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‘What Would Buffy Do?’ by Jana Reiss: Spirituality, Slaying and Being Pretty Handy With A Stake
Yes, the title is a jab at the old WWJD carsticker! But the question is valid: for anyone who’s ever counted themselves a devoted follower of all things Whedon, the notion of looking to his fictional fantastical creations for moral and spiritiual guidance is really not all that out there. It’s not, I tell you!
When you consider the substance of the show as well as the theme, it’s not such a crazy idea after all. Like most soap operas, the nitty-gritty everyday of the show comes down to relationships and responsibilities, the bread and butter of existence. (And you can class Buffy as a soap opera of a type, even if the traumas tend to be of the ‘Oh my god should I be boffing a monster’ and ‘Oh my god my lover/mom/cleaning lady died AND CAME BACK TO LIFE’ type, as well as of the ‘Oh my god should I be boffing my boss’ and ‘Oh my Lord my lover/mom/cleaning lady died’ variety.
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With this raw material to work with, the show has plenty of opportunities to point up life lessons and put its characters through gruelling tests and trials that can result in spiritual growth and learning. As Reiss points out, the fact that often our beloved Buffy characters fail, or imperfectly succeed, in their attempts to navigate these obstacles, is part of the trial in itself. To quote one of the chapter headings, ‘Redemption is Hard’.
Is this book - What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer As Spiritual Guide’ by Jana Reiss , published by Jossey Bass in 2004 - a serious spiritual guide? Or is it just a bit of fun for Buffyist die-hards who can’t let go and need to buy every single bit of product with the word ‘Buffy’ printed on it? Well, a bit of both perhaps. So what? If you can acquire a little bit of enlightenment and spiritual growth – and justify adding to your hoard of Buffy treasure at the same time – where’s the bad? Go out and get a copy!