I entered a whole new world when I started watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." For fans of the show, this will not be earth-shattering information. Try to explain it to the uninitiated, though. They don't get it. Not even a little bit. There are a few stumbling blocks.
First, the name. "Buffy…the…Vampire…Slayer." What in the heck is a vampire slayer? For that matter, what in the heck is a Buffy? Even at this early stage in my explanation I can feel the warm glow that comes from knowing something that someone else doesn't. I've been basking in the glow of superior television for the past three years and now, I get to talk about it!
Buffy Summers, when the show started back in 1996 was an almost 16 year old high school student. She's blonde, pretty, average in an above-average way. She lived with her parents, Joyce and Hank Summers in Los Angeles. Life was good until one day she was approached by a member of the Watcher's Council and informed that she was "the chosen one." Chosen….and not for Homecoming Queen.
It's the beginning of Buffy's new life as the one girl in all the world chosen to save hapless humans from vampires and other demons. The beauty of creator Joss Whedon's world is that his vision relies on the viewer's ability to believe, without question, in the demon dimension. Lucky for Whedon, he's found the perfect actress to embody Buffy: Sarah Michelle Gellar. She's physically small, but athletic, fierce and her luminous eyes register every hurt, betrayal, and struggle. Why this girl has never won an Emmy is beyond me (and her legions of other fans).
Okay, so what saves this show from being anything more than a demon-of-the-week spectacular? This is when you try to explain to the uncoverted how absolutely hilarious, frightening, exhilerating, and heartbreaking Whedon's world is. Buffy leaves L.A. with her newly divorced mother and ends up in Sunnydale, which just happens to be poised above the "Hellmouth," a portal to the demon dimension. Here Buffy encounters the group of friends who become instrumental in her fight with evil and her emotional wellbeing. There's Willow Rosenberg, a fledgling witch with an eyes-wide view of the world; Xander Harris, a sarcastic but loyal nerd who falls immediately in love with Buffy; Cordelia Chase, the prettiest and bitchiest girl at Sunnydale High; Rupert Giles, Buffy's watcher-cum-surrogate father, and Angel, the man with a dark secret.
Over the six seasons "BtVS" has been on the air, I've been astounded by the remarkable changes these characters have gone through, the trials they've faced, the danger. There's been no question of my belief in their world; but, in many ways, it's almost secondary to their daily lives. Whedon himself has said that the demons are actually a metaphor for the reality many students experience during their high school years. So, while the demons are fun- it's the small hurts, slights and rewards that most of us experience in high school and are played out on the screen, which actually hooked me. That sense of déjà vu: "Oh, yeah, I remember what it was like to be a geek, princess, star athlete." Bad John Hughes movie times a million.
Not a single character on the show has remained static. Every episode, especially the ones Whedon has a direct hand in, sings with crackling life. And the language. The words these characters speak to each other, are so incredibly not of the prime-time variety. Nowhere can this be seen more poignantly than in Buffy's relationship with Angel.
Angel is the kind of character that makes women, even mature, grown-up, married with children type woman like myself, swoon. Ask us why? The answers are as varied as the downloaded pictures of the actor who portrays the character, which dance across our computer screens. He's hot. But even more than that, David Boreanaz is Angel. He may come to rue the day at some point in his career, but for now and for as long as we believe in Buffy and Angel, there's no distinction. For that we thank the incredible canon Whedon has created for these characters.
Imagine it: sworn enemies on the grandest scale, like Romeo and Juliet, only cuter and more modern. Buffy, the one chosen to extinguish vampires from the face of the earth and Angel, the vilest of all vampires who, after killing a favoured gypsy is cursed by her people with a soul. As he explains to her in the season one episode, Angel : "You have no idea what it's like to have done the things that I've done and to care." The attraction between them is immediate, all-consuming and quite unlike anything I've ever seen on TV before. She's a sixteen-year old high school student, he's a 242 year old vampire with the face, literally, of an angel. Do they love one another? Ask any Buffy/Angel fan. Oh, they love each other all right. The last season of BtVS has her humping vampire, Spike, and it's blasphemous to the thousands of Buffy and Angel fans who wait patiently for Joss Whedon to come to his senses and put Buffy and Angel back in their rightful places, with each other.
Their relationship is downright poetic. Even the actors get it.(Witness the unbelievable chemistry between SMG and DB.) What if the one person in the whole world whom is meant for you is the absolute wrong person for you in all the basic ways? He'll never grow old. You'll never have children, walk in the sunshine, even have sex (the curse prohibits a milli-second of true happiness. The one and only time Buffy and Angel have sex, on her seventeenth birthday, Angel loses his soul and becomes, once more, the pure demon, Angelus in all his evil-and sexy-- glory!). Ahh, the painful, heartbreaking beauty of it. I've spent hours in front of my television cursing Joss Whedon's sick, twisted, incredible mind. Push them together, pull them apart. They are only for each other, but they'll never be together. Give them other love interests and watch the Buffy and Angel 'shippers howl! (And I'm howling right along with them, because Buffy belongs with Angel and Angel belongs with Buffy. How do I know this, because Joss Whedon told me so in every word that was ever uttered from the mouths of his characters.)
But it isn't just the promise of Buffy and Angel reuniting that keeps me tuned to the TV screen. It's the promise of television that'll make me squirm, scream, cry, moan and laugh out loud. Try explaining THAT to people who have never seen the show.
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