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StephenT [userpic]

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

24th September 2008 (19:59)
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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.Collapse )

Comments

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Posted by: flake_sake (flake_sake)
Posted at: 17th October 2008 19:22 (UTC)

Loved your analysis of Buffy's character development and I very much agree with most of what you said.

Save for maybe the interpretation of Buffy's relationship with Spike in season 7. I think the pragmatic acceptance of Spike's loyalty was more what happened in the end of S5. "So he is evil, if he can help do good, who cares" seemed to be the credo.

I have to say, that I never got the impression that the almost rape was something Buffy had to get over, since an episode later she already wants to entrust Dawn to Spike.
Also since Buffy is stronger than Spike, the whole being overpowered thing that makes rape so horrible for the victim doesn't occur here.

In season my impression about her love life was that like you said, she's slipping into a leader personality and is thus alienating herself from her friends. She has to be a strong wholesome person, that shows no weaknesses of character.

When she dates Robin Wood she's clearly contemplating to extend that role to her love life. Find a suitable partner for the leader of a slayer army.

I think what drives her back to Spike is the need to let the mask slip from time to time. Spike has seen Buffy as bad as she ever got, seen her darkest sides, there's no need to pretend for him.
While her friends and followers love for her depend often on how she good she fits her role, Spike loves her unconditionally.

(But then I'm a hopeless Spuffy person, so I might be a wee bit biased ;) )

Posted by: sueworld2003 (sueworld2003)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 00:32 (UTC)
Crazy

"Save for maybe the interpretation of Buffy's relationship with Spike in season 7. I think the pragmatic acceptance of Spike's loyalty was more what happened in the end of S5. "So he is evil, if he can help do good, who cares" seemed to be the credo."

Ditto.

"Also since Buffy is stronger than Spike, the whole being overpowered thing that makes rape so horrible for the victim doesn't occur here."

I was wondering when someone would finally point that one out. :0


Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 08:57 (UTC)

Posted by: flake_sake (flake_sake)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 13:29 (UTC)

Posted by: cazador (its_a_thing)
Posted at: 17th October 2008 21:18 (UTC)

I really enjoyed this, I was linked from Whedonesque. Buffy is really my favorite character from the show and one of the most complex in my opinion, this was a great break down of her season to season changes.

mind if i friend you?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 08:57 (UTC)

Thanks! And by all means go ahead. :-)

Posted by: Alice (beerbad)
Posted at: 17th October 2008 23:39 (UTC)
btvs - buffy - the chosen

Thanks for this - it was well-written and certainly needed. I've always been a big fan of Buffy's character and turned into a bit of an apologist when those around me disagreed.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 09:03 (UTC)

Buffy certainly has her flaws - the show would be boring if she didn't - but it sometimes seems people focus on them to the exclusion of all else. She is the hero of the show, but you sometimes wouldn't credit that from what the fans say. :-)

Thanks!

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 18th December 2008 01:09 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th December 2008 13:03 (UTC)

Posted by: sueworld2003 (sueworld2003)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 00:45 (UTC)
Masturbate

"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."

Hmmmm, not sure I'd go with that view completely. When I'm not so tired I'll try and come back and explain why. *g*

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 09:10 (UTC)
spike

I'll be waiting. :-)

I should say that obviously, I was only doing a brief summary of all eight seasons here, so I couldn't go into a whole lot of depth on Buffy's relationship with Spike - that would need an essay of its own (or several) to really do it justice.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 18th October 2008 03:02 (UTC)

I really like the idea that season five would have been a bad place to end the series. I'd always seen it as the self-sacrificing, christ-like ending that people NEED in their heroes to beleive in them. That self sacrifice has always been the ultimate proof of a characters heroism. Buffy's character had come full cirle, to the point where she sacrificed her own life for the world. Which I think is what joss was going for, and what fans have assumed he meant. But I never really thought of that line, "the hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it," as the last thing she says before she kills herself. Kind of contradictory advice, like you said, "she failed the test." I just really liked that idea, its always good to see a different perspective! Though I'd argue that Buffy's characterisation suffered (only a little!) in later seasons, as (maybe?)the writers assumed that her development as a character had indeed reached it's pinacle at the end of season five. They had to invent new ways of developing her character (like dealing with her resserection by sleeping with spike, and the idea of potentials who needed training).

Posted by: mazal_ (mazal_)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 03:51 (UTC)
Faith damaged but not broken


This is all very interesting! I've not time to read all the many responses, but I did read the original piece and bits of the responses.

A thought about the last message ... one way it was good that Season Five wasn't the end was that Buffy came back from the dead after sacrificing herself -- one of the many attributes of the classical hero. (This is distinct from her having harrowed Hell -- another classical attribute -- which she already did, long before, in "Anne."

