Chosen One - purple

More thoughts about "Anne": Buffy's depression arc (2/?)

Note to self: Try rewatch an episode before writing meta about it.  Because I rewatched "Anne" this morning, and it's even better than I remembered.  In fact, I can say that it and "Bargaining" are my favorite season openers (Note to everyone else: I cannot get the lj cut tag to work, in either rich text or html, even after much effort.  So I apologize for this all showing up on the Friends page. I assume you still love me anyway, gentle reader.) ETA: All fixed now, yay!
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I mentione yesterday hat "Anne" is an encapsulation of S6's theme of Buffy's depression in a single episode. Watching it again this morning, for the first time since I finished the series, I realized that it's an encapsulation of pretty much the entire seven seasons, (And it captures pretty much everything that makes it my favorite TV show ever: humor and drama in perfect balance, wonderful character work, and a kick-ass fight scene.

[Buffy may be catatonic, but I've got a LOT to say about that...]First off, there's a lot going on in this episode, such as economic class issues, personified later in the season by Faith; and Xander and Cordy's difficult relationship, characterized by avoidance, dislike, insults and sex that masks genuine affection (shades of Buffy and Spike, anyone?) I'll talk about those in other meta posts, but for this one I want to focus on Buffy's depression arc as reflected in "Anne" and portrayed over the entire series. We tend to think of S6 (and late S5) as the "depression arc" but the show has been very careful to build that aspect of Buffy's character from the beginning of S2.

The opening scene with the Scoobies (Xander, Willow, Oz) trying to fight vampires in Buffy's absence, and botching it up (although I think they need to cut themselves some slack - half the vamps dusted is better than none, right?) will be repeated in "Bargaining": "We need Buffy".  And their reaction to her return in the next episode, Dead Man's Party, will be called back in After Life: Taking her presence for granted once she returns, failing to ask her what's going on in her head, what she's been through, or what she might really need.

The reversal here of course is that in "Anne" she descends to a "Hell" from which she fights her way out; in the Gift she "ascends" to Heaven, only to be torn from it in "Bargaining" without her consent

"Anne":
(Buffy) "This isn't hell."
(Ken) "What is Hell?  The total absence of hope."

After Life:
"Where ever I was, I think I was happy....I was finished. Complete....I think I was in Heaven. And now I'm not. I was torn out of there, pulled out by my friends....Everything here is hard, and bright, and violen. Everything I feel, everything I touch - this is hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that, knowing what I've lost. They [the Scoobies] can never know.  Never."

Buffy's monologue in AL, poignant as it may be (all praise to SMG's delivery), is summed in the single shot in "Anne" at the top of this post: despair, depression, PTSD, the sense of having lost everything: family, friends, lover, childhood innocence; exiling herself to an urban setting (L.A.) that is "hard...and violent." Even the reference to her friends' actions in Bargaining, and "They can never know [where I've been, what I've gone through]" is relevant to Becoming/Anne: Buffy never mentions Xander's lie  ("Willow said 'Kick his ass' ") and her perception that her friends abandoned her until S7's "Selfless".

The dark, fiery setting of the underground factory is a place she returns to both physically and emotionally throughout the series.
She descends to that hell, the utter absence of hope in S5: TWOTW and The Gift; most of S6 up to Normal Again; EP and Touched in S7, finally vanquishing it physically and emotionally in Chosen.

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In each instance Buffy must fight to break through her depressive state by renewing connections to her Slayer instincts and to her friends and family on her own terms. The personal (Buffy) becomes the political (the Slayer). In both "The Gift" and "Chosen" her solutions to saving the world are also motivated by a desire to protect loved ones (Dawn in The Gift) or banishing her own fears (of dying alone, in "Chosen".) It's not coincidental that in most instances, with the exception of "Touched", this is facilitated primarily by other women, especially friends and family: Lily and Joyce in "Anne", Willow in TWOTW, Dawn in "Grave", Joyce again in "Normal Again". One of BtVS's strength is that it continually affirms and values relationships between women in a way that was (and is) still relatively uncommon in US movies and tv shows. (See gabrielleabelle's meta "Women, Connecting".)

"Touched" twists the pattern around a bit: Spike, arguably the most "androgynous" of the male characters (he and Buffy have shifted male/female role expectations fluidly, if not easily, throughout their relationship) reestablishes the emotional connection that allows her to break through and reclaim her identity and purpose. That can be interpreted positively: the male and female halves of Buffy (as well as Spike), the anima and animus, joined together in strength rather than weakness; or negatively: women will ultimately betray one another, and a woman's most important connections are with men. I'm not wanting to engage in a "Spuffy-centric" conversation here, btw; I'm just trying to parse out the writers' intended and unintended messages in the gender twist to the pattern.

Buffy then reconnects with Willow and Faith ("Good thing we're such hot chicks" / "Takes the edge off") to create the Slayer spell and connect through and with them with all the Potentials all over the world. That the spell has a some very unpleasant implications - violation of personal agency, the creation of a master race, etc - is something that has been thoroughly discussed and I'm going to put aside in-depth consideration of it for the moment - again, I'm trying to look at it only in the context of Buffy's depression arc. In "Anne" both the positive and negative implications of the Slayer spell are foreshadowed in Buffy's command to a scared and reluctant Lily (a sort of proto-Potential, if you will) that she lead the other workers out of the factory: "You can handle this - because I say so". She acts as "General Buffy", commanding the troops, delegating tasks, and empowering another girl, or more precisely giving permission (via a verbal kick in the ass) to claim her own power; but she has also makes an assumption about the other girl's ability or willingness to do the task out of immediate practical need without prior proof that Lily can step up to the plate, and is proven only by happenstance.  (What if Lily hadn't pushed Ken off the scaffold?)

