Today’s guest post is brought to you from Rebecca at Lunanshee’s Lunacy! She’s talking about why she thinks Buffy is still going strong more than 10 years after its debut. Please welcome her to Bookish Comforts!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) debuted in March 1997 and quickly became a hit show that lasted seven seasons, although it continues on in the comic book medium. It is now 2012, and more than ten years since its original airing BtVS is still going strong, still gathering fans and still a major influencer of pop culture. Buffy wasn't the only super-chick to ever run around TV Land; Dark Angel featured a genetically altered Max, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and the Charmed sisters were all on air the same time as BtVS. So what does BtVS have that other shows lack? How does it continue to hold the loyalty of millions of fans? Why is it still so powerful years after its final TV episode in 2003?
The Joss Effect
Recently the name Joss Whedon has become widely recognized due to his directing of the highly successful (and in my opinion, wildly entertaining) movie The Avengers. Moviegoers were blown away by the story’s complexity, character depth, effects, and camera work. Buffy fans were not surprised by the popularity of The Avengers, in fact, many were probably wondering why more people didn’t know and recognize the name Joss Whedon.
Joss Whedon has a talent for creating wonderfully complex universes where morality is measured in shades of grey and anti-heroes become heroes; where heroines are flawed and secondary characters are given depth of character. His creations have lives behind the screen, off the page; they love, hate, laugh and cry with a passion that somehow remains real rather than cliché. Buffy the Vampire Slayer grabbed viewers by the throat, sank in its teeth, and transformed them into a rabid fan-base primarily through
its characters. Buffy, Willow and Xander began the series as awkward teens thrust into an unfamiliar and dangerous world where vampires and demons prowled at will. Each of the main characters has a fundamental flaw that makes them both vulnerable and relatable. Buffy is chosen by The Powers That Be (TPTB) to inherit supernatural strength and speed, but she is still a regular teenage girl. She never asked for the responsibility of fighting evil. She never signed on to be a soldier in a supernatural war and the effects of her battles, losses and triumphs greatly impact her psyche. Likewise, Willow’s character is graced with an affinity for magic and eventually becomes a super-chick in her own right. Both Buffy and Willow are alternately empowered and defeated by these supernatural gifts. Their failings make them more human and allow viewers to bond with these characters on a deeper level than many shows. Xander is the sole “pure” human of the show and, in many ways, is both its heart and its conscience. He has no supernatural powers, no background in the world of the Slayer and is not particularly bright or charismatic. He is the Everyman of the Slayerverse. Still, Xander is integral to the story arc of BtVS, as without him Buffy would be (more) psychologically damaged than she is, rather than scarred and healing. Willow would have ended the world (and probably been killed), and Anya would never have regained her humanity without their relationships with Xander.
Just as his characters are given depth, Joss Whedon gives just as much thought to the universe in which his characters live. His world IS a character. One of the greatest parts of BtVS is the lore, the rules and the bending of both; viewers became immersed in the world of the Slayer because it is paradoxically so close to and so different from reality. In the Buffyverse, teens converse with wit and passion, adults are
generally clueless and monsters stand in for personal demons and society’s issues. Joss Whedon creates characters that viewers know like they know their best friends. Joss’s characters live inside the fan much like the characters from our favourite books, weaving themselves into viewers psyche until they fuse with the soul.
BtVS has long held status as a cult classic but, for the fans, is more than that. Buffy, Willow, Xander, Sunnydale - the whole Buffyverse - has become an ongoing tradition to share and instil in the viewer generations after season 7's finale. Every Halloween we watch "Halloween" and "Fear, Itself", every Thanksgiving it's "Pangs". Buffy and the Scooby Gang are the distant cousins you actually WANT to have over for the holidays. We watch episodes with our friends and families (sometimes against their will) and we re-connect with the characters, discover new aspects of the show, and engage other viewers in the Buffyverse experience. BtVS remains popular and relevant because, even with the monsters and magic, it is, at its heart, a show about the human experience. Everyone can relate to that.
Rebecca is a YA Librarian by day at one of the busiest libraries in the state of Texas. She spends the majority of her time reading and reviewing YA literature and coming up with fun, innovative programming with diverse teen appeal. When not reviewing for her blog Lunanshee’s Lunacy she reviews books for VOYA, and volunteers for the Spirit of Texas Reading Program Committee and the Teen Book Con Committee. For more on Rebecca please visit her LinkedIn Profile.