EW's 100 Greatest Characters: Joss Whedon reveals his recipe for Buffy

buffy-gellar-whedonImage Credit: Greg Gorman/The WB; Todd Williamson/WireImage.comIn celebration of Entertainment Weekly‘s two decades of existence this year, we’ve put together a special double-sized issue devoted to the 100 greatest characters of the past 20 years. On our ranked list, you’ll find Anchorman‘s Ron Burgundy, Lost‘s John Locke, Harry Potter, Homer Simpson — all characters who feel as real and important to us as our own friends and family.

Also on that list? Buffy “the Vampire Slayer” Summers, of course. And we thought, who better to illustrate what is so special about the extraordinary young killer of evil things — played in the TV series by Sarah Michelle Gellar — than creator Joss Whedon. “There’s a whole recipe for how to make a Buffy,” he explains. “Take one cup Sarah Connor from the first Terminator movie; one cup Ripley [from Alien]; three tablespoons of the younger sister in [the 1984 postapocalyptic comedy] Night of the Comet; a few sprigs of A Little Princess — the book, not the movies; and a pinch of Jimmy Stewart for pain, because nobody does better pain. Bake those up. Once it’s cool, add a little Rosalind Russell from His Girl Friday. All of this must be in a P.J.-Soles-in-Halloween crust. That’s very important.”

Whedon also weighs in a bit on how his show preceded the whole “vampire craze” that took us by swarm at the end of the ’00s. “Ultimately, my show was less about vampires than most shows with vampire in the title. The show’s about growing up, which for her was basically ages 15 through 22, but the kind of 15 through 22 where you fight wars.”

For more from Whedon and the 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years — including Robert Downey Jr. on Iron Man‘s Tony Stark, Johnny Depp talking about Captain Jack Sparrow, an interview with Homer Simpson, and lots, lots more — pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands now.

More from EW’s 100 Greatest Characters of the Past 20 Years:
Roseanne Barr says what she thinks the Conner clan would be up to in 2010
Daniel Radcliffe on Harry Potter…and Eric Cartman

Comments (120 total) Add your comment
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  • Alex

    Oh, that is such a good recipe of characters for how to make a Buffy!

    • Irina Hoke

      What a horribly overrated TV show. Whedon’s brand of “humor” and his derivative plots and dialogues are baffling to me. How did it become such a beloved cult hit? Well, then again, crap can succeed, just look at TWILIGHT and TRANSFORMERS. Buffy is no different.

      • Sam L

        Irina Hoke = Troll

      • Kay

        Geee Irina, what bit you today…?

      • taga

        Irina Hoke, you are obviously incapable of conceiving of or understanding the iconic nature of Buffy, or the abstract, at all. Don’t attack something you don’t understand.

      • Hannes

        Irina, dear. There’s a reason it’s a cult hit. It’s good stuff, end of story.
        Whether you appreciate it or not, that’s another story, but most people do think it’s good.

        I don’t think any of the girls watching Twilight are sitting there thinking, “My, that joke was sharp” or, “Dear god, that’s awesome acting.”
        They’re probably drooling over Rob Pattison.

      • rj531

        You’re probably just a troll and ppl have already dismissed you as a hater, but I agree about the supremely overrated part. I never really liked Buffy as a character, she was the most irritating. I love Whedon’s humor but it felt a little odd coming out of the mouths of school-slacking teens. Their villains were never that threatening since every one was “the worst they ever faced.” But people like it cause it’s a girl kicking butt, female empowerment, so I can’t entirely dismiss the show.

      • Marion

        Sorry, I can’t trust your opinion because you compared Buffy to Twilight, which shows that you don’t know what’s good from the bad.

      • Chelsea

        Whoa, wait a minute. If you’re seriously putting Buffy in the same league as Twilight, you must have only seen the 1992 movie. Otherwise, you completely missed the point. Buffy (the series) features a female protagonist with strengths (both supernatural and non) and flaws, three-dimensional characters, female empowerment, lessons about people and life not always being black-and-white, actual storylines, etc. – all of which are painfully lacking in Twilight.

      • JT

        Underrated if you ask me. Most people that laugh at it have never watched it.

      • Spring_Chicken

        How can it be derivative when Buffy initiated trends in emplotment that a number of TV shows still being aired these days follow?

      • dee

        Please don’t put Twilight in the same category as Buffy. The characters in Twilight (which I’m sad to see made EW’s Greatest Characters list too) have about as much depth as a sheet of paper. Buffy has interests outside of her boyfriend, flaws, and interesting friends who are almost as fleshed out as she is, in terms of characterization. You may not like it, but it’s still leagues ahead of that Twilight garbage.

      • iprin

        @rj531 — The thing is, Buffy is very self-aware about that, and there are numerous episodes where they either self-referentially mention it or flat out make fun of it (check out the Zeppo). In the early seasons especially, it’s part of the way Buffy mocks and pays homage to the genre.

      • Mikey M

        How many episodes you watched Troll?

