You wouldn’t know it by looking at the types of books I read or some of the scenes I, myself, have written, but when I was younger I was quite a wuss. I was a Disney kid who liked puppies and kittens and was too shy for her own good, so scary stuff wasn’t really my thing. To explain to you just how much of a wuss I was, it took several years for me to make it all the way through Pinocchio because I was scared half to death of Monstro the whale. I had more than a few nightmares about that devil-whale.
Yet, despite the adrenaline that would kick up the second something even began to consider being scary, there were a few ghosts-and-monsters related shows that I loved to watch, most of them on YTV on Friday nights. One such show was Buffy the Vampire slayer, which I began watching right from the very beginning. At this point in my life I’d never seen the original movie version of Buffy, but I took immediately to the show, and to Buffy in particular.
There have been many arguments on both sides of the fence when it comes to this particular show, but all I can say either way is that I’ve loved it from the moment I first discovered it, and Buffy immediately became one of my favorite characters ever. She was created by (in my opinion) a brilliant writer in Joss Whedon, and brought to live by (in my opinion) a wonderful actress in Sarah Michelle Gellar, but neither of those things were the reason why I took to Buffy so well.
When I was a kid things were starting to sway, but it was still the “way” of things for the guy to be the hero. The handsome jock would lead the team (Power Rangers), the men would be responsible for the most important battles (Luke Skywalker and Han Solo), the charming prince would rescue the damsel in distress (so many examples I couldn’t possibly list them all). In a world where, for the most part, the girls were the background characters or constantly being rescued, here was a female character who was front line and center. She was the main character, strong and powerful and could totally kick ass, and she was the one doing 99% of the saving. And for all her strength and Chosen One-liness, she was at the core just a regular girl. Her strength didn’t come from size, nor her abilities from super-intelligence. She was just a girl. She had been a cheerleader. She had been totally full of herself, as many teenage girls are. In other words, she could have been anyone. She could have been me, or my best friend, or that really quiet girl in my class who was sweet but shy, or the loud-mouth popular girl who everyone secretly hated.
That appealed to me as a kid. The idea that any random, completely typical teenage girl could just up and become a superhero was a huge thing.
But – and here’s the important part that Whedon and Gellar had a huge influence on – even though she was the center of the monster-slaying universe, and was the most important character, and was the kick-ass female hero, Buffy was not by any means infallible or invulnerable. She made huge mistakes. She got her butt handed to her on multiple occasions. She fell into deep depressions. She hurt the ones she loved and then made herself miserable trying to fix things. She saved the world, but she couldn’t always save all the victims. And that just made her that much more real, that much easier to relate to, that much easier to care for. Buffy Summers is one of those characters whom I became so fond of, so invested in, that it hurt me physically to see her in any kind of pain.
It’s been 17 years since the first time I watched a Buffy episode, and over the course of those 17 years I’ve watched every Buffy episode at least three or four times. Some episodes were better than others, and I will readily agree with some that the first couple of seasons were leaps and bounds over the last couple, but in the end I loved them all. Buffy was one of the first fictional characters to make me bawl like a little girl, something I am none too embarrassed to admit, but as crying for a fictional character is not exactly a common occurrence for me, I think that just goes to prove how awesome Buffy really was.