I went to Iceland in 2016 with my parents and Le Boo. While driving around we listened to Björk a lot. Her voice and music style makes more sense to me now I’ve seen the landscape of her homeland. It’s incredibly beautiful, but also quite alien. I can only imagine living there before the industrial revolution.
It’s desolate and lonely fields of lava coupled with intense coastlines feels genuinely out of this world. It was the trip of a lifetime. We went to the Blue Lagoon, and I’d paid my ticket in advance to swim in it.
That never happened. While my parents and Le Boo were swimming in the Blue Lagoon’s naturally heated water, I was in the bathroom of the facility. Crying as quietly as I could in a stall, while my body panicked so fiercely it felt as though I was going to die. For days afterward I was exhausted, and couldn’t enjoy the holiday as well.
When I got back to Ireland, instead of being able to sleep the night before I returned to work, I tossed and turned. My stomach was sick, and I vomited at one stage. When Le Boo was getting ready for work in the morning he was surprised when I didn’t get up. I informed him as soon as my GP’s office was open at 8am I was going to make an appointment with her.
He was extremely supportive by the way and still is to this day.
I sobbed in my primary care physician consulting room, which was a new experience for me. I told her how I was feeling, and how there had to be something wrong. She suggested I quit one of my jobs (which I never had to do before, I have like 3 jobs now) and try some anti-depressants.
I then found a counselor recommended by a friend. She kindly informed me I had a mental breakdown after many years of suppressing pain and illness.
It’s been two years since that breakdown.
Let me make something very clear. At the time of the breakdown I was with Le Boo, and that is an extremely loving relationship. My parents, brother, and friends are all phenomenal people. I had managed to get a scholarship for my Ph.D. which was what I had always wanted, and my career was finally moving in the direction I wanted.
You think you get what you want and your mental illness will just dissolve. There isn’t a chance of that. What might happen is finally recognise if your internal monologue is healthy. If your relationship with yourself is kind. The road to discovery this may be tough but I found journaling helped. I included a colour chart I use at the beginning of this post. It has been indispensable to understanding and processing my emotions.
What I discuss on this blog is not revolutionary. It’s not ground-breaking in itself. Except for those suffering from cycles of anxiety followed by depression. When someone with other chronic illnesses discusses their symptoms, tt makes you realise you are not alone in your disease. Although it wants you to feel as though you are.
The community of people I’ve surrounded myself with on this site has been eye-opening. Those suffering from an array of mental illnesses from bi-polar to PTSD to social anxiety, and many more. They describe moments of pain, and they share their load. Hopefully making it a bit lighter.
Share your pain, listen to your emotions, and finally be kind to yourself first. Otherwise, you won’t have anything left to give to others.
Wicca. Noun. “A religion influenced by pre-Christian beliefs and practices of western Europe that affirms the existence of supernatural power (such as magic) and of both male and female deities who inhere in nature and that emphasizes ritual observance of seasonal and life cycles.”[i]
Although I don’t follow an organised religion, I’ve always felt there was a spiritual gap in my life. I envy my friend’s meditative connection to a higher power when they pray. When I’m struggling with my mental illnesses, I know the ability to focus my mind would give me peace. Yet meditation is not an easy skill to learn as I’ve struggled with it for many years. However, those practising Wicca take this training as the due course in their craft.
“Be aware…that disciplines are ineffective unless a routine is established because the unconscious is attuned to patterns and will respond easily once the pattern of a conscious routine is rhythmic.”[ii]
In my local Vincent De Paul, I came across a book on Witchcraft, and absentmindedly bought it as research for one of my projects. In reading it a revelationary paradigm was cracked. Not only due to its descriptive worth, but it’s connections to female power struggles throughout history. While the modern Wicca has both male and female practitioners, it’s roots are in paganism and witchcraft. Both known for their charged feminine figures.
As a feminist I hunger to understand the lore of the feminine, and that which is interwoven into my body. It was comforting to discover that our pagan ancestors used their awareness of the heavens to not only influences the outer world but their inner worlds. To them inner peace begat outer peace.
“Discovering the sublime silence at the center of your being and activating that center.”[iii]
Of course, as Halloween approaches, (my favourite time of the year), that which is chilling surfaces. Yet it is my duty to remind you that although dark magic exists and was practised as a religion throughout the ages, those that called themselves witches were persecuted out of fear. Not as a result of any true evil. Women were murdered for their independence, for displaying fortitude, and simply for their feminine energies.
Wicca was born in the 20th century out of the ashes of witchcraft and paganism. It can be practised alone or as the member of a coven. It’s the way of the Goddess, to live beyond the ego, to firmly grasp your senses, so you are their ruler. “Awareness is the ability to literally read the feelings in the air…awareness means control of one’s undertakings.”[iv] Wicca is not about changing the outside world to your every whim. It’s changing how you process your inner world so your journey in life may be more mindful, enjoyable, and rich.
There is something about music that stirs me primally. It disturbs me how it can cascade through my mind. Only when I listen to music, do I tap into parts of myself which are reserved for the divine. This is uncontrollable. I compare it to drinking a glass of good whiskey.
Normally I go look for the science of it all, try and understand parts of my brain that causes this. Not today.
Today I admit music’s true power. It’s human magic and cannot be explained purely by science. Our language doesn’t have a chance against this allurement and the feelings conjured.
Although I know I am someone who feels deeply, and could simply be overly sensitive to most human experiences, I cannot deny the truth in it. Music is a balm.
Like a drug, it’s effect is heady. A simple lyric, drum beat, or refrain can cause my heart to beat faster, my head to feel light, and my hands to tingle.
We are listening to other’s love, sorrow, pain, anger. Our bodies are trained to hear this for better or for worse.
It is a chasm I grateful leap into at every possible chance, my sweet prince.
Remember, I don’t even need to name individual songs/albums/artists, because you’re already thinking of the one.
Inspired by: My Sweet Prince – Placebo (1998 – Without You I’m Nothing)
I’m going to make everything really awkward for a bit so buckle up. Last week I was very ill. It was spent alternating between crying and feelings of numbness. Immediately after that week, I had 24 hours of pain in my abdomen. Thinking I was constipated or something (despite the large amount of fibre in my diet) I proceeded to eat plenty of beans and bowel friendly food.
I wake up on Tuesday morning and boom. Period in my pants. Less than 25 days since the beginning of my last one. So, in order to make myself feel better, I apply makeup and do my hair. Less than a year ago. This would not have been the case.
By the way, this blog post was not planned. I actually have my blog posts planned until pretty much 2019. (I haven’t necessarily written them, but there you go). Also if you don’t feel like reading all this today, I have a link to my Youtube video below explaining everything.
I want to talk about: Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Now although I have not been diagnosed with this, it would appear that I have many of the symptoms, especially in regards to depression.
I’ve been keeping a journal just monitoring my general well-being and moods. It appears that the week before my period, my depression is heightened. I’ve always had some form of depression and was only recently diagnosed in 2016 / 2017. I will be bringing this evidence to a gynecologist as soon as I can.
When you think you’re doing everything right by eating well, maintaining healthy relationships, working in a job you love, you feel like depressive episodes shouldn’t be too frequent. For me though it’s always bubbling under the surface. The symptoms are as real as any other disease and there is no definitive cure. So if my period is making it worse, well then I’m going to try everything in my power to, A) find ways to alleviate the pain, and B) build a better internal dialogue with myself.
Women are often ridiculed, “Oh don’t get so offended, you must just have your period.” Which, besides deserving zero response, is not fair. If our internal workings are really affecting some of us so deeply, shouldn’t we at least be allowed talk about it like adults?
It’s been 15 years since the beginning of my period and the realisation of its effect on my life has only recently clicked. When I said earlier that less than a year ago, I wouldn’t have bothered with makeup and hair to make myself feel better, I’m being honest. The general feeling during my period was self-blame. You shouldn’t feel sad, just get on with things, stop being such a baby.
This is not ok. Remember, if you are suffering from depression, regardless of how it is caused or exacerbated, repeat this to yourself. “It’s not my fault.” That’s like saying your auto-immune disease is your fault or the symptoms from the flu is your fault. It’s crazy and it’s pointless.
If anything I’m going to continue to make people uncomfortable and talk period talk. Especially if I spend up to a week beforehand alternating between crying uncontrollably and feeling completely numb.
The mad part? A lot of friends and family will read this, who were with me last week, and they will be super confused because I didn’t let any of this out in front of them. Which is just exhausting, let me tell you. I’m always exhausted.
“It does appear to be mocking you with its eyeballs.” – Willow
“Its nose hole is sad and full of self-loathing.” – Oz
Screenshot of the Episode:
There’s a party at the frat house, and they’ve painted some creepy symbol on the floor. How have they not realised by now? Do not draw symbols, from ancient texts books, on your floor, when you live on the Hellmouth. The gang gets stuck in the party house as it manifests their fears. To make matters worse some in-fighting causes fractures. Meanwhile Xander’s invisible. Halloween is never quiet for the Scoobies.
“Creatures of the night shy away from Halloween, they find it much too crass.” – Giles. Famous last words…
I would just like to mention this is the fourth episode I have randomly selected. The kicker? I selected Season 4, Episode 4. “Number 4 is the number of stability, order, and completion of justice.”[i]
This season threw Buffy for a loop. Her roommate turned out to be a soul-sucking demon (literally not figuratively), a vampire called Sunday breaks her ‘class-protector’ award, she gets yelled at by professor, and she sleeps with a guy who never calls her back. By the time we get to this episode Buffy’s mood is downright morose.
“I was just thinking about the life of a pumpkin. Grow up in the sun, happily entwined with others. Then someone comes along, cuts you open, and rips your guts out.” – Buffy
Now while I’m sure this declaration has a lot to do with Parker Abrams, there is some subtext here. College can be an exceptionally tough transition, and while Willow is flourishing in the academic life, Buffy is barely treading water. Her metaphorical ‘guts’ can be equated with her identify. When you are in high school, you have certain ideas about who you are and the structure of reality.
