A Montage as Ode to Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Jesus, how do I even begin to talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I’ve started and re-started this post in my head, trying to figure out how to tackle this. I even briefly considered skipping it, but there’s no way I could dedicate 33 posts to my favorite spooky shit and not talk about Buffy. So I’m trying to make peace with the fact that what follows will be woefully incomplete and will never do justice to Buffy. That’s just facts.
When Buffy came around, I loved everything about her. I loved her outfits, and I loved that she could take care of herself. I loved that she was a teenage girl, that she spoke the way she did, dressed the way she did, and she was kicking ass and literally saving the world every other day.
My dad, though, had a very different idea of how girls should behave, and Buffy definitely didn’t fit the criteria. So I was forbidden from watching Buffy. (I was also barred from watching Alias for similar reasons.) After fighting with my dad about watching Buffy one night, I remember writing in my journal: “Dad says girls aren’t supposed to act like that. Like what? Being awesome and kicking ass??????”
When I started rewatching Buffy a couple years ago, shit was hitting the fan in my life. To keep from sitting catatonically in my living room and/or crying hysterically, I turned to Buffy and Supernatural. I love Supernatural and I’ll write about it later, but I don’t love the Winchester brothers as much as I do Buffy. I love her even more now, in my third decade on the planet, than I did when I was 15. There are days when I identify with her in ways that don’t even seem possible or make sense.
I thought about writing about all the times Buffy has made me cry, or all the times that I’ve identified with anyone on Buffy, or my favorite moments. It’s just too damn much.
I’m re-rewatching Buffy with M who is seeing it for the first time. I’m a little jealous — I wish I could see it all over again for the first time. When it comes to my favorite television, movies and books though, I tend to completely forget everything so that when I revisit them, everything is a pleasant surprise.
The first season and part of the second are fresh in my mind, so I’m going to center mainly on those. There might be spoilers for those of you who have not seen Buffy yet but intend to. Just a warning.
One of the things I most admire about Buffy is the intense vulnerability we get to see from all the characters. In the nightmare episode, we see several of her nightmares — being buried alive, becoming a vampire, taking a test but not knowing anything on it. The most acute nightmare is being told by her dad that she is the cause of her parents’ divorce, that she is a difficult daughter, and that her dad is wasting his time when he spends the weekend with her.
Out of all the nightmares, this is the one that shakes Buffy the most, and it’s the one that no one else witnesses, except us — the viewers. She deals with the emotional consequences of this nightmare on her own, though she must quickly move on from it in order to save Sunnydale from turning into a nightmare world.
And isn’t that how life is? We get dealt a blow — by life, by our subconscious, by our insecurities, our depressions — and we only have a minute to process it and sit with it. We’re not all trying to save the world from literal destruction, but life does go on. Even when it feels like our worlds are ending, we have jobs to go to, bills to pay, mouths to feed. We can’t spend all our time crying and processing the shit that gets thrown at us, or the nightmare world will become our world.
Buffy’s vulnerability is so fresh, and so is every other emotion. Each character wears their hearts on their sleeves. Buffy’s joy is so real because it’s so rare, and each heartbreak is always intense and visceral. Buffy (the tv show) doesn’t shy away from complex or earnest emotion or the ways in which we all deal so differently with devastation or trauma.
The first episode of the second season, when Buffy comes back from summer vacation and is trying to deal (or not deal) with the trauma of knowing that her death was imminent, and then dying and then coming back to life, is so fucking real to me. She lashes out, making cruel comments to her friends and performing a sexy dance for Xander (her lovable, joke-making sidekick) in front of Angel (a 240-year-old vampire she's crushing on), to a Cibo Matto song, no less — like, fuck. Isn't that how so many of us deal with the big shit in our lives? Push all the feelings down somewhere deep inside until it has no choice but to ooze out in other ways that make us strange to the people who love us.
We — the viewers — see so much of Buffy that her friends don’t see. We’re the only ones who know that she’s terrified that her parents don’t love her because she’s “difficult” — aka The Slayer. In that first episode of the second season, she has gone for months without talking to anyone about what it was like to know that her death was destiny and go out to meet it anyway. And the trauma of death, resurrection, and fear that keeps coming back to haunt her.
Also, no one can tell me that the arc of Buffy and Angel’s relationship isn’t one of the best ever of all time. I’m so serious. The early stage of their relationship is so much fun and worthy of all the swoons.
M doesn’t care for Angel very much. Last night, he said, “This guy is supposed to be good-looking? It’s like he’s featureless. He has no distinguishing features.”
I said, “Okay, Xander,” and we laughed. I can’t speak to Angel’s attractiveness, but I do think they cast him exactly right. He broods without being obnoxious, he’s mysterious, he has the right mixture of gravitas and humor. He looks young, but also like he could definitely be 240 years old.
And when Xander finally works up the courage to ask Buffy out. Oh my god. It’s so awkward and so genuine. It hurts to watch Xander hope for reciprocation and be met with so much less. And it’s reassuring to see Xander bounce back. To see him recover from taking a chance, to see him respect Buffy’s reaction and continue to be her friend with no malice and no resentment.
Hello, Nice Guys (tm). Take notes. Xander is an actual nice guy.
This is not the most coherent post I’ve ever written. It’s definitely super gushy, but I don’t care. I don’t know how else to write about Buffy. This is at least a start.