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Sixteen Candles and a Bloodstone: Thoughts on Witch

I want to try something out: writing meta for an episode upon its completion in Seasons. In a way, Seasons sort of is an exercise in meta, since it requires me to try to synthesize an episode as it is within both my knowledge/interpretation of canon (through the series) and my invention of Buffy's Calling and her subsequent experiences before she came to the Hellmouth, the goal being to more or less erase the lines between episodes – to make the seasons (and the series) one big story, rather than a collection of a lot of smaller ones. We'll see how well this experiment works out as time progresses, I suppose.

The question I have to ask myself now is if it's overly narcissistic to spend time writing what's essentially a writer's commentary on my own fic, for no other reason than to justify the decisions I've made. I still can't decide, which is why this post may end up only being a one-off (or it may not, who knows). All I can say for sure is that exploring my reasoning is often helpful to me, and it's possible that there may be others interested in my interpretations, since I (at least) haven't seen much in-depth commentary or speculation about Buffy specifically in and before s1. And I also know that I sometimes wish that that the author of the fic series I got the idea from (1breath's X-Files “Seasons”) would explain how she came to the conclusions she did, and what she thinks the significance of certain episodes are, or could be, in the greater scheme of Scully's mytharc.

So, with all that said, Witch.

Witch is very typical of s1, in that it presents a lot of scenarios which could easily have been played in a fashion as black as fresh tar. – which is naturally the direction I chose to (attempt to) reroute to – but didn't. Not only does Buffy heedlessly leap in front of a car to save Cordelia, and not only does she nearly die from a witch's curse, but she is rejected from the cheerleading squad, the thing she'd sought to bring some normalcy and perhaps legitimacy to her school life. I think on the surface, Buffy's desire to get back into cheerleading was something we as an audience may have been meant to interpret as frivolous, childlike, and irresponsible (as Giles believes, and as it's played up), but in my interpretation of canon and its progression, and in light of the origin I made up for her, I think it's actually pretty important. To some degree, this loss could be seen as the final nail in the proverbial coffin for her past life (as she's unable to even make it on the squad, unable to reclaim even a minor part of the life of pre-Slayer Buffy), and what's interesting is that her pursuit of a reclamation of her past only serves to drive her further down the Slayer's path: as it's on the squad itself that she runs into (presumably) one of her first non-vampire foes, which forces her into two very public acts of heroism (saving Amber and Cordelia) and nearly costs her her life.

What's also conceptually interesting to me is the quality of this near death. It wasn't just a close call, something I imagine she'd faced dozens upon dozens of times prior to her arrival in Sunnydale. It was dying. For the first time in my story (and in canon), she was forced to face death without any way of fighting it, stripped utterly of the protection her power as a Slayer affords her. It's for this reason that I chose to connect her delirium in Witch to her death in Prophecy Girl through premonition – because at their baseline, both involve a terrifying degree of helplessness, and, consequently, her survival becoming dependent on the actions of someone else.

I think it's very apt that Buffy had to rely on Giles so very soon after her move to Sunnydale, after her readjustment to life not just as the Slayer, but as a Slayer with a Watcher. I've underplayed the effects of her grief for Merrick (as well as Tisha, I feel), because I know that having Buffy constantly struggling with the chains from what essentially amounts to a bunch of dead OCs wouldn't make for a particularly engaging reading experience, but for me it's not possible to ignore the influence . At this time in her story, Giles isn't just her Watcher; he's her replacement Watcher, a constant reminder of Merrick, who she was unable to protect. He's a new and disparate element in her life. Yet in Witch, a mere ten days after their first meeting (because, yes, I have a calendar for this fic; several calendars), Giles saves Buffy's life. I think to some degree this serves to lay the foundation for the bond between them, and I'd hazard to speculate that this incident is an early step in establishing why Buffy finds so much safety in Giles.

(and I'll just take a moment to say that I doubt most of what I'm speculating on was in fact intentional by the writers; what's important is everything works out so nicely)

Of course, it was highly convenient that this incident occurs so early on in the series for another reason: it was in a prime position to coincide with Buffy's birthday. I'll be frank here – the opportunity to have Buffy almost die less than a week before her birthday was my second largest motivation in shifting around the timeline as much as I did (the first being that the suggested canonical timeline makes no sense whatsoever). Not only does it keep s1 inline with her special birthday tradition (of gut-wrenching misery and horror), but it allowed me to stress my point (which, by this time in the fic, I've certainly pounded into the reader's skull): that Buffy's life as the Slayer is one of misery, sacrifice, and a certain degree of terror. She can't count on making it to her birthday, even if it's only a few days away. She can't ever seem to find ground to rest on that won't be ripped apart. And I think this is extremely important, not only in understanding her actions between Prophecy Girl and When She Was Bad, and between Becoming and Dead Man's Party, as well as down the line in The Gift and s6/7, but in how she approaches romantic relationships, and how she treats her partners. Angel is going to be entering the picture very soon here (arguably, it starts in the very next episode, Teacher's Pet), and I think dealing with him in the context of her instability will be interesting (because, I'll be honest, there's nothing less interesting to me than “true, instantaneous love” as character motivation; nor do I believe for a second that that's even a realistic for someone in Buffy's position).

Having Buffy's birthday here also allowed me to explore the disparity between her relationships with her mother and her father (though one could debate how effectively I pulled it off). The show does a poor job of explaining why Hank Summers so utterly disappears from his daughter's life (daughters', with Keyverse), beyond a few minor suggestions and Buffy's confession in Conversations with Dead People, so this is something I have a lot of freedom to pursue. I think it's important not to demonize Hank, because I think to some degree I can understand why he removed himself from Buffy's life – the divorce would've put strain on their relationship anyway, since Joyce took full custody (by all appearances), and we know by his own admission that he feels the distance between them (When She Was Bad). I would imagine that his feelings of distance only increased after s2, following not only Buffy's extended disappearance (only to find out she'd been in LA all that time, though in my timeline, Hank has already moved to San Diego by s3), but the change in her relationship with Joyce after she finds out, and accepts, that Buffy is indeed the Slayer. I would wonder what Joyce's conversations with Hank about Buffy were like after s2, what he must've thought when interacting with either of them (suddenly, Joyce wouldn't be complaining about Buffy's absences and grades and attitude anymore, yet Buffy's behavior hadn't actually changed; it may have even gotten worse).

This of course doesn't excuse his behavior (and we're all pretty sure he was cheating on Joyce to begin with), but I think since I began Seasons with Joyce and Hank together, I should be able to illustrate the deterioration in Hank's relationship with Buffy through the years following the divorce, so I can at least present a why and a how and a when. What better way than to start with Buffy's birthday, featuring a repeatable event that will inevitably come to a termination in Helpless (the ice show)? And what better way to pound on the tension than to have her dealing with a very traumatic and very recent near death?

Serendipity. For me, anyway.

Buffy's birthday also allowed me to further flesh out her relationship with Willow and Xander, which on the show seemed to bloom out of nowhere and was suddenly just a thing, their closeness as unarguable and unchangeable as Giles' Britishness. Something the show never pointed out was the sheer uniqueness of their relationship at the start: that Buffy is a superhero who decides to befriend two of the biggest losers in Sunnydale High (discounting Jonathon and probably/certainly Andrew), and includes them in her work and her life. I feel that it's not unrealistic to speculate that Willow and Xander were in awe of her, that it might have terrified them nightly to learn of Buffy's constant near deaths just as much as it electrified them. When I watch that scene in Witch when Buffy saves Cordelia, all I can think is what Willow and Xander must have thought if they'd been there to witness it (which is why I had them show up at the scene while Buffy was still standing on the road): normal people don't do stuff like that. Heroes do, the sort who are infallible, tough, gallant, and untouchable. Yet they are constantly reminded of Buffy's vulnerability, when she fails to make the cheerleading squad, when they see everyone staring at her like a freak, when she tells them she's having two birthdays between her two parents (and when Dawn asks why Hank is not present at Buffy's birthday party), when she begins to die in their arms. In this way, I think I can very easily justify why they became as close as they did, as quickly as they did, while also leaving a splinter there to explain why it was so easy for them to fall apart during the times they did – because I think to some degree, that separation was always there, from day one (which is something I may pursue in Pack, re: Xander's words to Willow about their life before Buffy).

