There are some series that come along once every so often that become absolute behemoths in terms of fan base and cultural impact. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is definitely one of those. It’s a series which can appeal to anyone as it’s indescribably engrossing, stupendously camp at times, riveting and extremely funny.
For people who don’t know what Buffy is about then here’s the general drift: Buffy Summers starts high school in Sunnydale California and soon realises the school is located on a ‘Hellmouth’ which means there’s a startling amount of demons, vampires, werewolves, you name it, inhabiting the town. Buffy quickly becomes acquainted with Willow and Xander, who promptly become her best friends after being the school losers for most of their lives. Anthony Head plays Giles, the school librarian who is Buffy’s watcher and often gets the wittiest lines and most humorous roles in the formulaic episodes. Oh and the ultimate irony is that Buffy falls in love with a vampire named Angel.
Each episode is extremely formulaic and goes something like this: episode begins with a new demon/group of vampires/mad person coming to Sunnydale, weird/bad things start happening to people around the school or area, Buffy and the Scooby gang find out and after some library research and some witty/insulting banter with Giles they begin to investigate. The episodes will often then move to some dark location like the sewers or the ‘Hellmouth’ for the climax and there will commence the final battle of each episode which often demonstrates Buffy’s ability for karate and staking vampires’ chests.
What’s brilliant about the series is the amount of substance underneath everything, not only is the gang dealing with all the demons in Sunnydale but they are also dealing with their own demons, after all they’re just still teenagers. The episodes delve into the characters’ love lives, friendships and family problems. The dialogue is often snappy, and the teenagers speak how real teenagers speak and there’s never a feeling of forced dialogue.
Obviously vampires and the mythology of the subject have been in our culture for over a hundred years, and ever since Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897 there has been a strong interest in the demonic. However, Buffy must take some of the blame for the obsession of vampires in the Twilight era with shows like The Vampire Diaries continuing to disappoint and the sexualisation of vampires at an all-time high. Although this isn’t a particularly new concept, as ever since Christopher Lee walked down the stairs as Count Dracula in 1958 there was always a brooding sexuality emanating from the concept of vampirism.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer is also a show that moves along with its characters, it shows them growing up as people, from high school innocents, to university students, to adults. It came out of the mind of Joss Whedon and he was someone who wasn’t bothered about making huge changes in the show either. At the start of season 4, the gang have left high school, main characters have gone, and the formulaic approach seems to have disappeared too. But it perfectly reflects life, in that as you grow up and start a job or university, you just don’t see certain people ever again because people change and move on, and it’s shown perfectly in Buffy. Although though it was a brave writing decision to move them out of comfortable surroundings and move the goalposts which could have massively backfired, but didn’t because the fans were completely loyal.
Buffy is someone who desperately wants to lead a normal teenage life; going out with boys, socialising with friends, but instead she has to patrol graveyards each night looking for demons. There’s something immensely sad about that but we also see Buffy as a girl who is extremely strong in a mental and physical sense. However, we do get to see a sensitive side to her and see that she’s just a regular girl with real emotions who has been placed in an extraordinary position. She sees Giles as a father figure after her dad left her and her mother, so when Giles is in danger we see how emotional Buffy becomes, not wanting to be left alone without a father.
The show is exciting due to the action sequences which always look great and hardly ever get boring, it also features loads of rock music and other cultural references. There are 7 seasons to get through and 144 episodes but I can honestly say that each one is worth the watch and every season is worth the money spent as you go on a long journey with these characters that you love (and hate) and every step of the way is a joy to behold. Even the villains like Spike and Drusilla are affable but at the same time deeply frightening which demonstrates how clever the writing is.
It really is a show that needs to be seen; even by people who aren’t fantasy or horror fans because it’s so much more than a genre series. It encapsulates everything good and bad about teenage life, plus the trials and tribulations of fighting demons but that often takes a backseat because at heart it’s a human drama and everyone can relate to that.