Before Vampire Diaries, there was Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003). The show made it so big that it gathered a loyal troupe of fans whose avidness further inspired novels and comic books. These people love the show even today, and there are still lots of conventions around the world to celebrate this show. Even to people who've never seen the show, Buffy has a familiar ring to it. It was one of the first teen shows to tackle occult themes in earnest, relatively speaking.
In this list, we hope to wrestle with the show’s dark moments. These include cast-related incidents, concept origins, unnecessary behaviors on the part of select people, and creepy concepts and characterizations used over the seasons. In other words, it’s best to stop associating ‘dark’ solely with grim and deplorable things. It also refers to those things not often spoken about or received in good faith.
Buffy has been a super popular show, much like Supernatural is today. This article in no way reflects hate on the writer’s part, but rather an open-minded look at the ‘darker’ side of these shows; based on a refreshed definition. Sometimes it's important to take a step back and reexamine a loved TV show. You might notice things that you've never seen before. It's also possible that maybe, just maybe, you'll never look at it the same way again.
20 Gellar Yells Helter-Skelter
This point might not seem as dark. But think about it. In a show that’s been around forever, the cast and crew are practically family. Now imagine this: you are going to be evicted from your home. One member knows it, and she blabs it to the press before letting you in on it. Feels like a betrayal to me. This is precisely what happened when Sarah Michelle Gellar went to Entertainment Weekly with the premature announcement that Buffy would be no more after season 7.
Nobody saw this coming.
She even roped in the show’s creator and said that they were in agreement on this. Aside from fan-shock, imagine the cast being jolted out of their minds, knowing they’re out of a job. They heard it all on EW. It put a serious strain on their relationship with Gellar. This move was performed rather gracelessly.
19 The Sly Switch
What a lot of Buffy fans might know is that the show could have been very different in a big way. Joss Whedon's original pilot of the show had a different actor in the role of Willow, who was then switched out for a better-looking performer to sell the first episode. This is what happened to Riff Regan in the debut episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, before Alyson Hannigan was cast in Willow’s role.
In the current climate of subjugation (one might argue that this has been going on for much longer), we can’t help but feel that the darkness of judgment, isolationism, bigotry, deliberate advertising, and female dis-empowerment played quite a loud ditty in this otherwise small case. It’s not a matter of casting preference, but more a case of intentional enhancement that drives a stake through our heart.
18 The Empathetic Vampire
Season 6 was a rough one for the show. It’s Sarah Michelle Gellar’s most hated season, owing in large part to the way the writers rewrote her character. James Marsters (who plays Spike) also found that it changed him on a deep level. This is in reference to the bathroom scene where he sees red. According to an interview he gave with AV Club, “I was curled up in a fetal position in between takes... hardest day of my professional career... hardest days of my life.”
If a scene can leave an actor feeling raw, something must have happened behind the scenes.
Marsters was feeling disgusted about the way the writers took to the season. This scene was based on a writer's real experience in college, and it was her most vulnerable moment. To say James was uncomfortable with this scene would be an understatement.
17 To Kiss Or Not To Kiss
Dark ideas are not only about occultism or crazy scandals; they also include modern-day intolerance. In this case, we see prejudice concerning the same-gender relationship between Willow and Tara. Outlooks were admittedly different back in 2000, but that’s still no excuse for a TV network (in this case WB) to declare NO to a scene involving a harmless love interest angle.
Instead of simply editing out the kiss scene, Joss Whedon employed a witchcraft metaphor to describe it. The kiss was eventually showcased halfway through season 5, and Whedon insisted that it go on-air or he walks. This was a great move, as it ended up working. This was one of the first same-gender kisses on network television. Later on, the show also became the first network television show to air a lesbian scene. We can only imagine how insulting this might have seemed to select fandoms.
16 The Facts Behind The Fangs
The vampires in Buffy look like ordinary people with only their teeth and bone structure mutated. There’s a reason behind this, and it has nothing to do with technical limitations. Whedon employed a psychological ploy, meaning he intentionally wanted viewers to see that a normal person can become a vampire rather quickly and revert back to normalcy. This, he surmised, would give viewers chills. He also wanted there to be an obvious distinction between people and monsters so Buffy didn't come across as dissociative and anti-social.
The forehead-to-nose prosthetic that comprised the show’s vampire-image involved delicate makeup work; an hour and a half’s worth.
Whedon really drilled in an important message here, and humanizing the vampires certainly did make them more unsettling to viewers.
15 From The Pages Of History
The writers relied upon actual vampire lore to keep the show believable. They kept one foot in history and another in myth. Joss Whedon decided to get rid of the whole flying angle, as well as the part where vampires can turn into bats. He felt it was old-fashioned and silly. The truth of the matter was that the show did not have sufficient funding to use these CG-reliant moments. But the series still holds up, regardless.
