View Full Version : Being normal against being a superhero

26-01-14, 04:45 AM
This is just a general discussion prompted from Bill's Superman thoughts when I was just watching Kill Bill2...

As you know, I’m quite keen on comic books. Especially the ones about superheroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating.

Take my favorite superhero, Superman. Not a great comic book. Not particularly well-drawn. But the mythology… The mythology is not only great, it’s unique.

Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone.

Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S” – that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us.

Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak… He’s unsure of himself… He’s a coward.

Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.

Spike and Angel are looking to atone and connect to their humanity, their human years are so distant even though they are affected by them. But we see time and again in AtS that as 'others' this is a struggle. They have both acted in the greys and we have seen Angel kill. But fallibility is distinctly 'human' and yet the sense is that it really comes through separation and possibly some degree of disdain?

Willow is quite Peter Parker in that she has some added ability to deal with something Willow+. Even though it is part and parcel of what is the overall picture of Willow it has very much been shown as something that she gained but is something that is accessed. She can theoretically give it up and that is even less 'other' than PP faces. Giles is somewhat in the same boat here.

Xander and Dawn, in contrast, are shown to be more 'free' and able to leave the fight and opt for a 'normal' existence. All they have to do is not look!

Buffy doesn't fit to either as she was 'normal', and is more connected to that than Spike/Angel, but is a natural superhero too. She wasn't born the slayer, not in an activated sense anyway. So, her life before she was chosen is separate and distinct from afterwards, although being a slayer becomes an intrinsic part of who she is, a natural aspect of herself. Like Superman she has a superiority complex but it comes with the Buffy inferiority complex too. Buffy's grasp towards 'normal' is a reoccurring theme and seeing this comment on superhero mythology simply made me wonder whether Buffy would actually be happier if, in fact, she wasn't trying to fully integrate the two but was better able to separate them? I'm not suggesting she treats herself as having two distinct parts because the two aspects of herself will always inform the other. But what difference would it make, if any, if she accepted the barrier to normal she feels is there and worked more consciously around it rather than trying to overcome it?

26-01-14, 05:01 AM
Well, poor Bill and/or poor Tarantino was actually completely bass ackwards on the Superman mythology (at least taken on the mythology's own terms). Superman would tell you that Superman is just a set of clothes/armor that he wears so he can have his life as Clark Kent. Almost everything Bill says more accurately describes Batman -- who is, if you were to ask the man, the true nature of the man and Bruce Wayne is a costume he has to wear to move through the world, and a commentary on society around him of sorts.

Bill's point holds up only insofar as one is defining Clark Kent as nothing but the small affectations he makes of weakness. Of course, Tarantino is probably also going very much pre-Byrne with his theory, because that's the resetting of the Superman mythology that began with the premise that Clark doesn't have to be a timid little nothing to get by without people thinking he's Superman.

As for Buffy's answer, she tells us constantly her truth, but nowhere more totally on point with the Superman and/or Batman of it (kinda always have to cover them both, since they are inverse here) than in "Restless" when she's basically put to the demand, the expectation, that she is the Slayer, that it defines her, that her friends and her clothes and her life are just a costume, a sham. She rejects that utterly. She tells the victim in "The Gift" that she is just a girl, that that's what she keeps telling people.

She even had a chance to make manifest that Buffy Summers is a bigger deal than her set of superpowers in "Helpless".

I've always been fond of the line in "Restless", to come back to it, her manifesto of individual sovereignty and identity, "I walk, I talk, I shop, I sneeze. I'm going to be a fireman when the floods roll back. There's trees in the desert since you moved out, and I don't sleep on a bed of bones". Particularly, I'm going to be a fireman when the floods roll back -- two important things at work there. First, unlike your typical superhero, Buffy contemplates an after to what she does. A life beyond Slaying, after it, the floods that will roll back. But that she'll be a fireman when the floods roll back -- she'll still be out there getting it done; helping, protecting, on her own terms, not because she's the Slayer, but because she's the Buffy.

26-01-14, 05:50 AM
Well, I think what's interesting with Buffy in Restless is that as much as rejects the idea of the Slayer defining her she's also knowingly stepping away from normalcy to understand her power/origins better -- "I'm never going to find them [her friends] here" "Of course not. That's why you came"

Buffy's dream revolves around her looking for her friends but she takes a detour to confront the First Slayer. On a subconscious level she knows that she won't find them there but her curiosity and yearning to understand her power more gets the better of her. I mean, I actually find that both understandable and really healthy, because Buffy did need to explore her power more, but in doing so it does lead her on a path that strays further from normalcy and in this case her friends who are symbolic of that. This scene really sets up her arc for S5 (and beyond) as Buffy questions her power and delves more into the Slayer mythos -- "I need to know more. About where I came from. About the other Slayers. Maybe if I can learn to control this thing I could be better, I could be stronger."

