I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan, who isn’t, but I consider myself among the lucky people who knew his work before The Avengers. Not that there’s anything wrong with loving his Marvel Masterpiece but it feels good to appreciate someone before everyone else did. Since it has been 20 years since Buffy premiered, I don’t have to worry about spoiling anything but if you haven’t seen Buffy and Angel stop reading now and go watch it.
I don’t remember when and how exactly I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer but it must have been around 19981 and I immediately fell in love with the show2. I was exactly the right age to relate to the characters and their problems and the fact that the characters and their problems grew (up) with me made the show all the more exciting. Buffy was/is genre TV at its best, I love the story-arcs and even the standalone episodes have monsters that stand as a metaphor for a familiar problem growing up. I don’t and didn’t mind that the main character is a girl, hell I like girls and the show probably had a big influence on the type of girls I like.
One could say that I grew up with Buffy and the Scoobies and they heavily influenced me and how I see problems and how I deal with them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Rogue Demon Hunter3 but I learned many lessons from Buffy. Not all demons are bad, sometimes people change from bad to good or the other way round and generally, as long as you work together, even the Apocalypse is avertable. Not bad lessons for a TV show about a girl who kills vampires.
I’m currently rewatching the whole Buffyverse and I’m surprised how well the shows hold up. Sure, the effects are not to current standards but that doesn’t matter, Buffy was never about dusting vampires or slaying demons, it was always about the emotions that led up to the confrontation with the monster. Some episodes are a bit on the nose but the show was never condescending4 and had a positive message. Even the really heart-breaking stuff like Angel turning evil or Buffy dying is used to perfection to create great emotional television moments. There are so many great moments but I’m not going to make a Top 10 List but I want to mention a few that are still with me, either because of their emotional impact or because they were just really good storytelling.
Angel turning evil after a moment of pure bliss is one of my favourite moments in TV history. Sure, the metaphor is on the nose but who cares. The whole season 2 Storyline with Angel is just great.
Another of my favourite moments is near the end of season 4 when her classmates name her “Class Protector”, I think I cried a little bit, it was just a powerful moment and yeah, killing the mayor was fun as well.
The season 5 finale The Gift and especially the final moment is probably one of the best season finales ever and it’s fitting that another of of my great moments happened in the season opener, at the end of a mediocre Dracula episode Buffy’s sister Dawn show up for the first time. What the $#!&, did I miss something? A great moment because it made you wonder what the deal with her was.
Last but not least, Buffy’s speech and Willow’s magic in in the series finale Chosen. Sure it‘s basically feminism but I have no problem with that, none whatsoever, it’s great television and a powerful message to girls (and boys), the power is yours for the taking, what a great way to end a great show.
It’s no coincidence that most of these moments occur in episodes written and directed by Joss Whedon and I strongly recommend to check out all his episode not just Hush and Once More with Feeling. I also recommend listening to his audio-commentaries, especially “Becoming” where he reveals the secret to good storytelling, “emotional resonance and rocket-launchers”. You gotta love this guy.
There have been other great shows that stuck with me but no other show influenced me that much. The only other non Joss Whedon show (there will be a separate post about Angel and I will definitely write something about Firefly as well) that influenced me like Buffy did is Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, Buffy made me a feminist, Josh Lyman a liberal5.
So yeah, If you haven’t seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer or if it has been a while, revisit it. It’s definitely worth your time and it might make you a better person in the process. That’s pretty good for a 20 year old TV show. I doubt you can say that about Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Stay tuned for the second part of the Joss Whedon appreciation month, my post about Angel will follow soon.