Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle TV Eye

By Belinda Acosta

JULY 12, 1999:  No, it's not the season premiere of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (if only...). It's part two of the season finale, postponed from May 25, and now set to air July 13. Part two completes the ascension story line, in which the mayor (devilishly played by Harry Groener) finally transforms from public official to a demon of epic proportions.

The WB reportedly received both praise and criticism for the decision to pull the episode, which was made in the wake of the Columbine tragedy in Littleton, Colorado. In the interest of good taste and respect, the WB pulled the episode, which features a good amount of violence (hand-to-hand combat) at Sunnydale High's graduation ceremony. However, this is where the comparison between the tragedy in Littleton and the fantastic world of Sunnydale ends.

After reading less-than-compelling arguments in praise of the show, I would like to take a stab at it. While critics are quick to remark on the wit of the show, the well-developed storyline, the well-crafted scripts, and the appealing characters, I have yet to run across anyone who comments at length on the cosmology of the show, and in effect, the morality of show. I use the word "cosmology" purposely. Buffy is a fantasy. Fantasy worlds from Narnia to King Arthur's Camelot and George Lucas' Star Wars have a strong sense of morality, of what is honorable, what is just, what is good, and what is evil. Buffy has all of this and more. Buffy and company struggle with these ideals in a contemporary world that does not actively support them, thinks of them as archaic, quaint, or even useless. And it's really not enough to say Buffy is a show about good vs. evil, because what is compelling about the show is the personal journeys the characters have taken to arrive at where they are. Buffy, for example, did not take to her role as slayer without internal struggle. The gravity of her responsibility both angered and overwhelmed her -- or perhaps it would be better to say it angered her because it overwhelmed her.

As fantastic as the Buffy world is, with all its peculiarities, the show deftly speaks to the universal and weighty questions that most thinking, feeling people confront sometime in their lives: Why am I here? Can I make a difference? Will my life have meaning? And the question asked in times of intense pain and pleasure: Why me?

Yes, Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a violent program. That's why it has a notice preceding every episode indicating the appropriate age and maturity level of viewers. But the violence is not gratuitous and is nearly always a manifestation of what is at stake at a higher, moral level. Which is another reason Buffy is so compelling: It's moral without being moralistic. In the present climate, while a stampede attempts to determine what the media's responsibility is or should be, and current and potential TV programs are being highly scrutinized, one can only hope that reasonable thinking will prevail and that a mob-style reaction does not take Buffy, The Vampire Slayer down.


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