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Posts tagged ‘BtVS’

No Good Deed (Part II)…

Cordelia Chase, as portrayed by Charisma Carpenter, a pale woman with dark brown hair, standing on stairs holding a long, slightly curved sword.Angel seems to be a neverending arch of consequences and well-intended deeds that just can’t go unpunished. Angel is constantly making decisions that seem like the right thing to do at the time but always seems to turn up with another twist later. It’s probably a nice effect of that curse.

In “I Will Remember You” he fights a demon and becomes mortal. Everything seems to be hunky-dory and sex and ice cream until it turns out that he has been taken out of the fight for Good, and that Buffy will spend the rest of her (now shortened) life trying to protect him. He makes a choice (without consulting Buffy) to take the day back and trade in his mortality. The consequence is that Buffy loses that memory while he carries it. In “Hero” Doyle sacrifices himself to save a group of half demons, like himself, and with a final kiss, passes his only valuable possession on to Cordelia — his visions from The Powers That Be. Something he was never supposed to do, or so we are lead to believe. That point is still up for debate.

But have them Cordy does. And destroy her they almost do, but not quite. Doyle’s sneaky little transfer (because it was, in all regards, a violation of Cordelia’s autonomy to have them shoved on her) builds in Cordelia like a ticking time bomb, slowly killing her over time. Yet she holds on, and no one notices. Cordelia, prior to becoming a demon or a higher being, is strong without being supernatural. Eventually she is given a choice, and though we later discover that this choice is really a setup for the mass catastrophe that is going to be Season 4, Cordelia chooses Angel and his mission after seeing how it would destroy anyone else to have them. She chooses the visions that have been killing her, and asks to be made part demon so that she can keep them without them killing her. While this undermines the idea that a woman can be strong without being supernaturally imbued, we get to see Cordy being strong for Angel because she has grown as a person, emotionally, and physically.

The results of that choice, are something that can be discussed ad nauseam, and have been before. Cordy being hijacked is a point of contention with me, and I watch S4 just to get from S3 to S5. See s.e. smith’s posts about Cordelia for further explanation. My favorite character deserved to a better ending than that. And even though I have written about her before, I need to revisit this. I don’t want to go into this at length now.

Angel is forced to free a man, by Wolfram & Hart, in order to save Cordelia, and it turns out that he is pretty much misogyny personified.

Wesley’s choice to betray Angel and steal Connor opened the path for Connor to grow up on Qor’toth, and made him the angry and hurting person that he was. His entire life was a result of manipulation, first by ancient powers to create him, then by Holtz, then by Jasmine. Connor’s anger was the weight on one side of the fulcrum that convinced Angel to take the deal with Wolfram & Hart, eventually resulting in the alteration of everyone’s memories, and prolonging Cordelia’s life, allowing her time to come back to him in the 100th episode, “You’re Welcome”.

Faith, whose choices and consequences deserves a whole post of her own, makes some important choices on Angel that viewers of Buffy alone never really see, and that Buffy really neglects to give her credit for. Faith, with Angel’s help learns to take responsibility for her poorer choices in Sunnydale and is a model prisoner until she is attacked by someone paid to off her by those killing Potentials. When Wesley comes to her because Angelus is loose and the Beast is trying to provoke him into helping he and Cordelia-Goddess-Vessel, she makes the choice to bust out of the Pen and help. She uses a vampire drug to bait Angelus into drinking from her, knowing it could very well kill her, but hoping it will do what must be done. For the first time Faith goes all the way as a Slayer, and winds up as the Guide in Angelus’ dream sequence (or whatever). In the end, she stops Connor from dusting Angel after his soul has been put away, and she is able to return to Sunnydale with Willow for the Big Finish, a redeemable player.

When Fred first touched Jasmine’s blood she saw the Goddess who forced her way into the world for what she really was. Fred couldn’t stop until someone else saw what she saw. She needed Angel to see that their free will was being taken away. In the end, she enabled Team Angel to stop Jasmine from taking over the world by peaceful force. It wasn’t until Lilah showed up to reward them with the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart that she realized that what they had actually done was, indeed, as Lilah had said, traded World Peace for Free Will. That moment revealed in Fred’s character just how much she believed that what they were doing was right, and how much she believed that she was on the good side until she saw the consequence. It was the first time she doubted their mission.