That her depressive episodes reoccur over the run of the series (and I am purposefully excluding the comics as I do not consider them head-canon, at least) indicate that simply "getting over herself" is not sufficient to solve her underlying issues.  The show's attitude towards professional therapeutic help ("Beauty and the Beasts", and "Normal Again") is a bit of a mixed bag, and I want to on more in-depth on the subject in another meta.  Suffice it to say, Buffy never receives real help, except of the bootstrap variety; no therapy - or rest - for the Slayer.
Love your metas. <3
I think that the show gives a very realistic portrayal of depression. It's believable watching all the seasons and it's believable associated with Buffy. She develops gradually this illness, like it happens in real life, and she has this great tension to give up. Giving up for Buffy means death (She is the Slayer, she needs to fight to survive) and she has this tendency all along (When she kissed Angel she wanted to die)
I often think about her last goodbye with Angel, in S3. She just stands there, she doesn't fight. So, it's very IC for Buffy.
So much yes. I watched the scene I chose above - Buffy on the bed in that tiny LA apartment, with an open soup can in her hands, unable to summon the will or energy to feed herself - self-care is one of the first things to go in depression - and it hit me very hard because I know that feeling intimately. It's all the more amazing in that according to Joss, Sarah had never experienced depression and had a hard time understanding the utter lack of focus that accompanies it; and yet hers is one of the best portrayals of the illness I've ever seen. (And ironically, it's a subject she returned to in Veronika Decides to Die, and The Grunge 2.)

I read a fan comment on the ATV Club that SMG "Doesn't do glum well." Huh? Honestly, she had me fooled, and I know from "glum." I was also watching Beauty and the Beasts (s.04), the first time we see her seeking a therapist's or counselor's help because Angel has returned; that one scene, in which she is panicked, distraught and terrified deserves it's own meta analysis.

and she has this great tension to give up. Giving up for Buffy means death
If anything I'd argue that she tries not to give up and keeps fighting until it's too hard to bear anymore; being the Slayer - and having Slayer strength - doesn't translate into emotional strength, but it's a load she has to bear on her own. And it's that tendency to keep going beyond her own breaking point that causes so much trouble, esp in S7.

A lot is made of the "Slayer's death wish" but I don't entirely buy it. Being out of a difficult and painful situation, wanting relief, wanting to simply rest, is not the same as wanting to die. She may be "suicidal" in The Gift (although the only other option is to sacrifice her own sister, and that is NOT in Buffy's nature; and anyway I think there's more too it), and in OMWF, but for the most part I think the "death wish" is overstated. Struggling with depression myself I can tell you that "life" is the strongest force there is; our body and mind struggle to stay alive and choose it over death. If this were not the case, then suicides would be legion.

And of course she has no recourse to therapy, which would have been a boon to her.

I often think about her last goodbye with Angel, in S3. She just stands there, she doesn't fight.

Interesting, I hadn't thought about it in that light.
I have the most biggest crush for Sarah and, like you, I'm impressed by her ability to portray depressed women. She's just so realistic, she's incredibly perfect.
About the death wish thingy I agree with you, but I want to express myself better: if living as Slayer means an endless fight, the secret wish would be to cease to fight, to find peace. Giving up on battling everytime and find some space to rest. Except that this, for a Slayer, means death because a Slayer must be always prepared (Kendra!).
I think that Buffy can embrace fighting and resting only in Season Seven, when she understand how it's done living, basically.
I have also experience with this kind of unpleasant stuff and I can tell that, for me, the hardest thing is trying to be a balanced person, knowing when I need to fight with all my energy and knowing when I need to rest and have faith in the people beside me. It's really the hardest thing and maybe I'm projecting my issues on Buffy, but I feel that she also find it very hard.
I have a crush on Sarah too (hey, I'm a lesbian - allowed, right? And she is just freaking ADORABLE, and fierce) and I enjoy her forthright qualities, her willingness to speak her mind and not be "nice" in the way girls are supposed to be (hence the "bitch" label); on the other hand I watched her on a recent late night show and saw that she has a fiercely competitive streak. I wouldn't want to be in her sights but I'm glad she exists, if that makes sense? Sharon Stone said "A vagina and a point of view are a dangerous combination" and I think that fits Sarah nicely.


if living as Slayer means an endless fight, the secret wish would be to cease to fight, to find peace. Giving up on battling everytime and find some space to rest. Except that this, for a Slayer, means death because a Slayer must be always prepared (Kendra!).

I understand what you mean now. (Kendra is an excellent point. And the only "rest" Faith got was in a coma - caused by Buffy. ouch.)

I think that Buffy can embrace fighting and resting only in Season Seven, when she understand how it's done living, basically.

I dare say that it's own journey entirely, and one she's just beginning. I think Giles had it wrong when he said in Tabula Rasa "Your mother taught you everything you need to know about life" (what parent ever can?) but that's just Giles being Giles, hiding emotional connections beneath logic and reason because he can't manage the deeper connections. He can be her Watcher but not her father when she needs him to be in S6.

