Why ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Is Still Essential To Pop Culture 20 Years Later

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
20th Century Fox

20 years ago today, Joss Whedon and Sarah Michelle Gellar graced our televisions and lives with what many consider to be the best, most essential contribution to pop culture of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The series that originally aired in March of 1997, began as a mid-season series for the WB that introduced us to the hellish world of high school with a twist: Sunnydale High was quite literally over the mouth of hell. The series protagonist? A young blonde girl with a destiny that required her to combat the forces of darkness while still making time for school and a social life – and when you’re that age, it already feels impossible to juggle those transitional stages. The premise of ‘Buffy’ was enough to instantly resonate with a specific age group through multiple generations, but Buffy didn’t stop with teenage tales. The series soon delved into much more mature and universal life lessons that every person could connect to at one point or another. 

What set ‘Buffy’ apart from other series and characters was that it signified that a girl who didn’t view herself as all important could take on life’s trials with the inner strength she wasn’t aware she had. Her grades weren’t the greatest but it didn’t detract from her true brilliance, she wasn’t the popular girl but people saw her for the compassionate savior she was, not to mention she had a wit and cleverness about her that only complimented her physical strength. Buffy became a pillar of inner and outer fortitude, not only for me at such a young age, but to anyone who gave the show a chance. You may be asking yourself what else makes this different than other series with morality and growing up as the focus, or maybe even those led by strong women – but before Buffy, a character like her was the helpless damsel who needed saving from the horror genre. Buffy redefined how a young woman could be portrayed in the media, a way that we need to see crafted more often. This (at the time) new inspiration extended far past young women, giving men and women of all ages courage to face their own demons (figuratively and literally if you’re a slayer.)

As the series came out of the High School setting it had been contained to, the larger changes began to take place and pushed both Buffy and the viewers out of their comfort zone. We weren’t facing the traditional nasties we had become accustomed to, it was now time to enter college and that first true spark of independence that one goes through at that age. Buffy began to feel overwhelmed by the balancing act of school, slayage and navigating through a new dating world as well as learning that being too trusting can be one’s downfall. In other ways the series tackled this real life growth, the supporting character Willow (resident witch and member of the ‘scooby gang’) escaped the overbearing family oriented life she lived and was able to explore her sexuality when she found herself falling in love with another woman (and fellow witch.) This was a major development for television, not usually allowing much to be revealed about same sex relationships – let alone their eventual kiss that is still talked about to this day. What made this feel natural was the connection they developed with the pair; it wasn’t placed in the story to turn heads, it was a pure unfiltered love at its greatest and that’s a gift that will stay with people for years to come.

As Buffy progressed to the later seasons, a return to family became focus – which is something life always comes back to. Buffy had to focus on watching over her younger sister (one of the supernatural/mystical inclusions of BTVS) that also was a rare shock to viewers of the series, given only slight indication via the show’s notorious and unrivaled foreshadowing. It took a darker turn when Buffy’s mother became ill, something completely unrelated to supernatural doings and entirely real – death and the trauma that immediately follows. The loss of her mother delivered possibly the most authentic essence of human emotion from the shock and devastation that triggers everyone to some capacity. The episode featured no music, no real supernatural plot, just 42 minutes of raw emotion that to this day hasn’t been surpassed by any other series on television – there is simply no way to recreate such a profound moment with an impact as heavy and brutal as “The Body.” That season featured another loss, the choice Buffy made to sacrifice herself to not only save her sister, but to save the world. For the first time in her experience as the slayer, Buffy felt that her ending her existence could be for the greater good and she made a sacrifice that blew viewers and critics away, but also fit the beautiful spirit of Buffy.

