Ethical Quandaries in BtVS and AtS

| Killing creatures who are/used to be friends
| Slayer jurisdiction
Choosing between two evils
| Choosing between right and wrong
| Secrets and Lies
| The things we do for love
| Who's responsible?
| Liberty and self-determination

| Television's responsibility to real-life violence

Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 7 BtVS/season 5 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.

Xander and Jesse in The Harvest
Buffy and Angel in "Angel"
Xander and Ampata in Inca Mummy Girl

Billy Fordham (LTM)
Should werewolves be euthanasized?
Uncle Enyos vs. Jenny on how to deal with Angel

Killing or curing Angelus in B1
Was it wrong for Buffy to take so long eliminating Angelus?
Should Angel die now?
Sending VampWillow back vs. slaying her
Should Buffy kill Faith to save Angel?
Should Anya be slain?
A werewolf put down: Veruca's animal morality
Should Spike be staked now?
Should Angel have let Darla escape?
Can VampHarmony be saved?
Should Dawn die to save the universe?
Should Spike be staked now? (First Date, LMPTM)

Killing creatures who are/used to be friends

Xander: Yeah, but I think that whole sucking the life out of people thing would have been a strain on the relationship.
Buffy: She was gypped. She was just a girl, and she had her life taken away from her.  --Inca Mummy Girl






  He has a soul and saves the lives and souls of others. But should Angel be allowed to live? Even Angel himself has doubts.


If they could find a way to be 100% sure he was safe, then let him live. ...As long as there is a demon in him, and as long as there is a way it can be freed, he is a risk. Angel knows that Angelus can come out, and he knows one thing that will set him free. He does not know that that is the only thing that will set him free, nor do we. And yes, I do support capital punishment, if there is a mad dog, you put it down. Why should people be treated any differently? They are only more dangerous (Decay, Dec 13 16:02 1998).

Yes: if he were to turn evil again, then his friends should not take chances

Angel: If the day ever comes that I--
Cordelia: Oh, I'll kill you dead.

In Somnambulist, Cordelia lets Angel know she'd kill him if he went evil. She keeps a stake in her desk and a cross in her bag (Eternity). Angel assures Wesley (IGYUMS) that it's "good" that Wesley is willing to kill him, too.

[In her final speech in Somnambulist] Cordelia may be forgetting about the curse, and the fact that they can re-do it any time, but she has a point. Angel became a demon once before and now he knows that that can happen. He should be taking precautions against it. (And he is, btw.) If he forgets that he could lose his soul, and that's the only way I see him ever becoming all "grrr" again, then he should be staked. With a monster that evil, you can't afford to dawdle on sentiment. Plus, I think Angel wants to know that if he turns evil again, they will finish him off (Leather Jacket, Jan 19 11:38 2000).

Gunn: "...if the bad Angel walks through that door, I will kill him in two seconds flat."

When Gunn finds out about Angel's dark side and hears that he might have reverted, he's prepared to treat him just like any other vampire.

Is suicide a real option for Angel?


To hunt down and kill a human being in cold blood would be wrong. I always thought that was the strongest argument against killing Angel (while with soul)...because of his soul, he is, for all intents and purposes, a human being, and deserves the same respect as other souled beings (Mircalla, Jan 17 21:10 1999).

He was human. Absolutely normal and with the one he loved. But, he had enough self-discipline to know that if he truly loved Buffy he had to help save her. Anyone with that much discipline can prevent himself from doing the bump and grind with somebody and losing his precious soul. He has learned from his past mistakes and will not commit the same crimes. He is a warrior for the side of the good and without him there could be dire consequences. Angel should not die. (Gabriella,, 01 Dec 1999 20:19)

Should Anya be Slain?

She caused mayhem for, and sometimes the horrible, icky death of hundreds of men who, while admittedly not completely innocent, probably didn't deserve a capital fate for betraying their wives and lovers. Now she is in a human persona. She struggles along sweetly, but she is known to offer up, "if I still had my powers, I'd..." and we know she wanted to restore the evil time-line of The Wish. Xander, who was an outspoken proponent of souled Angel's death, has fallen for her. Should we?

This question depends on a number of factors

However: we've seen demons who aren't evil (Whistler, Doyle), so she doesn't have to be evil Leather Jacket (Oct 30 12:11 1999).

