Once More With Feeling: A “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” 20th Birthday Roundtable

Today is the 20th anniversary of the very first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a TV show queer women have more feelings about than all other TV shows combined. It’s bananas to think that, two decades after it premiered, Buffy is still the standard against which we measure all other female-fronted TV shows and movies, all other ensemble action shows and movies, and all other broadcast network lesbian/bisexual storylines. We’re still inspired by Buffy’s speeches, enthralled by Cordelia’s Slytherin hijinks, wooed by Willow’s nerdery, devastated by — SPOILER ALERT! — Tara’s death. (It’s doubly-bananas that we still need to spoiler alert this show because people are still finding their way to it after all this time!) We’ve written about Buffy quite a lot over the years.

Remember when Riese watched it for the first time four years ago?

Remember when Vanessa explored all the versions of her queer girl self through the series?

Remember “Our Willow, Ourselves”?

We helped you dress like all the women from Buffy for Halloween (twice!), explained why Willow is one of the best witches ever, got real about Willow and Tara’s devastating breakup, ranked Willow and Tara’s smooching in the context of all queer TV history, and rejoiced when Kristin Russo and Jenny Owen Youngs started their very own (now very famous) Buffy podcast. And we mourned — SPOILER ALERT! — Tara’s death, a lot.

Buffy is a queer rite of passage. Everybody’s got a Buffy story.  These are some of ours.


Kristin Russo, A-Camp Co-Director, Co-Founder Everyone Is Gay, Co-Host Buffering the Vampire Slayer

I was every Whedon-fanatic’s nightmare in 1997: I dearly loved the movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Kristy Swanson?! Luke Perry?! Swoon…), and yet couldn’t have cared less about the television show. Instead of Buffy, I watched Friends. Ross! Rachel! Come on! In the other free hours of my evenings, I worked on perfecting the art of cradling the cordless phone between my ear and shoulder. ’97 was a banner year.

It wasn’t until 2009 — the year I started dating a girl who had great bangs and played the guitar — that the Buffy-shaped doorway in my heart began to crack open. I happened to love making out with this girl, so of course I agreed to watch her very favorite television show (of which she owned the box DVD set, duh). I wanted to love it, I really did — mostly because then we’d be able to talk for hours about how much we loved this perfect show, all the while punctuating our conversations with more making out! The issue with this plan was that, as it turned out, I didn’t like watching the show… at all. Just a few episodes in, I confessed: “I like making out with you and I cannot watch this show anymore.”

I braced for impact.

Despite my fears, she didn’t break up with me. She knew (as any true fan of Buffy knows) that there are two kinds of people in this world: Those who love Buffy and those who won’t allow themselves to love Buffy. This girlfriend of mine knew that I just needed time and patience, and that eventually I would fall fangs over feet in love with the series. In 2011 she tried again, this time skipping season one and starting with season two. Much to both of our delights, in 2011 I fell hard.

I loved what so many fans of the show love, I’m sure — but (and this is a particular kind of magic that beautiful art commands) the show and its characters felt like they were pointedly mine. Buffy’s character specifically grabbed hold of something in my middle. While outwardly I appear at ease, social, and happy, I can be a very isolated person, and I wrestle with depression. I have strong opinions and an anxious need to remain in control, which often results in others looking to me for guidance (even though I know just as little as they do!). I have been pointed in the direction of social justice since I at least my middle school years, and identify strongly with those who fight back against inequality. In moments when I felt like no one on the planet could understand the weight I felt from all of these intersecting experiences, I formed a deepening connection to this character, this symbol of standing up each time you were knocked down, this fucking kickass feminist.

I married that guitar-playing girl in 2013, and soon thereafter she requested that we take all of our collective Buffy-love and and send it out into the universe. Specifically, she wanted to co-host a Buffy the Vampire Slayer themed podcast where we’d discuss the series and create an original song for each and every episode. True to my established patterns, I initially protested: “It will take too much of our time! We have no time! It will be SO HARD!” True to her established patterns, she persisted. In 2016 she finally won her battle, and Buffering the Vampire Slayer was born.

Buffering the Vampire Slayer does, in fact, take nearly all of our time. It is, indisputably, very hard. It has also changed our lives. Every week I get to sit in a room with my wife and pull apart complex characters and ideas, relating them to our lives and the things we see in the world around us. Every week I get to shout with her about vampires, demon-lizards, and The Patriarchy. And the best part? Every week we assemble more and more people into our brand new Buffy community, gathering in both digital and physical spaces with others who share in our love for this series, others who relate to these characters, others who want to shout about The Patriarchy, and others who are, like us, endlessly thankful for a space to be themselves.


Jenny Owen Youngs, Literal Rockstar, Co-Host Buffering the Vampire Slayer

I wrote this song in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to reflect my personal experience with the series. There is a reason why, 20 years later, this story about one girl in all the world still resonates so strongly: it has given so many people the invaluable gift of feeling seen. Buffy helped a generation of weirdos (myself included) feel better about feeling different.


Riese, Editor-in-Chief

Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s original airing managed to coincide almost exactly with a unique life period in which my TV viewership was generally minimal — boarding school, New York, undergrad at Michigan. Without regular access to cable, I missed the Buffy Thing altogether.
Had I not become a lesbian in my mid-twenties I probably never would’ve watched it, but as soon as you figure out that you’re queer, you quickly figure out that everybody else has seen Buffy and you haven’t. As a queer TV writer specifically, you quickly learn about Buffy’s assorted queer milestones — like that it was the first lesbian relationship between lead characters on primetime network television! So that’s why I finally sat down and sunk my fangs into this epic masterwork in 2012. But ultimately it wasn’t the queer stuff that nailed me in the heart — it was the stuff about death, and the stuff in later seasons about the responsibility of power. It was, finally, this:

Faith: I’m looking at you, and everything you have, and I don’t know, I’m jealous. Then there I am. Everybody’s looking to me, trusting me to lead them and I’ve never felt so alone in my entire life.
Buffy: Yeah?
Faith: And that’s you, every day, isn’t it?
Buffy: I love my friends. I’m very grateful for them. But that’s the price of being Slayer.


