I’ve spent a large portion of my life wanting to be Buffy Summers. While I have Faith Lehane’s tattoo emblazoned on my upper right arm, Buffy was my model. I know I’m not alone in this, I know a good deal of my generation grew up with the same goal: to someday be Buffy Summers.
What most people seem to remember about Buffy Summers: she wins a lot.
What most people seem to forget about Buffy Summers: she lost a lot.
Now, it’s not that people don’t remember these plot points, obviously they do. But they don’t seem to remember what loss means. What it can do to a person. They don’t remember that even as she is winning she is often losing. They forget that, because we are limited to an hour of Buffy each installment, we don’t see the full effect of the loss on her and those around her.
We don’t see Buffy really suffer because it’s not “good TV.” Genuine reality rarely is.
Buffy loses friends and allies and the mourning is brief. Buffy is forced to literally send the man she loves to Hell because, even if he’s good again now, he has been bad. He comes back and the problem is apparently solved (good TV), but Buffy’s pain over all of this is truncated. Buffy is nearly raped by someone she’s come to trust and the backlash against him is unbelievably portrayed (good TV?). Buffy dies, twice, and she comes back.
Real life for those of us who walk the path of Buffy does not have the convenience of “the network wants another season.” We have to live the fight in real time.
Maybe all you see from us is the equivalent of an hour a week. So when we cry or when we show pain, it’s unusual for you. Maybe it’s unbelievable. Strong women don’t DO that, Buffy cried in montages, why can’t you cry in montages?
We get told we’re “strong enough to handle this.” And we are. Trust me, we are. But even strong girls are defeated. Even strong girls hurt and cry and we need to be allowed to do it, no matter how uncomfortable that thought might make you. We need to suffer our losses, and we will.
This is our fight. Buffy never fought because she wanted to, in several cases she tries to stop fighting only to find out she can’t. Buffy fights because she has to. And we fight because there isn’t an alternative.
The dark things out there will always out number us. They will sometimes win. There will be cases where there is nothing we can really do, we don’t have the power to do it (Season 5 reminder: Buffy doesn’t kill the Big Bad that season. Giles has to do it for her because Buffy has limits imposed on her that he doesn’t). We can’t always just roundhouse kick the problem and pun and walk away. Not just because this is the real world, but because even within Buffy’s world that’s not always possible.
Allies are hugely important. But they’re ALLIES, they’re not directly in the fight, and sometimes they need to back off and let us fight. Sometimes they have to let us cry and be weak and not belittle the very, very real shit we live with every day. Xander was sometimes a total asshole and needed to shut his fucking mouth, okay? He was important, sure. However, while it was a fight he profited from, it WASN’T. HIS. FIGHT.
I have done my best to be Buffy Summers. Even in that I know I’ve failed. But I’ve learned as I’ve gone along, about my power, about power in general, that having power isn’t the same as being able to use it wisely, that it’s not about strength or weakness but about humanity and all the things that come with it.
I am strong. I know how to be strong. I have to keep fighting. Don’t you tell me what strength is.