On the Occasion of Buffy’s 15th Anniversary: “Then there’s that period of estrangement where I think we were both growing as people…”

No, it doesn’t stop. It never stops. Do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is? How dangerous? I would love to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or, god, even studying! But I have to save the world. Again.

-Becoming, Part II

The origins of my television fandom may lay in The X-Files, but the show that I owe the most to is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am lucky to have been at a very pivotal age when Buffy came into my life (granted when I started watching it was the end of its third season) and as a result, the show played a major part in shaping out the entirety of my teen years. And because of its special place in my heart, a reflection, on the 15th anniversary of its premiere date.

Can everyone pinpoint a year in their life where they radically changed? For me it was the end of 1998 to beginning of 1999 (okay, a year that stretched into another). It was like I finally decided to really watch television, to pick out my musical tastes and order CDs, and to come out of my shell as a person. Of course the CDs I asked my mom to order (remember getting CDs in the mail…remember CDs? gross) were Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, etc. but hey, I was on top of ’90s pop culture. But magically that year I sat down and Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on. The episode? Band Candy. And if there were any other reasons for my instant fascination I have long since forgotten. That Christmas a barrage of presents helped me to get on top of my obsession: select episodes from season one and eventually season two were being released on VHS (ack!) and I got to see the beginnings of my new favorite show, while sitting on my Jurassic Park bean bag chair. What episodes I hadn’t seen (before the show finally went into syndication on FX and my world was a better place) I meticulously memorized facts about, using guidebooks and my Buffy trivia book. And this this was my life:

Buffy merchandise any and all, had to be owned by me. Figurines, guidebooks, scripts, jewelry (plus a claddagh ring like Buffy’s that I still wear to this day), soundtracks, trading cards, watches, posters, keychains etc. I read a Buffy standalone novel in which I really liked the plot; I wrote a fan letter to the Powers that Be and was rewarded with a signed postcard from the cast. To this day I am obsessed with this line of jewelry that Claire’s used to carry in their stores; throughout the years I have lost some pieces and others have broken, but there is no trace of these items on fansites/ebay/anything which depresses me.

I did not stop with the merchandise. I modeled my hair (with style and yes, Sun-In), my fashion, and my general personality after Buffy. I started to wear a lot of crosses (which in retrospect probably gave my teachers the wrong impression). And surprisingly, Buffy made me a lot cooler than I used to be, I think, because it gave me a level of confidence that I didn’t possess in the past. It also involved me adopting a general Joss Whedon/Jane Espenson fueled brand of vocabulary and speaking. And since Buffy was only my gateway, other movies and television shows provided me with more influences and characters to adapt into my life.

It might sound scary that my life has literally developed around a television show, but I can only be thankful. Without Buffy, I can honestly say that I would not be the person I am today nor have the same circle of friends. And I have to thank Joss Whedon for his vision and his beliefs: to have created such a powerful, female character in a time where it was so urgently needed. And yet, we still need more of them. It would be fitting to say that while Buffy was my role model in my formative years, I have found an adult one in Joss. Just like him I want to not only entertain, but also create change in our society. And hell, if he can do that with a show about teen angst and vampire slaying, then the future seems pretty bright.

Happy 15th Anniversary, Buffy and Joss. For these 15 years the world has been a better place for girls like me and the teenagers in us all.

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About Staciellyn Chapman

Grad student at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. This blog is an attempt to condense the craziness that is my TV viewing habits (with the occasional aside into film, music, and general life).

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