Teen Librarian Toolbox
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X Marks the Spot: Family in the Whedonverse (The Sunnydale Project)

One dark night I drove down an unknown road to watch the X-files with a friend. A big X in the window let me know that I had come to the right house. That night, a friendship was forged that opened my heart and changed my life. Two amazing souls walked into my heart and taught me more than I could ever hope to know about thinking and feeling and being . . . and about family.  It was here, while watching the X-files, Buffy and Angel, that I learned that we were doing the very thing that Joss Whedon wrote about in his shows: making a family.

And because life is fluid, and celebrities are vain, David Duchovny walked out of my life and Buffy the Vampire Slayer walked in. And in this ‘verse I learned a wonderful truth: family is not just those you were born into, but those you chose to love and share yourself with.

I was born into a family (and I love them), but over the years divorce and jobs had taken me all over the place. By the time I graduated with my Master’s in Library Science I had been to 5 elementary schools, 2 junior highs, 2 high schools and 4 colleges. My soul was weary and I just needed some roots. I wanted to have one friend in my life that I could sit around in old age and share those stories that start out, “remember that time . . .” I was tired of being a tumble weed, I wanted to be a tree.

I met “M” of the X fame at my very first library job; she was my mentor.  My friend M is an amazing librarian. I have spent much time talking with her about LIBRARIANSHIP and all that it entails. Sometimes we even disagree (there is an eyeball involved in this story). When I have a question, I call and ask her. When I have a complaint, I call her. When I write a blog post that I am wicked in love with, I e-mail it to her. Somewhere along the line I started calling her “mom”, mostly as a joke because she really never wanted to have kids. Then I had kids and they started calling her “grandma”. They love her like a grandma; to them she is without a doubt or hesitation their grandma. They are just blessed to have this wicked smart lady as an additional – a bonus – grandma if you will.  Joss Whedon would approve (and then he would probably kill her off in an amazing episode like The Body but we’ll just skip that part).

What does all of this have to do with Buffy the Vampire Slayer? It was while watching Buffy that I learned that my family building was not unique to me. You see, one of the main themes of the Joss Whedon universe is that you build a family with the people in your life that you choose to love. I’m not making it up, someone even wrote a book about it (I recommend the book, it is interesting).

Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-2172-5
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-7864-8306-8

Buffy came from a broken home; but she built for herself an amazing family with her Watcher Giles, friends Xander and Willow, and some of the others that came in and out of their lives. Then when Angel went to L.A., he too build a family with Gunn, Cordelia, and eventually Fred, Wesley and Lorne. The gang on Firefly? Yep, they become a family. And like all families, there are issues, but what matters is how our merry band of world savers handle the issues. Somehow, they keep coming back together. They eventually talk, they forgive, and above all – they choose to love (or at least tolerate).  Whether you were a slayer or a vampire with a soul, a witch, a vengeance demon, gay or straight – you could find love in this “family”.

As someone who has worked with teens for so long, I think this is an important message. You see, many of our teens are hurting and looking for a family. The ones they have are sometimes so very broken. And that is the message of Joss Whedon: Hope. You may have some brokenness around the edges, but you can build for yourself a life – and a family – and find a way to thrive.  You too can save the world, or at least your world – a lot – if you allow yourself to continue to be open and receive help from those around you.

This is a really important message not only of the Whedonverse, but of the Potterverse.  Time and time again Buffy needs the various skills of her “family” to help discover what is happening and help rid Sunnydale of the season’s big bad.  And Harry Potter succeeded not on his own, but with the help of Ron and Hermione, Hagrid, Dumbledore and others.  In fact, Harry, the orphan boy in the cupboard under the stairs, also built for himself a family.  And maybe that is the real message of it all, when you allow yourself to be open to others – real magic can happen.

For 13 years now, M has been my Watcher, although we have only slayed metaphorical demons.  And I know that many of us that work with teens in the library, we have been one (often more) of those teen’s watchers.  It’s all good, Giles is a good librarian to emulate, except for the part where he is taking his teenage students out at night for life risking missions.  You’ll probably want to avoid that part.

I write more about Blood Relations and the chosen family in my review of How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr.

Here’s another paper on the topic called Friends are Family We Choose for Ourselves


  1. This is a beautiful post! I love how the relationships on the show take a natural progression, and they also have their faults and bumps in the road. “Family” is an excellent episode that bundles all these ideas into one storyline, and it's so so powerful, it always has me choked up at the end when Tara realizes it's not always blood that determines who your family is! It was nice to see how these concepts executed by Joss Whedon are translated to real life 🙂 I also absolutely loved your last paragraph, it had me laughing out loud, for real!

  2. Thanks, I am glad it made you laugh. It really was quite irresponsible of him.

  3. Yes, exactly! And I think that's an especially important concept if this survey (http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/survey-75-of-homeless-youth-use-at-least-one-social-network/261817/) has any clout.

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