Also, I wouldn't say, in so many words, that "she kills herself" in "The Gift." One of the many things I love about both shows (Buffy and Angel) is the careful distinction between garden-variety suicide out of personal anguish -- which is occasionally attempted and always prevented throughout the run of both shows -- and a sacrifice of self to save another, which to me is not suicide but heroism.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 09:28 (UTC)

Posted by: mazal_ (mazal_)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 17:26 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 09:20 (UTC)

Posted by: botias (botias)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 04:13 (UTC)

I really liked your season summaries here as a fan of the Buffy character and not just the show.

Since you were hoping for some disagreement:

Buffy's ruthless pragmatism leads her to accept help from the man who recently almost raped her.

I think her willingness to accept Spike's help was more tied up with her guilt over the huge debacle that was their relationship and her growing awareness of the devastating price he clearly paid as well.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 09:37 (UTC)

Thanks! :-)

Although I'm not sure that Buffy felt guilty at all regarding Spike in S7. (She did in S6, but I think she feels she discharged that guilt when she stopped using him and broke up with him in 'As You Were'.) I do agree that she saw Spike's decision to go and get his soul as proof that he could be, as she tells Giles, "a good man".

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 10:20 (UTC)

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

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 12:24 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 12:34 (UTC)

Posted by: mollyl13 (mollyl13)
Posted at: 18th October 2008 22:09 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th October 2008 19:34 (UTC)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 19th October 2008 22:34 (UTC)

Posted by: mollyl13 (mollyl13)
Posted at: 19th October 2008 22:37 (UTC)

Posted by: tigerpetals (tigerpetals)
Posted at: 13th December 2009 00:55 (UTC)

I really appreciate your look at Buffy, since I think I don't see people doing that often, and I see so many very negative opinions about her.

I do disagree with your idea that her death wasn't heroic. I see your point about her last words, especially since when Dawn repeated them in season six it was during a time when Buffy was trying to kill herself, first by trying to jump of the tower again, then with Sweet and then by getting into an aggressive relationship with Spike right when she knew he could hurt her.

But in that particular situation in The Gift, I think she would have been happy to live if it didn't mean sacrificing Dawn and/or the world. I think she was worn down, and I think she did see herself as having come full circle, with her epiphany at the tower and the fact that slayers are supposed to die young for the sake of the world anyway, but I would never say that she saw this as a happy opportunity for doing what she secretly wanted, or that she even really wanted to die until season six.

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 20:45 (UTC)
Briliant analysis

Great overview. Something that some of the Buffyhaters should read. Even more so when those same people turn Xander into this perfect person in their fanfiction.

I'd have to dig into my memories for this, so forgive me if I make a mistake, or inadvertently rely on fanon.

(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.)


Having had a few comments going back and forth about genre conventions, I think it depends on what you think the show was about. Personally, I think that both the Season 5 final AND the Season 7 final are perfect endings to the show. I could have lived with either one. Then again, I thought that the ending of Angel was great too.

Some people seem to have a problem with the changed nature of the show in season 6 and 7 when compared to the previous ones. And I sort of agree with that. (More on that below.)

But I think I agree with you now. It's better that the show continued after season 5 to resolve the statement "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it."

(continues)

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 20:51 (UTC)
Re: Briliant analysis

Season 6: Life is the Big Bad

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.

Except that Spike was very busy manipulating Buffy during that season and he succeeded only because she was vulnerable.

Also, in order for Buffy to learn the lesson that Life is the Big Bad, the writers deemed it necessary that a group of friends turned into complete strangers. Let's make them learn that lesson all at the same time! Yeah, that was brilliant. Not.

It made for boring watching! In many ways it would have been more natural for Buffy to learn that the First Slayer was right all along: the slayer walks alone in this world. Because while her friends cared enough about Buffy to resurrect her, they didn't seem to care afterwards. And those psychology classes probably earned a failing grade, because...they thought she was in a hell dimension and thought she'd get over it. Buffy did more for Angel in season 3, than her friends did for her in season 6.

It doesn't help that the annoying trio was running around. They should have been killed after the first time they escaped. But nooo...human life is precious. Never mind the fact that humans have been killed the past seasons. Buffy had just been lucky she hadn't had to do it herself. And that she failed with Faith. Instead we have a depressed slayer running around that has to learn that life itself is the big bad, yet still want to send the annoying trio to jail. Barf.

And when a large part of the fanbase thinks that Willow is that season's Big Bad, I think the writing has gone terribly wrong. I'm not saying you're wrong about the message they *tried* to convey. I'm saying they failed to convey it properly to their audience.

But Dark!Willow was cool. The most awesome thing that happened that season. As was the way she dealt with Warren.

BORED NOW

Yes, that was what I thought about season 6 in general.

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 21:02 (UTC)
Re: Briliant analysis

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th July 2011 11:47 (UTC)
Re: Briliant analysis

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 21:16 (UTC)
Re: Briliant analysis

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th July 2011 11:34 (UTC)
Re: Briliant analysis

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