Monday, July 26, 2010

0046. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy was the main character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a television series that ran from 1997 to 2003 and has, even today, a cult following of devotees. Buffy was born of the idea of taking the scary-movie archetype of the frightened, helpless blonde and subverting it- establishing a protagonist who was prepared to, and repeatedly did, defend herself. This accounts for her feminist following a persevering fan devotion.

Guest blogger Jess LeClair writes about her personal experience with Buffy as an idol beyond the jump.

I first heard the name "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" from one of my best friends in 2001. He was describing how it was one of his favorite shows and I was giving him endless crap for how stupid the show sounded. Come on, "Buffy"? I would say. Really? It sounded too much like a Dumb Teen Show to even bother with. Which is when he duct taped me to a chair and played me the first episode from the first season on DVD. Then he asked if I wanted to see the next one. I think I made some kind of non-committal response like, "If I have to." By the third episode he'd gone to bed and I was glued to the TV. I couldn't stop watching. It was amazing. While Buffy looks like the kind of girl who would be perfect, perky and popular, Buffy is in fact, really kick-ass and sort of an outsider. According to her creater, Joss Whedon (who is often idolized himself, inspiring such lines as "In Joss We Trust," for his brilliant writing/directing) the idea for Buffy came from taking the idea of the scared blond that gets killed in the first five minutes of every horror movie ever made and turning it completely on its head. Far from getting killed, this blond is prepared to kick ass. She is tough, strong, confident and completely able to beat the crap out of anything lurking in the dark. She is, as it turns out, the hero of the piece. The character was originally written for a 1992 movie of the same name with Kristie Swanson as the lead. According to Wikipedia, the director, Fran Rubel Kuzui, saw it as a "pop culture comedy about what people think about vampires." Whedon disagreed: "I had written this scary film about an empowered woman, and they turned it into a broad comedy. It was crushing." The script was praised within the industry, but the movie was not. Whedon got the chance to develop the idea into a TV series and in 1997, the pilot aired on the WB with Sarah Michelle Gellar in the title role. Finally he was able to realize his vision for Buffy the way he had originally intended.

What makes the show so powerful is that it is hard to define. One of my favorite descriptions of the show is that it is "The X-Files meets My So-Called Life." It is about vampires and demons (or the monster-of-the-week), yes, but it is also about High School and insecurity and what it means to grow up. We get to watch Buffy dust vampires AND try to decide what to wear to prom. We watch her struggle to define herself and find the balance between all of her various responsibilities. She has super-human strength and abilities but clings to the things that make her "normal." She is essentially struggling with what it is to be a woman, in the best, most fully realized way possible: powerful and vulnerable, strong and soft, a leader and willing to be part of the team. The show also boasts a spectacular array of supporting characters (many of whom are also idol-worthy in their own right - Willow Rosenberg, the lesbian Wicca is another particular favorite of mine). All of which adds up to a show that is so much bigger than it's lead character. But Buffy remains the heart (and strong right hook) of the show and for that, I find her completely idol-worthy.

-Jess LeClair
of The Compost Pile

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