What Does Buffy Have To Do With Baghdad? An NPR Reporter Explains

Illustration for article titled What Does Buffy Have To Do With Baghdad? An NPR Reporter Explains

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?

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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?

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DISCUSSION

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Huge Buffy fan here. Huge. Could write papers and papers on that show. And since I have a Masters in what is, basically, women's autobiographical comics. Yay for pop culture interests!

Buffy, Willow, Fred, Faith, etc. were all allowed to have real character arcs. They were strong in individual ways that were unique to each character. They weren't interchangeable.

Same thing with BSG. I find the arcs of Roslin and Starbuck particularly fascinating because of this. They're not afraid to make their characters -wrong-. Really, really wrong. Or right, depending on your point of view. The point is that none of it is easy and there's context and reasons for all of it. It's a fascinating political exploration.

The important thing about all these female characters is that they're all complex, interesting, flawed, PEOPLE. They don't always make the right decision, they aren't perfect, and they're allowed to grow and evolve. That's huge. Letting female characters be unlikeable or screwed up in non-stereotypical ways is refreshing.