In the fifth episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy’s femininity is undermined by the duality of her responsibilities. Buffy, as a young woman in high school, who has the typical responsibility of finding her identity amongst challenges and obstacles along with the additional responsibility of saving the world from vampires. These two very different responsibilities contradict one another and the later requires compromise which in turn requires that Buffy make sacrifices for communal gain instead of personal gain.
Approximately halfway through the episode, Buffy is pictured in a nude colored dress dancing with her date Owen when he begins to explain that he feels she is two different people. This scene depicts the stereotypical teenage fantasy of a date going perfectly. Buffy’s responsibility to herself to find normality amongst chaos is found in normal activities such as her date with Owen.
The compiling of her sacrifices up until this point made it more difficult than normal to obtain a date; she sacrificed her social conformity and comfort in order to answer the call of being a slayer. Rather than revealing her responsibilities as a protector, Buffy continues to make the most of the night and act as if everything is normal, smiling and flirting. This is a recurring theme of not only Buffy, but of women in general in society-to sacrifice their own well-being and state of mind in order to comfort those who are unaware of ongoing crises.
Buffy having to sacrifice social success as a young woman inhibits her from growing in this dynamic area of her persona. Her body language in the beginning of the scene is confident as she encourages Owen to the floor to dance and initiates physical contact with him. Later on, Angel’s appearance decreases her ability to continue acting normally as she is confronted with the reality of what she “must” be doing with her night. She removes her hands from Owen and with the additional appearance of her friends, she becomes skittish and increasingly nervous. Being forced to leave the date results in a lack of social and relationship development for Buffy, who is initially stunted socially as she has always been forced to cover up the dangerous and unusual side of her life.
Because of the weight of her underlying responsibilities as a vampire slayer, Buffy’s decision to sacrifice various aspects of her normality to work for the greater good requires a great deal of sacrifice in her personal life. Part of this sacrifice exists as an emphasis upon the role of the female hero and the other part exists to highlight Buffy’s moral characteristics.
It appears at the beginning of the date that Buffy will do absolutely anything to avoid having to face her unpleasant duty to the world, but when confronted with reality by those who are aware of her situation she is forced leave the comfort of Owen’s naiveté and the comfort of normal teenage activities such as a date. This sacrifice causes a rift in her development as a person, for she is more mature and apt to handle difficult responsibilities involving vampires, but she is less able to navigate common every day scenarios that involve humans.
The duality of her life has yet to be balanced as she consistently sacrifices personal gain for the protection and well-being of the world around her.