Twenty years ago today, Buffy The Vampire Slayer premiered on the WB. The year was 1997 and after that first episode, I was hooked. I mean, how could I not be? Buffy and I had so much in common. Buffy was in high school. I was in high school. Buffy was a peppy California girl. I was an undiagnosed ADHD Minnesota girl. Buffy was in love with a cold-blooded vampire. I was in love with a hockey player. Buffy saved the world each week. I saved every letter my friends ever wrote to me. Buffy had sun-kissed skin and blonde hair. I had sun allergic skin and fading reddish hair from a “Fire Engine Red” box dye job I had given myself a few years before, when I was chasing Angela Chase’s hair color from the prematurely departed ABC teen drama, My So-Called Life. Okay so maybe the only thing Buffy and I really had in common was that we were growing up in the same time period.
When Buffy graduated from high school and went to college, so did I. By then her love interest, Angel, had gotten his own spin-off series and I lived for the cross-over episodes. None of my friends were into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so confused looks is all I received when I opted to stay in on the big Buffy/Angel cross-over episode nights instead of partying. After Buffy went off the air in 2003, I wasn’t ready to let go. I cried. Yes, I did have plenty of episodes recorded on VHS, but I still cried because I’d never again feel the sweet anticipation of a new Hellmouth adventure. Fast forward a few years and Buffy episodes were being rerun on cable channels. Fast forward even further into my adulthood and every episode of Buffy is now available to me via the marvelous invention of streaming services like Netflix. This has given me the opportunity to rewatch the series and my favorite episodes any time I want…and I want to A LOT, so I do.
I can literally watch the same episode for the 1000th time and enjoy it just as much as the first time. For a long time, I didn’t understand why so many years later, Buffy still resonated with me. And I’ve wondered if my affection for it is unhealthy or weird. I spoke with my therapist about my love for Buffy and discovered that this show was my therapy before I even knew what therapy was. It’s been like a security blanket for me or my Buffy blanket if you will. Whenever I’m feeling anxious, all I need to do is press play and for those 45 minutes, it all seems to go away. Even having Buffy on in the background is comforting. Don’t tell big pharma, but it’s better than Xanax! It makes me feel happy and safe. I’ve discovered that Buffy is able to fend off my anxiety because the show represents something that I lost only a few years before the show’s premiere.
When I was 14 years old, a man threw pornographic magazines at me and then chased me home from my school’s bus stop. He Tried To Kidnap Me. Forutnately, he was unsuccessful and with the help of my neighbor, I got away. Unfortunately, so did he. The police never caught him. This experience had residual effects that I didn’t even realize. That day, something was taken from me – my power. Not all of it, but enough that watching a show about a young women saving the world over and over and over again, made me feel better. It resonated with me because when I watched Buffy save the world, I wasn’t just watching her do it, I was watching myself do it. Watching her be strong and successful against the forces of darkness, made me feel strong and successful against the darkness I escaped from. And I’ve come to the conclusion that even all these years later (20!), watching Buffy be powerful, still empowers me.
So today I am thankful for a show where a young woman doesn’t run from danger, but rather, danger runs from her.