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Help Kickstart Nicholas Brendon and “Big Gay Love”!

nicholas brendon big gay loveNicholas Brendon — best known to all of us as Xander in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — is co-starring in a new film named “Big Gay Love.” However, the producers need to raise just over $3,000 in the next seven days (at the time of writing) on Kickstarter to make it happen! You can get more information and support the film here.

The film is about a gay man (Jonathan Lisecki of “Gayby”) who seemingly has it all but is insecure about his looks while attempting to attract a chef he likes (Brendon). The themes are universal: Body-image issues, and dating for love in a world in which everyone seems to want only sex.

As the Kickstarter page notes:

Big Gay Love is a comedy about a chubby gay man who overcomes discrimination based on his looks to find love on his own terms!

The devastating effect of our physique-obsessed culture is explored in the comedy “Big Gay Love.” In the movie, Bob (played by Jonathan Lisecki of “Gayby”) appears to have it all – a great job, fabulous friends, and is about to become a first time homebuyer. But his success hasn’t come without a price for Bob has become the chubby gay man everyone adores, but nobody desires. When true love does find Bob in the form of a chef named Andy (Nicholas Brendon), he doubts if the relationship could be real for his years of living in insecurity has gotten the best of him. To keep up appearances with his friends, Bob considers going under the knife to fit in and be perfect. But underneath it all he longs for something more.

Big Gay Love is a love letter for everyone who’s ever wanted to be accepted for themselves regardless of their color, shape, or size.

Here is a featurette all about the movie:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pKCc_vjv5AA]

Here is information that the producers sent to Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online:

“Big Gay Love,” a fun and heartfelt romantic comedy motion picture starring Jonathan Lisecki (of Gayby) as Bob, a chubby party planner who’s star crossed romance with the handsome chef, Andy, played by Nicholas Brendon (“Buffy The Vampire Slayer”) leads him to find more than true love. In this comically inspiring love story, we see that being superficial in the dating world, like Bob, can cause you to lose a great guy like Andy. Andy helps Bob discover himself and what true love can really mean once we learn to embrace who we are.

Filming is complete and the Big Gay Love team is now in post production. Team Big Gay Love has started a Kickstarter campaign to finish the film and we need the help of our collective communities.

“I’m happy to be part of an independent gay film production that gives a deeper appreciation of diversity. Our cast is amazing and it’s a wonderful story,” says Nicholas Brendon.

“Big Gay Love departs from the standard romantic comedy movies centered on beautiful people,” says Ringo Le, writer/director of Big Gay Love. ” We are sending a message that beauty comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes.”

We’re a little more than a week away from our Kickstarter deadline and we hope to finish the picture to start the film festival circuit for summer of 2013. With Kickstarter it’s all or nothing. If we don’t complete our goal by the deadline we may never get to finish our film.

The Cast

Jonathan Lisecki – Jonathan Lisecki is our leading man Bob Bartholomew in Big Gay Love. His first feature Gayby based on the celebrated short film of the same title is now nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay. Jonathan was listed in Out Magazine’s Top 100 People of 2012. He lives in New York with his husband.

Nicholas Brendon – Nicholas Brendon plays the world-weary Andrew Darcy in Big Gay Love. Born in Los Angeles, California Nicholas got his big break when he landed the role of Xander Harris on Joss Whedon’s hugely successful TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His first major role in a feature film came with the Charles Busch satire Psycho Beach Party.

Ann Walker – Ann Walker plays Bob’s mother Betty in Big Gay Love. Ann studied in New York City at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her portrayal of Odette Annette Barnett in Del Shore’s Southern Baptist Sissies garnered her a Robby Award, a Maddy award, the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award and an Ovation Award nod. Her film credits include Jagged Edge, Father of the Bride II, The Fanatics, It Takes, Two, andSordid Lives.

Amy Hill – Amy Hill is known for her roles as Mrs. DePaulo in That’s So Raven, Mrs. Kwan in The Cat in the Hat, Sue in 50 First Dates, Miss Hyo-Kim in Next Friday, Yung-Hee “Grandma” Kim on Margaret Cho’s All American Girl. She is currently in the HBO comedy series Enlightened portraying Judy Harvey.

