Prophecy Girl (1×12)

A few gifs per episode | Buffy - 1x12 - “Prophecy Girl”

In the first season finale, Buffy learns that it has been prophesied that she must face the infamous Master, whose ascension would mean the opening of the Hellmouth, and she will unfortunately perish in the battle. Initially, she decides that she quits and refuses to battle in the Master in fear of dying at the age of 16. However, after consideration of what’s at stake, she assumes her role as the slayer and takes the fight to the Master. Buffy dies, yes, but Xander is able to (literally) breathe life back into her, and Buffy is able to defeat the Master once and for all. His demonic facade disappears after she slays him, and he becomes a mere skeleton.

Throughout the course of the episode, there were a few references to the “double life” that Buffy (and all the other characters, as well) leads. After a night of slaying and no recognition from Giles, Buffy disgustedly states, “I broke a nail, alright. I’m wearing a press on!” While her priorities at this moment in time are amusing, they are understandable from the perspective of a high school girl in the 90s. Towards the end of the episode, Buffy slays the Master (and some of his minions that have escaped the Hellmouth) in her flowing spring fling dress. This mashup of her typical high school life with her unbelievable slaying life couldn’t be less pronounced during these scenes.

After Willow and Cordelia happen upon a classroom of murdered Sunnydale students, Willow freaks out because the classroom and students were so familiar to her. In reference to the Master’s minions, she painfully states, “They made it theirs. And they had fun.” Her disgust with the actions of these supernatural beings is similar to the hatred held by many members of medieval European communities plagued by witch trials towards the supposed witches. Despite the very little incriminating evidence towards the witches in the latter scenario, people’s attitudes were still remarkably similar to Willow’s in this case.

Out of Mind, Out of Sight (1×11)

A few gif(s) per episode | Buffy - 1x11 - “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”

The penultimate episode of the season dealt with themes of exclusion and being an outcast in the vicious society that is high school. It began with a focus on Buffy as an outcast, which is precipitated daily by Cordelia and her iron hold over the student body. In reference to the time that Buffy attacked her (1×01), Cordelia states that she doesn’t “know why the school accepts mentals.” Buffy also feels like an outcast when she’s with her own friends; she doesn’t understand Willow and Xander’s references to middle school versions of their peers, and she isn’t popular in Sunnydale like she was in L.A.

When the episode begins, it seems as though the focus will be on Buffy’s position in the social hierarchy. Instead, it becomes more so about the nature of an outcast in itself. Cordelia admits to feeling like an outcast among the student body; despite being surrounded by hordes of people at any given moment, none of them truly know her and they only ever nod and agree with her. The “big bad” of the episode is Marcie Ross. After being perceived as invisible at Sunnydale High School for months and even years, she becomes invisible (things like this can happen at the Hellmouth). Willow and Xander find “proof” that she is a social reject when they noticed that the only thing written in her yearbook is “have a great summer,” over and over again. They explain to Giles that this is the ultimate sign; people only ever write “have a great summer” when they have absolutely nothing to say. Now, as an invisible outcast, Marcie has made it her goal to destroy Cordelia’s life – she starts with her boyfriend, then moves onto her best friend, and then Cordelia herself.

The focus on this episode of the lonesome outcast poses as an interesting parallel to the archetypal woman accused of witchcraft in medieval Europe. Our classic convention (which we have begun to complicate in class by scrutinizing the historical records) is an older woman who didn’t fit societal norms; she was accused of witchcraft because she threatened the structure that society had worked to build. In this episode, Marcie was the outcast, not because she chose to be alone or had abnormal interests, but because she was constantly ignored by her peers despite her efforts to get their attention. This is different from our classic convention of the medieval European witch, and it is intriguing to put the two in conversation with one another.

Nightmares (1×10)

One(or more) gif(s) per episode | Buffy - 1x10 - “Nightmares”

Throughout the course of the season, Buffy’s double life as proved as a point of amusement and parallels in the show. In this episode, Xander states, “we find, you slay, we’ll party.” His nonchalant (yet slightly joking) attitude marks the inclusion of Willow and Xander in Buffy’s second life as the slayer. They’re no longer the naive bystanders from the beginning of the series. Rather, they help her with monster research, fight alongside her, and know how to point her in the right direction; they’ve also grown to have second lives alongside Buffy’s.

“Nightmares,” as the title suggests, focused on a young boy in a coma, whose nightmares were bleeding into the real world, causing the characters to experience their worst nightmares in real life. For Willow, that’s spiders and singing in front of an audience. For Xander, that’s being naked at school and his sixth birthday party. For Giles, that’s the ability to not be able to read. For Cordelia, that’s not being attractive and being mistaken for a nerd. And for Buffy, that’s her father’s rejection and becoming a vampire herself.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find any notable connections between this episode and tht themes we’ve discussed in class.

