why 'buffy the vampire slayer' was the best show on earth

From its 90s style references to its feminist statements, its fit male leads to its take on Wiccan lesbian romance, here are the best bits of Buffy – just in time to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

by Tish Weinstock
02 March 2017, 4:32pm

It's been 20 years since the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired, and yet, it feels like only yesterday we were cruising through the graveyard with Buffy, Willow, Xander and the gang (and cute old Giles lingering somewhere at the back, muttering incantations). We were there through the highs and lows, when Willow went darkside and Spike turned good. We were even there for the Angel spin-off, which was shit, sure, but we were loyal. But then the day came when a Hellmouth finally opened and swallowed all of Sunnydale up and Buffy was free to live a normal life, leaving us to get back to ours. It sucked, but we got over it eventually. Time heals, and now we only have fond memories. So fond in fact, that we've decided to share a few with you, dear reader, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the show that changed our lives.

Hot boys
Whether you're into blondes or brunettes, the living or the undead, when it came to male leads, Buffy the Vampire Slayer had something for everyone. Swipe right for Angelus, or Angel for short, if you're into creatures of night who've been cursed with a soul. He's tall, dark, handsome, and seems to age incredibly well. For those of you who don't like sleeping with guys on the first date, Angel is the one for you. In fact, maybe don't sleep with him at all, as he has a tendency to turn evil after climax — and not in a won't-call-you-back kind of way, more like a he'll-try-and-eat-you kind of way.

There's also Spike, the peroxide blonde bad boy with a penchant for leather. Likes long walks at night, killing slayers, and drinking people's blood. Not into the tender and toothy embrace of the undead? There's always lovable loser Xander or the endearingly emo Oz. Part musician, part werewolf — doesn't really get much better than that. For those into the more bookish types, there's librarian by day, Watcher by night Giles, who had the whole silver fox thing down (probably because he was the only person who actually aged on the program). And then there was Riley. Sweet, sensitive, soldier Riley — Buffy's fit boyfriend who was good with a gun and looked great in camo. The choice is yours.

Buffy's style
From the cool kids on Tumblr in the tattoo necklaces to the Supreme skaters in bucket hats, 90s trends are still very much en vogue. But look no further than Buffy for your inspo. From the moment we met her, it was love at first fashion. There she was, a total misfit, standing on the steps of Sunnydale High School in a white strappy top and short-sleeved cardi, worn with a brown mini skirt, matching knee high boots, and a single white clip in her hair. Cute, but in an understated "I kill vampires" kind of way. As the seasons raged on, Buffy traded in her short skirts in favor a grungier look, which featured plaid shirts and overalls. Next came the leather phase. Think hot red pants and a black tank top. Then there was her homecoming outfit: a strappy red dress which she wore with her hair pinned up, teamed with a red tiara and a rifle. Even her final look was on fleek. As the Hellmouth swallowed up the whole of Sunnydale, Buffy kept it chic in a pair of bootcut jeans, a white top, and nude suede jacket. Accessorized with a smear of blood and an ancient scythe in hand, I'd say that was pretty iconic.

Lesbian romance
Just like Buffy and Angel, Angel and Darla, and, weirdly, Buffy and Spike, Willow and Tara's relationship will go down in the annals of time as one of the greatest romances ever. Doomed, yes, but still great. In fact, it actually did make history as the first recurring depiction of a lesbian couple on prime time TV in the US. It was beautiful thing to see; two shy young women with a flare for all things Wiccan coming together to cast sweet, sweet spells. Kind, caring, and basically a bit of a bore when it comes to her morals, Tara hit a rocky patch with Willow when she got more into using magic. Seeing Willow's descent into addiction, Tara left her. Naturally they reconcile, but only for Tara to be shot in the heart by the evil geek and leader of The Trio (I mean ffs, really?) Warren. Tragically, she dies in Willow's arms, causing a vengeful Willow to skin Warren alive. So romantic.

The musical
If life was one big musical in which we revealed our hidden feelings through cheerful song, wouldn't the world be a better place? Lol, absolutely not. But that wasn't the case in Once More, with Feeling  fondly remembered in Buffy circles as episode 7, season 6 — in which a suit-wearing, tap-dancing blues demon casts a spell over the group which causes them to break into song whenever they want to express their true feelings. Why? I can't actually remember but presumably their over-sharing will lead to their deaths. A lesson we should all learn, actually, especially when at Friday night, post-work, office drinks. But I digress. From Spike's rock and roll belter "Rest in Piece" to Buffy's heart-wrenching rendition of "Something to Sing About," it's quite possibly the greatest episode of all time.

In order to pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test, a work of fiction must feature at least two (named) women who discuss something other than a man. Does it count if they're talking about a demon? I joke. But seriously, years ahead of its time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a show about a young girl with superhuman powers which she used to overcome the sheer brutality of usually male demons. She was badass, man. Fearless in the face of danger, she even killed the love of her life to save the world. In fact, all the show's women were headstrong: Faith, Kendra, Anya, and the rest of world's Potential Slayers (all female, all fierce as fuck under Buffy's nurturing.) Urgh, ok fine: Dawn was a total drip, but like, she wasn't even a real person. The best character was actually Anya, a former demon who refused to take shit from anyone. She hated bunnies and thought Martha Stewart was secretly a witch. "Nobody could do that much decoupage without calling on the powers of darkness." Lol. What more do you want from a show?


Text Tish Weinstock

buffy the vampire slayer
sarah michelle gellar