Is Giles Simply Another Dr Van Helsing? Continuity & Innovation in the Figure of the Watcher in Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Coralline Dupuy

Mentors feature prominently in the Gothic genre. From Dr Van Helsing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), who leads the young heroes into their quest to annihilate the Count, to Rupert Giles, the Watcher in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, older and more experienced adults have provided essential guidance for the younger protagonists of the genre. What also unites the novel and the series is the fin-de-siècle resonance, one characterized by sexually and socially subversive themes. Relying on an audience that is literate in media representations of vampirism, the creators of Buffy the Vampire Slayer need to challenge their audience through another aspect of the series. Cora Dupey argues that the show’s creators adopt a self-reflexive ironic perspective on the genre. This tenuous but innovative tension between borrowing from the tenets of the Gothic and moving away from them is especially appreciable when one evaluates the Watcher, Giles. Giles embodies both the principles of continuity and daring innovation that characterize the series and contribute to its appeal.


Mentors feature prominently in the Gothic genre. From Dr Van Helsing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, who leads the young heroes into their quest to annihilate the Count, to Rupert Giles, the Watcher in Buffy the Vampire Slayer , older and more experienced adults have provided essential guidance for the younger protagonists of the genre. The differences in media of expression and the subsequent adaptations from novel to television series has not affected the presence of this character, more than a hundred years after the publication of Dracula in 1897. What also unites the novel and the series is their fin-de-siècle resonance.

According to Elaine Showalter, sexually and socially subversive themes feature strongly in periods of cultural insecurity. In addition to the century that separates Buffy from the Count, there has been a plethora of vampire movies and books of various merits. As a result, the late-twentieth-century average spectator knows the basic facts of vampirism. Therefore, the creators of Buffy the Vampire Slayer need to challenge their audience through another aspect of the series. Turning to their advantage what might have been a serious hindrance, they adopt a self-reflexive ironic perspective on the genre. This tenuous but innovative tension between borrowing from the tenets of the Gothic and moving away from them is especially appreciable when one evaluates the Watcher, Giles. Giles embodies both the principles of continuity and daring innovation that characterise the series and contribute to its appeal.

The similarities between Dr Van Helsing in Dracula and Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer create a sense of thematic and structural continuity through different media. They share a similar overall function in the plot, as they are the source of help through occult knowledge. They correspond to the Jungian prototype of the old man in fairy tales. The old man always appears when the hero is in a hopeless and desperate situation and needs guidance because his parents are absent or inadequate . Giles indeed appears as, to quote Xander in ‘Never kill a boy on the first date’ (1:5), ‘super librarian’. Defined through his knowledge of books and his appetite for them, his strength is also typically his weakness, as his predicament in ‘Nightmares’ (1:10) shows. His anguished though characteristically understated call, ‘I’m having a problem. I – I can’t read’, points to his Achilles’ heel.

n the first three series of the show taking place in Sunnydale High, Giles’s lair is the library. After Buffy enrols in university, Giles’s bachelor flat becomes the de-facto library of the Scooby Gang. His bookishness defines him and gives him his role among the cast of protagonists. In ‘Primeval’ (4.21), Giles’s contribution to the group’s attack against Adam is his intelligence, ‘Sophus’, his mind. Giles is the brain of the group, Buffy the hand that strikes. Similarly, Van Helsing in Dracula intervenes in the novel when the young characters need someone with access to occult lore to explain Lucy’s ailment. His knowledge defines him too: Jack Seward refers to him for the first time as ‘Professor Van Helsing, of Amsterdam, who knows as much about obscure diseases as anyone in the world’ (Dracula, 111), and alter as ‘Van Helsing, the great specialist’ ( Dracula , 117).

Giles’s function is that of a Watcher, whereas Van Helsing is a guardian: both act as parental figures for the hero or heroine at a time of trial that is crucial to the battle against chaos. The mentor intervenes when the hero lacks parental support, which Cooper locates as the third stage (going into the wilderness) of the seven steps that constitute the hero’s initiation . Especially during the first two series, when his relevance is undermined, Giles frequently reminds the others of his own importance vis-à-vis Buffy’s training: “I am the Watcher! I am responsible for her.” (‘School hard’ 2:3). This pattern of systematic challenge of his authority disappears in the fifth season. In its opening episode, the Slayer acknowledges her need for a Watcher and actively seeks his help in order to understand better her dark part. It is under Giles’s careful supervision in ‘Intervention’ (5:18) that Buffy goes into the desert to come face to face with the first Slayer, who stands for her own Jungian shadow. Giles helps her to deal with her own unacknowledged personality.

