…and a lot of other TV shows are not. This question came up Thursday in conversation with the university curriculum media librarian. I hope she won’t mind if I try to answer it.
Evidently the seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are among the most popular DVD items in the university’s collection, which pleases me—people watching BtVS—definitely a Good Thing. The problem is, now people are asking for more of what they see as entertainment: “Can we have One Tree Hill? Dawson’s Creek?” Um—probably not. Here’s why.
1. BtVS, and in fact, all the more or less “entertaining” videos and DVDs in the University Library, are part of the collection called “Curriculum Materials/Media.” The operative word is “curriculum”—audio-visual media and other materials that support the university’s teaching mission. A few years ago, I co-taught an Honors course that examined popular culture. The Library acquired a number of movies and TV series to support that course, including Buffy. I and a few other professors occasionally use episodes from BtVS in our other classes. And we’re not alone—other colleges and universities have offered entire courses devoted to Buffy. Which leads to
2. BtVS is, as far as I know, the only television show that has had three or four international scholarly conferences devoted entirely to discussing it. Another will take place in Istanbul(!) this fall, and another (including Joss Whedon’s other shows, Angel and Firefly) is planned for next summer. Academic conferences, not fan conventions where people dress up and get autographs from actors. It has its own peer-reviewed journal—not a fan-magazine—Slayage (yes the title is a little tongue-in-cheek, just like the title of the TV show. The academic area designated “popular culture” is broad, and if you check the program of the Popular Culture Association or table of contents of the Journal of Popular Culture, you’ll find many TV shows referenced, but (so far) none of them have their own conferences/journals.
In conclusion, if you want to find your favorite film or TV show in the University media center, convince your professor that it offers worthy material for study or academic discussion. Otherwise, there’s a reason for the existence of services such as Netflix, which has certainly made living in Harnett County much more entertaining for my husband and me.