I really had anticipated a wave of criticism from the barbaric hinterland of cyberspace following my attack on Harry Potter. Oh well. The same people who sent me the email last year about lobbying my MP on the sanctity of traditional marriage sent me another about the evils of Harry Potter. I was intrigued by the suggestion that Harry Potter was a force for moral relativism, and read a bit more widely, coming to the conclusion that the people who claimed this didn't really understand what moral relativism means. F'rinstance, this guy says it encourages moral relativism because the good characters sometimes do bad things. That's like, let's see, the soldiers in "Saving Private Ryan", or the quintessential moral relativist, George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life", or, let's go out on a limb, every character in every film ever made with the possible exception of the Flying Nun.
All the "Harry Potter: Innocent Anklebiter or Spawn of Satan?" sites also quote the bad guy on moral relativism, without ever making it clear that the so-called good guys, er, kind of disagree with him: "A foolish young man I was then, full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil. Lord Voldemort showed me how wrong I was. There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it..."
Now, Buffy: I've watched to the end of series seven now, and I am convinced that it really did all happen inside Buffy's head, which accounts for the strongly solipsistic flavour of the series. Of course I don't think it invalidates a story if it is 'only a story', it just means that we can talk about not two, but three levels of causation, which is fun:
(1) What does something mean within the Buffiverse?
(2) What does it mean in the universe where Buffy really lives?
(3) What did the creators mean by including it?
What clinched it for me was the treatment of the deaths of Anya and Spike vis-a-vis the death of Buffy's Mum in the final episode. Sure, there are good dramatic reasons within level (3) to downplay them, and not a lot of time left in the series, so it wouldn't be appropriate to devote three angsty episodes to them, but still... Xander's joke about the mall in the final minutes of the episode left me in no doubt that only characters who have an existence on level (2) are really real. Buffy knows it subconsciously: that is why she keeps them at arm's length. That is why there are no profound conversations: Buffy is incapable of profound conversation, and so are the projected fragments of her personality. That is why there is no science or religion in the universe: Buffy doesn't have any science or religion. Another clue is how, if Buffy can't have a love interest, neither can anybody else. The miserable love-lives of the other characters are the fault of Buffy, projecting her misery into the universe she has created.