Did you ever wonder what a stevedore is when Buffy mentioned it in season 4 episode 16 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer? The Gentleviewer’s Obsessive Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, second edition reminds us of this and many other references to American popular culture. For me, this book was like hanging out with an old friend, pulling me through the seven seasons of Buffy (and some of the Angel crossover episodes). I especially liked the chapters with the character arcs that direct the reader through the episodes that are a “must watch,” if you want to follow the story of the main characters, as well as their various couplings.
Where this book falls a little short is in its understanding of audience. The title of the book does not provide any hint that the majority of the book will be focused around recording all the references—some of which are more pop culture than others—in each season. As a huge Buffy fan, the references seem to be only a first step; however, author Kathleen Mattson treats it as an end in itself and is inconsistent in the places where she expands her references. For example, with the above mentioned stevedore quote, she simply states where it is found and provides the quote. When Mattson points out the reference to Yma Sumac in “Once More with Feeling” in season 6, she explains that the person is an opera singer.
While she does provide a detailed explanation of how she defines pop culture, Mattson does not follow through on this by making this a reference for people whom may be from a different culture or are unaware of some cultural references. This book would benefit from an explanation of each of the references she points out. Even for those of us who are familiar with American culture, there are a variety of ways that we could be further informed of where these references come from and what they mean.
The book also includes some minor mistakes. Some are a little more problematic, such as accidentally replacing Tara’s name with Anya’s name in Mattson’s description of the episodes that outline Willow and Tara’s relationship.
Despite this, I did enjoy perusing through this reference and reliving the show I had loved so much. I had forgotten many of the references and I loved Mattson’s trivia and previous episode references. Others may truly appreciate the detail work in uncovering the music in the episode and the end charts, which include all the characters who appear in each season and whether they are alive, mentioned, or even a ghost.
My overall recommendation depends on the price and the purpose. If you are familiar with American culture, but a first time Buffy viewer, you may enjoy learning about some of those references that are explained. The episode references may also be useful for those who are new to the show as it will allow you to outline your episode plan, if you’re not able to watch them all. However, if many American cultural references from the ’90s and before are foreign to you, this book will not help you with that problem and you will have to look elsewhere for that understanding.