Lore-based concepts that were applied include the idea that vampires (being soul-less) don’t leave reflections on mirrors and that they can be destroyed by a stake driven through their hearts. Their weaknesses include substances like garlic, holy water, and fire. They cannot enter a residence unless invited inside by the owner (we believe that this particular point was heavily employed in Vampire Diaries).
14 A Ghastly Villain
The Gentlemen are one of the more unforgettable villains, not to mention one of the most genuinely blood-curdling. They give off a strong Victorian vibe, with several frightful layers of personality. It’s remarkable to learn that Joss Whedon came up with the idea for them in a dream that he had. He later sketched out and presented this to his team, particularly the show’s special effects department. The make-up guys then worked to make it happen.
Viewers got a set of horrifying villains in one of the darkest fantasy series of its time.
Relying on the talent of actors and artists who have performed other creature-related work (one of whom included Doug Jones), Joss Whedon realized The Gentlemen on-screen. Whedon, “…wanted guys who would remind people of what they were scared of when they were children.”
13 Grave Concerns
Given that this was a widely viewed television show, it might not have gotten darker than when the team decided to create an actual graveyard for the purpose of the series. Season 1’s graveyard was a set, but from season 2 onwards, the team decided to make their own in the warehouse’s parking lot. Carey Meyer, the production designer, had this to share with the BBC: “We poured in kerb, back-filled it with dirt and planted grass and lots of trees...”
The set was designed to help with Hollywood’s green screen magic. They could angle the cameras in such a way as to make certain graveyard features appear bigger than they really were; trees, headstones, and the like. Joss Whedon did feel that the set-based graveyard had more scope, but none of the ease of access, especially in regards to shoot-times and production schedules.
12 Buffy, Interrupted
Buffy changed networks after season 5, moving from WB to UPN. Probably desiring to make things darker, the new network rendered season 6 quite controversial. The titular heroine, Sarah Michelle Gellar, has gone on record (at an event in Paley Centre; 2008) to share how atrocious the whole experience felt to her. To be asked to turn her character around left her feeling terrible.
She said the season was a struggle.
The reason why we added this point to our list is to show readers and fans just how deep actors get into their roles and how harshly some changes/alterations to that role can affect them on a deep emotional/psychological level. As you can imagine, chances of her being changed for life is not far-fetched; the dangers of performing is very real. We’re just glad they brought back the real Buffy later. Talk about a dark night.
11 Study Time
Under the pretentious name "Buffy Studies," several colleges and universities have begun to provide courses on the show. While classical knowledge is indeed a thing, and even philosophy has a respectable place in the academic ranks, we can’t help but shudder at the prospect of a show being discussed academically. This is something that fans do anyway via theories and arguments, debates, and controversies.
It’s a dark day indeed when academia takes such things to an unwanted level, reports of which you’ll find covered in the Los Angeles Times. With paper topics ranging as widely as "postmodern reflections on the culture of consumption" and "slayer slang," we’re looking at a ridiculously irrelevant branch of study that’s not rooted in the real world at all. This just feels disrespectful of the process of academia and all those striving to learn something more useful for their futures.
10 Not So Angelic
In yet another classic case of the student superseding the master, we have the character of Angel. According to the show, he was born back in 1763. Even then, he proved himself a cruel and cunning vampire. Even mass elimination wasn’t above this fiend, who has ended entire villages of people. He calls Drusilla, Spike, and Carla (together, history termed them The Whirlwind) his clan, and has ended many people with them over the decades.
He has even eliminated his human family without a thought.
This creature, we believe, is one of the show’s darkest characters owing in large part to how disgustingly he treats his victims, both emotionally and physically. His art, as he calls it, came to an end when he attacked a bunch of gypsies and one of them cursed him with a soul. Now that’s poetic justice!
9 Heaven Is Certainly Not Missing This Angel
It’s a kind of darkness to create a beloved character with the intention of eliminating them early. This is what affected Angel (played by David Boreanaz) who was written primarily to be Buffy’s love interest. The writers felt it would traumatize their lead heroine, even more, to take him out of the picture, and somewhat abruptly. The writers put off his passing until season 2, where he turned into a brilliant villain. The way he portrayed an entity in possession of a soul was amazing.
Ending him was not done lightly either. The cold writers chose to revive him in season 3 purely to connect a gap that fans might otherwise have found difficult when Angel received his own series spinoff. Any Buffy fan worth their fangs will admit to having their hearts prematurely broken at Angel’s demise.
8 A Not-So-Noble Passing
Speaking of spinoffs, the comic books based on Buffy The Vampire Slayer make for a truly great read if you enjoy plenty of vamp-instigated eliminations. What’s genuinely jaw-dropping is the fact that the comic’s eighth season sees Angel being possessed by an otherworldly entity called simply Twilight. It doesn’t stop there: the ‘good’ Angel then goes on to destroy Giles!
