This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you’re a nerd on the Internet, you might’ve seen a think piece or two about it. For those of you who weren’t aware of this milestone or the show itself, Buffy began as a high school drama masquerading as a supernatural monster-of-the-week escapade. Creator Joss Whedon (who went on to make some movies you may have heard of like The Avengers), came up with the a superpowered girl to challenge the stereotype of the blonde cheerleader who always died in horror movies.
This trope was played up throughout the show with frequent baddies being surprised that Buffy was the “one girl in all the world” with the power to kill vampires and other “forces of darkness.” The show used this frequent surprise as a subversion and statement on ’90s girl power, flaunting Buffy’s strength. Within the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy was always the strongest person around and would find a way to defeat evil, even when fighting a god.
Of course, Buffy didn’t do it alone. Unlike hypermasculine superheroes such as Batman, Buffy always had her friends who worked with her to plan, research, and fight. This collectivism was uniquely feminine and uniquely Buffy.
For me personally, Buffy was all-consuming for me when I first binge-watched it in 2003. I had never seen a television show that had a girl at the center of it, let alone a girl who was superpowered and in a world full of smart and funny people. Buffy quickly became my hero at a time in my life when I needed her most.
Buffy, the show and the character, will always be close to my heart. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve read the criticisms and agree it has issues of diversity and some of the sex and gender storylines could have been better. But without Buffy, there would be no Veronica Mars or Pretty Little Liars, just to name a few. When asked what my favorite television show is, I answer Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I often get a laugh, like it’s a guilty pleasure show. Buffy is a show that should be taken seriously, though, and those who laugh likely do not understand how important this show is for representation of women in the media. My favorite superhero isn’t Superman, Iron-Man, or Batman, but Buffy. “She saved the world. A lot” all while showing that being a strong woman does not necessarily mean being masculine or self-sacrificial or lonely.
All that said, Happy Birthday, Buffy.