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Thread: BtVS rewatch: SEASON 6

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    Scooby Gang American Aurora's Avatar
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    Grrr! Argh!

    Sorry, sorry, sorry about the delay - got swept up into a nightmare job subbing for someone that I absolutely could not turn down. It ends tomorrow, but it's allowed for about three hours sleep a night (don't ask). After a bazillion hours in rehearsal and previews, the show finally opens tomorrow and then I'm going to post massive amounts of Seeing Red. My deepest apologies to everyone waiting to post their review after me.

    Now I'm going off to get three hours sleep again!

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    Slayer TimeTravellingBunny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BtVS fan View Post
    Great analysis . I do feel that Xander was very hypocritical about Angel and Spike given that his girlfriend's body count was bigger than both of there's combined.

    As for the AR that was based on a writers own experience and who clearly didn't see the difference between swapping a female with a male for that role
    What difference?
    What is the difference, in your opinion?

    There is no essential difference. The only difference is the societal/cultural attitude and the blatant gender-based double standard.

    You could say that there is a difference in the fact that, most of the time (not always), men are physically stronger than women and more likely to defend themselves... but first off, "this crime is less severe because the victim is more likely to be able to defend themselves" is a very questionable argument; secondly, it goes out of the window in this case, because of the fact that Buffy is stronger than Spike. Although, if you want to measure strength more precisely, vampires are supposed to be almost evenly matched with Slayers, so I'd say she is only marginally stronger than him, and they're much closer in strength than an average man and an average woman. However....by the same token, Faith's attempted rape of Xander should then be considered especially awful, since she is a lot stronger than him - way more than an average man is stronger than an average woman. Maybe more along the lines of, a 220 cm, 160 kilos strongman against a tiny, skinny 150 cm woman.
    But I've never seen that argument used to measure the severity of crimes - for instance, if you tried to kill Shaquille O'Neal, it would still be attempted murder, just as if you tried to kill some 150 cm, 40 kilo person.
    So...how is trying to rape a man different than trying to rape a woman? Or a woman trying to rape someone different from a man trying to rape someone?

    Besides Buffy has always been shown to be stronger than Spike yet magically in this instance she seems to lose her strength
    There is nothing "magical" about this. Being assaulted is a traumatic experience, and much more so when it's by someone close to you, someone you had a complicated intimate relationship with. There's nothing strange about momentarily getting frozen and unable to act.

    Buffy's strength doesn't make her invulnerable, not physically and certainly not emotionally. And she is certainly not "unrapeable". Just like men are not "unrapeable", either.
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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    Buffy Forum review: Seeing Red by American Aurora

    Previously on Buffy Forum: Seeing Red Review
    1. Introduction: Buffy Season Six: A Silence Made in Heaven
    2. Introduction: Seeing Red: Virtual Perception
    3. Introduction: Gender Toxicity: Light Willow and the Cool Girl
    4. Seeing Red, Part 1:From Morning at Buffy’s to the Kingdom of the Nerds
    5. Seeing Red, Part 1: Love and Silence: Dawn
    6. Seeing Red, Part 1: Hurting Buffy: Supervillains
    7. Seeing Red, Part 2: Dead Girls: Women in Refrigerators and Redemption Narratives
    8. Seeing Red, Part 2: Love and Silence - Buffy
    9. Seeing Red, Part 2: Gender Toxicity: Vengeance Demonsplaining
    10. Seeing Red, Part 2: The Trio – In a World of Pure Imagination: Andrew
    11. Seeing Red, Part 2: Love and Silence: Spike
    12. Seeing Red, Part 3: The Trio – Wearing the Mask of a Demon: Jonathan
    13. Seeing Red, Part 3: Gender Toxicity – You Haven’t Got the Stones
    14. Seeing Red, Part 3: Misogyny: Villain with a Thousand Faces
    15. Seeing Red, Part 3:Gender Toxicity: Xander Harris and the “Nice Guy Syndrome”
    16. Seeing Red, Part 3: Love and Silence: Xander and Willow – Children of Trauma
    17. Seeing Red, Part 4: Purity and Danger

    And now:

    18. Seeing Red, Part 4: The Chosen One – The Slaying of Buffy Summers

    When looking at emotional responses to color, researchers at the University of Geneva were surprised to find a major difference of perception between groups of adults and children. Both were shown various pictures of three different faces expressing emotion – happy, sad, angry – and asked to match each state to specific colors.



    Across cultural lines, almost all adults chose yellow to represent happy, black for sad and red for angry – but the children almost universally preferred red to represent happy emotions, blue for sad ones and either yellow, brown, black or green for angry.



    The initial conclusion was that children naturally preferred the bright color of red because their life experience was so limited – once they began to grow up, they would start to associate red with negative connotations and by the impressionable teen years, the natural attraction to red would slowly shift to yellow. So the emotional link between colors and any complimentary emotions would seem to be societally determined.



    But neurologists found in further testing that children actually see color differently than adults because of an initial division of sensory information that separates perception of color wavelength – hence the color red failing to engage certain reactions because of its elongated scatter pattern. The natural propensity as an adult to perceive red as stimulating – even dangerous – was absent in a child and continued to develop even into the teenage years.



    And that was also true for the limbic system – the emotional, primitive part of the brain that transmits sensory information to the cortex. Thanks to hormones, the teenage brain was endlessly being reshaped through myelination – paths of information that created new routes from the limbic to the cognitive process. And this explained how the personality of a child seemed to radically change and morph in just a few months – as new connections were made, a new perspective on the world was formed. Some of this stems from an evolutionary need to mature rapidly since life was brutal and short. An early determination of how one fit into one’s social group – Warrior, lover, intellectual, priestess – and creating a sense of identity and self was imperative.



    And this illuminates why children and teens are always veering from one emotional state to another – trying to make sense of their own personality shifts. The pre-frontal cortex – the cognitive brain – is still under-developed in a teen as opposed to the limbic, emotional amygdala part of the brain. So what a teen does and experiences during the important decade from early teens to early twenties – what they’re exposed to and how they react – will have an enormous effect on the teen’s future development. The events of those crucial years shape the formative process in the brain’s future mapping to determine all future characteristics of the Self.

    This is why young teens have such difficulty defining themselves – who they are, what they want, what they believe – they’re not only beset by social pressures, but physical forces that slowly turn the childhood love of the bright and vibrant happy color red into a warning signal of danger and passion.