The amulet given to Angel by Wolfram & Hart by Lilah, I believe, was indeed intended for Angel to wear in Sunnydale in the case that he didn’t choose to take their deal. The way that it captured Spike and tethered him to the firm demonstrated that they intended to have Angel one way or another. Angel gave the amulet to Buffy to use as she wished, to allow it to be worn by a champion. Buffy insisted that Angel leave, to be the second defense, just in case. She gave it Spike, who wore it proudly, but who, in doing so, was wrenched into a hell devised by W&H to hold onto the wearer. Instead of redemption it brought more work at the hands of the Senior Partners in their production.

Gunn’s brain modifications give him confidence that he really, IMO, didn’t need. Gunn was more than a hired brute, but the modifications made him feel like he was more than he had ever lived up to being, that he was giving more to the team than in the past. When they went away, he panicked, and allowed himself to be manipulated by the doctor into signing papers to help import his illegal artifacts. One of those was an ancient sarcophagus requisitioned by Knox, unbeknownst to Fred. When it ended up in her department, her innate curiosity got the best of her and Illyria was set loose upon her. Gunn set off a chain of events that allowed Knox to fulfill his plan to bring Illyria back in Fred’s body so he could worship them both together. I honestly believe that he death is what ultimately causes both Wesley and Gunn to be so saddened and able to allow themselves to die, Wesley in “Shall Not Fade Away”, and Gunn later in S8 in the comic, when he is changed to a vampire.

Perhaps another re-watch would reveal more overlapping themes. I actually enjoy catching the moments where the two shows arc into each other. The thought that there is often not a clear-cut Good or Bad choice, that many times what seems like the true path to doing the right thing could result in harm somewhere along the way, even if you never see the end result yourself.

No Good Deed (Part I)…

 

No Good Deed (Part I)…

 

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, a pale woman with blonde hair. She looks on with the beginning of a smile, as if a great weight has been lifted. A pale brunette woman (Eliza Dushku as Faith) is blurred in the background.

Final image from "Chosen", Season 7 and Series Finale

It happens to be that one of the thing that I adore about the shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel is that they have a knack for spinning out the long-lasting effects of the consequences of the actions of their characters. While Buffy certainly gets much credit for, if perhaps at some points too much, and Angel is not exactly drowning in, feminist messages, I think that the theme of visiting upon the importance of understanding that all actions, even actions taken under with the best of intentions, have long abiding consequences is an important one for anyone interested in social justice to understand. These consequences might not always be what we imagined or envisioned when we set out upon our mission, and they may not always be shiny, happy, results.

 

The concept that “No good deed goes unpunished” is certainly not lost on Whedon, or, it seems, any of the many writers who helped to bring these stories into fruition. We start as early as “Prophecy Girl” in S1 of Buffy, where Buffy herself, knowing full well that her prophesied fate was to meet the Master and die, embraced that destiny full on to avoid allowing anyone she had come to care about to have to go in for her. As noble as that was, the end result was an upset in the lineage of Slayers, awakening Kendra, a second Slayer, and changing the flow of the distribution of power. As Faith says at the end of S7, they were never meant to exist together in time, and perhaps that is why the dynamics between Faith and Buffy were always in a constant state of upheaval, even though in the end they were able to pull together and discover that they were able to work as a team after all.

In a similar vein, and following with the theme of “Buffy dies a lot”, bringing Buffy back from the dead in the beginning of S6 certainly had the best of intentions. After knowing one person who went to a hell dimension in a sacrifice to save the world (albeit, unwillingly), it wasn’t a far stretch for Willow to imagine that Buffy was in a similar predicament after her own sacrifice in “The Gift” at the end of S5. In an intended noble gesture, Buffy’s friends fiddle with dark powers they didn’t fully understand, wrenching Buffy back from what we later learn is Paradise where she was at peace. What they accomplish is the creation of a malevolent spirit who must destroy her to remain in the world, and, as we find out, awakening Buffy right where they left her — in her coffin under ground. Buffy as to dig herself out to a loud and harsh world where she thinks she is indeed in a hell dimension. Finally, in S7 we find out that this one act, intended to rescue a warrior from an untimely and unnatural death weakened the Slayer line enough to allow The First to act out and attempt to wipe it from time.

When Buffy and Willow, along with Faith and all the other Potentials decide to awaken all Slayer Potentials in order to give enough power to the Potentials in order to fight The First, they succeed in stopping it from succeeding. The idea is that the power of The Slayer should be shared, not doled out to one girl in each generation simply because a group of men generations ago were too weak to fight and resorted to horribly violating a girl. For a moment I am reminded that the violation of young women by men is about power, and in my mind, the power of a Slayer, in this series is intended, however well it is delivered, is about taking that power back. The speech Buffy gives in “Chosen” still makes me cry each time I watch it, because it has a lot of not-just-television relevance to it. But that act of incredible power, while allowing them to Save The World (again) had the consequence of giving Slayer powers to people who, due to circumstances beyond their control, were not capable of handling them, such as Dana.

