Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rewatching Buffy

As most people who read this blog know, there's a great Buffy Rewatch happening in the Whedon fan (and "aca-fan") community.  Nikki Stafford is heading up a Buffy Rewatch segment on her blog which features (and will be featuring) some awesome guest bloggers, many of whom come from the Slayage conference 'verse (including David, who's first post went up yesterday, and myself).  We're working our way through Season 2 right now and I've been having some wicked flashbacks to watching the show while it was in broadcast.

When Buffy began airing in March of 1997, I was a sophomore in high school who had transferred in part-way through the previous semester.  Pair that with the fact that I had watched the 1992 movie an embarrassing number of times since its VHS release and you can see how I quickly identified with the our heroine and became a fan of the show.  So while I'm watching Buffy again, from the very first episode to the very last, I'm not only flashing back on fashion and pop culture, but on being 16 itself.  It's incredibly weird to look at this as a 30 year old and remember just how much I empathized with Buffy when I was that age — the same age being portrayed in the series throughout its run.

For example, 30 year old me is somewhat creeped out by the Buffy & Angel thing.  16 year old me was all "ZOMG ROMANCE!" (if "ZOMG" was something the kids would say in 1997... which it wasn't).  I guess now that I'm watching it all over again, I'm getting back in touch with my angsty, hormonal, super-emotional teenage self.  This show really is a melodrama!  No wonder we all loved it in the late-90s (and early aughts).  It's totally formative years stuff.  Also, it helps that all these flashbacks are underscored by my high school playlist (wait... we didn't have "playlists" back then — we had mix tapes, on actual tape cassettes).  This experience is very weird.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Buffy Tries a Little Tenderness

14. It is important to be loving [affectionate, tender]


There’s a rough consensus in the numbers above, but the lack of comments indicate an even greater consensus. It’s either that, or people started realizing at this point how long this survey is! The one area where there was some disagreement was on the qualifying terms of tenderness and affection, where some asked if friendship qualified and others talked about the varying expressions of love from rough to tender.

Your Comments:

Although, a little tough love is important to snap people out of their funks that may be holding the entire group back and leading them into possible danger.

What better example is there of this, than the love between the main characters, which stays through, though tested hard at several turns during the series.

it all comes down to love. the choices they make, the places they go, the things they do.

This isn't a huge subject on the show, but I think that the best relationship on the show is Willow and Tara, because they truly love each other, and can be very affectionate.

Absolutely. Buffy's last night in Sunnydale was about feeling the physical presence of Spike's love. Countless times, a hug has been shown as a true sign of warm affection, its importance never in doubt. Buffy and Giles hug when he returns to defeat Dark Willow. Giles hugs Willow when he learns she's still alive in "Doppelgangland." Ultimately, affectionate, tender love is what Xander used to save the world at the end of season six.

Especially, Buffy, Dawn, Willow, Tara, to some degree, Giles.

Whether it's spoken or it's shown non-verbally, there is never any doubt as to the scoobies feelings for one another. Their devotion to each other and the cause show how to make connections and good relationships last.

Again, I think this is often hard for some characters, but it is the glue that holds them together.

tended to be tender within the group, less so to others

Love is what keeps Buffy alive, mostly, and even motivates her self sacrifice.

In this series, there's no glory in death. There's only how you spend your time alive. Everyone in this series only appears happy when they feel loved.

Yes. Loving and showing it are seen as crucial in the Buffy world.

This value is also seen consistently throughout the series. Perhaps the best example would be during the course of season 5 where Buffy feels like she is losing her humanity, her ability to love - and without that she feels like she'll be nothing, an empty shell of a human being. At the end of the season she is then able to make the ultimate sacrifice due to her great love for her sister, her friends, and the world.

is friendship enough of love?

yes, despite the dangers of love——but the risk is central to the value

See above; the characters struggled to find a balance between logic and emotion.


I don't believe this was a huge theme. There was a mix of tender and rough.

Thats how Xander saved the world.

Many different types of love were portrayed.

Buffy vs. Spock

13. It is important to be logical [consistent, rational]


Essentially, the commentariat believe that reason is necessary, but not sufficient in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Comments constantly included emotion and instinct as equal or superior values, both in terms of prominence and importance. While some horror and fantasy series embrace the irrational as a chief virtue necessary for survival, as in the works of HP Lovecraft, none of the commenters noted the series representing the virtues of embracing irrationality or acknowledging that there are things “man was not meant to know.”

Your Comments:

Sometimes shown by the lack of rationality.

To an extent, but hesitation can get you killed. Sometimes it is best to go with your gut, not always but sometimes...

I would say emotions and emotional truths are given more validity than strict logic in most cases. Or at least are explored more fully.

Being logical leads to rewards, irrational behaviour usually leads to some sort of agony.

Again yes it is important, but is heavily balanced by placing emphasis on how important emotions are to decision making too. So the process of decision making is logical but emotions form a part of logic, it is not 'cold' rationalism.

There is wide variety of people and personalities on BTVS. Giles is very logical and rational. This can be a good thing, but it can also get you into trouble. Buffy, on the other hand, is rather impulsive. I think her and Giles balance each other out.

While sometimes irrationality saved the day (Buffy's roommate Kathy comes to mind), for the most part, yes, logic was portrayed as a strength on the show. Buffy was different from other Slayers because, while she saw the value in the books and other teachings, she ultimately was the one in the field, and needed to trust her gut, her own sense of highly refined logic and rationale. "That guy has a hopelessly out-of-date fashion sense? Maybe he is of another time. Let's follow him." Often this kind of thinking saved the day and was admired.

Yes: Riley, Oz, Giles, Xander, to some degree, Buffy and Willow… Not so much: Faith, Spike, Anya, Andrew

Almost every major moment is fueled by emotion but thought out rationally. If they hadn't be strategic, many things could have gone wrong (i.e. saving Dawn in "The Gift")

I think being too logical could be bad, though it helps to have someone who is always logical there another person has to understand the emotion behind a situation.

Buffy is rational when it suits her, but very irrational when that suits her better…. "We all die and I'll kill anyone who goes after Dawn."

Destroying the Box of Gavrock would have saved dozens of lives on Graduation Day, but giving it to the bad guys saved Willow's life. Logic does not lead to a moral view. You've got to get to the moral value first.

On Buffy, rational motivations vs. instinctual ones is actually a subject, and occasionally a conflict. Usually, though, it's presented that at least *someone* needs to be logical and rational in any given situation.

There are times where I think you could argue that this is true on the show - however, more often than not I think emotion overrides logic during the course of the show. For instance in 'Choices' where Willow has been taken hostage by the Mayor and Faith and is being used by the Mayor as a bargaining chip in order to get his Box of Gavrok back. Wesley presents the logical argument: if they refuse to negotiate with the Mayor, yes Willow may die, but they will keep the Box of Gavrok meaning that the Mayor will not ascend and so possibly hundreds and thousands will be saved thanks to Willow's sacrifice. However, his argument is shot down my the emotions of the rest of the Scooby Gang - notably Oz - who cannot imagine giving up Willow even though 'rationally' Wesley is correct.

Buffy was not always rational. Her decision in The Gift to protect Dawn above all else put her in conflict with Giles, but ultimately her decision was the right one and she saved the world again.

Buffy was as much a force of chaos as any demon. It kept her alive. In the comics she creates a perfect world where all she had to do was be there and everything would be okay. She decided to go back to the world she knew and fight alongside her friends. How many people would do that?

see caveat above… (yes, but only if intellect and logic (below) do not over-ride intuition and non-logical (or, better said), non-linear logic: buffy is never one-dimensional, as there has to be a mix——this is why the buffy/giles partnership was so important, as they brought a mix of spontaneity, creativity, and rigorous intellect)

Much of BtVS was the conflict between logic and emotion, particularly regarding Angel in seasons 2 and 3.

Sometimes the heart comes first though (e.g. Buffy saying she WON'T kill Dawn to save the world; Buffy leaving the Watchers Council because they won't help save Angel; Buffy loving Angel even though he's her natural enemy).

Giles tried. LOL.

Start that way but whatever shows up instead deal with that without complaining

Wasn't always necessary...

It depends on an opinion of rational. If you believe things like risking the life of the entire world for your sibling, She is very Rational.

Not always. I liked that many of the characters followed their hears. Logic played only a portional part in the decision making process.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Buffy vs. Intellectuals

It is important to be intellectual [intelligent, reflective]

Comments Summary:

The commenters seem to agree that this value is prominently represented, they drew clear distinctions between intellectualism, being self-reflective, and various forms of intelligence. One commenter noted a number of intellectuals were represented as jerks. The positive representations are Dr. Gregory in 1997 and Jenny Calendar and Willow in 1998, with Doyle never being shown in a classroom.

