Buffy 2×05: Reptile Boy

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: David Greenwalt | Director: David Greenwalt | Aired: 10/13/1997]

“Reptile Boy” can be summed up quite nicely by Xander: “Okay, so tonight: Channel 59, Indian TV, sex, lies, incomprehensible story lines.” Or how about Buffy’s “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea”? No? Well, there’s always Giles’ “Yes, and you were very nearly devoured by a giant demon snake. The words ‘let that be a lesson’ are a tad redundant at this juncture.”

Okay, okay, those quotes aren’t entirely representative of what “Reptile Boy” has to offer, but it’s still another rocky Season 2 entry. “Reptile Boy” very much feels like a companion piece to “Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04]: similar flaws, similar themes, and the continuation of Buffy’s character arc this season. Even more so than the previous episode, though, “Reptile Boy” eventually starts to feel like a giant Public Service Announcement (PSA) about the dangers of underage drinking. Add in the ridiculous snake monster at the end and the viewer is simply done. It’s all yet another example of Season 2’s early struggles to consistently handle its themes with the right amount of subtlety.

Despite its frequent lapse of subtext, there are some relevant aspects of Buffy that are explored. The biggest area of interest is Buffy’s growing sexual fantasies about Angel, which are getting so strong that she’s starting to get a bit lost in him — or at least the image of him that she has constructed in her mind. In an early conversation with Willow she even admits to having dreamt about him for the “third night in a row” and that “stuff” happened (ha). Buffy adds, “I’m just thinking about him so much lately”, even admitting “I’m brainsick. I can’t have a relationship with him.”

Angel warns her as well about the danger of things heating up between them when he says, “This isn’t some fairy tale. When I kiss you, you don’t wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after.” On some level Buffy is aware that this relationship will end, and it will be painful, yet she can’t seem to put a stop to it before it passes the point of no return. Angel spells out that there will be no happy ending with him, and that things could get out of control. Buffy’s response? “Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?” Oh, Buffy, no. Not in relationships that are healthy and last. Buffy has some very naïve notions of what a great relationship looks like, which likely stems from a lack good role models and an absent father. To Buffy’s credit, though, her experiences this season will result in significant personal growth.

Everything about “Reptile Boy” is coated in sexuality — as we’ve come to expect out of Season 2 — but no more so than in the verbal fight scene between her and Angel that culminates in what seems like a ridiculously over-the-top line out of Buffy: “When you kiss me I want to die.” Taken literally, this comment doesn’t make a lot of sense unless Angel’s kisses are so incredibly torturous that Buffy can no longer bear the pain of it all. Heh. Looking at the quote metaphorically, though, reveals a strong thematic meaning. Per Wikipedia: “La petite mort, French for ‘the little death’, is an idiom and euphemism for orgasm.” In simple terms, kissing Angel really turns her on! There’s also a neat connection to “Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04] here: Ampata was sucking the life out of people with her kiss — a literal kiss of death. Hmm…

“Reptile Boy” continues the sexual undertones by showcasing fraternity boys abusing and mocking young women, Cordelia thinking the best way to get a man is to laugh at everything he says, and a very phallic snake demon. And what’s Buffy’s response to all of this? Oh, just chopping off the head of the phallic symbol. Nah, Season 2 doesn’t have sex on its mind at all. One thing you can’t fault Season 2 for is a lack of thematic focus, that’s for sure!

“Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04] spent a decent bit of time on the themes of sacrifice and duty, which are both nicely carried over into the plot of “Reptile Boy” through Giles’ increasingly restrictive demands on Buffy’s life. Giles tries to make his argument more compelling by stating that not having much of a social life is kind of liberating — you know your purpose and don’t have to work to figure it out like everyone else. There’s a freeing quality in that, no doubt, but it’s not something that comforts 16 year-old Buffy right now. In a last ditch attempt to convey the importance of her duty, he goes overboard by demanding she train even harder when things are quiet and minimize contact with her friends. No wonder why Giles will be so excited when Kendra comes to town. Giles clearly still has a lot to learn about Buffy, and that some of the things he sees as flaws may actually be strengths. This is not to say that he’s always wrong, because he often makes some excellent points that Buffy would be wise to consider.

Thanks to Giles pushing too hard, Buffy takes her understandable frustration as a license to act out and do something she thinks is mature but is actually quite childish and selfish. This kind of thought is very common among adolescents. It’s also something shared by the villains of these last couple episodes. Notice how Ampata was the Inca Mummy Girl and not the Inca Mummy Woman? The same goes for Reptile Boy rather than Reptile Man. The actions of Ampata and Tom are not those of mature women and men, but those of adolescent girls and boys, which is the mind-space the Scoobies are in right now. This is why Buffy agrees to go with Cordelia to a college fraternity party. The look on Buffy’s face at what she’s agreed to is one of shock — probably more shock than Cordelia even expressed. Buffy’s in a defiant mood, but she’s also scared to go and knows this party is not a good place for her to be.

When Buffy’s first introduced to the two college guys, her reaction in interesting. The first guy hits on her directly, which is a total turn-off. But the other guy, Tom, is a little more smooth. He makes fun of the other guy, has a joke up his sleeve, and is put together a little more modestly. This package is more attractive to Buffy, which is why she takes off her sunglasses and is willing to share a conversation with him. You know who Tom reminds me of though? Parker in Season 4. Young Buffy can be susceptible to the guy who appears to make an effort. These guys tend to show who they really are in time, which is a reminder of how important patience and non-sexual interaction are in the early stages of getting to know someone. Patience, unfortunately, is not a quality Buffy is generally known for, which will get her into trouble at times.

“Reptile Boy” holds itself together decently until the focus shifts to the fraternity party Buffy and Cordelia go to. At this point we almost immediately see our good friend Peer Pressure make an unwelcome appearance. The script even has Cordelia uttering a cliché of teen show phrases: “Come on Buffy, it’s just a smidge [of alcohol].” Richard then follows that up by trying to make Buffy feel inferior for not being into “grown up things.” I do enjoy how Buffy keeps picking up the drink and putting it back down, trying to work through all the competing thoughts in her head. As this is happening, the soundtrack at the party switches to a new song that opens with “Bend and I’ll break you,” which is a nice touch.

As a side note, anytime someone tells you that you’re “too mature,” it’s probably best to politely walk away from them. I’ve heard that line before myself. The response that lives in my head? “Oh, okay then, so I guess I should immediately run off and do something dumb! Now that will certainly bring my life more joy. *Does the Jerry Seinfeld epic eye roll*”

Obviously in a non-supernatural show Buffy getting drugged like this would have likely led to rape (and almost did anyway). What these boys are doing is barely even masked in metaphor, which is an approach that rarely works for a low budget fantasy show. While the ultimate messages and display of consequences are positive, the lack of subtext is more likely to generate eye rolls than improved decision making in the audience.

Perhaps the most subtle aspect of “Reptile Boy” is the role Tom plays in it. When we think of the title, “Reptile Boy”, we’re supposed to point at the rather obvious (and silly-looking) snake man. But, in reality, it’s really in reference to Tom — a guy whose words are very deceptive, like a snake. He represents the most dangerous kind of evil: charming, smooth, and attractive. The chained up girl is completely right: “he’s the one you have to watch out for.” This was done well.

This entire experience has at least a temporary effect on Buffy’s advances on Angel. We learn about this through Cordelia, who earlier was going off about how college guys are the best but has suddenly changed her tune by the end: “Younger men are the only way to go.” When Angel finally offers Buffy a coffee date, she pauses before saying, “Yeah, I’ll let you know.” Buffy has, for now, regained control of her sexual impulses, but they aren’t one to sit idly for very long. It was also nice to see both Angel and Giles lay off a bit of the stress they’ve put on Buffy as of late. After all, it’s Buffy’s connections to the world that contribute to her strength.

It’s clear that “Reptile Boy” has a respectable amount of depth, but most of it is conveyed in a heavy-handed manner that stifles it. Additionally, the plot is pretty much a snooze and the emotional stakes are minor. I like how “Reptile Boy” fits into the season thematically, but it’s another episode that’s just not all that exciting, particularly in its second half. This is definitely not a good episode, but I can’t casually disregard it either, which is pretty much the same boat I was in with “Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04]. Thankfully, this won’t be a problem soon. “Halloween” [2×06] is next!


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Cute opening scene with Buffy, Willow, and Xander chilling out together.
+ Buffy’s training sequences with Giles always amuse.
+ Giles play-acting a swordfight. Oh Giles.
+ Angel pulls a Xander in the way he reacts to her attempt to coax him into a date. He speaks for her, saying, “You don’t know what you want.” Although Angel’s not wrong for showing apprehension about their future together, he goes about showing it in the worst way possible. Additionally, he’s a hypocrite, because he feels exactly the same way about her.
+ A poster in the hallway saying, “Not all people who drive drunk die,” with a picture of a guy who looks like a zombie on it.
+ For all of Cordelia’s attempts at making herself appealing to a college guy, they pretty much just brush her off for Buffy. You can see that Cordelia’s actually hurt by getting treated like a piece of meat.
+ Willow freaking out over having to tell Giles and Angel that Buffy is at the frat party, but then turning it around as an indictment on the two of them for giving her such a hard time. Awesome scene. Willow’s starting to stand up for her opinions more, which is great to see and is a nice setup to her experience in “Halloween” [2×06].
+ David Boreanaz’s stiff acting is still a problem.
+ I can totally see Xander following Buffy to the party to watch out for her, but the episode puts him through a series of hammy sequences that are really stupid.


