Some Musings on Buffy, Angel and the Whedonverse

The following are based on posts I made long ago, only slightly cleaned up and updated.

Good vs. Evil in Buffy

It begins here…cut to the ubervamps vs. the slayers scene from “Chosen”. Good vs. evil. The eternal war. But it really begins here…cut to the scene from “Fool For Love” where Angel tells Spike of the Slayer. The Angel/Spike dialogue fades to Petrie’s commentary. “To us, the slayer is a hero. To the vampires, she’s a monster.”

In Buffy, the good vs. evil war has more symmetry to it than in many other places. Because, in its essence, it is not a good vs. evil fight, though it appears so to us. Buffy is “good” because she protects human beings (us, or our counterparts in the Buffyverse). Vampires are bad because they remorsely kill “us”. Spike, in “Becoming”, is a traitor to the side of vampires. For all his swagger, he commits this treason in order to foil Angel and get his girlfriend back — and Buffy has no moral qualms about using a traitor to win this war.

Finally, in the Buffy finale, Buffy realizes she can use this symmetry to her advantage. She decides to fight evil on her own time, not to thwart the apocalypse but to make an apocalypse — evil’s apocalypse. In a way, this is Buffy’s real liberation from the slayer tradition (the liberation she begins in “Restless”) — from the slayer’s creation, slayers were reactive, created to fight demons and always waiting for demons to strike. Angel, in turn, takes a leaf out of Buffy’s book when he decides to pre-empt the Wolfram&Hart apocalypse with his own.

Talking to Plants

Those of us who played role-playing games can relate to the scene. When you’re nearing the end of your points to spend on optional skills and powers, you start, and quite often at the end of skills that make sense, you start looking for random skills which add up to the point total. That way many a knight who happens to know a minor spell, or a wizard who happens to have an affinity for horse-breeding, was born. One would hope, however, that professional story writers do not tend to follow this course — even though it seems like the perfect explanation for Illyria’s ability to talk to plants. You can almost hear the dice rolling, and the player, in something like Andrew’s whiny voice, says “I need another power for my ultra-powerful demon god character! I have ten more points.” In the interests, perhaps, of defending Joss’s honour, I offer an alternative explanation.

Illyria is an old one, one who has come before man and whose self-appointed mission is to rid the world of man-kind, who walk like locusts on the earth. An intriguing metaphor: locusts tend to consume out of hand, and destroy their natural habitat doing so. Suddenly, Illyria’s connection to nature, represented by talking to plants (described by her as “hear[ing] the song of the green”) manages to make more and more sense. Indeed, one could almost see Illyria join with the more militant green organizations who destroy factories and do not care who is hurt in the process.

Looked at this way, it starts to make sense that Illyria was pointedly never referred to as “evil”, and despite her lack of a soul was trusted ultimately to help in the fight against Wolfram&Hart. Indeed, the corporate suits (Hamilton, for example) represent in their nature-exploiting capitalism, everything Illyria hates. She is a natural, loyal, ally in the fight against corporate evil.

Ever since I saw the Illyria angle, I constantly had trouble with the fact that I did not see a parallel, an allegory, to real-life. Much like Fred in Pylea, Fred’s metaphors, like Fred herself, require hard thinking to figure out. Just as Pylea represented the army, Illyria represents Fred betraying everything she believes after being converted to a militant green point of view. While it is frustrating to discover, as Illyria did in “Shells”, that there is no longer an army prepared to fight the good fight for saving the earth, she continues to try — and eventually, make a difference.

Dreams — When She Was Bad (Season 2, Episode 1)

Willow: Dreams are meaningful…
[first scene post-credits — Buffy’s dream, ibid]

Just in case we forget why Joss puts in those dream sequences, Willow reminds us that it’s not just for the first scene past the opening credits, where the producer/director/writer credits roll. The scene’s beginning emphasizes Buffy’s disconnection from her friend. As she stares off into her own space, Xander calls to her — and as usual, is interested only in her “bosom”, while he shares an act of real friendship with Willow. Later, in the Giles scene, Xander and Willow are indifferent to Buffy’s life or death struggle, to further emphasize Buffy’s feeling of disconnection.

