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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20 Years On

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This year marks the 20th anniversary of the iconic super natural drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which continues to be respected as one of the best American TV shows to date. Vampires, demons, werewolves, witches, monsters – Buffy had it all! Seven series of exhilarating battles, evolving romances and emotional drama escalated Buffy’s fan base to new heights and set the benchmark for future projects based on the undead. Buffy’s fan base has undoubtedly lived longer than any vampire and will continue to celebrate many anniversaries in the future, but what ingredients did Joss Whedon’s masterpiece include to make it one of the most loved shows ever made?

A wide range of elements are needed to create a TV series that grips an audience, and this is especially difficult to achieve over seven seasons. Buffy (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) delivered endless excitement with acrobatic fighting sequences that, most of the time, concluded with the enemy dispersing into a cloud of dust. The authoritarian dominance and threatening persona of the female slayer sees Sarah Michelle Gellar tackle a masculine role whilst still performing with beauty and elegance. The endless stream of demonic villains that she encountered and defeated made each episode a unique battle, and continuously raised the taboo question of whether Buffy could ever be defeated. Terrifying villains such as The Master, Darla and the Ubervamps are just a few of the menacing figures that brought drama and fear to the town of Sunnydale, whilst simultaneously bringing their eeriness towards the viewers at home. Action-packed drama was an important element of success for the series, whether it was a heated feud among friends or a one-on-one tussle with visitors from the underworld.

What ingredients did Joss Whedon’s masterpiece include to make it one of the most loved shows ever made?

A favourable sub-category among Buffy fanatics was the progression of romantic relationships that delivered heart-staking emotion. The most notable of these was the never-ending love triangle between Buffy, Spike (James Marsters) and Angel (David Boreanaz) which saw an iconic battle between blood-sucking vampires over who gets to love the slayer. Spike, with his renowned combed blonde hair and wavering black leather coat, complimented the show with his sarcastic wit and inter-changeable roles from villain to hero. His hot and cold relationship with Buffy was an enticing storyline that maintained its spark throughout the show’s duration by bringing awkward but passionate romance.

Some of the show’s cast. Credit: Patrick Lee, Wikimedia Commons

The character of Willow (Alyson Hannigan) was extremely important in promoting the importance of relationships in the series by dabbling in numerous exchanges with Xander (Nicholas Brendon), Oz (Seth Green) and lesbian partner Tara (Amber Benson). The latter relationship has been labelled as ‘ground-breaking’ for it was one of the first major lesbian pairings to air on network television and proves Buffy is remembered for its moral messages as well as its magnetizing narratives.

Buffy is unique not only for its storylines, but for its advanced technological graphics and versatile production. Scrunched up expressions and piercing yellow eyes decorated the face of vampires, to create a realistic but menacing creature in relation to the character’s mortal version. The impressive make-up and cinematic effects used in every episode generates a high-quality spectacle that is still enthralling to this day. A major reason why Buffy is watched by many today is because of how advanced it was at the time of its release in 1997, meaning each series still possesses the rare power to capture an audience time and time again.

Each series still possesses the rare power to capture an audience time and time again.

Linking to the show’s versatility, the humorous undertones allow the series to toe the line of the comedy genre, as Xander delivers a cheesy, comedic role that embraces similar mannerisms to Chandler from Friends. Generally hilarious episodes include a demon compelling Buffy and her friends to sing with a musical flair or a creepy entity who removes everyone’s ability to speak, creating a rather silent episode with only 17 out of 44 minutes including dialogue.

20 years on, it is clear Buffy and ‘the Scooby Gang’ still entertain their fans with their world-saving escapades and comical discussions. But what’s important is the show’s influence on the television industry, as Buffy promoted the popularity of vampires and demons and contributed massively to a fantasy world that reoccurs on our screens today, both at home and in cinemas. The franchise still breathes life in the form of comic books which continues to allow enthusiasts to escape to Sunnydale, but it will be the legacy of the television series that, like most of its characters, will never die.

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