(Meta) So then, what DID Buffy do next?
Last week I posted my "What did Buffy do next?" poll about the aftermath of Chosen, and was impressed and pleased by how many people answered it. So as promised, here's some discussion and analysis of the results (and I sneakily take the opportunity to explain why I made the choices I did myself in the poll too).
In total 76 people answered the first part of the poll, and 70 people the second. Of these people, in round figures the number still reading the comics is 60%, while 20% gave up on them and 20% never read them at all.
Would Buffy give up Slaying after 'Chosen'?
This question obviously refers to the image of Buffy from 'The Girl In Question', that she was in Rome a year after 'Chosen' dancing and partying and dating the Immortal. In my poll, over 90% of you thought it was unlikely that Buffy would really be willing to give up the Slaying. About half of those people (44%) did think that she'd take a holiday first - and I should probably have qualified that question by asking if by "a long break" you were thinking of "a month or two, maybe the whole summer" or "several years". 47% of the respondents thought Buffy wouldn't be able to stop Slaying, divided 3:2 between those that thought her conscience wouldn't let her and those that thought she enjoys it too much to give up.
My own view is that Buffy probably would want to try just "being a person" after 'Chosen' - but she'd feel too responsible for helping the new Slayers, and her conscience would burden her that people might be dying if she wasn't patrolling, and she'd start to feel bored without the excitement of the slay; and so very quickly she'd abandon her plans for a holiday and jump straight back into Slaying. Maybe not as a deliberate plan; maybe she was thinking "I'll just help the guys get things organised, and then I'll go"... and two years later, she's still there running the Slayer Army full time and wondering how the hell she ended up that way.
How soon after 'Chosen' would Buffy want to settle down in domestic bliss and start a family?
The fluffy domestic post-Chosen Spuffy fic (or Bangel, if you swing that way) is a fandom favourite. By contrast to that, a majority of the respondents to my poll thought that Buffy would either never settle down at all (17%) or would wait a long, long time (53%). Only 3% thought that her cookie dough would be done baking while she was still in her early-to-mid twenties.
Did Buffy know before Willow cast her spell that hundreds of new Slayers would be called all over the world?
One of the questions often bandied around in debates about 'Chosen' is whether Buffy actually knew that there were many other Potentials all over the world, or if she thought that the ones who'd come to Sunnydale were the only survivors. In my poll only 9% agreed with the suggestion that she was taken by surprise by how far-reaching the spell was, and 55% thought she already assumed that "Slayers would be waking up all over". However, 36% - including me - suggested that it really wasn't a question she'd thought about all that much; I believe she was simply too focussed on defeating The First to worry about the wider implications of her plan.
How would she feel at first about creating so many new Slayers?
This was a multiple-response question, and the answers preferred by most of you were "Pleased that she'd empowered so many women" (62%) followed by "Guilty about disrupting their lives." (54%). I thought it was interesting that so many chose the empowerment option given how controversial the Slayer spell has been in some quarters - although of course, 62% choosing that option means that 38% of you did not choose it... Apart from "No opinion" and "Guilty about changing the status quo" which hardly anyone picked, the lowest-scoring choice was "Guilty about putting them in danger from demons and vampires" (40%). That's another criticism that I often see levelled at the Slayer Spell - but from my perspective, I believe Buffy would say they were already in danger from demons and vampires. Becoming a Slayer gives them the chance to fight back.
Would Buffy feel herself responsible for helping the new Slayers?
99% of you said yes. The majority (58%) thought that it would be her overriding priority, which accords with my own view. Buffy takes her responsibilities seriously, and it was she who turned all those people into Slayers. As for what kind of help she'd feel obliged to offer, that comes up in the question after next.
How many of the new Slayers would be willing to give up their mundane lives to become evil-fighting superheroes?
One of the criticisms I've seen now and then about Season 8 is that some people don't think it's credible that so many women would be willing to give up their ordinary lives to take up something as dangerous as Slaying. However, the results of my poll don't show that this opinion is widespread. In fact, the responses formed a neat bell curve, with 51% saying "about half of them" would become active Slayers, 26% "most of them" and 21% "about one in four", and 0% saying "all of them" and 1% "barely a handful". I picked the middle option - but it's interesting to note that Joss himself, when writing Season 8, went for the lower "one in four" choice instead.
