November 30, 2010 / Theology
This essay is neither for nor against Glenn Beck. The philosopher Michel Foucault warns us …
June 4, 2007
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a television series about a young woman chosen in her generation to fight the forces of darkness, was on the air from 1997-2003. It never drew a large audience, but was very well received critically, dominated the coveted youth demographic, and continues to have a cult following. It also has a large number of active fan sites, an academic journal Slayage, and was the second “most missed television series” in December of 2005.1 When combined with the show Angel, fans frequently refer to the “Buffy-verse” and take the world-view found on the show very seriously.
The show was written to have both serious and satirical sides allowing its creator Joss Whedon and his stable of talented writers to tell traditional morality and hero tales to a more cynical generation without turning off his viewers. Whenever an episode failed dramatically, then it could be described as ironic, when special effects were “cheesy” due to budget constraints, they too were part of the game, and so the show was protected from possibility of ridicule. To take the details too seriously was to show that you were clueless, but real fans also recognized that all the irony and eye-rolling masked some of the most clever myth making and story telling on television.
Joss Whedon is open about his hostility to Christian theism. He describes himself as an atheist and calls the God of Christian theism a “sky bully.” Whedon is not hostile to Christians, but feels American culture is hostile to his lack of faith, claiming that he would like to have faith, but has none. Fundamentally, he believes that humankind makes its own meaning in an absurd universe. This separates him from the optimistic atheism of someone like the late Gene Rodenberry, creator of Star Trek.2
Given his approach to the icons of Christianity in all his series, from Buffy to Angel to Firefly, it might be better to say that Whedon deeply dislikes God than that he disbelieves in Him. His shows consistently assault the idea of any divine craftsman in the universe. I had a private conversation with a person associated with Whedon in the production of Buffy. This person described Whedon to me as having a deep antipathy to God through personal pain that made belief in a meaningful universe difficult. The end of Buffy where characters worry as much about the unlamented destruction of malls as they do about the death of key characters is typical. The viewer is superficially led to assume that no sacrifice is meaningful in the Buffy-verse, but repeatedly, sacrifice is meaningful. Buffy dies for her “sister” Dawn because she deems it better so and there is an underlying objective morality to which judgments about the justice of the cosmic order are made.
Whedon claims that he began writing the failed Buffy movie and the successful show to develop strong women characters.3 He was tired of seeing the “pretty blonde” killed by the monster for daring to be sexual. Buffy introduced a positive lesbian relationship and the series was consistently lauded as very empowering to women. The shows placed men in a weaker role than is typically seen in an action adventure series. However, all the romantic relationships onBuffy end badly so it is difficult to see if sexuality is actually empowered in the series. What is obvious is that this Emmy Award winning and Academy Award nominated writer takes his world view seriously and intends, however comically he portrays it, for his viewers to do so as well. It is no accident that all his shows together sometimes are said to form a Whedon-verse.
The Nature of Myth in Culture: Plato’s View of Education
Buffy as Myth
Long time fans commonly refer to the Buffy universe as “mythic.”4 Usually this refers to the consistent nature of the story telling universe (though Whedon is not always as consistent as fans would like) or to the epic nature of the conflict between the vampires and the Vampire Slayer. Sometimes it merely means thatBuffy like ancient Greek mythology contains stories known to be false that contain supernatural powers struggling for control of the cosmos. There is, however, a more philosophically interesting use of the term that may account for the nearly religious devotion of a core of fans to the series.
Plato was the first philosopher to precisely utilize the term “myth” and does so in a way quite relevant to Buffy, but somewhat different from popular modern uses of the term. Plato uses “myth” in an epistemological,5 cosmological,6 ethical,7 and theological8 context believing such stories can “save” the hearer if they are believed.9 A myth is a likely story,10 fine and beautiful,11 that explains and unifies hypotheses about reality in areas where the truth is not knowable.12While it may not be true, in the sense of having details all of which correspond to external reality, it is metaphysically or psychologically suggestive.13 The hearer is lead to higher concepts (knowledge of the Forms) that might not be recalled if the story were not told.
Plato’s theory of knowledge utilizes myths as part of the process for knowing. Plato believes that any good student moves from images (weak stories, but not true myths) to science (higher myths) and from science to mathematics and finally to knowledge.14 How is this process possible? First, Plato argues that humans are “hard wired” to know the truth in the best of all possible cosmos. Humans can trust their intuitions and memories to eventually produce indubitable experiences if properly stimulated. Since the cosmos is as good as it can be, these experiences are not only beyond doubt, but likely true.
