It's no secret that Joss Whedon's cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer has long made an impact on pop culture. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly celebrating the show's 20th anniversary, the show's creator said:
“The most important thing to me is that I have had people come up to me and say the show made me feel different about what they could be, about what they could do, about how they respond to problems, about being a female leader. People getting strength from my own little terrors is… There is no better legacy than that.”
Like many of these Buffy fans, the series has made a huge difference in my life. When I started watching the show a few years ago, I was struggling with frequent anxiety attacks. I watched Buffy on #Netflix as a way to distract myself after a particularly bad attack. What started out as a distraction quickly became an obsession that I'm still passionate about to this day.
One aspect of the series in particular that helped me deal with my anxiety was that it partially represented wish fulfillment. I often felt, while I was watching the show, that I could fight the things I was terrified of in the real world. The vampires represented my anxiety and the angst I had from past relationships. I especially loved the scene in Season 2, Episode 17's "Passion" when #Buffy uninvited the vampire Angelus from entering her home.
My favorite inspiring moment, though, was during the show's finale episode, "Chosen." Season 7 may have been overloaded with a few too many motivational speeches, but at the time I felt like I needed all that stimulus. I didn't like the Potential Slayers, but at the same time I still felt like I was one of them; a young woman with untapped abilities and talents that I hid from the world. When Buffy said these words, I felt like I became a Slayer in that moment:
"From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?"
Empathy For The Vampire
One thing I loved about Buffy that I never expected was how compelling and complex some of the villains were. While some of the antagonists were more simple — such as The Master, Adam, and Glory — the best villains were multilayered because they wanted more than just world domination or total annihilation of the world. The best examples of this were the mayor, Drusilla and Spike.
Mayor Richard Wilkins represents everything we hate about politicians. At the same time, even though he wanted to ascend to full demon and obviously had blood on his hands, he still developed a fatherly affection for rogue Slayer Faith. He was also once married and claimed to have genuine love with his former wife. The mayor isn't a mustache-twirling dictator. He's a genuinely affable man who chose to be corrupted for the sake of power.
Drusilla is the most tragic figure in Buffy and its spinoff Angel. She started out as an innocent Christian girl who was driven insane and turned by Angelus. She spends centuries killing people, especially children, and vacillates between her bond with Angelus and her affection for Spike. Both of these vampires eventually fall in love with Buffy and Drusilla slowly loses her vampire family. Even in the comic continuation, her character hasn't had any closure or redemption. She'll stay as she is: A broken, lonely, lost young woman trapped in a life of destruction.
On the other side of the coin, there's Spike. Spike started out as an antagonist, but he didn't want to destroy the world like Angelus. He didn't aspire to any position of power like the mayor. Instead, he was a hedonist who derived pleasure from killing Slayers. Whereas other vampires might run away at the mention of Slayers, Spike would actively seek them out.
Spike is the only one of the three characters mentioned here who gets some kind of redemption arc. Even though to this day, the fandom is divisive about how Spike acted in Season 6, it's almost undeniably shocking that instead of continuing down his path of evil, he sought to retrieve his soul. He didn't get cursed with a soul the same way Angelus did. He fought tooth and nail to earn his.
Ultimately, it led to Spike sacrificing himself at the Battle at the Hellmouth. He comes back in Angel and eventually (finally) has a solid relationship with Buffy in the comic continuation, but Spike's character arc, along with his charismatic and alluring personality, makes Spike one of the best characters on Buffy.
Finding A New Community
The best thing I found from the Buffy fandom is that there are still people who are getting into this show, even though it ceased production years ago. I got into the show in 2013, four years before the 20th anniversary. I quickly found Buffy fans on Instagram, on fan fiction websites, YouTube, and even through blogging about the show. While I may not agree with these people about the current political climate, the love we have for Buffy is something we can all agree on.
Aside from connecting with fellow fans, I also love that I can still connect with the actors on the show, following them all on Twitter and Instagram. (Sarah Michelle Gellar's Twitter friendship with Lin-Manuel Miranda lights up my Twitter feed whenever I see it.) I also got to meet some of the actors at a convention.
To this day, Buffy continues to inspire me. I watch a DVD whenever I feel like having a laugh or when I have a bad day or whenever I have friends over. Whenever I go out to a social event that has one of those stick-on name tags, I always write "I'm the Slayer. Ask me how." The show reminds me that no matter what life throws at you, you'll come out stronger and overcome every obstacle. #BuffytheVampireSlayer helped me learn to be brave and strong beyond just the physical. It made me a Slayer.
What did you learn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Tell us in the comments.