[screencap credit:]

Since this moment, it’s hard to find a school teacher who is not evil, a propagandist or sexually inappropriate in any of Whedon’s works. That’s a rather odd trend, considering that Joss Whedon’s mother was a teacher, he had an extremely good college experience and remains close to his college mentor, and he has received an extraordinary amount of support from academia during that time. Why do you think that is?

Your Comments:

Willow, Tara

Yes, but not always in traditional ways. Less intellectual characters are not devalued.

There are different types of intellects. Though the characters may hide it in down to earth lingo they are true intellectuals, daring to see the world, more and more as the series progresses, in different ways.

Just to be clear, I don't think the show says it is important to be intellectual in a way that frowns upon less academic forms of intelligence, just that it is something to aspire to. Also, intelligence being important isn't the same as intelligence contributing to the worth of a person, it is represented more as an asset that some naturally have, but whether it is a good thing to have is ultimately decided by what you do with it.

BTVS isn't just an action movie; it's the overnight sessions in the library researching the monsters that win the day in the end.

Willow's intelligence was a huge asset to the Scooby's, Buffy however was never very academically intelligent but this was never a hindrance on her work

Buffy is not the smartest. She got by in high school. But her character shows that you don't have to be the smartest, but if you protect your friends and the ones you love, you can be powerful.

As with being creative, the show didn't have too much to say about intelligence, actually. Giles and Willow were very smart and intellectual. Buffy and Xander were less so. However, they all proved helpful and valuable, without question.

Yes: Xander, Willow, Giles, Angel, Tara, Giles… Not so much: Buffy, Faith, Spike, Anya

Through each of the main sccobies, we see the vast number of ways that you can be intelligent and how important it can be. Not all of them take the conventional route of college and formal education, but they all learn in different ways (i.e. Xander with vocational training and Anya with capitalism and the ways of being human.) They each show how important it is not to be ignorant.


Please note this isn't the same as being educated. I think the show was about how you could be "street smart" and it was actually superior to being academic. I think being self-reflective was difficult but important, I think that often when a character isn't reflective enough upon themselves and a villain knows more about them then they do (such as the case of early Spike or The First) is when the villain would win.

at the same time volatile emotionally and a person of action (everything turned up to 11)

Intellect certainly has many merits, but it's okay not to be academical if that is not your forte. As long as you're a good friend.

It isn't important for a hero to be intellectual, but it IS important for a hero to have an intellectual adviser/sidekick. E.g., Spock, Daniel Jackson, Giles, Willow, Wesley, Merlin, Obi-wan, Claudia, Henry Deacon, etc.

Being informed is important on the program (Giles, Research crams), but that information must be applied. Otherwise, you're "telling the 'Everybody Thinks We're Insane-os Home Journal."

X "Smart girls are so hot."… W "You couldn't have figured that out in sixth grade?"

Intelligence is crucial, but major intellectual capacity tends to be confined to a few characters, and contemplation/meditation to even fewer.

While Willow and Giles are both very intelligent and play an important role there isn't a massive emphasis on academic or intellectual achievement. Xander never goes to college and Buffy drops out.

I'd argue that although the series promotes intelligence as a good quality and something that should be developed (see Willow and Giles), the series places far more weight on the value of always trying your best, always trying to help others, and making the most of what talents or gifts you do have.

Academic ability may not be crucial, but wit, quick reflexes and insight are all important.

Buffy, though obviously intelligent (see her SAT scores), was more of a doer than a thinker. Angel's relentless brooding did him no favors. Willow's tendency to over-think caused her some problems.

This is more the Giles/watcher aspect - as well as the Willow aspect….The scooby gang is always going and doing research, as well as different knowledge of language

Buffy could sometimes be a ditz, but she was also a great general. Willow is as brainy as they come. Giles had more book smarts than most libraries. And Xander, well Xander tried really hard.

Buffy's not that smart. She gets a lot smarter as the show goes on, but she's definitely not intellectual, and school is usually overshadowed by the importance of slaying. On the other hand, Willow and Giles are extremely intelligent, which is probably the reason why they are the only ones that are a genuine help to Buffy on a regular basis.

yes, but only if intellect and logic (below) do not over-ride intuition and non-logical (or, better said), non-linear logic: buffy is never one-dimensional, as there has to be a mix——this is why the buffy/giles partnership was so important, as they brought a mix of spontaneity, creativity, and rigorous intellect

The show doesn't convey to me it's IMPORTANT but it's certainly helpful!

It's kind of a balance of brains and brawn, particularly with in the first few seasons with Willow/Giles as the brains and Buffy/Faith/Kendra as the brawns…. However, as the show progresses, Buffy realizes the importance of self-realization, which I suppose is reflective and intellectual. *something,* not necessarily book-smarts.

The intellectual characters - Giles, Willow - are valued for their contributions, but Buffy and Xander are valued without those.

Not so much

Almost all of the recognizably "intellectual" people are total jerks - Travers and the Watcher's Council, Buffy's first-day-of-college professors. Or they have an evil agenda, like Maggie Walsh. Or they get teased for being stuffy, like Giles and Wesley.

Giles. Willow. Enough said.

Very much so. Not necessarily book smart but Buffy was always very witty and was brilliant with her ideas for winning battles.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Independence vs. Interdependence

11. It is important to be independent [self-reliant, self-sufficient]


It’s interesting that there’s a lot less agreement on this question than there is on the how frequently the value of friendship is depicted with question 35. Respondents seem to believe that the series holds the values of independence and friendship (individualism and interdependence, more broadly) in tension, with group values being more prominently displayed. That’s not to say that self-reliance is not prominently represented in the series, with several commenters quoting this moment:

[screencap credit:]

The majority of the comments use examples relating to Buffy to answer this question, while there was a much greater balance in previous comments. The question of the hero’s ties to the community seems to define how people looked at this question, instead of the ties the community has to the hero or to each other.

Your Comments:

I see the series being the opposite of this, where eventually every character at some point tries to be independent, but eventually needs the rest of the group to get them out of trouble.

Sometimes, but Buffy also needs her friends

To an extent. Buffy is the slayer and must go it alone. She has the Scoobies and a fabulous support system, however, in life it is not always possible to have that at your finger tips at every moment and in every crisis. In certain situations they may not be there and you must be able to go it alone. This is not to say that one should isolate themselves from an amazing support system, that is key and allows for personal growth and the confidence to take charge, however, it can also lead to complete reliance which is never a good thing, you must be able to function on your own in society. It sucks but its true. I feel that Joss did a wonderful job addressing these themes in the last two seasons and the difficulties of leadership, hard as they were for me to watch. Buffy had to take charge whether people wanted her to or not. And sometimes leaders make mistakes, but who doesn't?

I think Buffy really stresses an interdependence model for independence. If that makes sense. Probably not.

Never was this driven home more than when Giles knew he was holding Buffy back from being a true adult (“You're not ready for the world outside ... I'm just standing in the way”).

The show focused more on working with others. Buffy had family and friends helping and often the moral was that she couldn't do it without them.

Yes, but often it explores the tension between that independence and the necessity for communal action and support, which are also highly valued.

The characters rely on each other. From each other they gain true self-sufficience.

Not really, I mean, they need each other in the scoubi gang. That's how they survive.

the series is more about teamwork and being able to rely on others and to ask for help - rather than thinking you have to do everything by yourself

Of course, each person had to show that he or she could stand on his/her own. However, their greatest strength was when they worked together. They weren't nicknamed "the Scoobys" for nothing.

I would say that this trait is important but it's also clearly balanced with a view that it is equally important to be co-dependent and have relationships. Independence and dependence are never portrayed as mutually exclusive, they are complementary.

but asking for help from your friends and family is needed too.

In most situations, it's teamwork and family that are the most important things in BTVS.

This is one point that changed my world.

When Joyce died Buffy realized how dependant she had been on her

I think the message is that it's NOT always important to be self-reliant. Buffy often relies on herself, and goes into her own little world. But when she talks to her friends about whatever it is that's bothering her, she feels much better.

Actually, I think the show said just the opposite. Buffy needed her group of friends. They made her stronger. In fact, we saw several times what might have happened to her had she been more independent. "The Wish" showed a darker, uncaring Buffy, one who ultimately was killed by who we knew to be a relatively week villain. Faith showed us who Buffy might've been without her friends, and it was only when Faith was truly accepted by the group that she began to turn things around.

Buffy shows in s2 how important it is to be self reliant and then spends the rest of the series emphasizing the importance of friends and relationships

Buffy--hello, weight of the world. Xander is also very responsible and resourceful in later seasons.

