We’re sick at our house. For the past week and a half we’ve been walking around hunched over, hacking, coughing, and wheezing, sleeping sitting up, and alternating all this fun stuff with frantic dashes for the bathroom. The idea of sleeping all night has become a pipe dream, something we speak of fondly as we sit on the porch, swathed in blankets and sipping vile brews that, all marketing to the contrary, do nothing to promote health or comfort.
So what do we do to pass the time? Well, we lie around with our eyes closed, and sometimes, when we’re feeling particularly lively, we listen to NetFlix. To be more specific, we listen to old TV series on NetFlix, so we don’t have to exhaust remote hands and brains by searching out something new to watch every hour or so. Somehow The Boy has stumbled onto the original Japanese “Naruto” cartoons, which he must actually keep his eyes open to understand, since they’re only subtitled in English. For the last week, at random hours, day and night, fraught conversations of which none of us understand a single word issue from his bedroom, or the living room, if he’s feeling particularly perky.
The House Leroy has been steadily working his way through “Law & Order,” a project that I fear will outlast all of us.
And I? What have I been watching, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve been watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Yes, it’s true. The Buffster and I have been getting to know each other far better than I ever really cared to know her in the past. Maybe illness has made me shallow. Maybe it has made me easier to please. I can lie there in bed, tucked up with my Kindle Fire and Lilo and Lila, and marvel at the flexibility of Buffy’s stunt kicker. Now there’s a girl who can really bend. And fast?
But let’s face it–even sick, it would take more than Buffy’s amazing flexibility to keep me watching. Fortunately, that something extra is there, particularly as the episodes go on, and on, and on. The early episodes are very much teeny-bopper eye and brain candy–the very thing, in fact, that is ideal watching for sick folks.
But as I continued to watch I noticed something interesting. I was enjoying the show more and more–and for all the wrong reasons. The dialog, for instance. Dialog is supposed to develop characters. Well-written dialog helps to make the people speaking it seem more real. That’s not the case in Buffy dialog. What happens instead is that the show slips ever farther into self-mockery and–dare I say it?–self parody. It’s hilarious when Angel–Buffy’s main heartthrob and intermittently good guy vampire played by David Boreanaz–finds himself nearly being staked by character after character in one particular episode. Finally he says, “What’s wrong with you guys? I haven’t been evil for a long time!” And everyone in Buffy land takes it at face value.
The line does nothing to develop Angel’s tortured character as a vampire suffering a gypsy curse that ensures that he will never, ever, have a satisfying sex life unless he’s willing to risk becoming “evil” again. What the line does is spoof off of the “is Angel a good guy or a bad guy this week?” gag. And very well, too. When I am better I plan on using the line, myself.
Angel is not alone. The show’s characters are high school, and then college age. And yet their characters don’t look, dress, act, or talk like anybody in that age group. It’s a stunning example of success in spite of doing everything “wrong.” Take Cordelia, for instance, mean girl extraordinaire. Episode after episode, she dishes up venom and bile, all packaged up neatly in well-modulated tones–and the other characters simply take it in stride. No one commits suicide as a result of her meanness. She winds up having a bizarre mop-closet affair with Zander. It’s all very strange, and very odd–and it works because the show itself seems to understand that it’s a parody of itself.
Probably the character that demonstrates this best is Spike. Spike is Angel’s mirror opposite. Angel is dark and brooding. Spike is bleached and cheerfully wicked–or as wicked as he can be, once he gets The Implant that prevents him from hurting humans. Where Angel suffers agonies at being deprived of the Pleasures of Buffie’s Person, Spike maintains a working, loving relationship with crazy vamp chick Drusilla. The pair is well-matched, and Spike is devastated when Drusilla leaves him for an eviller dude.
Spike is perhaps the unlikeliest comedic genius on television today. It is impossible to watch him endlessly strive for true evilness, only to bumble hilariously without laughing. Sick as I was, I found myself perking up a bit when Spike showed up onscreen.
I’m getting better now, and I’m finding that my interest in Buffy, her pals, and their doings is fading as the last of the meds clears my system. Buffy and Angel have split the sheets and Buffy has a new guy who, let’s face it, is really just a Ken doll in camo. No fun, though Buffy is at long last Getting Some, now that she doesn’t have to worry about dooming the world by having sex. It looks like Spike’s implant is going to get removed, too, now that he’s teamed up with the Frankenstein monster created by a Guv’mint doctor shortly before it killed her.
There are something like seven seasons, which means that I have fodder for flu seasons through 2015 or so. So there it is–how I’ve been spending my time. The meds should be gone by tomorrow. I’ll sound smarter then.