exactly that

Posts tagged ‘embracing your inner nerd’

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I

Movie poster for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, featuring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint running through a forest of tall, bare-looking trees.

Movie poster for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I

The series that I have loved for so long is winding down, but not fizzing out — that’s for sure. I feel like I have waited half of my life for this, or at least as long as Emma Watson has waited to get rid of those extensions and get that adorable pixie haircut anyhow. Seeing it not one time, but twice, as I couldn’t be satisfied with the free showing at the AAFES theatre here, and we had to wait for the staggered release at the Korean IMAX two weeks later to really and truly appreciate this event, was what it took to finally get this review spinning in my head.

I would suggest to you that there are spoilers ahead, but I think that this should go without saying. Turn back now if you are not inclined to know about this first installment of the final chapter of our beloved Harry Potter series. (more…)

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.

Pop Culture Good Idea/Bad Idea: Denna, Violent Portrayals of Sex and the Mord-Sith in Terry Goodkind’s Universe Part I

Jessica Marais as "Denna" the Mord-Sith, and Craig Horner as Richard Cypher, the Seeker in <em>Legend of the Seeker</em>. Richard is shackled and hanging from the ceiling with no shirt, sweat and blood all over him, as Denna, clad in blood-red leather and a single blonde braid holds a thin rod up against him as she leans close with a threatening look on her face. She is torturing him.Buckle on your roller skates, peeps, because this post has been a long time coming. I have watched lots of clips. I have found lots of pictures. I have been talking to people more informed than me. I have been WAITING to write this post.

I preface it with a strong trigger warning for descriptions of violence, sexually hinted violence, spoilers, and very wordy rants.

The Mord-Sith in the Sword of Truth series are some of my favorite characters. They are at the same time antithetical and thematic of the philosophical bullshit that gets caked on to the poor horse that Mr. Goodkind can’t leave alone, but I can’t help but love several of them.

From gruesome beginnings that have me asking some serious questions about why someone has fantasies about torturing children (because this is NOT the only example I can come up with of him describing the torture of children) come the Mord-Sith. Stolen from villages as young D’Haran children, the soldiers of D’Hara choose the sweetest, most lovely and wonderful girls with the kindest hearts and pluck them from their families. Many of them, such as Cara, a woman who you, should you venture into either the books or the television show, become intimately familiar with, learn young the importance of not hesitating when faced with life and death decisions. Failing to thrown a knife as a young girl cost Cara her life. Literally. These girls are beaten and tortured with a weapon called an Agiel — a thin leather rod imbued with magic that makes it feel as if thunder and lightning are charging through you — until they are “broken”. They watch, helpless, as their mothers are tortured to death before them, to break them a second time. Then, they are tortured until they choose to torture and kill their own fathers; they are broken the third and final time. They are trained to endure great pain, possibly at the hands of the Lord Rahl if he chooses, by hand, Agiel, or in his bed if he chooses. The Agiel, the weapon they use causes that same pain to whomever wields it, so long as it was used to train them. They must learn to tolerate the same pain they inflict in order to use it. The Mord-Sith will finally claim their Agiel by killing their trainer. Or at least that is how Denna got hers. She was the best of them all. The most cruel. The most talented.

Tabrett Bethell as Cara, a Mord-Sith, a blonde, pale woman, administering the "breath of life" to an obscured person. The breath is depicted her as a bright spark. In the book series it is actually mouth to mouth.The Mord-Sith were created as a weapon against magic by ancient Wizards. They are non-“gifted” people (gifted being those born with magic. See my post on “giftedness” here at FWD/forward) who are able to trap magic if it used against them, then turn the user’s own magic against them, bringing great pain. They control the person and their magic until they choose to release that person. In the mean time, the Mord-Sith can make the person whom they control beg for death while inflicting upon them the most incredible horrors of pain imaginable. They are able to beat, brutalize a person, with their fists, the Agiel, or by depriving them of sleep. But death can not even claim them, because the Mord-Sith know how to give “the breath of life”, which seems to be mouth to mouth, in order to draw out the torture.

But if that wasn’t enough, Goodkind seems to have added an element of sexual edge. The Mord-Sith, first of all being the most beautiful girls in D’Hara (most of them being perfectly blonde and blue-eyed, because “pure” D’Harans are always blonde with blue eyes), many of them are repeatedly raped by Darken Rahl, or anyone whom he chooses to lend them out to as a favor. In turn, they are depicted as lashing out their torture in a way that makes it a sex act for them. Their charges are pets, and they engage in what seems to be what Goodkind imagines is the relationship in a BDSM setting.

