Like most children of the 90s I grew up with Buffy Summers. I cried with her, laughed with her and saved the world with her. I crushed all over Angel, and then again over Spike – but never over Riley. That guy was a douche. To my parents dismay, I wanted to be a vampire slayer. I used to run around my garden with a stick punning my little arse off, sporting a purple velvet strap-over Buffy-bag with pride and only drinking from my coveted Buffy mug (my dad accidentally smashed it a few years back and I had a small nervous breakdown). I still watch Buffy now, I still cry over it, it still has a powerful hold on me regardless of me knowing every line, every plot twist and so on. It’s kinda more than boring old nostalgia and it’s definitely more than me being a total loser, sitting around in my jammies, drinking tea, watching Buffy…
I started thinking, why? Why did I want to be something I could never be? Why did I want to live with such a bleak destiny? Why did I want to run around chasing vampires? Then it hit me like the apple hit Newton – I don’t want to be a vampire slayer.
I never wanted to be a vampire slayer. I wanted to be Buffy.
Buffy has characteristics that on the surface seem impossible, with her super strength and slender figure. Her ability to save the world and fight off things (predominantly demon men) that are massive compared to her. There is more at work here, typical Joss Whedon, putting a lot of sub-conscious processes into something that on the surface seems very simple. Buffy and her vampire slaying ways are a metaphor for something we all face, life. The evils of life. The harsh reality of life and what we need to get us through it.
This makes Buffy a role model, someone that all women can look up to and admire.
Here are my 8 reasons why little miss Summers is a perfect role model:
1) Doesn’t act like a bitch
The best thing about Buffy that all young girls should take away with them is that she isn’t a bitch. She doesn’t push people out of her clique and she doesn’t shun other women because of what they wear or how they act. This is something every girl should try out some time, as if it isn’t hard enough living in a mans world we have to deal with the sheer evilness of each other.
Buffy sticks up for Willow, she also sticks up for Cordelia and saves her life on a million occasions, despite owing her nothing – Buffy forgives and tries to help wherever she can. Girls, please. Stop being horrible and start encouraging one another, start banding together and start sticking up for one another. Take a leaf out of Buffy’s book and try to be nicer girl to your girls.
2) Doesn’t conform
Buffy is cool being Buffy, she is happy with it and doesn’t need anyone else telling her how to act. When the much-desired swim team jock tries it on with her, she punches him in the face. Buffy doesn’t need to be groped by some dude in a car, and neither do you (well unless you want to). The point is, it is absolutely okay if don’t like to do things the way people expect you to do them. You can’t run from who you are, just as Buffy cannot run from being who she is. She isn’t like the other girls. She is different.
The Watchers Council, school principals, college lecturers and even a God can’t get her to lay down and play ball their way. Buffy lives her life for her, and it’s not hurting anybody apart from the a-holes who want to hold her back. The people that often feel the most threatened by us are the ones who tell you to stop, to play things their way and to live by their rules. In some cases, this is right. In some cases this is wrong. Buffy teaches us what is right and when marching to your own drum is perfectly reasonable.
3) Is constantly underestimated
People look at Buffy and think that she is a short, blonde, petite girl. She is. The fun thing about the whole vampire slaying = metaphor for life is that sometimes people look at women and don’t see anything but that. A woman. This is played upon throughout with countless foes not recognising that Buffy is super strong. In all fairness I wouldn’t look at her and think she was some all powerful being, but looks can be deceptive. It isn’t just demons and vampires that underestimate her, humans do too.
Being underestimated doesn’t make her a role model. The way Buffy proves everyone wrong does. When people know you as a certain way or put you in a box it’s easier to start acting like it, just like Easy A. People think that Buffy is a cute girly-girl with nothing important to say and nothing important to do, and that they can push her down. Buffy proves them wrong. Don’t let other people define you with their words, let you define you with your actions, just make your actions Buffytastic!
4) Is androgynous
While Buffy does look 100% woman she has androgynous traits to her personality that make her a perfect swirly mix, she puts the ‘man’ back in woman. The first way she does that is by being the father figure in her family. Joyce is constantly looking to Buffy for support and advice, especially with the arrival of Dawn. Buffy is mother, father and sister to Dawn while being a confidant and a protective husband figure for Joyce. (Buffy is technically Dawn’s mother too, which is another blog post for another time. Feel free to ask me about it…PLEASE ASK ME ABOUT IT!!) Buffy protects both Joyce and Dawn from boyfriends, she saves her male friends on a regular basis and this is all done: ‘without even breaking a nail!’
Buffy has to deal with making men feel less masculine on a regular basis too, something that women have to be wary of. Some men don’t like women to be taller than them (I appreciate people have fetishes) because ‘short girls are cuter’ and some men don’t like girls with big muscles because ‘that’s gross on women’. All the guys had an issue with Buffy being strong and important, especially Riley – the douche! The point is that some men don’t like it when a woman does a better job than them. Nobody likes it in actual fact. If you are one of these girls that lifts weights, is a scientist that DOESN’T cry in the lab, plays football or whatever the hell it is that you do – you do it. Buffy teaches us that we all have a bit of man in us, and no thank you, we don’t need anymore.
She is the class protector with a glittery parasol, how gender bender can you be Buff-Buff?
5) Faces multiple hardships
We hear ya Buffy. Amen to that sister. Life does suck, it sucks major balls. It especially sucks for little bitty Buffy who has dealt with divorce, moving to a new area, being a vampire slayer, sacrifice, loss, dead mum, weird sister that isn’t real, dying a few times, coming back to life, shagging vampires, watching vampires kill friends, watching boyfriends kill friends, heart-wrenching relationship scenarios, break-ups, dropping out, working in a burger bar, being in debt, being alone, being totally fucked, having to look after everyone and save the world and all that stuff…phew.