    Which is another way of stating the universal truth in Buffy Seasons 1-3 that High School is Hell.



    WHEDON: I had a very painful adolescence, because it was all very strange to me. It wasn’t like I got beat up, but the humiliation and isolation and the existential “God, I exist and nobody cares” of being a teenager were extremely pronounced for me. But that’s sort of the point of Buffy – that I’m talking about the stuff everybody goes through. Nobody gets out of here without some trauma. (Onion A.V. Club interview with Joss Whedon)
    One of the initial conceptions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was to use the metaphor of the supernatural to reflect the agony of the teenage years. In Buffy, High School isn’t just Hell – it’s built on the mouth of Hell. Bullies and bloodsuckers aren’t just monsters in the figurative sense – they’re literally monsters. And in the first three seasons, the show maintained a blend of drama, satire and horror camp wrapped around a poignant allegory of growing up. Buffy the Vampire Slayer always played with the two most common fantasies of adolescents - the first that they aren't really the kid of Mr. and Mrs. Boring Normal, but really someone amazing – someone chosen to defeat the bad guy. The second fantasy is the popular daydream that the person who hurts you will be literally exposed as a monster – which explains why you hate them.

    In high school, everyone feels like a freak or a monster in some way – even the most popular kids feel out-of-place at times. It’s not just the rapidly shifting emotional responses, the unrequited infatuations, the desperate fight for acceptance, the embarrassing sexual desires that make it so difficult. It’s the essential instability of a still growing self-identity – especially when teens are almost forcibly locked into one. Jock, Cheerleader, Science Nerd, Stoner, Goth, Theater/Glee Club Kid, Indie Rocker, Class Clown, Political Activist – they’re all limiting in their own way. So finding out that one has superpowers of some kind that sets oneself off from the rest of the world is an identity devoutly to be wished. If you have to be a freak or monster, you might as well be an exceptional one.



    It’s a popular variation of the “fish out of water” theme taught in screenwriting classes all over the world and commonly used in coming-of-age stories where the young protagonist is faced with a sudden event that awakens special powers that make them different from everyone else and allows them to find a stable identity and a purpose in life. The death of a parent, a financial catastrophe or windfall, a natural event, a political crisis – anything that marks a turning point in the transition from childhood to adult. From that point on, the protagonist sees a new adult world with childhood innocence left behind them.

    The trouble comes, of course, when there’s only one person in the world chosen to fight the forces of darkness – and she’s not really thrilled to take on the title.

    As a child of parents nearing an impending divorce, Buffy is suffering the trauma that comes with drastic change just as she is called – the terror of watching her world fall apart around her as her identity changes from Buffy Summers, the daughter of two loving parents to Buffy Summers, daughter of a broken home headed by a single mother and a distant father. Often the children of divorce manage the shock by repressing their emotions to reduce pain, refusing to look forward for fear of future shocks and feeling as if no one else shares their particular loneliness in the absence of a parent. A child can feel robbed of their innocence and sense of trust – they may even feel as if they’re physically broken somehow within and split in two.

    Whedon cleverly sets Buffy’s discovery of her Slayer nature at exactly the same time that the marriage of her parents falls apart and it’s a terrific metaphor for how Buffy must reassess and rearrange her new identity. Buffy’s unhealthy perspective seems to be linked to her constant desire to project an image of normality despite being the Slayer – always holding back the darkness. Whedon gives us a glimpse of that paradise lost in a series of short scenes where Buffy learns of who she is:



    Cut to Hemery High School in Los Angeles, 1996. Buffy is walking along with her friends, talking. She is all of fifteen, completely carefree and not a little superficial.
    BUFFY: So I'm like, 'Dad, do you want me to go to the dance in an outfit I've already worn? Why do you hate me?'
    GIRL#1: Is Tyler taking you?
    BUFFY: Where were you when I got over Tyler? He's of the past. Tyler would have to crawl on his hands and knees to get me to go to the dance with him. Which, actually, he's supposed to do after practice, so I'm gonna wait.
    GIRL#1: Okay. See ya later.
    GIRL#2: Bye!
    They go, Buffy saying to each one:
    BUFFY: Call me!
    GIRL#1: Okay!
    BUFFY: Call me! Call me!
    GIRL#3: I will!
    They all go and Buffy sits. She has waited for a moment when a man approaches her in a dark, rumpled suit. He looks vaguely nervous, and deadly serious. His name is Merrick.
    MERRICK: Buffy Summers?
    BUFFY: Yeah? Hi! What?
    MERRICK: I need to speak with you.
    BUFFY: You're not from Bullock's, are you? 'Cause I meant to pay for that lipstick.
    MERRICK: There isn't much time. You must come with me. Your destiny awaits.
    BUFFY: I don't have a destiny. I'm destiny-free, really.
    MERRICK: Yes, you have. You are the Chosen One. You alone can stop them.
    BUFFY: Who?
    MERRICK: The vampires.
    BUFFY: Huh? (Becoming, Part One)


    Buffy tells Merrick that she doesn’t have a destiny – she’s destiny-free! But she soon learns that she’s wrong – her destiny proclaims that she is the Chosen One and she alone can stop the vampires.



    Cut to a cemetery. Buffy crashes into frame, wide-eyed and terrified, a VAMPIRE right on top of her.
    BUFFY: Oof!
    It snarls and snaps, trying to bite her. She throws it off. She goes scrambling for a stake on her hands and knees.
    BUFFY: Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh! Oh, God - unh!
    She comes up with it as the vampire charges her again -- she instinctively flips it onto its back. Collecting herself, she drops down and plunges the stake into its chest, pulling it out again. The vampire screams, but nothing happens.
    BUFFY: Oh! Not the heart!
    She tries again, and the vampire's dying rasp tells her she's hit home. Explodes into dust. She starts back from this unexpected effect, stays panting on the grass. We see a pair of legs come into the frame near her.
    WATCHER: You see? You see your power?
    She says nothing, still staring at the spot where the vampire was. (Becoming, Part One)


    How much of Buffy’s “vampire sense” is under her control and how much is just a part of her being a Potential turned Slayer? Does Buffy Summers feel like she’s really the Slayer at all times? Or has she become the Slayer and feels that Buffy Summers is no longer her true identity? It’s hard to say. But she has witnessed something that has shaken her entire world – and like other young protagonists in coming-of-age stories, she can never regain her innocence. The world is now divided into before and after that moment.



