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Blood Drive

The Stakes Are High: Every Monday night on the WB network, Buffy slays vampires, navigates high school's bitchy cliques and wrestles with other adolescent dilemmas.

Like many teenage girls, Buffy has a hope chest full of lace and trinkets--hers just has a false bottom hiding wooden stakes and holy water

By Mary Spicuzza

ONCE UPON A TIME, TV'S most loved heroine was Laura Ingalls Wilder. Radiating sweetness and innocence, she skipped through the fields of her Little House on the Prairie. She sewed, she cleaned, she milked cows while chatting with Pa. B-o-o-o-ring.

The '90s demand a new TV role model for young girls--enter Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the WB series that begins its second season on KOFY-20 this fall (8pm Monday). Toned teen Buffy drives stakes through the hearts of the undead and wrestles witches, yet manages to keep up with the latest fashions.

The TV series is one of the many weekly programs that actually hold their own with the movies that sired them. Buffy the film showed the absurdity of high school as it traced the transformation of a blond valley girl as she learns she's one of the few chosen to rescue humanity from fanged demons.

Pouting princess Buffy of the movie has been reinterpreted by Sarah Michelle Gellar (formerly of All My Children) into a quick-witted, sharp-tongued, tough hipster with a good heart. She just happens to kill people--but only evil, undead people, of course.

On Monday nights, the Buffmeister can be seen battling the master of vampires, karate-chopping beasts and kicking the collective butts of bloodsuckers. Buffy is smart and sweet, but a sissy she ain't. Other Gen X heroines may be singing about boys who done them wrong, but Buffy is a little too busy to whine, what with preventing the mouth of hell from reopening and swallowing the earth and all.

Buffy and her friends are teen idols, but they also are very human. In one episode, independent Buffy defies her New-Agey mother, scaling out of a second-story window despite being grounded. Parents may worry about the implications of Buffy's rebellious spirit but--come on--she had to save her suburb from a mass sucking of teenage blood.

Quick Feet, Quick Tongue

BESIDES PARENTS AND teachers who don't understand her calling, Buffy has a whole host of relationship problems. She's falling for a mysterious stranger named Angel (David Boreanaz). Unfortunately Angel has been cursed, forcing him into a vampirous lifestyle until the spell can be broken. During their first kiss, Angel got so excited he lost control and sprouted fangs. Talk about a five-minute lover.

Yes, even Buffy gets sucked into dysfunctional relationships--poor deluded girl still thinks she'll be able to change her man. But the show teaches important lessons for young girls. Buffy could've hung with the shallow, popular types if she so desired, but instead opted for the nice, nerdy kids, the most lovable TV adolescents since Square Pegs.

These insights into the facts of life, combined with otherworldly themes, good scripts and fight scenes that would make Jackie Chan proud, are what make the show a TV treasure. Buffy kicks butt and takes names, but she also gets good lines. "If you're so amped on all this hell stuff, why don't you just go there," she tells a vampire as she impales him on a broken shard of glass.

The low-budget show creates wonderfully hideous villains, whether they be beasts from the underworld or back-stabbing cliquish teens. And the good guys are led by the best-dressed heroine since Audrey Hepburn. As my 11-year-old niece Stephanie says, "Buffy is strong, pretty and smart. And she has the coolest friends. She's awesome!"

Any woman who saves the world from evil suckers while having time to find the best shoes around deserves a little respect, if not status as a cultural icon.

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From the Sept. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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