Buffy and Me
Posted On June 1, 2016
I’m surprised that I have never written about Buffy the Vampire Slayer before, but a quick search confirms I have not. Airing first on the WB in March of 1997, and then on UPN, BtVS has now been off the air longer than it was on. I did not watch all of the first season in real time, but caught up quickly and was deeply hooked. For seven seasons, I made no plans on Tuesday nights so I could watch and then call my brother at 10PM to gasp about developments of the episode and the previews for the following week.
I likely will not say anything new here, as Buffy continues to be a topic for critics and sociologists and Buffy Studies professors (yup, it’s a thing.) But I hope that I can convince someone to give it a try. My friend Sara wrote about binge watching Buffy while she was suffering from severe back pain. I had been telling her as long as I have known her to watch. She resisted, and then, well, read her blog. In fact, I tell pretty much everyone I know they should watch, starting at the first episode and going through all seven seasons. Although there are plenty of episodes that stand alone, it is fun and completely satisfying to watch the characters grow and change from start to finish.
There is a lot of deep thought and weighty analysis of Buffy’s message of empowerment and whatever and all of that is true. At heart though, Buffy is about a teenage girl who just wants to fit in. And so much of what she experiences we all recognize and can relate to. High school was as scary as any demon, and real life could be as destructive as any monster.
Buffy was hysterically funny, and devastatingly sad. The Buffy/Angel relationship is one of my favorites in all of television history. On the BtVS spin-off show Angel, Buffy and Angel spend a perfect day as normal humans (Angel is a vampire cursed with a soul and would turn evil again if he achieved perfect happiness. Just watch.) The trade-off is that Buffy must never remember any of it. Oh my god I cried like a baby. The show could also be terrifying at the same time; check out the episode Hush, one of the creepiest things I have ever seen on tv.
My unabashed love for Buffy comes down to the writing. Watching Buffy for me is the visual equivalent of reading a terrific novel or short story. I had a professor in college, who taught that in writing, every element must be connected to every other element, every word moving towards the next word, and reliant on every other word. We read Araby, a short story by James Joyce, one semester, and I remember vividly realizing that if you changed any one word in, everything would be different. The first sentences still resonate:
“North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.”
(Side note: Coincidentally, Karl Ove Knaussgard, another obsession of mine–I am on Volume IV of My Struggle– wrote about Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in the NY Times Magazine this week.)
Buffy is like that for me. Every episode, even the weakest, moved the plot along, or brought character development to light. And nothing, and I mean NOTHING, was ever introduced that was not resolved. And the resolutions were never cheap, or pat. Characters, once introduced, returned, in one form or another, over all seven seasons. (Except Joyce. She did not come back. WATCH!!) Some seasons were significantly weaker than others, the last season for example was not my favorite, but the finale made sense to me. I have watched and liked other tv series. The only one that has come close for me is The Wire, and for lots of the same reasons. Great writing, terrific characters and no easy outs.
We have introduced Buffy to our children, who I am glad to say share our love. You can stream all seven seasons on Hulu. Start watching and let me know what you think! And if you are already a fan, weigh in here on why you love Buffy too!