Buffy: Your Inevitable John Ritter Thread

[Content Note: Buffy Spoilers, Abusive Parenting, Serial Murder, Kidnapping, Drugs, Violence, Rape, Really-This-Is-A-Very-Triggery-Post]

Husband put on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode last night in an attempt to relax and unwind after a long day. THIS WAS A MISTAKE. (A good mistake, because I do enjoy the show so far, but soothing it is not.) The episode that was next in rotation was "Ted". "TED" IS ABOUT ALL THE TRIGGERY THINGS EVER. Seriously. And since so many of you enjoy talking about Buffy, here is yet another thread with rambly thoughts on the show. Spoilers ahead, along with an episode summary for folks who enjoy following along.

Buffy comes home one evening to find her mother in the kitchen kissing a man Buffy has never met before. Buffy immediately turns on the gloom; she's still getting used to her parents' separation and divorce, so having her mother be really-super-serious about another man is a bit of a blow to the system. Having that man be someone Buffy has never met before compounds the problem. It turns out that Ted is a jovial computer salesman, and everyone except Buffy immediately begins to rave over how wonderful he is.

Buffy is unsure of how to deal with her trepidations about Ted, but she tries to bring herself around for her mother's sake. She is rebuffed, however, when Ted physically threatens her and Joyce later refuses to believe her about the incident. When Ted attacks Buffy in her room at night, Buffy pounds the stuffing out of him only to find that she's used her Slayer powers to kill a regular human being. She struggles with the guilt and real world consequences that this immediately drops on her, but fortunately for her, it turns out that Ted was an evil android from the 50's and there's ample evidence that he's also a serial killer on top of that. Transcript here.


Here are the random thoughts that flew up in the face of this episode.

Xander and Willow seem kind of young to be arguing passionately about The Captain and Tennille. This is a small thing, but the Buffy-kids keep persistently dropping gently anachronistic interests into their conversations as though this is just a Thing that teenagers did in the 90s. If Xander-the-character was 17 when the show aired in 1997, that means he was born in 1980, right? (Double check my math; the coffee hasn't kicked in yet.) That means that the year Xander was born was the last year The Captain and Tennille -- who were, I note with interest, born in the 40s -- were really relevant in a gold album kind of way, no?

That doesn't mean that kids can't listen to golden oldies (I certainly did) and it doesn't mean that The Captain and Tennille weren't still touring and being all medialicious in the 90s (because they apparently were), but this is one of those things where I keep looking at Husband and saying these are not the things I talked about in high school, did you? I guess the writers thought that having the kids talk about Weezer or whatever would have dated the show, but still. (And yes, I recognize that it's also probably an attempt at Geek Cred, but not all geeky things are oldie things. I've yet to hear Xander mention D&D or Magic: The Gathering or even video games, probably because that stuff is being saved for a Very Special Episode where it turns out it really DOES steal your soul. Or something.)

Previous example of same: Cordelia apparently not being interested in knowing how to drive a car and this disinterest apparently being considered Not Unusual by her peers. I have heard of this attitude as an example of classism -- it rated a shout-out in The Westing Game ("Why bother with driving lessons, her mother said, anyone as pretty as you can always find a handsome young man to chauffeur you.") -- but honestly never widely among those who were teenagers in the 90s. This would have made more sense to me if the school were set about 2-3 decades before it actually is set. That's just my personal experience, though.

If Jenny the Awesome Computer Teacher and Technopagan is going to continue to be used like she is, I'm going to stop liking her character. I am really conflicted about the scene in this episode where she establishes boundaries with Giles. The boundaries themselves seem reasonable:

Giles: (steps closer) Oh, of course. Um... you, you, you need time.
Jenny: Or possibly space. Rupert, I know you're concerned. But having you constantly poking around, making little puppy dog eyes at me, wondering if I'm okay... (exhales) You make me feel bad that I don't feel better. I don't want that responsibility.


But here is the thing. Giles is cute, and stuttery, and vulnerable, and we love him in spite of ourselves. (Royal "we" here, not applicable to all peoples everywhere.) And we have not seen all this lurking and puppy dog eying, so there's a very abrupt feel to this revelation. So this whole thing -- because it is abrupt and because it is directed at someone who is SO NICE AND VULNERABLE -- sounds very harsh. And that harshness is not mitigated by Jenny obviously regretting her words immediately after, then hunting down Giles to apologize, and then making out with him in the library at the end of the episode.

And look, here's the thing. Watsonianly, I do not care even a little what Giles and Jenny do. I like both their characters. I think they are complex and well-written. I support their decisions as adults and they can work out all this mess however they see fit. But Doyly, I am so very very very very very adverse to more Nice Guys in my fictional media. Particularly Nice Guys who are SO NICE simply because they are awkward and nervous as opposed to genuinely doing good things like not summoning demons and/or not helping to cover up sexual assault and/or not giving women space to heal after they were possessed by the demon you helped to summon. Because repeatedly testing boundaries because you ARE WORRIED and WANT TO APOLOGIZE and it is clearly ALL ABOUT YOU is aggressive Nice Guy behavior. And boundaries don't mean much to me as a YAY FEMINIST MOMENT if those boundaries are completely revoked at the end of the episode because everything is all better now.

If Buffy were ever to suddenly gain, say, a younger sibling, it would be REALLY jarring to the viewers. I'm just saying, you'd think Ted -- who has major issues with controlling anything and everything that goes on in Joyce's life -- would have mentioned it. (Yes, I know it's a triple-axle retcon or whatever -- WHAT IF WE LATER RETCONNED OUR APPARENT RETCON! -- but I do not care at the moment because it is much more funny to be snarky.)

I like the Buffy/Angel relationship being about more than good sex. I really like the scene where Buffy is telling Angel all about Ted, and Angel is reacting with ambivalence. I like it because it's a perfectly normal reaction given his circumstances, yet he's not arguing with her or trying to change her mind or telling her what to do or how to think and feel and act. Nor is he trying to pull out more information from her. For once, unlike with Giles or Xander or her mother Joyce, someone is just letting Buffy BE. He's dialoguing with her, and engaging with thoughtful questions, yes, but more fundamentally in my mind: he is treating her with respect.

(Later, Willow echoes this respect when she asks Buffy how she feels and then immediately edits, "Unless you don't want to talk about it." People who care about Buffy's wants and boundaries? More, please. Looking at you, Giles-Xander-Joyce.)

I do not know how I feel about the Magic Reset Button. So here is a fun conversation we had 15 minutes into the show:

Ana: The food is magic.
Husband: Huh? Why is the food magic?
Ana: They're all eating it except Buffy. It's been mentioned, like, four times now.
Husband: ...okay, but why is the food magic?
Ana: I don't know why, but it is, okay? It just is.

The food was magic, or rather it was laced with something that is somehow both a tranquilizer and ecstasy and which Willow can identify through a school microscope. What was less clear was why the food was magic: it's not really necessary in terms of making Joyce and the Buffy-kids fall for Ted, and it's not really used as evidence against him once the actual dead bodies start piling up. But by the end of the episode, I had formed a tentative theory: I think the food is magic so that "abusive parent" doesn't have to go on Joyce's permanent record. 

Because Joyce's behavior in this episode is really pretty upsetting for the viewer. When Buffy works up the nerve to tell her mother that Ted physically threatened her, Joyce laughs and says "He said no such thing! Honey, Ted told me what happened." Joyce is communicating that what Buffy, her daughter, says about the man she is dating is less important than the man's version of things. The man she has known only a few weeks. The man who shows a very intense interest in her daughter. (I've done the step-parent thing, and the dating-a-parent thing. You're interested in the kids, yes. You're not usually breaking out the "what are her grades" and "I want to know everything about her" and -- actual quote -- "what we teach her is what she takes out into the world when we're not there, whether it's at school or an unchaperoned party." You don't usually say all that stuff a month into dating a single parent because that shit is creepy.)

And here is the thing, okay? The magical reset button has its uses. This episode sort of let us explore what it would be like if Buffy used her Slayer powers against a human instead of a demon. (Although even then I have some Issues, because really? It's okay to kill A Demon, unless it's a Good Demon like Angel, but it's not okay to use lethal force to protect yourself against A Human, even if it's an Evil Human who is giving all kinds of creepy abusive-rapist-serial-killer vibes and seriously no-kidding attacks Buffy and slams her face into a wall as hard as possible? Because why now? Because demons ash and humans don't? That strikes me as VERY ARBITRARY. But okay, it's complex and explored and that's a nice thing I guess.) And this episode sort of let us explore some abusive parenting issues without having to no-kidding commit to the fact that Joyce is an abusive parent. I get that. I do.