On a canonical note (there's no segue here), I would also like to point out that despite Witch's...campyness, even here we are confronted with the depths of Buffy's strength, courage, and intelligence. I've already spoken of her actions in regards to Amber and Cordelia (she jumped in front of a frigging speeding truck), but I also just want to mention that it's Buffy, not Giles, who realizes that Amy is the source of Sunnydale's problem of the week, and it's Buffy again who realizes that the woman they'd assumed was Catherine the (No Longer) Great was in fact Amy. I've often felt that Buffy's sharpness is discounted a lot, not just in fan discussion, but in the show itself – from Buffy herself. Giles is the one with the pile of books and a librarian's patience, but Buffy is the one who can quickly and easily come to accurate readings of the people/demons around her (nicely illustrated in Welcome to the Hellmouth, when Buffy is able to almost instantly find a vampire in the crowd without Giles' “honing”), who is able to come up with strategies on the fly, whose speculations often turn out to be accurate (as in Witch and, soon, Teacher's Pet). I think it's important to recognize this, that Buffy isn't simply the brawn to Giles' (or someone else's) brains, especially in s1, which is a season even I often find myself thinking is “stupid” and somewhat inconsistent tonally from the rest of the series.

And with all that said, I'll stop turning over Witch, because it's been a year and I've had enough of it. Onward to Teacher's Pet.

                                                            Teacher's Pet Meta/Thoughts >>>

Comments

Just a quick comment to say I can't comment in depth at the moment but I read this and love this meta. I'm enjoying following your thought processes here. (I will comment more in-depth after the weekend because there is much I want to say.) Do keep going.

Ha, cool. Would love to hear your thoughts.
I like the idea of these meta btw and definitely support this project. The only other meta on the Witch I've come across on LJ btw was local_max's, and that's focused entirely on how the Catherine/Amy dynamic foreshadows Willow's "mommy issues" with Sheila Rosenberg.

I'm enjoying your redo of Buffy's origins and S1; The seeds were definitely sown in S1 which is why I'm a defender of it, but I realize that the only episodes I've rewatched are WTTH/The Harvest, IRYJ (underrated IMO), Puppet Show, Nightmares (the skeleton key to Buffy's worst fears and absolutely essential in terms of understanding her), and PG. (the show's first "masterpiece" episode.) In WTTH we see Buffy's cheerful perky "I'm fine" mask - the one she wears or tries to wear throughout S6 for her friends, also represented in the form of the Buffybot - slip, twice, in two initial conversations with Giles in the library. There's a lot of darkness in the show if you're willing to look for it, but the camp factor gets in the way, Joss not yet having committed tonally. The fact that Merrick's death is never in any way mentioned but Joss acknowledges it as canon backstory seems a big gaping hole in terms of the damage that's already been done to Buffy's psyche.

One thing that puzzles me is the way the characters are idealized in fandom a lot in the early seasons, those were the "happy seasons." Maybe they're thinking of S1 (even while dismissing it on some level) but even then we have Giles' tendency to try to control Buffy and keep information from her because he worries that he's in fact useless, wants to protect her, or doesn't trust her ability to handle things; Xander's judgmental nature, slut-shaming and possessiveness with women he's in love with to make up for a poor self-image; Willow's barely-hidden resentments and control issues that she remains largely unaware of, etc

It's for this reason that I chose to connect her delirium in Witch to her death in Prophecy Girl through premonition – because at their baseline, both involve a terrifying degree of helplessness, and, consequently, her survival becoming dependent on the actions of someone else.

One of my favorite parts of the story btw, as well as your use of (Slayer) dream imagery generally. And, cue the episode "Helpless": her dependence on Giles here in Witch seems especially poignant in painful in light of the way they betray each other later on. She completely trusts him, and that will become both her strength and her weakness with all the men in her life.

I'll need to reread what you wrote but I don't recall if you made a point about Giles' statement that it was his "first time" casting a spell? A lot of people fanwank that as he was hiding the truth, but I think the way it's played in the ep we're meant to read that straight. His "Ripper" past seems to me a retcon, if a very good one.

She can't ever seem to find ground to rest on that won't be ripped apart. And I think this is extremely important, not only in understanding her actions between Prophecy Girl and When She Was Bad, and between Becoming and Dead Man's Party, as well as down the line in The Gift and s6/7, but in how she approaches romantic relationships, and how she treats her partners.

Very interesting observation. Buffy is held up to and judged by standards of "normal" behavior but her life is anything but. She's the lone Warrior in a war zone, drafted into the fight. In any case I don't see how she could not be affected by the pile up of traumas over eight years unless she was, literally, a Buffybot (or "Mary Sue").

The notion that she's grieving Merrick goes unspoken (in the series), but it fits another pattern we see in her in all the instances you name: hiding her own wounds (physical and mental) and her grief, only to have the sadness and anger seep out in other ways. There's a very human element of "I'm hurting and I won't say anything but WHY doesn't someone notice?" that's common to people with depression (and maybe just humans generally. We want people to read our minds and know what we need without having to say it. Riley was very much the same way.)

Part 2 - yeah, this is long. Pretend to be shocked.

there's nothing less interesting to me than “true, instantaneous love” as character motivation; nor do I believe for a second that that's even a realistic for someone in Buffy's position).

I find it dull to watch but unfortunately that's how "falling in love" often works; it's a chemical and hormonal reaction that may fizzle of it's own accord or may become something more lasting. Watching Buffy fall for Angel felt "sudden" when watching the series but looking back at how my relationship started, it was pretty ridiculously overnight and all-of-a-sudden as well. In reality, "sudden love" isn't really compelling dramatically.

And it may not be realistic for someone in Buffy's position but it does fit with her conscious worldview at the time as expressed to Willow "Carpe Diem". Which makes sense I think for a 16 year old girl who knows for a fact she might not live to see the next morning. Throwing herself into a relationship with Angel makes sense to me in light of this, as well as in terms of the normal hormonal rush one feels. (I'm not sure if we disagree or it's just a difference in semantics btw. Or me misinterpreting you.)

the divorce would've put strain on their relationship anyway, since Joyce took full custody (by all appearances), and we know by his own admission that he feels the distance between them

Right. The one scene preserved from the movie is the flashback in Becoming, where she listens to her parents arguing. We can assume that the relationship has been falling apart for some time and they would have divorced anyway. Buffy's "behavior" only provides a catalyst or an excuse sooner rather than later. I've always wondered how much of NightmareHank's words and attitude (Nightmares) really is just Buffy's unfounded fears and how much is her intuiting his actual feelings. Or misinterpreting the reasons for his distance. Hank and Joyce both exhibit tendencies towards emotional withdrawal, retreating into polite lies counterbalanced with angry outburts; and Buffy inherits both of these tendencies.

I also wondered at her ease re: hiding her identity from her mother when she seemed so rebellious in other ways, but again I think the habit was there from long before; for many children in dysfunctional families it's a means of survival; and again it's modeled to Buffy by Joyce and Hank, including lies of ommission. Her rebellions are small inconsequential ones that don't upset the status quo until she falls in love with Angel.

I've always wondered btw was L.A. wasn't the first place Giles and Joyce would think to look for Buffy; although I know it is a very big urban area. We know she didn't go to her father but I assumed Joyce would have called Hank right away thinking she'd gone to him. Giles' efforts seem a little - scattershot? Imagine how many missing girls just in CA alone would fit Buffy's general description "petite blond teenager".

I've often felt that Buffy's sharpness is discounted a lot, not just in fan discussion, but in the show itself – from Buffy herself.

VERY MUCH AGREE. I think the writers overplayed this a bit as the seasons went on. Her intelligence - intuitive, witty - is one of her major assets in the fight. I was genuinely astonished when I came across a conversation in another part of fandom "She's not the creative." HELLO? One early instance of her sharpness in S1 is the fact that she figures out in IRYJ that Moloch is living inside the computer system.

Re: Part 2 - yeah, this is long. Pretend to be shocked.

(I'm not sure if we disagree or it's just a difference in semantics btw. Or me misinterpreting you.)

