Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired 20 years ago on March 10, 1997. We were introduced to Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a 16-year-old girl, who started at a new school thinking she could have the normal life she desired. After meeting the school librarian Giles, who happens to be her Watcher, played by Anthony Stewart Head, she realizes she can’t escape her destiny as the Slayer. She was fierce, tough and kicked ass no matter what was presented to her, and with an excellent supporting cast of characters every week fans tuned in to see what monsters she would face.
One of the things that made me love this show was that, at times, the monsters weren’t fictional creatures or the undead. Sometimes they were people Buffy thought she could trust. The episode “Lie to Me” (season 2, episode 7) gave us one of the many heartfelt interactions between her and Giles in which she asks her Watcher to lie to her. This moment comes after she has to fight an old friend she thought she could trust. It’s at this point she realizes life is not going to be easy (mind you she died already once before this happened), and this episode kicks off the downward spiral she faces in season 2, leading to the development of one of the strongest female characters seen on TV.
The show today at 20 years old is still as relevant as when it started. I was a child when I started watching it, growing into my high school years until it ended in 2003. I started watching around season 2, mostly because I was 11 years old and while most of the show went over my head at that time, as I got older I knew this wasn’t just going to be some television series I watched once a week, no it meant more to me. No, seriously, I cried at the of season 5, when I thought that was going to be the end of the show, and she leaps to her death to stop the opening of the hell mouth, but right before that, she tells her sister “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be Brave. Live.” I felt like she was telling me this, and when she died I felt like I lost a friend. Sounds crazy, but I was in high school having my own issues play out. And yes, I jumped for joy when I heard she was coming back, and she continued to teach me more.
Re-watching episodes as I got older, I started making connections to Buffy and her Scoobies. There are silly coincidences such as our initials being the same, and having our birthdays one day apart. Then there is the serious stuff. Her anger, depression, and anxiety were things I knew of and could relate to. She was a high school student going through rough times. From losing her virginity and having the guy change, to being in school facing the pressure of fitting in, to dealing with her mother, Buffy was facing teenage problems that could have been viewed as the end of the world, but she was also fighting to make sure the world didn’t literally end.
In season 4, when she enters college, the problems become more grown up. She faces the adult world, looking for a job, paying bills, grows apart for a moment from her friends and realizes it’s a tougher act to balance in comparison to high school. She was slowly losing it, battle after battle, and yet continued to put the well being of others before her. This strength, and traits were ones I admired and tried to carry out myself. I’m now 30-years old, as I go through the show for a third time, there’s more I’m catching on to. Buffy is a complex character, not because of the situations she placed in, but because of how real they are. I’m not speaking about fighting demons and gods, no I mean the life issues she had to face besides slaying. As someone who lives with anxiety, I found a character I could relate to. I may not be a vampire slayer, but that feeling of being unsure and angry, the nights of worry and uncertainty, are ones I deal with often. Buffy Summers is my hero, she was pulled out of heaven and sees the hell the world has become. She puts on a smile and keeps on fighting, and watching that is the motivation that helps me sometimes make it through the day. There are days when I just feel like I’m going through the motions, a term Buffy sings in the opening of “Once More With Feeling” (season 6, episode 7). She wanders in a graveyard slaying vampires, as if it has become the 9-5 most people dread having. This is the Buffy I relate to now as an adult. There are days where things become very mundane and dull. I don’t know if I’m dealing with things the right way, I live on my own, check by check, and sometimes I catch myself sitting quietly staring into space cause my brain won’t let me do anything else. Then I watch Buffy and I tell myself it’s going to be ok.
And I know it’s going to be ok, because at the end of the series, as Buffy stares out into what is left of Sunnydale, she smiles. She is a woman, who knows that the world is full of unexpected moments, and she compares herself to cookie dough. Acknowledging that she isn’t who she has to be yet, but until then she will continue fighting until she knows she is fully baked and ready. That’s why if you have not watched this show, please watch it, if anything a few episodes. I can even recommend some, but give it a chance. Take the time to laugh and remember the 90’s. In honor of International Women’s Day that recently passed give yourself a chance to meet Buffy Summers, she may not be a real person, but she has helped me get through some tough times, and maybe she can help you. Remember she saved the world a lot.