So, I was at ClexaCon over the weekend and got back late Tuesday night. That meant that I went from working a 3-11pm ET shift to partying until 2am PT to waking up at 5:30am ET on Wednesday. I was basically a zombie and have been chasing sleep the entire week. I was too drained to write anything on the actual 20th anniversary — yesterday — but I figured, hey, I’m only a day late, right?
Sadly, my journey with Buffy did not begin 20 years ago yesterday. I was a latecomer to this show despite my brother’s attempts to get me to watch it. One night in my old apartment — which was either super cold or super hot, depending on the season — I was flipping through the channels and stumbled upon a rerun — Out of Mind, Out of Sight. Coincidentally, this was the only episode I had any interest in watching, as it starred my number-one celebrity crush at the time (and now, really), Clea Duvall. I watched it, probably huddled under a blanket 0r wearing a bikini, and thought, “Okay, that’ll do it.”
Fast-forward five years or so, and my friend M was going through a really bad breakup. Her longtime girlfriend had cheated on her with someone she met on the internet, and M had picked up and moved from their life together in less than two days. A mutual guy friend, D, suggested that we start watching Buffy together as a thing to do after work. They were both single, and I was in a long-distance relationship, so it worked for us. In the beginning, he dictated which episodes we watched and didn’t, as he was the expert and could tell us which ones to skip.
Let’s pause a moment to eye roll at the patriarchy. Fuck you, The Patriarchy!
Anyway, after we skipped The Pack and it was referenced a bunch of times, I opted to ask for his DVDs so I could watch the ones he deemed unworthy. We’d burn through two or so episodes a night, and everything was great until they started dating and didn’t want their third-wheel friend along anymore. Which is a great thing to do to your friend.
Anyway, I think I ended up borrowing the DVDs from my brother so I could just watch the series on my own, because I have no time to wait for heterosexual relationships. I burned through the entire series in pretty good time, though back then I didn’t do things like keep track of how long a watch took…like I would do now.
When the box set was released, I drove all over a shopping area in Pittsburgh until I found it (at Sam’s Club, finally, I think). When I got home that night at 11:30, I watched three episodes back-to-back, super excited to finally own this series that meant so much to me. My girlfriend at the time (who I lived with) just shook her head when I told her my plan. Whatever. Maybe that’s why we aren’t together anymore. (It’s not. She was a train wreck, and I’m sure I was no prize, either.)
Anyway, that’s my Buffy origin story, but like so many of the rest of you, that was just the beginning. Yes, I loved it through my first watch, but after my second and third, it became an even bigger part of my life. Honestly, my thoughts are a bit scattered (my wife just made me Admiral Akbar cupcakes and I’m a Jessie Spano level of excited), so I’m going to go with the old bullet-point standby.
- For years (until I had Netflix), there was one episode that I never watched. It wasn’t on purpose — I think I just fell asleep and then, after I was halfway through the next one and very confused, realized my mistake. But I didn’t go back immediately because if I didn’t watch it, then it meant it wasn’t truly over. I eventually watched it, and it was…fine. It was from season 7, and let’s just say that I didn’t miss much by skipping it the first time. Just a lot of Dawn whining. OMG. You’re the Key. Who cares if you aren’t a Potential Slayer?
- For so long, Tara Maclay was maybe my favorite character. Then I did a rewatch (a little older and a little wiser) as I was listening to a Buffy podcast, and I realized she was…definitely flawed. Pre-Willow breakup, she was just Willow’s girlfriend. Very two-dimensional. However, after that breakup, oof. Amazing. I love her scenes with Spike at Buffy’s birthday (“A muscle cramp? In your pants?”), her “Unofficially?” turn on Willow after she reassures her the girl she kissed on the cheek the day before was just a friend, and the utter joy and happiness just emanating from her after she and Willow got back together. The breakup changed her for the better, and I wish we had the opportunity to see where they as a couple and individually would have gone after they got back together.
- I think my feelings about her were based a lot on her characterizations in fanfic, which is another thing that Buffy introduced me to. Before I sought out more Willow/Tara stories, I didn’t even know fanfic was a thing. And some of it is really, really amazing. Chris bought me a book that was originally fanfic for my birthday, I recently found out one of my Wynonna Earp fandom friends wrote one I remember from The Kittenboard years ago, and if by any chance the author of Neverland is reading this, can you please finish that story? Thanks. I’ve been reading it for years.
- Seeing Tara Maclay was the first time I felt like I saw myself on TV. Her relationship with Willow was, at times, the most honest, healthiest relationship on that show. You know, except for the lying and brain violating. Looking at Willow and Tara was in some ways like looking at me — gay, awkward, nerdy. But strong. Like an amazon. It’s still pretty rare to see myself represented on the shows I watch, so I still hold this one pretty close to my heart.
- And, yes, I loved Tara and she and Willow are OTP for me, but Willow and Oz’s relationship was amazing. And Oz was an awesome character…until he cheated on Willow.
- For those of you who don’t know, my father passed away when I was 26. I was prepared for Tara’s death, having been spoiled about that months before I saw Seeing Red, but Joyce’s took me by surprise, much like my dad’s. For several years, I watched The Body within a few days of his anniversary. That was one of the things that got me through it, along with a steady influx of comfort food. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of television that so accurately portrayed the loss of a parent, and I’ll always be grateful to the show for that, because as I watched it, I knew I wasn’t alone. The things I felt about his loss were justified and real and okay. It wasn’t just me. And I would get through it.
- I’m sure Marc Blucas is a nice guy, but seriously, Riley Finn is the worst. Ugh. Just like when I watch Supergirl, I feel like shouting, “You are a superhero! You can do better! You don’t need to be saved!”
- Anya is one of my favorite characters. Some random great moments — her reaction to Joyce’s death (because trust a thousand-year-old demon to have the most amazing, real response to death), her hand gestures in Once More with Feeling, her as a Charlie’s Angel, and basically just her entire character arc because it was amazing.
- A friend gave me a copy of the Once More with Feeling soundtrack, and I sat in the car listening to it instead of going in the bar we were supposed to meet our friends at. I also told my girlfriend that I wasn’t able to talk on my way there, and it was so I could listen to it. And when I say “listen to it,” I mean listen to “Under Your Spell” a bunch of times in a row. I loved that song so much, it was almost my first-dance song at my Wedding That Never Happened.
- My favorite episode is Doppelgangland. It has everything — great writing in general, both with humor and drama, sexy Vampire Willow, a massive amount of foreshadowing, and did I mention Vampire Willow? When I’m in a bad mood and want to be cheered up, it’s my go-to. (When I want to wallow in misery? The Body.) On date 1.5 with Chris, we ended up back at my house and decided to watch TV, and that was the episode I chose. Shortly after that date, because I’m so good at dating, she agreed to pick up her first watch of Buffy and finished the show. For me, basically. No big deal. (Again, I’m very lucky.)
The show Buffy made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Even though I was gay, unpopular, awkward, nerdy, and a host of other adjectives that usually aren’t positive, I wasn’t alone. The characters on that show were right there with me. Whenever I needed them, they would be there with me to laugh, to cry, to be inappropriate, to make good choices, to make bad choices, to sing, to dance, and to just be all-around amazing.
Thank you, Buffy and Joss. So much. Because this weird little show has touched this person’s life, and for that, I’m forever grateful.