The Joss Whedon effect.

I know Joss Weldon was not a super fan of the original edit of the script but despite what happened to it Buffy the original gave me hope. Until I saw that movie I had never paid much attention to movies. Most of the characters I thought were cool were men. (To be fair the ones I liked that were women were superheroes whose powers I didn’t like – like X-Men’s Rogue)

I must have seen the movie when it had already been out for a few years and I was older, about 10 or so, because the impact it had on me has been unimaginable. For the first time I believed that a women could be powerful without being a superhero or a super solider or a super anything really. Now, I know that Buffy is in fact special, she is the slayer after all, but that being said she still needed others to  help her get through the messes she always ended up in. despite the fact I’m a redhead I did my best that year to dress up as Buffy for Halloween. I really wish I had a picture to post but alas I do not. Perhaps this is for the better cause a 10 year old carrying around a wooden sword and pointy stick would probably freak people out today.

When I was 12 my brothers told me about the Buffy TV series that was going to happen. I was beyond excited. I remember I was so excited that when the commercials were over and I was in the kitchen I raced back to my room and to my  tiny TV to watch it, I slid on the carpet to make it in time and I still have a scar of the rug burn I got from that. (Way to go me scars from watching TV. >_<)

Ever since then and to this day I have been utterly ruined for all other female heroes. I expect them to be well rounded, so well rounded that they feel real. Sure there are books that I love, with characters I feel close to. (I’m looking at you Alanna: the first adventure) but Buffy was with me as I grew up, she faced challenges I faced, she understood what it was like to be a modern teenage girl. All the while managing to still kick ass.

I envied her the Scooby gang, I wished that my librarian was Giles and sometimes it even felt like my home was on the hellmouth.

Beyond all that at the core of it all was Buffy. A woman I admired so much that I judge all other female characters by her. I remember when I read twilight (ugh. I know) I came across the spot when Bella finds out Edward was watching her sleep, and then that he is a vampire and she gets all swoony, my first thought was “that is not what Buffy would do!”. Buffy gave me someone to look up to and I’ve been hard pressed to find anyone better ever since. I’ve tried to find other characters I can love just as much, and I suppose that Tamora Pierce’s Alanna is as close as I could ever get, but even then Buffy feels more real. Maybe it’s just because I grew up alongside her, like Harry Potter. Maybe it’s because she was the first person to not make good and evil a black and white concept. Maybe it’s simply because her best friend was a ginger and I liked that Willow was also pretty awesome (and badass). No matter the reason no one has ever compared.

It seems like most of the character that try to imitate buffy fall flat. Like the people making the modern strong female characters assume that it’s an all or nothing game. You can either kick ass ALL the time or you’re weak. Buffy’s weakness’ and vulnerability were what made her real. When she was scared or frightened or uncertain I could relate. No one is strong one-hundred percent of the time; a real character shouldn’t be either. I’ve been spoiled by Buffy. I am constantly disappointed by the one dimensional strong female characters (take Anita Blake, or Stephanie plum). I don’t believe it’s the intent of the authors to not create dynamic characters but rather they try too hard to create a strong female character that they forget that it’s the weaknesses that make them good. Human.

Joss Whedon never forgets. Even in The Avengers he takes Natasha Romanoff and shows us her vulnerability. He exposes her to us so that we can appreciate how hard she really has it. How much strength she really has. Overall black widow seems unexceptional compared to all the big guns in the room, but when you realize that she can face down something she so obviously is terrified of, that she can keep moving and strive to succeed even after having faced something that shook her to the core, you can see her humanity and appreciate the talents she usually uses so much more.

Buffy takes this too the extreme. You follow her through her high school day’s straight up to college and beyond. She falls in and out of love, meets her one true love only to be forced to part from him forever – and goes on fighting the good fight. She shows strength through her vulnerability. I think I admire that the most.

Maybe you’ll agree with me, most likely more will not. Regardless Buffy has been my inspiration from the onset. Without her I believe I’d be a much different person then I am today. So thanks Joss Whedon for changing my understanding of strength and shaping my own adulthood.

-Leah

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