What Buffy the Vampire Slayer taught me

What Buffy the Vampire Slayer taught me

The first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired on March 10, 1997. I didn’t see any part of the show until sometime in 2009. There are good reasons I missed it when it aired, but I won’t bore you with them.

Instead, I want to tell you why it’s now the scaffold for all of the stories in my life. And, I want to tell you about one of the scenes in the fifth season that resonates and echoes in my heart and soul.

First, though, I want to tell you why I watched the show in the first place. Two words: Lori. Mumpower. (Take note of that last name. It’s foreshadowing for all that’s to come.)

Lori is my very, very good friend. The one you call when you have no faith in yourself. Or when you’re ashamed of yourself. Or when you’re diagnosed with cancer.

She’s the one I called after my second round of treatment with BCG (the drug that treats bladder cancer) and I was in agony. I couldn’t sit or walk or lie down. I felt that a lit match had been dropped into my bladder. Fire screamed up and down, interrupted only by spasms that rivaled contractions.

The pain made me panic and I was sobbing when I called. She was calm.  Empathetic. She talked me down from that knife edge of fear.

In any case, she’s the one who introduced me to Buffy. It took her weeks. She and her husband, Janson, doubled teamed me. In stereo they insisted I watch Buffy.

I relented, and I’ll be honest, it took me awhile. Sarah Michelle Gellar has never impressed me. (To be fair, she’s not at all impressed with me either.) Truly, the character of Buffy is not the most compelling character in the series.

When Spike showed up, somewhere in Season 2, well that did it. I’m a sucker for a guy with bleached blonde hair and a lame British accent.

So, Buffy, she of the vampire slaying, was not, and is not, my favorite character. Still, her moments in this show carry the biggest punch for me. In Season 5, the Council (bear with me if you don’t know or care about this plot) is boxing Buffy in and, along with Glory (a demigod), is trying to destroy Buffy’s little sister.

In Episode 90, “Checkpoint,” Buffy faces down the Council. Instead of using her superpower vampire slaying skills, she uses her mouth. This is part of what she says:

See … I’ve had a lot of people talking at me the last few days. Everyone just lining up to tell me how unimportant I am. And I’ve finally figured out why. Power. I have it. They don’t. This bothers them.

It is a moment in the arc of the series where Buffy begins to slip into and accept her identity. She steps up to her responsibilities and obligations. She understands that her purpose is to save the world.

Tough gig, that. Saving the world is a tall order. Accepting that it’s your calling, maybe even a taller order.

Those words: “Power. I have it.” I hear them in my dreams.

I heard them when a doctor told me I had cancer and when he showed me a photograph of the tumor in my bladder.

I heard them last summer when my daughter was taken into a five hour surgery on her spine and they whispered in my ear later when I saw her in intensive care.

The story arc of Buffy, or one of the stories anyway, is about a person, a girl (God love you Joss Wheedon) discovering herself and then accepting and owning what she discovers.

It is the story that I tell my daughter and that I hope she tells her daughters. It is a story that Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lori Mumpower told me.

Power. I have it.

You do too.

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