From Publishers Weekly
A bubbly blonde sporting black leather and whomping vampires hardly seems a spiritual paragon, but the title character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, the occult classic that aired from 1997 to 2003, is just that, argues Riess, PW
's religion book review editor and a dedicated Slayer fan. Although the show is ambivalent about God's existence and ostensibly secular, it "offers a deep spiritual core that is based in ethical behavior." A "spiritually eclectic" canon on forgiveness, compassion, love, self-sacrifice and redemption guide the slayer and her friends in their battles with evil (supernatural, internal or otherwise), says Riess. Playing off the Christian youth mantra "What would Jesus do?" (which the show also pokes fun at in an episode where Xander tells Buffy, "When it's dark and I'm all alone, and I'm scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, 'What would Buffy do?' "), Riess dissects the show's moral message according to three themes: personal spirituality, companions (friends and family) and saving the world. Sidebar quotes from prophets, philosophers and poets echo each chapter's spiritual lesson. On self-sacrifice, for example, Riess includes St. Francis's prayer for peace, and on embracing change, she refers to the Qur'an's message about change coming from within a person. This analysis, like the show, never gets mired down in too much seriousness and will add a new dimension to how both fans and critics view the popular series.
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On the surface, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
doesn't seem to be a TV show associated with religion, but fans know that it has some very spiritual elements. Riess gets at the heart of the show's values and characters in this engaging book. She shows how Buffy's self-sacrifice--of a "normal" teenage existence, of the man she loves, and even of her own life--is typical of the sacrificial nature of many religious figures. The idea of redemption is also a recurring theme in the show, as Riess illustrates with three of its most complex characters: Angel, Buffy's vampire love, who becomes a soulless killer if he experiences even a moment of true happiness; Faith, the rogue slayer driven by self-hatred and envy; and Spike, the vampire whose love for Buffy causes him to seek to regain his soul. A guide to the show's seven seasons and an interview with Eliza Dushku, who played Faith, round out a fascinating, fun study. A must for fans. Kristine HuntleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved