She is gorram funny my friends. Let’s be honest, BTVS was comedic gold. While each character had their own uniquely humorous personalities, Buffy held her own. She often came out with zingy one-liners, pop-culture references, and wonderful puns.
“Cordelia, your mouth is open, sound is coming from it. This is never good.” – Buffy
“Harmony, when you tried to be head cheerleader, you were bad. When you tried to chair the Homecoming committee, you were really bad. But when you try to be bad… you suck.” – Buffy
“If the apocalypse comes, beep me.” – Buffy
“She irons her jeans, she’s evil!” – Buffy
“Well, in that case, I won’t wear my button that says, ‘I’m a Slayer. Ask me how.’” – Buffy
“I’m not exactly quaking in my stylish yet affordable boots here” – Buffy
2. Girl Power
Buffy Summers is surrounded by equally amazing, truly compelling female characters. Yet she neither outshines or pales in comparison to them. The cast of BTVS had real women, with unique traits, flaws, and stories.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Let’s be honest the show is built on girl power. The strongest person in the room was usually a woman. Buffy endures not in spite of her feminity, but because of it. Her emotional intelligence coupled with her growing wisdom makes her a sage to the potentials by season 7.
She also proves you can be a true feminist, who believes woman are equal to men. She loves men but has equal space for the women in her life. She reinforces other women and they reinforce her, which is what we need to do. Women need not be in competition with one another but see our individual wins as a win for all.
“Are you ready to be strong?” – Buffy
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Although she is strong, she is in touch with her emotions and is not afraid to show her soft side. She’s a wonderful role model for young girls. She went through breakups, betrayals, and death, never once shying away from crying or showing the pertinent emotion.
She goes through the complete rainbow of emotions throughout the span of the show, and she also is not afraid to make mistakes. The world often tells women that if you are soft and cry, that you can’t be strong too. Well, Buffy proves that is false. She even says:
“…my emotions give me power. They’re total assets!” – Buffy
4. Embracing Life
Sometimes life isn’t fair, and we are not all born into equal opportunities. Buffy spends a huge part of the show fighting her calling as a vampire slayer. However, she finally embraces this part of herself. This lesson is something we all can use. It allows us to see that we must accept all parts of ourselves and life. We need both the light and the dark for life to be truly meaningful.
She taught us that the people we love sometimes act out irrationally when they are hurting. After her death at the hands of The Master, she showed signs of PTSD. When she was shown kindness and compassion she figured out how to deal with the situation. After her mother died, she really stepped up to the plate. Although it wasn’t easy, and she made many mistakes, Buffy became a mother to Dawn.
After Finding Her Mothers Body
After Finding Her Mothers Body
After Finding Her Mothers Body
After Finding Her Mothers Body
Buffy may have gone through endless trials and tribulations, from killing Angel to losing her mother (pictured above). Yet she persevered throughout finding her strength from within. During a fight with Angelus, he taunts her, all of her friends are gone, her weapons, and hope. He asks her what’s left. She simply says, “me.”
5. Facing Her Fears
If we stay within the bubble of our comfort zone we will never grow or learn. Buffy provides us with the wisdom, that the only way through your fears is to face them.
In Season 1 even though she knew she was going to die, she still went down into the Master’s lair. In Season 5 when she realised that only her blood could close the portal, and save the world, she jumped. In Season 7 when The First Evil was taunting her she took to fight to them rather than wait to be killed off.
In her personal life, she started over again in a new school. She took a job she hated at the Double Meat Palace to provide for Dawn after her mother’s death. She even kept trying to fall in love, although she had been hurt in the past.
She was not afraid to make a mistake, dust herself off (no pun intended) and start over. She takes charge of her life and her role. The book stops with her. Giles might know more than her, but she has generations of slayers giving her authority.
“I’m Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, and you are?” – Buffy
In the end, I couldn’t have asked for a better role model in my teenage years. When female characters were often only the love interest or damsel in distress, Buffy kicked ass in her stylish yet affordable boots.
“The hardest thing in this world, is to live in it. Be brave, for me.” – Buffy
Hello friends. It’s been a mad couple of weeks. I overdid it and now I am sleeping over 12 hours a night. Does that happen to any of you with mental illnesses? If I don’t look after my energy levels I crash completely.
I also am a divil (Irish Slang) for over-committing. As you all know I’m doing my Ph.D., maintaining this blog, writing part-time. Don’t worry I’m not complaining I’m blessed with my work, but I have to learn to say no better than I am already.
