Counter-Spin!: Whedon Passed on the Buffy Reboot

As you have probably heard by now, Warner Bros. have announced their plan to move forward on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot movie without any involvement from Buffy architect Joss Whedon. When this announcement was reaffirmed last week, many people reacted as though it had been announced that the Beatles were being re-formed with a couple of stoners named Gary and an old Casio keyboard. Unfortunately for Warner Bros., the people most likely to have that reaction also happened to be the people in the core market for their movie. It was only a matter of time, then, before we could expect the studio to go into spin mode in an attempt to counteract any bad buzz that might be starting to pick up steam.

Sure enough, the Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision blog has just heard from "studio insiders" that Joss Whedon was offered the chance to redo 1997, but for some reason he passed on that thrice-in-a-lifetime chance. Fox, the studio that distributed the original Buffy, also passed on their option to make this new version; the opportunity to make that money did not appeal to the corporation. The producers were left with no choice but to carry on without Joss and Fox, eventually hiring unknown Whit Anderson to write the script.

(Don't go taking this out on her, by the way. It's not like you knew Joss Whedon's name when this all started.)

What is the fan meant to take away from all this? What reaction is this information, disseminated through back channels like something from a Cold War spy novel, intended to prompt? Is it hoped that you will think, "Well, they tried to give me more Buffity goodness, but mean Old Man Whedon wouldn't let them"? I'm sure they did offer it to Whedon. I'm sure they offered it to everyone with a Buffy episode on their resumés and half the people in the Writers' Guild. Even knowing nothing about any of this, the odds that they started with the lady I've never heard of did not seem great.

The PR machinations involved in all of this are above my pay grade. As a fan of good stories, I will simply wish everyone involved the best of luck and replenish my supply of Benefit of the Doubt.


  1. Let’s be honest, the people who have the negative reaction, the core audience that Warner Brothers wants to market to and is now trying to spin to, are going to see this no matter what, because it’s called “Buffy.” The trailer could come out, have everyone speaking different languages, be in black and white, and feature scenes from other movies and every buffy fan would still go. That’s the wonder of fandom, we bitch and bitch but still hand over the cash. 

  2. @Jurassicalien  –i disagree completely. There are certain shows like this that can’t survive actor changes and creative team reboots. I consider myself part of the “core audience” and i’m not even considering seeing this for a second. No Whedon, no SMG…its NOT Buffy. 

  3. @wallythegreenmonster  But this isn’t a recast of a show. This isn’t season 8. It’s a new thing. If people can have a new James Bond, a new Batman and a new Freddy Kruger, then they can have a new Buffy. 

  4. The die-hard Whedon fans don’t go to the theater. Desperately trying to maintain that audience is a waste of time.

  5. @Jurassicalien  Exactly. Bond is a great analogy.

  6. @Jurassicalien  Exactly. This movie will make a ton of money the first week but if it’s not all that and a bag of chips word of mouth will spread pretty fast. Look at the new Nightmare movie they made. It did ok at the theater but I didn’t hear squat about DVD sales and there’s no word on a sequel. Fans will plunk down cash for a ticket but i doubt this will revive the franchise like the studio is hoping.

    I also think a lot of people are forgetting that sarah michelle gellar wasn’t the first Buffy. And we’d all be fools to think she’d be the last.

  7. @RoiVampire  Actually a sequel to Nightmare was announced the week the movie hit theaters because it made so much money. And that’s the point, even if word of mouth spreads and the film is a disaster (which it may not be, just because there’s no Whedon doesn’t mean “suck”). It’s all about the opening week. Because after the opening weekend is when theaters start to make the money and less and less goes to the studio. The studio just needs you that opening week. Also WB just needs to play it smart, make the movie for 25 million or less and they’re golden. Yeah it won’t revive the franchise if they decide to make it a $100 million dollar film, but they should just look at “Serenity” and see that though Whedon’s fans may be loyal and loud, they’re aren’t alot to make back big budgets. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s the facts. If they make it cheaply and it opens big, you got a new franchise. 

  8. @Jurassicalien , I am a fan and have no interest in the Buffy remake. They are capatilizing on the Buffy fandom for it’s built in audience, which I think will happen to a certain degree. They could do something like Hack/Slash book franchise otherwise.  
     Good point on Batman and Freddy Kruger, and even Spider-man for a new generation. Bond had many books written before going to film, none of the Bond films are a reboot. The films are more of an actor swap. 
     Why would Wheadon want to reboot an franchise he is currently taking in a certain direction in comics. Joss can’t use any of the supporting cast or events he’s built on in the story arc.

  9. TWIST!

  10. I am a huge Whedon fan, and a huge cinema fan. I see most films that appeal to me at the cinema. I have no interest in this. I have seven seasons of Buffy, done with Whedon’s oversight. It was his writing style, and skill at humour and drama that made me a fan of his work.

