by Tami Katzoff
Do an amazon.com search for books with the words “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in the title, and you get more than 1,500 results. Aside from novels and comics, there are official and unofficial show guides, books on “Buffy” and philosophy, “Buffy” and psychology, “Buffy” and religion, and at least one “Buffy” songbook.
There are old books and new books. One of the newest is called “The Gentleviewer’s Obsessive Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” by Kathleen Mattson. As the title suggests, the author, who owns a technical marketing company in Portland, Oregon, is an obsessive viewer of the show. She is, in fact, “a little obsessive about everything.”
Mattson came to “Buffy” a bit late, after first being a fan of “Firefly.” Once she was hooked, she started to diligently gather data. “I’d be watching an episode and I’d keep careful note of which characters were in which episodes and which episodes a character was introduced in or died in,” Mattson says. “Then I got really interested in collecting all of the amazing culture references in the show. So then I started this list of those, and it just grew and grew and grew and became a book.”
Mattson intended her book to be a reference for fellow obsessives. “It’s for people like me who are wondering, ‘Which episode was it that someone referred to ‘Shpadoinkle’?’ Or, ‘I know that they talked about Soylent Green in the show – which episode was that?’” In case you don’t know, the former is uttered in “The Gift” and the latter is referenced in “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” and “Doublemeat Palace.”
At the other end of the author spectrum is Michael Adams, currently on the faculty of Indiana University’s English department. He was teaching at Albright College in Pennsylvania when he wrote “Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon,” published in 2003.
“I did it by accident,” Adams says. “I recognized an opportunity. I really was just sitting on the sofa one night, channel surfing while I was eating my dinner… I just happened to hit ‘Buffy.’” When Adams, an expert in lexicography and linguistics, heard the line “Love makes you do the wacky,” he was intrigued. Soon after, “Slayer Slang” was born. If you’re interested in how words such as Wiccapalooza, crayon-breaky, cuddle-monkey, mathiness, mootville and five-by-five came to be, this is the book for you.
But why are there so many books about “Buffy”? There have been other culturally significant TV shows with equally devoted fans; why are people still discussing, studying and obsessing over this one?
Adams offers this explanation: “The thing that always gets me when I re-watch episodes of the show is how it affects me emotionally to see the characters,” he says. “There are just these moments that really make me pause and think about the big issue of being human, and to feel a sort of compassion or sadness at times that I don’t feel in the context of other television shows.”
According to Mattson, it all comes down to one simple reason. “It’s Joss Whedon, and he’s a genius.”
MTV News producer aTami Katzoff presents The Weekly Whedon, a column exploring all corners of the Whedonverse from “Marvel’s The Avengers” to “Buffy” and beyond. Assemble your reactions in the comments section!