Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered 20 years ago this weekend, and that is an anniversary worth taking some time to reflect on and honor what the chosen one and her Scooby gang have meant to us over the past two decades. It’s a little surprising that, despite having been based on a crappy movie, the show not only became a cult hit but changed history. I’ll fight anyone who disagrees with me.
(And I’ve picked up a move or two watching Buffy on repeat over the years. So you don’t want to fight me.)
Buffy put a strong woman at the heart of the show. A literally strong woman — which, for its time and even today, is undervalued in its impact. The fact that in the Buffy universe, slayers in general were always female was a very feminist, coded message.
The show tapped into the tribal, instinctual physical and emotional power of women that is so often overlooked, suppressed or gaslit as insanity. Buffy also grew up in a matriarchy, and her strength despite her fatherlessness, with her father almost being presented as an emotional hangup that held her back, communicated a powerful message about motherhood. (Also, RIP Joyce.)
The show was also important for portraying the LGBT community on television as Willow blossoms into her homosexuality over the seasons, ultimately falling in love with Tara. Tom Lenk, who played the lovable nemesis turned ally Andrew, said in an interview, “Joss Whedon incorporated LGBT storylines when other, bigger shows and networks would not. He’s an amazing ally for our community and it’s incredible to have met so many fans over the years who were so personally moved by these storylines."
From an entertainment perspective, Buffy could be its own genre, almost. The way it played with real-world cultural references was fire.
Also, just watch the episode “Once More With Feeling" if you need proof that the Buffy was a fundamental building block for the television renaissance we're having today, with TV being just as good or better than movies nowadays.
Of course Buffy also had some misses. Faith — although crucial to some plot arcs, and important to contrast Buffy's goodness — was so. annoying. There was nothing “5 by 5” about her, and also, who says that? Xander was the absolute worst. Always. He exclusively spoke in whining exclamations, all butthurt that he wasn’t a superhero. He also pretty much exclusively thought with his dick, and he displayed some very toxic masculinity when he felt rejected. He totally played with Willow’s heart and then threw her under the bus. And he left beautiful, quirky Anya, a woman he was terribly lucky to have love and fuck him, at the altar just because a weird demon made him see his future of them being old and cranky together — boo hoo. When you’ve been with someone until you start saying things like, “Where did I leave my teeth?” it’s OK to be a little crotchety.
But those aspects were in no way missteps. Rather, they added to the brilliance of Buffy. Part of its greatness was its realness. Like Buffy falling in love with Spike. He may have been evil and certainly not her type (hey, Angel!), but he understood her. I think we all can relate to wanting to fuck someone you kind of hate.
We love you, Buffy. Thanks for the thrill ride, and for saving the world — three times.
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