Into every a generation a slayer is born, and in the next generation, that slayer must be squeezed into a format that fills that generation’s televisions. That’s the situation that Buffy The Vampire Slayer is currently facing at 20th Century Fox, which has been converting the series from its original 4:3 aspect ratio into a widescreen, 16:9 ratio for syndicated broadcast on Pivot, the network for millennials who can’t get with squares. And as is so often the case with Buffy or messing around with aspect ratios, it’s all turned into a nigh-apocalyptic mess. And so, Joss Whedon has stepped forward to fight the forces of letterboxed darkness, and wield his strength against the big, rectangular bad.
Whedon has long made his displeasure known with the idea of converting Buffy to anything but 4:3, including a note in the original DVD releases that made his feelings plain:
Adding space to the sides simply for the sake of trying to look more cinematic would betray the very exact mise-en-scene I was trying to create. I am a purist, and this is the purest way to watch Buffy. I have resisted the effort to letterbox Buffy from the start and always will, because that is not the show we shot.
But hardly for the first time, it seems Fox and Whedon disagree. The newly remastered episodes of Buffy (which may be prepping for a Bluray release to go with their syndication run) don’t just add more space to the sides. As cataloged by this lengthy Facebook thread, they also add more space to the tops and bottoms of scenes, while cropping others seemingly arbitrarily.
Often these new episodes also remove filters added intentionally for atmosphere—and, in some cases, storytelling effect. For example, here’s a scene of Angel spending the “night” in Buffy’s bedroom. It is believed that this new, remastered version of Angel is still a vampire, and thus not a huge fan of the sun, though it’s honestly hard to tell.
In perhaps the most egregious examples, sometimes adding that extra space reveals things that used to be—and should have been—cropped out. Like this shot, which reveals Buffy has an enormous klieg light in her bedroom.
Or this one, where Giles waxes on about monsters or whatever while a crew member is just standing there, presumably impatiently waiting to check out one of the books that will be revealed to be totally fake in some other remastered shot to come.
Anyway, in response to these mistakes making the rounds, Whedon took to Twitter to make it clear that—unlike David Simon, who was at least asked to supervise while HBO stretched The Wire on the digital rack—he had nothing at all to do with this new Buffy. And no, now that you mention it, he’s definitely not a fan.
Buffy was shot 4x3 cuz TVs were shaped that way. Widescreen Buffy is nonsense. (Firefly was shot wide - Fox cropped it.) #apsectratiowoes
— Joss Whedon (@josswhedon) December 13, 2014
20th Century Fox hasn’t yet commented on the growing protest, as its executives are too busy absorbing the wrath and rancor of Joss Whedon fans and converting them into the protein that will sustain them well into the next century, when it releases a Buffy remastered for that generation’s wraparound helmet displays.