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Encyclopedia > Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Second Season, DVD collection

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a U.S. television series loosely based on the 1992 movie of the same name.

It first aired in March 1997 on the Warner Brothers network; after five seasons it transferred to the United Paramount Network (UPN) for two more seasons, and the final episode aired in May 2003. The series was created by Joss Whedon, who also wrote the movie, and produced by Mutant Enemy Productions. The show's title is often abbreviated simply to Buffy or BtVS.

The series follows the adventures of a young girl chosen by fate to battle against the forces of evil, usually with the help of her Watcher and her loyal circle of misfit friends.

In addition to its critical success and cult appeal, the show functions as a contemporary parable, using supernatural elements as metaphors for personal anxieties, particularly those associated with adolescence and young adulthood.


Genesis, plot and format

Writer Joss Whedon created the show as an intentional departure from the typical horror film formula. "Traditional" horror films included countless scenes of young blonde girls either being hysterical victims, or being rescued by handsome well-armed male heroes. By reversing the cliché of the helpless female victim, Buffy presented a fresh paradigm which has been embraced by many as an emblem of female power. In Whedon's narrative, Buffy's male friend Xander is more likely to need rescuing. Buffy is more than capable of looking after herself. However, her personal life is as confusing and painful as any teenage girl's. This combination of empowerment and empathy has earned Buffy a passionate following among fans.

The show is set in the fictional California town of Sunnydale, whose suburban high school rests on the site of a "Hellmouth", a gateway between our world and the darker demon realms. The Hellmouth serves as a nexus for a wide variety of evil creatures and foul misdeeds. The portal of the Hellmouth is in the basement of Sunnydale High School, and as a result much of the paranormal activity is centered on the school. (The high school used in seasons 1 - 3 is actually Torrance High School, in Torrance, California, which also served as the set for Beverly Hills 90210.) The most prominent monsters in the Buffy bestiary are vampires, who are presented in the show in a variety of ways, selectively following traditional myths, lore, and literary conventions. Buffy and her companions also fight a wide variety of demons, shape-shifters, ghosts, gods, trolls and zombies, and are so frequently called upon to save the world from annihilation (usually at least a couple of times a season) that they quickly find themselves, as the character Riley Finn puts it, "needing to know the plural of apocalypse". The mythology of the show is often inspired by traditional supernatural sagas and other cultural, fictional, and religious sources. In its seven-year run, the series also developed an extensive contemporary mythology of its own. The supernatural elements of the show almost always have a clear metaphorical or symbolic aspect.

Buffy (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) is "The Slayer", one in a long line of (often short-lived) young girls chosen by fate to battle the forces of darkness. This calling also mystically endows her with dramatically increased physical strength, endurance, agility, intuition, accelerated healing, and a limited degree of clairvoyance, usually in the form of prophetic dreams. Buffy fights under the direction of her "Watcher", Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), who begins the series as the high school's librarian.

She is also assisted by several friends, who later in the series are nicknamed the "Scooby Gang" because of their distant resemblance to the teens in the cartoon Scooby Doo. Ironically, Gellar played one of the actual Scooby Gang, Daphne, in the movies Scooby Doo and Scooby Doo 2.

The group battles demonic forces using a combination of physical combat (usually undertaken by Buffy), detective work, various forms of magic and sorcery (usually performed by Willow Rosenberg, whose magical prowess begins to blossom in the third season), and the extensive research of ancient and mystical texts (chiefly the preserve of Giles).

The show is noteworthy in part for its agile blending of genres, including horror, martial arts, romance, melodrama, farce, and witty comic banter. Unlike the movie, which, for the most part, was poorly received (and practically disowned by its author, Whedon), the TV series achieved great popular and critical success, appreciated equally by middle_aged TV critics and its primarily teen/twentysomething audience. Many attribute the show's success to the smartly written scripts and inspired vision of Whedon. The show and characters inspire an unusually strong emotional connection with fans.

Buffy has also been noted for taking artistic risks in both format and content. The 1999 episode "Hush" included 26 minutes without any spoken dialog, and received an Emmy Award nomination for best teleplay. The 2001 episode "The Body", which revolved around the death of Buffy's mother, Joyce Summers, and which used no non-diegetic music, was included in over 100 major critics' Ten Best lists that year. The fall 2001 musical episode "Once More, With Feeling" has also received many plaudits.

Many Buffy stories are thinly veiled metaphors for the anxieties and ordeals of adolescence or young adulthood. In "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" invisibility is used as a metaphor for being ignored. In "The Pack", Xander and other teens become possessed by hyenas, which allegorizes the pack mentality that often results from negative peer pressure. Perhaps the show's most celebrated metaphor occurs after Buffy and Angel consummate their love: Buffy loses her virginity, and Angel loses his soul. As Sarah Michelle Gellar puts it: "That's the ultimate metaphor. You sleep with a guy and he turns bad on you."