* Cordelia pokes fun at Xander by essentially saying that his college prospects amount to ‘pizza delivery’. Ouch, but you know what? That’s kind of… exactly what happens. Cordelia may lack tact, but that doesn’t mean she’s wrong.
* The banter between Cordelia and Xander is beginning to heat up. We know where they’re headed…




85 thoughts on “Buffy 2×05: Reptile Boy”

  1. [Note: Nina posted this comment on June 21, 2007.]

    what really makes this episode is probably Will shes just soooo confident when she tells angel and giles off. and the quotes inbween buffy and angel “when you kiss me i wanna die” THATS JUST whoaaaaa! i felt that!

    -great episode!


  2. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 10, 2007.]

    This is a very enjoyable episode. Not the best of the series, of course but very funny due to the character interaction and dialogue. But what I like most about this episode is Cordelia. God, everytime I watch her the more I like her. She is very funny and her interaction with the Scoobies is also cool.
    One more thing, I find it funny when Cordelia tells Buffy that spandex is one of her trademarks and in the next episode Xander says that he prefers his women in spandex. I like to think of it as a subtle foreshadowing of their future.


  3. [Note: Andrew posted this comment on January 6, 2008.]

    The particular thing-that-happens-at-the-frat-party (i.e. the Reptile Monster) is a bit lame. Not the lamest we’ve ever seen, mind you; at least it beats Giant Praying Mantis Woman.

    Willow’s telling off of Giles and Angel is easily the high moment of the episode.

    I actually thought the final action sequence was pretty good. I particularly like the frantic way Willow tries to tell the others that Buffy is in trouble in the basement while Xander is distracted beating up the frat boy. My only real complaint with it is that Xander, Angel, Willow and Giles did precisely nothing relevant in the end, since Buffy managed to break the chains on her arms herself and kill the reptile demon. OK, I guess they distracted the other cultists/frat boys, but one can’t help feeling that their presence was superfluous.


  4. [Note: TBTF posted this comment on November 22, 2008.]

    I’m going to allude to Keith Topping and ask, was this supposed to be Buffy’s first time drinking? Because, if so, she must’ve gone to some lame parties in LA (between s1&2)… Can anyone answer this?


  5. [Note: Emily posted this comment on February 15, 2009.]

    I thought it was really sweet how Angel changed into his game face when he realized how much danger Buffy was in.

    I cringe every time I watch the end of this episode, when Buffy says, “Let her go, wormy!” WHO thought up that terrible line?

    And, as I’ve been saying since the beginning of this season, I really like how Buffy and Angel’s relationship progresses. I think that even without the pushing from Willow, Angel would’ve taken the final step. He’s been in love with her since he saw her in LA, and I don’t think it was Willow who necessarily pushed him into it. He loves her- that’s the beginning and end of it.


  6. [Note: Blue Fan posted this comment on July 9, 2009.]

    The main storyline was weak, but it is possible to think the events in the frat party as a metaphor of how risky could be some parties for naive girls (in the sexual aspects).

    The fact that Buffy was drugged and lead to a serpent demon (a falic symbol) could mean that girls should be careful when attending to parties.


  7. [Note: Mush posted this comment on July 30, 2009.]

    Willow asking Angel how he shaves is so adorably cute – I find myself rewinding that bit over and over again. It’s such a ‘Willow’ moment.


  8. [Note: Lucy posted this comment on August 6, 2009.]

    This is probably going to be controversial, but I HATED that “when you kiss me I wanna die” line. No she doesn’t! She’s all giddy and smitten about being around Angel. She doesn’t know about his curse yet and it always strikes me as something the writers wanted her to say, not something that Buffy would actually say herself (if that makes any sense whatsoever)


  9. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on August 6, 2009.]

    @Lucy: I was always under the impression that she said it spitefully to hurt him. But it’s been so long since I’ve seen that episode that I can’t remember the scene in which she says it to back up my opinion. 8S


  10. [Note: Ian posted this comment on August 28, 2009.]

    @TBTF: It seems for whatever reason that Buffy really doesn’t drink. Look at season 6 when she goes drinking with Spike. It is very clear from her reactions that it is not something she is used to.


  11. [Note: Sunburn posted this comment on September 16, 2009.]

    The Xander being made up scene was meant to be humorous? Gees, some people are strange. Bullying and sadistic, public humiliation make me feel uncomfortable, not amused. Mike, you come across as a humane and kind person and I was glad to read that you disliked the scene too.

    @ Blue Fan

    “The fact that Buffy was drugged and lead to a serpent demon (a falic symbol) could mean that girls should be careful when attending to parties.”

    I KNOW you meant to say “boys shouldn’t drug and rape girls at parties” there. Because the idea that this is somehow inevitable behaviour, that boys simply will be boys does absolutely no-one any favours; not women, and certainly not the men who aren’t animals (whom I would like to think are the majority). Expecting girls to take responsibility for not getting raped is more than a little bit medieval.


  12. [Note: Emily posted this comment on November 26, 2009.]

    There’s a little bit of foreshadowing in this ep that I never noticed before. When Buffy tells Willow and Xander that she’s going to the party with Cordelia and not Angel, Willow says, “Cordelia?…..Did I sound a little jealous just then? ‘Cause I’m not really…”

    If you truly pay attention, it can amaze you how much foreshadowing Joss and the other writers stuck in about Willow being a lesbian.


  13. [Note: Blue Fan posted this comment on November 28, 2009.]


    I know what you meant, and I’m really sorry if what I said sounded extremely conservative.

    I wasn’t saying that girls should ‘be responsible’ for not getting raped, just that those kind fo parties COULD BE dangerous for them. I completely agree with you that the morally questionable behaviour here is the boys’ one, but I think that the episode was focus on the warning message for girls.

    In any case, I apologise for my weak Engligh


  14. [Note: Izzy posted this comment on January 29, 2010.]

    In this episode when Angel and Buffy are talking and they say these lines,


    This isn’t some fairy tale. When I kiss you, you don’t wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after.


    No. When you kiss me I wanna die.

    I fell that they are saying something more. Angel might be saying that he loves so much that he is tempted into turning her to with her but, knows better. Buffy is also maybe saying the same thing. They both love each other and the temptation is is there but the both know it is the wrong thing to do. I don’t know is this just a stupid idea thing to think?


  15. [Note: Smallprint84 posted this comment on March 7, 2010.]

    I noticed also another bit of foreshadowing: Guys in brown ropes chasing a girl, this also happens in S7. But then they are Bringers chasing and killing potential slayers.


  16. [Note: Shiny posted this comment on May 22, 2010.]

    ANGEL: This isn’t some fairy tale. When I kiss you, you don’t wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after.

    BUFFY: No. When you kiss me I wanna die.

    I’m with Lucy; that dialogue is hideous. It’s a line of fairly nonsensical purple prose played against Serious, Swelling Music, jarring in its placement of pretty good scripting. For one thing, Angel’s line is long and pretty freaking random — a glaringly obvious set-up for Buffy’s response. ‘This isn’t some fairy tale’ is great, it applies to the situation brilliantly and while it’s a little purple, it does sound like something Angel would say. Then the long deep-sleep happy-ending rubbish comes out and obliterates the good start, the bulky sentence reeled out purely for Buffy to be melodramatic at.

    And what on earth is she talking about, pray tell? There have already been a couple of theories put forth in the comments, but none of them really work. She wants to be a vampire and live with him forever? Buffy knows that she’d be dead and gone, and some demon would be walking around wearing her body. She’s had nightmares about becoming a vampire; it’s seriously unlikely that she has any desire to become one.

    She wants to actually die? The death wish doesn’t turn up until the fifth season, and it’s not terribly romantic to have a love story wherein every kiss makes one half of the couple suicidal. If the line -were- to be taken literally, that’s a really horrific statement that would require introspective character development, rather than a tossed-out line in one episode.

    She’s trying to insult him? Given what they were talking about just a line before, that’s both weird, un-Buffylike, and seriously weak. It’s a dramatic conversation about how she wants to be with him and he’s all No, It’s For Your Own Good… and as we see in the third season, when Buffy is rejected by Angel For Her Own Good, she can make some damn good insults in response.

    That leaves the poetic, prose-so-purple-it’s-fluorescent interpretation. I’m strongly reminded of a line by Sappho (wow, spot my orientation) — translated poorly but prettily by Xena: Warrior Princess’ writing staff as “For I am dying of such love.” It’s beautiful particularly because the character is reading out the poem, not randomly throwing said line into a conversation (and if X:WP’s dialogue beats BtVS’ in any area, something’s gone terribly wrong). It’s also meant as a positive metaphor to outline the depth of emotion, the extremity of feeling that can only be compared to the most extreme experience life can hold. Not thrown out as a riposte to an argument against dating.

