"Buffy Summers, Class Protector"
March 9, 2017 11:18 PM   Subscribe

10 March 2017 marks the twentieth anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's TV debut, an occasion for many, many articles, touching on empowerment and life lessons, and resonance with adolescence and adulthood:
... [Buffy] reflected the universal struggle to figure out how to be human in an increasingly unfeeling world, ... even after your heart has been shattered in ways one could not have predicted.

Grab bag:
posted by ZeusHumms (118 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
 
Every single post, the same arrangement: I read what the MeFites write.

Still, I always feel this strange estrangement - something isn't real. Something isn't right ...

Now you've posted shows of Buffy - oh! Everybody knows: this ain't just "going through the motions" - you're not "walking through your part".

This post really penetrates my heart!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:53 PM on March 9 [47 favorites]


AVClub has been running a pretty good series of articles in honor of Buffy Week. The interview with James Marsters is thoughtful and entertaining – all of the interviews are, but his especially.
posted by lumensimus at 11:58 PM on March 9 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: brave, and kind of righteous
posted by nonspecialist at 12:52 AM on March 10 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: brave, and kind of righteous

It's why I'm always favoriting!
Trawl through what you've saved, you'll find MeFites just
Love to joke and sing ...
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:45 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


... thanks for noticing!
posted by nonspecialist at 1:48 AM on March 10 [12 favorites]


Anthony Stewart Head in The Guardian.
posted by Coaticass at 1:53 AM on March 10 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter's swell with posts (but, well,
some trainwrecks can be hell ...)
But we're not "going through the motions"
We're not "faking it" somehow
This post clearly demonstrates that - wow!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:04 AM on March 10 [6 favorites]


(Can I keep this up forever?
Some of these lines aren't so clever.)
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:08 AM on March 10 [9 favorites]


Buffy is one of my favourite shows, but "Seeing Red" is still total bullshit !!
posted by Pendragon at 3:06 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


[this story interrupts the musical, but it is too good not to share]

So, the place where I work is helmed by a former member of British Parliament, and I actually worked in the presidents' office suite for a year; so he's gotten to know me well enough that we still say "hi" in the hallway and chat in elevators and such. A few months back, we were indeed on the same elevator in the morning, and when I asked how he was, he apologized for seeming a bit dazed because he had just literally come off a red-eye flight from overseas.

Now, my friends and I, when we're in that state, will quote the "Fire bad, tree pretty" line Buffy has at the end of "Graduation", because it's the most perfect way to explain that state I've come across. So, I near-instinctively said "Fire bad, tree pretty" to him.

He turned to me, puzzled. "....sorry, what was that?"

And so that's how I ended up explaining Buffyspeak to a former parlimentarian at 8:50 on a Tuesday.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:23 AM on March 10 [56 favorites]


We're not even half the site we- OW!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:07 AM on March 10 [4 favorites]


Buffy is my hero. She proved female heroes are the best, because instead of going off on her own to fight for the world (and get all the glory) she empowered everyone around her to be heroes too. Is there a better lesson in leadership? I don't think so. Since the Nov election I ask myself daily, "are you ready to be strong?" WWBD
posted by pjsky at 5:28 AM on March 10 [11 favorites]


I didn't watch Buffy when it was released - wasn't even on my radar. However, by the time I did watch it, all on DVD, I could do so with my daughter, so it was totally worth the wait.

We knocked all all 7 seasons in a year.
posted by COD at 5:42 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Ah, I can save an AskMe! Who's the Buffy writer who has assembled a series of recent television cliches to never use again and has given them a special name? I can't recall.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:44 AM on March 10


I heard an interview with a television writer once that referred to tired jokes as "clams," but I don't think it was a Buffy writer. I think it was a TWoP alum, although I can't remember which one. I think it may actually be industry jargon.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:49 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


re: Bad Buffy Outfits, the '90s really loved some olive, mustard, and maroon, huh?
posted by leotrotsky at 5:50 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Huh, and now I know why they're called clams, "So take clams – the jokes which seem fresh and funny but quickly go off."
posted by leotrotsky at 6:03 AM on March 10


I used to say this to my kids—they’re in college now

Reading these words come from James Marsters shook me. Deeply. Spike is an empty nester with children in college.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:16 AM on March 10 [20 favorites]


We knocked all 7 seasons in a year.

I'm sitting here mildly jealous. Imagine having to wait weeks or even months to find out what happens next. We had the internet to stoke our passions, but at dialup speeds.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:16 AM on March 10 [4 favorites]


I started re-watching Buffy a couple months ago - just landed on it on Netflix one night as the perfect engrossing but not political, taking me back to a simpler time, distraction from current events. I hadn't even realized it was the 20th anniversary until this week, and just thought I was a trendsetter when all these articles and re-watch events and stuff started showing up in my orbit. I just started Season 3. My boyfriend is watching it with me, and for him it's his first go-round.

The Buffering the Vampire Slayer podcast is really good, even if (like me) you go through a lot more than one episode per week. They're doing a live watch on Facebook tonight in honor of the anniversary!

Heads up, though: Netflix has started doing that little warning that the series will be removed on April 1. It's possible that they will re-up the streaming rights, but if you want to get watching via Netflix, you're on the clock.
posted by misskaz at 6:18 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


Oh! Also I was just pointed to this: a spoiler-free Buffy + Angel viewing order guide.
posted by misskaz at 6:22 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


"I used to say this to my kids—they’re in college now"

Reading these words come from James Marsters shook me. Deeply. Spike is an empty nester with children in college.


Oooooh, I need to share this with friends to make them feel old ;).

The show ages relatively well overall though, fashion and internet demons aside.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:25 AM on March 10


Speaking of Bad Buffy Outfits, you can now get some from Hot Topic!
posted by domo at 6:25 AM on March 10


Netflix added Buffy literally a week after I bought the entire series on DVD in a nice box set. Ah, well.

(I'm still annoyed that the DVD menus for the episode where Buffy thinks her college roommate is a demon give away the goddamned twist at the end. That's just bad menu making!)
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:30 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


[this story interrupts the musical, but it is too good not to share]

That IS a good story! Also, ah ... grateful someone could make a five-syllable comment rhyming with "How can I repay -" in order to finish a certain song.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:37 AM on March 10


It was 1997 and my roommate was telling me about this show she loved to watch. I remembered the movie, so I was extremely wary, but I gave it a shot.

It was Season 2. I was hooked.

I spent a lot of time online, and had fallen hardcore in Babylon 5 fandom. But here was something new and different and one of my Babylon 5 friends and I spent a lot of time talking about this show and hunting down fanfiction. But if you weren't writing Buffy and Angel being in love forever, it wasn't posted. There was one Angel and Xander story, but you had to actually email the author to request it, proving that you were an adult.

We wanted a place where we could post all sorts of stories - the ones where it wasn't Buffy and Angel, but maybe Buffy and Xander. Or Buffy and Willow. Or Xander and Angel.

She started Unconventional Relationshippers. I took it over in, like 1998.

It was where we posted everything and anything. She wanted all the Xander/Larry (because, c'mon, if you're going to come out to someone who has a gay panic, then you know...you know). I wrote some of the first femslash, because someone dared me to work out how Willow and Cordelia would hook up. Season three rolled around with Faith, and everyone went just a little nuts.

We had stupid trends. We had even stupider fandom wars. We had a million archives for all sorts of pairings and genres and styles and even challenges. We learned HTML and CSS and using Photoshop (or Paint Shop Pro) and collected stories. We had disclaimers longer than actual stories. We knew the details. Everyone made fun of my OTP, but I didn't care.

