Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Superstar   Rewatch 
September 24, 2015 12:21 AM - Season 4, Episode 17 - Subscribe

Jonathan is just like the coolest guy ever. Movie star, philanthropist, sex symbol, class protector and the person Buffy and the gang go to when they need slaying help. But after he brushes off a serious demon attack, Buffy starts to realize that things aren't adding up.
posted by yellowbinder (19 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I almost forgot to post before bed so more thoughts tomorrow but for now...

"Prawns?"
posted by yellowbinder at 12:27 AM on September 24, 2015


The credit sequence alone puts this episode in the Top 10 for me.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:19 AM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yet again, another very fun episode which pays almost no mind to the main plot. We get Adam lurking in the corner, and Jonathon discovering his weakness, but mostly this is about him.

This is mostly a goofy episode without a great deal to say. There's a bit of a "those who walk away from omelas"vibe, with this better (?) reality maintained by the creation of a monster, but there's never really a doubt that killing the monster is the right thing to do, despite the worries of the cast members who don't want to live in a world where Jonathan isn't amazing. It's a little interesting that Buffy is the one to spot what's going on. Is it her slayer nature making her more resistant to the magic, or simply that her role is so displaced by Jonathan that she is the most likely to notice.

It's a bit weird to think about where Jonathan is emotionally at this point. Apparently he's attending Sunnydale U , and has managed to make no friends. Yet when he uses a spell to make himself cool, he inserts himself into the Slayer's life. Has he been stalking that group ? I guess Buffy was the only person to show him kindness throughout his experience at school.

[How smart are the nerds who will reappear in 6 anyway? Surely not that smart, or they would have just got out of Sunnydale long ago!]

But I don't think this episode can survive overthinking. It's a goofy idea of an episode, and thematically I'm not sure it really has much going on. Still, it's pretty funny. The thing I find watching 4 over maybe all the other seasons is that it's a really good time for the most part. The writing of individual scenes tends to be really great, and while there's not much going on under the surface, the surface is a lot of fun. I'll always have a soft spot for 4 because of that.

-"Poor Xander. I guess Jonathan hurt you the most of all. Apart from Tara."
-"Xander, don't speak latin in front of the books."
"Giles do you have a Jonathan swimsuit calender?" "No.... Yes."
-Anya trying to get Buffy to go away when she turns up
-The opening credits gag is terrific
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:21 AM on September 24, 2015


The thing that meta-amuses me most about "Superstar" is that Danny Strong has achieved far more success as a writer than as an actor.
posted by Etrigan at 6:06 AM on September 24, 2015


I love how this episode turned a rewatch completely around for me! I'd never really noticed Danny Strong before (except for the sniper episode), but after this ep I went back and he was EVERYWHERE.
posted by Mogur at 9:51 AM on September 24, 2015


The thing that meta-amuses me most about "Superstar" is that Danny Strong has achieved far more success as a writer than as an actor.

The profile photo on his IMDB entry (with him brandishing Emmys in both fists) actually looks like a fake scrapbook photo they would have shot for "Superstar", but it's gloriously real.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:32 AM on September 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


brandishing Emmys in both fists

I have this mental image of him at Joss's house, looking at Joss's solitary Emmy in the middle of a stack of Hugos and other random awards, and saying, "I don't know, it's not... symmetrical?"
posted by Etrigan at 11:39 AM on September 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's a little interesting that Buffy is the one to spot what's going on. Is it her slayer nature making her more resistant to the magic, or simply that her role is so displaced by Jonathan that she is the most likely to notice.

I thought it was Buffy's tendency for questioning the status quo / generally accepted wisdom, which isn't about her Slayerness (Kendra is a Slayer but pretty much thinks exactly the way the Watcher's Council wants her to.)

This episode is interesting in that it lays the groundwork for Dawn in Season 5--it establishes that magic can alter not just the world, but people's memories of the world before the spell was cast.
posted by creepygirl at 12:01 PM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]




The thing that meta-amuses me most about "Superstar" is that Danny Strong has achieved far more success as a writer than as an actor.


And he still acts! He had a reoccurring role on Mad Men!
posted by The Whelk at 1:05 PM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


This episode is interesting in that it lays the groundwork for Dawn in Season 5--it establishes that magic can alter not just the world, but people's memories of the world before the spell was cast.

I love this episode and think one of the best parts about it in retrospect is how they lay the groundwork for Dawn here. I remember watching this episode, I wasn't really paying attention through the credits and when I saw Jonathan acting all heroic I thought "wait, did I miss an episode?". Then when Dawn was introduced I thought they were doing the same thing. i figured Dawn was an evil being inserting herself into the world for an episode or two.
posted by skewed at 7:32 PM on September 24, 2015


[How smart are the nerds who will reappear in 6 anyway? Surely not that smart, or they would have just got out of Sunnydale long ago!]

I think they're supposed to be quite intelligent but emotionally arrested. They can come up with spells and gizmos and clever stuff, but it's all in the service of this wretched 15-year-old boy mindset. Jonathan seems like the most mature and decent of the three and it's really pretty tragic that he got sucked into their orbit. He was obviously a very troubled kid, but he really could have done OK if he'd made a few better decisions.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:01 PM on September 24, 2015


Isn't that the subtext? That Jonathan really ought to have been one of the Scoobies? And possibly that Xander could have been Jonathan if he hadn't been one of the Scoobies?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:36 PM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


I always hated this episode. Never liked Jonathan. Find S6 excruciating because of the nerd trio. For the first time in this rewatch... I'm skipping. Next one too.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:41 AM on September 25, 2015


I liked Jonathan and the nerd trio, as long as they didn't become a self-indulgent gag for the writers. I got tired of Andrew fast in season 7, because at the time it seemed like he was mostly a way for the writers to work in a lot of pop culture references while they worked out their feelings about fans and their own nerdy adolescences. A number of genre shows have these kind of scapegoat nerd characters, where the nerdy writers are kind of goofing on nerds from a rather wobbly perch.

