Buffy the Vampire Slayer celebrated its 20th Anniversary last year. Created by Joss Whedon, it premiered in March of 1997 and the show is still garnering new fans and praise for the way it changed the landscape of television. Despite some controversies, it is still counted as one of the best shows to ever air. The success of the show lead to the popular spinoff, Angel, which also continues to amass new fans and praise.
Surprisingly, though (or not), Buffy had a bumpy start. Fortunately, the show went on to last seven seasons, but it wasn’t without its trials and tribulations. There were several times when the show received pushback because some were flustered by the amount of violence and types of intimacy in the series. There were calls for censorship and at times outright banning. While in most cases the series aired without much censorship in the United States, there were instances where it faced a bit more controversy overseas. Nevertheless, the show managed to keep most of the censors at bay and provided audiences with excellent, thought-provoking entertainment.
With all of that said, here are 15 Times Buffy The Vampire Slayer Slipped Past The Censors.
15. “THE BARGAINING, PART ONE” WILLOW HARMS A DEER
One of the turning points for Willow (Alyson Hannigan) was, of course, getting involved in magic. As she progressed over the seasons, her friends became worried that she was going too far. She was essentially becoming addicted to magic. This fact didn’t dissuade her and, in the first episode of season six, one of the significant spells she completed involved magically bringing Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) back from the dead. While she was proud of her accomplishment, it had unintended consequences. In the UK, the scene where she kills a deer for her spell was cut on its initial airing and restored later, but the pivotal scene made it past censors in the US. It was an essential part of showing how she could become Dark Willow later in the season after she experienced a devastating loss.
14. “SEEING RED” SPIKE HURTS BUFFY
James Marsters has long expressed dismay at the way Spike attacked Buffy in “Seeing Red.” Based on a real-life incident and mirroring many instances of violation that have occurred in real life, this scene shows Spike committing one of his lowest acts. It brings home the point that, despite his feelings for Buffy and all the good he did up to that point, he was still without a soul and therefore could not adequately maintain certain boundaries. Because of this, and his desire to be a better person, one who would never harm her, he left to seek out his soul. Fortunately, this scene made it past censors, despite its controversial dynamic, because it was a necessary part of depicting Spike’s progression. It also lead to one of the best scenes in the series; Spike’s speech about the burden of a soul in “Beneath You.”
13. “PASSION” ANGELUS AND JENNY
Angelus (David Boreanaz) is a scary dude. This was something reiterated throughout the series, as well as in its fantastic spinoff Angel. Few times was this more apparent than when Angel lost his soul and started hunting the people in Buffy’s life. The extent of Angelus’ malicious nature was shown clearly when he accosted Jenny (Robia LaMorte) in her classroom while she was working on the spell to give him back his soul. Despite (or rather because of) her insistence that she can return his soul and reunite him with Buffy, he chases her down through Sunnydale high, finally catching her. Once he does, he takes her out in a graphic scene. The scene made it past the censors and is considered one of Angel/Angelus’ defining moments.
12. “HIM” BUFFY AND R. J.
“Him” is a comedic take on the phenomenon of the high school crush. Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) develops an unusual obsession with a boy in her school, R. J. (Thad Luckinbill). Buffy takes it upon herself to try to warn the heartbreaker away from her little sister. However, unbeknownst to him, he has a magical letter jacket that causes any female who sees him in it to become obsessed. Go figure. Shenanigans ensue, with even Willow vying for his affections. One controversial scene that made it past the censors involved Buffy shamelessly throwing herself at the teenage student. Eventually, it’s up to Spike and Xander (Nicholas Brendon) to get the jacket from R. J., which they burn to make sure that it can’t be used by anyone again, whether they know about the spell or not.