Drew Droege – Alumnus of The Groundlings Company in Los Angeles. He is a founding member of sketch group, The Deviants. Recipient of the 2010 Emerging Talent Award at Outfest Film Festival, Los Angeles. Drew is best known for his online impressions of Chloë Sevigny.

Jason Stuart – Prolific character actor and stand-up comedian Jason Stuart is well-known for his work on over forty popular television shows. Stuart has wowed audiences on Will & Grace, Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Everybody Hates Chris, House, M.D., George Lopez. He is best known playing “Dr. Thomas”, the therapist on My Wife and Kids.

Todd Stroik – Highly active in theater across the country and for Disney Cruise lines and now breaking into TV and Film and Commercial work Todd is making a splash in Big Gay Love.

Ethan Le Phong – Ethan has appeared in the stage musicals Mamma Mia! (Broadway);Miss Saigon (Broadway); East West Player’s Pippin as well as Little Britain USA andNaked Boys Singing.

Jesse James Rice – Jesse James Rice grew up near Seattle. He did a lot of theater, including playing Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet in the Olympic Shakespeare Festival. He is working on his short Leanne is Gone.

The Producers

Ringo Le – Director Ringo Le fled war torn Vietnam as a refugee on the year he was born. His first feature film Saigon Love Story was nominated for the Best New Asian Film Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival 2006. He has been mentored by Bill Condon (through Film Independent) and Paris Barclay (CBS Television). His aunt is Tham Thuy Hang, one of the most iconic actresses of Vietnamese cinema.

Quentin Lee – Born in Hong Kong, Director/Producer Quentin Lee attended UC Berkeley, Yale University and UCLA. As a filmmaker Quentin’s films include Shopping for Fangs(co-directed with Justin Lin), Drift, Ethan Mao, The People I’ve Slept With, and White Frog. As a producer, Quentin produces under his production banner Margin Films. He is prepping his next feature film Full Ride.

Don’t forget to go to Kickstarter and help Nicholas Brendon’s new film! And spread the word!

 Samuel Scott is the founder and publisher of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online. You can follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter as well as on his personal website.

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One Billion Rising Against Anti-Female Violence

Scoobies, in case you didn’t know, February 14, 2013, was the day of #OneBillionRising against violence against women. Flash mobs gathered throughout the world to dance for the occasion. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online founder Samuel Scott happened to be in Jerusalem and snapped these photos of the flash mob there. (Small, but encouraging!) While this is not exactly related to “Buffy,” he thought the show’s fans would like the mention of female empowerment! See onebillionrising.org for more information, and see our Facebook page post as well!

IMG_1595 IMG_1596 IMG_1597 IMG_1598 IMG_1599 IMG_1600

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Buffyvote 2012 — Spuffy vs. Bangel

Sick of the U.S. election? We’re announcing Buffyvote 2012 instead! Who do you like better: Spuffy or Bangel? You can participate at our Facebook page, at the bottom of this post, or in both places! Here, list your vote and reason in the comments, and then share this page with your friends! We think this election will be close too.

spuffy vs. bangel

List your vote and reason below in the comments (and at our Facebook page!) and then share, retweet, and let your friends know!

Samuel Scott is the founder and publisher of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online. You can follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter as well as on his personal website.

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How to Get More Superwomen in TV, Movies, and Comics

superwomanEditor’s note: Want to contribute a guest blog post? Contact us.

By Samuel Scott

The entertainment industry, just like any other business, has one goal in mind: to maximize profits. In the late 1960s, the music companies did not find and promote bands that played protest folk and rock music out of a desire (depending on your point of view) to do good and help the United States. The firms produced and marketed the music because they knew that the songs would sell well because massive numbers of people were already interested in protesting and other anti-establishment activities.

