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Undead TV: Essays on Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Kindle Edition]

Elana Levine , Lisa Ann Parks , Mary Celeste Kearney , Susan Murray

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Book Description

When the final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired in 2003, fans mourned the death of the hit television series. Yet the show has lived on through syndication, global distribution, DVD release, and merchandising, as well as in the memories of its devoted viewers. Buffy stands out from much entertainment television by offering sharp, provocative commentaries on gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and youth. Yet it has also been central to changing trends in television production and reception. As a flagship show for two U.S. “netlets”—the WB and UPN—Buffy helped usher in the “post-network” era, and as the inspiration for an active fan base, it helped drive the proliferation of Web-based fan engagement.

In Undead TV, media studies scholars tackle the Buffy phenomenon and its many afterlives in popular culture, the television industry, the Internet, and academic criticism. Contributors engage with critical issues such as stardom, gender identity, spectatorship, fandom, and intertextuality. Collectively, they reveal how a vampire television series set in a sunny California suburb managed to provide some of the most biting social commentaries on the air while exposing the darker side of American life. By offering detailed engagements with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s celebrity image, science-fiction fanzines, international and “youth” audiences, Buffy tie-in books, and Angel’s body, Undead TV shows how this prime-time drama became a prominent marker of industrial, social, and cultural change.

Contributors. Ian Calcutt, Cynthia Fuchs, Amelie Hastie, Annette Hill, Mary Celeste Kearney, Elana Levine, Allison McCracken, Jason Middleton, Susan Murray, Lisa Parks



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Review

"Keenly attentive to gender, age, race, and institutional politics, the essays in this collection reverberate with the clarity, cogency, and force of high-quality television studies scholarship. Undead TV is indispensable reading not only for those interested in one of the most important American television series but also for anyone who wants to be informed about the current practices, investments, and prospects of television and other associated media."--Diane Negra, coeditor of Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture "Aiming its Mr. Pointy at preconceived ideas about the show, this collection tackles Buffy from cultural, economic, and aesthetic angles. Cancellation has clearly done nothing to blunt the show's cutting edge. Read it along with Joss Whedon's new eighth-season comic book and you'll agree: Buffy is dead--long live Buffy!"--Heather Hendershot, author of Saturday Morning Censors: Television Regulation before the V-Chip "This is a useful ... addition to the body of work on Buffy and other shows."--Times Literary Supplement, 21 September 2007

About the Author

Elana Levine is Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She is the author of "Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television," also published by Duke University Press.Lisa Parks is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of "Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual," also published by Duke University Press.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2410 KB
  • Print Length: 219 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0822340658
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (12 Oct. 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EZB8958
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,444,179 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best academic anthologies on BUFFY 21 Jun. 2008
By Robert Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'd like to preface my review with a comment about the changing nature of academic writing about television. Until very recently -- probably the 1990s, certainly no earlier than the 1980s -- virtually all academic writing about television concerned the medium rather than individual series and shows. To the extent that individual shows were written about, academics seemed more concerned about their reception and their audiences rather than the narrative and thematic content. One might see essay after essay on the fandom of STAR TREK, but no analyses of the actual content of the show. Some exceptions to this could be found in the 1980s, but it was only in the 1990s that those involved in TV Studies began writing about the actual content of the shows. I suspect that TWIN PEAKS was the turning point. It was the first series that brought a new level of intelligence to television, instilling cinematic qualities to a previously "lowest common denominator" medium. The nineties saw an increasing number of shows that assumed that its viewers were more intelligent, that assumed that TV could transcend its "idiot box" characterization. I believe that the kind of textual analysis of TV that is so common today resulted from the increasingly intelligent series that emerged in the nineties.

Still, though a few individual shows attracted the attention of TV scholars -- TWIN PEAKS, ALLY MCBEAL, THE X-FILES -- none of them produced anything even remotely resembling the reaction to BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Though other series have also inspired scholars (LOST and especially BATTLESTAR GALACTICA are two recent examples), none compare to BUFFY. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there were more pages written on BUFFY and ANGEL than the next 3 or 4 series combined. Why this fascination about the adventures of a blonde California cheerleader who suddenly discovers that she is The Chosen One, the one girl in the world to fight the vampires and demons and powers of darkness? Joss Whedon has said of watching his creation, "Bring your own subtext." More than any series that I can think of (with the possible exception of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, which interestingly is Joss Whedon's favorite television series), BUFFY and its spin off ANGEL is a show that demands the exploration of subtexts. BUFFY is not about any one or two or even three things. In any given episode or arc, multiple themes coexist. Contrast this with, say LOST, a show I dearly love, but which almost resists subtexts. BUFFY is, therefore, a treasure trove of themes and narratives that can be teased and brought to the surface. Although on the surface it is pure popular entertainment, beneath the surface it is one of the densest, richest shows in television history.