    …I do realise I’ve rambled on about this for paragraphs now, but for me, this is literally the worst exchange in Buffyverse history. I always cringe and get irrationally irritated when I hear it, and usually try to skip it on the DVD, because it totally ruins the moment and several minutes afterward, far more than the lousy reptile. As Lucy said, it’s just not something Buffy would say, even if that’s solely due to the context in which it’s said. It’s a ridiculous sentence that the writers thought was romantic and neat, and decided to have her say.

    It just grates on my soul, for some reason…


  17. [Note: Nix posted this comment on May 31, 2010.]

    ‘It’s also meant as a positive metaphor to outline the depth of emotion’, well, when Shakespeare uses the same metaphor it’s, well, I suppose it is depth of emotion he’s talking about, but in a very specific context. Orgasm has been known as ‘the little death’ for a very very long time. (‘The little epileptic fit’ being too unromantic, though more truthful.)


  18. [Note: Elbie posted this comment on June 6, 2010.]

    Favorite episode moment (toward the end @ the Bronze):

    Xander: Angel, Angel, Angel. Does every conversation we have have to come around to that freak? (Angel walks in) Hey man, how you doing?

    Angel: Buffy.

    Buffy: Angel.

    Xander: Xander.


  19. [Note: yippers6 posted this comment on July 15, 2010.]

    i love how willows just telling giles and angel off and then she looks in the mirror and starts talking about angel’s hair. What i don’t get is why are all the frat houses and boys haunted or just plain weird? Any one have an answer?


  20. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on July 23, 2010.]

    Why couldn’t Buffy and Willow have gone to Crestwood College? It would have made a hell of a lot more sense. Not everything within town limits has to have the ‘Sunnydale’ name as part of it.

    I did like that the nice frat boy was the leader of the worshippers. Also, the fraternity are possibly the worst human killers throughout the entire series as it had happened for at least 50 years.

    Funny (Queen C’s driving) yet should have been better.


  21. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on September 19, 2010.]

    Shiny –

    “When you kiss me I want to die.”

    Buffy is using the orgasm-as-death metaphor, orgasm being “la petite mord” in French.


  22. [Note: Michael Carruthers posted this comment on September 19, 2010.]

    This episode was majorly laaaaame. Probably the worst Buffy episode of all time.

    Giles’ pushiness with Buffy was too random and out-of-nowhere. It just felt thrown in there for plot purposes rather than character development. And I don’t buy that Buffy goes out on what is pretty much a date with another college guy right in the middle of her relationship with Angel. Speaking of, Angel and Buffy’s scene is straight out of a daytime soap opera. It’s cringe-worthy. Really surprises me that that particular scene is being mentioned as a good thing in the review/comments.

    Obviously – hated the lame frat boys and the blatant phallic metaphor, the snake at the end was absolutely ridiculous. One of the worst effects there’s been. From the special features, interviews with Greenwalt, you can tell they put a lot of effort into it. But it didn’t even look like a snake!

    I’d be hard-pressed to give this episode anything higher than a 30%.


  23. [Note: Shiny posted this comment on September 23, 2010.]

    @ John Roberts –

    Aside from the fact that such a reference would be highly obscure to the audience, I’m afraid the metaphor is highly unlikely to be something Buffy’s familiar with. “The cow will touch me from Thursday” was her last attempt at French, closely followed by “je stink”. Familiarity with the French for orgasm, or indeed the literary use of the translation, makes it difficult to read the lines with that interpretation. It’s simply more plausible that the writer thought it was a nifty line and wanted to use it.

    Nonetheless, if that was the meaning of the line, then it reinforces the initial gripe with the dialogue: It isn’t something Buffy would say. It’s something a writer made her say.


  24. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on September 24, 2010.]

    Ah I didn’t mean Buffy was referencing French, was just saying that it’s a common notion to connect death with orgasm — so common that the French have a phrase that explicitly links the two. They are each acts of transformation.

    Angel’s orgasm killed his soul and transformed him into the entirely different being of of Angelus.

    So what I meant was the writers were referencing/foreshadowing with Buffy’s line. Perhaps not successfully I will grant. It does sound forced.


  25. [Note: Marshall posted this comment on September 27, 2010.]

    um…I kinda dig this episode too. Very nostalgic and innocent. But am I the only one who really digs that song at the party and at the end by Louie Says, “She”? Its so 90’s. I miss these days.


  26. [Note: Afterthebattle posted this comment on October 30, 2010.]

    Cordelia: “You’ll go to college someday, Xander. I just know your pizza

    delivery career will take you so many exciting places.”

    Is it just me or does this foreshadow S4 Xander?


  27. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on February 13, 2011.]

    I can’t believe the analysis I’m reading here about the line “When you kiss me, I want to die”. I’m guessing that all the people discussing it have never been teenage girls. I thought the line was perfect given Buffy’s age. To a teenage girl, everything is life and death. I don’t think it was as deep as everyone is making it out to be. I think she is just saying that she’s crazy about him in a teenage girl kind of way. I remember saying “I’ll die without him” about some boy or other all the time as a teenager. It’s just like that. Well that’s my interpretation. And I’m not trying to disparage anyone else’s thoughts, I was just honestly surprised at how intense the discussion was about this because I never took it as anything other than teenage angst hyperbole.

    As for this episode, I agree that it was a terrible plot. The episode did have some good things though — Willow’s outburst at Angel and Giles and Cordelia is hysterical in this. That’s about it, I guess.


  28. [Note: NK posted this comment on February 16, 2011.]


    I agree, the ”When you kiss me, I want to die” line seems perfectly character-appropriate to me.


  29. [Note: Afterthebattle posted this comment on June 30, 2011.]

    Angel: This could get outta control.

    Buffy: Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

    It just breaks my heart to hear Buffy say something like this when you know what’s to come. She’ll never love like that again. From then on it’s always trust before love. Which makes me think of her conversation with Spike in Seeing Red.

    Buffy: I could never trust you enough for it to be love.

    Spike: Trust is for old marrieds, Buffy. Great love is wild and passionate and dangerous. It burns and consumes.

    Seems like season 2 Buffy agrees with him.


  30. [Note: seagull posted this comment on July 21, 2011.]

    I think this episode has one interesting aspect, in that Buffy is trying to do the mature thing by not letting social pressure force her into drinking if she doesn’t want to, but the frat boys succeed in lowering her confidence by repeatedly implying that drinking is a sign of maturity. I’m sure many of us got pressured into doing things like that as teenagers so others would take us more seriously – like she says earlier in the episode, it’s hard being a sixteen year-old girl.


  31. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 10, 2011.]

    I may be in a margin here but i actually like this episode, it signifies Buffy wanting to further her relationship with Angel but he seems eager to subvert her attraction to him. The scene in the graveyard stood out for me; him saying that if he kissed it would be one she wouldn’t wake up from. Buffy responds saying when you kiss me it makes me wanna die. He pushes away her advances because he can see that the relationship will be a complicated one, a one without the normal social and moral obligations. Buffy is at a loss, she believes that she can see the wood for the trees and knows what she is getting into. Angel’s tightly wound behaviour leads her to deal with her pain and burden of her life lead her to accompany Cordelia to the frat party but once there she seems uncomfortable knowing she shouldn’t have been deceitful to Giles. These scenes kept me engrossed in the episode.

    This episode gets an unfair rep because of the snake god but this episode is what the show is about, without episodes like this we wouldn’t have Buffy. It is a heavy lifter and takes the characters of Buffy, Angel, Giles and Willow to escalating levels. The character development for WIllow, Giles and Angel is more subtle than with Buffy but its still there. WIllow becomes more assertive especially in her outburst to Giles and Angel telling them they need to stop micro-mangering her and Angel needs to loosen up, stop being coy with the on again off again relationship go for coffee! She gets them to change their perspective and see things through Buffy’s eyes. Giles sees the light, they both do. They see that if Buffy is to have adult responsibilities she needs and should be treated as an adult.

    The snake god is irrelevant, the plot isn’t whats important in this episode its all about character fluency and development, its palpable with the suspense being finished before the opening credits and WIllows ability to solve the puzzle with the help a computer. The episode isn’t a slow one, in fact its confounding how quickly this episode ends. The character interaction is what keeps it from being bad.

    Bottom line: I like it. Great Episode worth more than a C in my eyes


  32. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on December 22, 2011.]

    I’m not a fan of the “when you kiss me I want to die” line either (if nothing else, it makes me wonder when the hell in the last 6 months has Angel kissed Buffy). But I’m even more bothered by Boreanaz’s terrible acting throughout. Some of his scenes with SMG are just a little excruciating in the contrast between her acting and his, and this is one of them. He’s so wooden and awkward that it’s really hard to even tell why he’s even saying these things. It’s too bad, because the scene has so much foreshadowing and could have been fantastic, but his bad acting in addition to the clumsiness of the last few lines really weigh it down, IMO.

