Angel is Kind-of a Perv and Other Thoughts I Had Re-watching Buffy as an Adult
Buffy fans all over have been re-watching the classic series this year in recognition of the show's twentieth anniversary, and I'm no exception. It's been quite a few years since my last viewing, and with my thirtieth birthday fast approaching I've noticed that this go-round I'm seeing the show in a slightly different light.
Am I seriously supposed to believe Cordelia is in high school?
I know casting graying adults as pubescent high schoolers was a staple of 90's film and television, but I never noticed how much older Charisma Carpenter looks than the rest of the Scoobies. At the start of Buffy she's 27, over a decade older than she's cast. Carpenter is actually just days younger than Robia LaMorte, who plays the ill-fated computer teacher Miss Calendar.
I'm not Buffy—I'm Giles.
While Buffy would rather be out dancing at the Bronze than bashing baddies and avoiding the apocalypse, she's not the only one that has better things to do on a Friday night than save the world. Rupert Giles longs to be left in peace with a cup of tea and a good book. A quiet night in sounds drastically more appealing to me than a raucous night out, and listening to teenagers usually makes me sigh.
Goin out on a Tuesday?
Speaking of the Bronze, how is it that all of these kids' parents let them go out on school nights? Maybe it's because I wasn't raised in a laid-back California atmosphere by chill, “modern” parents, but I find it hard to believe everyone in town let their teenagers hang out in what is essentially a bar several times a week. Don't even get me started on the ridiculous party Joyce throws Buffy when she returns to Sunnydale in season three. And if you doubt these kids would dare to fill those red Solo cups with alcohol while Buffy's mom is literally in the next room, it becomes unavoidably clear when a kid tells his friend to “take a shot.”
The grown-ups are not to be trusted.
Buffy deals with some pretty adult content, but at times it can also feel like a kids' show. The juvenile theme “adults are useless” is prevalent in the earlier seasons. To be fair, most non-Scoobies are useless regardless of their age. They go about their mundane lives, oblivious to the fact they're in a hotbed of paranormal activity over an actual portal to Hell, never once questioning why so many of their neighbors are killed by being stabbed in the neck with barbecue forks. Pretty much every authority figure on Buffy is incompetent or evil. From the terminally clueless Principal Flutie to the actively evil Mayor Wilkins, one grown-up or another is always getting in Buffy's way. You could reasonably argue the greatest threat to humanity in the first two seasons was actually Joyce Summers.
What does a 270-year-old man want with a 16-year-old girl, anyhow?
An ancient being falling in love with a mortal is a standard fantasy cliché, but when it involves teenagers, it's less “star-crossed” than it is “statutory.” Even if you assume Angel's emotional maturity is frozen after his death, he was twenty-six years old. You can say “age is just a number” all you like, but having just read a couple pages from my high school LiveJournal, I beg to differ. Sure, Buffy is mature for her age from shouldering her burden as the slayer, but Angel's affection for her is rooted in a desire to protect her, which introduces some next-level “ick” to their dynamic. Also, I really hope Angel got tested. Can you imagine Buffy explaining to her gynecologist how she managed to contract an extinct eighteenth-century strain of gonorrhea?
All this being said, the show ages surprisingly well. The pop culture references may be outdated, but the themes are usually universal enough to stand the test of time.