Dr. Rambo of Campbell University has long been a scholar in the field of Buffy studies and works on the editing board of the popular online academic journal Slayage, devoted to furthering Buffy studies around the world. She talked with us about Buffy studies, great Buffy-speak quotes, and Cordelia Chase, Queen Bitch of Sunnydale.
1) Can you explain who you are and what your background is for our readers?
I’m an Associate Professor of English at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina. My Ph.D. is from UNC-Chapel Hill, MA from University of Missouri-Columbia. I grew up in several places, mostly North Carolina and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), where my parents were Presbyterian medical missionaries.
2) Can you tell us what drew you to the Buffyverse (including its sister show Angel)?
Previously, I taught for several years in the suburbs of Los Angeles at Biola University. So I was living in Southern California when the Buffy movie came out and thought the title’s implied satire on (a) Valley Girl culture and (b) horror was hilarious, so I liked the movie as campy fun. (Sorry, Joss Whedon—what did I know?) When the TV show was announced a few years later, I was on board from day one—especially when it turned out to be miles better than the movie in terms of character development, atmosphere, and mixing genres. But still funny! Of course I was going to watch Angel, too.
3) What is your favorite season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and why?
If I have to pick just one, Season Six, because it is so complicated, and yet (as I contend in my essay in Buffy Goes Dark) ultimately quite coherent. A lot of fans were upset about the sixth season for various reasons; I like defending underdogs.
4) Which season and/or episode of the show do you think best exemplifies why this show has earned a reputation for being feminist?
Season, probably be Season Two, my other favorite season. Buffy has to overcome several major losses and decide for herself what’s important: Angelus thinks Buffy has “No weapons...No friends...No hope. Take all that away... and what's left?” Buffy’s reply, holding the sword between her palms: “Me.” Willow, too, steps up with more “resolve” than we’ve seen before. However, I think the scene in Season Four’s “Primeval,” in which the Scoobies join forces and create “superslayer” Buffy to defeat Adam also exemplifies the feminist reputation of the show: feminism is in part about being able to stand up for oneself, but it’s also about being part of a team, trusting in one’s friends, cooperation. The “source of [Buffy’s] power” in this scene is the love and support of her friends.
5) Who is your favorite female character and why?
Oh, Buffy. I know she can be contradictory and overbearing and frustrating and cruel, but from the first time I heard “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” I loved the idea of “just a girl” who can take on the demons, vampires, etc., and that’s never really changed. I like the fact that in spite of her hero status, she gets knocked down pretty far from time to time in the course of seven seasons, but always finds her way back, eventually.
6) Your essay “Killing the angel in Angel’s house” is a unique look at the deconstruction of Cordelia Chase’s character in the end of the series Angel. Can you elaborate a bit about it here?
Cordelia maintained her no-nonsense “Queen C” persona throughout three seasons of Buffy, and even killed a vampire at the end of Season Three. On Angel, Cordelia started out much the same: ready to take on the world and speak her mind. In my essay, I argue that because Angel is, well, about Angel, Cordelia is made to serve more and more as “the angel in the house” a metaphor in a 19th century poem describing the ideal subservient wife. In “A Room of One’s Own,” Virginia Woolf tells women to “kill the angel in the house” in order to find their own voice, but when Cordelia dies, she’s only given one day as her old feisty self—in order to help Angel.
7) If there was one thing you could change about the Buffyverse or its legacy, what would it be and why?
’d like people to appreciate it more. I know it’s hard to get past the silly title (which I loved from the start, whatever that says about me), but once you do, it’s amazing.
8) Why do you think Whedon studies, in this case those focusing on the Buffyverse, have become such a rich ground for intellectual debate and for journals such as Slayage?
I suppose because, unlike many (most?) TV shows, Buffy is essentially polysemic. Just by presenting itself as drama-horror-comedy, the show gives scholar-fans and fan-scholars different ways to approach it. Then add dynamic characters, narrative arcs, the multiple uses of metaphor. I could go on…
9) What is your advice or recommendation for people interested in getting into Buffy academia? Where does one even begin?
Begin by reading. Some of the first books are still good introductions to the field, such as Roz Kaveney’s Reading the Vampire Slayer. Or check out the philosophical episode analyses on “All Things Philosophical on BtVS and AtS, a fan site http://www.atpobtvs.com/eps.html Undergraduate papers are welcome at Watcher Junior: http://www.watcherjunior.tv/
10) Finally, for the fun of it, can you tell us your all-time favorite Buffyverse quote?
Either “To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It's not done because people deserve it. It's done because they need it.” (“I Only Have Eyes for You”) or “That’ll put marzipan in your pie plate, bingo!” (“Bargaining, part 1”)
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