    The lame attempt to justify the reboot by saying Whedon was asked but passed is a childish move by the producers. Of course he passed, he already made a good buffy story that would hold up if watched today (mostly). This is a vain attempt to get the twlight crowd’s money. I’m not saying I won’t see it if there is a positive buzz around the film, but in all likely hood I have to assume that this will be targeted at the lowest common denominator and will not have the whit or drama or Whedon’s TV series. The first movie showed what happened when Whedon isn’t at the helm of the a Buffy project and look what happened there.

    Sorry for the rant, but this a subject close to my childhood.

  11. @Jurassicalien  I remember the sequel being announced that week but what I’m saying is there has been no news since. They announced a sequel to the new Friday the 13th remake as well that first week and then nothing after that. Studios announce things all the time based on early grosses.

  12. @Jurassicalien  —sounds good in theory, but we’ll see in practice. Buffy fans are pretty hardcore. THey’re up there with Star Trek and Stargate fans for enthusiasm. The Bond thing is a tough one…thats a character that works better for that kinda thing. Certain characters and shows you just don’t change up. You don’t cast another actor to play Jean Luc Picard….I think its the same for Buffy. I’d be more accepting if its a different slayer character in that universe. 

  13. I’m not opposed to another actress playing Buffy. I know to some Kirsty Swanson is the one and only. Even in the show Eliza Duskha show that she could play a great Buffy possessed Faith, it’s the lack of direction from Whedon that makes me think this remake will be hollow.

  14. Not writing this off, but I have very low expectations. I think this is going to end up joining the same queue as Bryan Singer’s reboot of BSG.

  15. Whedon not being involved might actually get me to watch this.  I think I’m the only person in “geekdom” that thinks the guy is a hack and can’t stand his work.

  16. i like whedon’s stuff, but a good movie is a good movie. i’ll watch the buffy remake.

  17. You know why he didn’t want to do it?

    He was given a choice:

    A) Go back to the well and do yet ANOTHER Buffy project.

    B) Or do an Avengers film, have the possibility to do sequels, and make even more money.

    Gee, wonder why he passed on option A? 

  18. @PrazJarvin… Bryan Singer’s reboot of BSG….. No!!!!!!

  19. I’ve seen too many beloved film and tv shows get redone to care about this, all I ask is that it not suck.

  20. @wallythegreenmonster  “You don’t cast another actor to play Jean Luc Picard.”

    They said that about Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc.

  21. @conor  –excellent point…however..aren’t there different ‘rules’ for prequels though? There are several instances when they brought in a kid to play Picard as his younger self…That works fine.

    Its A LOT harder to recast an inconic character in a reboot style that takes place in the same/similar time and universe dontchya think?

  22. @wallythegreenmonster  I don’t think there are different rules. It’s not like they are stopping with the one STAR TREK movie, they rebooted the universe and they are going to go forward.

    Is it hard to re-cast an iconic character? Sure. But not impossible.

    And I wouldn’t call Buffy iconic, exactly. But that’s me.

  23. @clintaa BLASPHEMY!!!!

  24. @conor  I’d consider her more iconic than Picard for sure. Put it this way, even though she hasn’t seen any of the show, my mom knows who buffy is, who she fights and that she’s a girl in high school. She’s part of the pop culture lexicon in a way that Picard isn’t and that makes her iconic in my eyes at least.

  25. @RoiVampire  I would totally disagree with that. There are way more people who know who Picard is than know who Buffy is.

  26. @conor  –good points…i’m sure its possible. This could work, this could fail. FOR ME, as a big Buffy fan who watched every episode religiously, i have no interest in this new project. Looks like reaction is across the scale on this. 

    I’d certainly call Buffy iconic…that show is so of the times and screams late 90s. The music, the themes, the technology…and if i were giving a presentation on 90s graphic design, that opening title sequence(esp the typography) is on my shortlist. 

  27. @clintaa  A hack? Look, I understand not liking his stuff but he’s the very opposite of a hack, when it comes to his own stuff. It makes no difference if you think Buffy is the worst show ever but it’s clear that it is his vision and he does very much put his heart and soul into it.

    And that right there is the reason why I have such low expectations of the reboot. Is Buffy an iconic character or not? Who knows, who cares. The thing is that unlike Star Trek, the basic concept behind Buffy is frankly rather dumb. The reason it worked was because Joss Whedon understood that the concept was just something to hang the themes that he was trying to explore.

    Break it down for a second: in terms of pure plot Buffy is about a hot girl who lives a normal teenage life by day and hunts vampires at night. There’s nothing particularly interesting about the premise alone and if you want proof of that, just watch the original film. The reason Buffy worked was because Whedon used the premise as a way of exploring adolescent angst.

