Marian Symbols in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series on the WB
by Michael P. Duricy, MA, STL
"Look, folks, you may be hot stuff
when it comes to demonology or whatever, but when it comes to Mary and the
Media, I'm the Slayer." [paraphrasing Cordelia in Halloween]
But seriously folks, I'd like to thank a number of my colleagues in the Buffademy for their assistance during the
preparation of this paper. From the University of Dayton: Erica Coe; Bill Fackovec; Emily Hicks; and Fred Jenkins. And, from
around the world: Rebecca Beirne; Tanya Cochran; Naomi Hetherington; John Pungente; and Jana Riess. Many thanks, also, to the many
other people who have helped me with this project in some way.
In 2000, I completed a thesis on The Virgin Mary in Film. One of the areas studied was the brief but explicit
use of Marian symbols in a great many films, most of which had very limited religious content. From the frequency of examples over time and across
national boundaries, I concluded that certain implications have become conventional for using these episodic Marian signifiers: indicator of death
or possible death; comparative standard for measuring the virtue or vice of a character; opponent of the demons; analogue of the female romantic lead;
dea ex machina; and Catholic or ethnic artifact. There is one final convention involving the Marian symbol. Brief, but explicit,
Marian content is sometimes used to identify a symbolic Marian character.
I, personally, did not start watching BtVS until its fifth season on the WB, savoring the pleroma of the Buffyverse only through reruns. Hence,
I had absorbed the above hermeneutic from my general research before engaging myself with Buffy Studies. Though casual observers may not
have noticed [due to the brevity of their appearance], Marian symbols were overtly shown rather frequently in BtVS. In my opinion, the purpose
for using this episodic content corresponds to the above conventions, already long established by a history of use in the media of social communication.
Speaking of 'purpose', implies studying the intent of the author(s). However, I have found little public commentary about my topic from the production team,
and have had no success in privately contacting anyone involved. In this regard, any help from my estimable colleagues in the international
field of Buffy Studies would be much appreciated.
Still, I contend that we may safely assume that use of Marian symbols in BtVS
operates from an awareness of the communicative norms established by
convention in the industry. The fact that Joss Whedon is a
third-generation media professional bolsters this argument.
literature and performances routinely use brief and subtle devices to create
mood or add depth. Critical reviews note the presence and importance
of ‘back stories,’ subtexts, and mise-en-scene. The latter
seems most relevant to our topic, as the episodic Marian symbolic content in
BtVS most frequently involved shots of a Marian statue in the background,
used much like a stage prop. Other religious symbols (e.g. candles,
angels, crosses, churches) likewise appear.
are some clear examples of the BtVS writers using brief background shots as
subtle allusions. In Loverss' Walk, we see a brief shot of Angel reading Sartre's La Nausee.
The novel shows Sartre’s main character struggling with impressions of the meaninglessness of human existence. The brief, but explicit, shot of
this book creates a linkage between Sartre’s protagonist, Antoine Roquentin, and Angel, who faces the same concerns.
A similar example, closer to our topic, was pointed out to me by Dr. Jana Riess, who noted that images in Faith’s room resemble icons of Shiva, the Hindu god of
destruction. This establishes a "linkage" with Faith, who lives as if she idolizes Shiva, by her destructive acts. This example establishes
a precedent for the sort of communicative intent which may be expected from the appearance of visual props, including images of the Virgin Mary.
It can not be denied that communicative intent is involved in the appearance of the audible and visual content in any scripted
drama. Dialog is the result of conscious effort on the part of a screen writer. Statues and medals are brought in from a prop room.
Even material which may accidentally be captured during filming, must still survive the critical eye of an editor or be lost on the cutting room floor.
In addition to these practical considerations, let me add that the effect of episodic visual content was studied at the
theoretical level by Kuleshov and Pudovkin in the 1920s. Kuleshov demonstrated the importance of what came to be known as the "Kuleshov
effect," with his celebrated experiment in which the impassive face of Ivan Mozhukin, when juxtaposed with a bowl of soup, a corpse in a coffin and a
child with a toy bear, appeared to register hunger, grief and joy respectively. This effect is thought to occur even when the linkage
occurs via extremely brief scenes. The phrase "subliminal messages" is commonly used to refer to these effects.