I was interested to see that when I googled "Buffy + Ted", I got back this image from a Buffy Confessions tumblr:

Caption: The early seasons of Buffy made me hate Joyce. The episodes where she kicked Buffy out, asked her to opt out of her slayer duties, almost got the town to kill her and Willow, didn't take her concerns seriously about boyfriend Ted, grounded her for little to no reasons, etc. I never saw her as a good mom. No matter how many times she smiled or gave food to guests, that wasn't enough. She screwed up too many times to be called a good mom.

<Pedantry> If we are listing Joyce's failings, I will add to the above that I was not enamored of Joyce in "The Witch" when she was too distracted to know that Buffy was trying out for cheerleading -- which is FINE and UNDERSTANDABLE -- but then when she does decide to take Buffy's extracurriculars seriously, she gets incredibly pushy about Buffy joining the yearbook staff, and after Buffy politely-but-firmly expresses disinterest three times -- one-two-three times, that is 1 + 2 + 3 times, that is a whole fucking lot of times -- and finally points out that her interests are not Joyce's interests, no doy, and that she's into her "own thing", Joyce snaps at her that "Your own thing, whatever it is, got you kicked out of school, and we had to move here to find a decent school that would take you!"

Yes, that is a very stellar way to build a healthy relationship: ignore someone because you are legitimately too busy and then in an argument use the fact that you haven't paid attention to them as a failing against them. Here is your winning Pokemon Card, Joyce: You Never Tell Me About Your Interests Except When I'm Too Busy To Listen. Special Attacks are GUILT (Flip a coin. If heads, the opponent feels CRUSHING GUILT. If tails, the opponent feels DISILLUSIONED AND ALONE.) and WITHDRAWAL (Send all opponent's played cards to their room because they need to "think about what they've done". If opponent had more than 8 cards in play, withhold dinner from them as well.)

Also-also, we have "Inca Mummy Girl" where Joyce invites a male exchange student to live with them without even talking to Buffy first (OMGWTFBBQ what if Buffy's behavioral problems stemmed from, I dunno, being raped or assaulted at her last school, have you NO CONCEPT WHATSOEVER of trigger warnings or personal space or boundaries, way to make your daughter feel like a tourist in her OWN HOME) and then when a female exchange student shows up instead, Joyce consoles herself at the loss of an opportunity to make Buffy feel uncomfortable by installing a strange 17-year-old man in the house against her wishes by taking the opportunity to criticize Buffy by comparing her unfavorably with the new teenager in the house:

Joyce: Ampata, don't you look wonderful! Oh, I wish you could talk my daughter into going with you.
Ampata: I tried, but she is very stubborn.
Joyce: Well, I'm glad someone else sees that.

That is also another very good relationship tactic: using conversations with complete strangers to passive-aggress against someone else in the room for their failure to conform to your wishes! Maybe after you finish criticizing Buffy about the dance, you can talk to Ampata about the yearbook club! Because that is a really awesome way to treat people!

And, huh, I guess I had more to say about Joyce than I'd originally set out to. </Pedantry>

But here is the thing that actually interested me about the tumblr picture above. If you trace through the reblogs of that picture (or, I guess if you've seen the actual show further than I have), you'll note that at least two and possibly three of the crimes listed against Joyce are Not Her Fault! because she was under magical spells or mind control or drugs.

Well, gosh!

And now we're going to break out another Watson/Doyle conversation. Because from an in-universe perspective, it's not Joyce's fault if she behaves badly whilst her judgment has been compromised. (Just like it's not Xander's fault if he's been possessed by hyena spirits!) OK? I want to be very clear on that, because sometimes people seem to miss me saying this stuff. Here: IT IS NOT JOYCE'S FAULT FOR ANYTHING SHE DOES WHILE HER JUDGMENT HAS BEEN COMPROMISED BY MAGIC OR DRUGS OR MAGIC DRUGS. OK. Got that out of the way. Now! But! However! From an out-of-universe perspective where we are allowed to side-eye the writers and say things like really? You're going to invoke the magical reset button again?, I feel like it's perfectly valid to point out that characters who only seem to get real screen time in order to stir up shit for the protagonist are characters who may not be liked very well by the audience. Funny how that works.

If Joyce were a real person, she would genuinely be holding a really shitty hand (cards, not anatomy). She's not a single working mom to a troublesome teenager, she's a single working mom to a teenager who is not a but the Vampire Slayer. Her daughter is going to be in violent altercation after violent altercation until the day she dies a probably violent early death and there is nothing that anyone can do to stop or reverse or change that. Joyce is probably going to be repeatedly targeted and menaced and threatened in an attempt to emotionally harm her daughter or lure her into a trap. And Joyce is helpless to effectively aid her daughter; it's not like a crash course in martial arts is going to bring Joyce up to Slayer-level with her daughter so that they can hunt together. I WOULD NOT WANT JOYCE'S LIFE, IS WHAT I AM SAYING.

But Joyce is not a real person with real mistakes and real flaws and reality. She's a character. She's a character who is persistently hauled out to be an Interfering Parent who adds a dollop of angst and distress to the life of the Sympathetic Teenage Protagonist. And (it would seem) that any time the writers wanted to push that over into genuine abuse in order to really heighten the tension, they didn't want to actually commit to the concept and in the process lose the 'hilarious' sitcom hijinks of Joyce sniping over Buffy's extracurricular activities and personality and so they reached for the Magical Reset button. Ta-da!

And I'm ... not sure how I feel about this. Buffy-the-character would very probably have genuinely conflicting feelings about all this. Just like, you know, she might have about being sexually assaulted before a Magical Reset occured. Magical Reset Buttons rarely affect everyone, and there are going to be victims left behind who have to grapple with the aftermath in whatever way they can. Joyce is not responsible for any abusive behavior she exhibits under mind control, yes. But Buffy still has to live with the memories and pain of those abusive behaviors.

In some ways, I think something like this could be a really good premise for a TV show. The Buffy-verse could be almost akin to the Cthulhu-verse, where everyone is just barely managing to keep themselves together in the wake of unrelenting emotional trauma. Buffy-Cthulhu-verse could embrace the horror of a malevolent universe that is constantly saying oh yeah? Well what if your best friend tried to rape you and then you had to pretend it didn't happen? And what if your mother dated a guy who threatened to slap you and lurked in your bedroom in the dark and read your diary and threatened to have you committed and violated multiple personal boundaries and beat your head into the wall and when you tried to tell your mother, she wouldn't listen? And then you had to pretend that didn't happen either? What about that, then?


And maybe that's what the Buffy writers are doing, maybe it's what they plan to do in the future. I don't know. I'm not sure I want to know. But ... I don't get that vibe. There's a lot of "and everything was all better now" that keeps popping up in these episodes. Buffy is never shown to be hurt or damaged by the incident with Xander. Buffy and Joyce eat ice cream on the porch and make movie plans with one another. Jenny and Giles play tongue hockey in the library despite the fact that there's an angry principal on the prowl with an axe to grind. Etc. Emotional traumas fade away -- the Technically-Not-Really-Abusers forget (or pretend to forget) what actually happened and the Genuinely-Victimized smile and forgive and all is well forever.

I don't know that this wouldn't be realistic in a Buffy-verse, at least for some people, for some personalities. But the deeper I look at this thing, the more I can't help but notice who the Genuinely-Victimized are. Buffy. Willow. Jenny. The young, the thin, the attractive, the sexual, the Nice (here differentiated from Cordelia, who we will talk about later). When you look at the Technically-Not-Really-Abusers, we have Giles (who whoops summoned a demon who whoops possessed his girlfriend), Xander (who whoops was possessed by hyena spirits who whoops made him try to rape Buffy), and Joyce (who whoops dated an evil android who whoops drugged Joyce into not believing Buffy's tales of abuse). What do these people look like? Well, they're the socially powerful: the mother, the teacher, the man.

Buffy as a series is, I think, supposed to be about reversal of gender roles and giving power to the traditionally powerless. Buffy is a superhuman slayer; Willow with her super-smarts is the most consistently valuable member of the support cast; Jenny is a technopagan who plays catch-up (rather than being initiated into the cause from an early age) but plays it with verve and determination. These women are powerful. The traditionally socially powerful are, by contrast, not. Joyce may have the power to ground Buffy, but whether Buffy stays in her room is really entirely up to Buffy. Giles may serve in the role of mentor and teacher, but Buffy sets the pace of the teaching and Jenny calls him out on his shit when his prejudices against computers put Buffy in unnecessary danger. Xander may have the best potential to climb socially (he can talk the cool talk, unlike Willow, and he's not the outcast that Buffy is, by virtue of not burning down gyms, etc., plus semi-dating Cordelia) but all that is meaningless to the greater outside world, and Xander is consistently the weakest member of the team in terms of contributions.