Dana, we meet mid-season in S5 of Angel in “Damaged”, a very disturbing episode that I have written about before and should re-visit. She has been heavily abused by a serial killer as a child. This, in addition to the dreams and visions that potential Slayer experience throughout their lives, are presumed to have made her “insane”. When her Slayer potential is awakened by Willow’s spell, power that, arguably, she probably would never have received otherwise, she breaks out of the mental hospital where she is, and is unable to control her powers because of the way her mind is coping with that abuse. This episode is one of the most difficult for me to watch. But all the same, Buffy and Willow probably never envisioned a Slayer who was not ready to handle the powers given to her. I am not sure how I feel about the exploitation of an abused women with a disability to make this point. I strongly feel that Steven S. DeKnight and Drew Goddard could have perhaps found a better way to get this message across than continuing on with the Crazy Brunette meme, or perpetuating more harmful stereotypes about mental illness. But here it is, Dana, and this story of a woman who must now be forcibly sedated for her own good because of what Buffy and Willow did.

Tomorrow I hope to continue this discussion by analyzing instances on Angel where the consequences of their well-intentioned decisions went awry, but feel free to have at it in comments. I may be laggy in approving or responding to individual comments.

 

Liar

Anthony Stewart Head, as Rupert Giles, a pale British man in a suit, holding a syringe in front of his bespectacled face.One episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that perhaps has the hardest tug on the cockles of where my heart used to be, gentle readers, is Season 3’s “Helpless”. Perhaps I am just all maudlin right now, but there is a nice knapsack full of emotions which I think are worth exploring.

One of the most important principles I hold dear is honesty. It is the guiding principle of our home. It is certainly something I expect, though have often found myself not receiving from, my family members. I have fought to always provide it, even though frequently in my younger life the ability to lie convincingly became a survival skill. Funny how the things that help you often hurt you later in life.

Often times I have found myself on the wanting end of withheld information “for my own good”. You know, that tidbit that isn’t slid to you so that you weren’t distracted from exams or to ensure that you wouldn’t come running to the bedside of a sick relative. It is a fairly regular happenstance that someone will slip up and mention when Uncle So-and So was under anesthesia and had an allergic reaction to it casually in conversation when nattering on about something else that keeps me feeling good about being far from home.

I hate having information withheld from me. I hate it more when it is from people I love.

Even worse, are the times I know something is wrong. I can feel it. Everyone I know seems to be on eggshells. Papa seems tired more so than usual and hasn’t picked up The Kid for a hug today. The air crackle with fear as thick as morning fog on Whitefish Bay. Nothing is wrong and the pancakes are burned, but suddenly my grandfather comes home with a report of a heart that has been beating completely backwards in his chest for over seventy years and needs “corrective” surgery. And I didn’t know he had a surgery at all. No one wanted me to worry or distract me from my life. I suppose I should be grateful that none of these things has ever threatened my life directly, but it did threaten my chances of knowing that I might lose people who meant a great deal in forming me into the person I have become today.

Most of all it hurts when the people who lied to you are the people you trusted with the deepest parts of you.

“Helpless” sets us up for another fun year of celebrating Buffy’s natality (here’s a hint: they always turn out exactly as planned and no one ever dies *nod nod*). Buffy is excitedly discussing with anyone who will listen about the ice show her absent father takes her to every year. He must be more absent than I have come to expect, because I don’t remember him taking her to ice shows the last two years. Wev.

Any time she becomes excited about something it seems that Buffy becomes determined to redouble her Slayer Training efforts, and she begins studying the various uses of crystals and gems with their respective properties. Part of what I love about the show is the special relationship between Buffy and Giles, the one that proves that the influence of a father (not that it is necessary) can come from a place not of blood, but of love and intention and devotion. Through his work and commitment, Buffy has come to trust Giles, possibly more than any single person we see her interact with ever, with her life. When her father fails to come through, Buffy even tries to convince him that Ice Shows aren’t as cartoon-y as everyone thins they are, hoping to get him to take the hint. (If someone were free, they’d take their daughter, or student, or their Slayer…)

Over several scenes, we see that Buffy is a little off her game. To put it in Buffy’s terms, her game has left the country. She comes to Giles, scared, asking for help in figuring out why the thing she which she always thought she wanted to happen is now happening. But even she knows that this is something for concern, because Buffy puts her life in harm’s way every day, and her powers have become a lifeline. When Giles tap dances around this, when he skirts the issue, when he seems less concerned than Buffy, who verges on tears whenever she chances her voice to talk about it, we wonder how Giles can be so calm. We know he loves Buffy like his own kin.

Which is why when she is told to meditate upon a specific crystal during her studies, and we see Giles pull out a syringe to inject Buffy with some mysterious fluid while she is entranced in the flaw deep within, it is alarming indeed. Logical conclusions made through TeeVee magic tell us that he is the cause of this mojo that has afflicted Buffy. We, the viewer are let in on the deed that Giles has committed as we watch Buff struggle with what has been not only done to her, but withheld from her as well. Giles has been intentionally aloof, and now we know why.

The scenes at the Sunnydale Arms show us that, once again, our beloved Watchers’ Council is back in the action inflicting archaic testing and rites upon Buffy when they have spent most of her life “watching” from afar. When a slayer reaches her 18th birthday she is to be tested on her abilities without her…um, abilities, and they seem to feel that the best way to do this is to trick her, without giving her any clue what is happening to her. Sending a scared woman into a boarded up house with a supercharged vampire, in this case one who was turned as a patient from a psychiatric facility, and I am sure I don’t need to go into the deep issues packed up in Whedon’s decision to go that route (how it feeds a stereotype of how people with mental illness are all dangerous, how it exotifies mental hospitals and the people in them who are quite possibly and very likely not dangerous at all) so I am not going to, is rather messed up. Giving her any hint of the test before her invalidates it. And it has been done this way for centuries, so it must be the right way, nevermind, you, that it is rare for a slayer to reach her 18th birthday.

But Giles not only knew, he did this to her. And we watched with wide eyes as Buffy’s trust and autonomy were violated.

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, a pale woman in a lavendar shirt and denim ovealls with blonde hair. She is in a dark room with plaster walls, covered in tiny Poloroid photos.Predictably, because this is television, like a good plot voucher, the vampire breaks free and kills one of his attendants, changing the rules up and eventually kidnapping Buffy’s mother, giving Giles the opportunity to slink out from between his rock and hard place. As honorable as it is that Giles finally fessed up to his actions, it was only after the colloquial shit hit the fan that he came clean, inciting Buffy’s ire, breaking her heart (If you touch me, I will kill you…), and imbuing her with enough righteous indignation to realize the talents she still possessed. Lest ye misunderstand: Buffy’s anger is what drove her, not Giles’ actions. Through no good deed of Giles did Buffy realize that she was still resourceful, but I believe through her own desperate inner searching. In fact, it is only after, in an odd moment of kindness, Cordelia has driven Buffy home and she realizes that her mother is gone, that she rises to the occasion.

I tell you, ex-con vamps must have a lot of cash to blow on Poloroids.

Long Episode Synopsis is Long.

Apart from the glaring truth that lying hurts and liars kind of suck (even though we all do it and we try not to), there are serious issues with violation of autonomy here, which might even me a more important rule to me than honesty, but really they are inextricably linked in many ways. The person who knows Buffy better than anyone in the whole world should have known what a clear violation of their relationship that was, how invaded her person would break that trust. In fact, he did know, and instead of fighting against protocol that he knew was wrong, he did it anyway. He allowed people detached from Buffy’s life to make calls and enforce rules upon her body, and then insist that he lie about it to her. Then, they wanted his aid in luring her into direct danger.

In the end Buffy learns the Important Lesson that she was meant to learn in that her powers are not everything and that she is clever and resourceful beyond her supernatural abilities, but, is it any wonder that Buffy’s mistrust of the Council is so vehement? And while her relationship with Giles does manage to mend, I am of a mind that it has more to do with TeeVee magic than actual good writing of the mind of a young woman whose whole world was violated to such a degree.

Buffy is So Whiny…

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Michelle Trachtenberg as Buffy and Dawn SummersExcept, anyone who has spent five minutes speaking to me knows that I don’t really think that at all.

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’s whiny.

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?

The Cautionary Sex Ed Tale From Season 2 of Buffy

One of my friends, the Red Queen from Elizabitchez, told me once that she uses the story arc from Season 2 of Buffy beginning with “Surprise” to teach about sex ed and teen relationships. Or something to that effect. It makes more sense when she tells it, but the gist of it was that this particular story arc of this particular season is biting (no pun…OK I can’t even type that because I totally intend that pun).

s.e. smith from this ain’t livin’ and also from FWD/Forward has already done a nice evaluation of this story arc, that I encourage you to read, and the fact that I found it enlightening and that it may influence what I have to say here should sit with you while you read what I am about to go on about, possibly at great length as I am wont to do. Ou also mentioned to me one day in a chat conversation that Joss himself denies that this story arc was meant to send a message about shaming a teen girl about sexuality. I encourage any of you with the ability to do so to watch the episode “Innocence” and deny that this message is there. Intentional or not, Joss has once again fallen into that trap of writing that trope.

