A now-retired, often cantankerous colleague of mine used to insist literature professors customarily teach the wrong stuff in their classes. Instead of having students read and write about masterpieces / classics — Tom Jones, say, or The Great Gatsby — we should be concentrating on bestsellers. He would teach appalling novels by Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele in a course, all the better, he was convinced, to make clear, by contrast, what makes great literature great.
If those of us studying and teaching the Buffyverse were to accept such an approach, we would not be focusing like a laser on “Innocence” and “Becoming” and “Hush” “Restless” and “The Body” and “Once More with Feeling.” Instead, bottom feeders like “Beer Bad” and “Where the Wild Things Are” would captivate our scholarly and pedagogical imaginations.
Revisiting “Beer Bad” for the Great Buffy Rewatch I am more dubious than ever about the value of the “begin at the bottom” approach. If all copies of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the world were destroyed except for “Bad,” future humans could ascertain nothing about the genius of Joss Whedon’s series. I had forgotten how inconsequential it is, not just a stand-alone episode but a go-and-stand-by-yourself-in-a-corner episode. Who are these characters? These are not the Xander, or Buffy, or Giles I know. Only Willow comes through relatively unscathed. It’s so off, so out-of-synch, that I like to think of it as non-canonical. A professor of mine once returned a paper to be without a grade and whispered “Let’s just pretend you didn’t write this.” I like to pretend “Bad” doesn’t really exist.
I began watching Buffy with “The Freshman,” and “Bad” arrived only four episodes later. I gave up on Vampires Diaries after only two, but “Bad” did not drive me away and obviously I am glad I stuck with BtVS. Not even the execrable “Where the Wild Things Are” (4.18) later in Season 4, also written by “Bad’s” Tracey Forbes, could drive me away.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
"Beer Bad" is Bad
I contributed to the Great Buffy Rewatch debate on "Beer Bad" this evening. Here's what I said: