Generally speaking, it's not a great idea to anger the passionate fans of a beloved cult TV series. But that's exactly what Warner Bros. did yesterday when the news came out that the studio is working on a film reboot of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" -- without the participation of Joss Whedon, the man behind the show. Fans went ballistic; Whedon, smartly, took the high road.
First, some background into the origins of "Buffy." There's a decent chance that some small portion of the audience that watched and loved the TV series over its seven seasons had no idea that the thing was based on a movie. Well, it was: a pretty terrible movie from 1992 starring Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry -- ah, the early '90s, folks -- and written by a guy named Joss Whedon. At that time, Whedon was a little-known TV writer who had only done some episodes of "Roseanne." "Buffy" the movie was a bomb, but it was his break: Soon, he was an Oscar-nominated co-writer on "Toy Story" and the creator of the "Buffy" show, which still enjoys a large following even though it's been off the air for seven years.
Predictably, "Buffy" fans are in a total uproar about this, getting no comfort from an "insider" Deadline talked to about this reboot who said, "While this is not your high school Buffy, she'll be just as witty, tough, and sexy as we all remember her to be." The idea for this new "Buffy" came from Whit Anderson, a person with no produced writing credits who will be working on the script. (Hero Complex's Geoff Boucher, who broke the story, spoke to Anderson, who said she loves Buffy because she's such an "emowering" character.) And adding to fans' heartache, Warner Bros. optioned the rights from (among other people) Fran Rubel Kuzui, the director of the original "Buffy" film and the one everyone blames for its general level of awfulness because she fouled up Whedon's vision.
You can look anywhere on the Web today and see the collective hand-wringing of the show's faithful throngs bemoaning this as the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone ever. But maybe it's because we never watched the series, which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, that we tend to think that this reboot is only a good thing for the sorts of ravenous fans who are territorial about their entertainment properties. If the new film tanks, then it only validates what a genius Whedon is. And even if it's an amazing work of art that makes a bazillion dollars, hey, the "Buffy" series will still exist and might even garner new fans because of the new movie.
Whedon himself seems to understands all this, which is why his official "response" was so nicely handled. Taking time away from his prep work as director of the Marvel superhero extravaganza "The Avengers," Whedon emailed E! to make some self-deprecating jokes about the supposed controversy. "This
is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the
carcasses of beloved stories from their youths -- just because they can't
think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my Avengers idea
that I made up myself," he wrote, tongue very much in cheek. Our favorite line, though, was reserved for the reboot's unknown writer: "My
first reaction upon hearing who was writing it was, 'Whit Stillman AND
Wes Anderson? This is gonna be the most sardonically adorable movie
EVER.'" And even though he's not exactly thrilled about his lack of involvement in the new film, he's decided to let it go. "I don't love the idea of my creation in other hands," he confessed, "but I'm also well
aware that many more hands than mine went into making that show what it
was. ... I can't wish people who are passionate about my little myth
In other words, Whedon's saying, "Oh no, I'm fine ... it's no big deal ... it doesn't bother me ... nothing to see here." It may be slightly passive-aggressive, but the what-me-worry tone is the right approach. People who loved the show will commend him for being so classy, while he gets to play the innocent victim (which he really sort of is) who will soak up all that sympathy and good will. But he also knows that it's important to at least appear to be moving on with your life. It's been seven years since "Buffy" was on television, and since then he's done a slew of TV series ("Angel," "Firefly," "Dollhouse"), a web series ("Dr. Horrible"), and has co-written some films and directed the "Firefly" movie "Serenity." He knows his legacy with "Buffy" won't be affected by anything that happens with this new movie -- fans should remember that too.
Joss who? Meet the writer of the new 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' film [Hero Complex]
Warner Bros Reboots 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' [Deadline]
Joss Whedon Reacts to Buffy Movie News: "I Have Strong, Mixed Emotions" [E!]