On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Who is the Cheese Man?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Cheese Man is a very minor and extremely enigmatic character on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series. Although the Cheese Man only appeared briefly in two episodes, he has become an iconic figure for some fans. The character is a topic of intense discussion among some fans, but the show's creator, Joss Whedon, claims that the Cheese Man was meant to be a meaningless and absurd character, and that he has no tricky subtext or symbolic significance.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

He only appears in dream sequences, suggesting that he is an invention of the subconscious, although the Cheese Man appears in dreams had by multiple characters. He appears in a taupe suit, with round eyeglasses, a balding head, and, of course, cheese. The cheese always takes a sliced form, and it may be laid out on a tray, or held in the Cheese Man's hands, depending on the sequence. He speaks directly to several of the characters, making enigmatic and puzzling statements like “I wear the cheese. It does not wear me.”

This character first appears in “Restless,” the season four finale. In is episode, the four leading characters of the show have a series of complex and interconnected dreams in which they explore their own fears and weaknesses, and the Cheese Man appears in each of the dreams, typically only for a moment. His second and final appearance was in season seven, in “Storyteller,” in another shared dream sequence had by two villains from the previous season.

Because Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons, there are a number of minor characters like the Cheese Man who only appeared in one or two episodes, and the creators of the show are sometimes surprised by how captivated fans have become by some of these characters. The Cheese Man may have attracted a great deal of interest because he appeared in “Restless,” an episode which dealt with a great deal of the show's mythology as well as the personal struggles of the characters.

Some Buffy fans have come up with complex explanations for the purpose of the Cheese Man, arguing that he is a symbolically important character, and sometimes providing credible evidence to support this. Whedon has firmly stated that the Cheese Man was included to bring in the element of the absurd to make the dream sequences in which he appears seem more surreal. Given that the show is littered with references to cheese, a few fans have suggested that the Cheese Man may simply be a manifestation of Joss Whedon's fondness for cheese.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon297759

Did anyone notice that in the cheese man episode, the first time he was seen, that the picture at the end of the episode had a slice of cheese on it? There has to be a reason for the cheese man. Because that was way too crazy for me.

anon163350

I have the series on dvd and have watched it from beginning to end several times (was in a nursing home for three months following a brain hemorrhage. Thank heaven for the portable dvd viewers!) and yes, if you've seen it as often as I have, cheese is mentioned more often than you'd think.

anon153284

Actually, when Amy first reappears she asks for something not cheese. Fairly straight reference to rats eating cheese and she doesn't want any more.

anon112744

And when riley asks willow about buffy so he can ask her out, the first thing willow says is "she likes cheese".

anon77735

there are a lot of cheese references if you watch the show again with the cheese in mind. also in the comics, for instance when amy first reappeared, she asked for cheese. I still think it means something and someday the jossman will tell us.

winterstar

Other than the Cheese Man, what other references to cheese was there? I barely remember the cheese man at all, certainly not so many mentions of cheese to be considered "littered".

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