Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an important show. There, I said it. The teen “drama” which introduced the world to Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan and others, was a big thing. For many people of my generation, it holds a special place in the heart, for many different reasons. Whether because viewers could relate to the characters, could recognise a storyline, or simply because they enjoyed the supernatural craziness, people had the chance to sink into a story for 45 minutes and disappear into a strange world with strange creatures. The show originally stemmed from a quite poorly executed film, but as they say, from little acorns, big things grow. Unlike many other shows, this series ended properly. With a series finale. Which was incredibly satisfying. It wasn’t cancelled, it didn’t have contract disputes and fizzle out. Buffy ran it’s course, and went out on a high, something many shows do not have the ability to do.
Buffy hit screens in 1997 and ran for seven seasons. Created by Joss Whedon, Buffy followed the story of the eponymous lead, born with the “curse” of the slayer. The “One girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.” For us, the slayer was Buffy Summers a teen cheerleader who lived in Sunnydale, California. Activated when the previous slayer died, Buffy resisted, fought, resisted some more and finally accepted her lot in life, and in doing so, faced the difficult decisions and situations that a Slayer needed to face.
Obviously, Buffy had supernatural elements. Vampires, demons, ghosts, cyborgs, humans and even Gods made their appearances, as well as witches, warlocks and werewolves. However, for me anyway, the crux of the show was not necessarily the supernatural factors. Expelled from her previous school for fighting, Buffy was pushed by her mother, Joyce, to do well. She tried her best, and even though her “Watcher” (Rupert Giles) wanted her to focus more time on training, she persisted with having a normal life, gathering a group of friends including Xander, Willow, Oz and Cordelia. As teen friendships are wont to do, some faltered, some disappeared and some strengthened, but as her friends stuck by her, Buffy increased in strength, and could face her enemies more effectively.
Alongside her standard school performance, Buffy had to face all of the things any young person needed to. Dating, prom, curfew, mean girls and loneliness were all some things she faced, and she did so as any person her age would. It is this which makes Buffy so good. Viewers could relate to the characters, whether it was the popular girl, surrounded by people but completely alone, loving someone who you really shouldn’t or even the loss of a loved one. The writers of Buffy effectively faced each situation head on and did a great job of conveying how people really feel.
This isn’t to say that Buffy was all teen-angst and depressing emotions. The show had its fair share of pure entertainment. Whether it is old school slapstick comedy, or incredibly smart dialogue, the show delivered in spades. The characters of Xander and Anya provide amazing comic relief. The episode “Once More With Feeling” stands out of course, and the never-to-be-repeated musical episode. “Band Candy” sees all of the adults of Sunnydale revert to their teenage personas and “Dopplegangland” shows what life would be like if Willow was a vampire. There was also a place for gallows humour, with jokes about injuries, death, and standard superhero one-liners. The comedy in Buffy was well paced and hit the mark more often than not, breaking up some incredibly hard going story lines.
Character wise, the show hit the mark. Whether you speak about Buffy, the strong female lead, or Andrew, the wimpy guy with no real powers, or anywhere in between, any viewer has something great to say. Each character has their highs and lows, and although directed at young people, these lows can get very low. Not shying away from death, BTVS addresses it in all its forms and shows the range of responses. As the cast grew older, so too did the stories they told. High school became college, which in turn became real adult life, with real responsibilities (outside keeping the world safe). Balancing grown up relationships with work, study and conflict became the order of the day as the series went on, and the fans stayed loyal as they grew alongside their beloved characters. Writers never tried to keep their characters young. Why would they when growing up offers such rich content?
There are truly some astonishing episodes of Buffy. Any fan will happily list their top 5, but I am not going to do that. For a seven season show, BTVS had so much to offer, and each viewer will have their own views on what they like and don’t. Many will agree, but just as many will disagree about the finest moments of the show, but if new viewers are anything like me, scenes will be fondly remembered for years to come as being some of the best things a young adult drama can deliver. No, the technical aspects do not necessarily stand the test of time. Yes, the quality can be poor. Yes, certain actors need a little work early on. However, I can categorically say that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a defining impact on my youth, and I can only hope that anyone watching it now can take something valuable from it now.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is available in its entirety on Netflix.