    I don’t “enjoy” the scenes with Xander being humiliated at the frat house either, but I don’t mind that they have them in there. The frat party stuff is all about patriarchy — the frat boys drug the girls in order to sacrifice them and boost their own power. The scenes where they dress up Xander underscore that socially, for those frat boys, Xander ranks no higher than a woman would. They objectify and torment him, as they do the girls (though of course they don’t try to kill him). If the frat boy demon worshipers are a thin metaphor for the rule of rich men, the Xander stuff shows that most men — the ones who aren’t rich — don’t fare well under such a system either.

    Furthermore, it underscores Xander’s social outsider status, which is an important trait for all the Scoobies, and is particularly relevant for Xander, who doesn’t go to college, who floats from minimum wage job to minimum wage job for S4, etc. Plus we get the satisfaction of watching him punch out one the frat boys later. 🙂


  33. [Note: Jen posted this comment on August 2, 2012.]

    I just don’t get that why Angel is totally jealous and a bit angry when Willow tells that Buffy has a date. I mean earlier this episode he does warn Buffy that if they date things could get out of control, and now he doesn’t want Buffy to date other guys.


  34. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on August 5, 2012.]

    I never understood the meaning behind the Wanna die comment, SMG delivers it so well but i’m left feeling as though it was meant to hurt Angel, with him attempting to be reasonable and realistic….As for him going needy and hurt because Buffy is on a date is something i sort of understand. He is a guy; knowing that a girl likes you is a buzz same in role reversal. Plus he may really like Buffy but earlier was trying to be an ‘adult”….


  35. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 14, 2012.]

    Decent episode. I love the banter between Cordelia and Xander. Can’t wait for them to get together. Also highlights Xander’s overprotectiveness of Buffy even though he can’t really do anything. He always wants to prove himself to her. A problem Buffy always has with her human bfs.


  36. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 14, 2012.]

    oh yeah, Cordelia continues to be the anti-buffy. Always the damsel in distress. I agree she’s gorgeous but damn. Maybe she shouldn’t stop hanging out with the scoobies. they should stop being around HER because she brings all the trouble.


  37. [Note: Zoey posted this comment on June 3, 2013.]

    I thought that the Troy character (the nice frat guy) foreshadowed the Parker character. Like Parker, he initially charmed Buffy through pretending to be kind or sensitive. Both Troy and Parker were interested in taking advantage Buffy for their own selfish means and saw her as interchangeable with any other girl. Troy’s attempt to feed her to a snake could be seen as a metaphor of taking sexual advantage of her which Parker literally does. This progression from mystical to literal is a theme throughout the series culminating in the season six’s life is the big bad. In both instances Buffy is innocent, she is manipulated by a charming boy and mistakes the ability to act interested to get what he wants for genuine friendship or a romantic relationship. I think that this adds rather than detracts from Buffy’s character. It is a difficult part of adolescence to figure out if people are genuine or not and often times even someone as awesome as Buffy is unable to understand how people can act this way. It is nice to see characters, especially characters with superpowers, not immediately understand the world or the motivations of others. Although she is the slayer, she is still young and doesn’t understand how creepy it is for a college senior to be asking high school girls to a frat party. Another interesting parallel is Angel role in both cases. Buffy is so willing to go to the frat party and to start a relationship with Parker because of Angel rejection for her own sake. With Troy its the idea of stress free boy who likes her and sees her as an equal. Parker was her first relationship after Angel and was in some ways a means to proving that she was over Angel.


  38. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 21, 2013.]

    ADMIN NOTE: This episode review has been completely rewritten. In light of this, references to the old review have been edited out of the the above comments.


  39. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 21, 2013.]

    Fun thought: I can totally envision a scenario where these frat guys get busted out of jail and turned into some of the Bringers we see terrorizing Sunnydale in Season 7.


  40. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on July 21, 2013.]

    I’m of two minds about the whole “You’re too mature” thing. Most of the time it’s used to coax someone into doing something dumb that they’ll regret, that’s bad. On the other hand, doing dumb stuff with my friends in a safe environment is more fun than pretty much anything else in the world, and I’ve missed out on stuff because I was being too uptight.

    I guess I’m trying to say that being immature and stupid isn’t a bad thing in moderation.


  41. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 21, 2013.]

    All I know is that logic wouldn’t work for me, as knowingly doing something stupid would be an insult to myself. But I definitely make a distinction between “stupid” and “silly” — the latter generally being more innocent and consequence-free.

    I’m also not a fan of the notion that doing something mature is inherently less fun than something immature — that just comes across as juvenile. The most fun, rewarding, and accomplished moments of my life have been the result of sacrifice, dedication, and/or teamwork.

    Then again, I’ve been told I’m quite strange, so maybe that’s just me. 🙂


  42. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on July 22, 2013.]

    This is fantastic, Mike!!! You are really on a roll. Obviously, this episode and the previous one are “mostly filler” to quote a later, classic episode, but I appreciate the time you took to delve into them and look for the relevant character moments that make even the worst episodes tuning in for. (I always remember Willow yelling at Giles & Angel in this one.)

    I’m so excited to see your polish pass of “Halloween”, which is definitely one of the highlights of early Season 2, and one of the best holiday episodes of the series as a whole.


  43. [Note: WCRobinson posted this comment on July 22, 2013.]

    You’re really getting through these reviews now! Awesome work 🙂

    You obviously take time and care with these reviews; that research into the French “La petite mort” is impressive.


  44. [Note: Monica posted this comment on November 11, 2013.]

    I just love the subtle metaphors here.

    Frat boys worship the phallic-shaped snake in their basement and do things to satisfy it, sometimes despite their better judgment (Tom, in this case).

    Not too terrible of an episode, though. Relatively interesting (yet admittedly stupid) storyline and some great character interactions. I particularly loved the Buffy/Giles, Willow/Everybody, and Cordelia/Buffy parts


  45. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on February 10, 2014.]

    Again, I want challenge the spirit of the review and offer some alternative perspectives. I think the notion of the dangers of patriarchy is so central to the show that every episode dealing with the theme are tremendously important.

    Without going all academic, I strongly suspect that Josh knows his Joseph Cambell, I have say that Buffy is at heart about the restoration of the feminine to the primary HEROIC position in our culture. Sharing power, not hoarding it. Celebration of the special unique individual versus objectification of women and ultimately of men themselves. The boys of the fraternity represent patriarchy at its most extreme state. They literally control/use women to gain direct access to the bounty (the direct connection with life) women represent. Not thru sexual domination – they in fact have repressed that in themselves. For example, Tom calls his buddy a pervert for being sexually attracted to Buffy because she has to be eaten by the monstrous manifestation their own repressed sexuality (repressed because they have rejected women as truly human). This goes beyond the notion of sexual politics to directly indict a world where male values dominate to such an extreme degree. Interestingly, Buffy and Cordy are the most desired victims because they represent a direct threat to the current world order. Willow not so much at this point.

    I love the fact Zander, who represents a slowly evolving counterpoint to the fraternity boys, is humiliated by them by forced feminization. He is literally out of place at the party and the frat brothers instinctively know it. Their reaction is perfectly telling.

    I won’t go on, but you yourself have pointed out how the events of Inca Mummy and Halloween play on this theme. Buffy chooses to objectify herself for Angel to the extent of repressing her true nature -as Cordelia did in the prior episode with the fake laughing and extreme fawning. We may dismiss that as comic relief, but it is telling. Cordelia never lies for the benefit of others or unduly accommodates the feelings of people she damn we’ll knows are unworthy. But Buffy have been indoctrinated and the series deals with their growing evolution away from conventional, patriarchal notions of the feminine and the role of women.

    Buffy is a great work of art. Amazing.


  46. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on February 11, 2014.]

    Luvtennis, I’m not going to say your points aren’t there, but I don’t think they are points being specifically made by Buffy, I think they are points that are common to the life Buffy tries to encapsulate.

    For instance, Reptile Boy is not directly making a comment on the patriarchy, its making a statement about che misogyny and objectification of women that fraternities can sometimes have. The problem with the episode is it’s as subtle about it as getting hit in the head with a hammer, and it overgeneralizes terribly. I’m fairly certain not all fraternities treat women like crap. This could have been somewhat remedied by showing a positive look at a frat later, but instead I think the only time they come up again is Selfless, which isn’t really a good picture either.

    The fraternities are evil narrative has been overworked and is only sometimes accurate. It’s a tired narrative and really no good point was being made in this episode about it except high school girls should stay away from college boys. There were much better and more subtle ways to get that across.

    Buffy is a feminist work for the most part (though maybe not as much as many of its biggest fans think), so themes of male power vs. female power are going to be shown. It’s how well they show it that matters, and Reptile Boy does a poor job of getting its point across.

    I don’t really agree with your last paragraph. First of all, choosing to objectify yourself for someone you have a crush on isn’t a women only thing. Men do it to almost as much as an extent (teen boys don’t work out simply because they like being fit). Trying to be someone other than yourself is not a male/female thing, it’s a universal thing that teens and some adults do.

