?

Log in

No account? Create an account
StephenT [userpic]

(Meta) "Risk the pain. It is your nature." - Buffy's character development over the series

24th September 2008 (19:59)
Tags: ,

When I read other people's comments and reviews of Buffy seasons, there's one particular complaint I see quite often, which honestly baffles me. Paraphrased, it boils down to "Buffy shows character flaws this season, just like she did in previous seasons, which is boring". Occasionally there's a variant, such as "Buffy is behaving exactly like she did in a previous season. This is lazy writing." Or sometimes, "Buffy is behaving completely differently to how she did in a previous season. This is lazy writing."

And so, after pulling my head off my desk and peeling my palm away from my face, I decided to write this. It's a season-by-season analysis of Buffy's character arc, aimed at showing how she develops from year to year, and how each season builds on the previous one.


Risk the pain. It is your nature.


Season 1: Rejection of responsibility

Buffy wishes she wasn't the Slayer. She hates the way it interferes with her attempts to lead a normal life and have fun with her friends. She would much rather pass the buck and let someone else do the Slaying. In the first episode, she claims to be retired; in the last she announces that she quits; and in between she asks Giles why he can't do it all instead of her.

Effect on her romantic life: When she tries to go on dates with cute boys, Slaying always gets in the way. Even Clark Kent had it better than this.

Resolution: When she goes to kill the Master even knowing she's walking to her death, she finally accepts her responsibilities in full.

"It wasn't our world anymore. They made it theirs. And they had fun. What are we gonna do?"
"What we have to."


Season 2: Resentment of destiny

Buffy has now resigned herself to being the Slayer, but she sees still it as something imposed on her from outside. She hates what it does to her life, and spends a lot of this season sulking and pouting. Magic and the supernatural are usually shown as an external force that intervenes and tries to ruin your life - just ask Ampata or Oz, let alone Angel.

Effect on her romantic life: The great love of her life is ruined by a stupid gypsy curse. Being the Slayer sucks.

Resolution: When she accepts that the strength that comes from being the Slayer is a fundamental part of her that no external force can take away.

"That's everything, huh? No weapons, no friends. No hope. Take all that away and what's left?"
"Me."


Season 3: Rebellion against the rules

Buffy no longer questions her destiny as the Slayer; she even starts to enjoy the power it brings her. However, she feels oppressed by the burden of expectations that other people place on her because of it. So many of this season's stories revolve around authority figures and their attempts to control Buffy's activities - starting with 'Anne' onwards. The Mayor himself is a powerful government official; there's the Watchers' Council, Ms Post and Wesley; there's Principal Snyder; even Giles and Joyce are trying to regiment Buffy's life. As for her, part of her longs to rebel against it all. To revel in the benefits of being a Slayer, just like Faith does. However, her innate sense of responsibility eventually drives her to reject the more nihilistic and selfish side of Faith's approach to Slaying.

Effect on her romantic life: She still wants the romantic dream and a white wedding, but she's embarrassed to discover that the idea of wanting, taking and having turns her on as well.

Resolution: When she rejects both empty rebellion and blind obedience, and determines to forge her own path to the things she believes in. It's no coincidence that the final episode of the season is called 'Graduation Day'.

"Buffy, they're very firm. We're talking about laws that have existed longer than civilisation."
"I'm talking about watching my lover die. I have no clue what you're talking about and I do not care."
"The Council's orders are to --"
"Orders? I don't think I'm gonna be taking any more orders. Not from you. Not from them."


Season 4: Search for identity

Buffy may be determined to lead her own life, but she's still questioning exactly what form it should take. She's an adult now, away from the guidance of parent and Watcher, and she's feeling cast adrift, unsure what sort of a future she really wants. This season's antagonists are a roll-call of people pretending to be something they're not, faking their identity or stealing somebody else's: Kathy, Parker, Riley, Professor Walsh, Veruca, Tara, Faith, Giles (in 'A New Man'), Jonathan... while Adam by contrast is unnaturally certain of his own identity and place in life. Which direction will Buffy choose? (Note: I've written about all this in more detail here.)

Effect on her romantic life: Does she want a nice, normal man to be her safe, unthreatening boyfriend - or a cool monster hunter to be her comrade in arms? She can't decide,which kind of sucks for the guy...

