By Lindsay Patton-Carson
Since I was a youngster, I’ve always been drawn to strong, independent female characters. It started with She-Ra, Princess of Power and the eclectic Jem, and then led into Punky Brewster and Kristy from The Babysitters Club.
Once I reached adolescence, I needed someone who wasn’t a cartoon or eight years old to look up to, someone who could guide me through this confusing and awkward time.
Buffy Summers, welcome to my life
My brother was the person who introduced me to my first taste of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Of course I’d heard of the film, but I was too young (I was nearing my eighth birthday when it came out) to let the film’s campiness and overall cheese turn me off from the television show.
I remember him watching the show, me walking in and saying mockingly, “Why are you watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” Then, I sat down and was immediately pulled in. I even remember the episode. It was “When She Was Bad” and I in front of my eyes I saw this assertive, commandeering woman. She had this confidence, yet all these repressed emotions she couldn’t show because she had the daunting task of saving the world. Every. Day.
How Buffy saved my adolescence
I was 12 when Buffy premiered on the WB. I was a tomboy who only wore flannel and basketball jerseys. When Buffy came along, she kicked ass and cared about fashion and boys. While my maturity level was not quite ready to care about boys, I saw her every week and realized, “I can be feminine and still retain my credibility as a girl who can run with the boys.” She taught me that I didn’t have to show a certain exterior to prove myself; I just had to prove myself. And I did. I creamed boys and girls on the basketball court for a while during my middle school years and enjoyed playing sports in general, regardless of who I competed against.
Buffy taught me self-confidence. She knew who she was, her role in life, and it was her job to fulfill it and lead others – a job she did not take lightly. As long as I knew who I was, what I liked and what I wanted from life, nobody could stop me. Of course, all teenagers felt the need to fit in with their peers, and although I wanted acceptance, I didn’t compromise when it came to the things I wanted to do throughout high school. I tried being a drama geek for a while, participated in Toys for Tots, and was on yearbook. I tried the basketball thing for a while, but when the girls on the team made a point to cut me down and ignore me, I left them behind and joined lacrosse, which turned into a group of lovable misfits like me. I knew I deserved better as a human, as a girl-power tween, and I searched it out and found a place for myself.
When Buffy ended in 2003, it coincided with the time I graduated high school. I viewed it as a sign. Like Buffy, it was time for me to move on, for my cookie-dough self to finish baking and become cookies. I was going off to college, and while I loved her, I didn’t need her anymore. I had grown up and it was time for me to figure out life for myself.
Buffy as an adult
By the end of its run, I had seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at least once. It was a few years later before I revisited the series. I was 25, recently married and fresh into my career. Like my adolescence, I was confused about my new roles as an adult, how to be responsible and mature and what the world expected from me now that I was thrust into it. Once again, Buffy came to my rescue. Her quiet wit, wise decision making and overall confidence gave me the confidence to be a stronger woman. Watching her all over again inspired me to, in more or less words, get my shit together and figure out who I was in these confusing new adult roles.
Watching Buffy as an adult, I also found a new appreciation for the heavier themes and metaphors within the show. I started to seek out more of Creator Joss Whedon’s endeavors and realized there was a strong female empowerment theme throughout his television shows, movies and graphic novels. When he was picked to direct The Avengers, I beamed with pride for his well-earned blockbuster gig. And when the movie was released in theaters, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief that The Man didn’t stop Joss from continuing with his characters’ witty banter, enthralling storytelling and the fact that he actually made the wardrobes for his female protagonists reasonable. No heels for these ladies, they had asses to kick and a world to save.
So thank you, Joss. Thank you, Buffy. Thank you for the strong female leads that helped give teenagers like me confidence and the knowledge that we’re all a little weird.