34 Ways Buffy The Vampire Slayer Prepared Me For Life In Montreal
Since it aired in 1997, I have been a die-hard Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan. Six-year-old me was instantly entranced by the world of Buffy, a fascination that still holds strong today. Seriously, I've committed the series to memory, and I don't think I'll stop watching anytime soon.
Unlike many shows I've been obsessed with over the years, my love for Buffy has stood the test of time. That's probably because, no matter what stage of life I happen to be in, Buffy remains incredibly relevant and applicable.
Take when I first moved to Montreal, about seven years ago, for example. Here I was, a fresh-faced 18-year-old from the GTA who had never lived in a city proper, let alone without my family. The thing is, I threw myself right into Montreal without really being phased by any of the city's oddities; I was strangely prepared for Montreal even though I knew nothing about the culture or lifestyle.
Looking back, I see that Buffy is actually how I became a Montrealer without even knowing it. It sounds silly, I know, but let me convince you with the 35 ways Buffy The Vampire Slayer prepared me for life in Montreal, all of which is below.
All the churches don't seem strange at all.
Boasting four basilicas, six cathedrals, and a numerous amount of smaller churches, there's a reason why Montreal was once called the "City of Saints."
Now, walking around and constantly seeing churches may seem strange, unless you're familiar with all-things Sunnydale, a town that has forty-three churches for its small size. As Willow points out "It's the extra evil vibe from the Hellmouth. Makes people pray harder."
Don't know what Montreal's excuse is, unless Mount Royal is some secret repository of demonic energy.
Same with all of the cemeteries.
There's a quiet charm to Montreal's cemeteries (Mount Royal, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, etc.) until you realize that they're filled with dead people. Still, seeing all those tombstones is kind of cool, which you can actually see right on the Main thanks to the (soon to be defunct) Berson & Fils gravestone shop across the street from Schwartz's.
At least Montreal's cemeteries don't have people crawling out of there graves as undead creatures of the night like the twelve in Sunnydale do on a regular basis. Actually, I can't confirm that fact, because maybe our resident Slayer is just super good at her job.
You don't get phased when you see someone dressed like this.
The 80s never left Montreal.
Nor did the Goth phase.
Or even this.
Honestly, all of Willow's wardrobe would fit in here. The fashion of the 90s is still strong in Montreal.
Shady politicians are pretty much a fact of life.
Season 3 of Buffy revealed the evil, immortal mayor of Sunnydale Richard Wilkins III. Corrupt in the truest sense of the word, Wilkins may have killed tons of people and became a giant slug demon, but he did keep Sunnydale in some state of order despite all the supernatural chaos.
What excuse do the politicians of Montreal have, then? Because, as history (and the Charbonneau Commission) have shown, Montreal's municipal leaders haven't always been on the level. Maybe they, too, have simply been persuaded by darker forces. Or, you know, money.
When weird shit happens, it barely phases you in the slightest.
Oh, the cops are wearing leopard-print leotards? People are rioting and throwing around molotov cocktails? A gang of hoods broke into a shop to protest gentrification? The streets are being ripped apart entirely? A demonic hell goddess is trying to break the walls of reality?
Okay, so that last one was Buffy, and not Montreal, but thank God the former prepared me for all the insane shit that happens here that everyone just shrugs off as another day in the city.
Seeing people in the park well after dark is almost normal.
Fortunately, all the after-dark park dwellers in Montreal aren't trolling for the blood of the innocent and just want to drink alcohol throughout the summer night.
Having a cross looking over the entire city actually makes sense.
In Sunnydale, the cross would actually be effective, as a huge holy symbol would be able to repel vamps. Here, the cross is more of a monument to the city's history. Still, since Buffy pretty much put the fear of vampires into my brain, having the cross on Mount Royal is actually pretty comforting.
Actively defying and hating all-things British is the right thing to do.
Even though Buffy and Giles became life-long besties, that doesn't mean the Slayer didn't actively defy her Watcher's orders all the time. The Buff-ster got even more defiant of all-people-with-a-British-accent once Wesley showed up, and even more so when the Watcher's Council tried to boss her around some more.
Montrealers have the same sentiment to anything/anyone with ties to the Queen. Unlike the rest of Canada, Montreal (and Quebec) aren't exactly proud of the country's ties to Britain and actively resist Anglophone culture and authority, just like Buffy.
