Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Buffy Season 9 #7, or How To Alienate Your Reader

For those of you keeping score at home, I've been on the fence with the latest comic book season of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.  Unfortunately that's continued pretty much through the season so far, and continues with the latest issue, where Buffy plans to go through with the abortion of her unplanned pregnancy.

I have no issue with the subject itself, or Buffy contemplating what she contemplates; as I said in my last post on Buffy, I have issue with how the series is approaching it.  Joss Whedon and company approach the issue of Buffy getting drunk, pregnant and confused literally, which has never been the modus operandi of the series.  As I said before, typically Buffy has always presented common teenage/young adult fears via mystical/magical guises. The pregnancy does not seem right now to be anything than what it's presented to be, which is the result of a drunken one night stand.

I lamented the lack of subtext here, and maybe the writers anticipated that, because the very next issue puts such a twist on the subject as to give the reader whiplash. 


Ok.  So Buffy isn't Buffy.  She's the Buffy-Bot.  Yep.  It goes down like so:

I will give Joss Whedon the benefit of the doubt.  He will always have the benefit of the doubt.  But this presents nothing in the way of character or story development other than a cheap 'WTF' moment.  It also dodges what potentially was the most sober and mature storyline in the series.  So Buffy's not pregnant?  She's pregnant, but somewhere else?  She's trapped in the Buffy-Bot somehow?

Who cares?

It's a shock moment for the sake of a shock moment.  As a writer, you should avoid this at all costs.  Twists and turns, cliffhangers and surprises are some of the most enjoyable aspects of narrative, but not for their own sake.  I could be completely wrong (I hope I am) and this could be going somewhere, but anywhere it does diverts from the real issues at stake.  It feels like a tease, and frankly too much of this series has felt that way for a long time.

Any shocking development in your story needs to have value and it needs to be integral.  You know it when it's false; classic soap opera twists are lampooned for their cheapness ('You were my brother's sister's wife's girlfriend?') and you don't want your story going anywhere near such cliches.

Sigh.  Bored now.