These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Few have seen the movie. Whedon considers his script — not the film that was actually made — to be canon.
Fair for Its Day/Reactionary Fantasy: Okay, let's level here: before this movie came along, there really weren't that many examples of strong females in popular culture that weren't either Stripperific, One of the Boys, or novelty characters who were just used for a quick laugh. For breaking through each of these stereotypes, this movie certainly deserves a great deal of credit. And, yes, the character of Buffy herself is to be lauded for overcoming a Primal Fear that would have left most humans - including most men - gibbering wrecks. All that said, it's worth pointing out that Buffy needs a man to intervene on her behalf in each of her three battles with Lothos: Merrick at the parade float yard, when he sacrifices his own life to save hers; Pike while she's confronting Lothos in the school's boiler room, when he electrocutes a vampire in the ballroom, thus causing the school's sound system to short out and put an end to a heavy metal song that Lothos is apparently using to mesmerize Buffy; and Pike again during the final fight on the ballroom floor, when he leaps onto Lothos's back to distract him so that Buffy can strike a killing blow.
Harsher in Hindsight: Donald Sutherland plays Merrick, a man who lives to kill vampires. His son was previously in a similar movie... as a vampire.
Fridge: Why do you think he live only to kill vampires. That wasn't just Donald Sutherland's son playing a vampire: Merrick's son was turned.
Ho Yay: The scene where Amilyn watches over Lothos as he sleeps and kisses his hand makes you wonder....
Memetic Mutation: Amilyn's death scene is basically what most people remember from the film: "Ooooh, aaaaah, ooooh, aaaaah!"
Only The Creator Does It Right: The planned Whedon-less reboot film got this reaction from a lot of people, which may have been part of the reason that it got staked.
Retroactive Recognition: Hilary Swank as Kimberley, one of Buffy's Girl Posse. Ben Affleck and Ricki Lake in bit parts, as a baseball player and a waitress respectively. Though his scene got left on the cutting room floor, Seth Green (Oz from the series) does appear on the tape, and DVD covers.
Seinfeld Is Unfunny: This movie did okay for a low-budget film in its theatrical release but proved to be a cult favorite on videotape. It was this cult status that ultimately inspired the TV series, which ironically now tends to make the movie look bad by comparison.
So Okay, It's Average: It's not a masterpiece and looked on unfavorably by folks who only know the series from the TV show. But in it's own right, it's a good horror/superhero origin film with some great bits of comedy and character development.
Alternate Character Interpretation: Or rather, Alternate Episode Interpretation. The much maligned "Beer Bad" is actually a really funny and enjoyable episode if you approach it as just an amusing story than an anvilicious lecture.
Also, the infamous mental asylum episode in season 6.
Joss Whedon says to bring your own subtext and the way the characters act and are presented have led to a lot of discussions about them. Is Buffy still the nice girl she began as that's cracking from what's happened to her, or has she become a domineering bitch? Did Willow bring her Back from the Dead simply because of how much she cares for her, or does Willow want to show off?
Is Buffy's jerkass behavior between season 6 and most of season 7 result in all the past trauma from the previous seasons, including being yanked from heaven in season 6, taking it's toll on her?
In "Once More with Feeling," a sizable number of fans suspect Dawn really did summon Sweet and Xander was covering for her. This would explain how Xander is able to sing about not knowing what's going on despite the songs forcing you to tell the truth.
It's the price that had to be paid for keeping Spike around. S2 & S3 Spike was established as such a badass, that Buffy could never have a conceiveable excuse for not dusting him if she got the opportunity to, and badass Spike, would of course kill Buffy if he could. The two could only co-exist if Spike was rendered to be a non-threat, such as the chip he gets in S4. Of course a harmless Spike is anything but a Badass — and the Scooby gang never tire of reminding Spike of this in S4.
Big Lipped Alligator Moment: After the opening theme rolls in the episode "The Body" we see a five minute random flashback to Christmas dinner at Buffy's house that has nothing to do with the rest of the episode. Word of God has said the scene is there because they didn't want to have the opening credits playing over Buffy trying to revive Joyce.
The Men in Black subplot of "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" which was never brought up or mentioned again, not even when the Initiative showed up or when the army went against the Slayers in Season 8.
Brain Bleach And all the pesky moral questions about who gets to prescribe it.
Should the show have been uncancelled or were Seasons 6 and 7 a waste of time?
Did Spike's becoming a Breakout Character who became to a minority of fans the main character of the series, and certainly took a lot of the spotlight, cause the series to Jump the Shark, prevent it from Jumping the Shark, or somewhere in between become a welcome addition? When did he move from Villain to Anti-Hero, which can be argued to be anytime from when he realized he could kill demons, just not humans, and started doing so, to on the other extreme only when his soul was restored?
Was Season Five dull and Dawn a Wangst-yScrappy character or was it a fitting end for the show and a nice attempt to get in touch with a newer generation of fans?
Tara as a character and her relationship with Willow. Grounding break for its time and/or poorly written, poorly acted and too abrupt.
And related to this one; was Willow truly a lesbian or was she a closet bisexual? This was a topic that could start World War 3 on internet forums back in the day.
Complete Monster: Besides Angelus (see Buffy Verse), Season7'slastfiveepisodes introduced Caleb, the only villain in the series to rival Angelus in depravity. A defrocked priest turned Serial Killer of young women, Caleb uses the trust that people have in him to get closer to his victims, before torturing and killing them. In his first appearance, he guts one of the Potential Slayers and leaves her at the side of the road, as a message for Buffy. He then kills another one of the girls during a battle, mangles the arm of another, and puts out Xander's eye, cracking bad jokes the entire time. He also coordinates the actions of the Bringers, organizing the bombing of the Watcher Council's headquarters (resulting in most of their deaths), arranging the assaults on numerous Potentials, and trying to have Faith killed while she was in prison. A misogynisticsadist, who believes that all women are whores and deserve what he does to them, Caleb is The First Evil's right-hand man, and lives for the oncoming apocalypse, seeing the end of the world as a way to dispose of all those who do not share his mad religious convictions. He also gets a real kick out reenacting his murders with the shape shifting First. Perhaps the most frightening thing about Caleb, however, is that he is human, with nary a supernatural excuse, nor a Freudian Excuse, in sight.
Corrupt Politician: Mayor Richard Wilkins III could be considered one, but alternatively it could be considers the demonic population of Sunnydale (who technically were there before the human population) to be his actual constituency, and the humans as just another service the town provides: Heat, Water, Power, and Food. It's not his fault that humans fail to recognize their position as just another town-provided utility.
Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: At times it seems like the show's moral is that nothing will ever work out for you, your life is just a long, hard slog through misery, and you might as well just kill yourself. Especially season 6, explicitly described as "Life is the Big Bad."
Caleb. Unlike Spike and Faith, he has zero redeeming qualities and no redemption...but he's played by Nathan Fillion!
Ensemble Darkhorse: Spike. It's clear that he was a major character from the get go (but originally just for Season 2), and the writers always liked the character, but it seems like nobody quite expected just how mucheveryone was going to love him. Many, many Buffy fans consider him the best character in the show, to the point where despite the weirdness of his relationship with Buffy in Season 6 there are still a vast number of Spike/Buffy shippers about.
Word of God states that Tara and Joyce Summers were given more prominent roles than originally intended largely because of this.
Faith, who originally was intended to last only five episodes.
Despite not having many lines (for obvious reasons) and having the second-fewest appearances for a main character (second only to Riley), Oz is one of the more popular characters.
Ethan Rayne has a massively disproportionate fandom and fanfic representation for a character who only appeared in four episodes, thanks to his importance to Giles's past and the sexual tension between them.
It also might have something to do with the fact that any time Ethan shows up, wacky chaos is abound. Cases in point? Turning anyone wearing his Halloween costumes into the things they're supposed to be (i.e. little demon kids), spiking fundraiser chocolate so that it regresses the mind of adults into that of teenagers, turning Giles into a Fyarl demon, so on and so forth. As Spike puts it, "neat" things happen when Ethan shows up.
Foe Yay: Buffy and Spike (which later becomes Dating Catwoman), Buffy and Faith, the torture scene with Drusilla and Angel in season 2, Drusilla and Kendra, Giles and Ethan, Glory and Dawn, and most famously Xander and Spike.
Franchise Original Sin: Some of the major events that most polarized fandom in seasons six and seven, including Buffy and Spike hooking up in a relationship and Willow's witch powers spiraling out-of-control following her relationship ending, are (coincidentally or not) foreshadowed in Season Four's "Something Blue", to the point of the whole episode seeming Harsher in Hindsight. Heck, it even brought Amy back! (Albeit for only two seconds on-screen.)
In Season 3, Cordelia comments that Giles gets so much head trauma that one day, he'll wake up in a coma. Funny, sure. But let me tell you about this episode of Angel, involving Cordelia by the name of "You're Welcome"...
Genius Bonus: At one point you can see Oz wearing a name tag with "God" written on it. That is precisely what the root Os- means.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The show was successful in the US but enjoys massive popularity in Europe, where the stigma of science fiction/fantasy isn't as pronounced.
Of course, now Chiller, Oxygen, Logo, and Teen Nick are all showing it in the 'States.
Growing the Beard: Starting with the arrival of Spike and Drusilla. Full growth was achieved when Angel lost his soul.
Harsher in Hindsight: In Season 4 Buffy and Faith switch bodies, with the former appearing a complete and total Jerk Ass and the latter desperately trying to gain acceptance. Compare and contrast season 7.
Especially if one looks at the comics. Buffy's atoning for her past actions in Season 8 while Faith assumes the role as the more responsible Slayer.
Also, in Season 2's "Halloween", Spike is about to kill Buffy, who is weak due to taking on the personality of a colonial-era proper lady. The comment Spike makes about her and her situation before he makes the attempt sounds alot like he's about to rape her. Way later, there's the infamous incident in Season 6.....
Angel has mentioned several times that vampires can't have children. Now, go watch Season 3 of Angel
On an out-of-universe basis, the Season 2 episode "I Only Have Eyes for You", which concerns an affair between a (young) teacher and a student that ends in a fatal shooting. Depictions of guns in schools have become quite unsettling after Columbine, and the Pædo Hunt of the past decade turns what was supposed to be a tragic love story into Squick for many people.
Ethan Rayne gets Killed Off for Real in the Season 8 comics. Following the death of his actor, Robin Sachs, it becomes a bit harder to look at.
During career day, Willow questions out loud if she likes trees or shrubs (another word for bushes) more. Xander replies, "That's between you and your god." and that he definitely likes shrubs, while Buffy says "No shrubs for me!" Willow turns out to be bisexual..
Although no viewer could have known it at the time, the whole plot where if Angel experienced one moment of true happiness, he would lose his soul turns out to be a pretty good metaphor for any fan of anything Joss Whedon has written since ever. (Although most of us tend to be more "constantly depressed" than "irredeemably evil.")
Spike: You wanna put these demons down and end this Twilight crap once and for all?
Another Twilight example comes from the first season when Angel is in Buffy's room (It Makes Sense in Context) he mentions how great she would look when she sleeps. It gets even better when all he does is sleep on her floor.
Twilight is so RICH for this. The first episode of Season 2 has Buffy telling Angel that girls don't think stalking is sexy. Apparently, Buffy is very atypical.
The episode Nightmares, when Willow says they're facing their dreams. Giles corrects her that it's nightmares. "Dreams would be a musical comedy version of this." This of course gets a Shout-Out in Once More With Feeling, when Willow sings "I've got a theory, some kid is dreaming, and we're all trapped inside his whacky broadway nightmare."
Xander: The Avengers gotta get with the assembling.
The show had a Running Gag where Xander would keep accidentally making sexual or romantic comments about Dawn. It just seems like a way to poke fun at Xander and Dawn's crush on him. Of course, after Season 8...
After she first meets Angel Buffy says she really didn't like him. Over eight seasons the two had enough UST to detonate a sun and she is still obsessed with him in season nine, some thirteen years later, where the mere mention of his names makes her all warm and gooey.
In the comics Faith suggests there is little that she can be taught in the wonderful world of wetworks. Then we get Wet which not only has Eliza Dushku the character she plays could easily be Faith with even more bad language. Conducting wetworks.
In "Earshot," Buffy is frustrated that her telepathy doesn't allow her to read Angel's mind. That's pretty much the exact opposite of SookieStackhouse's opinion.
Ho Yay: Buffy and Faith, Drusilla and Kendra, Vamp Xander and Angel, Glory and Dawn, Xander and Spike so ''so'' much.
Les Yay: Willow and Tara, before their relationship became explicitly romantic. According to Alyson, Joss worked very carefully to create the right subtext in their scenes together. Creators have also acknowledged lesbian subtext between Buffy and Faith and say in the commentary that it was fun to play with.
The first comic of season nine suggests Willow and Buffy bot? is canon.
"The most important night of my life and you don't remember?" Willow's answer to if she and Buffy did it.
The Master was a pretty cunning villain and he certainly had the Deadpan Snarker vibe down to a tee.
Sweet from Once More With Feeling. He came to town, killed a bunch of people, made the Scoobies reveal a bunch of embarrassing secrets about themselves, nearly killed Buffy and left town without getting a scratch on him. Enough said.
Memetic Badass: Buffy's plan in season 7 involves Spike becoming this. Results vary.
Buffy: They're trapped in here. Terrified. Meat for the beast, and there's nothing they can do but wait. That's all they've been doing for days. Waiting to be picked off. Having nightmares about monsters that can't be killed. But I don't believe in that. I always find a way. I'm the thing that monsters have nightmares about. And right now, you and me are gonna show 'em why. It's time. Welcome to Thunderdome.
Also, in a more unusual example, Xander. By any Real Life standards, Xander is Bad Ass simply by merit of the fact that he's still alive after seven years of fighting the Good Fight (or more, depending on whether you count the Season 8 comics as canon). In many a Fan Fic, this is taken Up to Eleven, and Xander effectively becomes the merciless god of his universe.
D'Hoffryn was once Affably Evil amusing albeit demonic office boss. Then comes "Selfless" where he kills Anya's best friend when she was expecting to be able to sacrifice herself to bring the people she killed back to life, and making a casual pimp like comment that he "has plenty of girls".
The Trio were just considered a nuisance until Warren accidentally killed his ex Katrina and made Buffy think she did it. Then, there was "Normal Again"...
"Family": "Tara, if you don't get in that car I swear by God I'm gonna beat you down."
Never Live It Down: Dawn was originally meant to be a preteen, but then Joss was so impressed with Michelle Trachtenberg's audition that she was changed to a teenager. Unfortunately, there wasn't time to rewrite the first few episodes she appeared in, meaning she ended up looking quite annoyingly immature in them, which many had a hard time getting past even when the crew did start writing with the casting in mind.
Another aspect that stuck around despite being abandoned very early in the shows run was the identification of Buffy as a cheerleader. This was indeed a prominent part of the movie but only came up once in the series in Season One after which Buffy never shows the slightest interest in cheerleading again.
Noodle Incident: If you don't count the Pilot Movie as canon, the events that lead to Buffy transferring from Hemery to Sunnydale counts as this. Nothing is explained in detail, just something about Buffy burning down a gym full of vampires.
Older Than They Think: The "Normal Again" episode seems to be a Whole Plot Reference to the "Masks" two-parter of the Legends of the Dark KnightBatman comic. Both involve the main character undergoing a situation where they're made to believe that all of their adventures are just the product of their delusional minds, and they've been institutionalized the whole time. They even have the same ending, leaving it unclear if they were really crazy after all.
One True Pairing: Angel and Buffy. While both date other people and fall in love with other people, in the end it always comes back to their tragic and doomed relationship, to the point of them eventually planning to be together when Buffy is ready/when Angel becomes human. Also to the point that it can become extremely annoying.
Joss' policy was always "bring your own subtext," and he never really had any pairings set in stone. Sarah Michelle Gellar still thinks that Buffy and Xander were supposed to end up together.
One True Threesome: Buffy\Angel\Spike; between her fantasies of the two vampires oil wrestling and another fantasy of her in a nurse outfit chained to them naked, is officially canon. Even today no matter how much of a sweetheart Spike is Buffy gets all squiggly at the merest mention of Angel.
Buffy\Angel\Faith is another big one, what with Buffy and Faith having Les Yay out the wazoo and Angel and Faith having enough chemistry to get a spin-off comic series out of it.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: When Tara was first picked as Willow's Suddenly Sexuality love interest, fans wrote such viciously nasty things about her all over the net that Amber Benson nearly left the show. Fast forward to her death two seasons later, and Joss Whedon actually received death threats for letting her go.
