Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Goodbye to Buffy

My heroes, compliments of TheQuarterBin
Sometime in late 2002, I found myself in the back seat of a San Francisco cab, with a boy I very much wanted to kiss. As the car sped along with the city's twinkling lights whizzing by, he turned to me and whispered somewhat plaintively:

"Please ... please .... PLEASE tell me that you're into 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Because I wanted his lips on mine, I lied outright: "Of course. I love it!"

And we kissed.

In truth, I hadn't seen a single episode and the whole romance tumbled down soon after but the moment always nagged me. What was so important about a stupidly-named television show? How could it possibly be an obstruction to making out? And who was this Buffy chick anyhow? Surely she couldn't be that amazing.

Oh, how wrong I was. In April of 2008, I finally got around to seeing what all the fuss was about. Buffy the Vampire Slayer:Season 1, Episode 1, was put into my DVD player and the journey began. To try and recreate the feverish anticipation of the original viewers when it aired on the WB, and then UPN, back in the day (1997-2003), I viewed one episode at a time, one disc at a time, while alternating on my Netflix queue with films.

Last night, with great sadness, the DVD player spit out the final disc and I groaned aloud. A seven-year show, 144 brilliant episodes, and it was all over for me, seven years after its actual demise but still, I mourn. I cannot begin to describe how much I will miss these characters and even the writers, directors and producers, as I obsessively watched every commentary and extra that was available. Thank god for the mad genius that is Joss Whedon, who has given popular culture such an amazing heroine.

As TV writing goes, it doesn't get any better; there is simply no fat or fluff to be found. I kept waiting for the show to lag, for the characters to become predictable, for the entire premise to fail. Instead, every episode was like a rung on a ladder and you found yourself going deeper and deeper into the world of Sunnydale and all the demon residents of the Hellmouth. The amount of action and comedy packed into one hour (not to mention some real tear-jerkers) was relentless. A typical exchange: 

Buffy: So, what you been up to?
Amy: I've been a rat for three years. 
Buffy: Oh, right. 
Amy: You? 
Buffy: Dead.
Amy: Yeah, I heard. Bummer.

And then there's Spike. Good lord, he's just pure walking sex. Truly. (Angel? Oh, please. No contest.) I get quickly turned on hearing even a few notes from a Billy Idol song based solely on the resemblance, which, as we all know, is a look that Spike had first. Of course, Spike also had a way of delivering truth that could be counted on, and even that was hot. My favorite Spike speech:
"You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other until it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. Love isn't brains, children, it's blood -- blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it." 
--Spike, speaking to Buffy and Angel, in Season 3
Or maybe it was this one, said in exasperation to Willow during Season 4. He was tied to a chair but he'd finally had enough of her white American guilt at the Thanksgiving table:
"You won. All right? You came in, and you killed them and you took their land. That's what conquering nations do. It's what Caesar did, and he's not going around saying, 'I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it." 
Arrrrgh. I could go on and on about each character but to love Buffy is to understand why Joss made it in the first place. He created Buffy to redeem every helpless female victim that has ever been portrayed in film, television, opera, novel or comic book.  Buffy is the anti-victim and, as a result, the show is the most entertaining version of feminism that has ever snuck past you.

Also, it should be said that it was the first show I can think of that portrayed lesbian love in a normal, non-porny way. Willow's discovery ("I think I'm a little gay.") was just another layer of growth in her ongoing evolution - from pigtails to the most powerful woman in the universe. Best of all, it made perfect sense.

[SPOILER ALERT] In the final moments of the last show, Willow induces magic to bring out the inner slayer in every capable woman in the world. (Turns out the world will need it, since there's a Hellmouth under Cleveland too, Giles casually informs us.)

Watching it again with Joss commenting, I learned that the final scene that was shot - the last shot of the last show of the last season - was a wordless frame showing a battered woman in a dingy trailer, about to be struck by her abusive husband. Now suddenly infused with slayer strength, she stands up to him and the look in her eye says that things are going to be very, very different from now on.

And that, my friends, is what makes Buffy so special. Also, Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played Buffy so perfectly reminded me of my best friend, Lisa, who is also blonde, beautiful and super strong.

And finally, to that boy, wherever he is .... Joe, I finally understand. And you were absolutely right.


Compliments of Manny the Movie Guy


Eilonvi said...

Great post!!! I liked your story about the boy and enjoyed your writing style:)

Plus, it's always nice to see how Buffy is newly discovered by new fans - and that the show still kicks :)

(I own the whole series and have been watching it several times now...and still enjoy it)

And you're right - it's the best script ever to hit TV.

only one little correction - Buffy lives in Sunnydale (imaginary town in California) and not the real Sunnyvale :)

ClizBiz said...

Hey Eilonvi, thanks so much for the shout out and link on your fabulous site! Very kind of you.

I had to laugh at my mistake as I used to work in Sunnyvale - which I'm pretty sure has its own unique Hellmouth - hence my confusion.

Have you ever seen the Buffy Reunion at Paley Fest? (Formerly the Museum of Radio & Television. I just watched it on DVD.) Guess, I'm a real Buffy nerd now ...

Thanks again for stopping by!

Eilonvi said...

Hey again -

My pleasure really - always happy to stumble upon interesting posts :)

No, I haven't watched the reunion - but I will try to get a hold of it (or what kind of a Buffy nerd would I be? :)).

Mark Dowdy said...

I was always partial to Eliza Dushku's Faith. Not only is she beautiful, not only does she kick ass, but she has a touch of evil to her.

And this, I think, makes her a far sexier slayer than Buffy.

ClizBiz said...

Agreed. But I especially loved Faith in the final episode, where she looked her most vulnerable when Robin questions her "mad skills" in the bedroom. She looked crestfallen.

Lisa said...

I'm totally blushing. Great post!

Fang Bastardson said...

Oh, Leslie will be so pleased! I can't wait to tell her.

I only wish Buffy had been done on a "Smallville" budget, not an "H.R. Pufnstuf" one.

ClizBiz said...

I never found the show lacking, no matter what the budget. They did an awful lot with little, apparently.

Beth @ Fake Plastic fish said...

Ok. You've convinced me. I'll try and give SMG a chance.