Mind you, I could make a case for the 'All of them' choice for an alternative S8, depending on how you think Potentials are selected. Yes, it might be purely random, or genetic, or influenced by some unknown magical factors. But Buffy is called "the Chosen One", which implies that something or someone is doing the choosing. Whether it's the Powers That Be or something else, it's possible that the entity(s) which Calls Slayers might only choose those girls who are able and willing to become heroes. (And before you mention her - Faith might have been a horribly broken person because of her life experiences, but she eventually overcame that and demonstrated her heroism.)
What kind of help would Buffy and her friends think they should offer the new Slayers?
This question strikes to the core of a lot of the debate over Season 8, because many of its critics question why Buffy ended up creating such an elaborate and expensive organisation. However, it seems that a large majority of respondents to my poll felt that Buffy would feel responsible for offering all sorts of help to the new Slayers, with over three quarters of you thinking she should train them in fighting techniques, offer them in-depth knowledge about demons and the supernatural, and provide them with companionship and connection to their fellow-Slayers. You've got the seeds of a large organisation right there, although admittedly not necessarily a formal or centralised one.
Rather less of you, though still a majority (50%), thought that Buffy should also provide the new Slayers with weapons and equipment. The options for paying them wages and other financial benefits appealed to between a quarter to a third of the respondents. Personally, I don't think that's something that would cross Buffy's mind unprompted - Slaying is her calling, not her job - but some of the new Slayers would be bound to raise the question, and I think she'd see the justice of it even as she realised she couldn't afford to do anything of the sort.
Which makes more sense? (organising the Slayers)
This question offered a halfway house compromise between the two extreme options, which naturally 91% of you took: that Buffy should leave most individual Slayers living and patrolling in their own towns, but also have several central squads of Slayers who could be called in for emergencies. I do think that's the most sensible tactical option: the local Slayers suppress local demons and provide intelligence, while the rapid response squads can be mobilised for emergencies. It also makes sense on a personal level: the majority of Slayers presumably would be happy staying with their families and friends but still contributing to the cause, but there would be some who would prefer to join the central squads. That might be because they're ambitious and adventurous, or because they're dedicated to fighing evil... or because their home life sucks and is something they want to escape from.
However, note that 97% of you did agree that at least a proportion of the Slayers should be organised into centralised teams, ready to travel to fight evil wherever it cropped up. And leaving each Slayer by herself in her own home town does rather contradict the ideal, which most people agreed with, that the Slayers should be brought together to give each other back-up, companionship and support. Unless you think that can all be done online? So there's something of a tension there.
Compared to this, Buffy's army of over a hundred Slayers at her base in Scotland (as shown in Season 8) does seem a less logical set-up. However, note that most of the Slayer squads we see in action around the world are much smaller - Vi just has ten Slayers (including herself) in New York. More importantly, they're only just getting started. The battle in issue 8.01 is the first time that Buffy's own squad of her 'best fighters' has ever even seen a human victim of demon violence; and the Slayers are spending all of their time training. Given how few people Buffy has who are skilled and knowledgeable enough to train the Slayers - she's even had to recruit Andrew, for heaven's sake - and given that 80% of you agreed that she was responsible for training them, I can't see any alternative but to bring everyone together, at least at first. It's possible that over the course of Season 8, if Twilight hadn't intervened, that the huge squad in Scotland might have gradually been slimmed down as its members were sent back to their own homelands - like Satsu was - once they'd been fully trained.
Would money be a problem for the new Slayers?
Only 8% didn't think it would be a problem at all. However, the largest group (48%) didn't think it would be all that serious, compared to 44% who thought it would be equal to or worse than Buffy's financial crisis in Season 6. Of course, how badly Buffy needs money would depend on how elaborate the arrangements she made for her Slayers were. A central team based in Scotland, or Tokyo, or New York, that's supposed to be able to intervene anywhere in its respective continent in an emergency is going to spend an awful lot of money on air fares and hotels.
Would Buffy consider going to the government for help? (Money, facilities, training.)
99% of you said no, with the favoured reason (83%) being that she would be unable to trust them; they might want to experiment on Slayers or do other unethical things to them.
The one person out of 76 answering the poll who did think that she should go to the government for assistance happens to be Swedish, which may tell us something about the relative level of trust for our elected representatives in Scandinavia compared to the rest of the Western world. ;-)
Would Buffy ask Angel for help from Wolfram & Hart's funds?
