Gay fans celebrate affinity for TV’s Buffy

On Dec. 10, the Lone Star Saloon in San Francisco dedicated its monthly “Fanboy” night to 1990s television cult sensation “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The event included a screening of the show's beloved musical episode featuring a live singalong from the cast of “Beach Blanket Babylon” and the local “Rocky Horror Picture Show” production.

“Fanboy” organizer James Rouse Iniguez wore a Santa hat, self-proclaimed “dork queen” Suppositori Spelling lost her wig with her Buffy-level martial arts and local student Tommy Byrd got a perfect score on trivia. It was the geeky gay holiday party of the year.

“Gay men love the show because it shows strength in places that don't follow stereotypical societal or heterosexual norms,” Byrd said. “When getting to know people, I typically out myself as a die-hard 'Buffy' fan. Rarely has a gay person not seen at least one episode of the show.”

“Buffy” is a great conversation starter, but what is it about the show that has gay men celebrating its legacy a decade after it went off the air?

Buffy, the titular character played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, is the pretty blonde cheerleader who must eventually come to terms with her identity as a badass demon killer and “come out” to her family as the girl destined to save the world. She's the textbook definition of a “strong female character” that gay men champion. Her sidekick Willow, played by Alyson Hannigan, remains one of the most fully fledged lesbian characters to ever appear on network television.

Though these characters were not biologically related, they created a nontraditional family in order to survive.

Storylines that dealt with hidden identities, peer pressure and bullying seemed to reference the gay experience, not uncommon in the superhero narrative (see openly gay director Bryan Singer's “X-Men” films).

Furthermore, “Buffy” was unapologetic about its campy horror genre, one that has often been linked to queer sensibilities. More recently, TV shows “True Blood” and “American Horror Story,” both gay favorites, have taken this genre to the grotesque.

It's fitting then that re-watching “Buffy” has become an annual tradition.

“Every December, we pay tribute to 'Buffy,'” said Rouse Iniguez while standing on top of the pool table-turned-stage at Lone Star. Gay fans with a shared affinity for “Buffy” coming together? Sounds a lot like Christmas.

“The thing that I want to say about fandom, is that it's the closest thing to religion there is that isn't actually religion,” series creator Joss Whedon told Wired magazine.

Media and religion scholar Anthony R. Mills addresses the theory in his essay “Buffyverse Fandom as Religion” from the 2013 anthology “Fan Phenomena: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

“Real-life practices like attending conventions and screenings create important social interactions; the continuous re-watching of episodes, both communal and individual, functions as religious ritual,” he wrote.

Buffy did come back from the dead, twice.

Bay Area NewsBuffy the Vampire SlayerLone Star SaloonOscar RaymundoSarah Michelle Gellar

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