A bit of an overstatement? Not likely, and I’ll explain why shortly. Before we begin, let me give you a bit of background information on how I was first introduced to the world of Buffy. Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired on television in 1997, when I was in fact too young to watch it. Luckily, I caught up years later. I remember my mother telling me that she saw a show playing on TV (probably a replay) which she thought I should take a look at, though she warned it might frighten me. I don’t think I will ever feel the excitement for a show that I felt with Buffy. It’s a little strange to talk about (and still love) a show which technically ended many years ago (and don’t think I never get teased about that!) but that’s the beauty of Buffy – it’s lasting effect and resonance with people all around the world.
So, you ask, what makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer the greatest show ever made? Well, allow me to break it down for you.
Dracula: I apologize. I assume you knew. I am Dracula.
The world is obsessed with vampires and it all started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Okay, technically, it started with Bram Stoker’s Dracula but Joss Whedon put a new spin on the genre. Buffy is the inspiration behind some of your favourite TV shows and movies – The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural and probably Twilight. A listen to some of the commentaries for these TV series and you’ll hear the writers themselves cite Buffy as one of their inspirations. For a show to influence other writers as well as millions of people around the world, now that’s pretty impressive.
Buffy: I think you don’t know what it’s like to be sixteen. And a girl. And the slayer.
Buffy is still relevant today. Buffy Anne Summers didn’t just face demons, she had to deal with the burden of being a growing teenager (and don’t we all know what that’s like) – she went to school like everyone else, had to study for exams like everyone else, add to the pressure of having to slay vampires nightly which probably resulted in sleep deprivation. Then she had to get up bright and early the next morning and do it all over again. On top of that, she suffered exclusion, being picked on for being different, mostly by Cordelia and her peers, (which I’m sure any teenager can relate with) and wishing for nothing more than to be accepted. She longed for a mundane life, a life devoid of responsibility, and for once to be allowed to go on a date.
Giles: Alright, I-I’ll just jump in my time machine, go back to the twelfth century and ask the vampires to postpone their ancient prophecy for a few days while you take in dinner and a show. [From episode Never Kill a Boy on the First Date]
Cordelia: It must be hard when all your friends have, like, superpowers. Slayers, werewolves, witches, vampires and you’re like this little nothing.
Sure, we’ve seen vampires, werewolves and witches before but we haven’t seen them like this. As for a slayer, who knew such a thing existed, in the fictional world at least. Buffy definitely scored high points on originality. Back in the day, there was no other show on TV like it. Now you’ll find plenty of vampire shows, (possibly to the point of overkill), as well as your fair share of female leads but back then, it was quite something.
Buffy: Gee, it’s fun that we’re speaking in tongues.
Buffy and her friends followed a type of speech pattern that was unique to them and no other show thus far has been able to do that. Just admit it, nobody really talks that way (besides Joss Whedon, the writers and possibly me). But you see, that’s the appeal of Buffy – the unsuspected ways in which the writers put words together. Buffy Summers herself had a funny relationship with language which, according to Giles’ watcher diary, was one where I can only understand every other sentence. Willow also loved to play around with words while Xander joked his way through almost every serious topic. Giles, on the other hand, kept his language formal and to the point. Being British, he used very, well, British terms. And Cordelia, being Cordelia, expressed herself by using language which was either blunt or sarcastic.
Xander: It’s more a verbal nonverbal.
Buffy: You really got a problem with strong women, don’t you?
Who doesn’t love a strong female character? Buffy was, in many ways, the 21st century woman. She was a symbol for feminism – strong, confident, intelligent, independent and resourceful, with a good sense of humour. Add to that, athletic, able to kick serious butt and unafraid to speak her mind. She took crap from no-one. Don’t we all wish we were a little more like Buffy Summers? Though she did lose a bit of that initial confidence in season six, and who could blame her – the girl got dragged out of heaven for Christ’s sake. Thankfully, the final season had her coming back stronger and better than ever before, and of course oozing with bucket-loads of confidence.
Spike: I wanna see how it ends.