However on to greater things, here is a picture of my tattoo when it was first revealed. I love it so much, I am so grateful to my tattoo artist Pat, owner of Tattoo Heroes in Dublin, Ireland.
Also a huge thank you to Le’Boo for a wonderful Christmas present.
I promise to show you more when it has healed better but until then:
Principal Stevens: “Now I think we all know that Dawn is more than just a kid.”
It’s like she knows!
Screenshot of the Episode:
Firstly, this is actually Clare Kramer in the bath so perfect timing, and secondly, what other evil hell god loves bubble baths?
Buffy and friends have the threat of the hell god Glory hanging over them. Some infighting occurs between Buffy and Dawn, and Willow and Tara. One these fights end in tragedy when Glory thinks she’s found the key, and as a result, destroys Tara’s mind.
There is something truly awful about fighting with someone you love. When we fight with a stranger or an enemy, it’s less personal, less painful. When we fight with our loved ones, we are vulnerable and we can cause pain. In “Tough Love” we see the agony we can inflict on our loved ones, and the agony they can inflict on us.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The female relationships take the fore in this episode, and even the subtext from the male characters is female.
Xander: “Whatever you choose you’ve got my support, just think of men as your *pause* you know I’m searching for supportive things, and I’m coming up all bras so… something more manly, think of me as that so…”
BtVS has always managed to subvert the male viewpoint and present itself from the female perspective. The Slayers are female, the male characters are in a passive position, and the morality of the show is presented from the care perspective which is explained beautifully by Jessica Pratt Miller:
“The justice perspective, with its abstract focus on reason and impersonal rules and authority, echoes cultural ideas of masculinity, while the care perspective, with its contextual focus on personal relationships, including feelings and emotions, fits with ideals of femininity.”[i]
Even Giles who is a strong father figure to Buffy points out that although he is there, she needs to take control of her responsibilities with Dawn.
Giles: “I may be a grown-up, but you’re her family, her only real family now, she needs you to do this.”
Buffy’s been struggling with her new found guardian role, as she cannot approach it with her fists. She must get Dawn to attend school, and do her homework, but Dawn doesn’t think it matters. Buffy has to tell her the horrible fact that if she can’t make her, then Dawn will be taken away. Of course in the Buffyverse, this is intensified by the fact that Dawn would without Buffy’s protection from Glory, she would be exposed.
Dawn: “Who cares if a key gets an education anyway?… Those monks put grades K through 8 in my head, can’t we just wait and see if they drop 9 in there too?”
Buffy: “Because they’ll take you away. If I can’t make you go to school, then I won’t be found fit to be your legal guardian.”
Meanwhile, Willow, is grappling with her identity once again, as we have discussed in previous Buffy posts. She doesn’t want to be considered the “Side-Kick.” This identity crisis continues in her fight with Tara. She fears she’s the “Junior Partner” in the relationship. The key reasoning is that Tara has lost her mother, unlike Willow, Tara has been a practicing Wicca longer than Willow, and Tara has been out as lesbian longer than Willow. According to James B. South “…her biggest fear is that, deep down, she hasn’t changed at all; that beneath all the layers of social roles she has assumed, she is still the nerdy schoolgirl that she was when the show first started.”[ii]
Willow bites back at Tara with this bitter retort: “I’m really sorry I didn’t establish my lesbo street cred before I got into this relationship *pause* you’re the only woman I’ve ever fallen in love with so, how on Earth could you ever take me seriously?” This causes a fracture and Willow leaves. This leads to the consequence of Tara being alone when Glory finds her. When she discovers she is not, in fact, the key, she becomes angry and steals her mind. This is the worst punishment a character can face in the show as Glory describes it thusly: “It doesn’t kill ya. What it does is make you feel like you’re in a noisy little dark room, naked and ashamed, there are things in the dark that need to hurt you because you’re bad…” This makes me shiver every time.
Spike’s character this season, while mixed ( we cannot forget the Buffybot…), has shown genuine courage and strength. He did not reveal Dawn to be the key, even though Glory tortured him for hours. His face still shows the scars of this valor, born of a new morality, the morality of the Slayer.
He comforts Dawn as best he can, when she is under his protection.
Dawn: “Anything that happens to Tara, that’s cuz of me… I’m a lightening rod for pain and hurt… I must be something truly evil.”
Spike: “I’m a vampire, I know something about evil, and you’re not evil.”
Dawn: “Maybe I’m not evil, but I don’t think I can be good?
This compelling scene has the added dimension of not just Dawn as a mystical key but as a human being. None of us are truly good or truly evil. This is something we struggle with as we grow, and Dawn is getting a lesson early.
