It generally doesn’t take very long for someone to find out that I’m a huge fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The large tattoo of the show’s logo usually helps. It’s been 13 years since Buffy staked her last vampire on television and there are still numerous books, essays, fan sites and discussions about the show and the many themes it tackled. Yet in spite of this and the show consistently ranked on lists of Best Television Shows Of All Time it’s still kind of snickered at or not taken very seriously by the masses. Which to be honest is fine. All these years later it is still my favorite series ever and I kind of enjoy the fact it still remains a niche or cult show.
However there is one fan out there who seems to be on a mission to change that perception of the show. Maybe you don’t recognize the name Ian Martin, or perhaps you’re more familiar with his increasingly successful YouTube Channel, Passion Of The Nerd. Perhaps not. In any case you should be familiar with both him and his channel. If you’re already a fan of Buffy and haven’t checked it out what are you waiting for?! If you’re not a fan of Buffy you should also most definitely check it out. He’s assembled an extensive episode guide that currently runs up to Season3 Ep.16! As well as some really great movie reviews! But it’s more than just guide. Along with a great episode by episode synopsis Ian digs into each episodes themes, metaphors and philosophy. The community that has grown from this is astonishing. It’s become a place for fans new and old to come together and discuss the many themes that Buffy as a show tackled through metaphor. Sex, religion, gender roles, sexual assault, life, death, the list is endless. And get this…they’re friendly! Gasp! On the internet, real actual discussion!
I had the pleasure of chatting with Ian about all thing’s Buffy and what makes the show so great as well as his thoughts on his channel that features the most thorough Buffy guide assembled in my opinion. As the name of his channel would suggest Ian is most definitely passionate! The amount of work that is put into each episode is astonishing. We get into that too as well his upcoming appearance at Denver Comic Con and the super cool community that has developed around his social media outlets. I found Ian to be insightful, funny and all around great person. Without further adieu Ian Martin, Buffy expert and the man behind Passion Of The Nerd. I hope you all enjoy this as much as I did.
the video that started it all! start here.
Mark: Hey, Ian. How are you?
Ian: Good, nice to meet you Mark.
Mark: Yeah, really nice to meet you. First I just wanna say thanks a lot for taking the time to do this man, really appreciate that.
Ian: Yeah, no worries.
Mark: So, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, it’s my favorite show still all this time later. How did you discover Buffy? I kind of came in the back door. I saw the movie originally, and then when the show popped up on TV I was like, “Geez, that’s that kind of weird. The movie was okay, but this is kind of bizarre.” I never started watching until midway season 2 and went, “Oh my God, what have I been missing?”
Ian: That’s a good jumping on point, actually that’s probably the best jumping on point. I saw ‘The Avengers’, that was the beginning of it. I’d actually never seen a Joss Whedon project at all, and the thing in ‘The Avengers’ that stood out to me was, I remember specifically recognizing the surprise. The whole scene-by-scene, the whole movie is built on twists and surprises in each individual scene, and I was really taken by that. For example, when Loki says to the Hulk, “I am your god, I will not be yelled at,” and Hulk grabs him by the legs, and whips him around on the ground back and forth. It’s such a surprising moment, and that whole movie is loaded with surprises in each moment.
So the writing really stood out to me, and I was with my friend Nigel who did one of the drop commentaries with me and he said, he’d seen ‘Firefly’ and he’d seen ‘Buffy’ and ‘Dollhouse’, and he suggested I look into it, and so I had some time at the time, and I started watching season one just sequentially, and I think it was about the ‘Puppet Show’, I texted him and I said, “Please, tell me this gets better” When the puppet is stabbing at Buffy on the ground when she’s under the chandelier, and he says, “It gets better, just keep going.” And then there was a scene in ‘Prophecy Girl’ where Buffy finds out about the prophecy that she is going to die, and there’s that conversation between her and Giles, and I was so taken with Sarah Michelle Gellar in that scene and the drama between the two of them and that fatherly relationship, and I’m like, “Okay.” There’s a dip at the beginning of season 1, and then the turn in season 2 was something I’d never seen done on a show before, where they make someone you don’t expect the bad guy, and I was hooked from ‘Innocence’, the episode ‘Innocence’, I watched all seven seasons and Angel I watched in less than a month.
Mark: Wow! That’s some heavy binge-watching.
Ian: [chuckle] After the last Angel episode I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I just started it over and watched all of those seasons again the next month. So that was sort of the beginning of it for me.
Mark: Wow, that’s one hell of a backdoor into the world of Buffy.
