|Forces for good||Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 7 BtVS/season 5 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.|
The Powers That Be
Doyle: I've been sent by the "powers that be"
Angel: The powers that be what?
A larger benevolent force plays a pivotal role in the lives of the Buffyverse characters. But who or what is this force? Joss has told us a great deal about the forces of evil in his universe, but for a very long time, he was deliberately vague about the supernatural forces for good.
What is known about the Powers that Be:
The Moral Ambiguity of the Powers that Be
Joss and the forces of Good
I don't think Joss is about Religion at all, and I for one wouldn't care to see a storyline dedicated to it, partly because it's a no-win situation for the writers and show, in the eyes of the public, no matter what the resolution is, and it's hard to do Religion without coming out pro or con. Plenty of TV out there with Christian themes. I like the Buffyverse just as it is (Malista, Nov 10 15:25 1999).
People don't like being faced with "good" characters because they think they're being preached to. To me, that's where the crux of the matter lies. Specifically, "evil" characters don't make any sort of moral or ethical claim on the behavior of the audience. We can watch the demons, vampires, and werewolves and content ourselves with the knowledge that we'd never be that awful. Most people aren't murderers, robbers, rapists or hardened advocates of evil. So, when we see that on the screen, it doesn't make us uncomfortable--we might even feel a little better about ourselves in comparison... By contrast, when we see true heroism or entities who purport to represent some purer "force of good", we implicitly recognize that their actions could well indict our own. The actions of "good" characters necessarily, I think, make some sort of claim on the behavior of the audience.... In my mind, though, the lack of ideals--of true heroes--is one of this country's most serious social and cultural weaknesses. And, not surprisingly, BtVS reflects the zeitgeist. It is just popular entertainment after all (S. Bryant, 22 Apr 1999 01:52)
It would make the characters more 3 dimensional if they incorporated their religious beliefs into the plots. Willow's Jewish, fine and dandy. But what does she do with it? ... does buffy pray to anyone when she's in deep trouble, when she's afraid. Did she have a faith that she questions now because of what she's seen, or strengthened it? I do not see why these shows refuse to acknowledge and incorporate these things. What are they afraid of, differing opinions? People always are going to differ on their theological beliefs (Eiddileg, Dec 14 18:15 1998).
The snow [in Amends] was good... was it God? Well, I'm an atheist, but it's hard to ignore the idea of a "Christmas miracle" here... The fact it, the Christian mythos has a powerful fascination to me, and it bleeds into my storytelling. Redemption, hope, purpose, Santa, these all are important to me, whether I believe in an afterlife or some universal structure or not. I certainly don't mind a strictly Christian interpretation being placed on this ep by those who believe that -- I just hope it's not limited to that (joss, Dec 15 22:17 1998).
|I think some demons could be actually nice, you know, given the opportunity. You'd have to get to know them, yeah? --Doyle||
"There are not-evil EvilThings?" --Kate, The Prodigal
When were were first told about demons in season one it was black and white. Demons were evil and subject to death. But as the show matured and Buffy matured, we were shown that the demon world was as grey as the human world. Some demons have never been evil. ...Now we need to not shoot first, but find out if the demon is friend or foe (Rufus, 19-Jan-01 16:37)
We have seen some pretty unambiguous exceptions to pure unadulterated evil demon behavior. The obvious examples are the downright benevolent temperaments of Angel's mentors, Whistler and Doyle. Somewhere in the middle is the morally ambiguous Anyanka, "the patron saint of scorned women." Evil--defined as anti-human behavior--obviously runs a continuum in those we call "demons".
Other not-so-evil demons
| The Graveyard Demon (Enemies) | Angel | Dalton | Kathy & the Mok'Togar | The Anomovic Straleys | Brachen demons and Lister demons | The Kwaini | Giles, Fyarl Demon | Kamal, the Prio Motu protector | Has Spike gone Uncle-Tom? | Lorne, the Caritas Host | Yarbnie demons | Cordelia!? | Clem |
The metaphysics of not-so-evil demons
Sometimes warriors of good and others fighting the good fight need help in their struggle from those with greater wisdom and perspective. These guides often have supernatural abilities and knowledge derived from their connection to the mystical powers of the Buffyverse. Examples:
Champions: Warriors of Good
The forces of evil have them--individual soldiers who purpose is to destroy what is good and let evil thrive. The forces of Good have warriors as well. Their virtue is, to borrow a phrase from the section on evil, "the good of corruption"--while occasionally the results of their efforts have wide-spread consequences (e.g., when Buffy killed the Judge, or stopped Acathla), most of their work is on the small scale, one baddie at a time.
Other bona fide Demon-Slayers
|Religion in the Buffyverse||
The show uses the Bram Stoker/European (Christian) vampire lore of crosses and holy water without ever exploring the fact that other cultures have different vamp lore. Examples:
Joss says there is "bad blood" between the demons and the Christians (StGermain, Apr 8 09:49 1999).
