Five episodes that prove that Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) has withstood the test of time and is still relevant today.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran between 1997 to 2003 and followed teen girl and vampire slayer Buffy Summers across seven seasons as she battles the forces of darkness and many classic teenage issues. 

BtVS was a revolutionary piece of teen media because it was the first mainstream show to tackle things like the hardships of coming out, losing your virginity, dealing with grief, and being a young woman in a man’s world through the lense of gruesome monster slaying. And that is, primarily, the reason why I think that the show is still so relevant today. Its unique perspective on growing pains allows the show to be just as shocking and awe-inspiring as it was when it was first released despite the fact that the special effects have long since become outdated and seem frankly bad.  

Season 2 Episode 14 ‘Innocence’ 

In this episode Buffy’s boyfriend loses his soul and becomes a bloodthirsty killer in a matter of minutes after they have sex for the first time. This is a way to use the supernatural as a metaphor for young girls having their innocence preyed upon and being used for sex. It is a clever warning for the audience of teenaged girls about being cautious and ensuring that you really know somebody before you let them know you so intimately. This makes the episode an important lesson that should continue to be shared; in fact, the lesson may be even more relevant to today’s young teens due to the rise of revenge porn through social media. 

Season 2 Episode 22 ‘Becoming – part 2’ 

This episode concludes season two of the show and contains an incredibly emotive scene in which Buffy’s mother – Joyce – reacts negatively to Buffy ‘coming out’ as a vampire slayer. The scene plays out using many cliches of unaccepting and homophobic parents and ends with Joyce telling Buffy that if she leaves the house to go and fight then she shouldn’t even think about returning. The scene is incredibly powerful for queer viewers of the show – of which there are many – because it resonates with the inherent fear of rejection that plagues both young and old queer people as we fight for the right to be accepted and treated with respect.  

Season 3 Episode 12 ‘Helpless’ 

Being a vampire slayer grants Buffy certain powers for battling the forces of evil. However, in this episode the loss of these powers is chemically induced in Buffy by someone she trusts. When she becomes helpless it allows the episode to shine a light on how terrifying it can be to be a young woman in this world as Buffy experiences violent catcalling and also realises she cannot fight back against a friend’s abusive boyfriend. But on another level, it can also be viewed as a metaphor for rape – she has her power taken away from her by someone she trusts drugging her. To me that sounds awfully similar to many cases of rape and since these kinds of instances of misogyny are still terrifyingly prevalent today it means that the episode resonates strongly with women whether they watched the show when it first came out in the nineties or just last week on Disney+. 

Season 5 Episode 6 ‘Family’ 

In this episode lesbian character Tara is supported by Buffy and the rest of their friends in rejecting her tyrannical and bigoted father. Her father has been telling her, and all her female family members, that they are cursed to become demons in order to scare her into returning to the family home and becoming submissive. However, the group discovers that this has all been a nefarious plot dating back generations to control the women of the family. Not only is Tara’s father blatantly misogynistic but the concept of becoming a demon is a metaphor for Tara becoming an out and proud lesbian. Therefore, her ability to reject her bigoted father is a powerful message to young queer viewers of the show that it is possible and absolutely okay to move away from people who do not accept your identity and instead find those who do. 

Season 5 Episode 16 ‘The Body’ 

This is the episode in which Buffy’s mother dies. In comparison with the others, this episode takes a sharp turn away from how the supernatural is used as a metaphor for serious topics and instead focuses on how Buffy cannot use her supernatural skills to fight death. Death is human. The episode is widely considered to be one of the best and most hard-hitting episodes in the show’s run because of how human it is. It shows the audience that no matter how powerful you may feel nothing can prepare you for death and none of us can stop it. This particular pill is very hard for Buffy to swallow. The episode is also favoured amongst fans because of Anya’s monologue – Anya is an ex-demon and one of Buffy’s friends who helps her to battle evil. Because Anya is new to being a human her monologue is brutal to watch as it voices her first time truly recognising her own and her loves ones’ fragile humanity in an incredibly blunt and therefore heart-wrenchingly relatable way. The raw truth of this speech and the power of Buffy’s grief is timeless. We will always be human, and we will always experience death and grief.  

In the end…

I have to say that the fact that I – a teenager in 2023 – love and relate to this show so much truly demonstrates just how relevant the show has remained, and I can vouch for the fact that the fanbase also remains alive and welcoming. The show is especially held dear by the queer community because of the powerful writing in ‘Becoming – part 2’, ‘Family’, and other episodes that didn’t make this top five list, as well as Tara and Willow’s prominent lesbian storyline which provided ground-breaking queer representation when it first aired in 2000. Ultimately, even though BtVS is sometimes painfully nineties with the fashion and CGI, its lessons are still relevant to the queer community, women, and teenagers today, on top of it simply being an enjoyable, action-packed fantasy TV show. 

Sylvia Wild
Year 12
King Alfred’s,Wantage

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