Gail Collins, Buffyologist Supreme
Last month I wrote a profile of one of my heroes, Gail Collins, the op-ed columnist for the New York Times, as part of the magazine's "Reasons to Love New York" package.
The write-up was 600 words, so there was no room for my traditional, gratuitous Buffy the Vampire Slayer references, which were everywhere in the actual interview, because as it turns out, Collins is a true-blue Buffy freak — as well as a pop-culture hound in general. (Check out her book When Everything Changed for some great discussions of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and other vanguard series.) And when plied with excessive coffee, she revealed what I've always suspected: The New York Times is a secret nest of Buffy love.
Here are some quotes from our larger conversation.
On life as a Buffy evangelist.
I keep giving it to people! I just sent it to Frank Bruni; he'd never seen any Buffy. And then a woman who took me around Austin, I sent her the first two seasons — you have to make them get through the full first season.
There are a number of huge Buffy fans at the Times. Paul Krugman is one, Andy Rosenthal is one, and Andy and I keep talking about trying to invite Whedon to come to an editorial-board meeting. I had this very big discussion with Paul Krugman about Firefly; that was fun.
On Buffy and Dollhouse.
My husband argued that the great thing about the early years of Buffy was that you got to see young guys in their true young guy-ness, without making them villains. And later, everybody became so heroic that they lost their true young guy-ness. But there's nothing true about men, except in the worst possible ways, in Dollhouse. The men are either sort of restrained — heroic — or really troubled.
Besides, in Dollhouse, the metaphor was too weird and troubling and too big. You can't have the metaphor that just thumps around and takes over the whole thing.
On watching TV Westerns when she was growing up.
I didn't think about women's rights, I didn't feel constrained ... But I thought girls didn't get to have adventures because — look at TV! There was the idea on the Westerns of the lone rider who rode alone. And Buffy, when she killed Angel, she had to ride alone. That whole idea — that this was a person who was going to save the world and she was a ... girl-woman-person, there were no two ways about it. She had to kill the one she loved because she had to ride alone. And the world had to be saved. That was a huge moment for me. I didn't really think she was going to kill him until she killed him.
And when I was writing my first book, I went back to that whole growing-up experience. I think that the Westerns were more disabling to me as a person than anything that happened to me. Just watching, every single day, when there were like a thousand Westerns on television, nothing but Westerns. They were all about these guys. And the women never had adventures, the women just got kidnapped a lot. Or the women were telling them not to go and do whatever they were going to do — the second the woman walked in things got boring. That was a big thing that I didn't think about in those terms back then, that message: Women didn't do stuff.
Emily: It's interesting, because he created the show to speak to teenage girls.
See, he leaps over generations. I could talk about Buffy all day.