That's why the Slayer Spell is supposed to free her (and Faith) of course.

It's really the hardest thing and maybe I'm projecting my issues on Buffy, but I feel that she also find it very hard.

Very much so. The hardest thing in this world IS to live in it, even without the Slayer burdens.

I have a crush on Sarah too (hey, I'm a lesbian - allowed, right? And she is just freaking ADORABLE, and fierce) and I enjoy her forthright qualities, her willingness to speak her mind and not be "nice" in the way girls are supposed to be (hence the "bitch" label); on the other hand I watched her on a recent late night show and saw that she has a fiercely competitive streak. I wouldn't want to be in her sights but I'm glad she exists, if that makes sense? Sharon Stone said "A vagina and a point of view are a dangerous combination" and I think that fits Sarah nicely.

I'm gonna be incredibly shallow now because oh my gosh, she's freaking hot! She's fucking beautiful and I want to kiss her so bad! >O<
I really have the most biggest crush on the woman, it's fine. I just wish she'll found another tv show to see her some more.

Yes, she's just at the beginning. (As I am! :D) I wish the comics had done a more decent job especially because of that.





I forgot to add brutti_ma_buoni's "Rulesverse" which is quite elaborate (in a good way) and covers the post-series establishment of the Slayers Council but focuses on Giles/Faith as the main 'ship. But it also has fun with organizational constructs, and the story where Giles overhears IIlyria acting as a "guidance counselor" to one of the new Slayers is very funny.
A few others have occurred to me this weekend - but I need to clean up my bookmarks on my computer, put fanfic into it's own folder and then I should be able to find things more easily. I may end up doing a few rec posts - one for fic, one for meta?
<3

Confession - I started dipping into Chapter 3 of The Queen last night (ooh, Willow!) and was enjoying Willow very much so I need to go back to the beginning!
I need feedback for my English. Slaymesoftly is helping me a lot, without her I couldn't do anything.
I hope you enjoy the story. Willow is so cool, she's a goddess!
Buffy's mental health issues are really fascinating, and, as you say, they're there almost from the beginning. So physically strong, so emotionally fragile, our Slayer.

I try to keep track of BtVS "therapy" fics, which run the gamut from ridiculous to sublime, since it's something that IRL would be a MUCH bigger part of the story.

I never really saw Spike's comforting of Buffy in "Touched" as evidence that women will ultimately betray one another, and a woman's most important connections are with men. Partly because it's her entire support network that rejects her in "Empty Places", including Giles and Xander, so I don't see women as being the sole betrayers. Since Buffy does immediately reconnect with her "girls" it doesn't seem like an idea that lasts, anyway. (Sidebar: Dawn's betrayal is the most shocking to me. I think it's the payoff for the "Buffy won't choose you" planted back in CWDP — it's Dawn that doesn't choose Buffy, which is probably what The First wanted all along.) Spike is important to Buffy certainly, but to me it reads more as "your lover/mate/romantic partner is your most important connection". This breaks down somewhat more obviously in "Grave", when it's Xander that saves Willow after the death of her lover almost destroys her.

I know people have trouble with the "violation of personal agency" in the "Chosen" spell, but I think that was very much an unintended consequence. In "Bring On the Night" Giles says:

Potential Slayers. Waiting for one to be called. There were many more like them, all over the world. Now there's only a handful - and they're all on their way to Sunnydale.

To me, this implies that the Scoobies' good faith assumption was that they had ALL the potentials on site, and that those WERE consulted and had given informed consent to the activation spell. They were wrong, of course...but isn't that the way of all good intentions?

I've wandered far from your main points about Buffy's depression, however. And they are good ones.
I try to keep track of BtVS "therapy" fics, which run the gamut from ridiculous to sublime, since it's something that IRL would be a MUCH bigger part of the story.

Do you have any recs? I've come across two or three (and I'm not counting snowpuppies sublime "Fractured" which is AU from the start of S6/Bargaining - what if the spell had gone awry and Buffy really had come back wrong - REALLY wrong? Brilliant story.) beer_good_foamy wrote the first scenes of a script for an imagined new Buffy movie that takes Normal Again rather than the show's Sunnydale as it's setting. There are a handful more - really about 2-4 - that mostly take NA as their starting point (I'll have to search to come up with links), but I don't see it really dealt with a lot outside of that? But I guess a lot of the fanfiction I've ended up reading is really "Spuffy" and thus centered around that ship, whereas I really want to expand the horizons of my reading a bit.

I never really saw Spike's comforting of Buffy in "Touched" as evidence that women will ultimately betray one another, and a woman's most important connections are with men. Partly because it's her entire support network that rejects her in "Empty Places", including Giles and Xander,

That's a really good point, and I'm going to say I have to agree with you, but it didn't occur to me at the time. I still have a slight bit of ambivalence but on the whole I may need to rethink that point (as opposed to going off my initial feelings about it.)

Sidebar: Dawn's betrayal is the most shocking to me. I think it's the payoff for the "Buffy won't choose you" planted back in CWDP — it's Dawn that doesn't choose Buffy, which is probably what The First wanted all along.

There is something particularly shocking about that, given how fiercely protective the two of them are of each other (I get Dawn's complexes - she's been abandoned nearly as often as Buffy -their parents, Tara) but it still stings. (What else does Buffy have to do to prove her love for the girl?) I'm actually reminded of the episode "Him" (which I love - so funny) and how in a way it foreshadows EP but in reverse: thanks to the spell, Buffy undermines and betrays Dawn's (false) "love" for RJ, which again is shocking on some level, even while it's funny, because we know how much Buffy loves Dawn, and have seen what she would do to protect her, including give her own life. And if there's one person on the show whom I would NOT describe as "underhanded" it's Buffy. So that makes her betrayal startling rather than just a joke -because it's so much the opposite of who Buffy is. And EP reverses that, which may be a fanwank but "believe the tale and not the teller".

To me, this implies that the Scoobies' good faith assumption was that they had ALL the potentials on site, and that those WERE consulted and had given informed consent to the activation spell. They were wrong, of course...but isn't that the way of all good intentions?

I can completely accept that - I've had a convo with someone who said it made them uncomfortable because it put Buffy in the position of being a "rapist" (if we follow the analogy of the Shadowmen having a demon "rape" the first Slayer - which was a really poor idea on the part of the writers IMO on a number of levels, but oh well); and I didn't have a good argument for it at the time. Mind if I quote you on this? I don't expect to change minds because feelings run so strong in this regard, but I think you're the first person I've seen express it quite this way. (maybe gabrielleabelle.)

You've read Emmie's (angearia)'s AU version of S8, Thought You Should Know, I assume? I think it handles the unintended consequences MUCH better than *cough*the comics*cough*, which ends up simplifying it down to "Buffy bad!"

And no worries about wandering - I'm all for going down the bunny trails; they lead to interesting places!
Feel free to quote me on the "informed consent" of the empowerment spell.

I think you're on to something with the underhandedness of Buffy in "Him". I've never been thrilled with that episode, though like all episodes it has some choice moments. I've put it down to not enjoying the humor of humiliation, but it could also be taht it is the least in character of all bespelled Buffy incarnations that she would undermine Dawn that way. Even under the BBB love spell, when she fights with Amy over Xander, it's a head-on confrontation.
I've put it down to not enjoying the humor of humiliation, but it could also be taht it is the least in character of all bespelled Buffy incarnations that she would undermine Dawn that way.

That really is an excellent point. There is also at the same time however a certain familiarity,in that beyond the deviousness, she behaves a bit like Buffybot (happy, flirty, mounting Spike) and even a little like S1 Buffy (without the sex.) It seems as though Buffy is only allowed to be "happy" (lighthearted, silly, etc) when she's bespelled.

Re: Buffy and RJ, I remember reading in college a study that female college teachers were MORE likely to be sexually harassed by male students than the other way around, and I wonder if this is true in high school as well (despite some high-profile cases in the media like Pamela Smart.) Which complicates the whole thing - Buffy as an adult is "the harasser" but RJ is responsible for the spell (Buffy has been roofied) and even though it's played for laughs, there's no question of RJ's culpability (and Buffy's lack of) in this - unlike the *cough*spacefrak*cough*.

The other women characters actually do act pretty much like themselves, actually. I'm not sure what to make of that. (On the other hand, the Willow/Anya scene KILLS me. "You'd kill for a chocolate bar!")

I haven't watched BBB except that one first time, and haven't had any desire to revisit it, but good call on Buffy in that one.
Wow, I haven't seen this episode in years and years and to be totally honest, I don't think it made a huge impression on me the first time? But you're making me think I should have a good rewatch.

Of course, I appreciate all your insights into Buffy's depression arc. Reasons why favourite arc possibly ever.
Thank you! Of course, the fact that I have/am/fight against blah blah depression is what makes me understand it better (I don't think I could have if I'd watched it "back in the day");although honestly, I wish I didn't. I wouldn't wish that on anyone - but since it exists, I'm still sort of in awe of the fact that JW, MN & ME chose to go there, and didn't make into something that exists for a few episodes and is "ok all better now". It's a part of the fabric of her personality -and as I mentioned, there's never a possibility (in show) of treatment. Its telling that she makes a visit to a school counselor in a few eps from this (Beauty and the Beasts) but he's already dead while she's spilling her guts about Angel; the only other person she is able to open up to that deeply is Holden in CWDP.

I hadn't seen this ep since I first watched because I'm drawn to the later seasons just as you are and the return of Angel? Bored now (or bored then.) I think I might be able to appreciate it more now?
We tend to think of S6 (and late S5) as the "depression arc" but the show has been very careful to build that aspect of Buffy's character from the beginning of S2.

Great catch. There's definitely shades of it from the very beginning, but yeah, "Anne" is where it's allowed to come to the fore for the first time. That soup scene is just heartbreaking.

The juxtaposition of "Anne" and "After Life" is interesting. Quick thought - depending on your definition of "hope", the Buffyverse heaven doesn't seem to offer that anymore than hell does. It offers escape, not having to think about things you're no longer a part of, but strictly speaking it doesn't offer hope that things might get better - just acceptance.

Lily (a sort of proto-Potential, if you will)

I will, and I will add that the very last episode of Angel
[Spoiler (click to open)]
lets Lily/Anne reappear to specifically take on the (positive side of the) "Buffy" role; training and inspiring others, continuing the war even in the face of overwhelming odds, snarking at anyone who tells her she should just give up already.

BUFFY: I'm Buffy. The Vampire Slayer. And you are...? (...) Anyone who's not having fun here, follow me.

