What Would Buffy Do? Jana Riess. Audio/Transcript

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May 13, 2004

Well good afternoon everybody. You know, just about everybody agrees that popular culture is the scene of a spiritual conversation that’s taking place. But in a show about vampires created by an agnostic? The kind of show Christians often boycott? Well our next guest insists that Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its sequel, Angel, in addition to being popular, are significant for their spiritual insights. She is Jana Riess. She has an M.Div. from Princeton Seminary, Ph.D. in religion from Columbia University. She’s the author of What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide, published by Jossey-Bass.

Q. And thank you for joining us, Jana.
A. Thank you.

Q. You know, the other night I was at a very distinguished, hoity-toity poetry reading, and I was talking to a friend who is a novelist and a writer and a fairly serious person. And I mentioned that I was going to be interviewing you about Buffy, and she came unglued with enthusiasm and excitement. I mean, she got giddy, which was something I had never seen in her before. This show has had this effect on a lot of people. How do you explain the unbelievable popularity of these shows, and why it is that people are connecting to them?
A. That’s a great story. And as I talk about Buffy with people all over the country, I’m constantly hearing stories like that from people I wouldn’t necessarily expect to be Buffy fans. And I think that that just shows the tremendous depth of this television series. People who are interested in literature, people who are interested in philosophy, existential questions, all of these people find something very intelligent and profound in this TV series with the unlikely name of Buffy.

Q. So now how did you yourself get interested? I know that you mentioned that you were originally kind of embarrassed to let people know about this.
A. That’s right, although now I’m just embarrassed to admit that I was ever embarrassed because now I’m very proud to be a Buffy fan. I actually happened upon the show late one night when I was pregnant and very, suffering from morning sickness and kind of sick, and I was just channel surfing and came across this show. And I thought, well, I’ll be entertained with this mindless escapism for a little while, and actually discovered it to be a very intelligent, funny, deep show, and was very surprised by that. And then as I started to watch it some more, and also to do a little bit of research into the show and talking to people about the show, I discovered that all kinds of graduate students, professors, rabbis, pastors, all kinds of people, whose opinions I truly respected, were fans of this show.

Q. Now, were you already kind of tuned in to the fact that there was a big spiritual conversation going on in popular culture, or were you kind of taken back by this?
A. No, I was already following some of the work that has been done on religion and popular culture, although some of it actually came out after this, you know, like Mark Pinsky’s beautiful book about The Gospel According to the Simpsons. That was published after I discovered Buffy. But there definitely is a conversation going on right now about spirituality and popular culture. The Matrix, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, people are very interested in teasing out the spiritual themes of literature and television.

Q. Now, I mentioned in the introduction that the show was created by somebody who was a self-professed agnostic. What do we know about Josh Whedon? About his spiritual background, about his interest in the deeper themes that he weaves into this kind of entertainment-oriented show?
A. Well, he calls himself an atheist so I’m not even sure if he would appreciate the agnostic level. He’s kind of a rabid atheist and he’s proud to proclaim himself that, although I’m not all that sure I buy it because I find in his work ¢€œ and even more so in the last few years than in the early years ¢€œ a deep attention to religious questions. Very suspicious, skeptical of organized religion, of institutions and people who serve institutions, but very concerned also about the authenticity of a personal, individual spiritual journey.

Q. Interesting. Now when you look at the basic story line ¢€œ for people that are unfamiliar ¢€œ I mean, what is the basic story line of Buffy and of Angel?
A. Okay. Well, Buffy is about Buffy Somers who is, as the show begins, a high school sophomore, who wants very much just to have a normal life. She’s just moved to a new town, but then her calling follows her to her new place. And her calling is as the slayer, the one person in her generation who is chosen to stand against the vampires and other evil creatures that plague the world. And of course this lovely California town that she moves to named Sunnydale, of course, is situated on the mouth of hell. It’s situated on a hell mouth, so all of these nasty creatures are constantly drawn to this place because of its deep, nasty mystical energy. So of course there a lot of monsters for Buffy to fight over the ensuing seven years. Now Angel, its spin-off show, started after Buffy had been in production for three years and it followed Buffy’s boyfriend, on-again/off-again boyfriend, who is a vampire with a soul name Angel. Most vampires are soulless, but Angel, because of a gypsy curse, struggles with having a soul, which makes him feel, on the one hand, absolutely terrible about all of the murders that he has committed through his decades as a vampire but, on the other hand, just as committed to working on the side of good to try to achieve some kind of redemption for himself.

