Buffy at play : tricksters, deconstruction, and chaos at work in the whedonverse

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


The television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer - in its entirety - encompasses a collection of ideas, languages, semiotic representation, artistic expression, and even scientific curiosity that is not easily reducible and has few true parallels. The Whedonverse, as fans refer to it, has become a semiotic domain in much the same vein as Star Trek or Star Wars, reaching beyond its one-time niche market into the realm of pop culture iconography. The text's simultaneous admixture and denial of discrete genres, from comedy to action, from horror to melodrama, marks it as a truly unique creation. While textual vampires have always been important barometers of our society, we need an understanding not only of vampires, but of the trickster construct to more fully understand how Buffy works - and plays - and in what ways the myths and symbols of pre-colonial storytelling tie in to post-modernism, deconstruction, and even contemporary scientific inquiry, such as chaos theory.
Buffy has the potential not only to play a mediating role between scientific and humanistic theoretical practices, as well as between older and more contemporary varieties of literary criticism, but it demands a confrontation with elitism. Contemporary examination of the modes of traditional scholarship, for some time now, has been proposing the breakdown of hierarchies between the humanities and science, between so-called "high" and "low" culture. This is work for a trickster, the work of the rebel, and Buffy rises to the challenge. Because Buffy does not try to encompass all meaning, but rather to question it and its attendant authority, it becomes that much more meaningful still, and moments of meaning coalesce within it. Any text that has the scope and capacity to incorporate such diverse elements should garner respect and praise, and yet - for all its potential pomp and genuinely thoughtful commentaries - Buffy never aspires to be truly serious. Through humor and bricolage, it becomes a meta-vampire/trickster text.




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