Abigail Pritchard was one of Fred's students at American University in the fall of 2008. When she heard about the Walking Gallery, she was excited about potentially attending and being a walker. If she was going to walk the gallery, I knew the perfect visual reference for her. Recently I attended an event at Bellin Health in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where I met the IHI fellows and learned about their What Can You Do By Next Tuesday campaign. When I heard of this campaign, I immediately thought about Buffy on Tuesday nights and how every week a girl could save the world. I thought this would make the perfect jacket for Abigail Pritchard. This is her story in her own words.
The first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I ever watched was on a tiny little black-and-white TV in my parents' basement. Somewhat ironically, the episode was "Killed By Death". It takes place in a hospital, a place that is supposed to help people get better, but which unintentionally serves as a feeding ground for a demon.
It is not one of the standout episodes of the series, but from that one episode I was hooked. I had never really outgrown the superheroes of Saturday morning cartoons. Since I had no real interest in general teenage drama, the house rule that no television could be watched during the week had never been a problem. Now it was. I would sneak downstairs while they were out walking the dog, shooting furtive glances out the window to make sure they didn't catch me in the act. Since this wasn't always an option, I would trade VHS tapes with friends at school, sometimes even beg the ones who didn't watch the show to tape it for me.
My affection for the show was notorious, even after high school. A few years later, a friend gave me a shirt that, in the classic Star Wars font, declared JOSS WHEDON IS MY MASTER NOW, and I made a habit of wearing it to classes early in the semester. I made more than a few friends off that shirt; strangers approached me in airports, at conventions, on the street. I think Joss's fanbase always feels smaller than it is: there's an instant sense of community there, no matter how riotous the online fandom can become.
I transfered to AU for the fall semester of 2008, and enrolled in Critical Approach to Cinema. I don't remember the first class, but I do remember the first screening: I was the first one there, waiting out in the hallway because the previous class hadn't been let out. I was wearing my trusty Joss t-shirt; I figured someone would comment on it - it was a cinema class, someone had to be a Whedonite - I'd get at least a passing conversation out of it, and if not a friend, someone I could ask about the homework if I missed a class.
In fact, the next person to arrive commented on my shirt: Professor Holliday. I had not expected that.
Another girl - Ruth - showed up shortly thereafter who was also a Joss fan. The three of us barely stopped talking long enough to watch Citizen Kane (much less important, of course, but it was on the curriculum), and afterwards we followed Professor Holliday to his car, still chatting about the show. He told us he'd written his thesis on Buffy; we compared theories and favorite moments and techniques that had been used in the show, which bled over into us talking about ourselves, and how the show had impacted how we related to the people around us. It became a ritual; we'd wait for him after the screenings and get at least ten minutes, sometimes more, of pure Professor Fandom out of him. It made an 8:30 a.m. class the highlight of our semester: we were always there, (almost) always on time, clutching our caffeinated beverages as we sat in the center of the front row and actually paid attention. He made us care deeply about things like sound editing ("You've ruined the Oscars for me! When am I going to go to the bathroom now?"), long before we should have been awake. He attempted to make a Buffy reference in every class, and every time, Ruth and I would grin at him like loons.
Both Ruth and I attempted to get into his class the next semester. Ruth succeeded; I did not, and told her with great frequency that I was bitterly jealous. She was how I found out he was sick, although we didn't realize how sick until later. She was also the one who told me he had died, although I did get to see him in the hospice. I brought him my copy of Serenity (it turned out, of course, that he already had it), and I remember feeling silly and trite - because I was of course sad that I'd never get to take another course from him, and brokenhearted for his family, but I also thought it was stupidly unfair that had finally gotten a new show and he wouldn't get to see it.
He told me to keep watching movies. And pretty much every week, if we're both in the same general (travel-able) area, Ruth and I get some takeout, sit down together, and do just that. She remains one of my best friends, and in many ways, how we see stories woven together onscreen is a big part of how we communicate, bond, learn. And at the beginning of that, tying it all together, are two figures: and .