I did research. Actual semi-academic research. I presented a paper at a conference on it. I looked at the trends and surveyed people and pointed out that while a lot of internet fandom (at the time) was older women with home access who remembered zines and liked to make sure adults were reading their stories, this was crazy stupid kids in college, using all that delicious free internet, building their own sites, making their own world.

We were on the newsgroups, as well. alt.tv.buffy-v-slayer was filled with people who still today roll their eyes and sigh if you say "Xander lied!" alt.tv.angel had Tim Minear occasionally posting.

They knew we were watching. I can't prove it, but there were coincidences, there were mentions. Would have Cordelia tried to take on "A Doll's House" by Ibsen if I hadn't written an epic Willow/Cordelia story where she gets critical acclaim for a film adaptation? Would they have named a villain "The Order of Trombli" if they hadn't known there was a very pointed and pedantic newsgroup writer with a very similar last name?

I moved overseas. It was harder to get the episodes sooner. I fell out of love with the plotlines. I got annoyed with the treatment of characters and actors. I was still in love, but it was different, and there were other fandoms now to distract me.

But I still keep those archives up. Not because I plan to update them, but they're a record. They're proof that, for just eight years, there was a phenomenon. And I was part of it.
posted by Katemonkey at 6:41 AM on March 10 [58 favorites]


Spike is an empty nester with children in college.

It's worse than that. He's well over 150 years old now.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:48 AM on March 10 [9 favorites]


It's worse than that. He's well over 150 years old now.

...and look how great his skin is! That's why you keep out of the sun, folks.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:52 AM on March 10 [9 favorites]


...and look how great his skin is! That's why you keep out of the sun, folks.

It also helps to not admit one's age unless the NY Times is asking.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:55 AM on March 10


They're proof that, for just eight years, there was a phenomenon. And I was part of it.

Thank you.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:56 AM on March 10


I have so many Buffy Feelings You knows, it was on in reruns every day after school during high school - just peak absorption time. I talked about Rupert Giles (the reason I own so much tweed) over st DADFEELINGS

And uh, right after HS I went to LA and ...this was inevitable

Also DID YOU KNOW if you throw a vaguely Buffy themed Prom party and you have a prom king / Queen slow dance and put on the Sundays' cover of Wild Horses you can make every 23-36 year old in the room CRY?
posted by The Whelk at 6:57 AM on March 10 [19 favorites]


Well, this is the first time in months I've been obsessively looking for Buffy links instead of politics links....

Anyway, I can't come up with anything more original than "show's awesome, glad everyone loves it so" right now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:03 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


Not lost nor totally forgot: Archive of Television Without Pity (TWoP) Buffy recaps
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:04 AM on March 10 [11 favorites]


Ref clams, I think leotrotsky, you might be thinking of Jane Espenson, who wrote about clams here. She wrote Earshot among other standout BtVS episodes.
posted by featherboa at 7:14 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I was a confused 19-20 yr old in the late 90s, and this show was a genuine guide. It's part of why we're still pissed about Firefly, because just as Buffy was a coming-of-age story, that could have been about young family.
posted by chmmr at 7:24 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Great links, looking forward to reading them! I am a late-comer to Buffy fandom. I didn't watch it at all when it was on, despite being the exact perfect age to appreciate it. I finally watched it a year or two ago, and I've really enjoyed reading Buffy-related stuff on the internet since then (especially the FanFare posts, which are great!). Yay Buffy! Never too late to enjoy fandom, it seems.
posted by aka burlap at 7:27 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


No single bit of media was as formative on my wardrobe, dress like you can go to an academic conference and dig up a cursed Ruby! Action Librarian! With the tight weave tweeds and canvas bags and heavy bottomed brogues for stomping around haunted estates! I own so many fussy ties and sturdy woolen pants as a result.
posted by The Whelk at 7:29 AM on March 10 [9 favorites]


YouTube: Giles sings Behind Blue Eyes

Now, where did I put my lighter ...
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:32 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


"@merritk buffy epitomizes the fantasy that an older man might genuinely care for you in a paternal way without wanting to fuck you"
posted by The Whelk at 7:33 AM on March 10 [33 favorites]


Speaking of paternalism: The villains on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ showed just how pervasive misogyny can be (Alyssa Rosenberg, WaPo). Article starts off with Mayor Wilkins, who definitely had an interesting relationship with Faith, molding her into a tool to advance his agenda.

It ends with a timely observation:
If the show was initially about an unexpected Chosen One, in the series finale, Buffy gave up sole responsibility for carrying that mantle, activating the power of every girl in the world with the potential to serve as the Slayer. Patriarchal authority on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” wasn’t merely about limiting power to men: it tended to be about concentrating authority in a single person. Replacing a lone hero with a whole network of women was a way of rejecting both elements of that idea: the teenage girl in a man’s role gave way to a genuinely feminist vision of action storytelling.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:45 AM on March 10 [16 favorites]


Oh man, TWoP is prompting me to ask who recognizes this reference:

Seriously. [monkey]
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:07 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Guys, the daisy sweater Willow wears in Doppelgangland is going to sell for $42.90!
Sure, it's expensive and it's probably going to be cheaply made but...
I still want it.
posted by domo at 8:12 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Would they have named a villain "The Order of Trombli" if they hadn't known there was a very pointed and pedantic newsgroup writer with a very similar last name?

(pedantic)
Get it right, Kate: the humorless Trombli!
(/pedantic)

Unsurprisingly, some aspects of the show (and Joss Whedon model feminism) have held up better over time than others. But there was a real sweetness, and a faith in the power of human connection to defeat evil, that is worth remembering.
posted by praemunire at 8:22 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


A Buffyverse Viewing Order, optimized for DVD swaps, may become very relevant next month.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:30 AM on March 10


For those who have seen the entire series, and have an hour to kill, and are willing to risk weepy tears, check out Scooby Road, which is BtVS set to Abbey Road. It's brilliant.

There's a lot of brilliant fan creativity that came out of Buffy, but that album-length vid is probably my favorite.

I made a ton of my best internet friends through Buffy fandom, people I still see every week.

Remember having to hand off physical VHS tapes when "Earshot" was delayed? So many memories.
posted by suelac at 8:36 AM on March 10 [6 favorites]


Because someone mentioned Jane Espenson:

"I Was Made to Love You" (S5E15), written by Espenson, isn't necessarily my favorite episode of the show, but when I first saw it (on DVD), I thought it was pretty solid, and at least a little bit heartbreaking. (I didn't know that that heartbreak was extremely small potatoes compared to what was coming next.)

Since the last bit of IWMtLY sets up "The Body" (S5E16), I feel like it gets a lot less attention than it deserves; it's like those exoplanets that we can't photograph well, because they're close to a star several orders of magnitude brighter.

In particular I thought Shonda Farr ("April") was really good in it, and wish people had more to say about it, even if I understand why they don't.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 8:39 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


YouTube: Giles sings Behind Blue Eyes

Now, where did I put my lighter ...


No, you save that for Giles singing Free Bird.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:39 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I'm just gonna go ahead and copy/paste a comment I wrote in the FanFare thread about OMWF:

I mean I could sit here and list all the things that delighted me beyond measure about this episode, but instead I will focus on one thing:

I was 13 when this aired (in 2001), and when Buffy and Spike kissed at the end, it blew my fucking mind, way more than anything on TV ever had before. And I watched a LOT of TV. But nobody I knew watched the show except my parents,* and I was like burning with the need to talk about this incredible development on my most favoritist of shows.

So I thought to myself - man! I wonder if there's someplace on the internet where I can go and talk about Buffy with other people!

I'd used the internet plenty before, but I'd never used it to converse with people I didn't already know. It was all browsing Angelfire sites and AIM chats with classmates. This was the first time it had ever occurred to me to seek out an 'online community' of any kind.

