One of the earliest manifestations of a heroic female lead in television.
Joss Whedon says the idea of Buffy the Vampire Slayer came to him while watching a horror film. Being a fan of the genre, Whedon noticed that there’s always a blonde that gets caught in a dark alley at night, helpless to whatever dark presence is stalking her. He thought instead of the usual damsel in distress, wouldn’t it be interesting if she suddenly stopped running, faced her predator, and put him in his place? Thus, one of the first horror heroines appeared, and genre television changed forever. Of course, final girls had existed long before the show, but not many had inhabited the living room tube, and not many were just as physically superior as their male co-stars.
Influential formulaic pattern for other supernatural shows.
The concept of a big bad awaiting the protagonists at the end of every season, the monster of the week routine, and the quirky comments from the characters that help the viewers last through the rough times, can all be traced back to Buffy. Buffy has had a massive influence on other shows like The Vampire Diaries and True Blood, which are beloved by many today. True Blood undoubtedly holds parallels to Buffy, with its young quirky blonde leading the audience down a dark path into a supernatural world, and of course, the love triangle between a the girl’s brooding boyfriend, his rebellious companion from his past, her. An entire line of dialogue from the ‘90s hit show is actually repeated nearly word for word -- “I’d love to rip out your rib cage and wear it as a hat” -- on True Blood.
Joss Whedon’s unique, self-aware, witty dialogue makes the characters relatable, and the sometimes heavy material more bearable. It’s also easier to deal with the fantastical nature of the show when it takes a moment to make fun of itself. The fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously makes it easier accept when characters like a slime-covered Chaos demon appear onscreen. This type of humor is present now in several other fantasy programs, especially after he wrote and directed Avengers, and his wit is more widely known. Aside from his influence, the most important thing is that the humor is still funny! Some of the pop culture references in the jokes have aged, but overall, the material stays relatively timeless because it addresses relationship disputes that everyone goes through, and references subjects such as classic literary works, which live on forever.
The message of independence is just as prevalent as stakes and crosses on this show. Buffy is constantly putting her slayer duties before her dates, knowing that being alone and killing the big bad is far more urgent than her desire for a normal life. At the end of the day, when Angel’s gone evil and the rest of the Scooby gang is in peril, Buffy can always count on herself to save the day. Buffy never backs down from a fight, takes charge and makes the hard decisions, and maintains faith in herself and in her friends, no matter the odds. Buffy speaks to all women, because there comes a time in all of our lives when we have to be stronger than we imagined we could.
Well choreographed action sequences.
Nothing grabs me quite like strategically formed hand-to-hand combat. I appreciate a hail of gunfire as the hero makes his big hurrah in the final showdown, but there’s something about getting back to basics that always makes a lasting impression. Relying only on your fists and your will to win is so much more personal than an Uzi, no matter how cool it looks. If you’re like me, then you’ll understand why watching a show like this that’s full of bare-knuckled action is extremely satisfying, even after a few viewings.
Positive, laid-back presentation of homosexuality.
As most Buffy fans know, Willow and Tara became a gay couple in the series’ fourth season. In the final episode of season 4, the two shared the first ever same sex kiss in the series. Ironically, the kiss wasn’t even shown, but it still managed to cause a stir amongst those who didn’t approve when the show as on the air. Of course, in the later episodes, the two were seen kissing many times (which Whedon fought valiantly to show), but more importantly, they were displayed as a normal, everyday couple. Tara and Willow weren’t over-sexualized, or treated as cliché characters. They weren’t “the gay couple” on the show – they were just a couple. They loved each other. Sadly, these characters are still relatively rare on T.V. programs today, but with the help of influential shows like Buffy, this and other important messages are becoming more prominent. Dated? Buffy is still paving the way, even to this day.
The filmmakers behind the show probably work on your favorite program now.
Several members of the staff from Buffy have leaked into several other T.V. programs that are popular today. Tim Minear, one of the writers and producers of American Horror Story, was a writer/director/producer on not only Buffy, but several of Whedon’s projects, including Angel, Dollhouse, and Firefly. Another writer, David Fury, went on to work on shows like Lost and 24. Jane Espenson worked on Battlestar Galactica, Torchwood, Once Upon A Time, and Game of Thrones. Marti Noxon (pictured), a woman who wrote twenty-four episodes of Buffy, and even produced the show, later worked on Glee, Mad Men, and the remake of Fright Night (2011).
Lessons are still important and applicable today.
When Giles read the prophecy in season one that said that Buffy would have to fight the Master and die in order to save the world, she pushed her fears aside and met the ancient vampire in the pits of hell. When Angel loses his soul and begins tormenting those close to her, Buffy hunts down the love of her life, because protecting her friends and family will always come before her boyfriend. When it comes to saving the world, Buffy never hesitates in putting others’ safety before her own, and struggles to do what’s right, even when the walls of the hellmouth are closing in on her. Doing the right thing, sacrificing your wants and wishes for your responsibilities, loyalty to your loved ones – Buffy isn’t just a tiny girl in a mini skirt who can dust three vamps at once – she’s a hero. The Kantian messages still ring loud and clear, even after all these years.
Supportive female co-stars.
In a world of popular T.V. titles like Revenge, Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, Lie To Me, isn’t it nice to watch a show where the group of friends act like…well…friends? Pop culture seems to have this idea that women define friendship by petty gossip, backstabbing, and boyfriend stealing. Even to this day, there are few shows that have female leads work to help each other, not tear each other down. Buffy and Willow fight at times, naturally, but they engage in quarrels that women can actually relate to, like worrying that your friend won’t accept you after you’ve recently come out to them. Not only has it changed the way T.V. writers form female characters, but it also continues to be an inspiring portrayal of women today.
Horror is gaining popularity again.
Fantasy is big right now. Look at the box office standings and you’ll find that films like Guardians of the Galaxy, As Above/So Below, and Lucy are grabbing top spots. Even the 30th anniversary re-release of Ghostbusters made over a million dollars this past weekend. With the horror genre steadily claiming more fans, especially as Halloween swiftly creeps around the corner, what better time to delve into one of the genre’s most iconic television shows?