So ... this is a win, right? The weak become strong and the strong are made weak.

I don't know. At the end of the day, the traditionally powerful people do still end up in positions where their actions hurt the traditionally weaker ones. And yet through the magic of writing, the traditionally weaker people are in a position where they aren't really allowed to complain or effectively deal in a powerful way that is, say, denied to the Real People that the Fictional People supposedly represent. The harm dished out to them wasn't really the fault of the traditionally powerful people. It just kind of happened. The hyena episode becomes an attempted rape without an attempted rapist, as though a disembodied penis had chased Buffy around the room instead of Xander doing the chasing. The evil android episode becomes a situation of abusive parenting without an actual abusive parent, as though Joyce hadn't bothered to show up that day.

We're not supposed -- or, rather, the characters refuse -- to view these magical reset actions as an established pattern (the trend, not the papery things you use to make clothing). We don't get to point out that Hyena!Xander expresses sexual aggression that is in keeping with his regular sexual aggression, only dialed up to eleven. We don't get to point out that Drugged!Joyce ignores and belittles and passive-aggresses against Buffy in ways that are consistent with previous actions on her part. We don't get to point out that bringing a Man Buffy Does Not Know into the house without warning Buffy is not substantially different from bringing a Male Student Buffy Does Not Know into the house without warning her. We don't get to point out that using a boyfriend to shame Buffy at mini-golf is not substantially different from using a female exchange student to shame Buffy into going to a dance. We do not get to point those things out because then the Watsonian red flag goes out on the play: BUT IT WASN'T THEIR FAULT!

No, it wasn't their fault. I agree. But it's not their fault because there's a magical reset button that makes it not their fault. And I'm not sure how I feel about writers who want to take persistently abusive traits up to 11 without having to actually commit to the character changes. Nor am I sure how I feel about a show that takes on relatively obvious shit (VIOLENT RAPE IS WRONG, YA'LL) while quietly obscuring the non-obvious shit like constantly policing your friend's romantic partner ("Pretend I care [about Angel].") because you're still pissed you didn't get into her pants. Or like tackling parental abuse (DON'T INVITE SERIAL KILLERS INTO YOUR HOUSE WITHOUT GIVING YOUR DAUGHTER A HEADS-UP, MMKAY) without, you know, tackling parental abuse (UNLESS THEY'RE EXCHANGE STUDENTS). I see a lot of "holy shit they called it 'sexual assault' how feminist is that?!" (re: The Pack), but I see almost nothing that goes "holy shit they buried it like it was nothing, what the fuck is this supposed to say about group interactions and the persistent silencing of women??". I would like to see more of that. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places.

Tentative "yay" for depicting institutionalized sexism? I guess? I did kind of like that the police are portrayed as being assholes when Buffy is clearly in shock after the incident with Ted. They interview her without her mother present and without an advocate, they use aggressive techniques to try to confuse her like asking a question and then interrupting to ask an unrelated question when she tries to answer, and they completely dismiss the fact that she was hit first because she 'looks' alright. Hey, look at that: institutionalized sexism at its finest.

On the other hand, it wasn't really called out or explained why it was a very bad thing, so... there's that. Juxtaposed as it is with Buffy feeling super guilty about killing (even in self-defense) a Real Human, and then juxtaposed again with oh, never mind, it's just an android, whatevs I felt like the message was a little mixed. But I presume we weren't supposed to agree with the police and so I'm counting that as a win.

I love Cordelia so much. A week ago, I couldn't have told you why. I mean, she brings some much needed snark to the show, especially since I'm not big on the Xander humor. But she's kind of a bully, she has definite classism issues like whoa, and she's not the sort of person I usually warm to. Was it just her actress' natural charisma? (There's your pun for the day.)

Now I know why I like Cordelia.

Giles: Whatever the authorities have planned for her, it can't be much worse than what she's doing to herself. She's taken a human life. The guilt, it-it's, it's pretty hard to bear, and it won't go away soon.
Cordelia: I guess you should know, since you helped raise that demon that killed that guy that time?
Giles: Yes. Do let's bring that up as often as possible.

I like Cordelia because she is the one young woman on this show -- in a show about "powerful" Buffy and Willow and Jenny -- who genuinely does not roll over and play nice and eat shit because it's the Nice thing to do. She calls the other characters out, and doesn't allow them to pretend their demons don't exist in order to criticize others for their own.

Giles made a mistake in that Hollywood TOTALLY NOT HIS FAULT kind of way where he experimented with something dangerous and kept experimenting and repeatedly experimented some more and then finally Something Bad Happened. WHO COULD HAVE FORESEEN IT? And you know what? Fine. Really, everyone makes mistakes. Most of us have played with fire (or demons, or whatever) and been burned. We grow older, we get better, we atone. Giles appears to be doing just that. Yay for character growth. Go, Giles. Here's a damn cookie.

But we don't get to cozily pretend that stuff didn't happen. Certainly not in order to make things about you, or to lurk around your ex-girlfriend's classroom reminding her of her trauma, or to obliquely criticize your protege for doing something far less worse (i.e., protecting herself after an immediate, physical attack) than playing with a demon for weeks-months-years on end.

Maybe that's not what Giles was doing. Maybe he wasn't testing Jenny's boundaries or criticizing Buffy in even the slightest possible way. Maybe he was genuinely grief-stricken for both women. (I like to think he was.) Maybe he's genuinely the NICEST GUY IN THE WORLD. But you know what? I don't care. Cordelia doesn't care. Cordelia doesn't give him the benefit of the doubt for maybe being the nicest guy in the world. She puts it right out there that, hey, remember when you basically did this exact same thing, only worse. Huh, how 'bout that? Cordelia doesn't live and work under the assumption that being (possibly mistakenly) called out for your potential shit is the worst thing that could happen to a nice guy.

In a show that has been persistently about hitting the Magic Reset button, in a show that has been continually about Nice (but Powerful!) Girls sucking up their victimization like good girls and not making waves, in a show that doesn't seem to want us to analyze patterns of micro-aggression and how those patterns are taken up to eleven when the pressure is on because NOT THEIR FAULT, Cordelia is the character who doesn't forgive and never forgets.

Cordelia, who is as bad at school as she possibly can be, is ironically the Memory of this group. She is classist and privileged and problematic, and yet acts as the Conscience. Not for doing the right thing, but for remembering that every one of them has failed and that they don't get to forget that just because it's convenient. I like to think that if she'd been around for the hyena episode, she'd be saying oh, like that time you tried to rape Buffy? in the same disaffected tone. Oh, you didn't want us to remember that? Well, I do.

There's a time and a place for healing and forgiveness. But Buffy (so far) isn't about healing and forgiveness given over time after discussion and heartache and grief. Buffy (so far) has been about healing and forgiveness because the episode is over and nice girls don't get to hold grudges because grudges are harsh. It's probably that way because of the constraints of television, and not because of sexism on the part of the writers -- television is tricky like that. But it's there nonetheless, a recurring and unfortunate pattern that niggles at the back of my brain. Cordelia is the antidote to that, the one who plainly and openly says: You don't get forgiveness just because the episode is up.

And I love her for it, because she's the only one saying that so far.

One last thought:

People in the 50s were always building technology that is better than what we have right now. I hate them for that. Screw you, 50's Renaissance People with your software engineering and your hardware engineering and your computer programming that is vastly better than what we have now. You can keep your evil androids; I like ELIZA.


Will Wildman said...

I'm increasingly thinking that the biggest fantasy in a lot of these fantasies is 'and no one was traumatised at all'. For a viewer who's on a vicarious adventure, I suspect that's key - we want the fun and the satisfaction of saving the day and we don't want any of the scars that follow, physically or mentally. It could even be inspiring, to a degree, to have the heroes roll through unbelievable horrors and shake it off like a tough day at work, serving to make them more relatable at the cost of making them realistic. (And a lot of the time we're not here for the realism; we don't need vampires to work by science or 16-year-olds to be incapable of punching through walls.)

But conversely it could be felt as a reprimand, too: these heroes shake off terrible horrors without complaining; you should be able to do the same. And while I don't think the show is meant to be taken as a guide to life, it's not like it doesn't reflect and reinforce the ideas we've already got. I keep trying to word this dilemma and it comes out unintelligible. Something like: shows shouldn't be necessarily expected to be realistic about consequences in all things, but viewers shouldn't face extra consequences as a result of the lack of consequences in their fiction.

On an unrelated note, your description of Cordelia as 'the Memory of the group' really makes me wish her character had stayed attached to Buffy rather than Angel for another season. I won't say more, due to spoilers, but I suddenly feel that she would have had a lot to offer.

Nathaniel said...

Oh Jesus, this is the episode that traumatized my sister.

