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Giles and the "Wild Woman"
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norwie2010
Giles and the „Wild Woman“

Preface 1: No fic, sorry. These are some meta-y thoughts about Giles, his role on the TV show and his relationship with different women. It is a bit incoherent, jumping from point to point and not restricted to Giles-thoughts. The Master, Wesley, Angel/us, Caleb, Snyder, … all make a short appearance. Oh, and the women, of course: Buffy, Jenny, Faith, Willow





Preface 2: Instead of getting riled up on comics!Buffy, i thought a bit about gender roles in BtVS (the TV show). You know – stuff i love, instead of stuff i despise.



So,to begin with, i state the obvious, just as a remainder. BtVS is a show about women, mostly and how they relate to the world and the overwhelming presence of men in that world – men who rule that world. As i'm sure everybody is aware of, the roles of women in literature are quite a bit more limited than the roles for men – this is especially true for movies and TV shows.

In the beginning, there was man. And then the whore and the virgin. As times went by, a limited scope of other archetypes cropped up, like the femme fatale, the flapper, and then, unfortunately, Maryln Monroe. Now, don't get me wrong – Marylin Monroe is a tragic hero of the real world. Abused, mistreated, cheated on and ultimately destroyed by the surrounding society and work place.

I mention Marylin Monroe since the characters she played exemplify the the break between „the cult of woman“ and the cult of misogyny in pop culture. From sexy to sex bomb. From subject to object. Without the male gaze, Marylin Monroe is nonexistent.  The opposite of her is the „wild woman“, who exists completely without the male gaze – or even male interference or interaction. The „wild woman“ reaches back into time and myth, albeit her male counterpart is more well known, think Enkidu of the Gilgamesh epos, who is untouched by civilization (until he meets Gilgamesh and – consequently – dies). Modern incarnations of the „wild woman“ include „Tank Girl“ (the comics! NOT the movie – blech!), or, in the subject of matter at hand: Faith. Glory.  Willow (fully realized as „Dark Willow“). And, maybe, Buffy. These women (let's exclude Buffy for a moment here) are fully realized without male interference, male guidance or male sexuality.


("Wild Woman with Unicorn", painter unknown, ca. 1500, now Historical Museum Basel, Switzerland)

They are confident, self-reliant, powerful and own their own sexuality. And ultimately brought down by men or their female helpers. Their self-reliance, confidence and power and sexuality is depicted as something to be feared and controlled. To achieve this and lure the audience into conspiracy with the author, the show implements several devices and depicts their strengths in certain ways:

Self-reliance becomes selfish egocentrism, confidence becomes mental illness and psychosis and power becomes a source for and of destruction. Their sexuality becomes a danger to themselves and others.

These are „tricks“ to get the audience to root for the destruction, or at least the taming, of those „wild women“.

Now, when does Norwie start up with Giles? Wasn't this supposed to be about Giles?

So: Giles. Giles role in this play is that of a „tamer“ of the „wild woman“ - sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he doesn't and in the end he is conflicted about his own role in the play, which makes him a very sympathetic character in my book and the reason why i tackle this subject with Giles in mind.
Now, first we have to differentiate between the „tamer“ and the „destroyer“. The „tamer“ became necessary when women got more powerful and self-reliant in pop culture. Think flapper comedies of the 20s.Katherine Hepburn. Oh heck! Go back to good old misogynist Shakespeare: „The Taming of the Shrew“!

Unfortunately for women, there are some of them who are deemed unworthy of taming, and, consequently, have to be destroyed. Think about all the femme fatales of the cinema who end up murdered. Being a woman in pop culture ain't easy folks! Enslaved or murdered, men don't do it otherwise!

There is a whole host of famous destroyers in BtVS:

The Master, Angelus, Caleb. The Master and Angelus cross the border between tamer and destroyer quite fluently, depending on the woman in question and their own outlook on society (The Master tames Darla and tries to destroy Buffy. Angel tames Faith and tries to do the same to Buffy earlier, as well as he tries to destroy Buffy once he becomes fully realized as „Angelus“).

There are also a lot of tamers on the show, who don't cross the border: Snyder, Wesley, Xander. Out of these, only Xander succeeds with Dark Willow – but that scene can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, so i call him an unsuccessful tamer, too (like the other two).

(I left out Spike – not because he doesn't belong here, but because his story is more complicated, since he questions his own role at the end of season 6 and revolutionizes himself to not partake in one of the roles anymore, to become subservient to the female narrative.)

Out of all these male characters, i think Giles is the most interesting, because he IS „The Tamer“ (capital T).

Now, why does the „wild woman“ needs taming? To make her pliant to the male power and world view, to make her a companion to the male ruler, a servant to the male desire. Men, it seems, fear independent women, but suspect that women are individuals, too. Thus the trope of the tamed women is born, and repeated ad nauseam in literature and pop culture. They know that there are „wild women“ out there and turn them into unlikeable villains, or (self-)tamed companions („Valeria“ of Conan the Barbarian fame).

But the free and wild, independent, powerful female is nearly non-existent in pop culture. Whenever such a woman enters a male mind (or play), she has to be the villain or she has to be tamed, to wield to the male desire and power.