ANNE: I'd get this truck packed before the new stuff gets here. Wanna give me a hand?

(Of course, Anne also ends up basically dedicating her life to the struggle - all we know about her life is that her office has a mattress.)
That soup scene is just heartbreaking.

YES. So much so - and part of the impact for me comes from the fact that I KNOW that feeling, of barely being able to care for oneself because you're so depressed you don't care, you don't deserve to take care of yourself, and can't even summon the energy for the simplest tasks. It's one of the best, most realistic portrayals of depression I think I've seen in TV or movies.

It offers escape, not having to think about things you're no longer a part of, but strictly speaking it doesn't offer hope that things might get better - just acceptance.

I'm not sure that "hope" is the function of "heaven", though, at least as we define it culturally (beyond "gee I hope I get to Heaven when I die?") The Judeo-Christian idea is eternal reward for goodness (which seems to center less around good deeds and more worshipping the right god (although the NT version that Jesus - not to get religious on you, I pretty sure I'm an atheist at the moment - complicated that quite a bit, re: Mary and Martha (actions vs intent or "being"); the post-Christian idea seems to center around the ideal of eternal rest. And I think what people who feel suicidal long for is "rest"; I know in my worst times I have simply wanted to go to sleep and haven't cared about anything beyond that. When I'm at that point, hope isn't even on the menu.

Buffy certainly isn't religious and I don't think "hope" is even in her thoughts in the Gift - she thinks she's going to a Hell dimension - her duty (protect Dawn, fulfill the promise to her mother, save the world), and the desire for "rest" are what motivate her. (Wanting to be out of pain is not the same thing as wanting to die.) If she calls it "heaven" - and she says "I think I was in heaven", and says to Spike in AL that she doesn't know theology, all she knows is that she was happy - she's simply labeling her experience as such because it matches the cultural idea that she's been raised with. Just a people who have near-death experiences describe something that matches the general ideas of the culture and religion they've been raised with.

In some ways, Buffy's experience matches descriptions I've read of "near-death experiences" by people in North America, mostly: the almost blinding but comforting white light, and being drawn to it (as Buffy is in the Gift), then being pulled away with the knowledge that "it's not your time".

Re: Lily/Anne, I'd heard that she comes back in AtS; it sounds from your description that a lot of that final season in some ways is "About" Buffy but "not" Buffy - the effects Buffy has had on others and her legacies rather than her actual presence?
(simply "getting over herself" is not sufficient to solve her underlying issues)

Yes. One of the things I like best about the way Buffy (the character) is written is that her depression is not just a temporary plot device: Buffy has the blues, Buffy pulls up her bootstraps and gets over it.

Instead, it's an integral part of her personality that she has to deal with long-term. And sometimes she doesn't deal with it very well, while sometimes she does. And even though she has a LOT to be depressed about, the dreadful events of her life are not the sole cause of her depression: it's a part of her, and something to be handled along with and simultaneously with the annual apocalypse.

I also like the way Buffy's family: biological, chosen and mystically created, makes her unique among Slayers. Isn't there a moment on AtS where someone points out to Angel that if he stops caring about particular humans he'll lose his reasons for saving humanity in general? We see what would happen to a Buffy divorced from family in The Wish. Even when one is called to general heroism, it's the particular bonds that provide the reasons.

Have you seen Mark Fields' meta? I think of him as the Other Mark - he doesn't seem to be as well-known as MarkWatches. I think you'd enjoy MF.

Looking forward to your next meta!
Yes. One of the things I like best about the way Buffy (the character) is written is that her depression is not just a temporary plot device: Buffy has the blues, Buffy pulls up her bootstraps and gets over it.

It's one of the things I love about the show; I think it's also (aside from Spike) one of the things that divides early-season and late-season lovers? I mentioned upthread that I think it's one of the best portrayals of depression that I ever seen in American TV or movies. But I get why other people don't like it, or why they get impatient with Buffy - although again that seems to be complicated.

And even though she has a LOT to be depressed about, the dreadful events of her life are not the sole cause of her depression: it's a part of her, and something to be handled along with and simultaneously with the annual apocalypse.

The show makes pretty clear that unlike being vamped, being Chosen affects the body but not the mind; it gives physical strength but not the maturity or emotional strength needed to handle the tasks involved. Which is probably a very meta commentary on the maturation process, and how we - often due to societal expectations - are expected as children or teenagers to be more mature than we really are, to turn a certain age and just be able to fly on our own - that there's a magical number (18, 21 etc) and suddenly we're mature enough to handle drinking, voting, marriage, sex, parenthood, jobs, wars on the battlefield, etc.

Slightly OT, I think the scene in Passions, of Buffy in tears while overhearing her parents arguing, implies strongly to me that a tendency towards or possibility of depression is already there. That scene links forward as well to the Buffybot and the "I'm fine" mask of depression mcjulie wrote meta about. The fact that she has little trouble lying to her mom in S1-2, when she pushes back and rebels against Giles on several other fronts, also implies to me that lying is already something she does quite easily as part of the dysfunctional family dynamics she's grown up in. (something I speak to from experience growing up - lying is not jut the fibbing kids do all the time, but a survival tactic within the family).

I also like the way Buffy's family: biological, chosen and mystically created, makes her unique among Slayers.

