NPR reporter Jamie Tarabay witnessed and experienced awful and frightening things while she was in Baghdad. So she turned to her heroine: Buffy Summers. From Buffy The Vampire Slayer. "Buffy always managed to remind me that in the end, she was just a girl, like me," Tarabay declares. It's been eleven years since The Slayer first hit American televisions, but she remains not only one of the most popular characters, but — unlike so many of the sitcom moms and lovelorn teens on other shows — a young woman that other young women actually relate to. So what does Buffy have to do with Baghdad?

Explains Tarabay: "Buffy took a deep breath before going into what was often the fight of her life. Every time I got into our bullet proof car to drive around Baghdad, so did I. And on days I was stuck in the bureau, I'd sit in my room and put on another DVD."

Those not familiar with Buffy only need to know that she kicked ass. Yes, there were vampires and demons, yes there was a musical episode. But. She was a teenage girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders (haven't we all felt like that?), whose emotions and dilemmas were instantly recognizable. High school can be hell; Buffy's happened to be on the Hellmouth. A professor at Ursinus College outside of Philadelphia is a leader in Buffy studies. The third academic conference dedicated to Buffy is planned in June at Henderson State University in Arkansas.

But for Tarabay, Buffy's situation was both mirror and inspiration. "Buffy's creator, Joss Whedon, gave his blond destroyer a quick wit, friends who kept up with her, and a wardrobe I would die for," she says. "Especially in Baghdad, where I couldn't wear anything cute." Tarabay continues:

"What made Buffy my superhero was that she wasn't perfect. Like me, she made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of hard lessons. Watching her deal with her own private war zone helped me deal with mine."


Here's the thing. Buffy ended in 2003. Where's the new kick-ass girl for us to look up to? Not on The Hills, that's for sure. Maybe Joss Whedon's new show (starring Buffy alum Eliza Dushku) will offer a woman with strength, substance and cute clothes?

Vampire Slayer Buffy Saves Iraq Reporter's Soul [NPR]

Related: Pa. Professor Leads 'Buffy the Vampire' Study [AP]

'Dollhouse': First Look at Joss Whedon's New Series [EW]

Earlier: Where The Hell Are The Strong Women?