‘We Are Not Demons’:Homogenizing the Heroes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel – Jennifer Dowling

The recent resurgence of vampires in popular culture has led to myriad discussions about the meanings of these and other “demons”. In contrast to the “demons” they need to dispatch, the heroes become champions of light and truth (in, for example, Dracula – either the novel or the various movies), representations of ‘girl power’ and maturation (Buffy), or symbols of the power of (and struggle for) personal redemption (Angel). Jennifer Dowling takes a different tact by delving into the characterization of the heroes on the television programmes Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. The focus is on the main protagonists, and more importantly, the cluster characters – those with whom the audience tends to empathize. A discussion of these heroes as they mature into adulthood or come to terms with their often self-imposed exiles will show that, as the shows evolve, cultural and ethnic heterogeneity is erased and the characters become increasingly homogeneous.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are taken from a very specific niche of American society, namely Southern Californian. Although some characters are shown to have migrated from elsewhere, most notably England, they quickly blend into this uniquely American milieu. This outward hegemony — for all intents and purposes, white, upper middle class and Christian — appears to assist the protagonists in their on-going fight to eradicate the world of vampires and other “evil, evil things”. Such never-ending battles can often have an equalising effect on “soldiers”, pulling them together in the face of the enemy, appeasing previous differences. Nevertheless, how effective is the homogenisation of the protagonists of these shows? Do yearly or twice yearly apocalypses create the “melting pot of equality” American culture believes itself to be? Do the cluster characters evolve and mature into the heroes they look up to and try to emulate, as Xander put it in “The Freshman” (4.1)? Alternatively, do the differences remain suppressed and subverted until the small fissures grow into chasms?

Recent statistics of Santa Barbara, the city upon which Sunnydale is purportedly based [1] , tells us that there are 90,000 residents. [2] Fifty-seven percent of the population of Santa Barbara County is white, thirty-four Hispanic, and twenty-five percent African-American. [3] Within the city limits there are three permanent synagogues as well as a Jewish student union at the university. [4] Thus, one would expect to see a representation of the range of ethnic diversity present in a Californian university town in Sunnydale. However, a quick glance around shows us that Buffy displays precious little of this heterogeneity. “Real” demographics play no role in the differentiation between the heroes and the majority of demons: none of the cluster characters, with the exception of Willow, comes from a “classifiable” minority group.

Even the demons, barring the Master from season one and the Judge from season two, are not readily discernible from other Sunnydale residents unless they appear in game face. In the movie [5] , Buffy had a preternatural sense of the presence of vampires; this feature was lost out of necessity in the series and the only clue we are given is their “appalling fashion sense”. Jack in “The Zeppo” (3.13) passes as the equal or better of one of the heroes, or in the least, as one of the generic potential victims. Therefore, rather than mirroring actual demographics, Sunnydale is an enclave for the white majority, one threatened by outsiders who must somehow be detected and stopped. With such a lack of racial and ethnic diversity, physical differences lead to suspicion.

As of season six, there have been seven characters of colour with speaking lines: Aura (1.1), the counsellor in “Beauty and the Beasts” (3.4), Kendra (season two), Mr. Trick (season three), Olivia (4.1, 4.10), Forrest Gates (the Initiative arc of season four), and Lisa (5.16). Only four of these are recurring characters, brought into Sunnydale for specific tasks. Once their job is done, they depart the scene. None, however, become members of the Scooby Gang until Kendra’s brief attempt beginning with “What’s My Line” (2.9).

This shadowy newcomer was the antithesis of Buffy. She differed not just in appearance but, first and foremost, in her institutional upbringing from an early age. As part of her inculcation, Kendra was taken from her family and provided a rigorous education and training. Expecting the same amount of respect and dedication (with a healthy dose of competition) from Buffy, Kendra displayed her extensive theoretical knowledge upon her arrival, impressing even the relatively unflappable Giles with her erudition and devotion to her calling. However, raised in social isolation and deprivation, Kendra was visibly uncomfortable in the relaxed Southern Californian system; she was too rigid to be able to adapt to her new environs. Compounded with this is that Kendra arrived illegally and at the same time as a group of assassins. Although a Slayer, these differences kept Kendra on the periphery; she remained an intruder. As the latest Californian apocalypse was slated to begin, Kendra began to gravitate toward the core group, pulling away from the margins, even admitting to have named her favourite stake. Yet, for all her book knowledge, she proved ill equipped for life on the Hellmouth. When faced with the actuality of the demonic Other, her potential integration into the core group met an easy and bloodless demise.

