Buffy Summers is a fictional character from Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise. She first appeared in the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, before going on to appear in the television series and subsequent comic book of the same name. The character has also appeared in the spin-off series Angel, as well as numerous non-canon expanded universe material, such as novels, comics, and video games. Buffy was portrayed by Kristy Swanson in the film, and later by Sarah Michelle Gellar in the television series. Giselle Loren voiced the character in the video games and unproduced animated series.
Buffy is the protagonist of the story, and the series depicts her everyday life as she grows up. In the movie, she is a high school cheerleader who learns that she is the Slayer, a Chosen One gifted with the strength and skills to fight vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness. The television series shows Buffy carrying out her destiny in a small town built atop a portal to hell, surrounded by a group of friends and family who support her in her mission. By the comic book continuation, she is a young woman who has accepted her duties and is now responsible for training others like her.
The character of Buffy was created to subvert the stereotypical female horror movie victim; Whedon wanted to create a strong female cultural icon.
The character of Buffy first appears in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer film (1992), played by Kristy Swanson. The movie, written by Joss Whedon, depicts Buffy as a shallow high school cheerleader who is informed by a man named Merrick (Donald Sutherland) that she has been chosen by fate to battle the undead. Buffy reluctantly undergoes training in her abilities by Merrick, and as her responsibility as the Slayer causes her to become alienated from her valley girl peers, she finds friendship and romance with fellow outcast Pike (Luke Perry). Merrick eventually comes to respect Buffy's rebellious nature, and she defeats vampire king Lothos (Rutger Hauer) by relying on her own comtemporary style as opposed to traditional Slayer conventions. Although this movie is not in continuity with the later television series, in 1999, author Christopher Golden adapted Joss Whedon's original script into a comic book entitled "The Origin", which Whedon later confirmed to be "pretty much" canonical.
Buffy returned in Joss Whedon's television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this time played by Sarah Michelle Gellar for all of the show's 144 episodes. In season one (1997), Buffy begins to accept the responsibilities and dangers of her calling as the Slayer after moving to the small Californian town of Sunnydale. She becomes best friends with Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), and meets her new Watcher, Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head). Together, they form the Scooby Gang, and work together to battle the various supernatural occurences which plague Sunnydale High. In the season finale, Buffy battles the villain known as the Master (Mark Metcalf), and is drowned in the process. She is resuscitated by Xander after Angel is unable to as he "doesn't breathe", and rises to defeat the vampire. In the show's second season (1997–1998), Buffy continues to come to terms with her destiny, finds forbidden love with the benevolent vampire Angel (David Boreanaz), and clashes with new villains Spike (James Marsters) and Drusilla (Juliet Landau). In the episode "Surprise", Buffy loses her virginity to Angel, an event which triggers the loss of his soul and unleashes his evil side, Angelus. His sadistic alter-ego, Angelus, proceeds to subject the characters to mental and physical torture for the remainder of the season. In the final episode of season two, Buffy is forced to reveal her identity as the Slayer to her mother (Kristine Sutherland), and send her boyfriend to hell in order to save the world. She then leaves Sunnydale in the hopes of escaping her life as the Slayer. Season three (1998–1999) sees Buffy reconnect to her calling, her friends, and her family after her departure, as well as make difficult life decisions regarding her relationship with the resurrected Angel. She must also deal with the introduction of rebellious new Slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku), who becomes increasingly destructive and disloyal over the course of the season. In the season finale, Buffy is forced to stab Faith to save Angel's life, and lead her classmates into a climatic battle against the demonic Mayor of Sunnydale (Harry Groener). Angel then leaves Sunnydale in the hopes that Buffy can have a more normal life without him.
