This is one of those moments where I fall irrevocably in love with this show, because Buffy is a superhero - she has superstrength and a whole host of other mythical abilities - but she doesn’t identify as someone super. She identifies as “just a girl”.
Which does two things that make me just get all teary. One, it means that she, personally, doesn’t see herself as any different than the Anyas or the Willows or the Dawns or the Cordelias. She doesn’t see herself as any different than the random girl passerby. She’s not above them because she can throw a dude through a wall. She is one of them, even though she can throw a dude through a wall. Which is just amazing as a character trait, because she consistently aligns herself with the people she’s meant to protect.
Then there’s this - that being super is something that is coded as “girl” in the show itself. Buffy does this over and over again. “…date and shop and hang out and go to school and save the world from unspeakable demons. You know, I wanna do girly stuff!” Buffy thinks about beheading tactics and fashion. And both things are ‘girl’ things, because Buffy is a girl and she does them. And then saving people is a girl thing to do to, because Buffy does it. She’s just a girl, and she’s fighting the forces of evil. And the show makes it clear that the viewer would be wrong to separate one from the other. The show makes it clear by having the other women also save the world (and in a couple cases, almost end it). It isn’t just Buffy. Willow develops a magical ability. Dawn gets with the book learning. They each save the world as girls.
This is one of those moments that makes both of these things crystal clear.
This is so great and gave me feels.
I actually disagree that she sees herself like the Anyas and Willows of the world, though. I think she gets that is in a class apart from them and this both exhilarates and sickens her. She *wants* to be like the other girls but knows she can’t be. Sometimes this frustrates her, sometimes it depresses her or scares or anger her - but sometimes she revels in that and is proud of it and is glad for it. Most of the time, she kinda shoves down both sides of it and just *tries really hard* to be as much of a regular girl as she can be while also being a superhero.
Hence her “that’s what I keep saying” line in a kind of sardonic way. She keeps screaming to the watchers and the demons and the world that she is “just a girl”. But she knows that she isn’t - she feels the difference inside of her and respects that difference and hates that difference all at once.
OTOH, I absolutely agree with your second point. I may not see her (or see her as seeing herself) as a regular girl - but she is still a girl. And a girly girl at that.
And there is something so wonderfully special about Buffy because she is femme, she is petite, she is girly AND she is a superhero. She doesn’t have to butch it up to fight demons and save the world. In fact, it’s because of her youth and her femininity that she has the powers that she does. I think some of the slayers we’ve seen have been less femme, and they are awesome too, btw! But there is something especially magical to me about the way Buffy is “just a girl” in so many ways and yet is the thing that monsters have nightmares about.
Buffy thinks it’s important that her friends get to go to the prom, she thinks about dating and cares how her hair looks and likes to gossip with her bff. Buffy also thinks it’s important to kick vampire ass, she thinks about battle scenarios and cares about being a good leader and likes to be the one at the head of the fight. She gets to be both of these things at once and I adore that about her.
I feel almost the opposite of you, in terms of Buffy not feeling like normal girls.
I’ve always come to Buffy in the idea that she is a girl, acts like a girl, and steps up to the plate in the way the best of humanity would. It isn’t that she doesn’t have an inferiority complex over having a superiority complex (and I love that, because who among us hasn’t thought, “I’m better than X at this but I suck because I think I’m better than X at this”?). She is sardonic because no one believe she when she tells them that this is how she identifies - as just a girl. That this is who she is - the girl, a slayer, the saver of earth, the defeater of evil - she is all of that, and the denial of the “girl” part by people who aren’t her make her weary.
She has been imbued with this power, and she relishes it and she uses it and she’ll kick the asses of any Larry who comes along thinking it’s okay to treat her like shit because she’s “just a girl”. But at the end of the day, being a girly girl is where she’s comfortable and being one of the girls is where she likes to be. Being human and identifying with humans - from meeting a nun and trying on her wimple to crying over Xander and Anya’s love to wearing cats on her feet if a magazine told her to - is what makes her a Hero instead of just heroic. She cries over the people who bite it in the course of fighting evil because she identifies with them, and that’s what makes me love her so much.
