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Buffy’s 20th Anniversary: Three Lessons We Learned

Buffy’s 20th Anniversary: Three Lessons We Learned

In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the slayer.

Can you believe it was 20 years ago today that high school sophomore Buffy Summers moved to Sunnydale to face the Hellmouth? Sure, lots of shows will hit their 20th anniversary this year, but let’s face it, Buffy The Vampire Slayer was something special. It was more than just a superhero fighting a different monster every week. It took the hard realities of life and turned them into a slayable metaphor. Exclusion, peer pressure, sex, relationships, responsibilities, clashing personalities, all that. We could relate because we were all weirdos. Buffy was the same age as me during the show’s run, and I was that misunderstood girl who just wanted to fit in too. I think many fans felt this way about the characters on the show, which is why it touched us so deeply.

Throughout the show’s seven-season run, it taught us several important lessons. On the 20th anniversary of the show’s launch, I wanted to reflect on them.

SOMEDAY, YOU WILL HAVE TO STAND ON YOUR OWN

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The ensemble cast was a huge asset to Buffy‘s popularity. As viewers, we didn’t have the Slayer’s strength or speed, but maybe we had book smarts like Willow, or we were just the awkward, lovable dork like Xander. Even though the supporting cast usually worked with Buffy in her struggles, there were plenty of episodes where characters had to go on their own. “The Zeppo” was all about Xander dealing with a group of zombies on his own while the world crumbled dramatically for everyone else. Willow had very little support in developing her magic abilities and eventually went overboard. Tara and Giles had to face the hard decision of walking away from the ones they love. Buffy transitions from being a teen into a self-sufficient adult. It’s never easy, even for a Slayer.  As viewers, we knew if Buffy and the Scoobies could battle demons and adulthood and survive, so could we.

YOU CAN’T JUDGE SOMEONE BASED ON A STEREOTYPE

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Did you know that we usually make judgments about people within 30 seconds of meeting them? We judge them on their grooming, their clothing, even the way they speak. Buffy taught us that you shouldn’t judge a demon by its horns. Faith was a Slayer, but she had potential or evil. Spike was a vampire, a really nasty one, but he too had potential for good when motivated. Cordelia started off vapid and self-centered, but she grew into someone more complex and likable over the first 3 seasons.

NON-NORMATIVE SEXUALITY IS NOT THE ONLY TRAIT THAT DEFINES YOU

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One thing I really wanted to touch on was the importance of Willow and Tara’s relationship. In the early 2000s, it still wasn’t normal to see lesbian couples on television unless the story revolved around their “scandalous” sexuality. The writers scripted the characters in a way where they were real people with normal (and in all fairness not-so-normal) problems. The characters were not defined by their sexuality, instead, the sexuality was merely one aspect of who they were. I can’t stress enough how important it was for youth to see this normality, to know that they had representation, and to know someone understood they were multi-dimensional people.

What lessons did Buffy the Vampire Slayer teach you? Share them with us in the comments!

Image credits: 20th Century Fox

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