To further reduce any skepticism about the establishment of the above conventions as generally established norms, note
a few examples of the above Marian conventions from some well-known films:
indicator of death or possible death
In Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest, the title character, while dying, clutches his Rosary.
the female romantic lead
An example from
Leo McCarey's 1956 An Affair to Remember: While leading lady,
Deborah Kerr, visits the grandmother of her romantic interest, Cary Grant,
they spend time in the matriarch’s chapel. As Kerr bows her head,
covered with a wide-brimmed hat which suggests a halo, Grant alternates his
gaze from Kerr to an image of the Virgin Mary, making clear the parallel the
Director wishes to suggest.
There are a
number of films in which “Marian symbols” are shown in the presence of
characters with distinct ethnic backgrounds, primarily Irish, Hispanic and
Italian. For example, in
West Side Story, we know that Maria and her family are Catholic from
the Marian statue in her bedroom; but this fact is subordinate to their
being Hispanic, a point of major import to the plot.
comparative standard for
measuring the virtue or vice of a character
In the classic 1939
Hunchback of Notre Dame, Esmerelda, played by Maureen O'Hara in
her screen debut, is awed and humbled by her first exposure to a statue of
Mary in the great French Cathedral. Jean Frollo, Chief Justice of
Paris, played by Cedric Hardwicke, appears and orders her to leave as
unworthy. While O'Hara pours out her concerns before the statue with
beaming face upturned, Hardwicke stares with downcast eyes at the object of
his lust. It is clear who wins the sympathy of the Virgin Mary, and of
machina [i.e. miraculously manufacturing a happy ending from
In the conclusion to the animated Hunchback of
Notre Dame (1996) from Disney studios, the famous Cathedral comes alive,
rescuing the beset heroes by delivering the villain to the demons he has
invoked in an earlier scene.
example can be seen in Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973). Early
on, a number of eerie incidents subtly suggest the presence of unseen foes.
However, the demons make their presence felt by desecrating a statue of Mary
in a Catholic parish and murdering a man the same night. Having
revealed themselves through their hatred of the Holy Virgin, the demons can
no longer hide, and manifest themselves in a host of explicit ways through
the remainder of the story.
to identify a
symbolic Marian character
In Mick Garris' made-for-television miniseries The
Stand (1994) we have a Marian type in Mother Abigail Freemantle, played
by Ruby Dee, a kind and devout elderly black woman who becomes spiritual
mother to an ersatz community of survivors after a biological holocaust.
Like the Mary of cinematic convention, Abigail becomes an active opponent of
her people’s wicked foes led by the demonic, Randall Flagg. Even more
suggestive, when Mother Abigail leaves the community to go on retreat, its
leaders gather around a statue of Mary to plan their defense against the
unprovoked aggression which they expect from their uncivilized foes.
In this sequence, Mother Mary and Mother Abigail are interchangeable!
Having presented the above conventions as
hermeneutical apparatus, there is actually little left for me to add.
Applying this heuristic for analysis of BtVS, or any particular media
product, follows a fortiori, for the most part. It is a bit
like Sherlock Holmes’ situation after explaining, in detail, the logical
inferences which allowed him to know a great deal about a client at first
Sherlock Holmes' quick eye took in my occupation, and
he shook his head with a smile as he noticed my questioning glances.
"Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labor, that
he takes snuff, that he is a freemason, that he has been in China, and that
he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing
"How in the name of good fortune did you know all
that, Mr. Holmes?" he asked. "It's true as Gospel, for I began as a
"Your hands, my dear sir. Your right hand is
quite a size larger than your left. You have worked with it, and the
muscles are more developed."...
"What about China?"
"The fish that you have tattooed immediately above
your right wrist could only have been done in China. I have made a
small study of tattoo marks and have even contributed to the literature on
the subject. The trick of staining the fishes' scales of a delicate
pink is quite peculiar to China. When, in addition, I see a Chinese
coin hanging from your watch-chain, the matter becomes even more simple."
