Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer touched genius so effortlessly and with such frequency in its seven season run that it seemed capable of going on forever. But while vampires never get old, the actors playing them do. And for David Boreanaz to claim “I ain’t getting any older.” in the series finale was quite a fib – try comparing the handsome chiselled stranger of season one to the hulking prop forward of season seven and you’ll see what I mean.
“A series that was spiralling out of control aided by the potential slayers, in particular the atrocious Kennedy – quite possibly the most offensive character in TV history.”
They got out at the right time. Flashes of brilliance like Selfless and Conversations With Dead People couldn’t mask a series that was spiralling out of control aided by the potential slayers, in particular the atrocious Kennedy – quite possibly the most offensive character in TV history.
And yet Buffy fandom seems as strong as ever. Communities, fan-fic, conventions based around the Buffyverse are still going strong. The show bought itself a huge amount of goodwill over its run with some of the most intelligent, funny, thrilling television around.
“Great television is like great music or a reckless love affair – it comes from the gut.”
What was it that made it such a good show? Aerial Telly has identified five elements that defined Buffy the Vampire Slayer and set it apart from other shows.
Emotional resonance. I’ll keep repeating this until you bums in television get it. Great television is like great music or a reckless love affair – it comes from the gut. Buffy made sure you identified with the characters, believed their relationships and then threw them into hot-water so you’d care about them even more. And you did.
The characters’ actions were sometimes irrational but always heartfelt. Like when Buffy risked the lives of everybody on the planet just to save her whining sister. Stupid, selfish and foolhardy, you nonetheless cheered her on because you knew you’d do exactly the same dumbass thing in her position.
It always tackled the big themes. Good, evil, sexual obsession, redemption – Buffy tackled them all and did so with rare insight. The Angelus arc in season two dealt with sin, loss of innocence and how best to deal with your boyfriend becoming a soulless monster who tortures and kills your friends after the first time you had sex with him. Correct me if I’m wrong but you don’t get that on The O.C.
“Buffy came up against an array of consistently inventive deranged ghouls who worked equally well as metaphors and fanged loons.”
Scary monsters, super creeps. Back in the days when it stuck to a Monster Of The Week format, Buffy came up against an array of consistently inventive deranged ghouls who worked equally well as metaphors and fanged loons. From demon bikers to baby eating slugs we were treated to the worst the human subconscious could throw at us. And that’s before we even mention Super Creeps like Mayor Wilkins, Mr Trick and Principal Snyder.
It never took the easy route. Sunnydale may have been a fantasy but it was just like the real world. The people you love die. Bad things happen to good people. Good guys get sent to hell and pulled out of heaven. From the moment Buffy made a shish kebab of Angel in Becoming, part 2 you knew that the show was prepared to go where it hurt.
A feeling confirmed when Warren was skinned alive by Willow for killing her girlfriend – the best televised flaying outside of Itchy and Skratchy.
“It provided much ammunition for the kind of overcooked Culture Studies essay Aerial Telly spent his days writing in a previous life.”
It credited its audience with some intelligence. And well it might – it had one of the most sophisticated, tv literate audiences a show could wish for. Borrowing heavily from different genres as it did, it provided much ammunition for the kind of overcooked Culture Studies essay Aerial Telly spent his days writing in a previous life. Not to mention the Internet forums that sprung up dissecting each episode in forensic detail.
We all have our favourite moments.The lesbian witches, the tap-dancing demon, the increasingly insane Drusilla. Personally, I find it difficult to see past Buffy’s tiny, tiny skirts from season one. No really – I’ve tried rewinding and pausing a million times – it’s just not happening.
“I find it difficult to see past Buffy’s tiny, tiny skirts from season one. No really – I’ve tried rewinding and pausing a million times – it’s just not happening.”
No matter. Buffy was subversive not because an apparently frail girl had superpowers – it was subversive because it was a weird, contrary, authentic show that happened to host a teenage icon. It was frequently better than the Emmy winning dramas of the day. Buffy herself has passed into the collective consciousness and Buffy and all its associations are common currency in our culture.
Yet so many people still don’t know how good it was. After all these years, it’s still our little secret. This is both a burden and a shared joy. We only initiate those who we think are ready. You shall know us by our furtive glances, our implacable cool and our DVD box-sets. We are the Buffista. Deal with it.
The best thing about it: It knew how to make you care.
The worst thing about it: The season seven downturn.
The verdict on Buffy the Vampire Slayer : It kicked twenty kinds of arse.
Marks out of 10: 9