Taking a break from the more serious posts, I thought I'd reflect on one of the series that I enjoy.
Some TV shows fight back and I think Buffy is one of them. The show is campy and certainly relies on most of the female leads being sexually attractive. But underneath blonde hair and short skirts, Buffy advances Feminism.
If you are discouraged by Hollywood images that seem to reinforce the 'female equals victim' mantra, 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' is a great anecdote At first glance, it's the usual fare…petite, perfect bone structure, blonde, young and very skimpy clothes. And it is all that, but so much more.
Buffy began airing on the WB in 1997 and continued its run to 2003. In those 7 years, it took a classic horror movie cliché (beautiful blonde girl foolishly goes into dark alley and is killed by scary monster) and turned it on its head… Beautiful blonde girl marches bravely into dark alley and kicks monster's ass.
I became a devoted fan of the series because of the humor, drama and also the message about the strength of women. The show teaches empowering lessons but is saved from being preachy. Buffy is a hero, but she's also three-dimensional. Creator Joss Whedon, does not set her up on a pedestal. She has weakness. For example, a disastrous taste in men (two out of three major relationships have been with vampires). And at times her powers make her arrogant and distant. All characters on the show are three-dimensional. They force us to face stereotypes society tries to force on both women and men. In the Buffy universe, not even demons are black and white.
Violence aside, the show taught me great lessons regarding not only feminism, but also friends, great loves, and conflict. The "demons" in Buffy aren't just scary looking, they represent our deepest fears. In season seven, Buffy fights "The First," the oldest evil of the world. It isn't a demon, but a ghostly apparition. It uses demons to attack Buffy and her friends, and appears under various guises to characters in the show, exposing their deepest fears and taunting them. For Buffy's younger sister, Dawn, it appears in the form of her dead mother, saying, "When it gets bad, Buffy will abandon you."
The First represents a society that wields power in the form of fear. It's the voice in Buffy's head, telling her she will fail and die because one girl isn't powerful enough to take on the world. When Buffy discovers that the First has no real weapons, just fear, she begins to regain control.
Buffy defeats the First in a powerful episode called "Chosen." Through a spell, she can finally share her mythical power as a slayer with the rest of the world. Every woman with the potential to fight is granted power. After seven seasons, the viewer sees Buffy transformed into a woman because she learned to believe and trust herself. And because of this transformation, she could teach others to do the same. By sharing power she became stronger and, finally, no longer alone.
Sometimes facing outer demons is easier than facing our own fears. This can be a great message for sexual assault survivors, domestic abuse survivors and women in general. Buffy never accepted that she was "just a girl," and neither should we. Even though we lack mythical super powers, it isn't really the physical strength that wins the battle in the end. It's strength of self, the will to go on and survive in the face of fear and overwhelming evil. The real heroes are those who are unwilling to back down to anyone who tells them they will fail.