Second, he develops an educational strategy to encourage this recollection of divine knowledge. This educational strategy has three steps: dialectic, hypothesis, and myth making. The Republic pictures all three steps of this process. Book I has Socrates engaged in his famous method producing bewilderment in his students. Book II-IX shows Socrates engaged in making a “city in words” (a sort of simulation game) in which his students can see justice. This simulation by hypothesis culminates in myth making which ends the Republic discussion (Book X).
For Plato myth includes all of what we would now call the fine arts, music, and literature. To use a contemporary example: the Christian icon in the Orthodox Church is one kind of likely story and the Christian written gospel is another. While there are important differences between the written icon and the words of the Gospel, there are also important similarities. Both tell a story in an incomplete way that is still believed to be true, in a sense, by the creator. Both hope to be true within their genre limitations.
The Platonic myth will seize hold of the popular imagination and purify it, spreading through the collective body like a powerful medicine. Of course, a bad myth can also spread like a virus destroying the soul. A well told tale will be more powerful than any mere falsification of details in the story. Plato’s own Atlantis myth is a prime example of such a powerful myth. Even knowledge that the story was made up by Plato does not dampen its hold on the popular imagination or its lesson of the possibility of destruction to any Empire which tries to seize too much power based only on force. Because a good story taps into the Forms, the very archetypes of creation, it can endure for thousands of years.
The Dracula Myth: the Stoker Story
One such prevailing story is the vampire myth which is very ancient. The being which is “undead,” but preys on the living is an echo of the deathless (not immortal) gods of Homer and Hesiod. These gods are without death, but have no true life and so face the prospect of eternity without true happiness and so feast on human pleasure and pain in order to provide relief from their existence. The human being caught in such an existence would be miserable, out of place, which is why the wily Odysseus rejects deathlessness and a life of ease and sexuality on the island of Calypso. This “life without life” may be an archetypical expression of the Fall of Satan and the existence of demons.
With the rise of Christianity, the undead continued to haunt the imagination particularly in the form of the vampire. The modern form of the story was told by Bram Stoker from a variety of sources using elements from Biblical Christianity and Anglo-Catholic theology. In his retelling, the undead Dracula must drink the blood of the living to thrive, has a horror for the symbols of the Christian faith, and can be killed by sunlight and stakes. The vampire drinks blood in an imitation of the Sacramental impartation of grace in the Eucharist. His horror of the symbols of the faith comes from the true life which resides in them. Dracula (and all other vampires) do not cease their motions, but they have no true life. He is killed by sunlight as a symbol of Christ, the light of the world, and the wooden stake as a type of the cross. All of these elements became part of vampire folklore and are utilized in Buffy.
Stoker attacked the objectification of women as sexual objects and attempted to reinforce the traditional family structure as liberating to women in his novel. As a member of the theater, he witnessed first hand assaults on Victorian values and he (and his wife) were disgusted by the breakdown in morals. As an early feminist, he was not an opponent of women’s rights, but of the reduction of women to mere sexual objects. Lucy Westenra, the Light of the West, falls to Dracula because she is merely innocent and not wise, while Mina Harker who is both rational and passionate is saved.
Christianity and its relationship to science are strong sub-themes in the novel. Abraham Van Helsing who is the opposite of Dracula is a man of science and of metaphysics. Van Helsing does not deny the supernatural, but treats it rationally, operating by its own discoverable rules. There is more in heaven and earth than a materialist would dream, but the “more” is not irrational or whimsical. Within its lights, the “other world” makes sense. Modern fantasy and horror, including Buffy, have been taking the same approach ever since and the character “Giles” in Buffy has something of the Van Helsing role to Buffy’s much more active Mina!
In short, most modern vampire movies and fiction are deeply indebted to Christian iconography and Victorian Anglican visions of the Christian faith that were traditional and hostile to much of modernity. Stoker’s vampire story fuses these many sources of story (the Christian, the British, the folk tales) into one new sub-creation.