I think Buffy actually does the opposite. It shows how being strong is about asking for help and relying on your friends. Whenever Buffy or the others try and do things alone it turns out when than if they worked together.

Teamwork is better than self reliance, but it shows up.

There are times to be independent, but you also have to know when to rely on others.

Other than Buffy in S7, it's teamwork that is represented.

tension in the series between going solo and turning to the group

Buffy is both self-reliant and strongest when she is with friends.

The whole point of the series is that Buffy survives as a Slayer BECAUSE she has friends, i.e., she is not self-sufficient. Self-sufficient Slayers get killed quickly.

In 'Buffy,' the most good was achieved with the help of others. Alone often led to suffering and badness.

That is important, but you still need to be able to lean on others sometimes. Sometimes you have to let someone else take the lead.

The whole show is about how Buffy wouldn't survive if she didn't have her friends there for her.

With the proviso that teamwork is important, and interdependence is the organic nature of people's connections...

Mixed on that. Yes, self reliance was important. But so was being part of a community that depended on each other.

While Buffy does occasionally strike out on her own and has shown she is able to be self-reliant I think the key to the show is her friends, her family and her support network. It is part of the reason Kendra and Faith are not as good slayers as Buffy.

To a certain extent I think this value is illustrated on the show - during 'Anne' for example where Buffy has to fend for herself in LA, or in Becoming Part 2 as Angelus is about to kill Buffy, and Buffy fends him off with the following riposte:

"Angelus: Now that's everything, huh? No weapons... No friends... No hope.

Buffy closes her eyes and steels herself for whatever's coming.

Angelus: Take all that away... and what's left?

He draws the sword back and thrusts it directly at her face. With lightning-fast reflexes she swings up with both arms and catches the blade between the palms of her hands. She opens her eyes and meets his gaze

Buffy: Me.

She shoves the blade away from her, and the hilt of the sword hits Angelus in the face."

In 'Anne', Giles also says the following about Buffy: "Buffy is the most capable child I've ever known. I mean, she may be confused, unhappy, but I honestly believe she's in no danger." However, although I think the show does value the ability to be independent the show also makes a strong statement in favour of being able to depend upon your friends and family in times of need.

Buffy's major arc was that Buffy lasted longer and excelled because of her reliance on friend and family

Yes, but also to build a "family" of friends on whom one can rely.

Being your own person was always very important, but part of what made Buffy so strong was her family & friends. Joss (we're on a first name basis, natch) specifically wanted to dispel the notion that heroes had to be completely independent loners. It is important to be able to fend for yourself but it's equally important to have support.

I think that was more true early in the season - versus in the seventh season it was more regarding group slayer identity…. I think it is more that it show the inverse of this - that we are not islands.

Slayers are solitary beings. The irony of that statement not withstanding, at the end of the day, Buffy had Buffy. And that was enough. But she was the greatest slayer in all of history because of her friends. I doubt she would have made it out of the first season alive if not for her friends.

I would describe it as being important to be able to be independent, but that teamwork is more important.

Most of the instances I can think of that deal with this topic disagree with that. Buffy can't survive on her own. She needs the support of her friends. They all do.

but only with the caveat that extreme self-reliance can be destructive

This is represented but I believe it shows nore that it is also okay to rely on others as well sometimes and you need people around you that you are able to rely on. Asking for help when you need it is always important.

The character Buffy definitely is independent and self-sufficient, but I think the main message the show puts out, to me at least, is the idea of a family, whether that's blood relations or a family of friends. You never have to or should have to stand alone in life, and Buffy has found that many times on the show.

Frankly, I think it's the opposite/ Buffy says to have friends to rely on--that's what makes Buffy a unique slayer, and the show a good one to watch.

Though all the characters are, in their own way, irretrievably alone, they survive through familial friendships.

While I don't think that it's not not represented in the series, I think that the show conveys that it is far more important to depend on other people than to be self-sufficient.

Yes and no. Too self-reliant can be a bad thing, and one of the messages that Buffy is that we need other people to be effective.

To a certain extent, but Buffy was always stronger with her friends. In contrast, in "The Wish" dystopia, Buffy was alone and independent was not the Buffy we liked.

Buffy is not about being dependant, but about acknowledging the power of teamwork instead of flying solo.

This is sometimes valued, but the importance of teamwork comes up a lot more often - especially as an attribute that makes Buffy stronger.

Ya gotta have friends or at least interesting enemies

I feel like independence is most encouraged of folks within a community. Like you must be independently good at working with a team. Isolated independence is looked down upon - think season 3 Faith.

The show both tells us thins while it negates it. Buffy as the only one - but her greatest victories are team victories. She is lonely but the series ends with many slayers, not one. Frequently, it is self-reliance which makes the biggest mistakes. I think the show says no matter how capable you are on your own, you are better off with help.

I think the show was more about teamwork and trust. Mostly it was when a character tried to fly solo, when thingsnwould take a turn for the worst.

The series frequently highlights the tension between independence and inter-dependence.

Well, many of the questions are different if your talking Buffy, or the whole group.

I think the show did a great job of balancing Buffy's independence with her reliance on her friends. She was successful both ways and needed to be.

It was highlighted many times how much deader Buffy would be without her friends and family. On the other hand, and the reason for a 2 instead of a 1, I refer you to Buffy and Angelus' sword paraphrase...Angelus: take away everything you have and what's left...Buffy: Me.

Giles: Can you forgive me?
Buffy: For what?
Giles: I should never have left.
Buffy: Oh, Giles... You were right to leave.
Buffy works best when she has her friends around her.

Again Half the time it is stated that that’s what Buffy is and needs to be, but also several times when to over -come things she NEEDS her friends to do it.

The Scoobies showed teamwork was essential. Same with the chosen group of gals. Teamwork seemed more important than doing it all alone, in fact it was rare for any character to succeed on their own.

The group depended on one another. But as mentioned, when you have lost everything, you always have yourself left.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Buffy vs. Art

10. It is important to be imaginative [daring, creative]


There’s fairly strong agreement that this was a frequently represented value in the series. Comments observed that imagination tended to be geared towards tactical and strategic surprise and daring, rather than creativity. You never see Willow agonizing over how she wants the visual displays of her spells to look, for example. This was THE favorite example of imagination:

One commenter observes that the quips and puns indicate the verbal creativity of Buffy. I would add that Willow does work on the smell of her potions in season three, while Xander’s outraged at his loss of the Class Clown award to an aesthetic beneath him: balloon art. And Angel’s always had nice taste in decorating his various abodes.

Your Comments:

Buffy was resourceful and didn't rely on what she had been taught in order to succeed - came up with her own ideas.

Without ingenuity, you are predictable and predictability gets you killed.

Perhaps best represented through Willow's witchcraft and different styles of fighting employed by the characters. Blowing up the school was bloody genius.

It's their creativity and imagination that saves the day in the end, whether it's a rocket launcher or a plan to blow up the library.

This is not a huge topic addressed on the show, however, all the characters are very daring.

Honestly, I don't think the show had much to say about being creative. Characters certainly were creative, but it got them ahead and in hot water in about equal measure. I think about killing Kralik with the Holy water in his glass as being creative when at a distinct disadvantage and having it be celebrated. However, the Troika were very creative, but that was ultimately shown as a bad thing.

Some characters do this well. Faith is a great example, and Buffy in Season 7, particularly.

Buffy is able to be such a good Slayer in huge part due to her creativity when it comes to finding ways to defeat evil.

Rocket launcher.

Thinking out of the box gets the job done.

I can't really think when this was represented- other than Buffy's strategies. A lot of 'imagination and creativity' was based on research.

Demon can't be killed with a sword? Let's try a rocket launcher.

Rocket Launcher, arm the graduating class, activate all every slayer, demand the WC provide information about Glory... At nearly EVERY opportunity, this show demonstrates the importance of not letting the other side make up the rules. If you need to win, do it however necessary.

Thinking outside the box is usually represented as a crucial survival tool.

I think this value is frequently represented on the series, especially when trying to beat various foes and enemies. One good example I think comes from 'The Gift' where Anya manages to think of a whole host of ways to help prevent Glory from getting to Dawn in time to begin the ritual. Anya comes up with the Troll hammer, the Orb, and the BuffyBot all as distraction methods.

Buffy's ability to "think outside of the box" (I hate that phrase!) was one of the keys to her unprecedented success as a slayer. Still, Faith represented what happens with unchecked daring.

the approaches taken are daring

It stated that Buffy's effectiveness as a slayer is a direct result of her willingness to improvise.

Buffy's fighting daring saved her on more than on occasion. Thinking outside the box was important.

Spot on

I believe this was towards the end. Buffy thought outside of the box and broke all of the rules!

