Kids, I have a theory that would connect two seemingly very different stories. Are you ready? Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Tom Hanks classic Big both take place in the same fictional world.
Yeah. Let that settle in.
Some of you may be scoffing. Others may not even remember what Big is all about. I’ll give you a quick synopsis…
Josh Baskin is a normal 12-year-old kid from New Jersey. One night, at a carnival, he makes a wish on a Zoltar machine. The wish is that he could be big. He makes this wish after being turned away from one of the carnival’s thrill rides and getting embarrassed in front of the girl he’s got a crush on. But he should have been more specific with his wish. Josh wakes up the next morning as a 30-year-old man (Tom Hanks). He moves to New York, gets a job, gets successful, all while trying to rediscover the Zoltar machine that can turn him back into a kid again.
So why on earth would I believe Big and Buffy take place in the same world? On the surface, you wouldn’t expect there to be much that could connect them. But scratch the surface?
First, we’ll look at the character of Angel. Anyone who has any experience with the legend of Buffy the Vampire Slayer knows that Angel is the vampire with a soul. He’s the love of Buffy’s life. But he’s been around for a lot longer than Buffy ever was. According to Buffy and, later, his own spin-off, Angel’s backstory took him to a lot of places. Including New York City.
In Buffy‘s second season finale, “Becoming,” we discover that Angel was in New York during the late 1980s. And he was having a rough go of it. That’s because, at this point, he is guilt-ridden over the fact that, in the late 1970s, he fed off of a human, in spite of the soul he’d been cursed with. So, by around 1988, Angel would be at a point where he’s just not taking very good care of himself. Probably chasing rats and stray cats for blood.
Big, which was released in 1988, gives us a scene fairly early on where it can be assumed that Angel is somewhere in the background. Josh and his best friend Billy make their way into the city, looking for a place for Josh to stay until they can get the whole Zoltar thing sorted out. Josh checks in to the St. James Hotel. The clerk who checks him in shows him to his hole in the wall which is next to the communal bathroom. Once Josh and Billy are ready to check out Josh’s new place, the clerk leaves. He then bangs on the bathroom door and yells, “Angel, get outta that bathroom, now!”
Could be a coincidence, sure. But this crappy little flophouse would be the perfect place for a tortured vampire with a soul to live if he’s trying to fly under the radar of the Powers That Be, right?
Not enough evidence? Okay… Let’s go with the kind of world with which we’re presented. It’s a world where magic exists.
Of course magic exists on Buffy and Angel. One of our main characters, Willow, is a practicing witch. Not to mention the existence of vampires, werewolves, and various other creatures of the night. But does magic really exist in the world of Big?
How else do you think Josh’s wish came true?
When 12-year-old Josh initially drops his quarter in the Zoltar machine, it doesn’t work. He does what any typical preteen would do in that situation. He starts beating the crap out of it. After a moment of this, Zoltar comes to life. Josh plays the game the way he’s supposed to. He makes his wish. And Zoltar spits out a card that informs him that his wish is granted. It’s then that Josh notices the machine is unplugged.
In the end, when adult Josh rediscovers Zoltar and goes to recreate the conditions in which he made his first wish, he actively unplugs the machine. Machines, without some sort of battery, just do not work when they aren’t plugged in. Personally, I’ve never known of any arcade style machines that work when unplugged.
Therefore: magic. I mean, I think just the fact that Josh’s wish actually comes true is proof enough that magic exists. That Zoltar comes to life without electricity is just a bonus.
And let’s not overlook the fact that, in the world of Buffy, there are certain demons who make a living by granting people’s wishes. Anya, one of the main cast in later seasons, was once a vengeance demon who specialized in granting the wishes of scorned women. In season six, we discover that she is close friends with another demon, Halfrek, who’s “thing” was to perform vengeance for children who have been wronged by their parents.
Josh wasn’t necessarily wronged by his parents, but he was embarrassed by a grown-up running the thrill ride. Maybe that was enough to send for Halfrek, a vengeance demon adept at granting children’s wishes. Maybe Zoltar is just the form that Halfrek chose to put on in her encounter with Josh Baskin.
Tell me that doesn’t make complete and total sense. I dare you. You’ll never watch Big the same way again.