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(Meta) Paying the rent - part two

19th December 2009 (13:15)
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Thanks to everybody who answered the poll!  Rather than reply individually 17 times with the same response to everybody, or edit my original poll with my own take on the matter and risk people not seeing it, I thought it would be more practical to make another post, with my own personal take on the financial arrangements Willow and Tara made for their accommodation in Seasons 6 - 7.

So: I ticked 'yes', and here's how I imagine it happened:
1. In S5, Willow and Tara were living in college accommodation. Presumably they were paying rent for that, although it was never mentioned - nor were we ever told how they afforded it. Loans, scholarships, money from Willow's parents, off-camera jobs that were never, ever mentioned, or even that spell to "excrete gold coins" that Riley and Anya talked about...

2. Buffy dies. Dawn is left alone, and she's 14; too young to look after herself. I imagine the idea of sending her to her father was raised briefly then dropped again when Dawn violently rejected the idea.

3. Sending her to live with Giles, or Xander and Anya, was probably unwelcome in both directions.  She couldn't stay in Willow and Tara's dorm room; but they could come and stay with her to look after her. At first I think this would be seen as temporary, while they decided what to do.

4. The university year ends, and Willow and Tara have to decide whether to rent their room for another year. At this point, my belief - neither supported nor contradicted by canon - is that they decided to move into the house on Revello Drive instead and pay whatever rent money plus household expenses they'd been paying on the dorm room, for the house instead. In effect, and legally, they were Dawn's lodgers, renting their room from her.

5. The rent money they paid for the room wasn't enough to cover the mortgage. At least temporarily, Joyce's savings could supplement that; but medical bills ate away at the capital. I'm assuming that some of these would only be sent after Joyce's death? Or maybe she'd never got around to paying them before she died, and the creditors were starting to send nasty letters? (Incidentally, I assume the money was technically in Buffy's name, and since they didn't tell the authorities she was dead, Willow had to magically forge her signature...)

6. We know from Season 8 that Willow and Tara at least considered the option of moving away from Sunnydale, raising Dawn as a foster daughter, and presumably therefore selling the house and buying something smaller and more manageable. But instead, Willow chose to raise Buffy from the dead.

7. Once she'd decided to resurrect Buffy, I think everything financial was simply put on hold. There was enough money left in the bank to tide them over for a few more months, and psychologically they couldn't sell Buffy's house if there was a chance she'd come back to it. They just assumed something would come up and everything would be all right once Buffy came back. (Yes, that was shortsighted and wrong of them, though also understandable.)

8. When Tara left Willow after 'Tabula Rasa', she presumably went back to college accommodation (in 'Villains' Willow goes to Stevenson Hall to cast her locator spell). That means the amount of money coming into the house would be halved - just Willow's contribution - but at about the same time Buffy started working herself, so it balanced out.

9. In Season 7, I'm not sure what arrangements Willow made. Given how remorseful and controlled she was, I can't imagine her not volunteering to help with the expenses again, though perhaps on a less formal "however I can help, I will" basis rather than an actual rent payment.

10. In early S6 Willow probably came up with all sorts of schemes to use magic to cover the household expenses. Tara doubtless vetoed them.

In summary: it seems out of character to me that Willow and Tara wouldn't make any financial contribution to the cost of the house - but barring magic, there's no way they could afford to pay for it all themselves. I wouldn't completely rule out the idea that they simply didn't think of it, and that Buffy could never bring herself to ask them for money - but it seems the less likely scenario.


Posted by: Barb (rahirah)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 15:27 (UTC)

I tend to agree with 2maggie2 that it IS out of character and unbelievable that they weren't contributing somehow (which is why, when I wrote fic set immediately after Buffy's resurrection, I made a point of mentioning Tara having a part time job and Willow getting money from her parents and kicking in for rent and groceries - in fact, in my 'verse, they whole reason they're living there is BECAUSE Buffy needs money and renting a room to her friends is a good way to get some).

But I also agree with Maggie that it's very likely that the writers intended us to see Buffy as the sole support of the household. Which is ludicrous, but then, they expected us to believe Spike was the Doctor, too.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 15:54 (UTC)

I suspect it's not really something they thought about either way, believing that none of the fans would be interested in such nitpicky technical background details (how little they know us...).

Story-wise, Buffy is in huge financial difficulties and has to find money quickly. That's the S6 story. Whether it's because "Willow and Tara aren't contributing anything" or "Willow and Tara's contribution isn't enough to make a difference" is, I believe, irrelevant in terms of the emotional chracter arc.

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 16:08 (UTC)

I think it is relevant. If everyone is pitching in together, Buffy isn't so isolated with the problem. But she's meant to be seen as totally isolated. I don't think you can get your scenario AND keep Buffy's emotional drama intact.

That said, I agree that the writers probably didn't mean to portray the Scoobies as total bastards -- which is what they would be if they resurrected her, threw her back into the lion's pit, and only noticed her financial situation enough to go to her new job and freeload a free lunch off of her. Consider the contrast the writers gave us between the Scoobies reaction to Buffy's new job and Spike's.

We get to choose how to smoosh it all together. My own choice is to say that the friends really are bastards. These are the people who couldn't tell the difference between a Buffybot and Buffy. They didn't notice or want to notice her depression. They really did just want their hero so that she would keep their world from collapsing. Yes, they love her and have real affection for her. But the element of using her has been present since season 1, and the underlying division between Buffy and the gang has always been there. I think it's implausible that the Scoobies would be *this* blind and insensitive. But I'd rather see them that way and keep Buffy's isolation for dramatic purposes rather than shift the other way. Maybe the answer is that her own desire to feel miserable led her to collude in their insensitivity -- by hiding from them just how dire everything was and especially by not letting them notice that they could be helping out financially but weren't.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 16:21 (UTC)

The thing is, though, that excludes the months while Buffy was dead and gone. I can't imagine Willow and Tara moving into Dawn The Orphan's house and thinking "Yippee! Rent-free accommodation! We'll just take the money for the mortgage from Buffy's bank acount!"

Okay, I can maybe see late S5/early S6 Willow thinking that, if I squint a little. But certainly not Tara.

As for the emotional drama - I think part of the point is, Buffy turned it into a huge "I'm all alone and solely responsible for everything" scenario, because that's her mindset even when she isn't clinically depressed and resentful. "Sometimes the most adult thing you can do is ask for help", as Giles says at the very end of the season, pointing out what Buffy could have done but didn't. And yes, her friends colluded in her belief because they all had their own issues and reasons for being selfishly self-absorbed that season.

Posted by: alexeia_drae (alexeia_drae)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 17:30 (UTC)

The thing is, though, that excludes the months while Buffy was dead and gone.

I tend to think that during those months they were living off Joyce's insurance, hence one of the first things that gets mentioned to Buffy is that the insurance money is gone.

I think part of the point is, Buffy turned it into a huge "I'm all alone and solely responsible for everything" scenario,

The thing is we saw no evidence to contradict that. When Anya, Willow and Tara are going through Buffy's financial problems, they mentions the insurance as having been part of the income...and nothing else. They never mention anything coming in from Willow or Tara, which would have been important to know, and would have been the perfect time to mention it. If they were contributing somehow, I think there should have been actual evidence in the show.

Now I do think she should have asked for help, but I also think her friends should have offered. And considering I think that her friends bringing her back contained an element of the selfish "we want someone to save the world and take care of us regardless of what she wants" element, I think they didn't want to see what bad straights she was in or the fact that she was drowning.

And it's a lot easier to ask for help wen it's offered, rather than when people are laying the bill in front of you with blanks looks on their faces as to how to take care of it.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 23:44 (UTC)

My impression wass that the insurance money was mostly eaten up by hospital bills. Presumably these either only came through after Buffy was dead, or they were sitting unread and unpaid in a desk drawer somewhere because the Scoobies were too busy worrying about Glory to pay them. But Willow & co only found them afterwards.

Remember, the scene in 'Flooded' is a cut-then-fade-up-afterwards scene - we don't know what they said during it. Even if W&T were contributing, it would have been dramatically inappropriate to mention it directly. It would undercut the pathos...

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 19:17 (UTC)

I understand the desire to impute behavior to characters based on who you think they are. But there's nothing in the text that supports it. I say this tirelessly: but in good drama, you infer character based on what people do; not infer actions based on who people are. Your argument is of the latter sort.

