“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”
I’m not a quote person. They’re cheesy and overdone, and please don’t live your life regurgitating inspirational quotes all over my Facebook feed. But, this is the one that is the exception. It’s something that Buffy Summers says to her sister in the Season Five finale of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
The reason I broke my rules for this quote is because it hit home. At the time, I was 15 and revisiting my childhood love of a show. As I watched through the seven-season series five times over the next years, Buffy’s quote resonated more and more. Now, as a 21-year-old who has failed many times in her life, I can say that Buffy is right. It’s hard to get back up when you’re knocked down and keep going.
A few months ago, I read an opinion piece that someone wrote about BTVS that talked about comparing Buffy’s interpersonal relationships to their Psych 101 class. While I don’t disagree, I have been comparing every strong hero/heroine to Buffy for the past five years and I have a lot of strong opinions that go way past Psych 101.
Right now, I feel as though pop culture is on the cusp of glamorizing everything that makes Buffy and her show great. This is not bad – this is just a long time coming. So let me outline exactly why you should watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how it was a show before its time.
Buffy kills the villain: 215 times, to be exact.
Listen, I’m tired of the “Captain America” types with a hero complex. Have you noticed that in every male-dominated hero movie, the righteous thing to do is to show mercy by letting the villain live? It took me until my fourth run-through of the series before I realized that Buffy doesn’t do this. She’s not a hero, at least not in the way that Captain America is. She did not seek her hero-dom as many traditional male heroes do. She’s just a teenage girl who has to do what is necessary to protect her friends and the innocent townspeople of Sunnydale. That means killing the villains.
So, Buffy, awesomely, has a kill count of 215.
She doesn’t have to renounce her ‘girlness’ to embrace her ‘hero-ness.’
Growing up, I was incredibly stubborn about this particular issue. I wasn’t able to articulate it until I was a teenager and I discovered feminism, but as a child I was often shamed for the girly things I was into. My father and brother made fun of me for using words such as ‘like’ or ‘totally.’ They teased me for getting dressed up or wanting to wear makeup. Very early on in my life, I understood the implication that if you wanted to be smart or taken seriously, you could not do these things. Which, me being me, only made me want to do it more.
And it’s not necessarily the fault of the men in my family; these are values reflected in media. As girls, we’re often presented with two options for women characters: a woman who is proud of her girlness (i.e. being excited about fashion, dating, using slang in conversation, in general being a ‘valley girl’) or a woman who condemns girlness as a way to become strong, powerful, or otherwise taken seriously in certain circles. While I think that a girl who is not girly is totally fine (do your thing, girl!), before BTVS there was never someone who was both.
In BTVS, you have a teenage girl who is talking through her boy problems while fighting a newly risen vampire. You have a slayer who can spot a vampire because of his outdated fashion. Thanks to Joss Whedon (the creator of the show and writer of the original movie) and his team of writers, you have what the Oxford Dictionaries defines as “adjectivage and nouniness,” or, as Oxford goes on to describe, “combinations of teenage slang and higher-order, lower-frequency, more-adult vocabulary.”
The language is intelligent, but distinctly teenage and girly. Buffy herself is a kick-ass, no-nonsense fighter, but cares more about her relationship status than who she has to kill today.
The juxtaposition and silliness of Buffy as a main character is why I love the show so much, and is what I think makes it great.