Kate Leth, Comics Writer/Illustrator, Buffering the Vampire Slayer Fashion Updater

There is no piece of media more influential to me than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I grew up with it; I started watching during its first season, when I was 9, and caught it every week until it ended as I turned 16. Willow’s relationship with Tara absolutely cemented some things I was already pretty sure about myself, and gave me permission to embrace them. Buffy’s confrontation with Angel in the end of season two remains my go-to source of inspiration when I feel beaten down. I have so many relationships to this show and feel so fundamentally attached to it, despite its many flaws, that even trying to describe how much it means to me feels futile. But, I’m a writer, so I’ll try.

So much of my admiration comes down to Buffy herself — on my initial watch, she was my least favourite character, aside from Cordelia. I liked Xander more than both of them, if you can even fathom believing that. No, I was a Willow girl through and through; nerdy, awkward and probably in love with my best friends. How could I identify with pretty, popular, superheroic Buffy? It wasn’t until I was in college watching it again that I realized how much I’d missed out on. Buffy’s gradual evolution to finding her inner strength and self-confidence is honestly, from a storytelling perspective, stunning. Her character has incredible depth. She’s feminine, funny and vulnerable on top of kicking ass. She suffers and screws up and makes jokes, and even when she’s spouting the Joss-iest of dialogue, Sarah Michelle Gellar lived and breathed that character and made her into something iconic. I don’t know who else could’ve played her, but I’m glad she did. Buffy meant the world to me. She still does.


Erin, Staff Writer

I understand some of you are going to want to physical fight me after I tell you this but I’ve never seen Buffy and I have zero intention of ever watching it. Is that arrogant of me to think I know for certain that I’ll never in my entire life find myself watching Buffy? Sure. But I’m telling you this because friends are honest with each other. I have no idea what any of you are talking about but I love you all the same.


Stef, Vapid Fluff Editor

I never watched Buffy as a kid, but I find Kristin Russo and Jenny Owen Youngs really charming so I started watching the show in order to listen to their excellent podcast, Buffering the Vampire Slayer. I’ve gotta be real with you, I hated the show the whole way through, but I loved the pure and sweet way that Kristin and Jenny loved these characters, so I appreciated the character development. By the time I finished (about a month ago), the only character I still liked was Willow, and I found myself desperately rooting for the Big Bad to win and kill everyone.

I might have felt differently had I watched this television show as an aspiring goth 13-year-old like everybody else. As it stands, I sent Kristin and Jenny a lot of angry all-caps texts about my feelings, mostly that the Master and his subplot were a direct ripoff of every Krang-based Ninja Turtles episode ever (bro’s just trying to get his army out of Dimension X) and wondering why Willow has to turn into Wes from Limp Bizkit every time she performs magic.

Anyway, I had a lot of issues with the writing, which I am hoping to process through my terrible music. I wrote this song about my primary feeling about season five; I expect my next one will be about the werewolf costumes.


Cameron Glavin, Cartoonist

Here is the truth:

My good friend Talia suggested I watch Buffy probably at least three times a year since 2009. I did not watch it. In 2016, Jenny and Kristin’s podcast started (shortly after Talia talked to me about it again). The universe was not being subtle. So now Talia’s rewatching it with me for, I dunno, probably her 15th time by now. And I like it. I’m not even close to done but SO FAR, I like the balance of Things I Can Appreciate vs. Things I Can Make Fun Of — which to me is probably the most important aspect for a show I’m watching 20 years past its air date. (Other than Ladies in Charge, or I still wouldn’t be watching.)

Seasoned veteran Talia has this to say and I’m all about it:

“I just have too many feelings? Like the show is so campy but also so incredibly sincere that it sucks you in and then you end up coming back to it even years down the line. At its heart, it’s an allegory for what it’s like to be weird and different in high school and the transition to adulthood, to being responsible for other people. And also SPOILER it has the most genuine depiction of depression in a main character that I’ve ever seen, and it doesn’t get swept under the rug, and culminates in this heartbreaking scene in which she realizes that she doesn’t want to die, and that’s all she’s got at the moment but it’s something.”

Anyway. It’s a nice distraction from real life and I’m so cautiously thrilled to meet/understand the excitement around Tara and to learn why she is wearing the thing she is wearing in the Dead Lesbian Society pin. There’s a nerd bar in Cleveland celebrating the Buffyversary with costumes and screenings and trivia. So I’ll be there with some queer ladies. Who knows. Maybe I’ll bring back the pleather stretch pants and Faith wig.


Molly P, Feelings Rookie

I grew up in a house in which The Simpsons weren’t allowed, let alone anything that had to do with vampires, aka the devil’s minions. So when I learned about the show in middle school, I was intrigued, but didn’t really pay attention until my oldest sister, who was so fabulous because she was in high school and knew so much more than me, was talking about it, about how there was a lesbian witch. As a baby queer, I was scared if the topic of gayness was even brought up in my presence, because I assumed people would just know about me. So when she was talking about it with her friends, I braced myself for the worst. But they weren’t upset by the gay witch — they really liked her! Holy smokes, what did this mean for me? It was one of the first times I’d felt like I’d be OK. Still haven’t watched the show, though I am very, very thankful.


Dufrau, Contributor

Buffy was kind of a community show for mke. I watched my first episode with my dad, when they blew up The Judge with a rocket launcher. I watched the season four finale in the drama club office junior year with I guess my first fandom friends. I watched the musical episode over and over again with my little brother smoking weed in my parents’ basement. It’s the first show I ever really thought about and it’s a show I still have intense discussions with people about. Anyway here is a picture of Budgie with my Buffy DVDs because I have probably watched it with her most of all.


Mey, Trans and Music Editor

Like others have said, I didn’t get into Buffy until Jenny and Kristin’s wonderful perfect podcast. I had half-watched some episodes a few years ago because my cabin at A-Camp was the Slayers but I barely paid attention and didn’t get invested. And I didn’t get invested after watching the first season this time either. I kind of hated it. Except for Cordelia, but more about her later. Anyway, I only kept watching so that could keep listening to the podcast. But when it got to the episode Halloween in season two I was hooked. I loved the characters! Except for Angel and Xander, who I both hate. But yeah, now I love it. Anyway, more about Cordelia.

Cordelia is my absolute favorite kind of character. She’s pretty and mean and confident and bratty and I love it. As a trans woman, it took me a while to be comfortable in my femininity, so seeing this trope of mean girl characters who are loudly and unapologetically proud of who they are and their femininity honestly really inspired me. I love the way she doesn’t compromise on who she is. I love the way she gets what she wants. I love the way she has layers. Plus, I’m always gonna be into the best dressed character on the show, I mean, cone on. Anyway, I love Cordelia and everything she stands for. Characters like her made me into the confident woman I am today.


Heather Davidson, Contributor

It was my girlfriend who insisted I watched Buffy when we first got together, even though she was only up to the fourth season herself. Unfortunately, I’d spent enough of my life in the internet nerd milieu by that point that I a) had already been spoiled for pretty much everything and b) assumed that everyone else had been too. Turns out I was incorrect on that second point, and casually mentioning Tara’s death over dinner when my girlfriend had only just seen “Hush” was a bad idea. Three and a half years later, she still hasn’t forgiven me.

Anyway, spoilers for a twenty year old show aside, I love Buffy with all my gay little heart. Even the goofy bits. Especially the goofy bits. Honestly, I could watch Xander fall in love with women who are secretly monsters all day long. Or demons playing kitten poker. Or Buffybot doing anything. Did you know that Britney Spears was meant to star in the episode where Buffybot first appears? Well, now you do!


Laneia, Executive Editor

I didn’t watch Buffy when it first aired because I was a teenager with a car and I liked to smoke cigarettes and listen to Lauryn Hill with my best friend Rhonda, all of which had to be done outside of my home. Then in my mid-ish twenties I realized I was gay and that included realizing I had to watch Buffy. You can’t throw a rock in the Queer Community™ without hitting a Buffy reference, so after a while it just became too much to bear. I marathoned all one million seasons with my then-girlfriend and we loved it so much we bought the box set when it wasn’t even on sale. My two #1 feelings about Buffy are: Season One is a true test of a person’s devotion to the cause and Dark Willow is up there with Stevie Nicks and Loretta Lynn for me in terms of heroes. Oh and this: ANNNYAAAAAAAAAAAA! *clutches chest*


Laura M, Staff Writer

I am still crying about Anya.

Also: I first watched Buffy in college, with a supposedly straight girl who also got me into Glee. And bisexuality. Willow is my favorite witch. As it so happens, I’m rewatching Buffy now! With my live-in, adult, lesbian girlfriend!

I liked season six so much. I’m sorry.


Casey Stepaniuk, Contributor

Well I’m gonna go full sappy and really sincere on y’all and tell you that as a burgeoning queer and feminist teen Buffy meant so damn much to me. Cheering on this woman superhero beating up guys all the time was inexplicably soothing the first time I was watching, but I now realize it was a big part of the beginning of my feminist consciousness. Even now, sometimes when I’m walking by myself at night and feeling scared, I think of Buffy being bad-ass and staking vampires and I stand up a little straighter, feeling empowered.

And then there’s Willow, dorky gay witch of my heart, who I identified with so strongly even before she came out. (I mean, the pink fluffy sweater with the daisies on it was totally something I would have worn). Although I have complicated feelings now about what I feel was a big missed opportunity for the representation of a bisexual character or a journey of sexual fluidity where the person actually talked about it instead of just proclaiming themselves “gay now,” I will always be grateful to Buffy for showing me that someone like Willow even could be queer. For teenage me, that revelation was nothing short of life-changing.


Valerie Anne, Contributor

The first time I ever saw BtVS is one of those weirdly detailed memories that sticks with me, even after 20 years, and even though I was only ten years old. I was in the living room with my dad, who was flipping through channels trying to find something to watch. He stopped on The WB, and “The Pack” was on. Something about it hooked us, and he spent the commercial breaks telling me about the movie of the same name he loved.

Buffy became “our thing” and every Tuesday night we’d settle in for some badassery and snark. Every Christmas I’d get the previous year’s season on DVD, and every summer I would rewatch all the existing seasons while waiting for the new one to start. Every semester in college I would find a friend who had never watched it and watch the entire series with them and watch them become obsessed before my very eyes.

I think I would be a very different person if I hadn’t watched Buffy when I did. I think the dialogue helped shape my wit, I think the themes helped me channel my sadness, I think the strong women on the show helped give me a well of bravery to pull from when I needed it. It was also my first foray into fandom and understanding the gift of being bonded by a shared love of a TV show; I spent a lot of time in AOL chatrooms, usually called some version of “The Bronze.” Buffy was part of me. Buffy IS part of me. Despite having watched every season at least once a year for those first 12 years or so, I haven’t done a full rewatch since coming out (coincidentally…there’s probably something there about not needing a security blanket anymore but we’ll leave it alone), but I started rewatching along recently with Buffering the Vampire Slayer and it’s merging together that lonely kid who loved visiting Sunnydale as often as possible with the out and proud queer TV recapper I am now, and I’m falling in love with the show all over again.


Kayla, Staff Writer

I didn’t watch Buffy until college, but when I finally did, it took over my life. (I started watching it around the same time I started coming out, and Faith along with Vampire Willow were very crucial players in that journey.) A day rarely passes when I do not think about Cordelia Chase. “Once More With Feeling” is one of my favorite television moments of all time (minus that stupid kiss at the end). From time to time, I still enter a rage blackout when I think about Anya’s ignominious demise. But even when I fixate on some of Buffy‘s problems, I can’t help but love it with all my heart.


Karly, Social Media

I watched Buffy for the first time in 6th grade on reruns on FX. I was blessed to be able to watch the first five seasons, two episodes a day every single day. I met my best (and arguably only) friends in middle school because of it. I was in the line in the cafeteria sliding my tray down, when I heard the girls behind me talking about Buffy. I immediately jumped in, and we sat together and didn’t stop talking for two years straight.

I remember very vividly sobbing my eyeballs out lying on my top bunk when Buffy sacrificed herself for Dawn, and then FX started season one the next day as if that was the end. It took a while for me to watch season SIX. My friends and I had decided early on that I was Willow, of course. The quiet, shy girl who spent most of her time in the library, except I was more of a tomboy, so I kind of subconsciously turned away from seeing myself in Buffy.

When Willow came out, I felt a stab of recognition and shame. I wasn’t ready to come out, and I didn’t want my friends to think I was like Willow “like that,” even though I made them watch every single Eliza Dushku movie several times in theaters. Yes, even Wrong Turn and The New Guy. But it was too soon to acknowledge that part of myself. In fact, even today I still remember that sharp pain of recognition, of being seen when I wasn’t ready to be seen. As an adult I relate a lot to Buffy, and I think a lot of women can relate to being underestimated by men because of how they dress, sound, and look. Now, I can get pissed as hell at Tara’s death and not worry whether my friends will think that makes me gay (it does). Happy birthday, BtVS.


Alaina, Staff Writer

I watched all of Buffy in like two months around the time Kristen and Jenny’s Buffering podcast started. I screamed at the computer screen angrily until season four, episode ten, and then I was overwhelmed with gay feelings. Then I screamed some more. I’m glad the true villain of BTVS is misogyny and the patriarchy because I got 99 problems and they can all be traced back to those very two things. As a human who was barely six when it came out, there are a lot of references that I don’t get, but like, overall 10/10 would recommend. Buffy’s amazing. I mean, I named my youngest cat after her because Buffy survived things she shouldn’t have survived and my Buffy (the cat) survived her mom trying to eat her in her first day of life. (I also have a cat named Anya and she’s actually not a demon, she just wants to be loved — which, one could argue the same thing for Anya.) (None of my cats are named Xander because he is the absolute worst.)


Jenna, Contributor

I know this sounds very extra, but I honestly think that Buffy the Vampire Slayer saved — or at least changed — my life. I started watching from the first episode; I was only 11 and I don’t remember why I put it on, but I was hooked immediately. Oddly enough my parents were totally cool with me watching Buffy, where people died on the reg, but tried to stop me from getting into Dawson’s Creek a year later. (For the record, they failed.) Anyway, I fell for the show hard and fast. Watching Buffy was the first time that I really felt seen as a kid who didn’t quite fit in — here was this group of nerds and outcasts and weirdos, and they were the heroes! It was amazing!

When Willow came out in season four it was still a few years before I was really able to put words to my own feelings, and realizing she had a crush on Tara equal parts terrified and excited me. It’s hard to quantify exactly how much Willow and Tara impacted my own coming out, but I do believe it helped. Buffy was also my first experience with fandom (which is a huge part of my life today); I belonged to a Yahoo! group where people older and braver than me discussed episodes or theories, and I frequented the Kitten Board.

The last way Buffy saved me that I will ramble on about is also probably the weirdest — it’s through music. Specifically, a Rilo Kiley song (“Pictures of Success”) that played in the background of the Bronze in a season six episode. I went and bought not only their albums, but other artists’ music from their record label. It opened me up to bands and shows and friends that I might not have ever known if not for a little WB show about a teenage vampire slayer.


Heather Hogan, Senior Editor

Due to a horrifying incident involving a dracula murdering and replacing my fourth grade bus driver one Halloween, vampires have been my main fear most of my life, so I was a very latecomer to the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I started watching it not too terribly long after I came out because someone very dear to me recommended it in a fan fiction forum. Up until that point every bit of queer media I consumed (and wrote fan fiction novels about, obviously) had been my little secret. The L Word, that UK soap Bad Girls, all those terrible lesbian movies you could get in the mail from this new thing called Netflix. But Buffy was like — well it was Buffy, wasn’t it? It was everyone’s show. It was the most ubiquitous reference in the general pop culture canon until Harry Potter came along.

I watched it with the lights on with other people in the room and that’s what made Willow and Tara so great: That’s how everyone watched them! Because Buffy aired on broadcast primetime television! Willow did more to help me normalize my sexuality in my own mind than any other TV character. I knew how it ended with Tara before I even began the show, so I didn’t expect to feel much about it, but I sure did. And that’s a beautiful thing too, that their storyline was so authentic, that their romance was so real, that Tara’s death was so heartbreaking, they remain cultural touchpoints for queer women across generations.

I didn’t identify with Buffy Summers until much later in my life. I feel like her a whole bunch of the time now and draw a lot of strength from her struggles and her victories and her nuggets of wisdom. Not the badassery, really, but the sort of isolation and loneliness and pressure that come from being a Slayer in a Hellmouth-infested world, knowing you can get close to people who love you and trust you to lead, but also knowing there are parts of yourself that you have to keep completely to yourself forever if you want to have any chance beating back the Big Bads. I am never not surrounded by love and affection and people who will follow me into any battle, but I’m also never not at least a little bit very much alone.

There are about seventy-eleven billion shows about clinically depressed white dudes who spend seven seasons systematically destroying themselves and everything they ever claimed to care about. And then there’s this show about a woman who very clearly struggles with depression, and is the perpetual target of every kind of attack and heartbreak. But she’s the antithesis of the neverending parade of Don Drapers across our televisions: She doesn’t give herself over to her depression and fall victim to her self-destructive impulses (and when she does, she pulls herself the fuck out of it because the people she loves are out here depending on her); she accepts that the world is relentless in its brutality and she lives anyway and she fights anyway and she lives and she lives and she lives and she lives. She sacrifices herself. And she lives again. That’s how women do it, that’s how women have always done it, understanding fully that strong is fighting. It’s hard and it’s painful and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do.


Dorothy Snarker, Contributor

Buffy the Vampire Slayer will go down in history as a show with a silly name that demanded we take women and girls seriously. The silly name, you see, was the point. It was founded on the seemingly dichotomous premise that a girl named Buffy, a blond cheerleader with a penchant for kicky boots, could save the world – a lot.

That a group of misfit friends would follow this girl and her kicky boots and her very sharp sticks into battle – to apocalypse and back. And that they would win again and again and again. Sure, it didn’t always get everything right (cough, Tara, cough). But more than any other show on television, both then and now, it challenged our concepts of strength, bravery, intelligence, loyalty, determination. It made us rethink what made a hero. The monsters and boogeymen they fought may have been fantastical, but the real-life demons they represented were not. The abusive boyfriends. The entitled nerds. The corrupt politicians. And always, and forever, working to smash the patriarchy. The mythology says into every generation a slayer is born; one girl in all the world, a chosen one. But what Buffy did was open generations up to the radical realization that there is no such thing as just a girl.


Sadie, Contributor

So let me tell you something about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When Buffy came to Netflix a few years ago it was like nostalgia overload. Not because I watched it a lot when I was younger, but because of those outfits. To this day ’90s fashion holds a pretty special place for me. When I was younger and still trying to figure things out I would sneak into our attic and rummage through all of my sisters old clothes. Lucky for me she went through middle school/high school at pretty much the same time as Buffy. Solid color turtlenecks and denim jackets 5ever.