By the time the series had concluded on WB, BTVS had been picked up by UPN for additional seasons, having recognized the cultural phenomenon it had transpired into. Buffy not only came back to life as a series and character but it/she came back with some of the most distressing moments the series had to offer. Ultimately, the next path solidified that regardless of network or number of seasons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was far from concluding the momentous series that held plenty more lessons on humanity and how to navigate through the darkness that it can spew. In season 6, Buffy was brought back to life by Willow and the scoobies, but not without serious consequences. To begin, Buffy was ripped from heaven and spent the entire season trying to find her new purpose after feeling like she had completed her life mission. That empty feeling that followed was explored through Buffy trying to be an adult on top of feeling aimless. She returned to taking care of her sister, slinging burgers at a fast-food restaurant and beginning a destructive sexual relationship with former big-bad Spike as a shell of her former self. Buffy spent a long while trying to rediscover herself and become someone new, because that young bubbly slayer was now in a position where life changed on her and she either needed to adapt and grow or give up.

As the series once again importantly reminded us, even the strongest people have to regroup and reevaluate their lives and there is no shame in discovering who you are. This season focused a large part on self punishment, accepting what you feel you deserve and even began to explore the severity of addiction through the scope of Willow. In the early days of the show, Willow was the meek geek who wouldn’t harm a fly, but she evolved as much as the series protagonist (and every character truly) becoming a powerful witch whose love for magic began to deteriorate into a full blown addiction. Many people became angered by Willow, however, like addiction goes you begin to realize that having control over something so powerful isn’t a simple fix and occasionally asking for help is the most mature thing you can do (via Buffy/Willow in season 6.) That came to a tipping point when the climax of the season saw a seemingly average guy (who poorly hid his misogynistic outlook) with no enhanced abilities murdered Willow’s soulmate Tara and nearly killed Buffy in the process. It was unexpected, tragic and incomprehensible initially, which is exactly how life can go – but this instance was intensified by the mystical influences of Willow’s power. Willow lost herself, completely succumbing to the darkest magic in a grief stricken rage that shattered her world. The solution? There wasn’t one, which is another lesson from Buffy that stands the test of time; sometimes the only way to bounce back from loss and instability is to survive and rebuild with what you’ve experienced, helping you progress towards a more knowledgeable and hopefully self aware future.

Going into the final season of the series before tackling the comic expansion of the Buffyverse, Buffy has gone through hell and back, coming out the most levelheaded version of herself she could possibly be. Luckily for her, it was just in time to lead an army of potential slayers being threatened with extinction from the first – as in the first evil known to mankind. A foe this large put Buffy and company to the test, forging Willow’s mystical progress when she felt she couldn’t gain control again, Buffy’s ability to lead dozens of women who were where she was years prior and Spike’s ensouled conflict with accepting what he had done as a demon for two centuries. Buffy and Spike were both utterly perfect characters to use for this final chance at change, as Spike finally earned his soul on his own accord (the attempted rape scene in season 6 was his lowest moment that indicated he needed to find that spark of humanity he believed he had remaining.) Buffy on the other hand had finally found a new sense of adulthood that didn’t require her to rely on others ever again. Together, the two took television’s most tumultuous relationship and began down a path with redemption and mutual understanding. Towards the series end, Buffy and Spike share a heartwarming moment (one of multiple) that purely centers on the two proclaiming their fears and adoration in regards to one another and it captured the beauty of true love without requiring an explanation – it just told their story through their actions and proved that even the darkest moments can have a dazzling light at the end of the tunnel. 


By the end of Buffy’s seven year run, the future was unwritten and Buffy’s life was forever changed because she went from being the only chosen one to sharing her power with women around the world, encouraging them to embrace who they are and not feel alone as she had from the beginning. Buffy truly evolved from a young woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders to the strongest person television has ever seen. The heroine saved the world, her family, her friends and managed to learn countless facets about herself in the process. There may be several television shows that replicate life lessons and strong characters, but none have proven to be as timeless and inspiring as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After 20 years since the show originally aired, new fans are finding their way to the series, old fans continue to discuss and rewatch and even new stories continue to be told courtesy of the mastermind behind this television juggernaut, Joss Whedon. Anyone who has given, or will give Buffy a chance will learn that masterful, methodical storytelling is a rarity and when we find a story worth being told, it can spend an eternity impacting people of all ages and all walks of life.  From comedy, to drama, action and even horror, the series modeled life effortlessly and transcended television with superb talent from everyone involved. I sincerely know that Buffy the Vampire Slayer will be a part of my heart and a guidebook for myself and countless others for the rest of our lives.

“Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Gets New Merchandise For Its 20th Anniversary

buffy the vampire slayer
Fox

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – for those of you who don’t know the name, you are either a pop-culture recluse or in desperate need of some supernatural goodness in your existence. The cult classic series (helmed by Joss Whedon and starring the talented Sarah Michelle Gellar) will come up on it’s 20th anniversary on March 10, so Fox has decided to grace the dedicated fan base with new exclusive merchandise ranging from new clothing, comic books, books, stationary, board games and even more! BTVS rightfully earns the special treatment after showcasing the struggles of growing up, transitioning to adulthood and all the curveballs life can throw our way – with a supernatural twist.  Though the series has been off the air for years (she was slaying before any pop-star used the word) it has lived on through the collector’s DVD sets, streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, or even the comic book continuation that takes place shortly after the series concluded. Buffy has been and always will be around, so what better way to celebrate than to enjoy some new Buffy goodies to excite our inner-Scooby?

buffy the vampire slayer

Hot Topic / Fox

Fox Consumer Products launched a partnership with various companies to sweeten the deal and expand the exclusives, some of which include new Buffy the Vampire Slayer clothes. Hot Topic has designed a special line of Buffy-inspired items, beginning with Buffy’s “Graduation Day” blood-red trench coat, Willow’s “Dopplegangland” frilly sweater and even Faith’s recurring black leather jacket to channel your rebel slayer persona. Ripple Junction has provided their own line of Buffy tees for men and women, with a limited sale on the items up until March 10. The store Box Lunch will additionally sell items centered around Buffy (shirts, jewelry, etc.) that launch on the 10th itself.

buffy the vampire slayer

Dark Horse / Fox

On the other end of the spectrum, a large amount of Buffy comics will be available through Dark Horse Comics which is the company behind seasons 8-11 (season 11 is currently being published.) Dark Horse will release an omnibus version of season 8 that includes several volumes in one bundle to ease the reading process or join your BTVS collection. The series is produced by Joss himself, another reason to catch up and find out where your favorites are now –  I can personally promise it’s a major treat to all BTVS lovers. The publishing company will include two new adult coloring books to embrace your inner Giles art (hardcore fans will catch that one) with scenes inspired by the series and comics.

A few different publishers (Simon & Schuster, Insight Editions and Harper Design) have a few Buffy related books down the pipeline, from a collection of Buffy handbooks with spells and mystical focus – to an encyclopedia to the Buffyverse (and that is simply a few of several in the works.)  If you are looking for more action, look no further! Jasco has released a Buffy board game that uses a multiplayer function for people to battle major villains of the franchise (here on Amazon) and Legendary will be releasing a deck-building card game where teamwork is key (available August 2017.)

Fox will be revealing more items as they are released throughout the year, but with this much focus on the Buffyverse, this 20th anniversary (still utterly shocked it’s been 20 years) will be a glorious one – Buffy the Vampire Slayer only gets better with age!

Make sure to share your thoughts on the  marvelous anniversary as well as your favorite Buffy moments with the hashtag #BuffySlays20 on social media.

The 100: 04×02, Heavy Lies The Crown

Heavy Lies the Crown
CW

The 100 continues its fourth season with chaos and conflict, but what else would we expect from the high-stakes series? Now let’s dive straight in to this week’s episode that introduced the difficulties of accepting leadership in the midst of relentless danger.

“Heavy Lies the Crown” Recap

The episode begins with a flashback, nine days prior to present day where we see a young grounder under ALIE’s influence as he prepares to kill the rest of his family to prove a point in her name. Just before he can finish himself off, ALIE is summoned away to stop Clarke from destroying the City of Light (unsuccessfully of course.) It follows Illian (the young man) back to Polis where he is next seen listening in as an ambassador plans to fight King Roan and overtake the throne. Luckily for him, Octavia overhears and her and Kane warn him, but even though he isn’t willing to back down to recover from his wounds he gives them a chance to at least try another solution.