    Buffy is great at encapsulating parts of life (though I wouldn’t use this episode as an example of that). As such, it’s going to strike some deep points from people. Those points aren’t necessarily being made byBuffy, they are points that stem from life, which Buffy is trying to imitate.


  47. [Note: Stian Buhagen posted this comment on March 28, 2014.]

    I just wanted to make a general comment about what Buffy said: If you kiss me I want to die. I interpreted that as something dramatic Buffy would say because Angel was kind of rejecting her in that scene. It felt like her trying to distance herself from Angel because it didn’t seem like he wanted her that way she wanted him. Though it might be what everyone here has said. But I guess I really didn’t think about it that way.


  48. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 2, 2014.]

    I’m going to have to go with the people who aren’t fans of the “When you kiss me I want to die” exchange. Firstly, while I do agree this is plausible for a hormonal 16 year girl to say, it’s just not something I buy coming from Buffy. Angel’s sudden outburst of the ‘this is not a fairytale’ line was freaky, came out of nowhere and unconvincing. I feel that mostly what pulls this encounter down is David’s incredibly stiff acting. Gosh! He’s come a long way acting wise since those days, good for him! But back then, ack! All the other actors now seem comfortable with their roles. Buffy is full of good actors, even Charishma pulls off Cordelia’s character with ease, hell, new characters like Drusilla and Spike are wonderfully acted! David unfortunately (up until the whole Angelus stuff begins) is the only exception in the herd. But his acting wasn’t the only problem, the whole encounter just seemed so overly dramatic and corny. I could almost imagine a really bad chick flick version of that whole act. It just seemed like the writers wanted that there, to make us feel for the couple. David’s earlier portrayal of Angel and some of these really corny lines are why I never bought them as a couple. They had their sweet moments, sure. But it all just seemed very puppy-lovish and not real, true sentiment. This is not to say that they are a bad couple or anything, I respect all ships on the show. Also, I just couldn’t put a finger on why Buffy would say that, I’ve seen that debate in the comments has however already gone too far and I’m too little too late at the moment. Ahah!

    I respect this episode because it keeps in line with the seasonal theme and I just admire the efforts they go with these metaphors, even if this one is a little overdone and cliche. The metaphor you mentioned above where the girl says “He seems to be nicer than the rest. He’s different. Watch out for that one.” Is CERTAINLY very well done! And so true to the theme and in reality. There’s a Taylor Swift quote I’d like to mention here, “In fairytales you meet Prince Charming and he’s everything you ever wanted. In fairytales the bad guy is very easy to spot. The bad guy is always wearing a black cape so you always know who he is. Then you grow up and you realize that Prince Charming is not as easy to find as you thought. You realize the bad guy is not wearing a cape and he’s not as easy to spot; he’s really funny, and he makes you laugh, and he has perfect hair.” I don’t know why I mentioned the quote, just sorta wanted to put it out there! Anyway, the reptile snake thing didn’t bother me much, I tend to skip those last few fighting moments during my rewatch. The rest of the episode was mostly witty dialougue, hilarity and adorableness from both Willow and Giles, which keeps this episode from being totally bad.

    Also, I found something that definetely make Cordelia and Xander more compatible, demons always seem to be attracted to them! Cordelia has been the victim of demons lots of times in the first 2-3 seasons, and then she even becomes half-demon coming onto Angel. And then there’s Xander, poor Xander who’s also a demon magnet (LITERALLY, in Something Blue!). I just found it a nice pairing and I really enjoyed the Xander/Cordy couple while it lasted. Even though I later came to prefer Xander/Anya, I always thought that Xander and Cordy were really good together. Every scene they have together is a gem to watch. Their ridiculing, banter and once in a while friendly subtexty dialogues always do it for me!

    Anyway, I’m done rambling pointlessly (again) now! Can’t wait to read your review on Halloween! 😀


  49. [Note: ericas623 posted this comment on May 23, 2014.]

    I don’t agree that Buffy’s naive concept of romance is due to the absence of good role models and/or a father figure. By this point, Giles has really stepped in as the paternal figure for Buffy and his interactions with Jenny serve as a great example of a healthy relationship. I would also venture to say the relationship could easily have ended happily if Jenny hadn’t been killed by Angel. Instead, I think Buffy’s flawed notion of love is more symptomatic of an immature attitude taken on by many teenagers mainly due to lack of experience.


  50. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on May 23, 2014.]

    You’re underplaying the effect and impact of role models on children and adolescents. Giles is still a relatively new figure in Buffy’s life at this point. Sure he has some influence, but Buffy’s core psychological makeup has already been set and was mostly influenced by her parents and early childhood.

    Lack of experience matters less in these decisions when a child has personally witnessed a healthy relationship on a day-in, day-out basis. To this point has Buffy ever even seen what a healthy romantic relationship looks like? Has she had any positive examples to draw from growing up? I’d argue she hasn’t, which plays a big role in her perception of what romance and relationships are all about. Buffy, sadly, didn’t get that from her parents, so she understandably has to opt for the ‘trial and error’ approach. It’s not as if she was taught/shown a better way.


  51. [Note: ericas623 posted this comment on May 24, 2014.]

    Yes, and role models certainly have a massive influence on how people define loving relationships, but not necessarily as much at that age. I think young people will make mistakes for other reasons, like its overhyped media portrayal, uncontrolled hormones, and lack of experience.

    For example, my parents are happily married, but that did not stop me from having a disastrous relationship in high school. Like Buffy, I found the consequences informed how I responded to relationships for the next few years. Buffy’s treatment of Riley is a response to her relationship with Angel and the destruction of her fantasy of a dangerous, all-consuming love. Later in college, I found my parents’ example determined my view of a healthy relationship, but, until then, finding a balance of ideals was tricky. I just don’t feel most people at that age have developed the foresight and maturity they will eventually (or, in many cases, will never) use in future relationships.


  52. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on May 24, 2014.]

    I’m not trying to claim that having great role models means a teen won’t make any mistakes. Like you said, there are other influences that can vie for attention. Rather, it simply equips said teen with more information and understanding about the choices they are making and the consequences that can result from them. In effect, it reduces (but doesn’t eliminate) the likelihood of these kind of mistakes from happening.

    Although having a stable family is incredibly important, what parents are teaching their children is equally important. Both play into whether a child is better equipped to handle the challenges and temptations of adolescence. And handle them they can. I think you’re selling teens and what they’re capable of short.

    You are correct, though, that most people don’t have maturity and foresight in relationships, yet a whole lot of that really does go back to their upbringing and what they were taught (and shown) as children.


  53. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 12, 2014.]

    I note that Greenwalt, on the DVD commentary, says that “they wanted me to drop a lot of this Xander stuff, and I didn’t want to drop any of it, ‘cos I thought it was really funny and great; the idea of him trying to dress up as a college guy and be in a frat house was just too delicious.”

    Having read *that* I am frankly amazed that _Buffy_ and _Angel_ survived him. The man clearly has a thoroughly un-Buffyverse sense of humour.


  54. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 12, 2014.]

    Oh gods. He also says on the same commentary that he thought The Witch was one of their better episodes. The commentary was shot while they were doing season 5!!!

    I cannot fathom how anyone could imagine that that episode was one of their better episodes with the perspective of someone who’s got seasons 2 and 3, let alone Restless, behind them.

    Honestly, I don’t understand the DVD commentaries, Reptile Boy gets a commentary talking about how amazing it is, but Passion and Becoming, Part 2 get nothing. Boggle. (At least Innocence gets one.)

    Oh, and regarding season 1 being the last season with pathetic hooks at the end of episodes that never recur? This one had a hook nobody realized was there, since everyone in the world who watched it assumed a bisected snake was, y’know, dead. No! Greenwalt says “… they never found the snake, so it may in fact be out there. At this point we really hoped Machita would come back, and we’d have a little more time and money, and he’d be even better and bigger; we hoped he’d come back and become a running villain for us”.

    Horrible alternative universes that never happened: s2 with Machita as a villain instead of Angelus. Or perhaps s5 with Machita instead of Glory! (s4 with Machita instead of Adam might, all things considered, have been an improvement.)


  55. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 14, 2014.]

    FlyingPenguin, it’s embarrassment humour, and worse it’s embarrassment humour based on the idea that female underwear is intrinsically funny, heh heh snortle.

    This is immature and stupid stuff. Yeah, maybe it’s plausible stuff for frat guys to do, but it fundamentally is not Buffy-type smart humour with teeth.

    Stranger yet… I can’t see what is ‘delicious’ about ‘be[ing] in a frat house’ regardless of age, or someone ‘trying to dress up as a college guy’ (what, do they dress differently from people a few years younger than them? Xander’s not spotted because he dresses wrong). It’s not so much that I can see that this is a different sort of humour from Buffy humour, more that I can’t imagine what could cause someone to consider it a form of humour at all.

    Discovering that an author and director of Buffy shows considers things in the show to be humorous that I would not even imagine constituted humour for any human being is disconcerting.