We think Willow, Tara and Xander are sympathetic good guys who are Buffy's bestest friends. But consistently throughout season 6 they are not portrayed as acting that way. There's plenty of discussion about the direness of Buffy's financial situation. But it's *always* her problem. There's not a single line that suggests that W/T see the household finance problem as *their* problem. There's not a single "we" invoked. Their insensitivity is explicitly shown in many other ways. On her return she needs quiet and gentleness. They are loud and oblivious to her state of mind. Willow is hurt and angry that Buffy hasn't thanked her. They take the free lunch out of her salary. And when we do see them portrayed as trying to help, it's an extremely half-hearted thing. Xander tries to get her a job, but when it doesn't work out it's not like he comes back with other suggestions. Ditto Anya/Giles with respect to Buffy's day at the magic box and so on.

If this is a show about friends, the callousness is overdrawn -- and the characters are being bent out of shape to fit the plot. I personally love season 6 because I like to think that it's a deliberate subversion of the friendship trope and an invitation to see below the surface (BFF!) to what's really going on (we needed you to save our behinds and that's really all we cared about at the end of the day). I'm pretty sure that's not what the writers intended. But it's what they showed.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 23:32 (UTC)

This argument seems to be trading familiar ground. :-) If something's not stated in canon, I prefer to assume that the writers didn't think it was important enough to cover because the audience would be able to fill in the blanks based on their knowledge of the characters.

You also seem to have a much bleaker picture of the interpersonal dynamics on the show than I do. I won't deny that some of the Scoobies' actions were callous, but I think it's simply because they didn't realise just how serious Buffy's situation was - because they were distracted by their own issues, mostly - not because they genuinely didn't care about her after all.

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 20th December 2009 03:43 (UTC)

The problem with the FitB argument here is that you are filling in the blanks in ways that contradict what the writers thought relevant to show us. I don't see how it's organic to assume that after a scene in which Buffy is presented with *her* financial situation as *her* problem that there was a conversation about how everyone else was pitching in as much as possible to solve their jointly shared problem. More than in our other disagreements I think you are bending what we are shown to fit what you assume you know about the characters.

I'm not overall bleak about the Scoobies. I stress the bleakness in conversations with people who (I think) want to read against the text in order to save an overly positive view of the Scoobies. I agree that they didn't realize how serious Buffy's situation was, and that they were genuinely distracted. I even think that they cared. Even quite a lot. I'm just saying that there was this other more callous side to their relationship and it was especially front and center in season 6.

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 20th December 2009 08:24 (UTC)
Scoobies Together

I agree and I think this is one of the reasons that the Scoobies friendship has never felt the same again. Just as SMG said she felt she'd lost the hero, they'd lost the Buffy and her bestest buds ever feeling. And rather than apologize truly with an understanding of what they did to Buffy, instead Season 7 turns it into Anya saying the world would have been better if Buffy had stayed dead.

I think Xander's reaction is most telling. "Me like Buffy. Buffy alive, so me glad." He's happy; not her. Her being alive and in pain - that makes him happy. (Not the pain part, that's something he can't let himself contemplate - insteadhe only wants to be happy she's alive and not see into her more deeply.) That's what it boils it down to in its simplest form. Her being alive makes him happy and he can't bother himself to really consider her suffering (not the way Tara tries to and is shut out). Even Anya's musing are more esoteric in nature - wondering what she was wearing, did she have a harp, did she live the cliches that Anya understands mean heaven.

I still think the Buffy-Scooby connection was never truly healed.

Edited at 2009-12-20 08:26 (UTC)

Posted by: itsmrgordotoyou (itsmrgordotoyou)
Posted at: 21st December 2009 19:23 (UTC)

I have to quibble with your take on the Xander quote. We need to remember the full context. Xander says "I just feel weird feeling bad that my friend's not dead. It's ... too mind-boggling. So I've decided to simplify the whole thing. Me like Buffy. Buffy's alive, so, me glad." He's not ignoring or denying her suffering. Instead he's rejecting the idea that their friend being alive can ever be a bad thing, for them or for Buffy herself. In his mind, life is always better than death, whether she's suffering or not.

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 20th December 2009 10:32 (UTC)
Buffy elsewhere by bogwitch

This is all very interesting. I think I lean more to your way of thinking, although I'm sure that Willow and Tara paid rent. But Willow would be careful to make the point that 'It was Buffy's house' (and by that token, the bills were her problem), and Tara would probably not want to interfere.

Then, once Tara had moved out, I can totally see Willow scrupulously paying her rent every month, and then mentally patting herself on the back for being Such A Good Friend.

Posted by: Speaker-to-Customers (speakr2customrs)
Posted at: 20th December 2009 10:43 (UTC)

I agree absolutely with everything you have said in all of your comments to this post. I was going to comment myself but you've done it for me.