Buffy survives where other slayers fail because she doesn't do everything by the book (dead Kendra)….e.g. …Quipy much? Also, I refer you to the Kendra vs Buffy sparring match in Giles' office.

Buffy vs. Lying Liars

9. It is important to be honest [sincere, truthful]


Lots of discussion of lies here: Xander’s to Buffy, Giles’ to Buffy, Buffy’s to Giles, Buffy’s about Angel to everybody, Riley’s to Buffy, the Scoobies drifting apart, Willow’s to Tara… Of course, there’s the litany of truths that characters struggle to accept, like Xander’s doubts about his impending marriage or Willow’s insecurities. What people seemed to argue here is that while there are many examples of a lack of full disclosure, the series makes honesty a central value through the consequences a lack of it can have.

And, of course, facing the truths brings people closer together and teach us values through the emotional “Awws” we get from such revelations, such as here with Buffy and Willow admitting why they were growing apart in season four.

Two other points interested me. First, respondents noted that Giles and Joyce “get away with” two lies of omission, as Giles never reveals on a TV screen what happened to Ben and Joyce never tells Buffy about her confab with Angel. I hadn’t thought of those. Second, nobody mentioned Buffy hiding her sexual relationship with Spike.

Your Comments:

See: Xander and Buffy in "Becoming Pt.2" where he lies to her about what Willow said so that Buffy won't try to put off killing Angel to allow the spell to take place.

Important! However, after 7 beautiful seasons it seems to be a continual theme that all of the scoobies continue to fail to grasp:)

It was important but untruths or at least misdirection had to be employed at times. Such as when Angel came back from the Hell dimension and Buffy didn't tell Giles or friends for a long time. Of course they felt betrayed and she was between a rock and a hard place.

Difficult one, there are lies, and lies have consequences. Lies usually lead to some agony. But sometimes they are needed, like in "Lie to Me".

Giving this one a 3 because while I thought the characters considered honesty a value or a virtue, they were often not honest themselves.

The first time Buffy lies to Giles, she almost gets eaten by a demon. In season 6 when she lies to her friends about sleeping with Spike, she spirals downwards into an abusive relationship that is not healthy towards her, or Spike. When her friends find out, she feels a huge burden taken off her back, and realizes that it is always to be honest with her friends.

For the most part, the show preached honesty, or at least consequences for dishonesty. However, sometimes a teenager would get away with lying to his or her parents about his or her whereabouts. While Xander eventually came clean about his lie about Angel -- "Kick his ass" -- he never really faced direct repercussions. Giles got away with killing Ben, though, to my knowledge, he never told anyone about that. These are the exceptions that prove the rule, though, as honesty was, time and again, definitely shown to set one free.

Buffy is almost always honest but giles is not like when he kills ben. I think this one occasion makes honesty seem like a luxury for the strong and that special people like buffy need other people to do their dishonesty for them

Again, Xander is the best example of this value. There is a lot of deception on this show under the pretense of protecting the others or "for their own good."

buffy taught me that while we have been taught that everything thing in life is meant to be black and white, right and wrong….nothing really is...we operate on a morally gray scale...all we have our are choices and those choices have ramifications (both good and bad) far beyond any one of our control and even perception

I think the best example of this is in season four when the scoobies let their friendships fall through the cracks by hiding things from one another. Doing this allowed Spike to weasel his way in and cause them all to fight with each other. Honesty truly is the best policy.

Sort of hard to be truthful when fighting monsters.

Again, I feel like not telling people the truth caused many problems. Relationships suffer because people lied to either protect people's feelings or out of shame. I think this is the same with the forgiveness things. Sometimes you just can't forgive and sometimes you just can't be honest with yourself, let alone others. It's about the process of it.

Dishonest characters always get punished, e.g. Xander and Willow S3, Xander S6

Most lies or omissions lead to later suffering (the Crucimentum, Riley going to pay-for-bleed nests), but some are intended with noble (or at least mixed) intentions ("Kick his ass," Giles going years before admitting he murdered Ben). Lying is seldom simply "wrong," but it must never be done lightly.

If you lie to the people you care about, it WILL come back to bite you on the ass.

Being dishonest almost always has sever consequences.

Things usually get messed up when characters are dishonest.

There are several occasions on the show where a character's lie comes back to bite them in the ass, so it would appear that the series is suggesting that honesty is always the best policy. For instance, Buffy lies to the Scooby Gang and Faith about the return of Angel in season 3. This leads to a large confrontation involving all the characters in the episode 'Revelations', some of the ramifications of which are seen later on. For instance with Faith, this is where we can see the beginnings of her 'trust issues' really developing.

Some facts are smudged over a bit, but sincerity matters.

Telling the truth was never fun but lying always led to serious repercussions.

I think the show does illustrate the gray areas….I think of the 18th birthday test - where the truth is not there and it is an unraveling….I think it is more degrees….And how about when Buffy hides Angel at the first 3 months of the 3rd season - not truthful.

Buffy's life is kind of one big lie, but then again, if she wasn't honest with her friends she wouldn't have their support and be able to be such an amazing slayer.

The Scoobies' project is shrouded in secrecy for the entirety of the show, largely due to the team's concerted efforts to hide the truth of the Hellmouth. …Also, it is suggested that "noble lies" are sometimes necessary, i.e. when Giles kills the human Ben to destroy Glory, which Buffy was unwilling or incapable of doing, but which was necessary.

Willow lying to Tara about magic use, and Xander and Anya hiding their feelings. For the four of them, OMWF is all about hiding the truth, and look how it turns out for them.

Depends on the circumstances. Joyce never told Buffy that she asked Angel to leave (that we know of). Buffy having to keep her Slayerness a secret from *most* people is more important than being upfront about it with them.

Not really. Buffy had a real problem with honestly when it came to her personal life and choices.

Honest, sincere truthful is not the same as correct, thoughtful or merciful. The white lie or tougher love from Xander to Buffy or Dawn can be more human.

While I think all the characters would say it's important to be honest, everyone has their fair share of secrets and lies, which sort of undermines the "honesty is best" line.

You rarely - if anytime - get away with anything on the show.

I think this was a value but the characters struggled with it in certain situations. There were quite a few instances of dishonesty.

It is important to be honest to your team/friends. But there is a little bit of "it's not lying if they make you lie"

....except the other half of the time when it's important to be dis-honest (in the context of the show) :P

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Buffy and the Welfare of Others

8. It is important to be helpful [working for the welfare of others]


There’s virtually no disagreement in the comments on this one. Key examples seem to be Cordelia and Anya’s conversion narratives...

Anya: The rapid reproductive rate of our rabbits has given me an idea. I can give the excess out to the townspeople, exchanging them not for goods or services, but for goodwill and the sense of accomplishment that stems from selflessly giving of yourself to others.
Olaf: Ha, ha, ha. Sweet Aud! Your logic is insane and happenstance, like that of a troll.

and Buffy’s unrecognized labor...

… until this moment, at least.
[screencap credit:]

Myself, I’d include Joyce, whose labor to make a functional home for Buffy goes unrecognized until after her death.

Your Comments:

Although occasionally begrudgingly. Why should one person shoulder all of the burden and responsibility? A major theme/idea that Buffy is constantly struggling with. Why me? Why can't I just have a normal life? That is the beauty of friends and family, you don't have to go it alone! Although, at times it still might suck, at least you are not going it alone!

This was key to the show. And not even just helpful. Selfless (which of course, was very tiring for Buffy, in particular).

Yes, but not to the exclusion of your own individual well-being. In other words, not complete selflessness.

Compassion, love, understanding, respect and willingness to intervene when a person is ruining a life is a central theme in Buffy.

Although it's not always the easiest to help others, the scoobies learn that it is for the better in the long run, and they will be rewarded if they do a good deed for another.

The biggest and most relevant theme of the entire series was the importance of helping others. Buffy, a girl who just wanted to be a normal girl, sacrificed that desire specifically so that she might help others. More than that, she helped others who would have no idea they were ever being helped, despite being ridiculed because of it (or, rather, because of the fallout of it, but the likes of Cordelia). The fact that Willow and Xander (and later many others) chose to help in the fight, even though they were never made to, just underscores how important helping others truly was to the show.

Everyone does their bit

Scoobies were helpful to one another most of the time. Of course, saving the world was Buffy's mission.

"You've only lasted this long because you have ties to the world." …Buffy risks her life every day for the welfare of others and pays very dearly when she has selfish moments.

The show dealt more with the balance between helping others and living one's own life, between taking care of others and taking care of one's self.

This is the nature of Buffy's calling, and I'd argue that she adheres to it throughout almost the complete series. However, by seasons 6 & 7 her interest in working for the welfare of others has significantly waned.