Finally, we see the further evidence of Willow’s descent into evil which will culminate in the final episodes of season 6. She reaches for a book with “Darkest Magick” on the cover.
As with Dawns realisation that she can neither be solely good nor evil Willow shows us her dark undercurrents. This was put beautifully by James B. South: “…because our ordinary notion of Willow is one in which Willow would never do the sorts of things she did. It is incomplete as a response, though, because it assumes that we could ever fully understand Willow, that there are no dark currents in her, that we could ever construct a coherent and consistent narrative for Willow.”[iii]
While the episode doesn’t end in death for Willow, she has incurred the wrath of Glory. When Glory tracks her down (“I told you this wasn’t over,”) poor Tara inadvertently reveals to her that Dawn is the key. Had she kept her head as Buffy asked her to, Dawn may not have been discovered so early. We see the fallout from giving in to our desires, a conflict which Willow contends with for seasons to come.
“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.
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.
Quote of the Episode: Anya: “Spike’s insane in the basement.”
Screenshot of the Episode:
Willow & Anya
Willow returns to Sunnydale after a summer spent with Giles in England, as rehabilitation for her good girl gone bad incident of the previous season. She arrives with no one to greet her, because her friends can’t see her. Then a dead body turns up, and it’s been skinned. Willow scrambles to prove it wasn’t her by defeating the demon, but her invisibility leaves her at his peril.
This episode was more frightening to me than the perennial favourite Hush ever was. Yes, Hush was nominated for an Emmy, and yes its gang of demons were particularly disconcerting. For me though, Gnarl has a special place as a creature that grab you in the dark, when you’re all alone. He is the scariest villain produced by the entire series, and this episode is always uncomfortable for me to watch.
Gnarl: “All alone. Are you frightened to be all alone?”
Although I’ve seen this episode many times, I noticed something this time around. When Buffy, Dawn, and Xander arrive home without Willow, they are discussing her disappearance. They’ve spoken to Giles about it and he feels bad for letting her return before she was ready. Then Dawn says this, “So Giles is blaming Giles, and we’re blaming us, *sighs* is anyone going to blame Willow?” Buffy gives Dawn a look of distain but Dawn has a point. There are different rules for the Scoobies. Take for example what Mark Field has to say about this episode:
“…compare Willow to Faith. Faith is still in jail, having turned herself in. Putting aside the practical question of whether Willow could be punished by others, Willow got to spend 3 months in England having Giles go all Dumbledore on her.”[i]
It is up to the group to electively decide who needs to be punished and how. However, Dawn has not been part of the group dynamics for as long as the rest. Although when she was inserted into Buffy’s life she was given an entire history, she was created, not born. She was too young for research, she was her mother’s ‘normal’ child and was often shown in completely ordinary teenage situations. It’s not the first time we see Dawn speak out against the group think and although her comments often feel abrasive, she is an important portal to the outside world. For me this picture says it all (left). Dawn looks angry, because of the trust they put in someone who tried to kill her, “She didn’t finish!? She didn’t finish not being evil!?” This is because Willow is their friend, not because they believe fully in her rehabilitation.
Now I have a problem, as I often do, with what is deemed appropriate for television and popular culture in general. For example, although this show did push the boundaries of sex, especially LGBT sex, it was still relatively tame.
“Oops I didn’t know I couldn’t talk about sex.”[ii]
However, the television executives were fine with this (Right). So creepy demon, please feel free to peel the flesh from Willow’s bare stomach, and chow down. However if we want to show a sex scene between Willow and Tara it must be done under the guise of a magical demon. (Once More With Feeling). This double standard has been addressed in Theodor Adorno’s article, “How To Look At Television.”[iii]
“The curse of modern mass culture seems to be its adherence to the almost unchanged ideology of early middle-class society, whereas the lives of its consumers are completely out of phase with this ideology… For example the concept of the ‘purity’ of women is one of the invariables of popular culture.”[iv]
Unfortunately Buffy herself falls prey to this trope in Season 2. Although the losing of ones virginity was presented in a novel way, it fails to show the young woman (and men) who are watching, that you are not more or less valuable because of your virginity. Your own sexuality is relevant and being ‘pure’ for your future love is not something you’re responsible for. The only person you have a responsibility to, is yourself… but I digress.
Willow has murdered someone, we cannot forget that. She tied Warren up and skinned him. Willow is forgiven because that is what is expected. This is provided for us in the rules of popular culture according to Adorno.
