How I Got Into….Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Isn’t it easy to be judgemental about things for no good reason?

I was aware that there existed a TV show called Buffy The Vampire Slayer but dismissed it, without ever having seen it, as being some kind of trashy American show aimed at teenagers (I’m talking about the TV show here, not the earlier movie). So for years I never watched it.

Which turned out to be a very big mistake.

What changed it was a chat with a work colleague, who was describing his Friday evening. He lived away from home during the week, and travelled home on Friday. He’d join the family for dinner then they’d sit down to watch that week’s episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which he said was very good, despite the title.

Since he’s around ten years older than me, this made me think that maybe I’d been missing something – maybe it’s not a trashy teen show after all.

buffy stake

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers (with stake)

Then one Friday night I put the TV on when I went to bed, and there was an episode of Buffy showing on BBC2. It was an episode from towards the end of Season 5 (the Scooby Gang are trying to rescue Dawn from Glory and her minions…which will mean nothing to anyone who doesn’t know the show), so the plot and characters made little sense, but that didn’t matter – something interesting was happening, there was action and humour, and the dialogue was sharp and snappy. These were characters I wanted to spend time with. I watched again the next week, and the next, and so got to the end of Season 5 (still nothing made sense).  Then BBC2 started showing Season 2 so I watched that (this was before box sets or on demand viewing became a big thing, so you took what was on offer). And I was completely sold on it.

Eventually I treated myself to the box set, went back to the start and followed it through to the end. And what a treat it was.

Joss Whedon created the character of Buffy Summers as a response to the archetype of the screaming, blonde, teen victim in horror films – this time, the blonde teenager is the one the monsters have to be afraid of. Whedon used Buffy over the course of seven seasons to explore a lot of ideas about growing up, dealing with typical teenage issues (romance, isolation, uncertainty, optimism, obsession and so on) whilst also keeping running the underlying thread of “the chosen one” fighting vampires, demons and an assortment of other villains to keep the town of Sunnydale (and, by extension, the world) safe.

And it was always entertaining, playing with the ideas of thrillers, horror, and teen fiction.

Buffy cast

Buffy and the gang

Some episodes are rightly revered, particularly “Hush” which is almost entirely silent, “The Body” where Buffy has to deal with the death of a loved one (a rare natural death being so much harder to handle than the many unnatural ones across the series), and the utter genius of the musical episode “Once More With Feeling”.

So Buffy also led me to Joss Whedon, which then led to Firefly, Serenity and Dollhouse. I’d probably have got there in the end – someone else would have given me the recommendation, especially for Firefly – but why did it have to take so long?

Buffy The Vampire Slayer remains one of my favourite TV series, so why had I been so sniffy about it for so long without ever having watched it?

 

 

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