The Axers of Evil

Pentagon Spokesman Jerry Bruckheimer; Buffy's Dread


"This isn't a story about how good triumphs. Good people are going to die." When you get tired of manipulative terror alerts and flag-waving, you can always turn to Buffy for a dose of emotional ambivalence. But the Slayer's not referring to Iraq—she's talking about the coming apocalypse in Sunnydale. Now that Sarah Michelle Gellar has announced her intention to leave the series in May, the storyline could be a reference to the death of the show itself.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was steeped in moral ambiguity from the start. All of its central characters have tasted the dark side: Geeky Willow became addicted to black magic last season and flayed someone alive; Anya's a former demon who still likes to "get her vengeance on" now and then; Angel and Spike are reformed vampires. And then there's Buffy herself, an adolescent killing-machine who flirts with evil (literally) even as she saves the world on a daily basis.

Profiles From the Front Line: sanitized militarism
photo: Annie Chia
Profiles From the Front Line: sanitized militarism

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Profiles From the Front Line
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on UPN

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Now in its seventh season, Buffy has lost much of its original jouissance as the characters' youthful innocence hardens into professionalism (nightly demon-decapitation will do that to you). The Scooby gang now seems rudderless and despondent; Buffy's mom is dead, her watcher Giles has largely drifted from the fold, and an amorphous force called the First Evil is approaching. Although the clever jokes and whiplash dialogue still flow at a rate most shows would die for, a pall has descended, much like the one that hangs over our own hellmouth, New York City.

Maybe it seems ludicrous to make connections between the Buffyverse and our own, since her cartoony enemies have little in common with America's adversaries. But I'm not the first to draw parallels. In an essay from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (csis.org/burke/hd/reports/Buffy012902.pdf) on "Biological Warfare and the 'Buffy paradigm' " dated just a few weeks after 9-11, Anthony H. Cordesman uses this series about a girl "who lives in a world of unpredictable threats" as the basis for a new way of thinking about terrorism: "We can conduct studies or exercises, and we can write doctrine until hell freezes over, but . . . the uncertainties in Buffy may be more realistic than efforts to create predictable methods of attack."

As the series heads toward its endgame, Buffy constantly tests the limits of her power, wondering whether she can ward off the coming apocalypse without compromising her good intentions or losing too many fellow warriors. Goofy and fantastical as it is, Buffy feels more attuned to the dread and precariousness of the current moment than almost any other show on television.

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