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(Meta) A Buffy characterisation question

6th March 2011 (14:00)

I've been writing a story, but I've come across a situation where I'm really not sure how Buffy would react. Which is my fault for deliberately putting her in an environment where she's completely out of her depth, I suppose. :-) So I thought I'd turn to you guys for help: what do you think would be in-character for her to do? There's a poll under the cut, but feel free to elaborate on your answer in comments, or go off on a crazy tangent about what else she'd do, or how other Buffyverse characters would react, or how you would react yourself...  (I'm apprehensive about making Buffy act the way *I* would in this story, rather than necessarily the way she would, which is partly why I'm asking.)

The fic, incidentally, is a follow-up to 'Last to Ancient First', which sees Buffy sent back in time 8,000 years to prehistoric Africa, where she's joined up with the clan the First Slayer was born into. This is post-series Buffy, aged about 25.

So, the situation. Firstly, Buffy has been asked to help skin, gut, and butcher a large freshly-killed animal (an antelope) which the hunters have brought in. How does she feel about it?

I imagine the typical 21st century person, unless they've been brought up on a farm or similar, is likely to be pretty nauseated by this experience: the sights, the smells, the blood. On the other hand, Buffy is the Slayer. Killing things is what she does, so it's unlikely she'd be put off by a little blood and guts. But on the other other hand, when she slays she'd hyped up by adrenaline and killer instinct; chopping up a dead carcass is a different kind of experience, and I do remember some occasions ('Bad Eggs', for instance) when she showed herself to be rather squeamish.

So how do you think she'd react? (For the record, I've decided that she will do the butchery anyway; the question is whether she's casual about it, or she has to keep going through sheer willpower and determination despite feeling like she wants to throw up).

Second question. It's a few hours later, and Buffy and her Mesolithic companion (which would be Hiywan, for those familiar with the original story) are now hot, sweaty, dirty, and splattered with blood and slime. Unfortunately, plumbing won't be invented for another 6,000 years or so, so the only way to wash is in the large stream that flows past the clan's campsite. Buffy's companion is going to unselfconsciously strip off her clothes and jump in the river naked to bathe. What will Buffy do?

My impression from the show is that Buffy is awkward about nudity. I'm especially thinking of James Marsters' comments about Season 6, where he said that the more naked Spike got, the more clothes Buffy seemed to put on... On the other hand, there were special circumstances then, with Buffy's depression and her shame about being in a relationship with a soulless vampire, so maybe she was more sensitive about her body than she would normally be?

To set against that, too, there's the fact that Buffy tends to be pragmatic; and she can see for herself that the people she with don't seem to have a big hang-up about being naked, and she is pretty filthy. Incidentally, just to set the scene, she's wearing her normal 21st century clothes. And she doesn't speak the local language; she has to communicate through mime and gestures. And just to complicate matters and make them even more awkward, I think her physical appearance would seem bizarre and exotic to people who've not only never encountered, but never even suspected the existence of other ethnicities. She's the subject of a lot of intense curiosity. People are too polite to stare openly - at least the adults are - but I think Buffy will be able to sense she's the subject of a lot of covert attention.

So what does she do? Enthusiastically strip off and go skinny-dipping, eager to get clean? Blush and be embarrassed, but do it anyway because there's not much choice and it seems to be the accepted thing here? Keep her underwear on? (But then she has to cope with wet underwear for the rest of the day) Head off out of camp alone, following the river to somewhere more secluded, for privacy? (But remember, this is prehistoric Africa. There are lions and hyenas and crocodiles about...) Shout and gesticulate at the people around to turn their backs and not look? (Ironically, that's just likely to draw the attention of even more people...) Stay dressed and just wash her hands?

Poll #1714369 What would Buffy do?

How would Buffy feel about skinning, gutting and chopping up large freshly-killed animals?

Take it completely in her stride; she's the Slayer, after all
A little squicked at first, but soon gets over it.
Nauseated, but keeps going through sheer determination.

How would she feel about having to bathe naked in a river with other people around?

She wouldn't care, she just wants to get clean.
Embarrassed, but does it anyway.
Leaves her underwear on.
Goes off by herself to bathe somewhere more secluded.
Insists everybody else leaves first.
Keeps her clothes on, just washes her hands and face.
So - what do you think?


Posted by: dorians_kitten (dorians_kitten)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 14:11 (UTC)
Black-white and blue

ooh-the second question was really interesting. We see/get the hint that she does some fairly adventurous things sexually, but Buffy still comes off vaguely prudish, doesn't she? I'm remembering her encounter with Spike in the hallway during season seven while wearing the camisole that really did cover all the important bits, but still left her all flustered. Admittedly there were other reasons too, but her first instinct was to cover her not bared chest. So...my more detailed response to your question is that she would probably do the last thing at first (wash hands & face) and later as the need to get clean grew she would find herself a more solo location.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 14:30 (UTC)

I get the same impression about her. I think if she were somewhere familiar, she probably would go off on her own for privacy. But here, she's in a completely strange place, feeling out of her depth, not knowing what sort of things lurk in the jungle just outside the camp... would she be happier sticking with the people she's met? (But then again, she's probably the most dangerous thing in the jungle herself, so maybe she wouldn't worry...)

Posted by: vamp_mogs (vamp_mogs)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 14:18 (UTC)
buffy bad eggs

A little squicked at first, but soon gets over it.

She'd find it gross but once she got going I think she'd more or less get over it. I can easily imagine her wrinkling her nose at the thought of it when first realizing what she has to do, but I think saying she'd be "nauseated" and that it would take "sheer determination" is perhaps too strong, and even though she's the Slayer and can get quite dirty (see icon) I don't imagine her just brushing it off. Buffy still finds the blood and innards pretty gross when she's not in an immediate life or death situation.

Embarrassed, but does it anyway.

I nearly picked that she'd go and bathe somewhere more secluded but for whatever reason I picture her doing this more easily. Buffy wouldn't find it easy to get naked in front of strangers, far from it, but she'd do it. I think there'd be some reluctance at first but she'd suck it up and just get on with it, probably trying to cover herself with her hands and/or dirty clothes until she was fully under water.

Edited at 2011-03-06 14:20 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 14:32 (UTC)

Your answers match my own pretty closely, which makes me happy. :-)

Posted by: brutti_ma_buoni (brutti_ma_buoni)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 14:49 (UTC)

I see Buffy as pretty pragmatic. Not immune to embarrassment and squick but mainly able to overcome them, and especially so when the alternatives just aren't sensible.

On butchery, not only does she have to chop up the odd demon but working at the Doublemeat she has to heft around a lot of 'meat' in a pretty icky state. I think she might find the warmth of the antelope a bit odd (but then, what temperature is a dead demon?), but otherwise I think she'd just go for it.

As for washing, no question she'd rather not wash in front of others, but I think she would do it for practical reasons. She might just keep underwear on (it's hot, she'll dry), but that might be a futile gesture (and she might want to rinse clothes through at the same time, which works better off the body). I think if it were washing in a big group, she'd be fine and not feel particularly worried. If it's just her and Hiywan, a lot more embarrassed, but she would eventually do it. Probably keeping her back to the more obvious spectators and/or crouching low in the water most of the time.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 15:10 (UTC)

I'd forgotten about her job at the Doublemeat Palace; that's a good point. Although I suspect a bag of frozen mince is different to a dead deer that's still 'looking' at you...

As I've pictured the scene, it's her, Hiywan and a couple of men who are rinsing out the animal guts in the stream to make sausage skins. (Yummy.) I can imagine her deciding to keep her underwear on, then thinking "What's the point?" (especially given that once it's wet it's not going to hide much) and stripping it off, then running hastily into the water and, as you say, crouching low.

Though part of me also wants to get her into a splashing fight with Hiywan. :-)

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 20:09 (UTC)

As I've pictured the scene, it's her, Hiywan and a couple of men who are rinsing out the animal guts in the stream to make sausage skins.

Hmmm. I think Buffy would be much more uncomfortable undressing in front of strange men than in front of strange women. Even though she knows their culture is different and they wouldn't look at her the same way modern men would, I think that modern gender issues would be ingrained pretty deep. That's how I expect I would feel, at least.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 20:40 (UTC)

It's a fair point. I can actually imagine Buffy standing there wondering why the two men don't pay much attention when a naked woman (Hiywan) jumps in the river a few yards away from them. :-)

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 21:29 (UTC)

And of course that wasn't really m *remainder censored by Doublemeat legal advisory board*

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 21:31 (UTC)

True, but Buffy didn't realise that at the time. :-)

Posted by: The Mezzanine (deird1)
Posted at: 7th March 2011 04:06 (UTC)

Though part of me also wants to get her into a splashing fight with Hiywan. :-)

Oh, she so would. :)

Posted by: ladypeyton (ladypeyton)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 15:33 (UTC)

There's a huge difference between killing and butchering. Buffy kills regularly, but she doesn't cut animals apart. I think she'd be squicked at first, but she's a trooper and will soon become acclimated.

I also think she'll be embarrassed and won't take off her underwear regardless of the fact that they will remain wet for much of the rest of the day. While I don't think she's prudish enough to completely cut off her nose to spite her face, she also has been known to hold onto her prudishness enough to have to deal with minor inconveniences.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 15:44 (UTC)

She can be pretty stubborn... So far the second question in the poll is showing a pretty evenly split response. Hmm.