I found myself a Buffy message board, a small cozy one with only a couple hundred active users. I started posting there, and made my very first internet friends, and then I discovered that they - they, who were mostly full-grown adults - thought I was in my late teens because of the way I wrote. It was incredibly validating for me, an awkward nerd kid who was perpetually unsure of herself. I went on to become a moderator of that message board, and posted there for several years; and, well, now I'm here, and on Tumblr, and in general online interaction with strangers who share my niche interests has become a major part of my life.

And it is a DIRECT result of Once More With Feeling.

*this became extremely awkward later in the season, when Buffy and Spike started having violent hatesex
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:48 AM on March 10 [18 favorites]


Remember having to hand off physical VHS tapes when "Earshot" was delayed? So many memories.

For those who don't know, "Earshot" and "Graduation Day, Part Two" didn't air as scheduled due to the Columbine shootings happening very close to the intended air dates for those episodes, and the content of those episodes.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:50 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


(That being said, I always think it's a mistake to show people OMWF as their first ever Buffy episode - it spoilers so many things that develop over the course of the series, and it's not representative of what the show is like. The Experimental Episode I always go for to introduce people to Buffy is Hush.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:50 AM on March 10 [11 favorites]


WHICH REMINDS ME: In what has become a semi regular "come watch several episodes of a 90s TV show you've never seen before at my house" series (we've done X-Files and Star Trek), I am now due to have a Buffy marathon. I gotta pick like four episodes to get people hooked. Hush will definitely be one of them...
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:52 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


They knew we were watching. I can't prove it, but there were coincidences, there were mentions. Would have Cordelia tried to take on "A Doll's House" by Ibsen if I hadn't written an epic Willow/Cordelia story where she gets critical acclaim for a film adaptation? Would they have named a villain "The Order of Trombli" if they hadn't known there was a very pointed and pedantic newsgroup writer with a very similar last name?

This has GOT to be a coincidence... probably... but when I was a mod on that Buffy board, my username (it makes me cringe now but I was in middle school ok??) was cheesemonkey. Several years after I started posting, the word 'cheesemonkey' popped up on an episode of Angel. My friends on the board were absolutely convinced it was a shoutout - I never was, but I always thought, well, maybe...
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:56 AM on March 10 [4 favorites]


(That being said, I always think it's a mistake to show people OMWF as their first ever Buffy episode - it spoilers so many things that develop over the course of the series, and it's not representative of what the show is like. The Experimental Episode I always go for to introduce people to Buffy is Hush.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:50 AM on March 10


That was pretty much my gateway episode into the show.

I think I may have seen one or two episodes (or parts of episodes) before that, but I had pretty much dismissed the show--in part because it fell into that "younger than me" category and I didn't/don't* really watch stuff that falls below my age bracket.

A glowing review of OMWF in the newspaper's TV guide insert, written by a reviewer I respected made me take a chance on the show. The musical was a breath of fresh air and I figured that any team that could put together a show like that in that day and age deserved a second look. So while Buffy and Angel were never formative shows for me, like there were for a lot of people who came of age at the right time for them, I did watch them.

*As I age past the preferred Hollywood demographic, I find this harder and harder to do. Everybody on TV and in the movies is younger than I am these days, even when I swear they're not. (I know there are actors who were older than me at the start of their careers, and now magically, they're younger than I am.)
posted by sardonyx at 9:00 AM on March 10


I think I've talked about this on the blue before, but: I started watching Buffy in the summer of 1998, when I was twelve and miserable and pretty sure I'd never have any friends ever again. The first episode I ever saw was "Invisible Girl." The next rerun I caught was the "Becoming" two-parter.

I'm not really exaggerating at all when I say that show changed my life. That fall, I found Internet fandom. I found sympathetic grown-ups (at 12, even the college kids seemed ancient and wise) who reassured me I wouldn't be awkward and miserable forever. Those friendships were something I desperately needed then, and helped me figure out what kind of adult I wanted to be.

I did my best to follow the best examples set by the characters, and by the story: the way Willow's intelligence was respected and valued, the way her social awkwardness never made her friends love her less. Xander's determination to be part of the fight, however he could. Buffy's reluctant heroism-- reluctant bevause she knew firsthand what it would cost her, and yet she always did it anyway.

I learned how to close-read texts from Buffy and from Buffy fandom: how to pick metaphors and subtext apart, how to pull a story apart and put it back together in a shape I liked better. I learned how to write. I learned how to edit. I learned How Not to Behave on the Internet. The person I am for having watched it is, I suspect, vastly different from the person I might have been otherwise. It's foundational, for me, in a way that no other piece of fiction will ever be.
posted by nonasuch at 9:04 AM on March 10 [16 favorites]


That being said, I always think it's a mistake to show people OMWF as their first ever Buffy episode - it spoilers so many things that develop over the course of the series, and it's not representative of what the show is like. The Experimental Episode I always go for to introduce people to Buffy is Hush.

Once, while visiting my parents, my mother expressed mild interest in watching Buffy with me since I'd been always raving about it so much. I agreed, and gave her a basic broad-strokes review of the plot and said I'd fill her in on anything she didn't get.

The episode that was on that night was Restless. I do not recommend that being anyone's inaugural episode. Especially not your mother.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on March 10 [4 favorites]


The episode that was on that night was Restless. I do not recommend that being anyone's inaugural episode.

Funnily enough, my freshman year of college I was watching Restless with a girl on my hall who was also a fan, when another friend of ours came in. She had very conservative Christian parents and hadnt been allowed to watch much TV in high school. She ended up watching most if the episode with us, as we tried to explain what was happening.

"Really, this is a bad place to start," I told her, and gave her Season 1 on DVD. "Here, try it from the beginning."

Reader, she watched the entire show in under a month. She watched S2 in three days. She came to my door after Becoming, Part 2 to ask for S3 while still teary-eyed from the end of the episode. I told her to ho to bed and only let her have one disc per day, after that.
posted by nonasuch at 9:31 AM on March 10 [15 favorites]


After annoying my friend forever about how great Buffy was, she decided to tune in one day and it was fUCKING Doublemeat Palace.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:31 AM on March 10 [17 favorites]


I only watched Buffy as an adult in my early 20s. It was out when I was in high school, and I remember laughing at how absurd the title was, and clearly no self-respecting tomboy nerd such as myself would watch such a thing. I regret so much now that I didn't give it a chance.

But man, it packs so much of a punch as an adult too. After Angel turns bad in "Innocence" and is awful to Buffy, I had to just sit in a quiet room with a whole lot of painful teenage girl feelings coming back to me. "The Body" - goddamn, I've never seen anything like it. And of course, "Hush", "OMWF", all of those are just fantastic television to watch.

(Also, I mostly didn't love "Angel", but that episode where Magic Happens (TM) or something and Buffy and Angel get to have sex without anyone turning evil and then eat pints of ice cream in bed together laughing happily, before it's all ripped away from them and Buffy's memory of it is wiped? omfg. OMFG. The tears. Intellectually I definitely think they went the right direction in splitting up Angel and Buffy but a part of me will ship them forever.)

Anyway. Buffy. I love it. I love it so much. And I'm glad I found it, even if it was later in life than I wish it had been.
posted by olinerd at 9:47 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I've heard School Hard (S2E3) recommended as a starting point.