Resolution: When she accepts that she's the Slayer, but not *just* the Slayer. It doesn't mean that she has to be alone; her friends and family are an essential part of her identity, and it's possible to combine the mundane and the supernatural parts of her life.

"The Slayer does not walk in the world."
"I walk. I talk. I shop. I sneeze. I'm gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There's trees in the desert since you moved out, and I don't sleep on a bed of bones. Now give me back my friends!"


Season 5: Death is your gift

Having decided that family and friends are what matters in her life, Buffy now has to face the downside: that opening herself up to others makes her vulnerable. Family can cause problems; family can be taken away from you. There's another, deeper fear, going back to Angel's death but given new strength when Riley leaves and Buffy suspects Glory is behind her mother's illness: that she herself drives people away. That being the Slayer makes her incapable of keeping the relationships she now knows are so important to her; that she is a dangerous person to get close to.

Effect on her romantic life: She pretty much gives up on romance this season. She wants to be self-sufficient, and to concentrate on looking after her family, and perhaps she's afraid of the consequences.

Resolution: When she decides that even if she can't live a normal life in the world, she can still use her Slayer gifts to protect and benefit her loved ones, one last time.

"Dawn, listen to me. Listen. I love you. I'll always love you. But this is the work I have to do. Tell Giles I... I figured it out. And I'm okay. Give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now -- you have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn. The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me."

(Some people think 'The Gift' was the perfect ending for the series. I think it's exactly the wrong ending, which is why I'm so pleased it wasn't. Buffy decided that she couldn't be part of the world; that her heroic death was the best gift she could give her sister. If the hardest thing in this world is to live in it, Buffy failed that test. Luckily, thanks to Willow, she would have the chance to take a re-sit. In terms of Joseph Campbell's theories, 'The Gift' only marks the end of the second stage of Buffy's initiation as a hero; she still must face the Return From Death. Quite literally, in her case.)


Season 6: Life is the Big Bad

Heroic deaths are fine in fairy tales; in mundane reality, life goes on and there are always consequences. Buffy thought she could best help her friends by her self-sacrifice, by not being part of their lives anymore; but her friends disagree. Coupled with her clinical depression after being torn from heaven, Buffy now finds herself hating and rejecting everything in her life. And because she feels guilty about this, her sense of responsibility only leads to greater self-loathing.

Effect on her romantic life: Buffy turns to Spike because he's as far away from everything in her previous life as she can get. With him, she can forget whom she used to be for a time. Of course, this only feeds her self-disgust and need to punish herself more.

Resolution: When she realises that her life is worth living after all. That she can enjoy the company of her friends and her sister, and that there are things she wants to do to help them that don't involve her dying for them.

"Things have sucked lately, but it's all gonna change - and I want to be there when it does. I want to see my friends happy again. And I want to see you grow up. The woman you're going to become...Because she's going to be beautiful. And she's going to be powerful. I got it so wrong. I don't want to protect you from the world - I want to show it to you."


Season 7: It's about power

Buffy has re-engaged with her life. She's confident in her own power and identity as the Slayer, she's on good terms with her friends again. But that's all put to the test when she's landed with personal responsibility for other people's lives. With no training or experience - and very little support - she has to learn how to lead an 'army' of unwilling and scared teenage girls against an apparently unbeatable foe. So she makes mistakes. She cuts herself off emotionally to avoid being hurt by their inevitable deaths. She becomes hardened and ruthless, because she thinks it's the only way to win.

Effect on her romantic life: Buffy's ruthless pragmatism leads her to accept help from the man who recently almost raped her. While she eventually does come to trust Spike again and to rely on him, this only points up her self-isolation from her other friends and allies.

Resolution: When she accepts that she can't do everything herself, and that to lead other people successfully she has to trust them. She empowers the other Potentials, giving them the strength to make their own independent decisions and take control over their own destinies - which in turn, frees her to take control of her own.

"I hate this. I hate being here. I hate that you have to be here. I hate that there's evil, and that I was chosen to fight it. I wish, a whole lot of the time, that I hadn't been. I know a lot of you wish I hadn't been either. But this isn't about wishes. This is about choices. I believe we can beat this evil. Not when it comes, not when its army is ready. Now.

