In honor of my all-time favorite TV show’s 20th anniversary, I wanted to write a little on the profound impact that Buffy the Vampire Slayer has had on me. Forever in debt to Joss Whedon, this was the first TV show I watched that made me expect all shows after to rise to similar cinematic greatness. It showed me how television, despite its hurried filming process, can create gorgeous and powerful craftwork using a visual medium. Also, how characters can develop and evolve in ways that a feature-length film just cannot capture.
If you were to ask me what my favorite episode is, I would have difficulty choosing between at least a dozen different ones. The extensive thought, planning, and emotional reflection that went into the production has forever raised my standards for what a TV show should be able to do.
From the very first scene in the pilot when a seemingly innocent-looking, blond schoolgirl turns out to be a bloodthirsty vampire, Buffy repeatedly demonstrated how far they could go when defying viewer’s expectations. Sometimes this could be done in just one episode: in “Help” of season 7, when Buffy could save a prophetic girl from a demonic cult but not from a heart attack. Or the how the nerdy, sheepish Willow would eventually become one of the most deadly, ruthless villains Buffy ever had to face. This slow sixth season arc eventually began snowballing so that when the black eyes first came out it seemed to be just the natural development. Even with so many ambitious and surprising story arcs, Buffy rarely disappointed.
However, the most important takeaway I had from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my first female role model. I don’t think I’ve ever since come across a female character that so thoroughly went through the vast spectrum of emotions and motivations that a human being can go though. Never perfect but at the end of the day always choosing compassion and courage, Buffy became more real than just another action hero. In a world all her own, Buffy never purposely conformed to or defied society’s expectations: she just was.