Why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still important 20 years later

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The proudest moment of my career (so far) happened earlier last month when VICE published my piece titled “How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out.”

Not only did the piece go up the morning of the 20th anniversary of the television premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it was also featured at the very top of their website for the entire day. Seriously, that’s a HUGE honor for any writer but especially awesome since it was my first piece for them.

The thing that was even more touching to me, however, is that I was able to honor of one of my all-time favorite TV shows in this very special way.

The truth is that BTVS (as we fans frequently call it) has held a special place in my heart for a very long time. Not only did the show legitimately help me come out, but it generally left an impact on me that has lasted through the rest of my life.

When I first heard of BTVS, I wasn’t impressed. I never really watched it when it first started but got into it at age 16 when a couple of my high school friends became pretty obsessed. Soon enough, I was driving around in my car with friends as we all sang along to the musical episode’s soundtrack at the top of our lungs.

I remember endlessly debating the Team Angel vs. Team Spike situation (#TeamAngelForever), and grieving when the show ended just a year before I graduated high school – which was just a year after I discovered it. In a way, it felt as if BTVS entered and left my life far too soon.

What I didn’t know at the time, however, was how much impact Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Angel and the rest of the gang would have on my life.

It’s no understatement that BTVS helped to solidify some friendships for me at school (and in the years that followed), but the biggest impact that the show had (besides helping me come out, of course) is what many girls and women saw in Joss Whedon’s work – a kick-ass heroine who could be funny, pretty, awkward, loud and all-around awesome.

Although I always related more to Willow (hello, I even have red hair now!) than Buffy, I could still love and appreciate Buffy for everything that she was. She was a great leader and phenomenal title character. The show was funny and quirky and spoke to my adolescent and teen self in a way that I found freeing.

I don’t know how Joss managed to do it, but I felt more and more like myself the more I watched Buffy stumble through life with a wealth of responsibilities. She didn’t always succeed in picking out the right outfit, but she always saved the world.

When I read the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz on the cover, I was thrilled to travel back into the Buffyverse to read how the cast (all except Giles!) reflect on the show 20 years later and what it has meant to them. Joss even calls Buffy and Angel the greatest love story ever told, so take THAT, #TeamSpike!

A lot has happened in the world since the show first premiered on March 10, 1997. But while it may not be the happiest place right now, it’s important to recognize all of the positive changes that have happened too. For me, the biggest (and happiest) is the nationwide legalization of gay marriage.

I remember doing a big report on gay marriage and civil unions during my senior year of high school, in Fall of 2003 just after the show ended, when very few states even wanted to talk about that kind of thing. And now it’s nationwide law! That’s amazing, truly.

For the past year, I’ve actually been re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my boyfriend Adam. It took us almost 11 months to get through the show, but it was sooooo worth it to share something I truly love with the person I love most in the world. Being a big Joss Whedon fan already, he loved it of course.

But more than that, watching the show with him this past year served as a great reminder for me about why I loved it in the first place. Of course, like most devoted fans, I’ve gone through the entire series 4 or 5 times already. Watching it all once more was a joy and, as the 20th anniversary came and went, I’m glad to have spent time with the Scooby Gang once more.

After all, if it wasn’t for them, I might have never come into my own as a proud bisexual woman as early as I did. And that’s something I will forever be grateful for.

To read my piece “How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out” on VICE, click here!

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What exactly is “The Cookie Dough Life” anyway?

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my portfolio site, IrinaGonzalez.com. Thank you!

Let me introduce myself first…

My name is Irina Gonzalez and I am a 31-year-old Latinx journalist, freelance writer & editor and future YA author currently based in Southwest Florida.

I was born to a Russian mom and Cuban dad in Moscow, Russia, and, after a brief stint in Cuba, we moved to Miami (and eventually to SWFL) when I was 8 years old. Although I grew up in this state, I escaped to New York City by way of college as soon as I could. I spent the next 12 years in the city of my dreams until last year, when dramatic life changes brought me back to Florida once more.

Since then, life has been pretty crazy… and changed so much.

First of all, last April I moved from the city that my heart called home (New York) to live at home with my parents while I figured out my next step. But then my life turned into a rom-com cliche and I unexpectedly met the love of my life shortly after.

These days I am happily living with my loving partner (who happens to be the kindest man I’ve ever met) and our two fur babies, his Border Collie named Moose and my orange tabby named Capt. Jack Sparrow. We’re building a great life together and his support is actually one of the reasons for the other major change in my life: I’ve gone completely full-time freelance as a writer and editor, and it’s been a crazy ride.

I’ve also happily settled (permanently?) in SW FL now, hanging out with my family and reconnecting with old friends. Honestly, what started out as a really challenging 30th birth year turned into the best year of my life. And now that I’m 31, it’s incredible to look back at all of the changes and challenges I faced last year.

However… as I dealt with some career ups and down earlier this year, I realized: Those changes and challenges are not over.

They’re never over, are they?

Last year, I tried to write about some of the changes I was facing. My goal was to work on different areas of my life to “figure things out”… but now I realize that we never truly have things figured out. Instead, the more I think about it, the more I am sure that the only constant in life is change.

We change when we move, we change when we shift careers, we change when we find love, we change when we form new habits and get away from old ones. But we’re never really done figuring things out. And that’s where this whole “The Cookie Dough Life” thing comes in.

A couple weeks ago, Adam and I were finally finishing watching the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which we coincidentally started together, him for the first time, on our third date). In the very last episode, this scene happened:

Buffy: I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking. I’m not finished becoming whoever the hell it is I’m gonna turn out to be. I make it through this, and the next thing, and the next thing, and maybe one day, I turn around and realize I’m ready. I’m cookies. And then, you know, if I want someone to eat m- or enjoy warm, delicious, cookie me, then that’s fine. That’ll be then. When I’m done.

Angel: Any thoughts on who might enjoy – Do I have to go with the cookie analogy?

Buffy: I’m not really thinking that far ahead. That’s kind of the point.

Angel: I’ll go start working on the second front. Make sure I don’t have to use it.

[starts to leave]

Buffy: Angel. I do. Sometimes, think that far ahead.

Angel: Sometimes is something.

Buffy: Be a long time coming. Years, if ever.

Angel: I ain’t gettin’ any older.

Buffy’s silly analogy about being cookie dough really struck a chord with me.

She’s not ready, though she hopes she will be many years from now. But the thing is – I don’t think she will be. It’s not because she won’t ever grow up or learn how adulting works or anything, but because I think part of being cookie dough is constantly growing and learning.

And that’s what I am choosing to embrace.

This Cookie Dough Life is exactly that: It’s about the realization that I am not done baking yet either… Meaning that I haven’t figured it all out, and maybe that’s okay. No, actually, it’s totally okay. Living The Cookie Dough Life is about embracing the fact that life is constantly changing and evolving, and so am I.

So here’s the deal: In an effort to give myself a fun creative outlet, I’ve created this blog that’s all about change and fun and life and learning and… well, whatever else I want to write about here, really. You’ll notice at the top that I set some categories (relationships, career, fun, food, health, life) and I’ll do my best to stick to those, but no promises.

In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy trying new things and living life to the best of my ability, even if it means facing more changes and challenges along the way.

And besides… isn’t cookie dough more delicious, anyway?

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my portfolio site and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!