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15 Times Buffy The Vampire Slayer Touched On Very Real Topics

Forget the after school specials - these life lessons come straight from the Chosen One.

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Contrary to popular belief, Buffy's not all scary monsters and bad CGI. Through the vampires, demons and werewolves, the show reached out to its audience and touched on something much, much scarier - real life.

*Caution* Spoilers ahead.

1. Toxic Relationships and Rape


Many nostalgic Buffy fans will recall the dramatic and often overwrought Buffy/Angel romance, but what they may not remember is the sinister relationship that followed. At first lighthearted and goofy, Buffy and Spike's relationship soon became anything but. From Spike's "friendly" stalking to his ultimate attempt at rape, the relationship told a story about the warning signs in a toxic relationship and the dangerous potential of one that goes unchecked.

Notable episodes: "Seeing Red", "Doublemeat Palace"

2. Drug Addiction


Willow went through some stuff, guys. After being introduced to "magic" by former rat and current witch Amy, she proceeds to slowly but surely head down a dangerous path of "magic" use and addiction. Most notably, Willow visits Rack, a notorious warlock with the power to inflict intense magic on his clientele (read: acid trip). Willow then crashes a car and goes into full withdrawal, with symptoms suspiciously mirroring those of a heroin addict. For the rest of the show, she is barred from using magic (once an addict, always an addict) until Tara dies and then, well we all know how that ended up.

Notable episodes: "Wrecked" and "Seeing Red", among others.

3. Suicide and School Shootings


Yes, I'm talking about "Earshot". Buffy inherits the gift of telepathy and overhears a mysterious voice threatening to kill all of the students at Sunnydale High. The Scoobies track down the voice only to find Jonathan, the school bully-magnet, hiding in the bell tower with a high powered rifle. Turns out, Jonathan was actually planning to kill himself. This episode speaks to the often horrific consequences of bullying as well as the very real fear of school shootings. "Earshot" was set to air just five months after the Columbine massacre and was postponed for obvious reasons.

Notable episode: "Earshot"

4. Cultural Tension between Americans and Native Americans


Remember "Pangs"? This Thanksgiving-themed episode featured the vengeful spirit of a member of the Chumash tribe and his plot to seek revenge against the white settlers who stole his land. The episode has faced significant controversy due to its portrayal of Native Americans and has Willow and Giles butting heads over the political ramifications of killing their attacker throughout.

Notable episode: "Pangs"

5. Homelessness


After fleeing a turbulent past with Angel, Buffy starts a new life in L.A. under the pseudonym "Anne" (her middle name). Working as a waitress, she comes cross a homeless couple, Lily and Rickie. When Rickie disappears uncharacteristically, Lily seeks Buffy's help to find him. Turns out that the homeless youth, who were kidnapped in the first place because no one will notice that they are gone, have been taken to a hell dimension and trained to forget their identity and answer "I'm no one" instead. While the episode's spin into the underworld doesn't exactly hit home, its message about society's value on homeless people sure does.

Notable episode: "Anne"

6. Self Harm


Buffy's kid sister Dawn comes into the picture late and confuses everyone for a while before she is revealed to be "The Key" to unlock all dimensions and unleash hell on earth (you know, typical teenager stuff) . When Dawn finds all of this out, she reacts by cutting her wrists and asking where her place is in the world, sobbing "am I real?". While her circumstances may not be commonplace, her pain and destructive coping methods undoubtedly are.

Notable episode: "Blood Ties"

7. Dangers of Online Dating


In "I Robot...You Jane", Willow is sucked into a whirlwind romance with her online boyfriend, Malcolm. Despite her friends' trepidation, Willow is vehement that her love is real until whoops, Malcolm turns out to be an evil robot demon. This episode aired right about the same time that kids were starting to use chatrooms and speaks to the naiveté of youth and the ease with which a predator can take advantage of it.

Notable episode: "I Robot...You Jane"

8. Fraternity Date Rape Culture


After being dragged to a frat party by an overzealous Cordelia, Buffy is charmed by a handsome older boy, who proceeds to roofie them both. The college rapist then flirts with the idea of taking advantage before his friend scolds him, but only because he wants to use her as a human sacrifice. The episode is still quite topical given the continuing issue with college date rape and the media coverage surrounding it.

Notable episode: "Reptile Boy"

9. Coming Out


A second place in the show where Willow's magic serves as a metaphor is in her relationship with Tara. These two are always off "doing magic" with each other, a thinly veiled cover-up for their budding relationship. There's even a scene where the "magic" involves Willow going down on Tara! This isn't the first time that Buffy addressed the process of coming out either, as demonstrated by high school bully Larry coming out to Xander in season 2.

Notable episodes: "Phases", all of seasons 4-6.

10. Witch Hunts


In "Gingerbread", Buffy's mother finds two murdered children and goes off on a mission to take back Sunnydale through her group "Mothers Opposed to the Occult", otherwise known as MOO. The group spirals out of control, with Buffy and Willow's own parents willing to burn them at the stake for their occult affiliations. As funny as the episode is, it also highlights the very serious consequences that can come out of assumption, as demonstrated by the Salem Witch Trials or more recently, the West Memphis Three case.

Notable episode: "Gingerbread"

11. Virginity and Male Deception


Buffy falls for Angel, a vampire with a soul and one easy shortcut to becoming his evil self again: a moment of true happiness. Buffy loses her virginity to Angel, turns him evil and he terrorizes her and all of her friends and family. While the story is a bit extreme for most, it very closely resembles the experiences of many immature teenage girls who lose it too young:

Step 1. Fall for romantic older guy.

Step 2. Lose virginity.

Step 3: Romantic guy not so romantic anymore.

Notable episodes: "Surprise" and "Innocence"

12. Death of a Parent


Most. heartbreaking. episode. ever. Buffy comes home to find that her mother has passed away from a brain aneurysm. This episode not only targets the feelings of shock, panic and depression that come with the loss of a parent but also those of her closest friends as they learn to cope alongside her.

Notable episode: "The Body"

13. Military Corruption


Riley, the most forgettable of Buffy's boyfriends, works for The Initiative, a covert government facility and home to sadistic military experiments on demons. Blindly loyal to The Initiative and its taskmaster, Riley is implanted with a chip that controls his every move, sensationalizing the fear of government control and military power that lies under the surface of our society's collective unconscious.

Notable episodes: "The Initiative", among others.

14. Domestic Abuse


Buffy tackles the topic of abusive relationships in a number of episodes, most notably "Beauty and the Beasts", wherein her friends Debbie and Pete, a seemingly normal couple, are secretly engaged in an abusive relationship whereby Pete transforms into a demon and beats on Debbie. The issue is also addressed in "I Only Have Eyes For You", with the story of a Sunnydale High student who shoots the teacher he's dating in an attempt to stop her from leaving him.

Notable episodes: "Beauty and the Beasts" and "I Only Have Eyes for You"

15. Evils of the Fast Food Industry


Wracked with debt after her mother's passing, Buffy is forced to take a job at local fast food joint "Doublemeat Palace". Although we can be fairly certain that elderly customers aren't demons in disguise as this episode dictates, the story does tell some (exaggerated) truths with the monotonous, brainwashed manner of the employees and the sneaking suspicion that the hamburgers are made from people (just kidding, that last part isn't true... we hope.)

Notable episodes: "Doublemeat Palace"

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