Sunnydale, California, is the fictional setting for the U.S. television drama "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Series creator
Joss Whedonconceived the town as a representation of a generic Californiacity, as well as a narrative parody of the all-too-serene towns typical in traditional horror movies.
Sunnydale is located on a "Hellmouth"; a portal "between this reality and the next", and convergence point of mystical energies. ["
Welcome to the Hellmouth" (1.01) introduces the Hellmouth, which is referred to numerous times throughout the series. The entrance to the Hellmouth is seen under the school in " The Zeppo", "Doomed", " Conversations with Dead People", and throughout the second half of season seven.]
Sunnydale's size and surroundings are implausible but justified given its origins - to sustain a human population for supernatural evils to prey upon. The town's founder spared no expense to attract a populace, and Sunnydale thus contains many elements of a large city - which the show's writers utilized fully for comic effect and narrative convenience. During the first three seasons, Sunnydale's population is revealed to be 38,500, [The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign says 38,500 in two early episodes: "School Hard" (2.03) and "Lovers Walk" (3.08).] very few
high schools, [In "Some Assembly Required" (2.02), the three dead cheerleaders attended Fondren High, which is "across town" from Sunnydale High. In "Reptile Boy" (2.05), Kent Preparatory School is mentioned. In "Dead Man's Party" (3.02) Joyce mentions a local all-girls' school named Miss Porter's. Yet in most episodes "the high school" refers specifically to Sunnydale High.] forty-three churches, [Giles is surprised at this figure in "What's My Line, Part Two" (2.10).] a small private college, [Crestwood College is featured in "Reptile Boy" (2.05) but never mentioned again.] , a zoo, [ there are three visits to the zoo in "The Pack" (1.06), including a class trip and one trip by Buffy on foot.] a museum, [The museum director who receives the box containing the demon Acathla in "Becoming, Part One" (2.21) refers to Giles as being "right here in Sunnydale".] and one modest main street. Even so, it has twelve gothic cemeteries. [According to Giles in "" (3.07).] These cemeteries are so heavily used that services are sometimes held at night. ["Once More With Feeling" (6.07).]
In later seasons it is revealed that Sunnydale contains a campus of the
University of Californiasystem, as well as a profitable magic supply shop. The town is also seen to include a large park containing a creek and a lake, ["Once More, With Feeling" (6.07).] and one of its cemeteries is shown to be adjacent to a lake. ["Help" (7.04).] Sunnydale has a number of parks: Weatherly Park, Glebe Park, Radcliff Park and Nelson Park are just some of the examples.Sunnydale has a train station, [Buffy finds dead bodies in the train in "Crush" (5.14).] a bus station, [The bus station is shown in "Inca Mummy Girl" (2.04), "What's My Line, Part One" (2.09), and "Showtime" (7.11), and mentioned in "Innocence" (2.14).] a small airport, [Kendra arrives by plane in "What's My Line, Part One" (2.09), and the airport itself is shown in "Choices" (3.19) and "Who Are You" (4.16) as well as "Bargaining I" (6.01). The airport shown in this episode is actually Burbank Airport with "Sunnydale" photoshopped over the word "Burbank". In "Tabula Rasa" (6.08), Giles's ticket shows an itinerary from Sunnydale Airport to Los Angeles International Airportand then to London Heathrow Airport, which is the same route announced on the public address system as Giles awaits his flight in "Bargaining, Part I" (6.01).] and a small military base. [In "Innocence" (2.14), Xander and Cordelia break into the base to steal a rocket launcher as part of his plan to destroy the Judge.]
Sunnydale High Schoolis a Hellmouth, a subterranean, mystical portal that attracts evil forces. This functions as a major plot device in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", as it explains why vampires and other demons are so prevalent in Sunnydale.
Sunnydale possesses many common horror-movie characteristics, such as an abundance of dark alleyways, abandoned mansions and factories, and an adult population that is either clueless or perpetually in denial, in stark contrast to the demon-fighting, supernaturally aware teens.