Q. Now, some people would argue and this would be among the naysayers of this series, that it’s occultish, that it’s about vampires, it has a violent premise ¢€œ after all they’re trying to destroy vampires ¢€œ that it’s got a lot of adolescent sexuality, that the very nature of it’s kind of popularity which, you know, entertainment means diversion, amusement is kind of mindless, that it can’t really be a setting for spiritual lessons. How do you understand this kind of mix of the profane and the spiritual all in one show?
A. Well, I think you’re asking two different questions, at least as I heard you. The one is, is this mindless entertainment? And the answer to that question is no. People can find very profound spiritual themes in this show. They’re there, they’re there intentionally and sometimes they are quite profound. The other question, though, about graphic violence, about depictions of adolescent sexuality, a lot of people have raised concerns about the show through the years, particularly in the sixth season of Buffy, which was the darkest season. And the Parents’ Television Council, which is kind of a watchdog Hollywood organization for parents to try to determine what is family-friendly for them to view with their kids, they named Buffy their number one, you know, public enemy number one, least family-friendly show for that season of everything that was on television, including Temptation Island. I don’t know if you remember that. But Buffy was deemed worse than Temptation Island. So¢â‚¬¦

Q. Well now, but meanwhile over here you have Relevant magazine saying that Angel and Buffy are two of the most religious shows on TV. How do you explain that wide variation between the Parent Television Association, or Council, and Relevant magazine?
A. Well, I loved that article from Relevant magazine. I think the phrase that the author uses is that “they are secular universes saturated with grace,” which is beautifully appropriate, I think, for describing both of these shows. Yes, there are difficult issues that are discussed very openly and very honestly on both of these shows. Buffy is growing up, you know, she makes mistakes. She is experimenting with her sexuality. But the show never has the kind of lies, consequence-free approach of other television shows, that I think are kind of reprehensible. On Buffy there are consequences for everything, every mistake that is made has consequences down the line. And the show does a brilliant job of exploring what those consequences are.

Okay. We’re going to pick up there when we come back. Our guest is Jana Riess. Her book is What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide, published by Jossey-Bass.

(Break)

Well this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with new-found friend, Jana Riess, Dr. Jana Riess. She is a religion editor with Publishers Weekly and the author of What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide.

Q. We’re talking about two of the most religious shows on TV, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel which are, on the one hand, decried as occultish and off limits by many, many watchdog organizations and yet, on the other hand, very thoughtful Christians and people of a variety of faith find these shows a remarkable way to kind of explore their own beliefs. Now, when they’re described as religious shows you point out in your book that there’s this distinction drawn in a generation between spirituality and religious. How is religion itself handled? You describe it almost as eclectic, that religion is part of it, but it’s kind of all religions. And what is this distinction being drawn between religion and spirituality in a show like this?
A. Well, I think that with religion they are borrowing from many of the world’s religious traditions. You see sprinklings of Judaism, certainly Wicca is present although probably not very accurately portrayed. Christianity is foundational, and also Buddhism, I argue in the book, is a foundational part of the whole Buffyverse. But you know, as I said, religion is something that is to be treated at arms length, it’s something that we might be able to¢â‚¬¦ Good might come from it, but institutions tend to corrupt people in the Buffyverse. So the shows are more concerned about the individual spiritual journey than they are about what’s going on with different institutions. There’s a really wonderful image that struck me. When Buffy’s mother dies, they have the traditional funeral, and they’re having the graveside service. And there’s a priest who is giving the familiar ashes to ashes, dust to dust speech. And the camera just barely pans across his face. So essentially in that scene, religion is a disembodied voice, it’s just this off-stage voice that’s kind of informing the action, but it’s not integral to that action.

Q. Now when you say Christianity is foundational, I mean, you mentioned Buddhism, Wicca, but then you said Christianity is foundational. In what sense? I mean, theologically, in terms of the context in Sunny¢â‚¬¦ I mean, what exactly is Christian about the series?
A. I think mostly in the sense of a messiah figure, someone who is willing ¢€œ and does on two occasions ¢€œ willing to give her own life to save others. And in this case to avert the apocalypse. You know, self-sacrifice is a huge theme on both Buffy and Angel. Buffy often is faced with this decision, do I have a normal life or a good life or do I sacrifice that to save others? And she continually chooses the higher calling.

