Slayage: The Journal of Whedon Studies
Joss Whedon’s two longest-running television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) (1997-2003) and Angel (1999-2004), which together constitute the “Buffyverse,” often focus on questions about the degree to which past actions bear on one’s present moral character. Particularly in the case of reformed demons and vampires, regret for past sins weighs heavily on the present and motivates current benevolent and heroic deeds.
For the ensouled vampire Angel most especially, the need to make amends for centuries of sadistic cruelty and bloodshed stamps him with his ever brooding-personality and his nearly ceaseless attempts to balance the scales—while knowing that the scales can never be fully balanced. Whedon frequently reaches centuries back into his vampire characters’ pasts to explore the relationships between their original human traits, the worst degradations of their demonic exploits, and their present strivings for redemption.
California, with its own layered history of colonization (with all of the bloodshed, land theft, human rights violations, and breeches of tribal sovereignty it entailed, as well as the contemporary socioeconomic power imbalances that derive from this history), therefore functions as a powerful site in which to place these morally flawed and striving characters—characters who never quite escape the weight and influence of their own histories. Whedon deserves credit for using the vehicle of his enduringly popular television series to expose California’s colonial history and raise questions regarding sustained responsibilities to the U.S. colonial past.
This article, however, points out the ways in which BtVS and Angel, especially in the season four crossover episode of BtVS entitled “Pangs” perpetuate the notion that this history and the indigenous peoples affected by it have vanished. It argues that this erasure of contemporary American Indian peoples leaves reflective and ethically engaged people like Buffy and her Scooby Gang—and, by extension, socially conscientious fans of the show—without resources to be responsive to sustained colonial power structures in the present, and to the living indigenous peoples who continue to both suffer from and resist these structures.
Whedon Studies Association
Szeghi, Tereza M. and Dempster, Wesley, "'Why Don’t You Just Go Back Where You Came From?' or 'Slight Yams': 'Pangs' of Regret and Unresolved Ambivalence in Joss Whedon’s California" (2017). English Faculty Publications. 92.