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Twenty Years of Vampire Slaying

Photo: YouTube 

Twenty years ago, a television show with a cast of relatively unknown teenagers and created by somewhat unknown writer, premiered on a television network that many stations didn't even carry.

Twenty years later, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still slaying and relevant in this ever-changing pop culture (and real) world.

Admittedly, I didn't start fully investing in this show until the sixth season. And, in double-secret admittance, it was because of girl.

And I'm thankful she introduced it into my life.

Prior to the fall of 2001, I had caught a few episodes. Most of them had been from season three, the season that saw the gang battle a demon of a principal and introduced to the world the character of Faith (Eliza Dushku).

That was it. In fact, at this point in the story, I had might not even watched these episodes if it weren't for a (secret) love of Dawson's Creek. (A show I had started watching because of my love of Kevin Williamson's writing in Scream.)

Back on point, I was at first not necessarily interested in the travails of Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her pals. It seemed like a cute little show full of quips, snips, and staking.

Boy, was I wrong.

The show was more layered and more thoughtful then my previous forays had indicated. Buffy was a show that dealt with bullying, social angst, sexuality, and demons--inner and otherwise--all cleverly written into a fantasy world.

And it was all done with a strong female lead kicking ass on a weekly basis. 

Like a memory that is attached to a song, me watching this television show will always be tied to the ex-girlfriend who introduced it to me. After that, I was hooked.

The world created by Joss Whedon was intriguing on many levels. Audiences connected with the group of outcasts--the heroes--as many themselves were introverts, odd ducks, socially awkward, and labeled by society as different.

I can safely say this is partially why I became invested in the show. More importantly so, it was from a storytelling aspect that kept me involved each week. Yes, there was a world of demons, vampires, and magic, but more importantly the writing was backed up with real life issues. Transitioning to life in a new place. Dating. Navigating social waters. Love. The death of a loved one.

It is rare for a television to be universally agreed upon in favorite episodes, but that is what happening in the articles I've read. Top-ten episode lists for Buffy have been populating the internet over the last week and the majority of them list the same ten episodes. Is that to say the show only really had ten great episodes? No. It was simply in these in which the greatest impact was felt, an impact felt the same by various viewers across a female and male divide.

One episode, "The Body", was even given an in-depth article over at The Atlantic. Taking place in season five, this is an episode I caught after its initial premiere. And the moments of silence within this episode, especially when Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) is being told by Buffy of their mother's death is a moment that still had me choked up while reading the article. As an viewer, we see this happening in the hallways, through a window and from the POV of the classroom. We don't need to know what is being said and it's all the more powerful to watch this happen.

Moments like this from the show stick with me. Whedon's mix of comedic and drama writing is something I aspire to do. Finding moments in life that carry weight or are so subtle they move a person is something to aspire to.

Though I came to the party late, I'm glad I did. There are very few shows I can watch over and over again, but Buffy is definitely one of them. Twenty years have gone by, 16 of which I've been a fan, but here's to a show that continues to stand the test of time. And thanks to the ex-girlfriend that sat me down to watch the show. It may have started as a way to be part of her world, but it ended with the devotion of a lifelong fan. 


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