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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: 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)
Hee

In RL when somebody starts an invasion and a full-scale war, he always tries to create an excuse. Or provoke it. Or fabricate it in media. It's an important part of propaganda machine.

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 09:25 (UTC)

Well, obviously, but we're not talking about nations with heads of state, parliamentary procedure and public opinion here. The Slayer exists to fight demons. The Council has been at official war with all of demonkind for its entire existence. Buffy has never been one to precede the wiping out of a vamp's nest or going down into a dungeon with weeks of negotiations ending in a formal declaration of war (the occasional speech in s7 notwithstanding) and her opponents even less so. Why would they all of a sudden need it now?

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 09:50 (UTC)
Duster_by_awmp

So far, slayers fought demons on human territory. They were defending their land, their homes, the security of their nearest and dearest.

Now they invade a foreign territory, inhabited by various species and provoke a war between them. And, when both sides (demons and fairies) are weakened by the fight against each other, slayers invade their territory.

The roles are reversed. Now slayers are the agressors. And in RL agressor always concocts an excuse to start the agression. And the girls who are sent to fight demons are told that these demons are bad because they killed our sister, a slayer. Perfect motivation for a teenager.

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 10:46 (UTC)

Now they invade a foreign territory, inhabited by various species and provoke a war between them.

Good point (though they did to some extent invade foreign territory in "Chosen"). It is a new strategy, certainly - as it must be when there's 500 rather than 1. Though as far as I can see, there are no indications that the council wants both sides weakened; their target is Yamanh, and it's doubtful if they even know about the slugs and fairies.

And the girls who are sent to fight demons are told that these demons are bad

If, after 18 months of training, they still need to explain to the newly called slayers why demon armies threatening to destroy the world are bad, they're REALLY in trouble. (Willow and Xander got that in a few minutes, as I recall.) And judging from the first 5 issues, the problem with the juniors doesn't exactly seem to be motivating them to fight but rather controlling them...

As for her being a deliberate sacrifice, as in supposed to die... I'm not saying it's impossible. I'm just saying that for it to be possible, we have to assume that Rona is lying (OK, not impossible), that Giles has gone MUCH darker than he ever did on the series and has no qualms about alienating Buffy even more (again, not impossible, but doesn't seem exactly wise at this point...), that they are sure that she won't make it (which depends entirely on what choices she makes once she gets down there), that Buffy2 is stupid enough not to realize it yet smart enough to send word at the right minute, etc. It's a lot of assumptions to support an idea that... well, I just don't see anything in particular in the comic that points to them wanting her dead. It's an extremely dangerous mission, certainly, but most things a Slayer does are.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 11:25 (UTC)
Xander

The problem here, as StevenT has alreadty pointed in his excellent essay, is that Joss is giving us a lot of space for interpretation. Maybe even too much space.

We don't know what happened between the fragmentary episodes Buffy-2 recalls. She could discover that Yamanh is a tyrant and oppressor who plans fairicide and then genocide. Or she could find nothing compromising about his community and then provoke him to strike back at her because of her subversive activity (since one of her assignments was sabotage).

We don't know if Giles has given Rona his blessing to invade the under-community or he doesn't know about her actions. All we know that from Buffy's POV there is a choice (only 500 slayers work for the Council) but from Buffy-2's POV there is no choice. (And that Rona looks more like Jasmine. :)

We don't know if the invasion is a good or bad thing for humanity. When Rona give Buffy-2's assignment she admits that they know next-to-nothing about under-community and that Yanmanh's armies "might be headed up". But, in any case, Buffy-2's actions destabilize the balance of power in the underworld. And - who knows - maybe now fairies, no longer deterred by demons, will come upstairs and start laying their eggs into humans' ears.

I'm just trying to understand why this exercise of relativism was so important for Joss...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 12:36 (UTC)
thechain-truth

While obviously we're all free to draw our own conclusions (that being the point of this issue) I have to say I don't really agree with yours. You're far more cynical than me. ;-)

Like bgf says, the Slayers don't need an excuse to attack Yamanh's army: attacking demons is what Slayers do, after all. They're already at war. And they didn't even know *Buffy was dead when they launched their attack - she'd promised her fairy friend that she'd still be there when she got back, after all. Plus, it seems that all they know at the beginning is that Yamanh may be planning to invade the surface world - so they're responding to aggression, not initiating it. One of *Buffy's tasks is to "do some internal damage", which she achieves by finding some underground-dwelling factions who are hostile to Yamanh, and persuading them to ally... again like bgf, I didn't get the impression that the Slayers even knew about the fairies, Slimefolk or Ravenclan before *Buffy began exploring.