The Watcher’s guidance is crucial in a context where family stability is always under attack. Buffy’s absentee father has not gone unnoticed , and patriarchy is remarkable by its nonattendance. Equally, family units are strikingly incomplete in Dracula. Parents are an endangered species in a genre that demands their removal from the stage of events so that the young protagonists are deprived from the natural source of advice and have to look up to parent-substitute for help.

Invested with parental authority, both Giles and Van Helsing define the laws and taboos in each narrative. According to Cooper, taboos function as an admonition against premature knowledge (Cooper, 73). Giles sets the rules by which a Slayer must abide, although whether Buffy adheres to the norms of the typical Slayer or not gives the series its impetus. In Dracula, Van Helsing dominates the Crew of Light in their battle against evil, and one of the female characters, Mina, compares him to Napoléon, thereby reinforcing his position as the leader of the group.

Giles and Van Helsing are both outcasts and their status as non-nationals underscores their liminality. Van Helsing hails from Holland, home of free trade. His Continental background accounts for his gruffness and his abrupt manners and creates a dynamic contrast between him and the stiff-upper-lipped Victorian young men who make up the rest of the cast. Similarly, Giles is an exiled Englishman in California. His different origins explain a lot of his un-American undemonstrative behaviour: “I thought English people were, um, gentler than, uh… normal people” (Tara in ‘Checkpoint’ 5:12). Moreover, his Britishness is seen as the explanation for his intense bookishness; Oxford becomes “where they make Gileses” (Buffy in ‘Choices’ 3:19). The young American members of the Scooby Gang explain Giles through his Britishness, and explain the British through Giles. In ‘Graduation day’ (3:22), Xander jokingly suggests that Giles should drink some tea before blowing up the library, Giles refuses because tea is soothing and he wishes to be tense. Xander replies: “Okay, but you’re destroying a perfectly good cultural stereotype here.”

Van Helsing and Giles cross the boundaries of nationalities, they also cross the gender frontiers. Minute critical attention has been paid to the emergence of the butch-femme in recent movies and television series. Yvonne Tasker sees this new trend as the sign of “the instability of a gendered system, and the production of an alternative space through that instability.” While the fluidity of the roles played by butch-femmes such as Helen Ripley in the Alien series and Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer deserves to be analysed, indeed they effortlessly move from attacker to defender to love-interest for instance, the Watcher also shows some signs of sexual indeterminacy. The exact nature of his bond with former fellow Ethan is never revealed. Van Helsing also gives some signs of an un-masculine nervous disposition, which puzzle his disciples greatly. The following scene takes place soon after Lucy’s death and Seward witnesses Van Helsing giving way to his grief in a way he cannot account for: “The moment we were alone in the carriage he gave way to a regular fit of hysterics. (…) He laughed till he cried and I had to draw down the blinds lest anyone should see us and misjudge; and then he cried till he laughed again; and laughed and cried, just as a woman does” (Dracula, 174). The two men are alienated from their groups, yet essential to them. Buffy’s resistance to traditional training methods undermines further the Watcher’s authority. The absence of a handbook points to Giles’s difficulty in controlling his Slayer: “I don’t have an instruction manual. We feel our way as we go along.” (‘Never kill a boy on the first date” 1:5).

Giles is regularly helpless , and his role hovers between that of protector and protected. He repeatedly jeopardises the success of the Slayer’s mission by getting himself in a predicament from which his pupil needs to rescue him. Van Helsing is equally ineffectual in his efforts to save Lucy from the Count’s influence, and his desperation in the episode mentioned earlier on reveals his anguish and possibly his guilt. The mentor in Dracula and the Watcher in Buffy the Vampire Slayer do not meet with considerable success.

The main difference between Van Helsing and Giles is the nature of their relationship with their disciple. Van Helsing becomes authoritarian and his despotic rule over the young characters matches Dracula’s sway over the madman Renfield. Giles on the other hand develops a genuine fatherly affection for Buffy. Giles is a character in a late-twentieth-century television series and the show articulates some of its most inventive ideas through the relationship that unites Buffy to her Watcher. As we have seen, Giles borrows some features from Van Helsing, but his part in the self-reflexive dimension of the show is crucial. Both his character and the show are aware of the stereotypes that surround vampire stories and they rely on this fact (which could have been an hindrance for less capable writers) to engage in a challenging redefinition of the roles of mentor and disciple.

