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I’m Native American, And I Love The ‘Buffy’ Thanksgiving Episode. Is That Wrong?

I’m Native American, And I Love The ‘Buffy’ Thanksgiving Episode. Is That Wrong?

Everyone has their own Thanksgiving TV traditions, something to stream in the background during the day or gather around and actively watch together. One of my favorite Thanksgiving comfort TV shows is the iconic “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — particularly the episode called “Pangs,” in which Buffy fights (and of course, defeats) the avenging spirit of a Native American tribe not that different from my own Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

And yet I love it. I’m embarrassed to admit this, both because “Buffy” is sometimes dismissed as too lightweight and because, in the light of the present, when Indigenous people are finally experiencing a flowering of pop culture representation unprecedented in scope, it has not aged well. At all.

But for me, it’s TV comfort food that, in the same way the smell of turkey is associated with Thanksgiving, reminds me of my own past, the importance of found family, and my somewhat circuitous route of finding my own identity as a half-white, half-Native person.

The viewpoints presented in “Pangs,” even when taken to a ridiculous extreme, are not far from the arguments I heard growing up in my small conservative town. It is an ambitious yet flawed mishmash of nostalgia and “Buffy” humor at its peak with just a little bit of chin-scratching insight thrown in.

The plot concerns Buffy, who during her first year at college, feels down about her mother being out of town for Thanksgiving and decides to have a Friendsgiving with the rest of the Scooby Gang, her partners in weekly monster sleuthing and slaying. During the episode, one of these friends, Xander, who is part of a construction crew building a new college cultural center, accidentally discovers a buried Spanish mission, where the warrior spirit of the Chumash tribe, Hus, is trapped. Said warrior spirit then escapes to, of course, rampage and murder.

Meanwhile, Buffy is trying to convince her best friend and roommate Willow to let her have the Friendsgiving. “It’s a sham,” Willow says about Thanksgiving. “It’s all about death.”

“It’s a sham. But it’s a sham with yams,” Buffy cajoles. “It’s a yam sham.”

“You’re not gonna jokey rhyme your way out of this one,” Willow says.

“But I want it,” Buffy pleads, setting up a throughline for the rest of the episode about how she just wants things to be picture-perfect for the holidays, presumably like they were before her parents got divorced, regardless of the intention behind the…

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