Throwback Thursday: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

In this week’s Throwback Thursday we’ll be time-cycling all the way back to the wonderful and bewildering world of 1997, the year that gave us Tony Blair, the death of Mother Theresa, the introduction to cloned sheep Dolly, Boogie Nights, Good Will Hunting and Titanic. What we’re really here for though is Joss Whedon’s seminal supernatural series; Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Born from the mind of Whedon as an antithesis to the conventional “cute blonde trips and is slain” horror movie cliché, Buffy tells the tale of a cute blonde born to prophecy and imbued with a supernatural gift to help fulfil her destiny – that destiny being to fend off the evil bubbling from under her hometown.

The “Hellmouth” that lives under Sunnydale, the aforementioned hometown, is the shows first big revelation. a smart piece of writing that quickly establishes the world and kills any cynicism regarding the unlikely abundance of Demonic activity. This inter-dimensional gateway explains that Demon-saturation and provides the central characters a great deal to worry about. Not only does this portal leak evil voodoo but it also lures in those of the more pointy fanged persuasion, making Sunnydale an ostensibly horrible place to live. Unless of course, you’re lifes calling is the destruction of all malevolent forces.

Buffy’s next USP is, well, Buffy herself – Sarah Michelle Gellar. A once peppy cheerleader plucked from her conventional life by the morally grey Watcher’s Council and told of her destiny. She must train hard and deal with her situation without moaning because if anyone’s going to kill Demons and keep the world safe, it has to be a 16 year old girl right? Add to that the fact she can’t tell her mother (despite telling just about every friend/boyfriend she makes/meets) and shenanigans are bound to ensue.

The earlier episodes are somewhat weaker for having a structure that operates on an episode by episode basis wherein the latter series’ develop into more grandiose pieces of storytelling. The whole thing watched now acts like a gentle reminder of simpler times where television was entertainment not a hyperbolic artistic statement on the human condition. This is TV to switch off to, to enjoy without having to squint your mind and watch 4 times over to get the meaning of it all.

Our MVP here is Whedon himself for creating a world not bound to any one lore, nor overly encumbered with creating it’s own. It has werewolves, vampires, robed wizardy types, and enemies both mortal, immortal, from our dimension and others, Gods, Aztecs, and in the last season, Evil itself – turning up to assume the role of “big bad”. At it’s best, it can frightening or irreverent, hilarious or just bat-shit crazy.

What Whedon brings to the table on the human side is also invaluable. Buffy is consistently surrounded by her core group of friends and mentors, bringing a huge warmth and a welcome respite from the more action based moments. It can ere on the histrionic and over-emotional side of things but it provides a deeply investable dynamic to proceedings that make it easy to lose yourself in for many episodes at a time. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is available to watch now on DVD and Netflix. If you have anything you think deserves our attention, don’t be afraid to comment, we don’t bite!

– Ollie Drew

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