The Giles scene is, of course, the real point of the episode. There are two points here, weaved into one scene. The first point is that Giles and the Master are really the same. Both of them are ancient, at least to Buffy’s “a little less ritual” generation. Both quote the same prophecies, both live by the same rules of how to fight the good vs. evil war. This is one of the first hints of how Buffy’s role is to escape the ancient ways.

The other point is Buffy’s feeling of betrayal by Giles. Tying in directly to her “I quit” speech from “Prophecy Girl” (Season 1 finale), Buffy knows that Giles’s job, as he himself will put it later, is “to get [his] Slayer killed in the line of duty”. Though he is the main father figure in her life, she does not feel she can trust him. Later that episode, when she thinks he betrayed her — by not telling her of resurrection rituals — she will have, in her mind, confirmation for that. Buffy’s inability to trust Giles, just like her inability to trust Xander and Willow, who calmly eat while she is strangled, contributes to her feeling that she is alone in the world.


Faith is a story of a real redemption. While Spike and Angel were redeemed with a spike and/or cheap ex-machinae, and Andrew didn’t understand what he was doing, Faith was soul-having and in perfect understanding. Faith is the only one who cannot use cheap excuses. Faith is also the only one, for this reason, who really can go evil again. While corrupting Angel was always an impossible goal, Spike will obviously not kill and Andrew will never again be tempted by another’s power when he understands he is powerful himself, we can easily imagine Faith falling for a Mayor look-alike who will treat her with perfectly asexual kindness.

Which ties in to my idea of Faith-in-Wash., DC. First of all, DC is choke-full of politicians, each one with the potential to play on Faith’s unresolved feelings towards the mayor in a much more powerful way than the First tried. It can play on the trend started in “Power Play”, of corrupt-politicians-as-demons. Faith going through something as out there as the Simpsons’ DC episode (where they move the air-traffic to where poor people live by manipulating the congress) to stop a war which is really a ploy for some demons to take out a rival can be truly amazing. Of course, fighting on the monuments in DC (Lincoln, for example) will give the special effects team a fun workout too.

Spider-Girl, granddaughter of the original Spider-Man

“But wait”, I can hear you scream, “Didn’t you say Spider-Girl is the daughter of the original Spider-Man?”

While genetically, May “Mayday” Parker is indeed the daughter of Peter Parker, thematically, she is inspired by Buffy, who was herself inspired by Spider-Man, making her a “granddaughter” of sorts. Spider-Man was the original “real life superhero”. His superheroics were always side-by-side, often interrupting, his “real” life where he had to get a job, deal with romantic issues and with the constant worrying of the closest thing he had to a mother (Aunt May). Buffy was always a kind of a female version of Peter Parker. The classic ploy of “superheroic emergency leads to missing a date”, one of Spider-Man’s standard plot sequences, was often shown on Buffy. However, Buffy did contribute something of her own — a way to be a female superhero star. On the issue of how Buffy is a decidedly female superhero, oceans of ink have already been written and on the issue of Spider-Girl being a Spider-Girl I have already written. Buffy’s influences, from the obsession with shoes to the “egoless” fighting (not being bothered with fighting fair, organizing several superhero teams to take down a villain if needs be or running away when the fight goes wrong) are heavily felt.


2 Responses to Some Musings on Buffy, Angel and the Whedonverse

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rick Todd, Moshe Zadka. Moshe Zadka said: Some Musings on Buffy, Angel and the Whedonverse […]

  2. Ken Whitesell says:

    Looks to me like someone has been watching reruns (or DVDs) lately.

    That’s ok, I’ve been doing that too! (Just finished Buffy season 3.)

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