I disagree somewhat: I know that's what Spike says in FFL, but the scene where the Chinese Slayer mentions her mother in her dying breath - and Spike can't understand what she's saying - made me realize that Spike's pronouncements shouldn't be taken at face value. He can be very perceptive at times, but at others I think he knows less about Buffy and Slayers than he claims to, or presumes knowledge that isn't born out by facts. We don't know anything about Nikki Wood - the idea of her having a son certainly wasn't in anyone's mind when FFL was shot, or else they would have made something of it sooner, but that's the thing - we don't know anything about her, and we have no proof that Spike does, either.

And Kendra was given to a Watcher by her parents at a young age, but that's not terribly uncommon in other cultures or past periods, when or where children may be sent to a monastery, to train with a shaman, to work in an artist's studio to apprentice, etc. In Kendra's case the Watcher becomes her family - as the Scoobies become Buffy's - and if Kendra seems to have been isolated somewhat, I think the point has more to do with her unfamiliarity with US (or post Enlightenment, post Industrial Revoluton) culture, which so highly prizes the "rights of the individual", and people's loyalties were shifted from tribe, clan, church and king to themselves and the nuclear family. In other words, in her own culture, I doubt Kendra would have to maintain the lies that Buffy does in a world that doesn't believe in vampires or magic; that Kendra might even have been a honored or respected part of the community. That I realize is a huge fanwank on my part, and I hope I'm not being racist in my assumptions.

I haven't watched AtS btw beyond a couple of episodes but I don't mind people talking about it, so I can't comment knowledgeably.

(we don't know anything about her, and we have no proof that Spike does, either.)

Those are really good points: I hadn't thought about it that way before. If Xin Rong had family ties (which Spike didn't know about because he couldn't understand her dying words) and Nikki had family ties (which Spike also didn't know about because a) he didn't quite hear Robin's gasp while Spike was fighting Nikki and/or b) the writers hadn't thought of Robin yet), then why did Spike tell Buffy that it's her ties which make her different?

Was it just to mess with Buffy's head? (We know Spike was good at perceiving peoples' weaknesses and using them to manipulate.) Or did Spike really believe what he was saying, and if he did believe it, why did he?

Spike killed two Slayers -- if he'd killed more, he certainly would have bragged about it. We don't know whether he fought more than two. Still, if he'd fought others and escaped with his unlife yet failed to kill them, *and* come away with the theory that human ties hold a Slayer's death wish at bay, wouldn't that imply that Spike saw the other Slayers living with close ties, didn't see the same with Xin Rong or Nikki, and concluded those ties gave the other Slayers extra resilience?

It's a puzzle.

I love puzzles. *G*
It's a puzzle.

Very much so. We wouldn't still be talking about the show ten years later - it's the holes and the ambiguities that make it possible! (I couldn't figure out why people have been writing and talking about a tv show for 10 years - that there are academic studies devoted to it - until I watched the series this year. Now I only wonder why it took me so long to find it.)

or b) the writers hadn't thought of Robin yet)

I'm positive they hadn't thought of Robin yet - there is no one else on that subway car as far as we can see (if they had thought up Robin we would have seen him, or been introduced to the adult version on the show much earlier, I think,perhaps in S5).

Speaking of - I've not lived in New York but have visited several times and taken the subway at all hours and have NEVER seen a car that wasn't packed. Definite creative license in that scene!

Was it just to mess with Buffy's head? (We know Spike was good at perceiving peoples' weaknesses and using them to manipulate.) Or did Spike really believe what he was saying, and if he did believe it, why did he?

I honestly think a little of both; Spike's motivations are always very complicated. He's skilled enough of an observer of human nature, in many instances (Beginnings, Something Blue, Tough Love, The Yoke Factor, etc) to the point that I think he gets a little cocky and overestimates his ability in that regard.

But the "mess with Buffy's head" factor can't be ignored IMO. Suddenly the Slayer who has pretty much looked down on him, the one he is attracted to (because he can't kill her, so that urge has been sublimated - beyond whatever genuine attraction exists), is coming to him for advice. the tables have been turned and now he's in control of the situation - or so he thinks. (Of course Buffy pushes him away.) being master manipulator, as well as a showman and drama queen, he's going to take the opportunity to both show off, crow about his accomplishments AND get under her skin.

He does the same thing - try to get under her skin in order to get closer to her, to take control of the situation - in Smashed, with "You Came Back Wrong", and Dead Things "You belong in the dark with me"; both times she's the one who turns the tables and wrests control of the situation back from him.

Spike's biggest "error" perhaps is thinking he can somehow "control" Buffy - which is part of what contributes to the tragedy of SR (not to get into that too much here, oy vey), and even to the soul-quest: this action will result in this response. Both he and Buffy learn how to "let go" in S7 (or how to take/share control appropriately), but it takes them an entire season.

(Spike's biggest "error" perhaps is thinking he can somehow "control" Buffy)

I think a big error Spike makes (not sure it's the biggest) is in trying to persuade Buffy that she belongs with him because she is a Wrong Thing like he is, instead of asking himself whether he might somehow belong with her, by becoming more like she is (a champion).

I can see why he would make that mistake. For one thing, Spike wouldn't ever, ever want to imitate Angel, and as far as he could see, Angel had the vampire/champion turf staked out. For another, while William saw himself as a Good person he was bullied and derided, then for the next 100 years Spike's self-esteem had been built around being evil.

