Buffy: A Picture of Abuse

[Content Note: Emotional Abuse, Misogynistic Language, Violence]

So let's talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And when I say Buffy the Vampire Slayer, specifically I mean Season 3, Episode 2, "Dead Man's Party", aka the most enraging episode of anything I have ever seen ever since I quit watching Everyone Loves Raymond. And with that little tie-in mention, it should be clear that we're talking about abusive friends and family.

For a recap of this show and my initial feelings about it, see here. Today we're going to line-by-line the transcript. BECAUSE IT'S MY BLOG AND I CAN, THAT'S WHY. Credit for the transcript goes here. (Note the irony that the transcriptionist is apparently a Xander fan. Note also that this is proof that Xander fans are not horrible people and are in fact capable of soaring acts of kindness and self-sacrifice. Thank you, kind transcriptionist, for providing captions for hearing-impaired people that Amazon streaming video does not.)

Buffy: Mom? 
Joyce is very startled and jumps, accidentally slamming the hammer through the drywall.
Joyce: Oh! Buffy.
Buffy: Sorry.
Joyce: No, no. Don't worry about it. I-I guess I just got used to all the quiet while you were gone. (smiles) But it's no problem.

Ha! Bet you thought we'd make it five lines into the show before I started criticizing Joyce! (For those of you who correctly gauged my searing all-consuming hatred of Joyce, please collect your prize at the door afterwards.) And I can already hear the objections from the kind people in the audience who are kind enough to give Joyce the benefit of the doubt. She doesn't, after all, say anything really wrong here. Sure, it's a little awkward, but it's one of those truthful Freudian slip things: she got used to the quiet and is now startled by the sudden noise but oh crap, I don't mean it like that, really, um, forget I said the awkward thing.

Oh, you nice people. You are nice. I love you all. Never change from your essential niceness. But here is the thing. If this was an isolated incident (instead of another example of Joyce's long-standing policy of Open Mouth, Say Shit, Never Apologize), then I would be right there in benefit-of-the-doubt land with you, snuggling pretty stuffed teddy bears and drinking in the heady odor of unicorn farts. But alas, this is not an isolated incident: by the end of the episode, Joyce will be "confiding" to a near-stranger in a house crowded with several dozen actual strangers, absolutely none of whom have any reason to keep this juicy tidbit from Buffy, that she's not really all that happy that her daughter is back.

So, really, this isn't an example of Joyce saying something innocuous-and-truthful that is also whoops-awkward under the circumstances. Rather, this is one more piece of evidence for the gigantic pile of True Fax that Joyce is not now and never will be happy, no matter what her life circumstances are because she refuses to take responsibility for her actions. She didn't want her daughter to be gone, despite banning her from ever returning to the house, but she apparently took no steps whatsoever to find Buffy (even going so far as to openly shun the one person -- Giles -- who knows her best and who was her best chance at tracking Buffy down), and now that her daughter is miraculously back, she's openly and repeatedly dissatisfied with how hard it all is and how not-quiet the house is. Your life, Joyce, is a goddamn tragedy. I mean, sure, every other parent in Sunnydale has lost at least one child to ravening vampires, sea monsters, preying mantis women, ghosts, and/or owlbears but you have to deal with the fact that your daughter was unfairly expelled from school by an obviously vindictive bigoted troll-man. HERE IS ALL THE COOKIES AND WARM MILK.

Joyce, belying her cheerful name, is not a happy person. Oh, she looks happy, with her Stepford Smiles and her cheerful demeanor, but underneath that facade is a withered soul mired in misery. She steadfastly clings to the self-delusion that she has Done Nothing Wrong, indeed, that she is incapable of wrong. Her addiction of choice is to the narrative that she is a Good Mother, and woe betide the daughter who brings up even the most minute shred of evidence to the contrary, because there is no room for grayscale in Joyce's universe. Either she is a Good Mother who has never done anything wrong ever, or she is a Bad Mother. Since the latter is unthinkable, anyone who presents evidence that might conflict with the former is clearly someone who must be silenced and stopped.

This is actually not that uncommon of a reaction; it is the logical endpoint for our Good Girl culture that is so obsessed with perfection. I am willing to bet that everyone in this thread has witnessed something like this in day-to-day blips from people being fallible normal people. The initial suggestion -- that maybe XYZ shouldn't have been said/done, or perhaps could have been said/done better than it actually was -- is met with a disproportionate push-back. The wail goes up: I AM NOT A BAD MOTHER / RACIST / SEXIST / ABLEIST / HOMOPHOBE. I CAN'T BE. I AM A GOOD PERSON. And then the people around the worried person double down to explain that everyone is capable of mistakes, and that a toxic culture breeds toxic behaviors, and that acknowledging those behaviors and Doing Better is something we all struggle with, and that's what makes us Good People: our willingness to examine and change, rather than achieving some kind of perfection at an early age and maintaining that perfection until the day we die.

Almost everyone does this; it's very very very very very normal. But not almost everyone takes it to the level that Joyce does. There's a difference between that initial knee-jerk reaction to being called to the mat for bad behavior versus digging in one's heels and staying there come hell or high water and no matter how many innocent loved ones you hurt in the process.

(And already this post is longer than most of the things I write.)

Joyce: Uh, can I make you a sandwich or something before you go? You must be starving. 
Buffy: I was un-until that four-course snack you served me after dinner.

I am deeply, intimately familiar with the Doing Stuff For You form of apologizing. Indeed, because Aspergers (and an accompanying difficulty with Long Conversations) is now part of my life, Doing Stuff For You apologies are probably the apologies I most frequently receive. The form has its benefits and its drawbacks, like almost everything else in life.

But last time I talked about Joyce, I talked about the fact that actions are generally only good or bad depending on the context. Letting Buffy go to the Bronze and stay out late at night might be Good Parenting in the sense that Joyce trusts her daughter and is letting her flex her wings, or it might be Bad Parenting in the sense that Joyce is ignoring her daughter until it's convenient for her to double down and oppress her with Constant Attention and Grounded Forevers when suddenly Joyce decides to take an interest. Context matters, and its what makes abuse so difficult to talk about. Someone not talking to me for an hour can be abusive under the "right" circumstances. Someone taking my things without telling me can be abusive under the "right" circumstances. Someone buying me presents can be abusive under the "right" circumstances. We do not get to divorce those actions from their context and say that, for example, Buying Presents is always a good nice awesome thing to do. Life is more complicated than that.

Joyce is hovering. Okay. That's a natural response. Her daughter was missing and now is back. Everything was horrible and now has a chance to be better. Joyce wants to make up for the awfulness that contributed to Buffy's absence. I get that. Joyce even basically says this:

Joyce: No, no. (looks down at her keys briefly) I-I just want to put this whole thing behind us, get  back to normal. (inhales deeply) You go. Have a good time.

But context matters.

Joyce doesn't attempt to apologize, apart from providing Buffy with food. (And don't get me started on linking sustenance and food to love and comfort and forgiveness. Because then we really will be here all day.) Joyce doesn't attempt to own the actions that she took that led to Buffy leaving. She certainly doesn't attempt to correct or modify her behavior to keep from repeating her patterns in the future. Joyce isn't doing anything to constructively get things "behind [them]" and move to a healthier place, or at least she's not doing anything hard-but-effective. Pulling food out of the pantry in this case is an avoidance tactic: I won't apologize or change my actions, but can I offer you some Cheezy Poofs?

Joyce's actions, in context, are problematic. She wants things "behind us" (tellingly, not "healed" or "made better" or to "do better", but just In The Past) not because she did something wrong and she wants to not be that kind of person anymore, but because she doesn't want to have to deal with things that make her uncomfortable. She wants a magical Reset Button, to pretend that what she said and did never happened. In the past. Behind us. Water under the bridge. And she wants that complete forgiveness and restitution of the status quo without any effort on her part to heal the rift she was instrumental in the formation of. Joyce hasn't learned anything from this experience except that she doesn't feel that she should have to grapple with her own bad behavior.

In other words, Joyce providing Buffy food isn't a genuine apology. It's just one more example of Joyce realizing that things aren't the way she wants them to be and deciding that the correct option is to supervise and police Buffy's every action to an oppressive extreme (until she then later loses interest and wanders off). See that previous episode where she grounded Buffy from literally doing anything except going to the school or going to the toilet. Which one?, you ask. Haha, you got me: that was a trick question. See the multiple episodes where she did that.

Buffy: What if [Giles is] mad? 
Xander: Mad? Just because you ran away and abandoned your post and your friends and your mom and made him lay awake every night worrying about you? (to Oz and Willow) Maybe we should wait out here.

Here is a conversation that shouldn't be noteworthy as anything more than a flat joke that goes over like a lead balloon, and yet is.

Once again, like Joyce's slip about "quiet" above, this isn't an accident or a bad joke. This is Xander expressing his true feelings under the cover of a "joke". Which is passive-aggressive and a bullying tactic, because it means that you can say deeply cruel things and then, when your victim objects, you can castigate them for not being able to "take a joke".

Xander really does believe everything he says here, and he'll repeat himself several times before the episode is out. He believes that Buffy "ran away", thus painting her as a quitter and a coward despite the fact that she has saved the world multiple times since she became the Chosen One, with hardly a moment of respite for herself. He believes that she "abandoned" the "post" that was foisted on her against her will and which has ruined her life and will ultimately kill her. And he believes that she "abandoned" her friends and family despite the fact that it was in fact her friends and family that pushed her away. Xander himself deliberately kept the knowledge that Buffy would be fighting a souled Angel away from her because he didn't want to risk the chance that she might get back together with Angel, thereby continuing to deny Xander sexual access to her body. And Joyce, of course, literally told Buffy to never come home again.

It's possible that Xander doesn't know that last detail (though he does know that Joyce knows and isn't happy about it because she's been talking to Giles), but it's a fact that he isn't leaving open the possibility. He's already judged Buffy for her absence, and he has deemed her guilty of the worst kind of cowardice and capriciousness, based on his words here. He's put Buffy in the place where she has to defend her actions, explain them, and possibly receive his forgiveness. Xander, like Joyce, is not interested in any version of the facts wherein he was anything less than perfect and Buffy was anything more than craven.

Buffy: Well, thank you for the offer, but I think I just wanna get back to my normal routine. You know, school, slaying . . . kid's stuff. In fact, I'm jonesing for a little brainless fun. (to Xander) What are you doing tomorrow? 
Xander: Oh, I would, but, uh, (reaches his hands around Cordelia's arm) I'm kind of tied up. (smiles)
Cordelia: You wish. (pushes him away)
Xander sits back into the couch, embarrassed.
Buffy: (to Willow) Will?
Willow: Um, tomorrow I--
Buffy: Oh, come on. Friends don't let friends browse alone.
Willow: Okay. I had some schoolwork, but . . . I can change my plans.

Buffy's friends are avoiding her, particularly avoiding spending one-on-one time with her.

