With a number of successful 1990s and early 2000s series receiving reboots or reunions lately, it’s no surprise that Buffy the Vampire Slayer might be one of them. The iconic series aired for seven seasons from 1997 to 2003. It has since spawned comics, novels, and even college courses based on its content.
In 2018, 20th Century Fox announced a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot. With Monica Owusu-Breen at the helm, the series planned to tell a new story within the Buffy universe. However, there hasn’t been much news since 2018.
Of course, a lot has changed since 2018 and obviously even more has changed since 2004. Reboots look very different depending on the series. For example, reboots of shows like Gossip Girl and Queer as Folk have entirely new (and more diverse) casts with little to no connection to the older versions. Others like Gilmore Girls returned with the original cast.
However, the reasoning for these reboots doing as they did is obvious. For Gossip Girl, it was all about a specific concept with a large ensemble cast overall. Whereas Gilmore Girls was about a specific mother and daughter, meaning it could not really work without them.
If a Buffy reboot does materialize, which direction would it take? How should it change to fit 2022 or any other year it comes out? What shouldn’t change? What could a present-day version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer offer our world? Let’s discuss.
A Vampire Slayer vs. The Vampire SlayerAny Buffy reboot will likely focus on a different Slayer. Shortly after the news was first announced in 2018, Owusu-Breen tweeted as much:
There is only one Buffy. One Xander, one Willow, Giles, Cordelia, Oz, Tara, Kendra, Faith, Spike, Angel… they can’t be replaced. Joss Whedon’s brilliant and beautiful series can’t be replaced. I wouldn’t try to. But… it could be time to meet a new Slayer.”
That doesn’t inherently mean that the stories won’t have any continuity, though. The opening to the show set up the internal conflict for the series:
In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.
While the “Chosen One” is a classic heroic trope, Buffy the Vampire Slayer chose to emphasize the “alone” part. Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) struggled with loneliness, isolation, and the burden of trying to save the world again and again.
She pushed her friends away and was so convinced of her own “goodness” that she almost murdered her fellow Slayer Faith Lehane (Eliza Dushku), and killed the man she loved to save everyone else.
With this in mind, Season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer climaxes with witch Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) breaking the rules that allowed for only one chosen one. Any potential Slayers were granted Slayer powers, and only then are Buffy and the others able to defeat the First Evil. Hence, no Slayer will ever have to feel as isolated as Buffy.
What would it mean for a Slayer to be one of many? Will he or she has more support? Will they come into conflict with other Slayers (like Buffy did with Kendra and Faith)? What does it mean to be at the forefront of a changing legacy?
Comics & CameosOf course, the main cast may not return full-time, but this doesn’t mean we’ll never see them. Buffy’s story continued in a series of comics that ran under the title of “seasons” like the show. They “technically” ended with Season 12 in 2019.
While it’s unlikely they’ll retcon any of Buffy’s comic adventures, it is possible they could adapt some of the comic plot lines for a new show, or at least draw inspiration from them. Plus, they could always feature cameos from the original cast, rather than ignoring them completely.
How cool would it be to see a grown Buffy appearing to mentor (or challenge) a new Slayer trying to carve her own place in the world? Or a character getting magic instruction from an adult Willow? In fact, James Marsters, who played fan-favorite Spike, expressed openness to returning to the role back in 2018.
The Elephant In The RoomHowever, Marsters’ comments back in 2018 were largely about enthusiasm for the announcement that the original’s creator, Joss Whedon, would be returning to produce the reboot. Since then, actresses Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase), Michelle Tratchenburg (Dawn Summers), and even Sarah Michelle Gellar have spoken up about the way Whedon treated them on set.
To say it wasn’t kind would be an understatement.
Writers also spoke up about alleged mistreatment and verbal abuse by Whedon. While Buffy is certainly Whedon’s brainchild, the show grew to become much bigger than just one man. Any reboot would be wise to focus on the good aspects of the original and ensure a safe and healthy set environment.
If Buffy is rebooted, to what extent should Whedon be involved, if any? People can certainly change, but Whedon hasn’t acknowledged any wrongdoing, much less shown initiative to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. Perhaps the best philosophy for any reboot would be to take what Sarah Michelle Gellar stated on her Instagram:
While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don’t want to forever be associated with the name Joss Whedon.
The Existential Horror Of…Being A TeenagerBuffy the Vampire Slayer utilized many horror plot lines as metaphors for common teenage experiences. Season 1, Episode 4’s predatory teacher turned out to be a literal insect grooming and killing her students.
Season 3, Episode 3’s demon-run hellscape where young, impoverished people end up trapped and worked to death clearly comments on capitalism and worker exploitation. There’s also Season 3, Episode 11, which tackles the infamous 1990s Satanic Panic.
Many of these issues are just as relevant today as they were twenty years ago. While the Satanic Panic isn’t as relevant, the moral outrage “think of the children!” concept is very much still around today. It’s just a different flavor. There are even metaphors that seem like eerie foreshadowing when looking back.
As an example of this, during Season 6 Warren, the head of the Trio, uses many of the same talking points as do incels. Any reboot should use the same metaphorical formula to explore the universal horrors of being a teenager via the extraordinary.
To be fair, other metaphors aged like cow dung in the hot sun.
For example, Angel (David Boreanaz) loses his soul the second he has sex with Buffy, Willow’s reliance on magic is coded as drug addiction, and Cordelia’s misogynistic and character-assassinating arc in Buffy‘s spin-off, Angel‘s, fourth season.
Leave these in the time period of the original, please.
A Message Of HopeA lot of the rebooted shows have changed tones. For example, Netflix’s reboot of Sabrina the Teenage Witch with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has a much darker tone than the original 1990s series. Sabrina‘s update fits our modern age and the type of story it’s telling.
That leaves us with the question: should Buffy go for a darker, grittier tone?
Maybe…Maybe not. Either way, the original foundation of the show is something desperately needed in 2022.
In actuality, as much as Buffy the Vampire Slayer is about staking the undead and stopping gods, demons, and multiple apocalypses, it was at its core…a fairy tale. As a story, it expressed optimism and hope with honesty. Season 2, Episode 7 acknowledges the agonizing reality of their world:
Giles: You mean life?
Buffy: Yeah. Does it get easy?
Giles: What do you want me to say?
Buffy: Lie to me.
Giles: Yes, it’s terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after.
Yet the story never delves into cynicism. At least not on Buffy the Vampire Slayer but arguably Angel is very cynical. It offers each character compassion. It thereby offers its audience compassion, too. As Buffy’s mentor Giles (Anthony Head) observes in Season 2, Episode 19:
“To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy… it’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.”
It Is About More Than The MonstersBuffy might technically be about destroying monsters, but it’s ultimately about human beings. It portrays the very best of humanity and the very worst. It shows how both of these aspects can coincide within one person. A hero can become the main villain (such as Willow in Season 6). A villain can become a hero (such as Spike).
Each character was capable of both selfishness and sacrifice, compassion and cruelty. Monsters can be heroes, and humans can be heroes without any powers, too. Humanity isn’t evil or good at the end of the day. Truly the monsters are human, and humans can be monsters. This complexity is part of what makes being human so powerful.
As Buffy says herself in Season 7, Episode 10:
There is only one thing on this earth more powerful than evil, and that’s us.
With the state of the world today, a show about hard-fought optimism, with compassion and redemption as major themes, might be very much needed.