I guess it’s inevitable that in seven seasons of Buffy, Joss Whedon was going to make a few errors of logic. I usually run crying to Michele when I find one, but today I’ve decided to run crying to the internet. Why? Because Michele is busy.
So here’s my problem: we know the first slayer was pre-Christian, because the scythe they find in season seven was made before Christianity and was forged for the slayer line. That means vampires, which came before slayers, are also pre-Christian. So why do crosses and holy water work against vampires?
One could theorize that this is what evolved out of whatever pre-Christian holy symbols were used to repel vamps before, except if it’s just about holiness then why don’t Jewish symbols work? (In season two when she’s fortifying her home against bad Angel, Willow is worried that her Jewish parents will see her nailing a cross to her wall, so obviously she’d be using a Jewish symbol instead if she could.)
One could also theorize that Whedon is making a subtle statement about Christianity being the true religion, except he’s very careful not to do that. When Buffy dies and comes back (the second time), she could have been in “any one of a number of heavenly dimensions,” rather than heaven, and while there is a hell mouth, there are countless hell dimensions (as we are told when Angel comes back from death, and when they find out where Glory is from). Buffy also tells a vampire in season seven that “there’s no word yet” on whether God really exists.
Finally, one could assume Whedon is just using what he’s been given in terms of vampire lore by making vamps allergic to Christian totems, as is traditional. However, Whedon never has a problem bending that lore to his own use. For example, apart from Dracula in season four, vamps can’t transform themselves or fly. They don’t fall into a deathlike sleep during the day. They do have blood circulation, which as the dead they technically shouldn’t, and while the characters frequently remind us that vampires don’t breathe, when it suits Whedon’s purposes they can smoke, be choked, and be drowned. So we can assume he could have dropped the cross and holy water business if he’d so chosen.
What is most likely is that he never gave much thought to it. Certainly he gave it less thought than I’ve used just writing this entry. So who’s the dope: him for creating a poorly-imagined plot point, or me for watching so much Buffy that I’m able to write all this? I think you all know the answer.