"Tomorrow morning I'm opening the Seal. I'm going down into the Hellmouth, and I'm finishing this once and for all. Right now you're asking yourself, 'What makes this different? What makes us anything more than a bunch of girls being picked off one by one?' It's true none of you have the power that Faith and I do. So here's the part where you make a choice.

"What if you could have that power...now? In every generation, one Slayer is born... because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power should be our power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of the Scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up.  Slayers... every one of us.

"Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?"


Season 8: She's the general, we're the army

Buffy has learned to share her power and matured into an effective leader. She cares about the welfare of her followers, and in return they view her with a devotion bordering on hero-worship. But that brings its own dangers; Buffy is so focussed on her responsibility to the Slayers she leads she's becoming blinded to other concerns. Because she's convinced of their righteousness, she's coming to believe that anything that threatens her Slayers is bad, and anything that benefits them is good. She's never exactly shied away from ruthless acts or criminal behaviour if she believes it's necessary for the greater good; but now that she commands a loyal and well-equipped army of teenage superheroes, the stakes are far higher. When you're focussed on the big picture you don't care about the individual pixels.

Effect on her romantic life: Buffy is so distanced now from normal everyday people, and so intensely focussed on her responsibilities, that the only person she has room to form a romantic relationship with is a fellow-Slayer.

Resolution: We don't know yet.

"Here's the thing. She's alone. She's vulnerable. And she has the weight of the world on her slender shoulders. [...] You need to remember... she's not like us. She's the general. We're the army. And that's never gonna change. Also, she's not, you know..."
"A dyke?"
"I was gonna say 'friend of Sappho', but okay, whatever the kids are saying these days, I'm hip, I'm with it."

 


In conclusion, I think that Buffy's character shows a steady growth and progression over the seasons, with each development building firmly on those that came before. Of course, some things are consistent in Buffy's personality. She has a huge sense of responsibility; she may resent her duty sometimes, feel the urge to rebel against it, but in the end she'll always do what she thinks is right. She is not afraid to break the rules in order to win. She loves her family and friends, but also feels separated from them by the weight of her destiny.

And she tends to feel that the world and all its problems revolve around her - but considering that the world she lives in is usually called the Buffyverse, she may actually be correct in that belief...

 

Comments

Page 1 of 2[1][2]
Posted by: Two legs good, four legs okay (nothorse)
Posted at: 24th September 2008 20:26 (UTC)
centaur!dawn

Thanks.

Sometimes when reading across the fandom, it seems as if everybody else had seen a completely different show than I did.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 24th September 2008 21:12 (UTC)

I actually suspect a lot of people re-watch their favourite seasons, read fic about their favourite characters, and pretty much ignore the rest - perhaps they only watched it once eight years ago, and so they go on what they remember and what other people say about it, which often involves negative stereotypes.

Thanks!

Posted by: Two legs good, four legs okay (nothorse)
Posted at: 24th September 2008 21:47 (UTC)

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 24th September 2008 21:17 (UTC)
d00dz

I have never, ever understood the criticisms of Buffy's character. I think Buffy had some of the best, most subtle character development on the show. You explained it well.

And she tends to feel that the world and all its problems revolve around her - but considering that the world she lives in is usually called the Buffyverse, she may actually be correct in that belief...

Oftentimes, it is all about Buffy. :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 24th September 2008 21:51 (UTC)
buffy-rocketlauncher

Thanks! Although I'm kind of hoping someone will disagree with one of my arguments, to get a debate going. ;-)

And Buffy is the one who's Chosen to protect humanity from evil. As Willow says, her stuff is pretty crucial.

Posted by: Randall Randall (randallsquared)
Posted at: 24th September 2008 22:12 (UTC)

In season six, Buffy herself seemed almost beside the point. I got the impression (just having watched the whole thing this year) that Joss didn't really want to keep doing this show at that time. In any case, six was the first season without a big bad, and so we got the answer to what these heroes are like when there isn't a major villain to fight: they're petty villains. We're reminded of this in the beginning of season eight, too -- when there's no major villain, Buffy and friends *are* the bad guys.