Re: Buffy/Angel. The main problem for me is that I have zilch experience in romantic relationships, so I'm just drawing on what I know from friendships. It seems to me like relationships are never as simple as they're described, but, then again, most of my friendships have been with depressed people, so my interpretations are skewed. Additionally, I've always thought friendships (bonds, loyalty, etc.) are a lot more interesting than the romantic angle. But I have to deal with it, so...yeah, this is going to be the really hard part of the fic series for me, since I have no baseline (beyond my guess that good relationships are friendships with foreplay (though you'd think by senior year college I'd've found someone by now, jeez)).

My interpretation of the Buffy/Angel thing is you've got two people who are suffering a lot, daily, because of things in the present and the past, and with Buffy, she's in a situation where she has no one who can truly relate to her, precious few people who even know who she is beyond Buffy the Hemery Drop-Out, and then suddenly there's Angel, and she latches onto the kindred spirit. I don't/can't understand the chemical part, but I can certainly get where the bond came from.

I've always wondered how much of NightmareHank's words and attitude (Nightmares) really is just Buffy's unfounded fears and how much is her intuiting his actual feelings.

I really hope those weren't his real feelings, though I think it'd be a little naive to think that they weren't at least tinged by those sorts of thoughts. Buffy took difficult to a new level. And since Buffy is so into self-flagellation/blame, it doesn't surprise me at all that she would be nursing the fear that her parents' divorce is somehow her fault, and hers alone. By s7 she no longer seems to think this, but before the growth and the acceptance, when she's just a scared sixteen year-old girl who's had to deal with everything she's had to deal with... yeah, no surprise at all.

I've always wondered btw was L.A. wasn't the first place Giles and Joyce would think to look for Buffy; although I know it is a very big urban area.

I don't know if you've ever been to LA, but I can completely see how Buffy could disappear there. I'd bet they did check there half a hundred times, but without calling on the aid of the Coven/the Council, they never would've been able to find her, even if they knew for sure she was in LA. It's just too vast. And in my head-canon, Giles never told the Council about Buffy's disappearance and kept up appearances like everything was normal (thus why he couldn't call on mystical aid), because he didn't want her to be hunted down, trapped like a mongoose, and dragged back to wherever to face a tribunal or something.
His efforts may seem scattershot, but I'm not sure how else Giles could've gone about it. It seems like he was in contact with people/things who knew of underworld activities, so I think he was doing the best he could, especially given he and everyone else were probably afraid, deep down, that she was dead.
(I've given the time after Becoming a loooot of thought; something about it just captures my (sick, twisted) imagination)

One early instance of her sharpness in S1 is the fact that she figures out in IRYJ that Moloch is living inside the computer system.

Dude, just look at Teacher's Pet. She figures everything out, from what French is to how to find her to how to defeat her. Despite the campiness of the episode, I can't deny her incredible intuition and ingenuity.

Ugh, just talking about all this reminds me why I love Buffy so damned much... XD

Re: Part 2 - yeah, this is long. Pretend to be shocked.

Re: Buffy/Angel. The main problem for me is that I have zilch experience in romantic relationships</>

My perception of romances in movies and tv shifted dramatically after that. Even though my mom had been married (unhappily) three times and I'd seen her go through those experiences, it never is the same. There's a chemical/hormonal element to "falling in love" that you can't understand watching from the outside, that heightens and totally skews your own perceptions. so what you're saying makes complete sense to me.

BTW I wasn't in a romantic relationship with anyone until I was 26 years old and that is a LOT more common than we realize, because it's embarrassing & so we don't talk about it, we're all supposed to have lost our virginity, even if by force, by the time we're in our 20's or there is something wrong with us. Which is just as much bullshit as "everyone has a soulmate".

And you're right, relationships are NEVER as simple as we'd like them to be. Ex: my partner is her father and her mother and a little bit like my mother and father, and I am my mother and father and remind her of her mother; she worried that I would leave her like her former (now deceased) partner had; add in every other influence either one of us had by the time we met, and that's a hell of a lot of people in bed together! *lol* The math is astronomical. With Buffy and Angel, I can see now that Buffy may have been Angel's obsession but his "true love" in many ways was Darla. Would Angel have reacted as strongly to Buffy the way he had without the slight physical resemblance? And they are both strong, assertive women. (Has anyone done meta on this?) How do you compete with 200 years of prior history, even if 100 of that was in terms of separation?

Getting ahead of ourselves, I wonder if that's part of what his leaving her is about? Darla left him, rejected him, and however much it hurts at the time we tend to pass on to someone else what's been done to us by lovers as well as by parents, etc. Which makes it sound like I'm more interested in the two of them than I have been. Maybe I haven't looked hard enough.

suddenly there's Angel, and she latches onto the kindred spirit.

they both occupy a "liminal space". Also he's tall, handsome and physically fits the "romantic hero" template. Plus he's actually quite manipulative (withholding information etc) and she's used to that with both her parents, with Merrick and the Council, with Giles, and it remains a feature throughout the series. Her tendency to withdraw herself or not share information immediately makes total sense to me. I think she'd do it even if she wasn't the Slayer. So it doesn't ring any warning bells in her head. Or it does at first, but then hormones, need and identification take over.

I don't know if you've ever been to LA, but I can completely see how Buffy could disappear there.

No but if it's anything like NYC then I do understand.

And in my head-canon, Giles never told the Council about Buffy's disappearance

Given what we see in S3 & 4 that makes total sense.

I've given the time after Becoming a loooot of thought; something about it just captures my (sick, twisted) imagination

I've written meta on Anne re: Buffy's depression arc, it and Bargaining are my favorite season openers, so it's not just you. I haven't given the time between much thought, however. I don't think I've come across fanfic covering that period yet that doesn't end up Spuffy. *headdesk*

I can't deny her incredible intuition and ingenuity.

I just read your TP meta! Watching Buffy lose her self-confidence over the course of the series, because of her lovers, her friends and life circumstances, is one of the most painful things about the series for me. And it's something that's very true for teenage girls in the US in general as they get older as they become more anxious about being accepted socially and romantically, but even in Touched Buffy is blaming herself for "always" cutting herself off, and I'm not sure the writer mean us to see that as skewed POV or truth. After all, the writers decided that she was to blame for Riley leaving and owed him an apology. So there's a degree to which I trust what I see and feel an reject their own conclusions.

Re: Part 2 - yeah, this is long. Pretend to be shocked.

BTW I wasn't in a romantic relationship with anyone until I was 26 years old and that is a LOT more common than we realize...

Thanks. I mean, I know there are a lot of people I know in my age bracket who aren't dating, but it seems like that number is getting smaller all the time. And then I just heard that someone I went to high school with is getting married, and my mind just exploded...

With Buffy and Angel, I can see now that Buffy may have been Angel's obsession but his "true love" in many ways was Darla.

That's actually interesting to consider. I can't remember much of Angel and Darla's relationship, since it was mostly explored in AtS and I don't think I've ever rewatched an episode of that (except for the ones Buffy/Faith were in), but it would make sense that Angel would have this deep sort of bond with her. We see that with Spike and Drusilla. A hundred years is a long time to spend together, and she was his sire on top of it.
I'm not really sure what drove Angel's attraction to Buffy (to be honest, it kind of toes the creepy line), but I can see how Buffy might fit his type, if his type is Darla. Despite that conversation they had about "bad girls" (re:Faith), Buffy is still a violent person with violent life, largely independent and highly free-spirited. She lacks Darla's sadism and cruelty, but the similarities aren't insignificant. If I knew that part of the verse better, I think it would be an interesting thought experiment to pursue in a meta...

So it doesn't ring any warning bells in her head. Or it does at first, but then hormones, need and identification take over.

I'd bet the latter. I think just from the dialogue in the last scene of Teacher's Pet we can see Buffy knowing what he's doing, and she's always questioning his quick appearances/disappearances prior to Angel (the episode). But he was charming and attractive and disarming, and he knew about her world without being under a false sense of awe for her, without her having to explain everything to him, and he clearly respected her ability (whereas Giles, not so much). It makes a lot of sense from her end why the attraction happened.

No but if it's anything like NYC then I do understand.

It's like NYC without the foot traffic. And if you cleaved the tops off most of the buildings and spread it all out for miiiiles. And got rid of the subway. And got rid of any idea of urban planning that didn't involve "big-ass highway." It's just a big, sprawling mess. Honestly, I'd feel more confident trying to locate Buffy in New York than in LA...