    Unlike heroes who are allowed to choose their own identity (Superman, Batman) or create their own image of a cool superhero (Spiderman, Iron Man), Buffy’s superpowers are micro-managed by a group of Watchers who train her to focus solely on fighting vampires. Since the shelf life of a Slayer is so short, it’s not really worth the trouble to try and integrate the previous life of the Potential into her new calling. And so we see Faith and Kendra taken by their Watchers to be trained away from family and friends – their solitude making it easier to shape them into killing machines. But Buffy seems to be different –she resists giving up her former identity for the greater cause. And the reason seems to be linked to her emotional state just as she was called – the end point of her parents’ relationship before their divorce:



    JOYCE: Why didn't you call?
    BUFFY: I'm sorry. I didn't know it was so late. Tyler and I were talking.
    JOYCE: That boy is irresponsible.
    BUFFY: No, mom. It's not his fault.
    JOYCE: You know we worry, that's all. Dinner's in ten minutes.
    BUFFY: Yeah.
    Buffy moves into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. We see her go to the sink, take off her jacket. Splash her face. She is very shaken. Over her silent actions we hear the voices of her parents.
    HANK: Did she say where she was?
    JOYCE: She was with Tyler.
    HANK: I don't want her seeing him anymore, period
    JOYCE: You're overreacting, dear.
    HANK: Don't do that! Don't talk to me like I'm a kid!
    JOYCE: I don't! Just forget it!
    HANK: Just because you can't discipline her, I have to be the ogre!
    JOYCE: I am not having this conversation again! Alright?
    Buffy stays in the bathroom, silent. (Becoming, Part One)


    After fighting the vampire, Buffy lies to her mother about her whereabouts – instead of telling her about her new life as the Chosen One, she chooses to make her mother think she was out with a boy. That first night, she not only kills her first vampire – but she lies to her parents about who she is. When she moves to the bathroom – it’s not only to wash the dust and dirt of the graveyard off – it’s an act of separation.

    But it never truly works – in some ways, Buffy’s experience becoming the Slayer mirrors the unique experience of a human becoming a vampire. Just as the emotional problems of the original human are often at odds with the voracious demon in a vampire’s psychological temperament, Buffy’s former identity as Buffy Summers, normal girl, can never truly merge with her new life as the heroic Slayer – and it’s the start of an identity crisis that climaxes in Season Six when she fears that she’s come back wrong. And God knows, there’s always someone telling her how wrong she is from the start:



    APHRODISIA: The new kid? She seems kind of weird to me. What kind of name is Buffy?
    GIRL: Hey, Aphrodisia!
    APHRODISIA: Oh, Hey!
    AURA: Well, the chatter in the caf is that she got kicked out and that's why her mom had to get a new job.
    APHRODISIA: Neg.
    AURA: Pos. She was starting fights!
    APHRODISIA: Negly!
    AURA: Well, I heard from Blue, and she said that –
    Something flies out of the locker at her! She SCREAMS as the dead body of the boy from the opening collapses on her, eyes horribly wide. The body sprawls out on the floor as the girl steps back, screaming for all she’s worth. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)


    The word “weird” stems from the Old English “wyrd” (that which comes) or “weordan”(to become) – it stretches back even farther to the Proto-Indo-European word “wert” (to turn into). The original meaning is wrapped up in the idea of change – something that is inherently unstable and always outside of temporality through constant turning/becoming. This led to the secondary meaning of weird as “uncanny” or “supernatural” in the Middle Ages and finally to the Victorian/modern meaning of “odd” and “disturbingly different.” Anything that is “weird” upsets the natural order of things – it represents future change and is aligned with the word “freak” – which comes from the Middle English word “friken” (to turn, to dance) and has the same essential ontological warning of instability of being.

    And Buffy is certainly accused of being “weird” and being a “freak” throughout the series – in the earlier seasons, it’s a common lament as she tries to juggle being “The Slayer” with being a version of “Buffy Summers” that she remembers long ago:

    BUFFY: I will still have time to fight the forces of evil, okay? I just wanna have a life, I wanna do something normal. (The Witch)


    Buffy doesn’t immediately embrace her destiny – her sense of the monstrous, the freakish, the weird in her newfound powers is fundamentally different from Superman or Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter. Buffy the Vampire Slayer subverts this trope by having the title character represent yet another example of difference that sets her apart from the other three – although identified as the traditional hero, she is female – and therefore buffeted by societal forces that the male protagonists rarely face.

    As Foucault said, “We are born male or female, but not masculine or feminine.” Femininity or masculinity is a vital part of the performance of the self. There are regimes to either sex – shaving, makeup, hair styles, clothing choices – that determine one’s place in society. Before she was the Slayer, Buffy tried very hard to be what society expected of her – she was popular, she had boyfriends, she was a cheerleader, she was all over the high school yearbook:

    BUFFY: At Hemery, I was Prom Princess, I was Fiesta Queen, I was on the cheerleading squad. And the yearbook was, like, a story of me. Now it's senior year, and I'm going to be one crappy picture on one-eighth of one crappy page. (Homecoming)


    But once she was called, Buffy’s life was halted at fifteen. As a warrior, she had to psychologically separate herself from society in order to save it. And as a woman, she needed to separate the powerful side of herself from the traditional feminine. The sexual double standard at its core is a narrative about agency; Girls are supposed to hide the fact that they are smarter or stronger than men. Any power that could possibly threaten the social order must be hidden. Otherwise, they’re an example of femininity gone wrong. And this has a lot to do with the differences culturally between honor in men and honor in women. Male honor rests in chivalry, battle-hardiness and duels – whereas a woman’s honor lies in chastity and fidelity.

    Buffy’s need to stay firmly in control of her herself at all times as the Slayer is ironically a larger metaphor for a woman’s need to maintain control of her meaning. A proper woman is sexy but not a slut. She’s smart but not more than her male colleagues. She’s strong only as much as a woman should be – because a bad woman violates feminine norms. She reveals that sexuality is just a performance by having sex outside the permitted norms. Too many sexual partners or too forward and she’s considered a “slut-o-rama”. If a woman chooses to have sex with the wrong person, she deserves what’s coming to her. She must be punished.



