There are TV shows and then there are TV SHOWS. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is certainly the latter. I am not some crazed fan who calls Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy, and will always think of her in that role, but I am the crazed fan who knows everything there is to know about the series, the characters and behind-the-scenes trivia. I don’t need to spit out facts about the hundreds of tie-ins, pop-culture references, spin-offs and even academic programs (no lie!) that has come out of the series. Instead, here is why “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” will always be #1 to me.
6. The Writing
Whenever writing gives you chills, you know it is something special. As much as I love different TV shows for the writing, few shows give me that ‘OMG’ sensation that I feel down to my core. Buffy does this repeatedly. Buffy and Angel’s showdown in “Becoming (Part 2)” (episode 2:22) and Buffy telling Wesley where he can stick it in “Graduation Day (Part 1)” (episode 3:21) are empowering. They make you feel like you can go save the world, without being overstated. Then there are the words that will break you. (You’ll never think of the phrase “We’re not supposed to move the body!” again without remembering that moment – that hurt). And of course the lines that make you laugh “We know the world didn’t end ‘cause – check it out” and the wow moments: “Are you ready to be strong?”
Of course the writing is only an element that made these scenes work, but in so many shows the writing lacks, but with this show the writing was always phenomenal, allowing the actors to churn out the performances that will always stay with fans.
5. A Feminist Icon Who Also Kicks Some Ass
Buffy is seriously kick-ass. “She’s just a girl” is something that is said more than once on the show, and yet without the use of guns (minus the rocket launcher in “Innocence” episode 2:14) or manly assistance. I may not be into women ‘like that’ but there is nothing hotter than watching a girl kick some butt. I mean it makes me want to go out in a pair of leather pants and jacket, with a pointy stick and prowl around for bad guys to slay. I don’t, because I am not that crazy of a fan. But the urge is there and of course every time I see a naturally pointy stick I smile. 😉 Let me also point out that her ‘edge’ and the reason she wins is by being clever and thinking on her feet. That is why she has kept her slayer status for as long as she has without ending up six feet under (and that one time obviously doesn’t count).
4. Timeless With A Modern Edge
So many things about “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” were never ‘now’ but trailblazing and ahead of their time. Aside from the outfits and wicked one-liners the show made its own milestones. Willow and Tara’s relationship was considered one such milestone. Even though lesbians and lesbian relationships had been depicted on network television before, storylines were either pushed to the background or lesbian-focused (all about coming out, equal rights, etc.) and usually such relationships were shown platonically (no physical contact). Willow and Tara were lesbians, but the show treated them like any other relationship. Their relationship was usually found in storylines, but they were not treated as a lesbian couple, just another couple. They also held hands and were physically affectionate (with what censors would allow) so there was no question that these were two people in love, and they just happened to both be women.
While the show was ahead of its time in many ways, as a whole it is timeless, with strong symbolism about overcoming one’s demons and how one person can make the difference. It is about growing up, life and doing the right thing, in style! You don’t have a large cult following if you’re only a passing fad after all. 😉
3. What Would Buffy Do? (W.W.B.D.)
I don’t see the show as merely a show as much as a way of life. Laugh if you want, but there were several positive messages, themes and lessons that the Buffyverse championed. Here are a few: the power of friendship; self-sacrifice (seriously, who Buffy is); choosing forgiveness over revenge; not lowering yourself to others people’s levels (don’t become the evil you’re fighting); how to channel negative emotions into something constructive; the power of laughter; right versus wrong; being adaptive and rolling with change; what death can teach us about life; standing up for others; when to stop following (adults don’t always have the answers); family versus blood; grappling with your own inner demons; addiction and depression; and the truth about love (don’t ever become its dog). I could go on, but you get the point. Buffy as a character is a great role model. Who ever thought a moral compass would be found in a lead character that kills demons on a daily basis? But there she is, Buffy. And this doesn’t even touch on a lot of other things the series covers in more abstract ways. While I have said ‘What would Buffy do?’ since the second season of the show (1998), a book with the same name came out in 2004. You know it is going to end up on one of my noteworthy nonfiction lists soon. Why? Because it is a fantastic collection of essays that covers a lot of the lessons I just listed off and tie them into the show. Of course, it is noteworthy!
2. My Go-To Feel Good Thing
“Buffy The Vampire Slayer” is more than simple entertainment and the show has gotten me through every tough time in my life so far. Of course, I own all of the seasons on DVD and I constantly watch the show, beginning to end if I feel I need some kind of personal recharge. I have a ‘Buffy playlist’ for every big life drama I have gone through, from doubting myself and my abilities to overcoming people in positions of power over me who were… wrong, to leaving a toxic relationship and all the bad break-up crap that followed (luckily, the last time I will ever need that playlist was the fall of 2008). Watching the show lifts me up, empowers me, comforts me and makes me feel that I am not alone. It gives me strength and clarity to do what needs to be done. I will always be grateful for that!
1. I Am Buffy.
No, I don’t slay vampires. I’m not some gorgeous blond or super strong, but Buffy is who I related to then, and who I still relate to now. Maybe it is because we’ve both died a few times (totally serious and one of my times was also by drowning 😕 ) but in all seriousness we just work the same way. Buffy didn’t shape who I became, but she embodied who I already was, even down to her flaws. (Yes, I am a total tight ass at times, or all the time and just cover it up with fun and creativity when I can.) My friends are my everything, and I have a strong sense of right or wrong. Hurt me, and I will rise above, hurt my friends and I will teach you a lesson you will never forget. I pull out the one-liners (we also talk in similar ways, I would say ‘but-face’ for someone who was about to say but way before it was first used on the show – for the record) and I am a very focused, take-charge kind of person.
That makes me sound great, but as I said before, we have similar flaws too. I have been on my own from a young age, taken care of four younger siblings while still a teenager, dealt with horrible adults who thought that age gave them the right to be cruel and aside from several personal blows including a crazy ex that made me wish I had to deal with Angelus instead (like seriously disturbed) I also am a hardcore activist, often fighting for causes that have nothing to do with me, but things I feel passionately about. Something that grates on my nerves more than anything is watching someone being mistreated or wronged. Enter the flaws. I am quick to react, sometimes standing up for someone before they have the chance to stand up for themselves. Then when it comes to my self-esteem that is, well, complicated. I have faced life and death, worrying about food and shelter, overcoming adult bullies and helping victims of domestic violence and child abuse as a victim advocate – sometimes I feel I can handle anything and if it isn’t life and death or one of these ‘big deal’ problems I (without meaning to) sometimes give off vibes that they aren’t such big issues. But to the person going through them, of course they are; which then makes me think I am a horrible and dismissive friend: the inferiority complex about my superiority complex. Wonderful. I also have a hard time connecting to new people or letting people in. What makes me strong (so many crazy medical problems and experiences I have survived) are the very things I have to hide, so I come off as reserved or contradictory (even my husband says I am a riddle that he will never figure out – and I don’t keep these secrets from him). People have often told me they were nervous about approaching me because they felt intimidated – strong can also mean hard, even if it doesn’t.
Buffy has been the only character on TV I have ever truly understood on that deeper human level. I knew how the character would react to any scenario based on what I would do. It was a combination of scary and comforting. Finally, I saw me on TV. The best part about the show was that watching Buffy helped me understand myself.
Well, if you have made it this far – wow. I promise I am not delusional and I also promise I really don’t go around carrying pointy sticks or kicking people.
Are you a fan of the show too? I would love to hear your thoughts, even if they are only about the show and not this post. (Hey, talking about Buffy with fellow fans could have made this list.) Let’s reminisce!