Sunday, August 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Buffy!

This summer will mark the 20-Year Anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer film with Kristy Swanson, which also means that it’s been fifteen years since Buffy premiered on WB.

“You’re not like other girls.”

I was never a big fan of the film, but how could I not take this opportunity to celebrate one of the best sci-fi heroines of all time on her birthday? 

The important thing is that I kept up my special birthday tradition of gut-wrenching misery and horror. --Helpless, Season 3

Let me tell you, girlfriend.  Just wait till you’re thirty.

What can I say about Buffy that hasn’t already been said?  (If you’re reading this, you probably already know there’s even an academic discipline devoted to Buffy studies, which is so, so awesome.)

Buffy was not my first sci-fi feminist icon, but she has probably been the most influential on my life and writing.  Much of this can be credited to the whip-smart dialogue-- even the cheesiest episodes (by which I mean campy, not episodes that feature cheese, which, believe it or not, is a thing in the Buffyverse) are imminently quotable.  Not a day goes by that I don’t bust out some Buffyspeak:

“Fire bad.  Tree pretty.”

“Your logic does not resemble our earth logic.”

“Not cruisin’ past that concept anytime soon, are ya?”

“Gone.  Note the economy of phrasing: gone.”

And so forth.

But perhaps most importantly I was inspired by the humanity at the core of the story.  Yes, there were monsters in Sunnydale, but far more importantly, there were people.  Good people, not-so-good people, it didn’t matter—they were all people I cared about. 

The friendship between Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander were the heart of the show, but I loved the character development and its resulting relationships across seven seasons, even among the villains, like the Mayor and Faith, and Spike and Drusilla.  Action and adventure were all well and good, but my favorite things are the quiet, little moments, like Buffy hinting that Giles should take her to the Ice Capades, or pretty much every Willow and Oz scene ever.

So, in honor of Buffy’s 20th birthday, I thought I’d share my top five favorite episodes:

#5 – Tie.  “The Prom” and “Anne”

I couldn’t limit it to just five, okay?  So sue me.

“The Prom” is the penultimate episode of Season 3, the season with the Mayor. 

Best.  Villain.  Ever.

This episode is more significant than “Anne” in the scope of the Buffyverse, since it marks the end of so many of the early story arcs—Buffy and Angel, Xander and Cordelia, Faith, high school.  Which meant there were any number of poignant moments, and the writers did not disappoint.  Buffy being awarded Class Protector.  Cordelia finding out that Xander secretly purchased her prom dress.  And my all-time favorite, Willow holding Buffy’s head in her lap as Buffy cries over her break-up with Angel: “I can’t breathe, Will.  I feel like I can’t breathe.” 

Aside from that, the episode’s Monster of the Week plot was pretty funny.  Some maladjusted kid (who turns out to be Andrew’s brother, Tucker) raised these hell hounds to unleash on the prom.  “You think formal wear makes them crazy?  Wait till they see the mirror ball.”  Hee.

As for “Anne,” I really like this ep because it appeals very much to my feminist sensibilities.  Buffy runs away from home and lives in LA for a while, where she meets this street urchin named Lily.  It’s about girls looking out for each other.  That’s it, really. 

On a shallow note, it has one of my favorite fight scenes in the series, with Buffy hopping onto this raised platform thingie all gladiator-style and kicking ass. 

It also has one of my all-time favorite lines in the series:

Buffy: Hey, Ken, wanna see my impression of Gandhi?  (beats him to death with something heavy)
Lily: (doubtfully) Gandhi?
Buffy:  Well, y’know.  He was really pissed off.

#4 – Revelations

In this episode, Faith gets assigned a new Watcher, Ms. Gwendolyn Post.  Ms. Post, of course, turns out to be a renegade Watcher who is interested in procuring a powerful magical artifact.  She is brilliant, professional, cold, and has no qualms whatsoever about using Faith to get what she wants. 

I love this episode because the characterization is simply brilliant—and devastating.  It said so much about Faith’s emotional vulnerability that she could be manipulated by someone like Post, and Post is the fatal event that turned her forever away from trusting the Scooby gang and ultimately putting her on the path to villainy.  Heavy, heavy stuff.

And, on a feminist note, I loved that they made the Post character a woman.  I love a great female villain as much as a great heroine. 

#3 – The Gift

“She Saved the World.  A Lot.”

Buffy dies at the end (again).  Yeah, she did it to save the world and all, but most importantly, she did it to protect her sister, Dawn. 

I cry.  Every time. 

#2 – Restless

Dream sequences.  You either love ‘em or you hate ‘em.  Obviously, I love them, or this ep wouldn’t be on my list.  (Come to think of it, you may have some major problems with the Buffyverse altogether if you are at all opposed.)  I think a well-placed and well-written dream sequence can be an amazing literary device—they’re poetic, they provide major insight into the character having the dream, and, in the case of this episode, it can provide some pretty hefty foreshadowing.  “Be back before Dawn!” 

Favorite lines:
Tara: The Slayer does not walk in this world.
Buffy:  I walk.  I talk.  I shop.  I sneeze.  I’m gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back.  There’s trees in the desert since you moved out, and I don’t sleep on a bed of bones.  Now give me back my friends!

Coyote and I have watched and discussed this episode often.  It was the inspiration for Kate’s mushroom trip in Carcosa.  Coyote’s resulting observation on dreams: “Sometimes, it’s just your head trips.  Sometimes, it’s the First Slayer.  And sometimes, it’s just the guy with the cheese.” 


#1– The Wish

It was a close call between this and “Restless” as my favorite episode of all time. 

Slayer lore is definitely a source of inspiration for the O4S character, Alyssa Calderon.  There are elements of both Buffy and Faith in her, but this episode, in particular, with a hardened, fatalistic version of Buffy, sporting combat boots and a mean scar across her lip—yep, that’s where I got Alyssa.   

In this episode, Cordelia is granted one wish by a vengeance demon.  She wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale.  We are given a glimpse into a terrible alternate universe in which vampires are in charge and many of our beloved characters are either dead or turned into vamps.  

I cry at this one, too, every time I see alterna-Buffy gets killed by the Master.  Apparently, I’m a sucker for seeing the heroine bite it.  (Er, no pun . . . puns . . . intended.)

What are YOUR favorite Buffy moments?

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