The beloved supernatural teen drama, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, became a timeless hit after its adaptation from a 1992 film into an iconic show with a seven-season run.
The show now has its own franchise (the “Buffyverse”), complete with companion novels, video games, comics, and even a spin-off series, Angel.
Often considered one of the best TV shows ever aired — now, a reboot is planned. The Buffy reboot has tapped Monica Owusu-Breen (creator of Midnight, Texas and writer on Alias, Lost, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) to helm the show, with original Buffy creator Joss Whedon as an executive producer.
Understandably, there have been mixed reactions from devoted fans and industry professionals alike.
The industry has had failed reboots abound and protecting the characters and worlds they’ve known to grow and love is sometimes more appealing to fans than trying to resurrect it.
In a 2017 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Whedon himself stated, “You bring something back, and even if it’s exactly as good as it was, the experience can’t be. You’ve already experienced it, and part of what was great as going through it the first time.”
Many fans are also unsure of Whedon’s place in the reboot after a 2017 controversy over claims about his misogynistic values, including an open letter from his ex-wife denouncing his behavior.
Few details have been released, but updates state that the reboot has planned for the eponymous character (originally played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) to be played by a black actress, and the mythology will expand on the content in the original series.
Twitter and the Internet are abuzz with comments on the reboot, as it hasn’t been stated whether the reboot takes place in the Buffyverse.
Many are confused by the efficacy of having the character be rebooted as black versus simply creating a new character -- a black Slayer -- preserving the original series while allowing a new character and world to be created organically.
Ultimately, doing the latter allows a black character to be fleshed out with her own worth and world, not merely acting as a reflection of a former white character while attempting to sate fans with prior content and checking off diversity boxes.
As the show will most likely target nostalgic Buffy fans, unaffectedly replacing the old Buffy will most likely do the franchise a disservice and not do anything productive in promoting TV representation and effective, authentic storytelling.
The story of a white teenage girl in the late 1990s and early 2000s isn’t going to be the same as a black teenage girl today.
The reboot should also stay in the Buffyverse to attract fans, calling back to old references to keep the show grounded.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has excelled by keeping its timeline airtight, and the Buffyverse can do the same.
However, the show can also expand to new communities — no need to taint the Scooby Gang and their misadventures — and introduce fresh characters that reflect other perspectives other than the entirely white lead cast.
Nevertheless, intentions of doing so must be made genuinely rather than being rooted in stereotypes or casual plays at building a more diverse and representative cast.
The original series functioned on the metaphor “high school is hell,” and current news sources state that the reboot will focus on shedding light on contemporary issues, using the context of Buffy’s high school sitting on top of an entrance to hell and quite literally battling beings from hell.
A reboot of this degree may look to tackle too much — a high school student, battling hell-beings of all sorts, must also fight for sociopolitical justice?
It’s an interesting idea, one that Owusu-Breen is very qualified to tackle, but might turn into something heavy-handed if not written with thought.
This new angle is a lot to take in considering the original focused on issues of adolescence versus much more salient issues brought to the forefront of today’s day and age.
Drawing parallels between the highs, lows, injustices, and successes of a black Slayer’s life with killing demons initially seems over the top.
Building a show with a cast — especially a lead — made up of people of color is more important than ever, but not only for the sake of media representation.
The original series starts with Buffy attempting to escape her life as a Slayer.
High school may be hell, but making a similarly intense metaphor with a young black woman and her struggles feels like risky territory — one that could end up with parallels that infantilize her experiences or make out the character as endlessly consumed by struggle.
It’s not just about the hardship-filled journey, but it’s also about the joys and the incredible experiences.
One of the most successful contemporary TV reboots is Netflix’s One Day at a Time, which took the originally white Romano family and turned it into the Cuban American Alvarez family.
A critical success, the series does, in fact, thrive on discussing contemporary issues, but within a comedic context and through everyday life.
Unlike Buffy, the characters aren’t battling actual demons, which gives the sitcom’s 30-minute episodes plenty of time to develop the relatable, everyday, grounded narratives.
It’s hard to look to One Day at a Time as an example of what a reboot should be, simply because of its genre and the original 1975 sitcom’s relative obscurity today.
Successful shows such as Twin Peaks and Will and Grace have instead garnered support because they are revivals, not reboots — ones that typically use the same cast and characters versus rebranding them, as in reboots.
Thus, a revival of Buffy could be alluring, although it’s tough to say where the series could go — an adult Buffy out in the real world, expanding upon her life as it was on Buffy the Vampire Season 7.
Yet, what many fans are suggesting now is, in fact, a spin-off with a black Slayer, rather than remaking the original Buffy character — Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy is also near and dear to many hearts, and fans want to leave her glorious iteration in peace.
Shows such as Jessica Jones and Killing Eve have thrived with a darker tone just as Buffy once did.
Continuing this feel is bound to appeal to audiences, and having the original series rooted in the severity of Buffy’s situation does the show well if the producers do, in fact, want to push for discussion of more serious contemporary issues.
However, any approaches must be made with care to do right by the original series, Buffyverse fans, black narratives and experiences, and TV re-anythings.
Ultimately, if the Buffyverse is to be expanded on TV, what the franchise really needs a Slayer spin-off that’s very conscious of the universe to which it’s paying homage.
Olivia Popp was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She left the site in September 2018.