Buffy in Cyberspace

Anybody who's actually on the Internet knows exactly how badly mainstream media fear, misunderstand, and misrepresent it. The Sandra Bullock vehicle The Net comes to mind as a particularly awful recent example. But I'm beginning to see signs of hope. A recent episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer convinced me that at least some people in Hollywood are starting to get it.

Now before I go further, I feel compelled to defend myself from the snickers of people who haven't actually watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Despite what is possibly the silliest premise for a TV show since My Mother the Car, Buffy astounds by being good TV. In fact, it's better than good. It's one of the most original and refreshing shows to appear in several years. If you haven't actually watched Buffy yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. This show proves that there's no such thing as a bad premise, just bad writing.

Now, aside from the fact that Buffy's a good show, why I am I writing about it tonight? Because a recent show really impressed me with a level of cluefulness I hadn't previously seen demonstrated in Hollywood. The basic plot was that a demon named Moloch the Corruptor had possessed the Internet. Now normally when I'm watching a TV show that deals with the Internet, even tangentially, I find myself shaking my head and saying to myself, "That isn't right. hasn't anyone on this show ever actually used the Net? Even on AOL?" I suspect you feel the same way.

But what really impressed me about this episode was that the writers got it right. Assuming you were willing to suspend disbelief long enough to believe that a demon could infest the Internet (which is pretty much a prerequisite for watching this show) the show made sense. From Internet nodes and chat rooms to techno-pagans, the jargon was correct. The software on the screens was mostly real world software you might be using yourself. The Web and AOL weren't used as synonyms for the Internet. In short, the plot wasn't full of horrible technical inaccuracies that distracted from the story.

Despite the worst efforts of tabloid television like New York's Fox 5, the level of cluefulness about the net in the mainstream media is only going to increase. Within a generation, the Internet will have the same presence in both fictional and non-fictional TV and other media that telephones do now. In other words the Net won't be anything special, just something that characters use during the course of the story when it makes sense for them to do so. There will still be the occasional Internet movie, just like today you can rent Don't Answer the Phone on video. But for the most part the Internet will be just another tool we use in living our lives and our stories will reflect that.

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Copyright 1997, 1998 Elliotte Rusty Harold
Last Modified July 18, 1998