Welcome back to the Hellmouth, gentle viewers! It’s Friday, it’s a holiday weekend, and it’s time to get sexy.
This post contains spoilers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and may include spoilers for their comic book continuations.
It’s no secret that “sex has consequences” is one of the biggest themes of Joss Whedon’s Buffyverse. From mystical pregnancies to unleashing the real Angelus, the show is often more likely to show something awful happening after a character gets jiggy than not. Today we’re going to look at some of those consequences.
Lesson One: If You Have Sex, You Will Get Pregnant and Die.
…after spawning a horde of baby-demons, that is.
Cordelia goes out with a great guy, takes him home, and wakes up eight months pregnant with demon spawn. You can’t make a message much clearer than that. No sex on the first date, guys. Bad. Baddy-bad-bad-bad.
Is the message here that one night stands are bad? Be careful who you date? If it’s Xander we’re talking about, maybe you should give all your dates a full FBI background check just to make sure they’re not demons. And let’s not forget that Cordelia having sex with Connor is what prompted the birth of Jasmine. As much as I love Gina Torres, that maggoty face thing she had going on was rather…unsavory.
Lesson Two: Having Sex With Someone Might Make Them Turn Evil
Especially if you’re doing it for the first time ever.
Buffy and Angel do it? He becomes Angelus and goes on a killing spree across Sunnydale. Buffy has a one-night stand with Parker? He’s the quintessential player and tells her to hate the game. Xander does it with Faith? She conveniently forgets to employ a safe word and almost chokes him to death.
And let’s not forget how Willow kissing Kennedy literally turned her into Tara’s killer.
And in the comics when Buffy and Angel go at it? They spawn a whole other universe and unleash hell on earth. How’s that for a consequence? “You can stay here and bang…or you can go save humanity. Love and kisses!”
The point here is that you should be very, very careful who you sleep with. See above re: FBI background checks.
Lesson Three: Too Much Sex Feeds Poltergeists
So Buffy and Riley are in a nice, committed relationship. They’re happy, they’re frisky, and they start doing it and doing it and doing it well. (Sorry about that reference.)
The problem is, Riley’s Initiative frat house has a poltergeist made of the souls of a bunch of sexually repressed children who start tormenting the rest of the people in the house when they get a taste of Buffy and Riley’s sexy-time mojo, natch.
From making a girl cut off her beautiful auburn curls (I die a little each time I see that) to a spot on a wall that gives you an orgasm, the house starts going just a little bit bonkers. It feeds off of Buffy and Riley. If it weren’t for Xander and Anya wading through a literal sea of attack vines, they’d probably just bang themselves to death.
I suppose there are worse ways to go out.
Anyway. The point? Too much sex is bad. But also teaching kids to be ashamed of sex is bad, because they might become vengeful spirits and try to drown you in a bathtub.
Lesson Four: Using People is Bad
I’m at the front of the line of people who believe Spike and Buffy belong together. But I’ll also be the first to admit that their sexual relationship begins in a way that is less than healthy.
The biggest reason for that thought process in my mind is that Buffy chooses someone who represents everything she hates. Regardless of how her feelings for him change later, that’s not the best way to begin a relationship. The consequences here are mostly emotional, on the part of both characters. Buffy hates herself and takes it out on Spike. Spike conflates their sexual relationship for love. Everyone ends up a big, soggy mess.
All that said, there ARE a couple examples of sex gone right in Sunnydale and LA. So let’s look at those.
Example One: Committed Relationship + Love = Sexy Green Light
Willow and Oz are able to have sex without unleashing doom on Sunnydale. When they first do it, it’s a mutual decision with a lot of forethought (and one very awkward false start involving VHS tapes and Barry White). But they’re together. They’re committed. And they love each other. Somehow this equation allows them to bypass the curse of the Buffyverse sexy times.
In fact, Willow’s able to have two healthy sexual relationships on the show. She and Tara have a beautiful relationship together.
The other example of this equation for healthy sex is probably Xander and Anya. Even if they start out rather unconventionally, they stick together.
Doom Prophylactic #1: only have sex with committed partners.
Example Two: Same Species + Attraction = Safe
As a general rule, the couples on Buffy that are the same species are able to avoid major sexual consequences. Fred and Gunn, Spike and Drusilla, Buffy and Riley (as long as they come up for air now and then), Willow and Tara. I’ll let you decide if Oz is human or not.
Maybe the rule should be “don’t bang vampires,” or “test people for demony-vibes.” Either way, it’s pretty safe as long as you keep it in the realm of your own taxonomy.
Doom Prophylactic #2: date within your species.
The moral of these stories is that if you pick someone in your species and have a loving, committed relationship with them, you can pretty much have sex with impunity.
Well, whaddya know? That’s pretty much like the real world. As fun as one-nighters can be, I think we can all admit they pose a higher risk factor (though I can hear your thoughts right now: “But that’s part of the fun!”).
