With a bunch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast reunion selfies making waves across social media, it seemed appropriate to revisit this beloved show and, like every fan of the show, attempt to convert the non-believers into devotees. If you have never seen this show, or have seen a few episodes but haven’t quite been won over, here are the top ten reasons why you need to watch (or revisit) this show.
10. Dark and Brooding Done Correctly
It’s unfortunate that Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets grouped in with the Twilight series, The Vampire Diaries, and True Blood. I can see why simply by looking at the relationship between Buffy and Angel. Angel is a mysterious, self-loathing vampire like Edward Cullen or Bill Compton. The difference is that Angel does not stalk Buffy, nor does Buffy submit to Angel’s every whim. Also, there are dangerous implications following a vampire and human being intimate. Buffy not only sets up these dangers, but unlike Twilight, it follows through with them. Angel is portrayed in the show as an object of desire, and yet his dark nature is rooted in true evil.
09. Buffy Studies
Aside from the book Buffy and Philosophy, there is an entire online collection of scholarly articles that have been written about the show. Not to mention that colleges and universities have had professors teach entire courses based on the show. My first introduction to Buffy was in third year university class where we studied how the episode Buffy vs Dracula deconstructed Bram Stoker’s seminal novel.
08. Unexpected Character Deaths
Remember how shocked you were at Ned Stark’s demise? Buffy has equally as shocking deaths (as well as central characters unexpectedly leaving the show). Where Buffy has an advantage over Game of Thrones is that the latter kills off characters so frequently that it’s become something of a gimmick. The audience tunes in nowadays to see who will die next? In Buffy, when each of these deaths occurred, they were horrifying.
07. The Vampires are Actually Evil
There was a time pre-Twilight when vampires were villains. Buffy established the rule in that a vampire is essentially a demon in a human’s body. It retains the victim’s personality but removes the “soul” – the show’s term for a human beings conscience or moral fiber. Vampires enjoy killing because they don’t have the capacity or the willingness to understand it’s wrong. The show complicates this by introducing vampires with souls or implanted behavior conditioning chips, but unlike many vampire stories today that make immortality or the thirst for blood something to be desired, Buffy stuck to the traditional adage that vampires are not good. They’re monsters.
06. Horror Metaphors
The show does not present monsters, vampires, ghosts, or demons as ends unto themselves. Each monster is a metaphor or physical embodiment for the anxieties of growing up that Buffy must face in that particular episode. Some are clearly evident, such as magic being akin to drugs; while others are more subtle, such as the Mayor’s ascension into a demon reflecting Buffy’s maturation into an adult.
05. Genre Mixing
At first glance, the title may seem goofy, but let’s break it down word for word. Buffy = Goofy Name = Comedy. Vampire = Supernatural Threat = Horror. Slayer = Fighting = Action. You now have your three main genres that the show embraces. Romance is also an element of all these genres and a big part of growing up, so it’s no surprise that a lot of episodes center on relationships.
04. Strong Characters
The show didn’t just have strong female characters. It had strong female and male characters. The character of Buffy is arguably one of the best female role models of all time. She is physically and mentally capable to make her own decisions. She is desired by multiple men not because she is beautiful and tough but because she commands their respect. And she makes mistakes. Her friends Xander, Willow, Oz, Anya, Cordelia, and Giles have definable traits that could group them into an archetype of some sort (Xander as comic relief, Giles as the father figure, or Willow as the nerdy best friend), but these characters frequently break from this mold and develop their own complexities. I haven’t even mentioned Spike, who goes through one of the most incredible character developments I’ve ever seen in a show.
03. It Pioneered Many of the Shows you Currently Love
While most TV shows including The X Files kept for the most part to an episodic structure, Buffy changed that as one of the first serialized shows, meaning that each season felt like one continuous story. Even self-contained episodes like Halloween or The Wish had lasting ramifications beyond the seasons in which they aired. Once More with Feeling proved well before Glee that a musical could work on TV. The quick witted, humourous dialogue made its way into the writing of Gilmore Girls, Supernatural, and Veronica Mars. The action heroine proved to be a bankable protagonist before Alias hit the airwaves. Also, many of Buffy’s writers went on to write for currently well received shows such as Glee, Mad Men, American Horror Story, Spartacus, That 70s Show, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time, Battlestar Galactica, Warehouse 13, Torchwood, Lost, and Grimm.
Anyone who has ever dealt with drug addiction, spousal abuse, the death of a loved one or rape will personally relate to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While the show for the most part was tongue in cheek and did not take itself seriously, there is no TV show that I have seen that explored dark subject matter as thoroughly as Buffy did in its 5th and 6th seasons. There are episodes that still bring me to tears despite having seen them multiple times by now. Several emotional moments that could easily rival the tenth doctor’s final speech are scattered throughout the entire series.
01. The Writing
What makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer transcend its occasionally dated production values is the fact that the writing is incredible. The snappy, witty pop-culture laden dialogue gave endlessly quotable lines (“I don’t think it’s possible to come up with a crazier plan.” “We attack the mayor with hummus.”). Story arcs are incredibly well thought out, allowing for characters to change drastically yet believably over the course of the show. Like a lot of young adult material such as the Harry Potter books, each season focuses on a year in the life of Buffy and her friends. She goes through high school, college, and adulthood. This also allows the writers enough time to explore the world, which leads to an entire mythology about vampires, the slayer line, and a world that operates through a trifecta of science, fantasy, and religion that is as deep as the mythologies behind Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones, or Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Like you, I once would not be caught dead watching a show called Buffy. I was only interested in HBO dramas like Deadwood and The Wire, cinematic TV like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, or sitcoms. The name Joss Whedon began to stick with me only after The Avengers and Firefly, which gave my Buffy fan friends the opportunity to pounce. I caved and started watching. Suffice to say, it intrigued me in a matter of episodes, but it was the Season One finale that made me fall in love with the show’s true brilliance. If you are having trouble taking a chance on this show, I’ve just provided you with 10 reasons why you need to give it a chance.