The vampire legend is a powerful example of the Platonic “myth.” It serves as a heuristic device teaching powerful moral lessons about the nature of reality. While details of the vampire story may not be true, they are “likely,” that is, they are true within the rules of the cosmos and of the story itself. There may be no vampire qua vampire, but the undergirding philosophy beneath the myth contains powerful truths. There is no life in deathlessness and mere survival of the body is not enough for human flourishing. Once vampires are “hypothesized” then they function according to the rules implied by their existence and follow them. They also obey all other physical laws. (For example, one failure of Buffy to adhere to this rule was in having the ninety pound Buffy able to move more massive objects by flying through the air and hitting them. The physics don’t work and there is nothing in being a Slayer that entailed denying basic physics of this sort. The Slayer may be strong, but she is not massive!)
Buffy as a Secular Appropriation of the Myth
Christian Images in Buffy
Joss Whedon is a secularist who chose to pick up on the strong Stoker myth and therefore inherited a stew of Christian, Victorian, and folk mythology. The first episode is fairly faithful to the sources, the last one much less so. Whedon “broke the rules” and added more elements as he went along. Often Buffyappeared to be carefully crafted, but even major character elements were changed from one season to the next. The show has the most continuity with the old Dracula mythology in season one, but never escapes it altogether. One episode features the popular villain Spike hanging on a cross which burns his undead flesh. Even in the last season, the vampire Spike, who now has a soul, finds himself battling in a room where every inch of wall space is filled with crosses. This is one of the most iconic moments of the entire series.
As a vampire story, the Buffy series found itself using Christian iconography from the first. While the Buffy-verse developed an elaborate view of “hell” with multiple realities and an expansive view of “who goes to heaven,” almost every episode featured a powerful use of the cross as an image. This use might have been an attempt to secularize this Christian symbol, but if so it failed. Vampires did not like Christian churches, symbols, or artifacts, and this is one of the most enduring elements in Buffy.
In addition to Stoker, Whedon owes much to Dante and the Comedy. The use of “levels” in Hell and the picture of a variety of demons are very Dante-like. For example, no demon, as demon, is good, but some are less dangerous to men than others. This corresponds to the petty versus the great sinners in theInferno. If the devils of Dante were to roam the earth, some would be as vicious as the unrepentant Anya and others as facile as demon bar keepers and stoolies. Images of hell used on the show are frequently drawn straight from Dante.
Whedon and his writers consistently use Christian images derived from Stoker and Dante and these images often over-power the superficial message of the story. Young adults may posture as if the universe is meaningless, but they are doing so in the context of a cross-ridden universe in which good is sometimes imperfect, but present, and evil is always evil. The details of the Whedon-verse are so contrived and ad hoc, that writers of the show admit that they made things up as they went along, and that it is the consistent vision of Stoker, Dante, and Christianity which is the enduring memory of the show. The opening credit shots of Buffy, the chosen one, wearing a cross and fighting evil in a Christian cemetery reduce chatter about multiple demon-lords to so much throw away dialog.
Season one introduces the characters and establishes many of the rules the Whedon-verse will follow for the next seven seasons. Buffy wears a large cross which seems to get smaller each season. There is even a direct attack on witches for the first and last time on the show. Because it is just finding its audience and voice, the series adopted rules that Whedon may later have regretted that are in line with Stoker’s. Holy water, crosses, and stakes are all powerful and light will kill a vampire.
The most important episode is the last one of the season which establishes the pattern of a story arc that concludes at the end of the season. In Prophecy Girl, which Whedon wrote, Buffy is fated to die at the hands of her first nemesis, a vampire called the Master. She dreads her doom, but eventually accepts her duty and dies doing it. She is “brought back from the dead” and destroys the Satan-like Master. The parallels to the story of the Christ are obvious.
Season two is dominated by Angel, a vampire with a soul, who loves Buffy. Angel loses his soul after finally consummating his relationship with Buffy and experiencing one moment of pure happiness and he returns to his evil state. At the end of the season, Buffy decides the needs of the many out-weigh her own needs and the needs of Angel. She sacrifices him to prevent the destruction of the world.
The theme of the season could be described as: “the consequences of actions.” The wages of sin or selfishness are quite literally death. The universe does not seem absurd or meaningless, but a painfully just place. Even the death of a central character, Miss Calendar, comes because of her involvement with the original black magic that cursed Angel. Evil is really evil and destroys love and anything good around it.
A Whedon-written Lie to Me is one of the most revealing episodes in the series. It mocks young adults who want to be vampires and try to imitate vampire life. These “wanna-be” vampires are allowed no existential possibility that vampire life will be glorious or liberating. Instead, Buffy and her gang are quite judgmental about their foolish choice and help save them from the consequence. One young man who becomes a vampire to escape a terminal illness, the most sympathetic of the poseurs, is staked by Buffy at the end of the show. Bluntly, this show should have been impossible based on Whedon’s world-view and is a good example that the morality of the Stoker universe was more powerful than Whedon’s views. It is impossible for Whedon to admire folk who admire vampires.