Gingerbread House (3×11)

A few gifs per episode | Buffy - 3x11 - “Gingerbread”

On March 16, we watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Gingerbread House” (3×11) in class. There were many similarities between this episode and chapters we read from Briggs’s book Witches and Neighbors.

Kinship relations were strained as they were put to the ultimate test. When Buffy’s mother witnesses two murdered children in Sunnydale, she suggests that Sunnydale is in a chronic state plague by way of supernatural beings; she blames the witches, monsters, and even slayers for “taking over the town.” In her initial speech in front of the mourning community, Mrs. Summers states that we should “find the person who did this, and [make] them pay.” Because a large number of community members already believe witches to be responsible for the murder of these children, they being finger-pointing almost instantly. The episode depicts just how quickly and effectively rumors and suspicions spread in close-knit communities. At Sunnydale High School, a football team picks on a goth-looking student, and they blame him for the tragedy. Mrs. Summers even orders a raid at the school, and Principal Snyder has all the lockers searched as he scoffs at students’ rights. Because she feels that it is her duty to punish those who have done misdeeds, she assumes the role of a vigilante, as many others in the community are pretending to be as well as they attempt to eradicate the supernatural from Sunnydale. This envisioned elevated position of authority in regards to weeding out members of their own community is similar to witch hunting parties from medieval European witch trials. Giles even mockingly refers to them as “marauders,” as they believe that they are doing good and helping the community heal, when in reality, they are dealing with something far more dangerous than they can imagine.

The chapter that we read from Briggs’s book entitled “Love and Hatred” discussed the complicated role of kinship in witch accusations.  Mrs. Summers and Mrs. Rosenberg are willing to burn both of their daughters at the stake for the good of the community. The suspicion and fear of the mystical “other” reaches its threshold, and the both of them are demonically influenced by “Hansel and Gretel” to eradicate their daughters. This is related to Briggs’s assertion that kinship networks in medieval Europe aren’t what we expect from them today. Contemporarily, we expect family to be loving and trusting, but in medieval Europe, kinship networks were much more strained. There were tensions between husbands and wives, as well as between parents and children as this was not a time of romance and familial love. Briggs asserts that accusations from within the household were very much possible (even likely!), and we see this illustrated in this episode of Buffy.

 

The Puppet Show (1×09)

“The Puppet Show” follows Sid, a demon hunter cursed to be a puppet until he kills the last of the Brotherhood of Seven (demons that harvest hearts and brains, like the one wrecking havoc at Sunnydale). After many strange murders surround the events of Sunnydale’s Talent Show, the demon-killer is revealed to be Marc, the unsuccessful magician. In the final moments of the episode, Sid performs his last kill, and is finally allowed to die poetically in Buffy’s arms.

Prior to the murderous incidents, the new principal, Principal Snyder, voices suspicion to Giles of something wrong with the current state of Sunnydale. He cites the spontaneous cheerleader combustion and one too many suicides recently as his evidence for believing this. His prime suspects in the “weirdness” are Buffy, Xander, and Willow; he accuses them of being up to something, and forces them to get involved in the talent show. He then promptly states his goal to make Sunnydale safer and more disciplined, or, in his words, “orderly, clean, and quiet.” The accusation (given the little evidence of actual involvement) of Buffy and Co. is analogous to those faced by the victims of medieval European witch hunts.

I Robot, You Jane (1×08)

One(or more) gif(s) per episode | Buffy - 1x08 - “I Robot - You Jane”

The prologue of “I Robot, You Jane” is set in Italy in the Dark Ages, during which several priests successfully trap a demon named Moloch “the Corruptor” in a book using a particular ritual. Prior to the successful defeat of this demon, one priest comments on the fact that a susceptible young man “[has] fallen under his mesmerizing power.” In the present (err, 1997), Buffy becomes increasingly suspicious of the unknown (and faceless) “Malcolm,” who is interacting with a naive Willow over the ever-dangerous (and still relatively new) Internet. Buffy claims that her “spider sense” is tingling, and she cites it as a reason to believe that something isn’t right with Malcolm.

“Malcolm” is later revealed to be the demon Moloch, who escaped his book-prison, and he is wrecking havoc over cyberspace. Moloch’s targets are all particularly defenseless people: Willow, Dave, and Fritze. This is analogous to those who were accused of witchcraft during medieval European witch trials. In addition to the fact that they often deviated from social normalcy, they were also often vulnerable, exposed, and extremely easy to isolate, just like the three characters that Moloch targets in this episode.

