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Sex And The Slayer: A Gender Studies Primer For The Buffy Fan by Lorna Jowett
Review by Edward Carmien
Wesleyan University Press Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0819567582
Date: 01 April, 2005 List Price $22.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Let there be no mistake: average Buffy fans who perhaps watched (and continue to watch, in the land of eternal reruns) the show and possibly chatted about it once every so often with fellow average fans should not consider this book as comfortable bedtime reading, or beach reading, or anytime reading. The academic approach will not be appealing to this sort of viewer. However, that is not to say that more dedicated fans, whether or not they are members of that privileged elite who live in Ivory Towers, will not find Sex And The Slayer worthwhile.

Jowett?s approach is wholeheartedly rigorous and widely accessible, a difficult, nearly impossible balance to strike. Chapter 2?s Good Girls range from the very good (Kendra, April, Tara) to the virtual (Dawn), to good girls who (sometimes) go bad (Willow, Buffy). The sequence is deliberate and nuanced, displaying the author?s craft as a writer, one of many such displays here. ? Buffy?s good girls imply that adhering too strongly to ideal notions of femininity is a self-defeating strategy for post-feminist young women who aspire to autonomy,? says Jowett in the conclusion to the chapter.

Though academic-specific terms such as ?agency? and ?post-feminist? are sprinkled throughout, the author here maintains an accessible prose style that taken chapter by chapter is compelling to read for anyone with a familiarity with the show and with gender studies issues. This is a book hard to put down, as Jowett?s knowledge of the topic is apparently encyclopedic (she constantly reminds one of this or that detail - the sensation is a pleasurable ?aha!? that sparks the urge to hunt for another) and her commitment to thoroughness and accuracy is obvious.

There are illustrations taken from the show, and they always enhance Jowett?s material. The illustrations are frequent enough to help convey appropriate visual information, but not so numerous they take away from the essential nature of the text. The book is well designed, with some unique custom features: Wesleyan University Press has again shown it can produce a fine bit of printed matter.

While garden-variety fans of the show will not find rewards in these pages, anyone, academic or not, with an appreciation for the television show and the issues discussed here will find this text valuable. Those who participate in the fan fiction movement, for example, are clearly committed enough to the concepts and ideas behind the show to gain something from Sex And The Slayer. On the other hand, academics with an interest in gender studies should consider this is a must-read book. As Jowett notes, Bufffy is becoming canonized, and as the show is itself a rich cultural expression, Sex And The Slayer is a rich interrogation of that expression.

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