Pop Culture Academy 3

What I Learned from Paranormal TV Shows
by Alison Bruce

If I learned nothing else from shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Supernatural, there's no great virtue in virginity. In fact, it can be hazardous to your health. Of course, sex can be equally hazardous.

It's enough to make a mother of two teens go prematurely grey.

In fantasy, virgins get to ride unicorns and wear glowing white gowns.  In paranormal fiction, virgins are the essential part of spells that require their lives... or at least their blood. And note that the virgin is always a young woman. Are there no virgin men around? Ever? And how do the unicorns and dragons know?

Bottom line, practice safe sex or abstinence but keep your mouth shut about it.

Virgin Prince and the Unicorn
Another lesson has been hammered into me. Family (including chosen family) is forever. Romance is fleeting and often tragic.

Now part of this trend is due to serial fiction. If you are going to sustain a series of books or a TV series, it's hard to sustain a romance. Not impossible, but rather difficult. In all fairness, this isn't a unique problem to paranormal fiction. However, paranormal fiction gives more creative ways to keep the magic in a relationship.
  • A spell gone wrong can make everyone forget who they are, giving the focus couple a chance to fall in love again.
  • An alternate universe can show how things might have been otherwise.
  • Spirit/demon/soul possession can throw a spanner in the works.
  • Dead lover can come back as a ghost/vampire/zombie/time traveler to mess up new romance.
In the real world romance is also fleeting and often tragic. It dies and is reborn again and again. If we're lucky, it goes through those cycles with the same partner.

Now here is something you can learn from paranormal fiction, but you have to be pretty selective about what you watch or read. Strong women do not have to be manly. (Men don't have to conform to the tough guy stereotypes either.)

Supernatural, being primarily a story about brothers (including adopted bro Castiel) is not long on strong women characters. The few that become recurring characters are pretty solid role models. The Buffyverse overflows with great female characters. Joss Whedon is famous for them.
"So, why do you write these strong female characters?
Because you’re still asking me that question."

Joss Whedon, Equality speech
Like Joss Whedon, writing strong female characters comes naturally. I grew up surrounded by them. I became one.

My daughter and I watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer from beginning to end about once a year. Firefly and Dollhouse are other Whedon creations on our "worth watching again and again" list. But Buffy is special. For me, the stories resonate with my own experiences and yet also provide a great escape. Besides, it's a girly thing I share with my daughter and niece... like shopping and hanging out and saving the world from unspeakable evil.


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