In Fred Zinneman’s High Noon, the wedding day of Marshall Kane (Gary Cooper) is interrupted when three of the meanest, ugliest, nastiest varmints the Old West had ever seen come gunning for him. Realizing that he is outnumbered, the Marshall appeals to the townspeople to back him up. Not only do they refuse, they also tell him to leave town, then head for the hills themselves. Undaunted, the lawmaker faces the bad guys alone.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has never had such problems. For one thing, it’s not likely she’s ever going to get within miles of a wedding day. More importantly, she always has the Scoobies on her side, an eclectic posse standing tall (more or less) with Buffy in the fight against evil. Naturally, as is the case with any group of friends, disagreements and separations have occurred over the years, but Buffy fans knew that eventually differences would be ironed out and the gang reunited.
The makeup of the group has changed over time. During the seven years of the series, the Scoobies have included two witches, a construction foreman, an former vengeance demon, two other slayers, a werewolf, a marine, two vampires, a high school prom queen, a slew of slayer wannabes, and Buffy’s little sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg). The Slayer has also been accompanied into battle by her Watcher, Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), even as he assumed the role of teacher more than Scoobie, strictly speaking. Of this crew, only two—Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander (Nicholas Brendon)—have been in place for the entire run of Buffy.
The Scoobies have loved, betrayed, helped, nursed, and disappointed one another repeatedly over the years, as friends are wont to do. Such human qualities—strengths as well as weaknesses—that have made them indispensable in Buffy’s fight against the forces of evil. They have provided both moral and physical support and have twice brought Buffy back from the dead.
The Scoobies have slaughtered countless demons, vampires, and other manifestations of evil during their tenure looking after the Hellmouth in Sunnydale, not to mention thwarting a string of apocalypses. But no matter what they have faced, they have proven themselves to be as resilient as the cartoon characters for whom they are named. (When a Buffy fan site began calling Buffy’s posse “the Scooby Gang,” after the supernatural crime-fighters in Scoobie Doo, and when series creator Joss Whedon heard the new nickname, he incorporated it into the show [“What’s My Line, Part 1,” 2-9].)
Some of the Scoobs have died (Kendra [Bianca Lawson] and perhaps most famously, Tara [Amber Benson]), some have died temporarily (Angel [David Boreanaz]), some have left town to wrestle with personal demons (Angel, Oz [Seth Green], Riley [Marc Blucas]), and some have experienced complete personality changes (Anya [Emma Caulfield], Willow, Spike [James Marsters]). Others have popped up out of nowhere (Dawn), and almost all have been seriously wounded at one point or another (the latest devastating injury is Xander’s loss of his left eye). They have scrapped with a goddess, the Master, a half-human/half-cyborg, an Uber-vampire, Dracula (Rudolph Martin), the mayor (Harry Groener), and a host of vile beasts that crawled up out of the Hellmouth located under Sunnydale High.
If ever there was a group that had reason to turn tail and run, they are it. But they don’t; they come back time and time again to help Buffy and save the world, a commitment reflected in the episode, “The Wish” (3-9):
Buffy: Okay. That was too close for comfort. Not that slaying is ever comfy, but… You know what I mean? If you guys hadn’t been here to help.
Willow: But, we were, and we did, and, and we’re all fine.
It would be easy to fill the rest of this article with examples of the Scoobies’ bravery and dedication to one another. (Remember how Xander faced Willow’s Wiccan wrath to save the world, by reminding her how she cried when her yellow crayon broke in kindergarten? Or how the whole gang took off in an RV to protect Dawn from the goddess Glory [Clare Kramer]?) But it is neither their skill nor courage that makes the Scoobies so vital to Buffy.
It would be easy to fill the rest of this article with examples of the Scoobies’ bravery and dedication to one another. (Remember how Xander faced Willow’s Wiccan wrath to save the world by reminding her how she cried when her yellow crayon broke in kindergarten? Or how the whole gang took off in an RV to protect Dawn from the goddess Glory [Clare Kramer]?) But it is neither their skills nor courage that makes the Scoobies a driving force in the success of Buffy.
Rather, their many other functions—as friends, confidants, lovers, voices of reason or doubt, morale boosters, and comic relief—make them essential, to Buffy, the series, and to viewers who love them. The Slayer, after all, can do her job alone. Previous Slayers have done so, and the film version of Buffy (Kristy Swanson) had only one ally, the town bad boy, Pike (Luke Perry).
But the Scoobies have expanded the tv series, to include character study and analysis of the bonds of humankind. Most impressively, this analysis embraces the usefulness of wit. This is most welcome in Buffy, whose themes are grim indeed: from its inception, when a 16-year-old was called on to kill to save all of humanity from forces so evil that normal humans are virtually defenseless, the series has nurtured a certain darkness.
This is hardly a premise from which you’d expect chuckles and grins. Yet, Whedon and his cast have managed the burden of this drama with humor and sarcasm, by letting his supporting players show their inadequacies, self-deprecating sarcasm and bumbling good intentions. Take, for instance, Xander’s efforts to boost Buffy’s spirits on the eve of battle:
Buffy, this is all about fear. It’s understandable, but you can’t let it control you. “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to anger.” No, wait, hold on. “Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to the dark side.” Hold on, no. Umm. “First you get the women, then you get the money, then you…” Okay, can we forget that?
To which Buffy responds, as she must, “Thanks for the Dadaist pep talk, I feel much more abstract now.” I understand her gratitude as sincere. Despite and because of each Scooby’s signature lapses—Xander’s verbal clumsiness, Willow’s dry self-derogation, Anya’s misinterpretations of human behavior—the gang still manages to find the right things to say when the time is appropriate. Xander concludes his bumbling pep-talk with exactly the right words: “Let me tell you something, when it’s dark and I’m all alone and I’m scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, ‘What would Buffy do?’ You’re my hero.”
And even beyond this sort of moral support, each Scooby has found the resources to deliver the Big Speech to motivate the team when necessary. And all have found strength from the others. This bond allows them to face all trials, from taking college entrance exams to kicking some demon’s ass. They are all heroes, most especially for showing the power of friendship, humor, love, and commitment. Had Marshall Kane had some version of the Scoobies by his side, they would have packed the Marshall’s bags, sent him and his bride on their honeymoon, and then gone to face the nasty varmints without him. And they would have won. No matter how the series ends, with Buffy alive or dead, the Scoobies will be there for one another. If I lived in Sunnydale, I know that would help me sleep at night.