Watching Buffy with my daughter, I can’t help but see it as a cautionary tale. I’ve been able to talk to her about so many things that aren’t issues for her yet, but might be.

  • Always tell someone where you’ll be. You never know when vampires might abduct you.
  • Grown ups might not understand that you’re fighting real demons, but they still have your best interests at heart.
  • I hope your first kiss will be nice, but if it isn’t, at least you probably won’t have to stake the guy.

But I don’t think it’s an accident that the most frightening character Joss Whedon ever wrote on the show is Warren. A human male. I think Whedon was trying to point out that while creatures of the night might be created evil, and might hook us in our greatest fears, and even need to be killed, there is nothing more frightening than a truly misogynist psychopath.

I have to say that, while there are many things on Buffy that I hope will never happen to my daughter, I did sit her down and tell her that if she ever knows anyone who reminds her even slightly of Warren, she should get away from that person quickly. Because the thing is, of all the allegories–nice looking kids who are demons on the inside, coaches who steer you wrong, parents who live their children’s lives, men who become evil once you sleep with them–Warren is also the most real villain on the show. Don’t get me wrong–The Trio is pretty much the worst storyline on the show, except maybe for Xander not marrying Anya (what was up with that decision?!) But the point of Warren is clear. Vampires just want to eat. Vengeance demons can only grant wishes. Black magic can be resisted by the strong. But evil men are real, and they must be fought by all of us, all the time.

When society thinks turning women into vacuous sex slaves is a funny plot twist, or that a really good robot might be as good as a girlfriend, or that not getting dates is an excuse for bad behavior, the Warrens of the world get more fuel for their evil. All Warren has is a hatred of women, a sense of entitlement, and a fictionalized super-ability with technology. Although he almost kills Buffy with his invisibility ray, that’s not what Whedon chose to have happen. Warren kills women with real weapons from the real world. As a parent, a guy like Warren is one of my biggest fears. Because a guy like that could happen. It’s the scariest thing on the whole show.

And that’s no accident.

Update 8/11/14: I had forgotten how Warren dies. This only reinforces my theory, however. Before she kills him, Willow invokes the spirit of Katrina. Warren doubles down on his misogyny. It’s like Whedon is making sure we know that he deserves to die, so we won’t hate Willow too much. As Xander says, Warren was “a woman-killer, just getting started.” Warren’s death is oh, so satisfying, even while Willow is terrifying in her own right.