If Hollywood Is Serious About Diversity, the ‘Buffy’ Reboot May Not Be the Way to Go

Joss Whedon is developing a reboot of his beloved 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' with a black actress in the lead. But why doesn't Hollywood empower people of color to create and lead their own projects?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Reboot
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ is being rebooted with an actress of color in the lead role. 20th Century Fox

Last year, The Hollywood Reporter asked Joss Whedon about a potential reboot of his Buff the Vampire Slayer. At the time, he didn’t sound all that enthused: “I see a little bit of what I call monkey’s paw in these reboots. You bring something back, and even if it’s exactly as good as it was, the experience can’t be. You’ve already experienced it, and part of what was great was going through it for the first time.”

Fast forward to this past week’s San Diego Comic Con and it was announced that Whedon is officially developing a reboot with Monica Owusu-Breen (Midnight, Texas) serving as showrunner. That didn’t take long.

FOX (FOXA) 21 Studios is producing and will be taking meetings with networks and streamers this summer to find an appropriate landing spot. This new iteration will emphasize inclusiveness and feature a black actress in the lead role originally assumed by Sarah Michelle Gellar.

If this is Hollywood’s idea of forward-thinking, it rings a bit false to this outside observer.

Buffy helped the WB network establish a brand identity that catered to young-adults, a niche that the subsequent CW has continued to serve today. The original’s serialized elements mixed with procedural-like Monsters of the Week paved the way for supernatural soap operas of today like Supernatural and even The Flash; it is an iconic and definitive classic in a way that recently rebooted shows such as Magnum P.I. and Will & Grace were not.

Of course, it’s easier to get a project off the ground if it’s connected to a beloved piece of IP. But in the era of Peak TV, which supports upwards of 500 (!) scripted series, there’s more than enough room for new and original ideas that embrace diversity rather than a retread of older concepts. There seems to be a troubling trend of handing people of color hand-me-down roles rather than empowering them with brand new kick ass ideas, which we have seen work time and time again.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge developed Killing Eve from Luke Jennings’ Codename Villanelle novella series which led to Sandra Oh becoming the first ever Asian American woman nominated for a Best Actress Emmy this year. Netflix (NFLX)’s Marvel empire includes Luke Cage, which not so subtly builds itself around the image of a bulletproof black man. Jane the Virgin, Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish; the list of non-white led original and new series—that are also great in their own ways—is a long one. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s a market for new content that doesn’t need to be connected to something that came before.

Owusu-Breen has some great credits to her name, including Alias and Fringe. But am I crazy in preferring to see her skills put to use on something never-before-seen? Buffy was great in its day, but why reboot it when the powers that be can just as easily find the new Buffy among the endless stream of scripts floating around?

This new iteration of Buffy could absolutely be great and serve as a source of inspiration for fans of all backgrounds. I’m not here to shoot the entire project down before I’ve seen a frame of footage. Maybe I’m wrong or alone in my opinion as it pertains to supporting diversity. But it feels like a half-hearted and safe attempt to even the scales with an older property rather than taking a risk on a fresh concept with the same principles.

If Hollywood Is Serious About Diversity, the ‘Buffy’ Reboot May Not Be the Way to Go