    So women lie – they lie about their personal relationships and their sexual life. Lies simplify the truth – they make things easier. But in lying to others they end up lying to themselves. By keeping secrets out of fear, women keep one part of their lives separate from another and slowly lose faith in both. It undermines a sense of reality for the sake of reputation. And we see this from the very first episode of the series – in Welcome to the Hellmouth Buffy is very aware of the kind of girl others may perceive her to be:

    Buffy’s bedroom, night. She is in the agony of outfit choosage, getting ready to go out. She has two, one scanty, the other somewhat plain. She holds them alternatively in front of her, looking in the mirror. Buffy picks up the first outfit and holds it in front of her.
    BUFFY: Hi! I’m an enormous slut!
    Buffy picks up the second outfit.
    BUFFY: Hi! Would you like a copy of the Watchtower?
    Buffy throws both outfits down as her mother enters.
    BUFFY: I used to be so good at this.
    JOYCE: Hi, hon.
    BUFFY: Hey –
    JOYCE: Are you going out tonight?
    BUFFY: Yeah, Mom. I’m going to a club.
    JOYCE: Will there be boys there?
    BUFFY: No, Mom, it’s a nun club.
    JOYCE: Well, just be careful.
    BUFFY: I will.
    As the conversation segues into serious territory, both women become somewhat uncomfortable with each other.
    JOYCE: I think we can make it work here. I’ve got my positive energy flowing. I’m gonna get the gallery
    on its feet. We may already have found a space.
    BUFFY: Great.
    JOYCE: And that school is a very nurturing environment – which is what you need.
    BUFFY: Mom –
    JOYCE: Oh, not too nurturing. I know. You’re sixteen, I read all about the dangers of over-nurturing. It’s hard. New town, and all. For me, too. I’m trying to make it work. I’m going to make it work.
    BUFFY: I know.
    JOYCE: You’re a good girl, Buffy. You just fell in with the wrong crowd. But that’s all behind us now.
    BUFFY: It is. From now on, I’m only hanging out with the living. I – I mean, the lively – people.
    JOYCE: Okay, have fun. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)


    Buffy used to be so good at figuring out which “identity” to take on – but her actions as the Slayer have only resulted in a consequence so socially disastrous – burning down the school gym – that she can never go back to the girl she was before. Her Slayer identity will always betray her. So when Buffy and her mom move to Sunnydale, they’re both determined to put the past behind them. Joyce in particular is hoping to make a fresh start – turning away from a failed marriage and unfaithful husband to raise her only daughter who got herself into a bit of trouble in Los Angeles. And Buffy? She’s turning her back on the whole Slaying thing:



    BUFFY: Oh, why can't you people just leave me alone?
    GILES: Because you are the Slayer. Into each generation a Slayer is born, one girl in all the world, a Chosen One, one born with the strength and skill to hunt--
    BUFFY: With the strength and skill to hunt the vampires, to stop the spread of their evil blah, blah, blah – I've heard it, okay?
    GILES: I really don't understand this attitude. You, you've accepted your duty, you, you've slain vampires before –
    BUFFY: Yeah, and I've both been there and done that, and I'm moving on. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)


    And Buffy has a simple solution – she’ll just pretend that her calling never happened just as her mother is determined to forget all about her father. And Sunnydale High at first looks like a welcoming place to hide her past and make a fresh start:



    MR. FLUTIE: Buffy Summers, sophomore, late of Hemery High in Los Angeles. Interesting record, quite a career –
    He sits, takes the sheet he's reading and tears it into four pieces.
    MR. FLUTIE: Welcome to Sunnydale! A clean slate, Buffy, that's what you get here. What's past is past. We're not interested in what it says on a piece of paper, even if it says –
    He looks down at a piece, reacts.
    MR. FLUTIE: Whoa!
    BUFFY: Mr. Flutie –
    MR. FLUTIE: All the kids here are free to call me Bob.
    BUFFY: Bob--
    MR. FLUTIE: But they don't.
    He begins reassembling the torn sheet.
    BUFFY: I know my transcripts are a little – colorful.
    MR. FLUTIE: Hey, we're not caring about that. Do you think 'colorful' is the word? Not, uh, 'dismal'?
    BUFFY: Wasn't that bad!
    MR. FLUITE: You burned down the gym.
    BUFFY: I did, I really did, but – you're not seeing the big picture here, I mean, that gym was full of vamp – asbestos.
    MR. FLUTIE: Buffy, don't worry. Any other school they might say 'watch your step', or 'we'll be watching you.’ But, that's just not the way here. We want to service your needs, and help you to respect our needs. And if your needs and our needs don't mesh –
    He puts the poorly repaired sheet back into her file and slaps it shut. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)


    But the past can never be truly eradicated – signified by Principal Flutie piecing together the remnants of Buffy’s past deeds to preserve them despite his assurances. But it’s piecemeal information – what Mr. Flutie and Buffy’s own mother don’t know is that Buffy’s keeping a tiny secret from them:

    CORDELIA: So I'll see you in gym and you can tell me absolutely everything there is to know about you.
    BUFFY: Great!
    As Cordelia leaves, Buffy makes a face.
    BUFFY: Oh, that sounds like fun. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)


    From the very first episode, Buffy’s life is about secrets and lies. Her mother hides how worried she is about her divorce and her daughter’s apparent pyromania behind a cheerful façade. Principal Flutie makes the pretense that Buffy’s past year at Hemery High doesn’t matter all at even as he blatantly tapes up her record to store it in her permanent file. We later see Willow hiding her feelings for Xander under a guise of friendship. Xander hides his feelings for Buffy under a clownish exterior. Giles of the Watcher’s Council disguises himself as a school librarian. Darla pretends to be an innocent college student. Angel refuses to say whether he’s friend or foe even as he warns Buffy of impending doom. And Buffy herself is hiding the biggest secret of all – one that she’d rather keep behind her as she tries to make a new life for herself in Sunnydale as Buffy Summers, normal girl.

    XANDER: So what do you do for fun, what do you like, what do you look for in a man, let's hear it.
    JESSE: If you have any dark, painful secrets you'd like us to publish?
    BUFFY: Gee, everyone wants to know about me. How keen.
    XANDER: Well, not much goes on in a one Starbucks town like Sunnydale. You're pretty big news.
    BUFFY: I'm not. Really. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)


    It’s not surprising that in a supernatural show, secrets and lies abound – a great deal of horror is predicated upon fear of the unknown. But from the beginning, BtVS was predicated upon the fact that everyone keeps secrets. In many ways, the wholesome face of Sunnydale where the inhabitants deliberately live in denial of the monsters from the Hellmouth below is a parody of American Gothic Romances like Peyton Place – small towns with Stepford-like inhabitants who all carry a deep, dark secret of their own.



    The supernatural elements of the show worked well to demonstrate what Ervin Goffman famously called The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, one of the most important books of the 20th century. Goffman felt that most social interactions were “presentations” akin to theatrical performance – when ‘on stage’ everyone tries to control the impression that they make on others to avoid embarrassment or social shame. Keeping secrets, sins of omission become just as important as conveying information and stage managing one’s performance to create a specific ‘role’ tailored to each individual depends on the other person doing the same. Thus all social interaction becomes a form of theater.

    XANDER: Who's that?
    WILLOW: That must be Angel! I think?
    XANDER: That weird guy that warned her about all the vampires?
    WILLOW: That's him, I'll bet you.
    XANDER: Well, he's buff! She never said anything about him being buff!
    WILLOW: You think he's buff?
    XANDER: He's a very attractive man! How come *that* never came up? (Teacher’s Pet)
    In this sense, everyone is acquiescent to performing certain roles for each other and even when a person is unmasked, everyone can agree to look the other way until the mask is put on again. This works in many ways like a conspiracy of silence – but the secret is actually the dangerous threat of insecure identity. To combat this threat, everyone will pretend that it never happened, thereby maintaining their own masks.

    Foucault famously wrote about the Panopiticon – a prison dreamed up by philosopher Jeremy Bentham – that had a courtyard with a circular tower in the center. Every cell has windows that face the watch tower – and Foucault pointed out that the watchman in the tower can hypothetically see everything the prisoners do but they never know if they’re being observed. Therefore, they must always assume that they’re being observed and perform the way they would if they knew that the watchman was watching them. In time, they end up becoming their own jailor.



    And it works both ways. The watchman is also being observed by the prisoners and has to regulate his behavior as well. So observation – and subsequent performance of an expected role – becomes a mechanism of discipline and coercion. Self-surveillance – the result of assuming that you are always being watched – assures that at all times, individuals discipline themselves. And George Orwell wrote about this phenomenon in his brilliant work on a totalitarian society that worshipped Big Brother:

    There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized. (1984 by George Orwell)


    The dual vision of Buffy and her friends living on the Hellmouth makes Buffy the perfect teen show – because the experimentation of teens struggling to figure out who they are going to become – the possibilities narrowing as they age and settle into fixed social identities. It also makes Buffy a uniquely feminist show in how it exposes female ‘roles’ as just one of multiple performances made to create a unified identity to the world – especially potential dates.

    GILES: Follow your hormones if you want. But I assume I don't have to warn you about the hazards of becoming personally involved with someone who's unaware of your unique condition.
    BUFFY: Yeah, yeah, I read the back of the box.
    GILES: If your identity as the Slayer is revealed it could put you and all those around you in grave danger.
    BUFFY: Well, in that case I won't wear my button that says, 'I'm a Slayer. Ask me how!' (Never Kill a Boy on a First Date)


    But when identity is still expanding and changing, the slippage of the mask during the teen years can be devastating. Unlike adults who agree to ignore the elephant in the room, teens are often like the small child in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” who point out that the King, is in fact, naked. They haven’t fully learned to prevaricate and see only what they want to see like the Sunnydale adult inhabitants.

    When Buffy and her friends discover an entire parallel reality that exists outside of the conventional, they not only battle supernatural demons but the resistance of authority figures who refuse to see. So almost everyone in the show has at least two separate and almost opposing identities at some point – at least one of which they try to hide from everyone else. And so silence becomes central to the show in terms of the inability to discuss the unspeakable.

    WILLOW: Did we win?
    BUFFY: Well, we averted the Apocalypse. I give us points for that.
    XANDER: One thing's for sure: nothing's ever gonna be the same.
    Cut to Sunnydale High the next Monday. Everything appears normal. Buffy walks along and overhears Cordelia talking to a friend.
    CORDELIA: Well, I heard it was rival gangs. You know, fighting for turf? But all I can tell you is they were an ugly way of looking. And Buffy, like, knew them! Which is just too weird. I mean, I don't even remember that much, but I'm telling you, it was a freak show!
    GIRL: Oh, I wish I'd been there!
    CORDELIA: You should have been there. It was so creepy...
    BUFFY: What exactly were you expecting?
    XANDER: I don't know, something. I mean, the dead rose. We should at least have an assembly.
    GILES: People have a tendency to rationalize what they can and forget what they can't.
    BUFFY: Believe me, I've seen it happen. (The Harvest)


    For those who remain silent, the fear is not only that others will judge us but that it will destroy the masks we’ve so carefully constructed to keep the peace. The fear of rejection and risk of isolation keeps us from discussing traumatic things that break the silence – we feel vulnerable and fragile when exposed to other people. We fear no one wants to hear the truth of how terrible something was – that they cannot understand us. Our sense of identity is so tied up in our relationships with others that we can spend our entire lives trying not to expose ourselves – our fears, our sorrow, our weaknesses – we refuse to voice them and would rather suffer in silence than risk exposure.

    And so the shifting identities in BtVS are whipped up into thematic bubbles that merge and float together over hundreds of episodes. And at the center of this drama is Buffy – her struggle to maintain both her human and Slayer side into an acceptable and coherent identity a metaphor for the struggle of young teens to grow and change. And this is a focus of Season One – Buffy’s belief that she can somehow maintain the fiction that she is a “normal” girl while keeping secret that she is actually a powerful Slayer is indicative of how unready she is to take on the responsibility of her title.

