What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide
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More About This Title What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide


After saving the world as a Brownie, Jana Riess went on to earn a master of  divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in religion from Columbia University. She is the religion book review editor at Publishers Weekly. Her favorite character is Giles. Or maybe Spike. Or actually, it’s Buffy. Yeah, definitely Buffy.


“…an excellent book for anyone who has enjoyed the TV series…an excellent source…to spark ethical issue debates” (Eis Webzine)

A bubbly blonde sporting black leather and whomping vampires hardly seems a spiritual paragon, but the title character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the occult classic that aired from 1997 to 2003, is just that, argues Riess, PW's religion book review editor and a dedicated Slayer fan. Although the show is ambivalent about God's existence and ostensibly secular, it "offers a deep spiritual core that is based in ethical behavior." A "spiritually eclectic" canon on forgiveness, compassion, love, self-sacrifice and redemption guide the slayer and her friends in their battles with evil (supernatural, internal or otherwise), says Riess. Playing off the Christian youth mantra "What would Jesus do?" (which the show also pokes fun at in an episode where Xander tells Buffy, "When it's dark and I'm all alone, and I'm scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, 'What would Buffy do?'"), Riess dissects the show's moral message according to three themes: personal spirituality, companions (friends and family) and saving the world. Sidebar quotes from prophets, philosophers and poets echo each chapter's spiritual lesson. On self-sacrifice, for example, Riess includes St. Francis's prayer for peace, and on embracing change, she refers to the Qur'an's message about change coming from within a person. This analysis, like the show, never gets mired down in too much seriousness and will add a new dimension to how both fans and critics view the popular series. (May) (Publishers Weekly, March 15, 2004)

"A major contribution to our understanding of Buffy and twenty-first century spirituality. What Would Buffy Do? may be the best brief introduction to all aspects of this amazing television series."
—David Lavery, coeditor, Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies

"Jana Riess brilliantly articulates how the Slayer's battle against evil celebrates the core spiritual values held dear by people of faith. Rock it, Sister Riess!"
—Nancy Holder, author; BTVS: The Watcher's Guide, Volume 1; The Evil That Men Do; and Immortal

"Jana Riess makes an eloquent case for Buffy as a hip heroine for our times, vulnerable but empowering and, in the end, deeply spiritual."
—Mark I. Pinksy, author, The Gospel According to The Simpsons

"Jana Riess's rich knowledge of religious tradition illuminates the spirituality of this culturally significant series. Everyone who loves Buffy should read this lively, lucid book."
—Rhonda Wilcox, coeditor, Fighting the Forces: What's at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

"Perceptive much! What Would Buffy Do? will confirm every fan's sense that if something's ultimately important, you'll find it in the Buffyverse."
—Michael Adams, author, Slayer Slang: A Buffy The Vampire Slayer Lexicon

"At last, a Buffy book as smart as Buffy, the show. What Would Buffy Do? is an erudite and extremely entertaining meditation on ethics, morality, and how to save the world. A lot."
—Jeff Sharlet, coauthor, Killing the Buddha

"Who knew? Buffy may have said that religion is freaky, but she never had a guide to the spiritual life as illuminating and clear as Jana Riess."
—James B. South, Marquette University and editor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale