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Dreams and Death: Psychology and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

By Sarah Degnan Moje

Whether you teach a class dedicated to psychology or philosophy or you want to delve into one of these topics in your traditional high school English class, discover how two episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer can provide helpful material. A PowerPoint guide is included.

Psychology and Buffy the Vampire Slayer 

When undertaking an overview of the study of psychology, students make take a more in-depth look at dreams and what they mean as well as death and the grieving process.

While Buffy the Vampire Slayer has more than its share of plotlines dealing with otherworldly or supernatural events, two episodes of the fifth season address a topic that is predominant in the world of psychology today.

Overview of the Episodes

“Restless” discusses dreams and their symbolism, their hidden meanings and the psychological possibility of group dreaming or suggested dreaming.

“The Body” deals with the five stages of human grief, using each character to model one or more of those stages after the core group experiences the loss of Buffy’s mother, Joyce, dead from a brain tumor.

Your class can view each of these as stand-alone episodes. You do not need to view them in any episodic timeline to further student understanding. With that in mind, they are perfect for one-day lessons in the psychology or even philosophy classroom, as a media-based assessment on the topics of dreaming and/or death.

The episode “Restless” focuses on the dreams of the following characters: Xander, Willow, Giles and Buffy. The dreams, as we see them, give the audience insight into the fears of each character as well as their experiences and what may lie ahead in the future for them.

The episode “The Body” is unique in the fact that it does not center on a supernatural plot. Buffy discovers her mother dead of a brain tumor. She and her friends have to face the reality of death and in the world of Buffy, the reality that the Slayer cannot prevent natural death.

Both episodes and their downloadable PowerPoints will spark interesting and engaging class discussions.