Angel (1×07)

One(or more) gif(s) per episode | Buffy - 1x07 - “Angel”

This episode was different from those preceding it. It didn’t involve an imposing, villainous, supernatural creature threatening to attack Sunnydale and Buffy and co. stopping it at the last possible moment. Instead, it was focused on the mysterious stranger named Angel, and how he is actually a vampire (*gasp*)! Throughout the course of the episode and various conversations with Darla, we learn that Angel is a vampire cursed with a soul. Typically, the demon that makes a vampire what they are takes over the body and removes the soul. However, Angel’s soul was restored after a terribly fateful incident, and it is his curse to live with his actions and care.

Thus, Angel resists his existence as a treacherous vampire. He doesn’t kill or feed, and he refuses to accept his status (despite Darla’s temptations). He admits that he doesn’t fit in with either the vampires or the humans. This feeling is analogous to that of the victims of witch hunts. The relentless ostracizing makes them feel as though they don’t belong to the community, and (if  innocent) they also don’t feel a connection with the Devil either, leaving them in a curious sphere of “neitherness.”

As a final reminder of Buffy and Angel’s forbidden love, the episode closes with a shot of her cross necklace scorching his rippling chest. How poetic.

 

The Pack (1×06)

One(or more) gif(s) per episode | Buffy - 1x06 - “The Pack”

“The Pack” followed the chronicles of Xander, Kyle, and Kyle’s friends as they get possessed by a pack of hyenas recently shipped from Africa, near the Maasai tribe. I noticed many themes of community exclusion and hyperactive ingroup and outgroup relationships throughout the course of the episode, which run parallel to the suspicion and paranoia present in the medieval European witch hunts.

At the start of the episode (prior to possession), Kyle and his friends pick on Buffy for her lack of friends, but they shortly move on and bully Logan, who seems to be a nice (but slightly geeky) kid. Kyle and his friends act as an overzealous “ingroup,” asserting their right to be a part of the accepted community (high school), and they thrive on victimizing the “outgroup” (Buffy, Logan, etc.) for having characteristics that vary from their understanding of social normalcy. After getting possessed, Xander hangs out more and more with Kyle’s gang, and he begins to distance himself from Willow. As his way of ultimately severing ties with her, Xander tells her he will no longer need her help with math (because he’s dropping it), “which means [he] won’t have to look at [her] pasty face again,” and Kyle’s posse (including Xander at this point) bursts into a laughing fit. Willow is speechless, and she bolts from the scene in embarrassment and confusion. Once again, the “pack” (as per the title of the episode) exemplifies characteristics of the uncontrollable “ingroup” as they tease the less fortunate and assert their dominance and skepticism over those that they perceive to be lesser than themselves.

Never Kill a Boy on the First Date (1×05)

This episode involved many of the same threads that I’ve commented on in previous episodes; there wasn’t much new to explore.

The Master and his minions lurk about in an underground cave, scheming away. This image of a scheming group of supernatural beings is characteristic of the classic medieval image of witches as they consorted with the Devil in a mystical underground lair.

Buffy’s desire to have both a “normal” life and a slaying life is explored once again. She is tested by the convergence of a foreboding prophecy and her date with Owen. After she believes the threat of the prophecy has passed, she goes on a date with Owen, which is interrupted by Angel. As another example of her two lives coming into conflict with another, Buffy attempts to distance Angel from her date with Owen. Shortly after, Buffy is notified that Giles needs her help with a slayer matter, and despite her insistence that he remain where he is, Owen follows Buffy to the funeral home, where imminent danger lurks. As a form of a light humor, Giles comments on Owen’s presence, insisting that when he said Buffy could slay vampires and have a social life, he didn’t mean at the same time.

Following the climax of the episode, Owen remains excited about the prospect of more dangerous fights. Buffy then chooses to give up any potential for a further relationship with Owen to protect him, illustrating the responsibility and understanding of sacrifice she has begun to take on as the slayer.

Teacher’s Pet (1×04)

“Miss French”‘s arrival is suspicious from the beginning, as she is chosen as the substitute teacher following the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Gregory, the high school science teacher. All of her mannerisms are seductive and alluring, and all the boys in Buffy’s class seem to be head-over-heels attracted to her, even seeking to spend extra time with her working on an otherwise lame science fair demonstration. Even Giles finds her “well-proportioned.” As it is revealed in the episode, Miss French is really a “she mantis” or a “virgin thief,” as she lures young virgin boys into her chambers and forces them to mate with her; when finished, she decapitates them. Her manipulative ways and malicious intentions are similar to the preconceived beliefs that people in 15th century Europe had of the accused “witches.” She also engages in sexual relations in a very specific manner, which I thought was similar to the medieval European notion that “witches” were sexually involved/promiscuous with the Devil, who, in exchange, had granted them their power.