Happy Birthday, Buffy! or, The Strange Case of the Slayer and the Red Sheets

[Content note: Extreme BtVS fandom]

Riley: What . . . ARE you?
Buffy: Capricorn on the cusp of Aquarius. You?

— BtVS, “Doomed” 

* * * * * *

 Buffy Summers — AKA, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; AKA, The Chosen One; AKA, She Who Hangs Out A Lot in Cemeteries; AKA, Slayer, Comma, The — was born in 1981, on either the 19th or the 20th of January.

Making this the week Buffy turns 34.

(And yes, this also means you now feel very, VERY old. Just in case anyone was wondering.)

scooby gifts

For five of the six complete seasons of BtVS (Season 1 was a mid-season replacement), the last week of January meant an episode dedicated to celebrating the Birth of the Buff. These generally went terribly, terribly wrong.

My favorite Buffy birthday has always been — and shall forever remain — the first Buffy birthday: Season 2’s two-parter of “Surprise” and “Innocence.” (Cliff Notes version for any non-Buffy-addicts who might be reading: these are the episodes in which Buffy and Angel first consummate their relationship. . . and Angel loses his soul as a result.)

I’d like to make a few points about that:

  • That must’a been some damn good sex, to provide a moment of such “true happiness” that it manages to suck out the entire soul of one of the participants.
  • This is hands-down the best solution I’ve ever seen for a TV show which derived its narrative tension, up to this moment, in large part from the “will they? or won’t they?” sexual attraction between two lead characters. [Henceforth to be referred to as “The Sam and Diane Problem.”] Once it’s clear the characters not only WILL, they already HAVE, how to keep the tension and interest alive? Turn one of them into AN UTTERLY EVIL KILLING MACHINE, that’s how! And how better to announce the return of Angelus? Why, send him into an alley to suck smoke directly from the throat of a woman puffing on a cigarette, that’s how!
  • While I understand (and to some extent agree with) Jenny Trout’s point about the sex-shaming aspects of how BtVS treats teenage sex, I want to acknowledge how ground-breaking this season was, in terms of both recreating and challenging the Strong Female Character trope, when it aired 17 years ago. Yes, Buffy gets punished 19 ways from Sunday for sleeping with her boyfriend. But she grieves, deals, and moves on. And when Angel’s soul is restored to him in the final crucial scenes of the season finale, Buffy is still able to get her job done. And save the world by killing her true love and sending him to hell. (Of an apparently pants-free variety, based on how he returns from there, slime-slicked and trou-less, in Season 3.)

Personally, I have only one gripe about this season’s birthday episodes. They mark the start of THE DREADED RED SHEET TROPE.

By which I mean: there are always red sheets on the bed the first time Buffy “does the deed” with a new guy.

Check it out. We’ve got:

1) Buffy and Angel


2) Buffy and Parker


[Actually, I’m not so surprised our womanizing, “what’s the difference between a freshman girl and a toilet seat?” douchenozzle has red sheets. Let’s just hope for Buffy’s sake he launders them frequently.]

And finally — psst, here’s where the trope becomes more unbelievable than thinking Clem’s problem is “just a skin condition”

3) Buffy and Riley


SRSLY, WHEDON?! I’m supposed to believe that Riley Finn, the regimented soldier — Mr. Corn-Fed Iowa Boy himself — took A Very Special Shopping Trip to the local Bed, Bath, & Beyond to buy some dreamy boudoir linens to be used once, and then never heard from again. . . ???

Of course, since both these moments occurred in Season 4, the possibility exists that the set design just re-uses sheets already acquired. Which gives me an even bigger problem.

Because now I am envisioning a world in which Riley prepares for his special occasion with Buffy — by borrowing sexy sheets from his slutty friend, Parker.

Allow me to offer a short PSA:

Dear Set Dresser,

Never ever make me think about Riley going to Parker for advice on girls. Ever. Kthxbai. 


P.S. That running gag you did for Drusilla, with the gagged dolls? Stellar way to creep out the joint! Kudos.

Thankfully, the red sheets do not make a reappearance with Buffy’s fourth, and final, romantic entanglement. Mostly because she and Spike decide to forego with sheets altogether.

Also foregone: the bed, the floor, structural integrity of the building…

[Ysee that purple shape in the background? The shirt Spike wears the night he and the Slayer bring the building down marks, I believe, the only time in the series he wears purple. Updating the color of sex from red sheet to purple shirt is a choice I highly approve.]

