If someone asked me what my favorite television series of all time is, I’d choose Buffy the Vampire Slayer hands-down. Whereas some of my other favorites such as The X-Files have seasons best left buried, even the weaker seasons of Buffy remain entertaining and rewatchable. Recently I binged through the entire series for the fifth time in honor of the show’s 25th anniversary. Despite some special FX issues, It continues to stand the test of time and appeal to new generations of viewers. Sadly, Evan Ross Katz’ 2022 Book, “Into Every Generation, a Slayer is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts” fails to give it the send-up it deserves.
My original plan was to purchase this book but. in lieu of our crappy economy, I had a rare moment of frugality and checked it out from my local library instead. I figured if it was any good I could always add it to my own collection of books later. Needless to say, this one won’t be hitting my Amazon cart anytime soon.
With regard to the #metoo movement, the series (specifically its creator Joss Whedon) has been under fire these past couple of years. I was hoping to get more specific details regarding his presence along with interesting behind-the-scenes information in general. Most of the book is comprised of interviews with cast members along with the tiresome self-promotion of the author, himself. Katz even goes on to disparage one of the show’s writers for not returning his emails and agreeing to an interview with him. This terrible insult comes up several times throughout the book and serves as one of many examples of how the author’s ego competes with the subject matter. He also does this extremely annoying interview technique he refers to as the “Oprah pause.” This involves asking someone a question and then pausing after they answer so they’ll reveal additional information they weren’t planning to divulge.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some interesting things I learned about Buffy. I’m not going to spoil the book by getting into too much detail but there was a great story around actor Danny Strong (Jonathan Levinson) and the original role intended for him. I also hadn’t been aware of Whedon’s resentment of the character, Spike (James Marsters), and his popularity. Apparently, Spike was never intended to last as long as he did on the show but fan adoration gave him a stay of execution – something Whedon resented. Unfortunately, these anecdotes are few and far between.
The book’s first half is a synopsis of each season and fan reaction to them. I didn’t mind this as I was fresh off my rewatch and, since the show aired before Internet fandom was as powerful as it is today, had no idea how some of my fellow enthusiasts reacted to certain characters. For example, I always knew Buffy’s fourth season boyfriend, Riley, had the thankless job of following her previous beau, Angel, but didn’t realize how badly this would affect the actor personally. Until something better comes along, I think any Buffy super-fan should read this portion of the book regardless of how irritating Katz is.
The second half, on the other hand, is a complete waste of time. Here, we deal with the Whedon controversies which could, and should, have provided the biggest insights of all but instead result in little more than copying and pasting Tweets. He even disparages actor Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris) for not Tweeting support for Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase) as if the only real solidarity one can provide are meaningless social media posts designed to quell public pressure. Brendon has enough problems of his own these days but is also good friends with Carpenter. Isn’t it possible he offered her real support in private?
To use Buffy terminology, “Into Every Generation a Slayer is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts” is a Potential but no Slayer. I’m still holding out for the quintessential tome this series deserves (as well as a long-overdue digital upgrade) and leave this book on the library shelf. If you do get a hold of a copy, you probably will enjoy some aspects of it. Just don’t be surprised when you start wishing Buffy would skip the vamps and stake its author instead.