WHAT BUFFY DID FOR THE WORLD | fivethreeninety

Today is a very, very special day. No, it’s not because it’s the third post of Feminism Week, or that tomorrow is Friday. Today, Thursday 10th March, is nineteen years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer first aired on television.
Anyone who knows me, knows Buffy is ingrained in my life. I started watching Buffy aged four, and have rewatched every single one of the 144 episodes at least four times since then. I know every plot, every character, every episode title and once when I was seven, a woman went on Mastermind with the television show as her topic, and I answered more questions correctly than her.

And Buffy is also massively feminist. The whole premise of the show is throwing the ‘helpless blonde’ idea on it’s head, and making the petite blonde who loves shoes, shopping and boys the one girl chosen to defend the world from creatures from hell. I mean, she defeats the season one big bad villain in a prom dress.

Buffy didn’t start out all that great. A young Joss Whedon wrote a script which was picked up by Twentieth Century Fox. Unfortunately as he was so young and so inexperienced, that script went through tiers and tiers of tweaks and rewrites to create the 1992 film we all pretend not to know today. The film did have Donald Sutherland in it though, and was pretty much a success in the box office. It was just really, really bad.

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But thankfully for us, Joss didn’t give up. He adapted his idea for a television show, that was picked up by the WB. He cast Sarah Michelle Gellar as the lead and Welcome to the Hellmouth was written as a continuation from the film, as Buffy Summers starts her new life in the small town of Sunnydale. Which just so happens to be over the mouth of hell.

Can we just talk about how the show starts off? It’s very first scene is a typic scenario; boy and girl break into the school at night, girl is scared, boy is all mysterious. He’s totally going to kill this girl, make her the first victim of Buffy. But then the girl turns round and drains his blood. Joss Whedon showed straight off that this show wasn’t going to be anything you were expecting, and it is brilliant.

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Buffy isn’t just a tv show. It’s something that’s helped millions of people through it’s metaphoric portrayals of so many issues people could relate to: coming out to your parents, people using you for sex, drug addiction, drinking, depression, love, loss, and even athletic steroids (the swim team turn into fish monsters. Really).

It’s also an incredibly diverse cast and crew (gender wise). In the majority of it’s seven seasons, the females outnumber the males in the regular cast. The top twelve Top Rated TV Shows on IMDB.com all feature a male-centric cast. It’s something you almost don’t realise, just because you’re so used to there only being one or two featured female characters.

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Buffy also made history as the first show to develop a gradual, accurate, and full-blown lesbian relationship between two of the major characters. It did take them a whole season to have their first onscreen kiss though – something which the network told Joss Whedon to scrap from the episode. He straight up told them that he would walk off the show if they didn’t let him include it. So it aired, and helped pave the way for same sex relationships in the media for years to come.

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Buffy Summers goes from a shallow, popular teenage girl of Los Angeles to the strong, powerful guardian of the mouth of Hell, becoming a better person along the way.

 

The women in the show are unbelievably strong, but not perfect. As I said earlier, Buffy is a show that features a massive range of female characters all of who have diverse, complex personalities but each is strong in their own way. There’s Willow, dorky computer nerd turned powerful witch; Cordelia, bitchy rich girl who’s sass leads her to become the most powerful character in the spin off Angel. There’s Anya, an ex-demon who sought out vengeance to men who had wronged women for thousands of years; Joyce, a single mother who hits vampires over the head with axes before she even knows what they are; Tara, a shy witch who finds her own strength; Dawn, a teenager with a major identity crisis; Faith, a rogue slayer who struggles with her own demons and Glory, a glamourous, permed super villain who gets manicures before an apocalypse.

Every single one of them proves every woman has their own strength within them.

Buffy herself did have a series of love interests over the show (total headcount five), and yet she is never reduced to just ‘a girlfriend’. And whilst the majority of Buffy’s boyfriends do have the ability to swoop down at the optimum moment and rescue her, Buffy is equally capable of swooping in and rescuing him. Romantic relationships in the series are always depicted clearly as partnerships, and are always brutally honest about the hardships they bring too.

Buffy teaches life lessons, and gives us vital messages.

“No guy is worth your life, not ever.”.

