I’ve watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was eleven years old. At twenty-seven, I reflect.
Thank you Willow, for showing that while society may ostracize you as a shy, socially awkward, bookish computer nerd, there’s nothing wrong with you; those are, in fact, your strengths. People who value and uphold you exist out there, somewhere, even amongst a literal hellscape. Thank you for figuring out your passions and sexuality openly and without shame; for demonstrating female friendships as the most inspirational, grounding, and empowering of all; that there’s redemption from the soul-consuming darkness of grief; that loving other women is normal, natural, okay.
Thank you Anya, for reassuring a girl who never allowed herself to display rage, who always felt out of step with expected humanity, it’s okay to be angry, bitter, and vengeful. To never reconcile centuries-long distrust of men, and never have to. To keep living after the douchebag you trusted leaves you at the altar.
Thank you Tara, that compassion and acceptance and the internal power of witchcraft are as transgressively affecting as physical strength.
Thank you Sineya, Kendra Young, Nikki Wood, and Xin Rong, for proving the saviors of the universe aren’t only white blondes.
Thank you Dawn — despite the will of the oppressors, you alone are capable of deciding your future; your body is more than someone else’s desire.
Thank you Cordelia — being the popular girl who crushes on boys and cares about prom doesn’t make you shallow, vapid, or worthless, and there’s always room, and time, to grow.
Thank you Joyce —a lesson in cherishing every moment with your mother.
Thank you Giles — a father figure who realizes the best thing for his surrogate daughter is letting her choose freely.
Thank you Faith, Darla, and Drusilla — embodying the power of societal non-conformity, embracing their goals without regard for opinion, rejecting the “good girl” image because it is neither condemnation or limitation.
Thank you Angel and Spike, for teaching me early the stereotypically pretty boys you crush on can, in an instant, become privileged, hateful, violent, and abusive. Thank you Xander and The Trio for proving even the seemingly kind male friends can be the same, and the worst of all enemies.
Thank you Buffy Anne Summers. For showing that wearing miniskirts, nail polish, and lip gloss never negates your strength. That a girl isn’t the hapless victim, but a hunter. For fearing, failing, crying, and fiercely, unrepentedly loving while simultaneously snapping off witticisms. For losing herself and running away. For refusing to run. For crumbling against unthinkable expectations. For getting up again, bruised and bloodied and fearsome.
For telling a pre-teen girl when you lack weapons, friends, and hope, all that’s left is you, and it’s enough.
For making every woman a hero — even though we already were, just without superhuman abilities. We don’t need to be Chosen according to the rules of some inexplicable preordained destiny, because we make our own. All of us are powerful. All of us are Slayers.
“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.”