Twenty years ago today, Sarah Michelle Geller first starred in the role she would be synonymous with- the eponymous Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Comprising of one-hundred-and-forty-four episodes across seven series, Buffy changed the game forever for television, reintroducing long-arc serials and revolutionizing the themes which could be explored in young adult and teenage sci-fi and drama.
As a slayer, Summers found herself working alongside and training with the Watcher to continue the legacy of being the latest in a long line of young female ‘Vampire Slayers’ tasked with killing Nosferatu and co. Unlike those that came before her, Buffy realises she can’t accomplish this task alone, and surrounds herself with a group of close friends and alliances including Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), who obtain the loving moniker of the ‘Scooby Gang’- after the infamous animated detective series.
Buffy was a groundbreaking supernatural sci-fi horror project at the time for Joss Whedon, and is arguably his first major success in television. When it first aired, it used to peak between four and six million views for episodes, which is massive amount for a smaller network like WB Television. Even nowadays, re-runs in channels like Scy-Fy are very common, and very welcome. Buffy is a rare phenomenon in television because although it enjoyed major popularity when it first aired, it has arguably gone on to become even bigger.
The Vampire Slayer‘s cult status can be understood when you compare how many shows have paid homage to it, through pastiche, parody or reference. It has even spawned academia and study into the development of the series and Geller’s heroine. This is of course in addition to the insane and numerous amount of fan memorabilia, which includes video-games, merchandise, comics. The Buffyverse is absolutely huge, and spawned a spin-off, Angel after the success of the fourth series.
What perhaps most resonates in the show is the sense of purpose and self-actualization which Geller’s character shows throughout. She really evolves and grows throughout the series, understanding her role as the sole Slayer on earth, and realizing that she cannot protect everyone despite what she might want to do. There is little surprise that Geller was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Series-Drama in 2001.
Ultimately, Buffy the Vampire Slayer will always have a genuine cult popularity, as being influential to the golden era of television, and influenced other modern popular sci-fi and horror phenomenon, including SAW, Doctor Who and Torchwood. Showrunner for Who, Russell T. Davies has frequently praised it, saying: ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer showed the whole world, and an entire sprawling industry, that writing monsters and demons and end-of-the world is not hack-work, it can challenge the best. Joss Whedon raised the bar for every writer—not just genre/niche writers, but every single one of us.’ Whedon himself has also gone on to continue to have an amazing writing career in television, and is now heavily involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Remind yourself of the most memorable moments of this amazing show below: