Caroline Ruddell

“I am the Law” “I am the Magics”: Speech, Power and the Split Identity of Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer


[1] Throughout the story arc of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, magic has gradually become Willow’s language. At the end of Season Six, Willow becomes so deeply immersed in black magic that she claims that she is magic. When performing spells, Willow seems to speak, perform and practice another language, different to that of most of the other characters (Tara being an exception). Magic is Willow’s language. Other characters, such as Jonathan, occasionally dabble in magic. Tara is sometimes seen performing spells with Willow and, very occasionally, on her own. However, these characters never perform spells as extensively as Willow. Willow as a representation of magic cannot be separated from her use of language and voice; when performing spells, she switches code and with the change asserts confidence and identity as she graduates towards fulfilling her role as an all-powerful witch:


Dawn: You’re back on the magics.

Willow: No, honey. I am the magics. (“Two To Go,” 6021)1


[2] Willow’s use of magic is also the use of a language that the Scooby Gang can rarely understand or participate in (the penultimate episode of Season Four, “Primeval,” 4021, is a significant exception). Her use of magic can be interpreted as her attempt to find her own voice through magic, both as practice and as speech act. This is an attempt on Willow’s part to establish a secure identity for herself; often overshadowed by Buffy, Willow attempts to assert herself through magic. Willow’s own voice (magic) has a dramatic effect on Buffy, who has managed to survive seven seasons as the Slayer and by extension the leader of the Scooby Gang (most markedly when Giles leaves and returns to England). Buffy struggles to maintain her identity as the Slayer in Sunnydale; therefore, it can be useful to view her as the “ego” of the tale struggling against dark id-type forces. While Willow has previously used magic to help Buffy in her fight against all that is evil, in Season Six (“Villains,” 6020, “Two To Go,” 6021 and “Grave,” 6022), Willow uses magic against Buffy and against what Buffy herself has proclaimed as her “law.” Willow’s use of magic as a language indicates her split self, largely because her use of magic as a language changes with the changing face of her fragile identity.

[3] In “Selfless” (7005), Buffy attempts to kill Anya who, as a vengeance demon, has killed several humans. Xander and Buffy argue about whether this is the right or moral thing to do:


Xander: You have no idea what she’s [Anya] going through.

Buffy: (stands) I don’t care what she’s going through!

Xander: No, of course not. You think we haven’t seen all this before? The part where you just cut us all out. Just step away from everything human and act like you’re the law. If you knew what I felt—

Buffy: I killed Angel! Do you even remember that? I would have given up everything I had to be with— I loved him more than I will ever love anything in this life. And I put a sword through his heart because I had to.


Xander: This is different—

Buffy: It is always different! It’s always complicated. And at some point, someone has to draw the line, and that is always going to be me. You get down on me for cutting myself off, but in the end the slayer is always cut off. There’s no mystical guidebook. No all-knowing council. Human rules don’t apply. There’s only me. I am the law.

In this conversation, Buffy negates Xander’s viewpoint by ordering him to see things from her viewpoint; there is no room in this exchange for Xander’s own challenges. Buffy attempts to assert herself by using specific modes of expression; her particular use of speech acts at times demonstrates her status as the heroine of the show.

[4] Speech act theory is the study of utterances in a linguistic context. In this article, I shall refer to illocutionary and perlocutionary acts, which are kinds of speech acts. Illocutionary acts are “complete” acts, or utterances, that refer, predicate, and finally state, assert, or promise, etc. (Austin 1962; Searle 1969). Perlocutionary acts refer to the effect speech acts might have on the listener, such as persuading someone to do something or affecting their feelings or actions, etc. (Austin 1962).2 Buffy’s speech acts are generally assertive and directive illocutionary acts, as they insist that her opinion is the true state of affairs. But as perlocutionary acts, they also challenge the listener, as when she confronts Xander in an authoritative manner and insists that he come around to her way of thinking.3 Whatever Buffy’s law might be, at times she asserts herself in commands; her illocutionary acts tend to be assertive and directive, as well as commissive, where she promises or threatens to perform or not to perform specific acts. For example, in “Bring On The Night” (7010) Buffy makes the following speech:


Buffy: (solemn) You’re right. We don’t know how to fight it. We don’t know when it’ll come. We can’t run, can’t hide, can’t pretend it’s not the end, ‘cause it is. Something’s always been there to try and destroy the world. We’ve beaten them back, but we’re not dealing with them anymore. We’re dealing with the reason they exist. Evil. The strongest. The First.

Giles: Buffy, I—I-I know you’re tired.

Buffy: (resolute) I’m beyond tired. I’m beyond scared. I’m standing on the mouth of hell, and it is gonna swallow me whole. And it’ll choke on me. We’re not ready? They’re not ready. They think we’re gonna wait for the end to come, like we always do. I’m done waiting. They want an apocalypse? Oh, we’ll give ‘em one. Anyone else who wants to run, do it now. ‘Cause we just became an army. We just declared war. From now on, we won’t just face our worst fears, we will seek them out. We will find them and cut out their hearts one by one, until The First shows itself for what it really is. And I’ll kill it myself. There is only one thing on this earth more powerful than evil, and that’s us. Any questions?

Buffy vows to defeat the first; however, she promises this (to the viewers?) on behalf of all the potentials and the Scooby Gang. She says “we” far more often than “I,” indicating that she has no intention of acting alone. Buffy lets slip here, amid an apparently confident and inspiring speech, that she is not self-assured without the support of others. Buffy’s autonomy is not without its challenges.

[5] In Season Six, Willow’s own dramatic use of magic has a huge impact on the Slayer’s autonomy, when she almost destroys the world that Buffy is sworn to protect. Importantly, Willow’s dramatic attack on Buffy and all of her friends depends on Willow’s evil half making an appearance. Willow’s split self and fragile identity cause this dramatic turn of events. This paper considers how Willow’s split identity is tied to her changing use of magic, which Willow uses as her own language. Willow’s fractured identity also mirrors Buffy’s fragile sovereignty. Battis (2003) suggests that Willow “has been overshadowed by Buffy but…has also shadowed her, and at times eclipsed her” (¶ 2). If Buffy is the ego of the tale, forces of darkness that are to some extent out of her control besiege her constantly. In Season Six, Willow becomes such a dark force that, through the very nature of her split character, she challenges Buffy’s autonomy and identity as a heroic Slayer. To examine this more closely, it is necessary to demonstrate how Willow’s use of magic can be figured as her own language.