The phrase "From beneath you, it devours" is super relevant.
In Sunnydale, the Hellmouth is the giant chasm of doom you should be watching out for in case it swallows you whole. Here in Montreal, we have gigantic potholes and sinkholes. Basically the same thing.
People being legit nocturnal is totally thing.
Wake up in the late afternoon, have a shift at the restaurant later on, party 'til 6am, repeat. That's the schedule for more than a few Montrealers, a lifestyle that becomes altogether nocturnal in the winter when the sun is pretty absent. Lots of Sunnydalers had the same kind of nocturnal schedule, you know, because they were vampires.
You're prepared to learn that teachers, nerds, and professors are secret badasses.
Giles, Willow, Professor Maggie Walsh; at first glance they look like stuffy brainiacs, then you learn they're way more badass (or insane, in Walsh's case) than you ever could have guessed.
The reverse thing happens in Montreal, where you meet people partying at bars, clubs, after-hours, and Piknic, only to learn afterwards that they're teachers or the like.
Having to deal with an overbearing, arguably useless watchdog-organization is just a fact of life.
Honestly, what did the Watcher's Council ever really do for Buffy, other than annoy her? Even when they could have been useful, they went ahead and got blown up by the First. By the end of the series, you kind of realize how useless they were and only served to piss Buffy off.
Sounds like another rather controversial and anger-inducing organization that operates in Quebec. *Cough* OQLF *cough*
The police have a reputation that isn't exactly "to protect and serve."
With camo pants, red hats, and long history of being rather brutal to protesters, the Montreal police force aren't exactly loved by residents of the city. Same goes in Sunnydale, where you'd rather have a teenage girl with a wooden stick on your side than a police officer.
Seeing random celebrities is just a fact of life.
Amy Adams, Ashanti, Rachel Bilson, Felicia Day, Wentworth Miller, and more are among the many celebrities who strolled through Sunnydale during Buffy's seven seasons. You never really knew when you were going to see a celeb in Sunnydale, just like in Montreal, where all the Hollywood movies being filmed here might put a celeb in the city at any random moment.
Overcrowded hospitals with overworked staff is simply a reality.
Even when Glory wasn't sucking the brain-juices out of people's heads, Sunnydale's medical professionals (and morticians) must have been seriously overworked from neck wounds alone. Things aren't much different in Montreal, where waiting for hours for medical attention is something we all deal with.
Sunnydalers and Montrealers only care about sports teams if they're doing well.
The only time a Sunnydale sports team was ever mentioned during Buffy's run was when the high school swim team actually started winning. Sure, they were being turned into gross sea-monsters, but the fact remains, Sunnydalers only give a care if they're team is winning.
Same goes in Montreal. Remember how all that Habs-hype petered off once the team started playing super-awful by the middle of the season? Yeah, maybe we're not as committed to the city's hockey team as we all thought.
You aren't surprised to find a random university you never knew existed.
Out of nowhere in Season 3, the writers of Buffy suddenly reveal that there's a UC Sunnydale right in town. At no point did that fact come up before, and as a fan you just had to roll with the random existence of a university right in Sunnydale.
The same kind of thing happens in Montreal. With six universities and twelve colleges in the city, you can discover a school you never knew existed and not really be phased by the fact that you had no clue it was there in the first place.
The city has a dark and rather shady history no one really talks about.
Rather conveniently, no one likes to mention all of the First Nations communities that were displaced thanks to the arrival of Montreal's founders and the city's expansion. Kind of like how the Sunnydale history books skip over the pagan temple that was first erected in the town, a standing monument to the Hellmouth that stood beneath, not to mention half of the shady stuff that went down since.
Actually, Sunnydale has an excuse, since most of the mystical-demonic elements of the town got covered up by earthquakes and the like. Montreal doesn't really have that excuse.
Evil, secret experiments are conducted at a university without anyone the wiser.
How did Maggie Walsh get away with running a secret pseudo-governmental organization that experimented on demons and people right under the nose of a university campus? Yeah, I have no idea, but Walsh did it, and The Initiative remained a secret for the entirety of Season 4, a least to the casual UC Sunnydale student.
Normally I would call that some suspension of disbelief on the viewer's part, until you learn about Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron and the rather dark mental experiments he performed at McGill's Allan Memorial Institute of psychology. Cameron didn't create a demonoid cyborg, but he definitely did stuff no one would deem ethical.
