Summers, Buffy

Summers, Buffy

(pop culture)

Buffy Summers is the vampire slayer who was the main protagonist of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie (1992) and television series, which lasted for seven seasons, five on the WB Network (1997–2001) and two in the UPN Network (2001–2003). She has subsequently appeared in season eight, the continuing story of her post-television years in comic book form.

Buffy was born Buffy Anne Summers, in California, on (according to her tombstone) January 19, 1981, the daughter of Hank and Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland). Little is known of her life prior to her entering Hemery High School in Los Angeles where she became a cheerleader and was eventually named both Prom Princess and Fiesta Queen.

During her first year at Hemery, Buffy (Kristy Swanson) was approached by a man named Merrick (Donald Sutherland), who informed her that she was the “chosen one,” the new slayer of vampires; he was sent to be her watcher and to train her. She reluctantly began to accept her role. Eventually, she was forced to square off against Lothos (Rutger Hauer), the main vampire in town. She was able to kill him, but their confrontation led to a fire that consumed the high school gym. In the wake of the fire, Buffy was expelled and her parents separated. Buffy moved with her mother, a dealer in exotic art, to Sunnydale, California, where she tried to begin a new life as a sophomore at the local high school.

The television series took up the story with Buffy (now portrayed by Sarah Michelle Geller) beginning her sophomore year at Sunnydale High School. She soon became aware of people dying in ways that she recognized. She also met Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), the school’s librarian, whose job provided cover for his real role as Buffy’s watcher. Over the next years, he trained and mentored her. She made two new friends, Willow Rosenberg (Allison Hannigan) and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon), neither in the “in” crowd. Willow would become Buffy’s best friend, and later use her computer skills and magical talents to assist Buffy in her slaying activities. Buffy was invited into the circle of beautiful people led by Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), but chose to keep her friendships with Willow and Xander. Cordelia soon learned the truth about vampires and demons firsthand, and was brought into the inner circle somewhat against her wishes.

The kids from the high school gathered at the Bronze, the local nightclub for teens. An encounter with vampires outside the club occasioned Buffy meeting Angel (David Boreancz), a good guy vampire, with whom she fell in love. During the second season, she lost her virginity to him. He, however, existed under a curse. Vampires are normally soulless revenants, but Angel had been given his soul, and with it, a conscience. The curse is that should he experience a moment of true happiness, as occurred making love to Buffy, he would lose his soul. He transformed into his vicious former self, Angelus, and Buffy was forced to send him to hell. By this time, Buffy had already experienced death, if only for a few minutes, and her death triggered the emergence of her successor, Kendra (Bianca Lawson). Kendra’s relatively brief career as a slayer led to the appearance of Faith (Eliza Dushku).

Buffy fought a series of vampires and demons, the first major one being the Master, who killed her at the end of season one. Gradually, a set of continuing vampire antagonists would emerge, most notably Darla (Julie Benz), Spike (James Marsters) and Drusilla (Juliet Landau).

Buffy’s high school years would culminate in a monumental battle at Sunnydale High School in which the forces of evil organized around Sunnydale’s mayor (Harry Groener), who had allied with Faith, who had become a rogue slayer. The battle ended with the mayor’s death and the high school being blown up. After the victory, Angel departed to Los Angeles to begin a new life away from Buffy. Cordelia followed him and soon joined his supernatural detective agency.

Buffy and her Sunnydale cohorts, affectionately called the Scooby Gang (a reference to the group of cartoon character teenagers who solve crimes with their dog, Scooby Doo) continued to fight the evil that seemed to be focused on Sunnydale, which is set upon the Hellmouth, the entranceway to the hell realm. In the absence of Angel, Buffy developed a relationship with Riley Finn (Marc Blucas), a soldier who worked with the Initiative, a secret government project that was attempting to respond to the presence of vampires and demons. She cooperated with the Initiative for a short time, but learned that it had created a dangerous experimental Frankenstein-like entity, Adam (George Hertzberg), who was a bigger threat than anything the Initiative was opposing. Using Willow’s developing magical powers, Buffy united her resources to take him down.

Buffy began season five with an encounter with Dracula, with whom she exchanges blood, before destroying him in the typical tongue-in-cheek style that had come to characterize her. The next morning, Buffy awakened to find that she had a sister, Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) and that all of her friends had been given the memories of her life as if she had been in the Summers’s home all along. Much of season five was spent battling Glory (Clare Kramer), a deity from the hell dimension who was searching for the Key, a mystical artifact that would break down the barriers separating the different dimensions and allow her to return and reign in her own dimension, at a significant cost to the earthly dimension. Buffy finally figured out that Dawn was the Key. Her attempt to understand the nature of Dawn and to protect her led her to embrace the fact that “death is her gift.” At the end of season five, Buffy sacrifices herself to save Dawn (and the world) from Glory’s attempt to destroy the separate dimensions.