    Buffy bumps into Mitch and Cordelia and drops her bag, spilling stakes, crosses, and a mace.
    CORDELIA: Uhhh! Behold, the weirdness!
    BUFFY: You're probably wondering what I'm doing with this stuff, huh?
    CORDELIA: Wow, I'm not!
    BUFFY: Uh, for history class. Mr. Giles has this, like, hobby of collecting stuff – which he lent me – for show and tell. Did I mention it's for history class?
    HARMONY: She is always hanging with that creepy librarian in that creepy library.
    CORDELIA: Hey, did I ever tell you about the time that she attacked me? At the Bronze? I don't know why this school admits mentals like her. (Out of Sight, Out of Mind)


    If Buffy had to maintain this false front all by herself – with no one but her watcher knowing – it might have been impossible to pull off such a difficult feat. But a chance incident reveals her deepest secret to two classmates when their friend is kidnapped by vampires – and they immediately vow to aid Buffy in any way they can:

    XANDER: So, what's the plan? We saddle up, right?
    BUFFY: There's no 'we', okay? I'm the Slayer, and you're not.
    XANDER: I knew you'd throw that back in my face.
    BUFFY: Xander, this is deeply dangerous.
    XANDER: I'm inadequate. That's fine. I'm less than a man.
    WILLOW: Buffy, I'm not anxious to go into a dark place full of monsters. But I do want to help. I need to. (The Harvest)


    Buffy enlisting her friends in her crusade against the forces of darkness is unusual for a Slayer – but it allows her to keep a foot in both worlds. Which is why the strategy of Angelus is so effective. He doesn’t try to kill Buffy like a proper vampire, but terrorizes and kills her friends. His invasion of that world is what makes his attacks so effective – he knows how to hit her where she lives – literally.



    SPIKE: A Slayer with family and friends. That sure as hell wasn't in the brochure. (School Hard)
    But even though Buffy keeps a foot in both worlds, she separates herself from them as all warriors do. This is also a kind of cleansing through penance – Buffy symbolically separates herself or abstains from normal life in order to have the strength to rid herself of all corruption around her, including her parents’ failed marriage. She can’t allow herself to fully engage in either world regardless of her feelings – boyfriends, sex, career, school – all have to take a back seat to her primary work.

    When Buffy tells Xander that her life is none of his business, there’s a consequence inherent in that silence. Lying and keeping secrets can become an easy way to avoid self-examination or conflict – it becomes a natural way of talking to lovers and family and close friends. It isolates a person and causes incredible loneliness because one starts to believe that the truth isn’t good enough. Buffy wants to deny reality and maintain control over it at the same time. For all of Buffy’s pronouncements and girl power, she fundamentally denies herself the right to speak when it comes to relationships.



    Night after night, Buffy kills vampires and demons who roam the Hellmouth – and usually this would take a heavy psychological toll on a warrior in blood guilt. In Greek and Roman mythology, many warriors go mad and in medieval texts, Knights like Lancelot go mad from blood lust. Purification is necessary to seek forgiveness. Buffy manages this through the conviction that those she kills aren’t really human – and therefore she’s not responsible morally for their deaths.

    However, the inability to express what she must do to her friends causes certain levels of emotional numbness, mistrust and anger – the gulf between her experience and that of her friends, family and Watcher is too great and Buffy prefers to keep silent about certain things that she’s afraid would make her friends think that she was corrupt herself. The sexual excitement, the blood lust, the thrill of the kill while Slaying are all unacceptable things in proper society – but when Buffy sneaks out of her boyfriend’s bed to hunt down vampires and release sexual tension without telling him, it’s a sign that she’s ashamed of these feelings. And some of this shame isn’t due to any warrior ethos – it also has to do with cultural values instilled in Buffy as to what a woman is supposed to be. Even a warrior.



    NOXON: The reason I fell in love with Buffy was because of the ambiguity, because she was a superhero and a hot mess. I hadn’t seen anything like her on TV — ever…We had said this show is going to be weird, but I don’t think we’d said that it’s going to be really f**ked up. The bane of every TV writer’s existence is the likability note. Every project that I currently have is about women who are deeply, deeply messed up. (Marti Noxon, New York Magazine 2017)
    Buffy’s deeply ambivalent feelings about finding a boyfriend – someone to actually share her life with – were even more problematic than maintaining carefully cultivated relationships with friends in the know and out of the know. Women are culturally raised to believe not only in cultural norms but that as women they ARE themselves representative of cultural norms. Leslie Fiedler wrote an infamous book on this subject – Love and Death in the American Novel – in which he postulates that women (and all civilizing influences) in American fiction and mythology are viewed as grossly negative fetters on the freedom of the male psyche – which desires to fly into the wilderness to bond with other males (almost always an Other in terms of race or sexuality), avoiding adult responsibility in an attempt to deny death. Mothers and wives in particular were often shown to be exemplars of a suffocating middlebrow cultural paradigm – often so repressive that the reader commonly sided with the recalcitrant male and his “partner” as an escape from cultural norms. Women were naturally equated with civilization, cultural norms and conservative beliefs that rejected the Other – the abnormal – as opposed to men.

    In a show that originally was intended to attract teenagers, Joyce was set up as the long-suffering parent who was akin to other family members of superheroes – like Peter Parker’s Aunt May – who are clueless that their lovable little chucklehead is actually a scary figure with supernatural powers who fights monstrous bad guys in-between classes. This was obviously a metaphor for the traditional coming-of-age story in which all homebody figures simply “don’t” get it from Huckleberry Finn’s Aunt Polly to Holden Caulfield’s distant and brittle mother.



    But as a woman, Buffy is trapped just as many supernaturally gifted women are from Samantha in Bewitched to Elphaba in Wicked to Elsa in Frozen between wanting to be a normal woman who is a signifier of everything that is home and family and civilization – and unleashing their supernatural power and kicking evil butt all over the place. Buffy’s attempts to woo Owen early in Season One are emblematic of this failure. As soon as Buffy falls for Owen, she pretends to read Emily Dickenson to impress him. She says nasty cracks about Cordelia to dash her rival. And she hides being the Slayer from him.



    XANDER: So you just went home?
    BUFFY: What was I supposed to do? Say to Owen, 'Sorry I was late, I was sitting in a cemetery with the librarian waiting for a vampire to rise so I could prevent an evil prophecy from coming to pass?'
    XANDER: Or flat tire?
    BUFFY: I can't take this anymore. I feel like everyone is staring at me, the big, hideous, dateless monster.
    What? Yeah, that's right, I have no life, c'mon, nothin' to see here, pal, move it along! (Never Kill a Boy on a First Date)


    But after a frightening adventure in the graveyard, Owen becomes fascinated by Buffy and lets her know that he’d like to become more involved because she’s different from other girls.