Giles and Buffy share some defining attributes, which contribute to blurring the frontier between them. Predestination and its burden fall on both of them. In the opening episode, she tells Giles she is not interested in slaying in no uncertain terms: “What I want is to be left alone!” (‘Welcome to the Hellmouth’ 1:1). Being a Slayer is a sacred duty from which one cannot recoil. So is being a Watcher, as Giles explains: “I was ten years old when my father told me I was destined to be a Watcher. He was one, and his, uh, mother before him, and I was to be next. (…) My father gave me a very tiresome speech about responsibility and sacrifice” (‘Never kill a boy on the first date’ 1:5). This tacit recognition that they share the same burden elicits a rare display of compassion on Buffy’s part: “I don’t think he has a choice” (‘The Dark Age’ 2:8). Buffy quits in ‘Prophecy girl’ (1:12) and leaves Sunnydale altogether. When she reclaims her function in the second series, she transcends her bitter awareness of the inescapable fate of the Slayer with sarcastic verbal derision: “Oh! I know this one! Slaying entails certain sacrifices, blah blah dity blah!” (‘Inca mummy girl’ 2:4). Both the Slayer and her Watcher experience a struggle between personal longings and communal duty.

Consequently, both suffer disrupted social lives, as Buffy angrily explains to Joyce: “It never stops. Do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it feels? How dangerous? I would love to be upstairs watching t.v. or gossiping about boys or, god, even studying! But I have to save the world. Again.” (‘Becoming’ 2:22). Karen Sayer aptly notices that none of the adults in the show seems to have any ordinary everyday friends and that Buffy and her sidekicks seldom mingle with outsiders, let alone with youths like themselves .

Both Giles and Buffy display a rebellious nature vis-à-vis authority figures. Giles derides principal Snyder by calling him: “Our new Führer, Mr Snyder” (‘The puppet show’ 1:8), even though Snyder is the Principal of the school that employs him as a librarian. Giles’s anarchic tendencies become evident in his dealings with the Council of Watchers. The Council articulate a utilitarian view of Buffy’s powers, as voiced by Quentin: “The Council fights evil. The Slayer is the instrument by which we fight. The Council remains, the Slayers change.” (‘Checkpoint’ 5:12). Giles’s vision is diametrically opposed to theirs, which bodes ill of the possibility of their continued collaboration: “You’re waging a war. She’s fighting it. There’s a difference.” (‘Helpless’ 3:12). In this episode, the tensions leading to the parting of ways in ‘Checkpoint’ (5:12) are already visible. In their analysis of the conflicting ideologies expressed by Giles and the Council, Brian Wall and Michael Zryd equate the Council with a bureaucratic and rigid organisation that cannot appeal to Giles for long . Their appointment of Wesley Wyndam-Price as a substitute after Giles’s suspension is predictably a failure.

In his Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairy Tales , Jung argues that the old man in fairy tales has a dark side, pertaining both to the primitive healer and also the dreaded concocter of poisons . In the course of the six series of the show, Giles’s earlier life resurfaces, and the spectator witnesses a spectacular return of the repressed Watcher. Giles’s alter ego, Ripper, was a rebellious student who dabbled in the black arts. Is Ripper another Mr Hyde? Former sidekick (possibly lover, although it is never explained) Ethan Rayne sees through Giles’s meekness as through a costume: “Who you are? The Watcher, snivelling, tweed-clad guardian of the Slayer and her kin? I think not. I know who you are, Rupert, and I know what you’re capable of. But they don’t, do they? They have no idea where you come from.” (‘Halloween’ 2:6). ‘The Dark Age’ (2:8), in the same series, provides the audience with some hints at a rebellious past, but raises more questions than it answers. The spectator shares Xander’s view that: “Nobody can be wound as straight and narrow as Giles without a dark side erupting.” (‘The Dark Side’ 2:8). Giles’s violent nature erupts with surprising efficiency when he kills Ben to prevent Glory from coming back, which Buffy cannot do as the Slayer rules forbid her to kill humans (‘The Gift’ 5:22).

Both Giles and Buffy are liminal outcasts with extraordinarily heavy duties and obligations towards a society that rejects them regularly. Giles’s relationship with the Scooby Gang is not straightforward because of his age. The visual medium helps to symbolise this generation gap very easily through Giles’s costumes, grey sideburns and horn-rimmed glasses versus the Scoobies’s brightly-coloured clothes and exuberant gestures. Giles’s old-fashioned taste is a staple laughing-stock among the Scoobies. Giles, according to Buffy, “counts tardiness as, like, the eighth deadly sin” (‘The Dark Age’ 2:8) and his “cutting edge eight-tracks” fail to impress the computer-literate teenagers (‘Wild at heart’ 4:6). His attempts at asserting his authority in the library are undercut outside the library, as for instance in the Scoobies’ night-spot, the Bronze. His venerable old age earns him only a dubious comparison with the Rolling Stones: “If the Stones can still keep rolling, why can’t Giles?” (Buffy in ‘Wild at heart’ 4:6).