Ian: Yeah, well what’s funny was he told me to start with Firefly, and I instead started with Buffy. I later watched ‘Firefly’, but ‘Firefly’… I mean, Whedon’s stuff is built around character and relationships, not plots and all that, but in order for that to happen you need to know the characters, you need to have developed your own relationship with the characters, and ‘Firefly’ never really got that chance, and so it just doesn’t mean as much to me as Buffy does. I believe it was about the time of ‘The Body’ when, for the first time thought, “This is something that television can do that a movie cannot.” When you get to know characters over hour after hour after hour after hour, they’re like family, and what happens in ‘The Body’ was just… You have a relationship with characters that is not possible in a two-hour movie. And then I watched ‘Breaking Bad’ after that, and we’re kind of in a TV Renaissance right now, but Buffy was sort of that ray of light for me where I sort of went, “Oh! This is amazing!”
Mark: Yeah, there’s something about the way Joss writes for an ensemble. I don’t know how he does it, but he just seems to really manage all the minutia that has to go along with all those interpersonal relationships that really grab an audience, and just doesn’t let go.
Ian: Yeah, absolutely. And to some degree it’s a shame because it’s… It hasn’t soured me on his movies, but I just wish that he… He does so much with that, when given time and when the characters have space to breathe.
Mark: I think he just works better in the television genre. I love all things Joss, I’m definitely a hardcore Whedonite. He’s never let me down. He’s never disappointed me, there’s just stuff that I like more than others, but there’s nothing that I’m like, “Oh wow, that was a disappointment.”
Ian: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I just watched ‘Dopplegangland’ and live tweeted that, and he’s so good, that he’s so much better than the other people who were making the show. I mean a Whedon episode is just… It just blows your mind, and every seven episodes he makes one and you go, “Oh wow!”.
Mark: There’s always something special in that opening credits where you go… “Directed by Joss… Oh Joss has got his hands all over this one.”. Speaking of good, you’re YouTube channel is incredible man.
Ian: Thanks man.
Mark: The videos, and just the analysis. You really go down the rabbit hole. I mean Buffy’s just so rich thematically with so many different social commentaries, on gender roles, sexuality, relationships, life, death, religion. You just really get into the psychology on everything, and for someone like me who has seen the episodes multiple times, I’ll be your watching your analyses, I don’t call them guides as much as an analysis or breakdown, I see episodes completely differently sometimes by the time I finish watching one of your broadcasts where I’m like, “Man, that episode or that particular character, I see in a completely different light now.”
Ian: Well that’s the intention. And I’m gonna be speaking at Denver Comic Con and I have a…
M: Congratulations on that by the way, that’s exciting.
Ian: Thanks. It’s mildly terrifying, and I have to get it right and I’m practicing for it. My stuff is very edited, so being live on stage is a totally different thing. But the introduction in my head sort of goes, “Is the reason why the channel exists.” And for me, I’m very neurotic, and I’m an atheist, and I’m very interested in the question about what is meaningful, what makes a meaningful life? And that bears the most fruit in conversation with other people, and in you’re relating to other people about finding out about other people. But you can’t just go up to a person and say, “What’s the meaning of your life?” They’re gonna say, “What are you trying to sell me?” And “I’m not signing up for anything.”
And on the other side of it, if you just sit there and sort of just talk about french existentialism people’s eyes glaze over and they start to fall asleep. But the middle ground is grounding that conversation in a context, and when you do that people’s barriers sort of drop, and then I’ve had… At this point I’ve gotten lots of correspondence from people sharing the most intimate details of their lives, about their marriages and how to start talking differently because of this particular guide or whatever, and that’s only possible because of the fiction of the show, and when you don’t talk about their lives you talk about Xander’s troubled home life, and how comedy is used as a shield for it to crush him, and that is disarming for people and it creates a mirror in which they see themselves.
And that’s the power of the channel on the conversation, and that’s my highest aspiration. At a basic level it’s just entertain. I forgot what I called Freud. Unimpressed Freud and the doughnuts are vaginas, and I’m always looking for at least one joke for the analysis that can sort of carry the whole thing. But by the end I want to have distilled something more interesting, and part of that is just considering my own life and when I am vulnerable it gives people the opportunity to do that themselves.
Mark: Yeah, I would agree with that. Sometimes opening yourself up can just disarm somebody else or give them the courage to kinda step forward too. ‘Cause that was one of the things that I wanted to mention, it’s quite remarkable the community that’s built up around the channel, as it has to be one of the most shockingly friendly communities on YouTube, or Twitter for that matter. There’s actual conversations occurring with differences of opinion and it doesn’t turn into an all out war of name-calling, it’s just, “Oh, well I don’t know. I didn’t see it that way. Maybe I’ll take another look at it.” It’s this weird phenomenon. What do you equate that to? Maybe the way that you do your videos, or just the Buffy fandom? It’s a weird thing. It doesn’t happen that often on social media.
Ian: [chuckle] I think that, that was dictated by the show. I think that the show created an audience that was based around intimacy. There’s no one who’s watched Buffy and not cried. I would find it hard to believe… You’d have to be dead inside to get through all the episodes without being moved, and that is a very intimate experience for people, that is significant. The show is very existential, but I think that the meaning for the characters comes from their relationships with each other, and so you’ve got that as sort of a model for the fans of the show. And we are all fans, no one’s watching my channel who is not a fan, and I think that, that trickles down into the comments section and the way people talk to each other. I have used the Banned button twice, once on Facebook and once on YouTube, but when you consider there’s 65 videos and the channel’s got, 1.1 million view now it’s been out for a couple years.