[6] Willow’s use of magic as a specific language is grounded in the ways in which her speech acts change once she begins to practice magic on a consistent basis; her modes of articulation change as her familiarity with magic grows. Willow’s use of magical speech differs dramatically from her usual hesitancy in speech. Viewers can recognize Willow in her various guises through the way that her expression and speech acts change. For example, vampire Willow’s cutting remarks (as well as a change of dress code) allow the viewer to enjoy the stark difference between “evil” Willow and the Willow that viewers have come to know and identify with. Speech acts as suggestive of personality allow viewers to recognise which Willow is onscreen and what her agenda might be. For example, in “Doppelgängland” (3016) “normal” Willow masquerades as vampire Willow in order to avert a massacre at the Bronze; it is Willow’s attempt to talk and act like an evil vampire that provides humor in this instance. In this scene she must act as vampire Willow, who has just returned from going to find “normal” Willow:


Alfonse: Did you find the girl?

Willow: (tries to sound authoritative) Yep. I did.

Anya: (mystified) Where is she?

Willow: (bravely) I killed her.

                 Anya gives her a look of stunned disbelief.

Willow: And sucked her blood, (nods triumphantly) as we vampires do.


The silence is thick with tension, making her nervous. She turns to the doorman.


Willow: (quietly aside to him) You know, I think maybe I heard something out there. Why don’t you go check?


He opens the door and goes out, closing the door behind him. Outside Angel grabs him by the shoulders and holds him steady as Buffy plunges a stake into his chest. Back inside, Anya confronts Willow.


Anya: (incredulous) H-how could you kill her? She was our best shot at getting your world back.

Willow: (walks past her, straightens challengingly) I don’t like that you dare question me.

Oz notices that somethings up.

Willow: (now enjoying herself) Maybe I’ll have my minions take you out back and kill you horribly.


She sneaks Oz a little smile and wave. He barely reacts, just raising an eyebrow a bit. Anya follows her onto the dance floor.


Anya: (muttering) Vampires. Always thinking with your teeth.

Willow: (haughtily) She bothered me. She’s so weak and accommodating. She’s always letting people walk all over her, (turns to face her) and then she gets cranky with her friends for no reason. I just couldn’t let her live.

The joke lies in viewers being fully aware that the girl in the vampire leather outfit is the Willow that viewers know and love; Willow is unconvincing as vampire Willow, which is evident in her attempt to alter her speech and her discomfort at wearing a “vamp” leather outfit. However, she also acknowledges her link with vampire Willow by admitting, in the guise of vampire Willow, that Willow is “weak” and “accommodating”; behaving as vampire Willow allows Willow to confront what she considers the weaker and less confident aspects of her personality. The difference between Willow and vampire Willow can therefore be identified through the differences in how the two use speech (as well as changes in appearance); their very different personalities are therefore performed through speech. Speech acts are performative and functional: illocutionary and perlocutionary speech acts assert or achieve an effect respectively (Austin 1962). In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, illocutionary and perlocutionary forces of speech provide insight into personality and how language can indicate developing character. Willow’s hesitancy in speech demonstrates her natural tendency to stand back and allow others to take the limelight, while vampire Willow’s sharp expression reflects her vicious, blood-sucking lifestyle. It is therefore possible to view speech acts and language as symptomatic of personality and identity in the show.

[7] Willow’s own use of everyday language in conversation is uncertain: Farah Mendlesohn (2002) describes it as her “characteristically hesitant mode of speech” (59). Overbey and Preston-Matto (2002) suggest that “the words sometimes get away from [Willow] … she is awkward in talk, blushing, stammering” (78). Willow’s illocutionary acts are often expressive, allowing the viewer insight into her state of mind. The hesitations apparent in her speech, the tendency to question rather than to state, point to key components of her personality, such as lack of confidence. In the exchange above, for example, despite Willow’s attempt to take on vampire Willow’s mode of expression, her slight hesitancy and unwillingness to lead the conversation (she generally replies to questions asked of her) allow the viewer to recognize Willow rather than vampire Willow. As Alice Jenkins and Susan Stuart (2003) note in a more general sense, “[a]ll communication is, in some trivial way, the extension of one’s mind” (¶ 20). However, as Overbey and Preston-Matto also suggest, “Willow is turned on by text” (78). Her love of academic learning, new technology, and researching magic define her character. Willow’s love of knowledge and the tools of knowledge spark her initial interest in magic.

[8] Willow’s love of text, which inspires her knowledge-seeking, is essentially a means to an end; she requires the text in order to find knowledge, and by extension power. As Alan Sheridan suggests (1980), “power and knowledge are two sides of the same process” (220): the two concepts are inseparably linked; indeed one is immanent in the other. The demon Sweet of the musical episode “Once More, With Feeling” (6007) aptly highlights Willow’s strength by retorting, “I smell power,” in the presence of the witch. This remark is made after Willow has spoken, not after her performance of any magic, signifying that her power is indicated through speech. The complexity of Willow’s character is evident through the fact that both her lack of confidence and growing power are apparent in her use of speech.

[9] Willow’s power is referred to constantly during Seasons Six and Seven by several of the characters, most notably characters who do not know Willow very well. For example Rack describes her as the “new power” who will “blow this town wide open”; and Anya, with her supernatural status (and who has never seen eye to eye with Willow), claims that she can feel Willow’s power (“Villains,” 6020). Significantly, Buffy, one of Willow’s closest friends, does not initially notice her rapid decline into addiction to magic. Buffy also uses Willow’s magic addiction as a homology of her own problems with leaving Spike; Buffy is too busy fighting her own personal demons to notice Willow’s deep problems. (Buffy mirrors Willow, which becomes increasingly apparent in relation to their split characters towards the end of Season Six).

[10] While Willow is often hesitant in conversation, by contrast, her use of magical speech is fluid and confident; in fact, many of her spells are performed in arcane languages. A significant early example is the dramatic episode, “Becoming, Part Two” (2022), where Willow alarms Oz and Cordelia by suddenly speaking in ancient Romanian during a ritual to recover Angel’s soul:


Willow: Return. (pants) I call on ... (pants)

Oz: (worried) Willow?

Cordelia: (worried) Are you okay?


Without warning Willows head snaps back and she looks up with her eyes wide open. Her head snaps back down and her eyes stare into the Orb. She begins to chant steadily in Rumanian as though possessed.


Willow: Te implor, Doamne, nu ignora aceasta rugaminte. [Translation: I implore you, Lord, do not ignore this request.]

Oz: (to Cordelia) Is this a good thing?

Willow: Nici mort, nici al finite ... [Translation: Neither dead, nor of the living…]

Cordelia: (freaked out) Hey, speak English!

Willow: Lasa orbita sa fie vasul care-i va transporta, sufletul la el. [Translation: Let this Orb be the vessel that will carry his soul to Him.]

Magic speaks through Willow, and subsequently, Willow’s friends (or indeed the viewer) cannot understand her use of the language of magic. This expresses Willow’s alienation within the group. To some extent, the alienation produced by ascent to power is shared by both Willow and Buffy. For Willow, this culminates towards the end of Season Six, where Willow’s use of magic has become extraordinarily powerful. In keeping with Willow’s power becoming almost unstoppable, her use of everyday language has also changed dramatically.