Upon venturing out into the world, many of us need to completely overhaul our aspirations and vision of self. Of course, this is not a pleasant experience for all. This season we see an unemployed Giles, Xander still living with his parents in the basement, Anya wanting to be around Xander while barely putting up with the rest of the group, and Buffy struggling to understand her place in the world. It’s no surprise she can’t deal:
“Taking a holiday from dealing. Happily vacationing in the land of not coping.” – Buffy
Even Giles is acting very un-Giles-like. She finds him dressed in a sombrero and poncho, embracing Halloween. His proclamation of, “it’s alive,” when he shows her his Frankenstein Monster decoration throws her off completely. While this may be one of my favourite scenes, (I love when Giles gets to show his playful side), it stuns Buffy who is searching for the stability Giles has always offered her.
Her mother tries to quell her fears, saying she will always be there for her. (This is heart-wrenching knowing that Joyce dies in the following season). Still, Buffy’s abandonment issues reign throughout this episode and the series. While at the conclusion of the episode we see some bravery from Buffy regarding her issues with Parker, there are still dangers lurking in the outside world which she will have to face sooner or later.
For Xander, not much has changed. He is blindly ambling through life, and his relationship with Anya, I feel, blossoms out of loneliness. Xander feels like he’s being left out. Everyone else is at college and he’s in his parent’s basement. These feelings leave him with a propensity to accept that which is in front of him.
Xander: “Well that’s the funny thing about me, I tend to hear the actual words people say and accept them at face value.”
Anya: “That’s stupid.”
Xander: “I can accept that.”
Willow has decided to reinvent herself, away from her strict parents. She has a boyfriend, the dark arts, and a place of learning where she excels. She embraces the college experience.
“Then again what is college for if not experimenting?” – Willow
This newfound self-allows her to question Buffy’s ‘authority.’ She argues that Buffy is not automatically the boss because she is the Slayer. In fact, this argument will rear its ugly head throughout the show, notably in Season 7 when Buffy is kicked out of her own house in place of Faith. Willow has begun experimenting with magic in a big way. This allows her to tap into power she’s never felt before. She feels embolden to challenge Buffy’s authority as ipso facto leader of the group.
“I’m not your sidekick!” – Willow.
While she believes she is displaying strength, it’s really just a manifestation of her perpetual jealousy for Buffy. Even though she may have internal misgivings about this jealousy. It must be said that long before Willow discovered her power, she was jealous of the attention Xander gave to Buffy. Willow was too shy to protest, and she wanted Buffy’s friendship more than anything. According to Field (2013), Willow’s anger is mixed with her fear that she will always be irrelevant, no matter how much she perceives herself to change.
Although she may challenges Buffy’s right to authority, she will never quite break through it. This is explained by Kawal (2003) essay when an interesting point about Buffy’s heroism is made:
“…Buffy’s heroic and saintly actions aren’t one-time events. It’s not as if she just went and saved a kitten from a tree one day and appeared as a hero in the local paper. Instead, her entire life is devoted to protecting others-she risks her life and sacrifices her own interests night after night, year after year.”[ii]
This is what makes’ Buffy’s right to be the ‘Boss’ apparent to others, but strangely not to Willow. Even with all Willow’s intelligence and support of Buffy, she seems to forget about Buffy’s sacrifices. Instead, her reaction to lean into childish jealousies makes her seem petty. I guess we’re all human.
Another dimension to Willow’s objections may be viewed as not singularly egotistical, but emulating Buffy’s version of right and wrong. In Shroud’s (2003) essay Buffy’s actions are equated with the Kantian morality:
“The Kantian vision of morality is a system of individual agents pursuing their goals, the ideal version of this plan also involves individual agents continuously struggling to order their lives and their actions through maxims based not on inclination, but instead on the moral law.”[iii]
It stands to reason that because Buffy is the leader. Therefore, Willow is attempting to universalize Buffy’s sense of morality. However, this is not possible for ‘lay people’ such as Willow or Xander, as according to Shroud:
“…if Buffy retreats from the role of the slayer, the results will be disastrous for the community – innocent lives will perish…”
Buffy has obligations which Willow does not. Buffy struggles to relate to her friends, but she’ll never be truly like them. Her friends reach-out, in an attempt to meet her in the middle, but a middle-ground can never be reached. This decent within the group is often seen among the females, who tend to have the most power. Anya: vengeance Demon, Willow: powerful witch, Faith: Fellow Slayer. Standing passively during this argument is Xander and Oz.
So when Buffy suggests she separate from the group by sending the Scoobies home (which she has done frequently in the past), Willow more than objects:
Willow: “It’s not your decision.”
Buffy: “Gotta disagree with you there.”
Willow: “Oh of course you do!”
This is course is all happening while Xander is invisible. He does not know this yet, so his words of reason and resilience fall on deaf ears. Willow becomes snappy almost to the point of bitterness:
“Being the Slayer doesn’t automatically make you boss, you’re as lost as the rest of us.” – Willow
This foreshadows Willow’s eventual demise into evil. We have seen Buffy loses Angel, but she did not rage towards evil. Whereas Willow will blame Tara’s death for the inexcusable. Willow’s outward sweet demur hides a dark disquiet within which she does not address. In fact, she blatantly ignores the dangers:
“I can handle the dark forces as well as anyone else. It’s not that hard.” – Willow
Oz, on the other hand, is well on the way to addressing his literal inner demons. We see him cowering the bathtub quaking, repeating, “you’re not gonna change,” over and over.
Earlier in the episode we see he’s already having trouble understanding his wolf-like nature:
“I know what it’s like having access to power you can’t control. When I start to wolf out, I touch something, deep, dark. It’s not fun.” – Oz
Finally, I’d like to reflect on this interesting perspective from Daspit (2003) on the Buffyverse. He equates the shifting of a person’s internal knowledge within the lives of the characters during this season; as a reflection on how the world shifted into ‘postmodernity’ in the late 20th and early 21st century. He describes Buffy’s experience as follows:
“As Buffy struggles to make sense of life after high school, viewers are invited to witness the transitional dissonance of shifting views of knowledge and education and to see themselves on the developing terrain of postmodernity.”[iv]
However, ‘this end of history’[v] and a ‘complete cosmology’ was experienced in the late 20th and early 21st century. Where the postmodern age allowed for the confrontation of the status quo. “In other words, postmodernity challenges many taken-for-granted assumptions of the classical Western mindset.”[vi] However, it’s seems as though the pendulum has swung back to the premodern thought. Especially in the case of the United States of America. It’s frightening to consider the Trump-Presidency-Era as a throwback to the premodern idea of a fully-formed ‘cosmology.’ Where America was ‘great,’ and certain modern developments are inherently wrong/evil.
Look, in my opinion, fear is important, but it’s how we deal with fear, that’s what really separates the conservatives from the liberals. (Don’t get too excited, that’s a joke. Mostly). We should make friends with our fears, it will help us be more self-reflective. Otherwise, we might end up invisible, being chased by green entities, as a werewolf, alone underground. Ok? Buffy isn’t afraid of being alone, she’s afraid that her fighting won’t get her anywhere.
But do you want to know the truth?
(You’re going to get it anyway.)
She does get somewhere, and we all will too. Fight the good fight, because you don’t want to get to the end, and realise you don’t have any battle scars to speak of.
If you are not looking for relationship advice/ hate mushy stuff / and or terrible poetry, click away before you get hurt!
Ok, are we all here because we want to be and are interested? You have been forewarned.
You know the way sometimes you’re in a relationship, (whether that be with a partner or even just a friend), and you’re suspicious of it? Basically, your brain isn’t fully committed, and its judgment is clouded by your heart.
Your intuition will try to warn you. In a romantic relationship, you might ignore these because you don’t want to be alone. Maybe you’ll change your mind and have those babies in the future?
Not for me, it’s not fair on you, or the other person. I knew I couldn’t continue with one of my relationships because he wanted it all. Marriage, loads of kids, the works. What did I want? Independence, freedom to pursue my dreams, and a life without children of my own. I was terribly sad when I ended that relationship, and I felt awful for weeks. (Your first major breakup is always the worst). I did genuinely love this person at the time.
Except there can be happy endings. (Well they’re not endings because we’re only in our late 20s so, they’re more like midways). Anyways, now I have a wonderful partner who has the same outlook on children as I do and supports me pursuing my career. Also, my ex is now happily married. What more could you ask for?
I had another relationship where I didn’t feel valued or truly loved and trust me you need to get out of those. You deserve nothing but the best.
Basically, I want to show you how your intuition will manifest your subconsciousness in strange ways. Here are two of my poems. The first was written in 2009 when I wasn’t sure of my relationship. The second was written in 2018 when I have no doubts. The difference (apart from a little improvement stylistically) is the conscious differentiation between doubt and conviction.
I’m not sure where it’s agreeable,
To make your life plan,
Don’t forget, you won’t regret,
If you have a score on a stand.
Won’t you look at us now,
Cross that bridge, when we come down.
Tied to a plan, you didn’t lay out,
And you’ve lost all you’re crayons from the early hours.
When I began commuting to Dublin in 2012 it was busy but bearable. Now it’s torturous. The transport infrastructure has not kept up with demand, as current traffic levels were not expected until 2020.[i] Some TDs are even calling for a second ring road to be built.[ii]
I’ve spoken about my anxiety here before, and nothing exacerbates my anxiety quite like traffic. When I’m in a room, or shop that’s too crowded, 9 times out of 10 I can leave. When I’m in Dublin traffic, there is nowhere to go, and I’m trapped. Not a good feeling when you have anxiety (or just when you are a human being in general).
I’ve tried many solutions. Trains and buses were out of the questions because they were far more expensive than my own car. (I am on a student stipend). Leaving earlier in the morning, leaving later in the evening was also doomed to fail, as the volume of traffic prevents this from being a viable solution. I’ve listened to audiobooks in an attempt to distract me from the stress and not waste those hours. I’ve even tried breathing meditations. Which work for about 5 minutes until a fellow road user does something completely inconsiderate and I’m back to square one. My only option was to work from home.
