Do We Still Need Buffy?

Twenty years ago, Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered. A blond assassin of the undead, an older white guy who wasn’t in charge, crushes, bullying, inter-species romance. Buffy had it all. Two decades on, the show is still a go-to reference when you find yourself looking around at the intersection of feminism and pop culture.

Today’s young girls, a full generation behind the vampire slayer’s fans, have grown up in a post-Buffy world. A world in which the Hell Mouth is sealed and all the demons are safely tucked away in their graves.

So twenty years on, do we still need Buffy?

I was an adult when the series premiered back in 1997, well past the age of breakouts and quarterback crushes, yet I loved it from the start. It was clever and bitingly funny. Many of the issues tackled were problems which follow you from the hell of high school hallways right into the abyss of adulthood. Plus, you know, Angel was a good looking guy. And if nothing else, I’m a sucker for a slayer-vampire Romeo and Juliet story arc.

The show blew a Buffy shaped hole in pop culture and through that opening, a slew of female protagonists marched. Xena, Katniss, Tris, Rey, Jin. Today’s girls have grown up never questioning strong female protagonists–slayers of the undead, leaders of rebellions, warrior princesses. Today’s girls are living in a post-Buffy bubble.

But that bubble? It’s in a world which is most decidedly not post-Buffy.

Girls may take strong female leads for granted nowadays. Princesses who insist upon saving themselves. Star Wars heroines who tell the guy to let go of her hand. Teenagers like Buffy and Katniss who are doing the saving, the sacrifice, and still finding time to fall in love on the side. A steady diet of girl power, fed to them by mothers who have often witnessed the double standards women face in the world themselves and are determined to show their daughters something different, and by fathers who are woke enough to realize how much representation matters.

But I worry that some of these young women, many of whom have yet to face workplace discrimination, the unfair burden that parenthood places on one parent, the systematic drip-drip of micro-aggressions that eventually wear a groove in your soul–those young women may think they are living in a world in which all the problems of sexism have already been slayed with a sharpened stake and biting wit. A world in which the Hell Mouth stays sealed and life is sunny in Sunny Dale once again.

But just because there was a Buffy doesn’t mean all the monsters are gone. All those nasties? They are still sulking around just under the surface. The vampires? It’s things like harassment, all the indignities which can suck the life out of many working women, everything from being overlooked for promotions, to being groped at the water cooler, to being talked over and interrupted. The demons? There’s the motherhood penalty, in which even women who aren’t mothers often make less money than their male peers, regardless of the male’s parenthood status. The Gentlemen? Well, several of them occupy the current White House administration. The ghouls and devils and masters? Double standards, double binds, the lock-step of a patriarchal system.

A sharp stick is only going to go so far. A biting wit is great for Facebook, but it’s not going to do much to slay years of ingrained attitude. We still need Buffy, or the idea of her anyway. We still need someone to show us how to slay the monsters with a roundhouse kick and a chair leg, how to be vulnerable but not allow that vulnerability to get in the way of taking action when action is needed. What we really need is a whole generation of Buffys. Forget the ‘into every generation a slayer is born’ stuff. Right now, the Hell Mouth is yawning and the Capitol from the Hunger Games is staring up at us.

I don’t know what’s coming, but I can tell you that in my many years, I’ve never seen so much focus on women, women’s lives, and women’s issues as I have in the last year. I’ve never seen the coordinated resistance, the anger and organization, the push back–from women–that I’m seeing now. And if something big is in the air, a seismic cultural shift, we’re going to need all the Buffys we can get.

The show may have ended thirteen years ago, but the need for a slayer never really goes away. Not really.

So, do we still need Buffy?

Hell Mouth yeah.

 

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24 thoughts on “Do We Still Need Buffy?

  1. Vic Crain March 14, 2017 / 9:57 pm

    In some respects, Buffy was simplistic. In a more complex age, we need someone wiser and more sophisticated. We haven’t seen that character yet.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Dina Honour March 15, 2017 / 8:44 pm

        I’m not sure I’m ever going to fully get over November, 2016….

        Liked by 1 person

    • Dina Honour March 15, 2017 / 8:48 pm

      Interesting–I never saw it (the show or the character) as simplistic. There were a lot of layers woven through, pop culture, mythology, psychology, race, gender–but if you mean someone who can do more than drive a stake through a heart? Oh, if only it were that simple ;-).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dina Honour March 15, 2017 / 8:46 pm

      I know they continually refer to the post-Sopranos era as the Golden Age of tv, but man, give me some Buffy and some West Wing, a little X File and I’m good for a while.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. RasheenaB. March 15, 2017 / 1:55 am

    I love Buffy and the crew. Buffy had no fear at a young age. Children today need shows like that more innocent. Too much sex and violence for them to watch now.

    Like

    • Dina Honour March 15, 2017 / 8:45 pm

      I just started rematching it from the beginning. I’m trying to convince my 12 y/o son to join me, but so far, no luck… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gina Earle March 16, 2017 / 7:30 pm

    Buffy is so cool Bring her back I saw. I especially like the movie. It came out in 1992. I miss the 90s haha. Weird but good times. I like your style though addressing someone like Buffy really has me thinking.

    Like

    • Dina Honour March 20, 2017 / 9:56 pm

      Gina,

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to you! I’ve only seen the movie once, but I was a die hard follower of the series, and in fact, just recently started watching it from the start again. More fodder for thinking, I hope.

