Buffy the Vampire Slayer (often referred to as just Buffy) is an American sci-fi fantasy television drama that originally premiered on the WB television network. The show features 7 seasons that spanned from March 1997 until May 2003, with a total of 144 episodes.
The series focuses on a young woman named Buffy Summers, the next Slayer in a long line of fate-chosen women called to fight against vampires, demons and other supernatural evils in order to protect the world. Throughout the course of the show, Buffy is at constant odds with her life as a Slayer and her life as a high school student, and eventually a college student. The show makes an effort to explore her emotional and psychological state while balancing these two aspects of her life, as is a common theme in many fantasy based television series where the role of good and evil is placed upon the unsuspecting shoulders of the series protagonist. Buffy’s character development is largely due to her successful balancing of these two completely different sides of her life in a manner that only she could accomplish.
An Influential Heroine
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been praised for its persistent and purposeful use of a multi-dimensional heroine as the series’ prime protagonist and primary force behind the ever-evolving story narrative. Buffy’s character serves as the catalyst of change for several overarching plotlines. This differs greatly from more modern television series where the protagonist is only ever reacting to, or responding to changes in his or her environment. By creating a force that acts upon and changes the universe as well as reacting to changes in the universe, the writers of the show created a character capable of enacting her will upon the story’s narrative and shaping it to be a reflection of her actions and personality.
As a character, Buffy stands as a role model for young girls and women across the world and not simply because she’s a bad ass who fights villains on a regular basis. To summarize Buffy Summers as such is to devoid her of the many other qualities that make up her character, and rob the young woman of her true potential. Buffy Summers is strong physically, but she is still human and capable of suffering physical pain. She is not immune to death, but she persists regardless of the near-constant threat to her life that is her role as a Slayer. Her perseverance and determination to survive is one the most defining features of Buffy as a character, and serves as an emotional boon born of her fiery personality. Her physical prowess as a Slayer serves as only one of her many empowering characteristics. Buffy is strong because she is determined, loyal and undeniably human in all aspects.
A Myriad of Characters
Most remarkably, the series portrayed both female and male characters in a similarly realistic fashion—equipped with character flaws, concerns, fears and genuine wants and desires—without offering up one or the other to the stereotypical conceptualization of their genders. That is to say, the women weren’t perfect in every way, or emotionally unstable (at least not without a justifiable reason explained within her backstory) and the men weren’t oafish buffoons walking around with their chests swelling with pride (again, unless there was ample justification to do so as related to the character in question).
The characters were organic in nature, and varied from one another in definitive ways. They were as much part of their universe as their universe was part of them. They lived and breathed in a world where vampires and demons existed, and behaved accordingly. What remained true to all of the characters within this universe, however, and what served to bind them together as a unique collection of various individuals was their ability to transcend the two-dimensional environment they were created for and become their own unique creations. The characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer were more than fictional caricatures of archetypes—they were refreshing replacements for tired tropes.
This simple decision served as the prime basis for strong, believable characters and amazingly captivating story narratives crafted and shaped by actual forces belonging in the preconceived world. The result is a dynamic universe that flourishes greatly with respect to its characters, who both make up and expand upon that very universe. Moreover, these stories are not linear and often interact and cross paths with other stories and other characters, much the same way as real life.
Magic as a Metaphor
Throughout the series, magic and all of its many components typically stands in as a metaphor for real life struggles and conflicts. The writers of the series used various aspects of fantasy and horror to create a thematic method of drawing parallels between the lives of the characters within Buffy and the struggles the typical high school or college kid might have to struggle through on a regular basis.
Of course, the goal of making magic to integral to some of the more overarching plots in the series was not to point to magic and automatically demonize it as evil. Magic was as fluid and as varied as those who used it. In fact, the magic itself wasn’t good or evil on its own. That stemmed from the users intention and how he or she went about using the gift of magic. For those who used magic in a wicked or selfish manner, the consequences were dire and physically taxing. On the other hand, for those who tended to use magic in an altruistic fashion, or for the sole purpose of helping others, the consequences were beneficial.
In this regard, the writers were able to openly and freely use magic without having to malign it as a natural force of evil, or create “white” and “black” magic. Instead, they relied on the motivations of the characters to determine the intention of the magic, which ultimately creates a more flexible environment not limited by preconceived notions of good and evil.