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.