I am no expert on such things. But I am told, thanks to lovely friends that I have, that this type of depiction is so far from the truth of what an actual BDSM setting is that it is almost laughable. Almost, if it wasn’t damaging to the trusting, caring setting that a positive BDSM relationship can be. I strongly object to the way these portrayals seem to be laid out in pop-culture. The relationship between Mord-Sith and her charge doesn’t seem to do anything to change that.

In the Sword of Truth series, as well as Legend of the Seeker, Richard Cypher is captured by Denna because he tries to use the Sword against her. She, of course, captures the magic and takes him away to be trained. In the show, we see a very tense and Made for TV sexually titillating episode where we are subjected to the beating of, the jabbing with the Agiel, the slow licking of blood off of Richard’s bruised and sweaty face. I’ve spent years watching fantasy television, such Buffy, Angel, Charmed, and my dad watch Xena back before I was extremely interested. I found the episode “Denna” extremely difficult to watch. Denna even killed Richard once just to bring him back to life and beat him more.

Denna, wiping blood from Richard's chin with a red-leather clad glove.One-third of Wizard’s First Rule is a detailed description of the torture that Richard endured for a length of time. The descriptions were graphic, like watching some kind of torture porn that I wasn’t used to, only it wasn’t like reading Kushiel’s Dart, where the protagonist is usually willing, or even if she isn’t, Jacqueline Carey has an idea of what Sadism and Masochism are about — about the trust and the safety involved. Here, it is exploited for the sake of demonstrating the evil intent of the Rahl’s who inflicted the sexual torture upon these women, driving them to be what they are, and in turn driving them to actually enjoy inflicting it upon Richard.

Of course, Denna comes to love Richard, because he is a rare person, so special that the women in the world that is constructed fall around him. But we will visit that shortly. He rose above all of that, compartmentalized his mind and eventually loved Denna enough to kill her, enabling his escape. But before this, she took him as her mate. She enjoyed the fruits of that decision at her demand with her Agiel in her teeth, and in whatever ways she saw fit. Richard never had any idea what was going to happen to him. There was no way to form trust.

I find it interesting, the creation of these characters, these women, whose lives were stolen from the, and destroyed by angry abuse, violent and sexually based at times. It turned them into brutal fighters who are not to be underestimated, which we will see in part two, when I talk about how they are awesome. It is only scratching the surface of what I believe demonstrates Goodkind’s raging contempt for women in general. All of this stuff he beats into is Not A Fantasy Series about how everyone has a right to their life, but it is definitely obvious that some lives are definitely meant to be in the service of others. (We’ll get to that in the future too!) The Mord-Sith gives me great internal conflict, giving me some of my favorite characters (I’m Lord Rahl’s favorite…) who are reasonably developed, but who are simultaneously exemplifying everything that is wrong with depictions of sexual violence, violence against women, and the way women are portrayed in pop-culture mediums.

Denna’s death, was violent, tragically sad if considered in context, and reminiscent of the way women would be scattered around Richard Cypher/Rahl in the remainder of the series: Fiercely strong because of their well-developed past. Fighters who have overcome many things that have shaped them into who they are. Flawed women who have been “awakened” by Richard and how awesomely fabulous he is, and now they throw themselves at his feel to serve and love him, or in Denna’s case, to wait patiently and nakedly while he comes to run her through with a white-hot sword. But he kisses her good-bye as well. Because only he can grant her forgiveness and compassion for what she was beaten into doing.

The complex situation surrounding the Mord-Sith is such an interesting thing to look at, and I know that there have been people champing to talk about it. I decided to break this into two parts, otherwise it was going to unwieldy. In the Part II I am going to talk about all the things I loved about the characters, how well they were developed, but also the flaws that were in how they were developed, and the obvious way they were handed off as attempts at female empowerment.

There is a ton to unpack, even in this one topic alone.

In the mean time, discuss away!

The Hellmouth Presents: Dead Guys On Ice

a pale woman with blonde hair in a grey tank to with her arms cross across her midd, and a darker complexioned woman with black hair in a purple long-sleeved shirt in the same pose stand back to back. The both have their "serious business" faces on. They are Sara Michelle-Gellar as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Bianca Lawson as Kendra the Vampire Slayer.In the way you would expect a two-part episode to be, Buffy, Season 2’s “What’s My Line” parts I and II have a lot to unpack in them.