      • P D Yerf

        Irina just compared Buffy to Twilight. There aren’t words.

      • Terry Salas

        Wow, lots of unnecessary vitriol toward Irina, just because she expressed an opinion. I happen to like Whedon’s Firefly, which had a true blue so-called “empowered” female in Zoe. Buffy was too whiny and at a point depended too much on Angel and on that other blonde dude, so I can see why Irina could equate Bella’s unhealthy obsession with Edward, with Buffy’s at times less-than-healthy relationship with the males in that show. All in all, I agree that Buffy is incredibly overrated, especially when Whedon has much better properties in his overture.

        As for Buffy’s legacy, I hate that Whedon’s unnaturally “smart”(alecky) dialogues and his penchant for too many pop culture references permeated most TV shows from the nineties that came after Buffy, and to this day, some people still think that kind of writing can substitute genuinely clever, witty writing.

      • kel

        Oh Irina, bless your baby heart. What color is the sky on your planet?

      • Xander

        @terrysalas. Yes, you nailed it on the head. The writing was too cute by half. Your show is much better. It debuted on … what network again? Oh, right. You never accomplished anything of note. Sorry. Wrong person.

      • Summer

        Ew? While you’re entitled to your own opinions, could you try to, you know, not flavour them with vinegar and vitriol next time?

      • Niix Starkyller

        Meh, feeble objections like Irina’s are easily outweighed by the wealth of support from fans and critics alike. Buffy contained all the things great works of fiction should, without ever losing its ability to pay homage where due. And, overall, it didn’t take itself too seriously — a lesson Irina has yet to learn.

      • Kathy

        Oh, Kel! I wish there was a like button for your comment!

      • Ashley G.

        I just rewatched the whole series on netflix and i can honestly say I loved every episode just as much as I did the first time. Buffy is a classic and it will always be a cult hit. Buffy rocks!

      • Aubergine

        Oh Irina, when will you learn? Insulting Buffy fans is like poking your hand into a hornet’s nest. Remember that scene in 28 Days Later when the guy walks into a church full of dead people, and he thinks he’s alone, and when he yells “hello” all the “dead” turn out to be crazed zombies who leap to their feet and chase after him in a bloodcrazed frenzy? It’s kinda like that. It’s best not to voice ANY opinion on anything related to Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse or Doc Horrible’s Blog unless you enjoy your feedback served flaming.

      • Barry

        It was a cult hit. Then it became a popular hit.

      • lauren

        irina…it’s funny for a person who hates buffy so much that you ended up on this article page…if you hate it..don’t read about it

      • Carla

        You wouldn’t know a good show if it bit your arse probably….enjoy crap like The Apprentice, you tool.

      • ****

        Hey Imma Hole, if Buffy is so sucky, then what’s your idea of classic TV? Mattlock? Columbo? Yeah, I thought so.

      • Alice

        Omg u troll (Irina) what bit you in the arse. All the things YOU labeled as crap have all been promently featured in EW frequently. so if you hate them all so much eff off and leave them all alone!

      • slayyou

        no sense of humor huh? lets take this big bad down you guys! : p

      • Melissa

        If you think you can do better, shut your trap and do it. Until then, save the ‘harsh criticism’ for those who have tried and succeeded.

      • Riley

        Irina, grow up. If you had actually watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then you would understand. Twilight is trash that’s true, but Buffy is real, with real 3-dimensional characters who tell you more about them in a sigh or an aversion of the eyes than anyone of the people you’ve talked to.

        It’s genius.

    • Dan S

      He forgot Kitty Pryde from X-Men, who I know was an influence.

      • Kevin

        A huge steal…er, influence :D

  • Liz

    “The show’s about growing up, which for her was basically ages 15 through 22, but the kind of 15 through 22 where you fight war” I think this sums up Buffy perfectly. I feel like Buffy helped me through my 15-22 years because I knew that if Buffy can do this and fight wars then I can handle anything.

    • kate

      Completely. I was the same age as Buffy and Co. when it first aired, and felt like I grew up with the characters. I still rewatch the DVDs. And now so does my hubby (reluctantly at first, and then even when I wasn’t around). It was so smart (the first teen show I saw that didn’t talk down to it’s audience), so funny, so heartbreaking… just brilliant.

    • kevin

      I concur, was about a year younger than Buffy and friends, don’t think I cld have gone through high school/college and came out the other end the same w/o the show…it is that impactful! I like to say that though the show on the outside was a fantasy, the emotions could not nave been more realistic.

    • kimmy

      buffy was in high school and i was in middle school, so remember looking up to her so much…not only did she kick ass, but she had awesome friends, hair, clothes. plus she was an only child (for most of the series)living with her mother, so i especially related to their relationship.

      what was so great about the show was that they portrayed REAL teens dealing with REAL situations on top of all the monsters.

  • kari13

    I watched Buffy through the hardest time of life (losing my Dad). It may sound strange and weird, but this series helped me find my own inner strength. Thank you Joss Weadon!