That's okay. There's nothing wrong with that. Let is be said clearly: you owe your time to no one. If you don't have the emotional spoons to hang out with someone whose actions hurt you, that is your right and prerogative not to do so. I heartily endorse self-care.

However. If you choose not to hang out with someone, you cannot then castigate that person from a moral high horse about not being willing to talk to you about things. They cannot talk to someone who has not given them an opportunity. This, I will note here, is a recurring Joyce tactic: refuse to talk to, listen to, or spend time with Buffy and then ruthlessly berate Buffy for never spending time opening up to Joyce. And this is at its most essential a truly unfair form of abuse, the act of blaming people for not being intimate "enough" after they gave the space they thought was wanted.

Willow and Xander are making it very clear that they don't want to be with Buffy. They do not have the right, therefore, to complain when she chooses not to be with them. Berating her for doing what they ask her to do is abusive.

Buffy: What about home schooling? You know, it's not just for scary religious people anymore.

As a former home-schooler, this line made me happy-laugh. That is all.

Pat: Oh, I'm Pat, (offers her hand) from your mom's book club. (they shake hands) I'm sure she mentioned me.
Buffy: Actually--
Pat: I, um, I sort of took it upon myself to look after her while you were, (rolls her eyes) you know, off and away or what have you, and . . .
Buffy looks aside, not believing this conversation.
Pat: (inhales) Well, between, uh, (exhales) your situation and reading 'Deep End of the Ocean', she was, uh, she was just a wreck. You can imagine.
Buffy gives her a thin smile and a weak nod.
Pat: Anyway, I'm off. We're-we're making empanadas in my Spanish class tonight. (giggles) You go be with your mom. You two need to rebond.

Pat is a terrible person.

Pat has never met Buffy before. We cannot read this introduction in any other way; this is a meeting between two strangers. Pat doesn't know why Buffy left: she literally cannot know (Because Secret Vampire Slayage), but even if Joyce had been totally truthful with her, there still remains the fact that she hasn't heard Buffy's side of the story. And yet, knowing that she doesn't know why Buffy left (For all she knows, Joyce is the kind of person who dates abusive men who invade Buffy's room and physically attack her! Oh, wait...), she has still chosen to insert herself into Buffy's situation by belittling Buffy and mocking the situation with her little tee-hee eye-roll treatment here.

Furthermore, by engaging with Buffy this way, she has made it perfectly plain that Joyce is talking about Buffy behind her back.

Now, I'm a fan of group counseling. I blow off steam with a select group of friends about my loved ones, including my dear husband. I don't judge people for talking when they need to talk. But here is the thing: I am very careful not to Cross The Streams. The friends I confide in are not brought around the people I confide in them about unless they've been carefully vetted as the sorts of people who won't betray my confidence and make my loved ones feel uncomfortable and exposed. And this vetting process takes, literally, years. Once you've heard me talk shit about my mom or my husband, you don't get to meet my mom or my husband until after I've known you for a good long while and I know you can keep your mouth shut.

I don't exercise this caution because I am vain and don't want my loved ones to know I gossip. I exercise this caution because I don't want my loved ones to be confronted with the fact that they are being gossiped about. That stark fact, dragged out in the light of day, is never pleasant and almost always hurtful. Do I know for a fact that my mom talks about me with her "prayer group" as a way of letting off steam? Yes. Am I okay with that? Yes. Do I want any of those people to exist in my line of sight? Fuck no. There are more than enough people in the world; I'll keep company with my people and you can keep your people over there out of my sight. I don't need more judging in my life, thanks.

By ignoring these fundamental rules of courtesy, Pat is being intensely passive-aggressive towards Buffy. And by bringing Pat into this situation and inviting her to the house (twice!) without warning Buffy or telling Pat to close her fucking mouth no doy, Joyce is partially responsible for this situation and the pain it is inevitably going to cause Buffy. And, once again, I must point out that this sort of third-party insertion is not a new thing with Joyce: she did this in Inca Mummy Girl and she did this in Ted. By the end of this episode, she'll be inserting an entire roomful of several dozen strangers into her relationship with Buffy. Bringing strangers into the house to yell at Buffy for her is pretty much what Joyce does.

Joyce: (looks up) Oh, uh, before I forget, uh, Willow just called. 
Buffy: (suddenly attentive) Where was she?
Joyce: Uh, she, she got held up, but she said she tried to call.
Buffy: (confused) Was there a message?
Joyce: No. 

Willow is not only avoiding Buffy, she also stood her up on their date and made an obvious lie as an excuse. That moral high ground about You Don't Have To See People You Don't Want To does have a limit, and Willow has pretty much danced over the line. 

Joyce: But I had a thought. What if I invited Willow and Mr. Giles and everybody over for dinner tomorrow night? (smiles) Don't you think that would be nice?
Buffy just opens the pitcher and pours herself a drink.
Joyce: Since I sort of already did, I was hoping for a yes.

I just... don't even. Does Joyce ever let Buffy know people are coming over before she invites them? Pat, Ted, foreign exchange students, strange girls claiming to be friends of Buffy despite never having been mentioned before, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, whatever. If there is a faster, more direct way of making Buffy feel like a tourist in her home with no control over her personal space, I can't think of it.

This is also especially awesome in light of the fact that no one -- not Xander, Willow, or Joyce -- want to be alone to speak with Buffy right now. Instead, they want to gang up on her so that they can ignore her as a group and then castigate her as a group so that she's virtually guaranteed to be unable to defend herself when the accusations start coming in a mile a minute from four different directions. Great! What a great plan! 

Buffy: I thought they'd be here.
Angel: They are. They're waiting for you.
Buffy: (looks at him) Am I dreaming?
Angel: (smiles and chuckles) I'm probably the wrong person to ask. You'd better go.
Buffy: (looks at him) I'm afraid.
Angel: (shrugs and looks at her) You should be.

I actually thought this was disconnected weirdness, but it turns out dream!Angel is right: Buffy should be afraid of seeing her friends and family because they are horrible, horrible people. FLEE THE ABUSE, BUFFY! GO BACK TO THE SHINY CITY WHICH WAS CLEARLY MUCH BETTER THAN YOUR WHITE SUBURBAN HELL!

Joyce: Uh, as for private schools, uh, Miss Porter's accepts late admissions. I, uh, I wrote the information down for you. 
Buffy: A girls' school? (goes to the island to read the slip of paper) So now it's jackets, kilts, and no boys? (looks back at her mom) Care to throw in a little foot-binding?
Joyce: Buffy, you made some bad choices. You just might have to live with some consequences.

.....................this was pretty much the point at which I started screaming at the television. I didn't want to spoil Husband on the whole Joyce tumor thing, but I am 100% ready at this point for Joyce to die as soon as possible. Not because I like it when Real People die, and not because cancer is super fun (spoiler alert: it's not), but because this particular, specific Fictional Character has no worth in my world. Get rid of her; write in a better replacement mom. Because, seriously, there is no redemption as far as I'm concerned from this passive-aggressive one-dimensional nightmare character on top of the eight-billion other incidents of passive-aggressive shit.


What the fuck? In what fucking alternate universe, woman, is this statement appropriate or true or anything other than pure, unadulterated, FDA-approved horse shit? WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Buffy didn't "make some bad choices". Buffy saved the goddamn world. She fought countless demons, was beaten up, was injured, was emotionally harmed, was hindered by you yourself, and she never gave up. She went out there, night after night and night, and she fought on because she cared about saving lives. On the night in question, the night she got expelled, she went to confront Angel -- an abusive killer who killed everyone Drusilla ever loved because he wanted to torment her, and who appeared to be repeating that established pattern with Buffy -- because she was afraid that he would kill someone (Xander, Giles, or Joyce being the obvious targets) if she didn't agree to meet and fight. But Angel cheated and had his compatriots murder Kendra, the only other Slayer on earth and the only person who could possibly understand Buffy. THAT was why she was expelled. What "choice" did she make there that you can possibly be in any position to judge?

The "choice" to love Angel? Well, news flash, he did the exact same thing to Drusilla without any kind of involvement from her, plus now you are a victim-blaming asshat. The "choice" to run from the police? Well, otherwise the entire planet would have been sucked into hell, and I suppose that was a better alternative Because Lawful Stupid? The "choice" to flee to the city? Well, guess what? That was something you MADE her do. But your actions don't have consequences, do they, Joyce? YOU ARE A SPECIAL GODDAMN BUTTERFLY.

And I can already hear the counterpoint: Oh, but Joyce doesn't know all that! Really?!? WELL, I WONDER WHOSE FAULT THAT IS? If only there was, I dunno, an adult in Sunnydale that she could talk to who has all the most intimate details of Buffy's life over the past couple of years and could provide insight into what was going on and why she had to do the things she did. But, of course we couldn't go ask Giles about why Buffy did what she did because (a) then Joyce would have to give up her ridiculous I Don't Blame Me, I Blame Giles martyr complex, and (b) that would involve actually wanting to understand Buffy, which might accidentally lead to not blaming her. And that would be a fucking tragedy, if we couldn't blame Buffy anymore.

Joyce: Nothing's settled yet. (looks for something to do and spies the trash) I just wish you didn't have to be so secretive about things. (ties off the trashbag) I mean, it's not your fault you have a special circumstance. They should make allowances for you.
Buffy: Mom, I'm a slayer. It's not like I need to ride a little bus to school.
Joyce: (walks to the door with the trash) Couldn't you just tell a few people, like Principal Snyder . . . and maybe the police?

I can't get over how aggressively ignorant Joyce is about vampire slaying. This goes beyond refusing to talk to Giles about this stuff: Joyce is actively refusing to think about her daughter's position.

The only thing keeping Buffy at the marginal level of safety she currently enjoys is the fact that people don't know she's the Slayer. You think if it became common knowledge that she is what she is, that people wouldn't be flying in from all over the world to challenge her? To hurt her? To prove themselves against her? To glom onto her as emotional and psychological leeches? To try to use and manipulate and monetize her for their own personal gain? You think governments wouldn't want to control her, to use her, to cut her up and study her? Do you think she'd have any semblance of a normal life left?

Everyone she ever met after her secret came out, every single one of them, would be suspect. She would have to consider ever angle. Is this person a trap? Are they being paid off by the vampires, or coerced in some way? Is this person a groupie, only interested in her for her status and protection? Is this person trying to profit off of Buffy in any way shape or form? Do they want to use her, to "score" a Slayer or to prove that they are stronger than her? Buffy would never, ever have any kind of normal life. She'd have all the drawbacks of being a famous celebrity, with none of the perks.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to think of these things. It does take someone willing to sit down and mentally walk through what it would be like to live in Buffy's shoes. Incredibly, Joyce has not done that, not in the entire three months that Buffy has been gone and the house has been "quiet".

Xander: (interrupts) And what'll we talk about at a gathering anyway? 'So, Buffy, did you meet any nice pimps on your travels? And oh, by the by, thanks for ruining our lives for the past three months.'