But before I leave your head spinning with a bunch of references to things that I haven’t explained, I suppose I should get into the story arc of Buffy and Angel, the lost soul, and of course, the loss of Buffy’s virginity.

This is the story that starts with a girl who gives her virginity to her loving boyfriend and ends when she sends him to a Hell Dimension with a giant sword through his chest after he turns evil and goes on a murderous rampage through her town, killing all of her friends because he has lost his soul.

In “Surprise”, Buffy has one of the famed prophetic dreams bestowed to a Slayer where she witnesses a few events leading up to Drusilla killing Angel. Given the “wiggins” by the whole thing, Buffy rushes to see Angel who both reassures her, (read: dismisses her fears which could be genuine concerns) and confesses that he has been feeling deeper feelings for her, that she returns (TV speak for “I really want to get it on”).

We also learn that Jenny Calendar is a descendant of the particular tribe of Gypsies fabled to have cursed Angel with his soul restorative. Turns out she was sent to Sunnydale not just to wow us all with her computer prowess (because as we will learn we have Willow for all of that) but to keep an eye on Angel and Buffy, but not ever to clue them into why. Folks, I have watched enough tee vee to know that denying principal characters vital information about their character never bodes well for anyone. This hardly proves the exception.

In a plot line that leaves me wondering if it is some odd coincidence that Buffy and Drusilla seem to have something akin to Birthdays on the same day, and keeping with the longstanding tradition of birthdays that suck (also steeped in punnage) for Buffy, our Slayer and her undead beaux fail to keep Drusilla and Spike from getting their hands on most of the pieces of a demon who was so powerful that he couldn’t be killed by any weapon forged during his time (this point is important!). Just as Angel is prepared to take off for Asia on a boat to hide the last piece in an attempt by Ms. Calendar to pry the would be lovers apart, they are thwarted. Soaking wet and battle-wounded, Buffy and Angel wind up back at Angel’s not-so-secret and well-decorated hideaway and become a little less would-be.

This becomes the precipitating event for the releasing of Angel’s soul back into the ether, turning him back into the evil, cruel, infamous vampire that he once was, catching everyone unawares.

This is the part in the story where the boyfriend, after getting the Nice Girl to give up her virginity to him becomes the World League Asshole.

Except, when I remember being warned to protect my sacred flower from boys like that, the ones who are just Wired! To Need! Sex! I was never told that they would become blood sucking demons who would hunt and stalk all of my friends, slowly torturing them to death while sending me immolate-o-grams in the form of my friends-turned-new vampires.

It isn’t too far of a conclusion to draw that Buffy is being punished for having sex. That was the message I took away from this. In fact, since in parenting we have discussed with Kid about good and poor choices I asked her what she thought of what happened to Angel, and unprompted she said “Well, Buffy made a poor choice, and now Angel is evil”. It took a bit of discussion before we corrected why this was the wrong message to get, but that why, yes, I could see why she gleaned that from what we had just seen. It is important that while she might get messages like these from pop culture (and pop culture is full of these slut-shaming innuendos aimed at young women, teens, and young girls), that she understand that the message is wrong. And intentional or not, again, Joss, this is the message you are sending to young girls!

The act of sex itself is without morality. Positive or negative. Sex can just be sex between consenting people.

The intent of the people involved are what makes the experience a healthy one or an unhealthy one for either person.

When people care about each other, or when people are consenting enthusiastically, like Buffy and Angel both were (as we understand that at this point that Angel didn’t realize that his actions would have this effect) that this was a positive portrayal of sexuality. This was something they both decided they wanted together. There was nothing wrong going on here, aside from that curse, which in a way violated both of their autonomy, but that is deeper than this conversation right now. And metaphysical. I am not going there.

When either party isn’t consenting, such as when one person coerced the other, or is emotionally manipulative, or if for any reason it isn’t entered into freely, then we have a problem. But that isn’t what happened here.

