First of all I'm aware that what I'm writing here has been said a million times before, more eloquently, or intelligently or coherently by other writers/fans; and I suspect explored thoroughly in depth in academic papers. I also realize that I am breaking my own self-imposed rule - AGAIN - to not write about subjects that have been "done to death". What's missing here, I realize, is a theoretical foundation - philosophical, psychological, literary or political - to guide me and add the missing depth and context. But here I am anyway, so....Building upon what I said yesterday about Buffy's words in
[More about Buffy Summers, her men, and her tender heart...]In earlier seasons she wanted to be a "normal girl" and tried to reject Slayerhood in Prophecy Girl and "Anne", but reclaims it both times, and even bemoans the loss of Slayer powers in "Helpless". She disliked, and even hated, the responsibilites being a Slayer imposed upon her, but she still saw it as something she "did" moreso than something she "was"; a job she had to and chose to do. But she didn't hate herself, whatever self-doubts or insecurities she had, so far as I can see.
S5 is the season where her self-hatred comes to the surface for the first time, I think. Everyone talks about how Angel and her father wounded her heart, and this is true, but there's the cumulative effect of her father + Angel + Parker + Riley. The break-up with Riley seems to break Buffy in a way I hadn't seen before. S1-3 she fears and then decides that her dad doesn't love her; S3, she discovers that Angel doesn't love her enough to stay (however sensible his reasons are; and let's not forget her having to kill him). By S4 she's decided the problem is with her being attracted to the wrong sort of guy and has taken the problem mostly on herself; but she still talks about wanting to find a "nice, normal" guy, and doesn't view herself as unlovable or unable to love. Then the "nice, normal guy" turns out to be neither, at least by early S5, and she goes in a single episode from telling him during the break-up scene that it's his problem he can't feel what she gives him emotionally, to believing it's her fault for being closed-off (thanks, Xander) and running after him.
Intervention is the episode where she tells Giles that she's afraid she's losing the ability to love, when in fact we see evidence of her love for her friends, her mother and her sister all over the place. She accepts Riley's viewpoint as her own, confusing the ability to say the word "love" with the act or state of loving, and views herself as incomplete, as somehow fundamentally broken, foreshadowing S6's "I came back wrong".
She cannot understand or believe the First Slayer's message that she is "full of love" - and the First Slayer is the matriarch of the Slayer line, Buffy's spiritual and metaphorical "foremother"; what was imposed upon the First Slayer is now a part of Buffy's DNA, so to speak, in her blood and her breath. That is certainly a negative progression, IMO, from "He doesn't love me" to "I am unable to love".
All of this has occured by the time she goes to Spike in Fool For Love in her quest to understand better what being a Slayer really means, which is the classic hero's quest for self-knowlege. In this regard, Eve is the foremother of this quest in Western literature, although she was painted as the cause of "Man's downfall" for centuries. S4 reflects this bias against Eve (unintentionally, I suspect) by naming the Big Bad "Adam", who seeks to understand his identity. Adam in this regard foreshadow's Buffy's quest in S5; and the presence of the First Slayer partially if not entirely allieviates the mistake of giving the First Mother's (Eve's) search for meaning and truth to the First Father (Adam).
Jump ahead to S6, Buffy's self-hatred and self-doubt are the subject, the object (rather than the context) of the entire season; again, she takes the actions of someone else (the resurrection spell) and heaps the punishment onto herself because she cannot be open with her friends or call them out on their responsibility for her return. But the seeds of self-doubt, planted in earlier seasons, having taken root by Fool For Love, to be seen in full flower by in Dead Things (to continue the hackneyed flower metaphor); unable to recognize or accept Spike's lov or is darkness foreshadows her rejection of herself, of her light and her dark in her growing inability or refusal to recognize "the Girl" and "the Slayer" as two components of the whole person, of "Buffy". Which is why she still needs someone else - Spike, Faith, even Warren at times - to be that Shadow-self, to be the "Other" ("not-Buffy"), aside from the other functions they serve as characters on the show.
Speaking personally for a moment and going back a bit, her acceptance of Riley's opinion is one of the most painful things for me to watch in the entire series. (My intellectual response to the series was preceded by my inital emotional response while I was watching it, so one always informs the other.) I see it now as one of those plot points that the writers felt they had to insert to both 1) get rid of Riley, both because of his lack of popularity with fans, and to isolate Buffy so she could focus on saving Dawn (see my previous post); and 2) kickstart the arc of Buffy's psychological development: her literal "quest for self", as well as the metaphorical Hero's descent to Hell", her Christ-like death and resurrection. But it's abrupt, awkwardly-handled, and indulges in a bit too much "Buffy-blaming" IMO.
There are other points throughout the series where emotional shifts or key events are handled awkwardly or abruptly, and seem to exist as quick ways of moving the plot from A to B, as well as create a moment of high drama that may be received emotionally by the viewer, but not in the ways M.E. intended, so that the viewer ends up feeling uncomfortable, manipulated, angry, or has to disregard said point altogether to lessen the cognitive dissonance. Xander leaving Anya at the alter in Hell's Bell's comes to mind, as does the AR or Tara's death (shocking moments inserted for the sake of moving the plot); Spike beating Wood, leaving him bloodied in LMPTM goes as far in it's depiction of graphic violence, or rather it's aftermath, as the black eye and scars Spike receives at Buffy's hands in DT but is remarked on far less often, if at all; but it's another moment that I find extemely uncomfortable. The Riley/Buffy break-up scene, Xander's speech afterwards, and her shift from "his behavior is Riley's problem" to "it's all my fault", and watching her chase after him, is nearly as uncomfortable for me on an emotional level as watching Buffy beg and scream in the dreaded AR.