While I can't say exactly if my sister is "triggered" by anything the same way some others here are, this episode does hit one of her most sensitive buttons. My parents are divorced, have been for over a decade now. During that time my mother has dated numerous people, and introduced to us almost all of them. Because of this and other reasons, my sister is of the belief that our mother puts her romantic relationships before her children as a priority.

So seeing an episode that is a dramatized version of all her fears about mothers dating new men and choosing them over their children just about clinches it as her own individualized nightmare.

chris the cynic said...

I'm increasingly thinking that the biggest fantasy in a lot of these fantasies is 'and no one was traumatised at all'.

Sort of a similar note, sort of not.

At some point I'm going to write a post about action movies of the mindless variety with the general thesis that the fantasy has nothing to do with violence, it has to do with simplicity. Most of the problems people face in their real lives could never be solved with something as simple as a bullet, most situations don't involve epic showdowns between the forces of good and evil but instead complex people on all sides who have their own assortment of virtues and vices.

An action movie lets you slip into a simpler world:
Bad things are a result of evil people.
Evil people can be stopped with bullets and explosions.
Now everything is good and right in the world.

In reality no problem will ever be that simple to solve.

Pqw said...

I love this post SO MUCH! So much to think about - In A Good Way!

Pqw said...

But, having said that, the Magical Reset Button is a Real Thing in the World (as Melissa McEwan might say). In that, if you grow up in an environment where you are constantly being traumatized, but no one cares, you yourself might Reset things. Because if you actually pay attention to how shitty you feel emotionally all the time, and you start figuring out why that is, you find yourself in a psychological quagmire right quick.

Say you're a teenager, and you start getting a sneaking suspicion that your parents don't actually care about you, and are on the side of the bullies making your life even more miserable at school. So that you find yourself *wanting to go to school, to be abused by bullies* because at least that's not personal--the bullies do that to every nonconformist. When your parents do it, it's because THEY DON'T LIKE YOU. What are you going to do about it?

What if you get sexually assaulted? And when you tell your parents about it, you can see that your mother respects your assaulter MORE *because* he managed to hurt you really bad? So when she also calls you a liar and a slut, it hurts less than that.

If I wanted to be part of my family, I had to deny or ignore my own truths at every turn. I used the Magical Reset Button, at various settings, for 39 years. Because otherwise I couldn't be in the same room with my parents.

jill heather said...

We do see at least one, maybe two, female characters try to push past boundaries in order to make themselves feel better in the near future of the show. And to a certain extent, we see Giles and sort of Joyce pushed on the "let Buffy choose her own things" later, though since one of his character traits is "father figure who tells people what to do", we don't ever lose that totally with Giles. Which is fine, too; he gets called on it occasionally, and also he's more interesting as a flawed character than as a benevolent father/god figure.

I don't have much good to say about Joyce for this season. She isn't even particularly interesting: she's there to be an obstacle, not a character. (Not that in, say, season 3 she isn't an obstacle. But she's an obstacle who is ALSO a person. Though I still have some issues with, say, her actions in S3E02. Argh. I do still think she grows as a character, and yes, that means I allowed the reset button to work for me. It probably helps that I have a good relationship with my mother.)

However, in the end, I liked Joyce -- and Giles -- much, much more than Xander, who gets to be the Conscience/Heart of the group despite being the Nicest Nice Guy that ever Niced. (Except maybe Riley? I hate Riley too. Get through his arc quickly, Ana, because then I can comment a great deal on the hate I feel for Riley.)

DavidCheatham said...

Interesting fact about Giles, although it's a bit of spoiler:

While his comment seems a bit trite, we later learn it's sort of the 'job' of the Watcher to make sure the Slayer deals with any accidental deaths she might have caused. Feeling guilt for that and dealing with it is important for Slayers, given that Slayers are pre-disposed to enjoy violence...a Slayer who doesn't care that she hurts someone is one step away from deciding that violence against bad people is reasonable answer.

We see this later, with Faith.

Note I am in no way agreeing with anything the Watchers do. I'm just mentioning that Giles' comment is him speaking aloud something he was presumably trained to observe.

And then Cordy pointing out the hypocrisy in that comment, which I think is intentional. The Watcher's Council, and Watchers in general, pretend to have all sorts of moral high ground that they do not have, along with their completely imaginary authority over Slayers. As the show goes on, this gets called out for the patriarchal bullshit that it is.

Ana Mardoll said...

Something I thought was interesting, was that after I wrote this post, I zipped over to Mark Watches and read the comments for this episode. One commenter pointed out that the Magical Reset Button here doesn't even make *sense*.

At the dinner depicted in the post-pic, Joyce has been chowing down on the food and should be fully tranquilized to the gills. But when Buffy "rudely" expresses her opinion about Ted's upcoming proposal to Joyce, Joyce reacts with aggressive vehemence when chastising Buffy. She shouldn't be able to do that, given the massive drug dose in her system at that moment.

So for viewers who found the episode triggering to begin with, the flimsy NOT HER FAULT justification is going to smell iffy already at that point. See also later, when Buffy is in mourning and trying to talk to Joyce -- who should be drug-free at this point, given how quickly it wore off of Xander -- and Joyce rebuffs her daughter. She prioritizes her own grief over the serious emotional trauma Buffy is wrestling with over having killed someone.

These things are troublesome to me.

Isabel C. said...

Right--I feel, while trying to avoid spoilers, that both Giles (who I like)* and Joyce (who I don't, because the thing she does at the end of S2 is the worst thing she could have done and I kind of wish she'd gotten eaten by something nasty over that summer; would have served her right) do get called out on their various failings in a way that Xander never does.

And I will join you in the We Hate Riley Finn club. We can have decoder rings.

I feel like there's definitely a place for Angst, What Angst--I do like my protagonists stoic and plucky and resilient--but I'm less okay with that being imposed from outside, as it often is in Buffy because of secrecy and magic and blah (and, on a Doylist level to some extent because of the largely MOTW format in earlier seasons).

*And toward whom I'm inclined to be overly charitable, and thus think what he's trying to say in the exchange quoted is "I know how it feels to kill someone, even if you don't mean it, and oh my God it sucks," and just going about it obliquely and badly. That said, haven't watched the show in a while, and inclined to like the guy, so I may well be biased.

jill heather said...

Giles (who I like a lot, and who I agree seems to be saying "killing people sucks" and not "Buffy should feel guilty and bad forever" -- at least, that was how I interpreted it; he's always characterised at being bad at expressing feelings, so this works as part of that) does really get called on these things, starting in that season 3 episode I think. Of course, later we have him act totally out of Holmesian character for Doylian reasons and it is SO ANNOYING. But overall, I think we're supposed to see Giles' failings as actual character flaws (like Willow and Buffy and not like Xander).

Yeah, I need to stop thinking about Xander and his apologetics for Riley and how no one ever caught on to how much of a jerk he is. He had this important place in the show and it was filled so badly. I guess this is why I don't hate Joyce: there are other characters to dislike so much more. Plus I think she grew, without becoming perfect, even if I have to pretend certain things never happened.

Is there a group of people who don't hate Riley? Because they are people who did not watch Buffy. Or people who thought Marc Blucas was hot, maybe.

Isator Levi said...

Ohhhh noo...

Have you seen the episode with the ghosts?

I do not think that you will like the pisode with the ghosts.

Brin Bellway said...

That means that the year Xander was born was the last year The Captain and Tennille -- who were, I note with interest, born in the 40s -- were really relevant in a gold album kind of way, no?

Huh. I spent the 90's first nonexistent, then with no capacity for long-term memory, then not really paying attention to the world outside my family*, so I'd assumed their pop-culture references were current at the time.

*Which I suppose was also true during the no-long-term-memory phase, but it doesn't matter.

(Though with this specific example I think Mom might have mentioned that she listened to the Captain and Tennille in high school (in the late 70's).)

view these magical reset actions as an established pattern (the trend, not the papery things you use to make clothing)

It wouldn't have occurred to me to think of papery clothing-making things, but now I am. I suppose the paper-patterns would spell out "BUT IT WASN'T THEIR FAULT!".

You can keep your evil androids; I like ELIZA.

Me too. I used to play Confuse the Psychiatrist-Program as a kid. (Dad showed me how to bring it up on emacs one day when I was bored, though I don't remember how to do it anymore.)

Isabel C. said...

I recall The Ferrett over on LJ liking both Riley and Xander. And while I like the dude, by and large, I think he has way more sympathy for the Irritatingly Insecure Normal Guy than said Guy deserves. He certainly has more than I do, but that's like saying the Atlantic Ocean is kind of big.

