Monday, 18 March 2013

Late Observations on Buffy

I'm about a decade late in finally watching through all 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I barely watched it on TV when it was fresh, and my first attempt to watch through it properly, back in 2007, ended for reasons beyond my control at around season 4. It really is great, and some episodes are fully fucking fantastic, as I'd expect from a Whedon endeavour. If nothing else, it helped a little with my high school nostalgia, giving a little closure. Now I just have a couple odd thoughts to get out of my system, which you may enjoy.

Music
I love Nerf Herder's theme music, especially the cleaner, clearer season 1 & 2 version. It and the Doctor Who theme (oo-weeeee-OOooooooo! OO-weee-ooo-ooooo! DUN DUN DUN DA DUN DUN!) are the only ones I like enough to always listen through completely and never skip past. (There's also the fuck-awful Babylon 5 season 3 intro music, which I always play through completely, just so I can sing along to the overly dramatic and dischordant Dun Dun DAAAAAA Dun Dun DAAAAAA.) The normal scoring of the show was also decent, as good as can normally be expected for a typical TV series.

But any time there's plot music, music for the characters to interact with directly, it's usually shit. I always thought the Bronze looked like a decent enough club, not too different visually from the sorts of places I like in reality, but their live bands were almost all weak, anaemic wafts, devoid of any real passion and zazz, barely worth lifting the instruments for and certainly no good for dancing. The only exceptions, the few times that the characters chose to listen to anything that I'd call decent music, were when conflict and evil was transpiring at the same time, or when someone was being British, often both at the same time. Obviously this is just my personal observation, but it does suggest something interesting about the series' musical choices, one way or another.

Fights
There's arguably a similar pattern to fight choreography, with nearly all the minor bad guys either too weighted down in bulky demon costumes to move (especially in the early seasons) or fighting with the same style over and over, no matter their background or training. Most of the vampires just pop out of their graves for the first time and just start fighting in exactly the same style. It's not just instinctive aggression either, as there's a lot of flashy flipping and rehearsed stances; it mostly looks like the same fight choreography as Buffy's own style. They even joke about it in one of the late episodes. The only exceptions are the interesting, unique characters. Angel and Spike stand out most clearly, with a plain street-brawling thing instead.

I found that a bit of an obvious intrusion of reality, damaging my disbelieving suspenders a bit. But I will give them credit for getting it really right once, with the best choreographed sword duel I can remember seeing, including ones with lightsabers. It's between Buffy and Angel, lasts less than a minute, but still manages to look distinctive and dramatic, while serving the plot perfectly. It's exactly what fights in story-telling should be like.

Trachtenberg's cast
The only time I ever watched Buffy (or Angel) when it was on TV was with my high school ex. When I realised that the character of Dawn was played by Michelle Trachtenberg, who I only knew then as Nona F. Mecklenberg from The Adventures of Pete & Pete and who had a permanent cast on her arm for the whole of that series, I took much joy in mockingly trying to convince the ex that the cast was in fact a permanent feature of Trachtenberg herself, pointing out how conveniently she had at least one arm out of the shot, or was wearing long sleeves, or clearly had a CGI arm imposed over her cast-bearing arm. I've been having great fun playing the same game alone the last few weeks, and so imagine my annoyance when Dawn does break her arm and they don't use that as an excuse to show Trachtenberg's cast, proving me "right".

Still, I'm pretty sure Trachtenberg still has that cast on her arm today, and you'll note how hard it is to find her showing both bare arms together. Any pictures that contradict me are clearly faked.

Now I need to find the full series of Angel, and maybe the Buffy season 8+ comics.