Thus, prominent appearances of African-Americans on the show are rare occurrences and marked with suspicion by both audience and characters. Kendra’s conspicuous physical and linguistic differences, marking her as Other (and becoming the subject of Buffy’s mockery) reinforced this notion. The next African-American to arrive in Sunnydale, Mr. Trick, conforms to such expectations and is indeed demonic. Only Olivia’s intermittent visits in season four soften this negative association [6] , before Forrest is revivified to join Adam’s demonic army. Since racial identities on Buffy are uniform, only ethnic or sub-cultural background of the characters is susceptible to divergence. With the exceptions of Anya, whose personal history was still sketchy by the end of season six, and Gunn, who grew up homeless on the streets of Los Angeles, the core groups of both shows stem from a similar upper middle class (or in Angel’s case, merchant class) upbringing. However, of the Scoobies, Willow and Xander, the two who proved most attractive to the Other — and at one stage became vampires themselves — deviate from this homogeneity.

Interestingly, it is not Buffy who guides our initial impressions of the characters, but Cordelia. Initially, it is her gaze, in both shows, with which we are instructed to see characters, to judge them and demarcate their boundaries. The mirror image of Buffy pre-Slayerhood, pre-Sunnydale, Cordelia is the first to charge Buffy to identify outsiders on sight. Although the taunt is initially directed at Willow, the category extends to include Jesse and Xander.

Xander is the show’s “everyman”: the one person who has no lasting magical or intellectual talents; nothing special sets him aside. Self-effacing from the onset, Xander — doomed to live his life in a “one Starbucks town”— describes himself as inadequate, cowardly, academically challenged, all but invisible; in short, everything Angel and Buffy are not. Despite his in-depth knowledge of popular culture, and the ability to use critical jargon while discussing it, Xander resigns himself to the role of class clown and the group’s gopher, relegated to the background, never articulating a desire to do much more than escape the life and town that has held him captive.

Despite episodes centred on him, we are not given more than small pieces of the Harris family puzzle at any one time. Cordelia was not merely harassing him in “Amends” (3.10) when she said he wanted to escape his family’s seasonal drunken brawls. Xander’s non-denial to this and his reluctance to yield personal information demonstrate his level of shame at their place in the community. Members of the town’s working class, Xander mentions relatives employed in various lowbrow jobs such as custodian (1.8) and taxidermist (6.15). While we are never told what his parents do for a living, but we do know that Anthony Harris is an alcoholic (3.10, 4.22, 6.15) who abuses his son and wife, emotionally if not physically. We never see Jessica Harris drinking, we do know there are frequent shouting matches and that she is used to physical violence from her husband. The fact that he needed to identify himself when he called home and spoke to his mother (2.14), led some viewers to infer that she too was an alcoholic and neglectful if not outright abusive. Uncle Rory, who frequents the house, is also an alcoholic with a penchant for peppermint schnapps (3.13, 4.4, 6.14). Further allusions in “Restless” (4.22) are confirmed in “Hells Bells” (6.14): all these (poor education, violence, unemployment, alcohol, and abuse) are elements of the stereotype of “white trash”, a socio-economic and cultural trap Xander wishes desperately to escape.

Curiously, in the first three seasons of Buffy, we never venture into Xander’s home. It is only after he returns from his thwarted travels, that we are actually taken inside the symbolisation of his life: a dank, dark, crumbling unfinished basement in his parents’ simple, one-story home (4.12). We never see him actually leave the basement, certainly not climb the stairs, and only discover the reason in “Restless”. Xander meanders through the employment maze much as he travelled through California: aimlessly and without success.

During season four Xander has left or been fired from any number of jobs, among them bartending, selling energy bars, and a short stint at Starbucks. Finally, by season five, Xander finds his niche in construction (albeit in the lower echelons). It is only with the threat of a “perceived” better Other during “The Replacement”(5.3) that Xander begins to break free: those innate qualities he refuses to see in himself allow him to obtain an apartment (complete with a glass wall) and permanent, full-time employment.

