Do you realize it's been 19 years since Buffy premiered? That means there are grownups walking around who weren't born when Welcome to the Hellmouth first aired. One wonders what they would think of Buffy if they watched it. Actually, one does not have to wonder. I recently heard from an 18-year-old fan who visited my website:
I knew that AtPO was a part of me when I was holding the 79-page collection of manwitch's, “Buffy's Spiritual Journey.” It was for a friend who is slowly being introduced to (or indoctrinated in) BtVS, and I think it speaks to the staying power of the wonderful community that you created and oversaw that an 18 year old was moved to print something out in 2016. fl.ux is good for your eyes, but not that good.
With time, those pages will fade into musty goodness on his shelf, and he can think of Giles. “All you will get from me is my support. And my respect.”
I'm a philosophy major, in my first year of college, and I can tell you that your site and board archives helped kindle my fire for the field. I watched BtVS for the first time two years ago. It reached me at an important part of my life—one where I could almost think like an adult, but was still totally unaware about what being an adult meant, and equally wracked with confusion about how to get there. I was struggling to make sense of what being alive meant at all. The same circular thought loops kept cropping up. Why am I here? Why do I have this body? Is there a way out of Hume's critique of induction? BtVS, I guess, became a conduit out of my head and back into the world.
I believe the show's (the whole Buffyverse's) greatest strength, philosophically or otherwise, was its richly populated moral universe. To cite a few, quickly: Buffy seemed to follow Sartre. Angel, Kant. Spike was Nietzschean. Giles and Wes were consequentialists. Xander seemed to speak to the primordial ethics of family and loyalty to one's own. Anya didn't know what any of it meant.
Too often with other shows, even the others in Buffy's tier, the writers' own moral views erode the possibility of a populated moral universe in the vein of BtVS' or AtS'. The Sopranos, our other great existentialist drama, was marked by the idea that, while we can choose, we will all always choose the path of unenlightened self-furthering. Every character, save one, drilled this idea into our heads over and over, directly from David Chase. Mad Men says more or less the same thing, with perhaps slightly more variation. The West Wing clusters everyone on the opposite side, rarely questioning our innate goodness and civic responsibility. The Wire said we're all rats trapped in the maze, causally bound to be crushed by the social institutions we create. Breaking Bad is a one-act Greek tragedy, The Shield a three-act one; while both shows hold unwaveringly to the consequences of actions above all else, and in this way are morally powerful, they still cannot compare to the breadth or dynamism of BtVS or AtS.
Watching BtVS was one part of the equation, but Sophist's blog and AtPO played an equally important role. I lost days poring through the board's archives. I imagined what it would have been like to be there in 2003, debating Lies My Parents Told Me & Chosen as they were fresh. I became accustomed to the cadences of the regular posters, and felt I grasped slivers of their minds, slivers that they had elected to share with an unsuspecting world.
There is a gentle sweetness in inhabiting a fading community; the phrase “mono no aware” comes to mind. The deep empathy felt when you realize that there is no way around entropy and transience. It's like walking around in Tokyo without any people. Their marks, their passion and insight, what they cared about and what moved them, are omnipresent, but they already fade and grow hazy with time and distance.
Maybe this is naïve nostalgia or historical revisionism, but AtPO also took me back to a time when the Web and the promise of the radical liberation of information felt—radical. Exciting. Open. There was an egalitarian, decentralized ethos to that Internet, it seems.
It's late, and I have rambled extensively. I guess all I'm trying to say is thank you. Thank you for the insight, from you and your board. They continue to move people today. May they resist entropy for awhile yet.