Season three is the last of the Buffy in high school seasons and the most original season in the series. The Graduation Day and Ear Shot episodes generated post-Columbine controversy, but eventually were aired. The appearance of evil in the form of a giant snake in the final episode is another example of the constant use of Biblical iconography in the series.
The new slayer introduced in this season is Faith who lacks her namesake virtue. Eventually, she betrays Buffy and her friends and allies with evil. She ends the season in a coma. Her lack of faith leads to destruction for her friends and for herself. Again the series is almost fundamentalist in bringing destruction down on those who trespass the morality of the Buffy-verse.
There is even a place for divine redemption in this season. The most visually stunning episode in the series is Amends, written and directed by Joss Whedon. Angel has been returned by “the powers” but is haunted by his past and does not believe he can change or ever make amends. It is Christmas time and Christmas images dominate the episode. Angel decides to stand in the sunlight on Christmas morning and die and even Buffy cannot convince him otherwise in time. Angel is saved by a miracle when it begins to snow for the first time in Sunnydale. Angel and Buffy can be together in the open air during Christmas. There is no natural reason for Angel’s return (in the first place) or this happy coincidence, one of many on the show that save main characters. Once again, the universe is neither absurd nor do persons make all the choices that matter. Heaven saves Angel.
The loss of the high school set put the Buffy universe in serious peril and some fans believe it never recovered. Though the budgets were larger many of the story lines from this point on in the show were larger and more convoluted versions of earlier ones. Willow goes through the most arbitrary character changes as the very heterosexual computer nerd is transformed in one season into a powerful pagan witch with a lesbian lover. The season blends science fiction (for the first and last time) into the series. As a result, it is the least “Christian” of the seven seasons. At times, the iconography of science fiction drowns out the normal Buffy myth. On the other hand, as my former student and colleague Josh Sikora points out, the ignorance of the “Initiative” regarding magic and the supernatural is a powerful image attacking the simplistic materialism that Whedon seems to believe. The Initiative seeks to use the supernatural to create a new breed of humans, but the result is distorted and ugly. In this sense, the season draws heavily on the anti-science Frankenstein.
The best episode of the season is Hush in which the voices of the town are stolen. Sunnydale responds in terror and this “silent” episode stresses the power of words. A key scene in the episode includes a sign containing the Biblical reference Revelation 15:1: “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.” It is amusing coincidence that there are seven seasons of Buffy, but the quotation does serve to place the trials of Sunnydale in a context. Each apocalypse, monster, or demon cause the central characters to grow. They are like rulers in a school for souls, returning Buffy, et al. each year, older and at least a bit wiser.
The “monsters” of the episode are the Gentlemen who almost calmly go about ripping out human hearts and who can only be stopped by the sound of a live human scream. The episode is Babel in reverse with Buffy reuniting the town by freeing its voices. She ascends a tower, like Babel, and rescues the town’s voices, including her own which kills the Gentlemen. This is one of the few successful secular appropriations of Christian mythology in the series. Buffy and her lover Riley free the trapped voices and remove the curse brought by the false gentlemen.
Buffy actually meets Dracula in season five’s opener, but it is her new sister that steals the show. The best episode of the season centers on the death of Buffy’s mother in The Body. This is the single most unblinking portrayal of a dead body I have ever seen on television and by itself puts to rest fears that Buffy is not serious enough for careful study. In it and following episodes, Joyce’s death forces the gang to deal with the permanence of death and their inability to justly control the world through magic. The Gift ends the fifth season and Buffy dies for the second time, but this time in an intentional sacrifice for her sister. In many ways this season repeats the Buffy-as-Christ figure of season one, but with a bigger budget and a more involved story line.
Bargaining brings Buffy back from the dead using magic, but all is not well with the Slayer. She is disoriented and distant, which her friends assume comes from being pulled out of hell. Later, viewers discover that Buffy was blissful in heaven and that her friends have destroyed her bliss by bringing her back. The universe is better left as it is, another sign that Whedon’s absurdist views are not consistently worked out in the series. Buffy’s trip to heaven is vital to the rest of the show, but Whedon never works out heaven as a place.
