Buffy and the SATs

A fair amount of people have found this blog searching for “I hate Buffy” or something similar, but I don’t know who any of them are. I feel like I’m so alone. I’ve come across one other person who hates Buffy as much as I do, but I know that there are others like me out there. So think of this post as like the batsignal to other haters.

I recently read this quote by Joss Whedon:

“I hate it when people talk about Buffy as being campy… I hate camp, I don’t enjoy dumb TV. I believe Aaron Spelling has single-handedly lowered SAT scores.”

Wow. Yeah, Joss. I hate dumb TV too. That pretty much nails why I hate Buffy.

But let’s be critical for a minute and look at the data to test his hypothesis that Aaron Spelling lowered SAT scores. I found the following information(click to embiggen):


The chart covers only the graduating class of the test-takers, not the year the test was taken. So there will be some juniors and even sophomores who took the test before the show aired. Without better data, I don’t know how to account for this. If someone wants to give me better data, I’ll analyze it. Also, I’m not looking at the old scale.

Beverly Hills, 90210 was on the air from 1990-2000. In that 11-year period, the average verbal score went up 5 points and the average math score went up 13 points. During Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s shorter run from 1997 to 2003, the verbal score went up 2 points and math went up 8 points. Here are those numbers as a chart:


But since the two shows ran for different times, we can’t compare them. So I found the yearly average change (rounded to two decimal places):


The average verbal score increased 0.45 points for 90210 and 0.29 points for Buffy. For math, for 90210 it was 1.18 points per year, and for Buffy it was 1.14 points per year.

Buffy gets a lot of praise for being feminist, something that I disagree with, so let’s look at how the show helped female’s SAT scores compared with 90210. So here are the same charts but this time just looking at female students:


During the run of 90210, the average verbal score for female students improved 8 points. That’s 0.73 points per year. But during the run of Buffy, females’ verbal scores stayed exactly the same. I can’t imagine why watching the show wouldn’t have improved verbal skills.

For math, female scores improved 1.36 points per year during the duration of 90210 and 1.29 points per year during the duration of Buffy.

To conclude, Whedon’s hypothesis that Spelling lowers SAT scores is not reflected in the general data. Without seeing the SAT scores of people who watch Buffy compared with the scored of people who watched 90210, this means nothing. But even if I could compare those numbers, correlation does not equal causation and I know that Whedon was just using hyperbole. This really was just so that I could have mathematical evidence to demonstrate that Kindred: the Embraced was way better than Buffy.

About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
This entry was posted in Feminist issues, television and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Buffy and the SATs

  1. Muriel says:

    I actually like Buffy. Not in the sense that I actually watched the show on a regular basis, but I do like the idea, and yes, I liked the musical episode, and no, it’s not easy for me to admit that.
    Still, it’s beyond me to comprehend how anyone could call it feminist or anything but campy and stupid.

  2. australopith says:

    I don’t like Buffy. I don’t hate it because I’ve never watched it beause it looks stupid, and yes, campy. Am I pre-judging? Absolutely. 🙂

    • emmawolf says:

      I once told this guy I didn’t see a movie (American Pie) because I thought it looked stupid. He told me not to judge a book by it’s cover (I hate this guy, but that’s a story for a different time). This made no sense to me. We are supposed to judge from previews or clips things about the movie or show to make us want to watch them (or stay the hell away). I feel like this is what we are absolutely supposed to do.

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