March 7, 2014
The research question I intend to look into is how female driven narratives differ from male centric shows, and how critics and fans have reacted to shows in turn. Two of the shows I would like to focus on are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which ran from 1997 until 2003 with a total of seven seasons, and Supernatural, which started in 2005 and is still going strong, having just been renewed for its tenth season. Buffy, which was created by Joss Whedon, is lauded as one of the greatest pieces of feminist television in recent times. It focuses on Buffy, a seemingly normal high school girl who is actually a “slayer” (a chosen one of sorts) who fights vampires and other supernatural creatures, keeping her town safe. This is in contrast to Supernatural, created by Eric Kripke, which goes through female characters like tissues, and focuses on the relationship between Dean and Sam Winchester, two brothers who also fight against the supernatural (hence the title). Both shows aired on The WB, which is now known as The CW and have rabid, borderline obsessive, young fan bases that have kept Supernatural going, as well as make sure that Buffy remains a pop culture staple. Supernatural has even paid homage to Buffy, bringing in some of the actors from the show to guest star in one of the season seven episodes.
However, the numbers don’t lie. Besides the fact that Buffy ran for seven years as opposed to the nine years and counting that Supernatural has been on air, Buffy has more of an ensemble cast, with other characters supporting and helping Buffy, while Supernatural relies only on Sam and Dean, with the majority of the supporting cast dying throughout the season, or never being mentioned again. Part of this comes from the difference in setting, with Supernatural taking place in various parts of America as the Winchester brothers travel, and Buffy being a stagnant piece, with all of the action taking place in Sunnydale, a fictional California town.
As both programs are part of the Science Fiction genre, they bring in much of the same audience, despite their difference in style, and in some cases storyline. Buffy is younger (she’s in high school when the show starts, and transitions to college later in the series) so she deals with different struggles than the Winchesters, who are supposed to be in their mid to late 20s (Sam is applying to law schools in the first episode, which puts his age in the beginning at roughly 22).
Both of the shows have spawned spinoffs, with the Buffy spin-off Angel focusing on the vampire character of the same name. Supernatural: Tribes premieres sometime this year, with episode 20 of the ninth season of Supernatural functioning as its pilot. Angel focused on the love interest of Buffy and his life after he moved to LA, while Tribes will feature an entirely new cast of characters and will take place in Chicago, showcasing the interaction between monsters and humans. There are...