By the show's seventh season, set in 2002-03, the city's population has fallen to 32,900. [The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign says 32,900 in "Conversations with Dead People" (7.07).] In the spring, the town is almost completely evacuated before its destruction.
Sunnydale has a somewhat isolated location. [When Sunnydale is stricken by a town-wide epidemic -- such as the silence spell in "Hush" (4.10) -- no other towns seem to be nearby.]
The town is situated near several acres of woods and forest, including Miller's Woods. [The woods in "Homecoming" (3.05) are named "Miller's Woods". In "Bargaining, Part Two" (6.02) and "Villains" (6.20) the woods are large enough to get lost in.] Breaker's Woods is 45-minute drive from town. [Giles visited there during "Lovers Walk" (3.08).]
Sunnydale is located on or near the
Pacific Ocean. An ocean port with several docked ships is nearby [The port is seen in "Surprise" (2.13) and "Consequences" (3.15). In "Consequences", Giles refers to Buffy and Faith's return from the docks as "coming back to town", indicating that the docks are not part of Sunnydale itself.] . Nearby, Kingman's Bluff stands on a tall cliff overlooking the sea. [Kingman's Bluff is the location of Willow's terrible spell ("Grave", 6.22).] There is a nearby beach. [It is not specified how close this beach is to Sunnydale. It is seen in "Go Fish" (2.20) and "Buffy vs. Dracula" (5.01).]
Near, or in Sunnydale is an old quarry house built beside a deep lake, located a few feet from a cliff edge. [Although the quarry house never appears in any episodes, it does make an appearance in the comic book series "The Blood of Carthage", which explains the house's
Pre-Columbianorigins. The house and its also appear in the "" video game.] In addition, there is a hydroelectric dam in the vicinity of Sunnydale. [In "As You Were" (6.15), Buffy, Riley and Riley's wife, Sam, fight a Suvolte demon on a dam. Presumably the dam is either in or near Sunnydale, as Riley and Buffy drive a short distance to reach it.]
Within a day's drive of Sunnydale is a
desert. [Giles drives Buffy to the desert in "Intervention" (5.18), and drives with the Potentials to the desert in "The Killer in Me" (7.13).] It is also stated several times to be approximately two hours drive from Los Angeles.
In the final episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" ("Chosen"), and also in the first issue of the comic book, Sunnydale is depicted being surrounded by desert terrain. [At the end of "Chosen" (7.22) the town has sunk into a large pit, and the pit is completely surrounded by desert. It is shown this way in the comic book "
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight" # 1, "The Long Way Home", pages 14-15.] However, this appears to contradict information established earlier in the series about Sunnydale's surroundings.
Maps of Sunnydale
Maps of Sunnydale have appeared at various times during the show:
* A large map of "Sunnydale County" hangs on the wall of
Principal Snyder's office and also on the wall of Mayor Wilkins' office. [It was in the principal's office in "Dead Man's Party" (3.02), and in the mayor's office in various third-season episodes. The best view of the map is in "Choices" (3.19). Compare this with the map of Santa Barbara County at http://www.countyofsb.org/stats.asp.] This is actually a map of Santa Barbara County, Californiawith the words "Sunnydale County" superimposed on it. According to this map, Sunnydale is located at a bend on the California coast. To the south and west of Sunnydale is the Pacific Ocean. Joss Whedonstated in November 1998 that "Sunnydale is in fact near Santa Barbara." [Joss Whedon post on "The Bronze" posting board, November 22, 1998, archived [http://www.cise.ufl.edu/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/hsiao/buffy/get-archive?date=19981122 here] .]
* Giles uses a street map of Santa Barbara as a map of Sunnydale when he is plotting sightings of the Initiative commandos in the series' fourth season. ["Doomed" (4.11)]
* A street map of central Sunnydale is used by the
Scooby Gangtwice in the seventh season. [Once early in the season, and again in "Touched" (7.20).]