11. “SMASHED” BUFFY AND SPIKE
So many inappropriate jokes and innuendos can be applied to the hot-and-heavy episode “Smashed,” which showed Spike and Buffy finally cutting through that sexual tension. And how! Nothing says intense passion quite like two super-powered people literally smashing down a house with their “activities.” It was only matched (or surpassed) by Angel and Buffy flying off into space together and creating an entirely new universe with their reunion in the comics. Needless to say, this is one that surprised many fans – not in that it happened (clearly, Spike had a thing for Buffy from the moment he saw her) – but that it was aired instead of cut and mostly alluded to. There are a couple of edited versions of the scene, but all-in-all this is one intense moment that made it past the censors.
10. “ENTROPY” SPIKE AND ANYA
While hugely disappointing, it wasn’t exactly a surprise when Xander devastated Anya (Emma Caulfield) by leaving her at the altar on their wedding day. While they had many adorable moments together and a lot of fans rooted for them, Xander didn’t always treat her well – in fact, he was often just downright cruel, a fact he lamented. For all his heart and wisdom, he acknowledged that he was still, unfortunately, heavily influenced by his parents’ dysfunctional relationship. At any rate, his betrayal drives Anya to seek revenge and she eventually ends up in the arms of Spike. While not as intense as other scenes in the show, the exchange between Spike and Anya possibly used a clever technique to get past censors. By using the old Hollywood “three-second rule” and intercutting with different scenes, they’re able to show a bit more.
9. “SURPRISE” BUFFY AND ANGEL
There was some controversy surrounding the romance between Buffy and Angel. Once the two were intimate, there were groups worried about it being too much for some of the younger viewers. Even more controversial were the topics touched upon after – the abusive nature of Angelus, etc. However, as with heavily romantic scenes in later episodes, this one also got a pass. Dealing with the loss of virginity and the potential consequences of a relationship gone wrong was still one of the highlights of the show, and many considered it a turning point. Before that, some critics wrongfully deemed Buffy as little more than a fantasy show with no substance. It wasn’t long before many of them changed their tunes and Buffy started getting more praise.
8. “THE PACK” THE PACK AND PRINCIPAL FLUTIE
One of the more violent episodes of Buffy shows Xander and a few other students being put under an ancient curse. They become possessed by the spirit of the hyena, taking on a pack mentality. One of the best shots in the episode is a slow-motion scene of the group walking. The slow-motion group shot is one of Joss’s most popular techniques and, in this episode, it’s used to show just how predatory and cavalier the group is, foreshadowing their brutal attack on Flutie (Ken Lerner). After the pack (sans Xander) corners him, they rip the principal apart and eat him. There’s also another controversial scene in the episode – when Xander attacks Buffy. After, he claims to have no memory of his behavior, but it’s revealed that he actually does remember.
7. “BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEWILDERED” XANDER AND THE WOMEN
After Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) breaks up with him because her “friends” make fun of her for their relationship, Xander decides to try to win back her affections (and torture her) with a love spell. He finds Amy (Elizabeth Anne Allen) and convinces her to do the spell, but it backfires. Cordelia stays mad while every other woman falls madly in love with him. Even Joyce (Kristine Sutherland) goes after him. In one scene, Buffy tries to seduce Xander, wearing nothing but a coat. It’s a surprising bit that made it past the censors. As the episode progressed, things quickly turned from playful to violent, with Xander being forced to admit what he did. Eventually, this all leads to Xander and Cordelia finally being a real couple, though the relationship, unfortunately, did end up being one she regretted.
6. “WHO ARE YOU?” FAITH AS BUFFY WITH SPIKE
After Faith (Eliza Dushku) uses a spell to switch bodies with Buffy, she takes her new skin for a test drive. Wanting to see what it was like to be her, really, Faith interacts with everyone in the Slayer’s life. In one scene, she’s intimate with Riley (Marc Blucas), but that wasn’t controversial as far as censorship goes. The surprising scene happens when she meets Spike and decides to tease him with a particularly descriptive speech of what she could and would do to him if they were ever intimate. It involved champagne and not for drinking. It’s possible that the heavily mature speech got past the censors because it was essentially delivered by the villain. Or maybe they were distracted. The same speech is referenced again in season seven during a conversation between Spike and Faith. She’s surprised to learn that Buffy did all of that and then some, and with Spike.
