On Friday, the iconic television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer celebrated the 20th anniversary of its debut. Other writers on this site have already detailed how this show and its characters changed their lives (see here and here), but while it changed mine too, I want to focus on something a bit more big picture. It’s a little odd to think of a television show having the ability to change the world when it didn’t involve race relations, war, or something along those lines, especially one revolving around teenagers fighting monsters. However, as I will intend to explain, Buffy’s reach has changed the way the film and television industries work and, arguably, has changed the world for the better for huge numbers of people. (Or should I say Buffy saved the world?)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted and spent many seasons on what was then the WB (now known as the CW). Even though the WB showed up around 1993, I wager the station would not have flourished like it did or even still be around if it had not been for Buffy and the Scooby Gang. When you look back at the lineup of, say, 1995 to 1999, the hits include 7th Heaven, Charmed, Dawson’s Creek, Star Trek: Voyager, and, of course, Buffy. Now, tell me, out of all these shows, do any have the fan base that Buffy has? By no means am I insulting these shows—they all have their respectable fan bases—but nothing compares to that of Buffy. Go to a con and prove me wrong. I believe that Buffy made the WB what it was, namely, a legitimate and respectable station, which it arguably wasn’t until then. Also, Buffy, to my knowledge, is the only show to leave the WB for a prosperous channel i.e., UPN. so, there’s that.
I know what you’re thinking: you don’t need me to tell you that Buffy was a woman, and she was the lead character, and she was a good role model. Well, yes and no. Yes, Buffy was a strong female role model on TV, but she was more than that. To me, Buffy not only made it acceptable but made it believable for a female character to be a bad-ass butt kicker and an action star in general. Think back to the ’90s: do any TV shows or movies focus on a woman as the one kicking all the bad guys’ butts or or being far stronger, in every sense of the word, than her male counterparts? Not many really shout back at you except maybe Xena (but to be honest, I never watched that show—just don’t tell Lucy Lawless). Buffy, in my opinion, didn’t just show that it was okay for women to be the hero; she made you believe it could be no one other than her.
There are series and movies that came after Buffy that may not have ever happened had this show never come about. There are the shows with the already mentioned “believable strong female ass-kicker protagonist,” like Dark Angel or Alias. Or how about the popularity of vampires and demons in general? Would Supernatural have been conceived? Without Buffy, would Charlaine Harris have written the Sookie Stackhouse novels and have them then turned into the TV show True Blood? And how could Twilight not have been inspired by Buffy? Not to mention that Buffy, on paper, is a somewhat crazy idea for a television show, so it could be argued that it opened the doors for more shows and films that perhaps would otherwise never be made due to uncertainty of whether people would be interested in such unorthodox premises.
Joss Whedon is a genius, and I think it was only a matter of time before the world discovered him. However, much like Buffy made the WB, Buffy also made Joss Whedon’s career. It can be argued that Joss never would have been the nerd icon that he is without this show. Without Buffy the Vampire Slayer, would he have been able to create Firefly? How about Dollhouse? Definitely not Angel! Before Buffy, he was known for work on Roseanne and was a writer on the 1995 Buffy the Vampire Slayer film (which, I think all of us can agree, pales in comparison to the series). Buffy made Joss the creator he is today, and nerds rejoice that we are able to witness his greatness.
I come to my final point here. I’m not saying you have to be a nerd or a geek to to enjoy Buffy (but hey, you’re reading Twin Cities Geek, so you probably are one yourself). But name one nerd or geek that doesn’t love this show: they exist, but they are the minority. My honest opinion is that Buffy made it cool to be a nerd or geek. There will always be those who argue it was Star Trek or Star Wars, but in reality I think it was okay to like those things, but if you were a “geek” about them, you weren’t cool—at least until recently. But Buffy . . . no one really argued with one just obsessing about it, and like I mentioned, it’s really a baseline to being a geek or nerd today.
In conclusion, after 20 years, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still going strong, and for many of us, life was changed because of it. On behalf of Twin Cities Geek and nerds everywhere, to everyone involved with the show, I say thank you!