Yet I am one of the lucky few. Being able to work from home for most of the last 2 years comes from the flexibility in my career. There is only a need to venture into the city when I have a meeting or some other unavoidable human interaction. This has made my life infinitely better and I am more grateful than ever for my job.
Millions are not so lucky.
Humans continue to behave in ways our bodies were not built for because it is ‘expected’ of us. It is unhealthy for us to sit for 1 – 2 hours plus every day in traffic, with our blood pressure rising, and our mental health deteriorating.
It’s not healthy for us to spend our days in pursuits that literally makes us depressed. Draining our vital mental energy, so when we finally arrive home, even cooking a healthy meal for ourselves seems like a cruel joke.
Remember, if your brain is sad, this will transfer to your body. That’s because, spoiler alert, your brain is part of your body!
People are out for themselves when they are driving in traffic. I’ve stopped a few feet extra from a red light, to let a car out of a perpendicular road, and I’ve actually been beeped, by the car behind me. More than once. Where is common decency when traffic is involved? People are so amped up and unequipped to deal with the misplaced rage. All we can do as an individual driver is to be the sensible one. Be the one who’s kind and let’s other drivers out. If someone is driving dangerously, get out of their way, because you could end up getting hurt because of their lack of human decency and consideration.[iv]
“Working from home is not for everybody!” I hear this on a daily basis, people argue that you’re isolating yourself, or you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. That you need to work harder to prove your worth. As always I say there are positives and negatives to both kinds of jobs:
“There’s also evidence that some freelancers “overcommit” to work and find it difficult to disconnect or relax, which they say negatively affects their mental health. But overall, the health effects of self-employment seem to vary from person to person and—like office jobs—can be either positive or negative.”[v]
For me especially the good outweighs the bad, because let me tell you something, it would appear that a large majority of workers who have to commute to work aren’t flourishing in that environment either.
Stress is horrible, stress kills, and although we all know this, for some reason we continue to run like hamsters on a wheel. Just because it appears to be the norm, doesn’t mean it’s normal. All of your friends and family are stressed out, so I should just get on with it, right? Wrong. Just google stress-related illnesses. It basically causes a huge amount and apparently autoimmune diseases too.[vi]If that doesn’t scare you it should.
Also, what about the massive amounts of people who die or are crippled on our roads each year? 78 people have died on Irish roads already in the first six months of this year.[vii]
The answer to all of this? Mindfulness. Be aware of who you are as an individual and a human being. Figure out what works for you. If a job is causing an illness and it’s not satisfying, find a way out. Trust me, working for less money, in a more fulfilling career is worth it. I know because I did it, and gave up a lot of luxuries most people think they cannot live without.
Traffic is one of the worst side effects of humanity’s rapid urbanisation. I literally dream of a house in the country. Not because I don’t want people in my life, but because it seems that as soon as someone gets behind the wheel of a car, a rational part of their humanity switches off and they forget common courtesy. We need to reduce traffic anyway for the environment, why not be one of the innovative individuals that changes their own lives for the better.
When I was 15 I discovered anthropology at Maynooth University. I fell in love and I didn’t want to learn anything else. It called out to me in a way few subjects have since. Philosophy and nature are its parents. It is like a river, you never step in the same one twice.[i] Which is why it’s so uniquely suited to everything.
I managed to graduate from my undergrad, how, I’m still not certain. 2010 marked a tumultuous time in my life, and I only understand now how depression and anxiety played their parts. I spend 3 long years in the job market (miserably). Then a light came in 2013 when I was accepted for a Masters in anthropology and development, in my beloved Maynooth. So over 2 years, I studied my favourite subject again, this time solely.
Even with the seriousness of the subject matter, I still found my whimsical side, which I would like to share with you today. In 2014 I wrote an essay for a class by Dr Steve Coleman of Maynooth University. Rereading it has at times made me laugh out loud. Why he gave me a 2.1 on it I’ll never truly know. Shout out to Steve!
I’ve included some extracts below and it has been sufficiently altered for syntax and clarity. Also, Jenni of today has added some stuff for context and you can see that in italics. So if you’ve made it this far enjoy my stalwart friend!
Animation as Performance
The online world is an endless void of connected humanity. Projections of the self are possible online which are not available to us in the tactile world. Although there are situations where it is acceptable to enact your fandom in ‘real time,’ through ‘Cosplay,’ (the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga or anime) such as during Halloween, at conventions, or in theme parks; online personalities offer an outlet for people who want to explore an alternative version of themselves. This often takes place through participation in online communities such as MMO’s (an online video game which can be played by a very large number of people simultaneously). Manning & Gershon explain how the avatars make it possible for people to distance themselves from their bodies:
“…in the virtual worlds of Massively Multiple Online Games (MMOGs). Avatars are virtual embodiments that permit, at the outset, a complete divorce between the body of the offline player and the body of the online character and permit large numbers of offline players to interact socially within a single virtual world mediated by these online embodiments.”
Jesse & James (Pokémon)
Jesse & James (Cosplay)
Animation has rapidly become one of the most prevalent expressions of new media this century. Silvio provides a perspective on the popularity of animation:
“The proliferation of animation and animated characters is not simply an effect or symptom of the intersection of computer technology and structural transformations in global capitalism. Animation is also popular because it provides a productive trope for thinking through this intersection.”
