show and TV shows are not movies – one is on-going stories, dealing with big themes but examining them on an everyday scale in sometimes minute detail. The other is epic and grand with sweeping huge brushstrokes.
Trying to make a movie that fulfils the longing of fans to see “more” of their show and yet works as a movie in its own right is nigh on impossible. Joss almost succeeded with Serenity – I mean creatively it does work in both those ways but it was only a moderate box office success and made money on DVD and largely due to the buy-everything-Whedon fan behaviour.
Joss famously[*] said once that he “needed to give the fans what they need and not what they want.” He was referring to the fact that he couldn’t let the desires of fans to see certain outcomes in the on-going Buffy story dictate where that story went. It was creative suicide and it was actually less satisfying to those same fans in the end.
At least that’s how I’ve always read this comment.
Well not giving them what they want at this stage means not just not giving them a particular romantic coupling or other given story outcome – but not giving them “more Buffy” in the form of a movie that’s trying to carry on its back the weight of a 7-series TV show.
So Buffy needs to be left alone. Left in peace to fade gracefully in our collective memory.
A Different Approach, A Point of View. Different is Good.
…or it needs to be rebooted. Re-imagined. By someone far enough away from all the things that have been done with the franchise already to see it with fresh eyes. Already there are hints in the article that they would go darker, more of a genuine horror experience.
So no Xander, Willow or Giles – they’re all too comfy. It might even not be Buffy but another Slayer. Betty. Bertha. Belinda. Or Martha. OK – probably not the last one.
Whether this will lead to anything good who knows? But it’s an interesting idea. It might spark something strange and wonderful. Or it might just be a curate’s egg.
What about Joss?
Joss doesn’t need Buffy. He’s got other ideas. Newer, fresher, dare I say, better ideas. If I ever doubted that Dr. Horrible confirmed it. Dollhouse started weak but got better and better.
Sure he still has Buffy stories left in him – but he’s got the perfect medium for that in the comic books. It’s an on-going episodic form, similar to the TV show.
Besides what he really needs is to be allowed to make great TV and Movies and I can’t help feeling that being associated largely with an ultra-loyal and sometimes not-so discriminating fanbase kind of gets in the way of that.
But What About the Fans?
What about the fans? Don’t they deserve something? Anyway isn’t it crazy to take something so beloved and take away the thing that made it beloved? On a pure business level surely you want, you need, to please the fans?
The Firefly fans were the most rabid of an already fearsome fanbase. They were as dedicated to their cause as any evangelical cult member. They tried their best to spread the gospel of Firefly-ness and Serenity. They went to see the movie multiple times, bought up extra tickets to give away, trying to convince everyone and anyone of its goodness. They did all this and yet they still couldn’t make the movie a hit.
The thing about Buffy is that it always managed to have a bigger cultural impact than was reflected by its core audience. References to Buffy, “the Scooby Gang” and “Buffy-esque” dialogue still crop up all over the place. There was an audience of casual viewers that had seen the odd episode and knew it was good. They were not fans but enjoyed it when it was on. They were also slightly put off by the really obsessive fanboys and girls.
Oh and there are millions of them.
All of which means that using the Buffy name, the “brand” to bring in the general populace could work even if you piss off the fans.
It could just work.
But it probably won’t – because even though this is not a groundless rumour, most movies don’t get made and of the ones that do, most aren’t any good. But I’m more stirred by the idea of someone else having a go at a reboot than more of the same. Leaving Joss free to do new things.
OK you can burn me at the stake now.
[*]For values of “famous” scaled to fit the relatively small world of Buffy online fandom. i.e. not very.