Posted by: GingerWall (gingerwall)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 18:19 (UTC)

My thoughts (and votes) exactly!

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 18:22 (UTC)

I don't think she'd have that much of a problem with preparing an animal that was already dead. I'm sure she wouldn't find it entertaining, but she'd wrinkle her nose and go ahead and do it.

I think she'd look for somewhere more secluded to bathe if there are men in the group of people within sight distance. She probably wouldn't have a problem with just women... she's taken gym classes in school and been on a cheerleading squad, after all.

The one occasion I can recall when Buffy was caught out naked... I think it was in BB&B after she got de-ratted... she was very quick to cover up. I think she's quite modest.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 20:01 (UTC)

Of course, BtVS was broadcast on network TV early in the evening, so in BBB she'd cover up quickly regardless. :-)

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 20:04 (UTC)

I think in both cases, she'd be extremely hesitant at first, and would probably make some sort of quip about it to hide her discomfort (even though no one would understand it but her, lol), but ultimately she'd do it without much complaining, and she might even find it less gross/embarrassing than she thought she would.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 20:31 (UTC)

I thnk you're right - I'm throwing a lot of culture-shock experiences at the poor woman, and at some point I'm sure she'll roll her eyes exasperatedly and then just go along with things. The question is judging at what point that happens (and what readers would expect her to do, more importantly).

I've already included a couple of Buffyquips, from the Stone Age people's point of view, putting in some clues and leaving it as a challenge to the reader to work out what she said. :-)

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 20:47 (UTC)

I'm throwing a lot of culture-shock experiences at the poor woman, and at some point I'm sure she'll roll her eyes exasperatedly and then just go along with things. The question is judging at what point that happens

If this is still her first day there, then definitely she'd still be protesting (and then suck it up and do it anyway). But after going through several bizarre experiences - and you can encounter a fair amount in a single day - she'd reach the eye-rolling "just go along with it" stage.

Haha, that feels like a very vague answer, but it's hard to say without knowing exactly what Buffy's experienced before these two examples. But if they're butchering the antelope they just killed in LtAF and then bathing afterward, then yeah, she's probably still got some significant hang-ups about their culture.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th March 2011 21:29 (UTC)

if they're butchering the antelope they just killed in LtAF.

That's the bunny... um, I mean deer. And I originally started the fic with "It was still only mid-afternoon by the time we got home" and had to change it to "It was still only the early afternoon by the time we got home", because I was cramming so much into the day that it wasn't credible the sun would still be up. :D

Edited at 2011-03-06 21:29 (UTC)

Posted by: gillo (gillo)
Posted at: 7th March 2011 01:07 (UTC)
Visconti snake

I think she'd complain about the grossness but just get on with the cutting up job, though nowhere near as expertly as her companions. I'm fairly sure she'd keep her bra and knickers on, though, for group bathing.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2011 16:44 (UTC)

nowhere near as expertly as her companions

Actually, I see it the opposite: her companion will be struggling to saw through an animal's skin with a flint knife; Buffy will take the knife from her and make one clean slash using her superstrength. As long as she's shown where to cut first, of course. :-)

Posted by: erykah101 (erykah101)
Posted at: 7th March 2011 15:02 (UTC)
Not right for fandom

I'd like to offer a bit of a contrary opinion to the ones I'm seeing in the comments so far. I think Buffy would be disgusted at first by the =idea= of chopping up an animal. As others have mentioned, it would call back to Doublemeat Palace and the institutionally disgusting methods of food prep in our modern world, but I actually think Buffy might come to actively enjoy working together with others to prepare the meat in such a down to earth way.

I can imagine her smiling as she hands over pieces to someone else and they nod that she's doing well. I can see the tip of her tongue sticking out of her mouth as she concentrates on doing it and a smile of triumph as a tough bit of cartilage comes loose. I can see her pushing her fringe out of her eyes as she digs in deeper and not even noticing the blood smear it leaves behind. It's good honest toil after all. I think she'd find it rewarding. I think she'd enjoy doing a good job of it and having those around her respect her efforts.

Washing the blood off could, at that point, count as a shared communal experience between two Slayers, like Buffy and Faith dancing in the Bronze after patrol... but more positive. I can see her both covering herself self up very self-consciously on the way into the water but then enjoying the freedom of it once she is in. You mention a splashing fight... I can completely see that!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2011 16:48 (UTC)

That's a good insight; I can certainly see her reacting that way. Like I replied to one of the comments above, at some point Buffy's going to push through the culture shock barrier and just get on with things - and even gain satisfation from doing them, as you say - the question is at what point it's realistic.

Thanks for your input!

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