The Slimefolk leader and the fairies don't contradict *Buffy when she says Yamanh's horde are "eating them alive" and "will go right through you" and "otherwise there is no life in these caverns." I'm sure from their own perspective the people of Hoht are a legitimate culture with their own quaint folkways and valuable traditions. But from the point of view of their neighbours - and humanity - they're a clear and present danger threatening their entire existence. So even if the fairies do plan on laying eggs in human ears, they're still a lesser threat at the moment than Yamanh's horde. After all, Churchill was even willing to ally with Stalin to defeat Hitler. Refusing to choose the lesser of two evils means allowing the greater evil to win by default. (Which doesn't, of course, mean that choosing the lesser evil won't be problematic itself. Sometimes all your choices suck: see 'The Gift' for an example.)

We don't know if Giles has given Rona his blessing to invade the under-community or he doesn't know about her actions. All we know that from Buffy's POV there is a choice (only 500 slayers work for the Council) but from Buffy-2's POV there is no choice.

But Buffy (the real one) certainly knew that one of her decoys was "underground, literally" - although from the way she talked about it it seems that it wasn't her idea originally, but something she agreed to. ("The guys figured...") Casual bits of conversation in the first arc, such as references to previous missions ("we don't want another Orvieto"), also suggest that the Slayer organisation isn't keeping big secrets from its own members. Giles may be an exception, since we haven't seen him talking to any of the other Core Four yet and he may be estranged from them - that's still a mystery.

And *Buffy had plenty of choices, even if her personality and ethics wouldn't let her take some of them.

I'm just trying to understand why this exercise of relativism was so important for Joss...

Partly, I think, because he wanted to use the vehicle of a one-shot story without the main characters to get across some of his personal philosophy. And because the concept of basing an entire episode around someone's life flashing before their eyes as they died appealed to him, in the same way as 'Hush' or 'The Body' or 'Once More With Feeling' or 'Conversations With Dead People' did.

Also, I think, because he wanted to make the point that we can all be heroes - it doesn't matter if you're not the one with the famous name, the one everybody's heard of: your contributions still make a difference if you believe in yourself.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 14:00 (UTC)

You know, after reading and rereading your reply I started to think that maybe Joss' ultimate intention was to prove that great propaganda piece can convince even the most staunch democrats that agression against another nation/species is OK. Even if we know "next-to-nothing" about them. Even if we only suspect they plan to attack us. Still, it's OK to do "some internal damage" and to stir them up against each other.

Well, you hooked me. I was procrastinating, but now I'm writing my own review. Thanks for nudging me! :)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 15:29 (UTC)

great propaganda piece can convince even the most staunch democrats that agression against another nation/species is OK

By the same logic, he has long since "proven" that capital punishment - even of those who have not yet committed any crime, simply for fear they might - is commendable. After all, Slayers kill a lot of vampires who haven't even been out of their caskets for 30 seconds. :-)

Stephen commented on a lot of your previous arguments, but just my 2 cents: Sure, it's possible that everyone was wrong about Yamanh and that he was harmless until Buffy2 provoked him, it's possible that Rona is running her own operation unbeknownst to Giles and Buffy (probably not a good idea in an organization led by people with ESP, and unlikely considering that Buffy knows about Buffy2), it's even possible that Buffy2 really is an utter psychopath whose every word throughout the comic is a lie... but is there actually any particular quote, any particular picture in the comic that leads to any of those conclusions, as opposed to the ones that hint that she IS doing the right thing by fighting this particular fight? Wouldn't the logical solution be to accept the story as it's told until we see any concrete hints that things are not as they seem? For instance, for Giles to cold-bloodedly sacrifice naive girls would be huge character development; I'd like to think we're not expected to accept those without, well, actually showing that character development, or at least some hint thereof.

I'm just trying to understand why this exercise of relativism was so important for Joss...

My personal opinion - and I wrote at length about it in my journal - is that it all ties in to the storyline of s8. In brief; the journey of the unknown Slayer is one that, in some measure, all of the new Slayers will have to take. By not giving her a name, she's an Everywoman (Everyslayer?) character. All Slayers are both victims and heroes, at least potentially. I think it's very apt considering how "The Long Way Home" ended.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 16:33 (UTC)
Xander

Re: quote

"There is no truth. There's just what you believe". The first phrase is repeated twice, so I suppose it's quite important statement within the context of the story. But according to that philosophy it's OK to kill humans (demons, Jews, African-Americans, fairies, gays, etc) if that's what you believe. And this pearl of wisdom is uttered by a Council representattive.