I can't say that's where I started, as I can't narrow it down any further than season 2 or season 3, or possibly a rerun of season 1 one summer. I can say that I really started getting into it when I saw an academic presentation about the web that used Buffy fansites as examples.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:56 AM on March 10


20 years? Oy, the oldness, it burns. The only consolation is that someday I get to watch both Buffy and Veronica Mars with my daughter. It's probably the only reason I'd like her to grow up faster.
posted by sapere aude at 9:57 AM on March 10


Can anybody tell me where (if?) there's a good Buffy/Angel fic archive? Or send me some recs? Since the show was pre-AO3, it seems to me that there must be some good stuff out there that hasn't migrated over!
posted by hepta at 10:12 AM on March 10


I caught the pilot by accident while channel surfing one night, and was immediately hooked. Buffy led to all sorts of firsts for me:

* First modding experience. It was also my last: I quit after politely defusing a pretty nasty fight surrounding Earshot being postponed after Columbine. (Hats off to the mods here for dealing with worse all the time.)

* First girlfriend. (Long distance, a fellow mod there. She was great, and we parted company amicably.)

* First Internet piracy. Full episodes were affectionately referred to as 'potatoes' in my little band, and you had to know a guy who knew a guy to get ftp access at first. Good times. I wouldn't have, but the local affiliate stopped carrying the show during S3, and reading transcripts was good but not good enough. (Came back later.)

* First completed full length novel draft, ages later. My first story of that length was, among other things, a reaction to things I liked and found wanting in Buffy. (For instance, I didn't like her yearly meltdown.)

Like many of you here, I consider Buffy a formative influence for the better in my life. Lots of things would've been very different for me without it, which is a weird thing to think about a TV show.
posted by mordax at 10:15 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


'Buffy' at 20: Joss Whedon Talks TV Today, Reboot Fatigue and the Trouble With Binging (Hollywood Reporter)
The night before the anniversary, he hopped on the phone to talk about the drama's legacy, his continued interest in its themes and what concerns him most today — namely reboot culture, what we lose in binge-watching and the double-edged sword of political art.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:29 AM on March 10


I've fallen out of love with Joss for a lot of reasons, but between all the articles this week and listening to Bufferingcast, I'm reminded that goddamn, sometimes his work really was super fucking amazing.
posted by kmz at 10:51 AM on March 10 [6 favorites]


My first post on the blue was about the last episode of Buffy.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed at the time that it wasn't a huge post. But watching Mefi officially fall in love with the scooby gang over the years has warmed my heart. Including the great conversation on another post I put up about why people keep rediscovering Buffy.

And, I'd like to say, this is a better post than I would ever have made.

I love you, MeFi. Thanks for helping me keep Buffy alive in my heart.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:53 AM on March 10 [6 favorites]


I must preface this with: I adored Buffy. I preached Buffy. I hooked everyone I knew on Buffy. I held weekly Buffy watch parties. I made Buffy fan vids. I'm one of the people thanked in the liner notes of the DVD of the "Scooby Road" video album linked above. I still watch the show with joy.

Buffy was good feminism for its day, but that day is 20 years ago now. I love the show and will always love the show, and some of its best episodes are among the best episodes of the history of television, but Joss Whedon's feminism hasn't progressed in the intervening years, which makes it hard to read what he has to say now (not to mention a fractious history of statements/interactions since the show ended).

Also, rewatching the show now is a bit of an exercise in mental gymnastics when it comes to the character of Xander. If you (general you) can put aside the nostalgia and emotions involved when it comes to what the show was, and watch it for what it is, there is no getting around what a fucking vile "nice guy/friend zone 'victim' " Xander Harris is. (Yes he has good qualities too; that's not my point.)

And I'm not going near "Seeing Red" and everything that comes afterwards (or doesn't but should have, as the case may be).
posted by tzikeh at 11:07 AM on March 10 [13 favorites]


Also the Mayor was the best Big Bad. No competition.
posted by tzikeh at 11:09 AM on March 10 [21 favorites]



Guys, the daisy sweater Willow wears in Doppelgangland is going to sell for $42.90!
Sure, it's expensive and it's probably going to be cheaply made but...
I still want it.



If there's no Dingoes Ate My Baby band tshirt GTFO.
posted by Windigo at 11:17 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Well it turns out that Alyson Hannigan's reaction face when Buffy sings that they took her out of heaven still absolutely kicks me in the gut.

I was late-ish to the Buffy train; my first episode being, believe it or not, "The Body" because early Internet TV critics were freaking out about it so much , I had to finally check it out. I was into the rest of Season 5 until the end where I was still crying about a half hour after the episode ended. Also around that time, I got laid off and started "contracting from home" which really was code for being severely depressed (and not treating it at all) and at the time, FX was showing two episodes of Buffy re-runs every morning and had just re-started the cycle, and for a while, it was the only thing I looked forward to. I will never not associate the show with getting through that part of my life.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:22 AM on March 10 [8 favorites]


Also the Mayor was the best Big Bad. No competition.

Angel was the Big Bad not just of a season of BTVS but of the entire run of his own show. People joked about the Mayor; they visibly tensed up every time the word "Angelus" was uttered.
posted by Etrigan at 11:26 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Also, rewatching the show now is a bit of an exercise in mental gymnastics when it comes to the character of Xander.

Yeah, I'm re-watching now and it's hard to swallow my current disdain for Xander. I'm really trying to look past it, and I'm not saying anything out loud because I'm watching with a first timer, but I'm biting my tongue a lot. Like UGH at the beginning of S3 when Buffy comes back and everyone gets their turn to yell at her about leaving, and he lectures her (not even on his own behalf, for other people) and I just want to scream "WHO the FUCK are YOU to be angry at her?" I even hate the interview with Nicholas Brendon on the AV Club. He doesn't seem much better than Xander the character.
posted by misskaz at 11:27 AM on March 10 [7 favorites]


I was the “age” of the Buffy characters, and got into it HS, so it was really interesting to go through certain life events alongside the show. (Of course, I was a huge nerd at a college prep school, and the episode where everyone tells Buffy she can get into any college she wants because of her good SAT scores made me spitting mad. THAT IS NOT HOW APPLYING TO COLLEGE WORKS.)

I got started in S2, and kindly strangers on the internet sent me all the S1 episodes I had missed, but as a result I have hugely overblown love for mediocre S2 episodes that I watched over and over— Reptile Boy is still one of my favorites for this reason. Passion is still a gut punch, every time. I’m one of three people on the planet who actually enjoyed Ted.

People emailed me about fanfic I was writing in high school to tell me I helped them get over broken hearts and bad marriages, which was utterly strange. I once met a person in real life in a normal setting, and we got to talking BTVS fandom, and suddenly she said “wait, are you [fandom name]? You wrote [STORY]??” I have friends from college who still remind me about the times I forced them to watch the show with me, and then they started asking if we could rewatch old episodes, and soon huge groups of us were getting together every week.

The show could often be about feeling totally isolated, but my experience of it was always one of intense and encouraging community.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:38 AM on March 10 [14 favorites]


Etrigan - Angel was a vampire. The Mayor was a human. Vampires killing people is scary. Humans killing people is horror.
posted by tzikeh at 11:40 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Angel was the Big Bad not just of a season of BTVS but of the entire run of his own show. People joked about the Mayor; they visibly tensed up every time the word "Angelus" was uttered.

One of the things that used to drive me round the bend about Angel (show and character) is that Angelus was supposed to be this terror of all terrors, yet. On the scale of historical havoc wreaked by now-repentant vampires, he is on the very low end. The sadism of Jenny's death being probably his most noteworthy accomplishment. (I didn't really watch S4/S5 of Angel, though.) I would blame it on the awkwardness of showing Our Hero doing particularly horrible things, even in the past, except other shows have been more convincing on this score.
posted by praemunire at 11:41 AM on March 10


Etrigan - Angel was a vampire. The Mayor was a human. Vampires killing people is scary. Humans killing people is horror.

