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Murdoch puts stake in Buffy-lovers’ hearts

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

October 16th, 2007

Most of the time, my writing about the profit motives of big media focuses on the negative consequences of media economics over mainstream journalism and the free-flow of information, or on the production and promotion of increasingly violent, misogynistic portrayals of women in entertainment fare.

This time, I have nothing that lofty to report… except that Rupert Murdoch has killed my favorite geeky pleasure. (That’s right, geeky pleasure, not guilty pleasure — I am not ashamed!) Seems that Fox’s desire to “protect their interests” has led Murdoch’s entertainment co. to vanquish the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical sing-a-long tour:

After learning that fans of the canceled cult favorite have been, horror of horrors, demonstrating their undying love for the show by attending theatrical screenings of the Emmy-nominated musical episode “Once More, with Feeling” for the past year, 20th Century Fox’s attorneys started sharpening their stakes.

The studio, which owns the rights to the former WB (then UPN) dramedy, red-lighted the dress-up and sing-along tour this week, canceling all future screenings—including a three-night run scheduled to kick off tonight in St. Louis at the Tivoli theater, which had already sold out for Friday’s show.

20th Century Fox spokesman Chris Alexander said that “significant payments” would be owed to the unions to compensate for the screenings, adding that TV shows rarely are shown on the big screen anyway except under special circumstances, like charity events.

“We have to protect our interests, and that’s what we’re doing,” Alexander said.

For those of you who haven’t been inducted into Joss Whedon’s strong-young-woman-saves-the-world-over-and-over-and-over-again cult, you probably don’t know that years after the Buffy series left the small screen, Buffy geeks (yes, me included, she freely admits) gathered together in movie theaters in numerous cities — some dressed as vamps, slayers, witches and watchers — to view the Buffy musical episode on the the big screen with actors performing a high-camp, live-action version of the show while a couple of hundred fans sang along in unison to lyrics such as the following, from an opening number in which Buffy and her Scooby gang are trying to figure out why the whole town seems suddenly compelled to randomly burst into song:

Giles: I’ve got a theory, that it’s a demon.
A dancing demon… no, something isn’t right there.

Willow: I’ve got a theory, some kid is dreamin’,
and we’re all stuck inside his wacky Broadway nightmare.

Xander: I’ve got a theory we should work this out.

All but Buffy: It’s getting eerie, what’s this cheery singing all about?

Xander: It could be witches, some evil witches…
(Willow and Tara glare at him)
Xander: Which is ridiculous ’cause witches, they were persecuted,
Wiccan, good, and loved the earth,
and women power, and I’ll be over here.

So, instead of the usual outrage I share with you about corporate news censorship of information crucial to our democracy, or the glorification of rape, anorexia or racism in TV, movies and advertising, today I’m just sad to note that another byproduct of corporate media greed is the squelching of simple, silly fun that is not only a buzz-kill for the cult-o-Buffy, but also bad business for Fox. The folks who turned “Once More with Feeling” into a Rocky Horror-esque sing-a-long phenom were keeping love for the series alive, which translates into continued interest in — and, therefore, sales of — DVDs, comic books and other merchendise for a show that has been off the air since 2003. In TV years, that’s eons. By dusting the sing-a-long in the name of “protecting their interests,” Fox isn’t just bringing down the party, they’re cutting off a revenue stream by generating ill-will with fans.

And just like an evil vampire, that sucks.

(Tip o’ the hat to Liza Dichter, board member of WIMN, for the link to this story.)

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