[11] Previously on the show, Willow’s use of language during spells or rituals was lengthy or complicated, thus leaving much room for things to go awry. A prime example is Willow’s attempt to conjure a ball of sunlight and accidentally conjuring a troll in “Triangle” (5011). This is due to Anya’s interference, which results in Willow getting the words of the spell wrong:


Willow: Would you stop that? It’s very distracting.

Anya: Fine. Make your little ball of sunshine. I’ll be quiet.

Willow: Good, because this spell is very sensitive. Once I begin, any non-ritual word can disrupt it. (mashes the ingredients together with the pestle)

Anya: Fine.

Willow:Okay, here we go.

She pours the mixture into the cauldron. Then she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath.

Anya: Did you start yet?

Willow:(exhales loudly, turns to give Anya an annoyed look) Shh, no! This is it.

Again she closes her eyes and inhales.

Willow: Spirits of light, I invoke thee. Let the gloom of darkness part before you.

A small circlet of yellow-orange light arises out of the cauldron and begins to spin.

Willow: Let the moonlight be made pale by your presence. Spirits—

Anya:  Is it done?

Willow: Shh!!!

The circle of light flashes brighter and grows a bit larger.

Willow: Spirits of light, grant my wishes.

Anya: Sorry, I thought you were done.

Willow:(angry) Do you wanna screw this up?    

Willow turns away to yell at Anya. The circle of light grows bigger and brighter, and its spinning becomes less smooth. It continues to grow and twist crazily.

Anya: No. No. I’m sure you can do that all on your own.

Willow: Hey Anya, whatever really has you mad, why don’t you just say it, like you do every other thought that stomps through your brain?

Anya: (stands up) I believe I have said it.

Willow: No. You haven’t. Come on. Let it out!

The circle of light suddenly drops down through the glass of the countertop and touches a large crystal that is in the display case underneath. It gives off a big flash of light and Olaf, a large troll, suddenly appears next to the counter. Willow and Anya shriek and grab each other.

To say the wrong words, or the right words in the wrong order, results in spells getting mixed up; Anya ensures that Willow’s words are incorrect through her constant interruption. The show therefore implies that magic is an exact and complicated art where words performed in a particular manner will have very specific magical effects.4 This is not the only way that magic can go awry for Willow: in “Something Blue” (4009), Willow attempts a spell that will enable her to enact her will upon the world through her spoken words. As Alice Jenkins and Susan Stuart (2003) suggest, “Willow has attempted to give her speech acts radical perlocutionary force, or extreme power to alter reality” (¶ 3).

[12] Spells that go wrong for Willow also bring to light the link between Willow’s emotion and magic that is upheld throughout the show.5 Willow’s magic is performed as illocutionary declarations (and they are also perlocutionary, as they are intended to bring about significant changes in the world around her); her words of magic are intended to result in the circumstances to which they refer, so calling on the “spirits of light” to “let the gloom of darkness part” is intended actually to produce light (“Triange,” 5011). Once Willow’s alter ego makes an appearance (in the form of the black-haired, black-eyed witch), her magic still consists of illocutionary declarations, yet she is able to perform magic without the aid of rituals or long and complicated reams of words. Her magic is now brisk, often merely colloquial commands performed as directives, such as “stop,” “take a nap,” “back off.” Willow has transcended the need to “ritualize” her magic through lengthy citations: “take a nap” results in the offending police officer instantly dropping sleepily to the floor. This use of magic indicates confidence and control: rather than having to accommodate the esoteric language of magic, she “owns” the magics.

[13] Dark Willow’s use of speech becomes more reminiscent of Buffy’s quipping than Willow’s hesitant speech. Michael Adams (2003) suggests that “slayer slang becomes, not only the means to community, but finding an individual voice within that community” (44). Willow’s language is not so simply about being part of the Scooby Gang community; language becomes a symptom of her internal conflicts and her struggle to attain selfhood or in many ways to achieve an identity equal to that of the Slayer. Language therefore signifies Willow’s internal status, which provides a commentary on the character’s psychological make-up, more so than of other characters. The symptomatic use of language signifies Willow’s struggle with maintaining an autonomous identity, which she experiences as dualistic and fragile. Willow’s speech acts while performing magic in Season Six demonstrate her increasingly pathological identity; identity in the show therefore includes being recognized as having iniquitous characteristics as well as being identifiable as one of the characters on the side of good. This is one of the show’s strengths: the series allows for an understanding of identity that is often unknowable and deeply ambiguous, which provides a progressive and differing view of identity that in much of mainstream media is represented as (misleadingly?) autonomous and wholly good.

[14] Buffy the Vampire Slayer is about conflicts of desire, conflicts between who the characters think they are and who they actually are. Speech in the show indicates these conflicts. Dramatic values in the show often emerge through conflicts between and within characters. Willow’s problems and experiences in the process of establishing identity and status are literalized through her magic and its relation to power and speech. When Willow becomes evil, changes in her use of language, both magical and conversational, reveal her split nature. Changes in Willow’s language also tap into the idea of the repressed; Willow’s speech acts point to a deeper, repressed side of her nature that has rarely been seen before. The play on language in the show is dually coded, indicating that the characters are essentially unaware of whom or what they really are; the repressed side of their nature will slip out, often in speech acts. Willow’s use of the language of magic (which is different from her “normal” use of language) becomes a symptom of her fragile identity, as it indicates that her character is twofold, or split.

[15] The differences between “crayon-breaky Willow” and “Darth Rosenberg” emerged during Season Three, when Willow’s vampire double first made an appearance in “The Wish” (3009) and “Doppelgängland” (3016).6 Most strikingly, Willow’s appearance as both a vampire and a black magic witch is dramatically different from that of the “normal” Willow. Both are adorned in black clothes and, in the latter case, black hair and eyes and are, as Battis (2003) suggests, “re-coded” negatively (drawing on codes used to decode “evil” found in other witchcraft films such as The Craft). Both make different use of language than that of the Willow to whom we are accustomed. In contrast to “normal” Willow’s hesitant speech, “bad” Willow is more cutting and commanding when she attempts to recruit Willow as her companion, often by means of illocutionary assertives or directives:


The library. Vampire Willow turns Willow around and looks her up and down, particularly noticing her pink sweater.


Vampire Willow: (appraisingly) Well, look at me. (doubtfully) I’m all fuzzy.

Willow: What do I want with you? (catches herself) Uh ...

Vampire Willow: (grimly) Your little school friend Anya said that you’re the one that brought me here. She said that you could get me back to my world.

Willow: Oh. (gets it) Oh! Oops!