Music is marketed to pre-teens and teenagers in any decade because those are the people who buy most music in the first place. That’s the target demographic. As a former journalist and newspaper editor who is now a digital marketer in my day job who builds this hobby “Buffy” fansite on my personal time, I can tell you that the way in which products are marketed is this (in general terms):

  1. Identify the target market that has purchased similar products
  2. Research the demographic (age, gender, income, etc.) and what motivates them (what do they want, desire, fear, and so on)
  3. Tailor both the product itself and your marketing campaign to the demographic and to what motivates the demographic

From music to television to comic books, producers create products and market them based on what similar products and marketing methods have been successful in the past in line with the perceived demands and needs of the target market. Businesses generally do not like to take risks, so they usually rely on what has worked before — one flop of a band, television show, or film can cost millions of dollars.

Buffy as a Superwoman

buffy superwomanI began thinking about this topic when blogger and writer Emmie Mears approached Twitter user BtVSfan96 and myself with her idea to create and build a campaign to get more superwomen in popular culture — “superwomen” defined roughly as complicated, real characters (faults and all) who use their enhanced abilities to fight evil. (As of the time of this writing, we have held three live Twitter chats under the hashtag #SuperWomen — and the topic has trended, in various locations, each time.)

I signed up and promoted the initial press release out of two desires. Like Joss Whedon, the creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “The Avengers,” and a lot more, I was raised by a “superwoman” single mother and admire images of women that go against mainstream stereotypes. Second, I am obviously a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and have seen the devotion that the show inspires to this day, so I knew that such a campaign could be successful — albeit difficult.

It is hard because, in the end, businesses care about the return on investment (ROI): How much money will they make in return for their investments? If I have to choose between spending $1 million to create, say, new television show X or Y, I will need to know the likely viewership and advertising revenue of the first season. If X will make $1.1 million in advertising (a 10% return) and Y will earn $1.5 million (a 50% return), I will choose Y. The decisions behind making a given movie, TV program, or comic book will depend on the ROI in relation to the cost to produce it — and the goal is always to maximize net profit in the end.

So, in light of our campaign, my goal here is to provide a basic marketing analysis that can be used to prove to entertainment companies that creating more “superwomen” will indeed return a significant ROI and boost the presence of inspirational women in the superhero genre at the same time. Although I do not have the space here to create a lengthy marketing plan, the brief summary detailed below will contain the following general points:

  1. Proving that the superhero genre as a whole will generate significant revenue and profit
  2. Selecting the best medium in which to create and promote “superwomen” characters
  3. How to create superwomen that will empower women, appeal to the target audience, and sell well

The ROI of the Superhero Genre

avengers superheroesBefore convincing media companies that is it profitable to create superwomen, it is necessary first to prove that the superhero/geek genre as a whole is worthwhile to (continue to) target. This is fairly easy, and just a few data points are necessary to make the point:

  • The size of the comic-book market in North America has grown from roughly $310 million in 1997 to $675 million in 2011, an increase of 118% that far surpasses the estimated 14% increase in population over the same period of time — meaning a greater and greater percentage of Americans are reading comic books each year
  • Comic-cons have become so popular that they are viewed as taking over entire cities whenever they are held (see “Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture“)
  • The popularity of films from “The Lord of the Rings” to “The Dark Knight” to “The Avengers” goes without saying
  • Comedian and actor Patton Oswalt’s 2010 rant in Wired magazine saying that geek culture has become so mainstream that it now must die
  • A Christian Science Monitor article noting how “geek wisdom has gone mainstream
  • Whedon has been tapped to bring the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization to television

Second, I would pitch to media companies that the creation of great superheroes (supermen or superwomen) leads to long-term, stable revenue that will continue to grow over time rather than a short-term burst of income that eventually disappears. TV producers, for understandable reasons, generally love to create a blockbuster show like “Friends” that will top the ratings each week. However, the brand of a show like “Friends” falls relatively quickly after the show goes off the air. Just a few thoughts:

