If you’ve known me for any length of time within the past two years, I’ve probably talked about Buffy with you. I probably called it the best show ever. I probably told you to watch it. I probably mentioned it’s one of the most culturally significant shows ever, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever written about the impact Buffy had on MY life. People can rave about television shows (like how I swear by Friends and Parks and Recreation and the like) but they don’t always change your life. Buffy has though, so here are 11 ways Buffy changed my life and/or the way I see the world.
Buffy and Angel’s Relationship
Alright, this I’ve mentioned before. I know it. I obsess over this pairing more than I should, but I can’t help it. While I say relationship, I mean it in both ways. The romantic aspect of their relationship is the kind of relationship I think is best. It’s kind of like a fairytale, if a fairytale involved demons and killing monsters. They show complete devotion to one another and always put the other first, even if it means bad news. Imagine Bella and Edward minus all the creepiness, plus Bella was suddenly an independent and strong woman. And then, they make the hard choice of breaking it off to save themselves and others. They came to know the cost of their relationship, and even though it was beautiful and perfect, it was too high.
This couple captivated my mind and heart so much that I come to compare almost every relationship to it. It’s influenced the way I (will) choose to write my romantically involved characters in the future, as well as setting at least one standard for any future relationships I may or may not be involved in. I could go on, but I think this is a good summary.
Very few shows are worthy of intense academic study, but Buffy most certainly is. It paved the road for so many shows, whether people acknowledge it or not, with its groundbreaking dialogue, metaphors, and themes. My first semester of college found me in a composition class where we could write about any topic. I chose to tackle the matter of character flaw, exemplified perfectly in Buffy’s very own Anya Jenkins. In my research, I found several criticisms of Anya saying that she relied too heavily on men, which detracted from Buffy’s overall feminist tone. However, the authors of the articles failed to address that maybe Anya’s lack of identity was intentional and necessary for her to grow as a character, which it totally was. I feel like Buffy has enough material to write a million books about, and I’d love to continue to study it while earning college credit. My dearest Anya earned me a 96 on my final paper (or was it a 98? I can’t remember anymore).
Speaking of my beloved Anya, she’s a total rock star. About two months ago I posted a list of the best TV characters and Anya topped my list. Why? Never have I ever connected so much to a character. Anya, combined with Angel, makes up my personality. One of her greatest flaws is running her mouth and saying things she probably shouldn’t just because they’re true. I can relate to this in several ways, only one of which you’re reading. My blog is how I keep myself honest, and I say things here that maybe others think I shouldn’t say. But Anya is so much more. Her struggle in the show is about finding her place. Her primary connection to the Scoobies (the main group) is dating Xander so she feels like an outsider. Besides that, she finds her identity in those who she’s in a relationship with and can’t break out of that mold. Not until the final episode just she find her own voice and her own identity.
She is also by far the funniest character on the show, at least to my dry sense of humor. Although she is the sarcastic, blunt, sometimes insensitive one, it’s only because she spent 1100 years as a vengeance demon and has to re-adapt to humanity and find hers again. This leads to several touching moments where she uncovers grief and loss and betrayal that shatter my heart. Like Niles from The Nanny before her, Anya has expanded my sense of humor and given me a role-model for comedy as well as self-discovery. Keep in mind, I have an entire paper about her. If you’re interested, tell me. It’s pretty dope.
My love for this show knows no bounds, due in no small portion to Willow Rosenberg. Arguably the greatest character on the show and one of the best of any show, Willow is one of the first main characters to be featured in a same-sex relationship. This has caused Willow to be controversial within my particular realm of belief and with my mom and friend who watched the show, but I don’t care. The media portrayal of gay people is so inaccurate and this couple really challenged my own view of gay people, and this is before I came out. Lesbians were always more butch with short hair and masculine qualities, but both of these women were definitely women. More importantly is how they fell in love. Willow wasn’t attracted to women before Tara and they fell in love after connecting through magic, as they’re both witches. This really set them up as lovers not because of their sexuality but through a mutual connection and deep-seated love for one another. In this way, I really came to have an entirely different view of the gay community. Because I loved Willow, it also allowed me to be more sympathetic to the plights of the LGBT community. As Christians, I think this is incredibly important to learn, especially in today’s world.
The Musical Episode
I love a lot of soundtracks, but I never downloaded any. Except this one. Joss Whedon is a genius for delivering the first successful implementation a musical episode in TV. I haven’t fact checked that, but there is NO way that any television show has pulled it off the way Buffy did. A demon comes to town and everyone starts singing and dancing before bursting into flames if they go too long. An actual reason to have a musical episode. Not only that, but it furthers the plot of the season and episode. The characters are forced to reveal all their deepest secrets in song, which causes lasting rifts between characters. Every song is good and catchy and depicts a theme of either the season, the show, or a character. For example, “I’ll Never Tell” is all about Xander and Anya’s story leading up to their marriage while “Something to Sing About” is about depression, the sixth season’s main theme. This episode is nothing short of genius and it’s my favorite episode. I know almost all the words to the songs in the episode.
