Friday, March 10 marked the twentieth anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now, I’m talking about the television show, not the feature film. The film was not at all what Joss intended. Lucky for us, we had seven years of Buffy on TV to experience his vision.
(Though in all honesty, I could have done without most of the last season…the potentials nearly ruined everything for me.)
This is not the first time I’ve written of my love of Joss Whedon. From Buffy to The Avengers, I’m a whore for his use of language, for his ability to really get down to the grit of what it’s like to be human. His unique way of looking at the world and our place in it is why there are legions of Whedonites on the planet…and these ‘Big Damn Heroes’ (ain’t we just) helped create a feature film from a canceled television show.
“We did the impossible, and that makes us mighty.”
Celebrating twenty years of Buffy got me thinking about Joss’ shows. I’ve seen the complete series of Buffy more than a handful of times, Firefly possibly eight times (easy to do when it’s only fourteen episodes), and Angel from start to finish twice, and a few more of individual episodes.
There are “definitive ranking” lists out there of all Whedonverse characters, lists broken down by show, and lists of secondary characters. It can be fascinating reading, it can cause great debate, These idiots rate Giles below Adelle DeWitt. (WTF?) And this guy pulled characters out of his bum to create the number 117. (can’t handle the odd number)
In celebrating twenty years of Buffy, I put together my own ranking of Whedonverse characters from Buffy, Angel and Firefly. With a bonus character honorable mention. No ranking other than my own personal affection for the characters.
Here’s my most beloved Joss Whedon characters.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
“The one who sees everything”, Xander truly is the heart of the Scoobies. His honest love and genuine kindness keeps you rooting for him even when he does boneheaded things. Xander is the only Scooby sans superpowers, he doesn’t need them, his quiet strength supports them all. He also has some of the best lines in the entire seven seasons.
I’m a Spuffy shipper x infinity. But even before that story line became a thing, I loved Spike. His brash irreverence. His complete disregard for…well, anything really makes him deliciously fun! Even as a demon without a soul, he still has the heart of a poet, he has a real capacity for love.
Shy and smart, Willow could have been a sad, stereotypical high school nobody. But once she flashed that smile, all bets were off. She really kind of was the audience, if it happened to Willow, or Willow believed it, it happened to us or we believed it. The whole magic as metaphor for being gay seemed acceptable to me, but later when it was a metaphor for addiction, well I feel like that slapped us upside the head. And Willow’s character development in season seven leaves me disappointed.
What if you were the chosen one but didn’t have the love and support of family and friends? Faith tells this story. I love this character. I love her flaws. I love her story of being seduced by the darkness and her decision to seek redemption. Faith never got enough credit for doing the job she never asked for. I think she and Buffy could have really become soul sisters if they kept trying.
The girl with an “inferiority complex about her superiority complex”. Buffy is at once likable, relatable, and ‘every girl’ but she’s also whiny, selfish, and dramatic as all hell. This is actually why she really is all of us. The phrase ‘What Would Buffy Do’ exists for a reason, y’all. I think it’s hard to be the titular character of any work of art, and though she’s a bit annoying, she’s our connection to Sunnydale and we’d be worse off without her.
It’s just funny.
In Sunnydale, Cordy was just a mean girl. But then she began to develop as a character, she became one of the Scoobies she was the voice of the audience asking WTF? and expressing “I don’t see what this has to do with me.” On Angel, the character really came into her own. Cordelia’s arc was a beautiful thing to watch. (we’re going to disregard season 4 here, people) She offered desperately needed sarcasm and her own special brand of heroism.
It ain’t easy being green.
It seems to me that Lorne began as a plot device, (he can read your aura while you sing?) But he became an integral member of ‘Angel Inc’ in his own right. I like how Lorne is the sort of ‘Jiminy Cricket’ of the group. He was quick to question motives and outcomes when it’s clear someone should do. His disillusion in the way Angel goes about ‘fighting the good fight’ is palpable and in it we see he’s lost a bit of himself. His ‘one last thing’ line breaks my heart.
Angel became so much more enjoyable when he got his own show. Less whiny, broody ‘woe is me’ than on Buffy. We got to see Angel’s wry humor and his teeny bit of playfulness. He never stops searching for his redemption however questionable his methods can be.
Fred is more than a damsel in distress. She’s more than a physics whiz. She’s the little sister of Angel Investigations, hence, the little sister of us all. Fred is kind of the Willow of Angel with her gentle ways but fierceness when it comes to fighting for what she believes in.
From start to finish, Gunn went farthest from where he was, yet never really changed who he was. The character as written wouldn’t have been as good or believable without the actor’s nuanced performance. Gunn is one of those guys you want to kick in the head and hug at the same time.
Love how no one takes himself too seriously.
Flawed up one side and down the other, this man never stops trying to what it takes to keep his crew flying. His heart is in the right place though his motives are sometimes…um…curious. Mal is dedicated to the people he loves and doing what is ‘right’ in his own twisted way.
His name may be girlie, but he surely is not. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but you want him on your side in a fight. Keeping him on your side might be a bit trickier. He goes where the most money is. He looks out for number one. Jayne isn’t afraid of saying or doing something stupid, though he’s not always aware that he appears stupid. Yet, when it really matters, he could make the “smart choice” and he really is somewhat lovable.
I’ve written of my love of Wash and Zoe more than once.
Wash ranks above Zoe only because I think he’s funnier than she is.
I love the portrayal of a happily married couple. That isn’t to say that they don’t have their issues, but they share strong genuine love and humor.
When it comes to River, we start with questions and are left with questions. She is something to watch though, her chronic confusion and brief moments of lucidity are absolutely beautiful. I especially love the scene in Shindig where she dresses down Badger and then says, “Call me if anyone interesting shows up.” over her shoulder as she walks away.
Kaylee is voice of optimism and love aboard Serenity. She keeps her flying even when the “catalyzer on the port compression coil blew”. She is the light they need on that ship, she is the heart of the crew. Nothing in the ‘vers can keep our Kaylee from being cheerful.
We should all have this much fun at work.
The neural science genius of the LA Dollhouse, Topher is as self-centered and glib as your average middle schooler. He’s completely amoral and arrogant and cares nothing for the humanity of the people he helps program. However one might question his morals and actions, he’s a delight to watch.
This comment from Adelle sums up Topher perfectly.
“The cold reality is that everyone here was chosen because their morals have been compromised in some way. Everyone, except you. You, Topher, were chosen because you had no morals. You have always thought of people as playthings. This is not a judgment. You’ve always taken very good care of your toys, but you’re simply going to have to let this one go.”
Thanks, Joss, for all these outstanding characters. Thanks to the team of writers who follow Joss into the fray. Thanks to the actors who brought these characters to life, they would be nothing without you. If you’re not a Whedonite, that’s OK…you have time. If you’ve never seen any of these shows, you’re in luck! They’re all on Netflix. Check them out!
If you are a fan, I’d love to hear your thoughts on your favorite Whedon characters. Let me know in the comments.