So before we get into the fact that Buffy didn't ruin anyone's lives and is not, actually in fact, responsible for any lives other than her own much as it might pain the rest of the people in the room to take responsibility for their own selves, let's talk about the fact that this is (at least) the second time that Xander has implied that Buffy is a sex worker and/or sexually promiscuous.

The other time being in Go Fish when Xander blurted out this little gem:

Xander: You know what really grates my cheese? That Buffy's not here to share my moral outrage about swim team perks. She's too busy being one of them.

The noun "perk" according to Google dictionary is defined as "Money, goods, or other benefit to which one is entitled as an employee or as a shareholder of a company." (Or, of course, as a member of the swim team.)

Xander views Buffy as an object. Of course he does; he's a Nice Guy. Viewing women as objects to which he is entitled because he follows the rules of nice guyness is an integral part of his character. Xander may not be pleasant to be around, he may be a passive-aggressive bully who uses humor as a screen to snipe at people who cannot socially object, he may be the kind of guy who would pretend to not remember nearly raping a girl because then she won't confront him about it, but none of that MATTERS because as long as he follows the letter if not the spirit of the universal laws, women will fall into his lap as a reward for correctly traversing the magical spell of nice guyness. (Not to be confused with the actual magical spell that Xander used to make Cordelia love him.)

So Xander views Buffy as an object. A sexual object, which has thus far not played by the rules of the game and has pursued vampires and swim team members instead of nice guys -- a fact that causes Xander a good deal of frustration and anger. And because Buffy is a sexual object who is not playing by The Rules, she is clearly either a slut or a whore. Not in the sense that Xander thinks Buffy is sexually active with anyone beside That One Time with Angel (we know she's not) or that she engages in paid sex work (highly doubtful), but rather the sting of the words because of the layers of misogyny behind them. Xander could just as easily call Buffy a quatloo, were the term one with an appropriate history of misogyny behind it. But because quatloo does not have the necessary misogyny, Xander reaches for slut and whore. First by claiming that Buffy sleeps with swim team members for superficial (read: unacceptable to Xander) reasons, and then by suggesting that Buffy spent the summer doing sex work for pimps.

Remember! Criticizing a woman is so much more fun if you can criticize her sexuality in the process.

Cut to the Summers house. Cut inside to the dining room. The table is beautifully set with Joyce's best china, crystal and silverware. Buffy is dressed up for the occasion. She is putting the last setting into place when the doorbell rings. She looks over the table one last time and then goes to open the door. Through the window she sees Pat waiting there, holding a large plastic food container. Buffy opens the door.
Pat: Hey, there you are! (comes in) Not thinking about any more flights of fancy, I hope.
Buffy can't believe her comments, and just closes the door.
Pat: Joyce said there was room for one more, so I said forget facial night and let's party! (smiles) I bet you like empanadas.

Willow, Cordelia, Xander, and Oz have invited every teenager they know to Buffy's house to avoid talking to her. Joyce has invited Pat. The end result of both actions are the same: Buffy literally can't explain or justify why she was gone over their dinner party, since the details are intimate and painful, and the backstory is secretive and magical. Remember, though, that this is the point: the longer the people in Buffy's life can keep her from talking with them in the one-on-one setting she keeps trying to engineer for discussion, the longer they can hold onto their precious self-righteous anger at the selfish little slut who abandoned them after risking her life to save the entire world thirty-three times in a row. If you can even imagine.

Joyce: Oh, Pat! Good. Buffy, I hope you don't mind.

"You obviously knew I would or you would have mentioned something before you invited her. Not that you've ever asked me before inviting someone over, but I guess there's a first time for everything."

Buffy: (louder) This is amazing, but I was sort of hoping we could just hang together, the gang. 
Willow indicates to the band and makes like she totally can't hear Buffy. She turns her attention back to Oz and smiles at him. ... Buffy finds a relatively quiet spot in the dining room where they can talk.
Buffy: Is everything okay? You . . . You seem to be avoiding me, i-in the one-on-one sense.
Willow: (looks surprised) What? This isn't avoiding. See? Here you are, here I am.
Buffy: So we're cool?
Willow: Way! That's why, with the party, 'cause we're all glad you're back.
She isn't being very convincing, but Buffy decides to accept it for now.

Let the record show that Buffy tried to talk things out.

Cut to the kitchen. Joyce and Pat are having a little fiesta of their own, and pour some schnapps into two glasses. They raise their glasses, clink them together and each take a good sip. 
Joyce: Whew!
Pat: Now, how you holding up, Joyce, hmm? Really.
Joyce: Really? I'm . . . I don't know. While Buffy was gone, all I could think about was getting her home. I just knew that if I could put my arms around her and tell her how much I loved her, everything would be okay.
Pat: But?
Buffy reaches the kitchen and overhears. 
Joyce: Having Buffy home, I-I thought it was gonna make it all better, but in some ways, it's almost worse.

Remember what I said earlier about confining my steam-letting-off moments to people who don't have access to the people I'm letting off steam about? Well, that's especially true when I'm in the same house as the person I'm letting off steam about. Jesus Christ.

The thing I like best about this conversation, really, is that it's not one of those "walk up at the wrong moment, assume the worst" things that television loves so much. Buffy could have been here for the entire conversation and it wouldn't be any less hurtful. In fact, it would possibly be more hurtful, because the entire theme of the conversation is how Joyce was wrong to have missed her daughter as much as she did, since it's not working out the way it did in her magical fantasy land.

And let's talk about Joyce's magical fantasy land, because again we see patterns. This is not the first time that Joyce has expressed open and verbal regret with having a daughter who isn't a carbon copy of her. She got into a fight with Buffy because Buffy didn't want to be on the yearbook staff like Joyce was. She shamed Buffy in front of a stranger because Buffy didn't want to go to the school dance.

You'd kind of think that there would be an obvious parallel here: Buffy actually knows someone whose mother literally Body-Swapped with her because mom wanted to make sure her daughter did everything just the way mother did, but apparently there isn't supposed to be that overt of a connection -- the writers seem kind of ... oblivious to the parallels. Joyce is apparently supposed to be sympathetic in spite of the fact that she's openly favoring the daughter in her head over the one that actually exists and has feelings to be hurt by all this compare-and-contrasting. 

Cut to Buffy's room. She comes in and swings the door partially closed behind her. She looks at her bed sadly and sniffles. She bends down to pull her bag out from underneath, slams it onto the mattress and opens it up. She goes to her closet, gets out a pile of folded clothes, goes back to her bed and stuffs them into the bag.

Fun fact: the bear on Buffy's bed is a larger version of the blue Gund Snuffles bear here, and was inordinately popular in my area when I was a teenager. I had one myself and when you combine this with the fact that Buffy eats Spaghettios and the fact that Joyce bears more than a passing resemblance to my mother, well, it's a little creepy.

Cut to Buffy's room. She's at her closet getting more things. She goes back to her bed. While she stuffs her things into her bag, Willow shows up at her door and sees her packing.
 Willow: You're leaving again?
Buffy gives her a quick glance and goes back to packing.
Willow: (upset) What, you just stopped by for your lint brush and now you're ready to go?
Buffy: It's not like anyone will mind.
Willow: (heavy with sarcasm) Oh, no. Have a great time. Oh, oh, and don't forget to *not* write.
Buffy: (faces Willow, sobbing) Why are you attacking me? I'm trying.
Willow: Wow, and it looks so much like giving up!

This is the point where a good friend would say, "Whoa, hey, slow down. I'm sorry, I'm just ... a little lost here. What's going on? Can you tell me? Please tell me."

Willow doesn't know what's going on. I'm going to repeat that for clarity. WILLOW DOES NOT KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON. For all the oh, Joyce can't know about vampire slayage because she's incapable of leaving the house to ask questions bullshit I see online, I see no one pointing out the very, very, very obvious corollary that no one in Buffy's life knows, for sure, what is going on and that that ignorance is a very good reason to NOT attack her. And that not one of them has even tried to acknowledge that and rectify the information gap because that might cut into their attacking-Buffy privileges.

WILLOW DOES NOT KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON. Joyce could have just told Buffy (again) to leave. Xander could have sexually assaulted Buffy in the broom closet. Giles could have called and told her that if she's not on a plane to Jamaica in the next twenty minutes, the entire universe will explode. Lucifer himself could have risen out of the kitchen tiles and told Buffy that if she doesn't leave in the next five minutes, he will drag everyone in the house screaming into hell and eternal torment. WILLOW DOES NOT KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON.

Willow doesn't ask what is going on. She doesn't even try. The question marks up there are a lie: the only thing Willow is interested in right now is attacking Buffy and lashing out at her verbally. Willow could stop and say that she doesn't understand what is going on, but she wants to, and does Buffy have the time to talk to her. Please? She doesn't. She doesn't because she is not Buffy's friend. I don't know how that can be, given two seasons of characterization to the contrary, but here is is as a fact I cannot ignore. This is not the behavior of a friend. It is the behavior of an abuser.

Buffy: You guys were doing just fine without me.
Willow: We were doing the best we could! It's not like we had a lot of choice in the matter.


"I'm sorry, did your THREE MONTHS as honorary vampire slayer cut into your happy little life? Well, I'll fucking remember that for the next THIRTY YEARS of my tenure as the Chosen One. Sorry that your tourist trip in my platform shoes wasn't to your liking, but I don't remember anyone forcing you to take up the cross and follow me. In fact, Giles distinctly asked you not to do so, so it seems like you DID have a choice: slay or don't slay. You didn't have Option 3 of "leave the slaying to Buffy", true, but that is not YOUR right to demand of ME. BACK THE FUCK OFF."

Buffy: Sorry that I had to leave, but you don't know what I was going through.
Willow: Well, I'd like to.

...but not from having to, you know, spend time listening to you. BEAM YOUR JUSTIFICATION DIRECTLY INTO MY HEAD WHILE COWERING IN SHAME.

Buffy: You wouldn't understand.
Willow: (considers) Well, maybe I don't need to understand. Maybe I . . . I just need you to talk to me.

Hey, here's a thought, Willow: Maybe the universe doesn't revolve around your needs. Maybe you need to grow some ovaries, put on your big girl pants, and recognize that you live on the Hellmouth and that means that your BFF won't always be a phone call away for you to use whenever you need an emotional blanket. Maybe you could also realize that Buffy is not a goddamn stuffed teddy bear that only exists when you need emotional cuddles.

Also: Maybe Buffy has the same right to not talk to you as you exercised earlier to not talk to her.

Buffy: How could I talk to you when you were avoiding me?
Willow: This isn't easy, Buffy! I know you're going through stuff, but . . . so am I.
Buffy: I know that you were worried about me, but--
Willow: No! I don't just mean that. I mean, my life! You know? I, um . . . I'm having all sorts of--I'm dating, I'm having serious dating with a *werewolf*, a-and I'm studying witchcraft and killing vampires, and I didn't have anyone (starts sobbing) to talk to about all this scary life stuff. And you were my best friend.

