University student Chloé Campbell is set to sink her teeth into the opportunity of a lifetime by presenting her academic work on a cult TV series to an American audience.
The 21-year-old English literature and American studies student was invited to speak at De Paul University in Chicago after writing a blog post about how Buffy the Vampire Slayer - which ended in 2003 - portrays a strong feminist message.
Next week she will jet off across the Atlantic to join a panel of experts to discuss the output of series creator Joss Whedon.
“I’ve been such a massive Buffy fan over the years and a module I took as part of my university course on the modern Gothic inspired me to write about it,” said third-year student Chloe, whose piece originally appeared on the University of Sunderland’s website Spectral Visions.
“It was always such a successful show and I was drawn in further by the strong female ethos that governed Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
“A lot of times the majority of female characters on American television shows only appear to serve as love interests, but this is not the case for Buffy.
“There are strong female characters, each of whom are strong in their own way. It’s so important to see that portrayal of different kinds of female strength - not just physical strength but also intelligence and emotional strength.
“The show also dispels the assumption of what it means to be a feminist. The cultural assumption that feminists are man-hating, butch and hairy is challenged by the feminine, heterosexual feminist of Buffy.”
The TV incarnation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer began in 1996, four years after Toy Story writer Joss Whedon first created the character for a film staring Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Beverly Hills 90210’s Luke Perry and Blade Runner’s Rutger Hauer.
Set in the fictional California town of Sunnydale, the TV show, starring Sarah Michelle Geller, Anthony Stewart Head and Alyson Hannigan, ran for seven series and followed the travails of Buffy and her high school friends as they grew up, went to college and fought demons, both of a hellish and a personal nature.
It was seen as feminist not only for its strong female roles, but also its portrayals of relationships as partnerships, with the man and woman equal, and particularly its ending, which saw thousands of women around the world “empowered” to fight for themselves and against the forces of darkness.
“I was so surprised to be invited to Chicago to speak. I couldn’t believe it,” said Chloe, whose trip is being funded by the university’s education and society faculty, and Culture Beacon. “It is such a privilege to be out there discussing my article and what I think of the show and I’m looking forward to discussing feminism’s role in contemporary film and television.
“I’m really a shy person and usually dread speaking and presenting so I’m more than a little nervous, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - how often can you say you were invited to speak to a conference in the United States?”
Chloe will fly out to the US next Wednesday, and Steve Watts, head of the university’s department of culture, said it was both a tremendous opportunity for her, but also “for the university’s global reach”.
“The university is delighted to support Chloé’s attendance at the conference in Chicago,” he said.
“This is a tremendous example of how staff and students work together to identify opportunities for students to showcase their work, which is then seen around the world.”