When I first watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer I was by no means a geek virgin. My old VHS tapes were full of Star Trek episodes. I considered it my duty to watch and show my support of any fantasy or science fiction show that premiered on TV. I did this by continuing to watch shows even when they weren’t good (I’m looking at you, Sliders.) This didn’t make me popular with the kids at school. When the other kids wanted to talk about boys, I wanted to talk about the latest Star Trek: Voyager episode.
What a Geek Girl Wants
When Buffy premiered, it was another geek show, so I knew I would watch it. And I liked it. It had a cool concept but there wasn’t anything that really hooked me. I had always felt drawn to characters who were outsiders. As a young geek girl who preferred to stay home watching old episodes of Quantum Leap than going out with my fellow teenagers, I was by all definitions an outsider.
The characters in Buffy were on the outskirts of the high school social hierarchy. They were considered weird and geeky. The problem was that the stories in Buffy were from these characters’ perspectives so they weren’t really outsiders. It was a fun show but I couldn’t relate to them. I persisted anyway and didn’t spare it any further thought.
Enter: Cordelia Chase
That is until the character of Cordelia Chase came along. On the surface, Cordelia was the complete opposite of me. She was a rich, popular American cheerleader. I was a poor, unpopular British teenager who couldn’t do the splits to save her life. Yet I felt drawn to this character. This was an outsider. The vapid Valley girl who did everything she could to fit in and hide her true loneliness.
At the time, I was trying to fit in with kids at school. I did this by ignoring my geeky interests in favour of what the masses considered popular. With Cordelia, I finally found someone I could identify with. Cordelia was frequently underestimated and even though she was always on the fringes of the other characters’ inner circle, she always persevered.
When Cordelia left the show in the season three finale, I was excited. I knew she was going to be one of the leads in the Buffy spin-off, Angel. This was the chance to further explore her character. I became obsessed with the spin-off show that featured misfit characters who came together and found common ground. It’s a frequently told story, but when executed correctly, it’s a thing of beauty. Over the course of these shows, Cordelia showed her unfailing ability to be selfless and help people in need. This is the kind of person I wanted to be.
From Frustration to Fan Fic
In later seasons, Cordelia’s character took a different direction. After all of her struggles, she deserved a happier ending to her character arc. However, this frustration would lead me to a lasting love of fan fiction.
Fan fiction was a new and exciting concept for me. Here you had stories written by fans like me about every aspect of the show. In my early days of reading fan fiction, I read a new story every night, seeking out the Cordelia stories first. Many of the stories were so well written they could have been an extra episode of the show. As someone who loves reading, I was in heaven.
Seeing the support and comments from fellow fans on the fan sites was encouraging. I knew I had found my tribe. So I started writing my own Cordelia-focused fan fiction. Cordelia showed me how even the least likely person can grow up and fulfill their potential. Even if it’s not the one they would have ever imagined for themselves.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered. Now, I’m a proud geek who reads and writes fan fiction on various fandoms. It’s never too late to find your tribe. I’ve found mine and I owe it all to Cordelia Chase.