Contemporary film and television offers up an abundance of female action heroes, from Natasha Romanov (a.k.a Black Widow) in the Marvel franchise, to Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games novels and films, and even Lucy Wilde in the Universal pictures cartoon comedy Despicable me 2 (2013). ‘Girl Power’ was not just about the pop culture in the 90s, it was about a feminist movement that spread rapidly across every entertainment platform: in video games like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Hollwood blockbusters like The Matrix trilogy, with Trinity having her fair share of awesome fight scenes. Viewers played games, packed out the cinemas and tuned in every week to see women getting on with some serious ass-kicking. At the turn of the decade, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) was a hugely successful show, and has been perpetually shown in re-runs long after its final episode.
Many of the action heroines we see on our screens today are arguably in some way indebted to Buffy Summers, the titular character of the American tv show Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Spawned out of a cringe-worthy film of the same name, the television spin-off was a surprise hit for creator Joss Whedon, who has since gone on to direct box office hit Avengers Assemble.
Buffy, played by petite Sarah Michelle Gellar, certainly holds her own against vampires, demons, and sometimes even her friends (see Season 6 for a surprise villain).
Alongside her destiny as the slayer, Buffy also battles the common woes of American high school, navigates complex romantic relationships, and all whilst trying to mature from rebel teen to a responsible young woman. That’s one of the greatest things about this show, the span of the series allows the characters gradual development, following them through High School, College and beyond. It was also one of the first mainstream shows to place a top-billed cast member into a gay relationship.
The love interest for our heroine Buffy comes in the early seasons from the gorgeously mysterious Angel (David Boreanaz, Bones), a sexy and brooding 100-year old vampire cursed with a soul. This forbidden love between mortal enemies inevitably results in lots of on-screen sexual tension, and a dedicated fan base for the Buffy/Angel dynamic. Sadly, at the end of season three David Boreanaz departed the show, and went on to film his own successful spin-off series in LA simply titled Angel – but fans would enjoy many cross-over episodes over the subsequent years. The third member to complete this love triangle is from a slightly more surprising source, the British villain-turned-ally Spike, also a vampire. At some point you do start to wonder if Buffy is going to get back to actually slaying the vampires rather than just sleeping with them.
The most compelling element of this show has got to be the friendships, watching them flourish, as well as overcoming the challenges based on the characters’ individual developments. Underneath all of the supernatural aspects, there is a lot here for people to relate to. With a high-school setting, teenage angst, a ‘scooby-gang’ of friendships formed of mismatched outcasts and that all important love triangle, this show really had it all. Way, way before Stephanie Meyer and Twilight came along.
If you liked Smallville or enjoy Supernatural, put Buffy The Vampire Slayer on your list of box sets to complete. You can also watch re-runs every weekday at 5pm on the Sci Fi channel, which is also home to current vampire show The Originals.