This year marks the 20th anniversary since Buffy and the Scooby Gang paid the Hellmouth (and its glamorous Turok-Han army) a visit, whilst imbuing all potential slayers around the world with the power to battle the forces of darkness. (If you feel ancient, that’s because you are.)
During its seven-season stint on air and the years since, Buffy has inspired a whole generation of LGBTQIA+ viewers. The queer allegories, from Buffy’s need to conceal her true self from the outside world to her reliance on her chosen Scooby family, and having to “come out” as a vampire slayer, have been attributed to helping struggling queer youth feel represented.
But, it didn’t stop at allegories. Buffy eventually blazed a trail for (authentic) rainbow representation thanks to resident witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson), with the couple making history as mainstream television’s first long-term lesbian romance. Fun fact: the former was also part of the first-ever lesbian sex scene ever broadcast with the divisive potential slayer Kennedy (Iyari Limon). Bear in mind, this was all pre-2003.
In a GAY TIMES Instagram poll celebrating the release of Slayers: A Buffyverse Story, we asked our readers to reflect on their experiences with the iconic franchise, including how the series impacted them as queer people. “The narrative of a young woman wrestling with her identity helped me so much,” responded one fan, while another highlighted how it was “bold to have gay characters at that time”. The themes of “feeling like an outsider, perseverance and having a chosen family” were also acknowledged, as well as the show’s progressive storylines that “empowered both women and the LGBTQIA+ community”.
With Slayers: A Buffyverse Story, fans shared their hopes for how the Audible series will continue the series’ iconic feminist and queer legacy. Comments include: “More new queer representation,” “continuing to normalise queer relationships” and “Ghost Tara”. Good news incoming: Slayers fulfils all of the above, bar the latter, but Tara is – spoiler alert – brought back from the dead in a very interesting, and perhaps controversial, way.
Written by Christopher Golden and Tara herself, Amber Benson, Slayers takes place a decade after the aforementioned final battle that saw the titular character share her slayer lineage with all potentials. Slayers run the world and Spike – who was resurrected in the fifth season of Angel – has teamed up with fan-favourite demon slash former cat-eater Clem (James Charles Leary) for undercover espionage in LA, where he encounters 16-year-old newbie slayer Indira (Laya DeLeon Hayes). In a statement ahead of Slayers’ release, Marsters said he’s “ecstatic to be back with my dear friends for this next chapter in the Buffyverse, as we take listeners on a familiar but unexpected journey chock full of horror, passion and mischief. I’m excited for old and new fans to experience this beloved world of vampire slaying like never before, brought to life through immersive audio storytelling.”
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Multiverse shenanigans occur when Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) emerges from an alternate reality where Buffy doesn’t exist and she is the sole slayer. (It’s giving ‘The Wish’ but… different.) Cordy, who died in the main universe (it’s still a sore subject), enlists Spike to help with her version of his batshit ex-lover Drusilla (Juliet Landau), who is, as per usual, causing terror – this time with a fancy new title as the ‘Queen of Vampires’. Slayers is a compelling new adventure in the Buffyverse that respectfully pays homage to the original series while continuing its signature feminist and queer narrative.
Despite the absence of Willow and Tara, as a result of her untimely season six death, Slayers retains the series’ queer energy with the arrival of a new power couple in Drusilla and… Tara. No, that wasn’t a typo: Benson’s beloved witch is alive in Cordelia’s universe and is – dramatic drum roll please – evil. To match her partner’s fancy aforementioned title, she’s referred to in this reality as the ‘Witch Queen’. And according to Cordelia, the duo rule her reality with an iron fist. On Twitter, a fan celebrated this unlikely pairing, writing: “Drusilla and Tara are evil girlfriends in this and if that doesn’t immediately sell you idk what will.” Over on Reddit, another admirer lauded Benson’s menacing voice work, saying she’s at her “absolute best”. In an interview with Variety, Benson explained her decision to transform her “kind-hearted character” into something quite different.
“We wanted to give her some meat. So we found a way, without spoiling anything, to give her something to sink her teeth into,” she said. “We also wanted to keep the goodness of her, and it’s still in there, but we go to some darker places. And selfishly, as an actor, I wanted to work with Charisma, to do more with James, to spend time with Juliet. I have a lot of fun stuff with Juliet!” Slayers offers fans the chance to see beloved characters who had never spent much time on-screen together to interact; namely Cordelia and Tara, who sadly never crossed paths on Buffy or Angel. Even seeing photographs of Carpenter, Benson and Emma Caulfield, who returns as Anya and her demonic counterpart Anyanka, sent fans into a frenzy.
More importantly, Slayers envisions a world (or two) in which women rule. While Spike narrates this story, the patriarchy is now a flop thanks to slayers ruling the world and Cordelia’s universe at the mercy of Drusilla and Tara’s unexpected vampire-witch combo. From sound effects of Spike’s insides (on the outside) to Charisma Carpenter having an absolute blast as she embraces her inner slayer for a plethora of fun action sequences, Slayers: A Buffyverse Story is a must-listen for all hardcore Buffy fans.
Slayers: A Buffyverse Story is now streaming on Audible.