“I’d Very Still”: Anthropology of a Lapsed Fan

Lily Rothman
Buffy fan art found on

Joss Whedon has not only created great shows; he caused fans to reach out to other fans to share their mutual enthusiasm for shows and for specific characters within shows. Here Lily Rothman writes of her involvement with others who came together thanks to Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Some things never die. For anyone who loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer, first on that list might be vampires. For true-blue fans of any stripe, it may be the love of a fictional person, place or thing. And even for the rest of the population, the category includes “things you said on the Internet.”

Case in point: On November 7, 1999, I joined an e-mail list. It was a place for rabid fans of Oz, the werewolf played by Seth Green, to commiserate during his absence from Buffy. That list wasn’t my first online Buffy hub, but it was the one to which I was most devoted and it remains first in my memory. Anyone who watched the show knows that Oz’s absence became permanent -- as did the mailing list; as did the community it formed; as did the virtual record of my adolescent identity: “I’m new and stuff, so here’s me introducing myself. I’m Lily.”

Other things do change. If not death, there’s shrinking or aging or moving on. Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air in 2003. Not long after, I stopped checking the e-mail account that went with that mailing list. I now go days and often weeks without a thought of slayage, although a scone, official pastry of Gileses everywhere, can be to me as Proust’s madeleine. And when that occurs, I wonder what happened to my fan family, and why I left them. Even more, I wonder how any fan community can survive for so long without the original object of its devotion.

Buffy fans are still out there, indisputably. Controversial plans for a non-Whedon Buffy movie were recently announced, and the 40th and last issue of the Season Eight series of the eponymous comic -- which began production near the start of the show’s third season -- came out in January. I haven’t bought one since 2007, but industry data consistently ranks Buffy among the best-selling independent comics out there; Season Nine is in the works. It was something about hearing that news that got me combing through the archives of that old mailing list. Among the flotsam of fandom, there were gripping reminders of what life had been like when the show was still on, the way we cared so much about actors and episodes and one another, and of what could have been if I hadn’t let it go. Suddenly, I was 14 again, up too late on a school night, glued to the mid-‘90s-model Power Macintosh in my family’s living room, unable to make myself log off.

I had missed that.

So, in the interest of investigation, I let the nostalgia take over for a while.

“You need a thing, one thing nobody else has. What do I have?”

“An exciting new obsession. Which I feel makes you very special.”

-- Xander and Oz, “The Zeppo” (Buffy 3.13)

While I confess that I stopped buying Buffy comics, I may as well come clean that I didn’t start watching right from the first episode.

It was January 19, 1998. Halfway through its second season, the show moved from Mondays to Tuesdays; the romantic Buffy/Angel developments advertised in the commercials for the episodes that covered the switch, “Surprise” and “Innocence,” were enough to get my friends who watched to tell me it would be worth checking out.

The battles! The baddies! The banter! I was hooked. I watched the next night and every week after for five years. Almost right away, I began compiling the collection of VHS recordings that still sit, meticulously labeled, in a box somewhere in my parents’ basement. Before long, I was waking unsure whether my memories of what had happened on last week’s episode were canon or my dreams. I even let myself be the anecdotal lead in a New York Times article about teenage television habits -- a mention I’ve long tried in vain to get to sink in my personal Google hits.

And it turned out that “Surprise” was a serendipitous place to start. There, in the first few minutes of the episode, was Oz. He was sitting on the bleachers, strumming a guitar, and sweetly asking Buffy’s friend Willow on a date. He had me at “Hey.” More importantly, not starting at the beginning meant I had to catch up. I probably would have eventually done some sort of Buffy-related HotBotting anyway, but needing rerun schedules got me there faster. I had no idea what I would find...

Dear reader:

Joss Whedon’s importance in contemporary pop culture can hardly be overstated, but there has never been a book providing a comprehensive survey and analysis of his career as a whole -- until now. Published to coincide with Whedon’s blockbuster movie The Avengers, Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion by PopMatters (May 2012) covers every aspect of his work, through insightful essays and in-depth interviews with key figures in the ‘Whedonverse’. This article, along with previously unpublished material, can be read in its entirety in this book.

Place your order for Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion by PopMatters, published with Titan Books, here.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.