So I just scrolled through a clickbait article called 20 Dark Secrets You Never Knew About Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I was reading it, and it was pretty much what I expected, until I got to this part:
Under the pretentious name “Buffy Studies,” several colleges and universities have begun to provide courses on the show. While classical knowledge is indeed a thing, and even philosophy has a respectable place in the academic ranks, we can’t help but shudder at the prospect of a show being discussed academically. This is something that fans do anyway via theories and arguments, debates, and controversies.
It’s a dark day indeed when academia takes such things to an unwanted level, reports of which you’ll find covered in the Los Angeles Times. With paper topics ranging as widely as “postmodern reflections on the culture of consumption” and “slayer slang,” we’re looking at a ridiculously irrelevant branch of study that’s not rooted in the real world at all. This just feels disrespectful of the process of academia and all those striving to learn something more useful for their futures.
This kind of hot take will forever piss me off. The idea that Buffy Studies is a “ridiculously irrelevant branch of study” completely misunderstands academia and humanities. Humanities, and this may shock you, studies humans, for the most part. Either through exploring human behavior or human creation. A work of popular culture is an excellent mirror for the beliefs and ideologies of the society in which it was created. The perceived quality of what you’re studying is irrelevant to whether it’s worth studying. What matters is the ideas gleaned from it. For example there’s this excellent youtuber called Lindsay Ellis, doing a series of video essays on the Transformers movies, and her conclusions are fascinating. Not because Transformers is any good, but because it’s popular, and reflects many popular beliefs our society holds. I highly recommend you check it out.
And even if we do account for quality, I would argue that Buffy has a lot to offer philosophically and politically, which is worth taking seriously. The show presents itself as feminist, so it’s practically inviting the gender studies people to explore and criticize it. The show has a character read Camus, and has other characters express existentialist and absurdist beliefs. Of course people who study philosophy would be interested in it.
Anyway, sorry about this rant. I just really hate it when people think academia is only worthwhile if they feel it personally benefits them.
So I’m pretty much a Whedon anti-fan but that does not mean that studying his work and the impact it has had on culture and society is worthless. For those interested, here is the Whedon Studies Association. It publishes a fully open access academic journal called Slayage as well as an undergraduate journal called Watcher Junior. They also run a conference.