Buffy at 20: How a fan became a fangirl

The web today is full of celebrations of twentieth anniversary of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I'm never one to miss an opportunity to talk about the little show that truly brought me into fandom and changed TV forever, so I'm joining the chorus. Instead of talking about how Buffy changed TV, I want to tell you about how Buffy changed me. I don't think I'd be who I am today without it.

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I was one of the original viewers of the two-part pilot "Welcome to the Hellmouth" and "Harvest" way back in the day (and yes, realizing that was TWO DECADES ago makes me feel old). I was in seventh grade and I knew of the movie but I hadn't seen it, however, anything vaguely supernatural and staring a girl was going to get my attention. I liked those first episodes, and tuned in the next week...an it was not great. So, I checked in periodically each season, including "Buffy Vs. Dracula" where I was incredibly confused that Buffy had a sister. Still I didn't really fall in love until I turned on the FX reruns and saw the most beautiful cheekbones the world has ever known...I didn't fall for Buffy, I fell for SPIKE.

my beautiful trash son

my beautiful trash son

Knowing me, it's not surprising that the bad boy in love with the good girl trope was what finally got me to dive head first into the show. I'd always been a sucker for villains and Spike was so well written, well acted and lovely that I couldn't help but love him. I'll forgive James Marsters for delaying my realization of just how gay I was for several years for the joy the character brought me. The other factor here was that with the show finally in reruns on FX, I could catch up. This is important. These were the days before Netflix. Heck, this was before the show was fully released on DVDs! I know that because I remember buying it season by season when the DVDs did come out, mostly during season seven. I watched the show from the beginning on reruns that I taped on VHS. I kept my favorite episodes on their own special tapes and watched and rewatched so much I memorized the commercials.  

I got into things just before the best episode of the entire series hit, which was of course "Once More With Feeling." It was also the height of tension between Spike and Buffy, a ship I will sail until the end of time. But most importantly, I found other fans at school to talk about the show with. Every week my friend and I in econ class would discuss the episodes. And the next year when i went to college was when I made friends through fandom and discovered that on line fandom was a thing. I found fic. I found spoilers and I went to my first con to meet James Marsters. It was amazing. I joined LJ because of Buffy, I really got into film and meta because of the the show. I wrote long essays and theories about Buffy and Spike and the first evil and it was so cool and fun and I'll always be grateful for that first taste.

Now, season six and seven were actually pretty rough and the relationships I made because of the show soured just as it ended, which was pretty rough. But I'll never forget my first taste of fandom. I never loved Angel the way I loved Buffy, and when that show was canceled and replaced a season later by some drivel where two underwear model brothers killed urban legends while driving around in a muscle car, I fell even further away. I didn't really get back into serious online fandom until I decided to give that show with the underwear models a chance, and now I'm never going back. I still love this show, decades later. Buffy taught me so much about character, about what i loved in stories. It taught me the value of being strong but not losing the love inside. It taught me humor and snark and sacrifice. It taught me fandom. Buffy is etched on my soul.

Buffy was great - IS great - for so many reasons. It was perhaps the most self aware show on television, playing with viewers expectations and tropes in a way no show really ha before. It came along at a time when Girl Power had become a brand, and while there are some aspects of Buffy's journey that seem cloying now (the overly heavy focus on her romantic life early on, for one) it was still so important to see a young woman who was strong and flawed and always growing and changing as she found her power. We see the influence of Buffy and the Whedon-verse all over fannish media now: The monster as metaphor, the snappy dialog, the meta and experimental episodes, even the queerness. Buffy shaped a generation of fans and creators, and twenty years later it's just as fun and entertaining as ever (except season one, you can skip most of that) and it will always have a place in our hearts.