It is after this move, symbolising not only his upward mobility among the working class, but away from his family’s home, and most importantly, the basement that held him prisoner, that Xander vicariously lives his worst nightmare. In “Restless” (4.22), Snyder taunted Xander, by calling him the ultimate outsider, “a whipping boy. Raised by mongrels and set on a sacrificial stone,” recalling imagery that was often used in the nineteenth century to describe blacks, Jews and the Irish. [7]

As guests — both human and demonic — gather in the Bison Lodge to celebrate his impending nuptials, we receive a glimpse at Xander’s roots. Still ignorant of the demonic events occurring in Sunnydale, the Harrises are duped into believing that Anya’s friends are “circus folk” who have recently arrived in the area (6.15). Described by Uncle Rory as “foreign-speaky bow-to-the-easty kinda cult,” they become recipients of Anthony Harris’ projected hatred and fear. Acting the part of the discriminated-against bigot, Mr Harris paints himself as the victim of victims: he has built his identity in part on the lack of the institutional and social benefits received by minorities and immigrants, represented by the demons. [8]

Through a mirroring of his mother’s insecurities and co-dependence, Xander visualises a future. In it, he finally ascends the stairs into a home as oppressive as the basement. Unable to work but unable to claim disability because of injuries incurred while at a “job” he cannot publicly acknowledge, Xander remains the “Zeppo”. Anya supports the family with Mary Kay cosmetics (making enough to earn a trademark pink car), yet Xander suspects she is having affairs. His children, especially Sarah, embody Snyder’s taunt — they are mongrels, human-demon half-breeds. In Xander’s projection, Anya is Jessica — co-dependent and unable to leave the relationship except through violence. True to the fears of this socio-economic group, Xander is terrified he will never truly escape his family’s past and the stigma that endures along with it. [9] His only release, as he sees it, is through the violence perpetuated in his childhood home.

Xander is held back not as much by the community’s rules or reality, but by his self-hatred, by his own perceptions of his weaknesses, the past he cannot escape and the future that he believes that past holds for him. In “Restless” Giles informs Xander “[i]t’s all about the journey.” The message is in French and Xander, the outsider, is the only one who cannot understand. That he — the self-effacing carpenter and “the heart” of the group — was the one who saved the world at the end of season six should have come as no surprise. Until he recognizes and acknowledges his potential, Xander will not be able to undertake the journey out of the house.

By contrast, Willow — the most ethnically and socially marginalised of the Scoobies — is held back by society’s definition. Our first impression of Willow is of an intelligent girl to whom Xander turns for help with maths. However, in a short while, Cordelia takes Buffy by the hand and instructs her to avoid Willow, imploring her to “… know your losers. Once you can identify them on sight.” (1.1) Later, Giles echoes Cordelia’s sentiments when he argues in the Bronze that Buffy should simply be able to sense “them”. Buffy agrees that vampires can be detected by their dreadful and out-of-date sense of fashion and promptly spies one as he escorts Willow outside. This juxtaposition supports both Cordelia and Giles’ claims, classifying Willow, and by extension those like her, as Other and hence undesirable.

In the prologue of “Teacher’s Pet” (1.4), Dr. Gregory refers to her as “Miss Rosenberg,” thereby singling her out and associating her with “Miss Summers” — the only two he addresses by name. In this action, we establish a further contrast between Buffy and Willow. It is not coincidental that of the possible family names, hers is one of the more ambiguous; it could just as easily have been German, much as Stein is found both among Jews and non-Jews alike. With the disclosure of her surname, Internet discussions began in earnest about Willow’s ethnic/religious identity. It was not for another twenty episodes (“Bad Eggs” 2.12) that she herself ended the debate when she announced she would “raise her eggs as Jews.”

Subsequent confirmation that Willow was Jewish [10] thus came as no surprise, since in the American construct of difference, “being Jewish is the equivalent to being smart.” [11] Revisiting “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, we now understand that while the immediate reference (“know your losers…on sight”) is to Willow’s outfit, Cordelia’s gaze alludes back to the belief that one can tell who is Jewish just by looking at them: that there exists a distinctly Jewish physiognomy and dress, and implying that to be successful materially and socially in the BuffyVerse, one cannot be Jewish. Six episodes later (“Angel”, 1.7), the connection between Jews and the Other is cemented: as with Willow, Buffy either cannot distinguish, or refuses to accept Angel as different until he demonstrates this. Likewise, the parallel with Angel demonstrates that although her distinctively outdated clothing, name and academic prowess may have disclosed her as inhabiting the space on the periphery, Willow is considered desirable by those in the mainstream.