This is very apparent in the relationship between Giles and Buffy. Buffy has power, Giles tames her and uses that power for how he sees fit. Buffy is an interesting character in that respect, as it is hinted at that Buffy could be a „wild woman“, too. It is teased in her rebellious streak, but is more „flapper“ than „wild woman“: She is halfway self-tamed by having internalized patriarchal structures. Nonetheless, her narrative is often depicted as the fight against her tamers, destroyers and her internalized self-taming. (Just to pre-empt the happy ending: Buffy runs wild and free at the end of her seven seasons long arc! Yay! Buffy!) Along the road, she meets the temptation of the „wild woman“ in form of Angel, Faith and Spike. Angel is introduced as the temptation, changes into the destroyer and leaves the show as an unsuccessful tamer (but fear not, dear reader: whereas he failed in taming Buffy, he is allowed to succeed with „wild woman Faith“. Poor Faith!). Her adversaries in the form of tamers are Snyder (who obviously fails on a spectacular level), Xander (who equally fails, and becomes content with his failure), Angel (who only succeeds in breaking her heart), Wesley (see: Snyder), The CoW represented by Travers (who is openly rebuked) and, first and last, Giles. And, Giles succeeds for a while, he implants his ideas very successfully into Buffy so that – when confronted with the reality of her inner „wild woman“ represented by Faith, she becomes the destroyer herself, destroying the „wild woman“ in the name of her male superiors. (Tangent: I personally consider Buffy's betrayal of Faith – on the meta level, in-story-wise, there are a lot of „good“ reasons for her to stand against Faith in the end, and please remember what i said about „tricking the audience“ above! - as her gravest misstep on her way to become a self-reliant, independent, powerful woman owning her own sexuality apart from male desire, male guidance, male gaze, male power and male sexuality. Since i'm on a tangent here anyways, i want to reference the blackout scene between Buffy and Spike at the end of season 7: Shrouded from male gaze! Yay!)

So, Giles. What? Of course this is about him! (Just kidding.)

I just love the interaction between „conflicted woman“ Jenny Calendar, and Giles. She is – like Buffy - on the verge of breaking out of her inner tamed status: She tries to escape the patriarchal system of her clan, she is self-reliant, independent, powerful in knowledge (a teacher! Information Technology!) and mystic power (Witchcraft!). While her sexuality is centered around Giles, the tamer – she is the one who initiates the contact, expresses her desire. She is not a fully formed „wild woman“, as she still answers to Enyos and Snyder (as representatives of the patriarchal order) and – sadly - ultimately ends as a typical dead woman in pop culture. But, she is enough of a self-informed person, has enough of a wild streak in her to seriously rattle Giles, as well as being a dangerous opponent to Angelus, who therefore decides to destroy her (a femme fatale, a villain in his eyes). We don't know if Giles would have tried to tame Jenny, as she unfortunately dies before they make any meaningful headway in their relationship in that regard. But i think what we see here is a crack in Giles' armour: Before Jenny, we have seen Giles as the typical tamer, the representative of the patriarchal order, trying (and succeeding) to break up the matriarchal home of Buffy Summers (by excluding her mother from Buffy's life on purpose). Giles is the male stand-in for the male need to control female power, female individuality and self-actualization. Jenny Calendar rattles Rupert Giles – and instead of being revolted, he is intrigued! This woman, who is maybe not everything he stands against, but at least a good chunk of it, gets under his skin. We see that Giles is maybe not entirely comfortable with his role, or at least he is curious, seriously curious about The Other, the female not as a means to his ends, but to understand and form a companionship on a level of equality.

Alas, it is not meant to be. And so Giles stumbles through this play, and his challenges as the tamer. And Buffy is difficult to control, to tame. He hasn't got the time and will and capability to tame the other wild streaks in other women, namely Willow and Faith. He looks away: Someone else should tame these women! He's doing as best as he can in the way patriarchy asks him to do! With Willow, i think he is blind to see that the male narrative asks (him) to tame her, because Willow is a master deceiver. With Faith, he is willfully blind, maybe because he sees her as too far gone to be tamed, but since he isn't a destroyer, nor wants he to be a destroyer, he neglects his male role in the subjugation of women (and thanks for that!).

Once Buffy becomes more self-reliant after high school, he starts to flounder. Was he successful, can he be successful in the taming of the shrew? He thinks he wasn't, and he thinks he cannot control Buffy. But fear not, dear Giles! You were very successful! Buffy totally internalized her own taming. Your work is done here, tamer! But still, Giles doubts (himself). And he tries to change his role: From tamer to tutor, to guide. Of course, these roles are intertwined and we see Giles going back and forth between these roles, unsure of what to do, unwilling to be a tamer again, but also not able to fully embrace his new role without relying on the former role. He was never a tutor before, just a tamer. He doesn't know how to relate to women on a level of equality. On we go to the two seasons, when his inner conflict breaks out fully, when both his best sides, as well as his worst, become fully realized: Season 6 and 7. In season 6, at last he is willing to let Buffy go, to be whatever she wants to be, even a feared „wild woman“, if she desires so. He leaves Buffy to her own devices, he doesn't try to control her anymore. Go! Giles! I knew there was a human being behind that role! Of course, the tragedy here is that Buffy wants a tutor, after her resurrection. And Giles, not knowing how to be a tutor – all he ever was, he has learned to be was  tamer – cannot respond to her call. In the end though, he makes the right call. Since he only knows how to be a tamer, but since he doesn't want to be that anymore, he rather withdraws than staying the oppressor.

For Buffy, this is a cast of fortune. Depressed, desperate and nearly broken she now has the chance to become, to free herself of her chains and run wild! And she tries. Oh how does she try. She goes to the one creature she knows who has no restraints (apart from some tiny clockwork orange problem...). Who seems to be free (Haha! as if!). And Spike is eager to please: He wants Buffy to become a „wild woman“, without (moral) constraints, full of power, confidence and sexuality. Well, he nearly wants that... deep down, of course, he hopes to be able – maybe not to control Buffy – but to steer her, participate in her sexuality, her power. And of course, he is an amoral ass. So, Buffy's first steps onto the road to freedom are difficult. She has her own deep problems, and her chosen companion has a whole set of other deep problems. But, this phase does something wonderful for Buffy: She discovers her inner „wild woman“, something the show describes as „inner darkness“ (and again, gentle reader, i want you to remember what i said about „tricking the audience“ in this play). She becomes Faith and anticipates Dark Willow, so to speak. She's torn between her internalized taming and the things her companion offers. This inner conflict cannot turn out well. Since the show is eager to describe „wild women“ as insane and dangerous, it cannot allow Buffy to break free in this manner. But, Buffy lucks out again: Her companion gets that he is not a fit companion to a „wild woman“ - he is a controlling, needy freak! The miracle that is the diversity of male roles in pop culture strikes again: Spike revolutionizes himself! He transforms himself from destroyer and tamer to supporter. (Well, he goes through that tiny phase of insanity, of course, and needs rescuing on a really grand scale....)

But back to Giles. A shitstorm is brewing, Buffy is trying and there is another „wild woman“ on the loose back in sweet old Sunnyhell: Willow Rosenberg, self-reliant, knowing, owning her sexuality apart from male control and desire, POWERFUL. Willow wants to change the world – and conflicted or not, Giles cannot let this happen! Those women! The world will be destroyed when they try to come into their own! One mustn't allow women independence and power (and just think of  the sexuality – it is unnatural, it is!).

So, The Tamer comes back with a vengeance!  Fortunately – powerful entrances not withstanding – the Tamer actually doesn't succeed fully. While he is able to implant a doubt in the mind of the „wild woman“, he is unable to tame her (that role falls to Xander, of all male characters! Ick!).

And so „wild woman“ Willow is tamed, and brought back into the benevolent hands of patriarchy (or not – but that is a tale for another time).

Where does Giles stand now? Last we've seen him, he tried to give up on his role as the tamer. But now, the narrative asked him to don that mask again. This is rather unfortunate for Giles, since all the progress he made is undone. While he acknowledges that he cannot be the tamer of Buffy anymore, he is further away from being a tutor than ever. And thus comes season 7 and the last act of this play and his role.

Giles tries to be supportive of Buffy, he tells her she is the one who counts, that she has to make her own decisions and shape this world in her image. But, deep down, he cannot trust her: Those women! Better not left to their own devices. He has one last lesson to learn, and he cannot learn this by himself (the history always happens behind the backs of the people involved in it). Buffy, in her generous way, teaches him this last lesson: „No, i think you've taught me everything I need to know“. He either can fall back on his role of tamer, maybe in the more defined role of the manipulator – or he can accept this, Buffy doesn't need a tamer nor a tutor. He chooses the latter, and good for him! Giles ends the play as a human being, instead of a misogynistic jerk.

Buffy is finally free, she has taken the necessary steps to become – a „wild woman“. She has defeated everyone who tried to destroy her and tame her, the destroyers and tamers she thought of as her allies (-> internalized self-taming) have finally reformed and accepted that she is free (and i want to take this moment to remind everyone of Spike, who gave up his own narrative so that Buffy's narrative can continue. The male narrative vanishes, the female narrative stands and goes on. Go! Spike! Err, well. He's not going anywhere, actually).

I have so many more thoughts on the “wild women” of the show, how they are depicted, where the show falls victim to misogynistic clichés in storytelling, where it succeeds in telling a wonderfully different narrative: Faith, Glory, Willow. The best and the worst moments of the show.

But that's for another day.




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OK, excellent!

(The other thing, of course, is that Glory is *exactly* what Buffy fears that she is herself -- and since Buffy has internalized quite a bit of these attitudes, and has to struggle hard to be free of them. Glory, like Angelus, is partly Buffy's image of herself projected outward.)

Ok - i have no time but quick:

When general Voll told Buffy that she was at war with humanity (and he meant the patriarchal part of it) and Buffy answered: „Oh. Kay!“ I cheered! Go Buffy! Take them on! Destroy their silly world! THAT was a true high point of season 8! YOU CAN'T HAVE A REVOLUTION WITH THE VOLUME TURNED DOWN! (And with „volume“ i don't mean rock'n'roll with Oz – i mean the icon. ;-)

I think the question is: is it possible to wage war against The Patriarchal Part of humanity without waging war against the rest of it? How much collateral damage are you willing to create? Etc. (I figure season eight didn't address these questions in a way that you'd find satisfactory. I suppose I'd agree on this point....)

So, you pose the really difficult questions! :)

I was raised and educated with a humanist background (yeah, well - some of it survived the great onslaught of barbarism 70 years ago!) and grapple with this question a lot!

What i've come to believe from studying history is - that at least the so-called western culture isn't able to have a turn over, a revolution without the Cromwells, the Robbespierres and the Stalins. That doesn't make these men(!) "good people", but maybe necessary people. And the humanist in me cries tears of sorrow at the prospect of this. Do we, as humans, have to go through bloodbaths to "become"?

I'm actually ok with season 8 not answering this question. But, i am decidedly not ok with not even raising the question and instead making Buffy's fall/betrayal about sex (well, yeah, you can argue it wasn't about sex. But then why show a whole issue of sex?!).

"We are fanning the flames of a worldwide fire;
we are going to raze churches and prisons to the ground"

("Белая армия, чёрный барон" - "white army, black baron", Pavel Grigor'ev & Samuil Pokrass 1920)

I guess you cannot raze churches and prisons without provoking opposition...

Yeah, I mean, I am not so sure what should be done to improve the world. I distrust revolution and Stalins, but I'm not sure if there is a better way. So, you know.

As far as season eight, it's of course it's own long story. :) I do think the season asked the question (Willow, to Buffy, "What makes us different from the bad guys?" etc.), and as Maggie pointed out very well, there is a callousness toward the fate of non-slayers, even Dawn, that goes beyond fighting the opposition. Buffy overcomes this in Retreat by collecting the opposing forces in the battle, a shining moment of heroism before her less shining moment.

But yeah, I mean, the sex. The sex. I do think it wasn't about "sex," but it was obviously at least partly about sex. Part of the problem with Whedon as a political storyteller is that he always writes both politically and personally. And while it's controversial, I get on a personal level why that story happened -- personal for Buffy. The magic and demons in BtVS (and not *just* the magic and demons -- the humans to, some, like Cordelia or Dawn, more obviously than others, like Willow, the most complete character in the series besides Buffy) often reads to me as Buffy's subconscious projected out onto the entire world, including her fears, desires, self-loathing, etc. So of course her dream is interrupted by her nightmare, because it's -- in season eight more than anywhere else -- all about her, and she nearly creates a universe which is nothing but her and her counterpart.

So in a way, though I've never articulated this before like this, season eight to me reads as a conflict between the 'all about Buffy' and larger political dimensions of BtVS: it's all about Buffy and her suffering and her issues, but it's also about other people, especially other women as well. I can understand not seeing it hat way. The series managed to balance the two elements well...sort of. But -- well....

Willow, Faith, Dawn, Cordelia, Anya, Joyce, Jenny all suffer, in some way or another, from being in Buffy's narrative. (Tara, Kennedy and Veruca primarily suffer from being in Willow's more so than Buffy's.) Not that it's Buffy's fault: much of it -- most of it -- is a result of the men reacting to Buffy, most obviously those hurt by Angel(us). In order to crawl out of Buffy's shadow and express her resentment of Buffy's power -- in order to find the language and expression and identity to not be just a sidekick -- she has to gain absolute power and go evil and repent before rejoining Buffy and be subservient to her for a year. Then she does the Chosen spell and truly becomes a "wild woman" in season eight, for a time. Faith and Cordelia both feel that there is not room in Buffy's town for both of them. Glory is monstrous because she is Buffy's fears about herself manifest.

Is it the case that it is the male narrative that has to be constantly kept at bay that makes it difficult for these women to share space? Certainly that is a big part of the problem. Arguably the majority of it! But ultimately, the show is also about the way narrative shapes and plagues our lives. A woman-centred narrative is a step forward from male-centred narratives, but it is still a protagonist-centred narrative, and this is something that brings with it a host of problems. Whedon is just too interested in those problems to let them go. Maybe he should, and should have written season eight either more (to the exclusion of any notion of 'world-changing') or less (to eliminate it entirely) about the problem of protagonists, the cult of celebrity with Harmony and Buffy, Buffy's psyche splattered for the whole world to see, Ethan Rayne the chaos worshipper pulling back the curtains of her desire while he waits to be shot, Willow's handiwork on Warren standing there, dripping for all to see.

Ah, the petty bourgeoisie - always afraid of turmoil and upheaval. :-P

(Yes, revolutions are frightening prospects - there will always be huge suffering and death. Just - has history ever shown there to be another way? We cannot make up stuff out of thin air, we have to use what we know, what we learned: Being determines consciousness. I don't know a "clean solution", as i wrote above. It gives me huge headaches! Perhaps the next revolution could be headed by women? Perhaps they have an ace in their sleeve us men cannot even think of?)

You formulated that stuff about season 8 wonderfully.

And i guess that at least explains some of my problems with that season: If you invoke the "big names" - you have to play the "big game". You cannot tell the victim of the Shoah: "well, you had to die because my protagonist decided personal happiness and fulfillment was more important than your life - now go on and love my protagonist!". (Or, more correctly: "Because i, the storyteller, decided that that's a more important question and also i wanted to write a farce"...)

If the Jewish resistance fighter gets it on with the dashing SS officer - there is no coming back from that. No matter how good the intentions of the SS officer, no matter if the Jewish resistance fighter was really down and unsure of her role in the world.

If i blend out the "big names", of course the story isn't quite as appalling anymore. If i just see it as a romp in the superhero genre sandbox - then it is just shallow, instead of obscene.

I mean, i predicted way back before the whole "twilight leak" that it would come down to Buffy choosing between "suburban bliss" (twilight paradise) as the "good wife" to the patriarchal hubby and her choosing the world, interacting with the world and living, working and loving in the world (instead of the homely prison of suburbia).

And, it would have worked on me, i'm sure if the story hadn't gone to the deep well, so to speak. Angel offering this without being the figurehead of fascism. Angel offering this without the connotations to fascism. Someone else offering this to Buffy. Buffy way more conflicted or maybe more thoroughly deceived by her hubby. Or without the sex (on panel).

I think the story fell victim to the stuff it wanted to subvert. The storyteller wanted it all: the big political thingy as well as the very personal betrayal of Buffy by choosing the patriarchal role for herself. So, in a way the events of season 8 are true, i suppose: If the woman chooses the patriarchal narrative and role for herself - her sisters suffer and die. She weakens the link and destroys the line.

It just baffles my mind how anyone could think that the protagonist might come back from that once you put "Auschwitz" in there (well, obviously there are still ~30.000 people for whom that's possible. And in a way i admire you, that you are able to see past all that and get enjoyment out of the story. But it pushes all my buttons just so, so hard that i cannot see comics!Buffy as the same interesting narrative and story about stories than TV!Buffy. Issues.)

Excellent point about Cordy, Faith and Buffy. And, to a certain extent, it seems that this becomes true of Willow and Buffy, too (see: Season 9 and Willow leaving the show). I mean, you already said it before, that Willow had to change sides to crawl out of Buffy's shadow. Just, right now in the comics it seems to go one step further. Hm. Interesting. Will have to think about that one more (gah! Now you made me interested in the Willow mini series! You evil genius!).

Bourgeoisie is right!

(I don't know either. I really don't! Change does seem to happen incrementally. But incrementally is a long time. I don't know. I'd like to know if there's another way. I'd like there to be one. Or I'd like there to be a kind of revolution that is not so damaging.)

Yeah. I mean, you know: if I had to change one thing about season eight, it would be not the spacefucking -- I mean, I probably would change that -- but it would be to remove the references to the Shoah. Because you are absolutely right. There is no way to include that in the story and then come back from it. The way I understand it, the way I deal with it is that that was a Mistake: a misjudgment on the author's part that I ignore. I don't even know if I can bring myself to believe that people *actually* died because of Buffy's choice, besides Giles obviously (and Warren). That I can continue to support the story with those glaring problems is probably a matter of cognitive dissonance. Or probably a weakness. I have not made the large-scale mistakes Buffy has, but I understand the *metaphor* of her mistakes on a human scale, and I relate to the human scale easily whereas the Shoah just...is so far away. It shouldn't be: it should be comprehensible that *people did this* (are capable of doing this), that *this was done to people* (have suffered so terribly), but my experience feels narrow and I can't quite grasp it all. I don't think of this as admirable. Probably, ultimately, the American writers and editors and artists in the comics have the same emotional register and sense of scale, and picked an image floating in their minds to say "destruction" without considering that evoking millions of deaths mightn't be appropriate for a story that's meant to operate in several registers at once. For me, it doesn't erase all the rest of the continuing story, which, even though I don't always know why, gives me a weird sense of hope and feels like the confusion of my midtwenties much as the show felt like the confusion of adolescence and early adulthood. But I know it undermines it.


As far as Faith and Cordelia, I think an argument could be made that Cordelia's problem is that she is so used to male narrative that she needs to leave Buffy's narrative and seek a male narrative out, first with Hollywood and then with Angel. But while Buffy did extend an olive branch to Cordelia and take her into her group, she had other things to worry about rather than to help Cordelia find herself -- and Cordelia did manage some years of growth on AtS before Angel's narrative crushed her. And yes absolutely about Willow, and I am glad you are excited about the mini :). Dawn, too, is moving away from Buffy as well, feeling perpetually neglected in Buffy's story. I wonder if the answer is to abolish protagonist centred narrative altogether. Battleship Potemkin at slay central?

But the bourgeoisie is the ruling class in capitalism. And capitalism is fascism (or, to be more precise, fascism is the capitalist's answer to widespread social uprising). So...