I haven't given the time between much thought, however.

Oh, god, you have no idea how much I've thought about the narrative that happened between her flight from Sunnydale to her making the decision to become a waitress. The first thing I ever wanted to write was that, but I couldn't get a good structure.
I won't even deny that half the reason I wanted to do this fic series to begin with was just to deal with the Anne arc...

After all, the writers decided that she was to blame for Riley leaving and owed him an apology.

I dunno, I'd argue that we can see both sides. I never got the impression Buffy was to blame for Riley leaving, even if that's what Xander said. I'm not really sure their split was even truly as simple as a blame game. He was clearly nursing a growing resentment toward her in s5, after he lost his super(ish) powers. He threw up as many barriers as she did. And he was the one in the vamp den, not her...
At any rate, with Touched, I think it just speaks to the fact that Buffy tends to blame herself for near everything, which was glaringly obvious by Nightmares, when she imagines her father confirming that she was in fact that wedge that drove her family apart. We saw that with Angel and Parker and even Spike. We see that with Dawn ("I killed my sister"). And we see it in Touched/Empty Places, since it seems as if Buffy puts herself at fault for being kicked out.
It's like she got so used to being at the root of the issues that she started to associate herself with being the seed it sprouted from, rather than just constantly seed adjacent...(I'm going to stand by that metaphor, even though I probably shouldn't)
Nightmares (the skeleton key to Buffy's worst fears and absolutely essential in terms of understanding her)

Oh my god, you don't even know how glad I am that that episode exists. The dream sequences I have planned... Ugh, I seriously cannot wait, but I have to, because they're down the pipe a bit.
And agreed in terms of rerunning s1, though I do like NKaBotFD. And I couldn't even argue with PG being the first real masterpiece episode, because it truly is wonderful ("Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I don't wanna die." -- the moment I knew Buffy was going to be the show for me)

One thing that puzzles me is the way the characters are idealized in fandom a lot in the early seasons, those were the "happy seasons."

I think I can sort of understand, because a friend of mine doesn't really like Buffy s4+, but he loved s1-3 (though most of the episodes he references are s1ish, and he seems to associate the show going darker with the loss of Cordelia). There was a huge tone shift after s3, where pretty much any sign of the camp evaporated (esp. by s5), and a lot of the funny kind of got darker (like, Life Serial is hilarious, but at the same time it's not).
And I know I haven't been alone in fandom in not rerunning s1/2 (barring select episodes), and relying on my memory instead. I think they feel happier then because that's what I remember in contrast to the big rifts we start seeing develop after high school. And to some degree I do divide the show between high school and post-high school, even despite all the time I've now spent in s1, because I feel like they were...simpler times, at least in comparison to s4+. It's when the demons were physical instead of psychological (s4 in fact pretty much states the difference in focus by having the Big Bad Take Down be penultimate to the psych-focused Restless). The characters are as fucked up at the start as they are at the end (well, sort of), but their issues aren't what's driving the plot so much as some guy in a cheesy demon suit (contrast with s6, which is driven pretty much solely by emotional stuff).

I'll need to reread what you wrote but I don't recall if you made a point about Giles' statement that it was his "first time" casting a spell?

I have Buffy think this over in my first Teacher's Pet chapter.
The Ripper thing was probably something thought up after s1, but I think with the right reading, it doesn't come through as retcon. The line between fanwanking and interpretation sometimes is a thin one (and interpretation just sounds nicer :P).

There's a very human element of "I'm hurting and I won't say anything but WHY doesn't someone notice?" that's common to people with depression

Yeah. I think the fact that that quality is imbued within...really, every character on the show is one of the things that so deeply attracted me to it.

I was actually really surprised when I reran the Pack recently, and even though it's probably one of the worst episodes of the series, suddenly there's this moment where hyena!Xander is wondering aloud to Willow about how much better their lives were before Buffy, and suddenly his violence toward her makes a little more sense beyond just romantic jealousy. To some degree, she did just parachute in and nuke their lives as they knew it, and I wonder if to some degree he couldn't help but blame her for things like Jesse's death, but they never really talk about Buffy's relationship with them until much later on.

This is all super disjointed, but I haven't bothered to collect my thoughts on anything beyond Teacher's Pet at this point. XD
Oh my god, you don't even know how glad I am that that episode exists.

I just read a rewatch on the internet of Bargaining and someone mentioned that ep specifically and it made me very happy. it's on my short list of essential S1 episodes. (because I am also sick and twisted.) Buffy's behavior, her psychology for the remainder of the series aren't going to make sense if you ignore that episode. Because there's the template for everything that happens for her and for S6, right there.

"Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I don't wanna die."

*SOBS* Second time that I cried watching the series. That entire scene never gets old. And it's referenced, chillingly, in Helpless when once again Buffy tearfully rebukes Giles and throws something at him.

There was a huge tone shift after s3, where pretty much any sign of the camp evaporated (esp. by s5)

There are also some campy aspect to S4, and SPike and Anya provide comic relief more than anything else, but I think there's another factor. S1-3 were very self-consciously drawing from two movie genres: high school movies (as well as RL experiences of HS) and horror movies. The move to SDU opens up the series in some ways, or rather it feels brighter and less claustrophobic than SDHS, but the high school movie tropes are gone, and there isn't really a genre of "college movies" to pull from in the same way (except the horndog R-rated films from the '80's of wild frat boy parties.) And college experiences are so much more varied in the US than high school is; whereas in HS there are certain things we can all recognize even in RL: the lockers, dodgeball, (the Pack brought back unpleasant memories), being teased or tortured by classmates, etc. But the presence of the reliable tropes (in S1 you can see the writers practically ticking off the boxes) allows a certain amount of distancing as well.

It's when the demons were physical instead of psychological (s4 in fact pretty much states the difference in focus by having the Big Bad Take Down be penultimate to the psych-focused Restless).

YES. Maggie Walsh's class hangs a lantern on it, but this is the "bridge season" in my mind; she's still got her mom, she's still in school which provides a set, reliable schedule (whereas after college, like Buffy, I was at loose ends, so I can identify) She's still a child on some level; S5 pushes her the rest of the way into adulthood on another level. S4 is where we really begin the journey into Buffy Summer's heart of darkness: like Nightmares, TYG and WAY foreshadow her descent in S6.

The line between fanwanking and interpretation sometimes is a thin one (and interpretation just sounds nicer

Quite right, I shall adopt that term instead. :)

To some degree, she did just parachute in and nuke their lives as they knew it

Although as the Wish will remind us, without Buffy's protection they'd have died and/or been turned. Which still emphasizes the huge burden on Buffy as the Chosen One. It also says something that I think the show mucks up a bit, about people learning to protect themselves. Gingerbread turns into a parable about intolerance, rather than a logical reaction human beings might have to the fears around them, and the solution is to go back to ignorance. But also, we never see Xander attempt to become more useful in the fight by learning self-defense etc; he's just content to whine about not being needed. And then S6 and DW nearly killing Buffy: is she jealous, fighting for the right to be recognized, to be chosen, for precious resources doled out sparingly by the WC, or does she simply resent being Buffy's sidekick? It's particularly galling in a season where Willow resurrected Buffy and never apologized or addressed her part in Buffy's pain. We're back to "Buffy needs to get over herself" and Willow gets to go on an all-expenses paid vacation to England. (I obviously have issues.) In many ways everyone else projects their needs and resentments onto her - she's a hero, right? that's how heros function culturally. But they also lose sight of the fact that she is just a girl.

"Disjointed"? Nah. Or if it is, it's where I live, baby, so no worries!

Edited at 2013-09-12 04:36 pm (UTC)
And it's referenced, chillingly, in Helpless when once again Buffy tearfully rebukes Giles and throws something at him.

I love the subtle call-backs the series does. I always was struck hard by the call-back to the Harvest in OMWF, when Buffy stabs the pinocchio with the pool cue. Such a dark commentary on the quality of change.

