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(Meta) Identity, choice and heroism (with a digression on Existentialism)

9th August 2007 (17:55)

My last season 8 meta talked about the concepts of power and consent in 'The Long Way Home' and the show as a whole. While these are still important in 'The Chain', I think the dominant themes this time are identity, choice and the nature of heroism. The story also, like the Firefly episode 'Objects In Space', strongly expresses Joss's Existentialist beliefs - perhaps too much so: unless you're comfortable entertaining the notions that nothing has inherent meaning and all morality is relative, then you're likely to have problems with this story.

On which note, it's probably best to start with a brief discursion to explain how Existentialism works - especially if, like me before I started writing this, you've only the vaguest idea what it involves. If there are any trained philosophers out there who spot any mistakes in the following, please comment!

In the director's commentary to 'Objects In Space', Joss explains that much of his personal philosophy is based on Jean-Paul Sartre's Existentialist theories. At the core of these is the idea that Existence precedes Essence. That is, the universe and the objects and people within it all have a real, concrete and independent existence. However, those objects' identity - their meaning and their purpose - are not inherent to them; we as observers assign our own meanings to them.

To give a classic example from 'Objects In Space', let me ask the question: what is that thing the girl is holding in this picture?

"It's a gun."
"It's a handgun."
"It's a Blue Sun Industries 11mm calibre semi-automatic pistol converted to accept caseless ammunition."
"It's a weapon."
"It's a tool."
"It's a stage prop provided by the Mutant Enemy set designer."
"It's a device for killing people."
"It's a device for self-protection."
"It's a device to intimidate other people and make its owner appear tough and macho."
"It's a valuable antique."
"It's a recipe for unpleasantness if it gets into the hands of a mentally disturbed teenager."
"It's a frightening and unpleasant symbol of humanity's barbarous nature."
"It's a guarantee of individual liberty and freedom from State control."
"It's a marvellous work of efficient design and craftsmanship."
"It's a clumsy and inelegant tool for winning fights that a wiser person would never get into."
"It's some sort of weird-looking metal club."
"It's a group of pixels on a computer screen arranged in a particular pattern of colours."

So many different definitions... but which of them is the real one? The Existentialist answer is that none of them are.

"Just an object. It doesn't mean what you think..."

Or to put it another way: they're all its real identity - but only from the point of view of each person observing the object. We all give our own individual meanings to existence.

For mundane objects like a chair, or a shoe, or a carrot, that's not really a problem. Just about everybody assigns the same meaning to such things, so a consensus definition of reality emerges. But for more controversial concepts like 'love', or 'evil', or 'hero', or for that matter 'woman', there's far less agreement. When one person assumes that the category 'woman' implies a certain fixed list of characteristics, and they meet somebody else who assigns completely different attributes to that same concept, problems can arise...

The realisation that the world and other people's ideas about it are fundamentally beyond our control - are Other to our own existence - can be a profoundly disturbing one. A common reaction is to deny the revelation: to insist that our own concept of reality is the only true one, and that other people must therefore either agree with us or be wrong. Some people go the other way and begin to doubt their own beliefs, accepting those of other people as more correct instead. A few, confronted by this idea that values and beliefs have no inherent and absolute truth, slip into a state of existential angst - where they despair that nothing has meaning and everything is pointless. (It may not be a coincidence that Existentialism is a popular philosophy among teenagers).

However, there is another alternative, which for Sartre was seen as the ideal: entering a state of self-actualisation. This is where you accept that your own beliefs may not be any more 'true' than those of anybody else - but they are also no less true and worthwhile. Or, to quote Angel:

"If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."

You therefore make the decision to live your life according to your own principles and beliefs, not just by default but out of a conscious choice. You shape your own identity and destiny.

So how does this work for the unnamed protagonist of 'The Chain'? The very fact that she is unnamed is suggestive: she is a blank canvas on which we are invited to project our own definition of her identity.

For some readers, she is a victim. A nameless footsoldier in Buffy's army; Chosen without being given any choice about it, manipulated and moulded, sent half-trained and alone into a battle she failed to survive. To other readers, she is a hero: playing the hand fate dealt her with grace and skill, accepting her responsibilities, and ultimately sacrificing her life willingly for a cause she believed was important.

Which is the true picture? If you've read the section above about Existentialism I'm sure you can guess my answer, but Rona spells it out for us in the comic:

"There is no truth. There's just what you believe."

How we explain the events of the story is, in the end, our own choice. The facts are there, and they can support several interpretations.

The protagonist of the story says twice that she had no choice about becoming a Slayer. The first time appears to be literally true - one minute she's sitting chatting with her friends, the next she's flying through the air having visions of Slayers past and becoming strong enough to survive being hit by an 18-wheeler. No sign of Willow popping up to ask her telepathically if she wants to become a Slayer and getting her to sign a consent form and waiver. On the other hand, there's also nothing to say that she wasn't subconsciously willing and ready to become a Slayer, and Willow's spell picked up on that when it Chose her. It's all in how you choose to interpret things.

The second time, the protagonist says she had no choice except to listen to the Watcher's explanation of what's happening to her. Here, though, it seems to me that what she's really saying is that of the alternatives offered to her, only one of them seemed worth taking. That still counts as a choice, even if rhetorically or morally she feels like she had none. Or, to quote Firefly again:

"But a man learns all the details of a situation like ours, well then he has a choice."
"I don't believe he does."

If we accept that the protagonist of this story was put in a situation where she felt she had no choice, does that make her a victim? Perhaps not. After all, a key point of Existentialist theory is that the universe has its own existence, quite independent of you and your wishes. You can't always affect what happens to you, no matter how hard you hope and pray. All you can do is deal with the consequences. I've already quoted Whistler's words in 'Becoming Part 1' in my review of this issue, but I'll repeat them here because they sum this up perfectly:

"Even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So, what, are we helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come, can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are."

So was our protagonist a victim of Willow's Slayer empowerment spell, or did she benefit from it? Or both? There is no truth. There's just what you believe. She chose to believe that she wasn't a victim. We, as readers, are free to make up our own minds.

The other questions posed by the episode can be answered in similar fashion. The protagonist appears to have been a competent and effective fighter, based on the alley fight scene we are shown - less flashy and obvious than Simone, the only named Slayer (other than Buffy herself) in the entire episode, but she alone has taken to heart the message Buffy was trying so hard to impart in the previous story arc: "Fight with me, not next to me." Even so, she's clearly had, at most, 18 months of training before being sent on her mission - far less than Buffy's 9+ years (or, for that matter, Kennedy's 13+ years). So she's good, but she's not the best.

Again, Rona lays this out for us explicitly. Her words leave both us and the protagonist herself to decide whether she's being sent because she's strong and good, or weak and expendable. Would Buffy's new organisation treat its Slayers as expendable? The episode doesn't tell us directly, but leaves us to decide for ourselves based on the events shown, and our knowledge of previous story arcs and Buffy's character. (I know which answer I believe, but I've seen plenty of people reading this comic and coming to the opposite conclusion too).

Then there's the final battle. Once again, the protagonist faces a choice that she chooses to regard as no choice at all. Urged to flee and save herself, she decides instead that duty requires her to stay behind and fight the demon army, blocking it from invading the surface world until reinforcements can arrive. Arrive they do, but too late for her. Noble sacrifice or futile waste of time? There is no truth. There's just what you believe...

So what does our protagonist believe? What motivates her to accept this dangerous mission, at the cost of her life?

It's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame.

