• Thu, Mar 10 2011

Happy 14th Birthday to ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’

Today marks the 14th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s first airing on fledgling network The WB. The supernatural drama, Joss Whedon’s first effort as TV creator, debuted on March 10, 1997, as a midseason replacement, a last-ditch effort brought in when a predecessor failed. In some ways, the show maintained that sense of riskiness for its seven-season run.

Buffy and I are like distant Facebook friends: We shared an incredible time together, but we’ve fallen out of touch as of late. I’ve forgotten its birthday and don’t have a wide-ranging cultural analysis to publish on the site. The best I can do is tell you about my own experiences with this series, and honor it on its special day.

Buffy ran from 1997-2003, but my interactions with the show and its offshoots took place from 2001-2008, when both the series and I were at differinig points in our lives.

1. Envelope-pusher

The first time I watched Buffy, I turned on the TV to see Xander and Anya having sex. My parents were immediately scandalized and ordered that I turn it off. “Why do I have to do that?” I asked. “Becuase it’s inappropriate,” was their simple answer. “But I’m twelve!” I responded. (I was a precocious kid, guys.) I managed to convince my parents to let me keep watching, and while I found the show titillating in parts, I was mostly impressed that The WB had this show that prodded boundaries about violence and sexuality, while merging those issues with monsters. As I got older, I watched the episodes in reverse, seeing Buffy start (and then drop out of) college; lose her virginity to Angel, only to witness his transformation into soulless killer; and face her own mortality at the age of sixteen. Almost every episode challenged its viewers to sink to its emotional depths; those that didn’t, were refreshing examples of the fusion of drama and comedy. Most episodes ended on a one-liner or devastating silence on the “Executive Producer: Joss Whedon” titlecard.

2. Gateway to fandom

Buffy wasn’t the first fandom I debated on online messageboards or wrote fan fiction for, but it was the fandom that introduced me to the writing groups on LiveJournal. Together with other Whedonites, I participated in three-day flash fiction challenges, where a moderator of the group would post a prompt — mirror, eyes, fruit — and we would have from Sunday to Tuesday to come up with 100-word stories using those prompts. It was improvisational and invigorating, not to mention encouraging to me as a fledgling writer. But the best part by far was when I would be sitting at my home computer in the middle of the night, coming up with a new story, and see that the one I’d just posted had gotten a flurry of responses. The members of those writing communities took special care to constantly encourage their peers, without expectation that they’d get the same response. I’ll never forget that camaraderie.

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