This makes them very entertaining characters, but not the sort of people you'd want around in real life, I think. :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 24th September 2008 22:42 (UTC)

I'm not sure I have such a negative impression of them as you do. :-) Sure, they have their faults - which are magnified given the nature of a TV show - but they come across as decent but flawed people on the whole.

Unless they go badly astray, like Willow in S6 or (possibly) Buffy in S8, of course...

Posted by: Murielle (murielle)
Posted at: 24th September 2008 22:14 (UTC)

What I get from this is what I have believed all along, and ultimately why I became addicted to the series (though not the comics): The characters--all of them--mature natuarly. Yeah, sure, they're universe is huge and dramatic and they have issues much bigger than we ever will. But, the lives they lead, the "human" issues are completely ours. It's what I have always loved about the series and Buffy in particular.

You've said it better than I ever could.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 24th September 2008 22:44 (UTC)

Yeah, sure, they're universe is huge and dramatic and they have issues much bigger than we ever will. But, the lives they lead, the "human" issues are completely ours.

Exactly! Thanks. :-)

(Although one of my objectives was, admittedly, to show that the comics share just as much continuity and change as the TV show...)

Posted by: Murielle (murielle)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 02:34 (UTC)

Posted by: The Mezzanine (deird1)
Posted at: 24th September 2008 22:32 (UTC)

Hmm... Interesting...

Well thought out, and I agree - up to a point.

I start having issues about here:
Buffy's ruthless pragmatism leads her to accept help from the man who recently almost raped her. While she eventually does come to trust Spike again and to rely on him, this only points up her self-isolation from her other friends and allies.

You've got this as a consequence of Buffy being forced into a leadership position with dozens of Potentials relying on her for survival.
Whereas, I would say that beginning to trust and rely on Spike actually starts before that.

Plus, I would say that she "cuts herself off emotionally" before that as well. It certainly gets more pronounced once the Potentials arrive, but Dawn was complaining about Buffy shutting them out at the start of the season (not to mention back in seasons 5 & 6).


I don't want to start talking too much about your season 8 comments - and I'm guessing you're probably well aware of my issues with the comics - but I just wanted to mention:

She empowers the other Potentials, giving them the strength to make their own independent decisions...

Buffy is so focussed on her responsibility to the Slayers...

...that's partly what I mean when I talk about repetition.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 24th September 2008 22:56 (UTC)

You've got this as a consequence of Buffy being forced into a leadership position with dozens of Potentials relying on her for survival.
Whereas, I would say that beginning to trust and rely on Spike actually starts before that.


Hmm. I'm sorry if I was unclear there; I don't disagree with your point. I wasn't linking Buffy being in charge of the Potentials to her trusting Spike again as cause and effect. It was just that the fact she did come to trust him shone a big spotlight on her lack of trust for anybody else.


I would say that she "cuts herself off emotionally" before that as well.

Buffy was cutting herself off emotionally in Season 2. It's her standard reaction to stressful situations. It does seem to me, though, that she did it to a much greater extent in Season 7, and that the show made more of a big deal of it. Hence Faith's jibe about her not even learning their names.


As for the Season 8 issue - I think Buffy is getting trapped by her own creation. She gave the Slayers the freedom and power to make their own decisions, and 500 of them chose to become her passionately loyal followers. It's like the scene in Life of Brian when Brian shouts at the crowd "You're all individuals!" and they respond in mass unison "We are all individuals!"

Thanks for the comments!

Posted by: spygrrl76 (spygrrl76)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 03:23 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 21:54 (UTC)

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 10:11 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 10:36 (UTC)

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 12:06 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 12:54 (UTC)

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 19:09 (UTC)

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 12:10 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 13:05 (UTC)

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 18:52 (UTC)

Posted by: sueworld2003 (sueworld2003)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 13:25 (UTC)

Posted by: M (spankulert)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 01:54 (UTC)
Buffy look up - writing breaks my brain

*memmed*

Great summation of Buffy's character arch throughout the seasons. I could never articulate something like this myself, but I completely agree.

Thanks for posting this! :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 21:54 (UTC)

You're welcome. Thanks!

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 09:20 (UTC)

Interesting essay.