Mr. Jabez Wilson laughed heavily. "Well, I
never!" said he. "I thought at first that you had done something
clever, but I see that there was nothing in it after all."
"I begin to think, Watson," said Holmes, "that I make
a mistake in explaining. 'Omne ignotum pro magnifico,' you know, and
my poor little reputation, such as it is, will suffer shipwreck if I am so
[from The Red
Headed League by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle]
My poor little reputation as a Buffy Scholar may
suffer a like fate. Everything just said, has come from simple
observation of overt details in many films, like Holmes' monograph on
tattoos. Everything that now follows, is simple application of the
catalogued norms to the subject at hand, much like the Chinese fish.
After presenting my findings in class, I always encourage my students to try
it at home [pick any movie or TV show ... really!].
I am leaving some room for further research.
This presentation is limited to episodes first shown on the WB. This
allowed for comprehensive treatment since all were available on DVD as this
paper was prepared. An appendix could be done studying the UPN
episodes as well as the Angel series [and any other spinoffs or movies to
come]. I have ignored the 1992 pilot film completely [though I find
that Kristy Swanson’s slayer has a charm all her own]. Simply from
casual observation, I noted several instances of episodic Marian content in
BtVS on UPN, but can recall none on AtS. Also, given that these brief,
but explicit, uses of Marian symbols is extremely widespread, and reflects
broadly accepted conventions, it should be noticed in critical studies of
media products like BtVS. However, there has been next to nothing in
the literature which I have examined [e.g. use Google to search slayage.tv
for the phrase "virgin mary"].
During the twelve
episodes of the abbreviated first season, I found no content which could
definitely be determined as Marian. Xander wore a medal, probably
religious, in many episodes which I could not identify [Any help?].
Perhaps, the image of Angel holding the drowned slayer in Prophecy Girl
might be seen to resemble the famous Pieta of Michelangelo.
Buffy certainly played a Christ figure in that episode. So Angel was
the Marian figure? Also, in Out of Mind, Out of Sight, Cordelia
is elected as May Queen. Though Catholics developed a custom of
honoring Mary during the month of May (e.g. crowning her statues), the name
of the month, crowning a girl as May-queen, dancing around the may-pole,
etc, have nothing to do with Mary historically and traditionally. [cf.
Attwater's A Dictionary of Mary (1955)]. Given that Sunnydale
High is a public school, we may assume the same of their May-queen customs.
However, many people (especially older Catholics) will certainly recall the
Marian connotations of the term May-queen. Since that is the case, it
seems relevant to me that Buffy mentions holding the same office at her
previous school. She adds: "Well, we didn't call it "May Queen,"
but we had the coronation, and the dance, and all that
stuff. It was nice." Keep her comment in mind for later.
Season two offered a full complement of 24 episodes,
and many instances in which a Marian symbol was presented.
In the opening shot of the first episode, When She Was Bad, we see a
statue in a cemetery which might represent the Virgin Mary. This would
be consistent with the aforementioned convention associating Marian symbols
Part I of What’s My Line?, the burial crypt of Josephus Du Lac
contains another statue which also appears to be Marian.
Specifically, it represents an iconographic motif called Gerondissa
We are told: "He belonged to a religious sect
that was excommunicated by the Vatican at the turn of the century."
Du Lac's Catholic ties make the Marian identification likely, even
though a longer and clearer shot would be necessary for certainty.
Still, this would be another example in which Marian symbols are
linked with death. Of course, this use would also be consistent
with the convention associating Marian symbols with Catholics.
However, in this case, Du Lac's faith seems largely irrelevant.
It is the allusion to death that clearly seems relevant here.
This brings up an important point. There is a
certain layering, or interdependence related to the conventional uses of
Marian symbols. Rosaries, statues, Marian hymns, etc., are most
commonly associated with Catholics, and, by extension, with people whose
ethnic background derives from regions with large Catholic populations (e.g.