I don't think that real change is happening incrementally. But then, i only live for what? maybe 70-80 years - that's not a lot of time compared with changes happening over maybe one thousand years of time. So, yeah. Maybe i'm wrong. The abolishment of slavery needed the second bloodiest period of Europe to come to a head, the bloodiest war the USA ever fought.

The "small steps" of change are reformations within the respective systems (easily taken back if economic or social "need" arises). A bit like Buffy taking a night off of slaying - instead of "Chosen".

I agree with you on the matter of

Probably, ultimately, the American writers and editors and artists in the comics have the same emotional register and sense of scale, and picked an image floating in their minds to say "destruction" without considering that evoking millions of deaths mightn't be appropriate for a story that's meant to operate in several registers at once.

The great thing about the liberal anglo-saxon tradition is that it made Britain, USA, Canada, etc. resistant to fascism, but the other side of the medal is it made them perhaps also insensitive to the true meaning of it.

But it is more than just that: #39 shows so-called empowered women whose faces get melted off. Empowered women as redshirts, torture porn images to get the story forward. And then - silence. While one could argue that what happens under the circumstances of the personal story of Buffy then is that other women, well get melted by the things unfolding - it doesn't read as commentary anymore when it is never mentioned again. A&F is utterly silent about that. In season 9 it is even worse: Slayers dislike Buffy. But Buffy is right in taking them down a notch (#40). Not one word about the victims. Maybe that's to come in the future - but i'm not holding my breath.

Oh, you mention Dawn! Lovely. I really hope that Dawn gets out of the attic "Xander's girlfriend" and the story tackles the things you say above (unfortunately, i'm even less optimistic about that for the reason how Dawn was treated in season 8).

Battleship Potemkin at slay central?

:)

Perhaps i had hoped for that one to happen a little too fervently. The evol storyteller roped me in with the first issues, for sure! ;-)

Also: You write too fast! i have so much to say to all the wonderful things you said in your various posts here - i just don't have the time to answer properly on a short time's notice (it is already 3 in the morning over here and i have to work tomorrow...). So, please be patient and give me some more days to work through your posts properly. :)

For your sake as well as mine, I'll write a bit less this time. :) I struggle with the victims in the story generally. These are minor in comparison to season eight, and are their own can of worms. but I'll start here: I mean, in BtVS. The people Angelus kills are his fault, not Buffy's; the people who die in the Graduation Day Fight are the Mayor's fault, not the gang's; all the partygoers who get killed by Joyce's zombie mask; the Knights of Byzantium are necessary casualties in protecting Dawn, who does not deserve death, even though the Knights, while I do not support them, are still acting (in-story) in something resembling self-defense. And very little word about those deaths. Buffy could have killed Angel in Innocence, and besides Jenny, the story continues. Could the Mayor have been stopped from Ascending had the gang held onto the Box of Gavrok at Willow's expense? How does Buffy live with it? How does *Willow* live with it? That maybe, just maybe, Larry and Harmony died because her friends chose to save her? Does Joyce blame herself for bringing a mask of destruction into her home? Can Willow just give Buffy an enthusiastic hug after all those deaths at Buffy's welcome back party (DMP again)?

They are victims and it is victim-blaming to give them too much responsibility, especially in the Choices case where giving Willow up to certain death to hold onto an uncertain hope that the Mayor can be stopped by keeping his box from him; but still, the story moves on from the question so quickly, and the characters continue living with all the death in a way I can't quite wrap my head around as a...as a literal story. As with vampires, the way the story makes sense is to have fluidity in reading those dead: OK, the people who died at the Dead Man's Party...party are there to symbolize the eruption of buried rage. The knights draw a parallel between Buffy and Glory (both killing them!) and provide a visual metaphor for the onslaught on Dawn, as well as symbolizing the medieval thinking that motivates the obsession with death. Angel's victims are 'real' but his redemption plays in a sense as a man trying to overcome a lifetime of hurting people, not killing them. In-story, we can justify the nonchalance of deaths by appealing to humanity's adaptability to extreme circumstances, and I think that covers a lot, but out-of story I sometimes worry about it. I mean, red shirts are (probably) necessary in this type of story, and (probably) not a bad thing in and of themselves (or at least, I like so many stories that have red shirts!) -- but the question of how to treat them looms large.

So the victims in #39, yes. You're right. And of course there is a big difference between deaths Our Heroes are not responsible for, but had some choices that may have indirectly led them to, and Buffy's betrayal and nonchalance about it in the Last Gleaming arc. As well as between deaths as a matter of course, because there just *are* deaths in the story world, and deaths that are there for shock value only. I think that the idea isn't quite that she's 'right' in taking slayers down a notch in #40, but I see how it reads that way.

I hope that Dawn gets out of the attic of "Xander's girlfriend" as well -- though there is also a non-zero chance that the attic is there for both of the two characters.

OK, not so short! I might actually have to close my e-mail tomorrow so that I can get a bit more work done and give you time to respond. :)

Yes, the victims. I am actually able to gloss over the victims for similar reasons to your own: They are, after all, symbols, just like the vampires and demons. I think it becomes a bit more problematic when dealing with the redemption of a character (and this is one of the reasons why i cannot really bring myself to really care about the character of Angel: he broods. And....?).