    Effectively, by rebooting Buffy, they are going back to the core concept again and getting rid of the subtext that Whedon gave it. As such, there are basically 3 ways this could go:

    1) they completely fail to understand the metaphorical and subtextual nature of the show and they simply make a stupid film based on a stupid premise.
    2) they understand the subtext and go about copying it exactly, the result of which would probably just be warmed up Whedon.

    3) They take the basic concept and apply NEW ideas, new themes and new metaphors. If the film is to have any chance of succeeding, this must surely be the option they will have to take. It might sink or swim but at least it will be on its own merits. Unfortunately, the big problem with this is that a) it’s a 2 hour film and b) being a big studio production, expect lots of meddling from people who don’t know better.

    I would be lying if I said I would not be willing to give Nu-Buffy a shot but my expectations are really not high. 

  28. Actually, this being a comics website, lets look at it in these terms:

    Franchising Star Trek is like franchising Superman. Franchising Buffy, though, is like franchising Scalped or Y The Last Man.

  29. @conor To split a hair, they really created an Earth-2 for Star Trek that has all the trappings of the reboot, but has a throwaway line to “assure” fans their old, treasured universe still exists.

  30. @PraxJarvin  Sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that these iconic roles were recast.

  31. @Ilash  I think your analogy to SCALPED and Y: THE LAST MAN falls apart because BUFFY was already rebooted once. Sure, it was done by the same guy, but it was rebooted all the same.

  32. @conor  That’s true. But again, it depends on what part of Buffy they’re rebooting, if you know what I mean. Buffy has an audience because of Whedon’s vision, a vision that has defined what Buffy is to the fans and to Whedon himself.

    As such, what they are really doing is rebooting a badly regarded, little seen film from the early 90s, which is especially stupid since it has already been rebooted into a very unique, very singular vision.   

  33. @conor  i respectfully disagree. It’s just part of the lexicon. I love Picard as much as the next guy but my 16 year old cousin has no idea who he is. She does however own a buffy t-shirt because it’s “cool looking” and she’s really hoping to get the dvd’s of season 1 for christmas. I think buffy has a much broader name recognition just because her name is also the name of the show. people who have never seen any of it know who she is and what she does because of the title of the show and that makes her iconic. go into a high school and write the name Picard on the black board next to the name Buffy and tell me that more kids will know the captain of the enterprise over that girl who slays vampires.

  34. @RoiVampire  Buffy is a cult hit. Star Trek is a cultural phenomenon. You will be able to find anecdotal evidence of people who know Buffy but not Picard but the numbers are not in your favor.

  35. @conor  I don’t know… Star Trek isn’t much more of a cultural phenomenon than Buffy is. Even if it is, your average person will know Kirk, Spock and Scotty. Picard though? Not a chance. The Next Generation is just as much a cult hit as Buffy is – ask “an outsider” who Picard is and I’m reasonably sure they won’t know. Ask who Buffy or Spock are… well that’s a different matter entirely.

    I think you’re giving Star Trek: TNG more credit than it deserves for truly breaking out into the main stream – especially because, MAYBE aside for Data and Picard, the characters on that show never had the personalities to ever become iconic. The Next Generation might possibly have had household recognition 20 years ago… but now? Buffy is simply way more iconic to non-scifi geeks than Picard could hope to be. By quite some distance at that.  

  36. @Ilash  BUFFY fans are passionate and tend to wildly over-exaggerate its importance in general society. It’s a lot like comics in that way.

    At the height of its popularity, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE slayer drew only an everage of 5.3 million viewers in the US. By the end it was down to 3.6 million.

    The box office grosses of the NEXT GENERATION films were: $118M, $146M, $112M, and $67M. Ther were A LOT more people that saw those movies than watched BUFFY. And that’s not to mention that the cultural penetration of Star Trek in general — and Picard specifically, remember we are talking specifically about Picard vs. Buffy here — is so much greater than Buffy. It just is. These are the facts.

  37. Well said Conor!

  38. @Conor Im not arguing the ratings or the amount of money TNG made I’m just saying that I continue to see Buffy referenced in pop culture like t-shirts whereas all the trek stuff is now more Spock and Kirk. People might not know anything about the show but they know who Buffy is. But agree to disagree.

  39. @Conor One last point. My mom saw two of the TNG movies in theaters and to her Picard is Patrick Stewart, she has no clue what his name is. But she knows Buffy simply because her name is also the show name which is all I’m saying. But again, agree to disagree

  40. I hear ‘Buffy’ cited *a lot* by people who clearly only have a vague idea what it was about.  It’s that “brand name” rather than the hard core fans that Warner Brothers is banking on.  Even if a handful of hardcore fans ‘boycott’, or just avoid, the new movie, that’s not going to make a significant difference.  

    The thing I really don’t understand about this whole story is why in the world anyone thinks that Whedon would *want* to come back to Buffy at this point in his career. 

