Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2004) started as a horror-comedy TV show to make fun all the angst we went through in high school. As it gained popularity, and the writers and showrunner Joss Whedon got into their groove, it turned into a popular culture phenomenon with lessons about loving teamwork, sharing power, and having the courage of one’s convictions. It was about female power, strength and leadership, and most of all the redemptive power of love, friendship and community.
So maybe it is no surprise that nineteen years after the episode “Amends” aired, I saw my friend on Facebook saying, “It strikes me that there’s a Buffy episode about today… the one where she has a soliloquy on the work never ending. I forget which.”
I responded, “Amends.” And posted the following quote:
Buffy: You’re weak. Everybody is. Everybody fails. Maybe this evil did bring you back, but if it did, it’s because it needs you. And that means that you can hurt it. Angel, you have the power to do real good, to make amends. …Strong is fighting! It’s hard, and it’s painful, and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do. And we can do it together.
My friend replied, “Shouldn’t this be your status today? And for all time?”
She’s not wrong. That quote comes from the middle of Season 3, when Angel, after having been turned evil, slayed by Buffy, sent to a demon dimension and then sent back by the Powers that Be, is trying to attempt suicide by sunlight, and Buffy tries to stop him. Then snow comes to Sunnydale, California’s Christmas morning and he doesn’t die, but rather continues to work for good.
The problem is, that this is a situation where she is fighting a friend to get him to fight for people’s safety. Previously, at the end of Season 2, when Angel was still evil and before Buffy had dredged up the guts to kill him and save the world, she is confronted by a neutral demon who is trying to help her. In a voice over, he says:
Whistler: Bottom line is even if you see ’em coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So, what, are we helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come, can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.
That is where we are today, in the middle of a big moment, with a cascade of big moments ready to attempt to engulf us in the weeks and months to come. My friends—sad, terrified, ashamed of our brother and sister Americans who apparently hate us and want to strip us of our rights and safety—are trying today to take a ragged breath, wipe away their own tears and those of their friends and children, and get ready to take a stand. Count. Find out who we are.
So thank you, Joss Whedon. Your stories will help us to do it.