The self-centred might as well be vampires or demons - they either learn or suffer - or both. (Cordy, for example. Anya too, in some ways.) Vampires are the ultimate antithesis to this, and are routinely dusted.

Buffy's full-time job was helping people & she never got paid for it! Angel sought redemption through helping people. Spike's actions were never seen as heroic until he earned his soul & could finally do the right things for the right reasons.

the prom episode - where Buffy is elected the class protectorate…I think it is more an underlying aspect rather than in Angel where it is very front forward.

They always work for the welfare of others, that's what the scooby-gang is all about.

Buffy was committed; she just wasn't happy about it. Mixed message.


I think this theme is more fully explored in Season 8, but even within the first 7 seasons the series often forces characters to distinguish between what is personally desirable and what is good for the world (Giles killing Ben; Buffy refusing to kill Dawn; Buffy accepting her role as a slayer; even the humor of Anya's suggestion that Buffy charge for her services).

Buffy's friends were often vital to her success!

The good guys were all very helpful, so....

Buffy vs. Forgiveness

7. It is important to be forgiving [willing to pardon others]


With 82 percent putting this value as being frequently represented by the series, there was a lot of agreement with this question in the comments. Yet, there were some notable objections: Giles and Angelus, Xander and Angelus, and sometimes Spike. (Isn’t it always “sometimes Spike”?) Two specific moments were cited multiple times, Giles' “I Only Have Eyes for You” speech and…

What not going all Dumbledore looks like.
[screencap credit:]

Your Comments:

Willow nearly destroyed the world but was still forgiven by those who cared for her.

Sometimes shown from the reverse perspective--the consequences of unforgiveness and revenge

Everyone on the show goes through a rough patch, Buffy, Giles, Dawn, Willow, Anya, yet they all make it through. Love and forgiveness are are powerful forces. Though it may be hard and take an entire season to happen it is vital to the shows core. Although, as the world is not perfect neither are the characters. I believe the Andrew would be a great example of redemption throughout the later series. Also the rehabilitation of Dark Willow after her escapades in season six are able to be eventually forgiven. Although Spike ultimately redeems himself in my eyes this is not so with many of the other characters on the show. He was trying and isn't that what really matters most. The acknowledgement of past wrongs and working on self improvement?…Sorry, I ramble...

Oz forgiving Willow for cheating with Xander, Giles forgiving Angel for torturing him as Angelus, everyone mostly forgiving Angel for being Angelus, everyone mostly forgiving Spike for everything, Buffy eventually forgiving them for bringing her back from the dead, Anya kind of being okay with Xander after a while...there is tons of this

Hard to say. What counts as forgiveness? Willow's revenge on Warren certainly did not value forgivness. Buffy's forgiveness of Angel and murder of Angelus at the end of season two was a mixed version of forgiveness. This is not a clear value in Buffy.

I'm going to give a 3 on this one because there were times when forgiveness was warranted, times when it wasn't and times when it was given and it should not have been.

Forgiveness over vengeance is a big theme throughout the series. In the words of Giles, "To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It's not done because people deserve it; it's done because they need it."

Angel, Andrew, Spike, Willow, etc.

Anya, Andrew, Spike, Willow, Faith and Angel are all characters that through forgiveness have become better people

In the first episode of season 7, Willow is very nervous about returning to Sunnydale; she killed a human and is not sure if her friends will forgive her. They do, of course, but it takes time. It's kind of ironic, because the reason she thinks she won't be forgiven is because she couldn't forgive someone and killed him.

This is an interesting one. Yes, I would say that, for the most part, the show preached forgiveness. However, the show also acknowledged that, sometimes, forgiving those that you know would take advantage of that forgiveness would be a bad thing. Giles accepted this truth when he killed Ben. However, these examples are rare. For the most part, everybody was allowed to be forgiven, including Giles himself on several occasions. Faith, Andrew, Angel, Willow, even Buffy were all able to find forgiveness.

Giles killing Glory/Ben comes to mind.

Or you become Evil Willow.

Giles clearly recognizes the danger of forgiveness, and his killing of Ben is one of the greatest moments of the show, demonstrating that Buffy's forgiveness is a weakness not shared by the pragmatic Giles. …But at other times, forgiveness proves to be useful, as with Angel, Spike, and other instances.

The point of holding on to anger was shown as valid. But, really if people could forgive in Buffy world pretty much all tragedy could be avoided, but then there would also be no show. I think a lot of it is about the process of letting go of anger and how difficult it can be. I also think forgiving is not the same as fighting back when someone attacks you.

After some time- e.g. Giles and Angel, Buffy and Willow after 'Smashed'
very interesting issue in Buffy. I loved Giles' speech about forgiveness early on. The main characters generally forgive (or more correctly chose to forget) major transgressions on the part of those they love (e.g., Xander and Anya, Spike and Buffy, Buffy and Angel). My daughter insists Buffy never forgave Spike for the attempted rape.

"Giles went all Dumbledore on me."

The giving of unconditional love as portrayed in the show makes Buffy one of the most Christian shows ever made. Xander, a carpenter, saved the world with unconditional love at the end of season six.

The show also struggled with the difficulty of forgiveness. It's important, it's needed, but it's not easy.

GILES: To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It's, it's not done because people deserve it. It's done because they need it. - "I Only Have Eyes for You"

Lots of the characters get a second chance - Willow, Spike, Angel, Anya, Faith etc... all have properly evil moments but even when they don't deserve a chance they're given one.

Forgiveness is an important theme in the Buffyverse with good reason - at one point or another every member of the core Scooby Gang has committed a heinous act of one form or another. I'd argue that Giles is the most forgiving member of the core Scooby Gang, perhaps followed by Willow. Xander and Buffy tend to hold onto grudges a little longer than the others (e.g. Xander never truly forgave Angel for his actions as Angelus in season 2, and Buffy brings up Xander's 'lie' in 'Selfless'). At the end of the episode 'I Only Have Eyes for You' Giles also says the following: "To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It's, it's not done because people deserve it. It's done because they need it."

Scoobies get more breaks than others, but forgiveness is important.

Buffy was generally pretty forgiving, with the exception of Selfless. She refused to take a human life, prompting Giles to snuff out Ben. Oz forgave Willow & it seemed like Willow could have forgiven Oz had he not left abruptly. Certainly, Xander's, Giles' & Joyce's inability to forgive Buffy at the end of Season 2 was quite harmful. Buffy's inability to forgive Riley about the vampire biting led to their breakup. Still, Cordelia never explicitly forgave Xander & that seemed like the correct choice.

Not always the most important.

I think that the episode with the crosses in the garage where Giles and the former principal try to assassinate Spike -…and in the end Buffy will let what happens happens….I think it also has to with having a soul - and since numerous characters don't - hard concept.

Absolutely forgiveness is a huge theme in Buffy. All the characters make mistakes that hurt others at some point in the series. Forgiveness and redemption are big themes.

It's definitely a moral theme, but the characters disregard it quite often.

Tara finds happiness after she forgives Willow (until she dies). Buffy forgives Spike….On the other hand, Xander and Giles refuse to forgive Angel. Buffy refuses to forgive Faith until she is virtually forced to in Season 7….And Buffy blames herself for taking Angel's soul in Season 2 and cannot forgive herself until "I Only Have Eyes For You"….Forgiveness is a major theme in Buffy, but I'm not sure if the moral of the story is to forgive or not to forgive.

Otherwise you turn evil (Willow).

only if they were human.

Forgive maybe but not forget and definitely move on.

A central theme of Buffy is the question of what actions - if any - are unforgivable. Giles poisoning Buffy? Buffy running away? Buffy killing Angel? Willow resurrecting Buffy? Anya sleeping with Spike? Spike trying to rape Buffy? Jonathan messing with everyone's reality? Buffy stabbing Faith?…I don't know whether the series advocates forgiveness is all cases, but it certainly asks the question, over and over again.

Seeing Faith being forgiven by the core gang would be awesome especially here the words from Buffy

HUGE theme I believe. Everyone does not so spectacular things...everyone can be redeemed. The show did a great job at this. No matter what mistakes they made, they were always there for each other.

There were times when characters forgave each other, yes. To be forgiving was not reinforced as something a person SHOULD be though, nor was unforgiveness show in a negative light. Forgiveness was simply portrayed as something that usually happens over time, where the people involved really actually care about each other.

Buffy: He wants forgiveness.

Giles: Yes. I imagine he does. But when James possesses people, they act out exactly what happened that night. So he's experiencing a form of purgatory instead. I mean, he's, he's doomed to, to kill his Ms. Newman over and over and over again, and... forgiveness is impossible.

Buffy: Good. He doesn't deserve it.

Giles: To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It's, it's not done because people deserve it. It's done because they need it.