Posted by: ms_scarletibis (ms_scarletibis)
Posted at: 23rd December 2009 17:13 (UTC)

think it's implausible that the Scoobies would be *this* blind and insensitive.

I think they were blind, yes, but not (purposely) insensitive. The mentality overall has always been (at that point) that "Buffy can handle it; it's Buffy--super girl."

If they believe that Buffy will always come to their rescue, which I think they do, then of course they'd believe that Buffy is capable of saving herself. I don't agree, but I'm talking Scooby POV here :0

Posted by: ms_scarletibis (ms_scarletibis)
Posted at: 23rd December 2009 17:19 (UTC)

Also, I can't look at this from a logical standpoint, cause as Barb pointed out, the show was often illogical.

Logically, the house would have been sold long before Buffy's resurrection, if not soon after she got back to greatly minimize bills. Logically, instead of seeing Buffy sitting pining over the mountain of bills alone and Willow and Tara and whoever else was in that scene saying, "well, you have these to pay," they would have said something like, Willow the math wiz specifically, "Well, we divided up the responsibilities of who pays what, and of course, we'll wait for you to get officially on your feet Buffy and find decent employment, etc. We can handle this in the meantime." But that didn't happen--it was illogically dumped on her shoulders nearly immediately after her return, and it was made to seem as if she was paying them all alone on this mysteriously awesome DMP check that was just enough to pay the bills of an entire house, which was also not logical :P

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 23rd December 2009 19:14 (UTC)

I'm not going to argue that there was always a lot of logic going on. ;-) But not selling the house before Buffy came back is perfectly believable, and it's at least implied (in S8) that Willow and Tara considered doing just that before Willow instead decided to resurrect Buffy.

Afterwards - well, Buffy wasn't really in a fit state to make such long-term planning decisions when she was struggling to get through the next minute of every day, and her friends all took the attitude - she's back, she's SuperBuffy, we've got out own problems, she'll be fine. Logically, it might make sense to buy a smaller house. (But then they'd have to design a new set, find a new location to shoot in...)

Since the scene in 'Flooded' only showed us the end of the conversation, we don't know whether they said "Now you're back, all of this is your problem" or if they said "This is how much we can help, but you've still got all these outstanding expenses that the rent we're paying won't cover." As someone said before, you'd think Anya would have a lot to say about it if Willow actually were living rent-free at Buffy's expense.

But even if Willow and Tara moved out and Buffy rented out that room to a lodger instead, it wouldn't cover the cost of the house or pay all her bills. And this being Sunnydale, the lodger would obviously turn out to be a demon or something.

Posted by: Peasant (peasant_)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 15:42 (UTC)

All sounds about right to me except for my quibble about the mortgage mentioned in your previous post.

And I'll add a memo that the gang were not just trying to raise Dawn in her own home for her own sake but to try to maintain the pretence the Slayer was still alive so the hellmouth demon population didn't riot. That would be another reason not to sell up and downsize.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 16:03 (UTC)

In the discussion in 'Flooded' Anya does say that the house "just sitting here, doing nothing, um, by itself costs money." That implies mortgage to me, although it's possible she was talking about property taxes or something instead. And the banker's gobbledigook about falling equity again implies "a house whose market value is currently less than the outstanding mortgage". But it could be read eiter way.

Good point about keeping up the pretence Buffy was still alive - though I wonder if that was Willow being in denial more than a practical thought-out policy.

Posted by: The Mezzanine (deird1)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 19:12 (UTC)

You are very, very wise.

...or, in other words, I agree with you entirely. :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 23:25 (UTC)


Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 19:35 (UTC)

Wisdom, indeed. (Except that I'm reasonably sure Dawn has known how to forge Buffy's signature for some time.)

Posted by: Lily (lavastar)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 22:47 (UTC)

Plus, their blood makes them the same person - probably same handwriting, too. :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 23:25 (UTC)

Very true. :-) If Buffy can close the portal by jumping off the tower in Dawn's place, I'm sure Dawn can access Buffy's bank account with the same ease...

Posted by: Lily (lavastar)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 22:46 (UTC)

Oooh, I like this version! Yes.

Oh, so now this post and the talking about Buffy being dead but not according to law reminds me of something I've been wondering about for awhile, and unless someone has a specific answer that I'm too dumb to notice, it'd be nice if you could pose it to your larger, think-tank-ier flist.