Vampire Willow: But I don’t know ... (smiles wickedly) I kinda like the idea of the two of us.


She turns Willow around again, caressing her shoulders.


Vampire Willow: We could be quite a team, (meaningfully) if you came around to my way of thinking.

Willow: (uncertainly) Would that mean we have to snuggle?


Vampire Willow brushes Willow’s hair away from her neck.


Vampire Willow: (coaxing) What do you say?

She gives Willows neck an eager, lengthy lick. Willow shudders with loathing and grimaces at the feeling.

Vampire Willow: (enticingly) Wanna be bad?

Willow: (completely unnerved) This just can’t get more disturbing.

Vampire Willow growls horribly with desire and bares her teeth behind Willow’s neck. Willow freaks out and whirls around, stepping back and away from her.

Willow: (flapping her hands with disgust) Ack! Ew! No more! You’re really starting to freak me out!


She tries to go around Vampire Willow, but gets blocked. She snatches up Xanders cross from the counter and nervously waves it in Vampire Willows face, who roars and bats her arm away, sending the cross flying. She grabs Willow and throws her hard up and over the counter. Willow lands with a crash, hitting her head hard against the metal filing cabinet.


Willow: Ow!

Vampire Willow: (stalks grimly around the counter) You don’t wanna play, I guess I can't force you.


Willow reaches under the counter for what she originally came for and pulls out the dart rifle just as Vampire Willow comes through the door to behind the counter.


Vampire Willow: Oh, wait.


Willow locks the bolt in place.


Vampire Willow: (smiling meanly) I can.


Willow frantically aims and fires. The dart hits Vampire Willow dead center of her       chest. Stunned, she looks down at the protruding dart, staggers and starts to fall.


Vampire Willow:      (moans) Bitch ...

Willow’s obvious abhorrence of vampire Willow’s proposition is juxtaposed with vampire Willow’s confidence, manifest in a series of expressives, assertives, and directives. Willow's nervousness and lack of confidence is apparent in her cautious mode of speaking in her very first line of the scene, where she makes a mistake in her expression, obviously confused by the sight of her double. Her following remarks are generally short reactions (“Oh! Oops!”). Conversely, vampire Willow leads the conversation and her expression is either seductive in trying to win Willow over (“wanna be bad?”), or threatening (“bitch”).

[16] Willow incorporates her evil counterpart’s self-assurance when she becomes consumed by magic in Season Six; note here a similar mode of expression to her vampire self:


Warren: (yells) Help! (normal voice) Let me go. (yells) Somebody! Help!!

Dark Willow: What’s the matter? Thought you wanted to talk.

Warren: No.

Dark Willow: Okay.

Dark Willow opens her hand, revealing the bullet that she took from Buffys chest earlier.

Dark Willow: I’ll talk.

She waves her other hand, and Warrens shirt rips open.

Warren: What, what are you doing?

Dark Willow: Shhh.

Warren: (seriously freaked) Hey, hey, I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry.

Dark Willow holds the bullet about an inch from Warrens chest, right over his heart. She lets go, but the bullet continues to hover in place.

Dark Willow: Wanna know what a bullet feels like, Warren? A real one? (Warren looking nervously down at the bullet, then up at her) It’s not like in the comics.

Warren: No. No.

Dark Willow: I think you need to. Feel it.

The bullet slowly starts to push its way into Warrens chest.


Warren: Oh god! Stop it! Please! God! I did wrong, I see that now. I need, I need jail! I need ... But you, you don’t want this. You’re, you’re not a bad person. Not like me.

Dark Willow stares at him.

Warren: Oh, and when you get caught, you’ll lose them too. Your friends. (panting) You don’t want that. I know you’re in pain, but –

Dark Willow: Bored now.

Dark Willow makes a casual gesture with one hand. A bolt of magic rips through Warren and tears the skin off his body in a single piece.

The difference between the expression of normal Willow and that of vampire/black magic Willow is partly a dramatic device, but it suggests Willow’s repressed or buried side and further signifies a deeply split identity. Perhaps most noticeable is “bad” Willow’s use of the catchphrase bored now. James South aptly describes the use of this phrase throughout the series and demonstrates the significance in Season Three, where both Willow and the vampire Willow suggest that “this world’s no fun” (“Doppelgängland,” 3016). As South (2003) argues, it is no surprise that vampire Willow finds this to be the case; however it seems unusual for “normal” Willow to agree with such a sentiment. South goes on to suggest that “normal” Willow is indeed bored mainly because of all the pressure she is under (139-140). Drawing on Freud, South suggests that Willow’s pressure reflects that which we are all subject to in psychological terms; as he puts it, a “too much” (140).

[17] Vampire Willow is bored because this world is ruled by a Slayer (instead of the Master), and again this is similar to the reason why “normal” Willow might also feel bored. She, like all in Sunnydale, must live under the rule and law of the Slayer. While Buffy is a friend, her law is a difficult one to live by; morals are very clearly laid out and there is very little room for mistakes or bad judgements. More important, Buffy’s law leaves only a sidekick-shaped space for Willow’s own voice (magic). The Slayer’s physical strength sidelines Willow’s magical power, leaving her a sidekick with no heroic status of her own and specifically no language of her own (or none with which she can communicate with others). South interprets Willow’s sidekick status as “her biggest fear” (134). In fact, ironically for Willow her background (often magical) work/research has bolstered Buffy’s status as a hero. Through the majority of the show Willow’s metaphoric pen has never been mightier than Buffy’s literal sword, until now.

[18] It seems necessary to discuss further Buffy’s own proclamation, “I am the law,” for it is this law that Willow so fiercely attacks. Buffy, the tale’s ego, is besieged by forces with which she cannot reckon; Willow becomes one of the forces that challenges Buffy’s law. This occurs in a number of ways. Willow undermines Buffy’s moral law by attacking humans. She also attempts to take over Buffy’s identity by making herself as physically strong as the Slayer and attacking her, retorting “this is a huge deal for me, six years as a sideman, now I get to be the Slayer” (“Two to Go,” 6021). Willow attempts to take over with her own language or voice of magic, rendering Buffy (in her position of power) redundant. Buffy makes a proclamation similar to Willow’s statement that she is “the magics,” when she claims, “I am the law.” Buffy does not mean that she is a representative of the police of Sunnydale, nor does she in any way associate herself with that type of authority; in fact, one of the few things that Buffy and Principle Snyder ever agreed upon was that “the police force in Sunnydale are deeply stupid.”7 State law is not the only law apparent in Sunnydale however. As Anthony Bradney (2003) suggests, “[p]luralistic legal systems exist in Sunnydale” (¶ 6), and he is, of course, referring to the Watchers’ Council. By Season Four, Buffy has distanced herself from the Watchers’ Council in England, and even Giles is no longer officially her Watcher; therefore, she in is no way a representative of the law of the Watchers’ Council.8 It therefore becomes necessary to ask, “What law is it that Buffy fights for?”

