Sunnydale, California (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
I couldn’t write about fictional towns without writing about Sunnydale. Buffy is my all-time favorite TV show, and so Sunnydale is the fictional town that means the most to me. It’s certainly the one I’ve spent the most time in—from countless rewatches to fantasies about what my life would be like if I lived there, from endless discussions about the show to the posters of the Scooby Gang that covered my walls. Sunnydale has been a big part of my life.
Growing up in North East England, Southern California seemed so exotic—the sunshine, the palm trees, and even Sunnydale High School. For Buffy and her friends, getting from one class to another involves crossing a fancy courtyard with a fountain and gorgeous archways—always in beautiful weather—rather than sprinting across a barren schoolyard in the rain like I was used to. The architecture of the school is stunning, especially compared to English schools, which tend to resemble large concrete boxes. The idea of a high school with areas specifically designed for sitting outside in the sun seemed unimaginably luxurious to me.
Aside from being jealous of the weather and the school, I always wished I could hang out at the Bronze. To my teenage self, the Bronze was the epitome of a cool, alternative club that was played by all the best bands you’d never heard of, with the perfect atmosphere for dancing with your friends, discussing the drama of the day over drinks, or waiting to see if your crush would show. The town also had a cute (but very small) main street, which was home to a movie theatre, a coffee shop (entertainment by Rupert Giles), and the Magic Box.
Due to Buffy’s writers occasionally prioritizing the needs of the plot over common sense, Sunnydale is famous among fans for having way more amenities than a town its size should have. Sunnydale has a population of around 38,000, a zoo, a beach, an airport, a military base, at least two universities, a museum, an art gallery, a train station, a bus station, an ocean port, and 43 churches—but only one Starbucks.
Sunnydale’s biggest drawback is the fact that it was built on a Hellmouth, which attracts all sorts of vampires, demons, and supernatural evil. Despite its unusually high murder rate, it does seem like a pretty nice place to live—and at least there’s a Slayer living there to provide some protection. Sunnydale is the perfect setting to explore the show’s main themes, with the sunny Southern California town providing a contrast to the dark, underground world of vampires and demons. This reflects Buffy’s struggle to live a normal life while also living up to her responsibilities as the Slayer. Sunnydale is undeniably an iconic fictional town, and when it collapsed in the show’s finale, “Chosen,” the giant crater it left behind seemed to echo the huge hole that was left in my life when Buffy ended.
What would your own picks be for TV’s best fictional towns? Would you use different criteria to choose them? Don’t forget to let me know in the comments!