In the beginning of Part I it is Career Week at Sunnydale High, and Principal Snyder, in all of his infinite glory has decided that his project of the week is to make sure that Buffy participates. Of course, like we have seen already, the future planning portion of life as a Slayer is filled with many things: doubt, cloudiness, uncertainty, and possibly (another) death. How is a girl supposed to plan a career around all of that?

Even Giles seems a bit grumped out that Buffy isn’t as studious or book smart as he would like, and as expected, Buffy gets a little up in his card catalog about that. She reminds him just how he could get another Slayer that might be more to his liking: She could die and he could just watch the next one.

Buffy is painfully aware of both the fragility of her current situation and the what is to come. And what most people write off as whininess (something that irks me to NO END), I see as a well deserved side effect of the bitter pill of being very self-aware. Buffy fully understands that every time she goes out into that graveyard she could never come back, and that she only need to slip once and the burden she carries on her shoulders would slip to the next person. While, yes, she is “The Chosen One”, she is but a tool of The Powers That Be (even if we haven’t met them yet) and a person the Watchers’ Council only care about for the moment; the next moment she could be dead and their biggest concern could be the next Chosen One. I imagine being both So Important and at the same time Hardly At All is an odd balance on a fantastical fulcrum.

So, while Buffy is whinging trying to imagine balancing her duties with a future she can’t grasp, Angel offers to take her ice skating to help her forget about being cosmically chosen for a bit. During all of this we see that Buffy has been stalked by the Order of Taraka, magically imbued badass assassins and Angel has been stalked by… a mysterious Black Girl who rides in the cargo bay of airplanes and beats up on preppy looking white boys, and who accidentally sees Buffy kissing Angel, clearly misunderstanding their Cosmically Forbidden Romance for, well, sexay vampire love because who would… OH NEVERMIND!

This dark and curious stranger with the deadly moves gets the jump on our Vampy Heart-throb, (NO NOT HIM! STOP LOOKING AT ME EDWARD!), and when Buffy can’t find him, she comes all forlorn to his bed for a nap.

Where she is jumped! By none other than…

Kendra, the Vampire Slayer.

As much as I love Joss Whedon, he has a problem with non-white people in his shows, and Kendra is only my first taste of many. I loved the idea he went with here, of Buffy dying for only a minute, and that being long enough to awaken the next Potential, but there were so many faily things to unpack with Kendra’s character.

First off, is the back story of Kendra being whisked off by her parents to nobly give her as a babe to her Watcher to be raised, because some faraway exotic tribe would have some greater sense of duty, as opposed to clueless Joyce Summers, who can never be told. Why would Kendra’s parents be more in-the-know? Because they are closer to The First? Remember how exotic and savage she was?

Everything about Kendra was exotic, from her accent to her “only shirt”, to her not being permitted to talk to boys. She was raised in a funny culture far away with funny customs, and WOW IS SHE ODD, AMIRITE? But don’t forget she IS HOT! Whooo! You can even talk to her in any language! Buffy does this, using “amigo”, or other words ending in “o” as if that makes them easier to understand because Kendra has dark skin and a funny accent, she must understand this funny language you ARE MAKING UP!

In many ways, she was constructed as the anti-Buffy. It is hard to convince me that it is a coincidence that a non-white woman was chosen for this role. The dark to the light, the unemotional, perfect form, well-learned, no-shades of grey Slayer that Kendra is. I felt that she was to be the Yin to Buffy’s Yang (if you knew that in Mandarin one means, almost literally “sun” or is part of many words meaning “light” and the other the same in many words meaning dark, it gets even more interesting a comparison).

Even at the end of the episode, Kendra gets a moment to be a wise woman to Buffy, letting her know that being a Slayer isn’t just a job that she does or is fired from. She has wise words for her to set Buffy back on her way (but don’t forget to NOT hug her, because Kendra is a BAMF, and do not touch her, HELL-O). Oh, and ha ha! Buffy explains to her to make sure to use the seats on the plane! Oh that funny Kendra! We’ll see her again. The exotification of Kendra the Vampire Slayer isn’t over.