Willow’s characterisation throughout the series continues to conform to this construct and further her identification with the Other. After Jenny Calendar’s murder in “Passion” (2.17), she is given responsibility over her duties; thus, she is recognised not only by her peers but also by the authority figures as having exceptional intelligence and abilities. Her intelligence parallels, if not supersedes, the show’s representation of Western knowledge, Giles. Not only is she more adept at the use of modern technology, she quickly learns, and demonstrates an understanding of French (“School Hard”, 2. 3), Latin (“Passion”, 2.10), Romani (while under possession in “Becoming, pt. 2”, 2.22), Gaelic (“Fear Itself”, 4.4), Greek (during the dream sequence in “Restless”, 4.22), and Hebrew (6.15). The idea that the Jews are inherently smarter than the rest of the populace of Sunnydale is given further credence when we finally meet Willow’s mother (“Gingerbread”, 3.11). Sheila Rosenberg is a social scientist, often away at conferences to present her latest papers. However, that Willow is not one of the “black hats” is in accord with the American definition of Jewishness, for, again, being Jewish is all right, but only if it equates to being smart. [12]

As we have seen, in “Bad Eggs” Willow identified herself as Jewish, an outsider in the eyes of the Christian majority. While still in high school, she clings to her family’s traditions, despite her blossoming interest and talent in witchcraft. In “Amends” (3.10) she reaffirms that she does not celebrate Christmas, repeatedly pointing out to her friends and the viewers that not everyone in Sunnydale is Christian, once gain drawing a parallel to the vampires that also do not celebrate Christmas. A season earlier, however, in “Passion” (2.17), Willow foreshadows her step from the margins. In an attempt to protect herself from Angelus, Willow hangs a crucifix in her room, beside the French doors leading outside. That she does not hang garlic, as Buffy did, or use the revoking spell Giles had found, and that she hangs the crucifix under weak protestations, hints that she is preparing to abandon her identity in order to belong to the core group.

Ira Rosenberg’s home is the nucleus for Jewish identity on the show. Beyond those doors, lies the outside world, the one that Buffy has sworn to protect. The hanging of the crucifix behind the curtains, and the clandestine trips to Xander’s house to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas speak of Willow’s desire to belong. They prefigure her silent move away from family and its traditions, despite regressing to sound like her socially active mother in “Pangs” (4.8).

In an attempt to force her mother to pay attention to the changes occurring in her life Willow talks about her abilities as a burgeoning witch, which Sheila dismisses by quoting statistics (“Gingerbread”, 3.13). Curiously, it is not Jewish magic to which Willow purports to ascribe, but the worship of Beelzebub, one of the lesser princes of the demons. Later, in “Wild at Heart” (4.6) she calls on both Beelzebub and Satan to assist her with her spell. In both cases, she shows an interesting paradox: rather than demonstrating her knowledge of Jewish demonology and magic, she has appropriated Christian misinterpretation and practice. [13] In Jewish magic, Kabbalistic or otherwise, neither Beelzevuv’s nor Satan’s name is invoked. Thus, Willow’s threat to her mother is sensed to be a bluff and, as we saw, not quite as effective as her admission that she is dating a musician. It does show, however, that Willow associates her rebellion and subsequent shift in self-identity with a move away from the family and its Jewish traditions.

Moreover, this is exactly what occurs, for the moment Willow moves out of the house, away from the hub of Jewish identity, she redefines herself. First, she allies herself with the campus Wiccan movement, girls whom she very early on sets up as beneath her in ability and knowledge, calling them “wanna-blessed-bes” (“Hush” 4.10). Continuing to suppress her Jewish identity in an attempt to belong, it is not until season six, two years later, that viewers are reminded of her Jewish upbringing. In “Hells Bells” (6.15), Willow admits to, in the very least, a reading knowledge of Classical Hebrew. At the same time, the comparison of her bat-mitzvah with the social misbehaviour of the Harris family demonstrated her distance from and reluctance to continue to identify herself as Jewish. [14]

It is at this time that she also begins to shift her self-definition away from her association with Buffy toward Tara, who too believes the university group is not as serious about the Wiccan movement as they are. Initially, we are led to believe by Tara’s demeanour that Tara is also marginalised, innately different from the rest of the core group, perhaps even Other. As it turns out, she is not; religious fanaticism of her family (“Family” 5.16) notwithstanding, she has more in common with them than she realised. The beginning of their affair is marked with secrecy and uncertainty, but by “The Yoko Factor” (4.20) they have openly acknowledged their relationship. During the course of the next two seasons, sexual orientation replaces religious affiliation in Willow’s life as her primary identification tag.

