Buffy Anne Summers. She saved the world. A lot.
I love this show. I fell in love with Faith. Tara (never forget). Anya. Baseball Girl. Kicking ass with a witty pun. Xander and his increasingly pleasing forearms.
But I don’t think I ever love(d) Buffy.
That’s sort of fascinating to me. The fact that I dropped everything to catch this show, the fact that I’ve written and continue to write about it, the fact that I started to love comics from it, and the sheer fact that I don’t think I really loved Buffy.
And I want to rationalise why this is because it ties into one of my other great passions – the representation of gifted and talented characters.
Maria Nikolajeva writes about the construction of character in her book: ‘The Rhetoric of Character in Children’s Literature’. It’s a superb book in many ways, and helped to define a lot of my ideas around character presentation. One thing she argues in this book is that all children’s literature is, essentially,a bildungsroman (a:ix). They are stories of growth, and change, and development. I would argue a similar description could be made of episodic television. People grow up. Actors change. Superman graduated and got a job, and even the increasingly fantastical Glee has allowed its characters to ‘enter’ the ‘real’ ‘world’.
A narrative can not remain static and I wonder if this is one of the reasons I lost my love for Buffy. Because, to be frank, I don’t think she grew as a character. It was about season four / five that I realised I wasn’t watching the show for her – I was watching it for the support cast. I was watching it for Faith and her redemption, for Willow and her growth, for Anya and her life-fear, Xander and his dawning hope of making a success of himself, and yes, for Giles and his all round loveliness. They all grew. Changed. Loved. Won. Lost.
But Buffy didn’t. Not really. Not to me. And that’s the thing that I’ve noticed about my research of gifted and talented characters. They remain defined by their talent. Even when the series ended, and the camera panned to Buffy, we didn’t hear her speak. She was defined by what she had done, and by what she had become, but I felt cheated. She’d done amazing things. Superb, amazing, world-changing, life-altering things. But I didn’t know who Buffy was. Not any more.
And maybe that’s it.
Maybe that’s what happens with the super-powered, the heroes, the gifted; they don’t grow. They sacrifice themselves in order to fulfil the needs of their gift. In a way, they become their gift – and I think that’s most clear in the season five finale where Buffy sacrifices herself to save the world in an episode called The Gift. Maybe the gifted are there to catalyse others. Maybe talent, ability, superpowers, whatever, aren’t just gifts to the gifted. They’re gifts to everyone. Because regardless of how I felt about her character, Buffy made me grow. She made me look at things twice, made me realise that the darkness can bring light, made me realise that the girl can save the day, made me gasp, made me cry, and made me stay with her journey until the end. She made me fall in love with a mythos and develop a hunger to know more. She made me grow.
Buffy Anne Summers. She changed the world. A Lot.
(“We changed the world. I can feel them, Buffy. All over. Slayers are awakening everywhere.”)
3 thoughts on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Unbearable Lightness of Being”
I don’t think that she didn’t grow, but she just isn’t (wasn’t?) my kind of person. As a human, Buffy made me want to roll my eyes and leave. As a protagonist, she was pretty perfect.
Yes! Exactly this. 🙂
I read all of season eight and petered out somewhere in series nine. Maybe it’s time to head back to them 🙂 !