Another interesting thing I feel I need to discuss is the torture turn made-for-TV-sexy-time that keeps turning up in everything. OK, it isn’t like I am watching reels and reels of Cinemax after 10 PM or, but after watching what the Mord’Sith do in Legend of the Seeker, and reading more about it in The Sword of Truth series (of which I should blog soon), now I am watching on Buffy what Drusilla is doing to Angel (pouring holy water on him as he is restrained w/ his hands tied above his head, etc) as an hor d’orve to the ritual that will restore her to full power and, I am a little overloaded w/ this imagery right now.

Is there no other way to make the point that these people enjoy inflicting pain on beings who are morally good? None?

Practically every representation of Vampire sex is violent (See: Breaking Dawn, True Blood, the entire Darla story arc on Angel, or even “The Fanged Four”). It is always angry and/or it always hurts someone or destroys buildings or furniture.

Every representation of pain for pleasure is advanced by an “evil” entity onto a “good” entity.

It is kind of ridiculous.

I understand the role of the Mord’Sith in Legend of the Seeker, how they are created, how they are “bonded”, how they become redeemed, and even, possibly, how they are supposed to be meant to be read as “strong female characters”, and I will blog about that and the representation in both the books and the TV series later. I won’t engage in an in-depth discussion of them here, only a cosmetic one about how they apply to my point over-all.

I also understand the relationship and history between Dru and Angel; I understand what Angelus did to Drusilla when he created her (OH LOOK ANOTHER POST TOPIC!), but there is quite a bit of triggery sexy-time vampire relationship in this episode (and other times). It is dark, it is disturbing at some points (enough so that I will send some viewers away to refill a water bottle or for a bathroom break), I get what is going on here: Dru is having her revenge. But is this the way this type of sex play is always meant to be? Pain inflicted by the one in power, and always painful, never enjoyable for the one receiving it? I find that hard to believe, and yet it is always depicted as such. Especially in fantasy series like this.

Of course non-fantasy series’ seldom, if ever do it better (thinking legal/cop dramas, or even CSI with its “Lady Heather” arcs that made me so uncomfortable, as if she was a spectacle).

I think Joss does it just about as well as anyone else here, which I think is not well at all.

If anyone wants to discuss this, feel free; the idea of pain for pleasure as part of a healthy sex life is a little out of my AOE, and I don’t want to do it an injustice. But I get disturbed by the way it seems to turn up always displayed as a negative thing. Something that is always enacted by the depraved (those without souls, those tortured since early childhood, etc.). I don’t buy that it is the only way to depict such a thing.

Previous Summer of Buffy blogging conveniently archived.

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.

The Cosmically Forbidden Romance…

a pale woman with dark hair in a white robe and a pale man with dark hair in a blue shirt and tan vest, the man is kissing the woman on the forehead.This is one of my favorite (and by favorite, I mean, really, I love a good romance story or sub-story, but do they ALL have to have apocalyptic consequences?) TV Tropes. The forbidden fruit.

Angel stalks into Buffy’s life in S1 Ep. 01 “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, and I don’t know how initial viewers reacted to him, because while I probably would have liked a show like Buffy if it had been on my radar it just really wasn’t at the time. I don’t know if anyone else was as creeped as I was by Angel, and given that I knew who he was, because I came into the Buffyverse via Angel the Series, that is saying something.

I am just saying that skulking around in shadows and giving cryptic warnings to a scared 16 year-old girl might not be the best way to warm her to your affections, even if you know that harboring those affections might be a bad idea. Other things to remember might include getting the words “hey, cupcake, I used to be an evil bloodsucking hellbeast, but now I’m a cuddly bloodsucking hellbeast thanks to a really old, sucky, curse”, (and I might be able to get “suck” into this sentence one more time if I try!) before you get your tonsil-hockey on. Just sayin’.

But still, Forbidden Romance or no, Buffy still managed to have what that Other Vampire Romance Story about a teenage girl and her vampire sweetheart had in it (OK, more than “a” thing): conflict. Real conflict. Beyond the “I shouldn’t like you but I can’t help it” thing.

But I am digressing again…

What is it about what we can’t/shouldn’t have that makes it instantly the Most SEXXAY Thing Evah?