During “Triangle” (5.11), her statement of “Well, hello, gay now” resonates as an echo of her “Still Jewish here” in “Amends” (3.10). Her Wiccan learning, her new-found fashion sense, and lesbian lifestyle, which she declares as often as she did her Jewishness (3.10 4.20, 5.11), are reminders of how far from her Jewish identity she has moved, as well as how far she has to go to become a member of the mainstream. [15] That she herself knew that she was still an outsider was brought home in her dream sequence “Restless”. However, it is not so much Willow’s homosexuality but her overall change in behaviour that sets her further apart from the group.

With this shift in external identification, Willow’s internal persona also starts to fragment and she begins a dangerous descent into madness, losing not only her hold on her cultural heritage, but the tenuous hold she has on her future. While she attempts to move closer to the core source of power (“Two to Go”, 6.21), Willow holds her fragmented identification together with incorrect knowledge and arrogant, faulty application of that knowledge. As with the previous references to Beelzebub, but with far more devastating effects, in “Grave” (6.22) Willow calls forth Asmodea, or Asmodeus/Ashmodai. Ashmodai, a Persian deity later incorporated into Jewish demonology, is one of the more powerful demons in the Kabbalistic hierarchy. Lusty, independent, highly intelligent, thirsting after revenge, only King Solomon could get Ashmodai to obey his will. In Christian demonology, however, Asmodea became the demon of provocation, frequently called upon and worshipped by medieval witches. [16]The fact that Willow, a self-taught “Wiccan” summoned a Christianised demon to do harm, displays neither a complete knowledge nor a true understanding of her chosen calling.

Like Schindler’s List, the final three episodes of season six demonstrate that intelligence does not equal virtue. Willow’s Jewishness, exceptional intelligence, extraordinary talent in witchcraft, and homosexuality show her to be the ultimate in different — ever the outsider — without being entirely Other, thus keeping her from the centre. The fragmentation of her identity as it occurs over the course of the show, compounded by the grief over the one upon whom she built her new self-definition, leads to homicidal/genocidal madness. [17] Willow, the smart Jew, must be stopped from destroying herself and the world. Unbalanced, she is unable to do it herself. [18] Only someone who knew Willow before her self-identification shattered can save her. That balance was provided externally, by virtue and simple love, provided by the simple, working-class carpenter.

For Buffy, the importance is placed upon fighting the Other. We assume this enemy is easily recognisable and hence we are led astray by the homogeneity of not only the Scoobies, but between the Scoobies and the demons they battle. Differences are internalised. The situation in Los Angeles has evolved differently, however. Firstly, a member of the Other himself leads Angel Investigations. Secondly, Angel’s quest is personal and individual; he is not out to save the world, just himself and maybe a few souls along the way. [19] In the Los Angeles of Angel, it is a given that there are people and creatures who look different from us. Since the focus has moved inward, external differences are flaunted, then readily dismissed.

Like Buffy, real demographics have only a minor role in Angel. According to statistics gathered in 2000, there are 3,694,000 residents in the city of Los Angeles (9,519,000 people reside in Los Angeles County, the area covered by Angel Investigations). Of these, only thirty percent are white, forty-six Hispanic, eleven percent African-American and ten percent Asian. [20] Despite these statistics, only one African-American works with Angel Investigations; only one Asian recurs on the show and as an employee of Wolfram and Hart is not the focus here. [21] Although set in the city with the second largest Jewish population of the United States [22] — greater than the entire population of Sunnydale — there are no Jews in Angel’s microcosm, not even the lawyers are overtly “Jewish”.