Otherwise, word: the apologetics for Riley, the stupid jealousy stupid STUPID jealousy, the lying, the jealousy (...it is one of my most hated character traits, I admit), the entire Anya thing...ugh. He had his moments, mostly of being funny, but the in-universe love and expected out-of-universe love never got me.

As far as Giles...I just ignore the stuff from S6, because it was S6, and it blew goats*, and discontinuity is lovely fuzzy friend.

*Cue standard rant: dear writers please, for the love of God, get the difference between "audience" and "therapist" straight. One is getting paid a hundred bucks an hour and thus cares about your daddy issues (WHEDON) and your angsty twenties (NOXON) and your failed relationships (SOOOOORKIN). The rest of us aren't, and therefore don't give a damn.

jill heather said...

The Ferret, of the Open Source Boob Project? Yeah, well. The guy I was dating during S4/S5 liked Riley. But we broke up before the Riley stuff got really horrible, and I don't recall what he thought after. Season 4 Riley wasn't so terrible. Boring, but not hatred-inducing.

I don't dislike Xander because he's Irritatingly Insecure (the double Xander episode was fun, for instance, and that was an episode all about his insecurities -- or Fear Itself, sort of). I dislike Xander because of the jealousy, the hypocrisy, the Anya stuff, some other stuff, and the fact that he alone of all the characters doesn't get called out on the crappy shit he does. Even if he's the audience stand-in, it doesn't mean we think he's perfect.

We do not talk about season 6, no. It had a lot of moments, most of them dreadful but a few good, but still, we pretend it did not happen.

Silver Adept said...

One spoiler-ish thing. This is not the last time we will encounter androids. And each time they show up, they will be full of trigger-worthy things.

Asha said...

I am always surprised at how much I don't really remember. I don't remember this episode at all. O_O.

My feelings for Joyce are mixed, and that's because I really had no problem with her behavior back when I was in high school. She came across to me as a stock character, the typical annoying mother in the Adults Are Useless vein. Same with Giles, but he got the benefit of the doubt because he at least tried to show interest in Buffy's life, while Joyce didn't seem to care, yet she didn't feel abusive because I saw a lot of my own Mom in her. Someone who was so wrapped up in her own survival that she couldn't see what was happening to her own family even as she meant well. Ah, nostalgia goggles. >_<

As for the fantasy that the heroes come out with no scars, (being the good little outraged fan that I am) I am reminded of Mass Effect. Spoilers for all three games

The PC, Shepard, has a multiple choice past, two of which were pretty scarring. To compound things, the psych profile part can make things works. The player doesn't have a terribly wide choice in how to roleplay based on these, but it is there. Then we get to the second game. In the opening scene, Shepard dies. Flat out goes down with the Normandy, Shepard's ship. Its dramatic and shocking, especially the first time you see it. Then Shepard is brought back to life by technology.

Shepard is then thrown into a new quest, but in the process of caring for his Dysfunction Junction crew, never takes the time to consider her or his own situation. Its something that bothered a lot of the players. There's some pretty heavy psychological trauma involved there- death would be pretty damn scarring. ME2 does not address this at all. Many players noticed and were annoyed. Then in the third game, where Shepard should have been getting back his or her stride, Shepard is acknowledging the pressure and at the last, most confusing moment, admits to doubts about who Shepard is.
End spoilers

I've seen mixed reactions to this. Some thought it was about time Shepard admitted the pressure and the doubts. Others said they didn't feel like this at all. Personally, it just felt poorly paced and confused to me.

But after this long and rambling teal deer, the point is this: making escapist characters deal with trauma has got to be done well and carefully, otherwise it will break immersion. Too much and people complain that said character is being morose. Too little and people complain about OOC. Buffy couldn't be written realistically reacting to her life, because a lot of the entertainment value for the people watching for escapist purposes is lost. Taking things realistically makes it a different genre entirely.

Of course YMMV.

Ymfon Tviergh said...

"your description of Cordelia as 'the Memory of the group' really makes me wish her character had stayed attached to Buffy rather than Angel for another season. I won't say more, due to spoilers, but I suddenly feel that she would have had a lot to offer."

This sounds really interesting; could you explain in more detail? (In rot13 to avoid spoilers?)

Asha said...

As for Cordelia, I really hated her for a long time when I was a teen. She was a caricature of everything I hated about the rich bitch bully- people I knew and made my school life miserable. Seeing her as something else is hard. Need to rewatch this.

Will Wildman said...

I'm afraid I don't have a lot of specifics in mind, but there's this (spoilers for Buffy season 4):

Frrvat Pbeqryvn pnyyrq 'gur Zrzbel' znqr zr guvax bs gur shfvba qnapr gung gur urebrf qb va beqre gb qrsrng Nqnz, naq juvyr V unir nyjnlf pbafvqrerq Knaqre'f cynpr nf 'gur Urneg' gb or ynhtunoyr (rira jura V jnf bxnl jvgu uvf punenpgre), Pbeqryvn nf 'gur Zrzbel' pbhyq unir orra gubebhtuyl onqnff.

Zber oebnqyl, frnfba 4 vf jvqryl qvfyvxrq sbe nyy fbegf bs ernfbaf, cnegyl orpnhfr gur bevtvany nep unq gb or urnivyl erjevggra, ohg vg nyfb fgevxrf zr nf gur fbeg bs frnfba jurer fbzrbar jub qbrfa'g yrg tybff bire gurve cnfgf pbhyq unir fhofgnagvnyyl vzcebirq znggref nebhaq Fcvxr, Evyrl, naq sbe gung znggre Naln (jub jnf rffragvnyyl ure ercynprzrag). Va n jnl, Pbeqryvn ynpxrq na ntraqn, va gung ure anepvffvz-shryyrq pevgvdhrf bs bguref znqr ure n xvaq bs cebfrphgbe sbe gur erfg bs gur pnfg. (Va guvf pnfr, vg'f abg pbvapvqragny gung na byq jbeq sbe 'cebfrphgbe' vf 'fngna'.)

Will Wildman said...

I was never a fan of Cordelia when first watching, but she's grown on me in retrospect. I think it has a lot to do with the way the characters are presented, paralleling their real-world counterparts (and the real-world Cordelias can be awful), versus the roles and effects they have in the show.

Ymfon Tviergh said...

Good point, thank you! (It might also have been interesting to see her reactions to the, shall we say, more difficult relationships of the later seasons.)

Asha said...

I guess I bring too much of my own baggage to this. At the time, I put too much of myself into Buffy/Willow, wearing her sort of the way I suppose a lot of people wear Bella and plastering my own ideas on top. The whole thing about Joyce brought that into relief. My own Mom was not good or bad, she was just a person who had her own concerns and issues that kept her from understanding or noticing the minor hell I was going through... why would Joyce be any different? Of course, I have rarely enjoyed the 'rich bitch' even if I did want to kill Xander in season three when he *spoilers* cheated on her with Willow because DUDE YOU JERK!!!! *end spoiler*

Ana Mardoll said...

Please do not use misogynistic words on this board except in cases of reclamation or deconstruction, and in such a case with trigger warnings.

Thank you.

Asha said...

My apologies. I hadn't noticed. I will be more mindful in the future.

Thousand said...

I really liked your analysis of this episode. It was deeply problematic on a number of levels. I maintain that Buffy was profoundly more feminist that 90% of other TV shows, but that's because it's competitors are awful, not because it itself is a shining paragon of perfection free of all issues.

A big part of the forgetfulness and memory-issues is probably that the writers didn't want to confuse people who missed or skipped entire episodes - in serialized fiction, resets of this sort are extremely common compared to single-long-works as it's expected people won't see everything and that also many people will see things out of order. Not that that's a real excuse. This issue improves a fair bit later on in that we see more overarching multi-episodal conflicts and plots that have more lasting effects that come up again and again and are not nearly as forgotten.

I agree with you entirely about the 50's tech stuff, it's actually laughable. I seriously started laughing at it in this episode. If the best lab could build something a tenth awesome as Ted (from a technological perspective, not moral or other viewpoint) I would be overjoyed, as someone who works in robotics in the real world. I seriously started laughing at the robot reveal, and couldn't take Ted seriously as a villain after that, as it was just so hilarious that it broke my suspension of disbelief - said suspension encompassing vampires and witches with no problem...

I look forward to hearing some more of your opinions as you go on through the show! Thanks for taking the time to write such incisive and interesting blog posts.