  • Many years after “Friends” ends, how many people will recognize a Halloween mask of Chandler Bing (if one were to exist)? I once dressed in a “Buffy” costume shortly after college, and nearly everyone knew who I was. (And someone else at the party who I did not know was dressed as Spike!)
  • Five or ten years from now, how many people will care enough to purchase the complete DVD set of “Friends” if they had never seen the show or had only seen a few episodes? Shows like “Buffy” and “Doctor Who” create cult followings of people who push the program onto friends and family members — in marketing, they are called “brand ambassadors” (see a blog post I wrote for my company on “Buffy” and brand ambassadors)
  • The creation of a cult following around a superhero creates multiple, long-term, sources of revenue: merchandise, comic books, conventions, spin-offs, and countless others. (People buy “Buffy” T-shirts — who buys “Friends” T-shirts?) The creation of a show like “Friends” only has two sources of income: advertising during the original run and syndication rights afterwards — and most networks replace old, syndicated shows with new ones after a few years

The point: Mainstream, popular shows like “Friends” make networks a lot of money while they run, but that revenue quickly goes away after the show ends. Quality cult and superhero media, while not usually generating large levels of immediate income, leads to ever-increasing amounts of revenue from various sources as the fan base increases as well. Here’s a quick chart I created in Excel to demonstrate the basic point graphically (again, it is just the basic idea and not based on any specific data):

buffy sales chart

If you continue the lines into the future, you will see that the creation of great superheroes leads to more revenue over the long term. Superman and Batman still sell many decades later — I doubt that “Friends” will do the same. (However, it is important to note the “great” in my statement: the 1992 movie “Buffy” was not great; the television version was great. The product that you market and sell needs to be quality — see further below.)

The Best Medium for Superwomen

superwomenThird, it is necessary to demonstrate the best medium that will generate the greatest revenue for a new “superwoman.” For my purposes here, I will limit the options to film, television, and comic books. Here are the demographics of the “typical” consumer of these mediums:

When pitching “superwomen” to media companies, it is crucial to advocate the medium that will give the greatest ROI. Television first (and perhaps film second) seems to be the best method. Despite the attempts of comic-book producers to reach out to women, there is little significant growth in market share. From “Buffy” to “Game of Thrones,” TV seems to be the best vehicle to reach women in this context today.

One choice that marketers face is whether to use a medium that is already popular with the target demographic or convince the audience to use a different medium with which they are largely unfamiliar (or, perhaps, both). There are benefits and drawbacks to each. In this context, a superhero woman on television would be much easier to promote successful since more women already use the medium. However, marketing a new comic book to women would potentially open the entire comic-book market to them in general — and thereby possibly leading to larger, never-before-acquired profits in that specific medium.

Still, the second option is more difficult. Women already watch television, so there is no need to persuade them to use the medium. To get women to respond to a comic-book character, you would first need to do an additional marketing campaign to attract them to comic books in the first place as well. Since marketers and businesses are conservative by nature and would likely not take a great risk, it would likely be better to argue for TV (and perhaps film) superheroes but not comic books in this context.

How to Create Superwomen in TV that Sell

According to a writer named Whisky, the target demographic of superhero stories in general (at least, perhaps in the past) has been that of young men who were not popular at school or with the best-looking girls:

The secret to comics is who created and read them, back when they were popular, first in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, and again in the 1960’s (the “Golden” and “Silver” age respectively). The Comics creators were mostly Jewish, nerdy-smart guys, who liked the pretty girls who had no time for them, and preferred the wealthy athletes in High School and College. In wish fulfillment, these mostly Jewish artists and writers, who in the 1930s and early 1940s lived at a time when actual, real Nazis were active in America (the German-American Bund), created (almost exclusively male) characters that provided wish fulfillment to every young man and boy who was not a high-status, wealthy athlete, liked by guys and pursued by girls.

Which is about 90% of the male population, at one time or another. That’s what comics were, and the reason for the characters success. Superman is the most globally recognized fictional character. Because of that secret.

Yes, it’s really that simple. Male wish fulfillment is the secret to Superhero success.

