Jared Padalecki on the 200th episode (x)
The noise I just made was completely inhuman.
In the Whedonverse, it’s not unusual for viewers to expect one thing when they’ll end up getting something else entirely. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse, Joss Whedon plays with genre and character in strikingly original ways that expose the nuances of what we think we want from our entertainment and what we actually want.
When we first meet her, Buffy Summers (of eponymous Vampire Slayer fame) doesn’t seem to be more than a preppy, blonde high-school girl. However, in that first awkward and flustery encounter between new-girl Buffy and nice-guy Xander, it’s not Buffy’s cell phone or diary that she leaves behind in the hallway, but her wooden stake.
Right away, “Welcome to Hellmouth” is everything we expect, except not.The formula Buffy plays with isn’t new. The sweet new preppy girl on her first day at a new high school and the potential sloppy, overly zealous love interest all point our expectations toward the incredibly clichéd after school special programs that infused teenage media from 1972 to 1997.(source)The wooden stake, though? That’s a genre juxtaposition we don’t see coming. But, the nod toward abnormality isn’t just for kicks. By introducing the deviating elements, Whedon not only brings us into a world where the ABC Afterschool Special is something to be mocked, but he also attempts to counter our assumptions about the portrayal of women in television.
Style wars: ABC Afterschool Special vs. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s PilotThe ABC Afterschool Special episodes were fueled with teenage angst and exploration, addressed the troubles of growing up surrounded by judgmental peers, and emerged from the 90s with a boatload of Emmys and a lasting impact on television tropes. Female characters, for example, were a prime casualty of the genre. After school specials often featured male protagonists, and when they did center on women, the stories involved popularity, romance, or bullying, and would feature an extremely archetypal lead.Whedon, however, reenacts the clichés of the genre in order to explicitly point out that his work, and more importantly, his female characters, are not clichés.