Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a television series developed after the movie of the same name, following the adventures of a former cheerleader chosen by fate to do battle with supernatural evils, often with the help of her socially outcast friends. It first aired in March 1997; after seven seasons, the final episode aired in May 2003. The show's title is often abbreviated simply to Buffy or BtVS.
In addition to its success and entertainment appeal, the show functions as a contemporary parable, using supernatural elements as metaphors for personal issues, particularly those associated with adolescence.
The show's creator, Joss Whedon, has also stated that one of his aims was to depart from the usual horror film formula. In a "traditional" horror film, a small blonde girl would take a short cut through the graveyard and meet an unpleasant end if not rescued by a handsome well-armed male hero. By drawing a diminutive girl as his hero, Whedon created a fresh paradigm which has been embraced by many as an icon of female power. In Joss Whedon's narrative, Buffy's male companion Xander is more likely to need rescuing. Buffy is more than capable of looking after herself -- though her personal life is as confusing and painful as any teenaged girl's. This combination of empowerment and empathy has earned Buffy a passionate following among fans.
The show is set in the fictional California town of Sunnydale, whose suburban high school rests on the site of a "Hellmouth", a gateway between our world and the darker demon realms: the Hellmouth serves as a nexus and attracting point to all manner of evil creatures and happenings. Prominent examples of evil creatures are vampires, who are presented in the show in a variety of ways, selectively following traditional myths of undead night-dwellers who feed on blood. Buffy and her companions also fight a wide variety of demons and other evils, and are frequently called upon to avert impending world-wide apocalypse. The villians and events in the show are often inspired by traditional myths and other cultural, fictional, and religious sources. In its multi-year run, the series has also developed an extensive contemporary mythology of its own. The supernatural elements of the show almost always have a clear metaphorical or symbolic aspect.
Buffy (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) is "The Slayer", one in a long line of young girls chosen by fate to battle evil forces. This calling also mystically endows her with dramatically increased physical strength, endurance, agility, intuition, ability to heal, and a very limited degree of clairvoyance, usually in the form of prophetic dreams. Buffy fights under the direction of her "Watcher" Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), who also began in the series as the high school's librarian. She is also assisted by several friends, who later in the series were nicknamed the "Scooby Gang" because of their resemblance to the teens in the cartoon Scooby Doo. The group battles demonic forces using a combination of physical combat, detective work, emotional exploration, and the extensive research of ancient and mystical books.
The show is noteworthy in part for its agile blending of genres, including horror, martial arts action, romance, family and relationship drama, farce, and witty comic banter. Unlike the moderately successful movie, the TV series achieved great popular and critical success, appreciated equally by middle-aged TV critics and its primarily teenaged and "twentysomething" audience. Many attribute the show's success to the smartly written scripts and inspired direction of Whedon. The show and characters inspire an unusually strong emotional connection with fans. The show has also been noted for taking artistic risks in both format and content.The 1999 episode "Hush" included 26 minutes without any spoken dialog, and received an Emmy Award nomination for best teleplay. The 2001 episode "The Body", which featured the death of Buffy's mother, was included in over 100 major critics Ten Best lists that year. And the late 2001 episode "Once More, with Feeling" was a musical episode, critically acclaimed all over the world.
Works Inspired by Buffy
A long-running aspect of the first three seasons was Buffy's perpetually tragic, doomed love for the vampire Angel. Angel (or Angelus) had his human soul restored to him by a gypsy curse, plaguing him with guilt for his 200 years of killing. The Angel character was sufficiently popular that a series featuring him, titled Angel, was spun off from the Buffy series; there are occasional "crossovers" between the two series. Both shows have also inspired several comic book adaptations, magazines, companion books, novelizations, and additional proposed TV series (including a cartoon series and a BBC drama), as well as countless web-sites, on-line discussion groups, and works of fan fiction. The show has recently inspired several academic texts and essays, including Reading the Vampire Slayer, edited by Roz Kaveney, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy edited by James B. South. Academic courses known as "Buffy Studies" are being offered at an increasing number of universities.