A legend was born on March 10, 1997. With its silly puns and questionable wardrobe choices, Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired on the WB over a decade ago. What started out as a campy, teenage drama starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as the Chosen One, a girl gifted with the strength and skills to defeat the forces evil, ended seven years later in 2003. An extremely influential part of pop culture that has spurred a loyal fanbase and paved the way for many non-traditional television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer turns 16 this Sunday.
For those of you that aren't too familiar with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show starts off with a 16-year-old Buffy moving to Sunnydale after getting expelled from her Los Angeles high school for burning down the gym (hey, there were vampires in it). Sunnydale, Calif. actually sits on top of the mystical Hellmouth, a magnet for all things nasty such as vampires and demons. With the help of her friends (mostly Xander, Willow and Giles, characters that are in the series from the start to end) the Slayer is able to save the world from more than just several apocalpyses throughout the years.
I didn't start watching Buffy the year it aired, being that I was only five years old and probably couldn't comprehend the complexity of the seemingly-flippant show. But I do remember seeing parts of the episode "Witch" while I was at my grandma's house when I was about seven and being freaked out by a pupil-less Cordelia and a cheerleader going up in flames. Six years later I was at home (playing) sick with the flu and making a grilled cheese when I turned on the television, only to find on FX the Season Four episode "Primeval." Watching the Scoobies infiltrate The Initiatives and work together to defeat demon-casserole Adam was one of the best things that could've happened while being sick. I was immediately hooked and began recording all the episodes that I could, trying to catch up with the series that was soon ending on UPN.
It sounds cheesy, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer has helped me deal with my own personal demons that not only plagued me when I was younger, but continue today as a college student. When my little sister would annoy me to no end, I would think back to how Buffy took care of her younger sister Dawn throughout the series, and what sacrifices she made to protect her sibling. Sometimes I worry that I'm losing myself and going through the motions of college, usually resulting in me rewatching the episode "Selfless" where Anya found herself in one of the series' darkest moments. The episode reminds me that feeling lost and messing up is only part of the greater scheme of figuring out who you aspire to be. And when I shut myself off from the world as a young teen after my father's death, seeing how Buffy dealt with her mother's demise in "The Body" (one of the most highly-regarded episodes of the series) helped me deal with all the feelings of anger, guilt and confusion that consumed me. I wanted nothing more but to pick up a cursed athame and rid myself of these demons, but Buffy helped me vanquish them with the themes and lessons from the show.
For me and the rest of the very devoted fandom, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was much more than just a television show. The characters were relatable to the point that you wanted to know them in real life. Its metaphors for high school (and later on, college) and life in general were just all too eerily spot-on. Storylines were captivating, keeping viewers hooked until each season finale where Buffy and her friends would eventually defeat the year's Big Bad. Buffy the Vampire Slayer gave those that watched the show an opportunity to escape the real world, all the while learning about life's best moments. And its darkest.
Additionally, Buffy's legacy is just another testament to the show's excellence. The show has lived on in the form of spin-off Angel, a much darker product of creator Joss Whedon set in Los Angeles. Even Buffy herself lived on, with Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, a comic book series that served to continue the canon set up by the television show. And cult-favorite Firefly probably would have never come into fruition without Buffy serving as evidence to Whedon's storylines and characters being relatable to audiences.
With shows like The Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf on air today, it's only indicative of Buffy's major role in creating a teen drama genre about supernatural young people dealing with the ordinary and extraordinary. These shows wouldn't be what they are today without Buffy setting the very high standard (female protagonists falling in love with vampires is so not original in today's era). And fans are quick to remember "Once More With Feeling," the musical episode that left a lasting impression on television, continually making it onto lists of best musical episodes in primetime history. The musical episodes of shows like Scrubs and Even Stevens probably owe Xander a thank you for accidentally summoning a demon who enchanted people into dancing themselves into combustion.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was much more about a girl staking vampires. It was about a girl loving her friends, going through some of life's hardest transitions and understanding being part of a world much bigger than herself. And with everything that the show offered, the show will forever find a place in its fans' hearts and as a pivotal stepping stone for television.
So Buffy, I hope you have the 16th birthday you deserve.