Q. Yeah. She writes a note to herself, though, that says, “Note to self, religion freaky.” Now what’s that about?
A. Yeah. That’s when she finds a reliquary and she just thinks that that’s just too bizarre. So note to self, religion freaky.

Q. Now, you talked about a fourth episode that I think is an important message to kind of suburban Christianity light. And it has to do with one of these vampires that is actually going to go to a church and is really deathly afraid of that encounter, but then finds out there’s not that much to be frightened about. That’s kind of an interesting insight into perhaps Josh Whedon’s view of Christianity. But talk about that episode.
A. Well in that episode vampires have taken some parishioners hostage in a church and of course they’re terrified. And they’re threatening to eat the parishioners off, one by one, basically it’s a ransom kind of situation. And one of the vampires says that he doesn’t understand why he’s always been so afraid of a church because now that he’s inside one he realizes that it’s kind of a powerless place. It’s got pretty windows and pillars, it’s got lots of folks to eat, but where is the thing that he was afraid of? He says, where is the Lord? And the way that the narrative of the show allows this to happen is just beautiful because, as he says that, right after he says that, someone comes striding in the building, and it’s actually another vampire slayer fake who’s taken over Buffy’s body ¢€œ a long story ¢€œ but you know, the vampire slayer shows up to do the work of the Lord, you know, the kind of work that he has been afraid of that these people are going to be saved. And I think in the Buffyverse what often happens is that even though God is not necessarily explicitly mentioned or present, God is present in the actions of the characters.

Q. Now, this is what’s so interesting because you have this atheist creating this series that’s dealing very overtly with religious themes, and it begins to emerge over the period of time that it does have a theology. I mean, if you started talking about the theology of the Buffyverse, as you’re calling it, is there a God in this Buffyverse? Or is it as you said, is God represented through these different slayers?
A. Yes and no. There’s no easy answer to that question. I think that in the mythology of the Buffyverse, we’ve seen that there are these kind of capricious beings called the powers that be that are kind of like demigods, I guess would be the best way to explain them. But there are moments in both Buffy and Angel where things happen that are really unexplained and can be attributed to some sort of divine grace, but they’re very subtle.

Q. Okay. Is there good and evil? And it sounds like there’s a lot of good and evil. You describe it almost as a medieval morality play.
A. Yes. Absolutely it is a medieval morality play except with better clothes, better music. I think that, you know, the struggle between good and evil that Buffy finds herself in is an exhausting struggle. She just has to make this decision again and again to align herself with the side of good. And as the seasons progress in Buffy, we find that the distinction between good and evil becomes a little more blurry. I mean, one of the first things that happens is that Buffy falls in love with a vampire who, although he has a soul, is still technically evil. Another character, who is a good guy for about 27 days of the month, turns into a werewolf for the other three. So you see that there are some blurrings here between good and evil. And the characters have to learn how to negotiate that kind of ambiguity.

Q. What is redemption in Buffy?
A. Redemption is not something that happens, that Buffy does for all people for all times. Okay. This is where Buffy is not a Christ figure. Buffy saves the world by averting the apocalypse, multiple times, but her death does not save all of humanity in a spiritual way. Redemption in Buffy is something that individual people work out for themselves and it is an uphill climb, and it’s almost a karmic notion that they are trying to atone for the sins of their past by doing good work.

Q. Now, there is a death and there is afterlife assumed in this series.
A. Yes. We’re told that there are heaven dimensions, there are hell dimensions, there are even [shrimpless] dimensions and a land of perpetual Wednesday, and all kinds of different dimensions. But Buffy, you know, Buffy dies at the end of the fifth season, she sacrifices her life. And then at the beginning of the sixth season her friends actually resurrect her. And they assume that she has been languishing in a hell dimension, and that the reason she is so depressed when she comes back is that she has undergone some kind of tremendous psychic, spiritual trauma. Actually she’s been in paradise. And for her, coming back to earth is a hell, coming back to earth and having to take up her stake again and do her job again, it’s just awful. She feels like she’s in hell.

Wow. We’ll pick up there when we come back. You can spend more time with Jana Riess by picking up a copy of the book, What Would Buffy Do?, published by Jossey-Bass. We’ll be right back.

(Break)

Well this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Jana Riess. She is the author of What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide.

