The Return of the Slayer

James Dawson is the author of darkly comic teen thriller, Hollow Pike, out now. He is in the running for his own homecoming crown – the Queen of Teen! You can vote for him at www.queenofteen.co.uk.

As Avengers Assemble rules supreme in worldwide cinemas, the writer/director/genius behind it, Joss Whedon, is finally getting the spotlight he so richly deserves. Avengers Assemble is the long-awaited Marvel Comics punch-a-palooza uniting legendary superheroes Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk and Thor in a battle with villainous Loki.

Whedon, although mostly untested at the box office, was actually an obvious choice to rein in the complex individual mythologies and ensemble cast. Although noted for the fantastic Cabin in the Woods and beloved (if short-lived) sci-fi series Firefly, Whedon will always probably be best remembered for his first project, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s hard to watch Avengers Assemble without imagining what Buffy would be like on a Hollywood budget. I believe NOW is the time to revisit The Slayer.

I’ll set out my campaign in a second. But first, for the uninitiated, a brief synopsis. BtVS (as it’s known) started life in 1992 as a much-maligned movie starring Kristy Swanson as an air-head valley-girl cheerleader who discovers she’s the only girl in the world with the skill, speed and strength to kill vampires and stop their spread. The movie bombed. Whedon, who wrote, but didn’t direct the project, has always said the film didn’t capture the darkness of Buffy’s birthright.

Five years later, Whedon resurrected the character for television, with a new leading lady – girl-next door Sarah Michelle Gellar. Buffy left LA for the Hellmouth town of Sunnydale, where she, and a rag-tag bunch of friends teamed up to tackle vampires, demons, witches and evil mayors. Seven years later, Buffy reduced the town to dust and fled. Feminist thinking Whedon concluded the series with the masterstroke of finally giving Buffy the ultimate power – that of choice. Viewers were left uncertain as to whether our hero would continue to slay-alone or stay-at-home.

The true power of BtVS was metaphor. Every last demon and vampire was a representation of the ‘monsters’ that all teenagers face as they make the gruelling journey through school and adolescence: first loves, heartbreak, homecoming crowns, prom dates and acne. This metaphor is something I used in my debut novel Hollow Pike – the ‘change’ into ‘witches’ is really a big puberty message.

But then we all grew up. Now we have very different ‘monsters’ to vanquish: careers, mortgages, parenthood, marriage and divorce. Sadly, this time, we haven’t got Buffy, Xander and Willow to show us how it’s done. We need help.

Last year, rumours of a non-Whedon reboot of the Buffy saga surfaced, to loud and vehement disapproval from fans. Whedon and Gellar ARE Buffy the Vampire Slayer – any future project needs them in it, and fans have made this very clear. But with Whedon (presumably) able to name his price, and Gellar (presumably) not returning to Ringer for a second series, now could be the perfect time. Those teenage fans are all grown up, and ready to see Buffy tackle adulthood. The Sex and the City movies did serious business at the box office, so there’s even a precedent. Ten years since Buffy left Sunnydale; time to go back?

I can see why a studio might be reluctant. Sex and the City was mythology-lite, with no genre trappings to hold it down. Since Buffy finished on TV, her adventures continued in comic form, some of which written by Whedon himself. As brutal as it seems, fifteen years of mythology would pretty much have to go in order for a film franchise to attract new fans.

Here’s how I, a massive fanboy, would do it. Start the story where it started. A beautiful woman trying to lead an ordinary life with a big secret. What if Buffy chose to let the other slayers take over? What if she chose of life of picket fences and domestic bliss? I’d show Buffy as a young wife and mother, trying to work and raise a family in a new town. Her lovely husband and sweet kid would have no clue about how special she really is. (Movie poster: SMG holding picket fence as a stake) In this day in age, my big bad would be a sinister ‘family’ of vampires living in a chic house in the woods who find teenage Bellas are only too happy to come round for a spot of Debussy…to find they are on the menu. There’d be some bigger plan. Under the fabulous glass home there’d be a whole new Hellmouth. With a Hollywood budget, imagine the beasties that’d come out of that! And in 3D no doubt!

When this family of vamps threatens Buffy’s home-life, she comes out of retirement – seeking help from her sister and old pals Giles, Willow and Xander. But all the while, Buffy would have to balance demon fighting with her promise to run the bring-and-buy stall at the school fair. That’s what Buffy was always about.

You have to be cruel to be kind. No Angel, no Spike, no Faith…you have to keep it clean. The sad fact is, Buffy is ‘cult tv’ for a reason – it never had the viewership of something like Desperate Housewives. As much as fans want Buffy to return, it also needs a fresh start. That’s just my fantasy Buffy movie. I bet every single Buffy fan out there has their own dream return. This much is true though: When I get stuck writing, I always think WWJWD – What Would Joss Whedon Do? Whatever he did, he’d do it well.

I recently tweeted ‘I would pay good money to see a Joss Whedon Buffy movie’. Within two hours over one hundred people had retweeted this sentiment. BtVS is so much a part of our youth, that there is overwhelming goodwill towards a big-screen ending for Buffy and her friends. More to the point, we, the kids of the nineties are the ticket buying adults of now! Fans! Make your voices heard! Mr Whedon? Ms Gellar? What do you say?

 


Jen

Jen works in the Gollancz/Indigo marketing team. Originally from New York, she talks too loud (and far too fast). When not marketing books or devising evil genius plans (as she prefers to think of marketing) she reads too much, adventures as much as possible and is learning the difference between US and UK English (it’s a complex process). She has a weakness for brilliant YA novels, fairy tales, myths, chocolate tea and trashy American TV. She also has a pathological hatred of mayo. You can follow her on Twitter: @gennmcmenemy