Of course, Whiskey’s analysis is a bit stereotypical. However, the truth is that marketers must operate in stereotypes because they work with and target demographic groups in general. What media do women generally like? What messages to Hispanic people generally respond to? What generally motivates the Baby Boomer age bracket? And so on. This is not to say that all women, Hispanic people, or Baby Boomers are the same — but it is meant to focus on whatever trends are generally prevalent within a given demographic category. If women, for example, use Facebook more and that men use Twitter, then marketers looking to target females would focus more on Facebook.

This mindset can be used in the successful marketing of “superwomen.” If Batman and Spider-Man were “wish fulfillment” among men, then a female superhero would need to be “wish fulfillment” for women. In the past, female superheroes were written for the aforementioned, geeky men — they were merely “hot chicks with superpowers” (to borrow a line from “Buffy”) to whom the demographic would be sexually attracted. If the goal is to popularize “superwomen” that are complete, complicated characters who empower women and to whom they can relate, then the target demographic needs to be women, not men.

So, a good “superwoman” needs to function as “wish fulfillment” for women onto which they can project their insecurities and worldly problems onto characters who deal with those issues while fighting evil — someone with whom females can identify. And that is one reason, among many, why “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was and remains so popular. The female Scoobies and other minor characters, as I had noted in the prior blog post for my company, dealt with issues that the young viewers encountered in their daily lives (but in a metaphorical way): the problems in dating, domestic violence, parental conflict, gender roles, sexual harassment, and so much more.

Creating Good Superhero Movies and TV

superhero tv showsIf we agree that the superhero genre is profitable in general and that television is the best medium to attract female attention, then the most-profitable way to introduce “superwomen” is to create and market complicated superhero TV characters with whom the target, female demographic can identify — just as with the prior heroes aimed at men. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” proved that this can be done — the only issue is to create something similar in quality and then market the idea in a good way.

As Brad Brevet notes at Rope of Silicon, there is the forthcoming issue of what can be termed “market saturation”:

We are coming to an age where a superhero movie can’t be half-assed anymore if it wants to be successfully turned into a highly profitable franchise. Sure, you can keep churning out films like Ghost Rider and Fantastic Four, but they will keep on making $100-130 million each time and unless studios figure out how to make them cheaper it just doesn’t seem to pay off.

Moreover, Mark Lee at OverThinkingIt poses this question:

In other words, have we reached Peak Superhero, the point where we’ve maximized the exploitation of a finite resource and are now entering a period of inexorable decline?

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” introduced the vampire genre to a new generation of people and spawned media ranging from “Twilight” to “True Blood” to “The Vampire Diaries.” Eventually, the public grew tired of vampires and moved onto other, newer trends. And trend may be the return of traditional superheroes including Batman, Spider-Man, and Iron Man. (In my opinion, superheroes are popular at the moment because people gravitate towards simplistic, black-and-white, good-versus-evil in times of war and economic and political stress — they make a complicated world seem simple.)

However, this fad, too, shall pass. (At least until it becomes a fad again — all genres come and go in cycles.) The best way to keep it alive — and this is another point that I would tell media companies — is to create something completely new, unique, and quality. And a female superhero who is more than just “boobs and guns” à la Buffy Summers is proof that it would be a profitable thing to do. A good, female character revolutionized the vampire genre, and the same would occur in the superhero one.

Samuel Scott is the founder and publisher of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online. You can follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter as well as on his personal website.

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Sarah Michelle Gellar Gives Birth to Second Child

sarah michelle gellar pregnantSarah Michelle Gellar, best known for portraying Buffy Summers in the cult television program “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” from 1997 to 2003, gave birth in Los Angeles to her second child last week, according to several media reports.

The baby, a boy, has not been named yet. Gellar and husband Freddie Prinze Jr. have a three-year-old daughter, Charlotte  Grace, who was born in September 2009. The pregnancy had been announced in April of this year.

“Sarah Michelle and Freddie Prinze Jr. are thrilled to announce that they welcomed a baby son into the world this past week,” a publicist for the couple told Us Weekly. “Mother and baby are doing great. And Charlotte is very excited to be a big sister.”