Los Angeles is a city where historically a large percentage of Jews, for example, the founders of Fox, Paramount (one of the parent companies of UPN) and Warner Brothers, [23] took great pains to distance themselves from their heritage, a move that closely parallels Cordelia’s statement in “To Shanshu in LA” regarding youth. [24] People move to Los Angeles to lose their identities and assume new ones: as Lorne says “… it’s the perfect place for guys like us.” (“There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb”, 2.22)

How does Angel allow guys like Angel and, more dramatically, Lorne blend in? In film noir, where boundaries separating good from evil were shown by the interplay between light and dark, the moral descent of a character was depicted through the use of lighting, shadow and the presence of African-Americans, the most physically Other in America. [25] The stylistics of film noir are reversed in Angel, no more so than the brightly lit offices of Wolfram and Hart (a dark, towering building in sunny California) and most effectively the “White Room”, located on an indeterminate upper level of the building (3.17). Battles take place as often in well-lit areas as they do in seedy alleys and underground passages. The main character keeps to the shadows and the darkness, usually dresses in dark clothes, but cannot be differentiated from anyone else crossing the street.

Boundaries are blurred and are traversed at any time by any of the cluster characters, except for Cordelia and Fred, the most recent addition to the crew. Humans are among the most vicious of evil doers. The Other, who is visibly discernible, can no longer be counted on to be evil, and hence the new category of “not evil, evil things” needed to be created. We can see this as the show evolves and finds its foothold. In the beginning, Angel Investigations struggled to find its identity and purpose. Originally a haphazard crew fighting vampires and demons as they stumbled across them through clients or visions granted by the Powers-That-Be, as the season progresses, they shift their focus from pointing out and eradicating vampires and other demons, to fighting what turns out to be a greater source of evil, Wolfram and Hart. The reason is explained with excruciating clarity by the recently deceased Holland Manners in “Reprise” (2.17) when he shows Angel the “Home Office”. The true source of evil is not elsewhere, not the Other; the locus of evil in the world is here, with us.

As Wesley points out, in “That Old Gang of Mine” (3.3) “[t]here are in this world shades of grey.” With humanity meandering through these shades of grey, Lorne takes on the mantle that Gunn’s character, the solitary African-American, would normally have assumed. He appears whenever necessary to mark “morally questionable boundaries delineated by ethnic and cultural signifiers.” [26] Greyness notwithstanding, the cluster characters of Angel are a homogenous group, sharing similar cultural, religious and financial backgrounds to that of the Buffy core group, with the obvious exception of Gunn. Yet, if racial differences are no longer important as demarcations of good and evil, where does that leave him?

Once the leader of a multi-racial, multi-cultural gang of homeless vampire hunters, Gunn first teams up with Angel Investigations as a favour in “To Shanshu in LA” (1.22) when he is asked to watch over Wesley and Cordelia as they recuperate in hospital. In “Judgement” (2.1), we see the stereotypical reaction of protected, upper-class suburbanites when introduced to the urban, lower classes. Cordelia is again the gaze through which the audience is to judge new characters. Desperate to appear deferential to the newcomer, she flaunts her supposed tolerance and understanding, but instead demonstrates how nervous she is to cross class lines (despite her own recent financial downward mobility). “First Impressions” (2.3) continues with these stereotyped assumptions by the wealthier white about the nature of ghetto youth. This is the only time Cordelia calls Gunn Charles, a formality she imposes upon him in an attempt to elevate his status and refine his behaviour. Once she realises her mistakes, she accepts him for himself, not her perception of him, and thus calls him by the name he prefers.

By the time Angel hits his “beige” period in season two, Gunn is a full-fledged member of Angel Investigations. In light of his appearance in the shelter with Cordelia in “The Thin Dead Line” (2.14), Gunn is accused of abandoning his former colleagues for a better life (read “in the rich white neighbourhoods”). “Belonging” (2.19) sees Gunn’s loyalties further divided by Rondell and George’s faulty plan to eradicate a nest of vampires and George’s subsequent death. The final episodes of season two see Gunn making the final break from his old vigilante gang.

However, once Gunn left the group entirely in charge of themselves, their cohesion broke down; they began hunting down demons without discretion. After the Yarbnie is killed (“That Old Gang of Mine”, 3.3), the gang takes the predominantly white, upper-class Angel Investigations hostage in Caritas, a karaoke bar frequented by what the gang perceives as an unnatural and immoral mix of Other and wealthy. Rondell, one of the men Wesley saved the previous season, claims that those who are Other deserve to die, simply for that reason.