“The stereotype of the nice girl is so strong that not even the proof of her delinquency can destroy it; and, by hook or by crook, she must be what she appears to be.”[v]
Now let’s talk aesthetics. I’m sure this was intentional but I love to mention these things anyway:
So you can see on the left we have Xander / Buffy and on the right we have Anya / Willow. Of course this is good versus evil. Anya can see Willow. This may be because Willow only included Buffy, Dawn, and Xander in her unintentional spell. It’s more likely though that Anya is immune, as Spike is also able to see Willow. This is what makes the scene in the basement so magical. Spike is insane after getting his soul back, so talking to him is a rollercoaster in itself. Add invisible Willow into the mix and you get a beautifully shot scene.
Spike: “Everyone’s talking to me, but no one is talking to each other.”
Willow has turned to Spike, because she can’t find Buffy or Xander. She asks him about the skinned victim:
Willow: “It was skinned, what could do that?”
Spike: “You did it once. I heard about it.”
Willow’s starting to feel like maybe it was her that skinned the victim after all.
So I would like to end by firstly saying props to Camden Toy (right) for being the creepiest Buffy villain to ever grace our TV screens. He also played one of The Gentlemen in the episode Hush, and has played an Ubervamp a couple of times. Look though, he’s such a sweet looking man, how could we have ever been afraid of him?
Secondly this is the First Evil (below). It’s not Buffy. This happens in previous seasons as they use a shot of the Buffy Bot. I don’t know why but this has always frustrated me. Like it’s a cool shot, and I know it’s still technically Buffy, but it’s the First Evil using her image. Grr, Arrgh is all I have to say about that. (If Whedon has addressed this at any stage, please let me know. It has annoyed me to no end for years!)
Finally, Willow is now in Buffy’s old room, and Buffy is in her mother’s room. This will prove significant for the rest of the season. Buffy has not only accepted her role as the Slayer, but she is now the leader of the household.
Notable music that year: Alicia Keyes “Songs In The Key Of A Minor,” Kings Of Leon “Because Of The Times,” Red Hot Chilli Peppers “By The Way,” Christina Aguilera “Stripped,” Avril Lavigne “Let Go,” Justin Timberlake “Justified,” Boards Of Canada “Geoghaddi,” Coldplay “A Rush Of Blood To The Head,” Foo Fighters “One By One,” Phil Collins “Testify,” Queens Of The Stone Age “Songs For The Deaf.”
Source Material: “Same Time, Same Place.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer , season 7, episode 3, The WB, October 8, 2002.
Buffy Summers: “You’re a vampire *pauses*… oh I’m sorry is that an offensive term, should I say Undead-American?!”
Screenshot of the Episode:
Buffy Summers, Willow Rosenberg
Buffy returns after summer with some serious issues. Her friends are confused, her Watcher is concerned, and her ‘not-friend’ Cordelia, tactful as ever, tells her to, “get over it.” It would seem her death at the hands of The Master in the previous season is playing on her mind. Who would have thought?
Interpretation of popular culture can be read like rich text. Culture is not contained in laws which are easily distinguishable, it is through enacting culture that we understand it. “Culture is public because meaning is.”[i]My training is in anthropology and this is how I have been taught to interpret. The presence of meaning in a pop culture offering, is a result of the writer, consciously or unconsciously, placing it there.[ii] The meaning is derived from cultural webs of significance.[iii] These cultural cues are easily processed by our brains and can be explained by Captain America saying, “I understood that reference.”[iv]
Buffy enters the season by slaying a vampire, as this is what she was chosen to do. Yet one of the first thing she says to Giles is, “You’re the Watcher, I just work here.” Later on in the season Kendra (another slayer) will say to her, “you act like slaying is your job. It’s who you are.” If we were all handed our vocations at birth, could we avoid years of struggle as we try find out where we fit? It would appear that this is not something we should want. Buffy, the chosen one, with preternatural strength
and fitness, doesn’t want to be the slayer. When we choose, our lives are richer. “Analysis of pop culture narratives can show how people and nation-states imagine their roles in the world.”[v] Viewing this through a socio-political lens, I cannot help but think of the millions of humans forced into lives they didn’t choose. Humanity’s deepest wish, is to have a choice. When we are without choice, we are not given a fair chance at life.
It would be remiss of me not to address Buffy’s obvious signs of post-traumatic stress disorder which causes the discontent in this episode. According to Mark Field, “Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very real phenomenon, and we see some here with Buffy. This will naturally isolate her even from her friends.”[vi] In the previous season, she dies at the hands of The Master, and her mortality washes over her. There are several reactions to this. To her parents she seems distant, while they feel her emotional pain, they can’t address it. They don’t know what has happened to her, demonstrated especially by Joyce’s concern, “I haven’t been able to get through to her for so long.” Angel and Giles seem more aware that she has issues, however Giles handles it better than Angel.