Not to jump fandoms (but I’m totally going to jump fandoms), this kind of relates to why I love Veronica Mars, even though that show doesn’t go so far out of its way to proclaim its protagonist as something other than special. It’s the way Veronica identifies with her clients. She becomes emotionally involved in her cases, and she recognizes the emotions of those people she’s trying to help as emotions she herself has grappled with/continues to grapple with. The way Veronica and Buffy are both emotionally distant but at the same time willing to be emotionally available to the people who need them just makes me fall in love with them as characters over and over again. And they’re both girls, and they’re both, at times, taken less than seriously because they are girls. And what I get from both of them is that being a girl isn’t a detriment. It’s something to hold on to. It’s something to proudly declare. “I am a girl, and I am like other girls. Because girls are awesome.” That’s what I get out of each of them, and I’m so glad they spread that message.
I’m with you on her being a regular girl in the sense of being girly and young and a typical teenager/young adult in so many ways. That’s a lot of what I love about her.
I just don’t think she’s a regular girl in the sense of being a regular human? Like, she *is* a superhero. She *is* magically imbued with special powers and strengths. She *is* a natural leader who has good instincts and knows how to fight the bad guys. She knows these things about herself and she keeps herself always, at least a little bit, apart from the rest of humanity - even those who are also magically powered like Willow and Anya, etc.
She knows that she is “the chosen one”. And all three words in that phrase mean something special to her. “The” - as in the only. Even when other slayers come around, Buffy still recognizes (correctly or not) that she is THE slayer amongst them. “Chosen” - she was specially picked for this. Not all girls are potentials, not all potentials get picked, and there is a lot said about Buffy being different from even all of the other slayers. “One” - again, highlighting that she is uber special, even amongst the specials.
Buffy time and again talks about how alone she is, even while having friends and family. She talks about how she knows she is better than everyone else. She ends up bonding so much with Angel and Spike because they are also so unique and help her to sort out the dark sides of that uniqueness - stuff she can’t share with Willow or Tara or Dawn. She breaks away from The Watchers Council and declares herself the law, making Giles more of a mentor than a keeper. She accepts the scoobies as her backup, but she still asserts that it’s Her that takes the bigger risks and Her that makes the big decisions and Her that leads them into battle.
This is a recurring theme for Buffy from day one right up through to the end. Even when she shares her power at the end, she still knows she’s the other slayer’s leader. That’s not just symbolic. She is still “THE” slayer.
This, to me, is a fundamentally important aspect of Buffy’s characterization. As fundamental as the fact that right alongside her specialness - she is also a regular girl. She is both together.
And I like your comparison to Veronica, because of course there is a lot to compare with these two. Veronica is the non-supernatural more real-life version of Buffy in a lot of ways.
Except that Veronica really is a human mortal girl.
Also Veronica is more butch than Buffy. Which is also great. I like that Veronica can combine lots of feminine stuff with also being physically tough and demanding attention and respect and standing up for herself, etc.
Like, Veronica will take up space in a room - even when she isn’t in active PI mode. Whereas Buffy, often even while being a badass and fighting off demons, still holds herself in a more traditionally feminine way and makes silly jokes to put her enemies off balance. So Veronica will get up in your face and click her taser on to warn you that she’s not to be messed with. And Buffy will act sort of sugary and downplay her strengths and then kick your ass when you’re not looking?
So, I think a lot of what you’re saying is true for Veronica, but not necessarily as true for Buffy? Veronica has a lot of weight on her shoulders - but not literally the whole world. Veronica has a lot of special powers - but she’s not the one girl in all the world to be chosen to kill bad guys. Veronica has the opportunity to be a teenage girl who is seen and recognized as a teenage girl while also being quite tough and badass - she doesn’t have to constantly prove to herself and everyone around her that no, really, she is a teenage girl who likes dances and boys and makeup - because it’s accepted that those things are true for her. (She would be more likely to have to prove the opposite if she didn’t like those things)
Obviously, there are a lot of similarities between these two petite blonde teenage girls with special abilities and responsibilities. But a big difference between them is that one of them is a normal (more or less) teenage girl and the other one is a supernaturally powered teenage girl picked by a patriarchal system to fight supernatural bad guys. She’s not expected to have a normal life or do normal things. Buffy has to fight every day to be able to have friends and care about her family and date boys and be into more frivolous things.
Buffy does normal youthful girly stuff, almost, as a way to rebel against her destiny. Whereas the way Veronica rebels is to take on less feminine aspects and act older than her age. It’s a different dynamic and it makes them both stay sort of separate from their loved ones - but in different ways and for different reasons.
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