The Vampire Slayer. The. There is one, that’s why it’s not “a” vampire slayer. There’s one in the world, and when she dies, another one takes her role. And more important, I said when “she” dies. Have a coffee, tea, wine or beer and hold my hand, I will take you along an amazing road of badassery and feminism.
As a white, heterosexual male from a western country, it is my duty and my pleasure to talk about a TV role model that inspired me and I guess inspired many other people (yes, people, without any tags of gender or identity whatsoever). Let me explain why and how she inspired us and why it is important that we take a moment to remember this TV show.
Spoiler alert: if you have not seen this show, you may want to watch it before continuing, but just in case I need to convince you with this article to watch it, I will blur my spoilers a bit.
The summary of Buffy is simple: vampires exist (if the title hadn’t been self-explanatory enough), together with many other kinds of hellish beings: werewolves, humanoids of an insect nature, demons, zombies, etc. And as I said, there’s a girl who fights them. When she dies, another one is called by The Watchers Council to take on her role. Till the end of times. Buffy was a normal 16 year old girl until she was called to fulfill her destiny, and of course, her fate is a problem. She wants to be normal, but she can’t.
For those who already watched it, here comes the interesting discussion: Buffy the Vampire Slayer brought all our generation two important things. The first, a message to girls: “you can be tough; you are a girl and that means you have power. You can kick ass, save the world and, if you want, you can polish your nails too”. The second, and I will explain later on why is even more important, a message for men: “you can be saved by a girl, or have your ass kicked by a girl, and that will be awesome”.
I will leave this mystic last message for men for the last, because as a storyteller, I want to keep your attention til the end. Just keep in mind: this show may have done more for feminism than a hundred demonstrations together (I said “may”, just can’t measure that, can I?).
Buffy, Willow, Tara, Anya, Dawn, Faith, Cordelia, and a bunch of some other girls gave boys and girls 20 years ago an extremely subtle but efficient message. You can be girly, or a little tomboy, straight, or a lesbian, you may have your family’s support or not, you will be called a “witch” (or actually be one, who cares?). It really doesn’t matter how you see yourself or how others see you, there is a strength inside you to destroy or save the world. You must balance your power and not fall into darkness (those episodes in which someone was seeking revenge, you know). In a world of fantasy slash science-fiction with lots of folklore elements, the fact that girls save the day (and the world) is the most normal thing. It’s subtle, it sinks inside you and when you grow up watching this show, you accept that girls are strong as an understatement. I declare in the name of the men of my generation who actually watched this: we love girls who kick ass.*
* If you are a man and you don’t agree, you can call 1-800-SHUT-UP-DUDE** for help.
I have seen many badass female characters in literature and cinema, but for reasons, Buffy The Vampire Slayer gets the top place. Maybe because her character, with all its fantasy, is, as we say in literature, realistic within its Universe. Buffy (and some of the others too) is human. She has weak moments, she makes mistakes. She, as everyone at some point in our lives, wants to quit. But she doesn’t quit because so much depends on her. Buffy is a person, and a teenager, which is even more difficult. We cannot doubt that the reason why she is the hero is because she is given her powers by some mysterious guys from the dawn of time, but you remove those superpowers and you still have a strong character. It is her personality that make her the ultimate slayer. All of them failed and died, eventually; but Buffy faces enemies other slayers never faced and still wins. Why? Because of her gang. At a crucial moment with The Watchers Council, she explains that she needs her friends. It gives me the goosebumps when a hero admits needing help, because we all need at some point, and going solo is senseless really. She is going to save the world, that is, society; so yeah, we better give her the help she asks for, why not? We are all together. It makes damn sense. Everything within the development of Buffy is brilliant, and even the little things that do not seem reasonable fall into the box of irrational and stupid things we all do. Her mistakes are not utterly stupid as the ones I have seen in some poorly written shows. Buffy’s mistakes are reasonable. She is the woman most girls would want to be. And if she is not your role model, there’s also Willow, Dawn, Tara, or even Cordelia. They all are heroes, and they are girls. It’s lovely. They are teenagers that face problems, they fail, try again, succeed and move on, dealing with love, having good grades, a social life… as Buffy says:
Alright… yes, date, and shop and hang out and go to school and save the world from unspeakable demons. You know, I wanna do girlie stuff.
