I was NOT excited to watch Buffy. I didn’t watch it growing up like many of the girls my age. In fact, it wasn’t until I was 25 that one of my roommates enticed me over to the Buffyverse by simply playing the episodes in the living room while I did schoolwork on the couch. Eventually, I was asking if we could watch it, and now that I’ve seen the series multiple times, I can honestly say that it is my favorite show ever.
For those of you who haven’t seen Buffy (watch it immediately), it’s a television show that revolves around Buffy, the world’s chosen vampire slayer. She is a sixteen year old, created out of Joss Whedon’s desire to break tropes in classic horror films. Instead of having the blonde girl die first in a show of monsters and violence, Buffy is the opposite—she is the destroyer of evil and the ultimate hero of the story, battling demons and vampires, as well as the difficult decisions that life often presents to all of us.
Since the show means so much to me, I thought about what I wanted to write for a long time. And even as I type this, I’m not entirely sure what is going to come out—there is simply nothing to do this show justice. Joss Whedon has created an epic that embodies themes of the human experience, from growing up to the importance of our relationships. So the formula I’ve decided to use will highlight a few of my favorite takeaways from the series.
The Chosen One
Buffy is the vampire slayer, meaning that her ultimate purpose is to kill vampires and keep the world from becoming overrun…or is it? One of the most nagging puzzles is deciphering what our purpose in life is. In fact, one of the things that viewers notice through the series, often subconsciously, is the idea of existentialism. Though Buffy is the ‘slayer’, she is constantly questioning what that entails and how it affects her ability to be normal. Despite her label, one of extraordinary power, Buffy finds happiness in human relationships and the simplicity of life’s moments, such as attending prom or debating her mom’s dress choice for a big date. Buffy chooses to develop closeness to people, and bases many of her decisions on keeping them safe and unharmed. Her virtue is derived out of love and it’s this virtue that truly drives the series forward and impacts many of Buffy’s decisions.
We get a better idea of how Buffy’s ‘slayer’ status fails to define her by juxtaposing her with Faith. Another slayer, Faith’s story arc depicts a woman who chooses to remain solitary, turning away from companionship. She chooses not to feel and drowns out her emotions when she commits acts of evil, including murder. Even though she chooses a different path than Buffy, she retains the same physical and legendary status as a ‘slayer’. As much as I disliked Faith, her appearance on the show truly highlights how Buffy’s true essence isn’t defined by her position as the slayer, but by her values and her decisions. I think that’s an important thing to takeaway from a fantasy show, one of the many deep lessons hidden in the architecture of the Buffyverse. We aren’t defined by what labels us, such as our careers, stature, or position. We are defined by the decisions we make, where we direct our actions, and how we treat others.
Culmination of Self
While Buffy has a plentitude of character development, Buffy is the character that is most defined and fleshed out. In fact, the other characters exist because they are extensions of Buffy’s self. Giles is her intelligence and rational thought, using logic to solve problems and overcome obstacles. Willow represents her spiritual existence, one that develops over time. Viewers are exposed to a warm spiritual nature when Willow uses magic to solve problems and destroy evil—but we also see a darkness that develops by becoming consumed by spirituality. Her presence in the show teaches us that we should all believe in an element of mysticism—some sort of power beyond our control. This doesn’t necessarily have to be religious, but rather just all encompassing feeling. Xander is a representation of Buffy’s heart, which I’ll talk about more in the next section. (I could do an entire post on Willow’s use of magic and all the things that it represents, and maybe I will someday).
Matters of The Heart
Xander started as one of my most detested characters of all time. By season 3, I was so thoroughly disgusted with him that I found myself wishing for his death in the series. However, I realized how misdirected this hatred was as the series continued. Xander represents Buffy’s heart. He’s so overcome with his emotions and feelings for Buffy in the first two seasons, he purposely avoids giving her hope that Angel can be saved, purely for his own selfish desires. Xander also seems to be just as confused with the women he actually dates—at one point he initiates a spell that makes everyone fall in love with him and later he cheats on Cordelia with Willow. His desires are confused, taking attention and love when it’s given to him but never knowing if it’s right. This pattern continues when he decides to call off the wedding to Anya, afraid for whatever future they may have.
His fear in relationships is reflected in Buffy’s own relationships. Angel always seems right out of grasp—the revelation that he’s a vampire provides a slew of misgivings. The reappearance of Angelus also causes a rift in their relationship, one that Angel’s guilt doesn’t let them look past. After Angel departs, Buffy struggles to build up a sense of trust with someone. Riley, though offering a sense of companionship for her, is never clearly what she wants. By the time she decides that she definitely wants him in her life, he has gone.
Buffy doesn’t seem to open up much to anybody afterward, and her relationship with Spike seems to be built on her uncertainty after being brought back from the beyond. Eventually, we see the two of them grow together beyond sex, giving us some of the most poignant scenes on love in the entire series. Spike’s monologue brings us back to the idea of existentialism…’When I say I love you, its not because I want you, or because I can’t have you—it has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try…I’ve seen your kindness, and your strength, I’ve seen the best and the worst of you and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You’re a hell of a woman. You’re the one, Buffy’ (S. 7 Ep. 20). It’s the culmination of Buffy’s goodness…her choices…that cause Spike to love her. While she might not actually love him, her relationship with him taught her to love herself.
Going back to Xander, it’s apparent that many of Buffy’s conversations about her heart tend to be rooted in Xander’s company. He’s the one who convinces her to chase after Riley before he leaves in the helicopter, though obviously she was too late. He was also the one who she firsts divulges the events of ‘Seeing Red’. This isn’t coincidence—his presence is rooted in Buffy’s relationships because he’s a reflection of her ability to love and her strength in finding self-love. This is also reiterated in Xander’s speech to Dawn, when he tells her that ‘You’re not special. You’re extraordinary’ (S. 7 Ep. 12). Xander’s ability to see into the matters of the heart resulted in one of the series most endearing character.
So those are just a few thoughts that I had throughout Buffy, which were discussed in more depth and at great length with my flatmates. Buffy isn’t simply a story for teenagers—rather it’s a story depicting teenagers that demonstrate all the pain, the struggle, and the beauty of life. So what are some of your favorite Buffy moments?