Burr, Vivien and Jarvis, Christine (2007) Imagining the Family: Representations of Alternative Lifestyles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Qualitative Social Work, 6 (3). pp. 263-280. ISSN 1473-3250

Social work theory and research is increasingly exploring conceptions of the family and the child and the possibilities for recognizing and responding to the `voice' of young people. Media images of the family are likely to contribute to society's conception of what a family is or should be, but often fail to represent the diversity of living arrangements that actually exist today. Focusing on the popular cult TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer we argue that this is an example of popular culture that explores both the advantages and the dangers of non-normative family forms, specifically the non-genetic or `chosen' family. We argue that Buffy endorses a non-hierarchical, `democratic' vision of the family (Giddens, 1992), with relationships between friends at its centre and offers a representation of young people that includes personal agency, reflecting the real choices, tensions and conflicts for people living in today's changing family. We argue that popular cultural forms such as Buffy can generate `interactive social worlds' (Plummer, 1995) that are central to the dissemination of new social practices. Implications of this analysis for social work are outlined, in terms of re-conceptualizing the notion of `family' and of innovations in practice and research.

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