She explicitly rejects the idea that she's doing it for her own glory. She doesn't want her name on everyone's lips; she's quite happy to go to her death with it unknown. Again, the contrast to Simone, the One Named Slayer, is pointed. The comic also addresses the idea that single Great Individuals are responsible for all the deeds commonly attributed to them. Popular history often puts the whole blame for World War Two and the Holocaust onto Hitler, glossing over the fact that millions of people made their own decisions and choices that ultimately contributed to those events. Gandhi may have been an inspirational leader, but his followers still chose to accept his beliefs and participate in his political campaigns. For that matter, Joss Whedon may be a brilliant writer, but the success of 'Buffy' depended equally on all the other writers, the actors, crew, technicians and the humble unsung administrators and assistants, who all worked together on the show. And in the universe of this comic, the legend of Buffy is also contributed to by all the other people who fight the same fight as her. Is that bad? Is Buffy being selfish to allow it to happen, assuming she's even aware of the phenomenon and could do anything about it if she were? There is no truth...

In the end, the protagonist of this story did what she did because she thought it was the right thing for her to do. She's suitably cynical and subversive about talk of sisterhood and heroism, as befits a Jossian hero, but finds herself accepting its basic tenets all the same.

"You know what? You've probably heard this. It's pretty standard stuff: how were're all 'connected to one another' all over the world and through history and make a difference and we're all equal and do for each other and it isn't bullshit; he was actually really articulate, but... well, it's one thing to hear it."

She made her choice; she tried to feel the chain connecting her to humanity, and to face the darkness. Did she make the right decision? Was she a hero or a victim? The decision is ours to make.

Comments

Posted by: mrs_underhill (mrs_underhill )
Posted at: 9th August 2007 19:05 (UTC)
s&r

This is brilliant! Thank you. I loved the succint and to the point way the existentialism was presented and applied to Whedon's work. I wanted to read something like that for some time as I'm too impatient to properly learn/argue philosophy. But unless you understand existentialism, you'll miss something in what Whedon is trying to say.
Great picks from Firefly on meaning and choices. And yes, "Chain" is all about that too. For that unnamed slayer making choices (or desiding that there's really no choice - like Mal in TJ) and creating meanings for herself.

Nevertheless, I have problems with existentialism as a way of thinking, and I appreciate that Whedon's work doesn't have to be treated from that POV only. Both physical objects and abstract concepts do not simply exist in the world, they obey the laws of nature, for example. I don't believe in total freedom in defining meanings either. Whedonverse also has a concept of soul/concience, of a moral compass which pushes heroes in a certain direction. And if we take the metaphore further and consider a real compass, there's an objectively existing place in the world where all compasses point too. I believe that applies to a moral compass as well.
Interestingly, that's what Whedon's heroes express when they say that they really have no choice - they feel there are limits on assigning meanings to their actions, that something pushes them to interpret the choices this way. The difference between Whedon's interpretation and, say, mine, would be that for Whedon it's up to a person to find the meaning and stick to it, vs. perceiving/discovering the meaning which is objectively out there. Like a difference between invention and discovery. But I appreciate that, from my POV, in Whedonverse both approaches end up in the same meaning. Which makes it possible for me to treat Joss's works from the POV of objective morals.

OK, now back to "Chain". I'm interpreting it in the most acceptable way for myself, re. above.
I saw that there was a choice for this slayer on every step of her road, and she did all the choices herself, nobody pushed her into it.
I think there was a connection between the truck about to squash them and her calling. She was called because if she answered she'd have a chance to save everybody. It's a mystical thing, you know. So she answered, as for her there was no choice.
There was a choice to call 1-800-CHOSEN-1 or not, to stay with a group or not, to risk her neck for the other slayer or not, as well as the choice whether to go on that mission and how to conduct it.
She came around from resenting the notion of sticking your neck out for the other girl to embrasing it - it was her personal journey, her character trait. She had a self-sacrificial streak to her, the desire to help others. That's why she did what she did. She found her own meaning. It's both sad and uplifting.
As for the morality of Rona and Co letting/setting her to go along with it... I don't know what to say yet. It does resemble an army, but a volunteer army.
I am upset by the fact that we're only shown those girls in the Army setting, that they have no life, friends, family of their own. That's disturbing and wrong, unless it's just a temporarily training camp for them and not a many-year contract. Maybe they can get their training and go back to their homes to protect the world over there? Except those who want to stay? We'll see.
I see contrast with Simone and I'm sure we'll see Simone again and that her role won't be a positive one. Maybe the conflict will be set up for those wanting an Army and those wanting to live and fight as individuals. Maybe for some it doesn't feel like an Army but more like a sci-fi convention where you can hang up with like-minded individuals, share something you cannot with other people? But you can't spend your life there...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 9th August 2007 20:04 (UTC)

