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WHAT WOULD BUFFY DO? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide

Jana Riess, Author . Jossey-Bass $14.95 (183p) ISBN 978-0-7879-6922-6

A bubbly blonde sporting black leather and whomping vampires hardly seems a spiritual paragon, but the title character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer , the occult classic that aired from 1997 to 2003, is just that, argues Riess, PW 's religion book review editor and a dedicated Slayer fan. Although the show is ambivalent about God's existence and ostensibly secular, it "offers a deep spiritual core that is based in ethical behavior." A "spiritually eclectic" canon on forgiveness, compassion, love, self-sacrifice and redemption guide the slayer and her friends in their battles with evil (supernatural, internal or otherwise), says Riess. Playing off the Christian youth mantra "What would Jesus do?" (which the show also pokes fun at in an episode where Xander tells Buffy, "When it's dark and I'm all alone, and I'm scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, 'What would Buffy do?' "), Riess dissects the show's moral message according to three themes: personal spirituality, companions (friends and family) and saving the world. Sidebar quotes from prophets, philosophers and poets echo each chapter's spiritual lesson. On self-sacrifice, for example, Riess includes St. Francis's prayer for peace, and on embracing change, she refers to the Qur'an's message about change coming from within a person. This analysis, like the show, never gets mired down in too much seriousness and will add a new dimension to how both fans and critics view the popular series. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/15/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
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