Buffy may be a Vampire Slayer, but the show itself is immortal like a creature of the night, as these 20 timeless quotes prove.
Twenty years after its original premiere on The WB, fans are still citing this series as a particular source of inspiration, and new viewers continue to discover the cult classic that in many ways facilitated the rise of the TV action heroine.
Buffy, along with its contemporaries Xena: Warrior Princess and Charmed, normalized the quirky, scrappy, powerful female heroes for TV audiences. Even those turned off by the series’ sillier aspects still absorbed Buffy and all she stood for through osmosis, and it would be naïve to dismiss the series’ importance in terms of shaping the TV landscape as we know it and giving women a space front and center in the countless action series that have followed in its footsteps.
Because of Buffy (and its wide appeal), TV execs realized the potential of action series with female leads, which led to a ‘golden age’ of kickass women on television including Alias, Dark Angel, Dead Like Me, Nikita, Dollhouse, Fringe and Veronica Mars. Today, we’re seeing shows like Wynonna Earp, Quantico, Supergirl, iZombie, Orphan Black and The 100 effortlessly continue the tradition of putting females front and center in gritty, bloody and kickass dramas.
There are many eloquent things that could and should be written about Buffy, including its cultural significance, and its importance to this author, who found empowerment and self-realization through this world and these characters. There is so much to be said about specific storylines, so many episodes to highlight, so much praise to give Joss Whedon, the writers and the cast for the way they brought it all to life and made it feel real, and how they set so many of the rules that still guide TV today.
But why not let Buffy speak for itself? Whedonesque dialogue was, after all, one of the defining aspects of the series.
Here are 20 of the most iconic, empowering quotes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer that prove why the show was, continues to be and always will be one of the most important TV shows of all time.
‘In every generation, there is a chosen one…’
What better place to start than at the very beginning?
The introductory narration that ran before every episode of (the underrated) season 1 not only established Buffy as a powerful hero with a special destiny, but it hinted at a rich, game-changing mythology that would slowly be uncovered through all seven seasons of the series.
‘Lie to me.’
A personal favorite is this exchange between Giles and Buffy in “Lie to Me,” where Buffy begins to realize that her life — like most lives — will be full of pain and heartbreak.
It’s a vulnerable moment for both characters, and yet oddly heart-warming, as Buffy asks Giles to tell her a comforting lie and he acquiesces.
‘You’re not ready for the big moments.’
The heartbreak will come. Things will fall apart. For Buffy, things frequently fell apart, and she had to build herself back up stronger and keep fighting — there was no other option.
But that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt, each and every time the world took something away from her. Buffy was strong, but she was also real, and she hurt and grieved deeply.
‘Without passion, we’d truly be dead.’
What made Angel so terrifying as a demon was that all of his human passion remained, but it was twisted and dark and all-consuming.
In the second season, Angelus caused Buffy and her friends so much pain — but he was right about one thing. It was passion they felt in that raw, unadulterated grief and terror he wrought, and passion is what makes us feel alive.
‘Take all that away, and what’s left?’
When it came time for Buffy to defeat Angelus in the season 2 finale, he believed he had broken her. This Slayer was only strong, in his estimation, through her friends and family, which he (thought he had) taken away from her.
But while Buffy’s friends made her stronger, they were never the source of her power. The series is so inspirational exactly because of this character’s agency and determination, and that makes this simple exchange from “Becoming, Part 2” one of my personal all-time favorites.
‘Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood.’
Spike, Buffy‘s only main character who remained soulless for most of the series’ run, had a unique perspective to offer our heroes, able to see and articulate truths that the human characters were ignorant of or blind to.
Like Angelus, Spike had retained a lot of his humanity when he became a vampire, except his ability to love had been amplified, if still a twisted and dark thing. Love consumed him, and he was obviously speaking from that extreme perspective… but what is love, really, if not an all-consuming force?
‘Strong is fighting.’
Buffy and Angel’s love story was beautiful in its tragedy; from the beginning, they both knew they could never have a happy ending, and most of their relationship was spent resisting its inevitable end.
Their romance thus became a metaphor for life, in a way; it’s hard and painful and will end in tragedy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it while it lasts.
‘It looks quiet down there. It’s not.’
Buffy had a lot of real-life relevance, but this quote might be one of the most directly applicable to anyone who might feel alone or ignored.
In the season 3 episode “Earshot,” Buffy temporarily got the ability to hear everyone’s thoughts, and when it came time to stop Jonathan from killing everyone (or, as it turned out, himself), she was able to tell him something we all need to hear sometimes: that if you feel like others are ignoring your pain, it may very well be because they’re too wrapped up in their own.
‘What would Buffy do?’
Xander served a very important function on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: He was the everyman, the heroic non-hero who slowly grew up and learned from his teenage mistakes in order to become, in the end, a truly good man.
At the start of the series, Xander’s unrequited feelings for Buffy were a constant source of pain for both of them, but as they both matured, Xander’s adoration for her grew into something more steady and real: He came to truly admire her for her strength, leadership abilities and heart.
Their gender-swapped power and personal dynamic is one of the many things Buffy doesn’t get enough credit for. In any lesser show Xander would have been the reluctant hero and Buffy would have been the pining girl next door (whom he’d inevitably have fallen in love with); she would have been the one admiring his strength and leadership abilities. Thank God Buffy was there to give us an alternative to that tired formula.
‘Did we not put the ‘grr’ in ‘girl’?’
Willow and Buffy’s friendship was the best relationship of the series. There, I said it.
The two characters overcame so much together even as they had very different paths to adulthood; by the end of the show they were practically unrecognizable from their teenage selves, and yet, at their core, they would always be Buffy and Willow — scrappy best grrlfriends who never! once! let a love interest come between them.