Thanks! I'm glad the discussion of Existentialism was useful; I read several descriptions of it myself - the one on Wikipedia was worse than useless, since it assumed far too much pre-existing knowledge of philosophy - before I thought I'd got my head around what it actually meant. And that was a neat analogy to reconcile it with objective morality. :-)

She came around from resenting the notion of sticking your neck out for the other girl to embrasing it

Nice point - I'd missed that, but it really is a progression in her character. Although even then, she was sticking up for her friend to the extent of not telling the teachers who she was, even if she resented being punished for it.

I am upset by the fact that we're only shown those girls in the Army setting, that they have no life, friends, family of their own.

It is disturbing - and seems to be a sticking point for a lot of people. However, we're told that only 500 out of the 1,800 known Slayers have joined Buffy's organisation - it seems pretty likely that the ones who didn't were the ones who chose not to dedicate their lives to fighting evil.

And even in the context of the comics, we've already seen characters questioning the set-up: the protagonist of this story ("This is a cult, right?") and even more significantly, Buffy herself in the first issue ("Here at Command Central, not so much with the hilarious. More with the 'What the hell am I doing?'"). And I suspect the coming Faith arc will also highlight the contrast between working as a Slayer and living a normal life.

However, if the Slayers are going to be treated by the (US) government as a terrorist organisation, I can't see them being allowed to go home and lead a normal life. That might well turn out to be one of the big plot developments planned for 20-30 issues down the line, with the Slayers turned into a hunted guerrilla organisation?

Thanks for reading!

Posted by: mrs_underhill (mrs_underhill )
Posted at: 9th August 2007 20:33 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy )
Posted at: 9th August 2007 19:56 (UTC)

This is excellent; I'd add more, but I'm going to have to think about it first. For now, I just thoroughly enjoyed reading it, as well-argued and as balanced as all of your meta.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 9th August 2007 20:16 (UTC)
thechain-truth

Thanks! Looking forward to your comments... (and whether you choose 'hero' or 'victim' ;-) )

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy )
Posted at: 10th August 2007 09:09 (UTC)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher )
Posted at: 9th August 2007 22:08 (UTC)

Was she a hero or a victim?

Could she be both? A brave, bright girl who was looking for a high purpose and, at the same time, Council's pre-planned casualty to create an excuse for their invasion?

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy )
Posted at: 10th August 2007 09:10 (UTC)

Why would the council need an excuse to wage war on demons?

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher )
Posted at: 10th August 2007 09:19 (UTC)

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Posted by: a2zmom (a2zmom )
Posted at: 10th August 2007 12:45 (UTC)

What a fantastic thought provoking essay. This is why still nothing else comes close to the Buffyverse.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 10th August 2007 21:29 (UTC)
thechain-truth

This is why still nothing else comes close to the Buffyverse.

Because it's got me to write essays about it?
:-)

(Joking! Joking!)

Thanks!

