‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’: One Slayer’s Portrayal Would Never Fly Today
What ’90s kid could ever forget Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The moment this teen show aired in 1997 it was a massive hit and went on for a total of 7 seasons until its inevitable (but still heartbreaking) series finale in 2003. It inspired an entire generation of teen girls to want to become exactly like Buffy, going to a regular high school by day and slaying evil vampires by night.
Although Buffy the Vampire Slayer is now a cult classic and there’s so many things we love about it, there’s one area where the show always struggled: racial diversity. The characters were played by primarily white actors, and when there was finally a Black character on the show, she was portrayed in such a problematic way that would never fly in today’s progressive climate.
What is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ about?
The titular character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is excellently played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, who has gone on to star in other films and marry ’90s heartthrob Freddie Prinze Junior. The show follows a young woman named Buffy, who is, yes, a vampire slayer, but also lives a normal teenage life in many other ways. Buffy slays vampires and other mythical creatures along with her friends, but also navigates romantic relationships (with, ironically, a vampire) and teen rivalry throughout the show’s 7 seasons.
The show was so immensely popular that it even resulted in a spin-off series called Angel, which features one of Buffy’s love interests who’s a vampire with a soul. There’s also been talk of a Buffy reboot, which would bring joy to every woman around the world who grew up in the ’90s.
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ is lacking in diversity
Although Buffy was many teens’ favorite show and actually may have been ahead of its times in other areas like celebrating women, it’s hard to deny that it’s severely lacking in one area: racial diversity. There are almost no characters of color on the show, which sadly wasn’t that rare during that time.
Actually, one of the show’s protagonists, Cordelia Chase, was supposed to be played by a Black actor. The show’s creator, Joss Whedon, actually wanted to cast a Black actor but was met by pushback from the network. Whedon’s former PA wrote a tell-all book about Buffy and revealed: “Originally, Joss was looking for a Black actress for the role of Cordelia. But one of the stumbling blocks there was the way we knew Joss anticipated the relationships shifting and changing. There was some concern at the network at the time that interracial relationships would be problematic.”
It’s sad, but not shocking, that even in the ’90s, mainstream media didn’t want to portray something as beautiful as interracial love.
The problematic portrayal of the one of the few Black women characters
Buffy the Vampire Slayer really only portrayed one prominent Black woman, and that was Kendra. Kendra, played by Bianca Lawson, was a vampire slayer from Jamaica, according to ScreenRant, who was killed after appearing in only three episodes in season two.
It’s problematic enough that one of the only Black characters on Buffy got such little screen time, but what was really problematic about Kendra’s character was her bizarre accent. Perhaps because she was Black, Lawson was forced to mimic a Jamaican accent, although why she couldn’t have been a Black American character is beyond us. Lawson plays the character wonderfully, but the accent makes Kendra get treated as if she’s an exotic other. It’s even more problematic that Buffy actually makes fun of Kendra’s accent in the show after they get into some arguments. This kind of thing would get Buffy “canceled” in the eyes of the public today, and we hope that if there’s ever a reboot, the producers will do a better job at creating a more inclusive show.