The first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is unforgettable to all Buffy fans. It’s sort of like “Where were you when JFK was shot?” The first show opens at night with a young couple breaking into a closed and empty high school. He’s a little older than she is and a bit of a hoodlum. It’s obviously the first date and she doesn’t want to be breaking into the school. He assures her that the view from the roof is worth it. As they walk down the hall and make their way toward the staircase, she hears something. She’s terrified. She’s afraid that something dangerous is in the school. He assures her that they are alone. She says, “good” and instantly grows fangs and drinks the blood of this macho hoodlum. And so begins Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A show about good versus evil, enduring friendships and above all else, powerful women.
In her book, What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide, Jana Riess says of the the show, “Buffy is a classic medieval morality play – only with skimpier clothes, wittier dialogue, and cutting-edge alternative music. During its seven-season run from March 1997 to May 2003, it was easily one of the most moralistic programs on TV, depicting a world in which evil never goes unpunished and doing good is its own reward.” (Riess is also the author of the hilarious, The Twible: All the Chapters of the Bible in 140 Characters or Less.)
Buffy is not just about good vs. evil. It’s about the power of relationships and community. Buffy is strong and beautiful, and she makes the most popular girl in school jealous. Yet she surrounds herself with the unpopular kids. The misfits. It is in these friendships that Buffy finds strength. “In Buffy’s world, the most powerful individuals are those with a strong support system – friends and family members who share responsibility and heartache and who encourage one another to fight the good fight,” says Riess.
Created by Joss Whedon, Buffy is filled with myth, allegory and cultural references. “As a result,” writes Katharine Schwab in an article for The Atlantic, “hundreds of scholarly books and articles have been written about Buffy’s deeper themes, and an entire academic journal and conference series – appropriately called Slayage – is devoted to using the show and other Whedon works to discuss subjects such as philosophy and cultural theory. Buffy as an allegorical spectacle of postmodern life? Check. Buffy as a progressive, feminist challenge to gender hierarchy? Check. Buffy as a philosophical examination of subjectivity and truth? Check. In fact, in a 2012 study by Slate, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was named the most studied pop culture work by academics, with more than 200 papers, essays, and books devoted to the series.”
Buffy isn’t just about killing vampires. It’s also about forgiveness and redemption. It’s about love and loss. It’s about confidence and insecurity. It’s about life and death. Ultimately, Buffy is about redemption and self-sacrifice. Not bad for a TV show.
David Dreisbach serves as Director of Communications for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Connect with him at email@example.com.