How Buffy Showed Us Why It’s OK To Have Emotions

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 1
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 1

Kendra: Your life is very different dan mine.

Buffy: You mean the part where I occasionally have one? Yeah, I guess it is. (carves at a stake)

Kendra: De tings you do and have, I was taught, distract from my calling. Friends, school… even family.

Buffy: Even family?

Kendra: My parents, dey sent me to my Watcher when I was very young.

Buffy: How young?

Kendra: I don’t remember dem, actually. I’ve seen pictures. But, uh, dat’s how seriously de calling is taken by my people. My modder and fadder gave me to my Watcher because dey believed dat dey were doing de right ting for me, and for de world. (puts down the stake and gets a sympathetic look from Buffy) Please, I don’t feel sorry for meself. Why should you?

Buffy: I don’t know, I… I guess it just sounds very lonely.

Kendra: Emotions are weakness, Buffy. You shouldn’t entertain dem.

Buffy: Kendra, my emotions give me power. They’re total assets! (emphases mine)

Kendra: (picks up her knife) Maybe. For you. But I prefer to keep an even mind. (wipes the blade)

Buffy: (puts down her knife) Mm. I guess that explains it.

Kendra: Explains what?

Buffy: (plays with the stake) Oh, well, when we were fighting, uh, you’re amazing! Your technique, it’s flawless, it’s, hmm, better than mine.

Kendra: I know.

Buffy: Still, I woulda kicked your butt in the end. And ya know why? No imagination.

Kendra: (rubs her blade more vigorously) Really? Ya tink so? (puts down the rag)

Buffy: Oh, I know so. You’re good, but power alone isn’t enough. A good fighter needs to know how to improvise, to go with the flow. Uh-uh, seriously, don’t get me wrong, y-you really do have potential. (puts away the stake)

Kendra: (holds her knife ready) Potential? I could wipe de floor wit you right now!

Buffy: (looks Kendra in the eye) That would be anger you’re feeling.

Kendra: What?

Buffy: You feel it, right? How the anger gives you fire? A Slayer needs that.

—Excerpt from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “What’s My Line? – Part 2”—

Hi. My name is Laura, and I really like quotes. Like, a lot… so here we go: context!

I know it seems a bit pretentious (not to mention unbelievably nerdy) to compare our minute existences with the larger-than-life world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that’s partly why I love this show so goddamn hard. Joss Whedon has this amazing ability to take everyday conflicts (in this case: the pressures of growing up) and magnify them into grandly dramatic story lines. It seems like his intention is to bring meaning to our otherwise dull reality, because contrary to humble opinion, those experiences are important. They affect our vision of ourselves and the world around us, and we carry them with us for the rest of our lives. They mold us as we grow and change throughout life. They deserve attention. So why do we have the knee-jerk urge to roll our eyes when confronted with a scenario of ‘everyday’ drama?

I spent a majority of my late teens-early twenties working hard alongside a crew of dudes (I was the only female on an all-male kitchen line for many years during my undergrad days, but more on that later… so many stories). I became the little sister, the drinking buddy, the asexual friend. One thing I picked up (whether or not this speaks to the majority of maledom) was the general understanding that my emotions, and the expression of those emotions, had the dangerous possibility of making me seem weak… or codependent, clingy, at the very least way too sensitive, at worst, *gulp* “cray cray.” Any mushy stuff was best left hidden beneath my hardened exterior, my cigarette smoke, my chef coat. This sensual seclusion didn’t just permeate my work life; it buzzed in the background of my personal life as well. While we prepped, during break, after the rush, I listened to my buddies describe their hookups, their relationships, and their breakups. Eventually I got the impression that emotional = bad, emotional = unwanted drama and excessive muttering under one’s breath. Emotion = mental instability. Emotion = weakness. Apparently expressing those feels was just me (or insert random female here) being irrational, allowing my anger, or sadness, or insecurity to rule my life. Ideally, in order to be desirable I should to learn to practice resilience in solitude if I was ever to control my feelings and (finally!) become master of my internal domain. As I grew older and more comfortable in my own skin, I decided…

L’s: “Fuck solitude, how about solidarity?”

The ability to love is not tantamount to weakness. Caring about people doesn’t make you fragile, it reinforces your spirit like steel ribbing. I love to love, but I think what’s scary for many people is the inherent vulnerability of love. It scares me too. I’ve had my share of heartbreak. I’ve rehashed certain encounters over and over and over again, rethinking whether I should have been so upfront, so honest. I used to tearfully wish I could have a heart made of stone, or anything less susceptible to the cracks of emotions. But then I learned that, of course, the vulnerability is part of what makes it special, unique. I have since ascribed to the belief that the choice to open oneself to love, in any form, is brave.

As Paulo Coelho so eloquently puts it, “Love is an act of faith in another person, not an act of surrender.” (Excerpt from Manuscript Found in Accra… did I tell you I really like quotes?) To love is courage, not frailty. It takes some balls to push that energy out into the universe. Sometimes it will come back to bite you square in the ass, but most of the time that’ll just be your lover getting a little playful… teehehee. I’d rather try than “protect” my heart beneath layers of emotional barriers… like an onion… or a parfait…

You grow when you learn, and how can you learn if you don’t let yourself take the risk of maybe fucking up? That process of is never finished, and the very fact that it is ever-evolving should impart the profundity of its magnitude…. POP-POP. (Any Community fans in the audience?) TC mark

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