I used to take the position that the title of most evil creature in Sunnydale was shared by the Mayor and Ethan Rayne. Both humans, both ensouled, both choosing to do extensive horrible things for personal gain.
posted by praemunire at 11:43 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


I used to take the position that the title of most evil creature in Sunnydale was shared by the Mayor and Ethan Rayne. Both humans, both ensouled, both choosing to do extensive horrible things for personal gain.

This was something I found impressive about the AV Club interview with the actor who played Warren-- apparently people recognize him and tell him how much they hate him, which must be pretty daunting. His insight, however, was really interesting to me:

"Of all these demons, some of the most awful things that were ever done on that show where the least humanity [was] shown was from a human being, was from someone that’s arguably one of us. I like that a lot. I find that’s the most frightening, and I think it’s very prophetic when you look at Gamergate, and you look at Trump and all this stuff and how necessary it is to not be tolerant and to stop it when you see it."
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:51 AM on March 10 [21 favorites]


Also, in terms of Best Big Bad, we have to define what we mean by best. If it's "the most evil," I can see where Angelus wins. If it's creates best story lines (where I think Angelus is an arguable best -- season two has some great story arcs) or most to fun to watch, it's more of a toss up.

For me, the Mayor is by far the most enjoyable Big Bag to watch. I still get a chuckle thinking about his to do list that includes "become invincible" and "Go to PTA meeting." He also has a sense of humor, which I appreciate. Or rather the narrative has a sense of humor about him, which it doesn't for Angelus. It's one of the reasons why Spike always appealed to me more than Angel (though I'm not sold on either as soul mates for Buffy, but that's another discussion) -- because evil Spike has a sense of humor.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 12:33 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


In light of the discussion on Xander not being great 20 years on and the Mayor vs. Angelus as a villain... does anyone else find that the male characters of Buffy are a lot less compelling than the female characters? (With the exception of Giles. Who is indeed compelling and awesome.) It isn't so much that Whedon created a feminist show so much as he created a show where the women mattered more.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 12:41 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


The Mayor's relationship with Faith is so so much more interesting, and less well-trodden ground, than Buffy's with Angel that it's not even funny.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:11 PM on March 10 [9 favorites]


The comment is a long way upthread, but I salute you, Katemonkey, Buffy veteran. Ave!
posted by glasseyes at 1:12 PM on March 10


In light of the discussion on Xander not being great 20 years on and the Mayor vs. Angelus as a villain... does anyone else find that the male characters of Buffy are a lot less compelling than the female characters? (With the exception of Giles. Who is indeed compelling and awesome.) It isn't so much that Whedon created a feminist show so much as he created a show where the women mattered more.

I think Whedon had a lot of trouble creating teenage boys who weren't the worst, in very, very boring ways. Like, there were Xander, Oz, the guys in the Trio, and then a broad sea of more or less identical California White Boys (Veronica Mars had this problem as well. Maybe even worse.)

This doesn't bug me that much (how many more shows have had the same problem but with the genders flipped?) but it means that we don't see nearly as many compelling male characters as we do with the women.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:21 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


A geek my age is kind of expected to care about Star Wars and/or Star Trek... things we watched during the golden age of science fiction, when we were 12. But... well... I don't, much.

I never watched Buffy till years after it was off the air, in my later thirties -- older than most people who imprinted on it... but it wormed its way into my heart, where it lives alongside Heinlein juvies, Earthsea and Hain, Phil Dick novels, the Fantastic Four, Sturgeon & Sheckley short stories, the Cthulhu Mythos, Discworld, Robert Anton Wilson books, and Barrayar.

All of those I'd encountered earlier, most of them much earlier. I wouldn't have thought my heart still had the plasticity for something new to really take root. It probably doesn't anymore.

I'm glad it did.
posted by Zed at 1:26 PM on March 10 [7 favorites]


I think Whedon had a lot of trouble creating teenage boys who weren't the worst, in very, very boring ways. Like, there were Xander, Oz, the guys in the Trio, and then a broad sea of more or less identical California White Boys (Veronica Mars had this problem as well. Maybe even worse.)

I don't know if I agree with this. I thought a lot of the young male characters were flawed in interesting ways, from the sympathetic (Jonathan, Oz, Larry) to the chilling (Warren, Ford). But those aren't the young male characters with the most screentime, so they tend to get forgotten, or at least the intricacies of their storylines do. Xander is indeed often the worst, and he throws a long shadow since he gets the majority of the Young Male Screentime. But is he really awful in the same way as all the other characters you cite?

There's a great moment in "I Was Made to Love You", which is the episode that introduces Warren (and his then-girlfriend Katrina, one of my favorite minor characters, a badass roboticist who dumps Warren's ass when she finds out he's built a sex bot). The Scooby Gang is sitting around discussing the situation and Xander goes into this charming monologue:
Xander: She's a sex bot. I mean, what guy doesn't dream about that? Beautiful girl with no other thought but to please you, willing to do anything. (Strained pause) Too many girls. I miss Oz. He'd get it. He wouldn't say anything, but he'd get it.
I don't think there's anything in Oz's characterization that suggests he'd "get it". He is consistently shown as caring deeply about Willow's feelings and interiority: when she wants to kiss him for the first time, he turns her down because he realizes she's doing it to make Xander jealous; when she wants to sleep with him for the first time, he asks to wait because he senses she's motivated by guilt.

No, this statement says nothing about Oz, and everything about Xander. He thinks that because he sympathizes with the desire for a sex bot, all men would. And who is he sympathizing with here? Warren Mears. Warren in this episode seems like a creepy one-off character, just like Xander's commentary seems like a creepy one-off line. Both easy to forget as we lead immediately into "The Body" and then the thrill ride of the back half of the fifth season. But Warren's misogyny isn't just something you can brush off: he's back in the next season as a major villain, a rapist and a murderer. And I think the show does a good job of linking Xander's casual, selfish sexism to Warren's more brutal version. But it could definitely do a much better job of confronting that side of Xander head on. And that failure's frustrating for a lot of fans, including me.

(I will agree that the whole series is excruciatingly white, but that's not limited to the male characters.)
posted by galaxy rise at 2:08 PM on March 10 [15 favorites]


Oh my goodness. So many, many feelings. When Buffy first premiered, I wasn't watching, because at 12 years old, I thought I was too mature for a show with such a wacky title, and the week after I was diagnoses with Type 1 diabetes and fought my own demons for a bit. By the following year, though, I was completely involved in the whole brilliant, witty, angsty mess. It was a constant through middle and high school, ending just as my year graduated to go to university; my best friend and I used to call each other after particularly spectacular episodes. Though I didn't fight any actual monsters in college, I felt it had prepared me, in a way, for what was ahead. Buffy has been dear to many of my friendships, and it's probably embarrassing how much I identified with Willow, down to the exact same SAT score on each section (again, the nerdiest fact I know). (Here's a picture of my handcrafted Vampire Willow costume. I swear...total twinsies, except Alyson Hannigan is probably a lot smaller than I am.)

I'm proud to say I'm undefeated at Buffy trivia, I had to introduce my husband to the show before we tied the knot. My Buffy-themed bachelorette will always be one of my most treasured memories: we had foods that represented every season, including marzipan pie, cheese slices, Chex Mix, cookie dough, and bacon (poor Herbert), a "heart of a demon" signature drink that was bright blue with a red sugar "blood" rim, and midway through the party, my bridesmaid's brother burst in wearing a "demon" suit (a skull mask and a dinosaur onesie) and "killed" her, said "I guess there's room in the bridal party," whereupon my maid of honour said "not if I have anything to say about it," fought, and staked him, which was basically the funniest thing I've ever seen.

