An official guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer describes the mythology and influences behind the monsters, ghouls, and characters through interviews with the creators and details of the episodes.
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Christopher Golden is the award-winning, bestselling author of such novels as Wildwood Road, The Boys Are Back in Town, Of Saints and Shadows, and the Body of Evidence thriller series. He has cowritten a number of novels and comic books set in the worlds of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. There are more than eight million copies of his books in print. He lives in Massachusetts with his family.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted on the WB television network on March 10, 1997. As captivatingly played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy Summers is a young woman who is not at all thrilled that she has been chosen by "The Powers That Be" to receive special abilities and become a warrior against the forces of darkness.
With its balance of humor and drama -- and perhaps most important, the way it used monsters as metaphor for the real social and emotional problems faced by teens -- the series struck a nerve and became an instant hit for the burgeoning network. By the beginning of its fourth season in the fall of 1999, it had spun off a second series revolving around Angel, the charismatic "good" vampire who had become Buffy's one true love.
Monsters are not merely metaphor, however. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has brought horror, the supernatural, and all their trappings back into popular culture with an enthusiasm unmatched in recent memory. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, ghosts, demons, and so many more...they're all on Buffy. Consequently, they're all in here.
The Monster Book catalogs every major supernatural creature to have crawled across the TV screen in the series' first four seasons. It explores the Buffy mythology, revealing heretofore unknown information about the nature of vampires, demons, and other monsters on the series. In these pages, you'll find interviews with the writers and producers of the show, as well as its creator, Joss Whedon, in which they discuss the monsters on the series, the mythology, and the influences and inspirations that are always with them when working on the show.
But The Monster Book is more than that. In addition to all the material on the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this volume includes an exhaustively researched history of monsters in folklore and popular culture, providing an enormous reference text, a tale of the way frightening myths have developed into entertainment, and the evolution of monsters in the consciousness of Western civilization that contributed to the creation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
So, what do you need to know?
At Hemery High School in Los Angeles, popular sixteen-year-old Buffy Summers discovered that she had been mystically chosen to fight the forces of darkness. The Council of Watchers -- an international group based in London that has trained and guided Slayers for centuries -- sent a Watcher named Merrick to aid her. After training her, he was killed. During a battle against vampires at Hemery, she was forced to burn down the gymnasium, and was subsequently expelled.
Her parents, Hank and Joyce Summers, then divorced, and the Slayer moved with her mother to Sunnydale, California, about two hours away on the southern California seacoast. Though she had hoped to abandon the responsibilities of the Chosen One, Buffy soon discovered that her relocation to Sunnydale had been no accident of fate. Rather, the Powers That Be had somehow influenced her life and that of her mother so that they would settle there.
Sunnydale is located on a Hellmouth, a place where the barrier that separates Earth from the multitude of demon dimensions is worn thin. Another Watcher, Rupert Giles, was sent to continue her training and guidance. Along with Giles and her closest friends -- Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris -- Buffy has continued the battle against vampires, demons, and other monsters through high school and into college. She wishes for a normal life, but Buffy takes her duties as the Slayer very seriously.
Shortly after her arrival in Sunnydale, Buffy met a vampire named Angel, unique in that he was -- as far as we know -- the only vampire in the world to also have a human soul (see Vampires: Angel). After he had made a name for himself as Angelus, the cruelest vampire in existence, he was cursed with the return of his soul, which allowed him to feel the guilt of all that he had done. By the time Buffy met him, Angel was seeking redemption for the horrors he once perpetrated.
Their relationship was filled with tribulation. When they made love -- Buffy's first time -- a new part of the curse was set in motion and Angel became a murdering, savage monster again. The curse was cast a second time, and his human soul returned. Despite their love for each other, it became clear that their relationship could not work. Angel was immortal and would not age. Buffy could not marry or have children with Angel and would grow old, whereas he would stay ever young. He eventually left Sunnydale for Los Angeles (and his own series, Angel).