In ROT13, some spoilers (discussions of future characters)
Jung qb lbh nyy guvax bs Naln sebz n srzvavfg crefcrpgvir? V ernyyl yvxrq ure punenpgre nf n jubyr, ohg V gubhtug vg jnf rfcrpvnyyl ceboyrzngvp gung Jurqba pubfr gb chg gur bayl srznyr jub trahvaryl rawblrq naq qrfverq frk nf bccbfrq gb tenagvat vg gb Avpr Thlf va n ohapu bs zrffrq hc Avpr Thl ybtvp jnf nyfb n qrzba jub jr jrer pbafgnagyl erzvaqrq guebhtubhg jnf vauhzna va bhgybbx naq trarenyyl nyvra - jvgu gur fgebat uvag jr jrer gb ivrj ure rawblzrag bs frk nf fvzvyneyl nyvra. N snveyl qrprag negvpyr gung qvfphffrf znal bs Jurqba'f jbexf jvgu znffvir fcbvyref sbe nyy bs gurz: uggc://sreergoenva.pbz/negvpyrf/negvpyr-394

Tigerpetals said...

I hated Cordelia and still feel hostile to her depending on the scene, but I suppose in a show where good girls don't call people out, the 'bad' one had to be the one doing so. My Cordelia feelings are mixed. I'm also just annoyed that one can't be a good woman while doing that. I think that might be connected to the killing humans thing. Maybe I've been watching/remembering the wrong things, but it's like killing a human is supposed to be something heroes don't do, especially female ones. Especially if the ones said hero is supposed to fight are painted as not people, just evil. It's a kind of pushing out evil away from humanity, many times with the created evil being associated with some real-life human other. And morality just seems to be this static thing that makes no sense to me and isn't necessarily related to actually being good to people, instead of some standard of purity, especially female purity, that's really creepy. And people react to female characters hurting others as if they're horrible. I might be being a bit vague, sorry.

Tigerpetals said...

That has also backfired with me, because I feel like the characters are unrelatable when that happens. Not all the time, but it's happening more often now. It can actually make me feel hurt and resentful, especially if I'm at a low point.

This reminds me of the post on US storytelling tropes by Aliette de Bodard: http://aliettedebodard.com/2011/08/31/on-the-prevalence-of-us-tropes-in-storytelling/

And how I've really come to hate the trope of how being blunt, confrontational, or more accurately in popular media, insulting, is standing up to power and empowering and can work often. If someone, some hero, was just bold and brave and said things directly, that would solve problems and free everyone. It's the opposite of inspiring.

Isabel C. said...

I agree with that.

V nyfb ungrq gjb guvatf nobhg ure:

1. Gur vapbafvfgrag crefbanyvgl guvat. Fur jnf gbgnyyl svar orvat uhzna gb gur cbvag jurer fur pbhyq orsevraq Pbeqryvn jvgubhg nalbar orvat jvfre; gura fur jnf gbgnyyl Onyxv-sebz-Cresrpg-Fgenatref nyvra. Sbe guerr lrnef. Htu. Ab.

2. Gur gbgny ynpx bs erzbefr sbe jung jnf nccneragyl n cerggl njshy cnfg, orpnhfr un un vasvqryvgl zrevgf ubeevoyr culfvpny fhssrevat. Ungr gung gebcr; ungr vg n ybg; ungr nalbar jub oryvrirf vg. (Pneevr Haqrejbbq, cyrnfr rng n orr.)

Silver Adept said...

Rot-13 warning for spoilers, trigger warning for use of Malcolm Reynolds' favorite word to describe Inara.

@Will Wildman

Tvira Pbeqryvn'f punenpgre nf jevggra, V guvax fur jbhyq gnxr ba gung ebyr, jvgu gur vapyhqrq gvgyr, jvgu eryvfu. Pbeql nyjnlf pnzr npebff nf fbzrbar gung lbh pbhyq pnyy fngna gb ure snpr, naq fur jbhyq gnxr vg nf n pbzcyvzrag. (Naq gura fhecevfr rirelbar ol xabjvat gur rglzbybtl bs gur jbeq.)

@Thousand and Isabel C -

Nf sbe Nalnaxn, V qba'g cnegvphyneyl yvxr ure ba gur srzvavfz sebag. Sbe bar guvat, ure raguhfvnfz sbe frk vf pbagrkghnyvmrq ol gur snpg gung fur'f n eriratr qrzba vaibxrq sbe vasvqryvgl. Znxrf zr guvax gung fur'f cebonoyl qbar eriratr guebhtu frqhpgvba, juvpu chgf ure svezyl ba gur juber fvqr bs gur qvivqr, ng yrnfg sbe Wbffirefr.

Frpbaq, fur ubbxf hc jvgu Knaqre, Ze. Avpr Thl. Naq, nf "Bapr Zber, Jvgu Srryvat" gryyf hf, cebprrqf gb uvqr ure vffhrf jvgu uvz, ure bja areibhfarff nobhg rirelguvat, naq ure vafrphevgvrf gung Knaqre zvtug fgvyy or cvavat sbe fbzrbar naq whfg frggyvat sbe ure. Fur orpbzrf n Tbbq Tvey, qrfcvgr univat orra n qrzba jub unf frra cyragl bs rknzcyrf bs ubj orvat n Tbbq Tvey qbrfa'g jbex. Fur fubhyq or Traer Fniil.

Uhzna Naln vf zber yvxr rneyl-frnfbaf Jvyybj, naq vg qbrfa'g ernyyl znxr frafr jul.

Judy said...

I don't understand the comment about Buffy's younger sibling - wasn't that the point? It's been a while since I've watched the show, though.

jill heather said...

@Thousand, Isabel C, Silver Adept -- Buffy spoilers.

Anya is, I think, okay with pretending to be a teenage human for a week in order to befriend Cordy and get her to get revenge upon Xander. It doesn't mean she was okay actually being a human forever. This seems reasonable, as a stance that a revenge demon would take.

I don't think she's insecure about how Xander "might be" settling for her. Xander knows he's doing it; he proposed to her when he thought the world would end (again), refused to let her tell her friends, and then, when it came down to it, instead of ever talking to Anya, he just disappeared from their wedding. She wanted to spend the rest of her life with her best friend; he never even considered Anya his best friend. Anya didn't act perfectly in the whole engagement debacle, but -- as usual -- the blame is pretty much on Xander here.

There's no reason to assume Anya ever seduced anyone into revenge, she just magicked them into bad situations. I suppose maybe she seduced someone into wishing? But she seemed straight, and the Buffyverse has no one bi in it.

She acted like a Good Girl, and sure, she saw it not working as a demon but human nature (and Anya is human) does have people making the same mistakes they see other people make. She's different! She really loved Xander! I don't think that's totally out of character, especially as she's supposed to be poor at reading social cues.

Revenge demons: well, comparing stuff she says to stuff Halfrek says, they can sense when people are unhappy, but they're not called exactly. They can choose to come -- Anya chose scorned women, Halfrek chose lonely children -- or not, but they don't need to be asked in. They need to show up and then bring conversations around to the word wish.

Isabel C. said...

Spoilers for S4-S6:

Evtug, ohg vg'f yrff gung fur'f abg *bxnl* orvat uhzna sberire naq zber gung fur frrzf gb ybfr zbfg-fynfu-nyy bs ure xabjyrqtr bs ubj uhzna fbpvrgl jbexf, orpnhfr gurl...jnagrq n Onyxv, sebz jung V pna gryy.

Naq iratrnapr qrzbaf nf cbegenlrq naabl gur uryy bhg bs zr, rfcrpvnyyl--nf jnf ubgyl qrongrq ba arjftebhcf, onpx va Gur Qnl--orpnhfr bs gur vapbafvfgrapl orgjrra gurz naq inzcverf be bgure qrzbaf. Gur fghss Naln qrfpevorf qbvat, naq gung Unyserx qbrf ba fperra, vf nf onq be jbefr guna gur nirentr aba-cynlvat-jvgu-sbbq inzcver znantrf; fur rkcerffrf mreb erzbefr sbe nal bs vg naq, va snpg, pubfr gb tb gurer; naq fur trgf gerngrq zhpu zber flzcngurgvpnyyl guna nal bs gur ab-ybatre-xvyyvat-crbcyr inzcverf qb.

Gung znl or orpnhfr Naln'f qrny vaibyirq zbfgyl bssfperra onqarff, ohg, pbzovarq jvgu bgure fghss ba gur fubj, vg srryf yvxr vg'f orpnhfr fpbearq jbzra/haunccl puvyqera ner nyjnlf evtug, naq ivbyrag chavfuzrag sbe vasvqryvgl/artyrpg*/rgp vf svar naq qnaql, juvpu vf na vqrn V ybngur n jubyr ybg.

*Naq Qnja...jnf abg ernyyl artyrpgrq ng nyy. Fur whfg jnagrq gb or gur pragre bs rirelbar'f nggragvba, jnfa'g, naq fubhyq unir orra ghearq onpx vagb pbfzvp raretl jura ure yvggyr fgvag nf Zlfgvpny Pbhfva Byvire jnf bire.

hf said...