The Lone Gunmen, the nerd trio on Buffy and the Ghost Facers on Supernatural are three examples off the top of my head. (And I must admit they're all pretty good characters, as long as they don't slip too far into caricature.) I find those kinds of characters can be compelling when they're treated like people and we can get in their heads a little bit, but I get restless in a hurry if it just feels like we're laughing yet again at virgins who live in mom's basement, play D&D and are too into Star Wars. I didn't feel like season six of Buffy did too much of that, but Andrew needed the other guys for balance. He was the most caricatured of the lot, and he was the one we got stuck with. (He had some dramatic stuff to do in season 7 and that stuff worked, but mostly it seemed like he was there to make Star Wars jokes and drop the occasional ambiguously gay line.)

I figured there had to be a TV tropes for the Nerd Gang on genre shows, but I looked up The Lone Gunmen on the X-Files page and there wasn't any specific phrase for this sort of group other than "nerds". How can that be? It seems like a lot of genre shows eventually do this! The hero has often got three awkward, Cheeto-stained little pals who show up now and then and snipe at each other about sci-fi movies while the hero stands by rolling his eyes, waiting to get on with the plot.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:46 AM on September 25, 2015


Wonder Jonathan and his fluffy battle kittens. YES. Yes, yes, come to me username.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 4:29 AM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think the trio are meant to be a critique of a particular kind of geek. It can certainly be viewed as mean, and maybe it becomes mean in 7.

The point of their arc in 6 is the idea that there is a poisonous idea that some geeks have internalised where they are the "good guys" and everything they do supports that. Yet when they start acting out those fantasies with real people then this has consequences. It's clear that the trio's actions in 6 make Buffy's life worse (life serial is arguably Buffy's main attempt in 6 to escape the depression that is settling onto her, and their efforts undermining her contributed significantly to her continual down spiral), even though they never get to confront that. This is obviously clearest when Katrina confronts them with the simple fact that hypnotizing women is rape, something that honestly does need to be said to a certain male audience.

I actually think we can see a continuous lesson for Jonathan and the other two, with Jonathan (and later, Andrew) finally learning and accepting it in 7, that life isn't particularly easy for anyone, that there aren't easy solutions. Any cheats you think you've found will have a cost, you just don't know what it is.

I think that's mostly delivered by 7, and Andrew is mainly there because they liked the actor (I found him funny, so eh), and they do keep characters around for comic relief (Anya was initially that and just that, after all).

In defence of the writers from the idea that the nerds are meant to represent the audience, I think Xander is meant to stand as a response to that. He geeks out over the same things as the trio, but has a life alongside that. The show is always arguing for maturity, for being willing to bear your burdens. And this can be very hard sometimes (as Angel the show goes more into), but it's what you have to do.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 5:00 AM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Isn't that the subtext? That Jonathan really ought to have been one of the Scoobies? And possibly that Xander could have been Jonathan if he hadn't been one of the Scoobies?

On a metatextual level, Jonathan (as in Danny Strong) could have been Xander, since he also auditioned for the part. It would be interesting to see a plausible parallel-universe version of the show with Charisma Carpenter as Buffy, Strong as Xander, and Riff Regan as Willow.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:16 AM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I, too, shout "yay Jonathan!" whenever Danny Strong wins something. If he's on Mad Men, does he have any scenes with the guy who plays Connor on Angel? Because that would be odd. He and Lily/Chanterelle/Anne Steele definitely win the prize for bit character who winds up having a really moving overall arc, and they're basically mirror images of each other: Lily is desperate to belong, just like Jonathan, and willing to die (to become a vampire) to be noticed, but unlike Jonathan, Lily (now Anne) gives up on her fantasy world after seeing the horror and, instead of trying to control her life as a fantasy with magic and "big gestures" (like Jonathan does with the Trio), decides to spend her life doing good for others and being an almost ruthless pragmatist (in a do-gooder sense) when she runs the homeless shelter; she focuses on the little stuff, actions that need to be taken over and over. She's not scared of doing what she has to do (see the "Blood Money" episode of Angel). The Trio want to rob banks and give money to themselves; Anne takes money from the rich to save homeless teens.

It's only in the end of Jonathan's arc that he starts to take a different path and actually internalize what Buffy said to him in S3, that everyone is suffering their own pain, and though that pushes us apart, it's the common condition that brings humanity together. In an alternate universe, it would be interesting to see what would have happened if Jonathan had taken on the Andrew role and joined the Scoobies for the last season.

This is definitely a credits sequence for the ages, and there are so many great throwaway visual gags. I can't stop thinking of Willow interrogating him in an earlier episode, saying "Fantasies are fun, aren't they, Jonathan?" Unexpected foreshadowing. Even when he goes to kill himself in Earshot it's essentially a fantasy; clock tower, alone, rifle that looks cool but is ludicrously implausible for the goal.

This episode also shows us why we don't want perfect heroes with no flaws. Hero!Jonathan (without the cracks that develop in his spell) is fun to watch for an episode, but it would be insufferable to watch a whole series of it. I guess he did at least invent the Internet.

Nice callback that Buffy gave Jonathan the Class Protector Award in the altered reality.

Poor Riley. Second false belief system destroyed in a few episodes. Can't be good for him.

Who really did star in The Matrix, then?
posted by ilana at 10:22 PM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Who really did star in The Matrix, then?

Now we know why Keanu was so sad -- even he wishes Jonathan really had done it.
posted by Etrigan at 6:24 AM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


« Older Mystery Science Theater 3000: ...   |  Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wher... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments

poster