[19] Generally, Buffy fights the “good fight” and represents a force of good that keeps at bay the never-ending forces of darkness (demons, monsters, and some vampires). However, as suggested recently, the show has insisted increasingly on blurring the line between good and evil. For example, Krzywinska (2002) suggests that the show takes an increasingly “relativistic approach” in its representation of magic (178-194). This relativism is also evident with the arrival of demons such as Clem, both Spike and Angel on rocky roads to soulful redemption, and the final revelation that Buffy’s power is driven by demonic forces. In addition to these factors, Anya reverts to demon status (and back again), and Willow certainly crosses the line, blurry though it might be, from light to darkness. It seems that Buffy’s law is an individual law applied as a universal “good,” a law upheld by her power as the Slayer; but not every Slayer similarly attempts to assert herself as representing a specific law. Faith most certainly abides by no law; or, if we are to push the issue, her agenda would be to have as much fun as possible without acknowledging the ties of duty that Buffy seems to always bear in mind. Importantly, Faith herself announces to Buffy that “we don’t need the law; we are the law” during the Season Three episode “Consequences” (3015); but, as her lack of rationality becomes apparent, her capacity to uphold any law slips through her fingers. Faith generally abides by few rules during the show, although it should be noted that she does seem to do what the Mayor asks (orders?) her to do, and she is certainly more stable on her return in Season Seven, to the extent that she briefly takes over for Buffy.

[20] Kendra, like Faith, does not adhere to the same rules that Buffy does. Kendra is the most Council law-abiding of the Slayers in that she stands for the rules and laws of the Watcher’s Council and would never perform any task without first receiving permission from her Watcher. Finally, the first Slayer, introduced at the end of Season Four as an enigma related to Buffy’s origins as the Slayer, is never fully explored; but her vicious attack on the Scooby Gang implies that she is a force of rage and vengeance. The first Slayer also works alone and tells Buffy that she, too, should be a solitary Slayer. It is made clear that the first Slayer precedes all language: she cannot communicate with Buffy other than through Tara, who provides her voice. Tara is used to bridge the gap between the non-speaking Slayer and Buffy who represents the law in the present time; interestingly, it is Tara who provides the first Slayer’s voice, though Tara's own speech can on occasion be stammering, particularly in her early appearances. Her speech role is similar to her interplay with Willow: she helps Willow to secure a more stable identity through magic, their common “language.”

[21] Vitally, none of the Slayers who meet become good friends. Friendship is hinted at between Buffy and Kendra and early on between Buffy and Faith. Both friendships are fruitless once it is discovered that Buffy’s idea of being a Slayer differs dramatically from Kendra’s and Faith’s, though it should be noted that the relationships between Kendra and Buffy and Faith and Buffy are later re-established to some extent. Kendra abides by external rules suggested to her by an outside force. I suggest that Buffy’s law is actually her own beliefs and morals, beliefs and morals that she manages to uphold vigorously through having the power of being the Slayer. It is also likely that Giles has been an influence during her time as the Slayer, providing her with a strong sense of duty. Yet this sense of duty is on her own terms; the movement “arc” of the show has placed increasingly more emphasis on Buffy being in charge. Often, in earlier episodes, Giles’s despair at not being able to control Buffy is a source of humor; later, it becomes a problem, when, ironically, Buffy relies too much on Giles, and he returns to England to ensure that she matures into adulthood (“Tabula Rasa,” 6008).

[22] Bradney (2003) argues that Buffy chooses when to abide by certain laws (state law and/or the Watchers’ Council’s law) and when to break those laws, which further enforces the view that Buffy in fact has her own law, her own rules to live by. As Bradney goes on to point out, this is largely because Buffy has a far more accurate picture of the world than either the state, the Watchers’ Council, or even the Initiative: these organizations simply equate demon with bad, apart from state law which disavows the presence of vampires and demons altogether.

[23] Buffy is arguably the most successful of the Slayers. She outlives Kendra, and Faith survives but experiences many problems along the way. Buffy’s success is largely due to the strong team behind her, but it is also because she clings to the idea that she is human and wishes to retain this humanness—hence she refuses more power in Season Seven, despite the fact that refusing puts her at a disadvantage in her combat with the First. The moral of the tale is that, while Buffy refuses extra (dark) power, she still wins out, and the force of good is once more triumphant. One of the themes of the show is the continual sliding between good and evil; the show focuses on the grey area between them. Buffy is at the center of this battle; hence her desperate attempt to stay on the “light” side of the fight. Importantly, evil is not synonymous with demon, and good does not equal human. Buffy is ambiguous in this sense, as she is both human and demon; to some extent, this explains her tricky position as Slayer (vampire hunter with demon power) and human (young woman who attends school/university, etc). Buffy deals with this ambiguity by performing her “law” (fighting all that she perceives as evil); Willow equally performs her magic, and the two become juxtaposed in that they both perform their law/magic habitually and, at times, irrationally.

[24] What becomes so problematic for Willow in the close of Season Six is Buffy’s law, not because Buffy’s law is static and Buffy refuses to see Willow’s point of view, but because Buffy has to draw the line somewhere. (The show hints at this previously, for example, in “Pangs,” 4008, where Willow sympathizes with the plight of the Native American Spirit.) Tara’s dramatic death pushes Willow’s moral boundaries beyond what the Slayer can allow: Willow must kill humans in order to avenge Tara’s death, and this Buffy, understandably, will not endorse. The conflict is a source of tremendous dramatic tension, as long-term viewers of the show are accustomed to Willow and Buffy being the best of friends, not the worst of enemies.

[25] It is necessary to clarify what Willow loses through Tara’s death that results in her fierce attack, not only on the “nerds,” but also on Buffy and Giles. South (2003) argues that Willow has no clear identity of her own, no way of defining herself within the group, which South describes as “no core identity” (134). However, in the eyes of others, Willow does have a clear identity in the group as another source of power. It seems, however, that her actual experience is that of surviving on the perimeter. Perhaps this is due to her own language (magic) having little significance to the other group members, at least, until she turns evil. The group has relied on Willow’s use of magic in the past and has even become angry at the prospect of Willow giving up magic for good.9 However, they have shown little appreciation of the skill and knowledge that Willow has acquired to help them in such a way. Willow’s identity does not rely on the other group members, yet it is evident that her identity is experienced as fragile, as represented through her split character in the form of both vampire Willow and dark magic Willow, and this is reflected in her group identity profile.

