Why is Buffy still Relevant?

“This world is older than any of you know. Contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons, demons walked the earth. They made it their home…their hell. But in time, they lost their purchase on this reality, and the way was made for mortal animals, for man.All that remains of the old ones are vestiges, certain magicks, certain creatures…and Vampires…[It is told] that the last demon to leave this reality fed off a human[and mixed their blood with their own]. He was a human form possessed, infected by the demon’s soul.He bit another and another, and so they walk the earth, feeding. Killing some,[and]mixing their blood with others to make more of their kind. Waiting for the animals to die out, and the old ones to return.” This is the masterfully crafted Buffyverse, introduced to us by Joss Whedon.

For those of you who don’t know already, for long as there have been vampires there’s been the Slayer. One girl in all the world; a chosen one. She alone has strength and skill to stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly introduce you to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy Summers played by Sarah Michelle Gellar is the slayer. While battling an army of vampires in her old high school Buffy burns down the gymnasium and as a result is expelled for her,”delinquent behavior”. Buffy and her mom move to the town of Sunnydale to get a fresh start, and unknown to them her new high school, Sunnydale High rests on the top of a Hellmouth, the literal mouth of hell(as in high school is literally hell.) Like every slayer, Buffy is trained and guided by her Watcher Giles played by Anthony Stewart Head but unlike every slayer, Buffy is surrounded by friends and together the Scoobies will save the world (a lot).   

The series originally ran from 1997 to 2003 so seeing as though I myself was born in 1997 people my age didn’t necessarily grow up with the show.The series was highly recommended and I loved every second of it, even the super campy and ridiculous filler episodes. For individuals who have never seen the show, it is quite easy to dismiss it as not relevant or to say that it’s an inferior form storytelling but there is so much value the world of Buffy has to offer its audience.

Some will argue that the show is for teenage girls and while that may hold true for the most part that is not all this series is about. Buffy is not a teen romance drama like The Vampire Diaries or The Twilight Saga, it is a show about choices and consequences. Slayerhood equals adulthood. In the beginning of the series, Buffy is reluctant to take up her role as the Slayer. Buffy is constantly forced to choose between taking on her slayer responsibilities and normal teenage girls stuff. She misses out on dances, gives up cheerleading and other things she enjoys to accept this responsibility.

Every episode, Buffy wrestles with her inner demons in a quite literal fashion. The vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness serve as metaphors of the adversities we all face during adolescence. Vampires in this world are soulless beings that never age and the soul operates as a moral compass. Without this moral compass people become selfish, impulsive, giving in to any and every desire without regard for the consequences; without a soul, you can never grow up. Vampires often seduce and lure their victims to their demise and/or resurrection. For example, in the opening scene of the first episode of the series, Darla played by Julie Benz seduces a boy and he breaks into Sunnydale High for some midnight thrills. Once they are all alone together she ambushes and greedily feeds on him. Later in that same episode, she uses seduction to lure Jesse played by Eric Balfour away from the Bronze as well. We all at one point or another wish that we could live carefreely but “[Life] isn’t about wishes, it is about choices.” Whedon boldly implies that living life without regard for the consequences is a seductive idea, as well as a dangerous one. The monsters and demons that the Slayer fights are the same demons we fight with every day, especially as young adults.

The Slayer Power is used by Buffy as a tool to assure her independence. Buffy is stronger and faster than your average teen. The Slayer is a living weapon, but weapons don’t feel pain and are tools meant to serve their master. The question is who is Buffy’s master? The answer would be the Watcher Council. Long ago in Ancient Africa, Senya became the first slayer after a group of shamans known as the Shadow Men kidnapped her, bound her to the ground, and forced into her the heart and soul of a pure demon. It is from this abuse that first slayer was created and forced to live a life of violence to serve the greater good as the ultimate weapon of the Shadow Men. Once Senya died a new slayer was called and once she died another was called and so on and so on.

Living a life of violence means that it is quite rare for a Slayer to reach the age of 18. Over time the shadow men became the Watcher’s Council an order of men dedicated to instructing and training the Slayer. Once a Slayer is lucky enough to reach the age of 18 she is then stripped of her powers and locked in close quarters with a demon by the very people meant to be her teachers. If she does not survive the night then she wasn’t truly worthy of the title, “Slayer.” But why? Why do this to your champion? Power. She has it and they don’t. The Watcher’s didn’t do this to her to determine her worth, they did this so they could continue to have control over the Slayer Power. It is so much easier to control a naive little girl that a powerful goddess of a woman. More so than a show about growing up BTVS is a show about subverting expectations and breaking the rules.

Buffy breaks away from the Council and makes the choice to continue being the slayer without them. It was her destiny to have this power and it was never up to the Council to tell her how to use it. It was fate that made every individual unique and powerful in their own right and it has never been up to society or any one’s family to choose what defines them and dictate the rules of adulthood.

As previously stated Buffy is all about breaking the rules, even rules that have been established since the show’s very beginning.Among every generation, there is a chosen one.She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.” One girl in all the world. When the first slayer was activated these magicks created thousands of potential slayers. When the slayer dies any one of these girls could inherit the legacy of the slayer.

“So here’s the part where you make a choice. What if you could have that power, now? In every generation, one Slayer is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power should be our power.”   

Buffy Made the choice to share this power so that,every girl who could have the power will have the power…” And this among so many of the show’s other universal themes is one of the greatest reasons to watch BTVS; Buffy is a show about empowerment!

In a world where nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do. It is the choices that we make, the actions that we take that define our character and what makes a hero. There is always a point in time when you can no longer allow other people to make the big choices for you. Once you start making these choices for yourself the weight of these responsibilities fall on your shoulders and it feels like the fate of your world is in your hands. This is your Slayer power. “Slayers. Every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”

Tagged with: