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Joyce Summers
Joyce (Ghost).JPG
First appearance "Welcome to the Hellmouth"
Created by Joss Whedon
Full name Joyce Summers
Affiliation Ally of the Scooby Gang
Portrayed by  Kristine Sutherland

Joyce Summers is a fictional character played by Kristine Sutherland on the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


Character history

In the episode "Band Candy" we learn that Joyce was rebellious as a teenager, and tended to follow the "cool" crowd. This is somewhat at odds with her having told Buffy she got popular only after working with a school yearbook earlier. In Los Angeles, as Joyce experiences marital discord with her husband, Hank, their daughter, Buffy, informs them that she has been chosen as the Slayer, and that her destiny is to fight demons. Joyce and Hank, concerned about their daughter's mental health, place Buffy in a psych ward.[1] Buffy is soon released, and the matter is never revisited. Joyce's marital problems, however, continue, and Buffy later notes that she believes that her father was unfaithful.[2] Buffy begins to get into more trouble, culminating in an event where Buffy burns down the Hemery High School gymnasium.[3] Buffy is expelled from school, and Joyce moves with her to Sunnydale for a fresh start after she and Hank divorce.


In Sunnydale, Joyce owns an art gallery and maintains a close relationship with Buffy, although she has been disappointed by some of Buffy's behavior. Joyce is a protective and loving parent, and she also becomes a maternal presence in the lives of Buffy's friends Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris. When vampires attack Sunnydale High School on Parent-Teacher Night,[4] Joyce protects her daughter by attacking Spike with an axe after the other survivors flee the school. She is concerned about Buffy's poor academic performance, but she is proud to realize that Buffy is a strong leader who can take care of herself.

Joyce is disturbed when her daughter's boyfriend Angel turns into a stalker (after losing his soul and reverting to Angelus), and is even more upset to later learn[5] that Buffy had lost her virginity to him. Joyce becomes increasingly frustrated with the distance between herself and her daughter. Later, when police officers visit the house and inform her that Buffy is a murder suspect, Joyce fears the worst.[6] She meets Buffy, who is accompanied by Spike, outside their house.[7] Buffy initially tries to convince her mom that she and Spike are in a band, but when the three are attacked by a vampire, Buffy stakes him in front of her mom before leaving to save the world. Joyce, stunned by this revelation, demands that Buffy make time to explain things to her: "If you walk out of this house right now, don't even think about coming back." Buffy, taking her at her word, leaves town and spends several months in Los Angeles trying to escape her destiny.

While Buffy is gone, Joyce works with Giles and the Scooby Gang to locate her. She develops a close friendship with Pat, a woman from her book club who is soon killed by zombies.[8] Joyce is relieved when Buffy returns and wants things to go back to normal, and she tries to support Buffy's extracurricular activities while also encouraging her to think about her future. After accompanying Buffy on patrol, Joyce falls under a demon's spell that drives her to lead Sunnydale on a witch hunt.[9] She and others attempt to burn Buffy, Willow, and Amy Madison at the stake, and she is later horrified at her actions. Spike stops by the Summers' home when he returns to Sunnydale, and Joyce lends an empathetic ear as he relates the details of his recent break-up with his sire, Drusilla, earning his perpetual gratitude.[10]

Joyce's only biological child is Buffy. However, in Season Five, a new daughter named Dawn mystically appears in her home, and her existence is suddenly interwoven into the memories of all the characters. Joyce's health deteriorates, and she is diagnosed with a brain tumor.[11] Pressure from the tumor interferes with her mind, and she temporarily loses mental clarity.[12] At this time, Joyce recognizes Dawn's anomalous nature, and confirms with Buffy that Dawn is not her daughter by birth. She loves and accepts Dawn as a member of the family, and urges Buffy to do everything in her power to protect Dawn.

Joyce's health improves after a successful surgery, although her life is soon in danger again. Glory, a hell-god, seeks a mystical "Key" that can open interdimensional portals. Although Glory does not realize that the Key is, in fact, Dawn, she knows that Buffy protects it; she threatens Buffy's family, and Joyce and Dawn temporarily stay with Spike for protection.[13] She continues her friendly relationship with Spike, and they watch a soap opera together. Soon afterwards, Joyce suddenly dies from a brain aneurysm in the end of the episode "I Was Made to Love You".

The following episode "The Body"[14] details the aftermath of her death. Dawn, with the assistance of Spike and Doc, successfully resurrects some form of Joyce; however, realizing the inherent dangers of what she has done, Dawn breaks the spell before Joyce enters the house.[15]

Writing and acting

  • Kristine Sutherland said that she drew from her experiences to play Joyce: "My mother was a single mother and struggled with a lot of those same issues that I struggle with as Joyce. For the sense of deep love and connection I draw on my own feelings for my own daughter. In terms of trying to parent an adolescent and my relationship with my mother. I try to figure out those struggles, and try to get into that from her point of view.[16]
  • Sutherland has explained how "People said to me before I knew she was the slayer, 'how can you not know that she's a vampire slayer'. I did all kinds of things that my mother had no idea about. It didn't seem strange at all to me that she didn't know, because I think there's a healthy amount of denial at a certain point. That's important to have as a parent."[17]
  • Sutherland commented on the character's role in Season 3: "Now that I know she's a vampire slayer, there's so much to process. I think Joyce is struggling to find her place in Buffy's life. There was a comfort level in the second season, that whatever Buffy was doing, she was on the right track. Finding out she was the vampire slayer just threw things right open, so I really struggled to find out what in her life I can share, and how to manage my sense of fear... It's strange to recognise that your daughter is so different from you, that she's this thing that you don't really understand and in many ways is so powerful, yet is still a kid, Joyce still has to figure out when to look out for her, when she needs it and when she doesn't."[18]

Relationships and romantic interests

  • Hank Summers — Joyce's husband and the father of Buffy and Dawn. Divorced some time before the series for reasons left unclear, later suspected by Buffy to be infidelity on his part.

Joyce rarely dates after her divorce, with notable exceptions:

  • Ted — Joyce briefly falls for Ted, a robot,[19] but his behavior becomes psychotic and he tries to kill Buffy.
  • Xander Harris — Joyce flirts with Xander Harris under the influence of a love spell that affected every woman in Sunnydale except for Cordelia.[20]
  • Rupert Giles — Under the influence of mystically enchanted chocolate bars that reverted them to their teenage personalities, she has sex with Buffy's Watcher, Rupert Giles on the hood of a police car, twice; although they remain friends, their collective embarrassment over that experience ensures no further intimacy.
  • Brian — Joyce is excited about her fledgling relationship with a new man named Brian and her daughters help her prepare for their first date. After their date, he sends her flowers, which arrive the day Joyce dies.


Early in the first season of Buffy, Joyce was portrayed as a stereotypical "Californian" mother; distant and reliant on "pop-psychology" techniques in raising her daughter but well-meaning. As the series wore on and she became more of a central character, however, Joyce became more competent and sympathetic, as exemplified when she attacked Spike with an axe in order to protect her daughter. She is typically portrayed - particularly after she discovers Buffy's true identity - as a warm, loving mother with a deep reserve of inner strength and a highly cynical and sarcastic streak (clearly inherited by her daughter). In stark contrast to Willow's religious, absent-minded parents and Xander's angry, bitter parents, Joyce is a constant and maternal presence, acting as a mother and friend to all the gang.

Joyce often banters with Buffy and even held her own with Faith when the rogue Slayer held her hostage, sneering "Are you planning on slitting my throat anytime soon?" in the middle of Faith's monologue. She is a fan of the soap opera Passions, which she watches with Spike, the movie Thelma and Louise, art (particularly African), and is a competent seamstress.

Joyce hates potlucks (which she gives as a reason for not wanting a wake) and Jell-O (which, she confesses while in the hospital, "creeps her out"). She has been shown to care more about others than herself, being more concerned about Riley than her medical condition. She had a friendly and motherly relationship with Spike, who claimed she was the only one he could stand. Spike paid his respects by leaving flowers. Her death had a devastating effect on everyone in the gang.


Joyce Summers appeared in the series premiere[21] as the mother of title character Buffy. She appeared in 58 episodes, at least once per season – the only one outside the core cast – Gellar (Buffy), Brendon (Xander), Hannigan (Willow) and Head (Giles) – to do so. She beats in number of episodes, other than core four, all cast members, except Marsters (Spike), Caulfield (Anya) and Trachtenberg (Dawn).

Kristine Sutherland appeared in Buffy four times after Joyce's death: as Willow witnesses Buffy's memory of baby Dawn being brought home by Joyce and Hank;[22] in a toxin-induced hallucination where Buffy remained a mental patient and her entire life as the Slayer was all an elaborate delusion[1]; as a possible manifestation of the First Evil, visiting Dawn in the guise of Joyce's ghost (it is unclear if this apparition is indeed The First, though Whedon and Jane Espenson have said that was their intention)[2]; and in Buffy's dream,[23] It is never stated whether her appearance in Buffy's dream was actually Joyce's spirit contacting her, a manifestation of The First, or just a simple dream.


Canonical appearances

Joyce has appeared in:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 
Joyce appeared as a guest in 58 episodes:

Joyce also appeared in The Origin comic book.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight

In 2009, Joyce appeared in the standalone issue After These Messages... We'll Be Right Back!.

Non-canonical appearances

Joyce appears in Buffy expanded universe. She appears in many Buffy books/novels notably in Viva Las Buffy, Slayer Interrupted, and A Stake to the Heart.

She also appears in the Buffy movie, played by Candy Clark, although her name is never mentioned.


  1. ^ a b "Normal Again". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. UPN. 2002-03-12.
  2. ^ a b "Conversations with Dead People". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. UPN. 2002-11-12.
  3. ^ Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  4. ^ "School Hard". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 1997-09-29.
  5. ^ "Passion". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 1998-02-24.
  6. ^ "Becoming, Part One". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 1998-05-12.
  7. ^ "Becoming, Part Two". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 1998-05-19.
  8. ^ "Dead Man's Party". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 1998-10-06.
  9. ^ "Gingerbread". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 1999-01-12.
  10. ^ "Lovers Walk". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 1998-11-24.
  11. ^ "Shadow". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 2000-11-21.
  12. ^ "Listening to Fear". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 2000-11-28.
  13. ^ "Checkpoint". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. UPN. 2001-01-23.
  14. ^ "The Body". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. UPN. 2001-02-27.
  15. ^ "Forever". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. UPN. 2001-04-17.
  16. ^ "Multiplicity", from Buffy the Vampire Slayer magazine #8 (UK, May 2000), page 8.
  17. ^ "Multiplicity", from Buffy the Vampire Slayer magazine #8 (UK, May 2000), page 9.
  18. ^ "Multiplicity", from Buffy the Vampire Slayer magazine #8 (UK, May 2000), page 8-9.
  19. ^ "Ted". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 1997-12-08.
  20. ^ "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 1998-02-10.
  21. ^ "Welcome to the Hellmouth". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 1997-03-10.
  22. ^ "The Weight of the World". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 2001-05-15.
  23. ^ "Bring on the Night". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. UPN. 2002-12-17.


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