Vanessa, Contributor

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is so many things to me. It’s this TV show I watched years after it first aired, right around the time I watched The L Word for the first time and realized I was maybe probably definitely gay. It’s my crush on Faith and my crush on Willow and my crush on Oz. It’s a show I rewatched almost all the way through with my first serious girlfriend, who had never seen it, and then it’s the show we weren’t quite done watching together when I broke up with her (it’s very upsetting to break up with someone in the middle of season six; I do not recommend it FYI). It’s What I Learned From Buffy About All The Versions of My Queer Girl Self. It’s Anya! It’s Cordelia! It’s Spike you guys, holy shit, Spike, be mine forever. (Okay is there anyone in the Buffy universe who I haven’t had some sexy feelings for?! What is the deal with Sunnydale?!)

No but seriously: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a TV show that came out in 1997 about a girl who saves the world over and over and over again in a way that only she can, but then she ultimately finds a way to make it so all girls can save the world over and over and over again – because we do. It’s about feminism and about friendship and about identity and about taking care of each other in the face of serious evil. It’s the show we needed twenty years ago and the show we need today and the show we will still need twenty years from now. I will love Buffy for forever and I’m not sorry about it.


Chelsea Steiner, Contributor

I discovered Buffy in college, after the series had aired, on DVD. At the time I was going through a deep clinical depression…but I didn’t know it. I was paralyzed by fear and self-hate, but I was still an active participant in my own life. I was going to classes, hanging out with friends, losing my virginity. Depressed people didn’t study abroad, or start fake sororities, or spend all night laughing with their friends, right? Depression meant staying in bed all day and crying, and I was only doing those things semi-regularly, so I figured that was just a part of life. Doesn’t everyone walk around with the weight of the world on their shoulders, accompanied by their personal little dark cloud?

It wasn’t until I watched season six of Buffy that I truly felt my lived experience reflected back at me for the first time. Buffy Summers was like me: highly functional and clinically depressed. Sure, I wasn’t saving the world from demons, but I was living my life like it was a constant battle, my own personal Hellmouth. The show became a safe space for me before I even knew what that meant or why I needed it. Eventually, through therapy and medication, I overcame my depression. But my love for Buffy hasn’t waned. Even now, I have a Pavlovian response to even hearing the theme song. Just the atonal twang of the opening guitar riff sends me to my happy place.

I’ll never forget the beautiful nerd hysteria when we hosted the “Once More With Feeling” singalong at A-Camp 5.0. Campers came ready to sing their hearts out, and Vanessa and Chelsey performed a fully costumed rendition of “I’m Under Your Spell” that included a choreographed sex scene. It was epic and magical, and ever since then all I want to do is play Buffy at singalongs. If anyone needs me, I’ll be waiting in Glendale with my plastic Home Depot stake, my kazoo and my tight tight pleather pants.

ALSO I just found a link to a Youtube vid of some of the singalong…it has 212 views, is it viral yet?


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77 Comments

  1. 7

    Roughly fourteen years ago there was a Buffy rerun on TV. I was eighteen. I caught the opening sequence where Willow and some girl were playing with a kitten and snuggling. “There are lesbians on Buffy?!” I said out loud, and then got quiet in case my mom would hear me.

    This was of course the Family episode where Tara’s family come to get her because she’s part demon (spoiler: LIES), and I was addicted after that. I spent the summer waking up at 6am to tape reruns (the VCR didn’t have a preset recording function) and outbidding people on eBay to get my hands on the DVD box sets.

    I came to Buffy late but I still love it and I love this article and I love you all.

  2. 9

    Oh one thing i forgot it that I actually didnt watch the series finale live for some reason, i taped it, then when i went back to watch the tape i realized it was only an hour long and the second hour i taped was the series premiere of America’s Next Top Model. I blamed Tyra Banks for a long time for Buffy only getting a one hour finale. It took me years to forgive her.

  3. 17

    I started watching buffy in the 4th grade because my sister was gay and she loved it and I was gay and I did everything she did.

    And then I dressed up as a Dark Willow for a Halloween party and no one knew who I was

    but it didn’t matter.

    Because I knew who I was

    Dark fucking Willow

  4. 3

    I got into Buffy around the back half of Season 2 and into Season 3. Much like my favorite show at the time, Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy also had a terrible season that ruined it for me, in particular because it ruined my favorite character, Willow. Twenty years on, I’m a little burned out on Joss Whedon and Whedon-style writing, but I recognize how important it was at the time. And I definitely catch myself using Buffyspeak on a regular basis!

    The funny thing about Buffy was, even though at the time I still IDed as straight, I found myself engrossed by the Willow and Tara storyline, really rooting for them. I think I recognized I was seeing something truly new on TV and that it mattered. I felt a little bad for Oz, but I mean, people change and move on, right? Willow x Tara was the OTP (and as far as I’m concerned still is…to hell with Kennedy or whatever her name was that came after, Willow and Tara 4-ever).

    There are lots and lots of good things in Buffy, and I will always remember it fondly, even if it never quite reaches Xena levels of adoration. And I can still sing all the words to “Once More, With Feeling”. In fact, one time I sang some of the songs literally dancing around a graveyard with a very patient and tolerant friend who understand that I was going through Some Stuff at the moment.

  5. 2

    The first time I watched Buffy was Thanksgiving 2015, when I marathoned the better part of the first 2 seasons with my best friend/crush/”gal pal”, in her bed with her dog lying across our legs so we couldn’t really move even if we wanted to. And then college and finals happened and I didn’t get a chance to finish it until winter break (and still…haven’t actually finished season 7, because there was a point where it got to be Too Much and I needed to back out.) So basically I think Buffy is inherently gay even before Tara and Willow, and I love it.

  6. 2

    I didn’t watch Buffy when it came out. In fact, I made fun of my boyfriend and anyone else at the time for watching. Sometime in college I caught the last half of the musical episode and was like, what? this show has changed. I gave it a chance and ended up giving a speech in my feminism in media class extolling its virtues. Incarnations of how hot I found Alyson Hannigan became my online passwords for everything. I bought the box set. Buffy won me over y’all. My fave episode is and will always be the silent one.

