And yet, I find that is a really popular opinion, and it begs the question, why that is?
Because I just don’t see the fly in the ointment logic, at least not in the sense by which people are trying to sell it to me.
Sure, I have had my fair share of “SHUT UP BUFFY” moments (*coughs* Angel Season 01 “Sanctuary” *coughs*), but I think that most of us could use a nice resounding STFU when we are behaving badly every now and again by our friends. But usually, this whole “Buffy is whiny” nonsense comes with a whole mess of evidence that would get Batman a hug and another comic book spin off. (What? Your parents were gunned down in an alley? I bet that really hurt and gave you a lot of emotional stuff to work through!)(But NOOOO! Buffy! You can’t be upset about YOUR MOM DYING!) (Or YOU DYING!)
During our recent Summer of Buffy re watch, we got to round-about Season Five, where people tend to start thinking that Buffy “just isn’t growing as a person” or that she “isn’t written well anymore”. I hear that is where the writing took a crap (I beg to differ), and that it must be because Joss was just stretched too thin with too many shows on his plate (once again, differ). I’ve also heard that it was because he let too many chicks to too much of the writing, but it didn’t seem to be any more than usual. In fact, any changes that were made seemed to be things I found favorable. We had the introduction of Glory, my favorite Big Bad of the series. We had Season 2 of Angel working hard, spinning into the deep dark recesses of Angel’s history with Darla. We saw the introduction of Jane Espenson to the mix. Production-wise, life was great! (Except that it was ALL MARTI’S FAULT!)
Buffy has been doing the dance for five years. She has been taking the strides and getting about as many kicks as she has given in the game of Life as thanks for carrying on her Duty as Chosen One. She got nice big death traps for her 16th and 18th birthdays, when most girls her age and demographic were going through regular milestones like tampons and Prom dates. She carried the lives of most of her graduating class through to adulthood and was thanked with a nifty toy surprise.
She was tricked and bossed around by a Watchers’ Council out of touch with the job she stuck her neck out for every day and yet whom expected her to continue putting herself and her family at risk to continue doing.
In Buffy’s world, life was starting to come apart at the seams. Buffy finds that she suddenly has an adolescent sister, and as added fun, that sister is a mystical key given to her to care for. That key is coveted and hunted by a timeless and greatly worshiped goddess hell-bent on using it to open a portal to a world that will suck this one into oblivion, killing her unknowing sister in the process.
Buffy’s mother also becomes ill, getting incredible headaches, and it turns out she has a brain tumor. Buffy moves home to care for her and her sister. Suddenly, she is thrown into the adult situation of answering medical questions, and insurance questions and making sure that Dawn is fed and tucked in. And also not scared that their mother is dying. Like the adult that she isn’t sure she is ready to be.
And then their mother does die.
Suddenly Buffy is the mother-figure. And the Slayer. And still protecting Dawn because the world just doesn’t stop trying to find your kid sister who is a mystical key just because you are grieving the loss of your mother while carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Even her dad is in Spain with his secretary.
So who do you turn to if you are Buffy?
Your Watcher? Who just opened his magic shop?
Your boyfriend, who has become an emotional black hole after losing his superpowers? He can’t deal with your brick wall of needing to be strong for everyone else, so he becomes a risk addict, seeing out blood-sucking vampires for fun while you are mopping up your mother’s vomit. He never got over his jealousy of your vampy ex-boyfriend, so since he can’t use his words and talk about he feels, he has to be sucked on or give ultimatums. It’s now, or deep-undercover military ops.
Your friends, who are also caught up in worry about your mother, and helping you take care of your sister so you can care for your mom? Nice Guy Xander who is there to tell Buffy what she wants and badger her about every bad decision she has ever made (…you’re about to let him go because you don’t like ultimatums…)?
It seems to me, that if we had someone, say Spiderman, Batman, Wolverine…who started going through the same thing, they would have legitimate pain. Their need to always be on top of things, their need to stay strong is admirable, and when they crumble under the agony of emotional pain… well it is understood as the regular pain of being a misunderstood superhero.
But this girl?
She literally gives her life to protect the people she loves (twice); she trades hers for Dawn’s. Her friends pull her back from the dead, from a place where she was at peace after all the fighting.
But she’s whiny.
Being alive hurts her, and her friends give her shit about it, wanting her to bounce right back to happy-go-lucky life. A life where she has to take up the fight again instead of letting someone else do it. A life where the crushing world of responsibility comes crashing down on her again.
But she’s whiny.
She has to back-burner college and get a crappy minimum-wage job to take care of her sister and home, while Dawn rebels by shop-lifting, and all the while everyone is watching her as if she is going to break.
But she’s whiny.
She is shamed for seeking solace in a less-than-savory relationship with Spike, despite the fact that it seems to give her what she wants. It gives her comfort, and then it is used against her as if it should be a means to discredit her.
But she is whiny.
I find it telling the way that we are willing to hold Buffy to a different standard. She is a different sort of superhero than we are used to. She is young, and a woman, and was the longest superhero of her kind on the telly. But it just doesn’t seem that we are willing to give her the human space of emotion to hurt the way we do some of our other superheroes.
Why is that?