I. You. What.


WHAT?!? Oh my god, what? Willow Rosenberg, how many of those goddamn things are things YOU chose to do? One plus one plus one plus one that's ALL THE THINGS. You chose to date. You chose to date a werewolf even after you knew he was a werewolf. You chose to study witchcraft. You chose to kill vampires. YOU CHOSE TO DO THOSE THINGS. Buffy is not responsible for your choices. Buffy's job in life is not to wait by the phone to counsel you about your life choices and pat you on the fucking head every time you need reassurance. Buffy does not exist to be your unpaid counselor.

If you, Willow Rosenberg, need to talk to someone about your life choices you find someone. Giles seems like the closest thing to a counselor in this world, but you haven't talked to him. Cordelia is someone you have bonded with in the past over boys and dating, but you haven't reached out to her. And there is a WHOLE WORLD of people out there who can be friended and spoken to, many of whom already know about supernatural stuff because you live on the Hellmouth. But that would take work! Effort! Actually getting off your butt and out of your house and away from your books and taking responsibility for YOUR life and taking action to improve your life. It would mean not waiting for a Manic Pixie Dream Girl named Buffy Summers to blow into your bedroom one evening with movies and popcorn and an ear that wants nothing more than to listen to everything that crosses your mind.

And it would require you thinking about people as people and not as dolls that exist only to listen to you whenever you can be arsed to not stand them up on dates because you were afraid they'd talk about their icky selves. So, you know, there's that.

Fun fact: Willow is complaining about the fact that her boyfriend turns into a werewolf three nights a month after she knows Buffy had to kill her souled boyfriend in order to save the world. Other fun fact: Willow Rosenberg is a monster.

Buffy: You have no idea how much I missed you. Everyone. I wanted to call every day.
Willow: That doesn't matter, Buffy. It doesn't make it okay that you didn't.

Willow says that line right after she says that she wanted to talk to Buffy but couldn't help avoiding her. Irony is not something that Willow grasps, apparently.

Joyce walks by the room and sees the bag on Buffy's bed.
Joyce: What is this? Is this some sort of a joke?
Buffy: Mom, please, could you, could you just--
Joyce: (interrupts) No, I can't just! Buffy, what is this?
Willow: She was running away again.
Buffy: No, I wasn't. (pauses, very confused) I'm not sure.
Joyce: Well, you better *get* sure and explain yourself right away! If you think you can just-just take off any time you feel like it--
Buffy: Stop it! Please! I don't know. I don't know what I'm doing.

She rushes from her room and heads downstairs. Joyce and Willow follow right on her heels. Cut to below. Buffy comes rushing down the stairs with her mother and best friend right behind. She stops at the front door, and turns into the living room when she finds Xander and Cordelia locked in a passionate embrace, blocking her way out.

Joyce: Don't you leave this house, young lady!
Buffy doesn't stop her determined walk.
Joyce: You know what? That's it.

I seriously expected Joyce at this point to say "You walk out of this house, don't even *think* about coming back," because, you know, she's already said it before, so why not again. The scene reads almost identical to the last time Buffy had to leave the house in a hurry, so I genuinely expected history to repeat itself.

In a way, I'm sorry it didn't. If Joyce had shown her true colors in front of everyone, maybe there would have been a hush while everyone realized, dude, not cool. Maybe people would have calmed down, seen things from Buffy's perspective, gone up to quietly apologize and hug. I would have liked that.

Alternately, if Joyce threw Buffy out again, maybe we could be done with Sunnydale and the Hellmouth could have them all. Buffy and Giles could have had a spin-off gig on, I dunno, a vampire-fighting cruise ship or something. I'd have liked that, too.

She runs up behind Buffy, grabs her arm and turns her around to face her.

True fact: Joyce would have gotten instinctively slapped in this scenario, were I Buffy. You do not physically grab my arm and spin me around (because doing so has the possibility of seriously injuring me). I realize that Buffy doesn't have damage to her spinal column, but Joyce still should not be getting handsy. Abuse red flag just went even higher, and I didn't think that was possible, but physically preventing someone from safely leaving a situation of emotional abuse is NOT on.

Joyce: You and I are going to have a talk.
The band stops playing and most of the people stop talking. Suddenly the level of noise in the room is reduced to just a few voices. Buffy looks around at everyone staring at them.
Buffy: (implores) Mom, please--
Xander and Cordelia come into the living room.
Joyce: (interrupts, mad) You know what? I don't care. I don't care what your friends think of me, or you for that matter, because you put me through the wringer, Buffy. (inhales) I mean it. (exhales and inhales) And I've had schnapps. (exhales) Do you have *any* idea what it's been like?

I actually missed somehow -- I blame the hearing issue -- that Joyce has issues with alcohol. I mean, we saw her drinking with Pat but even I can have one drink without losing control, so either Joyce had several more drinks we didn't see, or she's the sort of person who has one drink to "loosen up" and lash out with behavior that she absolutely can help but is pretending that she can't. The fact that she explicitly uses alcohol here as a justification points me towards the latter; in my experience, genuinely drunk people don't keep bringing it up as an excuse.

Joyce had apparently been drinking when she threw Buffy out, too. (I checked the transcript.) You'd think that maybe, just maybe, that might have caused her to rethink things while Buffy was gone. I know that if I thought that something had caused me to drive away the one person I loved most, I'd be reevaluating that thing very closely. Joyce not only doesn't swear off the booze at least until she patches things up with her daughter, she starts drinking the second night Buffy is back. While things are still in some ways "almost worst". When it absolutely matters that she keep her head on straight and not pick at the yet-to-scab-over wound that is her relationship with her daughter. 

Joyce: (interrupts again) You can't imagine *months* of not knowing. Not knowing whether you're lying dead in a ditch somewhere or, I don't know, living it up--

Because being a slut and a whore is the worst thing a girl can be, short of dead. WE GET IT, WRITERS. (I would like to take a moment to note that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is actually taught in actual classrooms as a "feminist" television show. That is how entrenched sex-policing is in our culture, that even our feminist texts as deemed by our academics still hit us over the head with slut-slut-slut over and over again without any commentary to undermine or deconstruct it.) 

Buffy: (interrupts in turn) But you told me! You're the one who said I should go. You said if I leave this house, don't come back. You found out who I really was, and you couldn't deal. Don't you remember?
Joyce: Buffy, you didn't give me time. You just dumped this thing on me and you expected me to get it. Well, guess what? Mom's not perfect, okay? I handled it badly. But that doesn't give you the right to punish me by running away.

So let's talk about non-pologies.

A non-pology is an apology that isn't one but which the victimizer uses against the victim in order to abuse them further because they wouldn't accept their 'apology'. A good example would be Bob-the-abuser saying "we're both to blame here" and if Jenna doesn't swallow her tongue and nod and admit that, yeah, she's probably at least partially to blame for her own abuse then the observers will decry her as unreasonable and untrustworthy for not being willing to work with Bob and meet him halfway.

"Mom's not perfect" is not an apology. It's trite, it's flippant, it's dismissive. You can apply that to just about anything. Mom didn't believe you about the abuse her boyfriend acted out on you? WELL, MOM'S NOT PERFECT. Mom threw you out and told you she'd rather never see you again than give you an hour or two to get shit in order prior to a long explanation? WELL, MOM'S NOT PERFECT. Mom has spent the last two years heaping emotional abuse on you at every turn? WELL, MOM'S NOT PERFECT.

That isn't an apology. It's not even an attempt at one. It's a way of dismissing the person in front of you, and the pain you've caused them. No one is perfect. The "revelation" that an individual person isn't perfect isn't a meaningful epiphany for anyone; the only use it has here is to silence Buffy and tell her that she won't be allowed to complain or defend or even speak at all. MOM'S NOT PERFECT. And therefore Mom never ever has to apologize or fix things or change. (She's not perfect! Just forgiven! By someone other than you, yes, but you're a selfish little slut if you don't play follow the leader and forgive and forget!)

Buffy: Punish you? I didn't do this to punish you!
Xander: Well, you did. You should've seen what you put her through. You know, maybe you don't want to hear it, Buffy, but taking off like you did was incredibly selfish and stupid.
Buffy: Okay! Okay. I screwed up. I know this. But you have no idea! You have, you have no idea what happened to me or what I was feeling!
Xander: Did you even try talking to anybody?
Buffy: There was nothing that anybody could do. Okay? I just had to deal with this on my own.
Xander: Yeah, and you see how well *that* one worked out. You can't just bury stuff, Buffy. It'll come right back up to get you.
Buffy: As if I even could've gone to you, Xander. You made your feelings about Angel and I perfectly clear.
Xander: Look. I'm sorry that your honey was a demon, but most girls don't hop a Greyhound over boy troubles.

Hahaha, the fact that Xander wasn't struck by lightning on the spot right here pretty much proves there is no god.

One major reason why Buffy was so deeply traumatized that she had to escape was that, at the last moment, Angel had his soul restored. While he was confused and frightened and everything that Buffy ever loved, she had to kill him because his death was the only way to save the world. He had opened the gate, and he was the only way to close it.

Buffy couldn't talk to anyone about this because she knew no one would help her and most of them would hurt her. Joyce, Xander, and possibly Cordelia would pretty much rub salt in the wound, given that none of them had ever accepted the body/soul divide that is Buffy-verse vampires. Willow, the most potentially sympathetic, would be emotionally crushed to realize that her attempts to re-soul Angel had actually ended up causing Buffy more pain. Giles would be able to help, but Buffy has always been intensely uncomfortable talking about her romantic life with her middle-aged teacher. Buffy literally had no one to talk to because the people in her life are less interested in comforting her than in getting their own petty opinions on the record. She knows this because they've demonstrated this. So she did the next best thing and just opted out of the conversation entirely until she'd dealt with things on her own.

But here's the other thing: Xander knew that Buffy would be fighting a souled Angel. He was sent to Buffy, by Willow, to tell her that. Once he got there, he deliberately chose not to tell Buffy. He didn't want to take the risk that Buffy might draw the fight out, wait for Angel to be resouled, and then reunite with him and continue their relationship. Xander is spiritually (if not legally) guilty of cold-blooded murder as well as forcing his supposed 'best friend' to commit that murder on the only man she's ever loved. And he did this because he "loves" Buffy and wants really, really badly to fuck her. And this is presented as sweet and romantic rather than deeply monstrous.

I've read honest-to-god villains who were less evil than Xander Harris. (At least King Claudius didn't engineer Hamlet's death by making a weeping Gertrude have to kill him. And there's your epitaph for Xander when god gets off his arse and smites him: More villainous than a Shakespeare villain.)

Cordelia: Time out, Xander. Put yourself in Buffy's shoes for just a minute. Okay? I'm Buffy, freak of nature, right? Naturally I pick a freak for a boyfriend, and then he turns into Mr. Killing Spree, which is pretty much my fault--
Buffy: (interrupts) Cordy! Get outta my shoes!
Cordelia: I'm just trying to help, Buffy.

