Baptism, Sacrifice, and Resurrection: Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has all the characteristics of a superhero. She battles monsters as Chosen One and Slayer, born to defeat the forces of darkness and sworn to protect the innocent. By day, she passes for a teen like any other, with her secret known only to her mentor and best friends. And like Superman, Spiderman, and so many more, she quests on her own version of the hero’s journey.

On the heroine’s epic journey, she places the defense of family, friends, and loved ones above all. Buffy’s foes are misogynists, abusers, power-mad men, and most often vampires: demonic creatures that turn the helpless into murderers and devourers of life. She uses her gifts to defend abused women and frightened children, along with her vulnerable mother and little sister.

In all these great stories, the hero or heroine descends into death, and is reborn, more powerfully than before. This descent is a great trauma, one that frightens away all but the bravest. When Buffy finds out the great prophecies condemn her to die at the hands of the brutish Master, she quits being a slayer. She is galvanized to fight, however, when her innocent friendWillowis hurt by the Master’s senseless murders. As she puts it, “It… it wasn’t our world anymore. They made it theirs.” By traumatizingWillow, the vampires have threatened Buffy’s gentle, vulnerable side at its core. Buffy assures her she will do “What we have to,” and strides into battle, head high. With a defiant “Maybe I’ll take him with me,” she descends into the vampire lair and certain death, determined to protect those she loves.

Despite her crossbow and bravado, however, her slayer power is no match for the Master. However, Xander, her emotional side, and Angel, her love, arrive and administer CPR, bringing her back from her prophesized death through love and loyalty, the heroine’s greatest weapons. When she returns, she feels “strong” and “different.” Within moments she’s standing, determined to rejoin the battle. Empowering music fills the screen. “Oh look, a bad guy,” she says. She punches the vampire in their path and walks past him, not breaking her stride. She strides unhesitatingly up to the Master. With a final “You’re that amped about Hell…Go there!” she tosses him through the skylight, impaling him on a spike far below.

When the heroine resurrects, she is a new person, strong with the mysteries of the underworld and its arcane wisdom. She no longer fears her own mortality. While this first season finale foreshadows her later, more lasting death and resurrection, it also provides a turning point, filling her with inner potency.

Later seasons focus on her other relationships. Her mother dies, and her mentor Giles leaves forEngland, forcing her to grow up. As Willow grows in power, Dawn, Buffy’s younger sister, emerges as her new vulnerable side. In the fifth season finale, Buffy sacrifices herself to save Dawn, dying once again and then finally returning to life in the essential path of the Chosen One.

After this resurrection, Buffy must accept her responsibilities and grow into adulthood as Dawn’s guardian and an independent adult. She transcends her earlier status as misfit high school student and grows into womanhood, eternally protecting the helpless through the power of the Slayer.

 

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Filed under Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Heroine's Journey, Pop Culture

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