Q. And we’ve been talking a little bit about the theology of Buffy. You’ve already talked about some of the lessons of personal spirituality. Interestingly enough, here we are in this age with a generation that is described often as very self-focused, self-centered, and one of the basic messages of Buffy is that self-sacrifice is good, it’s important, it’s a core value.
A. Yeah. Self-sacrifice is essential in the Buffyverse, and also connection with others. What makes Buffy the strongest slayer that has ever existed is her relationships with her friends. She does not fight alone. She has a core group of people who hold her accountable to her mission, who tell her when she’s wrong, and who also support her in her calling.

Q. Yeah. That whole issue of community. I mean, you know, the show Friends has just closed down, Angel is closing down, Buffy has closed down. But those shows, particularly Buffy and Friends, have as one of their central themes the idea that you need companions, you need friends, you get by with a little help from your friends.
A. And isn’t it interesting to compare that to some of the other shows that are popular now like Survivor, where you’re voting people off the island, you know. What could be more individualistic than that?

Q. So what do you make of that? What’s going on in our kind of society that we’re receiving commentary on from popular culture?
A. Well, I think we are¢â‚¬¦ It’s a tremendous dichotomy. I think we’re kind of schizophrenic. We value community but we don’t necessarily want all of the messy, entanglements that real community entails.

Q. There is interaction with some classic themes of personal behavior like anger. And anger is portrayed very interestingly kind of in its full spectrum of positive and negative force.
A. Right. There are two other slayers ¢€œ even though there is only supposed to be one slayer per generation ¢€œ due to some other extenuating circumstances at one point. There is another one and then she dies. And then there is another one. So three slayers that we see. And you know, Buffy kind of stands in the middle of these other two extremes of slayers. One of them in named Kendra, and she is completely automatic. She has been trained to do her job, she invests no emotion in it whatsoever. She is basically just a textbook learner and she does her job like a robot. The other is the slayer named Faith whose power, whose physical strength basically goes to her head and she revels in slaying, she revels in the violence. And so in Buffy we see kind of both of those extremes. Buffy has passion and her emotions definitely inform her fighting and make her a better slayer, but she doesn’t allow them to govern her life.

Q. When we look at humor, humor plays an important role in the Buffyverse. How so?
A. Well, I argue that Buffy’s most powerful weapon is her humor. And you know, in the show of course, the humor exists in order to draw viewers in and entertain them, but also the humor is on a deeper level an extension of Buffy’s power. We find in a couple of episodes, for example, where she loses her physical strength, she also loses her ability to crack jokes, she loses her sense of humor. And I think that both of those things are related. Her humor is an extension of her physical power and it also fuels her power.

Q. What’s the role of mentors in the Buffyverse?
A. Well, Buffy has a wonderful fellow in her life named Giles, who is her watcher. Every slayer is a young woman and she is assigned a watcher who is an older man, sort of interestingly, to oversee her, to train her how to fight, and to basically make sure that she survives because, as Buffy puts it, every slayer comes with an expiration date on the package. Most of them don’t live very long. And so Giles comes into the show as more of an authority figure and he evolves into more of a friend. Buffy’s father is pretty much out of the picture and Giles assumes that role in her life.

Q. That’s very interesting, too, generationally when you look at the issue of a fatherless daughter and the whole empowerment theme of Buffy and the fact that they’re women. And so there’s kind of a feminist empowerment theme running through Buffy.
A. Yes. It’s a show that, right from the very beginning, featured strong women. In the opening episode of Buffy, you know, in this wonderful, diversive scene at night time in their high school, you see a young woman and a young man and they’re at the high school after hours to be making out and who knows what else, and of course that’s a classic scene from horror films. We recognize that right away and we think, oh my gosh, they’re going to be making out and they’re going to be the victim of some slasher. Well, what happens, though, is that actually the young woman, when she realizes that it is deserted, that no one is around, turns on the young man and she turns into a vampire and kills him. And it’s a signal right from the beginning, this show is going to be unexpected, women are strong, they’re not victims.