Posted by: joe_sweden (joe_sweden )
Posted at: 10th August 2007 13:09 (UTC)
Existentialisme est un Whedonisme


Fascinating post, thank you. It’s been a while since I studied Sartre etc, so had to reach back in my brain for those old concepts. The link between existentialism and adolescence is a very interesting one…and Angel’s affinity for it confirms my idea of him as the permanent adolescent…or at least, someone whose adolescence lasted over a 100 years (til around the end of season 2 of Angel, I’d say!). It certainly appealed to me as a teenager – the idea that YOU create your own meaning…which gives ignorant young whippersnappers like I was the excuse to ignore what had gone before and pretend they were inventing everything from a blank slate (sex, music, moral thought).

Existentialism is a particularly interesting philosophical viewfinder to view Buffy through, as it’s an emotive philosophy, one that doesn’t stick to the “purity” of logic and reason that other Western philosophies require…it’s more political, more engaging-of-the-heart-and-the-blood. That doesn’t make it better or worse than philosophical discourse as defined by thinkers like A J Ayer, but more apt for Buffy – whose “emotions give [her] power”, and who works best when hand, heart and head and spirit are combined.

[quote] Whedonverse also has a concept of soul/concience, of a moral compass which pushes heroes in a certain direction. [/quote]

Great point: the Buffyverse’s concept of the soul is an essentialist concept. Or at least…the concept of soullessness is. A soul doesn’t make you good…but the lack of one makes it impossible for you to be anything other than bad. At least, that’s the theory. Vampires like Spike, or demons like Clem seem to go some way to disproving the theory, or shaking it up a little. Perhaps you could say all the Buffyversers are in a state of Bad Faith on this issue…they believe in an essentialist concept of the soul/the state of soullessness…but they’re mistaken, and hold onto that belief because it’s comfortable?

Re the Chain: I saw the slayer’s choice as comparable to that kid with the brain tumour in Lie to Me. Buffy says something along the lines of “it’s not a good choice…but it’s a choice”. This slayer has been backed into a corner to a degree – she no longer has certain options open to her (eg to be normal). Circumstances limit our actions, our range of options…but the action of choosing is always open to us.

Or is it? In the Buffyverse, there are various choiceless states…arguably, being a vampire means you cannot choose to be good (though, as above, perhaps this isn’t the case?)…and being possessed (eg by hyena spirits) also means you cannot control your own fate (or being possessed by all kinds of things).

Anyway. For the slayer in The Chain, she certainly experienced choice, she felt that she was free…and the existentialist position is one that places a lot of value on experience and feeling – whether it’s avoiding false feelings (believing that you aren’t free, or believing that your role defines you….as with Sartre’s example of a waiter who thinks that he is summed up by his own waiteryness, when actually, he’s always choosing to remain a waiter) or having an authentic experience of your own existence and purpose.

The un-named slayer, in my view, and after chewing it over, a hero: because, way I see it…most heroes are partly victims. Not many people leave happy lives to go and hunt demons/fight people just for the hell of it. There’s usually some threat from the outside, or some circumstance that prompts the hero to get with the righteous smiting. And often, the hero is part of a bigger picture, that they can’t control. The classic example of this for me being Frodo in Lord of the Rings, who had no idea quite how much shit he was getting himself into when he accepted the ring quest. Like a WWI soldier, he was a little person in a big war.

Heroism is often just a matter of making the best of a bad job – turning a victim state into a moment of decision and choice and power.

Posted by: mrs_underhill (mrs_underhill )
Posted at: 10th August 2007 17:07 (UTC)
Re: Existentialisme est un Whedonisme
s&r

The classic example of this for me being Frodo in Lord of the Rings, who had no idea quite how much shit he was getting himself into when he accepted the ring quest.
What a great comparison! I haven't thought of that, but their situations are very similar. The duty was thrust upon them and they chose to accept it, and dealt with it heroically.
As for hero/victim thingie - there's a Russian saying: "one's heroism is another's screw-up". I.e. that's how heroes are made - by cleaning somebody else's mess. They are victims of somebody else's mistakes. But such is life and our world constantly creates messes and heroes to deal with them.
"Chain" lets you consider both sides - the hero side and the mess side. Who is responsible for the mess making this slayer into a hero, for her martyrdom? Buffy & Willow, Rona and her cell, that demon?
I love how Joss doesn't really give the answer for that, but rather gives the answer from that girl's perspective. For her it didn't matter, she just wanted to deal and do her best. She found her own truth.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 10th August 2007 21:42 (UTC)
Re: Existentialisme est un Whedonisme
thechain-truth

Thanks for the comments! (And since you seem to be much more conversant with Existentialism than me, I'm glad what I wrote seemed accurate...)

