Who saved YOUR life?

Sady Doyle just wrote a fantastic article over at the Awl called “Ellen Ripley Saved My Life”(IT HAS BUFFY/FIREFLY/ALIEN SPOILERS THOUGH YOU GUYS). It’s part of a project called “The Smartest Thing She Ever Said” and I don’t know really what that is but it seems like it might be great because her recent articles for the same thing are called “The Fantasy of Girl World: Lady Nerds and Utopias” and “Lady Robots: the Shape of Things to Come On” (ha!). But anyway, I loved “Ellen Ripley Saved My Life”. It’s about why certain stories become so important to us, and she focuses on stories of strong women and writes an analysis of how Ripley, Buffy, and River Tam became incredibly powerful for her. It’s good stuff, and I recommend the article (but SKIP the Buffy section if you’re, say, in the middle of watching season 6 for the first time).

I recent wrote about lady-nerd idols (Kitty Pryde, anyone?) but most people who know me won’t be surprised to hear that Buffy Summers is one of those really important characters for me. I know I’m not the only person who started watching Buffy during a period of depression; it became an anchor for me. I think it’s because of what Doyle talks about at the end of her article:

There’s one version of the story that goes: There is someone out there. Someone good and wise and kind. And when you are in danger, when you need him most, he will always come to save you. It’s a good story. But there’s another story, too, that I think is important.

Because: What if no one is coming to save you? Sometimes, nobody is coming. And who didn’t come to save you, and when? What happened, on the day that you were not saved? That was the day that you saved yourself.

I think the reason Buffy mattered so much to me was that, as much as you could hope that some external force could help you, Buffy made it all about your strength. With Buffy in the picture, I never fantasized about being someone who gets rescued; I fantasized about being the slayer.

Anyway, I’d be really curious to hear whose stories have changed you or helped you at all–the amazing characters (or people from history or whatever) who you’ve mythologized and used to explain something about the world to yourself, or something about yourself.

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2 thoughts on “Who saved YOUR life?

  1. Aww, Maddie! What a good post. Also a little jealous that I didn’t discover Buffy earlier and could have had such a positive role model during those shit times growing up. I’m royally embarrassed to admit this, but mine was Mandy Moore in A Walk to Remember.

    *pausing for the laughter to subside*

    I know, I know. Seems odd, right? Especially since (*spoiler alert!*) she dies of cancer at the end. But I think that was part of it, for me. She suffered from a horrible illness, but she didn’t let it affect her life. I’ve had medical issues my whole life, and it’s rough. Especially when everyone around you thinks that you’re making it up. Especially when you’re already unpopular because you happen to have your own opinion and refuse to continue the charade of worshiping at the feet of the Queen Bee and agreeing with everything she says. Especially when you’re overweight.

    OK, so obviously the last part doesn’t apply to the incredibly gorgeous Mandy Moore. But the concept still applies. Despite all the pressure she faced and all the people who made fun of her, she never once let it get to her. She never considered changing who she was or what she liked merely because other people disapproved. The scene in the cafeteria where everyone points at her and laughs still really resonates with me–call it PTSD, if you will, but I think it does the best job I’ve ever seen of capturing the stomach-churning horror of the cruelty of public humiliation. But Mandy Moore got through it, and ultimately someone was able see how awesome she actually was even though she didn’t seem that way at first. The fact that it was the totally drool-worthy Shane West didn’t hurt, either.

    Now of course Mandy Moore’s story wasn’t nearly as empowering as Buffy’s, largely because she died at the end (oops, another spoiler!). However, the pain that she went through ultimately allowed others around her to realize what an incredible person she was, and they all became better people (in theory) because of her example. She defied expectations and broke with the customs, but in the end was the happiest of them all because she was ok with herself. That’s pretty kickass, if you ask me.

    PS: my room at home is still plastered with pictures of Shane West. you know you’re jealous.

    • My BRAIN is plastered with pictures of Shane West, thanks to his virtuoso performance in Get Over It

      One I wish I had discovered in high school is Veronica Mars. She is so freaking awesome. She was such a good reminder that pain and isolation often leads to great strength (which, in turn, leads to more isolation sometimes). Watching the show now, I keep on seeing flashes of myself in high school, but like, an awesome idealized version of myself. VM is gonna be MANDATORY viewing for my kids once they hit high school.

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