  41. note to self…never bring up Star Trek or Jean Luc Piccard on here again. lol

    Buffy fans are usually pretty hardcore, but they are small in numbers in comparison to Trek fans…i wouldn’t try to argue against that.  Thats like trying to say College Basketball is more popular than the World Cup on a global scale.  

    @conor–i thought you weren’t a fan of neilsen ratings…

  42. @wallythegreenmonster  I’m not, but there’s no other metric to use at the moment.

  43. @conor  –yeah i get that. It does make for unfair comparisons…but its all we got. 

    also the term “cultural penetration” made me giggle at work. Thanks. 

  44. Of course Whedon passed on it, he knows it’s a bad idea. He would have jumped on if it was a continuation of the series, I’m sure. But a reboot is a bad idea, it’s too recent a show to remake.  As soon as he declined they should have just dropped the project. It’s going to tank.

  45. I’d say it’s more likely he passed on it because he already told that story for 7 years and is interested in other things. 

  46. I’m as big a Buffy fan there is but I think many here are making Buffy out to be a bit more prominent in the real world then it is.  It’s almost not fair to compare it to Star Trek as it’s nowhere near those levels of mainstream consciousness.  I’d wager more non genre fans remember the Kristy Swanson movie then the TV show…

    I’m sure it’s been said before on this thread, but look how good the BSG reboot turned out?  (Well except for the last 4 minutes).  So you never know.  I’m not demanding this reboot happen but I won’t completely dismiss it out of hand.  Maybe more time needs to pass before this is attempted… so a reboot can be more fully accepted by most Buffy fans?

  47. @Hawkboy  For sure Stark Trek is way more popular. That’s not at all a contest and it never will be. But people who have never seen Buffy still know the name of it just by virture of the fact that they’ve seen it on the shelf at best buy or glanced at it in the TV Guide. I know the names of tons of shows that I’ve never seen. It’s a very marketable name. When you say the name Buffy people think vampire slayer.

  48. @hawkboy–I think if you mention the word “Buffy” to anyone who was conscious of Pop culture in the 90s, they will think of that TV show immediately even if they didn’t really watch it. Of course its no where near the popularity of Star Trek, but it was bigger than most TV shows, and a very respectable run and was definitely one of the defining TV shows of its era. It really opened up the doors to the kinds of shows we’re watching now…i mean that show had some pretty dark/violent/subversive themes for prime time basic tv, and it helped prove that a 2nd tier network could sustain a series with non traditional story lines and create stars out of unkown actors. 

  49. Sorry I don’t think it’s as big in the mainstream world as you think, or rather, want it to be.

  50. Sorry my above comments were directed @Wally.  But Roi is correct about the name being familiar…. however I am more then sure the Movie had as much to do with that, and it is only name recognition because it’s a pretty odd name.  Not many outside of fandom could give you more details on it other then that.

    I disagree with many of Wally’s points. It was not ‘Bigger than most TV shows’ as it never ranked higher then #62 on the Nielsen prime time ratings.  And it’s not like it’s fanbase grew after it stopped airing a la Star Trek.   Also MANY other shows were hits (And bigger hits) on 2nd tier networks years before Buffy came along…

  51. @Hawkboy–when i said “bigger than most TV shows” i meant that were of that same era and for that audience that still holds up today. I don’t think the movie had as much influence as you would want it to have. it was a forgettable C-list movie that only is remembered because of its association with a popular tv show. Without the show, that movie goes away into obscurity i think. It had a 7 season run and produced another successful spinoff series which is very respectable. There are some good articles written about its cultural influence and value to TV history that can be found pretty easily. 

    Ratings don’t mean much…go look up how crappy the original Star Trek series faired during its initial TV run….its very surprising. 

  52. @wallythegreenmonster  If you’re speaking about popularity and success and influence in geek culture, then yes, BUFFY had a big impact. If you’re talking about the general public, then no.

  53. @conor  –yeah of course it didn’t change the world. Very few pieces of entertainment can do that and reach the general public in that way. I don’t want to seem like some giant homer with blinders on getting all butt hurt over this….it just seems to be a victim of our  “right now” society where any thing thats a couple years old gets disregarded because its not the hot new thing.

    The show made TIME magazine’s top 100 list of all time as well as others, was nominated for Emmy’s almost every year it was on the air as well as winning a few. Thats kinda big. 

  54. @Wallthegreenmonster I never said the movie had any other impact other then the name… which it did, TV show or no TV show. Again Star Trek grew after it initially aired, Buffy has not.  Except for the name it has very little penetration into the world outside of genre fans.  Sorry, but it’s true.  And believe me I am a HUGE Buffy fan.  And just reading Conors post I see we are essentially saying the same thing …sorry about that.

    I met Conor at a con once!

    I have no idea why I felt the need to post that…but I did, so there.