Tag Archives: 1990s

Staking out the Weekend

I was recently given the most amazing gift. I’ve got to tell you all about it.

Image: adkwriter.wordpress.com

Image: adkwriter.wordpress.com

So, we visited some friends at the weekend, and (as well as having a wonderful time), they made my husband and I – or, well, me really – a present of seasons 1-3 of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer.’

No – wait! Don’t run away!

What do you mean, 'aaaargh?' Image: gautamsofficial.blogspot.com

What do you mean, ‘aaaargh?’
Image: gautamsofficial.blogspot.com

I know the topic of ‘Buffy’ can divide opinion – and, sometimes, it’s the people who’ve never watched the show who can have the loudest opinion – but I have to nail my colours to the mast right here.

I’m a fan.

I’m a massive fan of Joss Whedon, for a start; I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything he has had a hand in which I haven’t liked, at least somewhat. I love the way he writes women, and his imaginative use of myth and folklore, and the intelligent, complex humour that weaves its way through everything he’s made. So, it stands to reason that I’d be a fan of Buffy Summers and her ragged little Scooby Gang, battling to keep the world vampire-free.

However, I came late to ‘Buffy’. To me, the show is all about Willow being a powerful and sometimes rather evil witch, and Buffy’s complicated relationship with the vampire Spike, all of which comes well into the show’s development. Season 1 is all about Buffy’s relationship with the vampire Angel, of whom I was never really a fan – mainly because the show was all about Spike when I watched it – but I’m finally developing an appreciation for Angel as a character and as a focus for Buffy’s affection. It was moving to watch them fall in love, all the while with Buffy thinking he was human, until the inevitable moment when his true nature is forced to make an appearance.

In fact, I spent *cough* several hours yesterday watching one or two (or six) episodes, and it was huge fun to see all the characters as they were at the beginning of the show – young, and innocent, and in possession of the clunkiest high-heeled shoes and the frostiest lipstick known to man. It made me very nostalgic for my own 1990s teenage-hood, when girls went out to nightclubs dressed in slacks and jackets and nobody had mobile phones and the very idea of the internet was mind-blowing and most people listened to decent music and sarcasm was the lingua franca of everyone under thirty.

Sometimes, I really miss those days.

It was also great to see Willow the way she was at the show’s beginning – gentle, and quiet, and nerdy, and devoted to Xander, and totally unaware of her own magical powers. She was always one of my favourite characters (even when she was, you know, evil and set on destroying the world, and stuff), and watching the show would be worth it just for her.

Naaaaaw! Image: angelsrealm.com

Naaaaaw!
Image: angelsrealm.com

It’s a strange experience, from a narrative point of view, to watch the show backwards – as in, to only be experiencing its beginnings now, despite knowing how the story arcs end and how all the characters develop. It makes my viewing experience at once brand-new and exciting, as well as bittersweet. It also makes me appreciate exactly how much the characters grow and mature, and how interesting their stories are. For me, Buffy herself was always a weary, sick-and-tired-of-saving-the-world-again type character, so to see her as she is in season 1 (a cheerleading wannabe, running away from her past, trying to date and have a normal teenage life, full of pep and snarky humour) is great.

But mainly what watching ‘Buffy’ does is make me really, truly crazy that ‘Twilight’ is the vampire story that most young people are familiar with these days. ‘Buffy’ is still popular, and still a part of the mental world of teenage audiences, but I do think it has largely been replaced by Bella Swan and her moping nonsense. How has this happened? How have we replaced Buffy Summers – a kickboxing, weapon-slinging, intelligent, brave, resourceful, fearless, duty- and honour-bound warrior – with Bella Swan, whose single greatest achievement is managing not to fall over while walking down a school corridor and having a crush on a guy who sparkles in the sunlight?