Buffy experienced other tragedies as well. During her sophomore year she was attacked by the vampire known as the Master, who drained some of her blood and left her to drown. She died, but Xander used CPR to revive her. That brief death activated a second Slayer named Kendra, who later came to Sunnydale, only to be murdered herself by the vampire Drusilla. In Kendra's wake came Faith, a Slayer who became Buffy's friend, only to switch sides and ally herself with the evil mayor of Sunnydale (see Faith and the Human Monster).
The Council fired Giles as Buffy's Watcher during her senior year, and replaced him with Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. At the end of her senior year, just before the chaos that would erupt at her graduation, Buffy told Wesley she would no longer take orders from the Council. She quit. Presently, as a student at the University of California at Sunnydale, she unofficially continues with the duties of the Slayer, to fight the forces of darkness wherever they arise.
As noted, monsters frequently are metaphors on Buffy, most often representing some of life's unpleasant truths. It is a story of mythic proportions, about a hero and her journey of self-discovery. But it is also the story of one American teenager, with all the hopes and fears that implies.
"The show is designed to...work on the mythic structure of a hero's journey. Just to reframe that as the growth of an adolescent girl," Joss Whedon told National Public Radio. "The things she has to go through -- losing her virginity, dying and coming back to life -- are meant to be mythic, and yet they're meant to be extremely personal."
As such, there is a great deal more to Buffy's story. (See Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher's Guide, volumes 1 and 2.) But The Monster Book is, of course, about the monsters.
Joss Whedon and his staff love monsters, but their interest goes deeper than that, particularly Whedon's.
"As a child, I was afraid of a lot of stuff. I've always been attracted to horror," he told Michael Silverberg of NPR. "There is an element of being a child within it that I can't get away from. Grown-up horror is different. That's something I'm just learning about as I gradually and all too slowly become a grown-up. There's something about the way a child experiences pure horror -- the innocence and yet the almost unseemly attraction children have to that -- that is, to me, the most primal and interesting. Where there's horror, I tend to find youth and growth.
"I think there's a lot of people out there who say we must not have horror in any form, we must not say scary things to children because it will make them evil and disturbed....That offends me deeply, because the world is a scary and horrifying place, and everyone's going to get old and die, if they're that lucky. To set children up to think that everything is sunshine and roses is doing them a great disservice. Children need horror because there are things they don't understand. It helps them to codify it if it is mythologized, if it's put into the context of a story, whether the story has a happy ending or not. If it scares them and shows them a little bit of the dark side of the world that is there and always will be, it's helping them out when they have to face it as adults."
Without a doubt, Joss Whedon has his own very unique frame of reference. Everyone does, and yet those frames of reference, those influences and inspirations, seem to have more power in the minds of creative individuals.
When it came to working on Buffy -- both his script for the 1992 film version and the TV series he has shepherded from Day One -- Whedon was able to draw on his own frame of reference to create a singular vision. Though inspired by films, comic books, books, myths, and television, Whedon crafted something wholly original with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In order to get a peek into the creator's mind and the minds of the writers working on the show day by day, we spoke with them about their "monster memories," the pop-culture images and stories that have stayed with them over the years.
Whedon fondly recalls director George A. Romero's Living Dead trilogy, also noting that "there are influences on the show like The Lost Boys, the remake of The Blob, and Night of the Comet." But he makes it clear that the monsters on the series are not based on any one template.
"In terms of the monsters, there is no one absolute." For instance, he notes that "we refer to Ted [from the episode of the same name] as The Stepfather-Terminator-Collector," revealing only three of the films that contributed to the frame of reference for a single character.
When explaining an idea or atmosphere to his staff, he often makes movie references. But the frame of reference is not made up entirely of science fiction and horror. "Sometimes it's like, 'Watch Dracula, watch Day of the Dead, watch Places in the Heart,'" he explains.
Interestingly, Whedon has also found inspiration in a more recent motion picture release. "For me," he says, "all movies should be The Matrix. The Matrix is the beginning and end of all films."
David Greenwalt, the executive producer of Angel and consulting producer of Buffy, who has written many episodes for both series, also recalls the impact certain films have made on him.