Magic may be all over Buffy to the consternation of some Christian parents and the delight of the globe’s high pagans, but in reality seven seasons of magic leave the thoughtful viewer doubting the worth of even white magic. Willow becomes addicted to magic and at the death of her lover, Tara, she begins to seek revenge using black arts. Her spells frequently backfire or turn out badly and in the end she is consumed by her lust for magical power. Whatever Whedon intended, Christian parents should have relaxed since magic appears too dangerous for human use, the essential Christian position, in season six.
One of the cleverest episodes of the series is Once More with Feeling a musical. In it Buffy complains (along with more than a few viewers) that she has “been going through the motions” and later wonders with the rest of the cast “where do we go from here?” In this most Pythagorean of episodes, music reveals the truth about the cast. Buffy sings that she had no pain or doubt until “I was expelled from heaven” so “please give me something to sing about.” The demon retorts that she can only heal her pain by living. This seems to fit the atheistic existential world-view of Whedon, if one accepts the advice of a demon for living and discounts Buffy’s heavenly experience.
Grave, which concludes the year, is full of Christian symbolism. Willow’s increase in power causes her to feel the pain of the world and she decides to destroy it in order to end the agony. It is the unconditional love of the carpenter, Xander, which stops her from destroying the world.
Superficially, season seven is the least Christian of all the seasons. The amount of Christian iconography is less than in the past and there is more emphasis on the odd and inconsistent “back-story” of earth history. In this Buffy myth, vampires are the original inhabitants of the earth driven out by the first Slayer (or Chosen One) as selected by a group of powerful men. The “power below” or the ultimate evil (the First) rises in the last season with an army of super-vampires from the dawn of time. One of the main servants of the First is a minister named Caleb who is a strange mix of Pentecostal street preacher and worker of dark deeds.
Whedon is at best a dualist in his portrayal of evil in this season. The universe is not absurd. It contains great evil and the humans in it judge it to be evil. Is there a god? That is never made clear, but there is a heaven and the wicked do not go there. No viewer of the show is left in any doubt that the rise of the Uber-Vamps is a bad thing and their desire for a world of anarchy and hedonism is consistently shown as unattractive. It is not just the existential choice of Buffy and her friends that decide the contest. At several turns it is obvious that a certain fate is driving events and characters express confidence that good will triumph over evil. Though there is an attempt at irony in this season, it is ineffective. Plainly the last battle of Buffy and her team of self-described “Scoobies” will be an epic one pitting easily recognizable (even cartoon) evil against good.
Buffy and her witch-friend Willow will create new rules and empower scores of “potential slayers” to become actual slayers to battle these Uber-Vamps. However, none of this “rule breaking” and feminine empowerment would work if it were not for the Christ figure of the season, the vampire with a soul, Spike.
Spike has gone through hell to gain a soul in order to truly love Buffy. As a vampire he can become erotically attached to her, but some memory of real love drives him to sacrifice his own peace as an amoral vampire and regain his human conscience. He is thus deathless with an immortal soul . . . regaining the poetic soul that he had originally possessed before being sired by Drucilla. Spike is an incarnation of the best of humanity with the strength to go with Buffy into the Hell Mouth in the last episode of the series Chosen. There the battle is going badly for Buffy and the new slayers until Spike utilizes an amulet to focus great magical energy on the Uber-Vamps, destroying them and himself as well. Good has once again triumphed over evil and it has done so through the death of a deathless one, an incarnate soul in pain.
Power of the Seminal Myth
The experience of Joss Whedon in attempting an appropriation of the Christian icons and myth of the vampire legend reveals that it is difficult to do so without those myths co-opting the story teller. Buffy is not superficially a Christian show, but it did have at least one Christian writer and Joss Whedon is almost obsessive in his interest in religious themes. (Something further demonstrated by his later show Firefly and the film Serenity.)
As Plato would have predicted, the older myth was more potent than the Whedon-verse tacked on to it. It is not the details of multiple hells or lesbian kisses that the viewer remembers three years after Buffy left first-run broadcast, but good triumphing over evil, friendship, and love incarnating itself in self-sacrificial death. If this is not Christian, then it is not hostile to it.
