Why ‘Buffy’ is a show worth watching

By Emily Mias

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Joseph “Joss” Whedon has been gaining notoriety lately as the superstar director of Marvel’s resurging superhero franchise. After “The Avengers,” the public took note of Whedon’s screenwriting and directing styles, as well as his unique ability to mix humor and sincerity; drama and silliness; and romance and slap-stick. Though “The Avengers” is obviously considered his most successful project – especially in terms of dollar signs – some of Whedon’s older shows have created cult followings devoted to his work for years. Whedon’s hit “Firefly,” which began airing in 2002, is one such example.

One of Whedon’s most famous creations is “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Not the movie (we don’t talk about the movie), but the elegantly scripted and totally ’90s drama laced with humor, romance, pain and some seriously lame puns that are impossible to stop quoting. True Buffy fans know every episode by their official titles, often recite dialogue lines at random and have memorized the actors’ IMDB histories.

Dedication like that doesn’t come with watching any television show, but from consuming a level of art that resonates with its audience and doesn’t leave.

“Buffy” originally aired on the WB Television Network as a mid-season replacement for the failed TV show “Savannah.” Now, however, it has been hailed as a cult classic and hit No. 41 on TV Guide’s well-known list of the “50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.” It is also available to watch in full on Netflix. I know. It’s your lucky day.

As with Whedon’s other works, it was the combination of humor and seriousness that took “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” above and beyond the standard television drama. And although Whedon is definitely known for his stellar writing, it wasn’t just the quirky dialogue that brought the show fame.

In fact, an episode from Season 4 was written specifically in response to criticism that the dialogue was what drove the show. According to Entertainment Weekly, “Hush” was “the only one of Buffy’s episodes to be nominated for an Emmy in the “Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series” category. Whedon told Entertainment Weekly that, the episode’s “most powerful moments featured barely a single word of dialogue.”
That’s right – the majority of the episode was spent in silence because of sound-snatching demons. No one could speak for the entire episode, which resulted in some amazing acting. An additional result was that Whedon received some well-deserved recognition for his screenwriting, which remained solid without relying on dialogue.

There comes a point in time when you realize that the show you’re watching is one of your favorites. It takes a specific type of episode to bring about this kind of realization. It’s the one where the writers take everything you’ve previously known about the show and either bring it to its climax or turn it upside down. Halfway through the second season of “Buffy,” Whedon did just that – took everything we had come to know in the first season and beginning of the second, turned it on its head and made you realize that anything could happen.

On some TV shows, the same things happen week after week, and the characters never seem to develop. With “Buffy,” however, you grow with the characters, and their pain becomes your pain. Even the settings become familiar. The show is set in the town of Sunnydale (which is only one realm of the Buffyverse) and by the end of the series, you feel as if you could draw the town’s map. It’s that engrossing.

It’s only after you’ve watched the series for the second and third (or fourth, or fifth … ) time that you begin to realize the depth of the intricate planning and foreshadowing that went into conceptualizing the entire series. You don’t have to be an English major to notice the underlying themes and symbols sprinkled throughout Buffy’s life. There are lessons around every corner: value the ones you love; never give up; don’t trust a demon.

There is so much trash on television right now, which some people might spend hours upon hours consuming until you’re borderline brain-dead. Come on, there are reality TV shows about people who are famous for being on other reality TV shows. But, as Whedon exemplifies so well, there are indeed writers and directors who are still dedicated to creating television shows that will resonate with audiences for years after they’ve gone off the air.

And if you’re going to sit in front of a laptop or television screen, why would you want that time to be pointless?

You want it to be well spent. That’s why “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is a television show worth watching: by the end of it, you’ve grown as a person. It will bring you both laughs and tears. In the future, you might be presented with a problem and think, “What would Buffy do?”

With recent events and finals approaching, sometimes it’s important to remember to take a break from the crazy real world and get your brain churning about something else. Why not let that be something with heart, soul and wit? Why not let it be something with a lesson? Why not enter the Buffyverse? You won’t want to leave.

Emily Mias is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]