    • kari13

      OMG- Whedon Major TYPO Sorry!

    • Leia

      I saw the episode where Buffy’s mom shortly after my dad died. I still can’t watch it without crying.

  • junieb

    Thanks Joss for creating my favorite heroine (or hero, the boys have nothing on Buffy!) of all time. I still watch Buffy during rocky patches and think, if she can do it, I can do it.

    • j

      Got me through the worst parts of high school. Joss Whedon knows teenagers like the back of his hand – his just fought demons with silly names and occasionally (~1x per season) saved the world.

  • anna

    I was a few years younger than Buffy, but I feel like I grew up with her. Thanks for creating one of the best female characters on TV and for giving us some of my most memorable television moments ever!

  • mel

    He left out one part Kitty Pryde!!!

    • Eric

      A huge part Kitty Pryde

      • Simon DelMonte

        Guess Joss assumed that even these days Kitty remains a bit underfamous. But we know the truth.

  • Tt

    I must say Buffy (and willow and oz) are three of my fave tv characters ever
    OZ’s quite cool sarcasm is perfect
    Willow says he best things and makes me crack up or smile warm heartedly whenever she speaks
    And Buffy well Buffy is just kick ass

  • Dani C

    Buffy is still my fav show of all time…now, thanks to Joss, i can create my own……and i love that it includes a little “night of the comet….all hail Joss Whedon…..or Buffy WILL kick your ass

  • jmcg

    I loved Buffy. There is a giant void in TV right now because of the lack of female characters with Buffy-like qualities. I believe its the reason why I can’t warm up to Vampire Diaries and Twilight–because there’s not enough Buffy in them.

    • j

      I was just talking about that with my friend the other day! Vampire Diaries is very much like BTVS with the exception of Elena, who has nothing on Buffy in the character dept. I guess that’s why BTVS was such magic, though – you can’t ever recreate a character that amazing, not really, despite having Joss’s recipe ;-)

    • Screwtape

      Oh don’t get me started… wait, too late!
      But instead of a rant I will just through out the following summary:

      Buffy’s Soulmate is about to destroy the world : Buffy sends him to hell.

      Elena’s Soulmate will die if the bloodthirsty head of his vampiric line dies : Elena will move heaven and earth to prevent Klaus’ death even if it means that hundreds of people will die each night due to the feeding habits of Klaus’ (possibly) hundreds of childer including her other friends and family.

      Elena, and women from other, similar shows these days all suffer from this moral weakness that has them protecting the serial killers and mass murderers that they love.
      It makes me miss a Buffy like character that (while she might need a little time to work up to it) will kill (or at least imprison) her man to save people when he goes bad.

  • Amanda

    I miss Buffy soooo much. She could be a little whiny, bitchy and self-absorbed at times but what young woman isn’t now and then. She was also strong, brave, loving, loyal and sacrificed a lot for her family, friends and community. She really was a great role model for all young women, then and now. Joss Whedon is an amazing writer and I can’t thank him enough for creating such an incredible show. Thank God for DVDs.

  • kristel

    i still owe a lot to buffy i’ve been pretty much through everything with buffy i lost my dad around the same time buffy lost her mum so it kinda helped me hold the pieces together thanks to the tv show

  • Jack

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt to add about a dozen “parts” of Sarah Michelle Gellar! Cmpare her portrayal of the character to Kristi Swanson’s (in the movie – also penned by Whedon). Now, I like Kristi Swanson, but I can’t watch this movie after watching the series – SMG’s character is too ingrained on my mind. It’s complex, fleshed out (over seven seasons), and with great depth of character.

    • V

      Whedon penned the movie, but there were other people fudging his vision (not just Kristi Swanson)…he mentions on the DVD (I forget which season) that one of the reasons for having the TV show was so that his vision of the character could exist and be portrayed as designed…And it totally shows in every season of the series…

  • Kiwi

    Great recipe! I miss Buffy.

  • Nat

    I totally agree with all comments people have made about help growing up. Buffy helped me on two levels – it actually was a way to bring me closer to my eventual best friends in junior high/high school over a shared love, but it also helped me deal with a lot of difficult issues. Say what you want about Buffy, but it has never failed to cheer me up or encourage me to face life head on during my darkest times. For anyone who didn’t feel that, all I can say is that’s a shame for you; I hope there was another TV show that succeeded in doing that for you. In any case, I’m eternally grateful to the entire team behind Buffy for creating a masterpiece of a TV show.

  • JoeC

    I loved ‘Buffy’ and I was in my 30’s when the show started; definitely Not the target demo for the show. I still think no other show combined top-flight action with wonderful characters and leavened by a wonderful sense of humor, especially in the WB years….

    • kate

      Thank you! My dad, who avoided most TV like the plague (of course, that was pre-Deadwood and the Wire), got completely hooked too. It really wasn’t for teens – it just starred teens (or late-20 somethings, I guess)

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