I guess what I'm saying is, thank you, BTVS, and happy 20th. You saved my world a lot, and I will never be "bored now" of you.
posted by ilana at 2:20 PM on March 10 [17 favorites]


Xander is indeed often the worst, and he throws a long shadow since he gets the majority of the Young Male Screentime. But is he really awful in the same way as all the other characters you cite?

Nope. I was saying that Xander (who has some consistently bad traits and a lot of consistently good ones, too. I don't consider him awful but rather aggravating) is one of the few (younger generation) male characters who get enough light shone on them to be compellingly-written.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:37 PM on March 10


does anyone else find that the male characters of Buffy are a lot less compelling than the female characters?

For all the problems with him, I have always found Xander a compelling character. Because he was the person in the group who watched all of his friends become supernatural beings with power, while nothing changed for him. Despite that, he still hung around and took on a lot of jobs no one else wanted to do, because while he was hopelessly outmatched in so many ways, these people were his friends, and he wasn't going to leave them alone in their fights. I also think his lack of powers along with his longstanding relationship with Willow is why he was the only one who could stop her at the end of S6; anyone else would have been a threat to her, but Xander could stand there and be defenseless with her because that was all he had - his superpower in that moment was that he didn't have any way of stopping her and she knew that; he could just be completely physically and emotionally vulnerable in that moment in a way no other character could have.

I think Xander was always worried on some level that the group would tell him he was no longer needed and kick him out; that was why his behaviour was that of an asshole at times - he was preparing himself for that moment. He was always afraid that he truly had nothing to contribute and that sooner or later everyone else would figure that out. This may be me reading too much into his character and the subtext of him (or perhaps, projecting too much), but that's been my take on him.

He's still problematic and aggravating in many ways and I wish the show had explored both his good and problematic aspects in more depth and maybe even had him develop somewhat around his sexism and such, but this also wasn't his show - his arc was subservient to the characters around him, generally, and I almost feel like that's a bit of metacommentary on the character of Xander: nothing changed for him.
posted by nubs at 3:02 PM on March 10 [11 favorites]


My grandparents were Buffy fans before I was (they were always way cooler than me) and they got me hooked just before S2 started airing. It was right after I'd moved away to college, so we got into the habit of calling each other on Wednesdays so we could talk over the latest episode.

When the Season 8 comics started coming out, there was a How Buffy Changed My Life essay contest where the winner would get drawn into the story. I wrote about becoming closer with my grandparents at a time when our relationship could have faded, all thanks to our shared Buffy obsession. I described how, when they found out about the upcoming Season 8, they immediately started trying to figure out where the nearest comic book shop in Cleveland was located. I pitched the idea of featuring them as characters in the book.

I didn't win, but I was one of the finalists. So I have a signed copy of The Long Way Home, signed by Joss, with the inscription, "Thank your grandparents for me."
posted by merriment at 3:15 PM on March 10 [21 favorites]


Also, rewatching the show now is a bit of an exercise in mental gymnastics when it comes to the character of Xander. If you (general you) can put aside the nostalgia and emotions involved when it comes to what the show was, and watch it for what it is, there is no getting around what a fucking vile "nice guy/friend zone 'victim' " Xander Harris is. (Yes he has good qualities too; that's not my point.)

Ugh. Xander was the conscious of the show, and he was consistently right on every moral dilemma. He was loyal. He was trusting. He was everything you'd want your friend to be. Yes, he lectured, but Buffy = drama, so that's to be expected.

If you are looking for a passive aggressive control type, look to Ducky in Pretty in Pink. Xander and Ducky are nothing alike. Xander paid a huge price for being Buffy's friend. He deserves better than to be called Vile. Sad!
posted by Beholder at 6:33 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


I didn't watch Buffy when it was first aired. But after my first child was born, a friend came over with all the seasons on DVD - some of them ordered from the UK because that's where they had been earliest available. She even brought the DVD player she'd bought in order to play those UK DVDs. I was stuck under a newborn who wouldn't sleep unless she was on a human body, preferably nursing at the time.

I watched all 7 seasons in about six weeks. It was the ultimate binge before binge-watching was even a thing I knew about. It got to the point where my baby would perk up when she heard the theme song, because it meant a long cuddle on the sofa.

That baby girl is 13 now. Buffy and the first weeks of her life are tied up in a big ball of feels for me. I'm thinking a Buffy binge with her might be just the thing before she starts high school in the fall.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 6:40 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


I re-watched Prom last night in honour of Buffy's 20th anniversary and this 52 year old, somewhat acerbic, and occasionally misanthropic dude's eyes welled up with tears at the end, as they always do with that episode.

I started watching when season 2 aired because of my love of anything monster and by the end of the season I knew I had come across something special. So yeah, one of my favourite shows of all time and my gosh an awful lot of things about the show ring true still.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 6:46 PM on March 10


The first thing I did with my girlfriend that wasn't "going out" was her coming over to watch Buffy with me.

We got distracted from Buffy by watching a few other things, but she recently moved in, and we're in the middle of season 5/2 of Bufgel.

Her liking it so much from the beginning was definitely a boon to our relationship!
posted by flaterik at 6:50 PM on March 10


I started watching Buffy when I was entering a sort of second adolescence. I has just passed 30, and both my parents had died the previous year. I was trying to figure out how to be a person without parents, and how to be a person who had this Thing that was Different from nearly all of my friends who were my age. Buffy and Xena, they both helped save me that first couple of years After.

The 20th anniversary of my mom's death is coming up in a few weeks. I don't know if I will ever be able to watch The Body again. It so perfectly captures how surreal it all felt to me, too - how everything stops, but it also keeps going; stuff still needs to get done, but everything is also somehow over.
posted by rtha at 6:58 PM on March 10 [15 favorites]


@leotrotsky, I think you might be vaguely recalling this list, from the writers of Workaholics.
posted by old_growler at 9:11 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Apparently I am a member of an extremely exclusive club, "Those Who Liked The Movie." Sure it had flaws, but the premise and attitude carried it just fine even though Whedon felt betrayed. I'll be over here in the corner with my imaginary friends, watching our VHS copy.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:07 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


Buffistas.
posted by double bubble at 11:18 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Nah, Xander isn't the conscience of the show, he serves more as the base, the set of conventions from which the show works from, by being a "typical guy" who is aware enough to provide ironic commentary from that more conventional viewpoint, while being foolish enough to speak without thought for the cost or appropriateness of the comment. His perspective is challenged in significant moments by the more woman centered POV the show offers as a twist to the genre. Without Xander offering those comments, the show would have a much more difficult time articulating its difference in viewpoint, and lose a comic foil in a sense. Something the writers would not be pleased with. Xander is the needed balance for the show to work from.

The idea that Xander doesn't change seems to me equally off base. In fact I'd suggest Xander is the character that shows the clearest line of maturation throughout the shows run, gaining in self awareness and maturity as the seasons progress. He starts as a sex oriented teen boy living in the basement of his dysfunctional family and has little in the way of skills or knowledge, but the end of the show he has his own home, a trade that pays well and which he is good at, serves as Dawn's surrogate father and has struggled to deal with the legacy of his family history. He isn't always an ideal friend to Buffy in some ways, but then who is? Angel the abusive boyfriend? Giles the guy who manipulates her without her knowledge to the point of using hypnosis, even though he's much older and should know better? Oh and he comes from a group dedicated to pimping out abused girls to be monster bait, can't forger that. Spike? The guy who starts off as a more poetic minded Xander type but gives in to his inner hyena and goes on a decades long spree of sexualized violence? I grant Oz doesn't turn on Buffy, but then he's too busy having to avoid Willow and Tara lest he turn violent with them.

