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“Stripping” River Tam’s Amygdala

By Bradley J. Daniels, M.S.


from The Psychology of Joss Whedon

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This is one essay from the anthology The Psychology of Joss Whedon

First there was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”; then its spin-off “Angel”; then the cult hit “Firefly”; and its follow-up film, “Serenity.” They all had two things in common: their creator, Joss Whedon … and their surprising psychological depth.

Revisit the worlds of Joss Whedon … with trained psychologists at your side. What are the psychological effects of constantly fighting for your life? Why is neuroscience the Whedonverse’s most terrifying villain? How can watching Joss’s shows help you take on your own psychological issues?

It’s all the best parts of Psych 101—without Professor Walsh.

  • Robert Kurzban explains how Mal’s morals are a form of evolutionary pornography, and why we like to watch
  • Thomas Flamson explores free will in the Whedonverse—with prophecies, sacred duties and the long arm of the Alliance, does anyone actually have any?
  • Carole Poole demonstrates how Buffy and Spike’s season six relationship could be considered metaphor for narcissistic personality disorder—and concludes that Buffy may have been better off continuing it
  • Bradley J. Daniels looks at River’s Alliance-altered brain, and the real effects of “stripping” the amygdala
  • Mikhail Lyubansky shows why, psychologically, death really is Buffy’s gift
  • And editor Joy Davidson takes on Angel’s mommy issues—how the course of his whole extraordinary existence can be traced back to the woman who made him a vampire

About the Author

Joy Davidson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, certified sex therapist, author and video-maker based in Manhattan. She is a familiar expert guest on national television and radio, including “Oprah,” “20/20,” CNN News, NPR, “Prime Time Live,” “Entertainment Tonight” and “Montel.” Dr. Davidson is the author of or contributor to six nonfiction books, and the creator of multi-volume self-help videos for women and couples. She is well known as a magazine and Web advice columnist and appears frequently in publications such as Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Esquire, Redbook and Men’s Health.

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About the Author

Bradley J.  Daniels, M.S.

Bradley J. Daniels, M.S., (Brad, for short) earned his B.A. (summa cum laude) in psychology from the University of Central Florida. He began attending the University of Florida in 2003 and completed his M.S. in psychology in 2005. He is currently a doctoral candidate working on a Ph.D. in clinical and health psychology, with a specialization in clinical neuropsychology (and a particular interest in forensic neuropsychology). He also teaches as an adjunct assistant professor at Santa Fe Community College. He is an avid film and pop culture enthusiast, and regularly uses these media in the classroom as a tool to enhance the teaching of psychology. He has also published a previous essay in BenBella’s Psychology of Joss Whedon anthology.

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