The show has also garnered criticism for this and other ostensibly "puritanical" subtexts. The episode "Beer Bad", in particular, has aroused controversy among both fans and critics of the show for its apparent endorsement of conservative American norms for teenage behavior. Whedon has denied this charge:

SFX Magazine: What story will you never tell on Buffy, Angel, or Firefly?
Whedon: "Wow, smoking pot is wrong, I see that now!" [1] (http://www.buffysdomain.com/news/archives/archive-022003.shtml)

Rather than endorsing a particular moral stance, Whedon argues that the show is much more concerned with consequences and the role they play in gratifying the audience's emotional investment in the story - though this gratification is seldom a simple matter of wish fulfilment:

[ I ] Don't give people what they want, [ I ] give them what they need.

He continues:

What they want is for Sam and Diane to get together. [...] Don't give it to them. Trust me. [...] No one's going to go see the story of Othello going to get a peaceful divorce. People want the tragedy. [...] Things have to go wrong, bad things have to happen. [2] (http://www.theonionavclub.com/feature/index.php?issue=3731&f=1)

While fans may joke about characters being punished for sex, Whedon has insisted that the show must earn its emotional moments; to this end, his characters are generally - often painfully - obliged to answer for their actions. For instance, when Buffy's friends resurrect her in season 6 after her death at the end of season 5, they accidentally conjure a demon as a sort of cosmic debt. In the long run, as a result of her resurrection, Buffy spends most of season 6 depressed (and enmeshed in a sadomasochistic sexual relationship with the vampire Spike). Worse, because of the magical mojo wrought on the Slayer by Willow, The First Evil is able to wage war on the slayer lineage in season 7.

Whedon has noted that it was always his desire to have a gay character on the show. As Buffy's main premise involved characters who were stereotyped as weak outsiders becoming strong and powerful, he initially wanted to have a gay male character. Eventually, however, it was decided that the character of Willow would discover her sapphic destiny (at the very time she was awakening to her Wiccan superpowers), and in season four she began a romantic relationship with the character of Tara. This created some controversy in the media: the producers and the network received criticism, both from those opposed to gay characters on television, and from some pro_gay viewers who felt that the initial physical tepidness of the relationship, as well as the fact that the gay characters were both "witches", reinforced negative stereotypes. Others accused the writers of tokenism and sensationalism. The show's creative team insisted that their intent was not to sensationalize or exploit the gay relationship, and displays of physical affection between the two characters were introduced very slowly, eventually becoming a natural part of the show. The culmination of this conflict occurred with Tara's death at the end of season 6, which was a catalyst for Willow to turn evil, ultimately killing Tara's murderer and bringing the world to the brink of yet another apocalypse. Some fans bemoaned the death of the "best" lesbian relationship on TV, and others criticized what they viewed as a clichéd resolution to a topic TV rarely gifts with a happy ending: Tara's death, some argued, reiterated a long and hackneyed tradition in which doomed or damned lesbians are apparently punished for their "sins" by a brutal and untimely demise. Willow's subsequent relationship with another lesbian character, the potential Slayer Kennedy, may have been an attempt to defuse this criticism.

Whedon has stated that he is a fan of serialized fiction, and to this end each season, rather than being purely episodic, tends to follow a largely self-contained story arc, with its own unique villain. This "Big Bad" is often preceded by a "Little Bad", a minor villain introduced to throw viewers off-track.

Buffy is credited (alongside the teen drama Dawson's Creek) with playing a key role in the success of the Warner Brothers television network in its early years, which begs the question of why the network dropped the popular television show.

Whedon has often noted the impact that comic books have had on his work. He is currently writing for the Astonishing X-Men series and has credited Kitty Pryde as a significant influence on the character of Buffy.

Works inspired by Buffy

Buffy's perpetually tragic, doomed love for the vampire-with-a-soul, Angel, played by David Boreanaz, was a recurrent theme in the first three seasons of the show. Angelus, as he was originally known, had his human soul restored by a gypsy curse, plaguing him with guilt over the two hundred years of murder and mayhem he had inflicted on a slew of innocent victims. The Angel character was so popular that a series featuring him, Angel, was spun off from Buffy; there were occasional "crossovers" between the two shows and these continued into the final season of Angel even though Buffy was no longer on the air.

Angel and Buffy have both inspired several comic book adaptations, magazines, companion books, novelizations, video games, and a card game, as well as several spinoff proposals (including a cartoon series and a BBC drama), and countless websites, online discussion groups, and works of fan fiction. There have also been two soundtrack albums (Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Radio Sunnydale _ Music from the TV Series), as well as a CD (and, in Europe, DVD single) of the "Once More, With Feeling" musical episode.