5. “WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE” BUFFY AND RILEY
This episode was written by Joss as a response after the show was attacked for supposedly having too much violence. Buffy and Riley fall under a spell and spend the entire episode together in his bedroom, while the rest of the Scooby Gang tries to save them and everyone else. It turned out that Buffy and Riley unleashed the energy of angry poltergeists when they locked themselves away. While the hot-and-heavy scenes got a pass in the United States, some of the scenes between the two were shortened for first airings in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, this episode is bafflingly rated by some as being the worst episode of the season. While it wasn’t heavy on fight scenes, it did notably feature Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) singing, so it couldn’t possibly be that bad.
4. “WILD AT HEART” OZ AND VERUCA
Oz (Seth Green) finds himself drawn to a singer, Veruca (Page Moss), and it turns out that she is also a werewolf. They wake up together in the woods without anything on (and later in Oz’s cage, where Willow finds them). Each of those scenes made it past the censors. It was one of the saddest episodes of the season, but eventually lead to Willow meeting Tara. In an interview with the BBC, writer Marti Noxon was asked which episode she would have liked to direct, and she states, “Probably ‘Wild at Heart,’ just because that episode was very close to my heart. The kind of metaphor that was working in that episode … was really resonant for me – the idea that most of us have a creature inside of us that makes us do things that we wish we didn’t do. Plus, the whole issue of sexuality between men and women is kind of fraught because of the beast.”
3. “ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING” TARA AND WILLOW
Tara (Amber Benson) and Willow’s relationship was groundbreaking not just for the show, but for television in general. It was rare at that time to show same-sex couples, especially one as intimate as they were. The show received a lot of pushback because of it. In this scene in OMWF, Tara and Willow are intimate as Tara sings, alluding to physical reactions. In an interview with Den of Geek, Amber Benson notes the frustration with the initial censorship of the relationship, stating, “Just to get the kiss in ‘The Body’ was like pulling teeth. Literally, I remember Alyson and I being like, “Spike and Buffy are shtupping on a gravestone, seeing everything… How come we can’t? We were all up in arms about it. We can’t kiss, all this stuff we’re not allowed to do.”
2. “VILLAINS” WILLOW AND WARREN
After Tara and Willow break up and get back together, the day after their reunion, Tara is shot by Warren (Adam Busch). This act drives Willow over the edge and she consumes all the magic she can find, turning into Dark Willow. She tracks down Warren and strips him of his skin. While it’s clear to most fans that Warren was far from being a sympathetic character, there was still some controversy with this due to its graphic nature. But it effectively passed the reigns of the season’s “Big Bad” over to Willow – at that point also a “nerd gone bad”. In an interview with The A.V. Club, Adam reflected on his role, stating, “… the fact that [the Big Bad] could just be that nerd you’ve been ignoring for the last couple years … and how unchecked his feelings are and how unchecked he is as a person. To me, that’s frightening.
1. “EARSHOT” JONATHAN IN THE TOWER
“Earshot” featured a scene with Jonathan (Danny Strong) in a tower with a rifle. Just before the episode was to air, news came out about the horrific shooting at Columbine. In a terrible turn of events, news broke of another horrific shooting that just happened in Florida. In the twenty years since this episode eventually aired, there have been numerous incidents of this kind. Despite people trying to address this issue and attempting to get things changed, it has only gotten worse. In the world of entertainment, there are fictional heroes who can use superhuman strength to fend off would-be shooters. In the real world, too many have lost their lives protecting others from dangerous assailants with guns. Whatever leanings on any side of the issue, everyone can agree that gun violence is something that has to stop.
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