10 things 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' taught me about life, ranked
Without fail, at least once a week, I find myself asking “What would Buffy do in this situation?” While I’m not fighting vampires or saving the world (well, sometimes I’m saving my world), I look to one of the greatest feminist icons of my generation to help me navigate my female situation: Buffy Summers. Every single thing I need to know about being a woman, I got from the seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Here are a few life changing lessons I’ve learned:
10. Listen to your female intuition.
Buffy always just knows where to look for the vampires and could fight them blindfolded (which she does in varying scenarios over the course of seven seasons). And almost always, Buffy gets it right. She trusts her instincts and knows exactly what to do to defeat the demons. If I could be like Buffy half the time and have half as much faith in what I know, then I could be a much more successful woman. Buffy trusts what her gut is trying to tell her and always comes out on top. Girl knows what so many of us have yet to realize: we already know how to fight our demons; we just have to be willing to listen to ourselves and trust what we hear.
9. Love doesn’t always find a way.
Among the most valuable lessons I learned from Buffy, is that it is completely impractical to believe love will solve every problem. When love fails, Buffy keeps going. Her life doesn’t end when her relationships does, and this is a lesson I’ve needed to learn over and over in my life. Buffy never gives up on love, but she never feels crippled when it didn’t conquer all, either.
8. It’s okay to want to be pretty.
There are a lot of things about Buffy’s life and profession that are less than glamourous. She has to clean guts and dust off her face more than a few times, but Buffy Summers never leaves the house without that a blow-out and leather boots — ok, sometimes they are platforms. No matter if Buffy is at the Bronze or saving the world from The First, she always looks good, carefully arranged smudges and all. This makes me think waking up ten minutes too late is just no excuse not put on mascara.
7. The men (or women) in your life should always appreciate your strengths.
No matter who Buffy is dating, they always take a back seat to her job. Riley has problems with the nontraditional gender roles in their relationship and Buffy squashes those pretty quickly. Xander constantly needs saving, and he seems to come to terms with it, eventually. This ought to be a lesson to every Buffy-wannabe out there. Don’t let anybody, including a boyfriend or male bestie, steal your thunder. You should never have to pretend you’re something that you’re not to make somebody else feel better about who they are.
6. Always maintain a group of good girlfriends.
Even when Willow turns dark and destructive and threatens to end humanity, Buffy knows she is still Willow. While Buffy had to deliver some tough love to her, she still loved her nonetheless. The Scooby gang was built upon the premise of trust and understanding and having girlfriends in your life who you can count on. Buffy didn’t give up on Willow, nor did Willow doubt Buffy would deliver them from the Hellmouth. Just like Buffy and Willow, I recognize the importance of cultivating female friendships. Often you have to have difficult conversations and say things that are hard to hear, but the Willows of the world will understand it comes from a place of love and will love you back harder and fiercer.
5. You can have it all.
We watch Buffy’s character evolve from a silly (although still pretty badass) young girl, into a mature, responsible adult. Buffy handles jobs, bills, child rearing, and grocery shopping, all the while protecting humanity from creatures unseen and rocking leather pants. Long before Sheryl Sandberg came along, Buffy was teaching us to lean in and not to feel guilty about it. So many women hold themselves to unrealistic expectations, but we should just take our cues from Buffy. She juggled it all, let things fall, picked them back up and started juggling again. That’s really what having it all looks like.
4. Cherish your mother.
[SPOILER ALERT] One of the most heartbreaking moments in the seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the moment Buffy finds her mother dead on the sofa. From that moment on we see how much she needs her and how very much she regrets all the sh*tty things she said and did. That’s a pretty common experience among daughters once their mom passes away. Buffy’s time with her mother was fleeting — and this reminds me to hug my mom tight, tell her love her, and call her every day. (Hi Mom!)
3. You can’t keep a good girl down.
[ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT] Buffy literally comes back from the dead. While the lesson here is slightly more metaphorical, you get the point: don’t let the bastards get you down. Aside from resurrection, Buffy always bounces back, even if she’s been defeated. No matter how down and out Buffy gets, I always know she will rise again, which inspires me. If Buffy can claw her way out of the grave, I can TOTALLY ask for a promotion at work.
2. It doesn’t always have to be girl versus girl
When Faith arrives in Sunnydale, the Buffy-verse split in two. As their relationship starts to take shape, it turns into a Buffy versus Faith dynamic. Sure, there is a lot of hand-to-hand combat and a few questionable “you stole my man bits” but when it comes down to it, Faith is by Buffy’s side until the end of time. Or the world. If one Slayer is formidable, two slayers are unstoppable and this extends into our real relationships with other women. It took Faith and Buffy standing together to thwart the apocalypse to make me realize I need to stop competing with other women. They are not my enemy, and if we could just combine our powers we could own the world.
1. You’re not a bitch or bossy, you’re just THE boss.
Buffy is in charge. She knows it; the gang knows it; the demons know it; and if you don’t like it, then you are in for a world of hurt. Buffy never apologizes for making the hard decisions or telling people what to do, or racking up collateral damage. If she isn’t being heard, she shouts; if someone is in her way, she round-house kicks them out of it. Buffy epitomized female empowerment in a time when pop stars were asking us to “hit me one more time” and “rub me the right way.” She was girl power before girl power was cool. She created the canon for ass-kicking heroines to save everyone, including the hunky boys with dreamy eyes and killer abs. In a time when women apologize as second nature, Buffy felt worthy of her gift, and didn’t feel ashamed to exert her strength, wisdom or even her femininity. She is the boss of her own destiny and if Buffy can do it, why not me?
Sundi Rose-Holt is a freelance writer and critic who blogs about pop culture and how it affects our shared identities. She absolutely loves TV and will watch anything once. She is also an English professor who teaches courses in composition, popular culture and Southern culture. These subjects sometimes intersect, much to her delight.
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