You Gotta Have Faith

Sponsored by Shannon Magnan, a.k.a. Luny

I miss my old stomping buddy, theres no one left to get into trouble with and no crayons either.

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The Script For Today's Comic!

Buffy vs. Alan GreenspanKARLA LOVES BUFFY

You Gotta Have Faith

Karla, Tanner, and Tom are at a strange café (it doesnt have to be very well drawn just a different background color), sitting around. If it matters, its about 7:00 at night, but you shouldnt go nuts for this one.

KARLA (getting up to get coffee): Im getting my cappuccino. You want anything, Tanner?

TANNER (cheerful, but slightly artificially): No, Im fine.

(Karla leaves.)

TOM: So did you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tanner?

TANNER (surprised that he enjoyed it so much): Actually, yeah, I did. Its a really good show. I just have problems with the way Karla showed it to me.

TOM (Slightly concerned, but not overly so hes in on this): How so?

TANNER (surly, but not surly enough to actually mention it to Karla hes not actually angry, just grumptacular): She hauls me off to watch Buffy because shes a big fan and worse, she assumes that now that Im single and have time to spare, all I want to do is watch them all in one huge marathon. For three weeks, Ive been doing nothing but watching Buffy, just to keep Karla happy.

TANNER (looking around): And now shes dragged me off to a hotel bar clear on the other side of town just because she wants a special cappuccino. Thats selfishness, Tom. Pure selfishness.

KARLA (Holding a cappuccino in one hand, handing something to Tanner with the other): Here you go.

TANNER: Whats this?

KARLA: Tickets for the Buffy convention at the hotel this weekend. One thousand Buffy fans, mostly girls, mostly single.

KARLA (brightly): And now you have something to talk about with them, and a friend to introduce you!

(Instantly as the words leave her lips, Tanner has swept Karla up in a huge hug, almost weeping with joy as he engulfs her. For comedic effect, he may well be kneeling as he embraces her around the waist. In that moment Tanner looks happier and more grateful than weve ever seen him in his life.)

TANNER (small words, hanging in the void of a large balloon): I love you.

KARLA (looking not scheming, but oddly content as she gently strokes his hair): Knock em dead, tiger.

Ferrett Says

As someone who’s a member of various fandoms, it’s interesting to watch the non-decay of Buffy. When most shows go off the air, their fandoms go into hibernation after a year or so – but given how often Buffy is still written about, you’d swear that it was not only still on the air, but a hit show. I see it referenced more often than almost any other show in my daily blog-trawls, barring the “This is not going to end coherently” crypto-fest of Lost.

Appropriately enough for a show about vampires, the Buffy fandom refuses to die. And I think I know the reason why.

Now, the obvious reason why Buffy is still going strong is because “it’s fun.” This is a definite bonus in the world of sci-fi and fantasy shows, which usually look like something like this:

CAPTAIN PICARD: Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

FANS: AW HAW HAW HAW HAW! HEE! WHEE-HAW! Man, that is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard!

NON-FANS: Man, those nerds are easily amused. Let’s go watch Everybody Loves Raymond!

Star Trek (and most other fandoms) have maybe one or two good lines per episode, carefully spooned out between doses of plot…. But the writers of Buffy usually tossed off three or four quotables before the first commercial break. The only other show I’ve seen that was as relentlessly funny was Farscape, and even then the humor tended to be “Crichton goes whacky” than actual, character-based lines.

Funny’s good when you’re rewatching a show. I recently sat through a couple of Star Trek: Next Generation episodes with my wife, and I had forgotten how stiff and uncomfortable everyone looked. It was as if the only way to achieve galaxy-wide peace and harmony among humanoids was to have a stick surgically implanted in one’s ass.

Sure, there were the occasional giggles, which were riotously funny in comparison to the dusty Deep Message the producers were trying to convey that week. But Buffy was genuinely funny.

Yet that is not why it’s still popular. If merely “being funny” was all it took to get the fandoms flowing, then Internet forums everywhere would still be a-twitter over whether “I Love Lucy” jumped the shark when the Ricardos moved out of the apartment and into the suburbs.

Another point in Buffy’s favor is its intense use of adolescence as a thematic subplot. You have a girl who is just on the verge of becoming so popular when someone comes along and tells her that she’s different from everyone else, she has to act in ways that feel unnatural to her and cost her friends, and everyone she knows is a dork. There have been whole conferences discussing the idea of “Buffy as a metaphor for puberty,” and all of them have been much more boring than they sound. (Unless you’re an academic, in which case you have most likely forgotten how to read proper English.)

But while that ties Buffy plotlines directly into the abused teenager that lies at the root of every full-grown nerd, like a needle sliding into the vein of a heroin user, it’s still not enough to account for why Buffy’s so popular.

What is it then? Well, the answer lies in the things that I talk to Buffy users about… And it’s the way the show died.

And yes, Buffy did die. It died a horrible, agonizing death during Seasons Six and Seven, right before our very eyes. And it’s not the sort of death that you say, “Well, at least they didn’t suffer,” like a favored relative dropping dead of a massive coronary; no, Buffy got shipped to the nursing home, drooling and crapping her Depends, as everyone watched and saw maddening flashes of the old Buffy for just a moment before she returned to asking about Maypo.

There are some deaths so terrible you can’t watch them – X-Files jumped the shark so hard that it literally flung viewers off its back, sending them skittering into watching reruns. But Buffy was so close to being good throughout those two necrotic seasons that we couldn’t look away.

And I think Buffy is still going strong because in our hearts, each of us knows we could have done better.

Whenever Buffy fans get together, all we discuss is what the hell happened? Some people don’t think that Season Six was that bad (Roni’s among them), whereas others see it as a fetid pile of poo with one gleaming treasure (the musical) jutting out awkwardly. Most agree that Season Seven was a good attempt at returning to form, but it fell short in some undefinable way.

But like Kennedy conspiracy theorists endlessly discussing the grassy knoll, every Buffy fan knows in her heart what she would have done to improve the last seasons. At every Buffy discussion I’ve been a part of, eventually the discussion heaved ‘round to What Should Have Been Done. We wanted more of Xander’s courage, less of Spike – or maybe more Spike and less Xander. It doesn’t matter whether you wanted Buffy and Angel to get together, or whether you longed for the big Spuffy ending; everyone’s take on how they could have fixed Buffy is different, like snowflakes twirling to earth.

But there was something you could have done to make the last seasons more to your liking.

…Which, in a way, turns Buffy into a “Choose Your Own Adventure.”

If it had ended in a way that was satisfying, you could have packed it away neatly in your memories and forgotten about it. If it had ended so horribly it couldn’t have been saved, you would have walked away from the wreckage like you did for Highlander II and The Phantom Menace. But Buffy was salvageable, and as such you’re devoted.

For the Buffy fan, watching the episodes is a form of writing. You watch each forty-three minute chunk knowing how it all ended up, and you look for little clues as to where it started to slide, and maybe you see how you could have patched it up. Sure it did end – we all know what happened – but you’ve got your own ending that you’re secretly attached to. It may not be different – maybe Xander stopped being such a big wimp – but it’s the ultimate fanfic.

No two people look at the same Buffy. And that’s why you love it.

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