On shows created by Joss Whedon
How Buffy Learned to Confront Her Fears
A typical reaction to fantasy series, especially one with such beautifully crafted horror elements as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is to wonder, “Who thinks up this stuff?” The implication, of course, is that it requires a twisted, perhaps demented, mind to create such deliberately frightening images of demons, vampires, and the like. We’ll give Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy and its spin-off Angel, the benefit of the doubt and assume that his mind is neither twisted nor demented. For now, he gets a free pass; we’ll even pat him on the back for his bottomless well of creativity, sense of humor, and understanding of the human condition. In Buffy, Whedon created such rich dialogue and such deep characters that his brainchild did the unthinkable-it lasted for an extended run on what would then have been described as a wannabe cable channel. Today it is common for non-network cable channels to run original series that earn both critical acclaim and respectable television ratings, but this was not the case when Whedon blazed a trail with his vampire-fighting teenager. So, for Whedon, we’ll acknowledge that he has demonstrated for us genius rather than madness.
But the characters he created don’t get off that easy. They come riddled with emotional turmoil, including angst, self-doubt, fear, envy, lust, and longing. (Sounds like adolescence.) Even those characters whose supernatural status might lead one to assume they would be free of such human frailties are tormented or impaired. But rather than creating distance with viewers, such qualities …