exactly that

When She Was Bad

When Buffy Season 1 ended with “Prophecy Girl” we saw a lot of things happen.

The Hellmouth actually opened, for the first of what will be many times (I really hope that isn’t too much of a spoiler for many of you), Cordelia drove her car through the school, and Buffy faced The Master and died. For a minute or two (Hey! It’s TV!).

Also through the miracle of TV, Xander (who can never do what he is told, ever, and it always works out to a convenient plot device) and Angel showed up just in time to revive her and send her on her way to be the prettiest Not Zombie ever (that was The Guy’s thing, OK).

So when Season 2 picks up and Buffy is returning from a summer with her dad we have a whole new Slayer who comes back as a whole new, shall we say, snarkier Buffy with a better haircut.

So here’s the part where Joss is gonna get some shit from me: Buffy is so incredibly obviously dealing with Some Issues. She is having flashbacks while training. She is having some really shit-tastic nighmares where Giles tries to choke her to death while her best friends watch, Giles actually being The Master in a Giles mask. To me the most disturbing part of the dream is that Buffy dreams that her friends are asking how she is doing… something that isn’t happening in real life, and that in a way she dreams that Giles allowed her to die, which I think she might actually believe…

So she is lashing out at her friends. Full scale snark at Xander and Willow and Giles. She mocks Willow —  something she dropped Cordelia faster than Kid drops food under the table on a clean floor for doing. She pulls Xander out onto the dance floor at The Bronze and proceeds to do what was henceforth known as her “sexydance” that made both Angel and Willow jealous. In fact, if you mention Season 2 Ep. 1 “When She Was Bad” to some vaguely familiar with Buffy, the first thing they remember is “sexydance”. She romps about with a new personae that manages to get Cordelia to pull her aside and ask if she was running for “Bitch of the Year”.

If Cordelia is up in your shit about your “Joan Collins ‘tude”, then it is time for a deep inward assessment.

But what no one did was try to actually talk to Buffy, which is what bothered me about the writing of this episode.

See, Buffy died, and I am pretty sure that upset her a bit. I know it might peeve me a bit, if I was 16 and had to deal with that. That might have been something she had to work through a bit, the way she felt about dying. So, instead of anyone talking to her about how that felt, Joss wrote everyone doing the logical thing and talking about her. Instead, it kind of felt like her friends just … got annoyed with her and didn’t try to understand what she was dealing with. Sure, Buffy was behaving in all the wrong ways, but her friends weren’t exactly the pillars of strength she needed to get through her situation, either. But, of course we will see that this becomes a theme.

The only person who tries to reach out to her is Angel, the one person most closely associated with the thing that has caused all of this pain, and the one person most likely to elicit the most harsh reaction from Buffy. She brushes him off, is harsh with him, even though we see peeks of her emotionally reaching out to him at the same time (cue heart wrenching music to imply the Cosmically Forbidden Relationship)… Angel is the personification of all that went wrong with her life. The Slaying, the Vampires, and ultimately death. He couldn’t even save her life before or after her death…

The harsh reality of the weight of her responsibility, the painful truth that even her life is fragile hangs on her weary shoulders even as life doesn’t stop to allow her to mourn her own death. Buffy is obviously angry, hurting, and possibly confused about her future. We see this theme again throughout the series, as she has to decide if she should bother planning a future in her life: career, love, even just graduating or getting through tomorrow. The fragility of her role in the world crashed into her path of vision, and she had to face that in the 60 seconds of clinical death (and later with the appearance of another Chosen One).

This stings close to home for people who deal with real life depression, over loss in their lives, or any of the other reasons that mental illness comes crashing down or tries to suffocate us. Often, the people around us give up trying to support us, and withdraw, leaving us to lash out or sometimes give up.

Perhaps Joss didn’t fail as much as I first said.

Perhaps, in Buffy, he has attempted to personify the utter helplessness and angst that people in a deep depression sometimes feel. Perhaps, he has done a perfect job of showing what it feels like to not be able to yell out exactly what is going on inside, how it feels to have suffered what you have suffered because no one really can truly empathize, no one can truly feel your pain

Perhaps.

If only defeating your demons was as simple as smashing a set of bones with a giant mallet.

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Comments on: "When She Was Bad" (6)

  1. “Perhaps, in Buffy, he has attempted to personify the utter helplessness and angst that people in a deep depression sometimes feel. Perhaps, he has done a perfect job of showing what it feels like to not be able to yell out exactly what is going on inside, how it feels to have suffered what you have suffered because no one really can truly empathize, no one can truly feel your pain…”

    I think this is what he was going for. Not sure how far you’ve seen into Buffy (can’t recall if you said this marathon is a rewatch or initial watching) but I’ll say that this really shows starting at the end of season 4 though to the start of season 6. I’ve been planning on doing something like this with Angel when I got the time. Just marathon it and blog about it.

    • Oh, this is definitely a re-watch for us. I got into a discussion on my tumblr w/ someone about how Buffy was or wasn’t whiny in S6 (my vote is no, she is justifiably pissed at the death/resurrection (again)). I feel that the writers showed her despair well, as opposed to writing her lazily. But, of course, I am showing this opinion from the view of someone who has lived this despair of depression, without the death and resurrection, but definitely someone who has had her share of death, dealing w/ her own demons (on a more figurative scale), and who has felt a lot of heavy responsibility and blah blah blah…I really relate to the way they wrote Buffy, and her crappy, non-understanding, turncoat friends (oops, that was a little harsh).

      But that is for later when I get that far.

      You are right, Danny, this is just a bite (HA!) of what is to come in Buffy’s arch of mental well-being.

      FWIW, when S4 Begins I may start weaving in Angel when it relates, because I like to watch them in a time-relevant loop so I can line up the matching events. I am uber nerdy like that.

      • “I feel that the writers showed her despair well, as opposed to writing her lazily.”
        In S6 I certainly go with despair. I mean if you died fighting to save the world and thought your part was finally over just to have your ass drug back to life. Oh and it probably didn’t help that her friends didn’t go check the coffin just in case.

        I mean if you were resurrecting a dear and close friend and the magical object broke wouldn’t you still go to her grave to see, by some hope no matter how slim, if it worked?

        While I can feel similarities with Buffy and the events of that show I feel a much stronger familiarity with Angel. Constantly fighting a battle that will never end but finding something, anything to keep going.

        • Oh, certainly. What a bunch of jerks, to leave the coffin closed and not even check? There was so much wrong there!

          And I never said I didn’t identify w/ Angel. ;) I just haven’t made it that far in my Summer of Buffy blogging yet!

          There is so much packed into these shows that I just have to take it bites at a time.

          • Hope you don’t mind a late reply?*

            Just to point out (remind) that the bunch of jerks was being chased by demons on motorbikes at the time…

            *I came in through a link at Whedonesque and have been browsing your entries.

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