And well, probably more interesting and hidden… there’s a message for boys too. Buffy The Vampire Slayer has a fewer number of male role models, but the message for guys comes from both the female and the male. On one hand, Xander, Giles, Spike and Angel offer different personalities from which boys can clearly see what is good and bad. Men see different ways they can behave towards women. All these male characters do good and bad things, but end up being heroes, in different ways. The key message however, doesn’t appear in a single moment, it’s actually a perspective that is created throughout the whole 7 seasons. The show empowers girls so much that any man who has seen it all shouldn’t feel ashamed of being saved or have his ass kicked by a girl. I sure feel this is true. Who hasn’t felt that being attacked by a vampire in a dark alley and then saved by Buffy would be fantastic? Admit it, it would be awesome. Many men would feel a connection with Xander, of course. He’s a nice guy, a jerk sometimes, but he’s good. Again, a very human character, who feels jealousy, love, sadness, anger… he at some point sees himself as a burden for the girls. He is the only one without powers, yet his friendship is a basic pillar for Buffy when she needs support. He is a character that teaches boys to simply be there. He listens, gives advice, picks his friends up when they’re wounded. He’s there to cure Buffy’s wounds! We have all seen in countless movies how the main female character cures the man’s wounds. This time it’s the other way round. Xander is the crazy guy that follows a girl to the end of the world, and Giles is the father figure that will do whatever is necessary to protect his daughterly figure (remember what he does to Ben so she doesn’t have to face Glory again?). And again, this protection is different from the stereotypical protection males give to females. There are more men, of course, but I think it’s Xander who makes guys think that it is more than okay to be a supporting player.
If it’s guilt you’re looking for, Buffy, I’m not your man. All you will get from me is my support. And my respect.
And I will insist on this, because even though it may feel unsupportive of the feminist cause, from what I have seen with the whole “changing the world” situation, it’s true: unfortunately we cannot change everything overnight. I know, a white, straight make saying “have patience” doesn’t sound well, but I have seen what sort of prehistoric minds keep the world the way it is. I would like to change it all and I cannot, because there is so much fear and the sheep of the world do not want things to change. Feminism is a threat to bigot minds, to neanderthals, to cavemen. I do not ask for equality as a man, I demand it as a human being. That is why I would like to have everyone’s attention on art as a means of changing minds. This show may have shaped my vision towards genders and power, and that is why I ask you to use this. This is a weapon, this is art, and art is subtle and speaks to the minds in an irrational way. Art speaks with passion and beauty. You want to fight a system made by men for men? So do I. They have a power, but we have “the” power that makes Buffy win over demons and gods: brains, friends, and courage.
I’m beyond tired. I’m beyond scared. I’m standing on the mouth of hell, and it is gonna swallow me whole. And it’ll choke on me. We’re not ready? They’re not ready. They think we’re gonna wait for the end to come, like we always do. I’m done waiting. They want an apocalypse? Oh, we’ll give ‘em one. Anyone else who wants to run, do it now. ‘Cause we just became an army. We just declared war. From now on, we won’t just face our worst fears, we will seek them out. We will find them, and cut out their hearts one by one, until The First shows itself for what it really is. And I’ll kill it myself. There is only one thing on this earth more powerful than evil, and that’s us.
The feminist movement cannot be made exclusively by women. Many men were brought up sexist and have changed their mindsets because they are capable of learning and seeing things from different perspectives. Others will never change. We need a total generational change to completely erase sexism from the Earth, but fortunately many things can change gradually as more men come to see how things really are and how they should be. I won’t talk about the times women are negatively affected by the traditional patriarchal system, but I do have to talk about how it’s sometimes women who are the ones holding back. I am tired of hearing a woman calling another woman a whore and things of the sort. Even the biggest icons of feminism have been attacked for being “antifeminist”, for doing precisely what they were meant to do: choosing freely. There’s so much more I could talk about feminism, but this article is about how Buffy The Vampire Slayer presents role models that affect men and women positively.
All in all, Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a memorable TV show. It has mundane stories, family problems, high school issues, it has love, fantasy, death… even a musical episode that doesn’t break the consistency of the show. And more importantly, it has a feminist message that speaks equally to women and men: girls, you are strong, you can do it, you have the power. Men: there’s nothing wrong with being “weak”, sometimes girls will be stronger and braver, deal with it. You can support women and that’s honorable. And the way Joss Whedon and the whole cast and crew of the show make it, men not only “deal with it”, we embrace it. Because these women kick ass and we love it.
Thanks to Buffy I never feared the night. I knew that if I was ever attacked by a spawn from hell, a girl would hear me scream, would jump from the top of a building and slay the fuck out of that creature. Buffy is what the monsters have nightmares about. Buffy is what sexist pigs have nightmares about. Buffy is that young girl with a book. Buffy is the woman alone in the dark. Buffy is the one that doesn’t tolerate any more. Buffy is the judge that puts a rapist in jail for the rest of his days.
Not sure if it’s because of this show or not, I sure had more sources that modelled my mind and educated me. However, it’s very likely that Buffy was the one who taught me to forget about genders. I grew up loving girls that want to be cheerleaders, and those who “dress like guys”, I grew up loving straight girls and lesbians, I grew up loving girls that ask for my help and those who can push me away and say something like “watch me”. Now I never worry about my masculinity, there is only one thing that could threaten it: attacking a woman in anyway. It’s that simple. I want to live in a world where women are mechanics, engineers, cops, doctors, heavy metal singers… Come on, it’s the 21st century already, how are we still arguing this?
I finish with one of my favorite quotes that every girl should always remember:
I’ve had a lot of people talking at me the last few days. Everyone just lining up to tell me how unimportant I am. And I finally figured out why. Power. I have it. They don’t. This bothers them.