In preparation, he and Echo try sparring but he isn’t able to best her in battle. Echo questions Roan as to why he is so willing to forgive Skaikru so he explains they are going to try and help keep them all alive. Her next idea? Becoming a spy and infiltrating Skaikru. Now that Octavia and Kane have decided to stop the ambassador from battling Roan, he and Ilian aren’t keen on the concept and are ready end Roan – and Skaikru. Octavia challenges the ambassador one-on-one, but he declines and acts as if she couldn’t take him. Octavia (being the badass she is) takes the blade and stabs him through the ear – yes, the ear, she’s a brute savage and I’m all for it. Octavia covers up the evidence that she was behind the crime, muttering “long live the king.” More like long live the queen!

The other ambassadors come in the next day to inform Roan of his demise and it seems like nobody is fooled by Octavia – as Ilian asks if he will meet his end next. Instead she offers her condolences and it seems like they have a mutual agreement to let bygones be bygones (at least in the world of ‘The 100.’) Life at Arkadia isn’t exactly in the greatest place, with Jasper becoming someone so ready for death I can’t help but feel it’s actually inevitable in a bittersweet situation. Raven continues to look for alternatives, hoping there’s another Mt. Weather on the horizon, but the others stop her from telling anyone (which she compares to Clarke’s father.) Raven is a bit aggressive with her words and actions, but in all honesty there’s a major point she has about who they are quickly becoming.

It’s then that they discover that Alpha station may be an obvious solution – it managed to survive temperatures at extremes and radiation from space, so Raven begins preparation to salvage it as long as they can obtain a very special component. Bellamy, Miller, Monty and Brian form a small unit to find this important hydro-generator that’s in ship remnants of Farm Station, now in Ice Nation. The mission doesn’t go as planned when they are taken as prisoners eventually, but Azgeda warriors reluctantly agree when they know they have a deal with Roan. Things get complicated as they see one of their own being held captive with others and discover their chance of saving them is narrowed down to that small window of opportunity.

It comes down to a split decision as to if they should take the hydro-generator and leave people, or use it as a weapon against the Ice Nation soldiers and free the people who were turned into slaves. Bellamy makes the executive decision to save the captive individuals and essentially detonate their live-saving equipment that wipes out nearly all of the Azgeda warriors. Before they can separately kill their leader, Monty learns that his father’s death was at his hands – and Monty lets the former prisoners finish the job instead of making another tough call.

Back at Arkadia, Raven convinces a small pool of people to help maintain the ship she wants to repair (under a guise because of Clarke) and she is practically forced to accept Jaha’s help also at the request of Clarke. I truly feel like Raven’s feelings and perceptions are actually the most level-headed and fair after what betrayals and life-threatening choices have hurt them. When Bellamy finds his way back to Arkadia without what they needed – he makes it known he doesn’t want to be a part of anyone else dying, so Clarke naturally guilts him for sealing everyone else’s fate (which she has no room to judge.)

Clarke’s next step consists of her owning up to telling her people the truth (after Jasper accused her of hiding their fate and acting like the former council who banished them to Earth.) Clarke tries to share her knowledge, but backpedals and acts like they will all survive if the ship is repaired. Clarke made a bold choice to hide something that will certainly come back to make her pay but as usual she doesn’t seem to take other’s views into consideration. Is Clarke trying to save them? Absolutely. However lying to the people they are making help them can’t be acceptable for too long if she wants to hold on to any trust with those she swears to protect.

Overall Grade: 8/10

For the second week in a row, The 100 has earned a solid ‘8’ for using a build-up of leadership tension in Arkadia, Polis/Azgeda and the ramifications of failed leadership. Making each choice have a trickle effect for others has been a strong suit for The 100 and the coping (or lack of) mechanisms are a crucial sign that everyone has come so far from the people they were in the beginning – which can be good or bad, but perfect for storytelling.

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– Let’s take a minute to appreciate the romance that is Abby and Kane.

– Part of me wants to feel for Clarke, but as usual I feel like I would be tempted to challenge her choices as now forcing herself into a role that she shouldn’t necessarily be responsible for after the events of the past three seasons.

– I understand Jasper’s views on the 6 month expiration date, but he either needs to be a part of the solution or possibly remove himself entirely from Arkadia because it doesn’t look like he’ll ever find any semblance of happiness with people he seems to despise.