No one goes out until well after midnight.
The best slaying doesn't happen until well past midnight, as any quality Slayer will tell you. Same goes in Montreal, just change "slaying" for "partying."
Being gay isn't weird in the slightest
Even though everyone was kind of weirded out when Willow first came out of the closet, the Scooby Gang was super supportive of their resident nerd when she announced she was with Tara. And by the end of Season 4, no one even saw Willow's newfound homosexuality as strange in the slightest. Even better, they didn't treat her any different.
Same goes in Montreal, where it doesn't really matter what your sexual orientation is, it all flies.
You need to get used to an entirely new way of speaking.
Not even to mention the unique Montreal accent, living in Montreal pretty much demands you also become well-versed in Franglish. Watching Buffy demanded a similar thing, as you needed to get a solid handle on "Buffy Speak" before you could really appreciate the show's witticisms.
Ghosts are a legit thing you have to worry about.
You may not believe in phantoms and spectral ghouls, but that doesn't mean people don't think Montreal is home to many an otherworldly spirit. Same goes in Sunnydale, where being haunted by a ghost isn't much of a shocker to anyone.
You never know what the hell the weather is going to do.
Usually, Sunnydale was warm and sunny, like any other California town. But then there were the random moments where a magic-induced (or Dracula-drawn) storm would run through the town, or snow would randomly start falling like in the Season 3 episode "Amends."
Going from sunshine to snow and everything in between isn't all that uncommon in Montreal either, where the weather literally has a mind of its own.
Kids start going out really early.
Buffy was like, 14 when she slayed her first vampire. Dawn wasn't much older once she got roped into the world of otherworldly danger. With the province's rather low drinking age and tons of deps/bars that don't check IDs, Montreal also indoctrinates younglings to the nightlife scene, except here it's all about drinking rather than killing demons.
People battling with broad swords is something that happens all the time.
When Buffy or one of the Scoobies bust out a broadsword, they're usually fighting for their life. Here, it's just a bunch of people LARP'ing at Tams. Still, it does happen at least once a week.
Same goes for folks performing random gymnastic feats.
Slackliners and people in circus school head to the park and show off their physical prowess whenever they can. At least Buffy only did it when she was kicking ass, or trying to get out of school.
Halloween is always the most insane night of the year.
Even though Giles consistently said Halloween was a "night off" for the demons of Sunnydale, that didn't stop from craziest of things happening on All Hallows Eve, like people becoming their costumes or a demon lord of fear taking over a haunted house. Montreal Halloweens are similarly crazy, but again, more with party and drinking than evil demons (as far as we know, of course).
There's an underground system that can take you across the city without ever encountering sunlight.
Angel and Spike used the Sunnydale sewer network to walk about when the was sun shining throughout Buffy. In much the same way, Montrealers take to the Underground City, hiding away from the frigid winds of winter.
Everyone is a lot older than they act.
When Buffy first aired in 1997, Charisma Carpenter (aka Cordelia Chase) was 27 years old... and playing a teenager. The same kind of thing happens in Montreal, where forty-year-olds party like they're 23, not that I'm complaining.
Wanting to make money is seen as really weird and strange.
Anya's intense obsession with capitalism and money was definitely seen as more than a little odd to the rest of the Scoobies. In fact, Willow was notably miffed by Anya's money-loving on a few occasions.
Making money and being successful in a monetary sense is also seen in a negative light in Montreal, at least in artistic communities. Somehow, barely getting by and struggling as an artist is a positive here, so no doubt Anya wouldn't fit in.
For some reason, you never leave.
Despite the poor health services, random riots, awful road conditions, and all the other problems with Montreal, you never seem to leave. Why? Because despite all the negatives, Montreal has a certain magic to it that keeps you here, not to mention the awesome that is summer.
I have no clue what kept folks in Sunnydale from leaving that literal hellhole, but there must have been some perks to the town that overshadowed all the vampires. Maybe the demonic energy of the Hellmouth kept Sunnydalers in a state of complacency.
Hmmm, maybe the same thing is happening in Montreal... all the more evidence that Mount Royal is a secret hell-mound itself...
*And to anyone who actually read to the very end of this article, I thank you, because this will also be my very last MTL Blog article, ever. I've written over 2900 of these things, so it's about time I bid my farewells. Thanks for putting up with my random ranting over the years, and keep on slaying Montreal.