The show has inspired several academic books and essays, including Reading the Vampire Slayer, edited by Roz Kaveney, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy edited by James B. South. Academic courses known as "Buffy Studies" are being offered at an increasing number of universities. Fans of both Buffy and Angel often use the term "Buffyverse" to describe the rich universe the shows share.

The 2004 video game City of Heroes features a villainous gang called the "Hellions", inspired by monsters from the sixth season of Buffy.

As well as these extracurricular offspring, Buffy has exerted a marked influence on TV and film, with shows such as Smallville and Charmed as well as movies such as The Faculty and Bring It On owing something in their verbal style and (in the first three instances) thematic concerns to the show. In addition, many Buffy alumni have gone on to write for or create other shows, some of which bear a striking resemblance to the outer reaches of the Buffyverse. Such Whedonesque endeavors include Tru Calling (Doug Petrie), Wonderfalls (Tim Minear), Still Life (Marti Noxon) and Jake 2.0 (David Greenwalt).

Moreover, fall 2003 saw a number of new shows going into production in the US that featured strong girls/young women forced to come to terms with some supernatural power or destiny while trying to maintain a normal life. These "post-Buffy" shows include the aforementioned Tru Calling and Wonderfalls, as well as Dead Like Me and Joan of Arcadia. In the words of Bryan Fuller, the creator of Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls:

[Buffy] really turned a corner for series storytelling. It showed that young women could be in situations that were both fantastic and relatable, and instead of shunting women off to the side, it put them at the center.

Series information

See also - List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes.


Main characters

Featured in the opening credits

Recurring guest stars

Big (& Little) Bads

Occasional characters

Other languages

(See episode entries for details on translation)

  • Finnish: "Buffy, vampyyrintappaja" ("Buffy, killer of vampires"); "slayer" is "tappaja" ("killer"), and "watcher" is "valvoja" ("watcher", "overseer").
  • French: "Buffy Contre Les Vampires" ("Buffy against the vampires"); "slayer" is "la Tueuse" ("the killer"), and "watcher" is "l'Observateur" ("the watcher").
  • Hebrew: "באפי ציידת הערפדים" ("Buffy the vampires hunter"); "slayer" is "קוטלת" ("slayer"), and "watcher" is "צופה" ("watcher").
  • Hungarian: "Buffy a vámpírok réme" (It means something like this: Vampires are afraid of Buffy); slayer is "Vadász" ("Hunter") and "Watcher" is "Őrző" (keeper, watcher)
  • German: "Buffy im Bann der Dämonen" (roughly "Buffy enthralled by demons"); "slayer" is translated as "die Jägerin" ("huntress"), "watcher" as "der Wächter" ("guardian").
  • Italian: "Buffy l'Ammazza Vampiri" ("Buffy The Vampires Killer"); "slayer" is "cacciatrice" ("huntress"), and "watcher" is "osservatore" ("watchman").
  • Japanese: "バフィー~恋する十字架 / Bafii koi suru juujika" ("Buffy to love the Cross of Christ "); "バフィー / Bafii" is "Buffy", "~恋する / koi suru" is "to love", and "十字架 / juujika" is "the Cross of Christ".
  • Portuguese: "Buffy, a Caçadora de Vampiros" ("Buffy the Vampire Huntress"); "slayer" is "a Caçadora" ("the huntress"), and "watcher" is "o Vigilante" ("the vigilante").
  • Spanish: "Buffy, cazavampiros" ("Buffy, vampire hunter"); "slayer" is "cazadora" ("huntress"), and "watcher" is "vigilante" ("watchman").
  • Swedish: "Buffy & vampyrerna" ("Buffy & The Vampires"); "slayer" is "dråpare" ("slayer"), and "watcher" is "väktare" ("watchman").

See also

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:

  Results from FactBites:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV Show - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Television Show - TV.com (766 words)
Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as Buffy Summers, The Chosen One, the one girl in all the world with the strength and skill to fight the vampires.
For five years Buffy slayed vampires on the WB, then for her last two seasons she went to UPN.
Armed with an amulet they know nothing about, a scythe which holds the key to the Slayer line, and magicks which they may not be able to control, they prepare to face the assembled armies of the First Evil.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (4600 words)
Buffy is told in a dual arc serialized format, with each episode both telling a single story and contributing to a larger overall storyline, which on Buffy is broken down into distinct season-long narratives marked by the rise and defeat of a powerful antagonist (commonly referred to as the "Big Bad").
Buffy and her companions also fight a wide variety of demons, as well as ghosts, gods, zombies, and evil humans, and are frequently called upon to save the world from complete destruction.
Buffy and her friends battle dark forces using a combination of physical combat, magic, and detective-style investigation, guided by the extensive research of ancient and mystical reference books.
  More results at FactBites »



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