Nowhere is the generation gap more apparent than in Giles’s computer illiteracy. He achieves remarkably little progress in two seasons despite Willow’s enlightened tutorials. In ‘Gingerbread’ (3:11), Giles talks to a computer: “Session interrupted? Who said you could interrupt, you stupid, useless fad? No, I said fad, and I’ll say it again!” in ‘Buffy vs. Dracula’ (5:1) his anger knows no bound: “Obstinate bloody machine simply refused to work for me.” This draws our attention to the issue of language in the show. Giles’s inability to grasp teenager vernacular or to communicate with the Scoobies reflects his ambivalent status in the group.

Giles’s failure to decipher Buffy’s description of a monster’s complexion as ‘a super-bad fake rub-on tan’ (‘Living conditions’ 4:2) prompts him to ask for a translation into an idiom he understands. Giles’s paradox is that he speaks five languages but cannot understand the Scoobies without some helpful translator, frequently Buffy or Willow. The misunderstandings occur most often with Xander, who stands for the average male teenager with poor contact with literature if any at all:

Giles : I suppose there is a sort of Machiavellian ingenuity to your transgression.
Xander : I resent that! Or possibly thank you.(‘Bad eggs’ 2:12)

Although the gaps in communication provide some amazingly lame puns at times such as the one below, their reoccurrence points to Giles’s inability to bring himself down to the level of the youngsters he deals with on a daily basis, despite his Oxford education:

Giles : He had a very specific olfactory presence.
Xander : Well, I guess we’re off to the old factory. I hate that place. I’m joking. I know what it means. He smelled. Right?(‘The replacement’ 3:5).

Giles appears as a nerd who enjoys cross-referencing (‘Halloween’ 2:6), exactly in the same way as Willow is an outcast in high school for being a genius at maths and computers. This common affliction might pave the way for a deeper bond between them in the upcoming seventh season of the show. Xander most regularly pokes fun at his thirst for knowledge: “Giles lived for school. He’s actually still bitter that there are only twelve grades.” (‘The Dark Age’ 2:8). Giles’s function in the show is to guide Buffy and also to research, which he thoroughly enjoys: “I, I’m sure my books and I are in for a fascinating afternoon.” (‘Phases’ 2:15); “I’ll research as best as I can” (‘The harsh light of day’ 4:3). Buffy explicitly sees in his love for books a tragico-comic displacement of his emotional affections: “Don’t talk about the books again. You get all… and sometimes there’s drool.” (‘Triangle’ 5:11). What saves Giles from being an unpleasant bookish highbrow is his sense of humour.

He fulfils the unlikely role of the buffoon before Spike takes on the part of the comic relief provider. Contrary to Van Helsing, who never shows any awareness of his own limitations, Giles endears himself with the Scoobies by his realisation that on he is more likely to inflict grievous bodily harm to himself rather than to the vampire he means to stake: “Well, I’m not dead or unconscious, so I say bravo for me.” (‘The replacement’ 3:5). He defines himself as “an unemployed librarian with a tendency to get knocked on the head” (‘A new man’ 4:12), and even congratulates himself when he does remain conscious for once: “Oh, good show Giles. At least you didn’t get knocked out for a change.” (‘Buffy vs. Dracula’ 5:1).

As the series succeed to each other, the audience notices a clear influence of Giles’s dry sarcastic humour on Buffy’s witticisms. She might resist his methods with the cross-bow, but she definitely absorbs some of his British derisive stance. Giles’s disparaging comment on male hormones and their debilitating effect on men’s intellect (“Testosterone is a great equaliser. It turns all men into morons.” ‘The pack’ 1:6) is echoed in Buffy’s more minimalist: “All groin, no brain” in ‘Restless’ (4:22).

Some of his sarcasm applies to her actions too, but interestingly enough, only when Angel is concerned does Giles’s wit sourly deride his student: “A vampire in love with a Slayer! It’s rather poetic! In a maudlin sort of way.” (‘Out of mind, out of sight’ 1:10). His uncharacteristic reluctance to name them, referring to their status instead, whereas Giles typically names the cause of the trouble, betrays some unconscious paternalistic concern for his protégée.