The topics I will discuss are YouTube and its relevant fandoms. People reinvent themselves online, they perform through the genre of another, and live action has even been transformed into animation. Silvio reinforces, “animation as an alternative model of and for human action in the world,” which is something anthropology seeks to link new animism.
Animism: Descola and Kohn
Descola provides a lens with which to look upon humanity, and the dual system of nature-culture, in his work ‘The Ecology of Others,’
“Making modern dualism the template for all the states of the world has thus lead anthropology to a particular form of academic Eurocentrism, which consists in believing not that the realities that humans objectivise are everywhere identical, but that our own manner of objectivising is universally shared.”
This thought process, although not new, challenges both the dualism of the Eurocentric (focusing on European culture or history to the exclusion of a wider view of the world; implicitly regarding European culture as pre-eminent) anthropology and the belief of anthropologist that all cosmologies (an account or theory of the origin of the universe) objectify the same way. Performance in animation can be adopted here in order to understand cosmologies that may appear to be outside the scope of animism, such as European cultures. Though the stories enacted often have a ‘first world perspective,’ the potential of the digital age to create analogies requires further exploration. Never before could we channel our likes, wants, and needs into something such as the video platform YouTube. YouTube is a nascent form of media which allows anyone to upload content, as long as it follows the community guidelines. The platform is relatively democratic, your views are the votes for what content is pushed to the fore.
The more we watch, the more YouTube calculates our interests through their algorithms, which in turn can generate advertisement revenue, incentivising the creators. YouTube also creates a market for animations. The consumers get what they want, which is more of their favourite animated characters. This is then exemplified by fans seeing themselves in the animated characters. It cannot be ignored and Silvio provides us with this concept:
“My project in this essay, to set up animation as a platform for the comparative study of how human beings negotiate the relationship between self and world, both includes such projects of intellectual history and, of course, should itself be subjected to cultural and historical contextualization.”
Here we can replace the terms ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ with ‘self’ and ‘world’. Which is what Descola was trying to produce in the ‘Ecology of Others.’ Western discourse believes it is complete and therefore other cosmologies should reflect it. It is pertinent however that we do not assume this. Each individual has their own system of meaning which they attach to the nature of their being. It seems both appropriate and fashionable in Western cultures to separate cultural being from natural being, as only one of those has the tools to survive within the systems capitalism and the neoliberal market have constructed. What must be understood is that all cognizant beings have a ‘self.’ This ‘self’ is only separated into sections by the environment they find themselves in such as their workplace or their community. What animation may give us is the picture of the human as a whole rather than the pieces we normally find ourselves in.
Fandoms, Youtubers, and Performance
We continue our journey through the internet with animation as our guiding trope. We encounter a phenomenon which lends itself to the anthropology as far back as Mauss, and gift exchange. With online community accounts offered for free, people can spend leisure time creating or enjoying fan art, which is more often than not, a reflection of some fandom or other.
The offering from YouTube comes from those who describe themselves as ‘Lets Plays.’ These YouTubers record themselves playing video games and their reactions to them. The most common reaction type is comedic, however, they vary. One such YouTuber calls himself Markiplier; his popularity exceeds 6 million subscribers. (Now with over 20 million as of June 2018). With this enormous fanbase dutifully watching his videos, he is able to make a living out of YouTube. Markiplier is known to play horror games in which he appears authentically frightened, which seems to be a large part of his allure. He is brave, according to himself. He uses his voice to give life to characters in the game. A memorable life-giving moment took place in his ‘lets play’ for an Amnesia custom story. He encounters a ‘tiny box’, pictured below, which he proceeds to call, ‘Tiny Box Tim.’ He announces he will bring Tiny Box Tim on adventures with him. Markiplier gives voice and life to an animation from a game. The first question that must be addressed is why? It would appear that humans give life to the inanimate; it seems to be innate for us to personify the world around us.
This event spawned an animation in which a cartoon Markiplier and Tiny Box Tim were inserted into the game, pictured in below, using an audio snippet from Markiplier’s original video. This 2.00-minute animation, which on Markiplier’s channel now has over 7 million views(now at 20 million), Was a made by a fellow YouTuber, and Markiplier fan called Lixian. This animation fascinating, not only as it awards the opportunity for the gamer Markiplier to appear inside the game, but it also gives life by means of animation to Tiny Box Tim. This character has gone on to appear in other Amnesia stories and animations with Markiplier. Markiplier set this in motion by imprinting himself onto Tiny Box Tim, which has spawned much fan art from Markiplier fans.
This is a wonderful example of Marcel Maus idea of gift exchange. Markiplier is free to use the channel to upload videos, he is compensated by YouTube for ad revenues in relation to time watched on his videos, allowing his viewers to watch for free. This is the result of a gift exchange between the YouTuber and the ‘fan’. This is described by Helleskon:
“…The gifts have value within the fannish economy in that they are designed to create and cement a social structure, but they themselves are not meaningful outside their context…”
So what we see unfolding is Markiplier’s video which provides comedy, in response fans that cannot compensate him in a conventional sense, create fan art such as the animation above. This performance is projected onto animations such as those during gameplay. Markiplier’s voice and personality is projected onto something inanimate, such as a tiny box.
