I’ve always loved TV. Growing up, I would watch shows like “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Melrose Place” religiously (I was an advanced child) and I would even go as far as ask my parents to buy me scripts for Christmas. The first show I fell in love with from start to finish though was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It aired in 1997 when I was 12 years old and I remember staying up to watch and record the premiere. I had been a fan of the movie, which the creator, Joss Whedon, apparently loathed, so I was curious to see what he had originally envisioned for the plot.
The pilot was dazzling. Sure, the effects were cheesy and the budget seemed tiny, but it blended elements of horror, comedy, and romance flawlessly. One moment you would be laughing and the next you would be either crying about the star-crossed affair of Buffy and Angel or be scared out of your mind about some creepy monster they had to kill. The tone jumped around constantly without ever becoming uneven.
I wasn’t able to identify it at the time but Buffy was also a show for feminists. Buffy Summers wasn’t the one-dimensional vampire killer she had been in the movie; she was complicated, funny, tortured and, most importantly, strong. The show didn’t exploit her girliness. They didn’t linger on the fact that Buffy liked to wear lipstick and don cute outfits, but, oh my god, she kicked serious butt too! That would be too obvious. Instead, she was a variety of different things, drenched in complexities. When I was 12, I just thought of her as this badass chick but as I got to be older, I began to understand just how important and rare of a character she actually was.
I was obsessed with Buffy. I recorded every single episode on VHS tapes. This was before the convenience of DVDs so I would actually have to sit in front of the TV and press play and record, even making a point to leave out commercials. I would then carefully label the tapes and stack them in order. I was dedicated.
One year, my well-connected stepmother was able to score me a visit to the set so I could look around and even meet the actors! I was 13 at the time so the news put me on cloud nine. I was able to talk to Sarah Michelle Gellar (oh my god, she’s so short!) and chat with Nicholas Brendon and Alyson Hannigan. The whole experience felt surreal and just cemented my love for the show.
Looking back, I realize that I have yet to be as obsessed with a show as I was with Buffy. Granted, some of that had to do with my age. When you’re in middle school, you have nothing but time to get obsessed with things. But it was also a testament to how special the show truly was. I mean, the show was about vampires and demons but it somehow managed to be realer and more relatable than any show out there. Take that, Dawson’s Creek!