Oddly, more than anything else it may have been the demands of commercial television that cause the Buffy-verse to seem fundamentally Christian. Characters on Buffy keep making ironic comments and rolling their eyes at the Cosmos. Whedon puts lines in their mouths that suggest that only the actions of the characters create meaning, but the audience demands a happy ending and so the show keeps having fortuitous conclusions. After seven seasons averting apocalypse and evil, the Scooby gang does not seem particularly competent, but they do seem very, very lucky at saving us all from doom. This much luck in the universe points directly to divine Providence. The God of the Buffy Heaven is never mentioned, but the flow of events in Sunnydale point to this presence. He is there and His will is that “all things work together for good.” (It is ironic that the God of the Whedon-verse chooses to work through the audience!) This plan must not be thwarted by any magic. Buffy must survive, because the fans want Buffy to be in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The “happily ever after” of the Christian fairy tale cannot be ignored, because Whedon’s audience is still culturally Christian enough to demand it. As a result, Whedon’s own world-view (absurdist and atheistic) seems superficial and forced when it is included in lines mouthed by characters who seem guided by a benevolent destiny to inevitably save the world from evil.
Long time viewers of the show might complain that many things don’t work out, especially romantic relationships. Anya never marries Xander and many beloved characters die by the end of the show. This only leads to the Augustinian conclusion that God’s will is hard to see in the details, but easy to see in the big picture. Joss kills his characters and destroys relationships to shake up his audience and make his absurdist point about reality, but the constraints of the show limit his damage. He is the devil in his own cosmos, able to do his worst, but the audience demands that the universe make sense in the large scheme of things and that Buffy goes on. As a result, just as in real life, the good that might come from the Whedon-inspired random evil is hard to see, but the over all Divine Providence is clear in the repeated salvation of Sunnydale from grotesque evil that threatens to overwhelm it. In Buffy, just as in real life, the devil is in the details and trivia of the show, but the manifest providence of God is in the story arc. Buffy fails to consistently portray an absurd or meaningless universe. In fact, it most consistently portrays a universe in which good is stronger than evil. The moral relativism Whedon professes is mentioned frequently, but rarely honored in the conclusion of each season. Nobody questions whether it would be better for Evil to win and humankind to die nor is salvation always tied to the actions of Buffy and her friends.
Buffy also oddly fails as a paean to sexual liberation. When a young Buffy first has sex with the vampire Angel it leads to terrible consequences for this first “vampire with a soul.” Their love is tragically doomed, but even when Buffy attempts to move on she finds no solace. Her next love interest is a college player and user and after him Buffy moves on to the dullest character in the series, Riley, who is unable to spark real passion in her or the viewers. She carries on an affair with Spike, a vampire once her nemesis, but this cannot be described as love on her part. Falling in love with Buffy is futile as she becomes ever more emotionally distant from even her friends as the series progresses.
Despite his much vaunted display of a ground breaking televised lesbian relationship, Whedon is no kinder to Willow’s character. Her first lover, Tara, is shot in a scene shown again and again on the show and her second lover Kennedy is her inferior mentally and socially. As one person connected to the show commented to me, at times it appears that Whedon is using his female actors to fulfill his own male fantasies and not acting to empower women.
Finally, Buffy appropriates Christian themes of sacrifice, death, and resurrection to good effect. Some of the most powerful images of the show are from the Faith and though they are superficially secularized their message of redemption and life are always present. The use of dark powers is consistently shown to have bad repercussions that out weigh any benefits of their use.
The difficulty for Whedon is that the Buffy-verse is not a true myth in the Platonic sense, but uses true myth with tacked on secularism. The secularism frequently peals off and the undergirding myth is revealed. Buffy is a mythic show, but in a secondary sense. Whedon has hitched his capable literary wagon to good stories, but he does not expand on them or really improve them. The seminal Christian myth found in the Bible and Dracula is fundamentally more powerful than the Whedon-verse. If future vampire movies are made, and they will surely be made, Bram Stoker’s influence will out weigh that of Joss Whedon. One is hard pressed to think of any enduring images from Buffy that do not derive from Dante, Stoker, or Jesus. Buffy is not, therefore, a true myth, but an appropriation of a myth with some colorful elements tacked on to it.
2. All quotes are from http://www.celebatheists.com/index.php?title=Joss_Whedon.
3. Audio commentary to the complete Buffy.
4. Even a quick Google search turns up hundreds of thousands of relevant uses.
5. Symposium 203 b and following.
6. Timaeus 27 c and following.
7. Phaedo 107 c.
8. Republic 614 b and following.
9. Republic 621 c.
10. See Timaeus 27 c.
11. Republic 377 c.
12. Republic 414 c.
13. Republic 449 d.
14. Republic 509 and following.
John Mark Reynolds