Italy, Ireland). Were Du Lac not identified as Catholic, it would make
more sense to play the death angle with other readily recognized
non-sectarian symbols (e.g. bag pipes, Amazing Grace, headstones,
In Part II, explicit Marian symbols appear during
action in an abandoned Catholic church. Among many statues and
symbols, we see a statue of the Madonna and Child. Recall, of course,
that episodic use of Marian symbols as Catholic identifier is one of the
established conventions mentioned earlier. Recall also, the layering
effect above, for there are other factors at work here.
It is not so much that the action takes place in a
Catholic church. More to the point, it is taking place in a sacred
place, the sort of environment that presents an antithesis to the
performance of evil deeds. The scenes of contract killings which are
intercut with the baptism of Michael Corleone's son in The Godfather
are a powerful example of the same technique.
The Catholic connotations of the Marian symbol are
merely the supportive background for the effect of another convention, one
which establishes a comparative norm for viewing the virtue or vice of the
actions of the characters. This is supported by dialog from the
"There are forty-three churches in Sunnydale? (pulls out a roll of mints)
That seems a little excessive." (tears off some wrapping)
Willow: "It's the
extra evil vibe from the Hellmouth. Makes people pray harder."
There is still more important Marian content in this
episode. At the front of the church, behind the altar, is a stained
glass image of Mary portrayed as the Woman of Rev. 12 [see left].
Scripture goes as follows: "And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman
clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, [emphasis mine]
and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." [Apoc. 12:1].
This particular image is important for several
reasons. It is of special importance to Catholics in Spain, as a
consequence of the history of their religious wars with Islamic invaders.
In Rev. 12, the woman, sometimes accommodated to Mary by Catholics, is at
war with evil forces, diabolically evil forces: "And when the dragon saw
that he was cast down to the earth, he pursued the woman ..." [Rev. 12:13].
I believe that this image was chosen in order to
represent the milieu of Southern California, which was strongly influenced
by Catholic missionaries from Spain during its founding. Other images
which recall these missionary roots, appear in many episodes. For
example, the monks opposing Glory [aka Glorificus] are dressed as Franciscan
What all this suggests is that, in the first instance,
the Marian symbols shown are an ethnic artifact deriving from the Spanish
Catholic heritage of Southern California. From there, the other
conventional connotations appear as layerings atop this foundation.
Yet, one needn't go far to find other layers. In
this very stained-glass image of Rev. 12, we also see the convention of Mary
as enemy of the demons [and Sunnydale is, quite literally, full of them!].
With the use of this image, the writers show their awareness of this
convention and their willingness to exploit it. This will play a very
important role in analyzing the meaning of the show as we proceed.
As a final comment on this episode, note that in the
concluding scene, our heroine meets with Kendra, her colleague. Buffy
is wearing a necklace of beads which holds a cross. Could this be a
Rosary? With all the other Marian images in this episode, why doubt
In Surprise, a small Marian statue is visible
in Angel's crypt. Like the statue in Du Lac's burial chamber, this
image recalls the conventional association of Marian symbols with death.
Also, in this episode, we again see Buffy wearing a cross hanging from a
rosary-like chain of beads. She wears a similar necklace in Go Fish
In Part I of Becoming, Angelus and Drusilla
meet in church [apparently Catholic or Anglican]. There are religious
statues, though I could not clearly identify any as Marian.
there is a scene in which Angelus impersonates a priest and hears Drusilla's
confession. He cruelly tries to drive her to despair, telling her that
she is surely headed for damnation: "Yes! You're a spawn of Satan. All the Hail Marys [emphasis mine] in the world aren't going to help. The Lord
will use you and smite you down. He's like that." Like the church in What’s My Line II, this sacred setting, including the sacramental event
and the reference to prayer, present a standard of goodness against which the depth of Angelus' wickedness becomes apparent by contrast.
The above dialog is the only audible Marian content which I noted in the series.
