I stumbled across this paean to Buffy the Vampire Slayer tonight and came over all slushy.
Jess d’Arbonne is defending her love of Buffy to the uninitiated. She says:
Since Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer came crashing into mainstream television, there have been two kinds of people: Those who will defend this television show to the death, and those who just don’t get it and wouldn’t be caught dead watching it.
Having missed it on television, I was initiated by a close friend in England, with whom I spent one night a week of my last six months there watching Buffy episodes and eating great food.
It was a way for us to hang out before I left – she remains one of the people I miss most – not having all the people you love in one place is always annoying.
But it was also, for me, extraordinary, for all the reasons Jess d’Arbonne says and more.
Buffy is a hero, there’s no denying it. But this is also a show about friendship, and connection to other people, and the choices people make.
Buffy is strong and fabulous and all that – but she often makes crap choices about who to shag, just like we all do. When she sleeps with the beautiful player Parker, you understand why – he’s smooth, he’s gorgeous, he says beautiful things.
And when he treats her like a disposable masturbation bag, you understand her bewilderment – and it makes you remember when people in your life have “played you.”
And then there is Spike – the vampire without the soul that Buffy shags (as opposed to the absolutely execrable Angel, the vampire with the soul she shags). Spike is fascinating – he’s a demon who chooses to act well, because he’s in love with Buffy.
Then he chooses to try to rape her, because he thinks what he wants is most important. Because he thinks sex connects them. Because he wants to be connected to her.
His actions next are revealing. He chooses to take back his soul – in other words, he chooses to acknowledge how awful his actions in attempting to rape her were. And he continues to choose to act well. He made a mistake, he did something awful, and he acknowledges that and lives with the horror of it.
What about Xander, the working-class white boy from a family with alcohol problems and domestic violence. He chooses to help Buffy fight evil things, over and over again, in the beginning because he fancies her, later because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. He loves his friends and tries to help best he can – despite having no “super” powers, regularly being hurt, losing an eye. He is brave about right and wrong. But terrified about his personal life and emotions.
And perhaps my fave character, Willow. The nerd who gets power, and chooses to abuse it because it feels good and gets her what she wants. Willow is the cautionary tale for me, the personification of “power corrupts….” As with Spike, she chooses awful things – making her partner forget conflict, eviscerating the man who killed her lover – because she can. As with Spike, she lives with this horror by choosing to, and subsequently choosing to act well.
My fave Buffy story though is about director Joss Whedon.
In one show, two young men are trying to force two witches to dance with them, despite the witches saying no. The witches turn them into caged dancers, entertaining the night-club crowd by dancing in their fluffy underwear. Originally the writers had wanted the witches to take revenge by making the two young men kiss each other.
But Joss challenged this, and said he was not prepared to use being gay as a punishment.
Now, bordering on being a bore about this I know, so I’ll stop. I just wanted to add to the Buffy love. It’s not all about Buffy for me – it’s also about how beautiful friendship is, and how important it is to be mindful of choices we make, and how important it is to stand up against “evil”, even when you are scared.
Oh, and it’s a show about a chick with special powers who kills vampires.