I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it first aired back in 1997. I was 15 years old at the time – the target audience for a show about a teenage vampire slayer that aired on the WB network. The commercials for the new show drew me in, and I was already a fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) since her days on Swan’s Crossing and All My Children. So I was ready for a fun ride and a cool new TV show, but I had no idea the show would become as iconic as it has or that I was entering a new fandom and the new worlds of the Buffyverse and, ultimately, the Whedonverse. I don’t know what it was about this new show that just did it for me – maybe because the characters were in high school just like me. Maybe I saw myself in these outcast teens that were cool to me but not cool to their peers. Maybe I just liked the way they talked – if you’re a fan of the show (or Whedon), you’ll understand what I mean. Whatever it was, I was hooked.
I’ve had to defend my love of BtVS on more than one occasion. To those who are not familiar with the show, they laugh it off because of the name or they remember the enjoyable but silly movie. They really have no idea. I’ve watched A LOT of television shows in my lifetime, but I can honestly say I have never seen a show that goes to the emotional depths as BtVS. Whedon definitely believes in the age-old adage of “No Mercy.” A great example of this is the iconic episode “The Body.” An episode that came out of absolutely nowhere. An episode that has absolutely no music. An episode that takes a supernatural show and places it squarely in the realm of reality. It’s considered to be one of the best (if not the best) episode of the entire series – and it has nothing to do with vampires (or anything supernatural). So, when people fail to understand how significant, and impactful, and meaningful a show like BtVS is, I just tell myself…they really have no idea.
But to those of us who do, and especially to those of us who literally grew up watching this show, it is everything. It was 7 years (and that doesn’t include the additional year of its great spin-off Angel) of an emotional rollercoaster – such amazing character growth and great plotlines. Such extreme highs and gut-wrenching lows. Such unique episodes that really went outside of the box, such as the musical episode “Once More With Feeling” or the mind-bending episode “Restless.” And oh yeah – if you’ve ever heard the term “Big Bad,” you have Joss Whedon and BtVS to thank for that.
There’s a reason we’re still talking about BtVS 20 years later and a reason other shows have fallen out of the conversation. There’s a reason the BtVS fandom covers not only the television series but an ongoing comic book series (putting BtVS in it’s 11th season), numerous novels, Funko collectibles, action figures, T-shirts, artwork, academic texts, etc. It’s because it’s a show that’s about more than just a blonde, peppy cheerleader who also happens to fight vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness. I had the honor of meeting James Marsters at a convention – he played Spike on BtVS, my favorite character on the show. We talked about our mutual love for the show, and he said that for him BtVS was a show about life. It’s that simple. As Buffy said, “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.” And that’s why I love this show (and all it’s fandom) so much. The bells and whistles are awesome, but at the end of the day, these are characters I can relate to, find myself in, and live my life with – with all the ups and downs and everything in between. So, Happy 20th to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and here’s to all the conversations to come!
Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’