There are things I see differently and there are things I disagree completely, but it was a great read.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 21:55 (UTC)

Thanks!

there are things I disagree completely

I'm sorry, that's not allowed. Complete agreement is mandatory.


;-)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 11:29 (UTC)
Scoobies by maharet83

I agree with you on everything. It bums me when some fans believe that the only characters who developed during the show are Willow, Spike, Wesley and Cordelia. Buffy's change is as obvious as those, and I believe all characters grew and changed throughout the show.

I can see some who will disagree on S8 (since they won't accept it as canon) but I believe it's the natural development for Buffy, especially considering the situation she is at.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 21:56 (UTC)

I think one aspect of it is that Buffy is so obvious, right there in the foreground in every episode, that it's easy to miss the obvious and ignore her character development...

Glad we agree. :-)

Posted by: Going through the motions (rowanda380)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 14:57 (UTC)
random commenter

wow, that is right on! Thanks!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 21:57 (UTC)
Re: random commenter

Thank you, o random commenter. :-)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 18:46 (UTC)
buffies

Count me in amongst the baffled. It’s almost as if people want the writing to be bad and seize on the slightest possibility of repetition like twop posters feasting on a ‘plothole.’

The thing that really draws me in with Buffy is the combination of the way you see her grow and change as her circumstances evolve and the way these changes slowly reveal her fundamental issues. Like you were saying in another thread she’s always reacted to stress by withdrawing into herself and at one level that’s a strength, the whole

“What’s left?
Me.”

It’s been there from the beginning but it took S7 and her finally taking on the Slayer role as an adult, without parent, council or Watcher to fall back on, to reveal the inherent isolation of being the one girl in all the world. In S8 she’s still isolated because although the potentials are now Slayers they’re still very raw and newly called. They don’t have her experience and they don’t see themselves as her equal. Yet.

But I think the big difference between this and the isolationist crap of S7 is that this time the situation is temporary. The new Slayers are catching up to her and we see Satsu pretty much getting there over the course of the Wolves at the Gate arc. So although aloneness is an issue, I think the bigger issue this season has exposed is something else.

Lots of people are seizing on her apparent indifference to bystander casualties but looking back she’s never really been such a great humanitarian. Friends and family sure but members of the public only if they come to her like Anne or Cassie or the Senior Class at the prom. It’s the way she’s always worked, she patrols the graveyards where the vampires are jumping and the ghouls are high, not the alleys and nightclubs where the people they used to be were killed and could have been saved. She was a cop not a social worker. I’m not saying she doesn’t care about people more that she’s never really thought these things through, just gone with the flow and now the flow is carrying her to places she wouldn’t have chosen if she’d known the destination. So I think I disagree about her being trapped by her creation. I think it’s more that her creation is revealing flaws that have always been there.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 22:02 (UTC)

It will be interesting (possibly in the Chinese sense) to see what happens once the other Slayers feel that they're equal to Buffy in experience and skill...

I think I disagree about her being trapped by her creation. I think it’s more that her creation is revealing flaws that have always been there.

It can't be both?

I definitely agree with you that Buffy's priorities have always been, in order:
1. Her loved ones.
2. Her sense of obligation and dutifulness.
3. Innocent victims.

Not only is she willing to put Dawn's life above saving the world in 'The Gift' (though not in S7), she also understands completely and accepts that Willow's priority is saving Tara rather than defeating Glory and preventing the apocalypse.

Buffy saves the world, Angel saves the people in it. :-)

Posted by: mazal_ (mazal_)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 04:03 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 21:34 (UTC)

Very well done, as with everything you write, and for the most part I agree completely...

...up to a point, of course. :-) I'm glad it works for you, but... We've been over this, but to go back to some earlier points you made:

forge her own path to the things she believes in.

her friends and family are an essential part of her identity, and it's possible to combine the mundane and the supernatural parts of her life.

Which is exactly where I feel that Season 8 Buffy has done, if not a full 180-degree turn, then certainly a very sharp one leaving burned rubber all over the place. At the heart of Buffy's decision making was always "what she believed in" (or didn't). TV!Buffy cared; she had heart. Comic!Buffy, far too often, comes across as heartless - whether it's about ignoring Dawn and blaming her for getting cursed, sending Giles away, using Satsu (and hey, for once I seem to agree with Allie :-) ), or her behaviour in the latest issue (especially the bit where she, several hours later, knowing full well that the vampires' victims would have been stone dead if she'd had her way, still complains about Fray saving their lives).