Buffy followed an episodic format. To me, this was one of the reasons why I loved the show (and still do!) so much. Each episode centred on a new villain that Buffy and her group (nicknamed the Scooby gang) had to defeat. These individual stories formed part of a larger narrative arc. Usually at the end of each season, Buffy and her friends had an apocalypse at hand, which they had to prevent from being unleashed onto the world.
Giles: It’s the end of the world. [From episode Doomed]
And of course no Buffy episode was complete without research and vampire staking. There was also a good dollop of…Krispy Kreme doughnuts? Mm, my favourite.
Xander: Then where’s the gang? Avengers assemble! Let’s get it going!
Buffy was the heart of the show – she carried the pain and struggles of life, as well as energy and wit – Willow the brains, Xander the much needed comic relief and best guy friend, Cordelia the sarcastic and narcistic popular b*tch, Giles the librarian (um, quite literally) as well as the father Buffy never had and Faith the darker side of Buffy reincarnated. Then we had Anya.
Anya: I provide much needed sarcasm [From episode Get It Done]
Xander: Um, that’d… kinda be my job, actually.
It probably wouldn’t have worked so well if it wasn’t for these exact actors. They each brought something to the table which made the show what it was. Can you imagine Xander if Nicholas Brendon hadn’t portrayed him or if Willow wasn’t played by the adorable Alyson Hannigan? And who could forget the sarcastic but charming Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia or the musician slash werewolf played by Seth Green. What about Buffy herself? I’ll let that thought simmer for a while.
Buffy: They were my light at the end of my tunnel… I guess they were a train.
The show was a blend of dark and mystery with colourful, light and fun. It was a combination of flavours in one. If you wanted serious drama, you had it. If you wanted something light, you had it. You wanted vampires, you got vampires. You wanted real world, you had that too. Buffy didn’t fit into a particular category, per se, much like the character herself, but drama was at the core of the show intertwined with horror, comedy and romance. I don’t think any show will be able to mix different tones and genres together quite as well as Joss Whedon did for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Willow: Ours is a forbidden love.
Buffy broke our hearts over and over, when Angel left and she felt lost, to her confessing her love for Spike as he burned in flames. Whoops, did I just provide a major spoiler? Buffy made us cry, made us laugh, made us terrified but most importantly, she gave us hope.
Buffy: I’m done waiting. They want an apocalypse? Oh, we’ll give ’em one. Anyone else who wants to run, do it now. ‘Cause we just became an army. We just declared war. From now on, we won’t just face our worst fears, we will seek them out. There is only one thing on this earth more powerful than evil, and that’s us. [From episode Bring On The Night]
Willow: Ooh, there was a potion. [From episode Pangs]
(She takes out a piece of paper from inside a magic book and reads)
Willow: Sage, salt… Onion?
Buffy: That’s the stuffing.
Let’s face it, no show does humour like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Despite it not being the main genre, there was still plenty of laughs to be had. Comedy on the show served as a form of comic relief, to give that much needed break from all the tension and seriousness that each episode carried. But it was never just random jokes thrown in for the sake of releasing tension, it was carefully thought out puns, much like Spike’s love of onion fritters…
Spike: Especially since the flowering onion got remodeled off the sodding menu. [From episode Crush]
Spike: Not as good as those onion blossom things. [From episode Empty Places]
Andrew: Ooh, I love those.
Spike: Yeah, me too.
Andrew: It’s an onion and it’s a flower. I-I don’t understand how such a thing is possible.
Xander: What kind of monster is he?
The writers have said that the horror of the show was a metaphor for the horror of life really (I’m paraphrasing here) and no drama was better equipped at capturing that quite as effectively as Buffy the vampire slayer. Buffy had some of the best monsters, among the witches, fish and um, Snyder? As the name goes, each episode featured at least one vampire, usually getting seriously butt kicked by Buffy, in a cemetery at night, coupled with other grotesque or sometimes beautiful monsters. Examples of some of the more creepy monsters include The Gentlemen in the episode Hush, Der Kindestod in Killed by Death and the Queller demon in Listening to Fear. If you’re looking for a show that has it all, cool protagonists (the slayers, vampires, werewolves and witches) and scary (or sometimes nerdy) bad guys, then Buffy is your man. Well, in this case, woman.