Mark: Yeah, that’s remarkable. It’s crazy.
Ian: It is, it’s insane. And I try and lead that conversation a little bit by stressing kindness and empathy and communication, in the way I talk about characters even. So Xander is an insanely problematic character in the show, but I’ve tried to, rather than just sort of bagging on him for the lie in ‘Becoming’, and all of that, to develop my own empathy for him, and what would drive a character like that and how he’s so well intentioned, and hopefully that helps lead the conversation with each other. But I don’t know, it’s a mystery to me. A lot of my friends who follow the channel are just shocked at how nice we all are [chuckle] with each other.
Mark: Yeah, it’s a nice refreshing change though, speaking as someone who kind of will start to scroll YouTube comments on most things and immediately go, “Oh, enough of this garbage. I can’t handle this kind of negativity. I don’t need that in my life.” So your channel is, both in comment and in content, a refreshing change for the internet. Usually you’ve got instant regret, “Why did I start reading comments?” There’s so much toxicity, with anonymity, and that just isn’t there on your channel or Twitter.
Ian: I know people now through the channel. I know the regulars who Tweet at me or talk the most or talk regularly, people that have given that up. But that’s the value, and then you can move past that and develop more interesting thoughts and feelings about content.
Mark: Well, and it allows people to get into some pretty heavy discussions. Just in the last week there was a lot of talk about that sexual dynamic between Faith and Xander, and is what happened between the two, did Faith rape Xander? That brings an interesting point with Faith, ’cause she’s kinda had two times throughout the show’s history where, there’s that Faith/Xander one, but then there’s also that time later where she switches bodies with Buffy and does the same thing to Riley.
Ian: Yeah. Yeah, that’s fascinating. And I felt a little weird about the way I handled that. Someone left a comment on Bad Girls talking about it, and saying that because Xander did not vocalize consent that it was rape. I’m the first one to say in any of the videos, I don’t know the answers, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I do research, I form analysis, but we’re gonna bring up questions about issues of consent and morality and ethics and philosophy, that I will not have answers to, which is why I think the conversation is more valuable than the thesis. But someone posted that comment and I sort of took it to Twitter to try and talk to people about it, and then pointed them to the comment, and they engaged, but that felt a little like I had… All opinion’s welcome, and I didn’t want that person to feel like I was sticking the audience at them, but I think a good conversation was had about it.
Mark: Yeah well, it’s an interesting question, in regards to Faith, especially the fact that the same kind of thing happens later on down the road between her and Riley. It really colors her character, quite wonderfully in a weird kind of twisted way, just ’cause she’s so fully developed. Faith has always been… Arguably she’s been my favorite character, but on the show, just that self-loathing that she has, I relate to that. I battled with that for decades, it took me forever to get my head around that. And that scene of her and Buffy in the switched bodies, and she’s beating herself up essentially, “I hate you, I hate you,” that scene still, goose bumps, tears. She’s just a fascinating character and just such a satisfying character.
Ian: I get that with Spike and Buffy in season 6. What you’re describing is emotionally evokes for me, when Buffy’s about to give herself up to prison, and Spike tries to stop her and she beats the hell out of him, and she’s again beating herself. I have sort of that similar experience though…That is one strange problems with… It’s not a problem, but one of the bizarre things is, because the comments are so positive and so productive and whatever, I’ve not developed that armor to criticism that I was hoping to through doing this, and as a result there can be 100 positive comments but if there’s one negative one I tend to fixate, a little bit about that particular one, which is always a struggle when you’re sort of making stuff and putting stuff out there.
Mark: You clearly put so much of yourself into those videos tho so I get that. Walk us through that a little bit. The research and editing, your background, you’ve gotta have a background in film or psychology or something.
Ian: My degree was in video production in college, and I sort of got away from it. Yeah, the decade after college was troublesome, we’ll say, and I sort of got away from it for quite a while and got in tech and education and all of that. But I think that there are… The way I’ve described it to some people who have written me, is there are people whose sanity is based on being able to look behind themselves and see footprints, whether that’s something you’ve written or a poem or… Creative people need flag poles to feel stable, I think, or at least I do. And coupled with that was, people have been telling me for quite a while that I should do voice work and get into stuff like that, but there’s no manual for doing that.You just start, you just start making stuff. And so I sat down. I have finished Buffy three times, my third run through the show, and I could not get friends to watch it, it drives me insane that I could not get anyone to start watching the show. So I said, “Okay, I’m just gonna make a video about it,” and I wrote, ‘Why you should watch Buffy’ and cut that together. I didn’t have a microphone at the time so that was recorded using the microphone on my laptop.