Willow, while young and seemingly childish, is concerned. Her love for her friend circumvents her jealously during that horrific dance scene. (You know the one). She thinks Buffy must have been possessed by “a possessing thing,” because her
friend couldn’t possible behave in such a cruel way. She is the kind of friend who vindicates her fellow females, instead of degrading them. Willow represents the kind of friend and feminist we all need to be.
The person who acts inappropriately? Xander. Whedon needed someone to represent how people normally react when someone hurts us. Xander’s behaviour is indefensible as he highlights a foul trait of humanity. Hate and anger may have protected our species in its infancy, but the correct response to someone having a hard time should be love. Not the vitriol Xander displays when Buffy returns after she realises her mistake. Xander also goes as far to say he will kill Buffy if something bad happens to Willow. Yet later in the season he will date Cordelia secretly, knowing this could hurt Willow, and it does. His character flaws expose the shadow traits of humanity throughout the show. He is often used as the scapegoat, for the wrong way to act.
Now let’s talk Principal Snyder. Yes we hate him, but he often offers the comic relief for balance. This is the product of wonderful acting by Armin Shimerman. Snyder, represents the authoritarian state by saying, “In their relentless pointless desire to exist.” It reflects the fear we all have of an authoritarian government controlling ‘the masses.’ The oppressive weight of who you are, versus what ‘they’ wish you to be. Of course when you are in high school (secondary school) you feel the weight of authority. There is a constant battle to be yourself. When a figure in authority says “pointless desire to exist” Whedon is trying to bare the world’s harsh underbelly. We should be strong and fight, but we must remember that the world will be relentlessly unfair.
Angel offers this nugget, “Don’t’ underestimate the anointed one just because he looks like a child, he has power over the rest of them, they’ll do anything for him.” Buffy is constantly underestimated throughout the show because of her youth. Yet she commands such loyalty, even at the hands of death, from her ‘scoobies.’ The youth of society, should not be so undervalued.
What lessons have we learned? Kindness, compassion, and understanding. When someone we care about is acting out by saying and doing hurtful things, do not immediately go to an angry place. We don’t know what is happening within the minds of others. We should not make their suffering more intense than it needs to be.
The final scene of this episode ends with the Anointed One saying in exasperation, “I hate that girl.” However Buffy’s final scene with Giles is the most telling, “Buffy you acted wrongly I’ll admit that but believe me, that was hardly the worst mistake you’ll every make.” This truth reoccurs throughout the series with Buffy making a number of mistakes and hard choices. The result of which causes havoc to the group dynamics. It even results in a death. However while these words from Giles comes across to Buffy as inappropriate, to me it is comforting. We are all human, and to error is human. Forgive, not just others, but ourselves, and then try to do better. When in doubt, talk it out. If that fails, “grind your enemies into talc”.
It is simple. Once a month, I will upload a post, analysing one episode. This will not be chronological, I am randomly selecting an episode each month to review. The reasons for this is to avoid forcing themes or make the reviews fit a format. We are what we write, and I want to find that in the scripts.
Now I am already aware of several problems with Buffy so you can comment if you like, but I will only respond to constructive criticism. Firstly, yes I know that certain races and demographics are seriously underrepresented in this show. However, this is not an excuse, but the show began in 1996 and ended in 2003.
Second, people get mad because they killed the lesbian. They feel this is a personal attack on them. Whedon already addressed this, he didn’t kill her because she was gay, he killed her so Willow would go insane. There was no other reason she would. They were one of the first gay couples on television. We have to start somewhere. (Plus they loved working with Amber Benson).
Buffy paved the way for women in television. It was a female-dominated cast. The women were strong emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. They weren’t all scantily clad, skinny, or fake. There were real women for us to related to and see ourselves echoed in.
This is a project I’ve felt like doing for a long time. Hopefully, it will be as much fun for you to read as it is for me to write it. Please do realise, there will be *HUGE SPOILERS.* The first episode I review could literally be the final episode. So if you haven’t watched Buffy, there are two things you need to do: 1. Re-evaluate your priorities, 2. GO WATCH IT!
Finally shows like Buffy express a way of living, a unique philosophy. Using character flaws as blank canvases for growth. We can learn a lot from Buffy, popular culture is renowned for reflecting society as commentary. It allows us to think about who we are, and who we want to be.
“The hardest thing in this world, is to live in it. Be brave, for me.” – Buffy, Season 5. Episode 22. The Gift.
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