Season 6 saw Buffy return once more from death, only to then sing and dance in a demonic musical, but the most shocking episode of all made us question the nature of the show itself.
In the episode 'Normal Again', #Buffy is infected by a supernatural venom that causes her to experience visions of a world where she is trapped in a mental hospital. Told that her life as a Slayer is all just a schizophrenic delusion, the episode ends with a door closing on Asylum Buffy, locking her in a padded room.
Reacquaint yourself with some other terrifying Buffy episodes in the clip below:
Does this mean that Sunnydale isn't real? Many fans began to suspect that this means every episode aired to date is really just a vision pulled from the mind of a mentally ill girl named Buffy Summers. The Asylum fan theory has gained online notoriety over the years, developing into a surprisingly coherent concept that even links everyone's favorite Slayer to Cyclops, leader of the X-Men. How the hell (mouth) does any of this make sense? Read on, fellow Scooby Gang lover.
Here's Why The Asylum Buffy Fan Theory Is True
Asylum Buffy has been detained as a mental patient for six years, one for each season of the show. In this reality, Buffy's mother Joyce is still alive and married to her father Hank. Her mother's death in Season 5 was another delusion brought on by Joyce's illness the summer before.
Doctors theorize that Dawn's sudden appearance around that time was a result of Buffy overworking her delusions, struggling to keep her fantasy world coherent. That's why the Geek Trio are more inadequate villains than usual. Buffy's visions are now falling apart due to logical inconsistencies.
Despite Joyce's pleas to the contrary, Asylum Buffy ultimately chooses the tougher burden of being a Slayer, rejecting the 'real world' for good. Funnily enough, possible evidence of this can be derived from Sarah Michelle Gellar's guest appearance on her former soap opera All My Children, where she played a young woman who had been psychiatrically evaluated after claiming that vampires exist.
Those who wish to still believe that Sunnydale "exists" have suggested that Asylum Buffy could be real in another dimension, regaining her sanity at the end of the Season 7 finale. Now that Sunnydale Buffy is no longer working alone as the only Slayer, Asylum Buffy is no longer maligned by visions of her.
Here's Why The Asylum Buffy Fan Theory Is False
While the Asylum theory is surprisingly credible, there are some logical faults which suggest that this can't be true;
- Events often occur without Sunnydale Buffy's knowledge, including the 'Zeppo' episode and 'I Will Remember You', which are presented from the viewpoint of Xander and Angel respectively.
- Buffy is aware of current events, regularly making pop culture references that Asylum Buffy would be likely be unaware of in her catatonic state.
- Sunnydale Buffy often tries to escape her calling, which makes little sense if these 'delusions' are part of her escapist fantasy from the 'real world' of the asylum.
Show creator Joss Whedon has revealed that 'Normal Again' was deliberately left open for interpretation;
"If the viewer wants, the entire series takes place in the mind of a lunatic locked up somewhere in Los Angeles... and that crazy person is me." Although, "personally, I think it really happened."
While that's all well and good, Whedon has since complicated the theory further by drawing some rather bizarre links between Asylum Buffy and one of his other most popular works...
The Asylum Buffy Fan Theory Links The Slayer To Marvel's X-Men
While discussing the episode at Comic Con 2013, Joss Whedon revealed that he almost made an explicit link to Buffy during his run on Marvel's Astonishing X-Men. The idea was that Cyclops, whose name just so happens to be Scott Summers, would mention a female cousin of his who claimed that she was a demon hunter and was then subsequently sent to a mental institution.
Unfortunately, Whedon couldn't find a way to make this work within the issues he wrote, so this never came to pass. However, if Joss had actually managed to insert this reference, then it would have revealed that Asylum Buffy is actually in the Marvel Universe. Furthermore, this would then mean that every episode of Buffy and #Angel actually takes place inside the mind of Cyclops's cousin.
The problem with this is that the #XMen are fictional characters who both Andrew and Xander mention in different episodes of Buffy. The only way around this would be if X-Men and Buffy take place in the same reality, one where the mutants adventures are recorded in comic books, just like in Logan. If that were the case, then Cyclops's comment would instead refer to that time when Sunnydale Buffy was briefly institutionalized between the movie and the first season on #TV.
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While the X-Men theory sounds even more insane than Asylum Buffy herself, this wouldn't be the first time that strong links have been made between the Whedonverse and Marvel.
Either way though, whether the Asylum theory is true or not, what matters is the choice that Buffy ultimately made. Instead of embracing a world where her parents are still alive and together, one where Buffy could live a normal life, she instead chose to continue carrying the burden of the Chosen One, protecting those that she loves most.
Sure, Buffy might be mentally ill, but at the end of the day, 'Normal Again' revealed her to be more heroic than a thousand victories over each season's Big Bad. That's exactly why we still continue to love her, twenty years after the first episode aired in 1997.