  7. 4

    I’m a shipper. A HARDCORE shipper. I will fling myself into ship wars, and off of cliffs for my ships. Buffy was the first time that I consciously shipped. It was the first time that I didn’t passively hope for two people to get together, but attempted to WILL them together on screen. Needless to say, I’m still bitter that when Buffy experimented with her sexuality, it wasn’t with Faith.

  8. 4

    Buffy was Friday nights in our house. I was about five watching it and loved it so much. Than I forgot about it for 12 years and did a gloryous re-watch of everything I used to watch when I was a kid, Buffy, Xena, X-files, etc. There is noting better than rediscovering your childhood.

  9. 12

    I met my now wife thanks to Buffy. We were introduced to each other on a board called The kitten the witches and the bad wardrobe, and even have the symbol engraved inside our wedding rings. It can be a bit embarrassing to say you met online, and even more so when you explain it’s because you shipped a tv show so hard, but it’s true. Growing up in rural England, in a very religious household, I hadn’t seen a whole lot fo gay representation on tv, or anywhere. Something about Willow and Tara resonated deeply in me, it was great to finally feel a connection to someone, and the kitten board opened up a whole community to me. People who let me be myself for the first time in my life. I remember how we supported each other when Seeing Red aired, and how the community ralleyed around each other and donated money to The Trevor Project in Tara’s name. Buffy gave me the kitten board, and that really changed my life more than I ever imagined it could, and for that a soft part of my heart will always belong to Buffy the vampire slayer.

    • 6

      Waaaayy back in the dim times I was an Administrator/Moderator at the Kittenboard for a time (to be honest I wasn’t very good at it, I don’t think). Seeing that the board was a part of something like meeting your wife warms my heart, all these years later.

      I haven’t looked at the board in years, but apparently it still gets some traffic. Amazing. And I still love Buffy (the show), and Willow and Tara.

      -Hugin/len

      • 4

        Len, I remember you. I believe I’ve also read your fanfic 🙂 I actually met April from the board, was introduced to my wife by our mutual friend froggyfrog, and had xita and Garfield (Dr G) at our wedding.

  10. 19

    – “The Body” is the best TV Show episode of all time.
    – “Hush” is one of the best TV Show episodes of all time
    – That “going through the motions ” song is a perfect description of depression.
    – I got a student discount on the World War 2 museum in New Orleans because I was wearing my Sunnydale High School Tshirt. I was well in my thirties.
    – Love Anya. Can’t stand Xander.
    – Visibility matters. Representation matters.
    – They got the mustard out!!!
    – She saved the world. A lot.

  11. 5

    Buffy hit me right in the middle of the teens.
    I was so scared of anything evenly remotely scary, but so into Buffy, without realizing it, that I bit my fingernails through endless demon and vampire storylines to watch a beautiful woman in leather pants kick ass.
    Also, I realized I was gay during that picnic scene in Cruel Intentions.
    Thank you for that casting choice, whoever made that movie.

  12. 7

    I first run into Buffy while going through the channels and the pilot was on. They were rerunning the episodes in preparation for season 7 (in Brazil, so the show was probably done by then.) I managed to catch a couple of episodes, but tuning in at the right times didn’t work for me.

    A year or so later, I went looking for the show, and I was hooked. I spent all the time I wasn’t watching Buffy thinking about the show. A few seasons in, Willow started being really close friends with this girl that wasn’t Buffy. I absolutely loved their relationship, and identified with Tara, but didn’t realize they were dating until the coming out ep (yeah, I know, clueless straight me.) after that ep I started questioning how straight I really was, which was not at all. I honestly can’t say how long it would’ve taken me to realize that without the show.

    Thank you all for sharing your stories.

  13. 2

    Buffy! I watched season 5 and 6 first (alone), then 1 to 4 (with friends), all on DVD, and 7 around the time when it aired, all in a span of some months. 4 holds a special place in my heart because it was one of my first terms at university, too, when I watched, and, oh, could I relate. I remember I had read somewhere on the internet about Willow and Tara and came to BtVS desperate for some kind of representation or role-models or sth.else entirely I wasn’t sure of but as lovely and important as they were I stayed for Buffy who was strong and lonely and sometimes silly and fascinating. And for Anya because what is not to love about her.

  14. 7

    Laura – I liked season six too! I think it’s one of the best seasons.

    Buffy is the reason I hardly ever eat my meals in the kitchen. When I first watched the show, it was airing every weekday at 5 pm, so me and my mom would eat dinner in front of the TV while watching it. After that we just kept eating dinner in the living room, and now I feel kind of strange sitting at the kitchen table with my food. Forever a TV dinner kind of gal.

    Ps. I’m spending ym Friday night home alone, reading about a TV show and crying tears of joy… My life is awesome.

  15. 3

    Other Buffy story: During middle school and high school, I would always wish for the DVD box sets for Christmas, and got one each Christmas eve. So Christmas day was usually spent watching an unhealthy amount of Buffy. Then when I had all the seasons and didn’t get any more Buffy for Christmas, Christmas day just never felt the same. Which is sad, but totally worth it for those memories.

    Third Buffy story: I remember seeing the commercials and times in the TV guide before the period of re-runs where I started watching the show. I thought the name sounded a little silly (it’s basically “Buffy and the vampires” in Swedish), but it peaked my interest, and my parents told me they used to watch it and quite liked it. This is not an important story in any way, but I’m just so happy I remember the part before seeing the show.

    Fourth Buffy story: Is really just a statement. My best friend growing up reminded me so freaking much of Willow – how she looks, that is. My friend was never the nerdy or shy one in our duo 😉

    • 2

      you mentioning the swedish title reminded me of the german one. buffy aired on german tv as: “buffy – im bann der daemonen” which translates roughly as “buffy – under the spell of the demons” – which i guess is typically german in terms of completely missing the point while also making it sound super cheesy and ridiculous. it aired saturdays around 4 or 5pm and the only thing i did not like about it, was that it was followed by charmed, which i hated from the bottom of my heart.

  16. 5

    I got hooked when the musical episode aired and my bff made me watch it. Early internet made it hard to track down old episodes but I prioritized season 4 because of the gay gayness. Survivor was on at the same time as new episodes and every single tv lounge in residence would be tuned to Survivor. I ran to every floor and finally found one occupied by two nerds who shouted at me IT’S BUFFY, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE FOR SURVIVOR. Friends 4 lyfe!

