A Beginner’s Guide To “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”

The show aired a long time ago, but with Joss Whedon blowing up superheroes all over the place, a whole new generation of viewers are set up to discover it. Here’s what you need to know.

1. This is Buffy Summers.

Don’t worry, her name is silly for a reason. Because even girls with names that sound like they’d be at home running a sorority house can be huge badasses.

2. She’s one of the most legendary female characters on TV. Ever.

She’s flawed, and she’s strong, and she’s weak, and she’s complicated. She’s a person. Sometimes she cracks under the pressure. But she’s got a job to do, and she gets it done.

3. She fights vampires. And demons. And other Big Bads.

She basically saves the world. A lot.

4. Her group of friends go by the nickname “The Scoobies.”

Name inspired by the crime-fighting teens of Scoobie Doo. They also save the world a lot, but they’ve got algebra tests to worry about.

Willow’s nerdy and cute. Cordelia’s sarcastic and self-centered. Oz is wise and stoic. Xander’s a Nice Guy™ and basically the Chandler of the group. Angel broods and gets a spin-off. Giles drinks tea and judges. Some stay as the years go by, some leave.

5. They live in Sunnydale, CA.

Sunnydale is a little town in Southern California that happens to be located on a Hellmouth. Hellmouths are as bad as they sound in that they’re essentially evil’s favorite hangout, which means there are a lot of demons/vampires/oogy-boogies for Buffy and her friends to fight in between homeroom and gym.

It’s a town of under 40,000 and it’s got twelve cemeteries. You do the math.

6. The show was based on a movie no one talks about.

Joss Whedon wrote it but didn’t direct it, which resulted in a whole lot of changes he didn’t like. No one really likes talking about it. Hillary Swank was in it. So was Donald Sutherland. Neither of them really like to talk about it, either.

7. The show has some of the most ambitious and interesting episodes in TV history.

No, really. This show was groundbreaking television in a lot of ways. A ton of academics have written about it. Joss Whedon and his team were terrified of getting stuck in story ruts, so they challenged themselves to do something interesting with their format whenever they could. This resulted in an episode modeled after a silent film (2/3rds of the episode is entirely without dialogue), one without music, and multiple episodes crafted entirely around dreams and foreshadowing. There’s one plot point the writers foreshadowed two whole years before the actual plot was even introduced to the characters. Not to mention….

8. It practically invented the musical episode.

Once again, not exaggerating. Ever wonder where the trend of non-musical shows taking one episode out to prance around musically started? Right here. Joss Whedon noticed that certain members of the cast were musically talented, then wrote them an episode to show it off. It works within the conceit of the show, too: Why couldn’t a world with magic and vampires and witches include a spell that makes the populace of a town burst into choreographed musical numbers? It happens.

9. People die.

Characters you love, characters you hate. I won’t tell you who. But it happens. Prepare yourself.

10. In fact, things get pretty hard for every character at one point or another.

This is a show that will make you cry if you watch it right.

11. But the show will make you laugh, too.

Whedon & Co never let the tone get too dark without cracking a joke somewhere in there. You’ll laugh just as often as you cry.

12. It also features the first lesbian relationship on network television.

It was kind of a big deal.

13. The show lasted 7 seasons, from 1997 to 2003.

And they’re a pretty rocking seven seasons. And did we mention they’re all on Netflix Instant Play?

14. So go forth, and watch Buffy!

And remember…

15. Don’t ask who Dawn is.

Just don’t. You’ll get there.

16. The Cheese Man means nothing.

(We think.)

17. And always carry a stake. Always.

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