Sunday, 5 February 2017

A Film Without Hang-Ups - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In this installment of our exploration into teen films, I've decided to revist a film dear to my heart, one of my favourites in fact, good old Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Released years before the tele series came into play, Buffy was once a valley girl and balanced her slaying with cheerleader practice. This is was hated by Joss Whedon (another reason to love it in my opinion) and is derided by many as the fuck up before the series took a right turn. I say fuck that, Buffy '92 was a subversive and brave masterpiece that has only gotten stronger as our views on what counts as a feminist piece have matured.

Let's start at the beginning. Buffy is a valley girl, a sweet and unattainable cheerleader, one of those girls who roams in packs so you can't get near them, who seem to have everything in life so easy. Buffy is unapologetically beautiful and talented, she's the kid of girl who would be throwing tampons at Carrie in a different era. She shops, she pretends to care about world issues, she pisses everyone off at the cinema. She is a typical teenager and that, THAT is the crux of this whole film. Buffy doesn't have to be a sassy, tormented smart ass girl to be worthy of kicking ass, she doesn't have to be matured well beyond her high school years to be respected by her fan base, she is a REAL GIRL and that is what Buffy the Series was totally lacking. I don't want to compare Buffy '92 and Buffy '97 too much, but it's safe to say I love one and feel a large amount of frustration bordering on indifference with the other.

Joss Whedon really hates Buffy '92. He couldn't stand that his dark, brooding script had been wrapped up in bubblegum lycra. He's entitled to his opinion, but I think he's basically a huge baby if he can't see a vision here. What makes this film important is that Buffy has flaws and she outgrows them, it's basically a character study of a girl about to embark of life outside of high school, but it just happens to have vampires thrown into the mix.

It's impossible to talk about Buffy '92 without mentioning the FASHION AESTHETICS of the film. There is so much 90s gymwear, and denim and clashing prints with gold earrings. It's honestly a dream, kids on instagram would kill to be this stylish these days. The careful costume design totally MAKES this film, it's a perfect capsule of the era and the best part is the more serious Buffy gets her wardrobe never changes. She's never made to grow up and start wearing dark colours, you keep wearing that lime green sheer shirt girl, you can kick a vampire's ass, do whatever you want.

Would Buffy '92 be anything without Kristy Swanson? I mean, it would probably still be a good film, but Kristy is one of those forgotten and underrated actors of the 80s and 90s and she totally makes this film what it is. It's kind of a big job, portraying The Slayer, and with her tough girl brat act and open, sweet face she nails it completely. What's better than America's Teen Dream actually being capable of killing you in seconds? It's what made this film so good and it's what makes stuff like DEADLY FRIEND so good. Kristy just has something about her and we should give thanks that we were blessed with her on this cold, dead earth.

What can we learn from Buffy '92? Well, that it's fine to outgrow your school friends. It's fine if they start to piss you off and it's not the end of the world to ditch them. Let's not pretend we still speak to anyone we went to school with here. We can also learn that broody goth boys will always be more attractive than their jock counterparts, even if they have soul patches and hang around with David Arquette. We've learnt that you can wear three types of lyrca and still perform a back hand spring, and that clashing prints aren't always a fashion disaster. We now know that Paul Reubens takes at least 30 seconds to die after you stake him so be prepared.

If you'e ever been on the fence about watching this because you love Buffy '97, I would urge you to reconsider your position. Of course you can like one or the other or both, no one can stop you enjoying what you want. I believe a lot of the militant anti-Buffy '92 stuff comes from people who haven't even SEEN the film, and despite their differences the two versions are essentially the same plot. Buffy is WELL WORTH a shot, especially if 90s gymwear is your passion in life (like it is in mine).

Robyn is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, an avid fan of Angel Delight and a Pee Wee apologist.

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