Rebooting Buffy the Vampire Slayer

We all know that the vagaries of contracts and show business market means the iconic “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is to be rebooted a second time. The first followed the less-than-stellar film of the same title, in which the screenwriter Joss Whedon took his idea and turned it into something fang-tastic! But now plans proceed for a third version, this time without any involvement by the talented Mr. Whedon–a fact that has fans howling.

And sadly, we don’t get a say in whether this reboot gets done.

Let us imagine for a few moments however how perhaps it could be done and done well. After all, Whedon is a fine storyteller but hardly the only one. Wouldn’t the best possible scenario be that such a film got made and we all went: Oh, wow, that is actually quite good! Wouldn’t it? Keep in mind Anne Rice loathed the whole idea of Neil Jordon’s film of her first novel, essentially based on casting, but did a total 180 upon seeing the finished product. Even Thomas Alfredson has calmed down about the fact an English-language version of “Let The Right One In” was made. So, if for no other reason than as a creative exercise, let us imagine how a new “Buffy” might end up as something we want to see.

Begin with a series of Oh Please Don’t Do That. For example, no triangle between Buffy and two hot male vampires. Yeah it was cool, but now there’s a whole t.v. series based on that notion (yeah the books predated them by a chunk but still) and that makes it even more of a cliche. Ditto if one member of the triangle is a werewolf. Or a zombie. Or a leprechaun. Or whatever. Yeah, you could mix it up and have Buffy in love with a female vampire, but it is still a repeat. The only way to make a reboot work is to really come up with something exiting and fresh. Triangle with two hot male vampires is done. Put a fork in it. In fact, one can easily argue that having Buffy be romantically involved or even tempted by a vampire feels a tad stale.

Oh Please Don’t have her be the only one who knows anything about vampires. Again, too identical to what has gone before.

And the super-intelligent geek girl who’s a wallflower but becomes Buffy’s best friend. Love, love, love Willow. But this isn’t supposed to be same old/same old.

How about some different ways to explore the same themes? For one thing, let the whole Slayer/Watcher thing be a lot more mystic. Let us say there’s a small group of Watchers who see the current Slayer die, then have to go and find the next Chosen One. Their rituals lead them to wherever-Buffy-lives. Part of the story (and the humor) is realizing which girl actually is destined to slay vampires–not the athletic one, not the super-Christian one, not the loner with an attitude, but the popular blond in the cheerleading outfit. They balk. Gotta be a mistake. Cast the runes again! Re-calculate the horoscope! Do the translation on that bit of papyrus once more. No way the Slayer is her! NO WAY!

Of course they are wrong, as events soon show. When bad things start to happen, we start to see who in school has the right stuff–and Buffy is it. Imagine if you will that the high school in “Glee” becomes ground zero of a zombie apocalypse and Brittany turns out to be awesome at destroying the pesky things! Something like that. In the process, we might learn that Buffy has always gotten good grades because she’s smart but pretty seemed so much more important–at least to her family, to those at school and the like. It’d be kind of awesome if maybe her sister was the plain, geeky one–someone with plenty of resentment at always being second best because she’s not pretty. Just as Buffy was pampered and polished and praised–but never respected. That’d be an interesting dynamic to see. And–different!

Let’s throw in another game-changer. Both Buffy versions–film and t.v. series–deal with vampires who really aren’t at all seductive, plus they kill with one bite. More insidious (and dangerous) are vampires who seem really attractive and whose bite is addictive. Here we see an interesting possible scheme our undead antagonists may have dreamed up–bite to enslave. Let us suppose Buffy’s high school is the sight of a test. See how to take over a small town by making key people their thralls, before moving on to major cities like London, Tokyo and New York. Only indirectly did previous Buffy stories handle that aspect of the undead–the temptation of it. To give in to a seductive pleasure, regardless of the cost. One can imagine bullies quite enjoying the idea of being vampires. Then again, as the symptoms begin to show up among the ‘cool’ kids (sunglasses and scarves for example) others might start emulating them. Buffy turns out to be one of those who remains herself, pretty much joining forces with the other individualists, especially in the face of uncaring bureaucracy and absentee parents.

A lot of these elements aren’t really new per se. Vampires seeking power ended up intrinsic to the “Blade” films while the takeover of a town springs from “Salem’s Lot.” But we haven’t seen these ideas through the filter of the idea of Buffy the Vampire Slayer–the blonde cheerleader who’s supposed to be the monster’s most obvious prey turning out to be the defender of everyone else! One of the things wrong with the first film was how it lost sight of that profoundly entertaining and subversive feminist image.

It the reboot manages to simply hold on to that idea, I’ll be impressed. And it it manages not to rehash everything else going on in the genre right now, I’ll be impressed and pleased.

By david

David MacDowell Blue blogs at Night Tinted Glasses.  He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is the author of The Annotated Carmilla. and Your Vampire Story (And How to Write It) as well as a theatrical adaptation of Carmilla.


  1. This movie shouldn’t be made without Joss. As for the first film, Joss wrote the original screenplay, but they changed so much of it Joss walked off the set and never returned. He despises that first Buffy film, they totally didn’t do what he envisioned, which is why he later created the show. He had a particular vision, he had a message he wanted heard and that first film didn’t cut it, all because the studios had to edit all of his work. Thank goodness for the show.

    As for the upcoming film, I have a feeling it will be garbage just like the first one. Buffy is supposed to mean something, she is supposed to represent female empowerment, Joss said it himself. If the new film can capture the true meaning of Buffy, then it may not be a total failure. But honestly, you can’t have Buffy without Joss, which is why that first film is god-awful.

    1. No offense, but Joss Whedon simply isn’t the only writer/director out there capable of doing something good with this idea. He’s just marvelous. And the original idea was his (more power to him!). But there really are other good writers and directors out there, even ones on his level. I’d much prefer Joss Whedon involved in any BTVS reboot, but that isn’t in the cards. Given that, I hope the reboot turns out to be good. At this stage, there is simply no way to tell.

      And while I do respect your opinion (especially since we’re both such huge Whedon and Buffy fans) I wish you’d addressed anything I actually wrote.

      1. You wrote about what would make the reboot good, I said it would be good with Joss. I fail to see how that’s off topic. Did you not want readers to contribute to the conversation with what they think would be good for the film? Is your opinion the only one that counts here? I don’t understand.

  2. I have to chime in to say I enjoyed that first film. It’s my kind of cheese. I’m mostly apathetic about stories with female-empowerment messages. It just isn’t important to me, but I don’t mind if it’s there.

    I’m with you on the relationship triangle bit. I’d hope they didn’t turn Buffy primarily into yet another vampire romance. I think it’d only bring comparisons and disappointments. Buffy excels at the perky blonde cheerleader being the chosen one. I’d hope they don’t fall into the Vampire Diaries, True Blood, everyone’s a supernatural, etc.. There are a handful of other equally powerful teenagers? Please no!

    I hope they take cues from fan favorite episodes, like Hush when digging for villains or The Body but that ep may be too heavy for a Buffy reboot.

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