On the other hand, this shoving the victims in the attic of "symbols!" does make #39 even harder: the women dying there are supposedly empowered women! But the narrative heeds no call to that - or, worse, shows them as pure victims. Wasn't that one of the premises of BtVS, that the slayer(s) is (are) not a victim?

as well as symbolizing the medieval thinking that motivates the obsession with death.

... and sacrifice! The knights are really wonderful in that: as you say, they are there to parallel both Buffy and Glory in multiple ways: not only are they killed by both, Buffy and Glory, they also take aspects of the two women, acting as mirrors: Onslaught on Dawn (like Glory), martyrdom (like Buffy). Also: Insanity.

Very acute observations on the victims, like always. :)

Another thought: I think the narrative could go on, without being entirely centered around the protagonist. Like "Graduation Day": That episode had both, the dashing hero Buffy, the heartbreak of the personal level for Buffy, as well as a "community-driven" solution to the plot. Or, you know, there could be several "protagonists", especially in a comic, without the restraint of actor contracts, etc: Like "The Chain". Center different issues around different characters, even no-name characters, like "The Chain" (which is widely acclaimed as one of, if not the best issue overall!).

Well, in the end, season 8 is water under the bridge (slightly foul smelling water, but gone nonetheless...).

We'll see if season 9 is salvageable. Off to a bad start, cliché ridden, and without addressing the problematic areas of season 8 (i don't mean the plot of season 8 - i mean the failing in the storytelling choices). I'm sure you'll tell me if it gets better. ;-)

I know what you mean re: redemption. It's perhaps why Selfless almost has to exist in order for Anya to have a real redemption story: for the first time, her victims move from being symbols to actual human beings, and she gets to undo that (though not all the ones who did suffer, even though, to the audience, they remain symbols). I think that while Warren and Rack are vile, they nevertheless feel human, which is why I think Willow's story has a weight to it (though other fans disagree); similarly with Allan Finch and the vulcanologist (though less vile -- well, Allan is an open question: I disagree with Giles' description of him in Angel & Faith, considering that while he was working for the Mayor, he was in the process of trying to go to Buffy to expose him, I think; but it's another topic). The two slayers Spike killed do not feel like symbols, either. But of course, to SOME degree, every character in this story is at least partially a symbol, it's just hard to distinguish them all.

On protagonists: I do think Whedon is fixated on the way people on the sidelines just are hurt by there being a protagonist. Season eight *did* move away from a protagonist-centred narrative in many ways: The Chain, No Future For You, the Predators and Prey arc in which only one issue -- the P&P issue itself -- focused on Buffy, and there it focused on her relationships with two minor characters (Andrew and Simone). Plus the Willow one-shot, the Riley one-shot (though of course the Riley one-shot especially was more about Angel and contrasting B/A with Riley/Sam). But ultimately, the non-Buffy issues were still in some sense 'about' Buffy. NFFY has Faith contrasting Buffy; The Chain comments on what Buffy is when you remove Buffy the character and look only at Buffy the icon, with a different character. I think Swell is primarily about Buffy & Willow, by showing their "castoffs," Satsu & Kennedy. Now, Whedon *could* have done something differently, and indeed he is capable of writing ensemble works: his run on X-Men (while there are problematic elements of course) is very deeply an ensemble work with the 'protagonist' varying depending on the issue. But...I don't know. I think that he felt that Chosen did not sufficiently dismantle the protagonist-centred narrative. And indeed, season eight's story has Buffy and Angel (the two protagonists of the Buffyverse) creating their own universe, and Buffy has to smash the Seed in order to remove it. Aycheb writes about the season in terms of being about celebrity. I see the Seed smashing as being Buffy removing the possibility of protagonists having global power -- which, of course, is not so fun for other people who could be protagonists in and of themselves and possibly use that power for good (like Willow).

Problematizing your own work and undermining it are subtly different things, and I'm not sure if Whedon is prepared for how much his problematizing BtVS undermined it. I don't know. I would let you know if season nine gets better, but of course I like season 8, so... ;) I enjoyed issues #1 and #5 of season 9 quite a bit and have high hopes. But oh well -- we'll see. :)

(apologizing in advance if this post seems nonsensical; also I'm not really wedded to any particular position here, just throwing ideas at the mental dart board)

That Season 8's being All About Buffy is just another way of making her The General, of repeating the curse she was trying to escape of being The One. Partly because she repeats old patterns, but also because suddenly she finds herself running an army and world leaders targeting her and the glory demonizing her.

I see it more as the nightmare not being projected from Buffy, but tailor-made for Buffy because she's identified as the focal point of the opposition. Just like how Twilight tailors the temptation for Angel. If it were Spike or Giles or Buffy, the game would have been played differently, right. And so it goes with Buffy.

