or, “Reflections of a Self-Professed Scooby”

* Note: this  is part one of a multi-part series of various things Buffy-related. I’m gonna hit such fun topics like favorite episodes, storylines, characters, villains, and other randomness. ‘Cause when someone mentions Buffy I go into instant fangirl-mode, screaming like a tween at a Justin Bieber concert. So read at your own risk of your insanity… I should also mention that there are SPOILERS for the uninitiated, so if you’re thinking about checking out the show – I would probably skim through or close your eyes real tightly and read my other posts. Or look at the pretty pictures that I’ll be throwing in later BTVS posts.

This year, 2012, marks the fifteen-year anniversary of the premiere of one of the greatest series to ever grace our television screens. With its mixture of monsters, sarcasm, comedy, drama, horror, and a feisty yet loyal (to those she was close to) heroine – a blonde chick who fought lots and lots of demons, vampires, gods, and evil humans – Buffy the Vampire Slayer quickly became a cult hit that still has a lasting legacy with its legion of “Scoobies” and “Slayerettes,” which are just a few of the terms of endearment that we fans use to describe our obsession (er, interest) with the show. There’s nothing really new to see here that hasn’t been spoken about by countless others who are fans of the show, but I thought I’d throw in my two cents and delve into this strange supernatural world that is still deeply ingrained in my life. I pretty much relate all real-life situations to the show, though reality is much scarier than anything seen in all seven seasons of Buffy. There’s helpful notes along the way for non-fans, so you won’t feel so lost like the Sane Person’s Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The concept alone sounded goofy and bizarre to the uninitiated: a petite, blonde high school cheerleader who the the creatures of the night feared and fought them on a weekly basis with her core group of friend and allies who wold stop at nothing to help her as much as they could. She was destined to be a hero, the savior of humanity, yet she didn’t know a stake from a…steak after she first learned about her destiny. Or that vampires existed. Or that she would die (several times) to save a world that didn’t know that she existed. She was the popular girl who was thrust into a world full of scary things that she was not prepared to deal with, but in the end she conquered her fears and anxieties and became the champion that both her Watchers – Merrick and Rupert Giles – knew she would be.

When Buffy the Vampire Slayer appeared in its celluloid form, it was seen as a disaster and an epic joke: the script was butchered beyond recognition of what its young screenwriter had envisioned the film to be, the acting was cheesy but it had a wonderfully diverse cast (Kristy Swanson, Paul Reuben, David Arquette, Luke Perry, and Rutger Hauer), and it was the best of ’90s schlock. It later gained a cult following of fans who loved the colorful characters, the witty dialogue, and the idea that a teenage girl could be so tough and have this strange supernatural strength to help her defeat her foes.

Joss Whedon’s star has certainly risen to astronomical heights thanks to his contributions to the horror and science fiction communities with his various comic book, film, Internet, and television endeavors, amongst many others. And now that star has turned into a supernova thanks to The Avengers (Assemble), but we won’t hold that against him. He is a creator that understand how the geek’s mind works, and that’s cool with us.  He’s also an honorary woman because he knows and understands women so very well, and that is one of his strongest traits: a guy who knows how to write as a female character without being degrading. Without the disastrous Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie and his contributions to various other television and film ventures, he would probably be just another struggling writer trying to make it bit. Of course, assumption is a terrific thing, but the guy has talent, and even his haters have to admit that he did bring us some pretty cool things and characters. The man has given us Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, Serenity, Firefly, and Dollhouse – the latter two cancelled before they really hit their stride – and I’m forever a fan of all that awesomeness.

The most common component of each of his various creative outlets (as stated above) is the appearance of strong female characters that girls, teens, and women can relate to and identify with. That’s probably why many women of my generation (I guess we’re called Generation Y, though I feel more like a Gen X-er myself) were huge fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it aired on the WB (and later UPN) as a TV series. We were starting to see more TV series that featured women as the heroes and the lead characters (I love Charmed and I’m not ashamed to proclaim it), and that was cool with me. Two of my favorite TV characters – Xena from…er…Xena, Warrior Princess, and FBI Special Agent Dana Scully from The X-Files – were both very strong and well-written female characters that kicked ass, held their own, and were equals to their male counterparts. Well, except for Scully being kidnapped every other season (much like a certain Buffy character and her propensity of falling into comas). I thought it was cool as hell to see these fierce women on TV every week, and female-centric series are being more common nowadays (another TV series that I’m a huge fan of is Law and Order: SVU, which features another fave of mine: Olivia Benson. That’s another post for another day).

When Buffy the Vampire Slayer first appeared on the WB (now called the CW), I wasn’t a fan at all – in fact, I thought it looked stupid and goofy. It just didn’t grab my attention or seem that interesting to me show, even though I am a huge fan of all things vampiric, occult, and supernatural; I live and breathe for that stuff, but the show wasn’t that appealing to me. I kept hearing from friends of mine that were into the show about how awesome it was, but I was still skeptical. It took both a high school friend of mine and my mom to convince me otherwise.