Q. You know, one interesting thing. You obviously have done your work as a study of religion and of faith and so you’re looking at Buffy with kind of a set of understandings about religion and faith that allow you to do kind of analytical work. If you give a quiz, which I happened to do just a week ago with 600 high school students at a private parochial school, and I gave them a pop culture quiz with four questions and 100 percent of the kids knew the answers, I would say. I gave them a question about kind of basic Biblical knowledge, and maybe three percent had answers to them. And I guess where I’m going with this is, these shows like Buffy and Angel that are so theologically rich, what do you think the impact is on people watching it who don’t have a basic understanding and framework of theology? I mean, is this an educational thing for them? I mean, there was just this research done by Kaiser, I think it was, that showed that Friends actually became a form of sex education. You know, people will, yeah, I watch this show to figure out what it’s all about. I mean, does the fact, you know, you and I are excited about the theological implications and spiritual conversations about Buffy, but is there a down side to it when it’s kind of viewed by people without those abilities to discern?
A. I think that’s a really good question and there’s no easy answer to that question. It’s very, very important for parents to be watching what their kids watch and watching what their teenagers watch to talk about it. I’ve had parents come up to me at book signings and whatnot, telling me that they love to sit down and watch Buffy with their kids because what happens is that they wind up having some of the best discussions about the taboo topics that they never can talk about at other times. And you know, parents and teachers and youth counselors and pastors, you know, they should use this as a tool. If they are not conversant with the idiom that kids are speaking, then they will become irrelevant.

Q. But you know what’s interesting is, I’m listening to you and I’m hearing you’ve invested a lot of time in Buffy. And what’s interesting to me is you have to kind of spend a similar amount of time in understanding your faith in order for that process to be productive. In other words, I would imagine there’s a lot of parents that would sit down and watch and would be about as clueless as their kids.
A. Well, I hope that’s not the case but you’re probably right. You’re probably right. And that’s a really interesting story. What were the four pop culture questions that you gave to the kids?

Q. Name the three guys in Friends. Fill in the blank, Will and blank. American blank. And who sang the duet at the Super Bowl halftime that caused the controversy. Everybody knew all those answers.
A. Uh-huh.

We’ll be back with some more comments from Jana Riess. You can spend more time with her by picking up a copy of What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide. Don’t go away.

(Break)

Well this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Jana Riess, most interesting discussion about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and of course the show that was spun out of Buffy, which is Angel.

Q. And you talked about the theme of redemption in Buffy and talked about Buffy kind of redeeming a person in a situation at a time. And one friend of mine described Buffy as a show about empowerment, and then he said Angel is really a show more about redemption, the vampire with a soul looking for redemption. Is that accurate? I mean, how would you contrast the two shows? What are the similarities and differences between Angel and Buffy?

A. Well, I think that’s a very accurate summary. Angel is clearly a show about redemption and it’s also a grittier show than Buffy. Even just watching it you can see visually how dark it is because, you know, Angel is a vampire so he doesn’t go walking outside in broad daylight. Most of the scenes are either interior shots or they’re night shots. And so that the whole show just has a darker, grittier, almost a noir feel to it. Whereas Buffy takes place in Sunnydale where, at least superficially, it looks all bright and happy and whatnot, but you know that the mouth of hell lurks below the surface.

Q. Now, knowing what we do about the intentionality of the writers, what would you think they were intentionally trying to do? Is Angel supposed to be a spiritual counterpoint to Buffy?
A. Well, I think that they are very interested in the question of how to atone for the sins of the past when those sins are so grievous. We actually see some of the scenes from Angel’s past through flashbacks. You know, we see him murder a young woman, a maid, and then she’s begging for her life because of her baby. And then he makes some glib comment about how he’s going to eat the baby, too. And this is hard stuff. You know, we see some of the things that Angel has done, we see the monster that he was, and then it makes us appreciate his struggle all the more.

Q. But interestingly enough, one of the things you say about Buffy is that it’s very much about the monster inside, that Buffy is wrestling with the same kind of inner demons although not having worked themselves out external to her life as they did in the case of Angel.
A. Right. Particularly in the last three seasons of Buffy we see her really struggling with what it means to grow up. She leaves high school, she’s in college, then her mother dies, she kind of loses her moral compass for awhile, dies, comes back to life. I mean, these are kind of stressful events in her life. And yeah, she really struggles, especially in that sixth season. She engages in a very destructive sexual relationship and feels kind of like life is meaningless, life is not worth living.