I agree with your assessment of the shift in s4. Sometimes I know it's hard for me to disentangle my own feelings of relation from what's actually going on in the show, and I think that's another reason I feel there's such a big difference between s4 and every other season in my mind -- since I relate to Buffy's experiences in college, especially her early ones. SDH didn't really relate to my experience in high school in a meaningful way, but s4 did, so to me I guess it's almost like the season where I felt my connection to her grow a lot more personally. That's probably part of why it feels so much less campy to me, since it feels more true to my life.

We never see Xander attempt to become more useful in the fight by learning self-defense etc; he's just content to whine about not being needed.

I've always felt Xander tried to create distance. It seems like by mid-series he was content to be only half in Buffy's world. I'd wonder if part of the reason he doesn't try to become soldier boy is because he just wants to live a relatively normal life, whereas we see Willow actively working to escape her own. (maybe part of it is that he doesn't want to let violence take over his life, as it seems to have taken over his parents' lives).
As for Willow, I've not given her motivation as dark!Willow much thought. I think part of it is that Willow seems to nurse a lot of rejection and a lot of quiet pain throughout the series. Maybe the reason her release leads to so much destruction is because of how much rage she has, deep down (and I say this because we see how utterly lonely Willow is in s1, and we see how hard she grips the relationships she has; loneliness breeds a lot of resentment and anger and powerlessness and need; having access to that much power...I can see why it was intoxicating). Her attack on Buffy though... I dunno, there must have just been some resentment there, from Buffy not having been happy for the gift of life she fought so hard to conjure for her; for having so much power and natural grace and yet being so constantly, crushingly unhappy; and maybe for what Willow would have perceived as her hypocrisy -- for not allowing Willow to kill everyone responsible for Tara's death while Buffy herself had indulged plenty of revenge trips over the series.
It's clear that Willow loves Buffy. I mean, nothing in the world could convince me she doesn't love her (platonically). The fact that she reversed time to remove that bullet from her chest is one of the most powerful moments which speak to that. But in that scene in the Magic Box, they were both trying to kill each other, and I think that was just a high, piercing moment of rage for the both of them, a result of a lot of built up resentments. And see how violence was increasingly the solution that both of them turned to solve their problems (Buffy since...forever, Willow since she really got in touch with her witchyness), it's not really that surprising that that's the head things came to.

(/end ramble)
I think dealing with him in the context of her instability will be interesting (because, I'll be honest, there's nothing less interesting to me than “true, instantaneous love” as character motivation; nor do I believe for a second that that's even a realistic for someone in Buffy's position).

This very much. One of their more memorable moments for me is in Bad Eggs, where the prospect of the future comes up and Buffy dismisses it because she doesn't think of it - just what she wants in her immediate future right now, Angel. It doesn't matter if he's someone she shouldn't be in love with; what long-term consequences could there be if she's to die anytime now?

I mean, I don't think she needs to be looking for people she can have marriage and babies with, necessarily, especially not in high school, but not being able to think that is possible anymore is a whole different thing. For me, they both enter into this relationship in large part from an eagerness born out of desperation. (Which is part of why I ship it - not that I expect you to or anything! I'm here because I love your take on Buffy.)

Also, I'd never thought about this before, but it makes total sense that Giles saving her here was necessary to push their relationship forward in part because of Merrick's death. Buffy tries to push Xander and Willow away early even after accepting the Call; it stands to reason she would have Giles at a distance too and only accepts his role more readily because she has to. As is made increasingly obvious throughout the series, she doesn't want to be alone but she would choose to isolate herself more if it would protect anyone better.

Speaking of, I don't know if I saw it on the first watch ever, but I agree that there is a distance between Buffy and Xander and Willow from the beginning. They do seem close fast. But I actually feel like that element of distance was pointed out, or at least made clear, by Willow's awe on meeting Buffy and Buffy's trying to push them out of Slayer business in The Harvest. Buffy was casually speaking of a gory beheading when Xander followed her into the tunnels, and she had to stop because he was freaked out. Then there's his comment in The Pack, that he can go rescue Lance because it doesn't require 'actual Slaying'. In the beginning of Inca Mummy Girl, Willow does a similar thing because both she and Xander agree that Buffy will always use violence. I like how you bring it out more. That interplay between being awed by her and seeing her as vulnerable in normal aspects of life is probably what led them to feel confident in stopping her the way they did during the above incidents.

Agree completely that Buffy is very smart and not the brawn - it always bothers me a bit when she's treated this way in fandom and on the show. Also about this being Buffy's chance to get her old life back and failing, and being redirected to Slaying instead. Loved the addition of Buffy's dreams - it was a great connection to Prophecy Girl.


For me, they both enter into this relationship in large part from an eagerness born out of desperation.

That's really close to the gist of what I think. It's not just a sexual attraction. It's the fact that he's the first person in her life who truly has the capacity to understand what she's going through as a Slayer -- being separate from everyone (both intentionally and not); having to fight against a neverending horde of hellspawn until that one, inevitable day where one of them kills them; having no one who can truly relate (I mean, Giles is her Watcher, so he knows, but he can't...understand, not truly); etc. etc. It's not just "ohemgee so hot." There's some profoundness to it. And what's interesting is when she finds out that Angel is a vamp; it creates so much interesting dissonance. I'm really looking forward to pursuing that dissonance (oh, the dreams I have planned...).

(Which is part of why I ship it - not that I expect you to or anything! I'm here because I love your take on Buffy.)

Ha, thanks! Although to be honest, I don't really "ship" anyone when it comes to Buffy. I respect the B/A in s1-3, but I respect its need to go, and I respect the Spuffy in s6/7. I guess if I were to pick a side, I would go Spuffy for post-series, but that's because to me it's the only thing that makes sense (for a variety of reasons, which I won't go into because, you know, length and how much farther away from Witch can I get?). The only BtVS pairing I truly ship is Tillow, and I know that because of how I respond to Oz and Kennedy on rerun. XD

she doesn't want to be alone but she would choose to isolate herself more if it would protect anyone better.

I'd also wonder if she maintained distance because part of her always knows, every day, that she may not live to see another. I know if I knew that, I wouldn't want to get too close, because I couldn't live with knowing what I'd be leaving behind.
And I think it also comes down to the fact that no matter how much she described, no one could really, truly get her situation but another Slayer (which is part of what makes her relationship with Faith so interesting), and I think that knowledge probably also puts up barriers.

In the beginning of Inca Mummy Girl, Willow does a similar thing because both she and Xander agree that Buffy will always use violence.

And it's interesting because there are many episodes where they point out that her usual solution to problems is to get stabby. I've always wondered how deeply they associate Buffy (or Slayerness as a whole?) with violence. I've also always wondered if there were times where they were ever afraid of her (not counting Normal Again, since that was a unique situation). It's been interesting to me to think about how they must think of her, especially early on, when there's that awe but also there's the obviousness of how much pain Buffy is in, and I wonder what it must've been like for them, seeing how bad it was for her when they first met and then seeing her life gradually fall apart more and more. They don't ever seem to pity her -- she's too strong to pity -- but I wonder how confused their feelings about her are. That she's basically a trained killer, but also a friend, but also a hero.
There is a short added scene fic your first paragraph has reminded me of, but I don't know if it would taint your plans! It's from Angel's view, but it does bring forth something interesting about Buffy's conflict. Actually, I have a feeling it probably will show up in your planned dreams.

Anyway, yes, I think Buffy being a Slayer and Angel being a vampire, was crucial to them connecting. (Despite my belief that it's not totally impossible for Buffy to be in a working romantic relationship with a human who isn't superpowered. Riley might have worked if he hadn't been Riley.)

XD I respect B/A ending where it did as a story, and I'm not married to it postseries. I usually don't ship in an 'only this pairing forever' way. I just ship it in the sense that for me it was the most enjoyable of her canon affairs.

I'd also wonder if she maintained distance because part of her always knows, every day, that she may not live to see another.

She tried to ignore or get past that, especially in the first few seasons, but yeah, I think she was always aware that being who and what she is would always separate her from everyone - it was even in the Chosen One speech and everything. What point would there be in a relationship except her own comfort?

Then she and Faith - and Kendra to a much lesser extent - had tensions in part because of how they saw what they alone shared(and shared for the first time in history; the isolation is damaging, but maybe also something they were protective of as an identity, after adapting to it). I think at least Buffy's sense of self blurs when she judges or envies them, and she reads them a lot as versions of her.

