One of the reasons people love Buffy the Vampire Slayer as much today as when it aired nearly 20 years ago is that the show perfectly blends fictional demons with real life struggles. Here are six times Buffy hit home and left me in tears.
1. When the bullied kid seriously considered suicide
Buffy’s third season includes some of television’s best hours, but one episode in particular takes the cake. In Earshot, a demon’s blood merges with the slayer’s, giving her the power to read minds. The nifty trick comes right in time, too, because one of her classmates is thinking a lot about killing people. The Scooby Gang spends much of the episode searching for the sicko who wants to take out the school, and Buffy finds him just in time with his rifle locked and loaded.
School shootings have become common — almost expected — in recent years, but the episode was especially hard to watch when it aired shortly after the Columbine shooting. The story doesn’t end there, though. When Buffy confronts Jonathan, the shooter, she finds out he wasn’t going to shoot the students. He was going to shoot himself.
2. When no one could explain why people die
Joyce Summers, the one and only Slayer’s mom, was the loving and supportive but concerned parent many of us wish we had. When death took her in The Body, Anya really lost it for a minute. She was once immortal and had no one she cared about, no one she could lose. Joyce died, and Anya lost the closest thing she had to a living mother but couldn’t understand death. Here’s her reaction:
3. When Tara’s friends basically adopted her
In Family, Tara’s father tries to blackmail her into coming home to their woman-hating family. He convinces her that she’s a demon (“like her mother”), and she almost leaves Sunnydale for good. It’s up to Buffy and friends to save the day… again… but this time without fighting.
Tara felt like the outcast of the group since meeting Buffy. What happened when her father confronted the Scooby Gang about Tara’s alleged dark side made every viewer feel like part of the family.
4. When Spike’s attempt to make Buffy admit she loves him became something… else…
One of the most earth-shattering moments in Buffy happens in Seeing Red. Spike walks into the bathroom while Buffy, wearing only a bathrobe, is about to take a shower. He tells her he asked Anya for a spell to make his feelings for Buffy go away. As their conversation unfolds, Spike’s certainty that Buffy reciprocates his feelings grows. He grabs her by the waist and pulls her close, but she tries to push him off.
The big problem with what happens next is there’s no good explanation for it.
Buffy isn’t using her Slayer strength, so Spike thinks she’s playing along or just needs extra persuading. When she slips and cracks her back on the tub, Spike doesn’t hear the crack. Eventually, he tosses her to the floor, face down, and gets on top of her. She tries to get away, he stops her. He tells her “I’m going to make you feel it.” She still does not use her Slayer strength until he tries to open her robe.
The scene looks like an attempted rape, until Spike realizes what happened. When Buffy kicks him off, she stands up in tears. He’s initially shocked that she kicked him, then terrified when he sees her tears. He looks down to the floor, trying to make sense of what just happened. Then it hits him.
What makes this scene so realistic is how it made the audience feel. There was shock that such a beloved character would do something so dark (even though he’s a soulless vampire who has done worse). There was confusion as to why Buffy really thought Spike would have raped her. And there were victims of sexual abuse who might have had to relive their experience because of the scene. There were fans who never wanted to see Spike again.
No matter your perspective on the scene, you’d be lying — or possibly a psychopath — if you said you remained completely unmoved when you saw it.
5. When love was the only magic powerful enough to save Willow from addiction
It’s the subject of almost every iconic song in the history of music. It’s the reason two very different people can spend their whole lives together. It’s what we’re promised at birth but long for as adults. It’s love. In Grave, Willow needed love more than anyone in the world. She just lost her soulmate, was battling an addiction to magic, and — oh, shit — ripped a guy’s skin right from his body.
When she thought she couldn’t take the pain any longer, she devised a plot to end the world. She would’ve succeeded, too, if Xander hadn’t saved the day. Without magic, super strength, or a Slayer to save him, Xander risked his immediate death by facing Dark Willow just before her planned destruction. His only weapon: love.
If you’ve ever felt like you were missing out on love — from a partner, a mother, a father, or a friend — this scene hits like a baseball bat. Watch below.
6. When someone finally said “thank you”
When you’re the Slayer, thank you’s are hard to come by. Sure, you save the world a lot, but no one’s allowed to know. After three years in Sunnydale, Buffy finally received the recognition she deserved when her classmates crowned her “Class Protector” in The Prom.
I can’t tell you how many times growing up I’d accomplish something my family had never seen before and feel like no one really cared. By the third season of Buffy, I related to the characters so much that an award for Buffy was an award for me, too.
These are just a few of the times Buffy was too real for a show about demons and witchcraft. Did we even mention when Buffy lost her virginity and then her man within a couple hours of each other?
Leave a comment below with a time the show hit deep, or join our upcoming event and let’s talk about it in person!
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