Normally I like Cordelia, and I especially like that she calls Xander on his shit, but today is just too much. Cordelia is the least to blame of the four horsemen here (Joyce, Xander, Willow, and Cordelia), but this is still not helping.

Willow: Buffy, you never--
Buffy: (nears the breaking point) Willow, please. I can't take this from you, too.
Xander: Let her finish! You at least owe her that.
Buffy: God, Xander! Do you think you could at least stick to annoying me on your own behalf?
Xander: Fine! You stop acting like an idiot, I'll stop annoying you!

......aaaaaand I'm done. The show mostly is, too: the zombies just showed up.

Joyce: Honey! 
She embraces her daughter tightly. Buffy hugs her mom back.
Joyce: Are you all right?
Buffy: Yeah.
Joyce: (panting) So, is this a typical day at the office?
Buffy: No. This was nothing.
Xander: (to Buffy) Nice moves.
Buffy: You, too.

And that's the end. Really. Buffy has been restored to favor -- i.e., she will not be actively emotionally abused -- because she's worth more to keep around as a monster slayer than to drive away as a scapegoat for Willow's codependency, Joyce's alcoholism and elaborate motherhood fantasies, and Xander's villainy. Thus proving to girls everywhere, and most especially to Buffy, that girls are worthwhile for what they do for other people and not for who they are.

Willow: I mean, I'm not a full-fledged witch. That takes years. I just did a couple pagan blessings and . . . a teeny glamour to hide a zit.
Buffy: Does it scare you?
Willow: It has. I tried to communicate with the spirit world, and I *so* wasn't ready for that. It's like being pulled apart inside. Plus I blew the power for our whole block. Big scare.
Buffy: I wish I could've been there with you.
Willow: Me, too. I really freaked out.
Buffy: I am sorry.
Willow: It's okay. I understand you having to bail. I can forgive that. Mm, I have to make allowances for what you're going through a-and be a grownup about it. (gives Buffy a slightly smug look)
Buffy: (smiles) You're really enjoying this whole moral superiority thing, aren't you?
Willow: (smiles) It's like a drug!
Buffy: Fine! Okay. I'm the bad. I can take my lumps . . . for a while.
Willow: All right. I'll stop giving you a hard time. (pauses) Runaway.
Buffy: (gives her a surprised look) Will!
Willow: (smiles and giggles) I'm sorry! Quitter.
Buffy: (widens her eyes at her) Whiner.
Willow: Bailer.
Buffy: Harpy.
Willow: Delinquent.
Buffy: Tramp.
Willow: (takes mock offense) Bad seed.
Buffy: Witch.
Willow: Freak.

And thus ends the episode where Buffy -- a feminist icon for girls everywhere -- learns that life is slightly less fraught with emotional abuse if you accept it and keep your head down and take on all the blame for the choices of the people around you as well as for your inevitable failure to be there at their beck and call every time they want something from you physically, emotionally, or psychologically.

A Final Note On Language. 

I would like to end this post on a random ramble. I have never called the people in Buffy's life the "Scooby Gang". And now after this episode, I never will.

This was not initially any sort of principled stand; before I started watching Buffy I didn't use the term because I'm not a huge fan of Scooby Doo and I didn't feel the need to evoke something I didn't much care for in the first place in reference to something I'd not actually watched. And after Xander introduced the term, I didn't use it because I thought it was a one-time not-very-great joke right after Xander made a misogynistic joke about Cordelia being a slutty slut and I already didn't like Xander very much anyway and I didn't want to cede to him the ability to frame things. Xander's framings of situations are almost never my framings.

But now I refuse to use the term for the reason that I think it's essentially a harmful way to characterize the group. The people in Buffy's life aren't, in my opinion, a "team". I have yet to see compelling evidence that Joyce and Xander view Buffy as a person at all (as opposed to a Walking Vagina and a Fantasy Daughter); Cordelia, as much as I love her as a vocalization character, does not provide Buffy with substantial moral support beyond basic courtesy; and Willow and Giles seem inconsistently written as people, to the point that I never know if they will be supportive or destructive.

One could argue that these character flaws make the members of the group people in the sense that Real People are fallible, and I think one might not be far off with that. But giving the group a cutesy nickname that evokes literary dynamics actually undermines realism: Joyce becomes The Team Mom, Xander becomes The Heart, Giles becomes The Mentor, Willow becomes The Brains, and Cordelia becomes The Snark. (Or whatever role you want to give them.) The evocation of television tropes erases the realism, but also erases the very real dynamics of abuse within the group, by calling out to the concepts of, say, "The Team Mom" as a whole, as well as nodding at the fact that emotional trauma in television rarely lasts beyond a single episode.

One doesn't expect an abusive alcoholic mother in a "Scooby Gang". One does not expect to find a manipulative murderer in a "Scooby Gang". One does not expect to find someone who blames her dabbling in frightening forces beyond her control on her absentee friend who wasn't there to talk about her werewolf boyfriend in a "Scooby Gang". One does expect to find a team of motivated individuals who care about one another and who support each other through thick-and-thin.

That is not what that people in the Buffy-verse do. It's not who they are. And it's therefore not a term I can use. Words have meaning. They evoke concepts, they guide minds, they frame situations, and they can be used -- and used effectively -- to hide the reality of abuse. I'm not saying that's why the term was created or why it caught on, but I do think it's interesting that it works to make the people in Buffy's life seem more innocuous and supportive than they actually are.


Xtina Schelin said...

I adore you forever for deconstructing this. Seriously. This episode has always pissed me off, but I last watched it before I had enough feminist language to figure it out.

Isabel C. said...

Ugh, yes. As I said earlier: Team Brain Tumor, here.

Except *not*, because the Brain Tumor cycle is part of setting Joyce up as Saintly Perfect-Yet-Adorably-Flawed Mom, and I get how that could happen in Buffy-POV, because grief and death/impending death and so forth, but the show seems to be doing it objectively, and: hate. Furthermore, that arc leads directly into the sucknado that was S6's In Case You Didn't Get It, Real Life Is Hard Sometimes theme, which: more hate.

Also, oh my God, do Willow and Joyce's arcs not improve at all. Xander's...kind of, sort of, in that he seems to have fuh-HINALLY gotten over his Buffy Thing, but still.

Also, to reiterate what I said last post, as a response to Xander's "abandoning blah blah blah": dude, she took off for three months last year in the summer and EVERYTHING WAS FINE. At no point ever is it stated that oh, yeah, the Slayer must hang around Sunnydale forever; in fact, one gets the impression from elsewhere that they tend to travel Supernatural-style and kill things where things need killing.

Which, given the whole deal with the teenager-kidnapping demons in LA versus oh, hey, there are a couple vampires in Sunnydale, is arguably what Buffy did.

To paraphrase Aaron Sorkin (who also has Issues With Women, ye gods, but who writes some awesome lines): your self-righteousness would be more convincing if it weren't completely covered in crap. You're not pissed because she "hopped a Greyhound over boy troubles", dickweed; you're pissed because she'd never hop one over *you*.*

*I seem to be using variants of this line a lot, mostly in re: Nice Guys. Says something about the state of things, I should think.

BaseDeltaZero said...

So... I actually got around to reading the transcripts and... yeah. I was assuming these kinds of things were isolated incidents, but no. Xander really is -that bad-, -all the time-. I mean, I was worried that I might be writing some real jerks in my stories... but no. My 'all-around terrible people' villains are nicer!

I'm surprised Buffy doesn't just let the world get destroyed after all this... I mean... really... what?

Ana Mardoll said...

You're not pissed because she "hopped a Greyhound over boy troubles", dickweed; you're pissed because she'd never hop one over *you*.

This. And it kind of creeps me out that he's doing this WHILE dating someone else. That's very icky to me.

Speaking of, I'm still having trouble deciding which is my favorite Cordelia moment so far: Phases, where she asks Xander "Do you even wanna be here? ... Because when you're not babbling about poor, defenseless Willow, you are *raving* about the all-powerful Buffy." or Killed By Death where she says, " Oh, right. Your obsession with protecting Buffy. Have I told you how attractive that's not? ... Yeah, well, I've seen you 'watch her back'."

Why did Cordelia have to leave? She's the only one who reliably calls out Xander on his Nice Guy act. WHY, YE GODS OF TELEVISION.

Ana Mardoll said...


Which, given the whole deal with the teenager-kidnapping demons in LA versus oh, hey, there are a couple vampires in Sunnydale, is arguably what Buffy did.

I loved Anne. Husband did too; he was actually *annoyed* that Buffy being away from Sunnydale only lasted one episode. I think his exact words were "I was looking forward to new stuff!" by which I think he means new settings, new characters, new explorations of the Slayer idea. (Husband doesn't endlessly gab about television like I do, which is why you all get a double-dosing.)

I seriously thought the setup in Anne with the 100-years-of-slavery thing was the scariest Monster of the Week we've had yet. The ending was very bittersweet because, yeah, they've been stopped but that doesn't undo all the horrible torment that came before. (And there was the oddity that there was no way the 8 kids Buffy liberated represented all the kids we saw down there, so there's some meta issues as well based on the fact that they didn't want to deal with streaming out all the extras.)

Cynicism Follows said...

Word to this whole post. Seriously. This episode is my second most hated Buffy episode. Unfortunately the *most* hated episode occurs right near the end of season seven, and here's a clue; horrible emotional abuse on the part of these characters? NEVER FREAKING ENDS. Sometimes to be a Buffy fan you just have to wipe whole episodes from you're memory. So I'm off to read some cathartic fanfic, before I get back to that whole amnesia thing.

DavidCheatham said...

Oh, the group's behavior gets much worse than this. Including Giles and Willow. And Buffy herself manages to behave somewhat dubiously towards her friends a few times, although not for a few seasons.

But not Cordy, though. She apparently is too Not Evil for this show, so she get shuffled over to Angel. Wait, no, all the good guys are just as bad over there, except for her.

Are you going to watch Angel also? If so, you might want to alternate it with Buffy, for crossovers. (Each episode of the first two seasons of Angel aired directly after the equivalent fourth and fifth season episode of Buffy, so one Buffy then one Angel. After that, they aired on different networks, so it gets complicated. The order will be on the Buffy Wiki somewhere.)

I await to see what you think about the new character and her arc this season. You met her the episode after this.

Isator Levi said...

Hmm, I was all set to respond to this with something slightly humorous, but the recollection of that scene juxtaposed with your deconstructions of it have left me almost in tears.

In the good kind of way, mind. The "this is really terrible, what can I possibly do to mitigate its existence in the world" way.

Marcus said...

Yup, I hate this episode.

The only thing I will say is that, in Willow's case, it's inconsistent writing. For all the other characters this is fairly representative, but not her.

(Cordy, of course, doesn't leave the 'Verse. Will you be watching Angel as well? If so, try to alternate - episode by episode if possible - with Buffy during the first couple of seasons, because there are a fair few interlinking storylines. By Angel S3-4 / Buffy S6-7, they were on separate networks, so there are fewer crossovers - and the one major one is slightly out of order: Angel 4.15 fits not where you'd expect, between Buffy 7.15 and 7.16, but between 7.17 and 7.18. Though tbh, as long as you've watched it before 7.18, you won't be seriously spoileredif you DO keep alternating, you'll still have seen it before 7.18, so you won't be spoilered.)

