Happy 18th Birthday, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Now, something that will make you feel a little older.

Today, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is old enough to vote.
That is, if TV shows could vote.

Buffy castThe world in March 1997 was much different than now. Bill Clinton was starting his second term. The shocking discovery of the Heaven’s Gate cult. The ashes of Stak Trek creator Gene Roddenberry were about to be launched into space. Girl power was defined by girls with Spice. The Supreme Court was about to discuss whether you could use obscene words on the Internet, years before My Space and Facebook.

On TV, The WB television network was best known for 7th Heaven, a show about a minister and his family, sitcoms starring Steve Harvey and Jamie Foxx, and a soap called Savannah that has just been cancelled. Eighteen years ago today, people tuned in to see two kids break into a high school in Sunnydale, CA. They seem to be ready to kiss…until the girl suddenly bites the guy’s neck.

Later that night, a girl dreams of monsters and vampires. That’s because she was born to fight them. She is Buffy Summers, the Slayer.

It may not seem like the the start of a TV phenomenon, but the fact that the show did very well in its time slot with its two-hour premiere was a good sign. It wouldn’t be long until Buffy would put Sunnydale and The WB on the map.

Think about what it was like for the cast. Sarah Michelle Gellar was best known for her run on All My Children, which means the kinds of people who watched that show could have been interested. Nick Brendon and Alyson Hannigan had been on TV, but this was two years before American Pie. Anthony Stewart Head was best known for coffee ads before his role as Giles. Not only that, the show was based on a comedy horror movie that not too many people saw. Yet Buffy and her Scooby Gang slowly caught on, and became one of the best things about TV in the 1990’s.

It was also the emergence of a guy who used to write for Roseanne, and  helped put together the screenplay for a little animated movie called Toy Story. Joss Whedon thought it was about time someone wrote a movie about a high school cheerleader who battled vampires rather than just scream or run away from them. He did so in 1992,  when Buffy made her way into theaters. Although the movie didn’t turn out to be a hit, it did give Paul Reubens a role much different than Pee Wee Herman, and helped start Ben Affleck’s career. Five years later, Joss got a chance to give her a second life in TV, and they have not looked back since.

Even though Buffy has become an American legend on TV and the comics, she also helped make the internet more popular. The show created websites, art, and  popular  hangouts like The Bronze, where many people talked about hair, music, clothes…and how Buffy took care of vampires with skill and snark. It’s probably where live-blogging got its start.

So, while we wonder how the Agents of SHIELD will deal with Skye’s new powers, we should pause to remember the girl who made strong female heroes viable and relatable.

If we don’t do it now, we can always do it later, thanks to the DVD set..or iTunes.

Post Author: David Mello

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