  56. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on December 10, 2014.]

    Okay, I just noticed something and I don´t know if it´s just continuity or foreshadowing but another thing is: a sign of Buffy growing up.
    Giles goes on and on about how special it is to know your place, your purpose in the world and asks her how many people can say that and she replies none. But in Potential, she gives that same speech to the Potentials, about how they have a mission, a purpose.

    That is so cool!


  57. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on December 11, 2014.]

    Well, when I watch the episode, I’m not laughing *at* Xander–as in, “ha ha, look, the frat boys made him wear a bra & stuff!” If I felt like that was the episode’s intent, I’d be with you. But I don’t. In fact, I think we’re meant to feel a bit contemptuous of the frat boys for evidently finding it so hilarious to dress Xander up that way. Xander is in an irritating predicament, with a bunch of idiotic and immature frat boys trying to humiliate him, and he does his best to “play along” despite clearly hating the situation, so that he can accomplish his goal there. It’s amusing (to me) to watch how he copes with the situation.

    For me, in fact, the high point humor-wise actually comes later, when he is taking out his frustrations on the frat idiots en route to trying to rescue Buffy. “And that’s for the last 17 years!”


  58. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on February 20, 2015.]

    Where the lack of subtlety is generally frowned upon, as in the symbolism being too obvious or subtext becoming text, being rather unanimously agreed upon by the better critics, they also tend to agree that subtext that is far too subtle for even the most educated to pick up on should also be just as panned. I happen to be in agreement. If it is indeed the case that Buffy’s line references the symbolism of “death as orgasm” as used hundreds of years ago, the meaning of which has been lost to modern culture, then it’s still poor use of what the writers, Joss, etc. thought would be intelligent. If something like that goes over the heads of so many, it shouldn’t be heralded as clever but rather kind of misguided. There is a balance between too little and too much subtlety. Needless to say, I also hated that line (and several others Buffy uses throughout the season) but I can forgive them because I know adolescence makes emotions seem grander then they really are (not to mention some are very confusing).

    As for the episode, it’s nearly as much a throw away as “Inca Mummy Girl” just slightly more entertaining. We get more insight into Buffy and Angel’s growing relationship as well, while Giles continues to show he has much to learn about not the slayer under his watch, but the human being under his care.


  59. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 1, 2015.]

    Reading over your reviews and the way you harp on the issue repeatedly, it does seem to me that you’re a wee bit obsessive about the single-parent no-male-role-model issue in Buffy’s life. Granted, there are certainly advantages to a “traditional” nuclear family, but perhaps you’re allowing your own hang-ups to become Buffy’s on occasion? It certainly feels like there’s some bleeding over there. One of the problematic aspects of overdoing that particular line of analysis is that strong father figures aren’t always good — see the Mayor, Ted, and Tara and Wesley’s dads, for starters — and oversimplifying Buffy’s issues in that way ignores the fact that there are many, many other influences that carry equal if not greater weight than that particular pseudo-Freudian one. For one, Buffy’s ideas about romantic love aren’t even all that unusual for a 16 year old. Fairly typical, in fact, rife with all the power that inexperience mixed with raging hormones can bring to bear. Add in the Slayer issue and the fact that a normal relationship would be difficult in the best of circumstances and you pretty much have a situation that no amount of “strong father figure” is going to provide easy answers to. It’s not as though we see many examples of mature thinking on the romantic side of things in the show. Willow, Xander, and even Giles, all have their mixed-up, screwed-up, just plain goofy ideas about relationships and how they work. Teenagers don’t need “broken” homes to have inane and overwrought ideas about romance, trust me. They can manage that just fine on their own.

    I have no doubt that her parents’ divorce and father’s subsequent distance have had an impact on Buffy. But I’m not sure elevating the issue to such importance makes sense, especially since single-parent households can be wonderful places, and traditional nuclear households can be hellish.

    Incidentally, I’d be curious to hear your opinions on gay households. Judging from what you’ve written on the show, it seems that you’d look deeply askance at, say, Joyce and her lesbian lover raising Buffy. It’s a precipitous trail you walk there.


  60. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 2, 2015.]

    Thanks for the comment! A few thoughts in response:

    1. That you feel I dwell on Buffy’s parental situation/upbringing a bit too much is fair enough, although I still feel the amount of time I spend on it — particularly in Season 1 & 2 — is warranted in order to fully understand the character and many of the issues she struggles with throughout the series, particularly regarding her romances and their respective issues.

    2. Your examples of “strong father figures” don’t remotely match my definition of a strong father figure. Those are all examples of abusive father figures (of varying kinds). Being strong doesn’t mean being domineering, abusive, or even super physically strong. Within the context of being a dad, being strong is about sacrificing for your spouse and children, offering them unconditional love, showing them what self-discipline/restraint is, having a set of moral standards and visibly living by those standards, and being both present and active in your family’s lives and goals. Those, among other things, make for a strong father figure.

    3. No, Buffy’s ideas of romantic love aren’t unusual for almost any 16 year-old. However, with strong, active, moral, and involved parenting, where the parents have shown their children what love — especially the sacrificial part — really is via their own marriage, children have a much better shot at restraining themselves from acting on those selfish, hormone-driven feelings and are simply better equipped to see that a potential boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t have their best interest at heart. And when they do make a mistake they’re more likely to learn from it much more quickly. A strong father figure, as I described it above, would have, indeed, helped Buffy a lot. It’s made clear numerous times throughout the series, and summarized quite nicely in “Conversations with Dead People”, that Buffy’s parents’ divorce was an earthquake in her adolescence that definitely impacted her psyche, relationships, and decisions.

    4. You’re right: all the core characters, particularly the youngsters, have “mixed-up, screwed-up, just plain goofy ideas about relationships and how they work.” Let’s think about why that is though — have these kids been shown healthy examples of how a relationship or marriage is supposed to function? Nope! We’ve already addressed Buffy’s upbringing, so let’s sum-up the others: Xander’s parents are not very involved in his life and his dad’s an abusive drunk; Willow’s parents are also nearly completely absent and aloof to her actions and whereabouts — we almost never hear about her dad, and her mom seems more interested in political statements than spending serious time with her daughter. All of these examples reinforce everything I’ve been pointing out.

    5. Yes, single-parent households can work and be relative healthy environments for a child to thrive. Yet, that child is still being deprived something important in their upbringing: daily examples of selfless love between two loving parents. There are, of course, degrees of “healthiness” in which a child can be raised in. The best situation is clearly the traditional family unit: mom, dad, and children. The worst situation is either completely absent parents, foster care, or abusive situations. There are also a lot of situations in between, where it might not be the best situation but it’s not all-that bad either. Unfortunately Buffy got left with a broken home, a jerk of a dad, and a mostly absent mom — that combo is near the bottom of the “healthiness” rankings.

    6. Gay households with children would fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum for me. Still not the very best situation for a child, but superior to foster care or absent parent situations, and obviously way better than any kind of abusive situation. I think Buffy probably would have been better off with two actively involved gay parents than what she ended up with.

    7. Regarding Joyce, I’d just be happy if she was way more involved in Buffy’s life! Buffy’s actions aren’t just influenced by her parents’ divorce, but also Joyce’s frequent absence from the home, borderline obsession with her “gallery”, and overall apathy towards and general lack of sacrifice for her child.

    I hope that clarifies where I’m coming from a bit better.


  61. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    Mind you, I’m not saying these were good father figures, just strong ones. That is, they had profound and immediate effects on the lives of their children (or proteges) through their presence rather than their absence. Their negative aspects are pretty much par for the course in the Whedonverse. I’m not sure how involved you were with on-line Whedonverse fandom back during the original airings, but it was pretty much a running joke — albeit a joke with an uncomfortable amount of truth to it — that Joss had an irrational hatred of fathers. The positive examples are few and far between. I’m mentally cataloging the Big Three (BtVS, AtS, and Firefly) and am coming up completely blank on good biological fathers with the possible exception, assuming one runs with the incongruous aspects of necrology mixed with biology, Angel/Connor. As far as the Buffy/Angelverse ones go, between Buffy’s absent uncaring dad, Xander’s abusive drunk one, Willow’s never-seen one, Tara’s Deliverance one, Wesley’s abusive one, Angel’s semi-abusive strict one, Spike’s absent one, Gunn’s long-gone one, Cordelia’s imprisoned tax-evading one, Amy’s suddenly-apathetic one (how on Earth did he not try to track her down after she became a rat? he’d already abandoned her once and it seems like he did it again) and various never-mentioned ones like those of Oz, Anya, Jenny, Faith, etc, the closest we’ve had to a good father was…Giles’ one? He mentions he’s part of a tradition of Watchers and he didn’t seem overly bitter about it past his youthful rebellion (which did seem to suggest his father was similar to Wesley’s in the demands put on him at a young age.) Or maybe Riley. He seems to have a good relationship with his family, which, presumably, includes a father. But he had a terrible mother figure in Professor Walsh, so….

