Wynonna Earp Fans are Keeping Buffy Alive in Surprising Ways
When you fall in love with a television show, you cannot predict its longevity in the pop culture consciousness. Its lifespan depends on the next generation. What parts of your pop culture will resonate with them and thus persevere? That matters to nerds like me. But no one can predict what the next generation holds on to.
As I enter my forties, I’m starting to see answers in the teenagers around me. My son’s friend showed up for a party wearing a Nirvana shirt. I made a mental note. Nirvana made the cut. One day last June, I picked up my nephew from high school. He got into my car and realized Biggie’s Juicy was playing.
“Auntie, how are you gonna be playing Biggie on Tupac’s birthday?”
Touché, young man. Touché. But for every Biggie and Tupac, a hundred more artists I love have been relegated to the dustbin of pop culture history. The same is true of TV shows. My love of Star Trek has been richly rewarded. Star Trek is a juggernaut of merchandise, spinoffs, movies, and documentaries. That means the fandom regenerates like a time traveling alien with two hearts. I get to connect with others who understand what that show and those characters mean to me. Other shows I am devoted to haven't endured in the same way. But one incredibly pleasant surprise has been the staying power of the little cult show that could: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I could fill a novel with the reasons I love Buffy.
Buffy was a hero. She had a heart as big as a the Rocky Mountains. Sometimes she suffered. Sometimes she gave up. She even fucked up. It didn’t diminish her or her value. It didn’t change what she was capable of. And she always found a reserve of hope. The humanist values, the family you choose, it all hit me where I lived. And guess what? The people who understood and loved Buffy, understood me. Buffy ended, but has remained an important part of my life.
Twenty years later, I watch Buffy. I read Buffy. I buy Buffy fanart. I make friends because of Buffy. Buffy still determines what new shows I will watch. I follow writers from Buffy-and its spinoff Angel-throughout their careers, because I know they tell stories that resonate with me. That is how I found Supernatural, which is where I continue to connect with people around Buffy. In my Supernatural fan group on Facebook, we maintain photo albums of every Buffy alum that has appeared on Supernatural. We have a files section that lists Buffy/Supernatural crossover fan fiction. Buffy fans created our own subculture within the Supernatural fandom where we connect with people who love the same stories and characters that we do.
Then I discovered Wynonna Earp, and the ante was upped. I watched Wynonna Earp because of an article where the creator of the television show, Emily Andras, talked about her Buffy influences. So I gave the show a try. I immediately saw Buffy’s –and Supernatural's’--fingerprints everywhere. But Wynonna Earp progresses beyond Buffy and Supernatural in a few important aspects. One is LGBT representation. A main character (not a dead side character) is in a same sex relationship. That relationship is complex, three dimensional, and fully recognized. The cast embraces their opportunity to represent LGBT characters in a positive light, and attends LGBT fan conventions. (Raises eyebrows across the room at my SPNFamily) Secondly, Wynonna Earp reflects a more modern and evolved understanding of feminism. Wynonna is not shamed or punished for her sexual choices by anyone. The men in her life fully understand that they do not own her, even when they are attracted to her. (Sit down, Xander) The male characters--such as the love of my life, Deputy Marshall Xavier Dolls--are fully formed, secure badasses in their own rights and are not threatened by her strength and fire. In fact they thrive on it. So hey, add in all the kicking demon ass, rollicking fight scenes, hilarious one liners, and fabulous cast, and I was all in on Wynonna Earp. I followed/joined/signed up for everything Wynonna Earp fan related. I found a creative, inclusive, welcoming community.
But it got even better, and even Buffy-ier. A few Wynonna Earp fans (called Earpers) launched a #BuffyEarpers initiative. I assumed it was just a hashtag with some clever, adorable accompanying fan art. But #BuffyEarpers is an initiative by Buffy fans within the Earper community where they share their love of Buffy with each other, and with the uninitiated. It has art, merchandise, watch parties, social media accounts, live tweets, and a podcast. Throw all of those ingredients into a bowl and pour in a heaping helping of pure fangirl (and boy and nonbinary) love and devotion. I listened to the premiere episode of the BuffyEarper podcast last week. The episode opened with the Buffy theme song and I found myself in tears. It dawned on me that some part of this initiative involved Buffy fans in my generation sharing the show with a younger generation. I find that touching. I have zero time or energy for people who slag off the younger generation. Secondly, that means my show offers something of value to the next generation, who will bring even more creative energy and connection to the community. I don’t ever have to say goodbye to my fandom.
Just to put this in perspective to the younger ones, in the 80’s and early 90’s, when something was over, it was over. Did your family move to a different state? You aren’t ever seeing those friends again. I hope you said goodbye. Did you lose a phone number? A recipe? Google doesn’t exist, bitch, it’s over. That set of encyclopedias isn’t gonna help you. The same with shows. When your shows were over. They were OVER. And you didn’t have a fandom to sustain you because you didn’t have the internet. If your siblings or hometown friends didn’t like a show, tough titties. If they thought drawing blueprints of the Starship Enterprise and learning Klingon was fucking weird, or that wanting to be called Galadriel was childish, well you were up shit creek without a paddle. You got to be the social leper reading dragon books in the back of the bus. (Ahem.) So it wasn’t just that your show that was gone. Your point of connection was gone. Your validation that you were not alone disappeared. Buffy was just on that cusp where the fans and creators were pioneering online communities and fan meetups. But I didn’t have a computer. How was I gonna afford that? I wasn’t Scrooge McDuck.
But of course, things changed. Remember those long lost childhood friends? THEY. ALL. FOUND. YOU. ON. FACEBOOK. Oh, hey Devin from 2nd grade, you still exist. Laptops became common. Starbucks, your local library, and maybe your entire city got Wi-Fi. We used the internet to build entire communities along fandoms instead of along geography. Frankly, the latter leaves much to be desired when you are a kid that doesn't quite fit in the box. New generations of fans were born and found each other. Comic Con became a worldwide sensation. And the best part? Some of the things you loved the most, but thought you had to say goodbye to, just. Kept. Coming back. And in that moment, listening to the #BuffyEarper podcast, I realized that even though Buffy may not be the massive phenomenon of a Star Trek or Star Wars, she isn’t going anywhere. Not only is my generation of fans still devoted to the little show that could, we are sharing it with the next generation of fans, who are falling in love too. And they are breathing new life into the fandom. We are going to be here, regardless of whether there are remakes, reboots, and regardless of whether they turn out to be any good. Given the uncommon resilience of Buffy herself, I suppose it is fitting.
Buffy Lives, indeed.