Some fans, while approving of the character change, still simply wish Kennedy would be Put on a Bus as her appearances could arguably be the reason for other characters being put Out of Focus (though there is nothing confirming this, and Word of God has yet to comment.) Season ten suggests an effort to do this, where she had essentially become Captain Price with the idea of her Bodyguard Babes going full commando, acting as something of a vampire slaying gunwoman, a lot more mature, and figuring into the plot with giving Faith a job.
Buffy gets a well deserved one in the final episodes. She Took a Level in Jerkass to the point Kennedy was more tolerable, when Faith returns it's shown how much more mature Buffy's most hated enemy had become and because of her attitude Buffy starts losing everyone to Faith, culminating in Buffy being kicked out for the way she treats everyone and Faith taking command.
Seasonal Rot: Seasons 4, 6, and 7 are the least-regarded seasons of the series.
Part of the problem may lie in how the Big Bad threatens Buffy & co mentally as well as physically. After Angelus and Faith when she was The Dragon there has not been a villain who posed the best of both worlds. Adam and Maggie Walsh were more science vs magic, Glory was a big physical threat but the mental was downplayed, the Trio were a big mental threat after what happened to Buffy but could not match the powerhouses that were in previous seasons, The First was a decent mental challenge not on Angelus' level, Twilight seemed overshadowed by other villains and Simone was weak in comparison.
Seinfeld Is Unfunny: People watching it for the first time today (possibly after seeing other shows by Joss Whedon) might not appreciate all that the show has done for TV... it has earned its Kilowick status.
She Really Can Act: Sarah Michelle Gellar received some particular praise at some points, high points including Buffy's breakdown in "Prophecy Girl" after learning she's destined to die fighting the Master and her convincing performance as Faith-In-Buffy's body in "Who Are You?"
Willow's first meeting with the Wiccan group where she meets Tara. The Wiccans dismiss Willow for suggesting they try actual magic, as they would do in any real life school. They're portrayed as being close-minded posers, despite the fact that The Masquerade is in effect and as far as they're concerned, Willow's suggestion is no more valid than it would be in real life.
The child services worker in the episode "Gone." She's portrayed as your standard Department of Child Disservices worker, but her points about Buffy taking care of Dawn really were quite valid considering, well, Buffy was having a great deal of difficulty caring for Dawn.
A particularly strange example (given the show's love of putting characters through the emotional wringer) is the lack of fallout from Faith sexually assaulting Xander in Season 3. The act is interrupted almost at once but the episode never gets raised again even after Faith is redeemed and joins the Scoobies.
Many fans still argue that the big redemption story of season 7 was given to the wrong character. Jonathan had been part of the show from the beginning, so it would have been great to see him repent for his being part of the Trio and finally become a hero in his own right. But instead he's abruptly killed off, and the redemption story goes to Andrew, who we'd only just met last season and hadn't done nearly as much to earn it.
Values Dissonance: A big one in regards to Willow hunting down and executing Warren Meers. Andrew and Johnathan some fans give a pass, and there is a split between those horrified by her actions as the show supported and those cheering her on. At about the same time Jack Bauer was torturing and killing in cold blood over harm coming to friends and loved ones, later on games with a Kharma Meter would present cold blooded executions on those like Warren as the right moral choice, Once Upon a Time from some of the same writers would have the good pure characters subscribe to An eye for an eye and even Disney's Kim Possible would get in on the act and beat down and even try to murder those irredeemably evil. Suddenly Buffy looks like a whiner for being against Willow trying to kill Warren.
Demonic Spiders: Actual demonic spiders at that. They're quick, knock Buffy down in one hit (intsakill on low health) and can not be punched.
Genius Bonus. In a bid to be resurrected, The Master possesses Angel. In the first episode of season two The Master was not played by Mark Metcalf, but David Boreanaz.
Good Bad Bugs: When certain enemies are killing Buffy it's easy to go to the inventory and heal.
Les Yay: Willow keeps referring to Tara as sweetie, and makes comment on playing doctors and nurses with her. As an alternate world vampire, Tara says Willow is a domme.
Most Wonderful Sound: Fill up the combo bar and the main theme will sound signalling your accomplishment.
No Problem With Licensed Games: The first Buffy game on XBOX is pretty much regarded as a must have title, even if you've never watched the show. Chaos Bleeds is pretty good as well. Sacrifice and the Game Boy versions would be closer to the trope below.