We see, in The Gift and Bargaining that Buffy is buried in a cemetery, with a headstone, with her name on it. How exactly do they do this if they're pretending she's still alive? Taking the Buffybot to school and all that shows that she's supposed to be alive to everyone, including the authorities/people around town, or else Dawn would have just moped about parent visiting day as the sad half-orphan. So how do you get someone who isn't legally dead buried in a bought coffin, in a graveyard, with a headstone with their not-dead name on it?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th December 2009 23:24 (UTC)

I've seen this discussed before, so I can make a stab at answering it:

Buffy's grave isn't actually in a cemetary. As we see in 'Bargaining', it's way out in the middle of the woods, miles from anywhere.

I assume it's possible to buy a coffin without having to show that you have a legitimate body to go into it. :-) Maybe claim it's a prop for a play or something like that?

The headstone is a bit harder to explain - maybe they bought a blank one and Willow used magic to cause the writing to appear on it?

Posted by: Lily (lavastar)
Posted at: 20th December 2009 00:53 (UTC)

Ah, sense-making. I forgot the part about it not being in a cemetery. And they could have carved the writing themselves, too. Maybe programmed the Buffybot to do it? :P

Posted by: itsmrgordotoyou (itsmrgordotoyou)
Posted at: 21st December 2009 19:45 (UTC)

I think your take makes a lot of sense. I'd add that the lack of canonical evidence cannot (IMHO) be taken to prove that Willow and Tara didn't pay anything in S6. It's true that if they were contributing, it should have been mentioned in Flooded. But it's equally true that if they were not paying anything, THAT should also have been mentioned in Flooded. If no one else was willing to ask why Willow didn't pay rent, Anya certainly would have.

A few other points that haven't gotten enough attention:

-Flooded explicitly states that Joyce's medical bills ate up most of the insurance payment.

-Buffy's job as burger-flipper wouldn't have brought in nearly enough money to pay a mortgage, property tax, insurance, utilities and food. (And her later job as part-time assistant guidance counselor couldn't have paid much more.) So more money must have been coming in from somewhere, and Willow and Tara seem the most likely source.

-Tara probably had a full scholarship that paid for her dorm room, allowing her to keep the room even though she really lived with Willow at the Summers house. That's the only way to explain how she was able to move back into the dorm so easily in the middle of a semester.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 22nd December 2009 00:32 (UTC)

Nice analysis. :-)

Posted by: satsux (satsux)
Posted at: 26th December 2009 20:42 (UTC)

I really liked this post specifically because it was one of my biggest peeves during season 6 and one of the reasons why I lost all respect for Willow (The drug arc did most the damage but this helped). Though looking at it now I have to agree with they were contributing, but it was never a specific arrengement.

I think that most of the daily basic stuff like food, electric and utility bills were covered by Willow and Tara's own money. They were both shown to be 'in charge' of the general kitchen area (Tara was obviously the one that made sure everyone ate at first and even when Buffy came back from her Uncrossevery meeting with Captain Forehead her bucket of fried chicken was useless because Tara or Willow had already prepared dinner). And we know that Willow was stuck with the computer and Buffybot stuff which was likely not cheap, so she would be likely incline to pay for the phone and the electric bill due to that.

Willow could've got it from her parents(Willow's mother was implied to be in the psychology field, and I imagine that made lots of money in a town like Sunnydale) and Tara could've used her loan/scholarship money since she wasn't living in dorms (Though yeah she did move back in mid semester, she could've easily been staying at a friends's dorm temporily or it is sunnydale, someone could've died living a free room to appear by the time she needed it). There's also summer jobs which seems believable for Tara more than Willow, but once school started for them I imagine their time was too fractured (since they had to fit in patrol and resurrecting Buffy into their schedules full time now)

But even if they helped it was likely not enough to pay the debts, which seemed more of the problem than anything else.

And also, we never found out how much money Buffy was making in the DMP and wouldn't the constant death and danger the hellmouth was affect the property value enough to the point that her likely minimun wage job could be enough to get by?

In season 7 however I think all of the scoobies pitched in out of the previous guit, because Buffy got the new job which was just part time, so I can't imagine it paid more. I always assume that Giles put some sort of trust in their name after Season 6 and after taking Willow and once Willow moved back in she helped much like before. And once the Pack of Unwanted Canon Fodder moved in even Xander put his own place up (And likely his money since he was the only one with a steady paycheck) to feed the hordes of teenage girls.

That was longer than I expected...

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