You know how people binge The Office on loop, like, to a borderline unhealthy amount? That was me in eighth grade to freshman year of college, but with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, the production quality is fairly outdated and not as riveting as True Blood, but out of all the dozens of vampire shows out there, Buffy is simply the best, don’t @ me.
I recently read a tweet which joked that the second most powerful type of LGBT allies are straight people who own DVD box sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I’m proud to put myself in that grouping. My set came from China in a black velvet box and it’s one of my most prized possessions next to the Buffy collector’s action figure on my dresser.
The 3 most powerful types of LGBT allies, ranked:
1. Girls with tattoos who had a baby 5 months after high school graduation
2. Straights who own DVD box sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
3. Soft-hearted Bros who are too simple to learn hate
— ian (@IanABoyd) March 4, 2019
Buffy has a cult following for tackling difficult issues that plague high schoolers, like sexual violence and identity — particularly, queer identity. Willow Rosenberg, Buffy’s badass Jewish witch BFF, and her girlfriend Tara were one of the first lesbian relationships to be shown on television. And for that, Willow is revered as a queer (Jewish) icon.
Willow’s queerness helped so many confused teens who craved reassurance, acceptance, and representation in the media. For me, listening to the Once More With Feeling album from the musical episode got me through my first summer at fat camp, and watching Sarah Michelle Gellar slay vampire ass comforted me whenever I needed it (so like always).
Today, 22 years after first airing in 1997, Buffy remains a cult classic and relevant as ever. In fact, it’s so relevant that a Buffy reboot is on the way (I have very complicated feelings about this). In honor of Buffy turning 22 over the weekend, I present to my fellow slayer-obsessed Alma readers all the Jewish facts from our favorite TV show:
1. Let’s start with an easy one: The titular character Buffer Summers is played by Jewish actress Sarah Michelle Gellar. Sadly, the character herself is not Jewish, but still.
2. Buffy’s younger and incredibly annoying sister Dawn — also not Jewish — is portrayed by Jewish actress Michelle Trachtenberg (AKA Harriet the Spy!).
3. Buffy’s best friend Willow Danielle Rosenberg, played by Jewish actress Alyson Hannigan (yes, the band girl from American Pie), is Jewish. Willow is regarded as a queer icon for breaking ground as a lesbian witch at a time when same-sex relationships weren’t common on TV (between humans, witches, or anyone else).
4. In the episode “Amends” in the third season, Buffy asks Willow what she’s doing for Christmas. “Being Jewish. Remember people? Not everybody worships Santa,” she said. “That’s the Christmas spirit!” their friend Xander replies. “Hello? Still Jewish. Hanukkah spirit, I believe that was,” Willow quips back.
5. Health teacher Mr. Whitmore gives the Scooby Gang eggs in the episode “Bad Eggs” to teach them the responsibility of parenting. Xander tells Willow that to take care of their egg baby, they have to keep it safe and teach it Christian values. When Willow tells him that her egg is Jewish, Xander says, “Then teach it that dreidel song.” Offensive or amazing? You decide!
6. In 2008, AOL named Willow Rosenberg as the greatest (Jewish) witch in television history after Samantha Stephens from Bewitched.
7. In the second season, Willow’s boyfriend Daniel “Oz” Osbourne — portrayed by Jewish actor Seth Green — is bitten by a werewolf and turns into a wolf for three nights a month. It’s unclear if Oz identifies as Jewish, but there is a strong connection between werewolves and American Jews as both experience intersectional identities: wolf-man and Jewish-American. “Werewolves are kind of like good Jewish boys, only more so,” a character in Wen Spencer’s novel The Black Wolves of Boston said.
8. Speaking of Willow’s romantic relationships, in college she realizes her queer identity and starts dating fellow witch Tara. Again, it’s unclear if Tara is Jewish, but Amber Benson — the actress who portrays her — sure is. In an interview with Buffy magazine, Tara said, “I’m the biggest klutz on set.” Yiddish for the win.
9. In the German version of the episode “Witch,” a reference to Nazis was censored. Buffy describes a classmate’s mom as “Nazi-like” and Willow responds with “heil.” In the German version, Buffy describes the mom as “Superwoman” (ummm, that is very much not the same thing) and Willow’s “heil” is cut out.
10. Willow had a bat mitzvah! In “Hells Bells” (season six) the Scooby Gang attend Xander’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Willow tells Buffy that the last time she saw Xander’s parents that drunk was at her bat mitzvah. Her Torah portion is not mentioned, and neither is her bat mitzvah party theme, but here’s an incredible fan fiction essay that imagines Willow’s bat mitzvah.
11. In “Grave,” Willow calls upon Asmodea, a vengeful, intelligent, and lusty powerful demon in the Kabbalistic hierarchy.
12. Jewish executive producer Gail Berman loved that Willow is Jewish. She said that Willow is the first Jewish character on TV that wasn’t portrayed in a stereotypical fashion (seeing as Willow is the Scooby Gang’s “nerd,” I’d disagree). Nonetheless, she said that Willow’s identity “is very helpful to say to my daughter: Willow’s Jewish.”