The show, by being based around Buffy, inverts tropes and uses analogies, metaphor, and otherwise plays with convention to give her character some of the "power" associated with the traditional masculine heroes, but through gender reversal. So a character like Oz fills something of the same sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy the so-called manic pixie dream girl fills, but with the gender coding for what constitutes low key sexy cool refit. That the show then twists that to making Oz a werewolf, or dreamboat Angel a horrible controlling schemer, or switches Spike around and back and then around again is just the way of keeping Buffy's perspective at the center of the show by showing the possibilities for male failings all around her, which is what she faced with working against as her daily condition.

The glory of the show was its exceptional cleverness and awareness of what it was, at the same time, that can lead to issues of its own if one chooses to look for them. It's perhaps more enjoyable not to, but once one does, then the show has some additional "meanings" that may or may not be intended. Speaking about the Mayor, for example, as was pointed out above, he is the "best" villain because he's the most enjoyable to watch, something that really makes best and villain difficult concepts to tightly link at some point. Warren was the "worst" villain since, unlike the others, he wasn't an analog for anything. He was what he was, a shitty gamergate type guy. While Warren himself lacked analog, his actions had some in the sense they enacted the desires of those kinds of guys in a more literal fashion.

So where the Mayor himself was something of an oversized representation of "family values" politics and other concepts present in pre-90s media, and thus "bigger than life", Warren comes across as smaller due to his real life sized measure of evil. In the concept of the show, the Mayor is clearly the greater evil with his plans, but in how the show plays out, Warren is worse and almost entirely unenjoyable by design. Something that works in a sense for his purpose, and was probably inevitable given how poorly analogy, symbol, or metaphor were handled in season six, but it also is something of a serious rupture from the rest of the show in trying to piece its some of its values together in a coherent form.

Trying to defend or judge Xander, Angel, Spike, Warren, the Mayor and so on along a scale simply won't work since both the show and its viewers don't hold a consistent view of what show actions and characters mean or in how they might be understood from a real life perspective as analogies. Even the idea of High School is Hell is undercut by the show actually making those school days seem much more enjoyable and relatable than the post-school work life of the later episodes which were much gloomier. That gives the early seasons that same aura of nostalgia that so often seems to infuse people's view of high school, which is fine if that's how you view things, but it isn't so great from other perspectives.

The same issue exists with many of the other ideas or character actions introduced in the show, the viewer is faced with a series of different evaluation measures simultaneously and usually sides most with "enjoyment" as the best one, since that is what people primarily watch the show for. Actions are viewed through the perspectives of the characters, the perspective and ability of the writers to make us care, perhaps a viewer analog, where people relate their own experiences to that of the characters, so having dealt with a real life version of Xander might score more ugh points than a Spike rampage since the latter has no relatable comparison, while the former is a creeper who's made people uncomfortable in real life before, and if one is more invested, then perhaps larger evaluative measures will be used, comparing atrocity scales in the fictional world of the show or their analogic counterparts in real life to say which is "better or worse".

Usually though the attitude of the writers, how funny/serious they can make the characters and scenes will carry the most weight unless there is a moment that breaks the spell they cast by too sharp a reminder of some personal value we hold. So, again, inappropriate Xander might flip that breaker, while Angel gets a pass because Buffy is happy reuniting with her abusive ex. (The hand wavy soul makes killing different thing is its own hard to reconcile issue, but that's so central to the show that it's hard to even get close enough to frame the questions it raised over the years. So I'm not gonna even try.)

I really do like the show. I've watched the entire run many times since I was first introduced to the show during its second season, with Passions being the first episode I watched in its entirety I believe. It's a fantastic show in many respects, but I can't help but also feel the personal need to have a little more distance from my enjoyment of it to try and find its measure from other angles than those I read since they don't quite match my experience.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:58 PM on March 10 [15 favorites]


Ok.

I have had many drinks tonight, so forgive me if I ramble. But something I would like to address is just how fucking good Sarah Michelle Gellar was during this shows entire run. In later seasons, when Buffy was less likeable, because hero, she went there and she made it work. I have watched this series repeatedly and the thing that now stands out, which I did't quite catch the first time around, is the strength of Gellars acting. My own personal opinion is that even though everyone likes other characters more, Gellar's run as Buffy is one of the greatest performances in broadcast history. She went into places most lead stars, whether serial television or movies, won't go to.

That is all.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 2:55 AM on March 11 [21 favorites]


So... If one has basically never seen Buffy, what is the common advice? Watch all from the beginning? Skip some parts?
posted by anzen-dai-ichi at 3:01 AM on March 11


So... If one has basically never seen Buffy, what is the common advice? Watch all from the beginning? Skip some parts?

Watch from the beginning. You'll be glad that you did.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 3:07 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Thanks. I'll see if my wife is up for it after our foray into marvel universe.
posted by anzen-dai-ichi at 3:15 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I agree with "watch it from the beginning", with the caveat that some season 1 episodes are not great quality and the general tone of it is lighter and thinner than what the show later became. If you don't find the jokes funny in season 1, you probably won't find any of the humour of the show funny, but I would stick with it if you find the show fun but lightweight. The big notes and themes really come into their own in the season 2 story arc.
posted by Aravis76 at 3:57 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


So... If one has basically never seen Buffy, what is the common advice? Watch all from the beginning? Skip some parts?

Start from the beginning and binge until you really get going, like push-starting a car. Season One is a definite mixed bag, but it's also a lot like TNG in the early years, where the "bad" episodes are bad in a charmingly silly way, so you can make it through them easy enough. It really gets going in Season 2, and then 3 is damn near perfection.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:18 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Because we were already reaching middle age when Buffy debuted and we weren't impressed with the movie, me and my wife avoided it. One night, while at a friend's house, it was on in the background. I caught just enough to realize that something serious was going on, something with far more depth than just some pandering-to-teens tame horror show.

Syndication had just started so I just started taping it on our ancient but functioning VHS player. I started devouring the early episodes. My wife scoffed. Finally, a couple episodes in to season two, she finally watched an episode. And demanded that I start her back at the beginning. The obsession began.

And now whenever I decide whether a series is good or great, the ultimate compliment is "Buffy, seasons 2-3".
posted by Ber at 8:36 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


The thing that Buffy did better than anything before, and most things since, was taking the emotions you struggle with in real life and turning them into literal monsters. The core concept of the show is that it takes what it feels like to be a teenager-- that your problems are life-or-death, that the weight of the world is on your shoulders-- and makes those feelings literally true.

It's a really simple idea, but I'm not sure any other piece of media has executed it better than the first three seasons of Buffy.
posted by nonasuch at 8:49 AM on March 11 [6 favorites]


Season One is a definite mixed bag, but it's also a lot like TNG in the early years, where the "bad" episodes are bad in a charmingly silly way, so you can make it through them easy enough.

That's a good comparison. If somebody wasn't sold on the idea of Buffy I would definitely not tell them to start at the beginning, but Season One isn't bad overall - actually I'd say that with the exception of a couple absolute crap ones, it's already a clearly competent show. It just suffers in comparison with pretty much everything that came after.

If anybody decides to watch because of this post, please oh please go post in the FanFare threads! I'd love to see peoples' first-time reactions.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:22 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Also Season One features the best worst line of dialogue possibly ever committed to film: "The printed page is obsolete. Information isn't bound up anymore. It's an entity. The only reality is virtual. If you're not jacked in... you're not alive."
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:26 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Season One was unique in that it was completed before it started airing.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:38 AM on March 11




I've been through 4 or 5 rewatches, and I could really take or leave the first season. If I was recommending it to a skeptic, I'd say just watch the pilot and maybe the last couple episodes of the season, then enjoy the next two seasons of mostly very good sometimes great before things get a bit uneven again. You can always enjoy the uneven first season on rewatch.

