Television You Should Be Watching: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
by Abigail Chen | published Apr. 7th, 2018
"In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer,” A voice narrated out of my television screen as I began watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Being an avid fan of "Supernatural," I decided to give this 1990’s horror series a try, even though it looked kind of cheesy.
I had heard many things about "Buffy," but I had no idea the depths to which it challenged preconceived gender stereotypes and advocated girl power. I wasn’t prepared for the complexity that interwove the narrative of the series from beginning to end. Now, even after saying all of that, you might be wondering: how can this 1990s series about a teenage girl battling vampires and demons be relevant today? Let me explain.
Are you a fan of any of the vampire or supernatural television series that have debuted since the 2000s? Without "Buffy," they most likely never would have happened. Before we had "The Twilight Saga," "True Blood," "Teen Wolf" or "The Vampire Diaries," we had a sassy teenage girl who battled many creatures of the night, including vampires, demons and giant snake monsters from hell. The series premise is that one girl in each generation is born and becomes the Slayer — chosen to battle against the forces of darkness.
Created by Joss Whedon, who has since directed blockbuster hits such as "The Avengers" and "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Buffy" was a bold new idea that shattered preconceived gender norms. It was actually based on a failed blockbuster movie of the same name. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" quickly became a cult classic that ran for seven consecutive seasons from 1997 to 2003. The franchise also grew to include a comic, a novel and a video game. "Buffy" has also been discussed in academic circles long after its conclusion and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
"Buffy" was a bold new idea that shattered preconceived gender norms.
The series centers around a 16-year-old girl, Buffy Summers. She goes through the usual pains of growing up, but is also burdened with the destiny of being a vampire slayer — not to mention stopping the occasional apocalypse. She also has her friends, the “Scooby Gang” to help her — a group eventually comprised of vampires, witches, werewolves, regular humans and a Watcher to help guide her.
Buffy loved and she lost, she suffered and she fought against a patriarchal system who would have rather seen a woman helpless than see them in a position of power. The series showcased a young teenage girl who had too much responsibility thrust onto her shoulders. She was often thrown into scenarios that made her a victim, a heroine, the hunter, the hunted, a monster, a survivor, a solider, a girl and a woman —all while evolving her into a complex lead character that grew exponentially throughout the series. This combined with other themes within the show gave it a gritty relevance that connects this older television show with millions of viewers today.
Throughout the show's evolution, topics such as sexual assault, loss of a parent, mental illness, grief, death, abandonment and addiction, among many others were brought up. "Buffy" conveyed these topics with a significance laced with humor that did not detract from the seriousness of these situations, using it to drive the stake deeper (pun intended) as to why we should pay more attention to them and how they shape us. In fact, I think we could all learn from "Buffy." Art imitates life after all, and cinematic portrayals are art, no matter how people might argue to counter that claim. 21 years later, individuals are still talking about this series and it has even been used by colleges to create single semester courses to explore "Buffy" and the topics within it.
It can be argued that "Buffy" helped pave the way for other television showcasing strong female leads, such as "Fringe," "Alias" and "The 100," proving that a series with a powerful female protagonist can be as successful as other shows. This was not an extremely popular theory at the time, but "Buffy" proved all the naysayers wrong, creating a legacy that is still being expanded today.
In other words, "Buffy" kicked ass and television executives saw a way to reach out to a cult audience, granting them a larger fan base and more ways to make money. I’m glad they saw this, because most of my favorite series showcase a strong female protagonist — "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" being just the first of many. As one character, Willow, puts it: “Did we not put the ‘grrrr’ in girl?” We now have hundreds of television series echoing this trend.
"Buffy" also had a subsequent spin-off series named "Angel," which ran for five seasons and ended one year after "Buffy" had concluded. It focused on Buffy’s vampire significant other as he patrolled Los Angeles to stop demonic activity with his own band of followers. This allowed for subsequent crossover episodes that helped further the plot of both shows. "Angel" was also continued in comic book form and has gained quite a large fan base of its own.
Now, are you still on the fence about whether or not to try this show? Consider this: while "Buffy" is for any of you who believed you were special or had a fascination with supernatural beings, this show also portrayed a young woman and her friends as they battled against impossible odds — and sometimes, they lost. They weren’t perfect, they made mistakes and those mistakes cost them. But they also learned from them, becoming stronger and wiser. They were unmistakably human, a trait that many television shows forget today. "Buffy" helped inspire a whole generation of individuals. Don’t you want to see why that is for yourself?
Don’t just take my word for the fact you would be missing out if you didn’t watch this show. "Buffy" has been included on lists of greatest television shows in history for a reason.Give it a try and you’ll see for yourself why that is. If you don’t, that’s fine, I’ll just be over here binge-watching one of my favorite television shows of all time. As of now, you can find "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" on Hulu and Amazon.