There's a lot more horribleness to come, mainly because Whedon is a sadist to his characters and his audience. S6 in particular is hard to watch. (I actually DON'T hate the storyline, but there were some serious failures of execution, and even done well it would be dark, bleak, and nasty.) S7, controversially enough, I mostly like. But both contain instances of Giles randomly being an arsehole for reasons of plot contrivance, on a far worse level than anything in earlier seasons.

Xander stays Xander. If I were watching the show cold now, I might feel like giving early Xander the benefit of the doubt (up till the "Kick his ass" line, which is where I started really hating him first time round) on the grounds of, y'know, being seventeen. No reason he couldn't grow out of being a git. No reason with hindsight, either - after all, Cordy does. But having seen the whole show? Fuck. Him.

Isator Levi said...

"I am willing to bet that everyone in this thread has witnessed something like this in day-to-day blips from people being fallible normal people. The initial suggestion -- that maybe XYZ shouldn't have been said/done, or perhaps could have been said/done better than it actually was -- is met with a disproportionate push-back. The wail goes up: I AM NOT A BAD MOTHER / RACIST / SEXIST / ABLEIST / HOMOPHOBE. I CAN'T BE. I AM A GOOD PERSON. And then the people around the worried person double down to explain that everyone is capable of mistakes, and that a toxic culture breeds toxic behaviors, and that acknowledging those behaviors and Doing Better is something we all struggle with, and that's what makes us Good People: our willingness to examine and change, rather than achieving some kind of perfection at an early age and maintaining that perfection until the day we die."

I'm in a thread going like that right now, on my main Internet home.

It's had its ups and downs, a bit more towards "down" in my view (as the topic in general has been over there), and is in a bit of a ugly place at the moment, but I really feel that this time, it's slowly edging its way towards somewhere better than it's ever been before.

There's a bit of thanks to go to you for that. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

To answer re: Angel, I do plan on watching Angel, but it will probably take the form of All Buffy, then All Angel because we don't switch gears well in my household. (Buffy has, for example, largely consumed all attempts to also watch X-Files.)

Thomas Keyton said...


I knew there was a reason I've never rewatched this episode. This is so much worse than I remembered. There are soulless demons in the Buffyverse that are sweeter and nicer than Buffy's friends and families here. There are George RR Martin characters that are sweeter and nicer than Buffy's friends and families here.

Also, I had totally forgotten that Joyce didn't ask Giles about Slayer stuff. What the hell?!

Spoilers for season 6: jul pbhyqa'g Unyserx unir qbar ure niratvat uheg puvyqera guvat ceb obab urer?

I need a Pinkie Pie fix, stat.

Isabel C. said...

The only thing I will say is that, in Willow's case, it's inconsistent writing. For all the other characters this is fairly representative, but not her.

Well, yes and then no: spoilers for S4 and S5.

Frr ure hfr bs zntvp va F4 gb znxr hc sbe gur snpg gung abg rirelbar'f cnlvat nggragvba gb URE CNNNNNVA. (Juvpu: fjrrgvr, lbh oebxr hc jvgu lbhe uvtu fpubby oblsevraq va pbyyrtr. Jrypbzr gb n yvggyr guvat jr yvxr gb pnyy YVSR.)Naaaq gur Gunaxftvivat rcvfbqr. Naq gur shpxvat evqvphybhfarff er: Bm va gur svefg cynpr. Naq fuhg hc.

V'yy tvir ure nyy bs F6, orpnhfr...Abkba, F6, htu, qvr. Pnaabg ubyq nalbar nppbhagnoyr sbe gurve npgvbaf va F6, be ryfr V jvyy ungr rirelguvat sberire.

Ohg nyfb gur F5 fghcvq-nff evinyel jvgu Naln (jub V nyfb xvaqn ungr sbe Qblyvfg ernfbaf, orpnhfr frevbhfyl, netu, V qba'g rira, V nz gbb gvcfl gb rira). Guvf F3 guvat vf gur fgneg bs Gung Tveyvfu graqrapvrf, vg'f whfg gung gurl gnxr ybatre gb qrirybc guna gur erfg bs gur ivyrarff.

And I actually really like all the Whedon shows I watch, it's just...argh.

Thomas Keyton said...

Ohg nyfb gur F5 fghcvq-nff evinyel jvgu Naln

V svaq vg urycf gb cergraq fur qvfyvxrf Naln orpnhfr praghevrf-byq iratrnapr qrzba jvgu gur zbfg oybbq ba ure unaqf bs creuncf nal erthyne punenpgre. Orpnhfr fbzrbar fubhyq.

Tigerpetals said...

Yes and thank you. My opinions were much more favorable to them, as I couldn't figure out how to map what I was feeling with what I was being told was right and sympathetic, especially in online forums. Even when this scene is lauded as realistic, it doesn't mean 'friends and family are terrible' as much as it means 'friends and family aren't perfect.' I generally agreed with this, but everything still bothered me and my feelings couldn't align with the position of Buffy being wrong and doing something terrible, even when I verbally conceded that to get on with what I wanted to talk about, like defending her or pointing out that she wasn't being treated well. You raised all the issues I had along with a few things I didn't think of - such as Xander being a cold-blooded murderer - and made me consciously aware of how false the righteousness of the characters is. Your depiction of events is genuinely realistic.

Tigerpetals said...

Is this cathartic fanfic Buffy-related? Buffy as in the character, not just the show.

Tigerpetals said...

I loved Anne so much. And when I was big on Buffy fanfic, I loved fic where she was living apart from Sunnydale and the people she knew there, mostly crossover fic.

Isabel C. said...

Oh, *seriously*.

But it's unfaithful men, who totally Had It Coming! Except not, and I hate that trope, and I hate that trope more because the gender-flipped version is totally unacceptable in media while totally ACTUALLY HAPPENING in places and oh my God shut up, Anya.

Yeah. Hate that character. Would hate her a lot less if she didn't come with a whole lot of bonus Unfortunate Implications, but there we are.

Shrike said...

I agree with you about your opinions here, and found them quite frustrating also.
I think that a little of what probably happened here was that the writers of Buffy got lost in their own metaphor, and forgot what actually happened in reality on the show, instead thinking about what it could be viewed as a metaphor based around - people's reactions, Joyce's in particular, might be a lot more understandable/tolerable to watch if the show literally wasn't all vampire/demony and was instead about Buffy running away from home for a summer after a bad breakup with a boyfriend and rule-breaking leading to being kicked out of school. As it is, though, I have no ability to model how Joyce is thinking about Buffy "making some bad choices" - seriously what the **** is that???!?!??!?!? I seriously can't even figure out how someone would deceive themselves to that extent. Similarly with Xander and the Greyhound bus comment.
I don't think that excuses the writers from their terribleness, but it does explain where at least a little of that terribleness is coming from to some extent.

Cynicism Follows said...

"Is this cathartic fanfic Buffy-related? Buffy as in the character, not just the show."

Yeah. When I dip my toe back into the BtVS fandom it's pretty much exclusively in Buffy-centric stuff. Usually crossovers where she gets far, FAR away from all the "Scooby Gang" (and thanks, Ana, for putting my issues with that term into words).

Actually, that particular attempt was largely fruitless. Found a few Dead Man's Party re-writes, but though the authors seemed to not like the episode and the Buffy bashing, they either didn't see the actual problems, having Buffy lash back and still somehow missing all the beats. Or that's how the ones I found seemed to me, anyway :( But I *did* end up finding a totally different fic that set me happy again, so all's good.

Cynicism Follows said...

Also, Shrike, I think this:

"I think that a little of what probably happened here was that the writers of Buffy got lost in their own metaphor, and forgot what actually happened in reality on the show"

is spot on. But it's a) still not an appropriate response and b) not a consistent problem. Like, if, say, Joyce dates an abusive arsehole and then refuses to listen to her daughter when told about his threats (not to mention the verbal abuse she witnesses) then all is forgiven because cookies, despite the fact that on the metaphorical level she totally screwed up. But when Buffy kills her boyfriend and first love and needs a breather then everyone is allowed to lay into her. 'Cause metaphorically she "hop[ped] a Greyhound over boy troubles."

kisekileia said...

I've been thinking for a while of getting into Buffy because I love Firefly, but this is making me wonder if I should reconsider. I'm glad I read about this episode before I could see it, because some of the Joyce stuff would probably be pretty triggery for me if I saw it with no warning. Is the show really worth it?

JenL said...

Perhaps the simplest thing that I have noticed is that upon Buffy returning, I don't see anyone just giving her a hug and saying, "Welcome back. We missed you." without any sort of guilt-tripping or other things. Which says volumes - even though there's a welcome back party, it's not for Buffy. Its so everyone else can go back to what they were. And they all expect Buffy to just go back to what she was. It's very awful.

I think Giles is the one person who welcomed her with a hug, expressed concern about her, and didn't dump his own emotional issues on her. Of course, he didn't know Xander'd already done that for him... And he was of no use in reining in the others when they decided to to the "big noisy party" route. And I don't believe he ever told her that he was willing to listen if she needed to talk, or anything of that sort.

Aidan Bird said...

@Silver Adept: V pna nterr jvgu lbh ba gur hfr bs gur jbeq erqrzcgvba, gubhtu V guvax gurer'f gjb ryrzragf tbvat ba urer: erqrzcgvba naq onfvp urnyvat sebz rzbgvbany genhzn. Gubhtu V guvax jr nterr gung Ohssl qbrfa'g trg rvgure bs gubfr.

V fhccbfr V'z zber pbaprearq jvgu gur onfvp urnyvat cneg orpnhfr vg'f fb bsgra bireybbxrq va fubjf yvxr gurfr, fb jura V svaq rivqrapr bs vg - ab znggre ubj fznyy naq ubj vg znl or pbaarpgrq jvgu n gurzr bs erqrzcgvba - V'z nyjnlf n gval ovg vzcerffrq gung vg jnf vapyhqrq, rira va gung fznyy sbez. Sbe rknzcyr, jvgu Jvyybj'f fbwbhea va Ratynaq, abg bayl qbrf fur trg gb rkcrevrapr sbetvirarff naq fbzr erqrzcgvba (gubhtu gur erqrzcgvba vf na batbvat cneg bs ure fgbelyvat va F7 V guvax), ohg fur nyfb rkcrevrapr urnyvat sebz ure zntvp nqqvpgvba, tvira gbbyf gb unaqyr ure genhzn va n urnyguvre znaare, naq n cynpr gb erfg, erphcrengr va n urnygul raivebazrag njnl sebz gur cynpr jurer gur genhzn unccrarq. Nygubhtu jura fur pnzr onpx fur jnf zrg jvgu fbzr qvfgehfg, vg frrzrq eryngvir zvabe pbzcnerq gb jung cbbe Ohssl tbrf guebhtu, rfcrpvnyyl va gur Qrnq Zna'f Cnegl rcvfbqr. Jvyybj qbrfa'g unir gb eryvir ure genhzn guebhtu erzvaqref, uvagf, be vf fur thvyg-gevccrq.

