Saturday, October 27, 2007

Buffy in the ER

Last night was movie night; we're halfway through Season Two of Battlestar Galactica, but since only two of our eight friends who usually come could make it, we watched Buffy episodes instead, including the glorious musical episode Once More, With Feeling.

Gary and I have the soundtrack memorized and can sing along with all the lyrics. We tried not to inflict this on our two friends, but I did find myself singing once or twice, despite my efforts not to (rather like Spike at the beginning of Let Me Rest in Peace).

Being a Buffy fan has turned out to be surprisingly useful. Among other things, it's twice helped me connect with ER patients. One December 21st, I stopped by the bedside of a young woman who, when I identified myself as the chaplain, glared at me, held up the pentagram she was wearing around her neck, and said, "I'm a Wiccan. You don't like me."

"If you're Wiccan," I said, "it's one of your High Holy Days. Happy Winter Solstice! I'm so sorry you're in the hospital."

She softened a little bit, clearly surprised that I was familiar with Wiccan holidays, and we started chatting about her spiritual path. She mentioned a friend whose vengeance spells made her nervous, and I said, "Sounds like Anya on Buffy."

This time, she positively brightened. "Oh, I love Buffy! It's my favorite show! I've seen every episode like, seven times!"

"So what's your favorite episode?"

She laughed. "Oh, 'Once More With Feeling' -- I mean, what else?" And then she was off on a roll: we commiserated about how terrible Season Seven was, compared notes on Season Six (which we both love, although many fans don't), and agreed that Spike's really dreamy, especially with his shirt off.

I'm sure this isn't the conversation she'd expected to have with the middle-aged hospital chaplain, but I'm also pretty sure it made her feel at least a little better.

Buffy also figured prominently in a visit I had with a patient, a burly guy my age or older, in the waiting room. I complimented him on his Serenity t-shirt, and we both agreed that Joss Whedon's a brilliant story-teller, and then we started talking Buffy.

"So what's your favorite episode?" I asked him.

He laughed. "That would have to be 'Once More With Feeling,' right?" We agreed that Season Seven sucks. I don't remember his opinion on Season Six, and I decided not to ask how he feels about Spike.

These visits confirmed a sense I'd had for a while, that scripture is any story that creates and helps maintain community. Buffy, like Star Trek or any other cult show, is scripture for a lot of people, and in those two visits, it helped me find common ground with patients who might have seemed very different from me. (I also happen to think that Buffy's a deeply spiritual show, although in unconventional ways. But that's a subject for another post.)

I have a Mary Sue ER fantasy, a silly little bit of wish fulfillment that runs through my head every so often: a psych patient has come in, refusing to talk and humming a tune no one recognizes. I identify it as Going Through the Motions, start singing it, and get the patient to open up, earning lavish praise from the medical staff.

I'm sure nothing like this will never really happen. But if it did, it would be just one more example of God working in mysterious ways.


  1. Have you heard about the Buffy Sing-a-Long (like Rocky Horror Picture Show). Checkout

    Or maybe I heard about it on your blog :)

  2. Such a Buffy fan and of course "once more with feeling" is my favorite, my second favorite is "hush" or "shush" or whatever, the one where everyone literally loses their voices.

  3. Your definition of scripture is spot on. And beautifully expressed. And Spike rocks.

  4. These Buffy/ER stories make me smile.

    Seasons two and three are probably my favorites, though I adore "Once More With Feeling" (my first Buffy ep! That's when I started watching) and I'm a big fan of Spike. But now that I've seen all seven seasons, I think the arc that led us through the end of S5 is what moves me most (what happened to Joyce, and then what happened to Buffy -- am being vague in case someone's reading this who doesn't want to be spoiled) and I find the last two seasons a bit bleak for me these days...

  5. Rachel -- I think Season Five's the most consistent and coherent, and the most moving in story-arc terms. For me, though, one of the most moving individual eps is "Grave," the final episode of Season Six. But that's because I see it as a Passion narrative! (I've always wanted to show it in church on Good Friday.)

  6. Believe it or not, Joss Whedon is penning Season 8 of Buffy. It's out in comic book form from Dark Horse comics. So far the stories have been as good as Seasons 5 & 6. I've been eagerly waiting for my monthly fix :>

  7. magicdanw8:37 PM

    Wow! I once had a dream that I went insane, and all I would do is hum songs from "Once More With Feeling." Maybe your fantasy isn't so far-fetched after all!

  8. Mary Sue moments are the best! I should know, my life's just chock full of them.


  9. I'm not particularly religious these days, but if I were a patient in the ER I'd be very grateful to have a chaplain hang out with me for a bit and talk Buffy. And I'd love to read about how you believe Buffy is a spiritual show--I happen to agree, and I've read other articles saying as much, written by Christian pastors.

  10. Kristen3:52 PM

    Ok, there's something very eery here.

    I, too, am a middle-aged chaplain.

    I, too, love Buffy. I own all 7 seasons on DVD.


  11. I'm glad Buffy has helped you in your line of work! I just finished the last episode of Buffy for the first time last it took me 10 years, but I finally got around to watching and getting sucked into all of it! The thing I found hard to believe was, you guys didn't like season 7? I thought it was great! Loved the ending. Season 4 was my least favorite, because Captain Cardboard was the love interest? Not so dreamy, in my opinion. Give me Giles or Spike any day! :) Anyway, great article and have a great one!


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