Teenage Kicks

Buffy Summers is the Chosen One: a girl destined to slay vampires. That’s the easy bit; it’s High School that’s the problem… Mark Wyman explores the joys of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
selected from Xposé Special #05

Sarah Michelle Gellar as BuffyJust eighteen months ago, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was no more than a fairly insignificant movie; albeit one with a respectable shelf-life on video and a title just catchy enough to be remembered. Released in 1992, the film had earned an unimpressive $16 million in box-office. Then, in March 1997 the WB network premiered a TV series based on the film.

Well, Buffy, look at you now. This September a whole salvo of activity backs up the return of what is, by now, a well-established TV hit for the WB. A trio of double-episode tapes, culled from the first series, is being released on video. The début issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Official Magazine goes on sale. A Buffy comic book series is launched by Dark Horse publications. Yet all of this is mere curtain-raising for the eagerly-awaited US premiere of season three of the TV series on September 29th. Given the dramatic cliffhanger at the end of the last season anything could happen next.

So what in the name of the Hellmouth has been going on? Here’s a brief recap of the series’ basic mythology, should you need it. Vampires, demons, forces of darkness: they’re all real, and far older than human civilization. In every generation, one girl is born to be the vampires’ mortal enemy, and one man will act as her tutor and trainer. She is the Slayer, and he is the Watcher, and they should be operating in secrecy.

So who is this superhero? Buffy could be a series about muscular, centuries-old warriors who venture from their futuristic lair only to confront evil, joyfully fulfilling their duty. That sounds cool, right? For about six weeks, anyway. Or she could be a rich heiress, with an eccentric mansion near a gothic metropolis, disguising herself to battle gaudily-costumed villains. But this is no gender-reversing Batgirl either. Thankfully, Joss Whedon’s creation is more intelligent and dramatic than the typical comic-book hero’s double-life.

The best Buffy lines in the world... so far

Giles: If your identity as a Slayer is revealed, it could put you and all those around you in grave danger.
Buffy: Well, in that case, I won’t wear my button that says, ‘I’m a Slayer, ask me how.’

Master: You’re dead!
Buffy: I may be dead, but I’m still pretty. Which is more than I can say for you.
Master: You were destined to die. It was written!
Buffy: What can I say? I flunked the written.

Buffy: Welcome to the mystery that is men. I think it goes something like, ‘They grow body hair, they lose all ability to tell you what they really want.’
Willow: That doesn’t seem like a fair trade.

Buffy: One day, I’m gonna live in a town where evil curses are just generally ruled out without even saying.

For more about Buffy, Angel and the Slayerettes, see Shivers

Buffy Summers
Some Slayers are born to fulfil their duty, and schooled in isolation accordingly. Not so Buffy, who continually struggles to combine a normal high-school student’s life with her destined role: to rid the world of vampires. In short, she is a trained killer of the inhuman who craves a normal life. By a cruel irony, the boy she found most cute, Angel, was a reformed vampire who helped withstand his former fellows’ assaults, but whose subsequent reversion to evil has caused so much grief.

Although she has no superhuman powers, Buffy is immensely strong and athletic for her size, and a master of all kinds of weaponry. She is also adept at thinking through new problems. However, Buffy’s poor school record (tainted by a fire at her old school in Los Angeles she caused while slaying) puts her under constant threat of punishment from her mother, or Sunnydale High’s rather strange Principal Snyder.

Buffy sometimes complains about maintaining night-time vigils – the frequency of new vampires arising from Sunnydale’s cemeteries requires much secret nocturnal work– but is astonishingly fearless. Buffy can face all manner of death-threats, demons, and terrifying creatures. She often kicks and stabs her way out of trouble with a disarming nonchalance. But the nightmarish notion that her estranged father’s weekend visits will cease, and that he will blame her for the break-up of her parents’ marriage, can reduce the toughest girl of her generation to tears. Buffy is not always respectful of authority, but was very mature when Giles attempted to fight a revived demon without her help.

Get the full set of profiles and choice lines for Buffy's six leading characters in the Xposé Special