Granted she is operating on limited human experience vs. a thousand years of demon experience, but Anya does talk like she still believes in her mission as Anyanka (Pangs, WTWTA, Family).

Anyanka returns: Anya and vengeance

I truly don't think Anya is, or ever was truly "evil." I think she truly thought that what she was doing as a demon was right. She hated what a man had done to her and her vengeance and hate just consumed her and overtook her. That's why she probably agreed when D'Hoffryn ...asked her if she wanted to be a vengeance demon. In fact she didn't use the Dark Forces, the Dark Forces used her for their gain, playing off of her hatred. ...she felt she WAS good, helping scorned women take a little revenge on unfaithful lovers. Now as a human though, she is finally getting that what she did as a demon was somewhat wrong and that men weren't as evil as she presumed they were. But unfortunately, old habits die hard for someone like Anya, I shudder to think what she'd do if Xander ever cheated or somehow hurt her (CorrGirl1027, 1/5/00 6:56 pm) seems as though she were human once and that in turning into a demon nothing was really taken away from her. In other words, she was augmented but not really changed. I've certainly known (or know of) women who display the same kind of rutheless hatred and contempt of men (or people in general) that Anyanka seems to have had. Anya, however, strikes me as someone who has been detached and on the outiside looking in for over a thousand years. I don't think it is that she lacks a soul, I just think she needs time to reconnect and learn a new way of relating to men (and women). Having a soul doesn't automatically grant empathy or even a strong conscience. Anya is certainly a more loving person than the Wolfram & Hart folks - and we know that Lindsey and Lilah have souls! (Ryuei, 02-Feb-01 12:53)

Did/does the demon Anyanka have a human soul?

How humans can be turned into demons isn't clear, since demons aren't supposed to have human souls. In the case of vampires, the human soul leaves the body and a demon spirit takes it over. In Anya's case, the most likely possibility is that Anya had a human soul while she had her demon powers and demon physiology. When Giles smashed the power center that made her a demon, she reverted back to a human physical form. And since the demon D'Hoffryn recruits vengeance demons from among human women, it is possible they retain their souls during their reign as demons. This makes Anya's evilness an open question, since she used demon powers while she had a human soul. With a restored human body and a new human life, she appears to be regaining human moral sensibilities (neither necessary nor sufficient for having a human soul in the Buffyverse, but one of the primary indicators of it). Her continuing lack of etiquette seems a hold-over from her previous human life.

Hurt and vengeance: Anyanka returns

Further evidence that vengeance demons have souls

Was Anyanka like Dark Willow? (souled and all?)

Other possibilities:

  1. When she was turned into a demon, Anya lost her human soul. She still has only demon spirit, which now possesses a completely human body, and unlike vampires, this doesn't change her physiology, she's biologically human.
  2. When she was turned into a demon, Anya lost her human soul. She now has both a demon spirit and a human soul (like Angel, except with a human physiology).

Slayer jurisdiction

Slayers are the "Chosen Ones"--chosen to fight the forces of darkness. Most of the time, that means demons and monsters. But sometimes it means humans. And sometimes demons aren't all that bad. How far does a slayer's "right to kill" go?

  • Is preventing demons from taking over the world really Buffy's responsibility? (WttH, NKABOTFD, PG, WML)
  • Buffy's human body count
  • The gang debates Buffy's jurisdiction in Ted
  • The right to slay--Faith's philosophy of slaying
  • Buffy vs. Faith on should Allen's death be treated as "Collateral Damage"?
  • Vox's Slayers and the Right to Slay - Buffy's jurisdiction
  • Does Buffy put the Scooby Gang at unacceptable risk? Vox on the Scooby Gang's rights and obligations in the war against evil.
  • Did the Czech monks have a right to impose their Dawn-spell on the Summers?
  • Is Buffy's sacred duty to "kill demons", or only to "kill demons who pose a threat to human life"?
  • Willow's human body count: can the Scoobies dish out capital punishment on humans? Buffy vs. Willow on killing Warren
  • Souled Angel's not a Slayer, but he has killed human beings and allowed human beings to die before. Were these deaths necessary? (Pete in Beauty and the Beasts, Ronald Meltzer, Vanessa Brewer? How many humans died when Angel abandoned the Hyperion hotel to the Thesulac?, "Rapists and murderers" in 1900 China, allowing Darla and Drusilla to massacre thirteen lawyers, the human bad-guy bikers in Dad? Hauser the special ops leader, Hainsley and his butler, McManus).
  • Should demons and humans have equal rights and equal moral responsibilities?
  • The upside and the downside to making all the Potentials into Slayers
  • Buffy's human body count:

    "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster."       --Frederich Nietzsche

    Fan views on Buffy vs. human villains:

    Someone who takes lives on practically a daily basis (even though they're un-lives) treads a fine line. If Buffy comes to the conclusion that she is chosen, not only to fight demons, but to fight all baddies out there, then she is in danger of becoming no better than the demons that she fights. Anyone with a soul, no matter how "evil", is still capable of redemption, and it's not Buffy's place to decide whether they should live or die. We have systems in place to deal with human baddies. True, they're often inadequate, but they exist. ...She certainly has the right to defend her own life, as we all do... But to hunt down and kill a human being in cold blood would be wrong (Mircalla, Jan 17 21:10 1999).

    Unfortunately her job title is to stand up against the vampires and the forces of evil.
    Nowhere in the book does it say that mankind isn't in those forces. ...With ...human[s]'s a choice. That fact alone makes them all the more evil in the atrocities they commit (zaner, Jan 17 23:29 1999).

    Choosing between two evils

    Characters on BtVS are often put between a rock and a hard place--they are forced to accept an undesirable situation in order to defeat evil, or just to get what they want.

    Should Buffy and Angel stay together (even if it might hurt them both in the long run)?

    The Mayor
    argues against their relationship:

    The fact that the Mayor is evil does not mean he can't have good arguments drawn from both his own experience and the reality of who Angel and Buffy are. To assume he doesn't have a point simply because he is evil is to commit a reasoning fallacy known as ad hominem abusive, to assume he doesn't have a good point because he doesn't have their best interests at heart is the fallacy ad hominem circumstantial.

    In the Prom, Mrs. Summers arrives at the Garden Mansion to convince Angel to stop seeing Buffy. Buffy, she argues, is still a girl, living in the now, and can't contemplate the future realistically. Joyce does not reveal what she thinks their future would be like, but she says that if Angel really cares about Buffy, he will break up with her.

    When Angel talks to Buffy, he makes his vision of their future clear. He tells her that it would be unfair to stay with her, since he will not be able to provide Buffy with the things she will want and need: love-making, children, a life in the daylight. Buffy protests that she doesn't want these things, or cannot yet imagine them, but Angel tells her that she will want them, and sooner than she thinks. He argues that she deserves them all the more because her life as a slayer is so abnormal from the outset (for eeriness, compare Angel's speech to Buffy in The Prom with Grace's speech through Angelus to James/Buffy in IOHEFY). Buffy responds that Angel is patronizing her--making the decision for her--because she is still young. Angel responds that breaking up is the rational thing to do, and later, with Willow, Buffy admits that in the long run, Angel is right.

    Was Joyce right to tell Angel to leave Buffy?

    Buffy can never have a normal life,and that's the point of allowing somebody like Angel to continue to be in Buffy's life. If she won't live very long...why the hell not allow her whatever kind of happiness she can find, no matter how fleeting or dysfunctional that it is? I think it was a desperate attempt on Joyce's part to miraculously save Buffy's life from the sentence of a short lifespan by getting her to believe she can go to school in a distant place and regain her normal life that way (Blueronin, May 17 01:22 1999).

    If she is going to die relatively young, she should have the chance to have as many normal life experiences as she can, which she cannot do if they are together. The reason that she says she doesn't want those things or cannot think about them is because she wants Angel and he cannot give her those things. All she has every wanted since she became the slayer is to have a normal life; but being around Angel ...prevents her from doing that. As badly as it hurts for them to be apart, he knows that she will eventually move on, as she did when he was in hell (Katia,, 01 Dec 1999 07:58)

    Buffy and Angel's higher obligations: In IWRY, Angel discovers that he and Buffy "...don't belong to ourselves. We belong in the world, fighting." But there is hope in their destinies.

    | Choosing between right and wrong | Secrets and Lies | The things we do for love | Who's responsible? |
    Television's responsibility to real-life violence |

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