This also is something which may affect Silvio’s belief that animated characters are the only ones that have lives of their own, as this is something live ‘characters’ such as Marilyn Monroe or Mick Jagger cannot have. In the case I have described above the animator Lixian became the live character of Markiplier by creating a representation of Markiplier through his own unique animation style, and use of Markiplier’s original audio. If we follow Silvio on this:
“When we follow an animated character we do much more than anthropormorpasize theme, we in fact, inject ourselves into them. Not only becoming like them, but becoming them, feeling what they are feeling and experiencing what they are feeling. Giving life and logic to something like an animated toy in Toy Story.”
Lixian created his interpretation of what happened, and now the animation gives us the possibility to feel not only what Markiplier felt but what Tiny Box Tim felt. Which pictured in below were; determination, joy, pride, and sadness.
The labour of humanity has allowed this to exist. Not only has a tiny box been animated, but it has been given the range of human emotions, making it real to us.
“Thanks to labour, humans extract their means of subsistence from their environment which they partially transform, metamorphosing themselves in the process in that they establish a social mediation with their fellow humans and with objects.”
Humans have this ability to personify the inanimate as we have a deep-rooted need to define the world. This is increasingly becoming the reality of play for children and adults alike. Play is now extended beyond childhood into a safe online environment, where we can build and define our relationships. We can see how we may like ourselves to be. The act of YouTubing as a ‘letsplayer’ has some interesting connotations when we consider this quote.
“Silvio points out that this is also true for moments of performance—all sorts of people enable actors to do their jobs. But when people interpret actors’ performance, they still focus on the embodied nature of the performance and the relationship of the actor to the role. Not so with animation. Animation brings this misrecognition in which a character is created by many to the foreground. So the labor underlying animation also contributes to the ways multiplicities can be conflated with an individual character…”
YouTubers are a phenomenon yet to be examined in great detail. YouTuber’s will often find animations of themselves, whether solicited or unsolicited, appearing from clips of their popular videos. This enables the fans to both insert themselves in the narrative of the YouTuber and also insert the YouTuber into the world of the game. The initial reaction of a YouTuber is as if they are in the game environment, which is the nature of gaming, whether you video yourself or not. By animating the moments, life has been brought to both the character of the YouTuber and the environment of the game.
Incredibly Manning & Gershon take Silvio animation tropes one step further adding an interesting dimension:
“What if this trope of animation sheds light on dilemmas otherwise obscured when one interprets interactions based on a self-divided by the tension between character and actor, between performance and true self?”
This offers something anthropology is always searching for in its discourse, especially when we consider the idea of the human having more than one self-described by Bourdieu’s ‘habitus’ and ‘field’ model. Although we are a complete person at all times when we are in certain situations we are enacting different versions of ourselves. Therefore interaction with animation is an interesting lens with which to view a person. For example, cosplayers, take an animated character, and embodied them, being both the character and themselves at the same time. Not only is this identifying mimicking an animation, but holding more than one reality in your mind at once.
We must remember we live in a world which is dominated by an online presence. Those of us online, have so many different identities, even in our use of emoticons to animate our emotions and reactions on what is a 2-dimensional space. It is undeniable that there are many versions of ourselves, and many use art to project themselves. A writer cannot separate themselves from their words, we now we have animations to enact ourselves through. They are templates waiting for someone to come along and ‘play’ them.
Buffy to Dawn: “True, but technically you’re one and a half.” – In reference to her only being created at the beginning of season 5.
Screenshot of the Episode:
This episode is packed full of emotions, complexities, and plot developments. Notably, the episode follows Anya, the renewed vengeance demon. She tries in vain to wound Xander and by getting his friends to wish horrible acts of mutilation on him. The vengeance comes to her in the end. The Scoobies discover that ‘The Trio’ have hidden cameras throughout Sunnydale to monitor Buffy and friends. Anya has sex with Spike on the table in the Magic Box, an act everyone, including Dawn, witnesses.
Things fall apart.
This season was despised by fans for its dark atmosphere and what was considered inaccurate character choices. Even I found it distasteful when I first watched it. It grew on me as I aged, my life experience provided perspective. Philosophically this season flourishes in the shadows of human nature, showing us the darker side of our emotions. From Buffy’s treatment of herself and Spike, to Willow’s plunge into addiction, Dawn’s kleptomania, and finally Xander’s weakness of character, we are overcome with tenebrosity. I believe the season has value, so please allow me to play Devil’s advocate, that we might identify the life lessons we’ve all learned the hard way.
This season saw the breakdown of several relationships. From Buffy and Giles parting ways, Dawn’s kleptomania and Buffy’s complete ignorance of the fact, Willow’s abuse of magic and Tara, to Xander leaving Anya at the altar. Although we are often taught from a young age that love conquers all, it won’t. This is evidenced by Xander’s declaration, “I wish we could go back to the way things were before.” A childish train of thought to be sure, but we’ve all felt this exact painful flood of emotions when our actions cause irreversible consequences. However, it is common with grief too, “prompt fruitless fantasies of turning back time,” according to Korsmeyer (2008).
