She saved the world… a lot

Not to stray from the purpose of this blog – which let’s face it was supposed to be about my move to Boston but has instead turned into a stream of consciousness narrating the crazy within my head. And I am kind of okay with that. I’ve tried to write the touristy posts about where I’ve been and what I’ve seen around town: a Boston’s Greatest Hits, if you would. I actually had a few that I started and never finished. Sure they were fun to write but they never sounded like me… not the writer me anyway. The stream of consciousness is easier, more cathartic and, I think, much truer.

So… back to the crazy… I finally got around to reading a book that my brother had given me for Christmas. It’s called “Whedonistas! A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them.” What a fantastic idea for a book right? Imagine a bunch of women writers telling their own personal encounters and connections with Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible.  Jon-Erik, I really think you hit perfection on this gift – it will be difficult to top – way to set the bar high.

After reading all of these great perspectives on the Whedonverse, I was inspired to write my own little dedication to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Those reading this, who know me, know my deep love for Buffy. I love Buffy for so many reasons: a story with a strong female lead, vampires, angst, angst, and more angst, real life told with a bit of humor and fancy, and of course Spike.  There is no need to point out that my love for Buffy borders on obsessive. I already know this. I don’t care. Once upon a time; in a land far, far away; a land called deep depression, I sat alone in my personal, pathetic puddle unable to live in the life that surrounded me. And from the ether, Buffy reached out to save me from drowning. On a whim one day I visited a used bookstore and purchased the first season of Buffy on DVD. I was in love. Instantly. Not long after that first encounter I purchased the remaining six seasons on eBay. I was a woman possessed. I could not stop watching. With each season I became more and more engrossed.

But my real connection to Buffy came with season five. Up until this point I had always cheered for Buffy. I watched with baited breath as she took on challenge after challenge. But something was different after that first episode of season five. Buffy had just finished fighting Dracula – Sunnydale’s equivalent of a Hollywood star. In the last seconds of the episode we see Buffy getting ready to go to the movies and as she says goodbye to her mother, Joyce responds with “Why don’t you take your sister!” Flash to Buffy and a young girl in her bedroom simultaneously whining “Mooooom!” WHAT THE?!?!

Amazing! A fourteen-year-old sister has just been introduced – seemingly from nowhere (those who know Joss, know that he gave us heads up seasons ago). And I suppose that this was the catalyst for me starting to see almost every part of my life through Buffy. In this season Buffy was about 21 with a sister, Dawn, 7 years younger. My sister is eight years younger than me. As per standard programming, the main character of a show develops a love interest during the season. What amazes me is that the season was actually a love story about Buffy and her little sister. Beginning with resentment, they slowly get to know each other and rely on each other. They are rocked by tragedy depending on one another to get through it. By the end, their love is so deep that each is willing to sacrifice for the other. Buffy’s job – as stated throughout the entire season – was to protect Dawn. I consider myself the protector of my family. In those last few episodes I knew exactly how she felt about her sister. She would never let harm come to someone she loved so much; the world be damned. In the last minutes of “The Gift” Buffy imparts a piece of wisdom that should be forever regarded as fact: The hardest thing to do in this world is live in it. Be brave. Live. With that Buffy leaps off the tower into a hell dimension. She sacrifices herself to save her sister. I’ve seen it 50 million times and I still cry like a baby. Each time I am overcome with the love I have for my family and I am reminded just how far I would go for each and every one of them.

I suppose that it’s no secret why I love season six. It was such a dark season for what was considered a cotton candy comedy about vampires. Each character battled their inner demons. They were a mess. I had my own demons to wrestle. I, too, was a mess. When I watched this season I was up to my eyeballs in sadness. I knew that I was sleepwalking through my life but I didn’t know how to say it and I certainly didn’t know what to do about it. Cue “Once More With Feeling.” This episode was genius in its purest form. It was a musical and it was magical. Characters were forced to face their problems and reveal them to their friends through song. Buffy is still reeling from being brought back from the dead – from peace and light – from heaven. She is living in a world she can’t connect to. She is alone and numb. Are we catching on to the theme? For years I had felt the same way, unable to understand why I could not connect to the people and to the world. Wouldn’t it be great to be visited by this singing demon so that we would not believe that bottling these inner battles is the best way to cope?

Inner struggles can never be contained; they always come out and often with a destructive vengeance. The episode climaxes with Buffy telling everyone why she is so distant. She answers the question of why she cannot pretend to be the happy girl who is just thankful to be alive to enjoy all the wonders of the world. She admits to everyone and herself that everyday living is, for her, torturous. And we are left with the undeniable truth is that life’s pain can only be healed by getting up each day and trying to live it.

And finally in season seven, Buffy imparts one more pertinent tidbit in the story of my life. I’m cookie dough. She tells this to Angel as she prepares to fight the biggest of the big bads. I find is fascinating that she is having this seemingly innocent and silly conversation about life being a journey. She begins to understand that things aren’t perfect for her yet because she is still on her path; she’s still baking. She’s about to fight the first evil. But she’s just a girl. She’s still cookie dough. How can she be expected to take on something of that magnitude? The point is that for the first time in the series she is honest with herself. Maybe I’m not supposed to be with anyone. Perhaps that is the point. I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking yet. Forgive me I could not find a video clip of this one!

I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking. I’m not finished becoming who ever the hell it is I’m gonna turn out to be. I make it through this, and the next thing, and the next thing, and maybe one day, I turn around and realize I’m ready. I’m cookies. And then, you know, if I want someone to eat m- or enjoy warm, delicious, cookie me, then that’s fine. That’ll be then. When I’m done. 

It can be easy to say that I relate to Buffy because she’s the hero. Don’t we all picture ourselves as the hero of our own story? Well that’s not true for me. She is me because she’s a disaster. She has battled from the beginning with a duality that others cannot fully understand. She’s the chosen one and yet she is hopelessly flawed. She is selfish yet sacrificing. She’s strong enough to slay the undead but she needs someone with a strong will to take care of her. She’s a born leader yet she resents it. She is surrounded by people and still she feels alone. She’s a warrior but she’s also “just a girl.” Her inner demons are as real as the ones she fights every week. She is light and she is dark. Her answer to a looming apocalypse is “beep me.” See? She’s witty. She makes mistakes, she causes pain but she loves with everything she has.

Reading this book came a great time – with me recently being all little girl lost and all. Because it has reminded me that like Buffy, I am the hero of my own story but can be the villain as well. There are two sides to my coin. I am a little bit of light and a little bit of dark. I’m getting close but I’m not there yet. I’m still baking and I must learn to be okay with that. Because as Mariah Huehner, a fellow Whedonista, put it in the book: At the end of the day it’s a story about a complex young woman trying to navigate life and figure out who she is.

2 thoughts on “She saved the world… a lot

  1. I want to borrow this book!

    It’s so cool to hear how you connect to Buffy and to see the way those connections overlap with, parallel, differ from my own. I still remember the revelatory connection I felt while watching “Conversations with Dead People” when Buffy is told she has an inferiority complex about her superiority complex. Of course, I always want to identify with Buffy, the Chosen One, THE Slayer (and I cannot tell you how many dreams I’ve had of kicking vampire ass and saving the world), but the truth is that I find pieces of myself in each and every one of the characters.

    I actually just finished rewatching the entire series just a couple weeks ago, and I appreciate the show more than ever.

  2. That’s funny Tink. I actually just started to re-watch it… for the umpteenth time. And you will have a Buffy souvenir waiting for you when you get home!!

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