Buffy at 20 – How a kick-ass blonde, a red haired witch and a geeky guy changed my life

Note: I’m actually writing this article 19 years after I first saw Buffy the Vampire Slayer on tv, but the show is 20 now, and I wanted to join the celebrations!! 

I remember where I was and what I was doing when I first saw Buffy the Vampire Slayer on tv. It was 30th December 1998, and my brother Chris and I were in my room at my mum’s house. I had a sofa and a portable tv, though we sat on the floor with our backs to the couch, as you do. The opening chords of Nerf Herder’s Buffy theme tune kicked in, and I was hooked.

“It gave me hope that someone would want to hang out with me.”

I was a Buffy nerd from day 1. I identified with Willow, as I was a redhead at the time, and a practicing Wiccan (which, of course, became a huge plot for Willow later on). I loved her style, her nerdy manner and her super intelligence. Buffy was cool, but Willow was the role model I wanted. I didn’t fit in at school, but neither did she, and yet she was the one Buffy picked to hang out with. It gave me hope that someone would want to hang out with me. The characters were relatable, the plot lines were fun, there was plenty of merchandise pick up and (my favourite thing) the girls were leading the charge!

I remember in my GCSE media class, my friend Rachel and I did a radio project and spent 5 mins debating who was better looking: Angel or Xander (Rachel was Team Angel and I was Team Xander). Rachel was quite embarrassed that we recorded it, but our teacher thought it was a brilliant fake broadcast. We got top marks, and I managed to convince her that geeky Xander was at least worth a second glance. Result! (As you can see, at age 15, my feminism was in the “underdeveloped” stage)

“Anthony Stewart Head deserves all the awards going for grieving Giles.”

Yes, sometimes the stories were poor and the special effects were dreadful. The episode with the praying mantis teacher is particularly bad, as is the one where Buffy and Cordelia get locked in the frat house basement. There was little diversity and the less said about Dawn the better. But when it was good, it was amazing. Season 2, for example had both the brilliant Spike and Dru storyline and the heartbreaking death of Jenny Calendar. Anthony Stewart Head deserves all the awards going for grieving Giles. Season 4 (albeit shaky) had fantastic episodes like Hush and Something Blue, and of course, started the series’ greatest love story – Willow and Tara.

The characters grew, and I grew with them. My fickle heart ditched Xander almost the second that Seth Green made his first appearance as Oz, the softly spoken yet dreadfully prostheticed werewolf. Spike too, oh Spike! The vampire who started out with no depth and a crap accent, and ended up a martyr with a heart of gold. I could write verses and verses of bloody awful poetry about those cheekbones!

Those sweet, sweet bones…

In my hideously awkward teenage girl personal life, I developed a crush in college on a guy (who will remain nameless to protect me from shame) the second it hit me he was a huge Buffy fan. Our friendship consisted almost entirely of texting each other quotes and lyrics from Once More With Feeling on our early 00’s mobiles. I seem to remember he made me a mix tape of songs that had been on the show and I played it until it broke. Yes, we were adorable. No, the boy I was seeing at the time was not impressed…

“I’m thankful to Joss Whedon for his vampire slaying heroine who paved the way for great female-led shows”

My big Buffy moment was season 6 – my favourite season – which featured the Willow Magic is Drugs plot line. When it aired, I was going through a tough time. A close friend of mine appeared to be on a path to self-destruction while I struggled with my own inner demons. I would literally lose clumps of hair through stress every time she signed off MSN messenger without saying goodbye. Over in Sunnydale, Buffy tried to keep her gang together, all the while feeling devastated that she’d been ripped out of Heaven. Her best friend was falling apart, and then Tara’s death put the icing on the cake. Season 6 was personally cathartic for me, as well as containing some stand out episodes: Once More With Feeling, Tabula Rasa, Normal Again, Hell’s Bells and the entire Nerds of Doom story arc.

To me, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was not just a show, it was a culture. My friends and I partied at a club that resembled The Bronze, we listened to the same music as the characters, and we used the same slang (yes, I sometimes say things wig me out, don’t you judge me!) I still get the fuzzies when I remember some of the finer episodes, and when my niece binge-watched all seven seasons a couple of years ago I was delighted to share it with her. So right now, I’m thoroughly enjoying all the fantastic article celebrating Ms Summers and the rest of the scoobies. I’m thankful to Joss Whedon for his vampire slaying heroine who paved the way for great female-led shows like iZombie, Veronica Mars, Jessica Jones and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. There’s still too few opportunities to see heroines like Buffy on the screen, but when she was there, she nailed* it!

(Was totally going to put “slayed it” – if you enjoy a pun, please feel free it pretend I did!) 

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