Buffy The Vampire Slayer 10 Years Later: Why It Still Matters
Ten years ago today, Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired its 144th and final episode, “Chosen.” The only reason I knew this was because my 11th grade math teacher was a huge fan. I was not; as an awkward teenager who was constantly worried about how others perceived him, I wrote Buffy off as a show for pre-teen girls. (How far I’ve come.) Within three months, I would be hooked on the show and wishing that I’d gotten into it sooner. The show grabbed me with its incredible story arcs (the Angelus arc in the back half of Season 2, to be exact), but it kept me coming back with its honest look at life as a high school student. Sure, I never had to deal with vampires, internet demons, hyena people, or Principal Snyder. But I did have to deal with being ignored (“Out of Mind, Out of Sight”), puberty (“Phases”), even suicidal thoughts (“Revelations”). Even though the characters on Buffy were fictional and faced fantastical interpretations of these problems, their reactions to the hardships of life were so real, moreso than a lot of the other stories I willingly consumed. (I say willingly because the books I read for school had pretty great characterization too, but with a few exceptions, I didn’t notice.) And the show was funny as hell. Joss Whedon and his team of writers at Mutant Enemy were experts at quippy dialogue, and could go from screamingly funny to sobbingly dramatic in seconds.
So now it’s been ten years. Why do I still talk about this show nearly every day? Why do I still hold it (and its spin-off Angel) in such high regard, viewing them as among my favorite shows of all time, right up there with The Wire? Why am I writing a piece to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of its last episode, an episode I didn’t watch live because I was too close-minded to give the show a chance? Because Buffy isn’t a show about how to survive high school. It’s a show about how to survive life. I am currently in the middle of my second full rewatch of the series. The last time I watched the series from beginning to end, I was 22 and about to start law school. I had never had a serious relationship, I could barely remember what it was like to lose a close family member (my grandfather died when I was very young, and I did not process it then the way I would now), and I had never made a mistake that would haunt me for years. I’ve had all those experiences now, and during this viewing, while certain elements of the show look extremely dated and silly (hello low-budget monster costumes/effects and limited sets), the story elements are stronger than they’ve ever been. “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it,” and there is never a shortage of hellish problems for Buffy and her friends to deal with, whether it be evil gods and Frankenstein’s monsters or heartache and depression. And here’s the thing about how Buffy and her friends handled their problems: things didn’t “go back to normal” at the end of the episode. Sometimes, they couldn’t solve their problems by the episode’s end. And when they did solve a problem, they were changed by the problem and solution. Just like in real life. Sometimes they were changed for the worse, but more often, they learned from their mistakes and became better people for dealing with them. And it’s still funny as hell.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is more true to life than many works of fiction that do not contain fictional creatures. And for that reason, I will continue to watch it, analyze it, and talk to you about you can’t take it anymore. It really is that good.
Photo via Fuckyeahjosswhedon