To celebrate 20 years since Buffy first aired on television, readers tells us what the show means to them

Its been 20 years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer first appeared on TV and taught us that everyone gets a second chance even if you were expelled from your last school for burning down the gym (accidentally, of course).

Hailed as a feminist show by Rupert Giles himself, Buffy and the Scooby gang have continued to inspire and empower. In many of the responses we received to our Guardian callout, readers expressed their love for episodes The Body, Restless and Once More With Feeling. From helping people with their sexuality to inspiring others to work in the television industry, heres what some of our readers said about what the show means to them.

Frenchy Faith, 31, Toronto: Buffy helped me accept myself as a lesbian

A French native, I developed a passion for English by watching the show. Whether it was in MSN groups or the Buffy-Boards forum, I got to know so many people I shared a passion with. We held live meetings, and one of the fans I met online became my partner in real life for five years. Although we have now split up, Im forever grateful for Buffy for bringing us together and motivating my move to English-speaking countries.

And there is another, maybe more important, aspect of my life that I owe to Buffy: acceptance of myself as a lesbian at a time when it was still stigmatised and in a place where it was anything but tolerated. Without the portrayal of Willow and Tara and without the support of the Buffy fans, I would have taken much longer [to come to that acceptance], and I wouldnt have felt as comfortable in my own skin as I did in my early 20s.

Anonymous, 38, Glasgow: After losing my mum, I watched The Body it floored me

Some fans of the show consider this episode one of the best in the series, especially for the way it handles how people react to the death of a loved one.

One of the greatest TV episodes ever is The Body. I hadnt seen a show try something like this and, to be honest, I have not seen one be this inventive and successful at it since. Last year, my mother passed away and I had a difficult time of it. I hadnt really cried and was bottling a lot up. A few months later, I happened across the episode and watched it with trepidation. I was totally floored by it. The feeling of numbness, the procedures and paperwork you have to go through [when someone dies] was so accurate. I was mesmerised by the performances. When it comes to the end, and Dawn looks up at the body and asks, Where did she go? I lost it and started crying. The series has a special place in my heart, and Ill still catch the odd episode now and again and smile knowingly.

Take that, Twilight. Photograph: Sharika Jeyakumar

Sharika Jeyakumar, 28, Melbourne: It showed me that tiny girls can kick ass

Buffy saved me: she was a teenage girl who didnt quite fit in with the people around her. The show made me believe there was my very own Scooby gang out there. I found those people, through the show and through an internet forum dedicated to all things Buffy.

This show taught me that vulnerability is an essential component of empowerment, that tiny girls who people underestimate can kick ass, and that sometimes the most meaningful and valuable relationships you can have are with friends, who become your family. But it provided me with deep friendships, support through the darkest of times and many happy moments. How can I ever truly explain or repay the debt I owe to Joss [Whedon] and to this show? Twenty years later, and its more relevant than ever. Happy slay day!

Stephanie Martino, 31, Alaska: I learned all about growing up and strong women from Buffy

When I was 12 my father left. He was my favourite person. At the time I was really getting to know my mom as a mother, but also a friend. Buffy was also being raised by a single mom, and I found the Summers women were so strong. I loved Buffys friends; even the villains were cool. I learned all about growing up from Buffy. I learned that everyone has something they are going through in life, some hide it better then others.

When I became severely depressed at 16, because my parents finally divorced, Buffy was there for me with a life lesson: strong is fighting and its every day. I learned that women are stronger than they are given credit for. Buffy saved my life as I battled depression.

Jack Milson, 27, Hull: I owe my career to Buffy

Milson with James Marsters, who played Spike.

I owe my career to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I became hooked on television production, and wrote countless papers about the show even my dissertation at university was on Buffy and Joss Whedon.

Its not the horror show it seems at first glance. Its a show about people real people masked by a fantastical facade. The television and film industry today owes so much to the show, from the way stories are told to the way women are viewed.

Charlotte holding a new Buffy T-shirt after the one she is wearing in the photo was ripped by a cheetah.

Charlotte, 29, London: I still cant watch The Prom without crying

Not only is Buffy wickedly funny, but youre drawn into the characters lives, meaning there are plenty of emotional moments to enjoy. And although it has become somewhat cliche to say(bearing in mind Buffy and its links to feminism have been taught in universities), having a female superhero who is funny, clever, beautiful and kick-ass is pretty good going.

Joss Whedon is great. I remember watching the Prom after a break-up and realising the words Buffy says after Angel tells her hes leaving is almost word for word what Id said. I still cant watch it without crying. Ive also bonded with people because of Buffy, some of whom are still very good friends. The show has brought so much joy to my life! #BuffyNerd

Lewis Call, 48, San Luis Obispo, California: Without Buffy there would be no Katniss Everdeen


To me, Buffy proves that girls and women can and should be powerful. She shows that a woman can be strong, self-determined and sexy at the same time. The show completely changed the way that women were represented in visual media, especially in science fiction, fantasy and horror. Without Buffy there would be no Katniss Everdeen. In the last episode of the series, Buffy and Willow share the slayers power with girls and young women all over the world. Willow says: We changed the world. She could have been speaking about the show itself.