Even after all the changes he made: helping the Scoobies, becoming Dawn's protector, it wasn't until the externally-imposed "goodness" of the chip was removed (at least in Buffy's case) that Spike regained the full freedom of good vs evil, chose to hurt Buffy, and then was forced to confront the consequences of his choice... at which point he was ready to contemplate the drastic voluntary surgery of regaining his soul.

(Now I only wonder why it took me so long to find it.)

I know why it took me so long... the title. Buffy the Vampire Slayer?? It sounded like the most awful fluff.

It wasn't until all my friends started squeeing about this movie called Serenity that I investigated... and discovered Firefly... and wished so badly there was more... and realized the guy who made Firefly was the guy who created BtVS... and finally, reluctantly, tried it. I'm so glad I did.
Oh SO MUCH WORD to all your thoughts here regarding Spike's motivations and personality. My thinking has been running along those same lines, except I hadn't given much if any thought to his motivations re: Angel. (I know that AtS is where their relationship is really explored much more fully, whereas it's almost incidental in S2, or at least in service of the story.)

Ironically Spike sets himself up to eventually become a (possible) champion by striking a deal with Buffy in Bargaining, but the primary motivations there are self-preservation, keeping Dru alive (from Buffy) and keeping her as his possession (away from Angel); and simply to be contrary; the metaphorical rebellious teenager/twenty-something who will does the opposite of what his sire wants just for the pleasure of pissing him off

it wasn't until the externally-imposed "goodness" of the chip was removed (at least in Buffy's case) that Spike regained the full freedom of good vs evil, chose to hurt Buffy, and then was forced to confront the consequences of his choice... at which point he was ready to contemplate the drastic voluntary surgery of regaining his soul.

VERY MUCH in agreement here. I think this is pretty objectively a fact in-story (this is what the story is telling us, or told me) but I know this seems to be one of the most contested points of the show. Or rather, I've come across several fans who are more interested in the idea of Spike's soulless redemption, which is expressed a great deal in fanfic.

But I've also had another fan/writer who told me she agreed with me on this issue, but told me privately because she was afraid to do so openly. (She pointed me a fic by JamesMFan in which Spike says to Buffy "thank you for not loving me until I deserved it", http://spikeluver.com/SpuffyRealm/viewstory.php?sid=19153
although I'd also argue that she does "love" or rather feel something deeper than lust in S6.) The notion of soulless redemption never occurred to me and really doesn't interest me. Or rather, any interest I have in Spike's soul is primarily connected to it's effect on Buffy, and how their arcs run in parallel. Soulless redemption seems incomplete to me for exactly the reasons you describe.

I know why it took me so long... the title. Buffy the Vampire Slayer?? It sounded like the most awful fluff.

Yeah, that's probably it. (Although I remember the uproar about Tara's death and them being the first lesbian couple on TV - and it's depressing that they are STILL the exception rather than the rule even today - in the media back in the day which should have interested me at least a little? I didn't have TV then, and only had Netflix in the last couple of years.)

(she agreed with me on this issue, but told me privately because she was afraid to do so openly)

I can certainly understand fans being skittish to discuss the subject, especially those who were in the fandom while the show was airing. I can imagine what the furor was like. And if you'd rather move this sub-thread to email, please let me know. Your journal, your rules.

(The notion of soulless redemption never occurred to me and really doesn't interest me.)

I'm interested in both.

The way we're presented with the concept of soul in the Buffyverse, it seems to be mostly an organ of guilt. It's the soul which lets humans feel guilty for their misdeeds, and since vampires have their souls removed, they're sort of spiritually disabled, lacking one of their senses.

But there are a lot of reasons to choose not to do evil (or, actively choose to do good) besides guilt. We can want to avoid the consequences of bad actions, want good people to praise us, want to please someone we care about, want someone to owe us, want to make the world a different place. All of those reasons are available to Spike even before he gets his soul back.

So I love AU's like Rahirah's Barbverse where Spike struggles with whether and how he can be good without a soul. And I also enjoy more canon-compliant stories with souled Spike, where he struggles with his guilt and regrets.

I think souls are more than just the thing that lets us feel guilty, but I do agree with one thing I believe Joss shows through Angel's and Spike's stories: guilty self-loathing makes a rotten moral compass.
I'd say that I certainly respect rahirah's take on it, and she's a terrific writer, (I really like all her metas and adore her satirical writing) but on this issue I agree more with elisi's take, the way she's parsed out what the soul means in the Buffyverse in her opinion: http://elisi.dreamwidth.org/359595.html

I don't want to be afraid to talk about the subject openly (although in fact there's a lot about Buffy and Spike I'm afraid to talk about openly); but I'm not interested in getting into a war about it, either. I think both opinions are equally true and valid because each is saying "this is what interests me", and canon is so loose in that regard. In any case, it's not a "thing" for me so much. Perhaps someday it will be, but I'm very Buffy-centric, and there's a lot of other ground to cover.

guilty self-loathing makes a rotten moral compass.

