I’m a Buffy/Angel fan going way back. They’re shows I reference frequently and re-watch whenever I can. I’m re-watching them now.
For those of you unfamiliar, “Buffy” is the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as the heroine’s name. Buffy (the character) is one of a long line of exclusively female vampire slayers magically imbued with powers like fast healing and super strength. The show started out as an allegory for the trials of high school and got more mature, and darker, as the series went on.
Angel (the series) is a spinoff of BtVS. Angel (the character) is the rarest of the rare: a vampire with a soul. Unfortunately, he loses his soul if he experiences a moment of “true happiness,” which he does with Buffy. If any of you were traumatized when The Doctor and Rose got split up, just know that it was nothing compared to the scene where Angel gets his soul back. Then prepare yourselves for heartbreak #2 when, at the end of Season 3 of Buffy, Angel realizes he and Buffy will never work, so he leaves her for good. He ends up in L.A., starting a new life as a private detective/helper of the helpless. Angel arguably has a better cast than Buffy, and aside from a few hiccups along the way, ended up as the more interesting show (imo).
I’ve just started Season 4 of Buffy (her first year of college) and Season 1 of Angel. Parts of the shows have held up well over time, other parts not so much. Buffy is especially problematic, with fairly minor– but still there– homophobia, fat shaming, slut shaming, token diverse characters getting killed off, and outright sexist dialogue. In one episode Buffy herself says Wesley (an adult man) screams “like a woman,” and compares Xander and Angel to a pair of bickering “old women.” Part of that was the culture at the time. You probably couldn’t find a show in the 90s that didn’t include some cringe-worthy dialogue or storylines. And most of us didn’t even notice. We were steeped in it to the point that it didn’t stand out.
But part of it might also have had something to do with the showrunner, Joss Whedon, who– if you haven’t heard– has had several accusations of bullying/abusive behaviour levelled at him by actors, including some that worked on Buffy and Angel. I believe these actors– they have nothing to gain by coming forward. What sucks for the fans, though, is that Buffy was groundbreaking at the time. A female lead who…kicked ass? What’s commonplace now was new and awesome back then. Whedon claimed to be a feminist, and the fans thought he was an ally. We were wrong.
I don’t, however, think we should give up on these shows because of an association with an allegedly awful person. Besides, Whedon was far from the only person working on his shows, and to ignore everyone else’s contributions is basically throwing out the baby with the bath water. I know I’ll always keep watching. l now notice the problematic and cringey parts, but I’m still here for all the good parts (which are the majority). Because, even after all these years, Buffy still kicks ass.
Were/are you a fan of Buffy and/or Angel? How do you think they’ve held up? Share in the comments…
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Aspasía S. Bissas