But it's not particular quotes or pictures but overall mood that disturbs me. The narrative style. The mention of faschism (twice!) Icky details of fairies' reproductive methods. Chained demon-woman kept in slayer school.

Or maybe it's just my Russian heritage. I know - personally know - people who fought in Afganistan and killed Afgans. And they consider themselves heroes. And, in a way, they are. Because they'd die without hesitation to save me or another Russian. But at the same time they're monsters because they think they have the right to invade foreign country and to kill people who defend their land.

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 18:13 (UTC)

Neither The Long Way Home or The Chain make any mention of a Council being in existence for Rona to be a member of. All we know about how the Slayers are organised is that there are 10 separate squads, which the military people’s intel describe as too loosely affiliated to be called an army. Voll describes Buffy as a leader and she’s clearly a figurehead but who, if anyone, wields executive power is completely obscure.

"There is no truth. There's just what you believe" doesn’t mean that whatever you believe is true and justified. More that you are responsible for the beliefs you choose to hold, that blindly following some revealed ‘truth’ is no excuse for the atrocities committed in it’s name. Fascism is mentioned twice in the parable of the panties and then shown to be based on false assumptions about their provenance.

My assumptions about the nature of the under-community are based on the observations that Yamanh’s demon follower greets *Buffy with a pleasantry about how long it’s been since he’s had the chance to eat someone like her, that both the slime guy and the fairies implicitly agree that the demons are (currently) eating them alive, that slime guy explicitly describes *Buffy’s not helping them as throwing them to the wolves and that Yamanh’s chosen self-description is “mighty and merciless” not “just and peaceable.” And if all this is propaganda what have the demons got that the Slayer ‘aggressors’ could possibly want. Sovereignty over a giant hole in the ground? They’ve already got one of those back in Sunnydale.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 19:14 (UTC)
swimming

Re: "There is no truth. There's just what you believe" - I don't see anything about responsibility in this quote. I just don't. For me it means that if you believe in democracy then democracy is OK and if you believe in faschism than faschism is OK. Yes, faschism is mentioned next to panties but it's the only political system that is mentioned in the issue and it sounds disturbing for me. I'm not sure if it's a deliberate frame of reference or a random phrasing - but it sets the mood. JMHO.

Yes, the small demon wants to eat her, but instead of killing him she lets him go to their leader to announce her arrival. Why? I can't decide if it's a case of flashy storytelling or a hint that Buffy-2' actual assignment was to provoke war. Because even if Yamanh wasn't planning the war, after Buffy-2's declaration he has to start preparations. He can't let the enemy catch him unawares. And, of course, the leader of a demon army has to position himself as "mighty and merciless", because in his world cruelty is power. If he'd position himself as "just and peaceable" he'd be owerthrown the next day.

But, of course, all the agruments are valid only if we evaluate the story from RL standpoint. Should we suspend our disbelief and perceive the story like... well... the story? And accept that nasty-looking demons are bad guys just because they're drawn nasty? And Buffy-2 is right because she's the protagonist? And when she orders the demon to tell Yamanh that Buffy Summers is coming for him, it's not a provocation to force him to gather his army but just a requisite phrase hero usually says to demonstrate his/her coolness.

I'm trying to figure it out - but I don't know.

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 20:16 (UTC)

It doesn’t say what you believe is OK. And the specific context is not one of *Buffy deciding between democracy and fascism but between different versions of who she is. I think that’s particularly significant because “There is no truth” isn’t the only phrase to be repeated in this story, the most directly repeated element is the panel containing the question “Who the hell are you.” As stormwreath very eloquently put it:

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."


And accept that nasty-looking demons are bad guys just because they're drawn nasty?

I very specifically didn’t use their appearance as a reason for believing the demons were bad but based that conclusion on their behaviour. The whole "I’m going to eat you" thing.

As to whether the Slayers rather than the demons are aggressors as you yourself say Yamanh is the leader of a demon army not a demon peace corps and “in his world cruelty is power.” You imply that power is something Yammanh finds desirable and cruelty no disincentive. We also know that what his followers find desirable is people, fairies and slime things to eat and that people, fairies and slime things don’t want to be eaten. Yamanh has both the motivation and the lack of scruples to attack the human world with or without provocation and all *Buffy says is that she’s coming after him not his people or his territory. He doesn’t need to respond by declaring war on the whole upper world unless that’s something he wants to do anyway, he could meet her himself one on one.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 21:07 (UTC)

I agree that within the context of Buffy-2's briefing "There is no truth" implies that she has to decide herself who she is. But in wider context the declaration sounds ominous.

