Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale is part of Open Court’s Popular Culture and Philosophy line of books that also includes philosophical analyses of The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. As might be expected from a show about teenage female killer of vampires, this one deals significantly with matters of ethics, feminism, and religion.
The book is actually a series of essays written by various writers with significant academic backgrounds. Buffy isn’t the only character who gets treated seriously, the book covers all the major characters: Willow, Xander, Giles, Angel, Spike, Faith, even the three nerds.
Many of the biggest names in philosophy crop up in this book, including Nietzsche, Kant. The book goes on to discuss in exacting detail such parts of the Buffy universe as Faith becoming a killer of humans instead of demons.
The book has chapter that examines whether what Buffy and the Scooby gang do should be considerd fascist, or is that just the domain of the Initiative.
Feminism is a major concern of the writers here, from Buffy and Faith expressing feminist power through physical action to Willow expressing feminist empowerment through becoming a witch and a lesbian.
The book is made up of twenty-two different chapters and each of the writers tackles Buffy from a specific point of view. There are chapters dealing with justification and rationalization of punishment; the philosophy of religion in Sunnydale and how a show about vampires seems to have such little overt Christian symbolism attached to it. There are no less than two chapters that not only specifically focus on Kantian philosophy as it relates to Buffy, but also includes Kant’s name in the title of the essays.
One of the great things about these series of books is that they are written by genuine fans and that appreciation of the show comes across in the self-written author bios at the back of the book, each of which make a specific, usually humorous, reference to the show.