Buffy and Spike’s torrid affair is often marked with unconventional sheet choices.

D'ya think beds made with Persian rugs can still get tucked in hospital corners?
D’ya think Persian rugs can get tucked in hospital corners?

Even when white sheets are involved, the decision remains unconventional. As in, one half of the couple being invisible.

Exercising naked in bed. Because a man shouldn't use immortality as an excuse to let himself go.
Exercising naked in bed. Because a man shouldn’t use immortality as an excuse to let himself go.

At the end of the day, though, I can’t stay mad at Buffy’s Season 2 birthday shenanigans.

Cos they end with the greatest birthday gift of all time.

Whaddya get for the girl who has everything?
Whaddya get for the girl who has everything?

Happiest of happies, Slayer!

[Image Credits: Will not be provided. None of these images are authorized for my use by the producers of the show or owners of the content. This serves as my official notice that I am a rebel.

I’m such a Big Bad, the Evil Trio wishes they could ask me to be their fourth on D&D raids.]

11 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Buffy! or, The Strange Case of the Slayer and the Red Sheets

  1. LOVE! I love EVIL Angel. I wanted him to stay like that…lol I cry like a baby every time I watch the episode where she kills him. When that song comes on at the end and she is walking down the street and am bawling uncontrollably. It is the only scene that does that to me on TV. I just can’t deal. Powerful stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Season 2 reveal of Angel’s curse provides one of the greatest solutions EVER to serial tv’s common problem of making shows depend on a “will they, won’t they?” tension. Few shows built on that survive after the two leads sleep together!

      How many more season might Moonlighting have had, for instance, if Cybill Shepherd’s character had turned out to be similarly no-nookie cursed?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love everything Joss Whedon has done. I have not seen Buffy yet. It is one of my great failings. I may get a chance to catch up on some of what I have missed in the next couple of weeks.


    1. Ooh, a newbie! How exciting!
      I managed to get hooked the summer after the first (half)season aired, when the WB reran all of it in order to build viewership. Being part of the fandom as the show aired was an experience! This was pre-Netflix/Hulu/Video-on-demand — so you had to watch each episode as it aired or remember to set your VHS to record. I was a supplier of bootleg copies to friends and coworkers for many years.


  3. I forget: was Buffy & Riley’s first time at his frat house (which was actually the entrance to the secret Initiative lair, but I digress)? If so, I sort of imagine this scene earlier in the day:

    [Int. Riley’s bedroom]
    Graham: What are you up to tonight?
    Riley: Buffy’s coming over.
    Graham: Oh really? Are you gonna……
    Riley: [Grins wryly] I guess we’ll see.
    Graham: [Looks at Riley’s bed] Dude, are those your sheets?
    Riley: Yeah, why?
    Graham: They’re……they’re……..is that Cheeto residue?
    Riley: So? I like to eat and read in bed.
    Graham: You can’t have Buffy over here and….you know…..with sheets like that. Hold on a second. [Exits]
    [Riley contemplates his Cheeto-stained sheets. He walks over to his dresser, opens a drawer, scoops up his mint-condition GI Joe action figures, places them in the drawer, and closes it.]
    [Graham re-enters, carrying a neatly folded set of red bedsheets.]
    Graham: You can borrow these for tonight, but I want them back, and you have to wash them twice before you give them back to me. Care instructions are on the tag. [Hands sheets to Riley.]
    Riley: Wow, these are really nice!
    Graham: 1,500 thread count.
    Riley: Where did you get these?
    Graham: The same place I get all my hair gel. Now c’mon, we’ve got a briefing downstairs.
    [Riley sets the folded sheets on the edge of the bed. Riley and Graham exit.]


    1. I’ve decided to score your fanfic:

      Buffy & Riley do, in fact, first get freaky at the frat house — as evidenced by Prof Walsh’s pre-installed peeping-tom video feed. Your scenario is completely plausible: +1

      You have managed to give Graham more lines in this one scene than the screenwriters gave him in the entire series. Making your scenario less completely plausible: -1

      HAIR GEL: +1000

      Verdict: It is my pleasure to inform you that you are receiving the coveted “Class Clown — and Blog Commenter” Award!

      Jonathon will be by to present it shortly.


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