Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its creator are often hailed for portraying strong heroines in popular culture. While the series has done a lot of good that way, I personally think it’s also done some harm as well. Joss Whedon said Buffy was born because he felt sorry for the young blonde girl in horror movies. He wanted to give her back some power and get a feminist message out there, something he believes strongly in. Unfortunately, as the series went on, the positive images became few and far between.
When the show began, Buffy was young, peppy, and confident in her role as the Slayer. Sure, she put up a fuss at first, but she quickly began to thrive and see just how important being the Slayer was. By the end of the series, she had changed. She became full of herself, often ignoring those who helped to keep her alive longer then most Slayers. She began to resent her role as Slayer and look at it through bitter eyes. In addition to this, she began a very unhealthy relationship with Spike. This plot saw her turning on her friends to help Spike. He attempted to rape her and she didn’t make him face the consequences of that. By the final season, she became completely reckless. She went out alone at night to bring a potential Slayer back to the house with no weapons, despite the fact she knew the uber vampires were not easily killed. She allowed Spike to have the run of a house full of potentials even after learning that he was under the control of their enemy and could turn on them at any second. When one of her plans to stop the First Evil fails and Xander has been seriously hurt, she insists on running out to do the same exact thing just seconds after he gets back from the hospital. A far cry from the strong, smart heroine of a few seasons ago.
Buffy wasn’t the only one who suffered later on. Willow also became a shadow of herself by the end of the series. She started out fine. A bit geeky and timid, but she could stand up for herself from time and time and was very loyal to her friends. She even gave up going away to Ivy League schools to stay in Sunnydale and help Buffy fight evil. By early season four, she had hit her stride. She was working hard and excelling at UC Sunnydale, she was dressing better, and displayed confidence and seemed happy. She even began to study magic more seriously, becoming a stronger asset to the Scooby gang. Before long, she fell apart and began misusing magic. The writers essentially turned her into a crack addict with all the cliches they could throw in. Willow was unable to responsibly handle the power she had gained and became a problem. By the end of the show, she was regularly lamenting about magic and how it’s too much for her to handle. Not exactly a strong female character.
Cordelia also suffered at the hands of the writers. During her time on Buffy, she was fun, confident, and honest. Sure, she could be a little shallow and rude at times, but she still managed to be a well-rounded good example of a strong female character. Until she moved to ANGEL. Her character growth on this spin-off series was good at first. She still had the bluntness and confidence she always had, but she softened up a little and added even more dimensions to her character. A couple of seasons later found her going blonde and becoming yet another mindless Angel groupie. She lost that brutal honesty that was her trademark and kept the hero humble and just started agreeing with whatever he did. She gave up almost everything that made her Cordelia and basically allowed her to be the servant of the men who dominated the show without any regard for her own life.
Let’s not even get started on the fact that the Slayer only has their power because of a pseudo rape at the hands on a group of male magic users. There was also the issue of Willow’s mother being an absent intellectual who paid far more attention to studies of Willow’s peer group than Willow herself. Cordelia’s mother was not really mentioned, while Xander’s apparently sat back and allowed an abusive environment in her home.
While Buffy got many good messages across and had a variety of interesting characters, the female characters are what suffered the most as the series went on. Sadly, the message that was at the heart of the series got lost along the way.
So what do you think? Do you believe the show stayed true to what it hoped to promote? Do you see any other problematic plots/characters? What were some of your favorite moments on the show? Would love to hear your thoughts. I leave y’all now with a little talk about the show from the people involved…