Although BUFFY has inspired a surprising number of academic essays, books, and anthologies, this is easily one of the best that I have read. Even the essays that I found least helpful were written on a very high level. The book is broken roughly into two parts. The first part engages in something more akin to old school TV writing, in that the "text" of BUFFY is passed over in favor of media criticism. For instance, there are articles about Sarah Michelle Gellar and the nature of crossover stardom and various issues arising in Great Britain from the scheduling of BUFFY and ANGEL on broadcast and cable channels. The second part deals with analyses of BUFFY from the standpoint of gender studies. I generally don't care for gender studies analyses of TV shows. I'm interested in BUFFY and in what BUFFY has to say about gender, but far less interested in a metanarrative that is imposed upon the show. I'm especially uninterested in Queer Studies, which I think is an academic fad that will soon pass, much like Derrida (and for the record, unlike Foucault -- and I am aware of the irony of thinking that Foucault is someone whose work has deep merit and will not fade away as Derrida is in the process of doing, given that Foucault is one of the inspirations for practitioners of Queer Theory). Yet, even the essay from that standpoint was several cuts above most that I've read.

My major complaint with the collection is that very few essays really delve into the show itself. There is little of the in depth textual analysis that represents the best of TV Studies of the past twenty years. I am currently rewatching all of BUFFY and ANGEL and I find that almost nothing in this collection has helped me understand the show in greater depth. The essays are more self-referential than BUFFY-referential. They take you into themselves instead of into BUFFY. Still, I nonetheless enjoyed every essay in the collection.

One last comment. This book apparently took years to see the light of day. I believe it is the same collection that I saw advertised around the end of BUFFY's seven year run edited by Lisa Parks (one of the co-editors of the current collection) and to be published by Duke University Press. I even added the book to my shopping cart. The book then disappeared from my shopping cart. Then a couple of years later this collection was published by Duke. Many of the essays refer BUFFY as something that had only recently ended. So, for some reason, this collection seems to have taken about five years to see the light of day. I can only add that I'm glad that it did.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars academic, insightful, "re-read-worthy" 14 April 2008
By DE - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Similar in format though somewhat more academic in tone and interest than the popular and appealing Seven Seasons of Buffy, Undead TV is a rewarding and worthwhile addition to the shelves of the dedicated Buffy fan. Yes, these are academic essays, but they are also for the most part provocative and perceptive, too. Though the book's subtitle does not mention the Angel series, everybody's favorite Vampire gets his share of critical analysis as well. The eight essays here (whose titles reflect the well-nigh irresistible love of punning and colons that academic prose and Buffy studies in particular seem to arouse in writers) include "The Changing Face of Teen Television, or Why We All Love Buffy" by Mary Celeste Kearney; "I Know What You Did Last Summer: Sarah Michelle Gellar and Crossover Teen Stardom" by Susan Murray; "Vampire Hunters: The Scheduling and Reception of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel in the United Kingdom" by Annette Hill and Ian Calcutt; Amelie Hastie's "The Epistemological Stakes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Television Criticism and Marketing Demands"; Cynthia Fuchs' "`Did Anyone Ever Explain to You What "Secret Identity" Means?' Race and Displacement in Buffy and Dark Angel"; "At Stake: Angel's Body, Fantasy Masculinity and Queer Desire in Teen Television" by Allison McCracken; Jason Middleton's "Buffy as Femme Fatale: The Cult Heroine and the Male Spectator"; and "Buffy and the `New Girl Order': Defining Feminism and Femininity" by Elana Levine. Editors Levine and Parks' fine Introduction (which deserves a more descriptive title in keeping with its companion pieces) sets the tone and makes insightful points about the nature of TV and the self-awareness of the Buffy series. The ultimate test of the good academic essay is whether it deserves re-reading, and most of these eight pieces pass with flying colors.
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