Q. You say in your book, ultimately the message of both Buffy and Angel seems to be that although it’s great for us to have our own quests and spiritual journeys, it doesn’t mean anything unless it’s in the service of others. We can be enlightened, but it won’t do anyone any good unless we turn around and give something back. I mean, how does Angel’s service for good define him and the show Angel? And what motivates that desire to do something good?
A. Well for Angel, I think, you know, it is this constant quest for atonement. It’s been interesting just in these last few weeks of Angel to see what’s going on with his character and to imagine how they’re going to go out. I don’t get on the internet to find out what’s going to happen so at this point I have one episode left to go and I won’t know what’s going to happen until I see it. But Angel, in this last episode, the penultimate episode of the series, was looking a lot like [Angeles.] You know, he’s making decisions that put people’s lives in jeopardy, he’s not caring about the innocent people that he used to care about, that he used to get out on the streets of LA to fight for, and so it really makes us wonder what’s going on. And as it turns out, he has made this choice that he can go after all the big guns of evil if he wins their trust. And to win their trust, then he has to show them that he doesn’t care about the little person anymore. So it’s kind of a ruse, but he does make this decision that causes several people’s death. And again, it raises that issue, which is more important? The big picture or these people?

Q. If Angel is motivated by redemption, what motivated Buffy?
A. I think self-discovery is very important in understanding Buffy. You know, she’s only 15 or, yeah, she’s 15 at the beginning of the series. And so that the usual heartaches and traumas and whatnot of adolescence are part of her life. But of course, there’s this additional layer that she can’t really even talk about to most people, of waging war against evil night after night and how that changes her.

Q. How does the shared spiritual journey of friends supporting each other, growing together, how does it kind of bind the Buffyverse together in both Angel and Buffy?
A. Well, the fans just love it when there are references to previous characters and crossover appearances on both shows. The fans just live for that.

Q. But how are the group dynamics of the characters on Angel different than they were in Buffy?
A. Oh, I see. I think that, as I said, Angel is a darker show. The characters are older. For one thing, they’ve been through quite a lot, not only together but in their own journeys, and the issues that they deal with are a little bit different. You know, they’re not coping with not getting asked to the senior prom, they’re kind of beyond that. Buffy is a mature show, but Angel is a show that really is geared more for the adult mindset.

Q. So when you’re asked, in looking at what Angel brought to culture that wasn’t there in Buffy, what would it be?
A. You know, that’s an excellent question. I think I would have to say, this constant question of redemption. Where does it lie? Will I ever make up for the sins of my past? I mean, I know people whose sins are far less serious than Angel’s, who never seem able to forgive themselves, can’t move on, can’t move past it. And I think Angel, as a show, has provided some very interesting examples of how that happens.

Q. What do you think Josh Whedon was able to do with Angel as a show that he couldn’t do with Buffy, or didn’t do?
A. I think he explored some darker themes, that he got to, toward the end of Buffy, in the sixth and the seventh seasons, as those characters had matured and been through some very serious things. But Angel really begins from that same place. Angel has been around for more than two centuries and he has seen and done just about everything that there is to see and do. Where do you go from there?

Q. So what are people that have been Buffy and Angel fans going to do when both of them are off the air?
A. You mean after we cry and have a wake and¢â‚¬¦

Q. Yeah. I mean, where are you going to go to get your Buffyverse fix?
A. Well, the DVD’s, for one thing, because you find that when you watch these shows again and again, actually, you begin to appreciate them on new levels. The situations that arise, things that are referred to that you didn’t necessarily get the first time. But also there’s still a tremendous amount of interest in Buffy. There are just thousands of web sites devoted to these shows and that shows no sign of abating. If anything¢â‚¬¦ Yeah, go ahead.

Q. I’m wondering how watching Angel helped people kind of re-understand Buffy.
A. Yes. I think that that’s definitely true. And they are often referring to things that happened in the past. Not only Angel, but also Spike, who’s another vampire that was on Buffy for several seasons and is now on Angel. You know, he has the same kind of love for Buffy that Angel does, and they’re constantly talking about her.

Q. So where does Josh go next? Do we know anything about his plans?
A. Yes. Well, he had another show called Firefly that was on very briefly last year and then was cancelled. And he has gotten the opportunity to produce a feature film to be a theatrical release called Serenity, and that’s going to explore some of the characters. Firefly was a really interesting show, even though it was only on for such a short time.

Well interestingly enough, I mentioned the poetry reading that I was at Monday night and it turned out that the poet in whose name the event was honored had been an agnostic much of her career and only later on in life when she converted to Roman Catholicism did she realize how much theology she had been doing in her own quest in her work as an agnostic. Wouldn’t that be a cool story if that turns out to be true about Josh Whedon, who is obviously on a journey and took many, many people on a journey. Our guest has been Jana Riess. The book is What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide, published by Jossey-Bass, available online, at your local bookstore, and wow, you can use it as a companion volume because there’s lots of episode-by-episode summary when you get the DVD. Thanks for being with us. We’ll be right back.

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