Vampire Slayer Buffy Saves Iraq Reporter's Soul Buffy the Vampire Slayer saved the world and the sanity of NPR's Jamie Tarabay while she was in Baghdad. Tarabay explores why she needed the slayer during her time in Iraq.

Vampire Slayer Buffy Saves Iraq Reporter's Soul

Vampire Slayer Buffy Saves Iraq Reporter's Soul

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer saved the world and the sanity of NPR's Jamie Tarabay while she was in Baghdad. Tarabay explores why she needed the slayer during her time in Iraq.


Let's begin this next report by showing you a different side of an NPR correspondent. This is how we came to know Jamie Tarabay during two years that she risked her life in Iraq. Here's what it sounded like to be inside a Humvee with American troops.

(Soundbite of NPR broadcast)

JAMIE TARABAY: ...pointed out a curious yellow trash can.

(Soundbite of explosion)

Unidentified Man: (Bleep)

TARABAY: The explosions showered metal and sand into the Humvee...

INSKEEP: That's how Jamie Tarabay sounded in countless cool, precise reports heard here on MORNING EDITION and other NPR programs. What we didn't realize was that in order to maintain her sanity, Jamie Tarabay was turning to an unlikely savior, the fictional character Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Her obsession with Buffy began way back in her college years. It was reignited during long days under curfew in Iraq, where the show's theme...

(Soundbite of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" theme song by Nerf Herder)

INSKEEP: ...was a much more welcome sound than the everyday bombing. For In Character, our series on fictional but influential people, NPR's Jamie Tarabay explores why she needed the Slayer.

TARABAY: Maybe it was because she was so small and the rest of the world so daunting, maybe because she just never seemed to stop. There was always more evil around the corner, the Big Bad, the Mayor, the Master, even a black-eyed Willow and a stiletto-loving Hell God. Her choices, who to sacrifice, who to spare, were never easy in the face of relentless evil, and through it all Buffy always managed to remind me that in the end she was just a girl like me.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer")

Ms. SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR (Actor): (As Buffy Summers) I don't know how to live in this world if these are the choices, if everything just gets stripped away. I don't see the point. I just wish that - I just wish my mom was here.

TARABAY: Who doesn't miss their mom? It was so obvious to me what Buffy Anne Summers and I had in common. She lived on the Hellmouth; I lived in Baghdad. She fought vampires with wooden stakes, and well, I always thought most media spokesmen were real bloodsuckers. It was always go, go, go, stake, stake, stake, and no time for a girl to shop.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer")

Ms. GELLAR: (As Buffy) So what do you guys want to do tomorrow?

Ms. ALYSON HANNIGAN (Actor): (As Willow Rosenberg) Nothing strenuous.

Mr. NICHOLAS BRENDON (Actor): (As Xander Harris) Well, mini-golf is always the first thing that comes to mind.

Mr. ANTHONY HEAD (Actor): (As Rupert Giles) I think we can do better than that.

Ms. GELLAR: (As Buffy) I was thinking about shopping, as per usual.

Ms. HANNIGAN: (As Willow) There's an Agnes B. in the new mall.

Mr. BRENDON: (As Xander) Good. I could use a few items.

Mr. HEAD: (As Giles) Aren't we going to discuss this? Save the world, go to the mall?

Ms. GELLAR: (As Buffy) I'm having a wicked shoe craving.

TARABAY: Okay, the back story. Buffy the series begins with her at age 16 moving to Sunnydale, somewhere in California, which sits above what is literally the mouth to Hell. She's the chosen one, the Slayer, endowed with insane amounts of strength and the ability to mow down vampires and demons alike.

That's a lot of pressure for a teenager.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer")

Ms. GELLAR: (As Buffy) I'm putting my life on the line battling the undead. Look, I broke a nail, okay? I'm wearing a press-on. The least you could do is exhibit some casual interest. You could go hmm.

TARABAY: That pressure was something I could understand. Buffy took a deep breath before going into what was often the fight of her life. Every time I got into our bulletproof car to drive around Baghdad, so did I. And on days I was stuck in the bureau, I'd sit in my room and put on another DVD. I'd watch Buffy grow up and try to figure things out. To me it was more than therapy. When she asks Giles, her Watcher and mentor, for answers about life's most vexing questions, it was almost like she was asking them for me.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer")

Ms. GELLAR: (As Buffy) Does it get easy?

Mr. HEAD: (As Giles) What do you want me to say?

Ms. GELLAR: (As Buffy) Lie to me.

Mr. HEAD: (As Giles) Yes, it's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after.

Ms. GELLAR: (As Buffy) Liar.

TARABAY: The more time I spent in Iraq, the less I felt I knew who were the bad guys. The lines were always blurred. As strange as it may seem, it helped that Buffy, a fictional character, had that issue too, like in the end of Season Two when she had to kill the love of her life who went bad after they slept together and lost his soul but then regained it just at that crucial moment when he had to die.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer")

TARABAY: Sometimes seeing the bad isn't something you want to share. I completely understood the moments she shut down and shut her friends out. There are close calls I've had my parents still don't know about. It can be a very lonesome gig.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer")

Ms. GELLAR: (As Buffy) I guess everyone's alone. But being a Slayer, there's a burden we can't share.

Ms. ELIZA DUSHKU (Actor): (As Faith) And no one else can feel it.

TARABAY: Buffy's creator, Joss Whedon, gave his blonde destroyer a quick wit, friends who kept up with her, and a wardrobe I would die for, especially in Baghdad, where I couldn't wear anything cute. And he killed her twice already.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer")

Mr. MARK METCALF (Actor): (As the Master) You're dead.

Ms. GELLAR: (As Buffy) I may be dead, but I'm still pretty, which is more than I can say for you.

Mr. METCALF: (As the Master) You were destined to die. It was written.

Ms. GELLAR: (As Buffy) What can I say? I flunked the written.

TARABAY: What made Buffy my superhero was that she wasn't perfect. Like me, she made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of hard lessons. Add to that the daily life-and-death factor, the sheer nerve I needed to work in a hostile area. Watching her deal with her own private war zone helped me deal with mine. I found support from people I was supposed to be competing against, other news junkies. Buffy got hers from someone she should have staked long ago, bad old Spike, the reformed vampire.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer")

Mr. JAMES MARSTERS (Actor): (As Spike) I've seen the best and the worst of you, and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman. You're the one, Buffy.

Ms. GELLAR: (As Buffy) I don't want to be the one.

TARABAY: Sometimes neither did I, but if she could get through her big, bad, scary world okay, then just maybe I could too.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News.

(Soundbite of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" theme song by Nerf Herder)

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