A soul doesn’t make you good…but the lack of one makes it impossible for you to be anything other than bad. At least, that’s the theory. Vampires like Spike, or demons like Clem seem to go some way to disproving the theory, or shaking it up a little. Perhaps you could say all the Buffyversers are in a state of Bad Faith on this issue…they believe in an essentialist concept of the soul/the state of soullessness…but they’re mistaken, and hold onto that belief because it’s comfortable?

A cynic might argue that the soul/soulless distinction was made in the show's early days when they wanted nice, simple black and white ethics, and it became an uncomfortable fit as they moved on and introduced more shades of grey. (Although the idea that the simplistic viewpoint is conventional wisdom in the Buffyverse rather than the literal truth is an attractive one).

Here's a suggestion - it's the possession of reason and self-awareness that allows people to assign meaning to the universe in the first place, and gain the possibility of self-actualisation. Without it they're just objects. Perhaps in an Existentialist Buffyverse, it's actually the soul that gives that capability? Or at least without a soul, it's as if you were wearing polarising sunglasses that only let one set of options appear to you, and blinds you to the others? So Spike's soulquest was actually a bid to escape false consciousness and achieve authenticity.

I probably need to think about this a bit more...

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi )
Posted at: 14th August 2007 12:39 (UTC)
Re: Existentialisme est un Whedonisme

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 14th August 2007 13:39 (UTC)
Re: Existentialisme est un Whedonisme

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 14th August 2007 13:44 (UTC)
Re: Existentialisme est un Whedonisme

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi )
Posted at: 14th August 2007 13:48 (UTC)
Re: Existentialisme est un Whedonisme

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 14th August 2007 14:39 (UTC)
Re: Existentialisme est un Whedonisme

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 28th August 2007 23:45 (UTC)
Re: Existentialisme est un Whedonisme

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 30th August 2007 12:53 (UTC)
Re: Existentialisme est un Whedonisme

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 13th August 2007 16:35 (UTC)

I looove your reviews/thoughts

posible future cover

http://s104.photobucket.com/albums/m174/timon2099/?action=view¤t=000fr0az.gif

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi )
Posted at: 14th August 2007 10:05 (UTC)
S8 Buffy by dreamer1104

Fascinating. I know Joss said that this issue was personally important to him, but it's nice to see someone spell out why - it straight away struck me as an essay in comic form (stories are of course a wonderful medium for putting across thoughts far more effectively than many a meta piece).

I quite liked this issue, but my main problem still lingers - the human interest is missing. (Contrast with the first few pages of issue 6, which made me love and care about Faith all over again.) I appreciate all the ideas (moreso after reading this post), but it's still purely academic. Hopefully 'Buffy's death will somehow affect the real Buffy later on in the season, tying it in with the rest of the story and giving it more emotional resonance, which is what it lacks at the moment.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 14th August 2007 11:43 (UTC)
thechain-truth

Hi! I know what you mean about the 'essay' comparison; I do think this is something Joss wanted to say, and he took the opportunity of the comic to get it off his chest, as it were. (I've a feeling there are going to be several more one-off issues like this between the main story arcs).

For me, this story *was* emotionally resonant, very much so. But I will say that what we're lacking so far is much sense of the ordinary and everyday life of these people. Going shopping. Doing schoolwork. Cleaning bloodpizza stains out of their blouse. That sort of thing. There are a few flashes here and there - scenes showing training, two Slayers having a quick conversation about boys, etc, but mostly it's neglected in favour of the big storylines.