* In the seventh season, Andrew draws a map of Sunnydale to track the First's activities. [Shown in "Get it Done" (7.15).] The general shape of the coastline matches the map used in season three. According to Andrew's map, there are woods between Sunnydale and the ocean to the west and to the south, and directly southeast of the town, at the location where the coast bends, there is a dark forest. There are also woods to the east of Sunnydale, as well as railroad tracks.
Various southern California locations are used as stand-ins for Sunnydale:
* The exterior shots, and some interior shots, of Buffy's home are of an actual home located in Torrance.
* The exterior shots of
Sunnydale High(seasons 1–3) are of Torrance High Schoolin Torrance, California.
* The exterior shots of The Mansion (seasons 2–3) are of
Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis Housein Los Feliznear Griffith Park.
* Most of the
University of California, Sunnydalescenes (season 4) were filmed at the University of California, Los Angeles, and in a closed sound stage designed to match the UCLA architecture. Some of the later scenes were filmed at a private business park.
* The exterior shots of New Sunnydale High (season 7) were filmed at
California State University, Northridgein Northridge, California.
Prior to Buffy's arrival
Long before humans settled the area, an entrance to the Hellmouth existed at the site of the future town of Sunnydale.
In ancient times, a magic
scythewas used at the site of the Hellmouth "to kill the last pure demon that walked upon the Earth." After this, the scythe was hidden, and its last guardian remained, waiting in a pagan temple that would somehow remain unnoticed for centuries. ["End of Days" (7.21).]
Centuries later, Navajo and Chumash peoples lived in this area. One or more groups of
monks or friars also settled in this area. [Navajo (Diné) people are mentioned in "The Glittering World" in " Tales of the Slayers". Chumash are mentioned in "Pangs" (4.08). One group of monks were mentioned by the ancient guardian in "End of Days" (7.21); a possibly different group in "Pangs" (4.08).] As in general California history, it can safely supposed those friars to be Spanish Franciscans, who arrived in California in the late 18th century. [Spike and Andrew journey to a different mission in Empty Places (7.19).] In 1812, there was an earthquakein the Sunnydale region that caused a cave-in in which an entire mission was lost; the very existence of the mission was soon forgotten. ["Pangs" (4.08).] .
Richard Wilkins arrived in California in the late 1800s, looking for gold. He founded Sunnydale (after considering the alternate names "Happydale" and "Sunny Acres") in a demon infested valley after a Navajo Slayer died there. ["The Glittering World", in "
Tales of the Slayers".] He made a pact with the demons to found a town atop the Hellmouth for them "to feed on", in return for the promise of immortality by becoming a pure demon himself. Wilkins became Mayor of Sunnydale. ["Enemies" (3.17).]
In the 1930s, there was at least one more major earthquake in Sunnydale. This caused a cave-in that swallowed up The Master and his lair, as well as the temple on Kingman's Bluff. (The date of this earthquake is given as either 1932 or 1937, although it is possible these were two distinct quakes.) [In "The Harvest" (1.02), Willow refers to an earthquake in 1937 which "swallowed half the town", including the Master's lair. In "Grave" (6.22), Anya says that the temple on Kingman's Bluff was "swallowed up in the big earthquake of '32". It is possible they are referring to two different earthquakes, but it is also possible that one of them is simply misstating the date.]
Sometime in the 1980s or 1990s, Richard Wilkins was again elected mayor, now under the name of "Richard Wilkins III", and served more than one term. ["Enemies" (3.17). A sign saying "Reelect Mayor Wilkins" is visible; since no election is currently being held, this indicates a past re-election bid.]
By the 1990s, Sunnydale appeared to have become a typical town on the California coast, with a popular mayor, a police force, and a local newspaper (the "Sunnydale Press" [It can be seen in "
Never Kill a Boy on the First Date", " Reptile Boy", " Becoming, Part One", "Bad Girls", "Consequences", " Graduation Day, Part One", "Hush", and "Once More, With Feeling".] ). However, Mayor Wilkins had instructed the police to cover up any supernatural or mysterious violence occurring in the city, and had instructed Principal Snyder to cover up supernatural violence occurring at Sunnydale High. [In "Lovers Walk" (3.08), Wilkins refers to having covered up Spike and Drusilla's rampages during season two. Snyder and the police chief discuss these coverups in "I Only Have Eyes For You" (2.19). Wilkins and Snyder discuss it in "Graduation Day, Part 1" (3.21).]