[26] Willow’s fragmentary nature is also evident in her relationships. Battis (2003) argues that “Willow’s relationship with Tara, like her relationship with Oz, only further demonstrates her dis(embodiment) as a subject whose mentality and materiality is fragmented … She must belong to Tara, to Oz, to Xander, in order to be inscribed by meaning, by the validity that others place in her” (¶ 25, 27). It would therefore follow that, without Tara, Willow feels that she has no “meaning.” Willow and Tara form a very close bond; Tara, apart from being Willow’s lover, is also someone who understands Willow’s language or voice (magic). Willow often appears to be unsure of herself, and it is only in the presence of Tara that Willow appears more confident; Willow and Tara maintain their identity as witches together through intimate trust in using magic together (magic seemed to hint at sex between Willow and Tara early on in their relationship).10 As Battis argues, “magic brings [Willow] closer to Tara, and closer to what she believes is an authentic identity” (¶ 24).

[27] On the sudden and tragic death of Tara in “Seeing Red” (6019), Willow’s grief is violently apparent. Tara’s death causes great grief for Willow because she provides a ground for Willow in the “normal” world; Tara’s death also leaves Willow with no one to communicate with through the use of magic. (Willow does not consistently perform spells with other characters; before dark magic consumes her, magic becomes increasingly “personal” for Willow, an intimate exchange.) Willow instantly tries to resurrect Tara with magic in the next episode “Villains” (6020), and her lack of success puts Willow straight back “in the magics,” meaning that her use of magic as a language becomes once more powerful, but also out of control. Willow’s grief at being told that Tara will remain dead (unlike Buffy, who is raised by Willow’s magic) results in her screaming “No” at the offending god (Osiris) on whom she calls to bring Tara back. The word is graphically represented as a visible sound wave to the viewer, and it sends the god (also screaming) back to where he came from. Willow’s use of dark magic is instantly aligned to her use of language, and this becomes unmistakable in the remainder of Season Six.

[28] It is necessary to substantiate the language or discourse of magic in the context of the tradition of magical “words” or the traditions of magic and the word in religions. James Frazer (1993) in The Golden Bough explored the use of words in ritual in religious and magical practices, where he discusses the significance of tabooed words in certain cultures. In what he terms a “tyranny of words,” Frazer describes how the names of relatives, loved ones, and kings may not be mentioned after their death: new names were often devised in order to refer to the departed. Such practices were due to beliefs that calling the name of the departed was disrespectful and could result in such consequences as the ghost of the departed returning to haunt the dreams of the disrespectful. The ritual nature of words corresponds to the implied power of words within magical practice and it also hints at the instability of language because it changes constantly as cultural identity changes.

[29] Frazer brings to light both the power and the taboo of certain words in magical thinking and practices. Similarly, Geoffrey Hughes (1998) discusses the power and taboo surrounding certain words. Hughes’s work concerns swearing, and he suggests that gradually over time society has developed a “modern insensitivity to the language of cursing” (7). Language not only evolves, but reactions to uses of language also change. While Willow’s more aggressive expression cannot produce much more than emotional responses from her friends (who, as Hughes suggests, would quickly adjust to her different manner of speaking), her magic can produce very real effects. Cursing in the context of swearing, and cursing in the context of magical practice have certain similarities; swearing often has the aim of either producing a reaction in the listener and/or expressing anger, disbelief, grief, etc. Cursing (performing a spell) in a magical sense, for Willow, also usually has the aim of producing some kind of affect, a “real,” physical affect; for example, Willow uses magic against her enemies such as her attack on Glory after she has invaded Tara’s mind (“Tough Love,” 5019). Here Willow both attempts to attack Glory physically with her magic and expresses anger and grief. When “bad” Willow makes an appearance, her changing use of language has the aim of producing a reaction, in the viewer and other characters. Magic (cursing in a magical sense) has specific physical consequences, but Willow’s use of razor-sharp language (similar to cursing in the context of swearing) also has the aim of jarring the listener and is a reminder that she is not really Willow, or not all of Willow.

[30] According to Hughes, swearing has a complex (and changing) relation to authority, he argues that depending on context profanities can either work against or in favour of the person doing the swearing. Willow’s cursing (both as magic and as increasingly cutting language) is a performance of her authority, as she attempts to display her power and assert her identity.

[31] The idea that words have power is regarded as superstitious and “represent[s] survivals of primitive beliefs in word-magic” (Hughes 1998, 7). Jeanne Favret-Saada suggests (1980) that the word is implicit in both the ritual and also the person who speaks it, “for if the ritual is upheld it is only through words and through the person who says them” (9). In this pre-Structuralist understanding of language, words have intrinsic power, and this directly implicates the word and language in the discourse of magic. This is upheld by Willow as she uses the word and text in magical discourse to maintain her power. For her friends (and perhaps the viewer), however, her changing use of language, along with the changing face of her increasingly fragmented identity, is jarring and serves the purpose of reminding us that Willow is acting out, and that Buffy’s enemy of Season Six was once her best friend. The tensions between the two characters are exaggerated and play out as hero vs. villain; they also act as a homology of the friction between the two over Buffy’s recent resurrection by Willow’s use of dark magic. 

[32] In order to avenge Tara’s death Willow arrives at the Magic Box to “load up” on magics. Importantly, she does not research as she usually would if she were attempting a new spell; instead she compiles a huge pile of the darkest magic books, sinks her hands into their middle, and literally soaks up the text. Willow’s use of magic allows her to use text and language in anyway that she requires;10 she can literally morph with the text, and it will become part of her psychic and physical make up. This is made painfully clear by the image of Willow with her hands in the books: the text covers her body and face as she internalizes the available knowledge. Dark magic turns her hair and eyes black and consumes her. The image of the text on Willow’s body becomes a form of writing (on) the body, where the divisions between text and the body are transgressed.

[33] After killing Warren with her trademark expression, “Bored now,” she seeks out Jonathan and Andrew at the prison; however, on arriving she discovers that Buffy has already arrived and has rescued them. Her initial anger is displayed in an incredibly high-pitched scream that cripples all those in the near vicinity. Jenkins and Stuart (2003) argue that, while screaming is not strictly a perlocutionary act, it is, nonetheless, perlocutionary: “screaming has immense perlocutionary force whilst not strictly counting as a perlocutionary act … In normal circumstances we would hope that screaming will have an effect on a hearer’s behavior; it would, we hope, urge someone to run to our assistance” (¶ 18). Willow’s scream has direct perlocutionary impact on those in the surrounding area; her previous hesitant mode of speech has become a force to be reckoned with and is, through her voice, aligned to magic and power. Buffy’s law prevents Willow from carrying out her desires; thus Willow violently attacks Buffy, as well as Giles, who upholds Buffy’s law and sanctions it.

[34] Buffy is placed in the difficult position of attempting to persuade her friend that the world is a place worth living in:


Buffy:  Dawn, get out of here. Go!