100% agreement - and we see that in Buffy, Willow and Xander as well. And even Giles - although he's a character who never quite integrates his Shadow Self, or dare the journey that Buffy, Willow, Faith and Spike take. Ergo the disconnect (on a metaphorical level) with Buffy in S7.
(More thinky-thoughts)

FYI I was actually thinking of our convo this morning - and ended up writing two pages of ideas for meta-stuff (thank you!) and I have more ideas about Spike's motivation in FFL but I think I'll save them for the meta on Buffy's dopplegangers because the ideas will fit beautifully there, but I hadn't put the two together until we starting chatting. Namely - does Spike on some level think that by putting the idea out there, planting the seed of the Slayer's death wish, in Buffy's head, he's hoping that on some level she will embrace death - embrace death, and he'll have an opportunity to turn her, knowing that she would never become his lover otherwise? (I know, not logical - but it connects to "You belong in the dark with me.")



Edited at 2012-11-26 08:45 pm (UTC)
Was it just to mess with Buffy's head?

Hi jumping in late but I had thoughts!

I think Spike genuinely believes Buffy's different. The reason why is because she becomes a person to him in ways the other Slayers never do. She's a subject where all the other Slayers are reduced to objects. They're Slayers to him, she's Buffy and the Slayer.

And that's the crux of Buffy's narrative. She reclaims her individuality despite the two roles threatening to swallow her up in an empty archetype -- the blonde bubblegum cheerleader and the weapon that is the Slayer. She fills both these roles with her humanity, she defeats the flatness of what these narratives would reduce her into becoming. And it's interesting to consider how her resistance is also made possible by how the narratives fight each other -- and within that conflict, she finds herself. The dissonance helps her break free.
(pt 2 - my thoughts could not be contained in one reply!)


We see what would happen to a Buffy divorced from family in The Wish. Even when one is called to general heroism, it's the particular bonds that provide the reasons.

This I certainly do agree with. A lot of fans interpret WishBuffy as what would happen if Buffy lost all ties and became Faith, but she's still recognizably "Buffy". Her snark towards Giles is only slightly different from the "real" Buffy's (esp in S1); and I love the shot where she sniffs at Giles' whisky (scotch?) decanter but doesn't drink any (LIfe Serial is a great ironic mirror of that bit). If it had been Faith she'd have downed the stuff and probably stolen it along with another bottle. So even WishBuffy is not a drinker.

The real irony is that Buffy "becomes" WishBuffy in many ways in S7 when she attempts to become General Buffy. Even in the Wishverse, what is altered is not the personality but the circumstances and the "performance" of Self.

Regarding Mark Fields: I saw his meta commentary as "Sophist" in the AV Club (Noel Murray watched Buffy and Angel for the first time and reviewed each episode.) Mark's analysis was incredibly layered and dense (I'd probably appreciate it more now that I've finished the series) but I really haven't dug into the meta on his own blog, so thank you for the reminder.

Noel Murray's AV Club blog is here btw: http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/tvshow/buffy-angel,45/
I'm surprised he's not more well known. at least in the corners of the fandom sandbox I play around in.

As far as the other Mark (MarkWatches) - I watched his review of OMWF (really just a video of him watching the episode), and read one or two columns and decided, not for me, thanks. But I had already read through Noel's analysis and found it more interesting, even if I often disagreed.

Looking forward to your next meta!

Thanks muchly! I'm surprised and honored by responses and convos I've been getting, esp this early on. I'm trying to decide if I should do the next "Anne" meta, or alternate with the next "Doppleganger" meta. What would you prefer? (Oh, and there's the Joyce metas and the "him" meta swirling in my head, and all the stuff I fill my notebooks with, but I want to get these two "series" finished first.)
:-D If it were me I'd follow them along in tree order, so as not to miss any of the branches I wanted to explore. And then I'd probably lose my way anyway.
Tree order? Like, follow the Anne meta with the next one? (So I've now already screwed up as I should have just finished the doppleganger metas at once.)

Loosing my way in fandom meta and fics is part of the pleasure here - but damn do I know how to waste time (and like you say, not be able to find my way back to the site I originally started with. BtVS fandom is a BITCH for someone with ADD and too much time on their hands!)
So, all of my thoughts have been well and truly covered by all the really eloquent minds up thread - damn that's some good analysis, but I just want to say YES.

I think Buffy's depression is only really taken note of during the issue-ridden arc in S6, but we're told constantly that Buffy has a problem. "Anne" is just one example.

And the thing is, it's a very honest way of doing things. Depression never really leaves, it takes respite, it can seem to disappear from time to time, but unless you get help it'll keep snapping at your toes until you let it swallow you. And it'll do it, again and again.

Plus, SMG portrays the desolation so well, whether it's the broken loneliness (my God can that woman cry), the hardened warrior, the self-hatred (WAY, as Faith, springs to mind).

I think I have a soft-spot for Anne, because I felt much the same when I got ill, around Buffy's age, and all but had to drop out of school. I spent so much time at home, away from everything I knew (and everyone), I felt myself sink further and further into a kind of shell and just kind of hoped I could disappear. I was waiting for the world to forget me and leave me alone to wallow. For someone with chronic, constant pain, I don't think I'd ever felt so numb.

So I relate to Buffy in "Anne" more than I think I have anyone else, fictional or otherwise. Then, in S6, I completely understand her using Spike to feel something, anything. Because I think depression is that destructive. That's a lie, I KNOW it's that destructive, and it made me do things I can barely understand, or conceive of now, just to break through the fog of nothingness.

A wonderful meta - what do you mean you wish you'd done it better? This is pretty succinct and well-informed, well written. It's pretty great as is, Honey!