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Why Suze Simon is Buffy Summer’s Ghostbusting Twin: A Comparative Look at Meg Cabot’s The Mediator and Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer

March 30, 2011

First a very specific disclaimer because a vague one is nobody’s best friend. *This is an idea I’ve had swimming around in my head for a while now and finally got around to doing a post about it. Please note that a lot of this is based on memory as I didn’t have time to reread 6 books and rewatch 7 seasons worth of tv though I would have if I could! I tried to leave out anything I couldn’t remember one hundred percent but if you catch me in a factual error feel free to point it out, I don’t bite contrary to what my love of vampire themed books/tv may tell you. I also in no way shape or form claim that Meg Cabot stole, borrowed or used anything created by Joss Whedon. I am meerly pointing out the similarities between the two (partially because it might be the reason behind my love of both and because it’s fun) and if this post just happens to get Meg Cabot fans to watch Buffy or Buffy fans to read Meg Cabot then I see that as making the world a better place for everyone. I do not assume that you will like Buffy the Vampire Slayer because you like The Mediator or vice versa. This is a fun post in which I get to take an insane amount of time blogging about two of my favorite things. Also there will be spoilers.* Ok on with the fun stuff!

I know what you’re thinking, ‘Meg Cabot and Joss Whedon have something in common? But all her books are so happy and Joss always kills off everyone I like. What does a literary character who last appeared in a book titled Twilight have anything to do with Joss’s first-born child?’ quite a lot actually. (And please don’t hold the Twilight thing against Meg. She’s a good person, really and this was before that other Twilight that shall not be named.)

Let’s start with some basic information about both series and their heroine. For the sake of being simplistic I’ll be comparing Buffy the Vampire Slayer: seasons 1-7 rather than the entire collection of Buffy work that’s considered canon though I highly recommend the comics.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Jan ’97 – May ’03 The WB for 5 seasons & UPN for 2.

Newly divorced Joyce Summers moves herself and her daughter Buffy a high school sophomore from LA to Sunnydale CA where they can start over. But Buffy can’t start over as she is The Slayer, the only girl in all the world with the power to fight the vampires and forces of darkness that plague our world and there is no running from this. Buffy is pulled back into the responsibility of Slayerhood when the school librarian, Rupert Giles, reveals himself to be her new Watcher and a mysterious stranger later learned to be the vampire Angel who becomes Buffy’s first love enter her life and urge her to continue her destiny. It’s after the lives of her new friends, Xander the school dork and Willow the brain, are threatened that Buffy picks up her stakes and kicks vampire ass. As the series progresses Buffy and Angel are eventually torn apart, Willow & Xander briefly date secretly while they were seeing other people and a new vampire Spike an on again off again bad guy and old rival of Angel’s is thrown into the mix as Buffy’s new love interest along with Riley a human who was trained by a military style organization to capture demons. Many a school/family/friend centered scene was colored with the appearance of evil and the school library was not just Giles’ place of work, but a general hangout for the gang.

(Really she picks that stuff as the important stuff? Has she even seen this show? <- Hold on there's a reason I left out some of Buffy's finest moments. The Gift, The Body, Surprise, Innocence and so on and so forth)

The Mediator: Published ’00 – ’05 by HarperCollins, 6 books originally published under the pen name Jenny Carrol.

After her widowed mother remarries and uproots her teenage daughter Suze Simon has to leave the comfort of New York City and readjust to sunny Carmel CA where most of the buildings are old. This is a problem as Suze is one of the few people in this world who can see ghosts and send them packing into the great beyond. (Or if you’re the nice kind of ghost, to your well deserved after life we assume.) When Suze enters her new bedroom she is greeted by the unwelcomed site of Jesse de Silva, a very hot and very dead cowboy who she ends up falling in love with. Jesse tries to be noble but it is a love to span such trivial differences like life and death. As Suze gets settled into her new life she befriends Father Dominic (The principal) when the previous owner of Suze’s new locker decides she doesn’t like Suze moving in on her property or her old boyfriend the school quarterback. Heather is dead btw but Suze uses her knowledge of Brazilian voodoo to remedy the problem when Heather begins to threaten the lives of other students including Suze’s new friends Adam and CeeCee the school rejects who don’t figure out how perfect they are for each other untill the end. Paul later waltzes into the picture as a fellow mediator determined to have Suze end up with him instead of Jesse and he’ll stop at nothing to make sure this happens.

Sound kinda familiar? Same basic idea, girl moves and tries to outrun her destiny, destiny catches up with her, finds mentor at new school, developes dorky friends, falls for the very guy she should be using her powers on. Swap vampires for ghosts and the similarities are there. (Actually in I believe book 2 Suze thinks she may in fact be up against a vampire. This proves to be false as vampires aren’t real after all, only ghosts.) Random side note: Meg Cabot is in fact the reason I started watching Buffy because of her references to it. But how similar are the two you ask?