Part II of Becoming, after mortally stabbing Angel, Buffy steps
back slowly; and we briefly see a partial view of a stone statue
behind her, adorned by a blue sash. We are already familiar with
the appearance of Marian statues in the crypts and cemeteries
frequented by vampires in the series. In this case, it appears
that we are briefly shown one of Our Lady of Lourdes [see right]. And
with this episode, we come to the conclusion of the second season
Season Three presented a full 24-episode
contingent. In Revelations, we see yet another Marian
statue in a cemetery, this one in the style known as Adolorata (i.e. Our Lady of Sorrows--see left).
In this episode, we also see Cordelia wearing a medal,
which might be a religious medal (e.g. "Miraculous Medal"). Perhaps,
it is the same medal worn by Xander in previous episodes, making its way to
Ms. Chase as a consequence of their romantic trysts.
She appears to wear the same medal in several other episodes in season three: Homecoming; Band Candy;
Lovers’ Walk; Amends; Helpless; The Zeppo; Bad Girls; and Doppelgangland. We also see Willie the
Snitch [host of a tavern for demons], wearing what appears to be a religious medal in Amends. However, in no instance was I able to clearly
identify these medals. It is worth noting that Amends is set at Christmastime, but religious displays form no part of the mise-en-scene.
In This Year’s Girl, we see a statue of a seated female figure in the living room of Buffy’s house [see left]. This resembles a
Marian motif called the ‘enthroned virgin’ [aka Basilissa, Maesta]. However, this particular style of
statue is modeled on pre-Christian representations of Isis.
Hence, identification as a Marian symbol is ambiguous. A similar statue is also shown in Giles' house in Wild at Heart and
And there is a similarly ambiguous poster shown in
Xander's basement. The picture shows a woman in ornate robes with
upraised hands. There is a resemblance to the Orans of
christian iconography, but the appearance seems closer to an oriental mercy
goddess like Kuan Yin. Dr. Riess examined the image at my request,
affirming it’s similarity to Kuan Yin, but admitting uncertainty.
In Helpless, there is a possibly-Marian statue
in the area in which Buffy's Mother, Joyce, is held captive. Though I
could not identify the statue with certainty, it would be consistent with
the convention of presenting a standard of goodness in contrast to the evil
of the vampire captor. In fact, most traditional religious images
would suffice in this regard.
The situation is similar in Bad Girls. There is
a small statue in a cemetery which might be Marian, but could not be
positively identified. If Marian, it is still another example of the
BtVS writers adhering to the conventional link between Marian symbols and
After Doppelgangland, there was no Marian
content in remaining six episodes of the third season. However, The
Freshman, which opened season four saw the return of the Virgin Mary to
the Buffyverse. In the opening sequence of this episode, Buffy patrols
a cemetery, talking with her friend, Willow. They walk past a statue
of Mary (and also one of an angel). The evidence just piles up of the
writers using the convention linking Marian symbols with death and dying.
In the opening sequence of Something Blue, we have a very similar scene. Buffy patrols a cemetery talking
with Willow; and they pass a statue of Mary. Shortly thereafter, they are
attacked by a vampire. In The Freshman, a vampire also appears
during their stroll, but simply runs off. Interestingly enough, also in the
background for this scene is a headstone inscribed, "Mary Christian." Make of this what you will. I'm open to suggestions.
In The I In Team episode, we see a Marian
statue inside the burial crypt in which Spike resides [see right]. It
is shown again in the episode which follows, Goodbye Iowa and also in Restless.
Just more of the same, Marian symbols near the dead or dying. It appears to represent the standard iconographical motif of the Adolorata, or perhaps,
merely an orante, with hands folded in prayer.
Near the conclusion of Who Are You?,
we briefly see a set of small statues of the Holy Family (i.e. Jesus, Mary
and Joseph) in the back of a Catholic church in which vampires are holdings
parishioners hostage. Other religious symbols are shown as well. Here the
Marian symbol functions as a Catholic identifier. In this sequence, we
learn that Riley Finn attends the parish. Of course, his name is Irish, and
the symbol takes on the added function of ethnic artifact. These are both
established conventions discussed earlier. But we also see the layering
effect mentioned before. Since we are placed in an Irish Catholic milieu,
it is consistent and appropriate to use the Marian symbol as a standard of
goodness for measuring the virtue and vice of characters in the vicinity.
