Buffy the Vampire Slayer first aired 20 years ago and it has passed the test of time. Just as a slayer comes around once in a generation, so does a show of this calibre. Intelligently written, witty throughout, and with incredible talent, this cult classic is a fantastical genre-blend that thrives on being outside of the box. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest TV shows of all time yet, paradoxically, it still feels like the niche, underrated gem that you have to justify your love for.
Josh Whedon took the stereotype of a cliched, dumb cheerleader who is killed first in every movie and turned it on its head. The result is Buffy Summers: a kick-ass feminist icon and the antithesis to this archetype. He showed the world that a small, blonde girl with a silly name could change the game and be the saviour to us all. In Buffy, the symbolism is almost tangible; the demons that threaten their lives on an episodic basis serve as a brilliant metaphor for the inner demons teenagers face every day.
The writers don’t let this go to their head, however, and are hyperaware of how melodramatic both the show and teenagers can be. This is evidenced by episodes like ‘The Zeppo’, which mock themselves and in which we see Xander (Nicholas Bredon) as the hero for a change, completely unbeknownst to the rest of the ‘Scooby Gang’.
There is such light and shade, with tragic, poignant and gut-wrenching episodes like ‘The Body’ contrasting with the wonderfully hilarious musical episode ‘Once More With Feeling’. Similar to many shows that have such a long run life, there are episodes that don’t hit the mark and, after the fourth/fifth season, some aspects do start to digress. Nonetheless, when considered as a whole – as a piece of art – Buffy is nothing less than inspirational.
Buffy was ahead of its time. Its beautiful and unapologetic portrayal of Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara’s (Amber Benson) lesbian relationship was subject to much censorship at the time, yet it is shows like this that have the power to influence and push the narrative forward, normalising a relationship that was once considered taboo, especially on a TV show about teenagers.
Whedon’s ‘Buffyverse’ has been the subject of innumerable pop culture references, academic debate and leagues of fanfiction. It is undeniable that Buffy has had a lasting impact on TV. It gave the limelight to a strong, intelligent but fallible female protagonist and has since paved the way for countless other shows. The biggest achievement, of course, is the legacy it will leave behind, and the thousands of fans whose lives were made better for Buffy being around.
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