Whedon fans and scholars, including members of the Whedon Studies Association, will gather on University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus from July 12 to 15 for the fifth bi-annual Slayage Conference. The conference is the largest of its kind, bringing together scholars from around the world to discuss the works of Whedon, or, as the scholars refer to his creations, the “Whedonverses.”“Whedon’s work has attracted more scholarly research than any other popular culture property,” says UBC Law Prof. Sharon Sutherland, who will serve as this year’s conference host along with Hélène Frohard-Dourlent of UBC’s Dept. of Sociology.
“The appeal of these works to scholars turns on the strength and insight of the metaphorical connections to the real world,” says Sutherland. “For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer may have literally dealt with monsters, but the stories resonate with the real battles that high school students experience every day.”
The three-day conference will include over 70 talks on everything from alternative sexualities in Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men to feminism in Buffy and other Whedon works. Sutherland’s presentation will look at how his work reflects and influences public perceptions of law and justice, while Frohard-Dourlent will discuss racial representations in his work.
“I think part of his popularity amongst academics is due to the fact that his work does not look down at his audience,” says Sutherland. “Whedon assumes that popular culture can be complex and intelligent, and so he creates stories that people love to watch, and love to analyze just as much.”
This is the first time that the Slayage Conference will occur in Vancouver. Many well-known science fiction series linked to Whedon, including Supernatural, which featured several Buffy alumni, and Battlestar Galactica, of which Whedon was an avowed fan, were filmed on UBC’s campus. The conference, which will primarily take place in the university’s law building, Allard Hall, will include a tour of campus that highlights the filming locations of these and other TV shows and films.