Soon I will be a master of quoting this show. I just need to watch it more. At this point in time though I have distinct quotes in my, not one of which is the above. Anya’s trademark fear of bunnies is one of my favorite things about her because it’s just so quirky and so Anya. The amount of joy the above gif gives me is immeasurable because I’m convinced that Anya is my soulmate. There are more than just humorous quotes too. While Buffy can be as funny as a sitcom, it has no shortage of important messages hidden in monologues and one liners.”Without passion we’d truly be dead,” is one of my favorites of a longer monologue that I included in my graduation speech as well as my Instagram page. Anya’s monologue in “The Body” is another highlight about the sudden loss of a loved one, and Buffy’s quote to Angel in “Amends” about strength is perfect. “Strong is fighting. It’s hard and
it’s painful and it’s every day.” There are so many more, which is why I’m working on a Buffy quote book.
P.S. I bought two shirts off of a custom website that have Buffy quotes on them. I’m not joking around. The quotes are real.
As a person who has battled depression for a long time, this show is so cathartic. Seeing so many characters struggle with depression and hopelessness is so important. These are characters who have the power to reshape reality and they have the same weaknesses and struggles as us. But they beat it. They get roughed up and they survive which is an inspiration to me. When I was feeling depressed, Buffy was there to be depressed for me. Willow has many great moments in dealing with grief and I will forever swear that Alyson Hannigan is one of the best actresses of all time. Her ability to cry is ethereal. I know that sounds silly, but she casts a spell on me (pun very intended)every time she cries that makes me cry. Buffy eventually overcomes her depression and finds meaning in her life again which gives me so much hope. Even when they’re imaginary characters, I form a real bond with them and knowing that people I care about are struggling helps me not feel so alone.
Buffy is girl power done right. Too many shows try to press feminism in a way that discredits men or sets men as the standard for strength. Too many critics are saying that there aren’t enough women in leading roles or that they’re entirely about men and are finding something to complain about, but I dare you to find something wrong with Buffy. She’s powerful, she’s a lead, she has relationships that don’t define her, and she does it all while establishing her power apart from men. You know, she doesn’t one-up or discredit men, she’s just powerful in so many ways. The same goes for the other women. Willow eventually surpasses Buffy in power and shows intelligence can be power. Anya is powerful with her intelligence and determination. Dawn is strong with her resilience. Every character is strong in their own way, man or woman. It’s just awesome to find a feminist message I can support in popular culture.
Anyone Can Be Redeemed
This is more related to Angel than Buffy, but they’re in the same universe. Most people will point to Spike as being the best example of redemption on the shows, but I contest that with Angel. His entire story is about redemption. He hears a prophecy about him (most likely) that promises a vampire with a soul will become human after he earns it. From there, Angel sets off to earn his humanity, but at several points he loses hope in the prophecy and eventually comes to the conclusion that he will do the right thing even if there is no reward. It even spawns one of my favorite quotes: “If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.” Good for the sake of good is an admirable goal, and even after centuries of torturing and killing as Angelus, Angel shows that anyone can be redeemed.
Morality is Gray
This is an issue that’s more fully explored in Angel as well, but Buffy certainly addresses it as well. Good and evil aren’t always clear and obvious. What happens when a good person like Willow is consumed with grief and goes on a murderous rampage? Angel’s alter ego Angelus is a sadistic murderer, but Angel is a compassionate and heroic boyfriend to Buffy. How are these reconciled? Sometimes, they can’t be. I’ve had numerous discussions in forums and with friends or family who’ve watched the show over whether certain decisions are good or bad or whether certain characters are good or evil. Even my darling Anya was dishing out massacres for 1100 years before being stripped of her power and made neutral before ultimately becoming good. Angel deals with a deity who consumes humans in exchange for unbridled peace and joy for all who see her. It ultimately begs the question of whether world peace is worth sacrificing our freedom for. Fascinating topics of discussion and it really highlights problems we face in our lives where decisions we face can be good or bad depending on how you look at it.
Strength and Weakness
This ties in a little with depression, but it really flips the way you view strength and weakness. Buffy, at least early in the series, is not all that powerful a Slayer. She was 15 when called and that makes her inexperienced and rash while wielding immense power (can you say Spiderman?). But what makes Buffy the most important and most powerful Slayer in the history of the world is that she disobeyed the rules. Slayers are called to be solitary figures who kill vampires and demons by themselves, but Buffy refused. She maintained a social life and friends who helped her. Spike even says at one point that he’s never fought a Slayer who had her friends helping her and that’s why he lost to her in a fight. The Scoobies are strongest when they’re together and apart they become weaker. But at the same time, just like the theme of Inside Out, it’s okay to be weak and vulnerable because that makes you seek others to make you strong. Buffy is strong and she’s weak. It’s what makes us human, and she shows me that it’s okay to be weak. Sometimes, it’s even the source of our greatest strength. Cue Xander Harris, the best example of this.
And that’s all I’ve got. Keep in mind these are just summaries of a vast expanse of material this show covers. While these are highlights I get from the show, there are definitely more that you can uncover by watching it. I hope this has shown you just how drastically Buffy has impacted my life and maybe it’ll inspire you to give it a shot. Either way, thanks for reading and here are some more amazing gifs of Anya, basically my worldly goddess.