I first saw Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was nearing the end of its run. I was working at a camp, and one of my fellow counselors had brought a bunch of episodes she had recorded off her TV. I tore through what she had, then finally finished up the show by borrowing the DVD seasons from a friend (and ultimately buying them myself). The show struck a chord with me, and I wished I’d watched it when it was on the air.
Looking at the show now, some of the production elements of the earlier seasons scream “late ’90s,” making it look visually dated to a modern eye, but so much of it is still relevant and enjoyable. My affection for Buffy has persisted, and years later, I’m not ashamed to admit that I still belt along with the soundtrack to “Once More With Feeling.” As soon as my daughter hits the age of 10 or 11, the two of us will be embarking on a marathon of the show, because I can think of no better teacher for how to navigate middle and high school than the Slayer herself. And, if there’s anything my daughter takes away from the show, I hope it’s these lessons.
Needless to say, spoilers follow!
1. Enjoying Frilly and Sparkly Things Is Not Mutually Exclusive with Being Strong (All Seasons)
“It must have been wonderful. To put on some fantabulous gown and go to a ball like a princess.” —Buffy Summers
Buffy’s personal style got a bit darker as the series progressed, but her ability to fight the forces of evil was in no way linked (either positively or negatively) with the contents of her closet.
2. Don’t Trust Everyone You Meet on the Internet (Season 1, “I, Robot . . . You, Jane”)
“I can also say I’m an elderly Dutch woman. Get me? I mean, who’s to say I’m not if I’m in the Elderly Dutch chatroom?” —Xander Harris
Since we don’t live on a Hellmouth, the chances of your new Internet friend actually being a demon who was accidentally scanned into a new cyber existence are small. But still, use caution in your online interactions.
3. No Matter How Much You Want Something, Consider the Risks Before Taking Shortcuts (Season 2, “Go Fish”)
“But is steroid use usually linked with ‘Hey, I’m a fish’?” —Xander Harris
Yes, having a chance at winning a state title in swimming is fantastic, but is it really worth the chance of turning into a fish creature?
4. Look at the Bigger Picture and Work with a Foe If It Benefits You Both (Season 2, “Becoming” Parts 1 and 2)
“We like to talk big, vampires do. ‘I’m going to destroy the world.’ It’s just tough guy talk. Struttin’ around with your friends over a pint of blood. The truth is, I like this world. You’ve got . . . dog racing. Manchester United. And you’ve got people. Billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs. It’s all right here. But then someone comes along with a vision. With a real . . . passion for destruction. Angel could pull it off. Goodbye, Piccadilly. Farewell, Leicester bloody Square. You know what I’m saying?” —Spike
Is there a chance of the world ending (or something else with dire consequences)? Then learn to recognize when it’s time to set aside differences, even if it does mean working with an evil vampire.
5. Don’t Let Your Friends Override Your Sense of Self (Season 3, “Bad Girls”)
“Buffy! This is fifteen percent of your final grade, and that’s . . . apparently meaningless.” —Willow Rosenburg
Running wild can be fun, but the consequences of bad choices will come back to bite you—whether it’s in the way of failed tests or accidental murder.
6. Avoiding Problems Makes Things Worse (Season 6, “Tabula Rasa”)
“We were so selfish. I was so selfish.” —Willow Rosenburg
If your girlfriend is unhappy that you’ve used magic to make her forget a fight, doubling down and using magic to make her forget yet again will not end well.
7. Your High-School Fashion Choices Will Look Just As Silly in 20 Years (Seasons 1–3)
“Trust me. Only someone living underground for ten years would think that was still the look.” —Buffy Summers
What did you learn from your time with the Scoobies?