Kaths Buffy collection.

Kath, 24, Isle of Wight: Buffy kept me smiling and laughing through my agoraphobia

I have Asperger syndrome and anxiety, and spend most of my time at home. Buffy means everything to me in so many ways that I cant fully explain. From the age of 11, I started having severe agoraphobia, and couldnt leave the house or even go to school. I lost all my friends and spent all my time alone in my room wishing to be like other girls my age. It was during this time that Buffy came into my life, and has been in it ever since. She kept me smiling, laughing and feeling strong. I spent my time collecting the shows merchandise a collection that is still growing. Most people always have a best friend, who is there for them through thick and thin, but I didnt need friends: I had Buffy, and I still do.

Mick, 27, Glasgow: Seth Green as Oz was probably the first male crush I had

It is my favourite TV show of all time. My sister watched it on its original airing, and I would hover behind the sofa ready to hide if it got scary Oz as a werewolf chasing Willow through the forest was traumatic as an eight-year-old. Seth Green as Oz was probably the first male crush I had without realising it my bedroom when I was 12 years old was covered in dozens of pictures of him Id printed off the internet. I was devastated when Oz left Willow, but I had no loyalty to him once Tara was on the scene. A friend of mine on her first visit to my house took one look at an Angel poster I had and announced: Youre so gay! I didnt know it then, but I did come out to my friends within the year. My friend and I still laugh about this years later.

Joseph Burns, 40, Birmingham: I named my rescue cat Buffy

Josephs cat, Buffy, getting to know her namesake.

I first dismissed it as a show for kids. It wasnt until around the middle of season three that I became hooked. The characters are so well written; its impossible to see Joss Whedon as anything other than a genius. The episode The Body where theres almost no vampires or fighting and no music still fits perfectly. That episode is the closest anyone has ever got to accurately showing the aftermath of a loved one dying. One of the greatest 45 minutes of TV ever. The show means as much to me as my favourite records, films and books, even if some people do give me a funny look when I tell them that. When I got a rescue cat last October, there was only one name I wanted to give her.

Kayla Keen, 29, Dayton, Ohio: Buffy taught me to be strong and ignore bullies

I took solace in Buffy as I entered middle school. I never let it hurt every time a bully picked on me, because I took the lessons Buffy taught me and learned from them. Buffy always had a witty comeback. I met Whedon in 2004, and he was as delightful in person as his writing is. As a goofy 16-year-old, I told him I considered him my god. The next day he signed a comic for me for my stepdad that said: Joss Whedon, AKA God. This year, I got a Buffy tattoo to help remind me of all of the lessons she taught me. When I look down at it I feel strong and ready to take on the world.

Zoe Cassells, 20, Dundee: I hope this show receives the recognition it deserves for generations to come

Zoe with a cardboard Buffy.

My love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is thanks to my inspiring older sister, Sarah. Sarah, who was a teenager in the 90s when Buffy was at its most popular, thought shed go back to where she left off and buy some DVD box sets. Of course, her annoying younger sister wanted to know what all the fuss was with this Angel guy and how Buffy might resemble Mona the Vampire. We watched the first few episodes in her room, and soon I couldnt wait to tell everyone at school how awesome this chick was. As the years went on, it became a ritual. Sarah and I grew closer, despite the age gap. Shes now my Willow.

Whenever anyone mocks it for its CGI or leather pants, I remind them that it remains a source of analysis for academics around the world. I even wrote a (terrible) essay on Buffy and Platos ethics. My excuse? Im cookie dough. Im not done baking. Buffys 20th anniversary is a milestone for me and so many other fans, and I only hope this incredible show continues to receive the recognition it deserves for generations to come.

Sing along now: And try not to bleed on my couch, I just had it steam cleaned

Jess, 31, London: Buffy made me miss my history A-level grade

Buffy was a show that embraced geeks. And it said to us: Hey kid, youre no Zeppo. We see you. And you can save the world. In these troubled times, the lesson that a diverse group of young people complete with their broken homes, sexual-identity crises and unhealthy relationships could band together to fight for humanity without fame or glory, is one worth remembering.

So then theres the role of the flawed but supportive adult: dont we all want a Giles to stand in our corner against the forces of darkness? Buffy made me laugh, cry, sing and, frankly, miss my required history A-level grade with the timing of the double bill finale the night before the exam. But it has had a lasting legacy. Confident in my values, gender, sexuality and the joy of accumulating geeky knowledge, I know that the adventures of Sunnydale will always be an un-guilty pleasure. After all, it gave us a little Faith. Where do we go from here?

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