Every girl needs a few role models growing up, real or fictional. For us, growing up in the 90’s left our young minds impressionable with the likes of an intelligent, opinionated Blossom, a true-to-herself Tapanga, a sarcastic, monotone Daria and many more. Of course, one can’t mention 90’s female characters without mentioning Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lately, they’ve been re-airing the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, and we couldn’t help but revisit my adolescence and look back on all the lessons this hard-working, vampire-killing, funky-clothes wearing girl taught our generation.
1. Take control
How many times have we seen Buffy, geared up to go and kick some Vampire ass? A million and one. Even when the poor thing gets resurrected and has to, literally, dig her self out of her own grave, leaving her frightened, disoriented and confused, only to find herself surrounded by demons. She doesn’t go down without a fight, and gets herself together to make those demons rue the day they stepped into Sunnydale. Buffy doesn’t wait around to be saved, instead, she puts the gloves on and grabs the bull-demon by the horns.
2. Accept help when you need it
Yes, she has slayer powers, and yes her friends are not exactly Xena warrior princess and Batman, but Buffy does accept help from Willow and Xander. Sometimes they get in the way, and other times, they help save the day. The important thing is that they have Buffy’s back and she has theirs, and things always go easier when you work as a team.
3. Make time to just ‘hang out’ with your friends
The teenage Buff-ster’s life is one big juggling act. She patrols nights, killing vampires and protecting the innocent, saves the world, keeps this private life hidden from her mom (and for those of us who’ve tried to keep things from our parents, we know how stressful that can be), goes to school, does her homework, trains with her Watcher, tries to date but through it all, she still makes time to hang out with her friends. Yes they spend time together researching old spells and legends, and yes they explore graveyards, school basements and any other place with dangerous paranormal activity, but they still manage to get together at the local Bronze for a hang out, while listening to some good ol’ 90’s music. It’s important to have some down time with your friends, sharing a laugh can make the weight of the world on your shoulders seem less heavy.
4. There is always time for personal hygiene
We all have a lot on our plate, (Buffy more than most), but there is just no excuse to give up personal hygiene. In the worst exam periods of my undergrad and post-grad schooling, I myself have been known to go three (ok sometimes four) days without washing my hair. People notice. Just because they don’t say anything, doesn’t mean they don’t notice.
5. Love whomever you want
Imagine Buffy’s surprise when the she finds out the dude she’s been crushing on is a vampire. While the two try and stay away from each other, it’s no use, the heart wants what the heart wants. Of course, he is the enemy she is sworn to kill, but this is one vampire with a soul, and Buffy sees beyond his fanged killing face, leather-pants-bad-boy facade and irredeemable past to love the person inside. Who says a slayer and a vampire can’t find love in one another’s arms? Social norms be damned!
6. Its OK to be kinky
Remember when Buffy came back from the dead, and she thinks she came back ‘wrong’ because she ‘lets spike do those things to her?’ ‘Those things’ pertaining to the sexual nature. Buffy gets all freaked out and paranoid because she’s letting herself get involved with Spike, leaving her feeling perverse and ashamed. But hey, that’s ok. A little bit of kink between two consenting parties (or more, depending on what you’re into) is perfectly cool. Instead of worrying and resisting it, Buffy should have just enjoyed the ride.
7. Heartbreak doesn’t have to break you
Who could forget the moment Buffy and Angel took their love to the physical level, and shortly after Angel turns into his evil half, Angelus. Angelus goes on a killing spree, and tramples over the love that he and Buffy once shared. To say that Buffy is devastated is an understatement. But does she lay down and die? Oh no, she survives. She fights him and kills him in order to save the world, sending his ass down to hell. Life goes on even after the worst of heartaches.
8. Running from your problems won’t make them go away
Buffy, unable to handle what’s going on around her, runs away to L.A. and takes on a new identity. Of course, even there she can’t stop being ‘The Slayer’, and it becomes the same old story against a different architectural backdrop.
9. Love & believe in yourself
These two go hand-in-hand. In the series finale, the world is going to end and in the midst of all the pressure, Buffy once again finds herself face to face with love of her life, Angel. This is where Buffy gives Angel the famous ‘Cookie Dough’ speech. Although somewhat inane, it serves to get the point across: I need to figure out who I am and who I will grow up to be before I can seriously commit myself to you or anyone else. She is confident enough in herself not to go running back into his arms at the first opportunity, having no fear if he will stick around or not because first and foremost, she needs to find herself. That’s very mature of you, Buff. Of course, the world is going to end and she’s talking like there’s going to be a tomorrow. Why? Because it ain’t over till it’s over, and if we know Buffy, she never gives up. Even when the odds are against them, Buffy still has the utmost belief in herself and the Scooby gang. And it’s a good thing, because they do end up saving the world. Well played Buffy, well played.
10. Love your friends for who they are
Even when Willow began experimenting with her sexuality, Buffy stood behind her friend Willow till the end. Willow is a role model for many young girls who grew up at the margins of popular culture. One of the few and first Jewish and Bisexual characters on a mainstream television series, Willow proves that it’s ok to be different! Her evolution from a shy girl to a strong independent woman is inspiring! Buffy by her side proves that you can be the true you and your real friends will be there cheering you on.
By Gorana Tolja and Alex McLaren