I can buy Buffy being "blinded" by the responsibility she's taken upon herself - she was always a bit of a control freak, always a bit self-centered. But I do have problems seeing her faced directly with the consequences of that blindness, watching people die while she sits back, not to mention being told by her enemies exactly what she's accused of, and shrugging it off and pursuing that path even more tenaciously. That's not just being blinded; that's being both blind and stupid.

Buffy has learned to share her power and matured into an effective leader.

I'd say this is up for debate. For one thing, she's still very much in charge, and not just because everyone asks her to be; she's shared her physical strength, but not her power (which would sort of undermine that whole female-empowerment theme of "Chosen" - "give women power, but make sure they use it the way YOU want them to.") For another, being an effective leader includes knowing where to lead someone - which she seems to be losing. To continue the Life Of Brian references on a very exaggerated example: Otto, the leader of the Judean People's Front suicide squad, is very effective. He leads a tight squad, they're all prepared to die for the cause, every man does exactly what he's supposed to do, the plan goes off without a hitch... trouble is, the plan itself is shit.

You keep mentioning that Buffy was "ruthless" in s7 (and yes, I just re-watched s7 a few weeks ago.) Still, for all her talk she didn't actually have to be all that ruthless in the end. IMO, her central dilemma of the season was that she was trying her damnedest to find a way to NOT be ruthless, and there didn't seem to be one as long as everyone else seemed destined to be, as Anya said, cannon fodder. And that was killing her (just like using Spike for sex and comfort in s6 was). To then turn around and now decide that there are acceptable losses (among innocent bystanders, no less) seems weird: a complete change of heart. She talked about hypothetically sacrificing Dawn, but in a situation where there didn't seem to be anything that would require sacrificing Dawn. She went to kill Anya, but she did it with a weapon that she knew couldn't kill her. Yes, of course this is the Buffy who sacrificed Angel to save the world - but as we all know, that wasn't something she carried easily. That wound is still open as late as "Selfless." Maybe she could have sacrificed Dawn; I have trouble seeing her doing it with a shrug and a flip remark, though. It would have been a huge deal. Just like it was a huge deal to send a bunch of innocent girls to their senseless deaths. Because Buffy had heart; she changed the world so she wouldn't have to be ruthless.

This Buffy sits back and whines when Slayers save humans from being slaughtered in front of her.

Though to be honest, I'm not really sure whether my main complaint is that I think Buffy's being OOC or just that I think she's acting stupidly. ;-)

Boy, that got long again, didn't it? :-)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th September 2008 22:46 (UTC)
satsu

The thing to remember is that Buffy in S8 believes in her creation. She believes passionately and sincerely, with all her heart, that the Slayer Army is the greatest thing in the entire history of fighting evil. As Xander says:

"I live with a bunch of Slayers. Dozens of girls who are... so filled up with purpose, with confidence they didn't have before... the walls are vibrating with it. I can't sleep, the place is so charged.... Maybe now we're only cleaning up messes, but we're just getting started. What you've created here is a lot more than just monster fighters."

Buffy isn't cold and unfeeling: Buffy is a blazing sun of righteousness. Only problem is, she's getting dazzled by it.

The rest are quibbles. Buffy isn't ignoring Dawn any more than she did during the show; she quarreled with Giles because he was repeating his pattern of undermining her and going behind her back to have people killed; she was entirely up-front and honest with Satsu, who seems remarkably unscarred by the whole episode; and if Fray had had her way, those vampires' victims might be alive but hundreds, perhaps thousands more would die in the weeks to come. Arguably. :-)

For one thing, she's still very much in charge

Not the impression I get. Vi is very much in charge of the New York operation; she knows everything going on on her patch and she's the one organising things there. Kennedy apparently organised the Slayer squad taking part in the specific time-portal mission on her own initiative. In the previous arc, Aiko was 'assigned to field ops' in Japan and tracked down Toru's gang, and the first Buffy knew about it was when her mission was successful. Back in the first arc, Donna's squad of Spanish Slayers calls in to HQ when they need reinforcements, but they're not being micromanaged by Buffy - who probably doesn't even know about their mission since Xander and Renee handle it.