    What all this comes down to for me is that the parental dynamic in the Buffyverse seems to suggest that the absent father is a fullblown paradigm rather than an individual psychological nuance. There’s not a single example of a decent biological father in the whole lot of them. What this says about Joss, I won’t bother speculating, but it does imply that Buffy’s problem in this regard can pretty much be piled on each and every major character on either of the Buffyverse shows. If they’re all terrible, none of them are terrible, to use an old bit of gnomic approach to categorizing.

    Just so we’re clear, I am enjoying reading your reviews as I rewatch BtVS (Out of order, if you’ve seen my comments popping ip. Started with 3, my favorite, followed by 4 and 5, then skipping 6, my least favorite, going to 7 and then back to 2, my second favorite, and 1 next. I’m building up my resolve to rewatch 6.) I was just a bit nonplussed by noticing the repetition of the issue of the father’s influence over various reviews. I get your points, though I assign somewhat less weight to the importance of the nuclear family in contrast to the importance of having a stable life overall. A solid single mother or single father is parsecs better than a diffident traditional family unit. We idealize the latter, but there are simply too many other factors to assign a truly empirical rating system to these things. Buffy, for instance, was obviously scarred by her parent’s divorce, and clearly feels the loss of her increasingly-distant father. But suggesting that she would somehow be magically more mature and better at relationships if Hank and Joyce were still together strains my personal sense of credulity. I’m just not seeing that she would have handled Angel or Owen or Riley any differently if she had two parents at home to study in detail. These relationships were obviously forged in different terms than Hank/Joyce were, and even her attempts at “normalcy” — Owen, Scott, Parker, Riley — were ripped apart by issues far divergent from anything her own parents would have experienced. Well, getting dumped by Parker would be perfectly feasible for a civilian, but her inability to connect well with the others would only work if Hank or Joyce were a wet-works specialist for the CIA.

    Well, this is getting long, so I will skip my thoughts on how Xander represents a more apt discussion of psychological trauma brought about by an unenviable family unit. I’m not hostile to the concept, just a bit dubious about the application.


  62. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    Dammit. Fred. I forgot about our little Winifred. Okay, one example of a decent biological father. Of course, he never showed up to demand to know why his daughter was all blue, but still….


  63. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    To be fair to Mr.Burkle he did show up after Illyria happened it’s just that Wesley and Illyria decided it was for the best not to reveal this fact to either of her parents. I’m sure if they knew the truth they would have been pretty concerned.

    As for Mike saying that a gay/les couple parents is statistically worse than straight ones comes across a little offensive. Sure you would probably be missing knowledge of one gender in there but it still seems kind of mean and assertive.

    Speaking of Buffy’s dad one thing that kind of annoys me is that in the beginning of the series he seems to be a pretty decent guy but starting with Becoming 1 and especially Helpless he’s portrayed as a real asshat. I get that we needed to keep him out of things to make things harder for Buffy but it still seems pretty inconsistent with what we’d seen before. Sure it’s possible that he got worse over time but it still seems kinda cheap since it was offscreen.

    Also interesting point that Angel was actually not that bad of a dad. Sure things didn’t work out that well due to outside circumstances but he always did have his heart in the right place when it came to him. Ironic that someone who was once one of the worst vampires ever ends up being one of the better fathers in the Buffyverse.


  64. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    Yeah, Buffy’s father for all intents and purposes being a mostly decent one until Season 3 was highly jarring. Suddenly, he’s missing her birthday, not coming to visit when he usually does, then just plain goes off and leaves the country with his secretary? Gosh, I would have loved to see that character progression. Cause as it stands, it makes absolutely no sense and is some of the most inconsistent writing I’ve ever seen. It’d take a heck of transformation for someone to be as caring as he was to what he eventually becomes.

    I’ll just chalk it up to some curse that removed his soul. I mean, what else could it be?


  65. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    I’m fascinated by your response to point six. What’s a child getting with a loving mother and father that they lose with a loving pair of mothers or fathers?

    Also, I would argue that Buffy has a strong father figure in Giles. I don’t know if that’s really an argument, given that it’s explicitly stated practically once an episode.


  66. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    To piggyback in on this conversation, albeit only the in-universe part, Buffy’s issues stemming at least partially due to the absence of a strong family unit is well documented throughout the series. It gets to the point where the subtlety is literally thrust to the service, the best example of which being Season 6’s “Normal Again.” In her fantasy, the most obvious comforting notion is that her mother and father are still married. This episode for all intents and purposes, because we see the ideal she wishes to believe as opposed to her own reality, tells us that it is likely one of the biggest influences of her actions.

    Now, is that a realistic interpretation? For some yes, others no. Individuals are different. Some grow up in perfectly healthy, two parent households and still end up in bad places. Some grow up in single parent homes, even no parent homes, and turn out just fine. This shouldn’t be looked at as a general stance on what a two parent household would do for a child. This situation should be looked at as an isolated incident, one meant to develop Buffy and Buffy alone.


  67. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    What’s a child getting with a loving mother and father that they lose with a loving pair of mothers or fathers?

    Conservative applause.


  68. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    I think I’ve read somewhere that interactions between a person’s mother and father form the basis of how they will go on to perceive gender roles later in life particularly with regards to romantic relationships. I can imagine a heterosexual child with a mother and father might find it easier understanding the minefield of teen love than a heterosexual child coming from a gay/lesbian family, but I have no real evidence to back that up, and given how much exposure kids get to the media I imagine the importance of this stuff gets lesser every year.


  69. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    I imagine that would only be relevant fifty percent of the time, though, since if you’re a straight guy who has two fathers, you’ve got TWO male role models. (Likewise for straight girls with two mothers.)


  70. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    I just have one branching question because this is bugging me: why does there have to be defined roles in a relationship? Why does the male have to represent a certain perspective to maximize a child’s success? Likewise with the female. Why can’t a child just learn that caring for each other, sacrificing for each other, is how a healthy relationship strives? Male/female, male/male, female/female no matter what it may be. Can’t they just learn to be a decent human being (as opposed to a decent man/woman) and create lasting relationships that way?


  71. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    Since everyone’s piled on here, I’ll try to be broad yet succinct in my response.

    To Random: We still have very different definitions of “strong” here. What you’re describing is “aggressive” more than strong. Often times the strongest people out there are the ones capable of restraint and discipline, both of which aren’t always easy qualities to get. But, using your concept of the term, I pretty much agree with what you’re saying.

    To Boscalyn: A straight boy with two fathers will simply not have daily exposure in the home of how men and women relate to each other within a relationship. Having two fathers or two mothers is simply no substitute for having one of each and seeing how they work through challenges that are unique to male-female relationships. There’s also the reality that a man cannot, biologically-speaking, nurture/bond with an infant the way a woman can. Men and women each offer unique qualities in a child’s development. This means that, yes, there are certain disadvantages when there’s only one sex or the other in the house. Even so, it should be noted that there are much more severe disadvantages when a child is raised in an abusive/absent/dysfunctional home (traditional or otherwise).

    To everyone else: I’m not trying to say that an abusive/absent/dysfunctional (AAD) traditional family is a healthier environment than most of the alternatives. Would a child raised in a committed and loving gay household be a healthier environment that one in an AAD traditional one? Certainly! Is having one really dedicated, selfless, and loving single parent (i.e. not Joyce — zing!) a healthier environment than an AAD traditional one? Absolutely! I’m not trying to say otherwise.


  72. [Note: Zarnium posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    Hmm. On the same-sex parents issue, my first thought was “let’s see what the scientific research says,” but naturally, there’s a heck of a lot of conservative religious propaganda in the way that I don’t have time to sift through at the moment in order to find a sufficiently objective study. If I have the time to find a good one, I may return.

    For now, I’ll say that even if it is true that the best possible gender ratio for a household is one father and one mother (which I’m not convinced is necessarily the case), it’s by far not the most important metric to judge the quality of a family by. Comparing the best possible gay parents with the best possible straight parents might be an interesting thought experiment, but in reality, there are so many more important factors that can tip the scales to a much larger degree that it’s a moot point.

    Plus, a same-sex parent family might have some advantages that a traditional family lacks. A child with gay parents would likely grow up to be more accepting of gay people than the average child of a straight couple would, and they would also have much more direct experience with how a same-sex partnership works. Most of us here would consider those to be good things.


  73. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    I don’t mean to pile on (or to instigate a piling-on) — I just find the perspective genuinely worth discussing in terms of BtVS. My own opinions of the issue IRL are fairly strong, and somewhat opposed to your apparent ones, but in terms of the show, it’s interesting to dissect the dynamics and the writing that inform the various examples of character growth. On a strictly literal level, for instance, I see Joyce as being necessarily unobtrusive simply because the entire premise of the show hangs on a narrow thread. If Joyce grows too involved early on (i.e. before she knew about Buffy being the Slayer), our suspension of disbelief, which is already somewhat tenuous because it’s just hard to imagine an entire town that blissfully and willfully ignorant, grows exponentially harder simply because we now have to believe Joyce is a loving mother (never in doubt), is aware of the problems (she is, if not to a great degree accuracy prior to Becoming) and doesn’t take extreme measures to help what she would have perceived as her only daughter headed straight for an early grave or a life in prison. So Joyce is kept on the edges somewhat by sheer narrative necessity. If Joyce was calling the cops, looking into mental hospitals, and outright getting physically aggressive out of pure frustration with her inexplicably juvenile delinquent daughter, the show would be radically different and, I would say, fairly tedious.