You could questions if some people really ever did forgive others. Willow killed one man, that sure wasn't forgiveness, but because she failed to forgive, Buffy almost had to end her. And did Giles ever REALLY forgive Angel? Did Buffy ever REALLY forgive Jenny?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Buffy vs. Fear Itself

6. It is important to be courageous [standing up for your beliefs]


There’s lots of agreement on this question, with examples ranging from Buffy and Xander to Faith and Cordelia. Read to the end if you want to hear from lone dissenter, who said standing up for your beliefs was almost never represented on the series.

Technically, this is falling down for your beliefs.
[screencap credit:]

Your Comments:

This may have been Willow's biggest accomplishment.

All the characters stand up for their beliefs. Sometimes very strongly. Buffy is of course very clear at times. Faith is entirely devout to some sort of moral position during most of her arc. Perhaps Giles and Willow's repeated clashes over magic were the most interesting, where the characters truly stood up and diverged, even violently, when it came to beliefs.

This is a given.

If there was anything that BTVS teaches, it would be this.

One of Buffy's strongest themes is about being brave and fighting for yourself

In my opinion, this is one of the biggest lessons Joss tries to get across on the show. Buffy really loves her friends and family; they are the most important thing in her life. So when one of them is in danger, she always helps them...not always thinking of the consequences. But I think someone like Xander is more courageous than someone with powers, like Buffy and Willow, because he has no powers and could be harmed more easily. He stands up for what he belives in in spite of the consequences that can come upon him.

Even when characters were wrong, we were able to understand why they thought what they thought, and that's because, almost to a man, they stood up for that which they believed. Many even made the ultimate sacrifice, and all of our heroes certainly would have. Anya's journey was entirely about discovering her belief system, which she ultimately did, stood up for it, and was able to die a hero because of it.

I don't have to comment really.

Buffy does what is right, even when it kills her - twice.

No matter how powerful (Buffy, Willow) or "powerless" (Xander, Joyce), every character had a moment where their actions saved the day.

This is a biggie.

I think this is very important, particularly for Buffy.

This is one of the central themes of the series - after all the series is about the hero's journey. Examples include Buffy killing Angel at the end of season 2 because even though she REALLY doesn't want to do it, she knows it's the right thing to do. At the end of season 5 Buffy can't accept that an innocent like Dawn should die, so kills herself instead to save the world. Perhaps a less 'heavy' example is Cordelia at the end of Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered standing up to Harmony and the other 'popular' girls and defending Xander.

Buffy did this in practically every episode, though not as often in Season 6. Even Willow & Xander learned the importance of standing up for themselves in Doppelgangland & The Zeppo, respectively.

This was done well in many different context - starting with like I want to say Gingerbread

To quote: "I'm Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. And you are?"

Again, for me one of the things the main character Buffy is about. She stands up for everyone when needed.

Except when deluded, under a spell or drunk - see Williow and Dawn or A Hell God.

"I'm facing my fear, I'm facing my fear...hear that, fear? I'm facing you"

Buffy is all about heroism, and the show repeatedly explores what it means to be courageous.

I think the value to be courageous was more standing up for your friends and family than beliefs. Eps like Spiral, The Gift, Superstar, and especially Family show how it's standing up for your friends, and by them, that guides actions.

I think this was always the case. Buffy stuck by what she believed no matter who it was. Many examples...Buffy defending herself and Giles to the Watchers Council, Buffy not letting Willow kill Andrew and Jonathon, and my favorite...Buffy defending Spike to Giles in the last season!

Every episode and extra special important at every single season finale.

You might be scratching your head with my answer here.....if you left it at courageous, my answer would have be a definite 5. Since you clarified it as meaning to stand up for your beliefs, I have to say 1. I would not define patrolling every night to put down the vampire threat, or researching to avert an apocalypse, as standing up for your beliefs. I'd define it as doing the right thing, and as saving the world, and as being courageous, brave, good, etc. But standing up for your beliefs would be more like participating in public debate to argue the rightness of the Slayer's mission, or like handing out flyers to try to convince everyone what goes bump in the night and enlist their help to fight.

Buffy: "Dawn, listen to me. Listen: I love you. I will always love you. This is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles I... tell Giles I figured it out, and I'm o.k. Give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live... for me."

Buffy vs. The Thing Next to Godliness

5. It is important to be clean [neat, tidy]


Ah, tidiness… my favorite of the minor virtues and the bane of Kristen’s existence. There were very, very few comments on this one, perhaps because many of you considered it a given on broadcast television (outside of shows like Roseanne or Hoarders). As such, 70% found it to be rarely represented on the series, despite comments saying exactly the opposite. Indeed, mainstream entertainment tends to position this middle-class and distinctly modern value as a norm, with untidiness being linked to quirkiness, a visual sign of mental distress or low class. (So, Xander shows up a lot in the comments.) Angel’s NYC days, Buffy’s domesticity with Faith and Dawn, and Mayor Wilkins cleanliness drew mention as well. Finally, several commented on the fact that demons present many clean-up issues:

Willow: Isn't he gonna go poof?
Buffy: Mm, I guess these guys don't. We'll have to bury him or something. Uhhf... Makes you appreciate vamps, though. No fuss, no muss.

[screenshot credit:]

Your Comments:

Eh...depends on which character's point of view you are coming from. Buffy = yes, Xander = not so much.

It's more of a given, as on most TV. The opposite is not glorified, but I wouldn't say that particular moral is highlighted.

This is usually represented, but occasionally the characters appear drunk and disorderly. Xander's nerdy look in the early could also signify a relaxed relationship to tidiness.

Cleanliness isn't a huge issue on BTVS...the one episode that popped into my mind when I read this was Beer Bad. Buffy starts drawing on the walls, and her room is a bit of a mess. However, this is due to magic, and the topic of tidiness isn't adrressed that much on the show.

This was never really a theme in the show. That being said, though, Giles was very helpful because he kept his library meticulously catalogued, while the Chaos Demon was mocked for being messy, all antlers and slime. Nobody was really particularly messy, and more was accomplished when one was organized, but it was never really a theme.

I think this is implied but not specifically represented


Ya know, looking back everyone was really neat, and when things were messy it did represent that things were chaotic.

It's pretty glossy, regardless of the angst

They did clean up after themselves, but it wasn't such a huge thing.

Short from washing your hair after a trip to the sewers, when was this ever an issue on Buffy?

I have to say I never noticed this intentionally stressed one way or another - though being Hollywood, for the most part everything is pretty damn clean & tidy, except maybe post-ruckus.

Although this is perhaps not one of the core values on the show, I think there are instances on the series where cleanliness is certainly shown to be important. The moment which springs to mind is when Whistler finds Angel in Manhattan feeding off rats, falling around in the garbage, and calls him the "stink guy". The rest of the scene includes the following comments from Whistler, "God, are you disgusting", and "This is really an unforgettable smell. This is the stench of death you're giving off here. And the look says, uh... Crazy Homeless Guy. It's not good". Here not only is Angel's lack of hygiene which is repugnant, but also his state of mind which is visually represented by his lack of cleanliness. He is lost, without hope or direction and this is physically manifest in his disinterest in personal hygiene or his appearance. The series shows that this is clearly not a good thing. Also throughout the series it tends to be the 'bad' or evil characters which are dirty or untidy, such as the vampires. Take Spike for example: Xander frequently comments on how he looks/smells in a negative way. Of course, there is one example that does not fit in with this assessment: The Mayor during season 3. He possesses almost a Howard Hughes-esque germophobia and obsession with cleanliness, yet he is most decidedly evil. Or is he? He often exhibits very human, very real emotions, such as the father's love he possesses towards Faith, so perhaps his love of hygiene is just another part of this multi-faceted character, helping to remind us that he's not all bad, and is still human in many respects (obviously not the being impervious to harm thing though...or the eating of the massive black spiders).

Xander's basement. Need one say more? Or Harmony's cute unicorn den - neat, tidy and obnoxious!

The show never championed squalor but I can't think of a cleanliness lesson off the top of my head.

this seems hardly relevant——and to be out of tune, on a certain level, with the fundamental values

Not sure in what ways tidiness is portrayed.

Cleanliness is not so much "important" as it is a sign of warmth. Think about the dream sequence when Faith and Buffy make a bed together, or when Buffy is folding Dawn's laundry as she tells her that if Dawn doesn't do her homework that Social Services will take her away. Such domestic cleanliness is a sign of love, family, and hearth.

Demons muss your clothes, plus, there is often visera.

There's more emphasis on being fashionable (cute hair, shoes, etc) than on cleanliness, per se.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Laugh, Spawn of Hell, Laugh!"