Long story short, Buffy is the leader, but the other Slayers are empowered and self-motivated. They'll do what Buffy tells them but in the meantime they're not sitting around waiting for her orders; they're taking action themselves.


being an effective leader includes knowing where to lead someone

I'd argue that leadership and tactics are two different (but related) skills. If you're a good leader, people will follow you into the mouth of Hell itself; if you're a good tactician, you'll lead them out again alive. :-) This is important because leadership is mostly an inherent quality - a matter of charisma and self-belief, though people skills also play a part - and Buffy definitely has that quality. Tactics, on the other hand, are something you can learn by study and experience, and this is where Buffy has room for improvement.


To then turn around and now decide that there are acceptable losses (among innocent bystanders, no less) seems weird: a complete change of heart.

I think there is more nuance to this. A callous disregard for other people's lives is one thing, and I think that this is what Buffy was falling into against her will until she had her epiphany. However, even after that, she still has to accept that in a war, innocent people will die. That's how she can comfort and reassure Faith after the ambush: "People die. You lead them into battle, they die. No matter how smart you are, or how ready, war is about death. Needless, stupid death." If you're going to be a Slayer - or a general - the trick is to accept that, and still not let it harden you. It's a dilemma that people in the army in real life have to grapple with too.



Apart from that Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?, thanks for your comments. ;-)

Posted by: Easily distracted fangirl. (cursedfire)
Posted at: 26th September 2008 07:28 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 09:38 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 11:27 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 12:01 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 20:09 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 20:48 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 18:36 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 20:15 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 20:27 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 12:05 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 18:52 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 21:04 (UTC)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 17th October 2008 20:14 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 17th October 2008 20:27 (UTC)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 10:48 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 17th October 2008 23:59 (UTC)

Posted by: sueworld2003 (sueworld2003)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 00:39 (UTC)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 10:51 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 10:56 (UTC)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 11:04 (UTC)

Posted by: sueworld2003 (sueworld2003)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 20:52 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 21:50 (UTC)

Posted by: sueworld2003 (sueworld2003)
Posted at: 19th October 2008 08:45 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th October 2008 19:42 (UTC)

Posted by: sueworld2003 (sueworld2003)
Posted at: 19th October 2008 19:59 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 11:08 (UTC)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 11:32 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 11:55 (UTC)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 12:13 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 12:26 (UTC)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 15:02 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 19th October 2008 11:18 (UTC)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 20th October 2008 10:58 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 12:28 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 12:23 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 12:52 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 16:33 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 19th October 2008 11:06 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th October 2008 19:16 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 20th October 2008 17:25 (UTC)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 19th October 2008 17:31 (UTC)

Posted by: sueworld2003 (sueworld2003)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 20:58 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 08:25 (UTC)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 11:00 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 21:08 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 26th September 2008 06:49 (UTC)
Smile Fan by buttersideup

Very nicely done. *applauds*

(Skipped the s8 bit btw, since it isn't canon. Analysing fic can of course be helpful, but I'd just get cross or mock, neither of which is productive.)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 08:28 (UTC)
season8-cannon

Thanks! Although actually seasons 1-7 aren't canon either. Only the film is.
;-)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 09:18 (UTC)

Posted by: skipp_of_ark (skipp_of_ark)
Posted at: 26th September 2008 17:14 (UTC)

As always, an interesting read.

I think one of the things about Joss's writing is that he ends up challenging people's most basic assumptions from years of previous reading and viewing. Remember that line Giles says to Buffy at the end of "Lie to Me" about the good guys always being stalwart and true and the bad guys always being identified by their black hats? It goes much deeper than that. We assume (or want to) that the heroes never lose sight of what we consider to be "right and wrong." They never repeat mistakes, and they never wrestle with a personal demon for more than an episode (or issue, chapter, etc.). And when they do make a mistake, it's never so serious that it can't be resolved or made up for by the end of the episode/chapter/issue, and the hero (or supporting cast member) always learns a valuable lesson (along with the reader/viewer).