Moving ahead in my Buffy Blogging a bit, those of us who have seen Buffy before (I know there are some of you who haven’t seen it yet, and it’s OK, I don’t judge you, I haven’t seen a single episode of Dr. Who and I am not ashamed…), eventually Buffy and Angel get it on and Hell On Earth breaks out. OK, well, Buffy has to kill her boyfriend in the World’s Worst Teenage Sex Metaphor Evah. But some of us want it. I am willing to bet if I Google it, there is a world of Fandom out there devoted to it. So, why are we drawn to it? Why is it that something that shouldn’t be makes for incredible storytelling, or at least makes fans scream for more of it?

But this is bigger than Buffy. (BIGGER THAN BUFFY!!??!?!?!11!?)

There is the (I really don’t want to spoil it for you peeps) Angel/Cordelia arch…which had all the makings of destroying the world again, when the need arose to tear out Angel’s soul in order to defeat The Beast…and that was just a dream (it’s a damned good thing it is only Perfect Happiness, huh?). Because the idea of having Cordelia, after the near miss of everything he wanted when she was, as s.e. put it, fucking RAPTURED when he was kidnapped by his son, we get the suspense of the forbidden love that we found ourselves cheering for. But there was something strangely enticing and perhaps even erotic about the thought of Angel achieving that moment of bliss, that thing that he had tormented himself without for years (and perhaps the things that finally got him to stop fucking brooding over Buffy…but I was anti-Angel/Buffy *ducks*)…that he could have it even if it meant unleashing evil in the world… To hell with the World, thinks the viewer, because we need to see this!

In Legend of the Seeker, we have Richard and Kahlan, the Seeker and Mother Confessor, who despite all the Warnings! that they can no possibly be together have gone and fallen in love w/ each other, and the writers of the TV series could not bludgeon us upside the head w/ this theme any more. But the setup was transparent: Man Seeker, Woman Confessor whose power is to touch people and make them fall in love with her, and who can conjure the truth out of everything. She is seriously badass, and despite the stiff acting (by other actors) at times, she is one of the best written female characters on a TV show I have seen in a while. But she and Richard can never be, because it would A) distract from his Mission to Save the World, and B) ’cause Kahlan to lose control of her powers and strip him of his soul, which would cause Richard to be useless for his Mission to Save the World. (This is resolved later, but for the point where I am now, it fits). But for some reason, in spite of this, or maybe partly because of this, Richard and Kahlan can not seem to stay out of situations where they find themselves falling more and more in love with each other. And even w/ the cudgel of bad writing* hitting me episode after episode, I know that there are people who find this shit hot. (OK, it’s a little hot). People obviously want it, because people keep writing it into their television series.

Anakin and Padme were doomed from the beginning, and while I have some WAY creepy feelings about the way that relationship was framed from the beginning, what with her being practically an adult and him being a child and it just being awkward and all…I still feel that you got the feeling (even if you were not familiar with the decades-old lore that was Darth Vader’s fall) that shit was Not Right here and that they were not going to be OK even though you were supposed to pull for them. That love was not going to conquer all or whatever the Power Ballads told us. It was against Jedi teaching. It was probably against good form for the Senate. But yet, in a secret way you have to admit that part of you cheered them on and hoped it would happen. We wanted it, evil outcome and all. And all the “Imperial March” strands woven into the score couldn’t keep us from holding our collective breath whenever they got close enough to touch.

Leo and Piper on Charmed. The White Lighter and his witch were forbidden by the Elders from being romantically involved, and doubly so when the prophecy told of the child that would be Wyatt. The Elders even tried to stop them from getting married in secret. In fact, one could argue that every relationship that happened on Charmed was in some way Cosmically Forbidden, as there was this running theme of Powerful Women charged with Protecting the World (AKA San Francisco) weren’t allowed to have any kind of regular lives a la Buffy. Cole (played by Julian McMahon) , the half demon, Jason (played by Eric Dane) the really powerful newspaper mogul, Richard, the Magic Addict…all of these were doomed relationships that seemed meant to tell them that they just should not be able to balance work and life…but Piper’s story was the special one, as she moved into the Mother stage of life on top of being the Elder sister. Her Extra Special Doomed Relationship was always the Cautionary Tale, taken away for disobeying, taken away so as not to be a distraction…you get the idea.

There are others that come to mind, though not all of them TV/Movie related. Joscelin and Phèdre, the Casseline Brother and the anguissette, who aren’t really cosmically forbidden, but are really just so oddly paired that it frustrates the story…in a really good way, and Imri and Sidonie for that matter.

Any others that you can think of, dearest readers?

Discuss away!