4. It is important to be cheerful [lighthearted, joyful]


The numbers indicate that there was fairly strong agreement that cheerfulness is a modestly represented value. Many noted that this value fluctuated in prominence over time, especially citing season 6.

Not this moment, though. The other 20 hours.

[screencap credit:]

Several stated that expressing emotions, rather than a particular emotion, was more prominent. Others dealt with their perception of optimism as being a subtext of the question. Myself, I consider the comic to be a core value of the series, with the Wishverse revealing its importance by eliminating humor, wit and playfulness.

Your Comments:

There seems to be a lot of pressure on Buffy to be cheerful, even in very trying times.

What was actually important IMO was that people expressed themselves whether they were joyful, depressed, sad, overwrought, angry, spiteful, wrestling with fear and/or misgivings. The Scoobies often argued, cried, made up. Having to be cheerful was not something I ever noticed.

Admittedly, this was an almost required standard on the show. However, in the later seasons a darker tone was introduced, and the different moods of a human was researched more thoroughly. Other emotions became as important, if not entire driving elements in the show. Think of Willow's fury at Tara's death.

Most of the characters are generally happy, and when they become depressed the rest of the gang does their best to turn that around.

Glass half full

Xander was the heart of the Scoobies and he very rarely let negativity seep through

No - I think it's about being open about how you feel, even if that is that you're feeling shit.

Towards the later seasons, (particularly season 6) the show takes a much darker turn and it makes the show very interesting and different, not the cheeriest, but with Buffy's friends by her side, she becomes a much happier person; happier with her life, and herself.

I don't think the series ever really expressed that everything needed to be rosy. In fact, thinking of, for instance, the episode "Lie to Me," the idea seemed to be, "Life is sometimes hard. If you pretend that's not so, you do yourself a disservice." I think everybody wanted to be happy, but to be cheerful almost seems like pretending to be something in the face of all the reasons indicating that you shouldn't be, and that's not what the show was about.

I think Buffy is about being honest about your feelings

I think the show says ... you get the good with the bad... so why not make the good so much better by actually celebrating it

Being able to see the bright side in different situations is one of the things that Buffy does best. Watching her and the scoobies laugh while in the face of mortal danger makes you feel like you can deal with any problems that you may be having in your own life easily.

As long as it doesn't go towards denial which it can, and then that's not good. It's important to use humor more I think,

Puns. Quips. Too many to count. "If I had my powers, I'd be punning right now."
The series started out more light hearted, and then continued to have bits in between, but as the years went on the show quickly became quite dark.

I would have said, gay in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Buffy usually had a pun or a quip when facing an adversary, but I seldom saw her joyful.

After Season Five, I felt the series took lighthearted breaks, but the overall tone and weight of life remained. It may be important to balance the lighthearted with the grim, but I felt "Buffy" didn't make this a priority.

Yes - but when appropriate is stressed, as well. There's a time and a place for levity is also a value on value.

Certainly in the earlier seasons I would agree, and would probably rate Buffy a 3 or even 4 for this question. However, in the later seasons this wasn't really represented on the series with arguably many of the characters suffering from some form of depression and despair.

The show was about coming-of-age so the lightheartedness waned as the years progressed, but I think the characters' abilities to crack wise helped them face an endless series of apocalyptic challenges.

It's not often addressed, but I think a lot of the time the characters' feelings get in the way of what they need to do.

Even when faced with adversity, there'd be humor at some stage - even if by a small joke.

They try...but they do live on the hellmouth...

I actually think that the moral of "Once More with Feeling" was that it's ok to be sad, that life isn't all about being happy….Buffy: "Still my friends, don't know why I ignore/The million things or more/I should be dancing for"…Buffy wonders why she's not more happy with her life and sees her lack of cheerfulness and appreciation as the cause of her depression, until Spike tells her life isn't all about being happy…."Life isn't bliss, life is just this, it's living."…I wouldn't say that BtVS doesn't value the importance of optimism in the face of danger, I would just say that it also mentions the importance of realizing that a smile and a song can't get you through everything.

One of my favorite things about Buffy is their ability to be lighthearted in even the darkest situations. They got away from that idea for awhile, but Season 7 brought it back.

It was important to Buffy to be fake cheerful.


Nope, it's better to have whatever mood you are in except when Buffy turned mean. Meanness gets interrupted quickly and you get sent home.

Then again, the show does criticize faking cheerfulness as well.

This is one of the key lessons of Buffy - resilience and good humor are the key to surviving darkness. When you give into the moping, you end up with seasons 4 & 6 (which are actually NOT the terrible seasons so many people seem to think they were, but that's another story).

I think they strived for a positive theme overall but weren't afraid to be realistic and show that there is pain and hurt and that it's not realistic to always be sunshine.

Cheerleaders were shown as witches with a "b" so....not so much? Though our Cordy did transform herself in later seasons.

I would say no on this, as many of the characters are often quite the opposite, but whenever they get too depressed, there seems to be crazy consequences for it. And then everyone else in the group gives them a hard time for not being happy.

half the time people in the show are trying to be joy full but to the end of the series its made very clear that for Buffy to do her job effectively she becomes cold. so sometimes it said that that’s what she needs to do but also that she has to be filled with love to do it.

Buffy vs. Competence

3. It is important to be capable [competent, effective]


People seemed to think that there was a variety of competencies that the series was prepared to depict—from strength and skill to wisdom and insight—and that the usefulness of these traits varied by circumstance. Several people observed that prominent related themes were dealing with failure and the conflict between good intentions and results. The most prominent example of this value in action was Xander’s character arc, with Buffy being a close second.

Although not this part of Xander's arc. [screencap credit:]

Despite the relative consensus of the numbers, several commenters questioned whether this was a prominent value in the series or thought it might be problematically represented when present.

Your comments:

This is an important part of the show, however, in my opinion what is stressed even more is what happens if you fall short? Life goes on, you pick yourself back up and just keep at it.

Again, the characters often have these qualities, but the emphasis is on trying hard to do what you can with what you have, not on always being perfect about it.

True, but more than this it is important to work hard to acquire competence.

The ever-present threat of a horrible death by vampires/demons/evil humans was incentive enough to keep people motivated, even if they did "slip" (a.k.a. want to try and have a "normal" day) once in a while.

Intentions are always treated as more important than results.

Again, I think what the show is about is not about being capable, it's about showing that you're capable of being effective by just being yourself.

They are all extremely capable people....nough said, there's a slayer, witch, ex-demon etc.

Kind of as a continuation of the first question about ambition, Xander strove to be capable. Not when he was younger as much, but as he matured, that became a driving force in his life. Many other characters, in their desire to be competent, looked to the supernatural: Willow, Jonathan, Andrew, etc. So yes, the desire to be (or the importance of being) capable was always there.

Buffy seems to value intention more than effectiveness

Or you die.


I think part of Buffy's charm is actually to show that you don't always need to be competent in order to help. A good example is Xander who can mess things up and be very incompetent and yet be essential to the scooby gang.

I think it's good to be that way, but it's also okay to take some time to get there. When you get over confident or try to do things in the traditional way it hardly ever works out.

Not always- e.g. Xander, Dawn, Harmony, Spike's chip

Buffy doesn't mind if it people aren't conventionally strong or capable or cool. But if an apocalypse is coming, you're expected to do what you can to stop it.

Predominantly, I felt the series illustrated how one can almost *always* be capable. One just has to recognize one's real power. For example, in Season Two, Xander knew he couldn't stop Angel(us) from going into Buffy's hospital room, but he knew others *would*. At that point, Xander's power was to point that out.

Just because someone isn't capable doesn't mean they’re not worthy of respect.

I feel that it's less that you must be useful than that everyone will eventual find what they're needed for. ie Xander being the heart of the group.

*These* are qualities that are represented as being worthy of aspiration and ambition on Buffy.

Much like with Question 1, this is shown on the show to a certain extent, again with Willow being the prime example during the early seasons. Another example could be the dichotomy between Giles and Wesley in season 3 where Giles is clearly the more competent, and therefore effective, Watcher of the two. Similarly, this is seen with Buffy and Faith.

It's important to learn from your mistakes, but good intentions count for a lot.

In addition to the endless library research, Buffy trains frequently & always plans ahead of time. Lack of planning usually leads to trouble. For example, in Bad Girls, Buffy pleads with Faith to, "Wait. Stop. Think." She doesn't & we all know how that turned out.

it depends on how capable is defined - Buffy does get the job done - vampires are killed - but it is more from the innate ability than grooming of skill

Competency often gave way to heart and drive. Xander new relatively little about fighting monsters but always got the job done anyway.

I put 4 instead of 5 because Xander spent most of the series not really knowing what he was good at. More than being capable, the show emphasized - especially with Xander's character - the importance of being there for the people in your life. Xander eventually discovered that his gift was to keep the others on the right path.