Cerggl fher gurl qvqa'g xvyy ure orpnhfr fur jnf uhzna ng gur gvzr jura gurl sbhaq bhg jung fur hfrq gb or. Punevgnoyl ernq, fur'q ybfg ure cbjre gb qb unez. Jura fur trgf vg onpx gurl'ir xabja ure sbe n juvyr. Rira fb, V qba'g erpnyy Ohssl urfvgngvat nal ybatre jura gurl yrnea gung Naln'f xvyyrq ntnva. Unezbal ba Natry frrzf yvxr n zber gebhoyvat rknzcyr.

hf said...

V jnf nyy frg gb pnyy Knaqre nf "gur Urneg" evqvphybhf. Guvf gvgyr pbhyq zrna gung ur oevatf gur grnz gbtrgure yvxr n orggre irefvba bs Ebff, naq nyybjf gurz gb npg nf bar. Ohg gung frrzf oyngnagyl hagehr. Be vg pbhyq zrna gung nf gur mbzovr-svtugvat Onqnff Abezny ur unf gur fgeratgu gb pneel ba va vzcbffvoyr fvghngvbaf. Ohg Ohssl pna'g irel jryy ynpx guvf novyvgl, rfcrpvnyyl vs fur fuehttrq bss uvf frkhny nffnhyg ba ure.

Ba gur guveq unaq, V qb guvax jr pbhyq whfgvsl fnlvat gung Knaqre haqrefgbbq Nqnz, Raqre Jvttva fglyr. Knaqre unq fbyqvre zrzbevrf qbjaybnqrq vagb uvz ol zntvp. Ur unq gur inthryl qrzbavp "ulran" irefvba bs uvf abezny crefbanyvgl gb uryc uvz frr ubj gur qrzba cneg bs Nqnz zvtug guvax. N engvbany crefba zvtug nqq guvf "Urneg" gb gur zvk whfg va pnfr vg qvq nalguvat hfrshy. (Nsgre nyy, bar zvtug fbpvbcnguvp-nyyl ernfba, Ohssl naq Jvyybj unir fubja gurl pna fheivir nalguvat ur pna qb gb genhzngvmr gurz.)

jill heather said...

Gurl pbzcyrgryl qebccrq gur onyy ba gur vagrerfgvat pbzcnevfba jurer Knaqre pbhyqa'g orne gb nyybj gurz gb xvyy Naln nsgre fur fynhtugrerq nyy gubfr seng oblf (jub jrer oebhtug onpx gb yvsr riraghnyyl, ng gur pbfg bs Unyserx'f yvsr) if uvf erfcbafr gb Natry. Ohg guvf vf orpnhfr Knaqre vf fhpu n Avpr Thl gung rirelguvat ur qbrf vf Gur Evtug Guvat Gb Qb.

Thomas Keyton said...

Nppbeqvat gb Jurqba'f pbzzragnel ba Pubfra, Knaqre jbhyq unir qvrq vafgrnq bs Naln va gur svany onggyr. Gur punatr jnf znqr orpnhfr vg jbhyq nyyrtrqyl unir orra gbb fnq vs bar bs gur bevtvany Fpbbovrf unq qvrq.

Jr gura svaq bhg va gur Frnfba 8 pbzvpf gung ur naq Qenphyn fgnlrq va pbagnpg naq ner sevraqf ova nqqvgvba gb gur fgvyy-rkvfgrag Erasvryq guvat. Orpnhfr na vasnzbhfyl rivy inzcver jubz Ohssl erwrpgf nf n cfrhqbebznagvp cnegare vf sne cersrenoyr gb na vasnzbhfyl rivy-fbzr-bs-gur-gvzr inzcver jubz Ohssl qngrq. Lnl Knaqre!

jill heather said...

Try what you like, Thomas, your added bad things that Xander doesn't cannot make me dislike him more than I already do. And I didn't even really dislike his hyena actions that much.

Silver Adept said...

@jill heather -

Please respect the ROT13 rule regarding spoilers in all cases. The characters under discussion have not entered Ana's field of vision yet. "Cranky" will be the most polite and downplayed word to use to describe what comes next. Don't make us cranky. You will not like us when we're cranky.


Knaqre pbagvahrf gb or n urry va snpr pybguvat sbe jung V'ir ernq bs Frnfba Rvtug, naq uvz qngvat Qnja qbrf abg nccrne gb or urycvat nalguvat sbe nalbar, yrnfg bs nyy Ohssl. Fvapr ur'f fhpu n Avpr Thl (GZ), gur jevgref frrz gb rawbl hfvat uvz nf fbzrbar gung crbcyr jnag gb qngr, naq gurz trg bire uvz bapr gurl ernyvmr jung ur vf. Vg'f n ovg bs n ynpx bs Traer Fniil, naq rfcrpvnyyl fgenatr pbzvat sebz Qnja..

(V qb nterr gung jvgu Tybel'f qrngu, Gur Xrl fubhyq unir erghearq gb ure abezny fgngr.)

Znlor gung'f jung znxrf uvz Gur Urneg. Ur'f qngrq fbzr bs gur punenpgref gung ner tbvat gb zryq, naq ubyqf pehfurf ba gur bgure barf. Gurl'yy hfr uvf cngujnlf gb yvax rirelbar ryfr hc, fvapr ur nyernql unf gurz ohvyg. Juvpu vf xvaq bs njshy, va gung vg'f n erjneq sbe onq orunivbe, ohg fbzrbar pbhyq rkphfr vg nf "Jryy, abg rabhtu gvzr gb qb vg n orggre jnl, fb urer jr tb."

depizan said...

I think you guys are going to accidentally summon Cthulhu.

Brin Bellway said...

"Ur'f qngrq fbzr bs gur punenpgref gung ner tbvat gb zryq, naq ubyqf pehfurf ba gur bgure barf."

Ur unf n pehfu ba Tvyrf?

Silver Adept said...

@Brin Bellway -

Bu, fher. Vg'f cebonoyl uvf bayl aba-ebznagvp pehfu va gur juvyr frevrf. Tvyrf vf gur oenval thl gur bgure Fpbbovrf naq Ohssl ybbx hc gb, naq uvf cnfg nf Evccre tvirf uvz gur Onqnff Abezny cbjre gung Knaqre qrfcrengryl pbirgf, rira vs Tvyrf vf gelvat gb eha njnl sebz vg. (Rkprcg sbe gur cneg jurer ur xvyyf Ora. Gung'f Evccre, guebhtu naq guebhtu.)

Fb lrnu, V'q or pbasvqrag fnlvat Knaqre unq n pehfu bs Tvyrf, ohg bar bs znpub wrnybhfl vafgrnq bs ebznapr naq frklgvzrf.

@depizan - nah, it's Hastur we have to worry about accidentally summoning.

hf said...


Tigerpetals said...

And my thought on the latest Twilight post about stereotypes, about the scene with Cordelia and Jesse as a vampire, seems relevant here. Jesse is the awkward guy who gets looked down on by mean girl Cordelia, but when he becomes a vampire and tells her to shut up after she objects to him again, she goes along with it.

This scene is something I only remember seeing discussed in terms of 'evil is sexy' or 'bad boys are sexy,' but it's a perfect example of Nice Guy mentality about Nice Guys, mean beautiful women, and alpha males. And it's got a magical reset involved: Jesse is acting this way when he's a vampire, after he establishes that he feels different as one, which redirects the blame from him and/or culture to magic evil. Jesse himself has been reset, and Cordelia says 'okay' after her initial protest, which is what I remember seeing focused on regarding their interactions when I see them commented on.

What I've seen is the assumption that Cordelia really was okay with being told to shut up and to dance by a guy she was explicitly uninterested in, and that she really did become interested because he was 'confident.' But, to continue abusing the word 'see,' I've never seen that being portrayed as problematic, at least not beyond the above-mentioned 'do girls really think bad boys are sexy?' Even though I've seen focus on Cordelia's reaction, it wasn't questioned, just accepted at face value. I suppose an argument based on her characterization in the episodes after these could be made as to why this would be in character, but it wasn't presented by the show, nor was Jesse's behavior acknowledged as bad except in the context of him being an evil vampire.

Loquat said...

I... I can't tell if that link is serious or not.

Does seem like a reliable way to give yourself creepy Lovecraftian dreams, at least.

jill heather said...

I'd be happy to follow the spoiler policy if I were clear what it is. Can you clarify it for me? Thanks.

Ana Mardoll said...

Since I have to read all the comments on the board to moderate content, please place characters and events I've not seen yet in ROT 13 encryption. Or don't talk about them, if you prefer. Thanks.

Ken said...

