Buffy and the Disappearing Vampire

I’m a Buffy girl from way back.

The movie was the spark, but the show was the bomb! The seven-year series was creative, entertaining, enlightening, and sometimes controversial (perhaps one day I’ll post on the Willow-becomes-a-lesbian saga). Some of the storylines were not as strong as others, but there was always a compelling reason to watch the show.

One of the things Joss Whedon did brilliantly was to create the ‘disappearing vampire.’ When Buffy staked it through the heart – or managed some other fantastic kill shot – poof! Dust in the wind.

From a storytelling standpoint, this worked well because:

  1. It kept the gory stuff off main-stream TV in the days before Game of Thrones-type decadence. The sheer number of vampires Buffy would kill in one opening scene would necessitate at least some type of ‘littering’ or ‘public nuisance’ fine if they were all sprawled out behind her.
  2. It spared you from thinking about poor Xander having to ‘dispose’ of all the bodies. I could only imagine he wouldn’t get any lines if he was out all night cleaning up after the Buffsters.
  3. It took out the emphasis on ‘death’ for the vampires. Because the vampires were soulless demons, their deaths did not deserve the same emotional impact that a main character death would have. So why belabour their bodies? Dead is dead for the undead.
  4. Overall, it made the demons more ‘symbolic.’ The vampires and other nasties in the show were only supposed to be the vehicle to help our teenage heroes overcome their emotional, physical, and sometimes intellectual problems. The real challenges were about facing your deepest fears and overcoming the obstacles in your path. Which was why it was so compelling for teenagers and (as we say now) ‘new adults.’ People who were moving past being protected by their parents and into the scary ‘real world.’ Brilliant storytelling.

One of the best episodes, a stand-out stand-alone, was “Hush.” Which featured these guys {shiver}:

the gentlemen

Yeah, you remember. And if you don’t, watch the episode, it’s all about facing your fears. Naturally enough, there’s a creepy poem in a dream sequence:

Can’t even shout.
Can’t even cry.
The Gentlemen are coming by.
Looking in windows,
knocking on doors…
They need to take seven
and they might take yours…
Can’t call to mom.
Can’t say a word.
You’re gonna die screaming
but you won’t be heard.
―Girl in Buffy’s dream

Vampires might go poof, but the things that go bump in our nightmares are much harder to defeat.

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