Cordelia: Don’t wear black, silk, chiffon or spandex – these are my trademarks. Don’t do that weird thing to your hair.
Buffy had the best taste in clothing and they never go out of style. In fact, some of the things Buffy wore on the show are now on-trend for 2016 – chokers, leopard prints, leather jackets… Take a look inside my wardrobe and you’ll soon realise that it is heavily influenced by outfits Buffy wore on the series. Of course, it isn’t just what our favourite heroine wore, all the characters on the show had interesting and unique fashion sense. Cordelia, being the most glamorous, naturally had the most to die for outfits. Willow, while slightly geeky, still had an interesting sense of fashion and was almost always donning a pair of chokers. Faith’s wardrobe contained more goth inspired pieces, which were still stylish and fun. And the girls’ hair and makeup were ever-changing and beautiful, yet in keeping with their personalities.
LOCATIONS AND SETS.
Willow: Hey, you wanna go to the Espresso Pump and get sugared up on mochas?
If I had the chance to visit some of the sets and locations they used for shooting the show, I would jump up at the opportunity in a heartbeat. No location on TV is more familiar and loved than those used on Buffy. From Torrance high school used as Sunnydale high to the sets for the library and magic box. Each set gave Buffy the vampire slayer character. Even Sunnydale High had, in its own way, a life of its own. The gang would attend school, go to classes, do research in the library and have lunch in the cafeteria. After school, they would either hang out at the Bronze (the local club for teens) or Buffy would go patrolling in the cemetery.
Buffy: Where’s my stake? I know I had a stake.
Along with having the best sets and wardrobe, Buffy had the best stakes – um, I mean props. Every week, there was a different weapon. Stakes. Crosses. Crossbows. Swords. Sticks. Uh, garlic? It’s not only limited to weapons of course. Everything from Giles’s mug with the lettering “Kiss the Librarian” which Spike drank from to Mr Gordo, Buffy’s favourite stuffed animal, were carefully picked and offered a glimpse into the character’s inner world – their wants, dreams or just likes and dislikes.
Buffy: We haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Buffy and you’re history.
Buffy will forever be etched in people’s minds as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) show. Underneath the layer of butt-kicking and enthusiasm, lies a serious show which drew on deep issues such as those concerning grief, despair and loss of self identity. The popularity of the show is reflected in the way it is often referenced on other shows.
In a Friends’ episode
Chandler: Starring Buffay the vampire layer.
In The Vampire Diaries’ episode “Smells Like Teen Spirits”
Damon: Come on Buffy!
In the Supernatural episode “Hell House”
Ed Zeddmore: OK, be brave, OK. W.W.B.D. What would Buffy do? Huh?
Harry Spangler: What would Buffy do. I know, but Ed, she’s stronger that me.
The popularity of Buffy extends beyond this, to studies on the show. Yep, that’s right, people even study the show as part of their course! That’s the extent of its impact. Although I don’t think it received quite as much applaud and as many awards as it should have, fans and writers alike will all agree that is more than merely a TV show.
Buffy will always have a special place in my heart, not only for being such a brilliant show but because after a hard day, there was always something for me to look forward to, something to remind me that it’s not hopeless, I’m not hopeless and that there’s a reason to keep on fighting. Just not, you know, vampires.
My job here is done. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. To my fellow Buffy fans, I feel you. To everyone else, I hope you give Buffy the Vampire Slayer a try. And if anyone tells you that the show is over, point them to this post.
Special thanks to Buffyguide for allowing me to use their images! Please check out their site for Buffy images, episode guides and more. All images used in this post are copyrighted to their respective owners.
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer nor do I represent the series, its story or characters in any way. Joss Whedon created the show, Joss Whedon has the rights to the show. I am just a huge fan, someone who absolutely adores the show and thanks to watching it about a hundred times now, have an in depth knowledge of it. Think of me as a Buffy encyclopedia. I want to share my knowledge of Buffy with fellow readers and give it the credit that it deserves but I am by no means a representative or someone involved with the show. Please keep in mind that despite me claiming that this is the best show ever, it is still only an opinion that I am expressing and if you disagree, that is completely fine. My sole purpose in writing this post is to entertain, not to offend anyone.
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