This year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Did you know that I host a Buffy rewatch podcast, Prophecy Girls? So when this book came up on NetGalley, I jumped at getting an eARC—and I was also fortunate enough that Hachette sent review copies to myself and my podcast co-host for us to promote on our show. And what an easy book to promote: Evan Ross Katz’s writing is at turns informative, funny, and poignant. He combines his obvious love for Buffy with the interview access he has as a celebrity columnist to cover the show’s cultural impact and legacy—kind of like what Stephanie and I try to do on our podcast, but in book form!
The book loosely follows a chronological structure, discussing first the movie and the genesis of the TV series, before moving swiftly through each season. There is also a chapter dedicated specifically to Joss Whedon and the allegations of abuse against him from Buffy cast members and others he has worked with since, along with a chapter about the musical episode, one that focuses on Sarah Michelle Gellar and her approach to playing Buffy, etc. The chapters are all fairly long and very comprehensive. The book as a whole never really coheres into a single message (beyond, perhaps, “I love Buffy”). Yet that doesn’t matter—I just took the book as a series of loosely connected essays, and it works well that way.
Katz’s writing is on the extreme end of conversational. There’s a plethora of parentheticals, lots of personal connections to his own gay love of Buffy, and puns and jokes galore. This is probably my least favourite aspect of the book, but that might be a result of my personal bias towards more academic analysis anyway. Which is all to say that, unlike a lot of the “Buffy studies” books out there, this one is not one of those. It does have some serious thought behind it; it isn’t all light and fluffy. But the style and tone throughout are that of a gossip columnist, to good effect.
Skeptical fans might question whether this book is necessary, whether it’s really just a money grab—and I would say no. Yes, there’s so much Buffy lore out there on the Internet from two and a half decades of interviews, message board posts, convention chats, etc. Many of the stories you hear Katz repeat here will be familiar to you, from the famous origin of Buffy as the subverted cheerleader trope to the show’s network move from WB to UPN for its final two seasons. But there was plenty that was new to me—and I will admit I’m not particularly plugged into the behind-the-scenes lore, but there are also plenty of new interviews that Katz did with the cast and crew. For example, there’s an uncomfortable and hilarious moment where Katz presses Nicholas Brendon to say one nice thing about David Boreanaz.
Similarly, I know many are struggling to re-evaluate Buffy in light of the allegations around Joss Whedon. Steph and I plan to add our thoughts to this conversation in a bonus episode in the coming months. I really like how Katz handles it here. First, of course, he foregrounds what people like Charisma Carpenter and Ray Fisher actually said about Whedon’s behaviour—he prints Carpenter’s statement in full. Second, he covers multiple perspectives, quoting both fans who are more willing to separate Whedon from the show as well as others who feel like that isn’t possible. Indeed, perhaps one of the strongest arguments for the necessity of this book is that it clearly lays out what has been happening with Whedon and these allegations over the past five years—unless you’ve been paying close attention, especially on Instagram, you have probably missed some of it. Buffy fans who want to get caught up on these troubling allegations will benefit from how Katz explains it all here.
At the end of the day, it shouldn’t come as a surprise though that this book wishes to firmly enshrine Buffy as one of the all-time great television series—and why shouldn’t it? I doubt that people who have never watched the series will enjoy Into Every Generation a Slayer Is Born. New viewers, if they don’t mind some spoilers, might find that this book helps them love the series even more as they start their journey. Nevertheless, the audience here is obviously the legion of Buffy fans hungry for new content twenty-five years later. That includes me.
Informative? Yes. Makes you cry at certain points? Yes—bring tissues. Thoughtful? Also yes. It’s tempting to call this a “love letter to Buffy,” but that description of a book so clichéd these days, and it doesn’t really capture what Katz is doing here. Yes, he loves Buffy, but he’s really trying to understand why we love Buffy, and why we still love it twenty-five years and an entire wave of feminism later. If you’re wondering that … well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.