    I watched the Your Shirt episode when I was back home and I felt so damaged and sick about it that I went out and rented an Adam Sandler movie to cheer me up. It did not work.

  17. 9

    Only recently made an account here on AS, and I’ve been waiting for an article where I could maybe start posting on. Honestly, Buffy couldn’t be more perfect of a subject.

    I grew up watching it as a young teen along with shows like Xena and Charmed. Future re-watches would let me know that I hadn’t quite gotten the gist of things, but even so I loved every minute of this series.

    Characters I disliked the first few times around I would come to love a lot as an adult (like Cordelia, Faith and Dawn), and I definitely learned to appreciate Buffy herself more as an adult than I did when I was younger.

    This show was campy, sure, but it was also heartbreaking and inspirational and phenomenal at letting characters mess up and grow. This show did so much to form me as a person. Like a lot of people here I identified a lot with Willow, with her quietness and her geekiness. I loved her and Tara like nothing else. While it took me until a few years ago to come out, Willow and Tara’s relationship has always been in the back of my mind as something beautiful and something I would want for myself in the future (minus Warren-related incidents of course).

    This article gave me so many nostalgia feels. And it reminds me that it’s been too long since I last watched Buffy, so thank you!

  18. 6

    As a musical theatre nerd, it makes sense that I discovered Buffy through the musical episode, “Once More With Feeling”. It was December of 2008, my second year of undergrad, and I’d borrowed about 30 musical soundtracks from my roommates boyfriend to burn for myself, and one of those was Buffy. I listened to it, and LOVED it, but of course I didn’t really understand the context. Back when Buffy originally aired, a lot of my friends were really into it, but I didn’t really watch any TV at all until high school (which I started in fall 2003 after Buffy was off the air). I was much to busy reading books.

    A couple weeks later, I finally got around to watching the whole series, start to finish. Like most people, it took me a while to really get into it. The first season was weird, and watching 10 years later, it was seriously dated. And I remember I was really disappointed with the level of backstory and mythology provided. I was really happy to be proven wrong about that one in season 2.

    I binged all seven seasons over the next two months. Oddly enough, it was Jenny Calendar’s death that hit me the hardest, because it was the only one I hadn’t know about in advance. Tara, Joyce, Angel, Anya, for some reason I knew about all of those, but no one had ever warned me that Jenny died, or HOW she died, and that was seriously traumatic.

    Flashforward 6 months after I’d finished binging, and I’d also devoured Angel and Firefly. And then I met the girl who changed my life around, and who also loved Buffy. We’d have “Once More With Feeling” singalongs in her car, and we quoted it to each other constantly.

    After she broke my heart and I started realizing my feelings for her were not just about her, but about being into women more generally, I started rewatching Buffy – or more specifically, I started rewatching Willow and Tara. Especially the reunion scene at the end of Entropy, and Willow’s coming out speech to Buffy in New Moon Rising.

    I got to Buffy late, but like most people, it was there for me when I needed it.

  19. 4

    I didn’t really watch Buffy until after the show finished. A friend from the X-Files MUCK* convinced me to make vampire versions of our characters over on the Buffy server. It didn’t last very long, and I’m not sure the show had even started airing in my country at that point. Once it did, none of my friends watched it because I went to the kind of high school where people either discussed cold war politics or who got so drunk they slept with whom in a friend’s bathroom last weekend, but never television. I did see the series finale when it first aired in Ireland, because I happened to be there and wasn’t very sure about what to do in the evening since I was 19, scared of clubbing, and had never gone on holiday alone before. I thought it was kind of cool, but then I went back home and spent the rest of the summer figuring out how to handle moving abroad on my own, and forgot all about it.

    I started watching it a year or two later, though, and I haven’t stopped watching it. I’ve watched the entire series from start to end in three languages. When I wanted to learn Italian from zero, I made multimedia flashcards from BtVS season 3 and before I got halfway through, I had learned enough Italian to watch the entire series without subtitles—the power of Buffy! Buffy is on my crisis list—if the world sucks and I can’t stop crying, I can watch an episode of Buffy once I have a shower and put on a non-pyjamas.

    Confession time: I often dream about being a vampire slayer.

    * if you’re unfamiliar with the MUD/MUSH/MUCK concept, it’s online text-based role playing without graphics, where you type commands into a terminal with a bunch of other real life people seeing the results live.

  20. 4

    I’ve been lurking on this site FOREVER and this just made me finally sign up. I only caught Buffy on Netflix during maternity leave after my I had my first baby almost 4 years ago. I had heard so much about the show from friends and just never watched it growing up. I was more of a Xena gal. I watched the entire series in maybe a month. There’s a lot of campy 90s fun that I didn’t think I would like it, but it’s the characters and the humor and having a fantastic female lead that sold me. And of course there was Willow and Tara and I was so excited. For awhile, anyway.

    Thanks to this article I am celebrating 20 years with some Once More with Feeling and Hush and maybe some more. And I love this site so much. Yay!

  21. 5

    I had a Joss shows themed 21st – long before any of his Marvel stuff. I was Faith, who was one of my first crushes and was so important to me. On paper I was Willow in every way – a bookish nerd who spent her free time on the computer or in the library and later came out. Her nightmare in Restless of still being seen as the nerdy girl from season 1 rang so true to me – but Faith is the one I connected with on a deeper level, and it was Faith’s connection with Buffy I longed for much more than Willow and Tara’s proper relationship. Maybe because when I watched the show I was still in school and only really understood unrequited romance. Luckily several years later I had a redhead girlfriend who was willing to dress up as Vampire Willow!

  22. 4

    Sometimes, I think about “Hush” in broad daylight and still get the creeps.

    Also, I cannot look at a bunny without thinking of Anya singing, “bunnies aren’t just cute like everybody supposes. They’ve got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses.” It changed me as a person.

  23. 2

    I’ve seen some of the earlier episodes of Buffy, but none of the later seasons, so I’ve never watched the episodes with Willow/Tara. Which seasons/episodes would people recommend I watch for the Willow/Tara storyline?
    (Not that concerned with the rest of the show, tbh, but given how much everyone talks about the Willow/Tara relationship, I’d like to watch some of the episodes with it in…)
    Anyway, if anyone wants to help me out by answering this question, I would very much appreciate it!

