Today is the 15th anniversary of the premier of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
I remember seeing the advertisements proclaiming that there was going to be this new series. I remember thinking this was pretty preposterous. I had seen the movie, and I’d thought it was much better than I’d ever expected, but, the idea of taking that to a series seemed beyond ridiculous to me. I figured it’d be cancelled soon, and forgotten, so, I didn’t bother to tune in.
It got a second season, and a few people, whose opinions I actually valued, had told me it was “pretty good,” but I still resisted. I wasn’t much for any sort of TV watching then, I thought TV was, with only a few exceptions, a waste of time, and not really worth watching.
At some point, I caught the end of a second season episode, The Dark Age. Its ending was confusing to me, because the solution to the conflict involves forcing a body-hopping demon to jump into Angel’s body. Angel, having his own demon, defeated the invader. I didn’t get it. That guy’s somehow a demon? I had no idea Angel was a vampire.
What surprised me about what I’d seen was that it was much darker than I’d expected, and it was not remotely cheesy. I was no longer under the impression that this was a light comedy like the movie.
But, I still didn’t tune in on a regular basis.
And then, the Columbine shooting happened. My boss at the time had two children who went to school there, and one of them had been dating one of the people who was killed. The entire office was gripped with the unfolding tragedy. No work was getting done, and people kept asking me why I didn’t appear sad, or shaken about the situation. They all thought me callous and overtly chipper, in an unseemly fashion.
Well, to them, I probably was. See, I had club level tickets to the Rockies game that evening, going with some good friends who’d never been to a baseball game. I’d never been on the club level. I was really thinking of that, and not really thinking about this situation happening across town, to people I didn’t know, and about which I could do nothing, so, I was thinking about the game.
And then, as we were almost to the park, we learned they’d cancelled the game.
I was pretty annoyed. Actually, that’s weak. I was angry. Sure, they would reschedule the game, but, it was going to be at a time I couldn’t go, and neither could my friends, because the owners of the tickets would probably be able to use them. What good did cancelling the game do for anyone?
But, I swallowed my anger, and we did something else, I don’t remember what, but, something.
Later that week, I heard that the planned episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had been pulled, because it had content that related to a kid with a gun at the school.
Again, I was annoyed that people were allowing this event ot take over so much of life. By this point, the local news in Colorado was filled with nothing but rehashing the event. You couldn’t get away from it. There were mass e-mail forwards with really bad poetry, maudlin and sentimental, which captured that people who had nothing to do with the event, were sad, and shocked and that all the innocent victims, angels all, were taken from us.
I just wanted it all to be off my TV.
And I didn’t dare share that part of me identified more with the shooters than with the victims. I understood the feeling of being ostracized by the popular kids.
All of this leads to the happy coincidence that the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I ever saw from beginning to end was the very episode that had been postponed due to the shooting.
I now understood why it had been postponed, and yet, here was something I’d never anticipated. This show with the silly name understood that “Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they’re too busy with their own. ” It didn’t glamorize murder, but, it also understood what might push someone to think about it. This TV show was the first thing I had seen that didn’t turn the tragedy into a mawkish spectacle, where only the victim’s deaths were tragic, and the shooters had but one dimension.
If this show could understand that, well, it was worth watching. And from then on, it was appointment TV for me. I even watched Angel a few weeks later when it premiered, and finally understood why the resolution of The Dark Age worked.
I soon found other fans of the show, mostly through The Bronze, and later the Bronze Beta . Here I found others who understood, and loved the show, and who became friends. These are friendships that grew through the shared love of the show, but, also in the shared sense of community. Real life victories have been shared, as have tragedies. This group has supported its members in genuine ways and I cannot understate how it has made a real difference in my life.
This community, and this show, changed how I saw television. In Buffy fandom, the real superstars are the writers, who would come and talk with us on the board, and became just as much a part of the community as the fans. I now watched shows with an eye toward the writers, and followed them to other quality shows, and found a new love of television.
I am indebted to this show for all that it has brought to my life. I am not ashamed to say that I truly love this show; its story is powerful, witty and full of meaning; its characters are like family, and so are its fans.
Anyway, Happy Birthday, Buffy. You saved the world – a lot.