The hostages are good people, there only to worship. The vampires are villains looking for victims, undeterred by the presence of sacred space.
Had they not set the action in a Catholic
church, the writers would have been compelled to use a non-sectarian symbol
as the standard of goodness for comparison. However, outside of a
recognized Catholic or similar ethnic context, film-makers have other
conventions for creating similar effects. For example, when Arnold
Schwarzenegger’s killer cyborg crushes a child’s doll in The Terminator,
the gravity of his wickedness is no less apparent than when hit men shatter
a statue of Mary on route to a murder in Godfather Part III. In
large part, this study is shedding light on some of the tools used by Whedon
and company as craftsmen in the cinematic trade.
Near the end of Superstar, we find a now-familiar, statue of Mary in
one of Sunnydale's many cemeteries. The next episode, Where the Wild Things Are?, opens with Buffy and Riley fighting, respectively, a demon
and a vampire in a cemetery. The ubiquitous graveside Madonna is also shown. However, this is an unusual scene, not filmed in linear mode. The
fight scenes with Buffy and her beau are intercut with scenes of the
intimate contact which follows. This
suggests an interesting insight drawn from our Marian conventions.
Though the bulk of the Christian world believes [as
required dogma] that Mary of Nazareth never knew a man intimately, as
indicated by the universal usage of "the virgin Mary" as her appellation, my
study of hundreds of films revealed that the Marian symbol has often been
used as a convention by which to identify a female romantic lead.
Perhaps, this entered common use in Western culture as a result of the
Marian elements of the troubadour tradition of courtly love. In any
case, the Marian symbol is often used to identify a female character as the
focus of the development of a sexual relationship.
these works, film-makers attempt a lateral transfer to those elements
of Christian tradition which have seen Mary as "erotic ideal," the
woman who attracts by her beauty. A recent example is found in Baz
Luhrmann's contemporarily stylized Romeo and Juliet (1996).
Marian images are scattered throughout Juliet’s house, including a
statue in her bedroom. As strange as it may appear at first, it
appears that the aforementioned scene from BtVS is another example of
this technique. Even with 4 episodes to go, we have come to the end
of symbolic Marian content from the fourth season.
In season 5, the first definite Marian content appears
in Fool for Love. On the lam abroad, Spike and Drusilla break up in
front of a large statue of the Virgin Mary [at left]. From the caption, we
see they are located in Latin America, a region inhabited by many
Catholics. So we have another example of the conventional usage of a Marian
symbol as a Catholic and/or ethnic identifier. Atop this foundation, there
may also be a secondary meaning which identifies the female romantic lead,
in this case, Drusilla.
|The following episode, Shadow,
shows a rose window in shadow on the floor of a church through which a
serpent demon passes while searching for "the key." The image at
right is from Notre Dame in Paris. Rose windows were used in many
of the great Marian cathedrals of Europe. Which begs the question,
why do we see one in Sunnydale? By the way, in the same church we
see stations of the cross on the walls, presumably with #4, Jesus Meets His Mother.
the show opens with Buffy slaying a vampire inside a convent for
Catholic nuns. Of course, there are statues of Mary in a place like
that, and the camera catches the one at left, showing Mary with her
"Immaculate Heart" exposed. The typical conventions are at work
here, as we have seen so many times already in the series. However,
atop these foundations is another layer of meaning. Buffy is there
to consider a celibate life. Both the statue and the sisters call
to mind that vocation call and act as symbols showing what a character accepting that call would be.
we witness the funeral of Buffy's mother, Joyce Summers, who died in the
previous episode, The Body. At this point in the
presentation, we might expect to hear about the obvious episodic Marian
content in association with death. However, I did not see anything explicit
while viewing the episode. Perhaps, this is not surprising, given that
Buffy's family does not seem to be Catholic, or even particularly
religious. Still, this convention was too strong to ignore. In the closing
credits, Noor Shic was listed as "Lady with rosary!"