Yeah, as if, in Joss's world. I don't think Joss is interested so much in teaching his characters "proper lessons" about what's supposed to be right or wrong as he is in exploring what happens to his characters as a result of the mistakes they make, and what they then figure out for themselves. I think Joss wants to challenge our basic assumptions of what's right and wrong, what's "proper" and acceptable versus what's unacceptable or unforgivable. I remember a comment you made in somebody else's journal (beergood's, perhaps) in response to the question of "where is the line drawn that can't be crossed?", in which you basically said that you think that, in Joss's opinion, there isn't a line that can't be crossed that somebody can't be forgiven and come back from. Which strikes me as being as accurate a summation of Joss's apparent worldview as I've seen.

Which, of course, challenges most of the audience's views that there most certainly are lines that can't be crossed, that the characters can't come back from and shouldn't be forgiven. Just about every regular and important recurring character in Buffy has done or said something (at least one thing, if not more) that has drawn some audience's member ire and condemnation, followed by demands that that particular character be appropriately punished as that audience member saw fit and subsequent consternation or outrage that Joss not only hasn't punished the character "enough" but has proceeded as if said character could actually be punished. (To use a not-obvious example I think we're both aware of, there's the poster on Buffyforums who has repeatedly gone on about how much he dislikes Giles, has condemned Giles for his "vigilante" activity in killing Ben and his "disloyalty" in going behind Buffy's back in No Future For You as well as how Giles is "obviously" trying to usurp control of the Slayers away from Buffy and how that's the only possible interpretation of events, and finally has demanded that Buffy "must" terminate her relationship with Giles in the future and possibly terminate Giles himself.)

I think many if not most fans (and I'm not exempt myself) would be surprised at how much Joss believes people can be forgiven and redeemed, no matter what.

Posted by: skipp_of_ark (skipp_of_ark)
Posted at: 26th September 2008 17:17 (UTC)

That ahould be "audience member's ire," btw. I really don't want to talk about, er, anybody's member. :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th September 2008 08:57 (UTC)

Posted by: candleanfeather (candleanfeather)
Posted at: 3rd October 2008 10:51 (UTC)

Very late to the debate but nontheless wanted to say you've made a great and clear survey of Buffy's character development.

Now to add some ideas, I see a strong continuity in Buffy's arc from S5 to S8 (although I don't read it but from what I've been understanding from reviews) with a running questionning of the nature of heroe and examination of her dark side. The inflexion started in Restless (the commentary gives hints at that).

Is Buffy still a heroe? is certainly one of the question being treated in S8, as in season 7, the figure of the heroe and of the general were being put into opposition during the conversation between Buffy and Giles in LMPTM. The direct reference to the Gift is certainly an invitation to contrast the two concepts, especially as Giles in the Gift gives some definition of what a heroe is (the person who will refuse to sacrifice an innocent to save the world not because of selfishness but because the monstrosity of the crime puts into perspective the legitimity of a world that needs such sacrifices to go on, the person who is able to spare her vanquished enemies). Season 8 Buffy seems to have become what Giles wanted, a "general" (in the Btvs sense of the term, someone who accepts dirty compromises, and "pragmatic" views leading to not glorious or moral deeds.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th October 2008 10:32 (UTC)
buffy-S8

Hi!

I do agree that "general versus hero" is a big part of the conflict Season 8 is setting up, expecially in the most recent scenes between Buffy and Melaka Fray (who's acting in the 'heroic Slayer' way Buffy used to do). The catch is, in Season 7 this approach was presented as being wrong because it led to Buffy isolating herself - and then being abandoned by the people she was trying to lead. In Season 8 she seems to be going the opposite way; she's trying so hard to devote herself to the people she leads, and that she feels responsible for, that she's no longer caring about those outside her organisation. Buffy in Season 8 is not cold and calculating: if anything, she's more passionate and committed than we've seen her since her mother died.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th October 2008 23:14 (UTC)

Yikes. Someone who remembers and likes Hiywan's story. Now I feel guilty about never updating it. ;-)

Thanks, and welcome!

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 17th October 2008 18:30 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 09:39 (UTC)

127 Read Comments
Page 1 of 2[1][2]