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Monday 30 January 2012

Joss Whedon and the Bite Size Vampire

Joss Whedon and the Bite-Size Vampire   posted on 30th January 2012 by David Leadbeater

I don’t know Joss Whedon, not personally. I am one of the millions who know him only through his work. I first met him in 1997’s Welcome to the Hellmouth, and back then, even in that first forty minutes, you could just tell that something special was happening.
    So the forty-minute or, bite-size, Vampire was born. Some after-tea snackage sharpened with wit, dripping with humour, and glistening with character. This was a new programme that used pop culture references for fun and then later became a pop culture reference itself. This Joss Whedon guy made you care as he created a comical cocktail before mixing in a heady twist of fear.
    Simple, you say?
     It only seems simple when it’s done right. I only have to say Once More With Feeling or Hush. Simple premises, but has any other TV show ever pulled off anything similar so well?
    Something so deeply touching as a High School student body giving a special award to the geek-girl in The Prom, because the Class of ’99 has the lowest mortality rate in history, though no student questions why, or how? Or as ironic as a politician hiding the fact that he is a monster- and that monster is a giant snake?
    The Vampire, before Whedon, was a relic as outdated as the T-Rex before Jurassic Park. And yes, ironically, new life was breathed into a creature long dead, a creature many, back then, associated only with old Hammer Horror films.
    Whedon raised the bar again by instilling a cult status into his work. From college students inventing drinking games – sinking one whenever Sarah showed her bra or Giles cleaned his glasses – that continue to this day, to real life tragic stories where people sought solace in back-to-back episodes that saved them from the brink of suicide. Five by Five.
    The women are strong, all of them- though sometimes they do not know it. The Vampires are bigger and fiercer - they are monsters - but seen to be weaker because they go up against friends who fight as a team, unintentionally becoming heroes by their actions.
    The way was paved for a new flood of fanged fiends- Lost Girl, True Blood, Twilight. A new genre called Paranormal Romance. Their existence is a validation of original genius. One person took the time to care, allowing others to continue the momentum and care for offspring of their own. A life lesson.
    So Vampires are trending again. And yes, I guess I write about Vampires, but my Vampires are not Whedon’s. They’re good (for now), and at least one of them is gay. But my women are strong, as the new tradition rightly suggests they should be. Vampires have cheated death, you might say. Something once thought a mere terrifying extra is suddenly filling people’s lives, being identified with, laughed at, and even cheered on.
    And cried at? Well, do you remember Becoming? The Body? Chosen?
    So an ordinary girl becomes a hero, rising to be extraordinary, and so do her friends as they share every bitter end together. And in the end High School is the biggest demon here, one we all have to overcome. If I asked Joss do you think he’d say his High School sat on a Hellmouth and that he fought demons almost every day?
    And yours? What of yours, my friend?
    Next. . . The Avengers.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

When ordinary people do extraordinary things.

When ordinary people do extraordinary things posted on . . .2012 by David Leadbeater
Real heroes don’t wear masks. They don’t dream in colour. In the real world they’re not super. They’re the weird guy down the street who sees you’ve managed to strand yourself on the rope that swings across the beck and gets his feet wet pulling you back to dry land. It’s your mum. My daughter. The Chosen Few who go to fight for their country, for their way of life. They don’t go trying to be special, but one day they just are. . .
    As a child I thought my heroes were caped crusaders and wise-cracking web-slingers. I didn’t know the near-real-life version was the girl who stands resolute before the approaching monster. She’s smaller, weaker, and younger, but she never hesitates. Thanks for that, Joss.
    So who did I turn to when a real-life nightmare came calling? My real heroes of course- my mum and dad. When I told them about a habitual bully, the scourge of our school, my mum wanted to head out straight away and confront him but my dad managed to calm her and  went round to see the bully’s father. Now that I’m older I know he must have been scared, but I never saw it then.
    And the next day, the bully just went on to someone else. . .

    So it’s lunch-break and I’m walking free, feeling good, and I see a crowd has gathered past the old, empty classrooms where the teachers can’t see. Where the Prefects don’t go. The crowd’s silence betrays its guilt like a government betrays its country by hiding a politician’s expenses.
    I walk among the quiet ones, the whisperers, witnesses whose eyes shine with sadistic glee, and move to the front. For a moment I stagger, I flashback and see myself there, on the ground, being kicked and jeered at by the bully, being pinched and spat upon, crying. . .
    And then I see with eyes that suddenly can dream in colour, and I utter those immortal words: “She’s a girl!”
    The bully turns to stare at me, and then shrieks in surprise as my body suddenly slams into him. He goes down. I go down. We fight, scuffle and scratch, like kids do until a pair of teachers finally wade in and break us apart.
    “I’m shocked at you.” One of them says to me.
    But. . .
    Red-faced, I am marched away and my last image is of the dishevelled girl. I never knew her name and never got to know. Her words ring out strongly: “I didn’t need your help, Leadbeater. Not really.”
    I turn to the bully and look him straight in the eyes. “My dad says: Stand Your Ground.”
    That was the day I became extraordinary.