Earlier in that episode, Wesley reminded Gunn that anyone, no matter how outwardly similar they look or behave is a target for racist bigotry and violence. Interestingly, it was Wesley, for whom the differences between himself and Gunn are more cultural than class or race-related, who distracted the policeman in “The Thin Dead Line” (2.14), taking a bullet for Gunn and his two friends. For “evil, evil things” — either Other or human — neither colour, race nor species matter.

Once Gunn finally makes his choice during the Pylean arc (2.20-22) as to where he feels he would rather belong, his re-education commences, with occasional regressions into stereotype (for example, “You go to hell and I spend eternity in the arms of baby Jesus” — 2.22). He goes through a rather radical assimilation, at times willingly and at times begrudgingly, becoming more upper middle class white as season three progresses. Fred rarely calls him Gunn, but Charles, not in an attempt to civilise him but rather to avoid setting him apart. During this time, he loses much of his former status (and ethnicity) as he moves upward. He rents a tux, attends the ballet (finding himself enjoying it as much as the company), and in the end wrests the affection of the white girl from the better-educated, wealthier white man. In the process of this acculturation and homogenisation, Gunn waivers between reluctant acceptance of the Other and suspicion of those who may want what he has only recently acquired.

Like Willow, Gunn is losing his once unique identity as he integrates into the white, upper class world of the core group. The question remains, will he become a fragmented personality, teetering on the verge of madness, or will he be able to adjust to his newfound selfdom? The answer will lie in how well he merges his new self to the old and how unimportant the cultural and physical differences are to the champions’ cause.

For Buffy the Vampire Slayer where the main locus of the fight between good and evil is outside the hero, external differences are virtually non-existent. It is as Giles explains when he improvises in “Lie to Me”(2.7): “The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day.” The world is lumped together as one similar group whom Buffy and the gang work to save. Physical differences become less important, and the distinction between good and evil remains as blurred as ever. In Angel, racial and special differences are no longer important at all and characters ignore heterogenous qualities. It is as likely that a member of the Other will be able to redeem himself and stay out of the shadows, as it is that a member of the mainstream will sink into the depths of evil.

By not being able to readily define the Other, shades of morality are no longer simply black and white, us or them. Life is not clear-cut and easily deduced and the rules as we read them must constantly be rewritten. In the BuffyVerse, things are not simply black and white; human existence constantly moves in and out of the shadows, between good and evil, never staying still long enough to become truly homogeneous.


[1] Boyd Tonkin, "Entropy as Demon: Buffy in Southern California," Reading the Vampire Slayer: An Unofficial Critical Companion to Buffy and Angel, ed. Roz Kaveney (2001/2002), p. 38.

[2] SantaBarbara.com -Community Statistics, 2002, <http://www.SantaBarbara.com/community/stats/>, 1 October 2002.

[3] Santa Barbara County, 2000, <http://www.psyes.com/sa9.html>, 3 October 2002.

[4] Jewish Santa Barbara, 2002, Congregation B’nai B’rith, <http://www.uahc.org/ca/cbb/jewish_sb.html>, 3 October 2002.

[5] Fran Rubel Kuzui, et al. producers , Buffy the Vampire Slayer, (Twentieth Century Fox, 1992).

[6] Moreover, her English accent , similar to Giles’ authoritative Oxbridge accent, further distances her from these negative impressions.

[7] Tamar Garb, "Modernity, Identity, Textuality," The Jew in the Text: Modernity and the Construction of Identity, ed. Linda and Garb Nochlin, Tamar (London: Thames and Hudson, 1995), p. 25; Sander L. Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986).

[8] Annalee Newitz and Matthew Way, "What is ‘White Trash’? Stereotypes and Economic Conditions of Poor Whites in the United States," Whiteness: A Critical Reader, ed. Mike Hill (New York: New York University, 1997), p. 174.

[9] Ibid., p. 186.

[10] Willow’s on-screen behaviour demonstrates that she is not Orthodox. If she were, this would set her even further apart from the core group and made the American audience, which has generally little acquaintance with modern Orthodox Jewry, less empathetic.

[11] Sander L. Gilman, Smart Jews : The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996).

[12] Ibid., p. 188.