That’s about all I’ve got for now. As far as themes go on the show, this is always one of the more obvious, and one of the most fun to dissect. One of the best things about the Buffyverse is seeing human stories play out through the shows’ supernatural lens, and the portrayal of sex is no different. How many of us have experienced some sort of sexual doom, albeit not as severe as unleashing a serial killer? (I certainly hope, anyway.)
What are your favorite sexy dooms in the Buffyverse?
Welcome to the Hellmouth, would you like to try a combo meal?
This here post will contain spoilers.
It’s impossible to talk about the villains of Buffy without discussing Angelus. Of all the show’s Big Bads, Angelus is is the one that never goes away. While the Master and Adam and Glory all go the way of the very dead dodo, Angelus is always there inside Angel. He doesn’t go away. So let’s explore this character and what gives him the power he has.
Angel was born human in the 1700s and turned into a vampire by Darla when he was in his mid 20s. After that, he quickly became one of the biggest, baddest vampires in all the land. He and Darla cut a swathe through Europe and left a trail of bodies behind them. He formed a design on a young seer woman called Drusilla, torturing her family and tormenting her until she fled to a convent — where he then massacred every other nun around her the day she was supposed to take her holy orders. He drove her insane, then turned her into a vampire. Drusilla then turned William, a young English poet in love with a socialite above his “level” in society. William became Spike, and the four of those crazy kids left a trail of blood across the world.
Until Angelus, you know, picked the wrong victim. He killed a young Roma woman, and her tribe cursed him with the one thing they thought would cause him to truly suffer: a soul.
While most vampires in the Buffyverse maintain a certain element of their humanity, Angelus did not. The other evils of the world even remarked on the purity of his nastiness. So much so that the First Evil wanted him on its team. But after his soul was returned, Angelus became someone else. And lost the crappy Irish accent. (Sorry, David Boreanaz.)
Angel as Angelus
When we first meet Angel, he’s a sort of broody, stalky type who hides in the shadows and looks handsome whilst doling out cryptic remarks. Throughout the first and second seasons, his relationship with Buffy develops into love until they consummate their union. Because fun fact: a soul curse is only good if you stay miserable. The second Angel experiences perfect happiness, POOF. He zaps back into sadistic-killer mode.
Bit of an oversight on the part of the curser, no?
Angel’s flip to Angelus is a whole gumbo of allegory, from the very basic “guy changes after getting sex” to the supernatural lens imposed on a less-than-ideal first sexual experience. But with Angelus, it always felt like more than that to me. Angelus’ first interaction with Buffy once he’s back in charge is not violent. It is, to quote The Princess Bride, NOT to the death. It’s to the pain. He deliberately causes her emotional anguish.
Angelus sets about tormenting Buffy and her friends, killing Willow’s goldfish and murdering Jenny Calendar. That moment, every time I watch it, is a picture of the finality of death. He breaks her and then uses her body to manipulate and terrify Giles.
Angelus as an Archetype
I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about this character. And the conclusion I came to is probably not hugely popular. I look at Angel as an abuser. He goes through the honeymoon phase, where everything is full of blood and peaches. But then something makes him snap, and when he snaps, he becomes a tornado of pain and devastation. When he’s done, he feels really bad about it, and it’s back to the honeymoon phase. The cycles of his character are, to me, very archetypical of an abuser. Some people see Angel and Angelus as two distinct people, but I’ve never really subscribed to that. Angelus is always present within Angel. Angel even acknowledges this constant struggle, because as we see in his spinoff series, the demon inside him is a discrete entity even from Angelus.
It must be crowded in there.
It’s no secret that I’ve never considered Angel a good mate for Buffy. The biggest reason for that is Angelus. He’s always there, just beneath the surface. While Spike’s shift through the moral spectrum is organic (albeit in many cases, self-serving), Angelus was restrained only because of an external impetus. And there is always the possibility that he will reemerge. And while Angelus is a single-minded evil being, his “humanized” side still perpetrates some pretty atrocious acts (like siccing Darla and Drusilla on a wine cellar full of lawyers, not to mention his actions in the continuation of his story in the comics).
Angelus is a villain who can only be contained, and even his “good” counterpart makes morally abominable decisions on a regular basis. I could probably write a book dissecting this character more, but instead, I’ll leave you with an Angelus quote from the season two episode “Passion.”
“Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping … waiting … and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir … open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us … guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love … the clarity of hatred … the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we’d be truly dead.”
What do you think about Angel/Angelus? Does the fact that his soul was forced upon him negate or cheapen the good things he does? Is there any avenue to believe that without that magical muzzle he would have taken those steps himself? Do you see Angel and Angelus as two separate people or one man warring with his own darkness?
Sixteen years ago today, Buffy’s first episode aired.
I didn’t have a television for most of the time the series was on, but I still remember the summer I first got into it. I’d just gotten back from Scotland and moved in with a total and complete Buffy fanatic who was in the middle of a rewatch.
It only took about two episodes, and I was hooked.
So this month, in honor of the sixteenth anniversary of Buffy’s arrival in Sunnydale, I’d like to dedicate my blog to the show that became one of my favorite stories ever told.
Stay tuned this month for plenty of Hellmouth hijinks!