TV

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ led the cause for women leads in TV shows, warrants return

Before “Twilight” and “The Vampire Diaries” made vampires seem edgy and mysterious, the norm was to kill them. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was the predecessor.

Most of our generation would have been too young, some not even born yet, when “Buffy” first premiered in 1997. But, like “Friends,” “Buffy” is now as popular as ever. After it left Netflix on April 1, most people hoped it was an elaborate prank. The seemingly irrelevant show jumped back to significance this month when Entertainment Weekly announced that the first four issues of the April edition would be dedicated to the cast of “Buffy” that reunited with show creator Joss Whedon to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Despite the fact that episodes are no longer readily available, “Buffy” is still relevant. With a strong female lead played by Sarah Michelle Geller, “Buffy” led the third-wave feminist movement in pop culture. While she might seem like your average demon-hunting cheerleader, Buffy’s character was much more complex than most people realized.

The show explored a number of social issues, especially ones often faced by teenagers. A show about a teen whose destiny is to fight demons with an army of other fighters, “Buffy” was the ultimate teen show that hooked a generation. The various characters that made up Buffy’s army represented characters with diverse behavior. The show was a pioneer in showcasing issues of homosexuality and social problems faced by teens, but often ignored by adults.

Today, Buffy’s legacy still lives on. Still revered by some as a feminist icon, it’s time a character like Buffy Summers returns to TV. “Buffy” was a show that celebrates exceptional women and brought the concept of a female being a judge of her own destiny into mainstream media.

When “Buffy” came about, next to no other shows at the time were used to the concept of a strong, individualistic fighter being a woman. Though “Buffy” has its flaws and suffers from exaggerated plot points, I would still blame that on the time period of its duration. No era exaggerated drama on television better than the early 2000s.

“Buffy” inspired the concept of a successful female lead. Shows like “Parks & Recreation” and “30 Rock” furthered the cause for women in television, and recent series like “Broad City,” “Jane the Virgin” and, of course, “Orange is the New Black” carry on the legacy.

This opens up dialogue about the need for more shows with strong female leads. And while some current shows do fulfil a feminist’s hunger, women in TV are still underrepresented. With Hollywood trying to recover from the major whitewashing that was caused during its golden age, women on screen still achieve at an alarmingly slow pace. Very few female-led shows have the opportunity to make it big without being canceled or completely changed by production houses.

And women in TV are taking more losses. Take “The Mindy Project” announcing its last season, for example. And while actors like Viola Davis are making waves in the diversity department, female-led shows are still at a risk of suffering from stereotyping — for example, a smart and studious female lead that is also Asian. It is now more than ever that the TV industry needs a demon-fighting teen to come to its rescue.

Very few shows have managed to have a cultural impact as big as “Buffy.” As Joss Whedon is now busy dabbling with the occasional Marvel movie, we can only hope he decides to return to creating vampire hunters that slayed the game.

Malvika Randive is a freshman writing and rhetoric major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. You can reach her at mnrandiv@syr.edu.

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