And I think that's Buffy's conflict in a nutshell. She refuses to be defined by her Slayerness and she won't be confined by it's rules and limitations but as she gets older this gets more difficult. Not just because the world get's badder and bleaker but as Buffy grows so does her natural curiosity to explore her Slayer side more. What does her power mean? What about the other Slayers? How was the Slayer made? Is a Slayer just a killer after all? etc. These are all questions that plague Buffy as she matures which is actually totally normal. As a teenager Buffy just wanted to fit in, like almost all teenagers do, so she had this rather myopic focus on being "just like everybody else" and really didn't question her nature too much. Out of high school and by the end of her first year in college, Buffy's less concerned about fitting in and broadens her mind a little. I think it makes that inner conflict so much more hard for Buffy because by it's very nature being the Slayer really isn't inclusive of friends, siblings, boyfriends and university or careers, so how does she understand it better without letting it totally consume her? I think that's the fine line Buffy walks in S5-beyond.

26-01-14, 10:40 AM
It is hard to say how much of Buffy's personality is the Buffy of it when she is presented as having been more vapid as a pre chosen teen. But hey so are many teens, perhaps she would have been looking to be a fireman regardless or maybe that was a side to herself that is a true part of her nature now that she has become the Slayer. I understand her need to assert and focus on the non-slayer 'girl' of herself to keep a connection to the normal of her self and her wishes but she can never pull the two apart and draw the line of where/when one affected and informed the other.

I think, as you say vamps you see Buffy clearly explore the slayer aspect of herself S5 and on. When she speaks to Giles in Intervention about her fears of becoming hard and not being able to love his suggestion of the quest is openly stated as being helpful to regain focus and learn more about her role. It would seem more natural to turn further away from her duty with the worries that Buffy had but she does look at it more to understand herself better. It shows a straight belief in being the slayer as part and parcel of who she is rather than it simply being the 'what' of a job. I think you are right there is a good deal of maturing in it all as she wants to understand herself rather than focus on fitting in the way teens tend to.

As it goes in the comics now slayers are known so there is no reason why she can't undertake a job which openly benefits from that side to herself. Time and again in discussions people point out roles like martial arts instruction, policing etc. But what we see is Buffy try that with Kennedy and conclude that it isn't compatible with being the slayer and that she accepts that it has the priority ruling for her. There has to be a great deal of Buffy in that decision because it isn't necessary, other slayers right in front of her aren't feeling the pull the same. But Buffy seems to need to have a distinct separation and a balance where the job can be easily put aside for slayer related matters. In a world where Buffy could choose to have a 'normal' life she both looks on longingly at the suburban dream but then openly rejects the route to get it. How much can the slaying be seen to consume aspects of normal away from her once she is turning away from ways of balancing a semblance of 'normal' with slaying to gearing things around slaying? She seems, in herself, in the Buffy of it, to want to have a separation.

There is conflict in these notions of normalcy because of the part of themselves which is the warrior/fighter being more than just physical abilities. Spike/Angel's stories have it too if you see their ultimate wishful destinations as becoming human again. To atone, to fight on the side of good and become worthy of being accepted fully into humanity again as some seeming 'prize' moment. Because if it is actually there would they really want it? Would there not be another fight on the horizon they felt they couldn't contribute to if they gave up their strength/abilities? A decision Angel made once in IWRY. Could they be who they are without being what they are? Mostly I'd say they can, but once they fundamentally lost their powers they wouldn't be the same. Likewise if Buffy properly lost her slaying powers it wouldn't change her in an instant but it would slowly alter her perspective on some things because she wouldn't be ultimately in the same position.

19-02-14, 03:42 AM
* Buffy Summers is the Slayer and likes the power that being the Slayer gives her. Buffy was upset in “Helpless” (B 3.12) after she ‘lost’ her powers. In “Tabula Rasa” (B 6.08), she likes the idea of being a superhero.

* If Buffy wanted a ‘normal life’, she would have had that after BtVS S7. Instead, she’s leading Buffy and Co. and she’s dreaming about being with Spike and Angel.

* The only reason why Buffy stayed with Angel after finding out he’s a vampire is because she’s the Slayer. The only reason why she got with Spike and why she considers Spike her “dark place” is because she’s the Slayer.

* Angel only wanted to be human because it would mean no more perfect happiness clause and he could therefore be with Buffy. Angel in BtVS S8 was more than happy to be AngelTwilight.

* Spike doesn’t want to be human.