Buffy/Suze: There’s no denying it, Buffy and Suze have a lot in common. 16 years old (We assume Buffy is 15 or 16 in the pilot) and running away from their supernatural pasts by moving to a new town that’s much smaller than their previous big city. One difference is that Buffy utilized her friends where as Suze kept her friends in the dark about her supernatural activities. Both fell for a man they shouldn’t have. Both kick ass, occasionally while being uber fabulous (ok a lot of the time). Both started out with mothers who were oblivious to their daughters nightly activity, thou Joyce did learn of Buffy’s destiny at the end of season 2. Suze on the other hand kept her mother in the dark though unlike Buffy she actually had a dad who wanted to be a dad despite the fact that he was a ghost. (This just makes Hank seem like an even worse father in my opinion.) Both girls found a father figure in the form of an older man who worked at their school. While Dawn didn’t show up until season 5 both had siblings (in Suze’s case step-siblings all 3 of them boys) that caused a lot of headache but occasionally comic relief especially Suze’s two oldest step brothers dubbed Sleepy and Dopey (because this described them better than their real names). Also, those witty wisecracks heroes love to make? These girls made them (Buffy’s tended to be a bit more memorable but granted she had the chance to make way more). Buffy’s apocalypses also tended to be on a larger scale than Suze’s in terms of how the outcome will affect the rest of the world but Buffy never had to worry about time travel and maintaining balance in the Space/Time continuum which is almost as big as Dawn and the Key Thing.

Angel/Jesse: Vampire/Ghost. Not much in terms of similarities on the surface until you start digging into their characters. Angel is seeking redemption for his past crimes and Jesse is trapped in this world because something is keeping him here and preventing him from moving on. Both have been around a lot longer than their girlfriend (Angel has Jesse beat by a good hundred years easy) and were older than their girlfriends when they originally died. Both rather like brooding and don’t know when to stop worrying about their girl. Luckily both are pretty good in a fight. Angel is still seeking his redemption, Jesse found his. Angel didn’t get the girl, Jesse did. Jesse also shares Angel’s dark and mysterious good looks though Angel never struck me as a cat person as Jesse ended up being. “Susannah meet cat. Cat meet Susannah.” The cat thing did not amuse Suze.

Giles/Father Dom: ‘Ripper’ share something in common with a pastor? (Or was he a priest? I can never keep these religious things straight. He’s one of those Catholic religious dudes.) Unheard of! Prior to talking up positions in schools both had a slightly wild past (Giles’ more so than Father Dom’s but who’s comparing? Oh yeah me. Ok Father Dom totally fell in love with this ghost and it didn’t work out forcing him into the arms of God. Giles was all, well like he was in ‘Band Candy.’) and have both lost women who meant a lot to them. They both took a supernaturally inclined teenage girl under their wing so they could help her save the world. They became father figures, helped save the world and provided cover ups, alibis and clean up when needed. Both were a little behind the times though Father Dom at least experimented with hand-held video games (a perk of being the one in charge of safekeeping confiscated items) and Giles well, I don’t think he ever got around to really understanding computers. When they were with the times it always came as a bit of a shock and a form of amusement. (“Father Dom used the word sexual about me” <- horrific even when it's not directed at you.)

Spike & Riley/Paul: All you Whedon folk are staring at this going ‘what the bloody frak?’ (Well I hope you are. Wouldn’t want your mother to hear you mutter something profane now would we?) Here’s the scoop on Paul. Human, probably a better choice for Suze than Jesse despite the fact that he’s rather evil. (Riley, human and a better choice than Angel in the eyes of some. He worked for an evil military group but the evilness is more early Spike.) Buffy had actual relationships with Spike & Riley while Suze used Paul (Like Buffy did Spike often times however Suze wanted information not sex). Paul’s evil and manipulative ways can be likened to Bad Ass Spike in some ways particularly when Spike realizes he has feelings for Buffy and wants her more than anything. Suze never loved Paul much like Buffy never truly loved Riley though she never faked it/realized she really did when it was too late like Buffy did. Paul was the anti-Jesse much like Riley & Spike were sort of like Angel replacements in the eyes of some. Hey some people really shipped Riley & Spike and I respect that but if you tell me you shipped Paul Slater I will go all Sarah Michelle Gellar on your ass. Understood?

Xander & Willow/ Adam & CeeCee: This is what finally tipped me off to the similarities because Adam & CeeCee? Totally the old school Xander & Willow that surprise! Figured out they liked each other before they were dating other people. Xander & Adam share some traits, class dork/outsider, smart female sidekick, early crush on heroine and a crush on their best friend later on. Adam was tragically not nearly as fleshed out as Xander who went through some great character developments and could hold his own when given control of an episode. (Yes I’m a Xander fan girl.) I don’t think Adam has that in him but you never know.

Willow & CeeCee totally have a crush on Xander & Adam but are to shy to do anything about it. Total brainiac of the group though CeeCee’s social standing is a tad better because she’s on the school newspaper. Willow had some terrible fashion choices and CeeCee had to occasionally look ridiculous because she’s albino and living in California. Big hats/umbrellas at the beach were just the beginning but her style was a tad different from Willow’s. Willow’s early style could make jeans & a T-shirt look daring and hip. (Green tights anyone?) One of the things that brought Willow out of her shell was the discovery that she was a witch. CeeCee is far more scientific and scoffs at the family’s ‘psychic’ family member. (I think it was her grandma but I don’t have that book handy so don’t quote me on that.) While not as similar as Xander & Adam they had some similar qualities the most important one being that they were good friends for Buffy/Suze by offering the occasional taste of normal. It saddens me that Adam & CeeCee were so little used.