“The hardest thing in this world, is to live in it.”

“You’re not special. You’re extraordinary.”

“Are you ready to be strong?”

There are two, critically acclaimed and stand out episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
One is almost without any dialogue.
The other is a musical.

Hush is the only episode in the entire series to be nominated for an Emmy Award – and this episode gained it two nominations. After reading critical reviews on a show famed for it’s clever dialogue, Joss was inspired to  write an episode that was almost completely devoid of speech. And so Hush was born – the story of fairy tale villains who steal people’s voices so their screams of terror can’t be heard.

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Known as The Gentlemen, these silent, floating, and downright creepy villains take the voices of every single person in the town of Sunnydale before carving out citizen’s hearts – smiling as they do so. Buffy has to defeat them, as always, but this time in total silence

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And now… Once More With Feeling. The absolute highlight of the show’s six year run came in Season 6’s musical episode. Joss Whedon’s musical extravaganza is still regarded as one of the best hours of television in history as the usual monster-filled storyline continued as usual – only this time, in song.

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Whedon states that he’d always wanted to make a musical episode, but it wasn’t till a evening he hosted with all the Buffy cast during the filming of season 5 that he realised a lot of the stars had actual musical talent. He spent six months writing the script, lyrics and score for the brilliant episode, which he also directed. It’s hard to believe that this was his first time writing music, because every single song has the heart and soul the character needs to let out in the storyline where they can’t help but sing their feelings.

It’s success saw a stream of copycats from shows like That 70s Show, Scrubs, Grey’s Anatomy and How I Met Your Mother. While the one from Scrubs was actually pretty good, none came close to the

If you ever catch that show ‘100 Greatest Musicals’ whilst channel hopping one night, you may be pleasantly surprised to see Once More With Feeling ranked #13 on this list, aside the greats like West Side Story, Chicago and Oliver.

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It’s a series that constantly surprises.

This is also the show you’ll find yourself sitting through saying “Isn’t that…?” So many actors started out in Buffy, or at least got noticed through it. Here’s a big old list of recognisable faces:

Alyson Hannigan / Willow
Seasons 1-7
You’ve seen her as series regular adorable Lily Aldrin in How I Met Your Mother & as Michelle Flaherty in the American Pie movies. People used to her comedic talents will be shocked to see her as Buffy’s best friend Willow, and she gives an award worthy performance every single episode – especially in her season six arc.

Seth Green / Oz
Seasons 1-4
Emmy winner
It’s hard to see the sweet Oz as the voice of Chris Griffin in the crude comedy cartoon show Family Guy, but as well as Scott Evil in the Austin Powers movies and tons of other comedy appearances Seth moved away from his werewolf persona from Buffy quite dramatically.

David Boreanaz / Angel
Seasons 1-7 (& a spin-off)
After a five season spin-off series of his own (the appropriately named Angel), Boreanaz moved on to lead in Bones as Special Agent Seeley Booth – which is about to air it’s twelfth season.

Michelle Trachtenberg / Dawn
Seasons 5 – 7
You’ll know her as the infamous bitch Georgina Sparks on Gossip Girl. She also got to kiss Zac Efron in 17 Again so go her.
Also watch Ice Princess it’s a m a z i n g.

Julie Benz / Darla
Season 1 (then a ton of flashbacks)
As well as appearing in twenty episodes of the Buffy spin-off Angel, you’ll know her as Rita in the hit show Dexter, ex-stripper & lesbian lover Robin in Desperate Housewives the new indie film Circle which is available on Netflix.

Danny Strong / Johnathan
Seasons 2-7
Two time Emmy winner
After working up from occasional extra to important character in Buffy, Danny Strong moved his talents to writing, and penned the screenplays for the final two Hunger Games movies and BAFTA nominated film The Butler.

Rachel Bilson / Colleen
Season 7
With a small appearance as a potential slayer in the final season, Rachel went on to become a sweetheart in many people’s eyes as Summer Roberts in The O.C., before moving to lead her own show Hart of Dixie opposite Jaime King for four seasons,  as well as a recurring role in How I Met Your Mother.

