The Buffy Chronicles

On Episode 30 of The Martin Lastrapes Show Podcast Hour, Chanel and I debuted a new series on the show called "The Buffy Chronicles."

Those of you who listened already know what it is, but if you missed Episode 30 (or simply haven’t listened to it), it’s essentially an audio commentary series where Chanel and I will watch every single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and give our thoughts as we watch it…or, in Chanel’s case, she’ll make dirty jokes and not-so-subtle sexual innuendos about Buffy and the gang. We started with Episode 1 of Buffy, "Welcome to the Hellmouth," which ended on a cliffhanger as Buffy was in a horrible position and about to be killed by a vampire named Luke.

There are so many reasons I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but one of the big ones is how it uses the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction as a means of articulating social issues. A prime example of this occurs in Episode 18 of Season Three, “Earshot,” written by Jane Espenson.

In the episode, Buffy fights two mysterious, mouthless demons. During the scuffle, one of the mouthless demons manages to escape—Buffy is able to kill the other one, however.  In killing him, Buffy is unaware that some of the demon’s blood has gotten on her skin.

After a little research, Giles, Buffy’s watcher, tells her that she might be infected with an "aspect of the demon." Later on as she goes through her day, Buffy realizes she's hearing people's thoughts—and this is the aspect she has been infected with, as the demons are telepathic. As a result of being able to hear everyone’s thoughts—Buffy becomes acutely aware of fellow students and their various problems, anxieties, and insecurities. And, in so doing, she realizes that she’s not so different from them.

The climax of the episode finds Buffy inside of the high school clock tower where she confronts a student who is wielding a rifle. Buffy is under the impression that he is going to try to murder other students, but learns that he intended to kill himself. He’s not one of the cool kids and ultimately he was just tired of being ignored and disregarded by his peers.

Because of her recent experience with hearing other’s thoughts, Buffy tells him that the reason everybody ignores him is that they have their own problems to deal with, letting him know that, regardless of appearances, they’re all feeling the same things and are more alike than he realizes.

Ultimately, the theme of the episode revolves around the angst and insecurities that all teenagers feel and how many teens feel like it’s just them and nobody can relate. It’s an often visited theme in film and television and it resonates with us because its so true. What the Buffy writers were able to do was use the conventions of horror and fantasy to illustrate this theme in an extremely poignant manner.

Interestingly enough, the Columbine High School massacre occurred one week before this episode was originally scheduled to air, on April 20 1999. The WB ended up pulling the episode and not showing it until September of 1999, two weeks before the premiere of Season Four.  

Anyway, if you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer as much as I do, I hope you'll check out "The Buffy Chronicles."