That she's basically a trained killer, but also a friend, but also a hero.

I think to a certain extent they must have some qualms about her violence. Again in IMG (you've spurred a rewatch, those these are freshest for me), Xander watches Buffy argue with Giles about the dance while training, winces throughout, and physically stops Buffy hitting Giles. There are the times he and Willow tell Buffy she's too violent. It might remind them of how she came into their lives - with and after Jesse's death and their frequent close encounters - and they want to keep that dark side to her heroism from leaking into their lives too much. And for her benefit too, since she gets into such trouble.



Actually, I have a feeling it probably will show up in your planned dreams.

Ha. I'm torn between asking for a link and not. Two of the dreams (that won't happen for like...twenty+ chapters) are pretty much completely outlined, so I dunno how much it could taint. Although, to be honest, I'm not the most conceptually brilliant, so it's possible seeing someone who's cleverer may make me want to rip them off (still, I'm really pretty happy with these two dreams). So maybe if one of us remembers after I finally write them?

Despite my belief that it's not totally impossible for Buffy to be in a working romantic relationship with a human who isn't superpowered. Riley might have worked if he hadn't been Riley.

I honestly don't believe the problem would be her in that situation, necessarily. I think it'd inevitably be the guy. Because I think Riley was right -- there was a distance there he'd never be able to bridge, not ever, because he simply isn't equipped to. And I can just imagine how hard it'd be to love someone so deeply who both of you know has a job she can never retire from until it retires her; to worry every time she goes out, knowing you can't help her (and may only end up getting yourself hurt or killed, or, worse, her killed); to see her come back with a broken face, to touch her and see her wince; to know she can't ever hold down a job that isn't shitty and beneath her because of what she does; etc. That level of helplessness seems like something that would never be able to be surpassed. And I think one of the best illustrations of this is during Hell's Bells, when in Xander's nightmare, Buffy died in front of him and even though he lost his back for her, he couldn't do a thing to save her (and the fact that his failure to protect/save her is the thing that ruins his life and is one of the central antagonisms in a nightmare about his marriage to Anya is really telling of how hard it must be for him because of how much he loves Buffy).
I think this is a big part of why a relationship with Angel or Spike would be a source of so much less heartache, because at least one of them has an outside shot of doing something, and at least they both have a pretty decent understanding of what it's like to be her. They might have the same reaction as Xander feared to have when she died (and Spike, in fact, seemed to), but it's a failure to act rather than a failure from inability. And on her end, she'd be much more able to trust them, and would be a lot less likely to die trying to save one of them.

(that was largely incoherent and rambly, but the subject of Buffy's inevitable, eventual, looming demise and the ripple wave from her to everyone who loves her has always fascinated me; it's like everyone is prepared to enter a grief state at any time; I really wanted to explore this in a fic idea I had once that never went anywhere, where Buffy has been missing for a day and everyone's asking themselves when they should start worrying and how much, if they should assume she might be dead or not; at the end of the day, when they sit down to eat, none of them can because they're thinking about the place Buffy usually sits and if she'll ever be there again; if The Gift is repeating itself already, especially in light of her disturbing comments in Tabula Rasa)

What point would there be in a relationship except her own comfort?

And I bet she struggles with feelings of selfishness because of the fact that she has forged connections, especially given what the Council advises, what Kendra's life is like, Faith's. She's terrified she'll turn to stone or, worse, lose her name and become simply "The Slayer," but at the same time if she allows people into her heart, she'll only be causing them pain.
I really wonder what it was like for her immediately after her resurrection, that even though everyone had read the Slayer handbook and had known how her particular biography ended from the start, her friends couldn't go on without her. They need her as a friend as much as they need her as a Slayer (since Sunnydale went to hell without her); they won't allow her to pass the baton (twice), as she's meant to.

Stopping now. XD
This response is late because my arm injury was getting worse. It seems to be getting better and I've been told to move the arm more, so.

I'll do my best to remember to link the story! :)

Your writing seems pretty coherent to me. I basically agree - it'd be terribly painful and alienating in some ways, like with her friends. Angel and Spike fit in the same world more, and don't have a choice about it - which is part of the former.

where Buffy has been missing for a day and everyone's asking themselves when they should start worrying and how much, if they should assume she might be dead or not; at the end of the day, when they sit down to eat, none of them can because they're thinking about the place Buffy usually sits and if she'll ever be there again; if The Gift is repeating itself already, especially in light of her disturbing comments in Tabula Rasa)


That sounds like an excellent fic idea.

I can't say anything to your last paragraph except a hearty 'yes.' Buffy having friends has backfired on them all somehow, and they have to deal with the guilt and resentment from that.

Glad you think I'm coherent. XD

Hope your arm feels better!
I honestly don't believe the problem would be her in that situation, necessarily. I think it'd inevitably be the guy. Because I think Riley was right -- there was a distance there he'd never be able to bridge, not ever, because he simply isn't equipped to.

Exactly this. He wanted to be the Buffy to her Riley, so to speak. There was nothing in her behavior that indicated to me that she loved or valued him any less than before. (Regardless of what the writers eventually claimed.) It's not that she wants a little monster in her man, or that she WANTS to be hurt; she wants to be loved for who she is, for all of Buffy, to be understood and accepted.

One of the saddest things about AYW (an ep I loathe) is the fact that Riley's marriage to Sam is basically what Buffy thought she had with him, what she wanted, a partnership of emotional equals who respected one another. Riley is a lot like Angel - there's still a sense of a need for hierarchy in the relationship and adhering to traditional roles. He's fine with Sam, a strong woman, if he can be at least as strong or stronger (or slightly above her in rank. And btw - they would not be allowed to get married and then work side by side in any military organization I know of.)

And I can just imagine how hard it'd be to love someone so deeply who both of you know has a job she can never retire from until it retires her; to worry every time she goes out, knowing you can't help her

That doesn't seem to be Riley's issue though; it has to do all with his sense of inferiority, not fear for Buffy; although in the abstract you have a good point. It's something Buffy is very aware of, and says so overtly in S4 when Riley is badgering her to get into a relationship with him: "I come from a long line of fry cooks who don't live past 25." (*paging Doublemeaat Palace.*) He's the one who shrugs the notion off as immaterial.

during Hell's Bells, when in Xander's nightmare, Buffy died in front of him and even though he lost his back for her, he couldn't do a thing to save her

Yet another moment in the series I do not remember at all (I've not rewatched the ep though); it's an interesting idea in light of Selfless, which is as much about Xander and Buffy as about Xander and Anya.

but it's a failure to act rather than a failure from inability.

Except that Spike fails to stop Doc in The Gift even though he tried. Just as Buffy was stabbed by a fledgling in FFL. And it's easy to forget I think just how often Xander does indeed act, from S1 onward; as Buffy says in Checkpoint, he's logged more field time than the entire WC combined.

and would be a lot less likely to die trying to save one of them.

Except that as we see, the superpowered characters take on risks that ordinary humans can't and are more likely to end up in or put themselves into dangerous situations, not less.

if The Gift is repeating itself already, especially in light of her disturbing comments in Tabula Rasa

Her comments in TR break my heart btw. Just sayin'. I like this idea for your fic VERY much. The problem with S6 for me is that Bargaining emphasized how much of a hole Buffy left in everyone's lives as person and Slayer; the title specifically references one of the "aspects" of grief and it's not until pt 2 that Willow finally says "She's really dead" "Buffy's not coming back". She's never accepted it. So for Buffy to then come back (and in great pain) and everyone to not only ignore her problems but to go on with their own lives without missing a beat (even if their lives are about to go to shit), feels very odd to me. (Whereas Dawn swings back and forth between demanding more attention and taking Buffy for granted.) I think it's a failure of the show's writing in their effort to torture Buffy.

And I bet she struggles with feelings of selfishness

Indeed, and perhaps that's part of what motivates her at times to go in the other direction entirely.












