Cool Peripheral Character Arcs In “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”?


lily/anne and buffy
So I was thinking about the “Anne” episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (the one where Buffy is hiding out in L.A. under an assumed name and winds up battling the labor exploitation demon — I’m vastly entertained by the fact that she wages this battle with a hammer and sickle). I was posting on this on Facebook and Twitter, and some of us got to talking about Chanterelle/ Lily/ Anne, and what a great character arc she had for someone who is very much a peripheral character on the show: she goes from being the gothy vampire wannabe, to the lost and aimless homeless teen, to the strong woman running the shelter for homeless teens.

And I started thinking: One of the things that I think makes “Buffy” such a rich show is that it isn’t just the main characters who get good, strong, interesting character arcs. Secondary characters, even peripheral characters, clearly have rich inner lives, and you get to see them mature over the arc of the show. Jonathan leaps immediately to mind, as does Harmony. The Buffyverse seems like it’s populated by actual people, any of whom could have a show written about them.

So since I’m going to be at the Carolinas Secular Conference in Charlotte this weekend, and won’t be on the blog much until I get back, I thought I’d start a thread about this: Who are some secondary or peripheral characters in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” that you think have particularly interesting character arcs? (I think I’m defining “secondary or peripheral” as “the actor never got a named credit in the opening credit sequence.”)

There are no wrong answers. Your time starts — now!

Cool Peripheral Character Arcs In “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”?

12 thoughts on “Cool Peripheral Character Arcs In “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”?

  1. 3

    ‘Labour exploitation demon’ what the hell. What was the next weekly bad guy, the Demon of Passive Aggressive Faint Praise? “You cooked this you say? Well, it’s better than a TV dinner… I guess.”

  2. 4

    I just re-watched this episode last week, and my wife and I paused at the hammer and sickle and laughed uncontrollably. Going back to shows in the 90’s and seeing the progressive, socialist and apparently even communist references they could get away with is amazing.

    But as for side characters, I’d love to see a prehistoric-esque show with the first Slayer. Perhaps we’d meet the first vampire?

    Additionally, a show that shows us what the other Watchers are up to when they aren’t assigned a Slayer would probably be hilarious and intriguing.

  3. 6

    Stephangoodwin @4:

    Ugh. I have to disagree with you on the First Slayer. While Whedon may be good at many things, he has legendary problems with race, and the First Slayer (credited as “The Primitive” in her first appearance) is a glaring example.

    As for good peripheral characters, I’d say Larry, who goes from being a bullying jock to an out and proud gay guy.

  4. 7

    Some of the main secondary characters started out as throwaway villains. Spike was originally supposed to die at the end of the Spike And Dru arc in the second season. Anya was slated for a one and done. Hell, even Vampire Willow came back a second time because of popular demand.

  5. 8

    Darla is another character originally intended to be quickly killed off who had a very good secondary arc. The fact is that most characters who had at least a couple of appearances had an arc on those shows, and those who didn’t have much of an arc at least had solid continuity and were brought back because they fit a story well (i.e. Ethan Rayne).

    BTW: my ringtone is the little girl from Hush singing “Can’t even shout . . .” and my alert sound on my phone is Giles saying “no need to panic.”

  6. 10

    How did I miss this thread for so long!

    @ DysgraphicProgrammer

    Do you have any other examples of this? I’m not disagreeing, I just haven’t seen it.

    I’m sure other people have more examples and have more thoughtful things to say about this than I do, but the ones that jump out at me are:

    – Kendra, the slayer who is activated the first time Buffy dies. They gave her character a Jamaican accent, which isn’t a bad thing, but (and this is not at all to discredit the actress, who is not Jamaican and was not responsible for the decision) it came off as really hokey. There are other criticisms of that character arc regarding her tragic “death by assimilation”, but you can probably get more from googling than I can give you.

    -The Primitive was also pretty bad. I like the origin story and the character, except for the fact that it was basically a soul rape. Thatr’s consistent with the “Chosen” and “redemption” theme of the show, but I wish we could have met the person she was. And why did they have to call her “primitive”? I don’t know, maybe they meant it to be ironic but it didn’t come off that way. I didn’t see it at the time, but in retrospect it seems shitty. What the mages did was revolutionary- they gave power to the powerless- why did that have to be about victimization and why make that “primitive”? Why make her primitive? To seem more alien and scary I suppose, so better to put a black female face on that :/

    -Notable lack of black men. Other than Principle Wood, there is an almost total absence of black men. I liked that character, but without googling I’m hard pressed to remember any other black men who weren’t demons. That is a big red flag right there. Not that those actors didn’t make great demons, but the imbalance is disturbing and depressing.

    -Giles’ girlfriend, whose name I can’t remember (and will not Google, because I’m trying to make a point) really just seemed like a prop. Why the hell would she date Rupert Giles, who appears to have a couple of decades on her and lives on a different continent and has no known social circle? We’ll never find out because we never get to know her. Part of that may be because the Giles character isn’t a plot mover. His point as a character (in so many ways!) is to be irrelevant and old school. Is she supposed to make us think he isn’t, that he has a life we don’t know about? That isn’t bad alone, but it kind of makes her a prop, doesn’t it? She is one of the few black people in the show who just exist and a aren’t a plot point, and we never get to know her as anything other than Giles’ long distance girlfriend whose name we (oh, I am not the only the one!) can’t remember.

    That said, there were other black characters I wish we could have seen more of besides Giles’ girlfriend. Rona, the potential. Nikki Wood could definitely have her own spin-off. I don’t know if people have criticized those portrayals, but I almost don’t want to look. I really liked them both. And all this is aside from the ambient whiteness of the show. It didn’t have to be that way. They wrote it so it was and they kind of boxed the characters in too. And themselves as writers.

    Ok now that we have the lack of African-American characters partially covered …


  7. 11

    So basically, damn few black characters, the ones that were there were mostly not great characters (with a few exceptions who were great), and some unfortunate plot implications. And pretty much the same with other races. Especially since in southern California, we definitely should have had more hispanics.

    Now that it’s been pointed out to me, I will readily agree that it’s a problem. But I still disagree with characterizing them as “legendary” problems. It looks more like “we really didn’t think about the issue at all” cosmic background radiation level problems.

    Especially since “Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.” is doing much much better on cast diversity

  8. 12

    Whedon also had some racial issues in Firefly. We’re told that colonization of the solar system was a joint American-Chinese effort. Occasionally cast members would say a Chinese word or phrase and there were a couple of signs in urban areas with Chinese logograms on them. But there wasn’t a single Chinese or other Asian character in the tv show and only one Chinese in the movie (the guy in the Fruity-Oaty Bar commercial).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *