6 Questions for Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fans from a First-Time Viewer

Recently, I finally watched all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in what’s become my customary Netflix binge style. I’d heard about its brilliance, but even after I thoroughly enjoyed his later show Firefly, Joss Whedon’s first television series struck me as plain silly in the few bits I’d caught.

I continue to believe that a fair portion of Whedon’s mojo actually resides in Nathan Fillion, but there’s definitely more to Buffy than girls kicking ass. I did come out of this experience with a few lingering questions, however. Maybe they’ve been hashed out a million times before, or answered in the original movie or Angel, which I have not seen. Maybe y’all can help?

1. Why had I never heard of Riley?

Riley Finn

Angel, okay, he got his own show. And Spike basically hijacks the last few seasons. These two vampires, who have killed many, many innocent people in the past, are the only two characters I have ever heard discussed as suitable partners for Buffy (or, not rarely, for the breathless viewer making the comparison). Poor Riley, a fellow student roughly Buffy’s age, a main cast member for a season, a highly trained professional, a basically normal guy with a secret identity fighting evil just like our heroine, a human even, and I don’t remember ever hearing his name from avowed Whedonistas.

His worst feature, as far as I can tell, is a crippling inferiority complex that convinces him Buffy couldn’t love a loser like him who fights slightly less ably than she does. So he can’t handle a powerful woman (METAPHOR!), which is wimpy and annoying, but the show even pins their breakup on Buffy in the end, for not “letting him in.” Is he too boring? Too dependable? Too unwilling to straight up torture and murder Buffy once he loses his soul (METAPHOR!) / brain chip (METAPHOR!!)? That’s … that’s disturbing, fandom.

2. What’s with the gun paranoia?

Rocket Launcher

Bullets don’t stop vampires. Maybe wooden bullets could, though supply chain problems make that impractical as well. So sure, stakes and crossbows and knives and swords and maces and dark magic for everyone.

But vampires are far from the only threat in Sunnydale. They are only one type of demon surrounding the Hellmouth, and most demons don’t have same bizarre wood, sunlight, and holy water weaknesses of vampires; they’re tough, but slaying them is usually achievable with enough conventional weaponry. Buffy has no problem using a rocket launcher to blow a demon to bits. Guns, though, are supposedly “never helpful”.

Even baddies make only sparing use of guns. Apart from one vampire in the first season, only one plot to kill the Slayer involves a handgun – and that’s wielded by a human. Demons even mock the shooter, despite the fact that without magical surgery, Buffy very likely would have died.

I’m hardly an NRA booster. I’d never call guns “good”; but for the goal of, well, killing things? They’re actually pretty effective.

3. Isn’t BuffyBot just the best?

BuffyBot

Especially considering how morose the resurrected Buffy is that season. “Boo hoo, I was wrenched back from heaven by selfish amateur magic users claiming to be my friends.” “Wahh, I’m fated for a life of violence and constant peril.” Do your job, lady.

The whole idea of men building robot girlfriends devoid of emotions other than devotion and relentless cheerfulness is, of course, as they say in some circles, “problematic”. I’m not saying BuffyBot would make a great real-life companion, but as a character, she’s hilarious. Her naiveté and utter pride in stating basic facts tangentially related to the conversation at hand is just so charming and adorable. “You’re my friend, and a carpenter!” “School is where you learn!” “That’ll put marzipan in your pie plate, bingo!”

Yeah, it’s possible that might have become irritating before long.

4. Why do minor character vampires stay all wrinkly headed?

Harmony Gang

Doubtless the real-world explanation has something to do with makeup and morphing CGI effect costs, as well as clearly marking the minor baddies, but isn’t this kind of weird? The vampires we spend any significant time with look perfectly normal most of the time, only getting their smushy faces on when they’re about to attack.

Maybe all the major vampires have serious jealousy issues with and secretly want to rejoin the living, and only lash out because it’s impossible? I’m excepting The Master, of course, who was disappointingly neither Anthony Ainley nor Derek Jacoby.

5. Why isn’t there a scene in every Bruce Campbell movie featuring a younger version of his character played by Nicholas Brendon?

Nicholas Brendon totally looks like Bruce Campbell

Or at least one movie, geez. Like, Nicholas Brendon can’t get laid in college, and Bruce Campbell thinks his life would have turned out better if he’d gotten more action, so he goes back in time to help his younger self with his game, but everything he tries to do to help gets screwed up somehow so Nicholas Brendon thinks Bruce Campbell is actively sabotaging his love life so they fight but it turns out there’s ANOTHER time traveler from FURTHER in the future messing with Nicholas Brendon because a child he sires in a one-night stand ends up enslaving the human race so Bruce Campbell and Nicholas Brendon have to team up and WHY DOESN’T THIS MOVIE EXIST???