Mom was the vote that I needed to get into the show, and I trusted her judgment. I will forever be grateful to her for introducing to Buffy’s world. Later, in my early adult years, I discovered that my mom is a fan of shows that feature fantasy and supernatural elements. She’s the one that got me hooked on Xena, The X-Files, Buffy, CharmedHercules, Beauty and the Beast, and many other shows that explored things beyond our world that were fantastical or mysterious, frightening, or just plain, good ol’ fashioned science fiction.

I remember coming home after school on the nights that Buffy aired and sitting down to watch it with my mom. I don’t remember exactly the first episode that I watched, but I think I’ve pinpointed it down to the Season Two episode “School Hard,” which introduced us to one of the greatest couples (and characters) of the series: Spike and Drusilla. One’s a bit punk rock, one’s Goth and kooky, but man – were they made for each other. And their relationship was a great juxtaposition to Buffy and Angel’s classic, tortured romance. Chaos in relationships is normal, right? Spike and Drusilla were indeed the Sid and Nancy of the vampire world, and I loved them for that. They were always foiled by Buffy whenever they tried to execute their plans of draining and murdering us humans for our blood and lifeforce, and general anarchy of apocalyptic proportions. Spike and Drusilla were later joined by the soulless Angelus, and that made for some hella good TV watching.

I think I skipped the episodes where our plucky vampire hero, Angel, turned into his dead-sexy, less-soul, leather pants-clad alterego (“Surprise”/”Innocence”), but the episode that really grabbed my attention and made me a fan was the heartbreaking episode “Passion.” The speech about ‘passion’ and how it rules over us was one of the most dynamic pieces of writing that I had ever witnessed in television form, the cinematography was tight and suspenseful, and the haunting ending to this day marks this episode as one of my favorites for its emotional punch, the acting by the cast, and for proving that this show was not just about high school and monsters – there was real drama that anyone could grab onto.

The moment I became a certified fan-for-life was the beginning of Season Three – or rather – thanks to the introduction of Buffy’s dark counterpart, the slayer Faith Lehane (yes folks – she does have a last name). Actually, my first initial reaction to seeing Eliza Dushku as Faith was “…” Of course, your brain turning into mush makes it hard to come up with a reaction of any sort, but my second reaction and following thought was, “Holy friggin’ crap! That chick is hottttt! Never gonna miss an episode now!” I admit it – I turned into a teenage boy at that moment, but whatever. It’s okay to have a shallow moment every once in a while, but I can’t imagine anyone else in that role – can you?

Along with a great “Big Bad” (as the villains had come to be known on the show) in the form of Mayor Richard Wilkins (my caffeine has dried up, so if I got his name wrong, apologies), the in-fighting and trust issues within the Scooby Gang (Buffy’s friends), and Buffy doubting herself and becoming a lone fighter of sorts and falling under Faith’s ‘spell’ (“Want, take, have” – don’t even get me started on the Fuffy fandom) makes this season one of the strongest of the series, and my personal favorite (tied with Season Two).

Buffy had run away at the end of Season Two after being forced to kill her beloved Angel, tried to start a new life in Los Angeles and calling herself ‘Anne’ (her middle name), and deal with the death of a fellow sister Slayer named Kendra, along with her friends and family screaming at her for leaving them behind in Sunnydale. Season Three featured a lot of the show’s familiar dramatic moments followed by several funny-as-hell episodes, and introduced us to several mainstays in the series (Faith, Oz, Anya[nka], etc.).

A majority of fans hold up Seasons Two and Three in high regards as the best of the series, and I tend to agree with them. The first three seasons were great television and had excellent writing mixed in with great acting performances from the cast, and memorable episodes that still hold up quite well even with years gone by. Buffy dealt with dying, coming back to life, and fully understanding her destiny in Season One. Season Two introduced us to Spike, Drusilla, and Angelus, and Buffy had to deal with not only the loss of her soulmate, Angel, but the death of a fellow Slayer who was called after she “died” in the first season. Season Three led to Buffy having a strained relationship with her friends and her mom, a volatile Slayer who had gone rogue and was working for the “Big Bad,” and becoming the hero that even her own classmates recognized when she gathered them to fight side-by-side with her while she blew up Sunnydale High.

There’ll be a further journey into all seven seasons of the show as I delve deeper and deconstruct each season’s storylines for the non-fans who are wondering what the hell the show is about, and why they should fall in line with the rest of us Scoobies – we’ll get you guys hooked soon enough…

I think that’s a pretty nice, lengthy explanation of why I’m a Scoobie. I’ll be diving headfirst into favorite episodes next, and I almost forgot to mention the spinoff inspired by Buffy: Angel. That show alone is worthy of its own breakdown, so be looking for that in the future. Thanks for following me on this journey, and hope to see at least one person stick around the for rest. ;)