After growing to love both characters, fans have their hearts broken yet again with a permanent end for beloved Giles.
Not only did Angel previously eliminate Jenny Calendar, a close love of his, he uses the same technique to get rid of Giles. It’s interesting to note that Giles was giving Buffy a way to stop Angel, making his passing a noble self-sacrifice. Fans actually spoke against this inclusion in the comics, and for good reason.
7 Vampiric Crisis
This is not a typical thing to do, lying to someone to keep them in your life. It is, however, a jerk thing, one that could end up doing more harm than good. Ask anyone who has experienced this situation and they’ll tell you how disappointing and hurtful it can be. This is why we chose to add this point to our list, owing to the message being conveyed by Angel when he lies to Buffy to keep her close.
Some might argue that his circumstances bid him do this, considering that he came to Sunnydale to watch over her, went on to help her win, and fell in love with his charge. Whether or not the part about feeding on people could be termed immoral for a vampire, a lie like this is sure to turn sour. At least Angel was sinking his fangs into criminals.
6 Just A Little Strange
Angelus was supposedly born in 1763. Between that time and 1898, when he received a soul, we are looking at an average estimate of 50,000 people on his elimination-roster. CBR came up with an amusing calculation for the same. What we can be sure of, though, are the fifty-nine eliminations that involved yours truly once he joined up with Buffy and before his soul was given to him a second time.
He's kind of like the vampire Jack the Ripper.
A more realistic calculation (also plotted by CBR) would entail the ‘normal’ feeding patterns of vampires, namely once or twice a week. This would leave our Angel a violent person with approximately eight thousand names on his destruction list. Look at us, we sound so casual about this you’d think we were tallying up a sports score!
The episode after the same name inspired one of the creepiest moments in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. We mentioned earlier how Whedon came up with The Gentlemen from a dream that he had. The manner in which it was shot is an exemplary example of how silence can make our darkest fears rise to the surface. The Gentlemen are known to steal people’s voices, so they don’t shout out when they have their way with them.
With only seventeen minutes of spoken dialogue in the otherwise forty-four-minute episode, the way the plot progressed along a predominantly visual angle was breathtaking and frightening. We, therefore, felt it best to include this point on our list, for obvious reasons. It was a good thing Joss Whedon didn’t refuse at the last minute to do this episode; he was worried if it would fail.
4 A Sick Mind
A dark soul is worse than no soul at all. Angel has exemplified this time and again in Buffy. Deviating from the prescribed image of romantic charmer or evil beast, this particular vampire seems to have taken a page out of Hannibal’s memoirs, only worse. Angel’s tendency to choose manipulation was not lost on fans of the show, who sat glued to their screens from sheer shock at the way David Boreanaz portrayed such attributes.
His character goes at his victims until they break mentally, at which point he considers his art well done.
He worked on Drusilla this way, eliminating her friends and family until she lost it. The part where she escapes to a nunnery only to have Angel find her there too. He destroys all the nuns and then promptly turns her into a vampire.
3 I Believe
Even Eliza Dushku, who played Faith, was hiding some secrets of her own. She's since stepped away from the Mormon religion, but was raised in the faith by her mother. She's said in the past that she was happy that she had this upbringing and that there will "always be a part of her that's Mormon."
It did, however, slightly affect her time on Buffy. Her family was pretty involved in her life at the time of the show, and was in contact with Joss Whedon to make sure that she wasn't asked to do anything too scandalous. This caused a certain amount of conflict, and her family was not pleased with all of the scenes that Eliza was asked to do. Her grandmother, especially, was not happy, from what we've read.
2 The Return Of Buffy?
Though we eventually got a comic book series continuation of the show, fans might be a bit upset to learn that there was a canceled animated show, as well. Buffy the Animated Series started development in 2001, with Joss Whedon at the helm. Continuity-wise, it was supposed to take place in the first season. Everyone was signed on to reprise their roles.
It seemed as though everything was falling into place, and a pilot was made.
But nobody wanted to pick up the pilot after Fox Kids was shut down. It was shopped around for a bit. Nobody wanted to take a risk on an animated show based on a teen series. A few networks even turned it down because of the high cost of producing the series, since Joss wanted it to be a high-value production. It's kind of sad that it never got a chance.
1 Bend It Like Brendon
No matter the downsides, a cast and crew of a long-running television series stick up for each other. But even this sort of loyalty couldn’t keep Nicholas Brendon from using substances while working on Buffy. Near the end of the hit show, Brendon began using things that ended up becoming a major problem for him later.
Not only has he faced several arrests for overuse, his appearance on Dr. Phil ended up making things worse for him. Despite opening up about his problems on-air, the good doctor commented on his breath smelling of a certain drink, which brought Brendon some bad press. He could have been clean for the one show that could redeem his public image. The disaster train does not stop there, though. Nicholas Brendon has also been charged with destruction of property, robbery, and has harmed people.