    OWEN: I think you're the coolest!
    BUFFY: Really?
    OWEN: I mean, last night was incredible! I never thought nearly getting killed would make me feel so alive!
    BUFFY: So that's why you wanna be with me.
    OWEN: Oh, absolutely! When can we do something like that again?
    BUFFY: Something like –
    OWEN: Like, walk downtown at three in the morning and pick a fight in a bar. How about tonight?
    BUFFY: Tonight would – be – not a workable thing. Did I just say that?
    OWEN: Tomorrow, then. I'm free any night this week.
    BUFFY: I'm not. Please don't take this personally. It's not you, it's me. (Never Kill a Boy on a First Date)


    Buffy tries so hard here to go back to her life before the Slayer at the beginning of the episode and she’s impressed with him - until she sees him from the perspective of the Slayer. From the Sunnydale student’s point of view, he’s dreamy. But from the Slayer’s point of view, he’s foolish and reckless. He’s everything that represents normality to Buffy Summers – but once he becomes involved in her slaying, he’s wholly inadequate. And this dichotomy slowly moves Buffy away from normal boys like Xander who love her immensely and towards Angel who is as far removed from the teen life of Sunnydale High as possible.



    There’s no need to lie to him about who she is – the mysterious man who convinced her to keep slaying.
    Last edited by American Aurora; 11-02-19 at 05:43 AM.

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    Buffy Forum review: Seeing Red by American Aurora

    Previously on Buffy Forum: Seeing Red Review
    1. Introduction: Buffy Season Six: A Silence Made in Heaven
    2. Introduction: Seeing Red: Virtual Perception
    3. Introduction: Gender Toxicity: Light Willow and the Cool Girl
    4. Seeing Red, Part 1:From Morning at Buffy’s to the Kingdom of the Nerds
    5. Seeing Red, Part 1: Love and Silence: Dawn
    6. Seeing Red, Part 1: Hurting Buffy: Supervillains
    7. Seeing Red, Part 2: Dead Girls: Women in Refrigerators and Redemption Narratives
    8. Seeing Red, Part 2: Love and Silence - Buffy
    9. Seeing Red, Part 2: Gender Toxicity: Vengeance Demonsplaining
    10. Seeing Red, Part 2: The Trio – In a World of Pure Imagination: Andrew
    11. Seeing Red, Part 2: Love and Silence: Spike
    12. Seeing Red, Part 3: The Trio – Wearing the Mask of a Demon: Jonathan
    13. Seeing Red, Part 3: Gender Toxicity – You Haven’t Got the Stones
    14. Seeing Red, Part 3: Misogyny: Villain with a Thousand Faces
    15. Seeing Red, Part 3:Gender Toxicity: Xander Harris and the “Nice Guy Syndrome”
    16. Seeing Red, Part 3: Love and Silence: Xander and Willow – Children of Trauma
    17. Seeing Red, Part 4: Purity and Danger
    18. Seeing Red, Part 4: The Chosen One – The Slaying of Buffy Summers

    And now:

    19. Seeing Red, Part 4: Love and Silence – Buffy and Angel

    BUFFY: Y'know, I'm the Chosen One, it's my job to fight guys like that. What's your excuse?
    ANGEL: Uh, somebody has to.
    BUFFY: Well, what does your family think of your career choice?
    ANGEL: They're dead.
    BUFFY: Was it vampires?
    ANGEL: It was.
    BUFFY: I'm sorry.
    ANGEL: It was a long while ago.
    BUFFY: So, this is a vengeance gig for you. (Angel)


    Buffy’s love for Angel – her fascination by the otherworldly – is at the heart of most Gothic romance and dates back even farther to Romances of women wooed by demons in Classical Times. Fanciful and improbable, Greek and Roman stories of star-crossed lovers were translated at the height of the late Middle Ages and retrofitted to fit the more “modern” realistic novel popularized in the 18th century. Early Gothic romances by men told stories of helpless young maidens who were ravished and married to monsters – later stories merged the medieval romance with its courtly love overtones with the popular horror/ghost story. And as women created their own Gothic romances, the tragic death of the heroine was supplanted by a happy ending in which either the “demon” was vanquished by another handsome stranger – or he turned out to be the good guy after all.

    Sometimes, the Devil himself was the seducer – other times, the dark, brooding stranger accused of terrible crimes is proven innocent through the unmasking of a plot to damage his reputation. But he always shared the same basic elements – a mysterious origin, a brooding, guilty demeanor, a melancholy personality and darkly handsome. This villain is seductive and irresistible to the heroine – and places her in great peril at the climax of the tale. Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights are examples of this dark, swarthy Other who enthralls the heroine under their spell. The combination of danger and sex is what makes them so compelling – the attraction to the love-death the stranger represents. And this tie between the “little death” and death itself harkens back to the virgin sacrifices of early human cultures that were tributes to the King of the Underworld – the relationship of Persephone and Hades or Death and the Maiden.



    I’ve already talked a bit about how Buffy represents a version of Persephone – the woman who weds Hades and spends half her life underground – and Demeter – the mother figure who nurtures and creates fertility on earth. Buffy’s division between Slayer and Human Woman prefigures her relationship with Angel – both handsome heroic figure and Lord of the Underworld – because it both fits and parodies ancient tropes in mythology and Gothic fiction. In Shakespeare’s time, the figure of death in the Danse Macabre had already become the paramour of a beloved woman as Romeo says after finding a supposedly deceased Juliet:

    Ah, dear Juliet,
    Why art thou yet so fair? Shall I believe
    That unsubstantial Death is amorous
    And that the lean abhorred monster keeps
    Thee here in dark to be his paramour?
    (Romeo and Juliet, Act V, Scene III, William Shakespeare)
    But at the advent of Romanticism, Persephone and Hades was transformed into the much more congenial tale of Cupid and Psyche – especially by female writers who created a kind of heroic female quest to transform her “monster” into the hero through deeds. Instead of conquest and rape, the story becomes a parable about transformation and change – love changing the monster from object to subject. And when the female redeems the masculine demon, she is also redeemed through the discovery of her true self.