"The movie that was the most life-changing for me was Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho," Greenwalt says. "I went to see a movie by the guy who made that charming North by Northwest the year before, and had the living bejesus scared out of me. I realized that films could touch you so deeply and scare you on such a deep level."
Until he began to work with Joss Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Greenwalt notes, he was not "a gigantic horror genre or comic-book fan. I didn't realize the power of myth -- and how demons and myth can collide to create powerful metaphors -- until I learned the ways of the high-school-as-hell metaphor from Joss."
Just as Joss Whedon creates monsters to reflect real-world concerns, Greenwalt reinforces the notion that on this series, the supernatural is not nearly as important as the all-too-real.
"I generally don't just think, 'Ooh, what's scary,' but 'What's your deepest fear?' The first episode I ever wrote was 'Teacher's Pet.' This is a deep fear of mine: that the beautiful woman you love is actually a gigantic bug who wants to eat your head. So I think the metaphor there is fairly obvious. In 'Nightmares,' which Joss and I wrote together, what was frightening to me was someone you love -- like a parental figure -- telling you something terrible about yourself, which you believe in your heart of hearts is true, though it isn't really true at all. There's the scene where Buffy's father says, 'Your mother and I split up because of you, it's all your fault.'"
Writer and supervising producer Marti Noxon has her own disturbing movie memories.
"One of the first things I remember getting terrified about was The Exorcist, and I didn't even see the movie. I was too young," she recalls. "But I remember my mother going out on dates and stuff -- she was single at that time -- and I would stand at the door as she left and say 'Don't see The Exorcist!' I was so afraid of just the idea that she would see it and get really scared. I was afraid of the movie and the ideas in the movie, and I was afraid that I would get possessed."
The movies weren't the only source of anxiety for Noxon, however.
"Planet of the Apes was on television. I had a TV in my room and I was a total insomniac. I stayed up watching TV, and I caught either the movie or the TV show. I was really little, and for months I thought there were apes in the house.
"The macabre played a huge part in my mythology and childhood. I had a lot of rituals and games that I'd play to keep the monsters away. My family situation was pretty rough. My dad left when I was eight, and there were a lot of problems in my family and I felt really alone in the world. Trying to explain things was really important to me, but I couldn't put a name to my dread, this feeling of being afraid all the time. So monsters became a really big thing. They were my way of saying 'I'm scared.'"
As an adult, Noxon brought all those concepts and lessons to her work on television. Many of her pop-culture inspirations and influences have stayed with her as well. "I love The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits in reruns," she says, then adds the movies "Futureworld, Westworld, Logan's Run. The one that scared the crap out of me was Soylent Green."
Writer and executive story editor Douglas Petrie has come at Buffy from another angle: he shares Joss Whedon's passion for comic books.
"Growing up, I was an enormous fan of Marvel Comics. In the seventies, that was everything I lived for," Petrie recalls fondly. "Spider-Man and Fantastic Four were huge. When John Byrne and Chris Claremont took over X-Men, I was just addicted to it. Everything that Marvel Comics did, from 1975 to Frank Miller's run on Daredevil, I absorbed completely and that's become a huge part of my vocabulary.
"Anything Frank Miller has done has crept so far into what we do here. For inspiration for Faith, I read [Miller's graphic novel] Elektra Lives Again about a hundred times. In a different, teen, punkier context, Faith is so much like Elektra.
"I loved Gene Colan's art. Tomb of Dracula was interesting because it genuinely scared me. That was the comic you'd read on a rainy Sunday. It was actually creepy and dark, and it seemed so grown-up.
"It was tough for me to follow Dr. Strange a little, in that his powers were so broad and never really clearly defined. I loved the character, I loved his cool New York City apartment. But like Joss is always saying, 'Iron Man, I get it. A guy with a bad heart who fights evil in an iron suit.' Dr. Strange was always so much more amorphous than that, but I did love it."
Co-producer and writer Jane Espenson reveals that she was "drawn to Buffy because of the comedy. I started out in sitcoms. However, I recently wrote ...
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