Love is like fire, it’s hot and transformative. We often lose control of it, as it’s notoriously hard to handle, and it can be so easily extinguished. I don’t know any human who hasn’t suffered heartache in some way. It is part of our journey that we learn to heal ourselves and self-soothe, however many people never reach this stage in their development. We see Xander and Anya fighting, their love transformed. To self-loathing for Xander, and wrath for Anya. This is shown through Anya’s bitter exclamation, “Yes honesty now. Congratulations Xander. I wonder what the medal will say.” According to Korsmeyer (2008) when love is mixed with anger there is a certain vigour to it.
When I first watched this season, my anger was only directed at Xander. He was the sole villain of the piece, abandoning his love at the altar. My perspective has now shifted and although Anya was not to blame for the abandonment, her actions following the wedding-that-never-was are wrought with hypocrisy. According to Korsmeyer’s (2008) close scrutiny of Anya and Xander’s relationship, the love Anya feels for Xander is all consuming. She may have displayed affection for the other members of the group, but Xander was the only one she loved.
“…it would seem that although romantic love demands that we love only one person, forsaking all others, we may not properly be said to love truly if one person is all that we are capable of loving.”
Therefore it’s no surprise at her irrational behavior of engaging in sex with Spike on the table in The Magic Box. It really puts the nail in the coffin of Anya and Xander’s relationship. It also reflects the point made by Field (2013) that:
“As was hinted at the end of Hell’s Bells, Anya’s humanity (metaphorically, her adulthood) was fragile enough that it couldn’t withstand the crushing emotional blow of Xander leaving her at the altar.”
Her deep love transmuted to wrath, she has sex with Spike in The Magic Box, as vengeance burns in her heart. Of anyone she could have cheated with, Xander could not forgive her for cheating with Spike. However, Field (2013) again considers this to be a display of her need for affirmation from someone for her pain:
“…I saw her behavior as seeking validation for her pain. She didn’t really get that from the SG females, but she did with Spike. And when she did, she hushed his wish.”
While actions have consequences, all of our actions have intent. Anya’s decision to sleep with Spike was that, a decision. We call on the Law of Congruity here, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Xander leaves Anya at the Altar, so she seeks vengeance. She struggles to achieve this as no one will take her bait. Anya: “Didn’t I mention the whole, left me at the altar thing!?” We’ve all experienced the separation from friends when we break up with a partner. Although the gang is happy to have Anya back, they will not allow the anger to overtake them. This leaves Anya is desperate and alone.
Anya is dressed in red throughout this episode. A nod towards the colour of love, blood, and wrath. Spike is completely in black. This could be viewed as his lack of a soul. The reason why Buffy believes he couldn’t truly love her is that he is soulless. The love is only real for him. According to Milavec & Kaye (2008) their relationship was doomed regardless of whether or not Buffy terminated it:
“Buffy and Spike demonstrate the friendship of pleasure based on irrationality… Erotic love cannot survive on passion alone.”
The below scene, with Anya, Buffy, Spike, and Xander, speaks to the chaos the group has descended to. I noticed on closer inspection some nuances in Anya’s reaction to Buffy and Spike’s relationship. She displays clear grief and guilt at the realisation. I don’t believe she would have done what she did knowing Buffy and Spike had just parted ways. Her face of realisation and her soft, “Buffy,” shows her feelings are more complex than previously surmised.
Buffy also tries to mend her relationship with Dawn, yet she still misses the underlying reason Dawn strayed in the first place. Dawn is the only one in the group to be treated as a child, and it’s common for teenagers to want freedom and respect. This relationship is on it’s way to restoration, but only after Buffy realises Dawn’s needs.
Of course, the most heartbreaking moments come from beloved Willow and Tara. They meet in the hall of the University, they meet in the coffee shop, and they are on their way to reconciliation. Sadly we are witnessing some of their final scenes together. Tara’s declaration, “You can’t ever, put them back the way they were,” followed by, “can we just skip it? Can you just be kissing me now?” is tragically bittersweet. As the next episode is her last. We take this moment to consider if Tara had chosen to wait. Would she have lived? Could this be the Buffyverse punishing those who skip rehabilitation? According to Field (2013) Tara made the right decision leaving Willow, not because Willow was addicted to magic, but because Willow violated her mind and trust, in (and not exclusively) Tabula Rasa.“Tara left precisely because she understood she was being mistreated.”
This episode is the stirring of the pot, the beginning of the end. The remaining four episodes in this season showcase the villain within us all. Suddenly although Anya is the demon, her darkness is outshone by the monster Willow becomes. Her eventual descent into caliginosity was inevitable. Tara’s tragic death was the excuse that she could justify the abuse of power for.
She forgets that love is not resigned to the romantic alone, and we have responsibilities to all the love we feel.
Alison Krauss – “That Kind of Love.” Plays over the end of the episode.