M: Wow! [laughter]
Ian: Yeah. And cut it together, and I read it, and put on online. And I was gonna do a single video for season 1 to say, “Here’s what you should watch, here’s what you shouldn’t watch,” so on and so forth. But then I did one for ‘Welcome to the Hellmouth’ and ‘The Harvest’ and then I did another, and then I did another, and… It used to be, in a week if I got 100 views, that was spectacular. The first 1,000 views were amazing, but I started to develop this little… It just became a thing before I realized it, it just became a thing. When I finished season 1, people started emailing me and asking me to not take too long a break and go on to season 2.
But the other thing that started happening was I started seeing myself get better, and that’s an amazing feeling. It’s so… In the vlog I talked about, “The hardest thing to get over when you make anything is hating what you make.” It’s self-evident that you’re not going to the good at something when you start, but people don’t realize that they’re gonna have this emotional… Or I do, this emotional reaction, which is, “This isn’t that good,” and it doesn’t feel good to make things that you don’t really love. But once I started seeing progress after five or six episodes, and now I look back at season 1 videos and there’s no comparison to the new ones. And I’m not happy with the new ones, but that progress… That’s how you appreciate the process, I guess.
Mark: Oh, for sure. Absolutely. I used to play in bands and do music and stuff, and the same kind of creative process. Yeah, absolutely, I agree with you.
Ian: Yeah, just the mountain of work that has to go into each episode, it’s mind blowing. It’s about 15 to 20 hours each, depending on the length of the video itself, so anything over 10 minutes gets around 20 hours. But if you want the process, writing first draft of the script it takes about three hours. You watch, you pause, you take notes; you watch, you pause, you take notes. And I will be suddenly down and in a rabbit hole researching different ideas, like in the… I can’t remember the episode where it starts, but Giles is quizzing Buffy, doing up that SAT pre-test in the graveyard. From one of his books, “Which of the following best describes the content of the passage?” And they don’t say it but the word is ‘entropy’, is what describes it. Yeah, he says it after she kills the vampire, “All things tend towards chaos”, which is the definition of entropy, and I thought, “Well you should recognize that in this in this episode… ” Your thoughts sort of spiral out of control and you just write as much down as you can. While you’re watching the episode, and then the hardest space for me is right after that. That’s the point where you go and research your ideas, “What is entropy? How does that apply?” Gender was a very difficult one for me. In ‘Helpless’, that episode to me screams gender identity, gender roles and gender politics, and I spent a long time reading and researching… I mean, Buffy’s one of the most written-about shows in history, so there’s a lot of material out there. I just try and take in as much as I can and then re-constitute it in a way that’s interesting and entertaining. The best thing for me is that a lot of people have now said they’ve gone and bought Mark Field’s book ‘Myth, Metaphor and Morality: Buffy the Vampire Slayer’. It has generated… And I dunno whether or not for me, but it generates interest in pursuing these topics outside of the channel.
Mark: Wow, interesting. Your attention to detail, it blows my mind every episode, even the… “Well, if you notice here in Willow’s locker there’s this sticker,” and I’m just like, “How does he even notice that?” [laughter]
Ian: Yeah, that was pretty… It was the picture of Ginsberg? Yeah. That was pretty cool too… I was like, “That’s got to be a hint of some kind,” and it turned out to be related to ‘I Robot, You Jane’and Moloch.
Mark: Yeah, just brilliant, brilliant stuff.
Ian: Yeah it was fun, it’s always fun.
Mark: How satisfying and exciting is it for you just to see how much the channel exploded? ‘Cause I kind of jumped on early on, in some random YouTube suggestion things, “Why you should watch ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer'”, and I’m like… I almost never watch them, but there was something about the Passion of the Nerd that made me go, “No, I’m gonna click this one and watch it,” and then by the end of it I was like, “I love this guy! This is perfect!” And I immediately shared it on my Facebook and was just like, “Here, now you can all tell me to shut up!”
Ian: Yeah, it’s funny, I was afraid people would be offended, because obviously the title ‘Passion of the Nerd’ has multiple meanings, which was the intention of the title. But in all honesty, the more people who are watching though, the more comments there are. It’s a tremendous source of validation, but it can also be creatively freezing. When I make things, I know there’s gonna be 15 or 20 comments saying that they disagree with this section or whatever, or whatever, and for me as a neurotic, that can be intimidating, and I can sort of get frozen up if I think too much about the audience and the people watching and what they say. So at the end of the day, what I have to do is sort of pull all of that out of my mind and make something that I would want to watch, first, and then let the chips fall where they may. If I start thinking about the people watching, what they’re gonna think or how this idea is gonna go or whatever, you just sort of get creatively tied up. So it’s great, I mean it’s amazing, but I’m most interested in what this material does for people, “Did that make sense?”
