Back when Buffy the Vampire Slayer first stumbled onto televisions in 1997, it was never expected to be the cult classic it became. While many claimed it was the titular character’s appeal, I found myself as a teenager more fascinated in the friendships. Why, you ask?
The first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was all about establishing not just Buffy Summers but the reasons she came into Sunnydale, the difficulty of fitting in and the people and peers surrounding her as she sorted through this new life of hers. The show set itself up to be a story about Buffy, for obvious reasons, but I was never really as interested in the life of the Slayer as much as the cast of characters that comprised her everyday life. Heck, even Joyce had some moments where I found myself nodding along and hoping she could just get a second of truth-talk from her bewildering teen daughter. At this time of my life, I had a lot going on. We all did, right? We were navigating our own tumultuous hormones which was complex enough when you added Middle School and High School into the equation. Watching Buffy became a welcome reprieve from the cliques and chaos of my own school and friend circles and let me focus up on how Buffy and her squad of friends handled each other.
Right from the jump, Buffy was being lovingly yet stealthily pursued by Xander Harris. Xander was sold to us as a geeky kind of fella even though he was adorable and would’ve been snatched up by the girls in my school without a moment of hesitation. However, the people at his school mostly cast him aside and so he hung with his childhood pal Willow Rosenberg. Now, Willow was far more believable as the shrinking violet with a quick-wit and open-heart that she was meant to be. She would pat Xander’s shoulder as he attempted to slide-dive into the attentions of the prettiest and most popular girls at Sunnydale High, even though she had a love and fondness for him that exceeded their BFF status. You watched their interaction and you just got it, you know? When Buffy was approached by these two, she quickly picked up on Willow’s charming almost Linus-From-Peanuts like shrugging happiness and latched on rather quick. Their friendship was always so fascinating to me. Willow was eager to help, adoring but not so much that she couldn’t help Xander pump his brakes and focus on friendship as well. Buffy was always playing it pretty cool and sometimes almost distant when it came to the problems of her friends, what with her whole have to save the world schtick. It was alright though, because Willow played Den Mother to the gang that, slowly but surely, was being built.
At first, we had Willow, Xander and Giles (the ever faithful Watcher) and alongside Buffy they made up the Scoobies aka: The Scooby Gang. Little by little, information would leak out because nobody in Sunnydale can keep their traps shut in crisis and that gang started to pick up speed. Be it other adults, other vampires, more teenagers who were very ill-prepared and even sisters who were previously never mentioned: the Scoobies were growing fast. Every time a new person would inevitably become a part of their inner-circle, I found myself loving their presence the same. There’s a camaraderie that slowly starts to build up inside of you, especially me as a teenager, when you watch people face adversities together and not only take the stressful supernatural level line items to each other but also the real-world-regular-stuff like love, growing up and sometimes even death. When you watch these folks not just disband when their hard work is done but stick together for a touch of everything, you realize that is the ultimate goal.
When I was younger, I remember watching Buffy and eventually seeing her as almost the hindrance to the mechanism because she fought so desperately against the people who were there to help her. Sure, we applauded her then for being strong and stoic (at times) because we thought that was the peak of a feminist hero. She had flaws though, which I used to think detracted from the show and her character in general until I was able to see it as, well, realistic. Of course Buffy Summers was a tough girl but she didn’t ask to be and she didn’t dive into this adventure on her own but she was tasked with it from birth. She whinged on and complained often but, where I saw that once as petulant, I learned while raising my own teenager that it’s really very human. Heck, even Angel (her ridiculously old broody-vampire-become-boyfriend) references it in an endearing way at one point telling her that he loves her because she’s so very Human.
I used to look at those things and then look at her friends. There was a veritable smorgasbord comprised of quite the cast of characters. Of course, the motherly friend who dove in to help no matter the cost to her own life and future. You had the brazen pal who had been through his lust of her only to now love her as family and the Watcher who would become a Father figure when she needed it most. Sure, you saw other figures traipse into Buffy’s life with romances fading in and fading out with the change of literal show seasons, but the love that came from the original Scooby Gang taught me so much about people and friendship in general. It taught me that friendship cannot be equated to any one real concept but actually a host of them.
As a teenager, Buffy the Vampire Slayer showed me that your life can still be yours but if you open it up to those willing to be alongside you, it can only be made better. As an adult, I learned that you don’t stumble upon true ride-or-die friends often because we’re all piloting our crafts through the same asteroids and sometimes we need to separate. When you find people who are willing to hitch onto your cart, you keep them there in any form you can. Keep in contact, keep them in your thoughts and share kind words when you can spare a moment. Don’t forget those people who were willing to walk the dog with you at three in the morning, in the dark, because you were too scared to go alone. Don’t forget the people who sit at the hospital with you, letting you cry because you’re terrified. Definitely don’t forget the folks who let you vent about your significant other one day but then casually forget it the next day when you’re obviously over it and telling them how great your Bae is. Never forget the people who, at the end of the day, just think you’re pretty freaking rad and like to hang with you.
One day, we’re all going to have a moment (if you haven’t already) where we wish we had that one person, or maybe a few persons, by our side. Maybe it’s a lovely moment you wish you could share or perhaps you feel at your lowest. Gather up your Scooby Gang and let them know they’re loved, share your world with them and if they’re as rad as Xander, Willow and Giles, they’re going to share that love back in spades.