It took me six years to finish Buffy the Vampire Slayer, nearly a decade after it has been on the air, and now that I’m finally through it all I can’t shut up about it. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers have all fallen victim to my renditions of “Once More With Feeling” (among other related topics). Slowly, I am publishing my thoughts on the series. Other topics covered so far include: The Beginning, and Fun vs. Serious.
Yes, I just used the phrase ‘ships to refer to relationships in a non-fangirl way. Which is not to say that I don’t fangirl this show, just… We can squee over that later. What I’m talking about is the huge diversity of relationship — romantic and platonic — that go on in Buffy.
Friendship is basically the reason that Buffy is able to kick ass the way that she does. It’s clear right off the bat that in order to be the Slayer, Buffy is relying on a lot of people as backup, both in the field and behind the scenes. Xander and Willow have been with Buffy since day one (faster than I have ever made friends with anyone in my life), and have come in handy on multiple occasions One shining example is when Giles, Xander, and Willow use magic to give their energy to help Buffy defeat Adam during Season four’s final battle in, “Primeval”.
In some ways Buffy’s friends are at odds with her Slayer duties. Kendra says so on repeat, and Giles is never in argument with that. As much as she relies on her friends, there are also times that she must act alone. When Anya returns to being a vengeance demon and must be stopped it’s Buffy who is forced to stop her (“Selfless”). This whole superior/inferior complex is most of Buffy’s character arch in season 6 (that and Spuffy, but I’ll get to that in a minute).
Some friendships are unexpectedly wonderful. Spike and Dawn have an awesome friendship that is difficult to describe. Anya and Giles’ employer/employee relationship is oddly wonderful. Joyce and Giles have some crazy chemistry in “Band Candy”, and then some awkward moments after.
Joyce shows nearly undying devotion to Buffy (and later, Dawn), but she is always Buffy’s mom. On some shows (*cough*Gilmore Girls*cough*) the mom also takes on other roles as friend or defender or whatnot, but Joyce is never anything other than Buffy and Dawn’s mom. Even among Buffy’s friends she is not treated as anyone else (unless she’s under a spell: “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”, “Band Candy”). Also, her friendship with Spike is possibly my favorite thing in the series. “Lovers Walk” anyone?
As far as unpopular opinions go, the biggest one I have is that I love Dawn like no other. I think she was the best part of season five (I didn’t really warm up to the Glory story line until we found out she was a god in “Checkpoint”). Some would argue that her existence messed with the relationship that Buffy had with her mother, Joyce. I can’t really argue that point, but what I like about Dawn is the new relationship that she created as Buffy’s sister.
Sisters are constantly at odds with each other, and so I liked seeing that relationship playing out on fiction. There is this acknowledgement that Buffy can call Dawn annoying and irritating or whatever else she wants, but if anyone else says a word against her they will have to suffer the consequences. It’s the exact feeling that I have towards my sister (who for the record hates Dawn with a burning passion, Frick and Frack as always).
Along with the family relations and friendships there are, of course, the romances. Since Buffy knocked Angel off his feet (“Welcome to the Hellmouth”) there has always been a romantic aspect to Buffy. Because how can a teenage drama exist without relationship problems? (It can’t) In the beginning crushes and awkwardness ruled. Willow had a crush on Xander, Xander had a crush on Buffy, Buffy was pretty stuck on this mysterious (and much older) Angel fellow.
While I’d hardly call Buffy and Angel’s relationship a fabulously mature one, no one can deny that it was pivotal to the beginning of the series. Most poignant was their break up after Angel lost his soul (and on any other television show, that would be a euphenism). Once again, the feeling of this relationship has been captured perfectly. Joyce guesses with more accuracy that she could ever know, that Angel is “not the guy [Buffy] fell for.”
High School relationships grow, fade, and break apart to make way for college relationships. Xander and Cordelia’s mutually loathing relationship breaks apart to make way for his relationship with Anya, which in turn grows from casual to serious. Willow goes from a rock band werewolf Oz to Tara, a fellow Wiccan who she would destroy anything to protect (and nearly does in “Grave”). Buffy and Riley are nearly on the same level, but their relationship kind of falls apart after the Initiate is shut down.
Perhaps the strangest romantic entanglement in the series comes in part from Spike. While he had been, for nearly a hundred years, involved with the vampire Drucilla (a strange but wonderful relationship in it’s own right), when Dru leaves him Spike eventually finds himself pinning for Buffy.
Their relationship is discombobulating at first, then more so. You know when one person in a relationship is more committed than the other? Yeah. Ironically, Buffy shows how much she cares for Spike by breaking up with him. No matter what happens, these two care about each other. You would never have guessed it from the beginning (“School Hard”), but by the time you get to “Touched” the emotions are clear.
The diversity of relationships in Buffy is what makes the show relate-able to such a variety of people. No matter what the premise of a show is, it’s the relationships that keep people watching. Buffy is a show about vampires and monsters, but also about friendship and the strength that comes with togetherness.
This week in Whedon Wednesday: Eulogy for Joyce Summers.
Next in my Buffy rants, Character Growth.