And as for which characters are terrible, I think you just have to accept that the writers were unwilling/unable to maintain a consistent moral agency for the supporting characters. They don't make moral decisions in ways that make sense, because the writers often made the characters do out-of-character things to Buffy to create drama. This is most obvious with Giles--some of his behavior toward Buffy is so callous and disrespectful, it really doesn't make sense that their relationship isn't destroyed. But this is also true for Xander, who is a flawed best-friend 80% of the time, crypto-misogynist and lazy plot device to get us where the writers wanted to go the other 20%. Spike... well, he's more complicated but has the same problem after his babyface turn. Real live humans are not consistent either, but their failure to adhere to their own norms usually make sense, as motivated by weakness or self-interest. Giles, Xander and ensouled-Spike do shitty things to Buffy that usually don't make sense at all, they just move the plot along.

This is ultimately the biggest problem I have with the show (which overall I looooooooove), each episode and season is very plot driven, and they don't always take the time to have the characters react to their circumstances that respect the world or the relationships they'd built up. Which is kind of ironic because it's the character dynamics rather than the mediocre-to-good plots that made the show so beloved. But understandable, I don't think a show airing on the WB/CW network could get away from monster-of-the-week and having at least that episode's drama resolved at the end of the hour. And when you have to devote so much time and effort to moving the plot along, you are going to end up with characters doing things merely in service of the plot, without regard to what would make sense for them.
posted by skewed at 1:41 PM on March 11


I thought Giles' first truly awful-to-Buffy moment - Helpless - was a really great piece of characterisation, built out of the weaknesses in the character that we'd already seen upto that point and a major turning point for him (reinforced by the contrast with Wesley when he showed up). I can't make sense of the season 7 Giles stuff, though.

As to Xander, 80% flawed best friend and 20% lazy misogynist is, unfortunately, a pretty realistic and internally consistent character. I always thought of Xander as fundamentally impulse-driven; a lot of his impulses are warm, brave, best-friend impulses, but there is some truly dark stuff in there too and always was, and nothing in the character shows us that he knows how to control his knee-jerk responses.

I accept that sometimes, as with Giles in season 7, the flawed moments come out of nowhere and make no sense. But often when a primary character's weakness really drove the plot - like Evil Willow, or Giles in Helpless, or Xander's love spell or hyena moment or Big Lie - I thought the show had done the groundwork to show us how it made sense and enriched our knowledge of the character.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:06 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


There's a great moment in "I Was Made to Love You", which is the episode that introduces Warren (and his then-girlfriend Katrina, one of my favorite minor characters, a badass roboticist who dumps Warren's ass when she finds out he's built a sex bot). The Scooby Gang is sitting around discussing the situation and Xander goes into this charming monologue:
Xander: She's a sex bot. I mean, what guy doesn't dream about that? Beautiful girl with no other thought but to please you, willing to do anything.


I meant to comment on this exchange in my earlier post.

I agree that "I Was Made to Love You" is both an excellent episode and more significant than it is often treated for how the idea of a sex bot plays out. If we leave aside Xander, for the moment, Spike has Warren build him a Buffy-bot for this very reason later, but as significantly, Buffy then uses Spike as something akin to a sex toy in much the same manner. The question raises by "sex-bots" isn't, I think, whether that in itself is "wrong" since in its most basic formulation a sex-bot is just an overdeveloped fleshlight/dildo. No matter how much any of us personally might be dismayed by their use by others, it's difficult to articulate a reasonable disagreement over the ethics of that use until such time the bots become self-aware or infringe on the rights of self-determination for others.

Both Spike and Buffy cross that line in different ways, Spike by creating a faux-Buffy without her approval, and Buffy by using Spike despite the difference in feelings he has towards her than she has towards him. Spike chipped is already unable to act as he wishes, and Buffy's relationship with him relies on both that and the difference in feelings, which places Spike into a roughly analogous position to a machine created to do what its creature demands. Spike, of course, maintains his sense of rationality or self-awareness, so at some level one can argue choice is involved in ways that carry considerable difference, but at the same time emotional demands often override rationality so that choice becomes muted. It isn't that the two situations are identical as much as they have meaningful echoes of each other that are lost if one focuses too intently on "Warren Bad" rather than the larger implications of Xander's claim and the subsequent actions by Spike and Buffy.

The entirety of those actions and attitudes are all called into serious question by the characters themselves and the show as things progress, but the desire for control over the one you care about balanced against self determination is a key element of the show in more than just this set of examples.

Oh, and I firmly believe season four is the best season. Yep. It summarizes and significantly alters the ideas from earlier seasons while setting into place much of the important issues that follow. It doesn't have the best main arc for a big bad, The Mayor is more interesting on his own than the Initiative, but it does have the most far reaching episodes in terms of overall show themes and strikes the best tone between dark and light for the main characters.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:06 PM on March 11 [6 favorites]


YT: Where Do We Go From Here? from here
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:46 PM on March 11


A thing I learned via James Marsters' AVClub interview: Spike's attempted rape of Buffy in S6's "Seeing Red" was not just the hardest thing he's ever had to do as an actor, but came from a female writer's personal experience, being the aggressor.

That scene will always be one of the most upsetting and difficult (but super well-done and necessary!) scenes in the show for me, but that knowledge is like a Rosetta Stone for how it cn work the way it does. According to Marsters, Whedon pushed the writers to find their "worst day," and dig into that for the drama, and this writer had at one time had a very bad break-up and had tried to show up at the guy's place and just fuck him and that would get everything back to right, and he wasn't having it and had to force her off.

Now in "Seeing Red" we see that on one level, where it's a man attempting to force a woman into make-up sex that she absolutely doesn't want, and that adds the male-aggressor/female-victim dynamic that we're used to with sexual assault. But on the other hand, we know from the show and the mythos that Buffy is more than his physical equal.So while it's frighteing on multiple levels (and in an enclosed space where Spike is blocking the exit, etc.) Buffy's ability to overpower Spike makes it make more sense for the writer's own experience.

And somehow, that all also helps make Spike's subsequent redemption arc something we cheer for rather than wanting him to just rot forever in hell. (Well, that and the fact that we all already really like Spike even when he was a creature of pure malevolence, and that the lore informs us that by re-ensouling himself, he is forcing himself to know and feel the ramifications of everything he did as a Vampire, which is a bit more than saying a few Hail Marys, etc.)
posted by Navelgazer at 10:13 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]


People who want a four-and-a-half-minute homage to the entire run could do a lot worse than "The Polka Slayer" by bradcpu and milly, which covers the whole show, to the tune of "Polka Power" by Weird Al Yankovic. Or, if you want to cry instead of laughing, a vid by such_heights using Vienna Teng's "Level Up".
posted by brainwane at 8:26 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Probably pretty sure most fans in this thread have seen this already, but since the thread is still open:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Reunion: Exclusive Photos

posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:58 AM on March 30


Thanks for the heads-up, MCM! There's also a video.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:38 PM on March 30


Thank you for that video! I thought it was gonna be just a short little thing. Whoops, there goes 45 minutes.
posted by misskaz at 2:30 PM on March 30


Tangential tie-in -

Sarah Michelle Gellar tweeted a couple pictures from the EW shoot on her Twitter Feed. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a bit of a fan, so he responded with a Buffy-themed GIF. And....Sarah responded with a GIF. Which made him excited, so he responded the only way he knew how - another GIF.

Resultant mutual-appreciation/borderline-flirtatious GIFstream here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:54 PM on March 31


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