Today marks the 22nd anniversary of 90’s cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now, all these years on, Buffy remains a cherished figure to many of us. One that represents resilience and empowerment.
Growing up gay, I idolised an army of female characters. When I was little, I’d always pick Chun-Li every time my cousins and I played Street Fighter. Whenever Halloween crept around, I’d secretly mourn the fact I couldn’t go as Lara Croft (I still kind of do, to be honest.) And when I was in gymnastics class I’d somersault backwards off everything and pretend I was former WWE wrestler Lita.
But there was one female character that shone brighter than the rest; one whose strength, compassion and resilience reinforced my sense of self even in the darkest of times. Someone who, even while kicking ass, still executed witty quips and killer-looks.
She is a character that so many queer youth related to and still love to this day. I am of course talking about the icon that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Even though Buffy herself did not identify as queer, she was never anything short of a champion to me. My connection with Buffy was less to do with her identity and more to do with her story.
Growing up in a small town I was quite literally the only gay in the village, a dooming sensation that so many queer youth can empathise with. Buffy was the only slayer; the one girl in the whole world chosen.
While I didn’t have superpowers, and made a point of not carrying sharp, wooden sticks around with me, I related to her story – and what queer kid couldn’t?
Buffy’s ‘chosen’ status saw these characteristics thrust upon her, ones that tended to leave her isolated in a way that nobody around her truly understood. Something that so many of us felt; the lonely sting of initially coming to terms with our identity.
At the end of season 2 Buffy reveals her slayer status to her mother, who doesn’t take the news well. The reaction given mirrored a lot our own experiences. ‘Have you tried NOT being the slayer?’
Even though her mother’s reaction was innocent, it was also problematic and ignorant. It’s a tongue and cheek play on what a lot of queer youth go through; how even the best people in our lives can have misconceptions of what it is to be gay, lesbian, trans… I know it may not seem like a massive step now, but the concept was huge when the show aired.
Although being the slayer was not a metaphor for being queer, it did forge an undeniable affinity for Buffy. Throughout the show’s seven-seasons, Buffy continued to struggle finding her place in a world that was full of people who were different from her; many of which hated her for simply being herself.
As Buffy Summers grew as a person, she started to foster her own community, one that formed a safe circle around each other. Buffy recognised what it meant and how it felt to be different, something many of us reconcile with each day. She never held prejudice to anybody in her group, whether they were a straight werewolf, or a lesbian witch; a smouldering, formerly evil vampire or a lovably blunt ex-demon.
She taught us resilience and acceptance (both self and of others). She injected us with a sense of empowerment every time she overcame an obstacle thrown at her either by demons or the world. And even when Buffy was beaten down, she always got back up, armed with an arsenal of snappy puns.
To the outside world, Buffy seemed like a simple show where a pretty blonde girl battled demons, but if you pull back the veneer, you’ll see many more layers. The demons weren’t just demons, they were a symbol of daily struggles and fears we’re all forced to confront.
There were too many times where the challenges in my life made it feel as though the world was going to end. Buffy and her ‘Scooby Gang’ were fighting the monsters we all have to face in real life. An ex turned bad, an evil professor; the horror of minimum wage employment and the relentless battle against a world that threatens to swallow you whole.
During its seven seasons, the show combats a wide spectrum of issues that so many face – both figuratively and metaphorically. Themes of heartbreak over the one you love turning on you; of loneliness and depression. Stumbling into adulthood, battling of addiction, trying and failing at higher education and dealing with family loss. There’s solace, sex and also abuse in relationships and friendships. Most, if not all, of these areas continue to strike a resonating chord with so many of us.
Buffy was complex, but undeniably human. It’s because of this I feel so many queer youth still need a character like her. Buffy was emotional, imperfect and often under-appreciated by those around her; yet she never gave up despite how crushing and hard it sometimes got. In her own words, ‘The hardest thing in this world, is to live in it.’
The show may have ended back in 2003, but its nostalgia and relevance still has substance in today’s world. Its humorous script, character development and underlying themes hold up against every show I’ve since watched. To this day I still find myself asking ‘WWBD?’ – What would Buffy do?
If you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend binge watching it.
Were you a fan of the show? What’re your favourite moments and who’re your favourite characters? Tweet us @GayBoyBible and share your thoughts!