She tried to ignore or get past that, especially in the first few seasons, but yeah, I think she was always aware that being who and what she is would always separate her from everyone

I really think Becoming and Dead Man's Party are essential here. (Didn't Xander tell her that if anything happened to Willow he would kill her? I can't imagine he'd succeed and maybe he wouldn't try to, but it's definitely part of his dark streak, and no joke on his part. that' an astonishing thing to say to someone you are close to.) In addition to the tendencies to close off she's learned from her parents, from the WC's strictures, from Dead Man's Party, that her emotions aren't just "total assets" as she told Kendra. That's part of why she lies in S6 to her friends - the message that she may be attacked by her friends for showing her feelings, for weakness, has been communicated very clearly. (Even though there are plenty of counter-examples, I think for Buffy, as for many people, the traumatic memories are more vivid than the happier ones.)

I think at least Buffy's sense of self blurs when she judges or envies them

Exactly; it's identity whiplash. The markers on which she hung her identity as a normal girl have been mostly stripped away and the emphasis has become "Slayer", "the Chosen ONE (and only)"; Giles emphasized that in WTTH. So suddenly finding out she's not the "one and only" has to be confusing. Then just when she seems to be getting more comfortable with the idea, Kendra is killed; Faith kills the assistant mayor, and it all goes to hell. Plus she's an only child in canon at that point in the series (doesn't play well with others), and we've seen that she used to be a Cordy-esque leader of her own clique, which is part of what helps her fall back comfortably as leader of the SG - and probably part of what helps her take on the role of Slayer in the first place.

and physically stops Buffy hitting Giles

Wait, what? When was this? It's been too long since i did a rewatch, obviously, so I tend to think of Buffy as someone who doesn't take her anger out physically against normal humans but on another superpowered being: Spike of course esp S6; Faith in EP (for a situation that Giles helped engineer.)

I will reply to your other comment tomorrow because it's late and I have class in the morning. :)

He does tell her that. I'm always unnerved when I see it or think about it. She wasn't dealing well and misunderstood a situation - the consequence is that her friends nearly die, and one of them wants to punish her for it. Buffy just accepts that. Buffy thinks her feelings help her, but only when they motivate her to fight better. Vulnerability is dangerous and therefore generally wrong unless expressed 'the right way'.

So suddenly finding out she's not the "one and only" has to be confusing.

Like, she isn't good at being a normal girl anymore, and now she has to think maybe she isn't good enough as a Slayer either. She has actual competition because she died after falling for a trick (that wasn't her fault, but hey). She probably feels she was deemed as hopeless because Giles thought the 'Handbook would be of no use in [her] case'. Kendra was raised how a Slayer was meant to be, gets along with Giles, and is good with books. It must remind her of how unmanageable her mother and other adults think she is. She's not special anymore in both her lives, despite having to sacrifice so much of one because of that previous specialness.

Then she meets Faith after season two's aftermath of guilt from not being able to do her duty sooner and thinking it all came from her lack of thinking and impulsiveness. Her impulsive night with Faith leads to another death, that Faith reacts to in a way directly opposite to hers.

Wait, what? When was this?

It was during a training session in Inca Mummy Girl, early season two. She's not hitting Giles directly, just the pad he's holding. But Xander is watching and wincing, and Buffy and Giles are arguing about whether or not she can go to the dance. Xander gets between them. Then he moves away, Buffy goes for another kick while continuing to ask, and Giles agrees. Buffy doesn't complete the kick.
And what's interesting is when she finds out that Angel is a vamp; it creates so much interesting dissonance.

Indeed, it affects her all the way to the end of the series. She's been trained to see black and white, good and evil; she has to learn to see the shades of grey on her own. Buffy's story is after all a coming of age story.

Of course that would affect her later relationships; souled Angel loved her, soulless Angel didn't. If that (and killing your lover to save the world) isn't enough to do a number on a 17 year old girl...it's amazing she stayed sane at all. Buffy's endurance is astonishing and her psychological and emotional strength is so terribly underrated IMO.

oh, the dreams I have planned

*squees* Your dream sequences are one of my favorite elements of this fic. I've never managed to write one satisfactorily so I admire those who can!

The only BtVS pairing I truly ship is Tillow

Oddly enough I liked the idea of W/T and was charmed by elements of it; it's very well-done as a rounded and realistic relationship to me and the failure to have more such lesbian characters on US tv ten years later is almost disrespectful if that makes sense, and certainly shameful.

But oddly enough, I end up actually liking Willow's lover more on their own than as her partners. I kept waiting to "love" Tara the way i was told she was in fandom, and only in S6 did I fall for her, hard. I love her so much as Buffy's confidant in DT & OAFA, when Buffy needed a friend so desperately.

which is part of what makes her relationship with Faith so interesting

I think you already know that I wish the two of them had gotten more screentime; the more I think about it the more fascinated I am by the two of them. Their dynamic is almost the same as Buffy and Spike's but without the sex *pouts*. Faith becomes Buffy's dark mirror before handing the duty off to Spike in WAY; and given that this is a story about The chosen one, the one girl in all the world, the fact that the other Slayer is sidelined seems - odd. I guess Joss was afraid of "lesbian subtext"? I love that Faith then keeps her promise to Buffy in S7 to lead the girls, that Giles plays the two of them against each other that season after LMPTM (suddenly Faith is the obedient Slayer looking to Giles' approval and guidance); once again I wish Faith hadn't been shoehorned into the season so late.

but I wonder how confused their feelings about her are. That she's basically a trained killer, but also a friend, but also a hero.

And that helps them distance themselves or fail to see when she is falling apart - in Dead Man's Party, in S6 and S7. She's "superhuman" and therefore "other" and not quite human, in much the same way vampires and demons are. And there is a RL tendency to overestimate what "strong independent women" can endure, one that women have encouraged because we've been trained to say "Oh I don't need help, I'm fine." We're supposed to be martyrs and carry the load. I remember my mother saying, during her divorce, that people's reaction to her was "Oh she'll do just fine" because she gave off that vibe on one level, and because it's also easier to write someone off and not be bothered to think of them in that way or put oneself out to help. So I identify Buffy with my mom a bit in that way.

I think it's also connected, oddly enough, to the notion that "strong women (or men, actually) can't be raped".
I'm glad you like my dream sequences! They're addicting to write. Some of my favorite fiction pieces have been surreal scenes born from fever dreams/knocks to the head/nightmares (though a bad dream sequence...ugh, very little is worse to read; I hope everytime I write one I'm not writing one that's bad).

I kept waiting to "love" Tara the way i was told she was in fandom, and only in S6 did I fall for her, hard.

Same. It was Dead Things that was the moment Tara entered the ranks of all time favorite characters ever. When Buffy fell apart in her lap, my heart broke into like a million, jagged pieces. I still remember when that episode ended and I just sat there close to tears, wondering how I had never appreciated that Tara is one of the most wonderful characters in the world. I had already loved her, but that was when I really loved her.
And, I mean, Willow and Tara are so, so sweet together. It's not a flawless relationship (clearly), but...they're so lovely together. And I totally felt like Dawn in early Seeing Red about them getting back together. That was truly one of the few moments where Dawn and I were the same person...

I think Faith's story ended up getting less screentime just because of the fact that it's only a forty-four minute show. She got a lot of screentime in s3, though not so much with Buffy, but it's true I feel like she should've had more. Then again, what would've been cut to let her in? I always feel like BtVS should've had another twenty or thirty or a thousand minutes extra per episode to incorporate everything... but then, that's part of why I wanted to start this fic series, so I could add on those extra thousand minutes. Faith will get a lot of screentime in my canon. XD

And there is a RL tendency to overestimate what "strong independent women" can endure

That's honestly one of my favorite things to explore in writing, is that tendency for strong women to hide everything even when it's glaringly obvious how not okay they are (and how successful they can often be). It was my favorite thing about Buffy, about Jordan, about Beckett (Castle), about Scully (and the list goes on). Like if they just tattoo'd "I'm fine" on their foreheads, it would make it so or, if not, people would just stop asking them...
(my basic litmus test for a character I'll probably like is one who says "I'm fine" while clearly drowning)
I'm glad you like my dream sequences! They're addicting to write.

I guess you've inspired me - again - I just wrote a lengthy dream sequence and some of it may be on the nose but I don't mind. The surprise - to me - is that the character who has it might not be the person I thought had it when I was started it.