I think this is actually a question the show addresses a lot. Most of the other characters don't have special abilities, especially not in combat, but a lot of the time they seem to be effective in their own unique way - like Xander's yellow crayon speech to evil Willow. A lot of the time the moral seems to be that heart and perseverance is more important than skill.

Buffy's heroic virtue and martial prowess is often contrasted with Xander's ineptitude in demon-fighting scenarios. Though he eventually proves "useful" in practical terms in later seasons (retaining "leftover" military knowledge from his brief magical stint as a GI, and his growing proficiency at carpentry), even before Xander or Willow acquire slayage-assisting skill-sets, they are presented as invaluable to Buffy's enterprise.

Otherwise you get killed by evil.

Slaying - yes. Anything else - I don't remember it being mentioned.

Xander is a constant foil here. He's always bumbling or messing up, but coming through in the end.

Not always, you can still be valued as a witty screw-up like Anya or Xander or make serious mistakes like Willow.

Competence is often conflated with strength on Buffy (physical, intellectual, and emotional). These attributes are admired and valued, but also portrayed as a potential source of conflict. For instance, at various times Giles' abilities as a researcher and Buffy's strength as a fighter are portrayed as "too much of a good thing."

I don't think this was the point. The group often had things made worse by a mistake of one of them that they all had to band together to undo….Being incompetent, making mistakes, and learning from them might have been a theme. But I don't see trying and failing the same as planning for success….This is a common problem with the X and Y generations. They don't seem to see the two as being different. They seem to think just 'trying' is good enough….Sadly, BtVS may have re-enforced this as Buffy was constantly cleaning up after the rest.

I think that this was represented a lot. Buffy was always competent, capable, and effective.

Halloween season 2. Buffy becomes a girly girl 17th century lady. Nothing good comes from it.

I tried to think of an example where this was conveyed but....nothing comes to mind.....except maybe a bit in early S4 when Buffy asks Giles to help her find out what a Slayer is really capable of and help her be prepared for anything.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Buffy vs. Tolerance

2. It is important to be broadminded [open-minded]


Several commenters mentioned that the fantasy genre itself required viewers to be broadminded. It makes sense. After all, this is a series that’s had its share of genre-ism directed its way; indeed, that dynamic was what got me to start writing on the series in the first place. Whedon himself observed, “I believe that anyone who isn’t open to a show with this title isn’t invited to the party. I made the title very specifically to say, ‘This is what it is.’ It wears itself on its sleeve. It’s sophomoric; it’s silly; it’s comedy-horror-action; it’s all there in the title. Having the metaphor to work with makes the show better, and having the silly title makes the show cooler, at least to me” (Havens 33).

People tended towards three examples when it came to this question: Willow coming out, Riley learning about Oz, and Angel/Spike/Clem.

This scene was mentioned too.
[screencap credit:]

There was some disagreement about the role of vampires here, with several observing that the series tended to highlight the difficulties of tolerance through the binary formed Xander and Buffy. (Indeed, three people cited Buffy’s speech during the blowup in “The Yoko Factor”.)

The issue of whether the series teaches xenophobia through its vampires is debated every semester in our seminar. Popular authors for this issue tend to be Mary Alice Money’s “The Undemonization of Supporting Characters in Buffy” in Fighting the Forces and Neal King’s “Brownskirts: Fascism, Christianity and the Eternal Demon” in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy, with Money arguing for a tolerant message and King arguing that the series is proto-fascist. The fandom seems to tilt heavily towards Money’s arguments.

Your comments:

While there are several instances of "demons are sometimes good" in the series, greater reward seems to come from accepting given alliances and roles.

Joss lays this one on pretty thick:)

This one is a back and forth, the characters may portray narrow-mindedness or be broadminded. Especially, Willow's lesbianism could appear difficult. Buffy's at times strange relationships with vampires, created skepticism, particularly Xander was skeptical. In many cases he was right.

The fact that they deal with nonhumans (demons, vamps, etc.) in everyday life makes them open-minded enough. In more human situations, Willow's coming out and the loving relationship she had with Tara was a great representation of this concept.

From the first episode of the show this is shown to be one of the most important lessons in BTVS. Just because someone looks like a frail little girl doesn't mean that she is. Just because someone is a vampire doesn't mean he's always evil, etc.

This becomes a major theme later in the series as the characters grow, but the first few seasons don't reflect a focus on it.

As much as was covered in the series, the ultimate example of this is when Buffy realized Willow was gay. Great moment and great response!

Willows Homosexuality
Buffys relationship with vampires
Xander and Anya

The first thing I thought of when I read this was Willow coming out. Buffy and everyone was a bit weird about it at the beginning, but they loved Willow the same, and welcomed Tara into their group of friends.

For the most part, everybody that we were meant to like was very open-minded, or at least came to be. If they weren't, it was often played for laughs, or to be used as a negative aspect of the one being close-minded. Buffy came to accept Willow's sexuality, Riley came to accept Oz's wolfiness, etc. The prime example that comes to mind of non-acceptance was Xander's attitude toward vampires. But even he understood Angel's use in the group.

otherwise your probably going to die a very painful looking death.

I think the best example we see of this is from Riley when he needs to learn that there aren't just evil demons and good heroes. He needed to take time and see that Oz, Spike, etc. we're bad just because they were demons.

Being closed minded in Sunnydale got you killed.

I almost answered 5, but then remembered the fair amount of judgementalism re vampires (of course) and older and/or more conservative humans.

To me, this is represented in Buffy always looking for a different approach to any situation she finds herself in, her acceptance of, among many things, homosexuality and her rejection of the Watchers' Council's ways.

If I were any more open-minded my brain would fall out :)

One of them even said something similar to, "My mind is so open things keep falling out!"

The show demonstrated a need to be accepting (a world you don't understand, individual lifestyle, etc), but one must also acknowledge one's own values (Angel's evil again, Anya's a demon again, etc.)

Most of the characters were so open minded that their brains were falling out.

I think this is one value that Buffy consistently demonstrated whether it was Larry coming out to Xander and then the whole school from 'Go Fish' through to the end of season 3, or Willow and Tara's relationship, or Giles's interacial relationship with Olivia, or Buffy's willingness to trust chipped Spike by the end of season 5. In fact, on this last point how Buffy and the Scooby Gang treat demons...etc does entail a sort of broadmindedness with Clem for instance being given a 'free pass', and Angel eventually being accepted into the fold despite being a vampire. Tara is another good example, particularly in the episode 'Family' where her stereotypically close-minded southern American family is shown to be firmly in the wrong not only in their assessment of Tara (i.e. she has a demon in her), but also their abusive treatment of her.

The narrow-minded either change for the better or meet a sticky end, like Snyder.

The great exception to across-the-board open-mindedness is the episode Pangs.

Demonic allies. Just misunderstood.

As a show that had one of the first - maybe THE first - onscreen Lesbian couple, and a lot of other elements about racism and sexism, this show is all about being open-minded.

Season 6 - cautionary Willow.

Vampires with a soul, lesbian relationships, British people. Just some of things that were representative of acceptance and open mindedness

Constantly. One of the basic elements of the show to me, being a fantasy show after all.

You have to broadminded to live in Sunnydale.

Otherwise you turn evil (Tara's family).

Also important to have beliefs and act wisely, not naive.

When it came to sexual preference it was. For other things, not so much. Spike's ability to change would be an example.

I would give it a 5 if not for the episode "Pangs".

Except with soulless vampires.

Except possibly kitten juggling

And those who are closed-minded always get rebuked by another character - like Riley in New Moon Rising.

Examples: No character is black or white. Typically evil/monsters can frequently be heroes - or both. Oz, Angel, Spike, Anya, etc. It highlights that you can't solve a problem if you only look at the usual suspects. And though there weren't enough people of color on the show, you got lots of other representations of diversity.

The series expresses this idea, but also provides compelling counterpoints. The Scoobies' acceptance of, but initial discomfort with Tara; Spike's observations during the Chumash Thanksgiving that there are historical winners and losers; even Buffy's romances with Angel/Spike - all highlight the importance of open-mindedness, while acknowledging the difficulty.


Towards the end I felt that this was represented more. Especially when she started seeing Spike in a different light, and not just "evil vampire."

Constantly represented. At a basic level- do you think it's possible vampires are real? At an obvious level- It's cool that Buffy dates a Vampire, Willow dates a werewolf and later a woman, and Xander dates a demon. Also- not all demons are necessarily evil. Personality, not category is important.

I certainly saw "the world is not black and white" as a theme throughout the series, and that for a person to realize this and live accordingly was a good thing.

Buffy: 'If I was any more open-minded about the choices you two make, my whole brain would fall out"