Here at the EW Community, we’re big fans of Joss Whedon. The man can do no wrong! King of geekdom: check. King of totally badass female leads: check. King of thinking outside the box: check, check, check.
Whedon has given us some of the most intriguing characters, worlds and battles of good versus evil that it’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t, in some way or another, found themselves relating to his masterpieces on a daily basis. Are you more of a Willow or a Jayne? Or what if you’re a Zoë? I thought it would be fun to dive into some of his best creations and find out which one most represents me. I find I’m 25 percent Buffy and 75 percent Willow (can’t keep the dorky girl down!). Natch.
Now I want you to join in! What’s your Joss Whedon spirit animal? Let’s find out!
The quintessential Whedon butt-kickin’ babe, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), is stronger than everyone. I’m not just talking about physical ability; her heart is bigger than her brain, which is why she puts pretty much everyone before herself. She makes personal sacrifices for the rest of the world, like, a LOT. She’s brilliant, her wit knows no bounds, and to top it off, she’s the most fearless person on the planet. When faced with what can only be described as the worst possible scenario time and time again, she manages to not only handle it, but to kick its behind and somehow finish high school. Overachiever much? She may let go of her own personal happiness at times, but she knows she’s doing it for the right reasons.
The brains of the operation, Willow (Alyson Hannigan), always has an answer whether it’s one she finds in a book or one that comes from her nerdy little heart. As cardiac muscles go, she has a big one. Willow is more fragile than her Sunnyvale classmates, always wearing her heart on her sleeve, which isn’t always a good thing. Though she experiences losses like everyone else, she isn’t as adept at brushing them under the rug. She grows to be less afraid of the unknown, vampires and things that go bump in the night. Though she starts as a timid, bookish best friend, she ends up being one of the most powerful women in the series. Her powers mature with her, and in the process, Willow is able to harness her sensitivity, loyalty and heart into something truly marvelous — dorky but dangerous, in the best possible way.
The veritable class clown of Buffy, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) is the underdog of the group. Never one to miss an opportunity for self-deprecation, Xander’s main mode of defense is his own humor. Though others make it a bad habit to underestimate him, he, like everyone else, is always full of surprises. He doesn’t have the brains of Willow or the brawn of Buffy, but he has spirit and a willingness to do whatever is needed for the group. He just wants to belong. Even after years of feeling like the underdog, Xander never lets that get him down. He is always there, always laughing, always fighting the good fight.
I could make a joke here about how his bite is bigger than his bark, but you get the idea. Spike (James Marsters) is ruthless, bratty and downright mean most of the time. But that is just a front. He only wants to love and be loved, but knowing that is a real impossibility, he chooses instead to languish in his own sullenness. That is until he falls for Buffy. I know he has a lot of past transgressions that make him an easy choice for a World’s Worst List, but I really do think he is good deep down. There is always an internal battle raging between his human and vampire sides, and he ends up surprising everyone by sacrificing himself for the whole world. Sassy, yes. But truly evil? I think not.
By far the most notably tortured soul in the Whedon universe, Angel (David Boreanaz), spends the majority of his life skulking around wrapped in his own guilt. Sure, he has/had a soul (it comes and goes), but there is always something darker on the inside. Brooding comes easy to Angel and so does biting attitude. Even when he isn’t his alter-ego Angelus, his remarks, when angry, can cut like glass giving those closest to him emotional whiplash. It is a constant effort to try to repress the monster within, join the ranks of the living (to fight off evil) and assure them that he is on their side. He ends up being a true hero (a begrudging one at that), but it takes him an awful long time to get there.
I will admit, Fred (Amy Acker) is one of my favorite Whedon characters. Her loss at the end of Angel still tears me up. I mean, what a lady! She, like others before her (Kaylee, Willow), is a delicate little flower. That’s not to say she isn’t a damn powerhouse of a woman! She has brains for days and spunk to boot, and her loyalty to the cause and to furthering her knowledge is beyond endearing. She goes through a lot (like, a LOT — are we spotting a pattern here?), and seeing her overcome those past horrors and turn into a fighting, smiling, loving machine is amazing to watch. She often walks the very fine line between sweet and ruthless; after all, she may be a true darling and the love of Wesley’s life (sob!), but when push comes to shove, she does what needs to be done. Her thirst for knowledge is her downfall, and even in her last moments, we can see she is still the innocent, young, woman-turned-beautiful warrior she always had the potential to be.
Moving right along in the now-I-want-to-cry-all-day category … Remember Wesley (Alexis Denisof)? Talk about a total character transformation. I would say more so than almost any other character, Wesley’s trajectory — from a sniveling dweeb lacking respect from just about everyone to total hero and man I would trust with my life — is astonishing. Ultimately, Wesley is a slave to the age-old dilemma: What is right is not always easy, and what is easy is not always right. Never are truer words spoken than when it comes to Wesley, who lives to do the right thing even if he knows it could cost him everything.
That sassy son of a gun, Capt. Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), is at times a brute, down-and-dirty fighter, but darn it if he doesn’t always have the ship’s best interest at heart. He will do anything for his crew. Tough calls have to be made after a war that almost costs him everything, and he’s the one to make them. A fearless leader in the face of death, siege and space brutality, he may lose his cool at times, but can you blame him? He tries hard to keep up his tough-guy facade, but underneath that rough exterior is a man who cares, a man who wants the best for everyone, a man who would lay down his life if it meant saving one of his own.
Another in the canon of straight-up, confident female leads, Zoë Washburne (Gina Torres), is as loyal as they come. Fearless like her leader, she is never one to back down from a fight. She can take on any man, any woman, anything that comes her way. She can be a leader if she wants to, but there’s comfort in following orders from someone she trusts so fiercely (even if she sometimes calls him out on his latest wacky idea). Her tactical abilities make her a sure shot, while her uncanny poker face makes her an enemy who I wouldn’t want to come across anywhere — let alone deep space. She loves her husband, but she loves her job too. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
A rare bird, River (Summer Glau) seems, at first, to be a weirdo. She mumbles nonsense, has screaming fits and nightmares, and can kill people with her brain. Weird isn’t even the half of it. But with that weirdness comes incredible brilliance. She’s the smartest person in the room and has her sights set on the bigger picture. She’s a genius through and through, but not in the book-smart way like Willow and Fred. She’s the mad kind of genius, the kind that borders on psychotic — but the good kind! Even though it takes some time (goodness knows we would have found out even more about her potential if Firefly hadn’t been canceled), she is able to adapt to her new life, because what she really wants is a family.
Echo (Eliza Dushku) is a machine, but it’s not like she really has a choice. After having her memory wiped, she is now essentially a programmable skeleton of her former self. But instead of letting this new identity be the only thing she knows, she starts to slowly become aware. She’s tough as nails, secretive to a fault and a stealthy force to be reckoned with. Like so many other Whedon female leads, she is fierce beyond words and holds on to way more than she can bear. Though she does what needs to be done, it’s never without an ulterior motive, a motive meant to serve her burgeoning self-awareness. It’s do or die, and she’s determined to do whatever it takes to get her life back.
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with these characters, who’s your Whedon spirit animal? There are plenty I didn’t include on this list — the Whedonverse is just too vast! Are you more of a Cordelia from Angel or a Penny from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog? Sound off in the poll below. Trust me, there’s a Whedon character out there for everyone.
Get more of Brandi’s take on all things entertainment over at ReelSnarky.com!