Mark: Oh absolutely. I think so, ’cause I think some of the analysis in some of the topics that you get into, in your little episode breakdowns, I think they do speak to people and I think they do help. Like I said, they’ve certainly made me question my own role in failed relationships or the way I see gender roles or something. The show is rich in all that anyway, but then you bring out certain points and things where I’ll be like, “Ah man, in all the times I’ve seen this I’ve never picked up on that particular thing before.” You pointed out in one of your… I believe it was your ‘Top 10 Episodes To Sit Down With A Bottle Of Wine And A Good Cry’, you talked about Wesley’s character arc. And I love the character arc of Wesley, but I never realized, until you kind of pointed out, just how foreshadowed it all was, and how brilliantly it all tied up, and suddenly that just elevated it so much higher for me, so I think you’re succeeding in that mission.
Ian: Yeah, the potential for me really to come up with… I think the episode was called ‘I Will Remember You’. Or no, I’m thinking about ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’.
Mark: Ah, the Buffy Angel swap. Where Angel’s the girl and Buffy’s the guy.
Ian: And it’s a tremendously… It’s a silly episode, until the last five minutes, and then you get what everything was leading up to, and connecting for people… That was one of those times where I sort of connected Buffy’s self-hatred and that she was blaming herself and how that then sort of then meted out over the course of the episode or a couple of episodes prior, and how the episode was all about forgiving yourself. And there were comments in there and I got a couple of messages privately saying that, “I really needed to hear this, thank you.” And that’s amazing. We’re talking about a show that’s been off the air 16 years, people are still getting things out of it, that inform their own lives. That’s the power of great art to me, which is what the show is, is something that you see yourself in. And for me the channel is kind of about holding up that mirror, and I really enjoyed it. I think that there’s tremendous value for me personally in doing that, and the comments have suggested there is for people watching.
Mark: Yeah, yeah. The show’s got such strong character archetypes even. I kinda have an argument with friends every once in awhile, and I’ll say, “Angel’s one of the greatest superheroes of all time,” and they’re like, “Come on.” I’m like, “No think about it,” I’m like, “There’s certain parallels between him and Superman in a weird way.” There’s just that whole thing of the episode ‘There’s A Hole In The World’, where him and Spike are off to try to, “We gotta save Fred, we gotta save Fred,” and in spite of everything they’ve done and in spite of all their power, they can’t save Fred anymore than Clark Kent could save Pa Kent from heart attack in spite of all his powers. I think that kind of stuff just really speaks to people. And I think the greatest heroes are ones with flaws, like Angel has, like Buffy has.
Ian: Yeah, absolutely. Buffy’s a little… I don’t know, it’s interesting. I’m interested to get into the later seasons, but the sort of binary justice code and people have been… I’ve learned so much from the comments. I will never know as much as the comments section on the videos. There’s a few… Like Guy R. Stands out for me as one of the knowledgeable commenters. But people will say things in the comments that get me thinking, then will get incorporated in my interpretation, and as the videos have gone on I have sensed that. “Yeah, you remember I said this thing back then, I got that wrong, and let’s talk about that.” It’s an evolving conversation. But Buffy’s justice system is very interesting to me, how rigid it is, and I think that that will relate to… That jumps up in the episode where she and Anya fight, when Anya has gone back to being a vengeance demon. And there’s this… That’s the episode where the lie comes out for the first time. They’ve held it for four seasons since that. Buffy brings it up to Xander, “Remember what you said to me about that Angel, kick his ass.” Or you remember when he delivered Willow’s message, “Kick his ass,” and Willow says she never said that. I’m looking forward to talking about that as we get to it.
Mark: Yeah, I’m looking forward to digging into those later seasons with you as well, just ’cause it’s such a fascinating journey watching the characters make that transition from adolescence to adulthood and what it means, and as an old friend of mine, we always used to say, one of the great things about Buffy and Angel is the fact that by the end of those series nobody comes out unscathed.
Ian: Yeah. They’re all forever changed. The thing I find so powerful is that they don’t really end. I’ll never do a straight Top 10 List, I couldn’t find my own opinion more boring about…[laughter] Well, it’s about 10 episodes. I want a spin to have a conversation and find something more interesting to talk about. But the one that I have in my head, which I might do for the 10,000th subscriber, is ‘Top 10 Buffy or Angel episodes that remind us that everything is going to be okay.’ And there are moments in the show where time seems to stop, moments in the show that would be endings on other shows, like ‘The Prom’, when Buffy gets the umbrella…
Mark: Yes, from Jonathan.
Ian: Yeah. And what happens at the very next episode, the season premiere… Not the next episode, but the season premier on season 4, it gets crushed, it gets destroyed. And the shows are like that. Allen Watts did this… There’s a very popular speech on YouTube, Allen Watts talked about how life is more like music; it’s not a destination, it’s a journey, and you’re supposed to dance to it, and that’s… To me describes Buffy and Angel, because you get those moments of peace where the music swells and there’s this romance or whatever, but the show doesn’t cheat, it doesn’t stop, life goes on. And neither show has a definitive ending, “What do we do now Buffy?” Before she says anything it cuts. And at the end of Angel “I kind of want to still slay the dragon, let’s go to work.” It cuts, ‘because it would be disingenuous for the show to do anything else, because they’ve been… ‘Cause life is not like that, and that’s so powerful. That’s so amazing that the shows are true to that idea, which is that there’s just another day. There’s always another day, and I love that about that. Every one of those moments that will be in that top 10 list, have that spin of, “And then life went on.”
