Throwback: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Incels

Content warning: mentions of rape, violence and sexual assault

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a revolutionary show in many ways; it featured one of the first serious lesbian relationships on television and it tackled a number of heavy social issues such as coming out to your parents, domestic abuse, and mental health. In the series’ sixth series, the tone of the show got noticeably darker and the villains of the season, despite often being used as comedic relief, grew darker too. The Trio (Warren, Andrew, and Jonathan) were three seemingly harmless nerds who decided to become supervillains. Their schemes began as wacky and fairly benign, using gadgets and magic to rob banks, turn themselves invisible, and mess with Buffy and her friends. As the season progressed, however, their harmless demeanour dropped and their crimes became more serious: involving assault, attempted rape, and murder.

It is very interesting looking at The Trio from a contemporary perspective because they fit most of the criteria of modern-day Incels despite having been created well over a decade before the word ‘Incel’ even existed.

For those of you not in the know, the term Incel is a portmanteau of the words involuntary and celibate. The core belief of Incels is that they are unable to form romantic or sexual relationships with women because of their looks. These forums are also full of violent hatred directed at women. When one spends enough time browsing Incel forums, they will notice that there are multiple different subsets of Incels. They all share the same deep bitterness and use similar misogynistic language but their reasons for it are different. Some of the most common types of Incels can be represented by The Trio.

Jonathan is, by far, the most sympathetic member of The Trio and likely represents the quiet majority of self-declared Incels. He is introduced in the second season of the show as a shy, meek, and bullied teenager struggling through high school with no friends or romantic connections. He attempts to kill himself in season three because he feels life has dealt him an unfair hand, viewing himself as worthless because of his social standing and his height. Sometime between seasons four and six, he becomes friends with Andrew and Warren and is soon caught up in Warren’s lust for power and dismissive attitudes about women. Jonathan is the perfect symbol for the disenfranchised young men who look to Incel forums for comfort but instead find only toxicity and misogyny.

Warren is the ringleader of The Trio and without a doubt the most dangerous and hateful. He represents the dark, violent and scary subset of the Incel community; the ones who make news headlines and get forums banned for their vitriol. He is, primarily, a deeply entitled misogynist who believes that by virtue his brains and gender, the world (and women in particular) owe him something. Warren routinely reaffirms that he believes himself smarter, stronger, and all around better than women; constantly throwing around casual sexism. Perhaps his most heinous act is when he uses a mind control device to attempt to turn his ex-girlfriend, Katrina, into a sex slave, dressing her up as a French maid and making her call him ‘master’, telling her that she ‘never should have left him’. When she ‘sobers up’ from the device’s control and confronts The Trio about their attempted rape, Andrew and Jonathan are clearly horrified but Warren prevents her from escaping, hits her with a champagne bottle, and instructs the others to ‘get her up’ and ‘give her another dose.’ This clearly shows that Warren was aware that what he was committing rape but simply didn’t care; he viewed it as his right to have sex with her. Similarly, when Andrew reveals that Warren’s attack killed her, his only concern is with disposing of the body so that he won’t have to face the repercussions.

Warren also exhibits common ‘pickup artist’ traits: using lines, tricks, and manipulations in an attempt to attract women, priding himself on his supposed desirability and constantly referring to women by condescending pet names. It is this warped pseudo-confidence that cements his position as the leader of The Trio.

Andrew is perhaps the most interesting and complex member of The Trio. Throughout season six, he is portrayed as a sort of midpoint between Warren and Jonathan. He is less openly violent and sexist than Warren but far more willing to go along with his plans and quicker to forget his guilt than Jonathan. His respect and devotion for Warren grow throughout the season to the point where he is clearly deeply infatuated with his friend but unable to express it because of his insecurity and confusion about his sexuality. He makes numerous comments throughout the season alluding to his sexuality such as when Warren abandons him and Jonathan and he sadly states: “He never really loved… hanging out with us” or when The Trio spies on Spike and Anya having sex through a secret camera and he comments (about Spike) “He is so cool. And, I mean, the girl’s hot too.” Despite not being an inherently misogynistic or violent person, his obsession with Warren leads to him parroting his beliefs in an attempt to impress him, going so far as to cheer Warren on and tell him to kill Buffy while the two are fighting. It is important to note that Andrew’s sexuality is not responsible for his sexism but it is the denial of his own sexuality combined with his manipulation by Warren that leads him down that path.

Once removed from Warren’s influence, he ends up with a far more positive and healthy view of women (respecting Buffy and Anya for their courage and strength). No longer does he make objectifying or sexist comments about women, and he also appears far more at ease with his own personality. Throughout season seven, the cast are plagued by a creature with the ability to take the form of any deceased person. It often appears to Andrew in the form of Warren in order to manipulate him. It is only once he finally stands up to the apparition of Warren, symbolically cutting ties with him and his beliefs, that his path towards redemption truly begins. At this point, he is surrounded by positive influences and his misogyny dissipates.

