It’s my Blogiversary! For this very special milestone, I’m giving myself (and all of you!) a blogging treat. I’m going to write about whatever I want, regardless of whether it’s in my niche or not (Hint: it’s not). So today, I’m writing this bonus post on Why Buffy is the Greatest Show of all Time.
Why Buffy is the Greatest Show of All time
There are so many reasons why Buffy is the greatest show of all time, I mean have you seen it? If you haven’t yet, get Hulu and watch it, then come back and read this. There will definitely be spoilers in this post! I also must warn you – the first season isn’t the greatest. It’s full of 90’s campiness and terrible PSA’s. The second season is about 50/50. It offers some of the best episodes in television history, but they are followed up by terrible campy episodes. It’s worth it though! The campiness pretty much goes away in season three, and by that time the genius of the show really shines. So, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s delve into why Buffy is the greatest show of all time.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a character driven show. There is a plot, and it’s entertaining, but the plot is a device used to explore the different personalities of the characters and to help them develop. I have never seen a show do such a great job of fully developing characters. The four main characters, Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles, all have very human strengths and weaknesses, which are all expanded upon throughout the course of the show.
All four have very human flaws. Buffy is terrible at relationships and communicating with her significant other. She also struggles with finding a balance between her calling (being a slayer) and her normal life. Willow is afraid that she will never be more than that “nerdy little girl”, and struggles with controlling her lust for power. Xander comes from a broken family, doesn’t know how to treat women, and struggles with the transition to adulthood. Giles has a shady past and struggles with feeling needed. These weaknesses lead all of the characters to bad decisions, and bad decisions in the Buffy verse tend to get people hurt.
However, even with the bad decisions and character flaws, they are all good people at heart. You want to root for them, because although they struggle, they all really want to do good in the world. Their flaws make them human, and that makes them relatable. The characters on Buffy feel more real than the characters in any show I’ve ever watched. They are a huge part of what makes Buffy so great.
The supporting characters, Cordelia, Angel, Oz, Spike, Anya, and Tara, Dawn and Joyce are all completely developed as well. Each character on the show is three dimensional, with their own goals, hopes, dreams, strengths, and weaknesses. None of them exists solely as a plot device to the others.
Buffy is amazing at playing off of your emotions. This show can make you laugh and then make you cry like no other. It has amazing one liners (Buffy’s silly puns when she’s slaying, Xander’s ridiculous quips, and Willow just being Willow) and also some hilarious comedic situations. Does anyone remember the Buffy Bot? She’s hysterical! But the show isn’t a comedy, and it can hit you so hard in the feels that you don’t even know what happened. The episode “Passions” in season two had the first shocking death of a main character. But it wasn’t her death so much as the meticulous way the killer set her body up that was the incredibly heart-wrenching. This show knows how to shock and disturb its viewers. I never expected to experience this much emotion while watching a silly teenager show about vampires.
The Stand-Alone Episodes
Buffy has some of the best stand-alone episodes in television history. Seriously, Joss Whedon is a genius. His first true masterpiece was season four’s “Hush”, an episode with strikingly little dialect. Everyone thought that Buffy’s success was only due to the snappy dialect. Whedon accepted the challenge, and wrote an episode where monsters steal everyone’s voice. The Gentlemen, as they were called, were some of the creepiest monsters ever to be featured on Buffy. The action sequences and the attempts to communicate without the spoken word were ground breaking – this had never been done in television. “Hush” is absolutely one of my favorites.
“The Body” is another stand-alone episode that is a cinematic masterpiece. In this heart wrenching episode, Buffy’s mother dies of natural causes. This episode captured the feeling of hopeless we have when a loved one dies like nothing I’ve ever watched. Every character deals with grief in their own way. Buffy imagines that she was able to save her mother. Willow, Xander, Tara, and Anya are angry, and unable to comprehend the loss. Giles tries to be strong for Buffy but is overcome with his own grief. And then, Buffy has to try to pull herself together for her little sister. The lack of music throughout the episode adds to the realism, and you really feel like you are there mourning with Buffy and her friends. This episode is so powerful that I can hardly even watch it when I’m on a Buffy re-watch.
“Once More With Feeling”
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention “Once More with Feeling” as the best stand-alone episode of the series. It does tie into the plot, so it might not actually be a stand-alone, but this is probably one of the best episodes of any show in television history. “Once More with feeling” is a musical episode – in fact Buffy was one of the first show’s ever to pull it off. The songs are fun and catchy, but are also powerful and give a peek into the psyche of the characters. It’s a masterpiece. I can’t really say more about it, you just have to watch it.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a ground-breaking show. It was one of the first shows ever to feature a strong female lead character, and a mostly female supporting cast. But part of the genius of Buffy is that it didn’t bill itself as such. Buffy was just a girl who happened to be chosen, and her calling turned her into a strong leader. It was an incredibly feminist show that didn’t pat itself on the back for being feminist. Buffy is a leader that anyone could look up to.