      Like

  4. TheChattyIntrovert March 18, 2017 / 6:27 am

    you’ve got a great point–we’re awash in “strong female” pop culture, but no real direction as to how to get there. I mean, you don’t see the evolution of the character into a strong woman, what she faced or how she lived that allowed that to happen…at least, not very often in a way that teaches women how to be that way. And because these women come off as such bad-asses, you don’t see as much if any discrimination against them that a normal lady would find for herself, or if there is and they’re practically supernatural, a couple of hits and the “bad guys’ are down for the count. Yeah, I like seeing that, I admit, but dealing with more normal forms of violence or discrimination is something I’d like to see, too. I’m half-asleep so sorry if I’m not making much sense, but the best I can think to say about it is it feels like there’s a few chapters missing in the biography.

    Like

  5. South of the Strait March 19, 2017 / 4:27 pm

    What just happened? I having my morning coffee, watching CBS Sunday Morning, and I see there’s going to be a piece on Denmark so I’m paying close attention and suddenly you’re on my television! How did that happen? Pretty awesome.

    Like

    • Dina Honour March 19, 2017 / 6:08 pm

      Surprise! All part of my plan for eventual global domination…

      A CBS news crew came out last summer looking for Americans in Copenhagen, they ended up coming and interviewing us–for about two hours!!–and that boiled down to about a minute of air time it would seem. But we didn’t know it was airing today–to be honest, it was so long ago, I’d almost forgotten about it–until we started getting messages from people that we were on television.

      It’s all very funny!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Brandilyn Gilbert March 27, 2017 / 6:56 am

    In an era where Bella from Twilight is showing teenaged girls it’s romantic to have a boy fighting the urge to attack you and to put oneself in dangerous situations so a boy will notice…yeah, I think we definitely need Buffy. I’d argue we haven’t reached an era with consistently complex, strong female characters to get behind. The female superheroes all the the same personality, if it can be called that, and seem to exist as fantasies rather than complicated people. Films and TV that are led by female leads or have multiple female characters with a variety of personalities and character arcs are usually dismissed as “chick” cinema. We do have some gems out there, but it still feels like we’ve got a long way to go.

    So yes, I agree. I’m rewatching Buffy and missing it dearly, and wanting to tell young girls that instead of waiting for a very special boy to choose them, to become a kick-ass, special girl all for themselves.

    Like

    • Dina Honour March 27, 2017 / 10:39 am

      I worry that we ‘lost’ a generation of young women. My generation will still fighting for things, and the one coming up now is being hit full in the face with the casual misogyny and sexism that are still in place, but there was a generation of girls who came of age when things were looking pretty good, when it looked like the heaviest of the ‘fighting’ was over. Those young women were able to take those reproductive freedoms and laws protecting them for granted, because they’d been there for their whole lives. It’s hard to imagine something you’ve never lived without going away, and I do worry the is a sense of complacency. And complacency is dangerous.

      Someone else here mentioned we need to see what Buffy was like as a woman–I’m intrigued by the idea. Balancing a family with slaying demons? Working a day job AND a night job? It’s an interesting premise for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Brandilyn Gilbert March 27, 2017 / 6:22 pm

        I can see that fear. I think a lot of those people, and I may be in that generation, have hopefully been knocked out of complacency by recent current events. It seems like there’s a generation now trying to figure out how to get involved in activism when they’ve never had to before. That said, I do worry that so many girls seem to recoil at the idea of being called a “feminist,” as though terrified it might make them less approachable to boys. I don’t know about a lost generation, but I do think the fight still needs to be fought. And I love that Buffy was so multi-dimensional. Haha, one of my favorite episodes is when she’s trying to get a loan to take care of the house and the Scoobies debate whether she could charge for slaying. Watching that again during a time when I’m trying to support myself leaves me with a whole new sense of appreciation for that season.

        Like

  7. drkottaway April 6, 2017 / 12:01 am

    I searched on “male vulnerability” and your article is one that came up….I’ve just been noticing that many of the images of depression or vulnerability in drawings STILL are just young women. Men don’t show up there. Older women, well, no, mostly not them either….why aren’t there vulnerable images of males in tears, with colors dripping from their eyes?

    Like

    • Dina Honour April 6, 2017 / 9:14 pm

      That’s interesting that this particular post would come up for that search term–but you raise a good point. I remember years ago learning or reading somewhere that ‘anger’ as an emotion is generally internalized in women, tending toward depression, while in men it’s often externalized, tending toward rage. I think we’ve moved beyond that gross generalization and are able to recognize signs of depression for what they are, in both men and women–yet it would seem that we still equate depression with ‘tears’ and ‘crying’. Both of which are generally associated with the feminine–. I hope all of it changes. I hope boys are taught that it’s ok to show emotion. I hope girls are taught it’s ok to be angry. I hope someday we are all allowed to just simply BE.

      Liked by 1 person

      • drkottaway April 6, 2017 / 11:32 pm

        Me, too. I don’t think that emotions should be assumed or prescribed for any race or gender.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. unsupermoms April 25, 2017 / 5:16 am

    I love your writing and your insights! Almost every post I’ve read has had me nodding, grunting in agreement, and giggling. Thanks for writing and putting so many of my thoughts and views into beautiful words!

    Like

    • Dina Honour April 26, 2017 / 9:32 am

      Thank you for the enormously gracious compliment–whenever I think about packing it all in I receive a comment or an email like that and it makes it all seem worthwhile. Thank you again.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. bigbrainsmallheart May 9, 2017 / 4:08 am

    I love this. The tv show was absolutely brilliant. And so was this post. I think girl power has definitely increased over the past years and our generation of “Buffys” are slowly coming together.

    Like

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