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Why BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER’S Joyce Summers Will Forever Remain a Beloved TV Mom

Why BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER’S Joyce Summers Will Forever Remain a Beloved TV Mom

Many of our favorite sci-fi and fantasy series have shown us that it’s tough being a chosen one–you have to save the world a lot and constantly make life-and-death decisions. Thankfully, Joss Whedon‘s chosen one Buffy Summers had a beacon of maternal light to guide and comfort her. For five seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kristine Sutherland played Joyce Summers: beloved mother to all those who needed one, vampires and demons included. Whedon and Sutherland made Joyce into so much more than a generic TV mom. We’re looking back at some of mama Joyce’s most genuine moments during her time on screen as a wonderful, supportive human being.


The most obvious narrative for Joyce Summers was that of a single mother. She wasn’t originally suppose to have a lot of  screen time, but as season one dug into Buffy’s personal life as a teenage slayer, it became apparent that Joyce had a much bigger role to play than just dropping her off at school or making her breakfast.

On top of raising a teenage girl all on her own, Joyce had to deal with finding out in the season two finale that her daughter had a mystical, dangerous calling in life. Obviously, after that big reveal, this mother-daughter unit had a lot to sort out. Some fans to this day still disagree with Joyce’s out-of-character reaction and rash decision to kick Buffy out, but it helped prove that even the most stable moms have moments of weakness too.

Of course, Joyce eventually rediscovered her maternal instincts. By season five, Dawn was added into the mix and Joyce was saddled with raising two daughters. That said, she had already become de facto mother to the entire Scooby gang, so the more the merrier!

Her death of natural causes in season five unleashed a wave of emotions in one of the best episodes in the series, “The Body.” Each member of the Scoobies had to face a life without their flesh-and-blood guiding light–and spoiler alert, “getting over” her death wasn’t easy for everyone, as season six proved with Buffy’s destructive arc. Just like our brave magical mum Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter, Joyce’s bittersweet gift was her unique human spirit as a loving and protective mother to all those in need in the face of evil.


Season three’s “Band Candy” centered primarily around Joyce. Although the ep may only represent a brief moment in her history, it proved Joyce had a whole range of real emotions and often made a few mistakes of her own, taking the phrase “like mother, like daughter” to hilarious heights.

After eating magically tainted candy, Joyce and Giles became an official item for a hot minute. Before Giles, few men–including Buffy’s distant father–could match her charisma and spirit. It was with Giles that we saw Joyce open up and relax during their unintentional candy rush, acting as stubborn and spontaneous as Buffy would when faced with not only authority but also sex. This Joyce was our closest insight into her past sans Buffy, which not, surprisingly seems to mirror her daughter’s life sans slayage.

One episode before her death in season five, Joyce had decided to jump back into the dating pool. She was nervous and anxious, but also really giddy, just like Buffy when she starts dating again after her breakup with Angel. The pair were definitely mother and daughter when it came to romance.

A subtle, heart-wrenching tidbit to Joyce’s romantic life following her sudden death was a scene where we see Giles alone in his house next to his record player, clearly deep in mourning, listening to Cream’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses”–a song that he and Joyce jammed to during “Band Candy.” This reminder of their brief romantic relationship helped expand Joyce’s personal life beyond a dutiful mother.


Every scene that included Joyce mentoring a member of the Scooby gang brings tears to my eyes. Joyce would listen to Willow for hours and laugh at all her cute jokes. She was kinder to Xander than any of his blood-relatives, and I have no doubt that if she lived past season five, she would’ve offered to walk him down the aisle at his (doomed) wedding. Even cynical Anya fell in love with her sincere humanity! Oh, and then there’s Joyce and Spike! She knew her way around a relationship or two, which came handy when consoling poor, lovelorn Spike. Despite their mortal differences, this odd couple were surprisingly honest with one another–you know, when Spike wasn’t trying to kill her daughter, that is.

With the exception of Gilmore Girls, the mother-daughter friendship thing rarely works out in the best possible way. Joyce met some rough patches when trying to reach out to high school-aged Buffy as a friend, but they eventually found even ground as strong women dealing with complicated lives. After Buffy’s distant first year in college in season four, their bond was especially close. Joyce’s genuine interest in Buffy’s life never felt forced, and in return Buffy’s love for her mom was based on mutual devotion and support.

In between real world problems and supernatural events, Buffy and Joyce proved to be each other’s primary extension into some sort of human stability. And along with her surrogate mother love, she was a friend with an open heart and a passionate individual capable of making mistakes. We’ll always remember you, Joyce Summers!

What were some of your favorite Joyce moments in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Let us know in the comments below!

Images/Gifs: Twentieth Century Fox

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