Usually, as I understand it, one partner is not a soulless demon, or about to become one. Though, experiences from my past would tempt me to believe otherwise, I understand that what happened to Angel is make-believe

Sometimes, when sex occurs between two people, sometimes one person who hasn’t been honest about who they are, changes. The sex can become a tool to perpetuate abuse, and that is what we are witnessing displayed here, an attempt to convert Angel from role one to role two without a logical connection to make that make sense, unless you are to presume that Buffy is being punished.

For what?

Well, being a big old teen slut of course!

Even breaking it down into parts, we understand that Angel, via his curse, is being punished for the crimes of his past. But even Jenny Calendar can’t say what Buffy is supposed to be punished for when confronted with all of the facts. We are left to draw our own conclusions. Surely, if she had just kept her legs closed…

This remains a theme for a long time in Buffy’s love life. Her next sexual encounter is a one-night stand, and the other participant, while not unleashing a murderous rampage on her loved ones, does indeed treat her cruelly all the same.

Then, I hesitate to even address the awfulness who is the emotionally demanding Riley, who is in need of more than he is capable of giving, and who is also unwilling to accept being in a relationship with a woman who is more dominant and also stronger than him. After Riley loses his artificial abilities he betrays Buffy by seeking out risk-taking behaviour. Here, Buffy is punished for being emotionally unavailable while trying to cope with myriad Bid Effing Deals, and Riley just can’t deal with being the second seat to anything. Carrying over into Angel, Buffy goes to L.A. to confront Angel over a crossover story arc, which leads to them getting everything they want. Only, this carries the heavy price of Angel becoming human, her almost dying trying to protect him. She is punished again, having to trade in her memories (Joss loves messing with memories) and her day of happiness for her life, and effectually, Angels as well all really without her knowing or having a say. After returning from the dead (again), Buffy has a sexual relationship with Spike that she is ashamed of, because she has already figured out that having sex is wrong, even if it is to help her fill a need when her world is spiraling out of control and she just needs one thing to hold on to, even if it is a physical burst.

Not until Buffy chooses work (being the Slayer) and family (devoting all her time to Dawn) over love and personal life for herself does this theme of punishment let up, even for a moment. And never is it ever happy for her. The message I glean from this? A woman can’t really have it all. You have to choose, or something, namely yourself, will surely suffer.

The Cautionary Sex Ed Tale From Season 2 of Buffy

One of my friends, the Red Queen from Elizabitchez, told me once that she uses the story arc from Season 2 of Buffy beginning with “Surprise” to teach about sex ed and teen relationships. Or something to that effect. It makes more sense when she tells it, but the gist of it was that this particular story arc of this particular season is biting (no pun…OK I can’t even type that because I totally intend that pun).

s.e. smith from this ain’t livin’ and also from FWD/Forward has already done a nice evaluation of this story arc, that I encourage you to read, and the fact that I found it enlightening and that it may influence what I have to say here should sit with you while you read what I am about to go on about, possibly at great length as I am wont to do. Ou also mentioned to me one day in a chat conversation that Joss himself denies that this story arc was meant to send a message about shaming a teen girl about sexuality. I encourage any of you with the ability to do so to watch the episode “Innocence” and deny that this message is there. Intentional or not, Joss has once again fallen into that trap of writing that trope.

But before I leave your head spinning with a bunch of references to things that I haven’t explained, I suppose I should get into the story arc of Buffy and Angel, the lost soul, and of course, the loss of Buffy’s virginity.

This is the story that starts with a girl who gives her virginity to her loving boyfriend and ends when she sends him to a Hell Dimension with a giant sword through his chest after he turns evil and goes on a murderous rampage through her town, killing all of her friends because he has lost his soul.

In “Surprise”, Buffy has one of the famed prophetic dreams bestowed to a Slayer where she witnesses a few events leading up to Drusilla killing Angel. Given the “wiggins” by the whole thing, Buffy rushes to see Angel who both reassures her, (read: dismisses her fears which could be genuine concerns) and confesses that he has been feeling deeper feelings for her, that she returns (TV speak for “I really want to get it on”).

We also learn that Jenny Calendar is a descendant of the particular tribe of Gypsies fabled to have cursed Angel with his soul restorative. Turns out she was sent to Sunnydale not just to wow us all with her computer prowess (because as we will learn we have Willow for all of that) but to keep an eye on Angel and Buffy, but not ever to clue them into why. Folks, I have watched enough tee vee to know that denying principal characters vital information about their character never bodes well for anyone. This hardly proves the exception.

