Neil Gaiman explains what 'strong women' in Buffy are REALLY about

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Dec 27, 2013, 3:49 PM EST

It's been 10 years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer left our TV screens, and one of the show's more high-profile fans believes some people still don't get one of its central points.

For seven seasons, we watched Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy Summers and her friends stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness, and for many of us the world was never the same after that first glimpse of the Slayer. Buffy made stars of its cast, launched a successful spinoff series in Angel, made creator Joss Whedon a nerd icon who's now one of the most powerful people in genre cinema, and built a fan following that remains so rabid for the story that it still continues in comic books to this day. 

To commemorate Buffy's legacy in the decade since the TV series ended, Naomi Alderman of the BBC's Radio 4 recently hosted a half-hour special looking back on the series' inception, its eventual success, and its legacy as Hollywood still struggles to create "daughters of Buffy." For the program, she interviewed, among others, Whedon himself, actor Anthony Head (Giles), TV executives Susanne Daniels and Jane Root and writer Neil Gaiman, who's both a fan of the show and, like Whedon, a writer who's received quite a bit of praise for the way he writes female characters. 

During the show, Gaiman was asked what it takes for people like Whedon and himself to craft such well-received female characters, and after giving some advice on that front, he explained his take on why the female characters in Buffy worked: Because Buffy wasn't the only strong one. 

"It's worth pointing out that people, unfortunately, misunderstand the phrase 'strong women,'" Gaiman said. "The glory of Buffy is it was filled with strong women. Only one of those strong women had supernatural strength and an awful lot of sharpened stakes. And people sort of go 'Well yes, of course Buffy was a strong woman. She could kick her way through a door.' And you go 'No, that's not actually what makes her a strong woman! You're missing the point.'"

The clip featuring Gaiman's remarks on that particular topic is embedded below, but the whole half-hour is well worth a listen. Longtime Buffy fans will recognize parts of the familiar story of how Whedon got the show on the air, but they might not have heard Head's early reaction to coming aboard before, as well as how librarians reacted to Giles. There are also fascinating discussions about a once-possible British spinoff of the series, which shows airing now Buffy fans can watch to get their fix, and some very interesting remarks from Whedon about how some storytellers took all the wrong lessons from the show.

For the full program, head over to Radio 4's website

(Via BBC)