Giles’s use and abuse of sarcasm gives the show an instant appeal in so far as it gives verbal utterance to the character’s distance from everyday life and common moral rules: “Demons after money. Whatever happened to the still-beating heart of a virgin? No one has any standards any more.” (‘Enemies’ 3:17). The show takes for granted the existence of monsters such as demons or vampires and now the comic tension hinges around the upkeep of decent slaughter manners in the demons. Giles and Buffy are the only characters in the show whose psyches are dark enough to master convincingly such a high degree of sarcasm.

The growing interaction that came to replace opposition between Buffy and her Watcher shows early in the second series of the show:

Giles : Grave-robbing. That’s new. Interesting
Buffy : I know you meant to say ‘gross and disturbing’
Giles : Yes, yes, yes of course. Uh, terrible thing. Must put a stop to it.” (‘When she was bad’ 2:1)

Their relationship evolves from antagonistic colleagues to sidekicks:

Giles : That was bracing.
Buffy : Interesting lady. Can we kill her?
Giles : I think the Council might frown upon that.”(‘Revelations’ 3:7).

Buffy’s own brand of sarcasm reflects her growing maturity and her ability to get some critical distance from her predicament. Her power to laugh at a situation that initially drove her away from home at the end of the first series gives a convincing illustration of the character’s maturation. She develops her own typical dry sense of humour after the second series, during which she was coming to terms with her mission. Once she accepted the duty of her destiny, her growing ease with language and the fun she gets from it become manifest. None of the other Slayers encountered in the show displays her shrewdness with language. A Slayer’s best weapon is her tongue. Faith’s script is laden with a gloomy and revengeful terminology, whereas Kendra’s monotonous lines illustrate her bland and submissive personality.

Incidentally, both these Slayers had a despotic Watcher who did not let them develop as individuals. Buffy has a richer connection with her Watcher, and she takes from him what is the best he has to offer: his dry wit. Nothing escapes Buffy’s scathing remarks, not even sanity: “Buffy Summers, reporting for sanity.” (‘Beauty and the beasts’ 3:4). Death becomes another unlikely topic for jokes: “Could you also find a loophole in that ‘Slayers don’t kill people’ rule?” (‘Gingerbread’ 3:11); “I think it might be time to put a moratorium on parties in my honor. They tend to go badly. Monsters crash. People die.” (‘Helpless’ 3:12). In Buffy’s lingo, under Giles’s influence, the monstrous is already tamed and crushed through linguistic defusing: “Wish me monsters.” (‘Living conditions’ 4:2).

Giles’s impact on his student’s linguistic playfulness increases to such a degree that by the fourth season a successful fight involves a dead vampire and a few deftly-delivered one-liners. In ‘Wild at heart’ (4:6), Buffy laments the lack of admiration one of her victims displays towards her efforts at being a witty Slayer: “One lame-ass vampire with no appreciation for my painstakingly thought out puns. I don’t think the forces of darkness are even trying.” At this point, the audience realises the extent to which Giles’s insistence on a modicum of decorum has seeped through her system of values.

Giles is equally fond of understatements that lessen the dramatic impact of the potentially stomach-churning content of many of the storylines. The show’s cyclical nature implies that the same them will reoccur, such as the end of the world. Instead of getting around this difficulty by artificially contriving a different storyline, the dialogues exploit the unusual combination of repetition with apocalyptic events to its full comic power. “Oh – as usual – dear”, exclaims Giles in ‘Doomed’ (4:11), thereby implicitly including the audience and their knowledge of the previous episodes in his sarcastic realisation that the predicament they are in has already taken place on numerous other occasions. This self-reflexive rionic dimension creates a sense of comradeship with the other Scoobies without crossing the borders of sentimentalism:

Giles : if anything should happen to you, or you… should be killed, I should take it somewhat amiss.
Willow : You’d be cranky?
Giles : Entirely.” (‘Anne’ 3:1).

The dialogues from ‘Doomed’ (4:11) totally belie its grandiloquent title, mostly through Giles’s understated one-liners: “It’s the end of the world; everyone dies. It’s rather important, really.” He shares his deprecating perspective with Buffy, as is evident when she asks him: “If the apocalypse comes, beep me.” (‘Never kill a boy on the first date’ 1:5). Giles inculcates her his predilection for sarcasm and understatements, and their dialogues contain less negatives and refusals after the fourth series, whereas the dialogues between them in the first series swarmed with orders and rebukes. The evolution of their relationship is perceptible on the linguistic level.

