In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the corny, cheesy, but-God-we-all-love-it horror TV show from the late ’90s, The Bronze was an all-ages club and central character in its own right, amid all the vampire-slaying geekery.
The show’s central character, Buffy Summers, loved, lost, and, well, slayed there.
So it was all too fitting that when San Francisco celebrated the show’s 20th Anniversary last Friday, the pay-as-you-go office workspace Covo transformed itself into The Bronze.
Schlocky ’90s music played, vampires roamed, and the mythical “hellmouth” — a portal into the demon world — spewed smoke from the center of the room.
OK, OK: In truth, the vampires were Buffy fans in fake plastic teeth — handed out kindly by Covo staff — and the hellmouth was a table with a bright pink light in its center and a fog machine. But you know, points for style.
Even one of Covo’s owners, Daniel Brian, temporarily dyed his hair blond to bartend while costumed as the Buffy vampire villain Spike. A “vampire bite” — that is, cider and beer — ran six bucks.
“Don’t play Season 4. They don’t deserve that!” Brian shouted as someone across the room chose an episode on the many TVs to screen for their patrons.
Twenty years ago, Buffy shoved a stake into the hearts of TV viewers. The show, which debuted on the WB network on March 10, 1997, featured a stereotypical blonde, cheerleader-esque character turned on her head. The archetype most often killed in horror films had become a superpower-wielding defender against evil (the “Chosen One”).
Joss Whedon — also of Firefly and Avengers fame — crafted a show that took the usual victim and made her a hero, and upended just about every sexist trope he could find along the way.
Although Whedon said he’ll never revive the show, Buffy’s girl-power stardom was evident at Covo Friday night, as women carrying drinks dressed as its most famous characters: Buffy, yes, but also Willow, a shy nerd turned openly lesbian witch (of the spell-casting variety).
Willow’s eventual coming out and subsequent relationship with a fellow witch, Tara, was certainly not the first lesbian relationship on the TV screen, but it was prominent in the lives of many teens.
At Covo Friday night, women sat hand in hand, and the crowds cheered every time Willow and Tara’s hands touched, or when either threw a smile the other’s way.
Drea Gonzalez was one of those costumed Buffy fans, and she lowered her stake — which, in an homage to Buffy’s “Mr. Pointy,” she named “Miz Pointess” — to talk about Buffy’s influence on her own coming out.
“Seeing another queer female relationship,” she said, “came during my own exploration of real love with a woman.”
It was just after Gonzalez moved from Boston to San Francisco, and had just come out to her own parents. But it wasn’t just Willow who provided comfort.
She said that when Buffy “came out” to her mother in the show as a vampire slayer — finally explaining, after so many years, why she constantly missed school, seemed distant, and was so secretive about her life — it resonated with Gonzalez’s own coming out story.
“It made me reflect on my parents, and how we handled things,” she said.
Gonzalez may have been alone when she first moved to San Francisco, but she wasn’t last Friday at Covo. As she walked back to the group of Buffy watchers, they cheered again for the smiling vampire-slayer.