  24. 2

    Allegedly I graduated high school 20 years ago so when I started college that fall my roommate was a huge Buffy fan but I just didn’t get it. Fast Forward 4 years and I was now a college graduate, unemployed and mooching off my parents once again. I had heard they were doing a musical episode and I was like, I gotta check this out and I was blown away, if you only watch 1 episode make it Once More with Feeling. Luckily FX was then airing back to back episodes in the morning and I think it I started watching from New Moon Rising and it just sucked me right in, I was a little out of order at first but I got through all the episodes. And the early days of the internet and message boards really helped, someone at ClexaCon mentioned The Lion, the Witch, and the Bad Wardrobe (I think that’s what it was called) and I was like YES, I was on that site all the time.
    There were so many great episodes of the show from OMWF, to Dopplegangland, Graduation 1&2 (which we unfortunately relived at this years inauguration), Family, The Body, Hush, Who Are You…damn I gotta do a re-watch.
    Fun Fact, I was trying to get my sister into Buffy and I was talking about Tabula Rasa and how it meant “blank slate” because Willow wiped everyone’s memory and wouldn’t you know she had a psych exam and there was a question with Tabula Rasa in it and she was able to answer it thanks to Buffy.

  25. 8

    Oh, Buffy, my Buffy…

    I remember, clear as day, being in my local grocery store thumbing through TV guide while my wife was unloading our grocery cart. A small picture of two girls hugging caught my eye and under it the caption mentioned something about Buffy having a realistic portrayal of a lesbian relationship. What?!

    So the next Tuesday, I checked it out. It was the episode right before the musical and the openness of the Willow/Tara relationship had my jaw on the floor. I was hooked fast. (It took my wife a bit longer but she eventually got there thanks to reruns on FX.) When Willow and Tara broke up at the end of “Tabula Rasa”, I actually cried. I couldn’t believe how upset I was over fictional characters! That led me to the internet and I quickly fell down my first fandom hole! Fanfic, vids, cons, articles, episode recaps, and interviews, oh my!

    While I loved the Willow/Tara relationship, I have since realized that the true lesson I learned from Buffy was that when your own relatives don’t understand or accept you, you can make your own family. I was out and married by the time I was watching Buffy. I was fine with lesbian self but the vast majority of my family was not. I needed to learn that it was okay to surround my life with people who loved me for me and it was ok to leave behind those who didn’t.

    It is a lesson learned that I will will always be grateful to Buffy for.

  26. 2

    I’m with Erin on this one. I never watched the show, probably never will. But it impacted me because it impacted so many people around me. I only vaguely knew who the characters were but still remember where I was when I heard that Tara had been killed. It was a huge deal because there were so few queer women on tv, especially ones in canon same-sex relationships. So even though I didn’t watch the show I still remember hearing about that like it was yesterday. And every time the Bury Your Gays trope strikes again I’m reminded of it.

  27. 0

    Perfectly timed post, thank you! Every few years I buckle down and attempt to ‘get into Buffy’…and never make it through season 1. This time around I’m determined to make it through and discover what the fuss is about (we’re on season 2 now, which feels like a massive achievement…it’s still kinda naff though??)

  28. 4

    A Buffy roundtable! My body is ready!

    We had a big fundraiser for work on Saturday and then I spent the rest of the weekend in a Buffy rabbit hole, watching with an emotional dedication I haven’t had in YEARS. I watched episodes I normally avoid when I’m putting something on to have in the background – favorites that I can’t watch with anything less than my whole heart and mind focused on my tv.

    Episodes like The Body, which remains to this day the realest and very best episode of TV I’ve ever seen about death, and which Joss Whedon and Sarah Michelle Gellar should’ve gotten every award for. I’ve only watched The Body three times in my life, despite there having been entire years when the rest of the series was on my insomnia rotation, because it is fucking BRUTAL and it always makes me need to call my mom. Those first five minutes, jesus h. christ.

    Like everyone talks about Hush, and Once More With Feeling, but nobody talks about Restless, when Joss decided to put the season finale one episode before the end and let us spend the last episode of the season just watching the characters DREAM. The stuff he gets right about dreaming, I’ve never seen another tv show or movie get right. The appearance of Death of a Salesman as a totally different and hilariously random play, Harmony’s impotence as she snarls around Giles’ head, the way Xander always ends up in the basement, Anya’s “I’ve found a way to steer by gesturing emphatically,” Giles teaching Spike how to be a Watcher on the swingset, everything ABOUT that episode! (And of course, everyone’s favorite, the Cheese Man).

    This is what Joss Whedon was able to do when given seven seasons to play with, and if you haven’t gotten too far into Buffy it’s really easy to write it off (or even enjoy it) as a campy show about fighting the Patriarchy, and that in itself would be enough, but oh my word, it is so much more, it was revolutionary.

    I first came to Buffy as an 18 year old living with my much older boyfriend and hoo, boy, did I see myself in her relationship with Angel. There’s no love as blind as first love. I dove in head-first, and watched Buffy do the same. The part I couldn’t see – the imbalances of power, the things that should have given me pause – I couldn’t see them in Buffy’s relationship either, but now, when I watch season one and two, I realize they were there, they were plain as day, they were written into HUGE UNMISTAKABLE METAPHORS about sex and souls and our ability to really know a person and all of the ways that Angel should’ve known better and stayed away. When Joyce visits Angel and tells him he has to leave, he knows he has to, when I was eighteen, I thought she was being awful. Now, I know she was right. The tears I cried when Angel finally left Buffy forever were probably second only to the tears I cried when my own first relationship ended, but oh my word, thank God it did. Three years spent devoted to a gun-toting Republican man who thinks it’s ok to date eighteen year-olds in your late twenties is WAY MORE THAN ENOUGH.

    But I digress.

    Before PLL (the good seasons), before Heather Hogan’s recaps of that show helped me see and process my growing up as a teen girl in the patriarchy for what it was, for what it had been, for the ways that it had shaped me, there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, doing the same thing before I even knew just what was happening. Sure, Sunnydale was built on a tiny WB backlot and all of the vampires looked like they got their costumes at Halloween Headquarters, but for seven seasons I watched Buffy and the scoobies try to navigate adolescence and adulthood in some of the best tv I’d ever seen. It was a goddamn gift and I’m so happy they had seven seasons to stretch out and explore and make revolutionary episodes.

    Oh, and Dawn never bothered me. But Glory is the fucking WORST.

    The end <3

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