The rosary seems to appear again in Spiral, as clerics with the
"Knights of Byzantium" are
shown holding some sort of prayer beads. Similarly, the monks in No Place like Home, clad in the garb of Franciscan friars, also carried
similar prayer beads. A crowned statue of a Spanish Madonna in Doc's shop which appears in The Weight of the World is the last of the clearly
explicit Marian visual content in the WB series. As stated earlier, the Spanish missionary heritage seems to have been the foundation for the use
of Marian symbols in the series.
But in the same episode,
there seems to be a verbal allusion to Our Lady. When asked his
motivations, Spike answers: "I made a promise to a Lady." Clearly, the
tradition of courtly love is alluded to here, and its Marian component by extension.
Fans of the series know that
plots may twist and turn a number of times before orienting on their final
trajectory in a story arc. It appears that the series, in toto,
manifested this technique. We have arrived at the series finale on the
WB, The Gift. And we have also arrived at the last of the Marian
conventions which my research uncovered, use of a brief, but explicit
Marian reference to indicate a character among the personae dramatis
who has some significant Marian characteristic. In both cases, "end stress" adds to importance of these findings.
season 2, a stained glass image of Mary as the Woman of the Apocalypse
established a linkage with Buffy as the enemy of demons using the Kuleshov
effect. In The Gift, we see that seed grown to full stature.
first episode of the final season we learn, to everyone's surprise, that
Buffy has a sister, Dawn. We will later learn that she is integral
to this whole great concluding plot arc. Then in the season's fourth
episode, we learn from rosary-bearing monks, that the world is about to be
threatened by "the beast."
||The term "beast" is used
again by members of the "Knights of Byzantium," an ancient order sworn to
oppose it. Here note that Byzantium was the capitol of the Christianized
Roman empire, and that the logo of their armed forces [like our Uncle Sam]
was the Marian icon at left, called Nicopééia (i.e. Who brings
victory). The beast of the apocalypse, mentioned in the Book of
Revelation in relation to thousand year epochs, is a familiar figure,
especially discussed around the time of the recent millennial
celebrations. Season five aired from September 2000 through May 2001 and may have worked off that influence.
In any case, the writers
truly went over the top in making their intentions clear. In the following exchange, from Spiral, Gregor is a general of the Knights of Byzantium:
GREGOR: What do you know of the beast?
BUFFY: Strong. Fast. Hellgod.
GREGOR: From a dimension of unspeakable torment.
BUFFY: A demon dimension. I know. She ruled with two other hellgods,
GREGOR: Along with the beast they were a triumvirate of suffering and
despair. Ruling with equal vengeance. But the beast's power grew beyond
even what they could conceive. As did her lust for pain and misery. They
looked upon her, what she had become ... and trembled.
BUFFY: (nervously) A god afraid?
GREGOR: Such was her power. They feared she would attempt to seize their
dimension for herself, and decided to strike first. A great battle
erupted. In the end, they stood victorious over the beast ... barely.
She was cast out. Banished to this lower plane of existence ...
In the Book of Revelation,
three beasts are spoken of, coordinated into a triumvirate of sorts, each
evil and destined for Hell. One, called The Dragon, is cast down to earth
and makes war on The Woman, as discussed earlier. A detailed study
comparing and contrasting the series descriptions of the beast with that
of Revelation is beyond the scope of this paper. And it is not needed.
The mass audience of the series will neither develop nor read such
research. The message of the series hits hard and fast in the right half
of the brain. Buffy is entertainment, not academe; and we've seen quite
enough from which to make our conclusion.
What we may have suspected
from earlier clues has now been made manifest. Buffy has been the mythic
enemy of demons in a manner analogous to that which many Christians have
seen in the Virgin Mary. The frequent use of explicit Marian symbols has
kept a mysterious link in our minds throughout the series. And the last
thing we take from its days on the WB is the image of Buffy as the Woman of the Apocalypse.