    In the context of the show, however, I’m not sure you have enough evidence to really argue that Buffy’s issues spring in any great degree from the absent father paradigm. Certainly we can apply the classic Freudian analysis (which, intentionally or not, you’re doing) to an unrelated scenario, but it tends to break down a little when considering the multitudes of other issues a show like BtVS brings up. By its very nature, the show demands we look further abroad than we would with, say, “Dawson’s Creek” (anybody remember that one?) If Buffy were a normal girl, or if of the characters lived in a “normal” world, that would make things fairly simple. But Buffy’s not acting out because she misses her father. She’s not dating vampires because of her parents’ divorce (and, no, I don’t consider ‘Conversations with Dead People” definitive. Interesting, and certainly deserving of consideration, but its scope was necessarily extremely limited.) She’s doing these things because she lives in a world inhabited by monsters, and she’s the one with the (unasked-for) responsibility of fighting those monsters. I just don’t believe it would matter if Hank was still in the picture, at least not before “The Body.” Once Buffy has come to terms with the idea that she has a destiny, and that destiny involves lots of killing and the very real possibility she’ll die young herself, the problems of Hank seem to fade into little more than a MotW-level of importance in the scheme of things. Your conclusions about the effect on Buffy’s perspective of the world are predicated upon what I would consider philosophically-tenuous assumptions about traditional family dynamics being given unwarranted importance. Which is fine — these are your reviews and your perspective is just as valid from an experiential perspective as anyone else’s. So I hope you don’t mind me challenging them in the interest of breaking down the particulars of Buffyverse relationships. It just feels as though you’re painting the show’s dynamics with a rather broad brush that might benefit from fine-tuning.

    Buffy was always one of my favorite shows to discuss from a philosophical perspective. It was actually stunning to realize that this show about a cheerleader who stabs lots of vampires was a very complex and well-written show compared to most shows out there.


  74. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    I see your point about Joyce’s absence being baked into the premise of the show, but the end result remains the same: she’s simply not often around and is not an active/involved parent to Buffy, which is important to note regardless of the possible meta-textual reasons behind it.

    I think you were on to something with the realization that almost all of Whedon’s shows feature piles of bad/absent fathers, which could very well be an outlet of frustration from his own upbringing (note: that’s speculation, but I recall Whedon’s early family life involving divorce and his mom being the primary influence).

    You’re certainly correct to bring up that Buffy’s dad is not the only nor necessarily the primary source of her struggles, but to imply it’s not a notable factor seems quite odd to me considering all the examples, even early in the series, that suggest otherwise. Remember “Nightmares” (S1)? Remember “Ted” (S2)? Remember “Helpless” (S3)? Buffy clearly harbors a good deal of hurt from her dad’s absence in her life. I refuse to trivialize that component. I’d also like to add that I spend a good deal of analysis on Buffy’s other struggles as well: the burden of being the Slayer, Joyce’s absence, and — naturally — simply being an adolescent.

    – QUOTE –

    Buffy was always one of my favorite shows to discuss from a philosophical perspective. It was actually stunning to realize that this show about a cheerleader who stabs lots of vampires was a very complex and well-written show compared to most shows out there.

    I think it’s safe to say we’re all in agreement there! We’re all still here talking about it, after all.

    Hopefully this comment thread can return to a discussion of “Reptile Boy” at some point… (I suppose no one [i]wants[/i] to have a discussion about “Reptile Boy” though! Haha.)


  75. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    I agree with you that Joyce being somewhat inadequate as a parent stems from the fact that it’s a necessity from a narrative stand point for all the reasons you mentioned, much as the town being oblivious, despite obvious evidence to the contrary, is. So I’m not entirely sold that Joyce’s neglectful nature being a part of Buffy’s issues is a valid interpretation.

    However, the whole broken household perspective is not only valid, it’s well documented. If the subtle nuances weren’t enough or the building blocks that assembled along the way, then you simply have to look at “Normal Again” to get pretty conclusive evidence of this. Her ideal in contrast to the world she is experiencing is one that includes both her mother and father, together. In this case, together as in still happily married. She nearly opts to kill her friends in favor of that ideal. So, I don’t think there’s much doubt that it heavily influences her actions and decisions throughout the course of the series.


  76. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 3, 2015.]

    Yeah, we can get back to discussing “Reptile Boy”, heh. It’s not one of my favorites either (I suspect we’re part of the vast majority) but it does have some themes that are worth discussing. You touch on the role of gender and gender politics, but — in a weird way, not unrelated to Hank himself — I think the role of class divisions rates some discussion. The obvious dissection of fraternity behavior with a dash of ritualism, ala the infamous Skull and Bones of Yale, intertwines with that of gender (and, on a sublimated level, of race). We have this organization of rich, uniformly white men who have sold their souls, or at least their moral grounding, for power. On the surface, it seems like a fairly predictable critique of the callous upper-class building their fortunes on the suffering of others, which I’d find disappointing in its predictability were it not for the jealous commentary provided by Xander and the ancillary delving into gender politics.

    Xander represents the have-nots, of course, and the belief that upward mobility, either in terms of economic status or, more poignantly in his case, in terms of access to women, is a stark and possibly intractable division He can only watch bitterly as his lengthy crush on Buffy is overshadowed by a rich, handsome frat boy she’d only met a few minutes earlier. He urges her (unheard by her) to resist and is stunned — but, deep down, unsurprised — that she seems receptive. Obviously, the audience knows her eventual acceptance of the invitation has less to do with Tom’s personal merits than Buffy’s dissatisfaction with the restrictions of her destiny, but Xander doesn’t. He just assumes that the world is divided in start terms of haves and have-nots, and that Buffy is one of the perks of being a have. And he despairs at any possibility that he’ll ever be on their level, believing that no matter how much he achieves, they’ll always be above him. It’s a depressingly rigid outlook on life. So I think “Reptile Boy” does address an issue that few other episodes do, which gives it somewhat more importance in the grand scheme of things simply by filling a void. Feminism is inextricably intertwined with classism sometimes, so the Giant Penis Monster isn’t simply a representation of the masculine; it’s a representation of the power and wealth that’s associated with the masculine (and the masculinity that’s associated with wealth and power.) I think it’s interesting to note that the way the frat humiliates both Xander and the pledges serving drinks is by feminizing them. It only confirms their perspective that power is essentially masculine, an issue Xander himself will revisit in Halloween when Buffy saves him. Is Joss trying to send a message here? Seems so, at least to me. While I have no desire to discuss classism and Marxist theory in general, it’s undeniable that those can and are frequently part of the discussion on feminism and, as such, belong in the philosophical continuum of BtVS’s feminism. This episode addresses that more directly better than any other one I can think of off the top of my head.

    (Incidentally, I said it’s not unrelated to Hank because he was obviously well-off and, by later seasons, “living the cliche” of a rich middle-aged man taking off with his presumably younger and attractive secretary rather than focusing on the domestic front of his own daughters.)


  77. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on December 10, 2015.]

    Other Scott: “I’m fairly certain not all fraternities treat women like crap.”

    I’m not, but I suppose it’s possible.

    “This could have been somewhat remedied by showing a positive look at a frat later”

    Ugh. No thanks.

    “The fraternities are evil narrative has been overworked and is only sometimes accurate.”

    Disagree. Keep it coming. The writers of this show, and most of its audience, and almost anyone who was not in a frat/sorority, hate frats. That’s why “frat boy” was a pejorative. Now it’s “bro.” We still hate them. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. Why? Because they are bad people. Not all, sure. But get ’em in a pack, and look out. And I guarantee you that tens of thousands of young women have been raped in frats in history. Dozens of them were in my 4 years at one school.

    Of course, this episode is not just about frats and how misogynistic they are… it is, despite your protestations elsewhere, an attack on the patriarchy. As some other commenter pointed out, their power is guaranteed by sacrificing women. Like Django was a fantasy about an ex-slave striking down a plantation, this episode is a fantasy about a super-powered woman striking down a fraternity and the phallic god they worship and who empowers them for life.


  78. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on December 10, 2015.]

    I’d give this episode an A, because I enjoy the allegory, heavy-handed or not, and I enjoy the revenge fantasy of watching a super-powered girl destroy the patriarchy and literally castrate their little cult when she kills their phallic god.

    Incidentally, an episode of Lost Girl ripped off this episode, and I think their allegory was cleaner and better. That episode took place at an exclusive country club, and the members would gain magical material success through the sacrifice of illegal aliens that they hired to work there. Very nice, but they owe Buffy a debt of gratitude for the initial idea (showrunners were huge Buffy fans).


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