During the series
The series begins in the winter of 1997, when Buffy Summers, the current vampire slayer, moves to 1630 Robello Drive, and Buffy begin attending Sunnydale High. There she meets new friends, including
Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris, Cordelia Chase, and Oz, as well as the vampire Angel and her new watcher, Rupert Giles. This "Scooby Gang" often hangs out at the Bronze, the Espresso Pump (a local coffee house with a retro gas stationmotif) and the Sun Cinema. Buffy's mother, Joyce, works in an art gallery in Sunnydale.
During their time in high school, Buffy and her friends fight a number of vampires, most notably the Master, Spike, Drusilla, and (when he had lost his soul) Angel. Another slayer, Faith, arrives in their senior year of high school (Season 3) and lives at the Downtowner Motel [The sign reads "Downtowner Motel/Apt." in "The Zeppo" (3.12) and others.] until she joins forces with Mayor Wilkins.
At the end of the third season (June 1999), Sunnydale High is destroyed in a great conflict that kills Mayor Wilkins and Principal Snyder. After this point, there is no mention in the television show of the political leaders of the city. The police occasionally appear, but the police chief does not. There is no further discussion of the police covering up supernatural evidence, although one newspaper headline suggests this may have continued. [In "Once More With Feeling" (6.07), the headline of the "Sunnydale Press" states, "MAYHEM CAUSED. MONSTERS CERTAINLY NOT INVOLVED, OFFICIALS SAY."]
As the fourth season begins (fall 1999), Buffy and Willow begin attending the University of California, Sunnydale. There they discover that the United States government was operating a secret military complex, the Initiative, in a cavern beneath the UC Sunnydale campus. The Initiative is closed down at the end of the season (spring 2000) after a climactic battle with the cyborg Adam. By this time,
Tara Maclayand Anya have been added to the Scooby Gang. Later this same year, Giles purchases a magic shop named The Magic Box. ["The Real Me" (5.02), which has been seen multiple times previously -- for example, in "Lovers Walk" (3.08), at which time it is called "Uncle Bob's Magic Cabinet".]
Sometime between the fourth and fifth seasons (during the summer of 2000), the mysterious "Key" is transformed into Buffy's younger "sister",
Dawn Summers. The next year brings deaths of Joyce Summers and also of Buffy herself, although Buffy manages to return from the grave. After this point, Buffy and Dawn become co-owners of the family house. [Joyce's will would have either left the house to Buffy or to Buffy and Dawn. In "Empty Places" (7.19), Dawn tells Buffy "this is my house, too."]
Before Season 5's end, a scene in the city would be shown at least once in the second season of "Buffy"'s spinoff, "Angel". In the episode "Disharmony", Cordelia Chase calls Willow from LA when her high school friend
Harmony Kendallturns up. We see Willow's side of this call in a rare Sunnydale scene for this series. Angel himself visits Sunnydale at least four times in "Buffy" seasons 4, 5 and 7.
At the end of the sixth season (spring 2002), the Magic Box is destroyed in a battle between Willow and Buffy. At the beginning of the next season (fall 2002), Sunnydale High is rebuilt, on exactly the same location as before - directly over the Hellmouth.
By this time, knowledge of supernatural phenomena seems to be slowly growing in the town. [For example, the "Sunnydale Press" mentions "monsters" in its headline in "Once More With Feeling" (6.07).] Sunnydale's population is also revealed to have dropped to 32,900. [The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign lists a population 38,500 in several early episodes, including "School Hard" (2.03) and "Lovers Walk" (3.08). In "Conversations with Dead People", meanwhile, it gives a population of 32,900 (7.07). The sign is visible for a moment at the end of "Chosen" (7.22) but the population figure is not legible.]