"Crosses and holy water work against vampires; doesn't that imply the truth of Catholicism?" Well, let's try this on for size: What if vampires are allergic, in effect, to the shape of a cross? That's why the faith of the bearer (Willow comes to mind) doesn't change its effectiveness. Similarly, either by accident or intention, Catholic priests discovered a spell that makes water poisonous to vampires, and incorporated the ritual into their practices. So a lot of Christian and/or Catholic practices and symbols originated as anti-vampire techniques, and have been kept alive through tradition. (And I know that Spike seems to accept that the Crucifixion was an actual historical event, but that doesn't say anything pro or con the Resurrection) (Mr. EverDawn, Dec 14 18:03 1998).
I'd say that the cross focuses some sort of energy in a way that is harmful to vampires and causes them pain -- and since it seems to work for anybody and on any demon -- whether in a christian or jewish body -- I'd say it has to do with the cross itself, rather than the person brandishing the cross or the vampire (Dianne, Dec 14 19:30 1998).
I'm betting it's something more along the lines of "Somewhere back in the past, some form of Big Anti-Vampire Juju was binded to the image of the crucifix by some Christian Magus/Cleric/Monk/High Priest", instead of "Divine Power" (Some Psycho Named Sam, Feb 22 19:24 2000).
Should Joss reveal the
nature of the forces of good in the Buffyverse?
Is there a Heaven in the Buffyverse?
The monks of the Order of Dagon
Paganism and Wicca
The basic commandment (the Wiccan rede) you've probably heard is: 'An it harm none, do what thou wilt" and the Wiccan karmic law is that what you do, for good or evil, ...comes back to you three times (oisin, Nov 10 14:22 1999).
We aren't supernatural. We don't worship the devil, or acknowledge his existence. And, anyone can become a Witch and practice the Old Ways without even converting... (the Jones', 23 Jul 1999 14:21)
Definition of Pagan...from a Wicca A to Z book: A word stemming from the Latin paganus, meaning "a country dweller" and used in a derogatory fashion by the Catholic Church to describe a follower of the old Religion, or any person who was not a Christian, Jew, or Moslem; a follower of the nature-oriented Craft of Wicca and other polytheistic religions. Many modern Pagans prefer to call themselves "Neo-Pagans" in order to distinguish from the Pagans of ancient times who conjure forth dreadful mental images of barbarity and human sacrifice in the minds of confused Christians and individuals who are unfamiliar with the contemporary Neo-Paganism movement (Charity aka Taygeta, Jan 10 23:59:34 1999).
Real-life wicca vs. BtVS "wicca"
The show's (somewhat necessary) lack of separation between Wicca the religion and Wicca the magickal practice. In a show that deals with supernatural forces and demonology, relatively little mention is made of divine forces or the worship of them. ...What Willow practices is magick, maybe more in the style of the Renaissance magicians or necromancers ...with their Latin invocations and fancy ingredients. I think this is put in a Wiccan context on the show for reasons of fashion, that it's a hip thing for teenagers to do magick and connect it with a popular spiritual movement (oisin, Nov 10 13:20 1999).
Wicca is a religion first, and a system of magick second, and anyone who doesn't realize and respect that is NOT a Witch. Willow may be a Ceremonial Magician, but unless she participates in the rituals of the Goddess on Earth, she should not be calling herself Wiccan. They are two different things (AmazonFox, Dec 14 19:30 1999).
The nature of Buffyverse Witches
Buffy/wicca information sites:
Pagan gods and goddesses invoked in the Buffyverse
Demons, good, and evil
...how did it come about that a Prio Motu demon (a supposedly souless killer without even a human personality to start with) converted to Buddhism and became a warrior for the PTB. No one has really explored this anamoly yet and it is an even more drastic one than a vampire (who has carryover human traits to start with) who converts.
I would submit ...that we are seeing the mutual possession of the ten worlds in operation ...[this] is the Buddhist teaching that the realms of ...heavenly beings, humanity, demons, animals, ghosts, and hell dwellers ...each possesses the others in some manner. They all shade off into one another and can transform into one another... This theory was first formulated by the T'ien-t'ai patriarch Chih-i in 6th century China. I doubt Joss is familiar with it, but ...I believe that Joss's vision is closer to the Chinese worldview than it is to a Christian, Zoroastrian, or Lovecraftian worldview (though it does borrow from those three as well) (Ryuei, 16-Nov-00 19:21).
There is no tangible force of God -- angels, the divine intervention ...compar[able] to the tangible forces of evil in Sunnydale -- vampires, demons, et al. ..."God" is a force that works through Buffy, the Scoobies, Whistler, et al. ....considering some of the coincidences on the show, you could certainly make a case [against this and] for external guidance or direction of events (Dianne, Dec 14 21:50 1998).
Other cases of poetic justice:
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Screen shot credits
This page last modified 12/09/03