In a plot line that leaves me wondering if it is some odd coincidence that Buffy and Drusilla seem to have something akin to Birthdays on the same day, and keeping with the longstanding tradition of birthdays that suck (also steeped in punnage) for Buffy, our Slayer and her undead beaux fail to keep Drusilla and Spike from getting their hands on most of the pieces of a demon who was so powerful that he couldn’t be killed by any weapon forged during his time (this point is important!). Just as Angel is prepared to take off for Asia on a boat to hide the last piece in an attempt by Ms. Calendar to pry the would be lovers apart, they are thwarted. Soaking wet and battle-wounded, Buffy and Angel wind up back at Angel’s not-so-secret and well-decorated hideaway and become a little less would-be.

This becomes the precipitating event for the releasing of Angel’s soul back into the ether, turning him back into the evil, cruel, infamous vampire that he once was, catching everyone unawares.

This is the part in the story where the boyfriend, after getting the Nice Girl to give up her virginity to him becomes the World League Asshole.

Except, when I remember being warned to protect my sacred flower from boys like that, the ones who are just Wired! To Need! Sex! I was never told that they would become blood sucking demons who would hunt and stalk all of my friends, slowly torturing them to death while sending me immolate-o-grams in the form of my friends-turned-new vampires.

It isn’t too far of a conclusion to draw that Buffy is being punished for having sex. That was the message I took away from this. In fact, since in parenting we have discussed with Kid about good and poor choices I asked her what she thought of what happened to Angel, and unprompted she said “Well, Buffy made a poor choice, and now Angel is evil”. It took a bit of discussion before we corrected why this was the wrong message to get, but that why, yes, I could see why she gleaned that from what we had just seen. It is important that while she might get messages like these from pop culture (and pop culture is full of these slut-shaming innuendos aimed at young women, teens, and young girls), that she understand that the message is wrong. And intentional or not, again, Joss, this is the message you are sending to young girls!

The act of sex itself is without morality. Positive or negative. Sex can just be sex between consenting people.

The intent of the people involved are what makes the experience a healthy one or an unhealthy one for either person.

When people care about each other, or when people are consenting enthusiastically, like Buffy and Angel both were (as we understand that at this point that Angel didn’t realize that his actions would have this effect) that this was a positive portrayal of sexuality. This was something they both decided they wanted together. There was nothing wrong going on here, aside from that curse, which in a way violated both of their autonomy, but that is deeper than this conversation right now. And metaphysical. I am not going there.

When either party isn’t consenting, such as when one person coerced the other, or is emotionally manipulative, or if for any reason it isn’t entered into freely, then we have a problem. But that isn’t what happened here.

Usually, as I understand it, one partner is not a soulless demon, or about to become one. Though, experiences from my past would tempt me to believe otherwise, I understand that what happened to Angel is make-believe

Sometimes, when sex occurs between two people, sometimes one person who hasn’t been honest about who they are, changes. The sex can become a tool to perpetuate abuse, and that is what we are witnessing displayed here, an attempt to convert Angel from role one to role two without a logical connection to make that make sense, unless you are to presume that Buffy is being punished.

For what?

Well, being a big old teen slut of course!

Even breaking it down into parts, we understand that Angel, via his curse, is being punished for the crimes of his past. But even Jenny Calendar can’t say what Buffy is supposed to be punished for when confronted with all of the facts. We are left to draw our own conclusions. Surely, if she had just kept her legs closed…

This remains a theme for a long time in Buffy’s love life. Her next sexual encounter is a one-night stand, and the other participant, while not unleashing a murderous rampage on her loved ones, does indeed treat her cruelly all the same.

Then, I hesitate to even address the awfulness who is the emotionally demanding Riley, who is in need of more than he is capable of giving, and who is also unwilling to accept being in a relationship with a woman who is more dominant and also stronger than him. After Riley loses his artificial abilities he betrays Buffy by seeking out risk-taking behaviour. Here, Buffy is punished for being emotionally unavailable while trying to cope with myriad Bid Effing Deals, and Riley just can’t deal with being the second seat to anything. Carrying over into Angel, Buffy goes to L.A. to confront Angel over a crossover story arc, which leads to them getting everything they want. Only, this carries the heavy price of Angel becoming human, her almost dying trying to protect him. She is punished again, having to trade in her memories (Joss loves messing with memories) and her day of happiness for her life, and effectually, Angels as well all really without her knowing or having a say. After returning from the dead (again), Buffy has a sexual relationship with Spike that she is ashamed of, because she has already figured out that having sex is wrong, even if it is to help her fill a need when her world is spiraling out of control and she just needs one thing to hold on to, even if it is a physical burst.

