Growing up on a healthy diet of ’90s and 2000s movies and TV shows, I revered prom night as the pinnacle of every teen’s life. Against all odds you become prom queen, maybe you lose your virginity, or most commonly, Freddie Prinze, Jr., shows up in your backyard to tell you that he made that bet before he knew you… Before he really knew himself.
The only recognition I ever received in high school was an award for being the most competitive student in gym class, so getting a spot in the prom court was off the table. The prospect of sex was dim because I spent 80% of my junior prom being irritated at my boyfriend for leaving to crash a wedding over in the next banquet hall. Because Wedding Crashers was big at the time, I had to slow dance to Lifehouse’s “You and Me” by myself; oh the irony. Luckily, the following year our senior prom was on The Odyssey, a cruise ship off Navy Pier. With the same date as the previous year, I was relieved to find out it was a moving venue surrounded by water, for fear that he’d try to leave again.
Despite my $50 updo and the very elegant gloves I stole from The Icing to match the repurposed bridesmaids dress from my dad’s third wedding—my prom was a dumb and overrated sham, and anything but magical.
Had I known then that I was truly a queer chick, I might have felt even more disconnected from this teenage ritual in which the most popular, hetero students get rewarded for being the most popular and the most hetero. A lot of schools don’t even allow you to bring a date of the same gender.
Perhaps prom was just something I was supposed to romanticize from afar. Like in Season 3 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer: After saving her friends, Buffy was recognized as the class protector, wore a killer dress and slow-danced to “Wild Horses” with her 243-year old boyfriend. If I wasn’t going to have a perfect prom, I at least wanted to watch one.
But all the real life prom disappointments washed away, and the most beautiful prom fantasies were realized at Buffering The Vampire Slayer presents: The Prom, March 10 at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, at which my girlfriend was my date, and I did my best to replicate Buffy’s femme white dress and badass leather jacket outfit.
In advance of this make-good on all prom disappointments, I spoke with Kristin Russo and Jenny Owen Youngs, hosts of Buffering the Vampire Slayer podcast.
Tell me a bit about your relationship to Buffy and what led you to creating this podcast together.
Jenny: I’ve loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer for many a moon. While Kristin and I were getting serious about dating I told her that she had to watch it or get off the boat. And after much hemming and hawing, she watched it and was immediately won over.
Kristin: That’s not true, I wasn’t immediately won over. I tried to watch Season 1, I hated it.
Jenny: But then you watched Season 2 and you knew it was the greatest show ever made. And then some years later, I began harassing Kristin incessantly to make a podcast with me to which the answer was “No.” “No thank you.” “The answer is no.” But then I tricked her into doing it and now she’s happier than she’s ever been.
Kristin: [Laughs] All of that is true.
What is it about Buffy that even 20 years later, it’s still relevant. Shouldn’t we feel like we’ve outgrown these same high schoolers?
Kristin: It’s like the most specific thing and the most universal thing at the same time. Buffy is a show that you can watch at various points in your life and take away an entirely different meaning from. We already decided to do the podcast before the nightmare of this [Trump] administration happened and so especially in the context of what’s happening, it seems like a mirror image of the current world.
What’s so dreamy about the “Prom” episode of Buffy?
Jenny: [Long sigh] This episode has everything. I’ve always been a fan of a prom dress in a duffle bag, that you take out after you defeat evil while everyone else is enjoying the prom. That is Buffy’s life.
Kristin: And obviously Buffy receiving the Class Protector Award, when the rest of her class acknowledges her all along.
Now about your own high school lives. We’re all still with our high school boyfriends we went to prom with, right? What was your prom experience like?
Kristin: Excuse me, I went to junior prom with a girl! We weren’t dating and I didn’t know I was gay but we went together as friends.
Jenny: I didn’t go. This is my first prom.
Kristin: Wow, Jenny! What I remember most about prom was a lock-in where we got to run around the entire mall so that we didn’t drink.
Buffy prom kind of allows us all to do it all over again, so what’s going to make this prom so special?
Jenny: I feel like the people who are coming to prom are the thing that will make it most special.
Kristin: The community that has formed around the podcast and the show is the most beautiful thing that either of us have ever seen in our entire lives. People are so excited to come and be themselves because maybe at their prom, they didn’t feel like they could be. It just feels very loving, open and safe.
Prom can be a not-so-fun place for LGBT folks. What do you think schools could do to make their proms more inclusive just like this one—aside from the complimentary fangs?
Kristin: The most basic things can extend a hand to queer kids. There’s imagery that’s always used around prom, there’s songs, just so many ways that you can let people know that whoever they’re bringing to prom, or whoever they are if they’re not bringing anyone to prom, they’re accepted.
And the Buffy prom was just that. I looked around and saw every iteration of an adorable queer couple slow-dancing to “Wild Horses.” I saw groups of women looking absolutely stunning in their ’90s dresses, swaying with each other as a unit. And I watched two Spike cosplayers grind on each other, which I’m going to be thinking about for awhile.
It wasn’t a Class Protector award but Kristin & Jenny announced Laura Zak and I will be hosting the Angel spin-off podcast aptly titled “Angel On Top.” Angel might have left Sunnydale after the Mayor’s Ascension but we’re just arriving! The premiere episode will be out in late May/early June. If you haven’t already, you must subscribe to Buffering the Vampire Slayer on iTunes and check out their website.