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi )
Posted at: 14th August 2007 12:32 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 14th August 2007 13:02 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi )
Posted at: 14th August 2007 13:24 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi )
Posted at: 18th August 2007 20:35 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 19th August 2007 10:59 (UTC)

Posted by: lilred26x (lilred26x )
Posted at: 17th August 2007 17:58 (UTC)

I do really enjoy reading your meta. I didn't really know anything about Existentialism, so you're explanation was definitely helpful. I also really enjoy the way you make me think more about the story and its meaning. I tend to think of our unnamed main character as a hero, and I'm intrigued to see how her death is dealt with in upcoming issues. I know they claimed this was a stand alone issue, but I just cannot imagine that there will not be some reaction to it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 17th August 2007 22:10 (UTC)
faith2

Thanks! I'm also curious to see whether this gets referred back to again; I suspect it'll be more a passing mention than a big element of the next issue, or even left until issue 9 or 10 or so; but I hope & trust it won't just be forgotten...

Posted by: lilred26x (lilred26x )
Posted at: 18th August 2007 02:02 (UTC)

Posted by: counteragent (counteragent )
Posted at: 17th August 2007 19:10 (UTC)

What a lovely essay! So unpretentious and helpful, yet thought-provoking.

Thanks!

I tend toward un-angsty, humble existentialism (if there can be such a thing), as my own personal philosophy so this issue--and your essay--really resonated with me.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 17th August 2007 22:14 (UTC)
faith2

Thank you. It was interesting for me to read up about Existentialism and try to understand what it all meant, before I wrote this.

Mind you, I'm not sure "unpretentious" is a word I'd use about myself... ;-)

Posted by: phoenixab (phoenixab )
Posted at: 19th August 2007 20:59 (UTC)

Thank you for this! I never noticed any of Joss' existential viewpoints in Buffy so I missed it in this issue. I'm assuming from the examples you gave that these viewpoints were more prominent in Angel and Firefly, which I haven't seen much of.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 20th August 2007 18:56 (UTC)
thechain-truth

Thanks! I think it was definitely something Joss made more of in the later shows: they were focussed on adults while Buffy was about growing up,and children tend to be more convinced of the absolute truth of their own view of reality...

There were a few hints on the show though - I've quoted Whistler's speech, and you could also argue that Willow's 'forget' spell on Tara and Buffy's madness in 'Normal Again' were both playing with the idea that reality depends on your individual perception, but also can be influenced by factors outside your control.

Posted by: Alice (beerbad )
Posted at: 20th August 2007 23:47 (UTC)
btvs - buffy - blood

Very nice essay. I especially like how you included references from all of the Jossverse! (Here via Whedonesque :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 21st August 2007 18:55 (UTC)

Hee. Thanks!

(Although actually I didn't get to mention 'Fray' at all... Maybe next time!)

Posted by: tamiasangel (tamiasangel )
Posted at: 23rd November 2007 08:26 (UTC)

Can I just say that your essay is really though provoking and brillant. My thoughts are a little to jumbled to add to the discussion but I really do enjoy reading what everyone has written.

I just started a new buffy community on meta would you mind if i shared this. Right now I'm the only member (that actually might not change) but I'm not exactly sure on how the procedure goes. I've been going around trying to find things to put up on the site. I'll give you full credit and kind of anyone who sees it in your direction.I'll put the link up but if you have any problems with that I'll erase the post.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 23rd November 2007 12:39 (UTC)

Hi - thanks for the comments!

I've got no problem with you posting a link to this, or any of my meta, as long as it's credited. Thanks for asking!

As a suggestion, you could get in touch with the maintainers of the su_herald and ask them to mention your community in their next newsletter? It might get you some more members. :-)

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