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May 19, 2003
by Iva-Marie Palmer
Farewell, fair Slayer
This article originally appeared in Daily Southtown.
Reprinted with permission from the author.
(To the tune of "Friends" theme song)
So no one told you life was gonna be this way.
Your job's to poke undead with stakes 'til they dust away.
It's like you're always stuck doing kicks and flips mid-air.
And you might die today, this week, this month ... you've died twice already, my dear, but
We'll be there for you, when apocalyptic rains start to pour.
We'll be there for you, when the Hellmouth opens like a sore.
We'll be there for you, 'cause you're there for us, too.
There's no denying I've grown increasingly reliant on my "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" habit.
Other shows, such as the afore-alluded-to "Friends," are nothing more than a way to pass the time, if I even bother to watch. But for me, "Buffy" is a thread that's woven into my life. Like many of the show's fans, I've become involved and invested. The ever-unfolding stories and characters can drive me crazy and make my heart swell.
I've worked to spread the gospel of "Buffy" to naysayers and people who waste their time doing something else on Tuesday nights. I ponder, I scrutinize, I fret about where the story will lead. I've even jumped around with zeal during the show's opening theme song. (In my defense, it's a very catchy tune.)
And when Buffy, the Slayer, plunged to her second death at the end of the show's fifth season, you better believe I cried. Bawled, even.
Sad? Maybe. All true, though.
When "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" airs its last episode Tuesday (7 p.m. Channel 50), it won't garner the record numbers of viewers that the series finales of shows such as "M.A.S.H." and "Seinfeld" did.
And, though many shows' farewells become something of community events, this last "Buffy" will for me ? and I'd guess for many of its fans ? be a private moment, no matter how many people I may gather with to watch the end. Devotees will still talk about our show after its conclusion: We'll theorize on what will become of our favorite Slayer and her loyal (most of the time) friends.
But the mourning process is an individual matter.
Laugh all you want. As a fan, I've often gotten that smug inner chortle from fellow adults when I talk about my favorite show. Usually, the silent denouncer throws in something like, "Oh, my little sister watches that."
Smart kid, I say.
As sad as fans are to see "BtVS" go, there's reason for us to feel smug. By cutting out in the seventh season, "Buffy" has proven again to have impeccable timing. What was it that Nietzsche said about the secret to life being knowing when to die?
The show's premiere came after "Beverly Hills 90210" had long overstayed its welcome as a teen drama (Dylan was about to quit AA and go to AARP), and before "Dawson's Creek" attempted to capitalize on angsty teens throwing around words too big for even the "McLaughlin Group." Other shows about growing up and figuring out the game of life flounder, trying to juice every last drop, but "Buffy" is ending at a high point.
I for one certainly don't want a future season of Buffy and Co. at Sunnydale Rest Home, playing bingo as Buffy ? wearing a shirt that reads, "Old Slayers Never Die, They Just Lose Their Bite" ? fondly mulls over the arsenal of weapons she used in adolescence.
After all, she's not that kind of golden girl.
She's the Chosen One. The one girl in every generation to stand alone against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer. Imbued with supernatural powers that give her the strength to fight night after night, her gift helps her protect the world, but also elevates her to a plane separate from the rest of us.
Too many people dismissed "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as a trite spinoff of the ditzy movie version and never realized that not only was the show's writing clever but its themes truthful.
Lucky for us, though, that creator Joss Whedon's vision for the movie didn't live up to his standards or the TV spinoff may have never happened. The show has given us seven seasons to explore and build upon the message he originally set out to dispense: High school is hell. Sure, it helped that said high school was atop a Hellmouth, a sort of revolving door between Earth and demon dimensions.
But as Buffy and her friends came of age, they faced a lot of the same things someone in a normal ZIP code does: falling in love and finding out your amour isn't what he seems; seeing parents and friends leave, die or betray you; drifting apart from dear friends as real life sets in; figuring out your place in the world once you're supposedly "free."
Only they had to grow up while facing the most blood-sucking hell beasties this side of Washington, D.C.
The non-watcher might think I'm talking about melodramatic, movie-of-the-week stuff. But, like life, "Buffy" achieved humor and levity amid all the drama. Hefty doses of pop culture references (from the obvious ones to suit sci-fi aficionados, such as "Star Wars," "The Matrix" and "Mad Max: Welcome to Thunderdome" to Siegfried & Roy, SpongeBob SquarePants and, recently, Monty Python) perked geek ears everywhere.
And despite its classification as a genre show, no one can say "Buffy" revolved around the monsters. Instead, the monsters, the demons, the vampires, the spells and incantations revolved around the characters.
If anything, the supernatural tinge of "BtVS" made it more realistic when extraordinary things happened to the characters. Dramas verge on unbelievable when life-upending events happen every week. But on "Buffy," that evil twin ("Doppelgangland," season three); boyfriend gone soulless ("Innocence," season two); body switch with the rival you resent but long to resemble ("Who Are You," season four); spell that makes you belt out ?in song ? the feelings you want to keep hidden ("Once More, With Feeling," musical, season six) can happen, while moving the story along and making us care more deeply for the characters in the process.
So while it's been made clear that Tuesday's last-ever episode will be heavy on the action and special effects, what really weighs heavily is what will come of the characters?
In a way, I don't want to know. But I know I want Buffy to save the world ? again.
And the show needs a lovefest amid the wreckage.
Let Buffy enlist, and show appreciation for, the help of her oldest friends ? the original Scoobies, as fans are wont to say ? Xander, Willow and Giles, because her strength as a Slayer is in part due to her friends.
Why not forgive bad-girl Slayer Faith for past wrongs and, hey, share her powers with the army of Slayer wannabes who've converged on Sunnydale? Let's see Buffy's sister Dawn discover that while she may not own Slayer powers, she's not without strength.
And if the Slayers and their Ladies-in-Waiting are fighting The First ? source of all the world's evil ? they're gonna need powerful wicca Willow to overcome her fears of using magic. She, too, needs to join in on the estrogen-fueled butt-kicking.
Let Buffy thank ex-vampire lover Angel for his attendance at this last apocalypse, but please, please let her to rush into Spike's arms in the final moments: Since the show's beginning, she's had numerous chances to kill this now-ensouled vampire, but never has, which has to count for something on the Hellmouth, right?
It's time she gives Spike the three words he deserves and seals them with a kiss. And much as I'd like them to ride off into the sunset (well, the Hellmouth's glowing atmosphere of hellfire and brimstone), I have a feeling we're all better off if it's more a "Casablanca" moment. Heart-breaking, but necessary: Buffy deserves a normal life. And when the 120-year-old Spike says, "Here's looking at you kid," it can take on a whole new meaning.
And what happens to us fans? I think I'll be hard-pressed to find another show that inhabits my mind the way "Buffy" has, spinoff or not. Joss Whedon has said he doesn't want "to create responsible shows with lawyers in them." Instead he wants to "invade people's dreams."
I can only hope my subconscious treats me to stories as grand as "Buffy."
Because this time her apocalypse really feels like the end of the world.