In the fourth season (1999–2000), Buffy balances her Slayer duties with her new life as a college student at UC Sunnydale. She experiences some difficulty adjusting to college life, and becomes increasingly disconnected from her friends, who all seem to be moving in different directions. Buffy eventually finds a new love interest in the form of Riley Finn (Marc Blucas), a soldier in the demon-hunting government task force known as the Initiative. She briefly joins forces with Riley's team, until they discover that one the Initiative's experiments, Adam (George Hertzberg), is creating an army of demon-human hybrids. Buffy literally unites with her friends to defeat Adam in a spell which invokes the power of the First Slayer. During Buffy season four, Buffy also appears in the first season of spin-off series Angel (1999–2000), guest starring in the episodes "I Will Remember You" and "Sanctuary". In season five (2000–2001), Buffy battles the hell-goddess Glory (Clare Kramer), and fully embraces her destiny for the first time. A younger sister named Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) mysteriously appears in Buffy's household, her existence having been seamlessly integrated with the memories of the other characters. Buffy suffers emotional turmoil throughout this season, including the realization that Dawn is not actually her sister, the deterioration of her relationship with Riley, and her mother's death from a brain aneurysm. While on a quest to learn more about her nature as the Slayer, Buffy is told that "death is her gift", a message she has difficulty understanding until the episode "The Gift", in which she sacrifices her own life to save Dawn's by diving into Glory's interdimensional portal and closing it.
Season six (2001–2002) depicts Buffy's struggle with depression and loss after being ripped out of Heaven by her friends, who perform a spell to bring her back from the dead. Forced to take a mundane and degrading job slinging burgers at the Doublemeat Palace, she begins suffering from extreme depression and self-loathing, embarking on a violent sexual relationship with the vampire Spike which leaves neither of them satisfied. As the season draws to a close, Buffy is forced to battle her best friend when Willow becomes psychotic with dark magicks and tries to destroy the world to end all pain. After Xander gets through to Willow in the end, Buffy promises to change her self-destructive behavior in order to be there for her sister. In the final season of the show (2002–2003), Buffy develops a new perspective on her destiny, power, and womanhood, when she is confronted with the threat of the First Evil. Buffy becomes a reluctant leader to the Potential Slayers, who are initially respectful of her, but become increasingly more alienated by her tactics and decisions throughout the season. She forms an unexpected friendship with Spike, who has sought out his soul in an effort to prove himself to her. In the show's final episode "Chosen", Buffy shares her power with her fellow Slayers before leading them into an epic battle against an army of Turok-Han vampires. As Spike sacrifices himself to save the world, Buffy confesses her love for him, before escaping Sunnydale's destruction with the surviving characters. Following the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the character maintains a presence in the fifth season of Angel (2003–2004), but does not appear onscreen. In the episode "The Girl in Question", Angel and a resurrected Spike travel to Rome to find her, where they learn that she is now dating the Immortal. Sarah Michelle Gellar was approached to appear as Buffy in Angel's one hundredth episode, but declined, so the character of Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) was used instead.
Between 2001 and 2004, Joss Whedon and Jeph Loeb developed a 4-minute pilot episode for Buffy the Animated Series, which was set during the show's first season. Had the series been picked up by a network, the series would have focused upon Buffy (voiced by Giselle Loren) in more high-school adventures. Following a 2008 leak of the pilot to YouTube, Loeb expressed some hope that the series may be resurrected in some form.
Buffy appears in literature such as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight comic book series and various spin-offs.
As the main character of the franchise, Buffy appears in almost all Buffy the Vampire Slayer literature. This includes a Dark Horse ongoing comic book and a series of novels. Buffy's debut into literature came in the comic Dark Horse Presents 1998 Annual on August 26, 1998, while her first prose appearance was in Halloween Rain by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder on October 5, 1998. Most of these stories occur between episodes and seasons of the television series, however, some are set outside the timeline of the show to explore in depth other areas of Buffy's history. Christopher Golden adapted the film into a comic entitled "The Origin" (1999) which more closely resembles Joss Whedon's original script. In 2003, Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza wrote a Year One-style run on the Buffy comic book series which filled the gap between the film and the first season of the show. These stories explain how Buffy's relationship with Pike ended, as well as fleshing out events alluded to in the television series, such as the time she spent in a mental institution and her parents' divorce. The novel Queen of the Slayers (2005) by Nancy Holder offers a potential follow-up to the television series; set after season seven, it depicts Buffy living in Italy with the morally ambiguous Immortal.