Gellar, 35, and Prinze, 36, first met while filming “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” a 1997 teen horror film. The two have been married for ten years and had been dating for two years prior to the wedding The couple also appeared together on screen in “Scooby Doo” (2002) and “Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed” (2004). Gellar and Prinze celebrated their tenth anniversary on September 1.

Gellar had played twin sisters on the new show “Ringer” this year, but it was canceled after its first season. Prinze appeared in the last season of the drama “24.”

Samuel Scott is the founder and publisher of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online. You can follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter as well as on his personal website.

(Photo credit: People magazine)

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Why Are There So Few Female Superheroes?

Why Are There So Few Female SuperheroesFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — September 19, 2012
(please feel free to copy and repost)

Twitter Live Chat: Why Are There No Female Superheroes?

Blogger Emmie Mears, Twitter user BtVSfan96, and BTVS Online founder and publisher Samuel Scott will host a live Twitter chat tomorrow on female superheroes and their portrayals (or lack thereof) in various fictional mediums. The hashtag will be #SuperWomen, and the chat will begin at 7 p.m. U.S. EST on September 20, 2012. Further chats will occur periodically in the future.

The purpose and topics will include:

  • Why there is a proportional lack of female superheroes?
  • What barriers and mindsets keep them from reaching their full potential?
  • Why have several attempts failed to create convincing, relatable SuperWomen?
  • What roles do the marketing and business strategies play into the choices of heroes and their genders?
  • How can we show the entertainment world that we want to see more female superheroes?

About Us

Emmie Mears spends at least an hour a day preparing for or thinking about the zombie apocalypse. Future calamity notwithstanding, Emmie hunts stories in dark alleys and in stone circles and spends most nights listening for something that goes bump. She writes urban fantasy novels, but her blog covers many facets of fantasy, from superheroes to vampires to sorcerers. Emmie lives outside Washington, D.C. with her husband, a husky puppy who talks too much, and a tabby who thinks she’s a tiger. Mears’ website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Rebekah (@BtVSfan96) loves Buffy and anything Whedon-related, and she has always appreciated Joss bringing female superheroes to culture in fresh, witty ways. As a young woman, she sees the need for strong female rolemodels when she observes her peers. Rebekah believes that the world needs SuperWomen to show girls her age and younger (and older!) that women can be strong and independent — and she asserts that the key will be elevating women without seeking to put men down. And SuperWomen are a perfect way to teach that!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online is a top fan website created by Samuel Scott that is a complete resource for all aspects of the show along with a high-level, academic blog with funny graphics and essays on philosophy, theology, and more. Scott is a former Boston newspaper editor who now lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, and works in Internet marketing and public relations in his day job. The first episode he ever saw during Buffy’s original run was Season 3’s “Gingerbread” while in college, and he has been a fan ever since. BTVS Online’s website, blog, Facebook page, Pinterest, and Twitter. Scott’s personal website and online-marketing site.

Samuel Scott is the founder and publisher of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online. You can follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter as well as on his personal website.

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Spike Meme — Happy Birthday to James Marsters

In honor of the fiftieth birthday of James Marsters, we create a Spike meme that we thought everyone would like. Enjoy, and feel free to spread this around the Internet as you wish (there’s an easy embed form below)! Just please credit us with a link to Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online. Thanks!

spike meme

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online

Embed this on your site!

<center><img src=”http://www.btvsonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/spike-meme.png” alt=”spike meme” /></center><a href=”http://www.btvsonline.com”>Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online</a>

Samuel Scott is the founder and publisher of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online. You can follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter as well as on his personal website.

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Vampire Hunters in Folklore, Fiction & History

vampire huntersEditor’s note: Want to contribute a guest blog with a link to your website? Contact us.

By Samuel Scott

Buffy Summers, of course, was not the first vampire hunter (or slayer) in folklore and history (whether in fiction or reality). But she is the latest archetype in a centuries-old mythology that spans Balkan stories, medieval persecutors, and British writers. In this essay, I argue that the qualities of vampire hunters have remained generally consistent despite the variety of mediums and stories that have involved them over the years. From Transylvania to California, there are certain motifs that, when examined in context, have remained constant in the works read and seen by the fans of vampires and those who hunt them.

The Origin of Vampire Hunters

The origin of vampire hunters cannot be explained without explaining the vampires themselves. According to “Slayers and Their Vampires: A Cultural History of Killing the Dead” by Bruce McClelland, a writer, translator, and vampirologist who received his Ph.D. in Slavic Studies at the University of Virginia, the emergence of the vampire into the Western consciousness occurred in this way more than three hundred years ago:

… a curious rash of hysterical vampire epidemics at the fringes of the Habsburg Empire first brought this type of oral folklore from the mysterious Balkans and the Transylvanian region into Western consciousness.

While I do not want to oversimplify his argument, the original tales seem to involve centuries-old stories of mysterious, outside-the-mainstream people who had gone against their Orthodox Christian communities by embracing heretical and/or pagan ideas and practices. They were one example of “The Other.” (McClelland writes that the first “vampire” in the historical record was “a defrocked priest who condemned himself for having been so weak as to allow himself to be initiated into a pagan ritual.”)

The idea of society battling outcasts, according to McClelland, can be seen in the medieval Inquisition as well before Bram Stoker first popularized the vampire (book, movie). The enforcers of the Inquisition sought, tried, and killed the “Others” in their countries — “witches,” Jews, and Christian heretics. The Inquisition was empowered with identifying those with supposedly supernatural or other non-mainstream beliefs or practices since doing so would generally be beyond the ability of the everyday person. Again, McClelland:

The presence of a humanlike threat that is either not visible or generally not detectable naturally brings about the need to locate an individual who possess the unique power to identify and hence accuse the duplicitous aggressor…

An examination of early Balkan folklore reveals that the vampire slayer [or Inquisition official], whose perceptive powers transcend those permitted to ordinary Christian villagers, is the vampire’s true mirror image [a theme that will be addressed later].

vampire huntersBoth the Balkan folklore and the idea of experts who can identify and fight the “Other,” according to McClelland, were combined into Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”(book, movie), the first popularization of the vampire mythos and on which everything to follow, including “Buffy,” is based:

Bram Stoker drew on folklore and history compiled from several sources: an English-language literary tradition about vampires dating back to around 1800; stories abut Central Europe possibly passed on by the Hungarian agent, provocateur, and adventurer Arminius Vambery; and Stoker’s own researches into travelogues, Transylvanian and Carpathian ethnography, and Romanian history…

In the original “Dracula,” Abraham van Helsing is a Dutch doctor and lawyer and a credentialed specialist in vampires. Just as the Inquisition relied on “expert” Catholic Church officials — likely often imported from elsewhere — to root out the “otherworldly menace” in various western-European countries, so is van Helsing a foreigner with credentials and knowledge that allow him to do in another part of the world what none of the “commoners” in Transylvania could do themselves.

In addition (and admittedly without any external evidence), I would posit that Stoker’s choice of the name “Abraham” is also symbolic and a literary device as well. In Hebraic mythology, Abraham was “called” to leave his people, journey to a new land, and become the forefather of a new nation of people. Abraham van Helsing did the same — he had a “calling” of a specialized ability, he journeyed to a new land for a noble cause, and he founded a new nation of people (those who would know about and fight vampires). I would also argue that those in the Inquisition likely felt the same way (albeit in their own historical, societal, and religious context).

Vampire Hunters and Society

“Vampire” hunters and slayers in folklore and fiction, just like their prey, have always operated outside the societal mainstream. The Inquisition largely operated outside official channels. Prior to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 (which established the idea of the sovereign nation-state and the right of countries to choose their own (Christian) religions after the horrendous Thirty Years’ War), the Catholic Church was essentially an international authority that ignored national boundaries. The Inquisition largely did what it wanted — local authorities be damned (no pun intended).

vampire huntersThis characteristic is also present in the vampire hunters to follow in the fiction of later centuries. From Stoker’s van Helsing to the 2004 movie of the same name to Buffy herself, those who hunt vampires always do so without regard for the local civil authorities (and are often hampered by them as a result). As McClelland writes:

The group’s designation of the slayer, or seer, or hunter serves to absolve the group from any accusation of injustice (since the ritual actions taken against the vampire ultimately have to take place out side the law).