Mark: Yeah, I agree. I think that’s why one of the reasons why the show is so relatable, because there’s just no…
Ian: They don’t cheat. It feels like life, and because it’s so character-driven you relate to them and their experiences.
Mark: Yeah, and I gotta say, I like the overall message the way Buffy kinda did end up with the, “Every girl has the power of the slayer within them, it’s just a matter of unlocking it,” like that montage of the little girl with the baseball bat, stepping up to the plate, all that stuff, I love it, and it’s such a positive message for, not just girls but boys as well.
Ian: Yeah, yeah. I’m a male fan and I relate to the show very strongly.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned in Prophecy Girl that one of the moments that kind of hooked you was that, ‘I don’t wanna die’ scene.
Mark: ‘Cause that’s one of the things that the show kind of gets maligned for that I tend to disagree with is the acting. The acting’s actually phenomenal on that show, so often.
Ian: They all get better. The first season’s a bit rough.
Mark: Agreed. It’s rough in a lot of places.
Ian: Yeah, I think Anthony Stewart Head, Giles, is the strongest actor. I think Alyson Hannigan came along first, develops the acting chops first. But by mid-season 2 or early season 2, I think everyone is just knocking it out of the park. I think Nicholas Brendan’s fantastic, as much as maligned as his character is, everyone on that show is solid.
Mark: Absolutely, and I think a little underrated. You had also mentioned ‘The Body’ as being a seminal turning point for you with the show, and how could you not? I think in your guide you referred to it as art, which I would too. I remember babysitting for my best friend, and she came home, and I just happened to be watching that episode, ’cause I was in one of my Buffy binge-watching modes, and she sat down, and unfortunately that wound up being the first episode of Buffy she ever saw, and it was also the last episode, ’cause she was like, “I will never watch this show now,” she goes, “This is crushing. Whoever wrote this, knows what it’s like to lose somebody.”
Ian: Yeah, yeah. And I can’t wait to… I was talking about being willing to be personally vulnerable on channel, because I think that it enhances the experience for people. If I trust the audience, it will be in sort of a mutual thing, but my intention for that… I’m thinking about the landmark episodes well in advance even though it’s probably at least a year or two before I talk about that one, at the rate I’m going.
But my intention to that one is to share… To talk about what we were talking about with art, how in great art we see ourselves, and I think that episode evokes for us our personal experiences with loss, and what I’d like to do is share my own, either as a singer to the guide or in the video that I’ll release at the same time, and just put it out there for people. And I think that again, has the potential for people to get something out of it for themselves, but I’m really looking forward to talking about that one.
Mark: Yeah, there’s a bunch of episodes I’m looking forward to hearing your take on. One of the great things is too with both your channels is how active you are with the community, and you’ve just recently started doing… Well I guess not too recently, but you’ve been doing some live-streaming of episodes.
Mark: How’s the response to that been? Unfortunately I’ve always been busy when you’ve been doing it so I’ve never been able to partake, but…
Ian: It’s a challenge. It’s a trust thing. I was never particularly interested in being on camera, but the way that live streams came about was I started… For me the hardest part to get through is the script writing portion, and just crunching out the research and writing the episode, and one day I said, “I’m gonna live tweet the script-writing process,” and I did that and it was kinda fun, people responding and saying what their favorite scenes were in this episode. And I’ve even changed the guide based on some tweets I’ve received. In ‘Consequences’ Willow has a thing for Xander, and I was sort of annoyed by it. She doesn’t have the right to make him feel guilty anymore, she past that when she chose Oz. And then someone wrote me separately, after they saw that tweet and said… And gave me a different perspective on it, “She goes to the bathroom, she doesn’t say anything to him, she experiences the emotional catharsis, and you’ve even said on your channel that the heart is not a rational organ.”
And I went, “She’s absolutely right.” So that email from her is credited in the sources of ‘The Consequences’ video. But anyway, at one point while I was doing a live tweet session someone said, “It would be great if we could all watch an episode together while you didn’t have to write a script,” ’cause one episode takes three hours for me to write. And I thought, “Alright.” It’s not something I would… I would not watch someone watch television…[laughter] But if people get something out of that and wanna have a good time, and… Usually there are drinks involved, often too many. But it’s been something that has strengthened the community, ’cause the live streams now have regular viewers, and people have watched the replays, which is shocking to me. It’s an hour of us watching television, and those videos have gotten 4,000 views, which is amazing to me. And because it takes me so long to make the videos for the guide, it’s giving me another source of content for the channel, and if people are interested in it I’m willing to do it. But I never… It’s unnerving for me to be on camera and be in front of people like that, which is why I so far had both Abby and Jess be on there with me, ’cause then I can just have a conversation with some people I’m very close friends with.
