From vampires and witches, to robots and demons, on the surface Buffy the Vampire Slayer may seem like just another fantasy series. It had its fair share of memorable monsters – who can forget the Gentlemen? But watch a little closer, and you find a wealth of deeper meanings in the show’s subject matter. There is so much potential for analysis when it comes to Buffy, in fact, that it’s spawned its own area of academic study: ‘Buffy Studies’.
Biennial conferences take place in the USA under the name of Slayage conferences, encompassing both Buffy and all other works by Joss Whedon. These conferences see around 200 people travel from all over the world to discuss the show. What makes Buffy so special? What makes it worthy of such in-depth study?
Matthew Pateman, head of Humanities at Sheffield Hallam University, has delivered keynote talks at previous Slayage conferences. He is also the author of The Aesthetics of Culture in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Why was Buffy so ground-breaking? “Buffy was a first. It was clever, and demanded viewers to pay attention. The X-Files came close, but its characters never really changed or evolved. The characters on Buffy had memory, they learnt and grew as the series went on.”
Buffy’s Season 4 finale ‘Restless’ is one of the series most unique episodes. Breaking the trend of an explosive finale, ‘Restless’ instead shows us the dreams of each of the four core characters, and provides the best opportunity in the series to examine the characters most private thoughts and feelings.
Image from the Buffy Wikia
The episode is crammed full of foreshadowing, symbolism, and layers of meaning. If you haven’t seen ‘Restless’ – expect to be very confused in the following paragraphs. And what are you waiting for? Go and give it a watch!
Rather than one enormous post, I’ll split up my thoughts on each of the characters dreams in to four separate posts.