Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Why I’m a Writer

My sister introduced me to Buffy. Though that wasn’t the first time it was on in our house.

I distinctly remember my mother talking about it, in regards to the musical episode. It was something new and interesting on TV and she wanted to watch it, so we put it on TV that night. This was 2001 and I, a 7-year-old, wasn’t exactly grabbed by it. But my sister was, and she dove right in.

I was resistant at first, mostly because it was about a girl and how could I relate to that? I know, but I was very young when I thought this way. Still, for a time it was on in our house every afternoon after school, two episodes in a row over on FX, and the next day the story would continue. Eventually I broke down and started watching.

I think the first episode I saw was “Real Me,” the second episode of season 5 and the first full episode to feature Dawn, Buffy’s sister who didn’t exist until that point. Do you understand how insane and poetic that is? I came in when Dawn did, and I think Season 5 still stands out to me among all the rest because it was the first I watched all of.

I only learned what a “season” of television was because of Buffy. They could so easily be divided up based on their Big Bad who was annually swapped out for someone bigger and badder. The first seasons on DVD anyone in my house owned were Buffy, and I started making my way through in order after my sister was done with them.

Never at the same time. I was always a little behind, choosing to watch through in my own order. Season 1 was okay but not great, only in the years since did I realize that most plots there could have been solved with cellphones. Season 2, however, was great. I don’t think I’ve seen a TV villain as personal, affecting, and dangerous as Angelus. Think about it, after Angel turns evil in episode 14 (spoilers?) he stays that way for the next 8 episodes and appears in every single one of them to attack the Scoobies.

Think about every show on TV inspired by Buffy. They never give the villain that much screen-time for the risk of overusing them or making them look weak. Angelus never once appears weak. It’s actually pretty amazing.

Of course as a kid my favorite villain was the Mayor in season 3. I thought he was funny and I thought Faith was just cool. The third season finale was one of the most epic things I had ever seen on TV, bad CG and all. That was the moment. That exhilaration that came with that finale, the sense of scale that only came with living with these characters for 56 episodes, that was when I realized that TV is a better storytelling medium than film. If done well.

Since then I have watched a lot of TV. Too much, many would say too much TV. I have seen good and I have seen bad. But the biggest thing I learned was that there is nothing I would rather do than tell stories in the same way. To lead an audience to the higher highs that TV can accomplish.

Growing up I have rewatched the series a few times, from the highs of season 2, the mids of season 4, the lows of season 6, but I will never forget the first time I saw the series finale, Chosen, in season 7. It remains as one of my favorite hours of television ever. A group of heroes against the horde of demons, but then the women stand up to defeat them all. Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m only a feminist because of Buffy.

Now on the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I think about how much it has created my own artistic tendencies. Along the way I have met many other writers inspired by Buffy, almost a whole generation of upcoming talent sees the show as an inspirational touchstone.The characters, the way they talk, and the villains that are cool not because they’re mysterious but because we know them so well. I think we’re going to make some great TV.

-JP

PS, if you haven’t seen Bad Buffy Outfits yet then boy do I have a Twitter account for you.

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