Mark: Yeah, and you’re just making conversation with friends.
I: Yeah. Yeah, the drinks help.
Mark: It usually does.
Ian: Yeah. But I’m usually terrified until about five minutes after we start, and then it just becomes this comfortable thing. And people are so nice, I mean there’s just no trolls.
Mark: I guess it goes back to that weird little community.
Ian: It’s shocking!
Mark: It is, and refreshing.
Ian: Yeah! Oh, it’s amazing! It’s been so good. And my friends being willing to put themselves out there and being on camera with me, is an act of trust in the community, and the community has paid that off, returned that in kind, and it’s been… Say what you want about me, but I think one of the ones that may have said something negative about someone that appeared on a show with me, but other than that it’s like, those live streams got about… There were 3,000 comments I think, in the live stream itself, people talking to each other, and it was just all positive and kind.
Mark: Yeah, my Twitter just blows up on those nights, I’m just like, “Man, this is great that he’s getting this kind of reaction for this.”
Ian: Yeah. Yeah, it’s really cool. Yeah, in the back of my mind, I know that I’ve, in a way, cheated. I have not built this audience, Buffy did. I’m tapping into an audience that already exists, and that’s great, and there was already of a group of people care or were interested in the thing I wanted to talk about. But I do think about, in the interest of the channel and the fact that this is something that I want to continue to do is to make reviews and guides and talk about things and continue editing. I do wonder about, whenever I decide to broaden the content and the base, I hoped that people will still come and find interest, or I hope that, if I’m talking about… When I do the Firefly guides, people who haven’t seen it will still get something out of it and have a reason to keep coming back.
Mark: Well, I think they will, with the personal stamp that you’re putting on it, with the research and humor, ’cause you’ve got a great sense of humor, you are funny my friend.
Ian: Thanks man. I think they would come at this point.
Mark: I think you’re becoming one of those YouTube stars, or at least it certainly seems to be.
Ian: Well, I’ve never had an interest, but…
Mark: Which would beg the question, any thoughts of branching out? I would think you’ve got a book in you somewhere on this stuff.
Ian: No. That’s one of the beauties of this particular niche, is that it hasn’t been done in this way before. There’s a lot of Buffy videos online, but they’re montages of Angel and Buffy making out set to an Adele song, so I joked about in the videos. But this kind of analysis and making it accessible and you only sit for 10 minutes to go through an episode, has not quite been done before. Before I got started, I did a lot of searching around, ’cause whenever you’re gonna get into anything it’s a good idea to see. Who’s doing what you’re going to do, and what they do well and what you want changed. And there was very little of it, there’s very little of it. The only person that was doing something similar at the time was ‘Once More with Ling Ling’, and I reached out to her and started a conversation about what she liked about the process and the episodes, and she was really supportive and awesome. And I wish she still made content, but it is hard to keep going, I know. When I take breaks between seasons, you think it’s gonna be a couple of weeks and it ends up being months.
Mark: Well, when you’re putting as much time and effort into what you’re putting out, I can appreciate you taking some time off, ’cause the workload that goes into them is very obvious anytime I click on the links for the new videos.
Ian: Well, it’s a part-time job. I’d love to do it full-time.
Mark: Labor of love.
Ian: Absolutely. And for me that’s been part of the value of the experience is, doing something even when you don’t feel like doing this, I mean putting in the work. The best analogy that I know of is, I have been in shape. I used to run on a fairly regular basis, and you never feel like running, until you’re months into the training. At first you just feel like running, but you don’t feel like running, but you go do it, and about five minutes after you start you feel like running, and that has held true for the videos. Who wants to work a 40-hour work week and then come home and write a college research paper? [chuckle] No, but it’s exercise, it’s not recreation, it’s not entertainment, and in that respect it’s kind of helped me keep getting it done.
Mark: Well, the fan-base, I know I certainly appreciate it, and just by the way the fan-base continues to react I know they appreciate it. And you certainly seem to becoming somewhat of a de facto expert on Buffy, now doing a Con appearance at Denver Con, I believe you said it was…
Mark: So running your own panel there. Who knows? Maybe that’ll be one of chapters, some more appearances, or maybe even hosting a panel with one of the guests at a Con that was on Buffy.
Ian: Yeah, that would be a lot of fun. And my Caulfield experience last year was interesting, I don’t know if you caught that video where I talk about that. But it’s what research does. [chuckle] No one has all that information in their head at once. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. I would love to be able to do it full-time at some point. So, it’s been interesting that several people have asked me to start a Patreon. It’s just fascinated to me that people want to support this thing that we’re doing together. I turned on fan subtitles, and now there are four or five episodes in season 1 that are in both French and Spanish, and it’s not a simple process, I’ve done it for… When I was inputing credit subtitles manually, it’s tedious, and it’s just I’m so insanely honored that people want to contribute in that way. That to me means that it’s working, that that intention of providing something meaningful for people is being successful.