She’s been doing that since she was 16 and you know what? So have we. Well, some of it. Remember the whole Joss-metaphor-for-life-thingy? Ah ok good you’re back with me.
Buffy has had some hardships and deep psychological mumbo-jumbo going on since she was a teenager and I think most girls go through this stuff. The world ended for me quite a few times when my hair went frizzy, my friends and I fell out or whatever. Until you get to like, 40, I don’t think certain stupid insignificant things, will ever not feel like the end of the world. #dramadramadrama
So many of us are having to accept responsibility where we never dreamed of before, so many girls are entering into serious relationships and having babies. So many girls are having to face things on their own without anyone to talk to, and some people have to be okay and can’t fall apart. If they fall apart then so does their world, you know?
Is Buffy a role model because she has to save the world and fight evil? Well, yes..but that’s not my point. Buffy is a role model because she keeps on facing it. Facing up to your problems is one of the hardest things anyone will ever have to do but she does it on a daily basis. Buffy fights quite literal battles with obvious evil, but life isn’t a T.V show and these battles with evil do go on behind the scenes. So get up each day and battle your demons. Fight your hardships and give them your best Buffy-pun while you’re at it!
6) Accepts her mistakes
Who doesn’t make mistakes? I mean that’s why they put erasers on pencils, right? The squeaky clean heroine isn’t usually one for making mistakes but in life, sometimes you make a mistake and it bites you on the bum two years later. Luckily in Sunnydale, Buffy’s mistakes happen in a much more rapid and linear nature.
Buffy lost it too quickly to a guy who turned against her and taunted her for it. Holla if you’ve been there girls. Seriously, we’ve all slept with a guy who didn’t deserve it. In this instance Buffy thwarts his evil plan and kicks him in the balls at the mall, then she eventually kills him to save the world. So we can sort of relate. The point is, she doesn’t make one mistake and then make a million more, she doesn’t self destruct, she doesn’t spend all day crying (she does have a little cry), she springs into action to fix that mistake.
Buffy doesn’t deal with Faith’s peer pressure too well either, she doesn’t really deal with Faith too well at times. Faith’s jealousy of Buffy pushed her towards the dark side and when Buffy wasn’t down for the ride she turned nasty. Buffy lost her grip slightly and fell victim to power and what it can do. Buffy fixed that mistake by taking moral responsibility for her actions and trying to turn Faith back towards the good side – and she’s made a few others too.
Making mistakes is good, making mistakes is human. In life we all make mistakes it’s absolutely, positively inevitable. It’s how we deal with our mistakes that help us figure out who we are and what we’re made of. Make a million mistakes if you like but jump back swinging and kicking your way into a solution, then learn from them. Yay for role model material and remember to never sleep with vampires. They are bad.
7) Faces her fears
We all remember when Buffy died for the first time, and we all remember how she wanted to quit and run away. I think we were all fairly shocked by that, were we not? She can’t just up and quit! The world can’t end! Buffy can’t die! At 16 years old that is a fairly hard blow. I don’t think I would have gone to face the master if I knew I was toast – but somehow Buffy finds the courage. Come to think of it, I guess we all have to meet the impossible at some point in our lives. It might not be going to battle a really old vampire but we have had to face our worst nightmares and somehow people manage, we want to run away but we don’t.
Buffy has to face many fears and many foes, but the worst one is herself. Buffy is confused when she finds out death is her gift and that her power comes from evil, she fears that she has an evil power and that deep down she wants death or brings death. Fear of death is fear itself. Unfortunately it is a part of life and eventually we will all die, but another fear that Buffy has to face is losing her family. When Joyce died she became vulnerable, when Dawn gets kidnapped by Glory she became vulnerable. In each situation she triumphed and became stronger for it, until she eventually saves the world!
We all face fears, we all have to endure impossible situations. Just like Buffy we face them everyday and we grow stronger for them, so don’t be so scared. Life is scary but scary is good, people find strength from fear and overcoming fear is something to be proud of.
8) She is self-reliant and totally okay with that
Being alone is cool. Being a vampire slayer kinda means that you are alone a lot, I mean she is the chosen one, the only one. Numero uno. Buffy seems okay with that, more than okay with it. She has her friends and an occasional boyfriend to help her out, she has people that stabilize her but as I’ve already discussed, boyfriends can find independence a bit daunting. People can find independence a bit daunting in another person, especially people that don’t have it. This is why people like Cordelia and Harmony dislike her – they dislike her ability to be herself.
People have this pesky knack of being unreliable sometimes. People can only do so much for you too. Buffy’s friends help her along the way but at the end of it all she is the one getting stabbed at in the above gif. Buffy’s friends didn’t get her brilliant SAT scores or get her accepted in to some great colleges. Buffy did all that in her own time, in her down time. If you can rely on you, you don’t need anyone else. Buffy doesn’t need weapons or friends or hope, she has herself and that is quite literally the most positive message to send to young girls right now. Be reliant on yourself because eventually someone will let you down. If you don’t have your own back then who else will have it? If Buffy had pinned her hopes on Angel and not on herself she would be dead right now. If Buffy had been totally reliant on Giles not getting knocked out, she would be double dead. My final Buffy point, a message that we should spread around like wildfire if possible is that we need to rely on ourselves. Other people will be there to save you but don’t bank on it, don’t put all your eggs in another persons basket! Do what Buffy does and put them in your own basket. Being alone is brilliant, don’t shy away from it, embrace yourself.
So thank you Buffy Summers, thanks for being one of the few 90s role models we can be proud of, thank you for shaping my adulthood and for pulling funny faces after you take shots.