Dawn runs to the door, but its suddenly locked.

Willow: Don’t. We’re all friends.

Buffy:  Willow, I know what you want to do, but you have to listen to me. The forces inside you are incredibly powerful. They’re strong ... but you’re stronger. (Dawn cowering in the corner) You have to remember you’re still Willow.

Willow: (scoffs) Let me tell you something about Willow (advancing toward Buffy). She’s a loser. And she always has been. People picked on Willow in junior high school, high school, up until college. With her stupid mousy ways. And now? Willow’s a junkie.

Buffy: I can help.

Willow: The only thing Willow was ever good for ...

She pauses, drops the bitter sarcasm and grows pensive.

Willow:... the only thing I had going for me ... were the moments—just moments—when Tara would look at me and I was wonderful. (grimly) And that will never happen again.

Buffy: I know this hurts. Bad. But Willow, if you let loose with the magics, it will never end.

Willow: (smiles nastily) Promise?

Buffy: You don’t want that.

Willow: Why not?

Dawn moves away from the wall and approaches them.

Buffy: Because you lose everything. Your friends, your self .... Willow, if you let this control you then the world goes away. And all of us with it. There’s so much to live for. (forcefully) Will, there’s too much—

Willow: (scoffs) Oh, please! This is your pitch? Buffy, you hate it here as much as I do. I’m just more honest about it.

Buffy: That’s not true.

Willow: You’re trying to sell me on the world.


The camera starts to do a slow turn thing where it stays focused on Willow but the background turns behind her ...

Willow: The one where you lie to your friends when you’re not trying to kill them? And you screw a vampire just to feel? And insane asylums are the comfy alternative? This world? Buffy, it’s me. I know you were happier when you were in the ground. The only time you were ever at peace in your whole life is when you were dead. Until Willow brought you back.


The background has been changing as it turns ...


Willow: You know, with magic? (“Two To Go,” 6021)


Buffy struggles with trying to be positive for Willow after the recent trauma of being brought back to life by Willow’s hand from a heaven-like dimension. Buffy, posed in the role of heroine, is forced to lead in a post-Structuralist world; her desperate attempt to assure Willow of the good in the world is exaggerated and unfortunately unconvincing. While we expect a heroine to produce a speech that means exactly what it intends, she doesn’t, and she convinces neither Willow nor the viewer. Arguably, Buffy can only return to the role of heroine once her urging that Willow should stop meshes with Willow’s pre-Structuralist language; while Buffy and Dawn are stuck underground, Willow communicates to Buffy through telepathy, and it is during this time that Xander can approach Willow and finally bring her destructive journey to an end. Xander, rather than Buffy, is the hero in this instance; however, the scene draws out the similarities between Buffy and Willow, doubles that deal with the problems of ascending to power. Also apparent is the overall interdependence of the characters within the Buffyverse; the dynamic between Buffy and Willow allows Xander to change the course of events.

[35] Buffy’s sense of duty or law as the Slayer prevents her from killing humans. She frequently maintains, “a killer isn’t a Slayer” (“Two To Go,” 6021). In fact, as the heroine, Buffy has to be fairly rigid in her moral beliefs; this underlies her complex and ambiguous relationship with Spike, which Buffy finally ends, believing it to be amoral because Spike lacks a soul, knowing that resisting is an attempt at remaining human. The popularity of characters such as Spike and Faith lies in the fact that they are polarized with Buffy’s moral self: they celebrate all that is unprincipled, a refreshing role in the Buffyverse. Despite this invigorating slant, it is difficult to see Willow’s use of magic in Season Six as more than an addiction. However, Willow does transgress Buffy’s moral boundaries in order to fulfil her vengeance. Moreover, by using her magic successfully as a language that Buffy cannot (or will not) understand, she overturns Buffy’s authority and law, which are key to her sense of autonomy and identity. Buffy is arguably defeated by Willow. It is Xander’s sense of humanity and his deep friendship with Willow that averts the apocalypse and stops the end of the world. Buffy’s law becomes ineffective in the face of Willow’s powerfully textual and magical language; Buffy cannot understand or compete with that language and therefore has no hope of defeating it.

[36] Whether Buffy is actually defeated by Willow at the close Season Six is debatable. Xander (one of Buffy’s allies) does, after all, stop Willow in her tracks. What is apparent in Season Six is that Buffy stands on the moral high ground while Willow decides that it is more appropriate to let morals slip from view. As noted earlier, Buffy is offered dark magical power during Season Seven, but she refuses it as immoral and inhuman. Buffy’s law dictates that she must not edge into the dark side of her power; if she does, she might lose herself, like Willow in Season Six. In Season Six, Buffy represents “humanness,” made painfully apparent through her recent death and resurrection, while Willow represents power and the corrupt through her use of magic. The show makes it clear that Willow abuses her power and proposes it as the polar opposite of Buffy’s stark sense of duty, morality, and what is right.

[37] However, Willow’s dismissal of morality in Season Six does offer a significant pleasure for viewers in that she challenges Buffy’s sense of duty. Buffy is our heroine; however, she is not as likeable as several other characters, the price of being at the frontline of fighting evil. Buffy can appear overbearing and authoritarian in her attitude towards fighting evil; her use of directives and commissives when making speeches to the other characters, particularly in Season Seven, suggests an authoritarianism sometimes immediate, sometimes illocutionary in force, sometimes perlocutionary in effect. She offends her friends on many occasions, making them feel worthless and unnecessary. Buffy often distances herself from her friends, and lays down her own law. I therefore disagree with Bradney’s (2003) assertion that law in the series is shaped by love, and that the Scooby Gang agrees on the law that Buffy enforces. While the Scooby Gang agrees with Buffy’s law at times, at other times Buffy makes judgments that infringe on the other characters and consciously disavows their friendship and love. In her barrage against Buffy in the last episodes of Season Six, Willow provides pleasure similar to that provided in other contexts by Spike, Angelus, or Drusilla, as she asserts the polar opposite of Buffy’s sense of duty. Potentially, this provides a refreshing point of identification for viewers who might find Buffy’s view of the world, at times, narrow. However, story arcs such as Willow’s interaction with dark magic also reinforce one of the overall messages of the show, which is that inhabiting a heroic position such as Buffy’s entails difficult decisions and ultimately a need to remain as human as possible. By the end of the series, Buffy’s position is the “right” position: a successful Slayer is not purely synonymous with having supernatural strength; but the Slayer must also learn to navigate the seductive power of darkness without becoming consumed by it. Willow’s magic, then, and the language of magic that she embodies, is an essential context for Buffy’s ultimate success.