Early in season six, Buffy was brought back to life by her friend Willow by working a magical spell. Because of their knowledge of Angel, Willow and Xander believed Buffy was in the hell dimension. But she was actually in a heavenly place, which she did not want to leave. In the despair and alienation following her resurrection, she began to develop a relationship with Spike. The evil vampire had been tamed by the Initiative who placed a chip in his head that prevented him from harming any human. The intense sexual relationship that develops between Buffy and Spike, often violent, was fueled by Spike’s attempt to replace Angel in Buffy’s heart. When his love was rebuffed, he attempted to rape her. Their relationship destroyed, he left town to do what was necessary to make himself acceptable to her. Meanwhile, Willow, who had realized that she was a lesbian and had developed a relationship with Tara (Amber Benson), goes through a period of fighting her addiction to magic. But, as Willow’s magical prowess had increased, Tara was killed during an unsucessful attempt to kill Buffy. Willow’s grief sent her into a dark period that culminated in her threat to destroy the world with her powers. Ultimately, Xander brought Willow back from the brink.

Buffy began season seven with a new more positive outlook—for Dawn’s sake. Buffy now has to face her greatest enemy yet, the First Evil. The fight would in the end focus on the Hellmouth, with a horde of vampires attempting to move through the opening to return to control of the earth dimension. In this final battle, Buffy was joined by Faith (who had found some redemption through Angel’s efforts) and Spike, who has regained his soul and returned to win Buffy’s trust and love. Of the old gang, only Giles was missing, as he had returned to his native England. Most importantly, she was joined by a number of potential slayers-in-training whom she nurtured and with whom she shared her powers.

In the final episode, like the Spartans at Thermopylae, she led the small Scooby Gang, now bolstered with the new cadre of slayers, against a massive wave of vampires who rose up through the Hellmouth. They won the battle, but at the cost of the town of Sunnydale (i.e. Santa Barbara, California). The key to their success was Spike, who wore a magical amulet and incinerated himself in a process that destroyed the attacking vampires and closed the Hellmouth. Before he died, Buffy professed her love for him. He knew he did not have her love, but had won her respect.

After the end of the television show, Spike re-emerged as a spirit creature on the spin-off television show Angel. After he recoved a body, the two searched for Buffy and at one point saw her from a distance, in Rome.

Throughout the run of the television show, Dark Horse Comics had published a comic book that included both adaptations of story lines from the series and completely new stories. That series went on to become the second longest running English-language vampire comic book (surpassed only by Vampirella). But the comic only survived for a short time after the discontinuation of the television show. Then in 2007, Dark Horse, in cooperation with Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, began issuing a new comic book that officially constitutes season eight of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In this new comic books series (which continues to appear as this encyclopedia goes to press), Buffy has emerged as the head of a command center in Scotland that is the nexus of an international anti-vampire and demon organization. Of her former close associates, she has contact with Xander, who is in Scotland with her and Giles, who is in England. Willow has continued to emerge as an ever more powerful magical force, and the slayers who survived the battle in Sunnydale are scattered around Europe and North America.

The destruction of Sunnydale did not go unnoticed, and government authorities now brand Buffy and her associates as a terrorist organization. Buffy’s real enemy however is Twilight, a person who wants to destroy Buffy and the new legion of slayer as a threat to humanity. Those loyal to Twilight include the witch Amy Madison (a former classmate of Buffy’s from Sunnydale, portrayed by Elizabeth Anne Allen), and her former boyfriend, Riley Finn.

Buffy became one of the most popular and influential characters in the popular culture community focused on vampires, and has inspired a number of vampire slayer characters in more recent books, movies, and television shows. Joss Whedon indicated that he created Buffy in reaction to the popular stereotype of the dim-witted female victim in teen-oriented horror movies. Buffy emerged as both attractive and believable. As the show became successful, Sarah Michelle Geller’s image graced the covers of numerous fan magazines and appeared on a spectrum of paraphernalia from lunch boxes to cell phone covers, to clothing and jewelry. Meanwhile, the character became the subject of intense scholarly scrutiny.

Sources:

Durand, Kevin K., ed. Buffy Meets the Academy: Essays on the Episodes and Scripts as Texts. Jeffersonville, NC: McFarland & Company, 2009.
Golden, Christopher, and Nancy Holder. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide. New York: Pocket Books, 1998. 298 pp.
Golden, Christopher, Stephen R. Bissette, and Thomas E. Sniegoski. Buffy the Vampire Slayer:The Monster Book. New York: Pocket Books, 2000. 370 pp.
Holder, Nancy, with Jeff Mariotte and Maryelizabeth Hart. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide. Vol. 2. New York: Pocket Books, 2000. 472 pp.
Ruditis, Paul. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide. Vol. 3. New York: Simon Spotlight, 2004. 359 pp.
Stafford, Nikki. Bite Me! The Unofficial Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Toronto: ECW Press, 2007. 397 pp.
Topping, Keith. The Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” London: Virgin, 2004. 704 pp.
Wilcox, Rhonda V., and David Lavery, eds. Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2002. 290 pp.
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A classmate speaking to Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer