One day, a writer had a vision. A vivid image of a powerful girl who will alter pop culture and educate people to accept "the female hero... not just a heroine but a hero", as he phrased it. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a beloved late '90s American television series created by director and writer Joss Whedon. It follows the female hero Buffy and her Scooby-Doo gang of friends as they defend Sunnydale from evil forces. This list will highlight four important themes from the show's plot, including sexuality, grief, death and the terrifying fact of existence that proves this show was ahead of its time.
- Yes, you can fight...and still look girly while doing it.
Buffy is the “Slayer”, one in a generation of young women chosen by fate to battle evil forces in the town of Sunnydale. Buffy can be described as Malibu Barbie by day and rebel, kung-fu killer by night. She is the equivalent of a hero like Batman but in a somewhat different setting. The intactness of her femininity is the most powerful feature of her character. She fights, however, her actions encourage her to preserve her beauty. Strong women are typically depicted in a masculine perspective on television and movies. She has short pixie hair, is tattooed and prefers to hang out with the guys. But she is Buffy; she holds pom-poms in one hand and a stake in the other while eating a cherry lollipop. She enjoys going out, talking about boys and obsessing about minor details such as her hair, how she dresses and how her classmates view her. Her slayer abilities are heightened by the presence of her vulnerability. It demonstrates that for women to be powerful, they do not have to be masculine in any sense.
- The evil male and heartbreak
Although the show's major components are based on gothic horror and fantasy of monsters and ghouls, there are also incredibly relatable situations such as heartbreak. Within the genre, there are many enemies to lovers, but none are nearly as epic as Buffy and Angel. When Buffy loses her virginity to her loving boyfriend Angel, he loses his soul...literally. He transforms into evil angels who mock Buffy and their intimate night together. The writer’s goal was to depict the harsh reality that certain men pursue women only to sleep with them and then become standoffish after the deed is done. Buffy is confused about her feelings for the angels as she suffers from heartbreak and fury. She can’t decide whether she wants to kill an evil angel or save an angel, getting caught up in the “I can fix him” troupe.
- Sexuality can be fluid
In a society where stereotypes and identities have the freedom to be redefined and reshaped, the early late '90s going into the early 2000s was a different world of hushed secrets and closed doors on this topic. The show took a major leap in its third season when Buffy's best friend Willow––ultimately defined as straight from her previous relations with men in the show––discovers her feelings for another woman. Willow and Tara's relationship helped dispel preconceived notions about the LGBTQ+ community to a largely close-minded society. The storyline is slowly introduced with a bit of discomfort as Buffy’s initial reaction is an apparent uneasiness. But she quickly gets over her friend's confession, assuring Willow that she is nonchalant about her newfound lesbian relationship. In the next episode, Tara is fully accepted into the group. This narrative thread defied expectations and illustrates that sexuality can be fluid and that falling in love isn’t always a one-way decision, and that's okay.
- The pressure of responsibility
To a teenager, everything seems to be the end of the world...and that is especially true for Buffy. As the slayer, she is continuously challenged and under pressure to maintain the world in order. These responsibilities become more pronounced when she enters college. We see Buffy struggle with her new environment, independence, newfound relationships and lost ones, such as when Willow's schedule is the opposite to Buffy's, causing them to slowly drift apart. On top of her studies, she has to deal with late-night work adventures, slaying monsters who threaten the lives of students on campus. It may sound all too fantastical but it depicts the difficulties one may face when balancing their work-life.
Some may see this programme as a standard white female fighter with vampire lover relationship problems, but there are so many levels to this show––some of which opened up locked caskets to previously taboo topics. However, this series has had a lasting impact on pop culture and the female heroine.