Mark: You know what it is, too? It’s the high quality that you put out, because as you said, there’s a lot of Buffy videos out there, but… Not to malign anybody else’s work or anything, but the fact of the matter is, there’s not a lot of quality Buffy stuff, and the Buffy fan-base is rabid. It’s kind of like merchandising with Buffy. There’s really not a whole ton of really good Buffy merchandise that you wanna get to add to your collection of stuff, it’s tough. So when something, like the videos that you do, where it is this, clearly coming from a place of love of the subject matter, and then on top of that it’s this super high quality that is so professionally done, yeah the fans are going to jump on it for sure.
Ian: Well, it’s gotten better, but I appreciate it, honestly. Maybe some day it will be as good as I want it to be, but…
Mark: I think that shows that you are a true artist in the fact that you feel that.
Ian: Well, I appreciate it.
Mark: I know I made the comment on one video awhile back, I still think, should they ever get their act together and get a proper re-master of the show or put it in hi-def, and get it out on Blu-Ray, I think your guide should be absolutely part of the special features.
I: Yeah, that would be fun.[chuckle] I’ve been toying with the idea of going back and re-mastering some of the original, like the season 1 videos. ‘Cause yeah, that’s the schedule when you’re trying to stick to the one week. I’ve been bi-weekly lately, but this week I might actually be able to get it back on a weekly schedule. But at some point you just put it up. It’s 2 AM Tuesday morning, and the video is supposed to publish Tuesday, I just go, “Alright I’m done,” and abandon it. It’s never finished, it’s abandoned, and the next day I catch 10 errors. And I’ve been hearing that Facebook is going to get into the YouTube sort of business at some point, and so it would be… I’ve been thinking of re-mastering the original ones, adding in the new… And that was another thing, the new title sequence, that was just a fan. Some guy wrote me and said, “Hey, I do motion graphics. In my free time I re-did your opening. I think it would bump up the quality, here you go”. And, I’ve used them ever since, but I would love to go back and make those the opening credits with the remastered version, I think it would be a good time.
M: I think so too, I think that’s awesome. I just love that you’re so into it, and I just really appreciate your time and efforts. Any closing thoughts or anything else you want to plug here?
Ian: It is funny, we went over a million hits a couple of weeks ago, and I did that video, ‘Pop Music Poetry’, I did the Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ song, and I read it as a dramatic poem, and that video, which is still up, got 1.3 million hits in a day.
Mark: My God!
Ian: And it took… That video was on rollingstone.com and glamour.com. “And comedian Ian Martin has done this setup”, but I would take the Buffy channel and the ‘Passion of the Nerd’ over that any day. The one million views that took a year and a half to get, means so much more to me than that little joke video. So it’s been interesting, it’s been interesting. But I’m gonna take a little break when we finish season 3 and kind of do a special little project that will eventually land on the channel. And then season 4 is gonna be a hump, not my favorite. Season 3, I’ve been sort of surprised about how deflated the season arc has been, but season 4 I know is worse.
Mark: Yeah. It’s funny, season 3 has always been where I’m like… Not that season 2… Season 2 is amazing, but season 3 for me, with the introduction of Faith, that’s where I’m just like… The show just goes into overdrive for me and just doesn’t let up.
Ian: Well like I said in the last video, I just wish that she’d had more moments. I agree with you, I think she’s a very strong character, but in Season 2 you had Spike and Dru to carry the first half before the turn, when Angel turned back, and there’s not that in… There’s no Spike and Dru in season 3, so I don’t know why they didn’t spend more time with her character. It was like the episode, ‘Five by Five’ in Angel, is so captivating, and her spiral of evil deeds and the weight that it has on her shoulders. I empathize with that version of Faith, and so sort of back empathize with Faith in this season. I just wish that she had more screen time I guess.
Mark: Yeah, maybe it’s the less-is-more approach. She’s the Boba Fett piece without the lame death.
Ian: [laughter] Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good…Maybe that’s part of the appeal, I don’t know. I’m looking forward to talking about the Mayor and Faith in ‘Doppelgangland’. For some reason the Buffy and Giles relationship is so affecting for me, and Faith and the Mayor have sort of that same thing, of course the season’s all about shadow-selves…
Mark: I was just gonna say.
Ian: And all of that, and so you’ve got even like the shadow version of that relationship. So anyway, I’m looking forward to it.
Mark: Well it’s good meeting you, and maybe sometime we’ll get you down here for Niagara Falls Comic-Con for a panel or something. I’ll have to mention that to the powers that be, for next year maybe, get you down here to do a panel, that’d be cool.
Ian: Yeah. Yeah, that’d be great, I’d love to!
Thanks again to Ian for taking to the time to speak with us. Give his YouTube channel a subscription and blow the dust off your Buffy DVD’s for a rewatch or fire the show up on Netflix and give it a try if you’ve not seen it before.