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Buffy Summers Saved My Life

June 23, 2015

It was with great hesitation that I entered into Joss Whedon’s teenage world of demons and vampire slayers, and you can blame it on Luke Perry. No self-respecting science-fiction fan born in the nineteen-seventies took the 90210 star with more than a grain of salt, and that’s being generous. Never mind the 1992 movie had little to do with the series that eventually defined supernatural-themed television. His involvement, along with the ridiculous title, served as sufficient motivation to steer clear of a show whose genre I didn’t much enjoy anyway.

So you can imagine my chagrin when, years after the dust settled, I discovered the creator of my all-time favorite space opera – Firefly – was single-handedly responsible for the existence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I told myself I was studying the emergence of Eliza Dushku, the star of Whedon’s Dollhouse series, and David Boreanaz, known for his role in Bones. I owed it to my education to absorb the entire Whedon-verse; this was an intellectual endeavor that would improve my screenwriting abilities.

But somewhere between the pilot and the Halloween episode where Anya dresses up as a pink bunny and Giles has to take a chainsaw to a fraternity house to save the Scooby gang, I had to admit I was watching sheerly for the pleasure of the experience. The monsters were usually metaphors for internal demons high-schoolers struggle with. The dialogue was full of witty ripostes and laugh-worthy sarcasm. Each character had their strengths and flaws. James Marsters was hilarious as the incompetent bad guy, and even Seth Green made an impressive showing as a taciturn werewolf.

And it was during that very episode that my 10-year old daughter walked into the room and changed our relationship forever.

The thing was, we’d stopped watching shows together. After long days of working and studying we liked to cozy up to an episode or two on Netflix, but we were doing it in opposite ends of the house. I had no interest in fantasy shows like Once Upon a Time or Merlin and she had no reason to be watching Weeds or Californication. The last show we’d watched together was MacGyver, but you can only take so many 1980’s computers and haircuts before the suspension of disbelief evaporates altogether.

Here was a show based on character. Here were life lessons presented without lecture or pomp. But above all Joss Whedon conceived Buffy as a celebration of girl power, and I wanted to share that with my daughter.

Buffy and the gang stood over an occult symbol painted on the floor. “She’s the slayer,” I said, pointing. “She’s a witch, that guy’s a werewolf, the girl in the bunny suit used to be a vengeance demon, and that guy, well, he’s just funny.” I pressed play. The gang looked on in horror as a demon rose out of the symbol… a ten-inch tall demon.

Buffy’s foot descended.

We started laughing. Together. And that was the beginning of it. Now we have something in common, a bond that goes deeper than the act of sitting in front of the same television screen. We have inside jokes. Favorite moments. And a safe, fictional universe to refer to when those inevitable parenting moments arise.

Buffy Summers didn’t really save my life. But at the end of season three, when the ubiquitous Jonathan Levinson gave Buffy the ‘Class Protector’ award and my daughter turned to me and whispered, ‘I think I might cry,’ she may as well have.

 

 

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