The story itself has become antagonistic to her in Season 8. A self-aware sort of antagonism. Where the writer has built a world to reflect her nightmare, I see it more as the antagonistic world itself shaping itself in opposition to Buffy, less a projection in terms of her active ability. Or well, a bit of both. And her gaining the power to rewrite the world in Twilight is her finally winning the upperhand -- and immediately abandoning it. Conscious will to reorient and rewrite the rewrite the world, the literal power, isn't her aim. And the projection is beyond her, too. The world rises up in resistance to her, taking the shape of her ~nightmare -- but if Faith were the General, then the world would've oriented itself specifically to defeat Faith based upon her nightmares.

Sorry, rambling, not really trying to say that you were saying one thing or the other about this. Just trying to explicate my ~feelings on the power of the narrative construction and agency. Like how Willow learns mastery of her inner world, faces the Snake, channels the power, because she's able to fully sink into it. Where as it never seems so much like mastery for Buffy. The only time it comes close is in LWH and that's because Willow joins her in the ~creation of power. Without Willow helping to guard and manage the spiritual, Buffy seems more lost to agency, beaten back from Issue 1 onwards. All victory rendered pyrrhic, the war lost before it began.

Hm. Maybe right! I think it depends on how we read the mythology, though I think both perspectives make sense. In one, the Twilight CHOOSES the Queen and then manifests that way; in another Twilight predates the characters and sort of them comes out through them. If that makes sense. Twilight being the symbol of narrative destruction. So, in #2, Buffy is afraid of the dark because she is the dark. I think really both are true: she is the dark; and the dark focuses everything on her. Hm. Ultimately though I think that you're right, and maybe the key to this as explicit text is in

a) Ethan explicitly choosing bits of her subconscious to show -- it's all part of Buffy, but the storyteller/Twilight is the one that brings it out of her (and dampens other parts);

b) the way Twilight specifically targets Angel, and all his vices -- so that Angel falls in a way that is Angel-specific, but still wouldn't have gotten there without Twi-ntervention.

So I think the season's Big Bad is Twilight -- both the baby universe, and Angel-as-Twilight, who acts as Twilight's agent by...figuring out Buffy's weak points and attacking them.

Either way, the point of the creation of a new world that is nothing but Buffy and Angel's thoughts -- and which later promises to become their worst nightmares: you can't have a (solitary) general. You can't have a One. But people also demand a One; it's why somehow she ends up running an army, why Harmony becomes a worldwide celebrity, why Angel rises to the head of the anti-slayer organization, because (some) people (sometimes) want an idol. Buffy has to smash the Seed which allows Oneness to exist, but in the process she prevents other people from self-actualizing, and so in season nine we have Willow and Simone -- 'good' and 'bad' people -- dealing with the loss of magic.

I'm not so sure Willow learns mastery of her inner world. Or rather, what she does manage is a facsimile of mastery. But she is on her knees before Saga in ToYL, she is freaking out throughout Retreat, she risks the world in Last Gleaming, etc. It's not that I think she is wholly wrong in these, or that it's JUST weakness of character propelling her, but she has used magic to create a new identity, which is great when it allows her to escape lobotomies unscathed, but leaves her maybe further than ever from knowing herself. :( But she tries -- and of course some real progress is made in other respects, even though some of that progress means coming to terms with her distance from Buffy (see: ABH).

Before I forget:

1) in case I wasn't clear, I pretty much agree with you down the line about Giles (especially Giles/Jenny! *swoons*) except for how to read his return at the end of s6.

2) I was thinking about Giles' role with respect to men. It occurs to me that while he's a "tamer" of women, he takes the "tamer/destroyer" role with men: he supplies the library cage which houses wolf!Oz, his house is where Spike stays at first; he, by contrast, argues for the killing of Spike later on, as well as most demons. He kills Ben and he tries to kill the Mayor in the middle of an apparently civilized conversation.

He is, of course, deeply tamed, or so he thinks. In addition to Ripper, we have "Ethan" as the seminal wild man, and he is Giles' alter ego and nemesis. He also "tames" Wesley, Xander and Spike by treating them with regular scorn and derision to keep them under control; he has a small amount of affection for all three, but mostly they disappoint him. He mostly doesn't interact with Oz or Riley. He rebels against Quentin and Snyder but needs Buffy to encourage him to do so; he both seeks Quentin's approval and angrily rejects it. The only men I can actually recall Giles treating as *equals*, or near-equals, are Wood and -- irony of ironies -- Angel.

3. Buffy and Willow both have internalized the madonna/whore dichotomy, Willow especially. ("I'm thinking of staying in. And flossing. And dying a virgin.") As I said earlier, that they have internalized this is why I think their "dark" sides (especially Willow) appear so "evil" before season seven redeems them. Anyway, it's interesting that the men have to an extent as well: okay, not "virgin/whore," but there is the proper, tightly-controlled man who is vacated of passion and sexual -- though not romantic! -- desire (Oz, tweedy!Giles, William, arguably Angel, Wesley); and the wild man whose desires are uncontrollable, overpowering, who breaks out of cages (wolf!Oz, Ripper or Ethan as a Giles contrast, Spike--sometimes, not all, arguably Angelus, Wesley over on AtS). Xander and Riley have less of a sense of "wildness" within them; even as a hyena, Xander was a pack animal, following the pack's social conventions, most of the time.

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