6. Really?

Loan Shark Demon

“Loan shark.” I get it. But … really? Really?


7 Comments on “6 Questions for Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fans from a First-Time Viewer”

  1. Pete says:

    1. Lot of people had a hate-on for Riley for no good reason, so they just ignore him. Not enough drama, I guess, and drama always makes for better and sexier gossip, if messier and more damaging relationships. I liked him.

    2. I got the impression that most of the demons needed special kill instructions, but this bothered me too. Can not one of the vampires in a town with basically no competent police get hands on a gat? Storywise, it’s probably because, much like in life, guns are equalizers, and Buffy’s not so special when everybody’s got a gun. Also, you forgot the german assassins during slayerfest in season 3.

    3. Totally. And yes, she would have been hated if she’d lasted more than a few episodes.

    4. Makes them less relatable and interchangeable, easier for the viewer to identify and watch die without really giving a damn.

    5. Mind. Freaking. Blown. Seriously. I will get no more work done today, because my mind is broken. My boss will be sending you a bill.

    6. Inorite?

  2. Dylan says:

    1. I think most of hate Riley because he doesn’t impose any level of danger, and he hates himself it seems. Hard to love someone who can’t love himself.

    2. The gun thing get’s even more blurred if you watch Angel. I keep drawing the conclusion that there is no honor or chivalry in guns. When Wes sinks into a darker side he begins to use pistols and a shotgun!

    3. Buffybot probably would have grown annoying but she makes a big reappearance in the comics. So check them out.

    4. After numerous re-watches I have decided that the vampires stay fang-faced. I recall that it was a video interview/commentary when Joss expressed that they developed the fang-face to show who was good and who was evil. It would have been to alarming for the younger audience at the time for Buffy to be staking classmates if you couldn’t tell whose heart wasn’t beating. With that said, it must support why minor vamps always wear the fang-face.

    5. I have always drawn comparisons between Xander (Nicholas Brendon) and Bruce. I am way behind you on this one.

    6. I think that some of the sillier demons are there as a recurring, somewhat-subliminal, message that the show isn’t real. But yeah, no kidding, that shark looks downright hilarious. But then again, he’s in a hilarious episode.

  3. Hannah says:

    1. Riley never stood a chance! He was the safe Midwestern rebound guy. After Buffy’s experience with Angel turning evil RIGHT after her first time, she had some major damage. I don’t understand why Riley hated himself so much; Buffy isn’t the be-all and end-all of womankind, so I think Joss overplayed that one.

    2. Guns are the most dangerous weapons in the hands of the untrained and the evil, plus as the equalizers they are they would really eff up the storyline.

    3. BuffyBot is adorable. I quite liked her. Although I disagree with you about Buffy’s whining…I think she was perfectly entitled to bitch, especially considering the financial troubles that followed her back from the afterlife. What a low blow.

    4. Aside from production costs, I suspect minor baddies stay wrinkly-faced so the audience won’t sympathize with them and as such won’t give a sh*t when they die. Disposable characters.

    5. I have no idea what you’re on about there. :-D

    6. Hey, it was the dreaded Season Six, they needed to stuff some ridiculous comic relief in there. :)

  4. Good thoughts all! On the gun thing, I did run across an essay while searching for images for this entry. The comments there seem to indicate that gun violence, particularly in season six, is supposed to be a symbol for male aggression:

    These Things? Pretty Helpful

    Not sure I’m convinced, and it obviously wasn’t successful in my case, but it’s interesting.

  5. Mary Kate says:

    Riley’s insecurities and Buffy’s amplified one another, meaning that while he was “on paper” a “good” match for her, it didn’t really work out in reality. Well, TV reality. It’s like the other billion relationships that happen in all the parts of the world that don’t go in for arranged marriages — sometimes things don’t work out. I liked Riley just fine, but I wasn’t sad when he left because he and Buffy just weren’t that good for one another. Not that any of the rest of her relationships worked out, either, but in general, secret or semi-secret identities and callings aren’t great for your love life.

    Guns take time away from the kick-boxing and fight grunting. Hence, not useful plot devices most of the time. Though Bruce Campbell is all fine with guns in Burn Notice, which I think is still on, and Nicholas Brendan hasn’t been doing much lately (or so it seems) so maybe there’s a place for him there?

    Also going to ignore any self-identified Whovians calling other shows’ monsters cheesy.

  6. denisedaniel says:

    I’m not sharing this blog post with Shawn, I just don’t want to know :)


Leave a Reply