“In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is The Slayer”…
… It has been 23 years since Buffy The Vampire Slayer busted onto our screens, and Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), complete with that perfectly blow-dried hair and an enviable wardrobe of flares and kick-ass knee-high boots you could hide a stake in, became our heroine of the decade and an icon to remember.
Set against a backdrop of 90s girl power Buffy was the strong and complicated pioneering female protagonist we’d all been waiting for, and her far-reaching impact is still felt over twenty years on, in both film and TV. Created by Joss Whedon the series became one of the decade’s greatest hits, alongside other cult favorites FRIENDS, ER, Dawson’s Creek and Charmed, and shook up the zeitgeist, paving the way for so many more to come. Here All 4 and E4 looks at five of the top Buffy moments that broke the mold and why she and her Scoobie Gang of crusaders are still so relevant today…
1 – When good love turns bad –
The cliché goes that the course of young love never runs smoothly, but what about when you’re a Vampire slayer who’s involved with a Vampire who’s around 200 years old? Complicated. In series two’s ‘Innocence’ Buffy loses her virginity to her long-term boyfriend Angel (David Boreanaz) and he in turn loses his soul and becomes a literal monster, (cue everyone everywhere breathing a sigh of relief at how awkward their own first time had been). Buffy was left confused and alone and eventually forced to drive a literal stake through Angels’ heart in order to save the world, cementing them as one of TV’s most tortured couples. We jest of course, but ‘Innocence’ took a typically Buffy approach to one of adolescence’s biggest milestones and taught us some life lessons about it along the way.
2 – When we wondered if there was problem with our TV’s volume
In series four Joss Whedon set himself the challenge of writing the episode ‘Hush’, which only had 17 minutes of chat in its whole 44-minute run. Some may think it was a surprising move to silence the show famed for its snappy and unique dialogue, but its impact was anything but quiet. The Gentlemen, the monsters at the centre of Hush, were described as the scariest and most threatening yet, making them more so due to the residents of Sunnydale being rendered unable to use their voice against them. They could only be killed when Buffy was given hers back and able to scream. The episode that taught us so much about the power of not being silenced went on to be nominated for an Emmy.
3 – When Willow and Tara blazed the trail of love
A couple of years before a girl told us about “This one time at Bandcamp…” Alyson Hannigan became infamous as Willow Rosenberg, Buffy’s sweet, shy and vulnerable friend, who so many teenagers trying to find their way in the world identified with. Across the seven series’ we grew up and fell in love with the multi-faceted Willow, but it was in series five’s ‘The Body’ when she fell under the spell of a witch named Tara (Amber Benson) and they became one of the first lesbian couples on U.S. TV, that she made a resounding mark. Before Willow and Tara came along two women kissing in mainstream pop culture was mostly written-in for misogynistic titillation, but their heartfelt relationship was groundbreaking in its approach to LGBTQ⁺ representation and not only did it become one of the show’s most enduring it stood out as one of its most affirming.
4 – When Buffy became The Musical Slayer
Before Grey’s Anatomy and our friends in Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother did it, as well as the inception of that little phenomenon Glee, Buffy hit the high notes (mostly) with series six’s musical episode ‘Once More with Feeling’. Once again showing everyone how to turn a genre on its head Buffy was praised for creating the quintessential melodic episode that stayed true to the series plots. Kicking off with a dancing demon and its own unique score Xander (Nicholas Brendon), Giles (Antony Head), Spike (James Marsters) and the group showed they could not only hold a fight, but a solid tune too.
5 – When the chosen one proves she’s the chosen one
‘Chosen’ is the final episode of Buffy, airing in 2003, another to be nominated for an Emmy, yet it is still hailed as one of the greatest finale episodes ever. For seven series Buffy had been our chosen one, the chosen one of her generation, standing against the forces of evil, but this time she wasn’t standing alone and was united with all the other slayers from the past. ‘Chosen’ was the episode in which we understood how our feminist hero came to be, meeting the very first Slayer born of the Shadow Men. Yes, after 244 formidable episodes we learnt how Buffy got her power, from a bunch of immoral old guys, but more importantly we were taught that it was the way she harnessed it and used it to defeat them that was the most important… And, with a bit of help from her best mate Willow she managed to share it with and inspire all the women of the world. Not much to live up to as series finales go then?!
Buffy The Vampire Slayer is now streaming on All 4 and individual episodes can be seen on E4 on weeknights at 11pm.