Vs Ohssl unq gung naq gura unq sevraqf jub jrypbzrq ure onpx jvgu xvaqarff naq rzcngul, V guvax gur fgbelyvar sbe Ohssl jbhyq unir orra dhvgr qvssrerag. Jryy, V guvax vg cebonoyl jbhyq unir punatrq n ybg bs gur fubj npghnyyl.

Mostly just agreeing with you and clarifying what I meant.

Though now I'm wondering what the show Buffy would have been like if she had a really good counselor, a chance to heal, and friends (and mother!) that didn't emotionally abuse her, guilt trip her, and whatnot. Very different I think.

Silver Adept said...

It would have been a very different series, indeed, if the writing expressed concern for the Slayer's mental health instead of her physical ability. Strangely enough, when returning to this theme in Dollhouse...Joss demonstrates he didn't really learn anything.

Rakka said...

Isn't it altogether more rare for a show (or any series) to be written so that the characters take their Chosen One{'s, s'} mental wellbeing seriously or, heaven forbid, the organization behind them doing so? I can't think of any, but I'm not watching a lot of non-anime TV shows. (And everyone knows how horrible those are. At least in Madoka there's a reason for the casual abuse of the heroines. In Alien 9? *twitch* Yeeea.)

Ikkin said...

I think the standard sort of Chosen One story pays little attention to the Chosen One's mental well-being in the first place, because the hero is expected to have the mental resilience to cope with anything by merit of being the hero. The most common deviation from that is deconstruction, which makes it a point to show how awful it would be to be the Chosen One... so the allies get stressed out from their own losses and act terribly towards the Chosen One as a result, because that's "more realistic." Chosen One stories that are both hopeful and reasonably psychologically sound seem somewhat rare in comparison.

Both Avatar: the Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are pretty good about giving their Chosen Ones allies who actually care about their mental health, if you're looking for counter-examples.

As for Chosen One-related organizations, they almost universally seem to be terrible, most likely because of the assumption that they care more about the Chosen One as Chosen One than they care about them as a person. It'd be interesting to see one that wasn't like that, but it seems somewhat difficult to pull off... it'd probably be easier to make one that cared about the Chosen One's mental health because the Chosen One being healthy increases their worth as a tool.

Morrigan Alexandros said...

This episodes makes me angry. But, it makes me sad even more. It is ..... it makes me want to scream at the tv. I have been pondering whether I should watch the episodes with the commentary on )if they are on in my Buffy DVD set. But, it is such a drag to watch this episode. I hate it so much. (Side note: Hush is one of my faves just because of the monster of the week!!!!)

Buffy as a heroine has always been problematic for her peers. Likely because she is not only human (albeit a supernatural one), but she is also a teenage girl. We are dealing with high school kids, immature high school kids and her friends handle this horribly (yep, Joyce has no excuse, nor will she ever). So, as I mentioned in a previous post, they react out of ignorance, self importance, and idiocy.

I don't want to talk about the idiocy of this episode anymore. Makes me angry.

Thank you for deconstructing Buffy. I enjoy these posts sooo much.

On another side note....in a lot of post, this is what I read (gibberish). Is it only me?:

V'yy tvir ure nyy bs F6, orpnhfr...Abkba, F6, htu, qvr. Pnaabg ubyq nalbar nppbhagnoyr sbe gurve npgvbaf va F6, be ryfr V jvyy ungr rirelguvat sberire.

Brin Bellway said...

On another side note....in a lot of post, this is what I read (gibberish). Is it only me?

That's ROT13, so called because each letter is rotated thirteen places in the (wrapped-around) alphabet. It's often used to make sure people don't read spoilers by accident.

There are two main ways to translate things into and out of ROT13. Use whichever you prefer.

1: Copy-paste the text into the box on the ROT13 website and press the "Cypher" button.

2: Download the Leet Key add-on (I know Firefox has it; I'm not sure about other browsers), then highlight the text in question, right-click, hover your mouse over the "Text Transformers" sub-menu under LeetKey, and press "r".

hf said...

because of the assumption that they care more about the Chosen One as Chosen One than they care about them as a person. It'd be interesting to see one that wasn't like that

AtLA comes close. But the person I'm thinking of is acting, at the time, more as an individual than a representative of the organization, which itself seems to have a purpose beyond helping/using/annoying the Avatar.

Ikkin said...

AtLA comes close. But the person I'm thinking of is acting, at the time, more as an individual than a representative of the organization, which itself seems to have a purpose beyond helping/using/annoying the Avatar.

Yeah, it's interesting. The organization in AtLA is legitimately helpful, but Aang meets and interacts with all of the most important members as individuals before even learning that there was an organization, and if you're thinking of the character I think you're speaking of, they're clearly motivated more by love than by saving the world, and actually focus the majority of their comfort on someone who isn't the Avatar.

With that being said, in The Legend of Korra, they quickly demonstrate why giving a Chosen One-focused organization a Chosen One to raise from early childhood is a terrible idea. Korra's mental well-being is something her show pays a good deal of attention to, and while the organization's role in that is never directly addressed, most of her issues are consistent with the sort of overly-controlled, highly-demanding childhood that such an organization would be inclined to create for its charge.

Anonymous said...

I don't know who irked me more in this episode; Joyce, Xander, or Willow.

There are so many things I want to say in regards to this amazing post. For now I'll just say one thing (it'll be too long otherwise).

Did you notice how Joyce pretty much took Willow's side when she told Buffy that Willow called? She completely excused Willow ditching Buffy when she said "she tried to call" even though she knew that there weren't any messages. It is easy to leave a message on an old home answering machine. You aren't dealing with modern issues like the other person losing their cell phone, the message going straight to voice mail, dropped calls, dead batteries, etc. If there wasn't a message that points to the likely scenario that Willow purposely stood Buffy up, took pleasure in knowing Buffy was at the Expresso Pump alone and waiting for her, and then when she was satisfied that she had hurt Buffy decided to call with a lousy excuse. It points towards Joyce thinking that Willow was in the right to want petty revenge on Buffy. I wouldn't be surprised if Joyce's thoughts about what Willow did were, "Good for her."

Silver Adept said...

Perhaps the simplest thing that I have noticed is that upon Buffy returning, I don't see anyone just giving her a hug and saying, "Welcome back. We missed you." without any sort of guilt-tripping or other things. Which says volumes - even though there's a welcome back party, it's not for Buffy. Its so everyone else can go back to what they were. And they all expect Buffy to just go back to what she was. It's very awful. (Interesting how the terrible things in a story don't often pop out until a re-watch. Perhaps because I'm privileged enough to watch for plot and not for triggers the first time around?)

Silver Adept said...

@Pqw -

Except Whedon refutes the idea that Buffy would do better on her own in this season and later...

Snvgu vf gur pbhagrerknzcyr sbe guvf frnfba - fur'f orra nybar ure yvsr, qbvat gur fynlvat tvt, naq vg onfvpnyyl znxrf ure trg pbeehcgrq orpnhfr gur Znlbe gerngf ure yvxr snzvyl.

Gura, va bar bs gur gjb arkg frnfbaf, jr unir gur jubyr Pncgnva Cynarg ebhgvar jurer Nqnz pna'g or orngra hayrff Ohssl tbrf Fhcre Fnvlna. Naq gura, orpnhfr gur naivy unfa'g orra uvg uneq rabhtu, Jvyybj vf onfvpnyyl n ercrng bs gur Snvgu fgbelyvar ohg pbzcerffrq vagb bar frnfba vafgrnq bs wbvavat vg va gur zvqqyr. Bapr jr'ir rfgnoyvfurq gung Sevraqfuvc Vf Zntvp, ab znggre ubj npghnyyl penccl gubfr sevraqf ner, jr fgvpx jvgu vg.

@Aidan Bird -

Rirelbar ohg Ohssl trgf gvzr sbe erqrzcgvba sebz gurve znwbe guvatf. Snvgu fcraqf gvzr va n zragny vafgvghgvba, Jvyybj fcraqf gvzr jvgu gur zntvpvnaf, Knaqre trgf n Ovt Qnza Ureb zbzrag...ab, npghnyyl, Knaqre arire trgf pnyyrq bhg gb arrq erqrzcgvba, Fcvxr tbrf bss vagb gur qrfreg, rira Pbeqryvn naq Jrfyrl trg gvzr sbe erqrzcgvba naq ersyrpgvba. Bayl Ohssl trgf ab erqrzcgvba sbe gur gvzr fur fcraqf njnl...be qrnq.

Aidan Bird said...

@Silver Adept: V'z abg ragveryl pbaivaprq Naln trgf erqrzcgvba... Ohg lrf V pna nterr jvgu jung lbh fgngr gurer. Gubhtu jung pbaprearq zr zber guna erqrzcgvba vf urnyvat sebz rzbgvbany genhzn. Jvyybj naq Snvgu sbe fher trg gvzr sbe urnyvat sebz rzbgvbany genhzn, ohg Ohssl qrsvavgryl arire unf gung.

Zl pbaprea vfa'g ernyyl 'erqrzcgvba' ohg jurgure be abg gurl npghnyyl unir gvzr gb urny. Rirelbar va gung fubj rkcrevraprf n uhtr nzbhag bs genhzn, ohg bs nyy gur crbcyr va gur fubj -- V bayl frr Jvyybj ng gur ortvaavat bs F7 naq Snvgu (V arneyl sbetbg nobhg ure!) rkcrevrapr n fvtavsvpnag nzbhag bs gvzr sbe urnyvat sebz gur genhzn naq nal njshy/greevoyr qrpvfvbaf/npgvbaf gurl znqr.

V'z bayl fcrnxvat bs Ohssl: Inzcver Fynlre. V'z abg ernyyl qvfphffvat Natry lrg. Whfg gb pynevsl.

Isabel C. said...

Well, yes, and also only to the extent that we can attribute any deaths in LA/Cleveland/wherever to Buffy's not being there ordinarily. Sunnydale isn't the only dangerous place, or even the only Hellmouth--my impression is that Buffy got called there to stop various apocalypses. And like I said, her taking a vacation post-apocalypse turned out fine the year before: once Angel was gone, and Spike had taken Drusilla away, she had no reason to think she was putting anyone in more danger this time.

Isator Levi said...

Another thing I thought of while rereading this, and was surprised you didn't pick up on, was Joyce's "I don't care what your friends think of me, or you for that matter" bit. From what I can tell, this is horribly aggressive and manipulative, because it not only treats Buffy's dignity as an afterthought, and something she's entitled to only at Joyce's sufference, but also feels like she's putting some big bubble around herself that protects her from criticism or humiliation, daring anybody to try breaching it while also declaring Buffy fair game, and to say that kind of thing in public is just... it's horrifying.

