High Stakes
This article was obtained from TV Guide, 1997.
By Joe Queenan

      Since Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted in March, most critics have predictably focused on its campy dialogue, its absurd plots, and Sarah Michelle Gellar's attention-getting outfits. But they have done a massive disservice to this excellent new program.

      Speaking as the parent of a teenage girl, I can say that one of my greatest fears is in-school violence. That's why I find it so easy to identify with Kristine Sutherland, who plays Buffy's long-suffering mother. Week after week, Sutherland tries to come to terms with a school system so riddled with violence that her daughter must carry sharp objects to defend herself. The avalanche of stabbings, assaults, and related mayhem that makes up this show perfectly expresses the American public's gnawing fear that our schools are simply not safe. What's more, the bureaucrats who run our schools don't seem to be taking proper measures to deal with this violence. "Kids. I don't like 'em," says the principal at Buffy's high school. Yeah, kids are onto that.

      But Buffy doesn't stop there. Make a checklist of the things that parents trying to raise teenage girls fear most, and Buffy has them covered. Worried that your daughter is going to go to school and be surrounded by creepy young men who have unhealthy fascinations with dungeons? That's a typical Buffy plot element. Concerned that your child is going to meet strange boys who will try to impress her by talking about demons? Buffy has that angle covered. Alarmed that your daughter may be dating guys who always seem to want to take shortcuts through the cemetery? That's Buffy to a T.

      The point I'm trying to make is that Buffy the Vampire Slayer, far from being the stuff of fantasy or mere over-the-top satire, is the most realistic portrayal of contemporary teenage life on television today. What teen doesn't suspect that her mother is a witch and that life would be a whole lot better if Mom simply vaporized? What teen doesn't think the principal is a complete dork? And what teen doesn't spend all her time, just like Buffy, complaining that everything literally sucks?

      But personally speaking, what I most like about the program is its compassionate portrayal of a single mother coping with her high-spirited daughter. Backed into a corner, most parents will admit their greatest fear is that their daughter is going to log on to the Internet and meet a dream boat named Malcolm who turns out to be Moloch incarnate.

      Perhaps the most valuable parenting technique I've learned from watching Buffy is patience. It won't do parents any good to warn their daughters that when a boy starts using the term "succubus," it's probably time to stop going steady. There are some things your kids just have to learn for themselves.

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