Here I am. Again.
It’s late. I’m kinda cold. I should be working on the project that’s behind schedule, or studying for the classes I haven’t been to in so long I’m not sure what time they meet. Or doing something else the kids these days are doing. At least I’m drinking warm beer. I heard that was in these days.
But Buffy seems so appealing about now, and not just because it helps fend off the screaming anxiety attacks that hit me at two in the morning when I start to comprehend the impending end of my existence. It’s a friendly world, where all life’s troubles are simplified into metaphors. Metaphorical evil demons. Then Buffy, the slayer, comes along and kills them, and everybody gets closure. Meanwhile, everyone mopes about being an angsty teenager.
The real appeal is that the main characters are not happy. They are not rich. They are not appealing to their peers. They’re geeky and shy and uncertain. In real life, most of them are heartbreakingly gorgeous, but after a few seasons, you forget that. You like them because they persistently screw up their lives and aren’t sure what to do about it. They even look for great, secret evils to fight to take their minds off their own awkwardness. That seems like a good life. A life where you can hit things when you’re angry.
Speaking of gorgeous, yes, there’s some real sex appeal here. Personally, I’ve never been an actual Buffy lover. I like the other characters. The geeky redhead. The bad girl brunette. The lesbian lover. Okay, yes, the little sister, but only in season seven, when she’s seventeen and fills out a bit.
But the best part, by far, is that everyone who deserves it, gets it. The brutish bad boy who scares girls into sex? Killed by vampire. The snobby trust fund babies? Turned into cavemen. The vindictive principle? Eaten by a giant snake. The bullies? Beaten severely by a small, blonde girl. In fact, most of the large men in this show eventually get beaten up by Buffy. And most of the people who think they have it all wrapped in a silver-lined Prada bag get killed by demons.
Years after going to a small Maine high school, I’ve watched most of the people I didn’t like get what I thought they deserved. Watching life beat someone down isn’t as satisfying as you might think. It takes time. Years of dreaming and thinking of the future, wondering why it’s so much harder than They told you it would be. Years of days with mornings, waking up to a shitty job and an OUI. Years of nights when the drinking starts at work, ends on the floor, or talking to someone too young or too old to justify what you want to do with them, but you’ll do it anyway, if you can. Watching time go by, marking the moments with roaches and aluminum cans and speeding tickets. Prison leads to unemployment leads to prison leads to alcoholism leads to unemployment leads to prison, and a personality numbed by futility, and drugs, and beer, and an endless stretch of time leading backwards to when it wasn’t this bad. Watching life beat someone down holds hollow satisfaction. Looks good until you wonder if they bought it all with their own karma, or if they leased a little bad luck from their friends and family.
It’s much more satisfying to see them at the height of their arrogant ignorance, about to do something random and nasty to someone else when GASP! an evil demon rips out their eyeballs and bleeds them over a pentagram. And what’s even better is that in Buffy, there’s a reason. In Buffy, everyone dies for a reason. For one, in Buffy’s world, being a jerk is enough to deserve death. For another, nobody’s killed by an overdose or a car accident; they’re killed for an evil ritual, or at least for food.
And even better, existential dilemmas are pretty much off the radar. Not a lot of time to worry about the nature and name of transcendence when fighting off the forces of Hell. Not much point, for that matter; it’s safe to put questions about the existence of Heaven and Hell to bed when creatures from Hell are ordering drinks local dives.
I wonder sometimes about having a conversation with the characters from Buffy. Say they were yanked from their demon infested world, and brought to this one, free of punchable evil and impending magic apocalypse. This world, where all we have to worry about is politics gone awry and drunks on the highway. Where we actually have time to step back and wonder why we’re here and where we’re going. I wonder how they would feel if I asked them to take me back to their world. If they’d be shocked that I wanted demons I could kill. That I thought their problems were so insignificant compared to mine.
1 Guilty. Fuck you.