“Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.”

‘I am 22 years old, male, and I’m psychologically indebted and addicted, in a passive sense, to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’. No, I don’t like Twilight. And nor am I altogether insane because, in a very real sense this generation – one weaned by an ever-present television – were socialised into being by that box (or nowadays, rectangle) in the living room. I remember a lecture last year, when the question was poised as to major popular cultural influences of the past couple decades, and a girl raised her hand and said ‘Friends…the TV show’, to a generous ripple of laughter. Thing is, she had a point. Think about how many times we now say ‘like’ mid-sentence, serving no conversational value at all; the Americanisation of British speech, for this generation, surely owes much to those long-running programmes we’ve spent countless hours watching; so what is it exactly that Buffy fans might have picked up? If literary studies expose that non-institutionalised, grass-root theological and philosophical worldview implicit within a given cultural epoch, then media studies – yes, even Buffy studies – might very well do the same.

Buffy, airing in 1996, quickly mustered a cult-audience who eagerly and attentively lapped up every minute of its seven series – running in at around 120 hours (and that is excluding adverts), and no dedicated fan can claim they watched the entire run only once. I am assuming some degree of familiarity with the show on the part of the reader, but here’s my attempt at a summary: Buffy is essentially a superhero, a supremely strong Slayer, whose sacred duty is to defend the town of Sunnydale – which unfortunately rests upon a hellmouth – from the forces of darkness, be it vampires, monsters or even an extra-terrestrial demon. She stands not alone, helped by her friends, ‘the scoobies’, made up of a witch, a librarian, a werewolf and a builder…the result being a TV drama framed by a constant battle of good vs evil.

Traditional religion doesn’t exactly enjoy an easy ride here. Sure, Buffy sort of ‘does a Jesus’ in Series 5, dying to save the world and being subsequently resurrected, but the similarities end there; she spends her (somewhat brief) death in one of ‘countless’ heaven dimensions; asked whether God exists, ‘the jury’s out on that one’. Yet Sunnydale is hardly a metaphysically disenchanted Grimsby. Spawned in the late 90s, a time where New Age themes were prevalent and seeping into the mainstream with dream-catchers, incense, henna, yoga and meditation becoming cultural vanilla. Increasing numbers of people were (and still are) far happier in identifying themselves as ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’; institutionalised religion’s loss was partly deregulated, inner-spirituality’s gain. Even the NHS is now heavily concerned with spirituality as part of its mantra…I digress, but Buffy’s treatment of Wicca and witchcraft was indicative of a cultural turn towards alternative spirituality.