As to the situation with Yamanh - I'm just uncomfortable with the line of reasoning "we should attack them before they attack us". And I doubt Yamanh could meet her one on one when she organized an army of fairies, slugs and black-winged creatures.

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 22:40 (UTC)

I'm just uncomfortable with the line of reasoning "we should attack them before they attack us".

You seem to be comfortable with Yamanh using that reasoning if you're blaming the war on *Buffy's "provocation" rather than his aggression. My reading of the order of events was that meeting the minion was the first thing that happened to *Buffy underground and the fairy overhearing her name in thier exchange was how she came ino contact with the other underworld residents but even if it did happen after she'd convinced the less toothy ones to combine against the oppressors who were eating them alive her message to Yamanh isn't that Buffy Summers 'and her army' are coming after him. True scepticism isn't about taking the opposite of the 'government' line as gospel just because its not what the government says but about reading every case on its own merits. There's plenty of evidence here that the demon hordes really are planning to invade Poland.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 23:02 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 11th August 2007 09:05 (UTC)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 23:34 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 11th August 2007 10:15 (UTC)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 11th August 2007 15:17 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 11th August 2007 20:20 (UTC)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 12th August 2007 14:05 (UTC)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 15th August 2007 09:22 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 15th August 2007 19:31 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th August 2007 21:50 (UTC)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 15th August 2007 22:37 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 21:27 (UTC)
thechain-truth

Thanks for the comments. Nice to see this generating debate!

*Buffy says is that she’s coming after him not his people or his territory. He doesn’t need to respond by declaring war on the whole upper world unless that’s something he wants to do anyway, he could meet her himself one on one.

I get the impression that she said that to provoke his macho, masculine ego, not because she actually only has a quarrel with him personally. :-) Except to the extent that his army might be composed of his personal followers held together purely by his own charisma and force of personality. Take him out - or even humiliate him in front of his troops - and the army would disperse again.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 21:07 (UTC)
thechain-truth

For me it means that if you believe in democracy then democracy is OK and if you believe in faschism than faschism is OK.

As I understand Existentialism, that's pretty much correct. I can't appeal to a higher moral authority to prove that fascism is not OK - if you believe it's OK, then for you it is OK.

But - and this is important - that doesn't change my right to view fascism as very much not OK, and to do everything in my power to fight you, and to convince other people to fight you too.

If you've simply been persuaded to support fascism out of habit, or because it's what other people expect of you, then I might try to persuade you otherwise. If you've taken a willing, conscious choice to embrace its principles, then I'll take a moment to respect you for having the courage of your convictions before declaring undying enmity and war between us. :-)

In the context of 'Buffy', you can substitute "worshipping Evil and/or eating people" for "fascism" in the above.

Incidentally, while Sartre's version of Existentialism is fundamentally atheist/morally relativistic, I understand earlier versions did include God in the picture too. I haven't read enough to really understand ho that would work, although I suspect mrs_underhill's post above might show the way.

she lets him go to their leader to announce her arrival. Why? I can't decide if it's a case of flashy storytelling or a hint that Buffy-2' actual assignment was to provoke war.

My impression is that she did it, not to provoke the war exactly (since it was probably inevitable by that time), but rather to provoke Yamanh into acting too hastily. To push him into making a mistake. That was the main reason for the protagonist pretending to be Buffy, after all - if Yamanh thought THE Slayer was coming after him, he was likely to launch his attack before he was really ready, in case Buffy otherwise found a way to stop him.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 21:29 (UTC)
Three

In the context of 'Buffy', you can substitute "worshipping Evil and/or eating people" for "fascism" in the above.

Can I substitute "faschism" for "invasion into another country"? :)

My impression is that she did it, not to provoke the war exactly (since it was probably inevitable by that time), but rather to provoke Yamanh into acting too hastily. To push him into making a mistake. That was the main reason for the protagonist pretending to be Buffy, after all - if Yamanh thought THE Slayer was coming after him, he was likely to launch his attack before he was really ready, in case Buffy otherwise found a way to stop him.

With this type of narrative your guess is as good as mine. We don't know if she announced that the Slayer was coming after him before or after she organized her army. We don't know how much time she had spend underground (but, obviously, enough to make a fairy fall in love with her). Evil, brilliant Joss!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 21:51 (UTC)

You notice it's a female fairy. So we have another canonical f/f relationship. :-) They've even apparently had the fairy equivalent of sex, and now she's pregnant with her babyeggs!


