Leave it to me to not realize until a couple weeks ago that Buffy The Vampire Slayer originated as a campy, satirical teenage comedy, much in the same vein as Clueless, although considerably less scathing, and tragically without the ever welcome presence of Wallace Shawn. Where the television series would leap into some more gothic elements and clearly embrace special effects and romantic involvements, this original manifestation of the cult character considered its relation to high school experiences, as well as a surprisingly realized emergence of one girls own feminist politics. For a variety of reasons films like this seem to fall to the wayside, perhaps a direct reflection of their revolutionary style and commentary, or a fact of it simply not fitting with viewers palettes for the era. One cannot deny that this clearly independent film emerged well before it was made cool by Quentin Tarantino to reference other films within a film and wink at the audience. Clearly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer manages to do this, particularly with the cinematic means by which it considers the history of Vampires, as well as what I can only assume was a conscious choice to cast Paul Reubens and Rutger Hauer in the roles of the two lead vampires. Joss Whedon's script shows signs of the evolving writer who would come to be associated with some of the most socially conscious scripts, as well as the ones which prove to completely deconstruct everything associated with a genre piece, something which occurred with a hefty amount of zeal in 2012's Cabin in the Woods. To call Buffy the Vampire Slayer a high-school comedy is to incorrectly categorize it, yet one cannot simply refer to it as a vampire flick, because while the title clearly suggests such a film, within the narrative of Whedon it constantly reconsiders, undermines and eventually reappropriates everything viewers have come to understand about a genre. I would even be so bold as to suggest that Whedon is very much picking up where Harold Ramis left off concerning socially situated satirical filmmaking and boy does it exude within the brief insanity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The narrative of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, while not reflective of the television series, nonetheless, still focuses on a girl named Buffy (Kristy Swanson) who seems quite content to live the life of ditsy high school cheerleader, while batting off the secretly desired accosting by her male classmates. Yet, when a bizarre sickness begins spreading around her high school Buffy begins considering her own identity, particularly one tied to consumerist ideologies and a rather vain attachment to the performance of cheerleading, yet it is not until some of the members of her high school begin dying or going missing that she really begins considering thing more. A confrontation with Merrick (Donald Sutherland) a professional vampire hunter, who informs Buffy that she comes from a lineage of vampire slayers, causes her identity to completely change, although Buffy tries for quite a bit of time to avert this change and adhere to her traditional ideal. Yet as the vampires begin taking on very violent forms, even attacking her at points, she agrees to training an action that leads to her eventual awakening into her own powerful person, one capable of kicking some serious vampire ass, while also not relying on the guidance and protection of a male figure. Yet even her strong independence does not afford her the avoidance of falling in love, in fact, she begins taking a liking to an other-side-of-the-tracks guy named Pike (Luke Perry). Buffy's job as a vampire slayer begins to unfold from simple back alley fights, to all-out brawls at her high school prom, ones that cause her to reconsider her previous friendships, as well as her burgeoning relationship with Pike, whom she decides to ride of into the sunset with at the end of the film, after of course she a icon of good destroys all the evil in the world of vampires, or at the very least drive stakes through them and leaving them suffering well after the credits begin.
The feminist label to this film is often attached hesitantly, not because it only passively adheres to some of these constructs, but because, as I genuinely believe, many critics are quite afraid to admit a schlocky satire work could be capable of such high levels of social commentary. I would be willing to at least acknowledge this possibility were the writer anybody but Joss Whedon who constantly proves himself quite attune to social identity issues, hell, look at Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, which exist primarily to undermine the writer's guild, but also manages to completely deconstruct masculinity in a post-feminist rhetoric. However, when considering Buffy as a burgeoning feminist one must look at the way she moves from a vain cheerleader reliant on others for her identity to a ass-kicking vampire slayer. One manner this occurs is through her wardrobe which begins with a attire that exposes her body in an exploitative way to a far more butch look, appropriate for her fight and moving about in self-protection, this is one instance in which her awakening as a feminist allows for her to change her identity not to please others, but instead to adhere to her own identity. Secondly, her evolution into a vampire fighting master is reflective of her movement towards an individual who challenges oppressive forces, in which Rutger Hauer plays a magnificent metaphor for patriarchal oppression, considering he is an old, white and quite European male. Buffy directly challenges the groundings of patriarchy eventually undermining it. Even her relationship with Pike is one in which she clearly asserts control, particularly considering that she is always seen in a dominant place, aside from the films closing scene, although to read to heavily into the riding off into the sunset scene, would be to ignore everything leading up to the occurrence. Sure they are leaving with Pike driving the vehicle, but one cannot forget that were it not for Buffy, Pike would be far from capable of operating any heavy machinery.
Key Scene: The conversations between Buffy and Merrick could be totally forced, but under the guidance of Whedon's dialogue the flow naturally and prove some of the better moments in the film, if not, the entire prom section of the film is quite awesome.
A DVD is rather easily obtained and well worth owning, particularly if you fancy your films with a heavy amount of feminist empowerment.