Image via YouTube This week 20 years ago, the television world was irrevocably altered when Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted on The WB. A spin-off of a movie of the same name, which featured an astonishingly forgettable Luke Perry, the television show—helmed by self-proclaimed super nerd and humanist Joss Whedon—did more than the movie could have ever envisioned. Seven seasons of slaying demons, vampires, while slyly (sometimes crudely) utilizing both as metaphors for the actual Big Bad evils of the world and hammering home, via the sexiest librarian alive, Rupert Giles, that research and reading are vital for success, Buffy became a cultural monolith. Buffy as a character and as a show was also deeply important to so many (namely a massive collective of women) in the 90s and beyond. She stood for justice (albeit a a little too preachy at times but, hey, she saved the world multiple times, so let's give her this), good hair, great clothes, strength, and beating the shit out of literal monstrous men.
But Buffy, like many of the great teen dramas of yore, also featured live music. Live music being incorporated into the narrative of a teen show didn't start with The OC. For example, in the second season when she returns after a summer off after killing The Master, Buffy and her pals get stupidly excited to see Cibo Matto (featuring one Sean Lennon) at The Bronze. Over the years, we'd come to see a lot of 90s and early 2000s acts come through—who I swear I couldn't pick out of a line-up—including Oz's band Dingoes Ate My Baby, but also more well known musicians like Aimee Mann and Michelle Branch.
One of the more puzzling but wholly thrilling and fuck yes! additions to the live music roster, though, was actual Canadian treasure, Bif Naked. The Canadian pop punk musician has a lengthy history in the country's West Coast punk scene, first appearing as the front-person in Gorilla, Gorilla in the early 90s, and then Chrome Dog before striking out on her own. One of the important facets of Bif's career and image is she went straight edge in the mid-90s. Bif's breakout record would come in the form of I, Bificus, a punk and hardcore infused set of songs that includes the awesomely era specific "Spaceman." In season four, also known as the
*college years*, Buffy goes to a party with Parker, a very brief love interest and the kind of man many of us have unfortunately taken home at some point. The pop punk, ska-lite Bif Naked appears initially at the party casually playing "Moment of Weakness" to a bunch of rowdy under-agers. Classic college party move!
But the bigger moment comes when Buffy and—actual spawn of Satan—Parker slow dance to Bif's ballad "Lucky" from I, Bificus. Plot wise, this is a massive move for Buffy because up until now in the show she's really only been in love with Angel, the extremely brooding and sometimes lame vampire with a soul who may or may not have been foundational in what traits in a man you should fall for. Parker is different! He's human, first off, which is a solid plus in the pro column. And, unlike the last time Buffy slept with anyone, he won't wake up without a soul. Except, hold on, Parker's literal trash who, set to the dulcet sounds of sweet Bif voice, sleeps with Buffy and eventually… becomes a soulless beast. Full circle; men are mostly trash. Some of Bif's lyrics to "Lucky" are: "The first time we made love, I, I wasn't sober/ And you told me you love me over and over/ How can I ever love another when I miss you everyday?" So, we kind of saw this coming but nevertheless it still stung. "Lucky" is a very vulnerable song about love and loss and it, along with Bif, fit perfectly in this Buffy scene. It was a huge moment for the West Coast Canadian and her excellent Betty Page haircut to get this kind of placement on a show like Buffy. With the exception of the biggest names out of Canada, not much trickled across the border. But Buffy had, at times, favoured Canadian acts to soundtrack some of the more heartbreaking and real moments, like when Sarah McLachlan's "Full of Grace" cues up at the end of the second season after Buffy kills Angel. To this day, I cannot hear that song in its entirety and not full-on weep. And that's fine, I guess, because we are great with sadness! But by prominently featuring these acts, the show gave our Canadian music scene some much deserved visibility and credibility.
Sarah will always choose Giles in the debate of Angel vs. Spike. Follow her on Twitter.