10 British Things About The Whedonverse

Anthony Head as Giles in Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Anthony Head as Giles in Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon’s take on Shakespeare’s proto-romcom Much Ado About Nothing hits American movie screens today, proof positive of the man’s abiding affection for all things British.

In fact, there’s scarcely a Whedon project in existence that doesn’t have at least one favorable British element in it somewhere.

Here are nine further examples, starting with the most blindingly obvious one:

Anthony Stewart Head – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Believe it or not, this series of TV adverts, in which two neighbours become lovers after bonding over instant coffee, was Anthony Head’s big breakthrough in British TV before Buffy came along. So much so that when the show first appeared on TV over here, people would double-take at the bespectacled vampire-fighting boffin and say “hang on! Isn’t that the Gold Blend guy?”

Loki - Marvel Avengers Assemble

All the haughty rage and sneering coldness of the classic British baddy – Tom Hiddleston, take a bow – together with a few archaic slang nasties – “mewling quim” indeed! – help to create a deliciously evil on-screen presence. And then he met the Hulk.

Dead Bowie – Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog

Dead Bowie, from Dr.Horrible's Singalong Blog

Dead Bowie, from Dr.Horrible’s Singalong Blog

Even in the middle of Joss’s most freewheeling project, this (fairly self-explanatory) character pops up, played by his brother Jed.

The Elvis Costello references - Buffy The Vampire Slayer

“This Year’s Girl,” is the title of both an Elvis Costello song and an episode of Buffy.

And in the Buffy episode “Graduation Day,” Faith has the line, “Look at you, trying on big sister’s clothes,” a reference to the song “Big Sister’s Clothes,” from Elvis’s 1981 album “Trust.”

Adelle DeWitt – Dollhouse

Frosty, imperious, louche and never less than totally in control, Olivia Williams plays Adelle DeWitt as if she’s disgusted that the singer with the similar name can’t even spell it properly.

And at the other end of the Brit scale…

Badger – Firefly

Whether by accident or design, Joss Whedon hit a nail just where a nail should be hit when he named Mark Sheppard’s low-life character Badger. Not because he has white stripes in his hair, or because he lives in a hole. It’s more that there’s a (not that common, but incredibly useful) British slang expression that describes him to a tee: rough as a badger’s nadgers.

(Note: nadgers = testicles. Badgers clearly have a lot of problems)

(Note 2: some people also use badger’s nadgers as a statement of high quality, derived from the equally complimentary the dog’s bollocks. Speaking of which…)

Spike’s British slang – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Always a gleeful cultural jolt for Brits to hear British swearing in American TV shows. Wankerbollocks, all the greats!

The Operative – Serenity

There has been some talk of Chiwetel Ejiofor being a potential candidate for the Doctor Who position, but given that he’s astonishingly good at being a coolly cruel British baddy in a sci-fi production, wouldn’t the Master be a better bet?

And finally…

Brit-baiting banter – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Giles: “Here comes Buffy. Now remember, discretion is the better part of valor.”
Xander: “You could have just said, ‘Shh.’ God, are all you Brits such drama queens?”

And there’s plenty more besides. Care to help us list them here? 

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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