Rhonda Wilcox’s book, Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, strikes the perfect balance of Buffy analysis–it’s scholarly and treats the series as literature, but at the same time does not come across as pretentious or stuffy. Her breezy writing style, even while dealing with weighty issues, fits the tone of the show. She just plain gets it. I found her essay on “Surprise”/”Innocence” extremely emotionally resonant: “…Buffy deals in reality, so we know she will pay a price, innocent or not; we know she will not stop feeling for the man she slept with. And a lover does not have to be as monstrously cruel as Angelus for the words to cut–for one to feel paradise is lost, to feel cast out from timeless bliss. For Buffy, as for most of us at some point in our life, the pain is wedded to the passion; and they both still burn.” That’s it, exactly. During a breakup, a lover does not have to be intentionally cruel to cause the pain s/he does. The loss hurts; the memories hurt. I admire Wilcox’s writing, because she doesn’t only have an encyclopedic knowledge of Buffy–which, let’s face it, isn’t that unique, because most fans do–but seems to really understand the archetypal and intimate human emotions Joss dealt with in the series. She understands them as they relate to the characters and then how they relate to the audience, making a very strong argument for why Buffy matters–the book’s title and thesis–as an enduring work of art. Also, it is refreshing to find an entire book that has not one negative thing to say about the series. It analyzes the series for what it is, rather than what the writer of the particular essay might have wanted it to be. This sometimes seems to be a rarity in Buffy scholarship.