Giles’s bond with Buffy undergoes several stages. She behaves initially like a rebellious teenager and Giles needs to remind her of her duties – (“Buffy, this is no laughing matter.” (‘The Zeppo’ 3:13) – and of his position of superiority: “I would appreciate your glib-free attention.” (‘Helpless’ 3:12). He provides her with spiritual guidance and tries to teach her compassion in the second series, the importance of which she will prove to have appreciated when she sacrifices herself instead of Dawn in a later series: “To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy”. (‘I only have eyes for you’ 2:19). Buffy actively seeks his help when she reaches breaking point after meeting Dracula: “I need to know more. (…) But… I’m scared. I know it’s gonna be hard. And I can’t do it… without you. I need your help. I need you to be my watcher again.” (‘Buffy vs. Dracula’ 5:1). Buffy’s atypical hesitations and Giles’s unusual silence after her tirade need no comment.

Starting from the third series, their association takes on the affectionate overtones of a father-daughter relationship and food becomes a central theme in their negotiations: “Because it is your destiny… and because I just bought twenty ‘cocorific’ candy bars.” (‘Band candy’ 3:6); “I understand this sort of thing requires ice cream of some kind” (‘The prom’ 3:20). The conflict between Giles’s mission as a Watcher and his personal care for his Slayer forces the Council to sack him. Quentin accuses Giles of letting his feelings tamper with his duty: “Your affection for your charge has rendered you incapable of clear and impartial judgement. You have a father’s love for the child, and that is useless to the cause.” (‘Helpless’ 3:12). In ‘A new man’ (4:12), Buffy’s closeness with Giles saves his life when Ethan changes Giles him in a demon. Buffy almost kills Giles but she recognises him just in time by looking into his eyes. Giles becomes a carer for Buffy and dawn after Joyce dies. Buffy calls him first to ask him for help. Her incoherent lines: “Giles. You have to come. (…) She’s at the house.” (‘The body’ 5:16) and her inability to tell him what happened whereas she usually displays an amazing loquacity reflect bewilderment and her innate trust in him at a time of crisis.

A conflict erupts between Giles and Professor Maggie Walsh as another possible mentor. Her growing influence on Buffy at a time when she feels alienated in college pushes Giles at the borders of narrative and of action. In the opening episode of the first series, Giles steps back as a Watcher: “Your safety is more important to me than anything but, you’re going to have to take care of yourself. You’re out of school and I can’t always be there to guide you.” (‘The Freshman’ 4:1). Maggie Walsh is finally exposed in the episode ironically entitled ‘The I in team’ (4:13). Ineffectual scientists fail to restore faith in science and rationalism by suggesting that modern ‘science is blind to the emotional demands of the beings it studies, and if made aware of them is helpless to respond.’ The Council of Watchers stands for the despotic and deshumanising aspect of bureaucracy, whereas Maggie Walsh embodies a modern version of Frankenstein’s hubris. Buffy can each time give Giles up to go over to either the Council or Maggie Walsh, but she stays faithful to Giles of her own accord.

Giles’s doubts about his mission, as its very nature endangers her, assail him before Willow resurrects her: “Yes, I was a perfect watcher. I did what any good Watcher would do. Got my Slayer killed in the line of duty” (‘Bargaining’ 6:1). Buffy and Giles evolve, yet despite tensions and the end-orientated nature of their respective duties, their connection remains the strongest bond in the series.

There is the suggestion that the character’s relationship with Willow will evolve dramatically in the seventh series (yet unaired in Europe). Even if Buffy leaves the stage, the central core of meaning attached to the myth of the mentor remains the same despite changes in setting and medium. In Our Vampires, Ourselves, Nina Auerbach marvels at “the alacrity with which vampires shape themselves to personal and national moods.” If Dracula was indeed a compendium of fin-de-siècle phobias for the nineteenth century, Buffy the Vampire Slayer cannily articulates the evolution of the vampire film and of the Gothic genre altogether at the start of the twenty-first century. Giles stands for the new mentor for a new era spearheaded by Peter Cushing and Anthony Hopkins on the silver screen. In 1989, Andrew Cushing praised Peter Cushing for renewing the depiction of the mentor in Dracula, claiming the actor rescued the anti-vampire expert “from the dry scholasticism and eccentricity of his traditional representation without in any way reducing the character’s claims to expertise.” The same compliment can be paid to Anthony Stewart Head for embodying the Janus-like dimension of the Watcher.


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