Not until Buffy chooses work (being the Slayer) and family (devoting all her time to Dawn) over love and personal life for herself does this theme of punishment let up, even for a moment. And never is it ever happy for her. The message I glean from this? A woman can’t really have it all. You have to choose, or something, namely yourself, will surely suffer.

Xander Harris: Nice Guy (TM)

Joss is tricky.

We really thought he had given us something completely fresh and new, and in many ways he had. He was used to that. He had written for Roseanne, which was ahead of its time, and in many ways, Buffy was also ahead of its time.

Buffy seemed to flip the narrative. Superhero girl takes on Big Bads. Two girls and a dude, which is a complete flip. If you don’t believe me, think of all the entertainment media geared at teens and young adults, and how the main cast of principal players is usually two guys and a girl. Off the top of my head I come up with Harry Potter (Harry, Ron, Hermione), Percy Jackson (Percy, Grover, Annabeth), Star Wars (Luke, Han, Leia), Scrubs (John, Turk, Elliott), Avatar – The Last Airbender (Aang, Sokka, Katara) all with this construction. There are more, but I don’t want to get monotonous. Buffy gave us the opposite construction, the first show of its kind and of its time. Buffy’s best friend, Xander Harris is even the guy who needs to be rescued from time to time. That is definitely against the narrative.

Except, Xander isn’t really comfy in that role, and he lashes out and pushes back against that frequently in what is affectionately know around The Sphere as Nice Guy™ behavior. He often gets it Buffy’s face about it, even when it was to his own benefit. When Buffy saves him from a bully, knocking the bully against the soda machine (“Ooh! Diet!), Xander flounces off angry because of his male pride (don’t take it out on me, this is his wording). Angry and raging, he prefers to be punched by other dudes than saved by the tiny girl.

When Buffy first moves to Sunnydale, Xander is quick to try to stake his claim by searching her our. Hot new girl is instantly something that Xander wants to know all about, and he even follows her around and is the first to uncover her secret. He opines about how much he wants to be with her to his friend, Willow, often complaining to about how “girls never want to be with” guys like him, all the time oblivious to the fact that Willow herself has feelings for Xander himself.

Xander often times acts as though being such a decent person entitles him to the type of attention from women that he desires, certainly from someone, if not from Buffy herself. It certainly should entitle him to dictate who is and isn’t good enough for Buffy to devote her attention to since it isn’t going to Xander. After all, who is this Angel guy? It isn’t Xander! How can he possibly be good enough for her? He couldn’t even save Buffy when she died! He does this repeatedly with both Buffy and Willow, criticizing both Angel and Oz, and often trying to go tete a tete with Angel over Buffy’s maidenhood… or something.

Xander continues to display his staggering Nice Guy™ personae even after he enters into his (at first secret kissy-face) relationship with Cordelia. When he isn’t attached to Cordy at the lips, he is talking incessantly about Buffy to her, or later, Willow, ignorant of the perfectly wonderful (admittedly flawed) person in front of him. Xander’s treatment of Cordelia is heartbreakingly cruel (and probably indicative of what is to come, because Joss, I have a major beef with you and your treatment of Cordy). After Cordelia stands up to her friends in order to keep her relationship with Xander, he repays her in kind by betraying her with a person he didn’t really want to be with until he couldn’t have her.

Xander later has a relationship with the ex-demon, Anya. While I haven’t really gotten to those seasons in our Summer viewing yet, the episode “Hells Bells” stands starkly in my mind. Xander and Anya have a curious relationship that has a lot to be examined, but the way that Xander leaves Anya, even if when confronted with what he fears he might turn into one day, is inexcusable. Xander makes this choice based on his own fears and desires, and uses that moment to walk away to absolve himself of any responsibility. He leaves Anya, alone and embarrassed in front of both of their families (with his family loudly abusing and blaming her for ruining everything), and without the chance to discuss the issues at a less emotional time for both of them. Though the future vision of himself turns out to be a falsehood, presented by a demon bent on vengeance, Xander is unable to set his feelings aside in order to consider what his actions are going to do to Anya. This has huge repercussions…

Xander Harris, while having many incredible qualities that shine through in the course of the series and being many things that make him valuable to Buffy and the rest of the “Scooby Gang”, has a lot of problematic issues written into him as an overarching character, including the way he views and treats women. He, in many ways epitomizes the definition of Nice Guy™. I wonder if Joss created Xander to be this intentional stereotype, as a foil for the That Girl that is so oft written into other shows and movies. That stereotypical young woman who has to be rescued and who nags on the guys with her and who embraces everything that everyone says is wrong with women today.

I wonder.

Yes, Joss may be tricky indeed.

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