‘Buffy’ sports a generous mythology that begs further exploration in a brand-new series.
Time and time again, Hollywood proves that no IP is safe from its clutches. The entertainment industry will continue churning out reboots and revivals until it and we, as consumers, are blue in the face. Because nostalgia just won’t quit, even if not all reboot ideas are made equal. To be fair, it is legitimately hard to tell whether a remake will actually be any good based solely on breaking news. However, the idea of redoing the beloved cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer has got the internet wrecked already.
Frankly, the fact that 20th Century Fox just won’t leave well enough alone feels questionable. I’m usually easily excitable when it comes to most new projects as it is. Yet, when Deadline reported that Fox 21 TV Studios would resurrect Buffy in supposed reboot fashion, with original creator Joss Whedon serving as executive producer, I couldn’t help but reflexively cringe.
The first small screen iteration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was itself based on a 1992 horror comedy written by Whedon and directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui. Whedon has in the past expressed disappointment in the film, which is no longer canonical in the Buffyverse (which comprises the original show as well as its spinoff, Angel).
Instead, the Buffy series focuses on its titular heroine as she comes to terms with her destiny as a Chosen One. Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is the sole protector of humankind who fights against vampires, demons, and other evil forces. But she is also just a girl on the cusp of adulthood with high school woes, best friend drama, and boy trouble. The series sealed the deal of its salience and longevity by perfectly juggling Buffy’s supernatural responsibilities with the relatable throes of growing up.
The new Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which has tapped Monica Owusu-Breen (Midnight, Texas) as writer and showrunner, will see a slayer living contemporaneously. An African-American woman will now be at the center of the action that once plagued Gellar’s Buffy. Deadline notes that the show will expand on the mythology of the original series. It aims to be topical like its predecessor, too, potentially discussing current affairs through a “richly diverse” lens that will hopefully reflect real life.
That’s as much as we know of the rebooted Buffy for now. However, the announcement alone has caused a huge stir among fans of the Buffyverse for multiple reasons — some nostalgic, others more practical.
To get the sentimental stuff out of the way, Buffy has a remarkable place in the pantheon of influential TV. It’s hard to imagine anybody besides Gellar being Buffy Summers. She isn’t just briefly associated with the character like Kristy Swanson was in the 1992 movie. The Buffy we know and love came from Gellar’s charisma and earnestness, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer soared as a show because it had such a strong foundation in her performance to build its sprawling and sometimes overly ambitious mythology on in the first place.
The fact that the word “reboot” has been thrown around regarding the new series can be a cause for concern more generally, too, simply because it could imply that a complete rewrite of an iconic character is underway. What if, amidst all the good intentions of its social utility, the show horrendously misses its mark like Paramount’s Heathers TV show did?
Okay, perhaps Heathers is an extreme example of a colossal reboot fuck-up. The prospect of black women not only portraying the title role of a new slayer show, but also driving its narrative forward as showrunner is honestly phenomenal. That character just shouldn’t be Buffy. Not when her story is neatly wrapped up on screen, or when the show’s comic book counterparts have served as canonical continuations of the initial series for more than 10 years – we’re in the middle of Season 12 at the moment.
Per the Buffy the Vampire Slayer lore, any young woman can be called upon to take up the mantle of Slayer to represent her generation. While the theory of gender and race bent remakes isn’t off-putting to me by default, it’s worth recognizing that women need their own original stories to flourish and innovate their onscreen presences. There’s no use in only giving women and minorities more opportunities when they are based on actual storylines that are recycled multiple times over.
As previously discussed on FSR as well, the progressive downfall of Whedon’s supposed “feminist” brand in the last few years has tainted his image enough that a resuscitation of any of his adored women-led IP seems to be in poor taste. However, this is where Owusu-Breen could have her chance to shine. Whedon will apparently still have creative input, but Owusu-Breen will be handling most of the storytelling duties on the new Buffy. Her filmography speaks for her skills, too. Midnight, Texas is set to premiere its second season in October this year. Furthermore, Owusu-Breen has worked on strong, emotionally satisfying episodes on Lost, Fringe, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Nevertheless, the internet’s pre-emptive worries that a brand-new Buffy Summers could still turn up on screen will be persistently warranted until Fox determines otherwise. For now, fans can do nothing but stew in anticipation. I’m only hoping that Owusu-Breen will breathe life into the rich mythos that we’ve only gotten a glimpse of so far through the eyes of Gellar’s Buffy. The premise of the original show continues to be relevant more than 20 years later, but the time for a fresh slayer with a fresh perspective is now.
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