Rememblog #1: How Buffy The Vampire Slayer Made Me Cry
Hello and welcome to a brand new blog series, we’re tentatively calling the Rememblog. There’s a lot of great geekery that’s come out over the years and Geek Pride has had the chance to cover a good chunk of it in recent years. But there’s a metric ton of stuff that occurred before we were around to talk about it and so, in this blog, we’re going to be looking back on all the things that got us going before Geek Pride was around for us to write about it. And first up, I’m here to unashamedly confess that Buffy the Vampire Slayer made me break down and cry.
WARNING: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW
Now, in fairness, Buffy is a reasonably old show now so it may seem silly to put a spoiler warning on it but I must admit that it was only recently that I watched the whole way through the series. I received the first season as a present a couple of years ago and loved it but completely failed to follow up on the rest of the show. Aided by some friends who’d seen it all and one who hadn’t seen any of it however, my interest was reignited and we got through two and a half season together. I then took it upon myself to binge watch the remaining three and a half seasons this summer and I have to say, it is one of the best decisions I ever made.
Season 5, Episode 16: ‘The Body’. This was the moment that Joss Whedon decided to beat my emotional wellbeing to breaking point. The first three seasons of Buffy are great but it’s from season 4 onwards that things really kick into high gear. Both the story and the characters find whole new life and so, when you hit the intense episodes of the show, they hit hard. And having been intensively binge watching the show, I was about as close to the characters as I could get at that point. So, obviously, Joss Whedon decided to kill one of them. Namely, Joyce Summers, Buffy’s mum. Brilliantly portrayed by Kristine Sutherland throughout the show, Joyce had been a grounding presence that didn’t care about Buffy being the Slayer but just wanted the best for her daughter. Earlier in the season we’d seen her hospitalised and struggled with Buffy having to come to terms with the fact that this was a natural, medical enemy that she couldn’t fight. But then, joy of joys! Joyce was surgically cured and all was right with the world. And then, in episode 16, Buffy comes home to find her mum dead. And as she cracked, so did I.
There’s a lot of crap in our culture about masculinity and femininity that somehow means that men should be incredibly limited on their crying. Men have to be stoic at all times and unfeeling so the weak women folk can simper and weep on their broad shoulders. Massively screw that. There is some awful tropes to grief in TV and film and while it is often done as well as it is badly, ‘The Body’ is the most honest and pure expression of grief and loss that I’ve ever seen. The episode shows everything from straight up shock with Buffy:
To Xander’s rage at the sheer futility of their position. They’ve saved the world countless times but they can’t save their own.
And finally, Willow. Who can’t help but fixate on the smallest of things just because the big thing is too damn big.
You’ll notice that I didn’t caption those picture. Honestly, I don’t feel they need captioning. I imagine there’ll be a fair few who maybe don’t get much from those shots. But anybody who’s seen the episode, I hope those will be enough to serve as a reminder of the moments they’re drawn from. Because ‘The Body’ didn’t hold back. Joss Whedon and the entire team behind Buffy delivered up something that you just don’t get in many TV shows. It was an episode of the purest, most devastating emotions. Sure there was a vampire to kill, to remind us of Buffy’s duty and show that there’s still monsters to fight. But the real monster in the episode, and one that would shadow many moments for the rest of the show, was death. Not that we see in the undeath of the vampires that plague Sunnydale but the simple, unassailable force that comes to us all, that of mortal death.
Season 5 came to a close with Buffy sacrificing herself to save her sister and left Dawn with these words. “The hardest thing to do in this world is live in it. Be brave. Live.” Truer words never spoken. The emotional gut-punch came not from the direct event of seeing Joyce dead, horrible as that was, but seeing the consequences on those close to her. It was genuinely heartbreaking to watch the characters I had quickly come to love go through a pain I can’t even bring myself to imagine, made all the worse for the fact that, up to now, they’ve always won. Sure, there’d been some loss and at the time in the series, there was no indicator as to how they were going to beat Glory, the season’s Big Bad. But there was no doubt they would. Joyce though… Of all the people the Scooby Gang had saved, they couldn’t save Buffy’s mum. That is a cut that runs deep.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the best series ever and, in ‘The Body’, Joss Whedon and co. created something truly amazing. I am not ashamed to admit they made me cry because if you can honestly watch through the show up that point and then stare Sarah Michelle Gellar in the eye as she has to find her mother dead, then you are made of much sterner stuff than I. The acting, the writing, the directing, everything about it is on top form. Geek Pride may not have been around to talk about it at the time but by all that is Whedon I will forever uphold Buffy as among the pinnacle of television’s vast pantheon. And now, with manly tears on my cheek, I shall leave you.
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back sometime soon with more nostalgic hindsight.