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Happy Birthday Sarah Michelle Gellar!

13 Apr

April 14 is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s birthday. Gellar originated the role of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer for TV in 1997 (Kristi Swanson having earlier played Buffy in Joss Whedon’s 1992 film of the same name). During the series Buffy dies (and is resurrected) and we see her gravestone, which reads: “Best Friend. Beloved Sister. She saved the world — a lot.” And Buffy did save the world a lot; but we should stop and ask: from what?

I first saw Buffy in its second season, in 1999. I was working 80 hours a week in residential real estate in downtown Washington, D.C., and could have easily cloned myself and given my triplets lucrative full-time employment. I was an hour late to meet a lesbian couple in Dupont Circle, and as soon I entered their rented co-op I was handed a plate of the pasta they had just prepared and told to join them, because we would have to watch “Buffy” and then write the offer. It was a season two finale, with Buffy battling the evil alter ego of her boyfriend (to save the world). Sword play, martial arts (Gellar is a black belt in taekwondo), incredible gymnastics; I was hooked.
Buffy always had a big lesbian and gay following; female action heroes, anti-authoritarianism, a love that dare not speak its name between a slayer (human) and a vampire, a teen and her friends (“the Scoobies”) who must keep the secrets of their blossoming identities and their after-school activities from their parents and teachers; in later seasons, a major character who becomes a lesbian.
But Buffy had wider political ramifications. Buffy protected a sunlit world of oblivious humans (in Sunnydale in sunny southern California) from a dark world of predators waiting to eat them. Predators who either were the authorities in charge (a Mayor working dark magic to become a pure demon in dragon form, by a ritual that included eating the graduating senior class), or aided and abetted by authorities (Buffy’s bete noir, Principal Snyder). And even when the government stepped in to manage and control the demonic threat (a military funded “project 314” which captured demons and vampires, with the hope of turning them into weapons), it failed and Buffy had to save the world, again. (In the case of the military she was aided by a boyfriend played by actor Marc Blucas as a kind of hunky heterosexual Bradley Manning defector, who slugs his commanding officer and declares “I’m an anarchist.”)
And while Buffy was becoming a cult hit we were all in our own sunlit world, the asset bubble created by the federal government and the Federal Reserve’s inflating the currency to buy government debt and fuel expanding government under Clinton, Bush, and now Obama. An inflation that lit a boom and bust cycle with one collapsing asset bubble after another, from the tech bubble, to the real estate bubble, to the coming devaluation of the currency and downgrading of government bonds. The predators in this case also operate in the dark, with the Federal Reserve refusing transparency and both major parties (aside from Ron and Rand Paul and a few others) discussing tax rates and proposing gimmicky miniscule pseudo-spending cuts, but never discussing the effects of currency inflation on investment and employment.  Most voters and taxpayers are oblivious to this, just as Sunnydale residents were oblivious the vampires lurking in the night.

The writers at Buffy actually knocked government and statism often. Social climbing cheerleader and mean girl Cordelia Chase is thrown into poverty in her senior year when the IRS seizes her home and her parents’ business and assets. Demon-turned-human and Buffy friend Anya is shown in one flashback sparking the Russian revolution, in her role as as a vengeance demon, because she wants to see maximum bloodshed; later when Buffy’s cancer patient mom is facing a hospital that can’t cure her, someone in the Buffy entourage says “I hate hospitals” and ever-Dadaist Anya says “it’s like communism.” And of course there is always Principal Snyder, tin pot dictator of Sunnydale High (played by Armin Shimerman, who had a role as a villain in the Atlas Shrugged movie). This isn’t surprising, since Joss Whedon (who is a liberal, not a libertarian) always has libertarianish heroes in his work, like the crew of the ship Serenity, the rebels turned smugglers in the space opera Firefly, who outwit a galactic empire that created an aerosolized drug used by the government for mind control of the population.

Sara Michelle Gellar is reported to be registered as a Republican, as is her reportedly more politically active husband, Freddie Prinze Jr. One assumes that being young Hollywooders they are more libertarian than social conservative, but I have never heard them interviewed about it. (Emma Caufield, who played Anya for the last half of the series, publicly endorsed Ron Paul.) Of “Buffy” Gellar has said: “I truly believe that it is one of the greatest shows of all time and it will go down in history as that. And I don’t feel that that is a cocky statement. We changed the way that people looked at television.” I can’t help but agree with that, even aside from the politics of the Scoobies, and the show does seem to have helped encourage an endless array of entertaining occult fantasy shows (Moonlight, Being Human, TrueBlood, Grimm). Happy Birthday Sarah Michelle Gellar!