Review: Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey

Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey by Valerie Estelle Frankel
McFarland and Co., 2012
More info at:
Rating: 3.5 stars

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is/was one of my favorite TV shows. I’ll admit, the movie was very cheesy and turned me off from even wanting to view the series. But then, one night while bored and needing something to escape into, I ended up watching one of the season 2 episodes. From that moment on, I was hooked. I devoured the series faithfully from season 1 to season 5. As my life grew more complicated (as Buffy’s did), the seasons became harder for me to watch due to appointments and meetings. I haven’t even read Season 8.

I was at PantheaCon in 2012 when I met Valerie Estelle Frankel, the author of this book. She and I were talking tarot and she mentioned to me that she had written this book. I got so excited that I asked her for an electric copy, because I really wanted to read it and review it. Although it has taken me two years (in a way, following my own heroine’s journey through my tarot and writing lives), here’s my thoughts.

Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey takes the reader on a adventure through the Buffyverse as it relates to the heroine’s journey. This book examines how Buffy, Willow, Xander and everyone else, and the plot fits into the concept of a heroine’s journey. Frankel also compares and contrasts all of this to that of the hero’s journey. She pulls from source material across the original movie, the entire TV series, and the “season 8” comics. I’ve tried my hardest to be spoiler free (as I’ve never read the comics yet). Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey is as entertaining as it is instructive.

The hero’s journey has a special place in my heart as a writer and a scholar. I have read a lot about it. In school, they don’t talk a lot about the Heroine’s Journey. While each has some parallels— it feels like the hero has an easier time and is more linear, while the heroine goes through this long, convoluted process that isn’t always easy or happy. In fact, you could say that it’s very complex, just like us women! Frankel does a great job framing the information of both Buffy (from the movie to the comic season 8) and the idea of a Heroine’s journey in such a way that makes both accessible as an introduction and to seasoned pros.

Re-reading about Buffy brought many of the episodes and more memorable scenes back into my head. I want to watch the whole series over again, now that I have been enlightened with this perspective. There were many things that confused me about Buffy back when I watched it. Things and scenes that made me uncomfortable. Things that paralleled with my own life, and Frankel’s book helped show me why these things had to happen. It made me grateful and I can now say, “ah, I understand it now when this happens in the series.”

I’m impressed, Frankel did her research. It oozes from the text. I thought I was a fan girl who spoke to others on end about aspects of this series. Frankel really dove into the mythology, the subtext, and made an amazing book. However, there are bits in this book that are confusing and a bit too scholarly. There were many times where I had to re-read sections over to grok what she was getting at. Sometimes, reading the book felt like reading a college text book and it was hard to push forward. I am glad I did because this is an important book.

Bottom Line:
Scholars and fans of Buffy will want to read Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey. Heck, anyone interested in learning more about why Joss Whedon is the best at what he does needs to read this book. To end with Frankel’s own words, “Buffy, a modern classic like Harry Potter or Star Wars, will surely last. It will be repackaged, rereleased, and most of all rewatched by long-time and new fans the world over. Because like Harry Potter and Star Wars, it’s the classic Chosen One story complete with humor and real characters the audience loves. But it’s also something special and far too rare on television—the classic quest of the heroine.” (Excerpt From: Valerie Estelle Frankel. “Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey.” ePub version iBooks.)

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