This option was also rejected although by slightly less, with 89% thinking Buffy would say no. As for why, there was less consensus: 56% said it was simply because W&H are evil and therefore tainted, and 53% because they're the enemy and therefore dangerous to get too involved with. The idea that Buffy would avoid asking Angel for help for personal reasons was chosen by 39%, although three quarters of the people picking that option also chose one of the others as well. For myself, I do think Buffy might have some hesitations about going to Angel for help but she's much too pragmatic to let that actually stop her.
Would Buffy exploit the Slayers' superpowers to earn money? (Eg entering athletics tournaments).
This has been put forward as a possible alternative to Buffy resorting to a crime to get money, which (as I'm sure everyone knows by now) was the option Joss went with in S8. However, 91% of you didn't think it was something she'd do. The reasons are varied - 51% because it would risk drawing too much attention to her, 47% because it would be an abuse of their powers.
Do Buffy or Giles have access to the Watchers' Council's funds?
Just 20% of the respondents thought that the Council's funds should be enough to support Buffy and her Slayers easily. Opinion was, however, divided among the other 80% of you on the reasons why that wouldn't be possible. 53% thought that the Council's funds were just too well-hidden to be accessible, and 40% that they were in a form that was impossible to transform easily or quickly into ready cash. 17% held the view that the Council wasn't actually that rich after all.
In a way, the Council are a storyteller's deus ex machina. If you want Buffy to have no problems funding her Slayers, you can decide that the Council's vaults were full of centuries of stored wealth. If you prefer to have her struggling financially, you can decide that the money either wasn't there, or is out of reach. The second obviously causes more problems and pain for our characters, so guess which one Joss seems to have chosen? :-)
There was some interesting speculation in the comments that the old Council's wealth might have taken the form of favours and influence more than actual financial investments; or that they had alchemists turning lead into gold when they needed more revenue.
Would Buffy be willing to turn to crime to support the other Slayers?
This is one of the most controversial questions, of course; and the answers do indeed show that fandom is divided over this issue. 22% of you said that Buffy would absolutely not turn to crime under any circumstances. 32% of you said she would do whatever she thinks is necessary. The other 45% took the halfway position that she might consider crime, but only if she were utterly desperate. (Oh, and one person said she'd have no problems at all in turning to crime because the world owes her a living).
Interestingly, of the 14 people who picked "absolutely not" and also answered the demographic question, only two are regular readers of the comic. Of the 20 people who said that she'll do whatever it takes, 17 do read the comic. This looks like being one of the defining questions that determines whether you like Season 8 or not.
I went for the middle option myself, although I do agree that Buffy will do whatever is necessary to defeat evil and save the world, even if it means breaking the law. She did that often enough on the show to give the lie, in my opinion, to any thought that Buffy "always respects the law". If the only way to save someone's life is, for example, to break them out of a police cell and steal a car to make a getaway, she'll do that without even hesitating - and not feel guilty about it afterwards. But having said that, I do think that it would take a set of very extreme circumstances to push Buffy into a situation where she saw robbery as a better option than not having money, which is why I chose the other option.
If she did steal a lot of money, how would she feel about it afterwards?
23% of you chose the "racked with guilt and remorse" option - though interestingly, there was only a low correlation with those saying she'd never steal the money in the first place (7 people out of 18). Half of you (50%) said she'd feel guilty inside but try to pretend everything was fine, which is my own interpretation; 26% thought she'd be businesslike about the whole affair. Nobody picked the choice that she'd be gleeful about getting away with robbery - although personally I can imagine Buffy feeling at least a little illicit pleasure. That side of her only rarely comes out - 'Bad Girls', 'Gone' - because normally she has too much of a conscience and sense of responsibility to allow it; but I do think it's still there inside. Both Faith and Spike saw it and tried to draw it further out of her.
Would Buffy set up a formal, structured Slayer organisation?
61% of you thought that she wouldn't plan to, but one would grow up around her anyway. That's pretty much how I see it happening too. 28% thought that Buffy wouldn't get involved in the organisation at all but leave it up to others - not surprisingly, of the 19 who chose this option 15 also said Buffy would take a long break from slaying after 'Chosen' .
The Watchers' Council?
A lot of non-Season 8 post-'Chosen' fic has a new and reformed Watchers' Council, often with Giles at its head. Other stories go a different way, either as a conscious rejection of the Council and its controlling, patriarchal ways, or simply because the Slayers come up with something new. In my poll, only 30% of you agreed that a new, improved version of the Council would be re-created. The majority, 66%, argued that the Slayers would make pragmatic use of its resources, but not seek to copy its methods or ideas.
Who would lead the new Slayer organisation?