The reason is not too complicated to understand. A vampire hunter may need to commit privacy invasions (spying on lairs), trespassing (entering lairs), and (arguably) murder (slaying vampires in their lairs). To achieve the goal of ridding the human world of a supernatural menace, there is neither the time nor the ability to resort to civil means. Can anyone imagine van Helsing or Buffy obtaining arrest warrants and then bringing vampires to trial?

As I wrote in an earlier essay entitled “Buffy, Authority, and Fascism in Joss Whedon’s World,” vampire hunters often cite an “authority derived from an ancient order” — van Helsing (2004) has the Knights of the Holy Order while Buffy has the Watchers’ Council — as a justification for their pan-national behavior in which their decisions trump all worldly authorities.

The Vampire Hunter as a Mirror Image

From Balkan folklore to the Inquisition to Bram Stoker to Buffy, a composite of the “vampire hunter” can be created:

  • Fighting against the “Other”
  • Having foreign, expert, and occult knowledge (“occult” comes from the Latin occultus for “hidden”)
  • Going to a new land
  • Ignoring local, civil authority and favoring a historic, legendary pan-national calling

vampire huntersBuffy Summers exhibits all of these qualities. She slays demons — those who want to disrupt mainstream society — when mainstream society cannot. She has prophecies in dreams and has physical and psychic abilities that other humans do not. After the original film, she moves to the new land of Sunnydale, California. The Scoobies largely do what they wish despite what the civil authorities want (especially because they are often, knowingly or not, in “cahoots” with the evil powers).

However, the relation of Buffy to the vampire hunters of old does not end there. As McClelland writes:

…the vampire hunter or slayer is not at all a modern phenomenon, dreamed up by Gothic writers for dramatic or literary purposes. More likely, this character is a reflex of an ancient shamanic figure possessing the healing power to peer into the world of the dead.

This characteristic is evident in the character of Buffy Summers, especially in Seasons 4 through 7 of the television show. Until the end of Season 4, Buffy had merely been a girl who had happened to have some supernatural powers to slay the forces of evil. However, she slowly became more “mystical” thereafter. As both dream-sequence Tara in the finale of Season 4 and then Dracula himself in the opener of Season 5 told Buffy, “You think you know what’s to come, what you are. You haven’t even begun.”

That statement sent Buffy on a shamanistic, metaphysical quest to understand her true nature. In Season 5, she re-enlisted Giles to become her watcher and teach her — a request that led to, among other actions, her using crystals in shamanistic fashion early in the season. In Season 7, she used a strange bag given by Principal Wood to journey to the mystical moment back in time when the watchers created the first slayer.

Still, the greatest resemblance of Buffy to the ancient shamans of vampire-hunter lore was the fact that she had a “healing power to peer into the world of the dead.” Of course, the slayer had always faced death — from Jenny to Tara to Anya to countless other innocent bystanders and not-so-innocent demons. But in the latter seasons, she realized the death itself was a part of her inherent identity.

In the Season 4 finale, the First Slayer haunts and kills the Scoobies in their dreams because Buffy had supposedly turned her back on the Slayer Line by having friends and, well, a life. Then, in Season 5, the First Slayer tells her that “death is [her] gift.” Of course, we would see that Buffy would give her life that year to save both her little sister and the world, but there is also a greater meaning. Both vampires and slayers give death as a gift — but vampires give it as a gift to themselves (to prolong their unnatural lives by feeding) while slayers give it as a gift to others (to save lives and the world).

As such, McClelland writes that vampire hunters or slayers are a vampire’s true mirror image — and Buffy Summers is just the latest example in a long-running mythology.

Question: We have not seen “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (book, movie) yet — how do you think he holds up to the archetype?

Samuel Scott is the founder and publisher of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online. You can follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter as well as on his personal website.

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