Part of the reason DT is one of my favorite episodes is that the entire thing has something of the quality of a fever dream - Buffy's time shift experience in the woods also reminds me a little bit of when I have a seizure - punctuated by some of the sharpest, most brutal sequences in the entire series. Buffy's actual dream in the ep is actually a little clunky to me by comparison, and I'm not sure it's even necessary. In a way it reminds me of the "bad" dream sequences in fanfic, which are bad partly because they are used so often as a crutch to convey a character's state of mind that could be communicated in other ways. I don't think anything in the DT dream is telling me anything that I haven't sussed out already from the text.

It was Dead Things that was the moment Tara entered the ranks of all time favorite characters ever. When Buffy fell apart in her lap, my heart broke into like a million, jagged pieces.

YES. When we got internet via cable in this new apartment the other day the first thing I watched on Netflix? Dead Things from the sequence with the crypt door on. I needed to see that again, I needed to see Buffy break down and Tara comfort her again. It's just so, so powerful, and it demonstrates with barely a word the notion of "forgiveness is an act of compassion".

I've noted in the past that there's a parallel btwn the girls - both involved in abusive relationships, albeit with very different dynamics - but it didn't occur to me until the other day another reason why Tara is the perfect person for Buffy to turn to: Tara also believed for a long time that she was a demon, until it was disproven in Family. The fact that I didn't see that before? *slaps forehead*

And I totally felt like Dawn in early Seeing Red about them getting back together.

I LOVED Dawn in that moment. I think that scene did a nice job of getting across a point that the series had already implied: that Dawn was of a "younger generation" who were more blase re: sexual orientation than Buffy and her friends had been just a couple of years earlier. My sisters is eight years younger than I am but that was true among her and her friends as well. Just a few years made a huge difference. I was out by then, but so were some of her friends. whereas I don't remember anyone in my high school being gay/lesbian and out, myself included.

Then again, what would've been cut to let her in?

Bangel.

Faith will get a lot of screentime in my canon.

YES PLEASE. BTW, did I mention how much I love the scene on the back porch in EP when Buffy tells Faith not to be afraid to lead the girls, and Faith does her best to follow through despite her own misgivings? That she's the one who tells the SG to check up on Buffy? Blackfrancine once wrote that she felt that both Buffy and Faith express love in terms of "service" (activity, which is coded as a masculine form of expression vs verbal I love you's), and I see that going on here in S7. Faith is going to keep her (unspoken) promise to Buffy. And the scene where they talk in Joyce's bedroom "And that's you, every day" - oh don't even. I want so much more of that interaction. And the fact that it's in Joyce's room, who was kind to Faith in S3, the bedroom of "mother" where Tara lived and died, where Faith had Joyce confined in TYG and Buffy first confined Spike in NLM, etc. Joyce/Mater is all over the late seasons even when she's not there. And Buffy and Faith become the mothers of the new Slayers? I could die.
she doesn't want to be alone but she would choose to isolate herself more if it would protect anyone better.

And it's been drummed into her by the WC via Giles and Merrick that she HAS to lie about her identity. I wondered when I first watched the series a year ago why she agreed to that when she was so rebellious in other ways and insistent on following her own drummer when it came to Giles and "tradition" (this is the way men and women have behaved for centuries). But I think that Buffy would have already had that tendency even without being chosen as a consequence of her parents dysfunctional behavior. Both Joyce and Hank hide information, withdraw, or deny what's in front of them throughout the series; and in a family situation like that, the children become used to lying and hiding both at home and to their friends at school to make their lives seem happier and more normal to others; to protect themselves from their parents' anger or to protect their parents. It's a very telling moment in "Ted" (an extremely underrated ep IMO) that Buffy seems on the verge of telling her mom but Joyce cuts her off. The gap that already existed is only made worse by Buffy's calling, it wasn't created by it. Bonedry's fic taps into that quite a bit.

They do seem close fast.

Almost too fast, and there's a lot of unexamined motivations: Buffy doesn't want to be isolated (she used to be a social butterfly, after all, and would have joined Cordelia's crowd if Cordy hadn't demonstrated her meanness early on); Willow wants to be noticed and appreciated (Xander loves her but constantly overlooks her), Xander is attracted to Buffy. And so forth. Plus they all come from dysfunctional family situations to varying degrees, none of them really have healthy role models for relationships, and as I said with Buffy, Willow and Xander are also accustomed from family patterns to deny, hide, lie, surpress feelings or let them burst out inappropriately, etc. Once I began looking at the SG and Buffy in terms of dysfunctional family dynamics, the series made a great deal more sense to me.

Agree completely that Buffy is very smart and not the brawn - it always bothers me a bit when she's treated this way in fandom and on the show.

As I said upthread to bonedry, it KILLS me watching Buffy's self-confidence corrode over the course of the series. People talk a lot about WIllow's "increasing self-confidence" but not so much about how that comes at the expense of Buffy's. They're back on more level footing with one another in the beginning of S7, which is why they can reconnect IMO.

But seeing fandom go along with the opinion that Buffy "isn't that smart" "isn't that creative" - WTF? Are we watching the same show, even?

they both enter into this relationship in large part from an eagerness born out of desperation. (Which is part of why I ship it

I don't see that take stated very often (I like this very much btw!) but then I don't hang around B/A shippers. You could be describing B/S S6; all of Buffy's relationships are part of a continuum IMO, and shipping factions have much more in common that we generally acknowledge.



I apologize for taking so long! Other things were unexpectedly tiring.

She does question the secrecy (in Passion), but she's much more willing to follow authority on this than other matters. You're right; it seems like it's nothing new to her.

Almost too fast, and there's a lot of unexamined motivations

All of that. Tied into this now that you put it that way: all of Buffy's relationships are part of a continuum IMO. The friendships are a search for solace - which is what the 'found family' concept is about.

People talk a lot about WIllow's "increasing self-confidence" but not so much about how that comes at the expense of Buffy's.

I hadn't thought about that. I had thought entering the world of the Slayer brought on Buffy's decreasing confidence and an increase in Willow's, but didn't make the connection between them. It makes sense because they were coming from different social positions, but there are moments where at least from Willow's POV, it's like a competition. Willow complaining about being limited to sidekick in Dopplegangaland and Fear Itself, her boast about getting to be the Slayer when she went on her rampage.

But yes, I think Buffy beginning to rebuild her confidence at the end of season six and Willow facing that she had real trouble with her willingness to use power helped them understand each other a bit.

Are we watching the same show, even?


Fandom is more or less the same everywhere, I think - characters get reduced to one or two things. (Ships as well.) What those are may depend on the subfandom, but.

Anyway, how else can they prop up their preferred character?/sarcasm

Re: I apologize for taking so long! Other things were unexpectedly tiring.

The friendships are a search for solace - which is what the 'found family' concept is about.

Exactly. The icon I'm using has a phrase kikimay shared from Thor/Loki fandom "not in blood but in bond" but I say, in blood alone but in bond. the committment to one another - Dawn doesn't really become Buffy's sister until Buffy makes a full decison to consciously accept her as such even after she knows the truth of Dawn's origins; and so to with Tara. this was a concept important to the LGBT community when I was coming out in the 1990's, family is who you chose to love, because so many forces were claiming that our families weren't legitimate because we couldn't marry legally; but then made sure the laws forbid us from doing so. But then again the show consciously drew on aspects of gay culture from the very beginning, ie Buffy as someone "in the closet" to her mom.

That's part of the reason it hurts so much when Giles leaves; he is leaving the family. It's being broken yet again, and he doesn't really know how to return to it because he stopped "watching" in more ways that one (somehow not noticing or ignoring the dangers of Willow's power growing with no supervision, when he's well aware of what can happen.) I've already rec'd molly_may's Giles meta to Bonedry, which is my favorite Giles meta and covers this ground better than I can: http://molly-may.livejournal.com/151594.html

but there are moments where at least from Willow's POV, it's like a competition.

Right, as with Faith and Buffy they're competing for position, for the limited "rewards" doled out by the patriarcy, in this case the title of "Slayer". And I'm sure Willow feels resentment towards buffy re: not saying thank you for bringing her back or even the fact that Willow made the choice to stay in Sunnydale when she could have gone to any college in the world. But of course that was Willow's choice to do so; it's not unlike her to blame others or whitewash her actions.

Anyway, how else can they prop up their preferred character?

Oh exactly. Those are the moments when I just back away quietly.