Buffy also makes appearances in literature outside of her own titular series. In the Tales of the Slayers comic one-shot "Broken Bottle of Djinn" (2002) by Doug Petrie and Jane Espenson, Buffy battles a spirit in Sunnydale High, while the Tales of the Vampires comic book story "Antique" (2004) by Drew Goddard sees her breaking into Dracula's castle to rescue Xander from the infamous vampire. Volume II of the similar series of novels Tales of the Slayer (2003) features two stories about Buffy; the character battles a mummified spirit in Todd A. McIntosh's "All That You Do Comes Back Unto Thee", while Jane Espenson's "Again Sunnydale" sees a season six-era Buffy sent back in time to high school, when her mother is still alive but Dawn does not exist.
In 2007, Buffy's story was continued when Joss Whedon resurrected Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a comic book. These comics differ from previous Buffy literature in that they are the official continuation of the television series and are considered canon. In Season Eight, a retcon establishes that Buffy is not living with the Immortal in Rome as previously suggested, but is now the leader of a global organization which recruits and trains Slayers to deal with demonic threats worldwide. However, a mysterious group led by the masked villain Twilight believe that the Slayers themselves are the danger, should they begin to consider themselves superior to mankind. In the story "Wolves at the Gate", Buffy shares a lesbian encounter with fellow Slayer Satsu; however Satsu leaves soon after because she realizes Buffy cannot return her feelings.
Concept and creation
The character of Buffy was conceived by Joss Whedon as a way of subverting the cliché of "the little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie." Whedon stated that "Rhonda the Immortal Waitress" was the first incarnation of Buffy in his head, "the idea of a seemingly insignificant female who in fact turns out to be extraordinary". When asked how he came up with the name of "Buffy", Whedon states "It was the name that I could think of that I could take the least seriously. There is no way you could hear the name Buffy and think, "This is an important person." To juxtapose that with Vampire Slayer, just felt like that kind of thing—a B movie. But a B movie that had something more going on. That was my dream." Whedon claims that the title was criticized for being too silly, and that the television network begged him to change it. He refused, insisting "You don't understand. It has to be this. This is what it is."
Creator Joss Whedon was unsatisfied with the Buffy movie, in which the character was played by Kristy Swanson.
Whedon always intended for the character to become an icon, claiming "I wanted her to be a hero that existed in people's minds the way Wonder Woman or Spider-Man does, you know? I wanted her to be a doll or an action figure. I wanted Barbie with Kung Fu grip! I wanted her to enter the mass consciousness and the imaginations of growing kids because I think she's a cool character, and that was always the plan. I wanted Buffy to be a cultural phenomenon, period." In developing Buffy, Whedon was greatly inspired by Kitty Pryde, a character from the pages of the superhero comic X-Men. He admits, "If there's a bigger influence on Buffy than Kitty, I don't know what it was... She was an adolescent girl finding out she has great power and dealing with it."
According to Whedon, Buffy "had been brewing in [him] for many years" before finally appearing in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie played by Kristy Swanson. However, he was not satisfied with the character's treatment in the film, feeling "that's not quite her. It's a start, but it's not quite the girl." Although Whedon's vision of female empowerment was not as apparent as he would have liked in the 1992 movie, he was given a second chance when Gail Berman approached him with the idea of re-creating it as a television series. Adapting the concept of the movie into a television series, Whedon decided to reinvent the character of Buffy slightly. The shallow cheerleader of the original film had grown more mature and open-minded, identifying with social outcasts such as Willow and Xander, and instead, the character of Cordelia was created to embody what Buffy once was. Early in the television series, make-up supervisor Todd McIntosh was instructed to make Buffy "a soft and sort of earthy character." He gave Gellar a soft, muted green make-up and kept her look very natural. However, it was later decided that this was innappropiate for the character, and that Buffy needed to look more like a valley girl. McIntosh switched her make-up around, giving her frosted eyeshadow and lip colors, bright turquoise and aqua marines, bubblegum colored nails, and bleach-blonde hair, causing the character to "blossom".