‘You think you know who you are, what’s to come…’
Halfway through the series, Buffy had already come a long way, but just as graduating high school didn’t automatically make her an adult, being a Slayer didn’t automatically mean that she understood her power and potential.
Relating this to real life, we might on occasion (or all the time) find ourselves stuck, feeling like our lives have already been fully realized at age 18, 25, 35, or 50, not realizing that there is hopefully a heck of a lot more to come, and that we can still grow and change if we let ourselves.
‘Power. I have it, they don’t.’
One of my personal all-time favorite quotes comes from the season 5 episode “Checkpoint,” in which Buffy finally rejects the
patriarchy Watchers’ Council and voices one of the central feminist narratives running through the show: Challenging society’s resistance to women who dare to seek and claim power.
The entire Slayer concept was, of course, an expression of female empowerment, and Buffy’s breakaway from the Watcher’s Council was always overtly symbolic. But this particular line expresses a deeper, real-life truth, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s delivery perfectly defiant in the face of it.
‘I don’t understand how this all happens.’
“The Body” is hands down the best episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer even though I will never, ever call it one of my favorites.
One of the many things this episode did right was articulating, through Anya, how impossible a concept death is to grasp and deal with, especially when you’re in the throngs of grief.
Joyce’s death was so tragic exactly because it was natural; this is what happens, invariably, to all humans, and yet the death of someone you love remains the hardest thing to comprehend, even for humans and ex-demons who face death and darkness every day.
‘The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.’
The could-have-been series finale, “The Gift,” saw Buffy realize the full extent of her power: The ability to not only grant death to her enemies but to choose it for herself, giving her life to save the world and those she loves, and gain peace in the process.
As season 6 would prove, life itself is hard and painful. But it’s also the whole point, and we have to be brave enough to face it.
‘Can we just skip it? Can you just be kissing me now?’
There wasn’t a single love story on Buffy the Vampire Slayer that didn’t end in tragedy, and unfortunately, Willow and Tara didn’t get the happily ever after we all might have wished for them.
Nonetheless, their relationship was hugely important both within the show’s reality and for television overall, and they got to be wonderfully real, beautiful and complicated while they lasted.
‘So if I’m going out, it’s here. If you wanna kill the world, then start with me.’
Willow’s descent into darkness in season 6 had been signposted almost since the very beginning of the series, and it was extremely rewarding to see six years of foreshadowing finally pay off in such a big way.
It was equally rewarding that it was Xander, not Buffy, who ended up ‘defeating’ her in the end. As the lead character, Buffy was automatically at the heart of all the central relationships, yet Willow and Xander’s bond ultimately ran deeper than whatever Buffy could have with either either of them.
The season 6 finale beautifully paid homage to the Willow/Xander relationship, and allowed Xander to save the world for once — with words and love for his best and oldest friend.
‘You’re not special. You’re extraordinary.’
For a show whose entire premise was based on ‘one girl in all the world’ who had been chosen for a special destiny, Buffy took extraordinary care to celebrate normalcy, not only through Buffy herself but through the characters who weren’t chosen.
By season 7, Xander and Dawn were the only main characters with no special abilities to speak of, Dawn’s ‘purpose’ having vanished when Glory was defeated in season 5. And that sucked for them. We’ve all been there; everyone around us is elevated to some kind of greatness while we ourselves just keep working hard and trying not to seem too bitter about it.
Xander’s words should be a comfort not only to Dawn, but to everyone watching the show who might identify more with the underdog than with the hero of the story.
‘You’re the one, Buffy.’
Spike and Buffy’s relationship was neither good nor healthy, but it was extremely well-written and acted, making it one of the most compelling aspects of the series.
In order to make himself worthy of Buffy and atone for assaulting her in season 6, Spike had his soul restored, essentially killing the demon part of himself to bring back William, his human self.
William and Spike were never that separate, however, the demon part having absorbed so much of what William was, and thus the ensouled Spike retained all his memories and personality traits. So when he told Buffy he loved her, it was an expression from his whole being, a selfless act; a gift to her, not a request or demand for reciprocation.
‘I’m the thing that monsters have nightmares about.’
Joss Whedon’s original pitch for the show was a tiny blonde girl walking down an alley, the perfect monster fodder, only for the audience to realize that she was the hunter, not the hunted.
In season 7, Buffy was finally at a place where she could vocalize this premise with complete conviction, because she truly believed in her own power. And it was glorious.
‘There is only one thing on this earth more powerful than evil, and that’s us.’
A lot can be said about season 7, but it definitely went all-out on the female empowerment theme.
Beaten half to death and completely certain that she and everyone she loved were about to be consumed in a ball of flame, Buffy still fought, defeat no longer an option for her. It was one of the season’s many fist-pump moments that showed how far this character had come, and how committed she was to owning her power.
For everything else it was, Buffy the Vampire Slayer proved an imaginative, thematically rich sandbox through which the audience could learn about themselves and seek self-realization through the amazing, multi-faceted and skilfully crafted characters.
The show was a metaphor for real life in so many ways beyond the superficial ‘men are evil’ and ‘high school is hell’ taglines; for me, watching this series growing up (and having gone back to re-experience it many times since), it stands as a pillar of good storytelling, despite — and in some cases because of — its flaws.
Even as the special effects grow outdated and countless shows rip off Buffy‘s storylines, thus making it seem less original than it was, the show will continue to resonate with audiences and stand as a beacon of ‘girl power TV,’ breaking ground at a time when such a concept was still considered radical and continuing to outshine most shows on air today that try to be as powerful and empowering as Buffy was.