I think You misunderstand the reason for Buffy's behaviour. Buffy is strong, sure, but this is recent. Most of her life, she was weak, especially against bullying behaviour. Were a mouse turned dog, it would first still behave like a mouse, including running away from birds and cats. It would take it a long time to realise it doesn't have to, and even when it learned to stand to, say, owls and such, it would take yet longer to learn to stand to cats - because "run from cats" is so deeply ingrained. Therefore, Buffy may beat up vampires, but Joyce is Mom - and obeyed.
And Buffy's power is not that big as one thinks. Physical power is not always deciding. Surely, Buffy can ignore her grounding, but what if Joyce sends police after her or, on the other side refuses to support her? Rememeber You mentioned Bjurman and Lisa? Buffy is in even worse position: not only is she rightless minor, but even if she were emancipated, without even school finishing she can hardly earn a living. Sure she can be brough up by Watchers, but this is an even worse alternative. So even though Buffy and Willow are powerful, they are down the social ladder just like most teenagers. In fact arc spoiler, but no concrete facts !), gur jubyr nep cybg bs gur fubj vf Ohssl, Jvyybj, naq bgure tveyf fybjyl rznapvcngvat gurzfryirf sebz bguref va nppbeqnapr jvgu gurve cbjre yriryf. And here we are just at the beginning.

Ana Mardoll said...

Your comment seems to have nothing to do with my OP, nor is it in response to anyone. Also you have employed the "I think you have misunderstood" card, which is a sure way to get on my tits because art does not have One True Interpretation.

To be clear, I have not criticized Buffy's behavior. I have criticized how she is written. If that isn't clear to you, you need to do some reading up on Watsonian vs. Doylist perspectives before telling ME that I have misunderstood.

Ken said...

Sorry for "misunderstand". But the point still stands: being a superhero / supersmart / magical doesn't allow you to live free from social pressures and noit be hurt by people up the social ladder. As for Doylist point: there is a reason why Spiderman is more known than Iron Man, for example - the hero has to suffer to make an interesting story. Peter Parker suffers, Nin Redstone suffers, Harry Potter (and Hermione) suffer, even Dexter Duglass (Freakazoid) suffers. In this case this is the whole point: Buffy (and yngre Jvyybj) get superpowers, but they still suffer, since superpowers don't autoimatically translate into being mentally strong and socially well-positioned. In fact this is the whole point for all seasons of Buffy: Ohssl, Jvyybj, naq bgure tveyf tnvavat zragny cbjre, fbpvny fgnaqvat naq novyvgl gb qrsvar gurve yvirf pbeerfcbaqvat va "fvmr" jvgu gurve cbjref. So I suggest you just see all seasons before making judgment. It's worth it.

Silver Adept said...

...that's still not relevant to the point being made in the OP. (And I have seen all seven seasons - that recommendation comes across as dismissive and condescending the way you've phrased it.) The OP, if I may summarize, is that Reset Button type actions should be damaging to Buffy and the cast, because they mean traumatic acts that should be discussed get buried instead, that the frequent use of the Reset Button suggests bad writing (or writers that cannot actually carry characterization from one arc to another) and the decisions made by the writers regarding the motivations and actions of the supporting cast reinforce very negative tropes and stereotypes in very capricious and not seemingly well-thought manners, necessitating the use of the Reset Button in the first place.

(Which means Cordelia is the one who gets to hang lampshades on it, until she gets sent off to the sister show. That makes her likable.)

It's not about Buffy's physical strength and how useless it is against social structures and expectations. Not yet, anyway. It's about how the ostensibly supporting cast for Buffy do a lot to hurt and hinder her on a long-term basis, including taking the side of someone claiming to be her father over her very real, even pedestrian, non-Slayer objections, even if they are helpful against the Monster Of The Week. This reflects poorly on the writers that these things are not seriously addressed in the show. (Not even in the later seasons, when they have a lot of opportunities to point it out, lampshade or no.)

Ana Mardoll said...

So I have an actual question: did you actually read my post before you decided to mansplain to me that heroes suffer, like, shit and things? Because you're strongly creating the impression that you didn't.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, hi, please feel free to fuck off for telling me (in the most condescending way possible) how to run my deconstructions. I don't need to read all 34 books in the Xanth series before calling out sexism where I see it, and I don't have to watch all 7 seasons of Buffy (and read ALL THE GRAPHIC NOVELS FOR REALZY NO SHIT) in order to express my motherfucking opinion, no matter what the rabid fanz say or think. That's how I roll.

Yeesh. It's like you *want* as high an offense-to-word ratio as possible.

Silver Adept said...

The past above should also have the qualifiers "in my opinion", but Opera is misbehaving at the moment and not leering me edit. I do not presume to know and understand the mind of Ana nor the writers of the show.

Ana Mardoll said...

No worries, I liked your comment and thought it was an awesome distillation of the OP. Thank you.

Ken said...

Ahm, but doesn't Reset Button in Sunnydale go hand in hand with taking the issues away instead of burying them, isn't it that when the spell is ended everybody doesn't care about what happened to hir during this time, meaning that Buffy, doesn't retain the stress from Xander's attack or from this episode?
By the way, wherereas Freud believed that all issues should be discussed and concluded, nowadays it is believed, that if you really don't care about an issue (and this is probably under Reset Button "spell") , it is better off buried.
As for Reset Buttons too generously applied, "Buffy" is nothing on "Star Trek", where being assimilated by the Borg is handled off in just one episode.

Ana Mardoll said...

Alright, you are a troll. There is no other possible explanation. You (a) don't know anything about the Reset Button since it's not "a spell" that has affected Buffy in the cases under discussion, (b) think that you are an authority on how ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE work out their issues, and (c) are telling people what to talk about (Star Trek) while being simultaneously ignorant of THAT, too (since ST most certainly addressed Body Horror and Borgs Need Counseling on multiple occasions).

I'm banning you simply because your Deliberately Stupid comments are giving me a headache and are a recipe for derails. Bye.

Silver Adept said...


Star Trek is definitely not the case to use there - Picard after Locutus is irrational to the point of jeopardizing his ship and crew in his quest to exterminate the Borg wherever he should find them. It's a major character development for him.

Which we both know, but for posterity, and all.

You're not there yet, but Xander will be involved in (yet another) textbook example of a "Let Us Not Discuss This Again" in one of the later seasons, but it's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it thing - I didn't catch it until I took a few levels in Deconstruction with your help. And had seen the episode a few times, because it's really a great episode in terms of production and how the episode goes. I am eagerly awaiting when you get to that episode, because I think you'll have a lot to say about it.

Ana Mardoll said...

Seriously. In addition to it being handled in episode, AND there being a counselor on board who is utilized often (one of the nicest touches to TNG, I thought), there's a WHOLE MOVIE where Picard's lingering Issues make up 40% of the plot. At least.

Niala Wesley said...

Ana, your feelings about Joyce Summers are what I've believed since the series began in 1997. Please write more posts on the kind of mother she REALLY is. I love this post so much that as soon as I finished it I bookmarked your site. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Joyce in the episode Gingerbread.

Ana Mardoll said...

You should like this one, then, if you've not read it already:


Niala Wesley said...

I read it. After reading this post I quickly went through all of the other Buffy posts. I was always surprised that there were people that greately sympathized with Willow in Dead Man's Party, especially after that bedroom scene. I was very happy that your take on it was similiar to mine. Except that I would go further and say that Willow was really showing her selfishness in wanting to be able to brag to Buffy about having a serious boyfriend (when Buffy just got psychologically tortured for 4 months by her BF and then had to send him to Hell), being a senior (when Buffy got kicked out of school. twice.), getting into witchcraft (when slaying caused Buffy so much literal hell and misery), etc. If Buffy had stayed in town it would've been cruel and unusual punishment for Willow to go on and on about her exciting opportunity filled life in front of a severely depressed, grief-stricken Buffy whose life is in shambles. I also was sickened by that last scene in which Willow acts as if she is emotionally superior to Buffy for "forgiving" her and starts calling Buffy names such as "quitter" "bad seed" and "deliquent." Names Joyce no doubt also feels describe Buffy.

I love that I wasn't the only one that caught on to the Joyce lines that so many other fans seem to ignore or gloss over. Almost everything Joyce says is so hurtful. In Witch, when Buffy told her she was trying out for cheerleading Joyce said "it'll keep you out of trouble." Buffy says "I'm not in trouble" and Joyce actually says "No. Not yet." In WTTH when Buffy is getting out of the car and Joyce calls out to her it is obvious that Buffy thinks she is going to say something else encouraging about her first day at a new school in a new town and instead she says, "Try not to get kicked out." And then she doesn't even ask to know what happened to Buffy in The Harvest. She just guilt trips her and lectures her about it being the second day and already getting calls from the principle.

I love that you also catch Joyce's

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