What makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer so very very good?
Sixteen year old Buffy Summers walked onto my TV screen in 1997, when I myself was a young, impressionable sixteen year old, and I have to say, I fell in love.
Not with a character you understand, but with the whole show. I fell in love with the idea that a girl my age and her nerdy friends could be so brave, even in the face of pure evil. That they could crack jokes and be hilariously sarcastic, even when fighting terrifying monsters or trying to stop the end of the world, over and over again.
Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg were girls I could look up to, and strive to be like. I didn’t know very many women back then, so I looked to television for my female role models.
Smart, funny, brave girls weren’t all that common on TV at that time, and I sure as hell didn’t want to be a sexy blonde lifeguard, or a spoiled Beverly Hills brat. (We only had the two or three Irish channels in my house, I didn’t have much choice in TV programmes)
So what made Buffy the Vampire Slayer such a good series? Why, even now, do I watch it over and over again? I suppose because it’s funny, in a really sarcastic way. And because I’d secretly love to be part of a group like the Scooby Gang, who are always there to help each other out, and fight each others corner.
Here are some other things that make Buffy so very very good.
True and Lasting Friendships
When Buffy Summers, Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris and Rupert Giles are introduced to us in the pilot episode, who could have foreseen the close family-like unit they would become?
Of course the group of friends expanded as the series went on, but these four were the heart of it, with Giles as the father figure, who eventually had to leave for a time to let the kids find their own way.
The extent of how close Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles are becomes evident in season four, when they go up aganst Adam, a sort of man/monster/machine created secretly by the initiative.
After Adam knocks Buffy about a few times and she ends up having to run away from him, the gang realise that Adam is far too powerful for Buffy to beat by herself, and so the four combine their forces inside of Buffy, with a magic spell. Then she is able to use Giles’ knowledge and Willow’s magic, (and Xander’s something too, I’m sure…?) to paralyze Adam with another spell, and finally defeat him.
They had their ups and downs over the years, but they came through them all by sticking together.
I bet they’ll all be best buddies forever.
We all want them, but most of us can’t have them. So we like to watch TV programmes and movies about people who do. Buffy’s power, as the slayer, is super strength. She also heals faster than normal people. And apparently she has ‘enhanced abilities’, – which I presume are super strength and healing?
Willow starts dabbling with witchcraft early on, and eventually she becomes a very powerful witch. In a lot of ways she is probably more powerful than even Buffy herself.
Giles knows a little bit of magic too, although it’s probably not a ‘power’, and poor Xander has no powers at all. Just like most of us.
Most of the main characters have brutally murdered people at one time or another, but luckily were given the chance to redeem themselves and atone for their sins somewhat. Mostly by killing vampires and demons and helping to save the world.
Angel is the first, vowing to help Buffy, to try in some way to make up for all the people he tortured and murdered over the years until a gypsy curse gave him back his soul.
After Warren killed Willows girlfriend Tara with a stray bullet while trying to shoot the slayer, Willow understandably lost the rag and flayed him alive. And then – of course – she set about ending the world, until Xander stopped her.
She redeemed herself brilliantly too. She used her powers only for good from then on, and she played a huge role in saving the world. Again.
When Spike sacrificed himself to save the world in the last episode, that really tugged at my heartstrings. He was a mean, vicious monster for quite a long time, so he had a fair bit of making up to do, and he did a very good job of it too.
I think this sends a clear message – not that it’s OK to murder people as long as you make up for it, but that doing bad things doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person.
That you can make up for the hurt you’ve caused if you really try.
Is this the coolest club in the world? Probably.
I want to go to there… The Bronze seems to be the only recreational area in Sunnydale. It is some sort of huge open-plan shed/warehouse building, which has couches, a bar, pool tables, a dancefloor, and live bands playing all the time.
The only downside to it really is that a lot of vampires go there to find their dinner. But I suppose everything has its good and bad aspects.
What a mystery this man is. So usually perfectly, typically ‘British’, it is a little disturbing when we catch glimpses of the man Giles used to be.
We learn over the course of the series that Buffy’s watcher, in his younger days, called himself ‘Ripper’, dabbled in crime and dark magic, and may even have played rock music.
While Giles is, for the most part calm, collected and reserved, from time to time we do see him open up a can of whoop-ass… and it’s great.
Giles is another example of how people can change. He was a wayward teenager/young adult, but then he took up his watcher duties, and he helped to save the world.
You never forget your first love, do you. The relationship destined to fail because it’s your first and you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. Usually you’re both too immature to make it work, or you’re too young when it starts so you both grow into different people and realize you’re not right for each other. But you’ll always wonder what might have been…
First we had Buffy and Angel. The story of their love was an amazing one. It was love at first sight. He looked out for her, looked after her when she needed help, and she did the same for him. But their relationship was never going to last, because… Angel was a vampire, so…
Buffy inevitably ended up with a broken heart when he decided he had to leave Sunnydale so Buffy could try and lead a more normal life without him. Noble eh?
Then we had Willow and Oz. Who can forget Oz, your friendly neighbourhood werewolf?
Shortly after Willow and Oz got together, Oz got bitten by his cousin, and started turning into a werewolf. Willow stuck by him, and the gang locked him up for the full moon every month.
The relationship didn’t work out though, because Willow cheated on Oz with Xander, and then a female werewolf came to town, and Oz cheated on Willow with her.
And then he killed the female werewolf, which was pretty bad really.
So he left Sunnydale to find himself. By the time he came back, pretty much in control of his wolfy self, Willow had met Tara and developed feelings for her.
Cordelia Chase was Xanders first love. There was nothing very remarkable about there relationship. They didn’t last because Cordelia caught Xander kissing Willow.
All in all, three pretty typical teenage relationships.
There’s nothing like the death of a character you love to really get you emotional.
It’s horrible, someone you have grown to know very well, somebody you identify with, laugh with and cry with, and suddenly, without warning, they’re gone. It’s always worse in books for some reason, but still pretty bad on screen.
Of course I know that real deaths are the worst, just in case you think I have some sort of weird personality disorder. But fake people dying hurts too.
It was awful, and so unexpected when Buffy and Dawn’s mother, Joyce, died of a brain aneurysm. But the sacrificial deaths always choked me up even more. And there were a few. I’ll try not to cry as I discuss a few of them.
Buffy has to fight an evil Angel, who has opened up a vortex to the demon Acathla’s dimension, when suddenly he becomes good again (from a spell Willow has done to give him back his soul) but by then it’s too late.
The portal is open and the only way it can be closed is with Angels blood. So Buffy has to kill him to save the world from certain doom.
It was one of those moments where you stretch your arm out to the TV screen, whispering “nooooooo…”
When the god Glory discovers that Buffy’s sister Dawn is actually ‘The Key’ (used to open portals to other dimensions) she uses Dawn’s blood to… well, open portals to other dimensions. Buffy figures that since Dawn is her sister, they have the same blood, and so she jumps into the portal, sacrificing herself to save Dawn – and the world, of course – in the last episode of the fifth series.
I already mentioned Spikes sacrifice in the last episode, where he sacrifices himself in order to close the hell mouth and save the world. This is the worst one for giving me a lump in my throat. Especially when he and Buffy hold hands and he starts going on fire.
Well that’s pretty much it. My favourite things about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.