Gaaaah!  Image: twilight.wikia.com

Gaaaah!
Image: twilight.wikia.com

It makes me ferocious to think that role models for girls have regressed to the point where they’d rather read about a character who devotes herself – body, mind and soul – to the needs of a man than learn about Buffy, who is a self-possessed, confident heroine in her own right. Buffy doesn’t need anyone. Her relationships are her own choices, and she owns her mistakes. She bravely goes wherever her duty calls her, and she never backs down. She sacrifices everything she has in order to save the innocent. She looks like the kind of girl who could cause some serious damage (and, indeed, the actress who played her had a black belt in taekwondo); Bella Swan looks like she’d fall over in a stiff breeze. Bella Swan never thinks about anyone outside of her own small circle. Bella’s story – from what I remember of it, which isn’t much – is largely about herself, and Edward (the vampire who becomes her husband), and their family. They fight, sure, but it’s to save themselves. Buffy fights evil because it is the right thing to do, and because it is her responsibility, and even though it weighs heavily on her she doesn’t shirk it. She fights to save people who don’t even know they’re in danger, and she suffers for it.

But no. We’d rather squee over Bella Swan’s wedding dress than fangirl over Buffy’s prowess with a crossbow.

Whatever.

I know where my loyalties lie.

Image: italiansubs.com

Image: italiansubs.com

Memory Lane

Yesterday, a friend asked me something which got me thinking about our youth.  She wanted me to think of some words and phrases which summed up our time as teens, back in the deepest, darkest 1990s, and this train of thought has put me on a bee-line for memory lane ever since.

It made me think of checked shirts, and Doc Marten boots; it made me think of tie-dye (of which I used to be a head-to-toe fan); it made me think of ‘Jump Around’ by the band House of Pain, which was practically our class anthem.  I remembered the huge round glasses I used to wear, and the full year of mourning for Kurt Cobain.  I remembered all the ‘battles of the bands’ – you either had to be a Nirvana fan or a Pearl Jam fan; you couldn’t be both (unless, like me, you did it in secret) – the same went for Blur and Oasis.  It made me smile to remember how my friends and I used to be on constant lookout for the boys we liked, following them around and trying to look cool; somehow, we managed to put aside our natural shyness when we were in groups, though history does not record what the poor boys thought of us.  I thought, affectionately, of a time when nobody had a mobile phone, and there was no such thing as Facebook.  If you wanted to know what someone was thinking, you didn’t check their Twitter feed – you just had to ask them.  It’s the kind of world that teenagers today can’t even imagine.

Along with the sunny memories of carefree fun came the darker thoughts, ones that plagued me as a younger person.  I remembered, with painful clarity, the awkwardness and embarrassment of being a teenager, particularly one who was a bit ungainly, and more likely to have been thought of as the class swot instead of a social butterfly.  The pain of rejection came back to me like a needle in my soul, and the terror of losing face among my peers reared up in me again, and I began to realise it was no wonder I found adolescence such a difficult thing to go through.  Every day brought a new challenge, and the rules always seemed to be changing.  I was not among the chosen few who always seemed ahead of the game, and I wondered how there were some people who seemed to know what they were doing at all times.  It’s only now, with the benefit of adulthood, that I realise those people were going through the same testing as I was – they were just better at hiding it.  The pressures you feel in those few precious years will never seem so heavy again, and no pain will ever strike as hard as a pain suffered during your teens.  For me, it was a time of extremes – my happy times were extraordinary, but I also crawled through the darkest pits of despair that I think I’ve ever known.

I wouldn’t change a second of it, though.

I know now that those years made me who I am today, and the lessons I learned throughout my teens still inform my daily life.  Lessons like: never judge a person because you don’t know what they’re dealing with; never bully or belittle another person because everyone has something worthwhile within them; never assume a person is your friend because they give you what you want.  I learned that sometimes going through pain can bring you great benefits, but that it’s important to know how to protect yourself.  I learned the extent of what I could cope with, and how strong I could be when I had to.  You can’t replace life experiences like that.

I’m very glad that I grew up – and I don’t think I’d like to do it all again – but I’m glad I had my adolescence, and the family and friends I had.  I realise, too, that it’s no mystery why I love writing for young adults.  No other time in your life holds so much promise and potential, where every day is a new and thrilling experience.  On second thought, maybe I should relive my youth more often!