Andrew represents a very specific but sizeable group of Incels who routinely post about how disgusting they find women; from their bodies to their ‘promiscuity’ to their personalities. These same men will complain about how only the best looking men in society can attract women and will often focus on specific features these men supposedly have (jawlines, eye shapes, height, muscles, etc…) This fixation with men’s bodies combined with their disgust with women strongly suggests that these men may be using Incel forums as a way to repress and deny their own sexuality.

Ultimately, this all leads to an important point: Incels routinely defend their forums as merely ‘support groups’ for lonely men. This is not the case. If we can learn anything from The Trio, it is that isolation from society and constant exposure to toxicity actively inhibits personal growth and traps men in patterns of misogyny, bitterness, and hatred. Incels should be encouraged to seek therapy and make meaningful connections with people outside of these circles, not to trap themselves in the same cycles. People like Andrew and Jonathan are not inherently bad but they need to find healthier ways to seek solace rather than associating themselves with the Warrens of the world.


Image by Anna Thetical via Flickr.

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6 Responses

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  1. Marsia Powers
    Dec 08, 2018 - 10:10 PM

    Buffy about Andrew in S7 – “He’s not evil but when he gets close to it, he picks up its flavor, like a mushroom or something.”
    He picked up goodness by being around the Scoobies.

  2. Kathleen Mattson
    Dec 09, 2018 - 05:09 AM

    “…isolation from society and constant exposure to toxicity actively inhibits personal growth and traps men in patterns of misogyny, bitterness, and hatred.” Replace the part about men and the resulting negativity with any other group snd other negativity, and this is how all of the “us vs. them” cults work. This is found in many area of society, political groups, religious zealots, etc.

    Well done.

  3. Anon
    Dec 09, 2018 - 07:14 AM

    I would like to point out that your understanding of incels seems a bit superficial. It’s not just looks, it’s also age, experience and personality. Taking the black pill is coming to the conclusion, based on your experience, that YOU are fundementally broken. Looks come into it for sure, on the surface, but looks can change and be enhanced. Personality, I would argue, can’t be changed or fixed, only masked. The last two things age and experience are the hardest of all.

    Due to feeling undesirable and broken I haven’t ever approached a girl in a romantic way. Girls don’t put you in the friend zone, you put yourself there. People don’t know that I’m this broken, I got good at hiding it and deflecting people’s attention away from it. I go to the gym, I’m overly obsessive about how I smell, I’ve taken up hobbies to give myself things to talk about when people try to pry into my personal life, and I, of course, lie about having past relationships. At my age saying that I’ve never had a relationship has a curious effect on people, how they talk to you totally changes, at best they start ribbing you about it constantly and at worse become outright hostile, this is why the lying started (I know how weird that sounds but it’s what I’ve experienced)

    I don’t go to incel forums or talk to that community at all though, so maybe I’m an Incel in experience only and not the breed of creature being spoken about here. I don’t know it’s just something that has been bothering me about the whole debate.

    • Libran Receipt Queen (@lvndrface)
      Dec 10, 2018 - 07:23 AM

      Hey. I think it’s a good thing you haven’t visited any Incel forums and I don’t think you should. You would be the Jonathan in this situation – nice guy, a little down on himself, but trying really hard. You’re doing the right things by looking after yourself, addressing your own flaws, and even acknowledging you have them. You need to love yourself to be loved by others, or for it to be right anyway.

      And you might think that’s how other incels are too. But the ones on the forum at least, it really seems to come down to hating women, not desiring them. Because they believe they are entitled to sex, and it is a human right (but only for men – the women’s need or desire for sex, or consent, is never brought up). They argue they are entitled to welfare to offset their sex deprivation, despite hundreds of thousands of people living without sex (voluntarily or involuntarily) and it’s not a problem for them, it’s not a “need” or a “right”. They also argue women should be freely available, as in GIVEN like slaves. They post about “women stores” where they are priced based on attractiveness. One argued women should have their brains replaced by dogs. They also want to have sex with their mums and sisters.

      And many of these guys never admit there’s a chance they can’t find a mate because they aren’t kind to others, or aren’t taking care of themselves. They’re just there to blame the world, and women. I respect you – I didn’t have my first kiss until adulthood and I don’t have any friends, I struggle to connect with people, I think I’m not cool enough. I’m also selective. You gotta accept that, just like yourself, not every woman can be attracted to you because it’s just not possible. (and I like chubby guys, not “chads”. They still have to be the right guy for me, which isn’t a “bad guy” or a “nice guy”.)

  4. Scott Spence
    Dec 09, 2018 - 10:46 AM

    As much as I was eventually into the notion of Andrew getting a path towards redemption, I never forgave him for murdering Jonathan. Early suicide leanings aside, I identified with Jonathan for most of his run and I’d have prefered Andrew be too far gone in his misplaced devotion to Warren to save and maybe Jonathan is forced to kill him and it breaks him and he has to find himself again, with the help of the Scoobies.

    Also was I the only one that desperately wanted Willow and Xander as a couple? Buffy could have hooked up with Tara/Anya/Cordelia, Larry the jock could have joined the gang and started dating Andrew/Jonathan/, hell Angel and Spike could have even hooked up somehow and the show could still have represented progression in on-screen relationships but I guess the one and only ship I ever wanted was never going to happen. 🙁



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