Puns And Feminism: Why I Love Buffy

Puns And Feminism: Why I Love Buffy

I am the same age as Buffy The Vampire Slayer. We both date back to 1996, which explains why I managed to avoid all but a handful of spoilers for the show, to the surprise of my older friends. “I was a baby when it started,” I say. “That tends to prevent you hearing important plot points.”

“You were a baby?! How old are you again?” Ah. Age gaps. Gotta love them.

I have other things in common with the show. Like a love of puns, music and badass female characters. Really, it’s amazing I didn’t watch it sooner, but it just never featured in my life.

So I started watching Buffy for the first time in July last year after borrowing the DVD box set from a friend. Over the course of the summer I worked my way through the first three seasons, and then thanks to my brother and his girlfriend generously sharing their Netflix account with me, I was able to carry on once I went to university. Which worked out pretty well, because season four shows Buffy starting college, and I could totally relate to her situation.

I finished watching the show a few days ago, which was a weird feeling. It’s been my background show for months — when I have bad days, mentally or physically, it was the show I turned to as a distraction. It was engaging enough to take me out of my thoughts, but simple enough that I didn’t have to concentrate very hard to keep up with it, which was good for those brain fuzz days.

Now that I’ve finished it, I’d like to encourage anyone who hasn’t yet watched it not to make my mistake and wait eighteen years to do so. Here are some things I love about Buffy:

Girl power

The show is rooted around a concept that in itself promotes girls being awesome: into each generation is born a Slayer. She alone will stand against the forces of darkness, blah blah blah. She. The Slayer is never a guy the way most destined heroes are. And while other humans in her life may take the line of, “But you’re just a girl,” the monsters aren’t in the least bit surprised to be facing her.

In the first season, it’s a show about a single girl who fights monsters. By the time we get to the end, it’s about girls in general, using their strengths and working together.

Sometimes 'working together' means brandishing weapons in the kitchen.
Sometimes ‘working together’ means brandishing weapons in the kitchen.

SPOILER ALERT (skip ahead if you don’t want to know): in the season seven finale they basically work a spell so that “any girl who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer; every girl who can stand up, will stand up” — basically giving girls all over the world the chance to be badasses. It’s awesome.

Also, Buffy’s never isolated. There are other women in her life: her friend Willow, her mother, her frenemy Cordelia, and as the show goes on, others: Dawn, Tara, Anya. By season seven it’s impossible to name them all. There are guys, too: Xander, Giles, Angel, Oz, Spike. But it’s the girls who are centre stage. Good girls, bad girls, chaotic girls.

Plus, Buffy never loses her femininity. She’ll fight monsters in a prom dress and high heels, don’t ever doubt it. She doesn’t have to reject that to be ‘strong’.

feminine buffyCharacter development

I’ve never watched a show that had seven seasons following essentially the same core group of characters: Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles are there from the first episode and we follow them all the way through. To see them go through high school, college, and the trials of growing up allows for so much development. Sometimes I get emotional about how much Xander changed, but then I think about Willow and how she grew up — and Buffy herself had to face a number of situations that changed her hugely as a person.

I loved watching these characters develop. Buffy in season six is especially interesting to me, and I have to admit, I was taking inspiration from the characters in this show for my own writing. (My character Isabel starts out like season one Buffy, becomes something way more like Faith is season three, and then like Buffy in season six, but this is largely a coincidence as I mostly wrote her before watching these parts of the show.)

Faith is an epic badass.
Faith is an epic badass.

I love how well-rounded and real the characters are, even those who are also supernatural creatures. Oh man. I could go on for ages about the character development.

Bad puns

Buffy makes bad puns when she kills monsters. Sometimes Willow has a go too. (“See? Sometimes scythe does matter.”) I love puns. Bad ones at inappropriate moments are even better. A girl after my own heart, Buffy is.

Will you think I'm weird if I tell you gifs like this were the reason I started watching the show?
Will you think I’m weird if I tell you gifs like this were the reason I started watching the show?

Relatable storylines

Okay, disclaimer? I don’t kill monsters in my spare time. Obviously that part of Buffy’s life isn’t really relatable for most people. But her struggles with school, college, friends, family; her attempts to balance different aspects of her life; her growth as a person as well as a Slayer… well, let’s just say that she’s very much real, and that makes it possible to hold onto something about her.

I watched season four not long after I came to university and Buffy’s struggles to adjust to the college experience totally resonated.

Awesome soundtrack

Buffy uses music a lot, often actually within the episode (e.g. an on-screen band playing in the background). There’s even a musical episode and it’s awesome and not just a gimmick: it genuinely does advance plot and character development a lot. With the exception of one notorious episode, music provides a really important aspect of the show. I still need to look up some of the songs I’ve heard on there, because I’d like to listen to them again.

But in case you’re not convinced, here’s how Joss Whedon explained the title of the show:

summary of buffyBuffy. Vampire. Slayer. Each word means something. (He adds that ‘the’ isn’t particularly important but the title is weird without it, which is a fair point.)

Go and watch Buffy. And if you already have, leave me a comment telling me your favourite things about it. Favourite characters, episodes, jokes? I want to hear them all.

5 thoughts on “Puns And Feminism: Why I Love Buffy

  1. I also recently finished BTVS, I had been watching it on and off for the last two years. I was incredibly emotional when I finished it, and it’s so strange how a show can mean so much to a person. I personally cried buckets at the end of season five when (SPOILER) Buffy died. But my question for you is what did you think of Buffy and Spike’s somewhat abusive relationship? Personally I couldn’t stand spike for the longest time, and when he almost (SPOILER AGAIN) raped her at the end of season six I officially couldn’t stand him. But then in season seven they were adorable! It can make a girl feel conflicted when that stuff happens! And also what are your opinions on the spinoff show Angel?

    1. Yeah, I’m conflicted about Spike. I can understand a lot of the choices Buffy makes, though, within the context of her situation. I was very uncomfortable with a lot of Spike’s behaviour, but I did feel he redeemed himself in season seven. I’m not sure I ship them anyway, but as a character I find him interesting.

      I haven’t watched any of Angel. I thought about watching it next to fill the Buffy void but alas, it’s not on Netflix (at least not in the UK). Tragic.

      1. Yes I totally agree with you about spike. I felt like he did redeem himself, but I felt they were better off not together in that way. And with Angel you aren’t really missing out. The first season is pretty great, but then it just becomes boring. I was hoping for it to fill the Buffy sized hole in my heart, but unfortunately it did not live up to my expectations.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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