On the 20th anniversary of Buffy, I want to celebrate the character who really got to me from the series — Buffy’s Librarian.
I’ve been tripping over fans’ favourite moments, measured academic evaluations, quotations, issues, the sheer energy of the fantasy, in the most unlikely places.
There’s even a Buffy Cocktail — though that has been around for a while, it must be admitted.
So has Dating Death Jennifer Crusie’s thoughtful analysis of Love, Death and Sunnyvale and what they have to tell the romantic novelist. That was originally published in Seven Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite Television Show. Ed. Glenn Yeffeth. BenBella Books, Sept 2003.
A more recent edition to the Buffy canon is a convincing analysis of a seminal episode, in which The Atlantic asserts that, in taking teenage issues seriously, the programme was radical.
Buffy and Empowerment
The Atlantic also says, with some justification, that Joss Whedon’s series redefined story telling for television. The Guardian agrees and ran a piece in which a variety of readers say what Buffy has meant to them.
The latter includes many tales of feminine empowerment, of course. Quite rightly. Not only Buffy but many other female characters were self-determining, brave and dangerous. And not one of them dressed for the man in her life.
The Guardian contains a nice account of geek empowerment too. That alone gives me a nice warm feeling for the future of the world, which otherwise seems a bit bleak right now. And who encourages the geeks in the series? Buffy’s Librarian, Rupert Giles.
Buffy and Me
I first encountered Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her Librarian not long after she first aired. It was on a fuzzy television screen in a tower hotel in the former Soviet Union. The beds were narrow bunks, welded to the wall, and the shower head was covered with a green moss-like substance which might or might not have had legs.
I was there for work. And I was drowning.
So was Buffy, as she came to grips with her destined career.
More important, so was her mentor, the Librarian, half specky-4-eyes, half Oberon. In tweeds. And a conservative tie. With a crisp English accent. And some seriously good one-liners.
Me and the Librarian
OK, yes, he was my sort of lust object. But that wasn’t why he was special to me. Not really.
What made him my empathy character, out of all the bright, beautiful and articulate characters in that first series, was that Rupert Giles was supposed to know all the answers.
So was I. I was in the former Soviet Union as an adviser on bank supervision. But I’d worked all my life on market economy rules. And in a centrally-planned economy, it’s all one purse. You write off losses at the end of the year and start again with a clean slate. The rate of adjustment to market-economy conventions was, shall we say, uneven. The sheer philosophical complexity was mind-blowing, before I got anywhere near the arithmetic.
And there was Giles, teaching Team Buffy how to deal with the enemies congregating at the Hellmouth. Based on his knowledge and experience. Out of his depth? Hell, yes.
Buffy calls him a textbook with arms. He says he stays up all night researching. But he’s still mostly in the dark, still trying to find solutions in uncharted territory.
And that’s what I felt like. Every day. Oh, Rupert Giles was my guy, all right.
Librarians, Buffy’s Librarian and Books
In fact, I was a bit put out to find that other people had invested in him too. He was on the cover of the magazine of the American Library Association in September 1999. Though apparently some librarians deplored his stuffy image and traditionalist fervour for grammar — and for books in preference to computers.
GILES: “Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is… a certain flower, or a whiff of smoke. can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell musty and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer… it has no texture, no context… It’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible… it should be… smelly.”
Life after Buffy
I travelled too much to keep up with the schedules. As a result, I missed so many episodes that I never got the whole story.
But Buffy’s librarian, the heroic mentor who believed in research and the power of books stayed with me. Especially when I fell over him watching television with the enemy, Spike.
The man had quirks — and hidden depths.
For Giles, it seems, had a dark backstory I never heard about until I started to read the anniversary appreciations.
He also had a cracking potential series of his own that foundered in the deep seas of Rights Issues. Maybe that could still work for his older, crazier brother in another dimension? As the late great Alexander Korda used to say, “Mein Gott, why cannot these things be arranged?”
There’s a whole new universe, just waiting. Please.