*Um, it is a really good show. I feel like the writing is kind of shoddy at times, but the story is really great, and I really love this show. I plan to write more about it in depth later. But I love this show, bad writing and all.

If the Apocalypse Comes, Beep Me

Buffy, S1, Ep. 05 “Never Kill A Boy On the First Date” of my Summer (Season of for my Southern Hemisphere readers!) of Buffy blog-a-thon.

I am not going to blog every episode that I watch, and I hope that is OK with all of you, because I think that many of you would get very bored. I know I would.

In Season one I really like some of the episodes that seem to try to focus on Buffy in her early attempts to grasp onto what she has laid out in her mind as a “normal” high school life. Buffy really wants to be a regular teenager, and the way that her mind swings like a pendulum from Very Serious Shop Talk to what many would consider frivolous teen girl concerns really brings home sharp reminder that we have a non-traditional superhero in a young girl who is still coming to terms with what is being asked of her cosmically, supernaturally (in terms of remembering not to throw students around all willy-nilly all of the time), and yes, socially when she can’t just drop everything and indulge in the everyday teenage after-school antics of what many consider the stereotypical U.S. teen girl. Sure, maybe Buffy has realized through the spectacular guilt trips that have been laid at her feet that she must accept her duties as The Slayer, but she hasn’t quite fully accepted that she must give up most of her “normal” (can we just pretend that when I say “her teenage life” or “her high school life” or something related that this is what I mean so I don’t have to keep using the quotes, KTHX?) teenage life as well or risk more lives in the process.

To say that dating is going to be a huge issue for Buffy in the years to come would be wildly understating the obvious themes that arise, and this is that first introduction of the complications that arise. We meet sweet Owen, the really nice, cute boy from her Math class that loves Emily Dickinson and Buffy is just twitterpated to the point of laughing at his clever Soylent Green jokes about cafeteria food. And make no mistake that it is a great opportunity to shine the spotlight on classic girl on girl competition over the (oh of course) oblivious boy as Buffy and Cordelia have a nice insult fest including everything from slamming each other on weight and ableism. Oh, yes, Joss was way ahead of his time all the time, or maybe he was just accurate in the way we expect some high school kids to treat each other when adults aren’t paying attention…except that I know that they can be better than that from personal experience…

Insert lots of extreme sarcasm and patronizing from Giles about how Buffy just shouldn’t go flitting about recklessly dating boys due to her “unique condition”, glanced by Buffy’s “then I won’t wear my button that says ‘I’m the Slayer, Ask me how!'”, which always makes me laugh. On one hand I loathe the meme about men controlling or attempting to control the lives of women, especially in presumed powerful positions, and on the other, I love that Buffy has been written to not tolerate that bullshit, nope, not having it, no how.

Even when Angel (in all of his cute, younger David Boreanaz awkwardness days — but vampires don’t age!) shows up to make Buffy blush a little (I SAW THAT) and put another layer of twisty guilt and shame on Buffy’s date night, Buffy gets good and indignant, and even hauls off w/ a “Bite me!” ( then *shoots accidental knowing look*). (Can we get these two a crypt already?)

Buffy is just trying to balance a job and a social life here, or work/home if you need to relate it to the personal/political — but I hate doing that because I never get it right — the way that it just Never Works Out (hope I didn’t spoil that for you) just doesn’t show anything in the neighborhood about anything similar to that balance being positive for women who want to achieve that balance. Not even if you boyfriend is equally as supernaturally awesome as you are. What we do wind up with is Buffy kicking it into action when she think her date dies, and a boy who becomes a thrill chaser because he thinks his life is pretty dull…

And we know where this goes. With the kind of music that I used to listen to bring on the kind of cry that cleanses, and with Giles giving the grand speech about sacrifices to try to share experiences (as if giving up a future as a fighter pilot is somehow equivalent to giving up every experience up to and possibly including your life). At least it is better than a helicopter flying away…but I am getting ahead of myself…

Stepping away from Teh Serious for a now (mild spoiler ahead), into what I can only comment on having watched all of Buffy and Angel go down, the ritual that goes down during this episode is pretty much the same that is used to bring Darla back in a box in Angel S1, and I believe it shows up a couple of times elsewhere as well. It seems to be your standard Vampy Resurrection ritural. I don’t know if that was intentional, but it was certainly notable and amusing to me.

Anyhow, some things to think about.

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