Based on the protagonist being healthy and unscratched in the scene where she's talking to the Slimefolk leader, and dirty, sweaty and bruise-covered in the scene with the demon hand-chopping, I'm assuming the latter scene comes later, right before the big battle. But I could be completely wrong; you're right that there's no way to tell the sequence.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 21:23 (UTC)

Chained demon-woman kept in slayer school.

That bit reminded me strongly of Holtz and Justine and their training methods. But at least these trainee Slayers have now seen an actual vampire (I assume that's what she is) not just a blurry photograph of one as Vi did.


Or maybe it's just my Russian heritage. I know - personally know - people who fought in Afganistan and killed Afgans. And they consider themselves heroes.

Interesting, because I took your previous remarks about persuading people to support an invasion of another country were referring to Britain and the US in Iraq (perhaps they were?); but I suppose Afghanistan fits too.

I think choosing what to believe matters here too, though. You can believe that everything your government says to you is a lie, that all the information they give you is manipulative propaganda, and their agenda is wholly selfish and sinister. Or you can believe that there really are tragedies unfolding or threats to your interests brewing elsewhere in the world, and that your country has the power to intervene for good.

And the problem is, sometimes one view is correct, and sometimes the other is. (And often it's a little of both). Refusing to ever support your government can lead to just as much (or more) human misery as being too enthusiastic to support it.

(Or perhaps that's a privileged Western perspective from someone whose government has rarely been actively evil, as opposed to passively allowing evil to flourish?)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 22:05 (UTC)

I'm rereading the thread trying to figure out why nobody else thinks that invasion on foreign territory is, to put it mildly, not a particularly good thing to do. Do other people dismiss it as a genre convention? Or they believe that official authorities are always acting in the interests of good?

I grew up in a totalitarian society and the people who surrounded me, usually despised and mocked the authorities (and justly so). And I believe that after the collapse of communism I kept the habit to distrust the official partyline. Especially when it comes to agression towards other nations.

Plus, I think that it could be cool if Joss goes all the way and shows not only the good but also the bad and the ugly of the new system. Because every historical cataclysm has big and nasty repercussions.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 22:26 (UTC)

em>Do other people dismiss it as a genre convention? Or they believe that official authorities are always acting in the interests of good?</em>

I can only answer for myself; but where I'm coming from is that I don't believe the authorities are always good, but nor do I believe they're automatically evil either. In Britain, people will grumble and complain about the government and take it for granted that politicians twist the truth to make themselves look good - but when problems happen, it's still the government we rely on - you could even say 'trust' - to put things right. And twisting the truth is still very different from outright lying.

I don't know how much you're aware of the controversy here over the "dodgy dossier" and the claims of WMDs in Iraq, but the perception that the government was caught in actual lying to justify the invasion (a debatable perception, but that's a side issue) was a huge controversy and caused genuine outrage. I can't see that happening if the public took it for granted that you can't trust a word politicians say.

And personally, I do believe that if a country has an oppressive and tyrannical regime, it could well be a good thing to invade them. Well, 'good thing' is probably too strong a term - "lesser of two evils" is better. As long as you have an actual plan in place to make things better afterwards, of course, Mr Cheney...

The Second World War is a big part of our national mythology, and few people question that we were justified in fighting Nazi Germany. And bear in mind, Britain declared war on Germany, not vice versa, so you could argue that my country was the aggressor there... So military intervention to chgange a country's government isn't automatically seen as bad here.

For that matter, I've even heard that for Afghan women, the period of Soviet occupation was actually the one time in history they had the greatest human rights and best social opportunities... (And my source for that is definitely not a pro-Soviet one...)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 22:59 (UTC)

So, national mentality plays a big role, after all. In Soviet Union the official partyline also was "if a country has an oppressive and tyrannical regime, it could well be a good thing to invade them" - but all Western countries were regarded as oppressive and tyrannical. :)
It's quite possible that my take on issue 5 is the residual of my aversion to communist ideology. But - who knows - maybe Joss is really trying to hint that The Council and the whole slayer system may be a threat to humanity.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th August 2007 23:08 (UTC)
thechain-truth

While I believe that interfering in other countries is sometimes a good thing, I entirely agree that you need to question the motivations of the people advocating this not once, but seven times before supporting them. ;-)

maybe Joss is really trying to hint that The Council and the whole slayer system may be a threat to humanity.

Like beer_good_foamy said in his own comments on this, that's the beauty of the story. What General Voll said in #4 about the Slayers as a potential threat to humanity is perfectly true. You can't assume that Buffy is automatically right anymore... (but nor should you assume that she's automatically wrong.)

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