In the second half of the seventh season (early 2003), supernatural manifestations at Sunnydale High reach unprecedented levels. Within less than a month, virtually the entire population of the town flees in a mass evacuation. [The evacuation is seen at the beginning of "Empty Places" (7.19), although the Bronze is still crowded. By the next episode, "Touched" (7.20), the town is virtually empty.] Soon thereafter, the cataclysmic showdown between the Scooby Gang and
The First Evilresults in the complete obliteration of the town, which collapses into a giant pit, closing the entrance to the Hellmouth. ["Chosen" (7.22).]
During the weeks between the series finale of "Buffy" and the Season 5 premiere of "Angel",
Lindsey MacDonaldmakes an off-screen trip to the crater and digs up the amulet worn by Spike in the final battle. He sends it to Angel at Wolfram & Hart where it releases an incorporeal Spike. The destruction of the city is mentioned several times during Angel's final season, mainly tying into Spike's brief ghostly status. It's seen one more time when a military general oversees the crater in Season 8.
fiction fandom, the name "Sunnydale Syndrome" has been coined to describe the common tendency of mundane characters in horror drama to fail to notice, or to reject as unreal or impossible, the unusual activities taking place under their noses, even when blindingly obvious.
The town of Sunnydale is designed to parody this phenomenon, as its general population is largely oblivious to the ongoing conflict between the forces of good and evil. In the case of Sunnydale, the people are not "completely" unaware; often it is hinted that citizens realize vaguely that their town is unusual, but most merely do not try to find out why, and when presented with a cause tend to ignore it. For example, in one episode, a football player gushes, "This is our year . . . . if we can focus, keep discipline and not have quite as many mysterious deaths, Sunnydale is gonna "rule"." When Oz learns of the existence of vampires, he remarks, "Actually, it explains a lot." Later, Buffy's graduating high school class gives her an award as "class protector," explaining that they know she does something to save them all regularly, even if they don't know its exact nature. At the wedding of Xander and Anya, the human guests accept the fiction that Anya's demon friends are "circus people".
Even though "Buffy" popularized Sunnydale Syndrome, similar phenomena have preceded it in other works of fiction.
Doctor Who", " Torchwood" and " The Sarah Jane Adventures", people come up with explanations for the presence of large alien space ships and police boxes, rather than accept aliens exist. Used frequently is the idea of drugs causing hallucinations. Some characters, such as Donna Noble, humorously completely fail to remember, having been "too drunk", or missed the events by "scuba diving in Spain". The Doctor refers to the phenomenon in the stories " Remembrance of the Daleks" and "Boom Town" as a result of human beings' "amazing capacity for self-deception".
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" often features humans less than impressed when confronted with aliens and alien technology. Usually they do acknowledge the situation, but go to great lengths to treat it as normal even if a normal reaction is totally inappropriate. This feature of the sapient mind is used by a Somebody Else's Problem field.
In the roleplaying game , humanity suffers from a condition called the Delirium, in which suppressed racial memories of cullings carried out against humans by werewolves in the distant past cause them to either forget, rationalize away, or alter their memories of werewolf sightings and attacks. The werewolves refer to the limited protection this condition affords them as the Veil.
Harry Potterbook series, non-magical humans (Muggles) tend to overlook magical things and occurrences by rationalizing them to mean something else, usually when there is not already a spell in place to make them overlook it in the first place.
Discworldnovels, Death is usually perceived as something other than what he is. For example, in the novel Mort he was perceived as an undertaker. He explained that it wasn't magic, but that people chose to replace his image with something preferable.
The Dresden Filesthe idea is taken in a more serious tone in that people are pathologically terrified to admit they do not know everything about the universe and to compensate will go to extreme lengths to explain unusual and supernatural occurrences. Harry Dresdengoes so far as to say, "You don't know what you saw because it obviously can't be what it looked like, since that's impossible. By this time tomorrow, you won't be completely certain you remember any of it. A few weeks after that, you'll wonder if your fear caused your mind to exaggerate some of the details. A few years from now you'll be sure that you were so scared that you just imagined all of the parts you can't explain."
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