Embrace Your Obsession: Becoming Buffy
“Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television.” –Woody Allen
Buffy Summers is, and forever will be, my hero. She is the epitome of a strong woman (literally), and she can kick monster butt. Still, her bad-assery isn’t what drew me to her. It was her heart. Buffy wasn’t a cardboard cutout of a person. She wasn’t afraid to show people what she cared about, and she fought to protect the things she loved, even when she was up against insurmountable odds. She was a champion, in every sense of the word.
I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer midway through my junior year of high school, in a time where I still wasn’t sure who I was or what I was looking for in life. I know it sounds stereotypical and cheesy, but I really was that insecure teenage girl, flailing around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to figure out who the hell I was supposed to become.
By the time I sat down to watch the Buffy series finale, I was a much more confident person than the girl who timidly watched the pilot just a few months earlier. Of course, there are a number of factors that can be attributed to— I had traveled to four different countries, made new friends, gotten more confident in the way I looked. But, most importantly, I had been able to immerse myself in seven seasons of the most amazing group of friends and characters I could ever imagine.
I saved the Buffy finale for a night when I could give it my undivided attention. I didn’t want to be interrupted by homework or by my parents calling me for dinner. I’d been waiting to watch this for a long, long time, and I wasn’t going to have any distractions getting in my way.
I spent a good amount of time thinking through where I was going to sit to watch the finale. I wanted to be comfortable, but not so comfortable that I would stop paying attention. I considered my bed, but with the high wooden back bars, it usually wasn’t really the most welcoming seat. The kitchen was out, because we didn’t have any ice cream, and I wasn’t about to spend 45 minutes in the kitchen with no food.
After more deliberation than I care to admit, I decided to sit on the floor in the corner of my bedroom, with a blanket under me to keep the prickly carpet off my legs. I used two pillows behind my back to prop myself up, and let my small Macbook computer rest lightly on my lap. I made sure to plug it in before I started. I wasn’t going to stop in the middle of this.
I cried for almost the entirety of the Buffy finale. There were the obvious crying moments, of course, like when everyone tries to avoid saying goodbye in the hallway and when Anya (probably my favorite character, after Buffy) is unceremoniously killed by a Bringer. But those weren’t the moments that got to me the most. What really brought me to tears was the idea that it was all over.
The finale ended with all of the main characters standing in front of the ditch that was all that was left of their former home, Sunnydale. The last lines of the series, spoken by Buffy’s younger sister, summed up exactly what I was feeling by the time I made it to the end of the series: “What are we gonna do now?”
By the end of those seven seasons, I felt like I was a part of Sunnydale. I couldn’t exist without it, and it couldn’t exist without me. Together, Buffy and I formed one concrete entity, a person who was everything I wanted to be— funny, intelligent, loved. I wasn’t ready to give that all up just because I had run out of episodes to watch.
For me, the ending of a TV show isn’t an ending. The writers can wrap up every single storyline they’ve ever mentioned, but I still won’t consider the show over. Characters, places, events of television are real, in some sense. Not in the same way that I’m real or that the couch I’m sitting on is real, but real in the sense that they have feelings, thoughts and influences on the things around them. On me. And that influence won’t go away, ever.
That feeling of connection to something that I know isn’t real is strange, but it’s not uncommon, especially with television characters. The familiarity that we feel with characters that we’ve spent hours with, whom we’ve watched grow and develop, who have personalities that are flawed and interesting and real … it’s powerful. It can make us feel things that we never thought we would feel from just watching something on the confines of a small computer screen.
I don’t like to use the word ‘character’ when I’m talking about television. In a well-written, well-acted show, the characters become much more than just the representation of a person presented on the screen. They take on a life of their own. They’re self-perpetuating— they live on through fan fiction, comic books, actors, creators, writers, viewers … Television characters don’t just disappear when their show ends.
Television presents us with people who seem plausible, but who are still better than us. Buffy is flawed, but she’s attainable. I can be like Buffy, in some ways. Sure, I can’t go fight the forces of evil, but I can be funny, and sweet, and likeable, and strong. Buffy gives me someone to look up to.
Television characters give us something to strive towards, and the relationship that we develop with them isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Embrace the obsession. Love your television, love the people on it, and don’t be ashamed of it.
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