*Side Note: I loved, loved, loved the final 3 episodes of season 6 for the Xander/Willow scene alone. Xander’s speech? Top 3 favorite Buffy moments of all time.*

Sunnydale/Carmel: Small(ish) California towns. By the ocean. Sunnydale has way more churches but that’s because Sunnydale is on a hellmouth which makes people pray harder (true story). Carmel is kind of boring and normal compared to Sunnydale which had The Bronze, a bunch of cemeteries, the Espresso Pump, The Magic Box, and so on and so forth. I don’t remember much of that in Carmel. Well it had a big resort place where Suze worked for a little bit that had a bunch of rich people staying in it but that’s about it besides that gas station were a bunch of dead teenagers tried to buy beer once. (It didn’t work out to well.) If there was action happening anywhere in Carmel it was either happening in someone’s house (Like that one time one of Suze step brothers had a party and almost the entire school showed up. Not cool when you’re fighting a ghost) or in the high school. Sunnydale offered a lot more variety thou Carmel’s focus on the school, particularly Father Dom’s office (the equivalent of Sunnydale’s library) is practically a homage to the early Buffy years. Oh precious library, how I missed you and all your books in the later seasons.

Tone/Style: Both had great teenage slang thou Buffy took it one step further by practically creating its own language. (I’m fairly certain they coined the word ‘vamp’ and Joss could turn anything into an adverb.) However both had some great verbal high points “My mother’s psychologist says I have an over active anger switch, but people just keep pissing me off.” (Darkest Hour) and “Well, we could grind our enemies into talcum powder with a sledgehammer, but, gosh we did that last night.” (When She was Bad 201) However Buffy wasn’t afraid to go down a darker path when it came time to tell the really hard stories. While The Mediator didn’t have much time to go dark Meg Cabot manages to hang on to some of the fun, talking about this with your best friend feel that she’s famous for. (Which is part of what makes her books so likeable. Ok yes I admit I worship the Chick Lit genre. Sue me.)

End game: *MASSIVE SPOILERS* The Mediator’s end game was that the Paul/Jesse fight over Suze be resolved which involved Time Travel (Massive cool points here people) and well, Jesse and Suze lived happily ever after let’s put it that way. There was some tricky time/space continuum stuff involved but it all worked out in the end. And Paul was forced to move on because hey, true love won in the end. There was a school dance and Mr. Simon (who’d been a ghost since Suze was little and was the one who explained about the mediating thing) was finally able to rest in peace. All was right in the world despite earlier guesses that it wouldn’t be. It almost makes you think of Prom (3X20) in a way. For an ending to a great series it was pretty satisfying thou Meg apparently has a sequel idea somewhere on her computer and she just needs to find the time to write it. (According to the FAQ section of The Mediator’s section of her website.)

Buffy on the other hand ended with an apocalypse, people dying, the town getting destroyed and ultimate evil getting vanquished. It ended with what was left of the gang looking at what was once their home and Dawn asking Buffy what they were going to do now. The final shot was of Buffy starting to smile. Joss ripped our hearts out, gave us an action packed homage to our first season finale and ends it on an open-ended smile. Enough to give you closure but enough to leave you wanting more. It was something all right. Here’s a trailer Buffyverse Trailers did that sums it up much better.

I hope that gave you an idea of just how awesome these two series are. I barely scratched the surface of how awesome they are but you can see why I love them both, girl power, supernatural elements, epic love, smart dialog. Sadly there are no good ‘Mediator’ vids that take advantage of the similarities between the series and Buffy but I’ll leave you with a few random different videos I found that kind of give you a taste of what The Mediator and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are like and a link the Mediator Short Story that’s posted on Meg Cabot’s official site.

Posted by xFluteless Such great actors used in this, makes me wish this was real.

Posted by Buffyverse Trailers

Posted by 40sgirl and sums up Shadowland, the first book perfectly.

posted by Buffyverse Trailers

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sanjana permalink
    July 11, 2011 4:25 am

    OMG i thought exactly what you thought about the similarities. I read the series before I watched Buffy. I love them both, and their similarities make me think that maybe Meg Cabot is a fan of Buffy.
    1. The Princess Diaries series mention plenty of times how Mia (the main character) loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    2. The similarities you mentioned.
    3. The cat in the Mediator is called Spike. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

    No wonder I love them both so much.

    • July 11, 2011 10:10 am

      How could I forget the cat named Spike? Lol I to read the books before watching the show, Mia & Michael’s joint love for it were what made me decide to watch. I’m pretty sure Meg is a hard core Buffy fan because if you go to her YouTube channel and watch the video she made for Forever Princess’s release you’ll see that she demonstrates all her points with Buffy action figures.

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