Buffy also featured the first normalized lesbian relationship on network television. Willow and Tara’s romance was one of the healthiest relationships on the entire show (until Willow got all crazy with the magics). They shared the first real lesbian kiss ever featured on a network show, and it wasn’t done to sexualize the couple. It was a sweet kiss shared in a moment of grief. It’s amazing that a television show could do so much to help normalize homosexual relationships.
The Over Arching Themes
The High School Years
Buffy is a show about life. It uses monsters as metaphors for things that we all deal with regularly. The overarching theme of the first three seasons is that high school is hell. This is portrayed with an entrance to hell directly beneath the high school. Buffy portrays common high school problems with monster metaphors (often in a super campy way!). There is an episode about a teacher who preys on high school boys, a girl who feels invisible, jocks who get away with anything, online predators, and trying to fit in with the cool kids. All of these things are common problems that many high schoolers deal with on a daily basis.
Seasons four and five deal with the transition from high school to adulthood. The girls go to college, while Xander tries to find his way through a series of terrible jobs. Giles tries to find his place in their lives as they grow up. The gang’s friendship is tested in season four, as they all grow and struggle to find their places in the world. In season five, they all start to gain a bit of footing. Buffy gains a sister, and after the death of her mother is thrust into the responsibility of caring for a minor. Talk about having to grow up.
Seasons six and seven are about coming to terms with adulthood. Season 6 is the darkest season of the show, and it’s my absolute favorite. The “big bad” of the season isn’t really a monster – it’s life. Buffy is struggling with severe depression and trying to keep things together for her sister. She fails more often than not. Willow becomes addicted to the power of witchcraft, because she feels that it’s the only thing she has to offer “if you could be plain old Willow or super Willow, which would you chose?” Xander and Anya’s relationship is on the rocks, because Xander is trying to decide if he really is ready for marriage. He ends up breaking her heart and leaving her at the alter – because he wasn’t ready but didn’t know how to tell her. All of the characters are a complete mess in season six, but that’s what makes it so good. Its gritty and it’s real. The first few years of adulthood are hard, and Buffy doesn’t hold back in portraying that.
Season seven is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Buffy overcomes her depression, Xander becomes a foreman at his company and learns to respect his friend’s decisions, and Willow learns to find balance in witchcraft. Many people hate this season because of the focus on the potential slayers, but I think it’s a beautiful end to an amazing series. The hell mouth gets destroyed for good, and Buffy finally has the chance to lead a normal life if she chooses. This season is about being an adult and making adult decisions, and I think it’s amazing.
The love interests
So we talked about some of the overarching themes and cinematography crap that makes shows great; but what really makes shows amazing is some awesome drama concerning love interests. That’s what kept us coming back to Friends, and (gag) Twilight, right? Well Buffy has the most compelling love stories of all time! She fell in love with vampires before it was cool! And I’ll try to be unbiased, but I’m clearly a Spuffy shipper.
Buffy and Angel
The first compelling love story of the series is between Buffy and Angel – the Vampire cursed with a Soul. Angel is the mysterious older man who often comes to Buffy with dire warnings. He’s the epitome of tall, dark and handsome. It’s easy to see why she’s so smitten. Their relationship is full of drama – he’s drawn to her but doesn’t want to date her because of what he is. He lies to her about seeing Drusilla, and basically forces her to admit she loves him (although she specifically states she doesn’t trust him). When he eventually tells her the truth about how horrible he was without a soul, she forgives him and they move forward with their teenage romance.
But loving Angel comes with a deep price. His curse was meant to make him suffer. If he had just one moment of happiness, the curse would be lifted and he would lose his soul. Making love to Buffy was the one moment of happiness that caused him to lose it, and now Buffy is left to deal with one of the most dangerous vampires in history. Her world is turned upside down when she has to kill him in order to save the world. Talk about amazing story telling.
Buffy and Spike
The other amazing love story of the series is between Buffy and another notorious vampire, Spike. Spike is portrayed as a hopeless romantic vampire from his first introduction in season two, where he is shown to be deeply in love with the vampires Drusilla. He’s also a Slayer of Slayers, and hopes to make Buffy his third. Unfortunately for Spike, he falls in love with her instead.
The dynamic between the two characters as the show progresses is amazing. They go from sworn enemies to reluctant allies – to friends and then to lovers, with a lot of drama and heartache in between. They are horrible and abusive to each other in season six, but are able to forgive and trust each other by the end of season seven. Their journey is so real – it’s not a teenage fantasy of what love should be. It’s two adults who made terrible decisions but who both tried to make amends and move past it. The realism of it makes it my favorite relationship in the entire show.
So Yeah, Buffy is the best show ever
Clearly Buffy the Vampire show is my favorite show ever. But I’d love to hear your comments! Do you think Buffy is the greatest show of all time? Why or why not? And if you haven’t seen it yet, I hope I didn’t spoil too much for you – go watch it! And if you love it as much as I do, buy the complete set on DVD at Amazon!