I was fascinated by this one because every time I refreshed the page, either Buffy or Giles would have taken the lead in the responses. In the end, I'm pleased to say that Buffy won with 44% of the vote compared to Giles with 41%. (6% picked one of the other people from Sunnydale - although frustratingly, none of them said who in the comments - 3% said someone else from the old Council, and 6% said there wouldn't be a leader). There was, as you'd expect, a fairly high correlation between people saying there would be a reformed Watchers' Council and those saying Giles would lead it, although it certainly wasn't exact.
My own opinion is that Giles would be better as the chief of staff to 'General' Buffy, or the XO to her as Captain. He himself acknowledges that she's a more charismatic leader and has a keener grasp of strategy than him, while his greater experience and administrative talents are better suited to getting things organised and running smoothly so that she can make the big decisions. Also, it would be quite disappointing from a feminist perspective if Joss had chosen to have this new organisation of liberated and empowered women being bossed around by a middle-aged white British man. Just saying. :-)
Would the Slayer organisation have a hierarchy with people giving orders to others?
Most people (61%) agreed that the Slayers would have a semi-formal structure. Some of them would be put formally in charge of others, but there would be no full-scale military or corporate-style hierarchy. Another 30% of you thought there'd be no official structure but the most pushy, forceful or charismatic people would end up in charge anyway - which, I wonder, may reflect some of the respondents' personal experience of supposedly-informal group dynamics? ;-)
Would Buffy think other Slayers should wear body armour, if available?
This was one of the more obscure aspects of Season 8 which still managed to cause immense controversy at the time. Most people in my poll were fairly negative to the idea, with 41% choosing "Only if they really want to", and another 12% thinking that Buffy would be actively hostile to the idea. 32% thought it was a good idea and 16% that Buffy would try and get all of them to wear it. As expected, there's a fairly high correlation between those who reject the idea of body armour as stupid and those who don't read the comics, and vice-versa.
My own opinion is that this is an area where Buffy's guilt and sense of responsibility would come into play. She turned these girls into Slayers and she's asking them to go out and risk their lives every night, when she won't be around to protect them. Wouldn't she do everything she could to make sure they're safe? I'm not saying that "Get body armour!" would appear on her list of priorities when she first started out - but if she somehow acquired a job lot of it (or *koff* somehow acquired lots of money all of a sudden and had a burning guilt-fuelled need to spend it on useful things) I can absolutely envision her trying to insist that the other Slayers wear it.
Would she wear body armour herself, if available?
Twice as many people (23%) thought that Buffy would be totally opposed to wearing armour herself as compared to expecting the other Slayers to wear it. Most thought that she'd wear it occasionally, on a particularly dangerous mission (42%) or to set a good idea to the other Slayers (26%). Personally, I think she'd at least try to set a good example when she remembered, but she often would forget or not bother or prefer something more stylish.
(As was pointed out in the comments last time, people who don't actually read the comics may have got an exaggerated impression of how often Buffy wears body armour in Season 8. It's actually only in a minority of the episodes.)
57% thought that Buffy would continue to think they were never useful, while 42% thought she'd be reluctant but not wholly opposed to them. I went for the second option, given Buffy's pragmatism. Interestingly, so far in Season 8 it looks like Joss has gone for the first. It's probably as much a style and genre thing for him as a practical choice, though.
Helicopters, private jets, submarines? (Assuming she somehow got the money for them.)
About one in three of you - 32% - thought that such extravagances were ridiculous and unnecessary. Interestingly, out of the people who don't read the comics but listen to other people's comments on them, 58% chose this option; of those who read the comics regularly, only 20% picked it. Looks like another of the defining questions, though I'd kind of expected the correlation to be even stronger. The most popular choice, at 48%, would be that Buffy would be simply practical and use whatever was necessary.
Would Buffy ever go to bed with another woman?
One of the two storylines that just about everybody, even non-readers, knows about Season 8. In total, only 17% of you thought that Buffy would never under any circumstances sleep with another woman, or would sleep with a sex-changed Spike but not otherwise. (Confusingly, three people ticked both that Buffy would never have sex with a girl, and also that under some circumstances she would do just that. I think that's called "margin of error"...) The rest of you thought it was at least plausible that she'd experiment (42%) or have a brief fling out of loneliness (39%). Another 39% went further and were willing to embrace the idea that she might meet a woman and fall in love one day; and a smaller number (12%) thought that she was just waiting for the right girl...
And 25% of you have faith that Buffy, uh, had Faith in Season 3. :-)