Alexandra Breckenridge / Kit
Season 7 ‘Lessons’
From a small role as Dawn’s friend in the final season premiere of Buffy, you’re probably most familiar with Alexandra’s roles as seductive maid Moira in American Horror Story, and the brief love interest of Rick Grimes, Jessie Anderson in The Walking Dead.

Felicia Day / Vi
Season 7
Fan favourite and proclaimed Queen of the Geeks, Felicia day is known for her recurring role as fan favourite Charlie Bradbury on Supernatural, as well as her successful web series The Guild. She also has a book and a youtube channel – and was always my favourite potential slayer.

Clea DuVell / Marcie Ross
Season 1 ‘Out of Mind, Out of Sight’
Clea DuVell is one of those amazing actresses who pops up everywhere, and will always be known to me as Marcie Ross. She’s played big parts in two Oscar winning films: Argo and Girl, Interrupted, as well as being a cop in Heroes, the lover to Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story, and victim to Sarah Michelle Gellar starring Japanese horror The Grudge. You can also see her alongside Jensen Ackles in the should-be-bad-but-it’s-not movie Ten Inch Hero.

Jason Behr / Ford
Season 2 ‘Lie To Me’
After a one episode guest spot on Buffy, Jason went on to lead the three season show Roswell, about the New Mexico aliens. He also co-starred as Sarah Michelle Gellar’s love interest in Japanese horror film The Grudge.

Wentworth Miller / Gage
Season 2 ‘Go Fish’
From a one episode stint on Buffy featuring the most ridiculous teen line of all time (“Aw dude, what is that foulness?”), Wentworth went on to become heartthrob & lead in the hit show Prison Break, which after ending in 2009 after four seasons is officially coming back as a mini series this year…

Bianca Lawson / Kendra
Season 2
This girl does not age. She’s still playing high school students in popular teen shows like Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries & Teen Wolf.
She’s now also step-sister to Beyonce so she’s done pretty well for herself.

Amy Adams / Tara’s bitchy Cousin Beth
Season 5 ‘Family’
Five time Oscar nominee
Two time Golden Globe Winner
You’ll know Amy as Disney Princess Giselle in the 2007 animation-to-real-world film Enchanted, and as her acclaimed and award nominated roles in American Hustle, opposite Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia, and as Lois Lane in the new Superman franchise.

Hilary Swank
The Original Buffy Movie
Two time Oscar winner
After her winning roles for best actress in Million Dollar Baby & Boys Don’t Cry, Hilary’s known to many as Gerard Butler’s grieving widow in P.S. I Love You.
Watch her in Buffy here.

Ben Affleck
The Original Buffy Movie
Two time Oscar winner
As well as a list of highly acclaimed roles such as his role in the plot twist crime story adapted from the best selling novel, Gone Girl, Affleck’s won awards for direction and screenplay writing for Good Will Hunting & Argo.
Also soon to be the new Batman.
Watch him in Buffy here.

Buffy paved the way for television as we know it. Hit shows like Teen Wolf, The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, The 100 wouldn’t exist as they do today without Buffy. Supernatural seemed to pride itself on it’s guest stars from Buffy past in it’s first few seasons, and The Vampire Diaries even steals complete plot lines from Whedon’s show (shade).

Buffy taught me a lot. It told me I could be strong without losing my femininity, that being a woman was powerful, that I could face any demons that came my way and never be alone. The impact Buffy has had on the world is amazing. It changed the game for women in pop culture, Hell, you can study it at some Universities. Covering pop culture, feminism, women’s studies, speech studies, family studies, media studies the amount of education one television show can give you is astonishing.

This is a show in which you know every nasty side of the characters. Where it’s monster of the week can be a metaphor for online safety and it’s social commentary subtle enough to be direly clever. And it’s powerful speeches will stick with you forever. The 2003 finale Chosen features one of the most moving and powerful speeches ever to be on television as Buffy leads an army of young women to war. It’s this speech that is the beating heart and the very essence of the show, and it will move you to tears every time you watch it. It teaches that every woman has a voice, and the strength to use it.

 

I guess you could say that Buffy saved the world. A lot.

If you EVER want to talk Buffy to me, tweet me here any time any day & I will reply.

To anyone who hasn’t seen it – watch it. Watch it now and never look back. It’s on Netflix…

 

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