01/01/2009. Contributed by Aaron Eske
pub: Alyson Books. 188 small softcover. Price: £ 7.99 (UK), $12.95 (US), $15.50 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-59350-052-8.
check out website: www.alyson.com
Each week millions of viewers tuned in to see who would get the stake in supernatural Sunnydale, the fictional hometown of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'. The cleverly written television series about a high school blonde with an innate gift for kicking demon butt gained a cult-like following. Gay men were especially drawn to the show, which over the course of seven seasons presented chisel-bodied vampires, a long-term lesbian relationship and a singing Sarah Michelle Gellar.
To capitalise on Buffy's gay appeal, LGBT publishing house Alyson Books added the program to its own series of 'Q Guides' to pop culture. The guides range in topic from Oscar Parties to Amsterdam, and aim to be fun while informative. Gregory L. Norris' 'The Q Guide To Buffy The Vampire Slayer' fits the mould but ends hollow.
The book, which is printed and organised in the style of a jumbo-font crossword puzzle, is often difficult to follow. It haphazardly jumps from character sketches of Buffy's 'Scooby Gang' (Xander, Willow and Giles) and the demons in their midst (Angel, Spike and Drusilla) to a hodge-podge of quizzes, episode summaries and TV trivia. You'll also find intermittent transcripts of interviews with Mark Metcalf - the Master; Armin Shimmerman - Principal Snyder; Camden Toy - "ubervamp;" and Christopher Golden - a Buffy novelist.
Norris only hints at the theme and events of homosexuality in Buffy. The most prominent example is Tara and Willow's two-and-a-half-year lesbian relationship, which broke prime-time barriers by showing viewers that same-sex love could mean more than girl-on-girl action. An entire chapter is dedicated to the acclaimed and fabulously camp musical episode. Norris also refers to the show's homoerotic appeal in select episodes that feature soft-core male nudity and rock-hard vampire abs.
Norris comes closest to elevating his Q Guide out of Bathroom Reader status when he discusses the series finale in which Buffy shares her slayer powers with all the women of the world, but he never really gets into it. On the surface, 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' is just a story starring a girl in tight tops, but its over-arching message strikes deeper in the hearts of its gay fans. Buffy hid her secret powers for years from her mother, who in episode one asked her if she'd 'ever tried not being a vampire slayer', the supernatural parallel to 'have you ever tried not being gay?' Once she realises her mission, Buffy stands up against evil and stands for a sense of protection from the demons of high school that haunted so many of her gay audience members.
Perhaps that's stretching the metaphor too far. Perhaps gay men only flock to Buffy conventions and know which super-hero a young Buffy dreamed of being (Power Girl) because they liked to sing along to the musical and see Angel shirtless. But I suspect there's something more there and I'd hoped Norris would explore it in a guidebook committed to the queer Buffyverse.
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