[13] In Jewish tradition, Beelzebub (ba’al-zevuv, “lord of the flies”) was a local god in competition with Yahveh cult (II Kings 1:2-17). Later, in Kabbalistic demonology, Ba’al-zevuv becomes one of the princes in the hierarchy of the Sitra akhra. In Christian lore, however, he is often confused with the more powerful god, Baal, or an evil spirit known as Ba’al-zebul (see for example Matthew 12: 24-29; Luke 11:15-22). Due to this confusion, Dante equated Beelzebub with Satan( Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy -1: Hell, trans. Dorothy L. Sayers. London: Penguin Books, [1949], xxxiv: 128, p.288). Beelzebub of Milton’s Paradise Lost (book 1, lines 84-127) is a fallen angel; second in command to Satan and as such a demon of powerful repute.

[14] Ibid., 3.

[15] Gilman, Smart Jews : The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence, p. 181.

[16] Rosemary Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, 2 ed. (New York: Checkmark Books, 1999).

[17] Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews, p. 181.

[18] Gilman, Smart Jews : The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence, pp. 191, 95.

[19] In actuality, the situation is much the same for all of the cluster characters. In exile, either imposed or self-imposed, they are all in search of acceptance and redemption.

[20] Los Angeles City, 2000, http://www.psyes.com/citysubweb.html, 3 October 2002.

[21] One episode (“Parting Gifts”, 1.10) did concentrate a portion of the action in “Koreatown”, however the characters were giving refuge to an Asian demon, perceived as an “evil, evil thing” until the confusion was cleared and the demon died.

[22] John Orr, California’s Religious Profile: Many Faiths, One State: Building Bridges of Understanding in California, (Los Angeles: University of Southern California, The Center for Religion and Civic Culture, 1999)  http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/religion_online/manyfaiths/profile_sleuth.html. The percentage is quoted as 10.3% identified themselves as Jewish, i.e. roughly 519,000.

[23] Neal Gabler, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1988).

[24] “Typical. I hook up with the only person in history who ever came to LA to get older.”

[25] Eric Lott, "The Whiteness of Film Noir," Whiteness: A Critical Reader, ed. Mike Hill (New York: New York University, 1997), p. 95.

[26] Ibid., p. 86.


Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy -1: Hell. Trans. Sayers, Dorothy L. London: Penguin Books, [1949].

Gabler, Neal. An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1988.

Garb, Tamar. "Modernity, Identity, Textuality." The Jew in the Text: Modernity and the Construction of Identity. Ed. Nochlin, Linda and Garb, Tamar. London: Thames and Hudson, 1995. 20-30.

Gilman, Sander L. Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

—. Smart Jews : The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

Guiley, Rosemary. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. 2 ed. New York: Checkmark Books, 1999.

Jewish Santa Barbara. 2002. Congregation B’nai B’rith. http://www.uahc.org/ca/cbb/jewish_sb.html. [3 October 2002].

Kuzui, Fran Rubel et al., prod. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Dir. Fran Rubel Kuzui. Twentieth Century Fox, 1992.

Los Angeles City. 2000. <http://www.psyes.com/citysubweb.html>. [3 October 2002].

Lott, Eric. "The Whiteness of Film Noir." Whiteness: A Critical Reader. Ed. Hill, Mike. New York: New York University, 1997. 81-101.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost.

Newitz, Annalee, et al. "What is ‘White Trash’? Stereotypes and Economic Conditions of Poor Whites in the United States." Whiteness: A Critical Reader. Ed. Hill, Mike. New York: New York University, 1997. 168-84.

Orr, John. California’s Religious Profile: Many Faiths, One State: Building Bridges of Understanding in California. 1999. <http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/religion_online/manyfaiths/profile_sleuth.html>. Los Angeles: University of Southern California, The Center for Religion and Civic Culture. [2 October 2002]

SantaBarbara.com — Community Statistics. 2002. <http://www.SantaBarbara.com/community/stats/>. [1 October 2002]. Santa Barbara County. 2000. <http://www.psyes.com/sa9.html>. [3 October 2002].

Tonkin, Boyd. "Entropy as Demon: Buffy in Southern California." Reading the Vampire Slayer: An Unofficial Critical Companion to Buffy and Angel. Ed. Kaveney, Roz, 2001/2002. 37-52.


  1. Victoria D says:

    In my opinion about the series Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Angel, I feel that after Angel, Buffy and immortal love, none could do a better history in the subject! Angel is so more sexy, smart, fighter and better than everyone like Edward. Buffy is not one more human who loves a vampire, hers destiny is fight with vampires and kill them, he is fall in love for what she haunts, this is so much interesting and in the same time romantic and dangerous. I think those things make the series and the story be attractive.