I kind of find that worse than the "I've been drinking" excuse, because using social standing as a deflective shield feels like it would have so much deeper implications.

Ana Mardoll said...

Not to mention the fact that she has prophetic dreams to warn her for the big stuff...

hf said...

I agree, at least partly -- we seem meant to see Joyce's suggestion to 'tell Principal Snyder and the police who helped so much with Ted' as incredibly stupid and ignorant, at best. But later the show seems to paint Buffy's choice to reduce contact with her abusive mother as bad. Maybe we can take this as inconsistent writing, especially since it starts after Joss reduced his involvement? (How much can that excuse support?)

By the way, from a consequentialist view we could technically attribute any deaths in Sunnydale over the summer to Buffy's departure. Except if we want to make a practical calculation of this kind we can't ignore the value of Buffy's mental well-being. This suddenly becomes worth hundreds of lives, practically speaking. So Joyce is at least potentially a mass-murderer.

Isator Levi said...

Oh, by "pick up on", I just meant put up here and talk about specifically, not didn't discern for yourself.

Curse my poorly considered word choices!

TulgeyWood said...

A picture of abuse, yes. That photo is as heartbreaking as if it were taken from life. I want someone to be *good* to her.

Randall M said...

It seems to me that the thing about Joyce, especially in the first couple of season (and for all that we've started the third season, we're still wrapping up the second) is that she was meant, not to be a member of the gang, but an antagonist. Her purpose in the story at this point is to interfere with Buffy's slaying. She's more like J, Jonah Jameson than a real enemy, but I don't think we're supposed to like her.

Runeless said...

I'd just like to argue that Buffy is not, in fact, worth watching, and that I think our culture confuses "is a fighting woman" with "feminist". Buffy is not feminist. It's... well, pretty much the opposite, really. It's one woman being ground down into dust over the seasons. That's not feminist, it's just sadistic.

Tigerpetals said...

While I love the show - mainly the Buffy part - , if I had to give a reason for not watching it or for not seeing it as feminist - which I do agree about -, the aspect of piling on Buffy would be my personal favorite.

Silver Adept said...

@Aidan Bird -

Nu, gung'f gehr. Nygubhtu, jr pbhyq ynl nal shegure qrnguf sebz ure ng Knaqre'f srrg, fvapr uvf onfvp crefbanyvgl ghearq Naln onpx vagb orvat gur eriratr qrzba.

V guvax V hfrq gur jbeq "erqrzcgvba" orpnhfr gung frrzf gb or jung gubfr urnyvat gvzrf tvir gur punenpgref - erqrzcgvba naq sbetvirarff sbe gur onq npgvbaf gurl qvq. Ohssl qbrfa'g trg rvgure bs gubfr guvatf sebz nalbar, naq ab gvzr gb urny sebz gur genhznf fur ercrngrqyl fhssref ng rirelbar ryfr'f unaqf. Be, vs fur urnyrq va ure gevc njnl, jnl fur pnzr onpx gb unq onfvpnyyl renfrq nyy gur jbex gung unf qbar.

Gur Fynlre arrqf n pbhafrybe. Cersrenoyl bar gung vfa'g fbzrguvat fur'yy unir gb xvyy yngre, ohg gung vf irel rssrpgvir ng urycvat ure trg evq bs gbkvp eryngvbafuvcf. Orpnhfr Fhaalqnyr vf n prffcvg. Znlor gur Uryyzbhgu nyfb cbvfbaf ybivat eryngvbafuvcf?

@chris the cynic -

Some of Willow's explosiveness, I think, fits Data's definition - she's missing sensory inputs (the Slayer, the confidant), even though she doesn't say she missed Buffy in the friendly way. Xander, too. It's just not what we humans would call friendship, because we see the selfishness of the context instead of just evaluating the inputs.

chris the cynic said...

Perhaps the simplest thing that I have noticed is that upon Buffy returning, I don't see anyone just giving her a hug and saying, "Welcome back. We missed you."

Oh Good God.

The worst Saturday ever may supply me with things to say indefinitely. It's a week later and it's still working.

I saw someone I haven't seen in years, someone who has done horrible things to people I love. But she is family and I love her, so the first thing I did upon seeing her was hug her and tell her how much I missed her. Because it was true. I missed her. I love her. She is family, she is friend. Of course I hugged her, there wasn't any other greeting for me to make*, and I come from a family that is very non-touchy. Hugs are rare things indeed, but when you see someone you care about that you haven't seen in a long time, you hug them and tell them you missed them because you love them and you missed them.


From Star Trek:
Counselor Deanna Troi: Have you ever heard Data define friendship?
Commander William T. Riker: No.
Counselor Deanna Troi: How did he put it? "As I experience certain sensory input patterns, my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The inputs eventually are anticipated and even missed when absent."

Buffy says she missed them, thus what Buffy feels meets Data's definition of friendship.

Buffy says they missed her, thus what she thinks they feel for her meets Data's definition of friendship.

No one says they missed Buffy, thus we cannot say** that what any of them feel for Buffy meets Data's definition of friendship.


* I am in no way criticizing those who have other methods of greeting.

** Though absence of evidence doesn't mean evidence of absence, thus I'm talking about what we can't say rather than what we can.

Majromax said...

Except that Whedon's writers think that's a GOOD thing.

From a Doylist view, this is just poor, episodic writing. It's not a continuous series or arc, it's literally "scenes from a troubled teenagerhood." Buffy was told 'never to come back' by her mother because she had to go save the world? That's totally like a teenager going All Melodramatic And Running Away, so let's just treat it like that!

But as Ana's tagline says, this is the site of "cheerfully reading too much into things." It's just a shame how often that "too much" starts and ends with context. The plot treats Buffy as if she was simply a "spoiled runaway brat", and in-universe where it clearly isn't true this rises to a horrible level of emotional abuse.

It's odd, really -- on the face of it, if you buy into the supplied framing then the actions are individually justifiable. But to do so, you have to ignore all the context, making the actions inhuman. I suspect there's a deeper point here about how people can act towards one another, but I'm not sure I can phrase it succinctly.

Pqw said...

This episode especially was surreal to read about, all these years after seeing it, because Joyce is clearly a pathological narcissist. As are the rest of the 'Scoobies'. Except that Whedon's writers think that's a GOOD thing.

The really shitty thing is Buffy thinking (or being written to think) that she *had to* go back. Probably she was written to go back because she loved everyone and missed them, but I bet some of it also was because she believed Joyce's propaganda that she was too damaged/weird/had bad people skills for anyone else to love or care about her. Which isn't true, but even if it were, Buffy would likely be better off alone rather than thinking permanent emotional abuse is the best she could hope for. It's just, when it's all you've ever known, you really don't *know* that other people can in fact be trusted to have your back. And to miss you, the real you, when they haven't seen you in a while.

Asha said...

The episode, I mean, if I wasn't clear on that point. Ugh.

Aidan Bird said...

Staying out of the conversation thus far, but figured I could comment on this! And yes. S6 is incredibly hard to watch.

Sbe bar guvat, gur gevb, juvpu V pna'g fgnaq. Gura gurer'f Jvyybj'f tebjvat nqqvpgvba gb zntvp gung gur frnfba uvgf lbh uneq jvgu bire naq bire ntnva - rfcrpvnyyl va ertneqf gb ubj fur xrrcf uhegvat Gnen gur bar crefba fur ybirf gur zbfg. Gura, jura Gnen vf noyr gb uryc ure fgneg gb birepbzr ure nqqvpgvba, ONZ! Jurqba unq gb whfg... TNU. V ungr gung fprar fb zhpu. Fb abj Jvyybj vf senhtug jvgu tevrs. Gevrf gb hfr zntvp gb trg Gnen onpx yvxr ubj fur erfheerpgrq Ohssl, naq vg snvyf, naq fur whfg gnxrf gur zntvp. Fb fbzrbar nqqvpgrq gb zntvp, abj unf n gba zber zntvp naq vf ba gur enzcntr jvgu tevrs naq n irel hafgnoyr zvaq. Fb na nqqvpgrq Jvyybj jernxf unibp, naq arneyl xvyyf ure sevraqf. Gur fprar jvgu Knaqre oevatvat ure onpx sebz gur qnex ibvq bs ure zvaq jnf fheerny gb zr, ohg gura...

... jurqba qbrf fbzrguvat tbbq. Ur fubjf Jvyybj va Ratynaq urnyvat sebz ure nqqvpgvba, yrneavat gb pbageby gur zntvp cebcreyl fvapr fur pna'g trg evq bs vg. Naq fur fgnegf gb urny sebz gur genhzn bs ybfvat Jvyybj.

V nz fgvyy ntunfg gung Jurqba qvq gung. Abar bs gur bgure punenpgref trg gvzr gb erpbire. Naq nygubhtu V guvax gur gvzr va Ratynaq vfa'g gbb ybat - gjb jrrxf znlor? V sbetrg? Gung'f zber guna cbbe Ohssl jub arire trgf gvzr gb erpbire.

Yvxr guvf rcvfbqr fubjf. Ohssl yrnirf gbja gb gel gb erpbire, naq jura fur trgf onpx, fur'f gerngrq yvxr fuvg. Vg whfg arire raqf sbe ure. Bire naq bire ntnva fur whfg trgf uvg jvgu genhzn nsgre genhzn, naq arire unf gvzr gb ernyyl erpbire yvxr Jvyybj jnf tvira ng gur raq bs F6 naq ortvaavat bs F7.

This Dead Man's Party episode really hits one of the things that I can't stand about the show. How Buffy and a few others just get hit by awful thing after awful thing and Whedon doesn't address what this really does to them psychologically, emotionally, and so forth. They're traumatized people, and many a time their trauma is magically painted away. It's just rubs me raw at times.

Tigerpetals said...

That was one of my favorite genres. I wish I could find Buffycentric and positive stuff where she never comes back after Anne. Well I'm sure I did find stuff like that when I was in fandom, at least a few things, but I can't remember.

V'ir nyfb unq gur gubhtug gung vs jr jrer tbvat gb tb jvgu nonaqbavat gur sevraqfuvcf pbzcyrgryl va gur yngre frnfbaf, vg jbhyq unir orra tbbq gb tvir Ohssl arj sevraqf. Ohg V fhccbfr znlor gurl jnagrq gb xrrc gb gur byq pnfg orpnhfr bs ubj ybirq vg jnf, naq orpnhfr gur vqrn bs gurve sevraqfuvc vf fb vzcbegnag gb znal snaf.

And the prospect of a reboot without any of the other characters or Whedon was something I almost looked forward to last year. My only reservation was that I don't trust the people who make movies and TV shows. Alas, that seems to have failed anyway.

Aidan Bird said...

I think I write aghast in the rot13 section, and I mostly use it in the sense that I was shocked/surprised that Whedon included what he did at the beginning of S7. So just a clarification.

Niala Wesley said...

It was about 3 1/2 to 4 months, not 2 weeks.

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