[38] Willow’s use of magic in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is strongly aligned with her use of language as her own individual voice. Her sense of identity is fragile throughout the series, and it is only through her use of magic with Tara that her sense of identity becomes stronger. Tara’s death leaves Willow with no partner in magical language; other members of the Scooby Gang have no knowledge of the text or the language in which Willow lives. It is not that Willow feels excluded in this sense; rather, she has positioned herself as fluent in magic where others are not. Previously, this has provided her with a clear sense of identity and function; ironically, magic also eventually renders her undeniably dualistic and fragmentary. Her dramatic use of text and magic in the close of Season Six is an act of vengeance for Tara’s death, which Buffy attempts to obstruct (notably Tara died from a bullet that was meant for Buffy). By such use of magic and language as power, Willow directly attacks Buffy’s autonomy rendering her out of control of events and without authority. Willow has a very different way of dealing with grief than Buffy (who does not wish her mother to be brought back by magic). Buffy bases this decision on her moral approach to the world and events. To some extent Buffy seeks to preserve her humanity in this way, and her morality is based on this premise.

[39] Buffy, as the ego of the tale, is directly attacked by external forces (in this case Willow) and is confined by her moral law (super-ego?), or her need to retain her “humanness.” Buffy strives to do what is always right, what is most human, and this clashes with Willow’s agenda; she fails to maintain harmony in Sunnydale. Willow’s split character, which is demonstrated through her changing speech acts and appearance, successfully overturns the Slayer’s autonomy and provides an effective mirroring of Buffy’s own struggle with maintaining her identity and autonomy as the Slayer through performing her own law. In the end it is not the endless supply of demons and vampires that can so easily usurp the Slayer, but one of her closest friends with a force that, steeped in darkness, is essentially far more dangerous than Buffy’s own ambiguous power.



1. I have changed the transcription spelling of magick to magic throughout the article, in order to avoid any confusion over terms.

2. See Jenkins and Stuart (2003) for more on the benefits of using speech act theory in interpreting Buffy.

3. In this article, I shall refer to five kinds of illocutionary acts: “Assertives” are representative acts that describe a situation, such as making statements or insisting; “Directives” are illocutionary acts that are meant to get the listener to do something, such as making orders; “Commissives” are illocutionary acts by which the speaker does something, for example, promising to carry out a certain action; “Expressives” are acts that convey the psychological position or the emotional state of the speaker, for example, apologizing; finally, “Declarations” are illocutionary acts that are meant to result in the circumstances to which they allude, for example, Willow’s spells (Loos 2004).

4. For example, in Season Four, Xander accidentally sets a book on fire by saying a specific Latin word while holding a book of spells. The fact that Xander did not mean to perform this spell is testimony to the power of words in the show when uttered in a magical context: intent is not necessary.

5. The most obvious example of Willow’s emotion linked to magic is her vengeance spree at the close of Season Six, sparked by Tara’s death. Other examples might include her attempt at floating a pencil, which spins out of control at the mention of Faith’s name (of whom she is jealous, because Faith had sex with Xander) (“Doppelgangland,” 3016). Her “will” spell also goes awry and only works when she is angry or upset, etc.; her emotion drives the spell without her (conscious) knowledge (“Something Blue,” 4009).

6. During the final episode of Season Six, “Grave” (6022), Xander refers to Willow’s “normal” self as “crayon-breaky Willow.” This is a reference to when they were in school and Willow cried because she broke a yellow crayon. In “Two to Go” (6021) Andrew describes Willow’s evil self as “Darth Rosenberg.” This is one of the many names he calls Willow’s evil half. Others include “truck-driving magic mama.” Xander calls her “scary veiny Willow” (“Grave,” 6022).

7. Anthony Bradney (2003) also makes the point that the police are figured as largely incapable of dealing with the supernatural in the show. He further suggests that, while Buffy and the Scooby Gang accept that the world has laws, they do not mind breaking them for the “greater good.” One of his examples is Willow’s computer hacking skills, useful for breaking into restricted files.

8. In the Season Three episode, “Graduation Day, Part One” (3021), Buffy resigns from the Watchers’ Council and refuses to take any more orders from them. Giles is fired by the Council for not being an objective Watcher; he has become a father figure for Buffy (“Helpless,” 3012).

9. Anya becomes antagonistic toward Willow while they are trapped in Buffy’s house and tries to persuade her to perform magic despite her having given it up (“Older and Far Away,” 6014). Buffy has also criticized Willow’s use of magic in the past, claiming it to be unreliable (“Fear Itself,” 4004).

10. For example, in the episode, “Who Are You?” (4016), Willow and Tara perform a spell together to find out if Buffy is in Faith’s body and vice versa. The spell hints at orgasmic pleasure between the two witches, figured through the performance of magic.


Works cited

Adams, Michael. 2003. Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon. New York: Oxford UP.

Austin, J. L. 1962. How To Do Things With Words. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Battis, Jess. March 2003. “‘She’s not all grown yet’: Willow as Hybrid/Hero in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies 8. 

Bradney, Anthony. 2003. ‘“I  Made a Promise to a Lady”: Law and Love in BtVSSlayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies 10.

Favret-Saada, Jeanne. 1980. Deadly Words: Witchcraft in the Bocage. Translated by Catherine Cullen. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 

Frazer, James. 1993. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. Ware: Wordsworth.

Hughes, Geoffrey. 1998. Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English. London: Penguin Books.

Jenkins, Alice, and Susan Stuart. 2003. “Extending Your Mind: Non-Standard Perlocutionary Acts in ‘Hush.’” Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies 9.

Krzywinska, Tanya. 2002. “Hubble-Bubble, Herbs, and Grimoires: Magic, Manichaeanism, and Witchcraft in Buffy.” In Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Slayer, edited by Rhonda V. Wilcox and David Lavery, 178-194. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Loos, E. Eugene, ed. 2004. Glossary of Linguistic Terms. ( )

(Sources are Searle, John, and Daniel Vanderveken. 1985. Foundations of illocutionary logic [Cambridge: Cambridge UP]; and David Crystal. 1985. A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. 2nd edition. [New York: Blackwell]).   

Mendlesohn, Farah. 2002. “Surpassing the Love of Vampires; or, Why (and How) a Queer Reading of the Buffy/Willow Relationship Is Denied.” In Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Slayer, edited by Rhonda V. Wilcox and David Lavery, 45-60. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Overbey, Karen Eileen, and Lahney Preston-Matto. 2002. “Staking in Tongues: Speech Act as Weapon in Buffy.” In Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Slayer, edited by Rhonda V. Wilcox and David Lavery, 73-84. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Searle, John R. 1969. Speech Acts: An Essay In The Philosophy Of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Sheridan, Alan. 1980. Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth. London: Tavistock.

South, James. 2003. ““My God, It’s Like a Greek Tragedy”: Willow Rosenberg and Human Irrationality.” In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale, edited by James B. South, 131-145. Chicago: Open Court.

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