    BUFFY: I was – just thinking – wouldn't it be funny some time to see each other when it wasn't a blood thing. Not funny ha, ha.
    ANGEL: What are you sayin', you wanna have a date?
    BUFFY: No.
    ANGEL: You don't wanna have a date?
    BUFFY: Who said 'date'? I never said 'date'.
    ANGEL: Right. You just wanna have coffee or somethin'.
    BUFFY: Coffee?
    ANGEL: I knew this was gonna happen.
    BUFFY: What? What do you think is happening?
    ANGEL: You're sixteen years old. I'm two hundred and forty-one.
    BUFFY: I've done the math.
    ANGEL: You don't know what you're doing, you don't know what you want –
    BUFFY: Oh. No, I, I think I do. I want out of this conversation.
    ANGEL: Listen, if we date you and I both know one thing's gonna lead to another.
    BUFFY: One thing already has led to another. You think it's a little late to be reading me a warning label?
    ANGEL: I'm just tryin' to protect you. This could get outta control.
    BUFFY: Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?
    He grabs her by the shoulders and pulls her closer. She draws a startled breath.
    ANGEL: This isn't some fairy tale. When I kiss you, you don't wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after.
    BUFFY: No. When you kiss me I wanna die. (Reptile Boy)


    This mix of tragic mortality and fairy tale redemption by female writers transformed the Romance into a story about liberation – a fantasia of liberation at a time when women had none. And the Romance was reviled by male critics who saw it as ridiculous wish-fulfillment and consigned it to dime-store novels and a few literature courses – until the late 20th century where a resurgence in supernatural and romantic tales skyrocketed several books to the bestseller list. The Gothic was merged with several other popular genres and sex became explicit for the first time – much of this was due to the feminist movement of the late 60s/early 70s. And this movement drives much of fanfiction.

    The commonplace trope of “rape” that was at the heart of a lot of Gothic novels was replaced by detailed erotic scenes in which the female is often the aggressor and sexual fluidity is commonplace. The chaste kiss of the lovers or the wicked gropes of the aggressor were replaced by graphic depictions that make soft-core pornographers blush. Most feature a strong woman who clashes with a brooding dark stranger as in the past – but now his domination was met not by cries for help, but a challenging, violent response that eventually wins him over. It doesn’t hurt that both usually have Best Sex Ever! The first time. Werewolves, zombies, devils, vampires – the supernatural dating app is stuffed full of possibilities.

    At first, the female heroine would have wild sex and then tame her beast – soon, she agreed to join him, becoming a liminal, supernatural beast herself after being bitten or cursed by her lover. And the vampire – once a monstrous, snarling, ugly-as-hell beast – became emblematic of this kind of fiction as the heroine finds her true Self through moving over to the dark side. No longer a rape of Persephone but a deliberate action of Psyche to recover her God/man and in doing so, ending up a Goddess on Mount Olympus.



    BUFFY: Oh, I told you, that faux parenting gig we're doing at school. Like I'm really planning to have kids anytime soon. Uh, maybe someday, in the future, when I'm done having a life, but –right now kids would be just a little too much to deal with.
    ANGEL: I wouldn't know. I don't – well, you know, I can't.
    BUFFY: Oh. That's okay – I figured there were all sorts of things vampires couldn't do. You know, like work for the Telephone Company, or volunteer for the Red Cross, or – have little vampires.
    ANGEL: So you don't think about the future?
    BUFFY: No.
    ANGEL: Never?
    BUFFY: No.
    ANGEL: You really don't care what happens a year from now? Five years from now?
    BUFFY: Angel, when I look into the future, all I see is you! All I want is you.
    ANGEL: I know the feeling. (Bad Eggs)
    From Anne Rice to Laurell K Hamilton, the depiction of vampires as tragic figures rather than evil monsters – Angel is a figure who represents both the monstrous Devil/Death character of early Gothic fiction and the noble, redeemed character of late female 20th Century romance. Which makes him emblematic of Buffy’s greatest love – a character who mirrors both sides of Buffy’s early battle with normality vs. monstrosity – becoming more of a superhero identity than a traditional vampire.



    Buffy’s love for Angel has a great deal to do with her dual need to destroy the Other that threatens the social order and her subliminal, deeper need to identify with the monster himself. Staking Angel becomes a form of suicide, cutting Buffy off from her darker impulses in which the monster within lurks. The repressed part of the Self that potentially contains all possibilities.

    It’s clear that there are at least three kinds of monsters in Buffy – the romanticized monster-Other who prowls the schoolyard and the streets and the graveyards to kill and is defined by various traits that are listed in the Watcher Books – this monster represents a threat to the integrity of the body. The second is a monster of habitation – an embodiment of a “monstrous” potential that lies within, representing a kind of transgression of social norms or corruption of power like cruelty and greed or systemic issues like racism, sexism, homophobia and intolerance. But the third kind of monster is left unnamed – like the conspiracy of silence, it lurks just at the edges of our sight and the limits of our thoughts. It seems to represent a space before the act of becoming itself – always uncanny, terrifying and random. And it is linked in part to trauma – the terror of a divided Self.

    And Angel in many ways represents all three, of course – he silently prowls through the graveyards and the streets of Sunnydale. As a souled vampire, his target is less predatory and more romantic as he watches over Buffy from the shadows at first – a silent, solitary figure who only steps in when he believes true danger is approaching. And from the start, he mocks the forced roles that both he and Buffy are playing:

    Angel: Ah, heh. Is there a problem, ma'am?
    Buffy: Yeah, there's a problem. Why are you following me?
    Angel: I know what you're thinking. Don't worry, I don't bite. Truth is, I thought you'd be taller, or bigger muscles and all that. You're pretty spry, though.
    Buffy: What do you want?
    Angel: The same thing you do.
    Buffy: Okay. What do I want?
    Angel: To kill them. To kill them all.
    Buffy: Sorry, that's incorrect. But you do get this lovely watch and a year's supply of Turtle Wax. What I want is to be left alone!
    Angel: Do you really think that's an option anymore? You're standing at the Mouth of Hell. And it's about to open. Don't turn your back on this. You've gotta be ready.
    Buffy: What for?
    Angel: For the Harvest.
    Buffy: Who are you?
    Angel: Let's just say... I'm a friend.
    Buffy: Yeah, well, maybe I don't want a friend.
    Angel: I didn't say I was yours. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)


    Angel is also a metaphor for change and restoration in the Buffyverse – his cryptic, silent presence a sign of tentative steps towards redemption as he tries to help Buffy in small but psychologically important ways – like lending her his coat as a metaphoric armor against the darkness.

    BUFFY: Well! Look who's here!
    ANGEL: Hi.
    BUFFY: I'd say it's nice to see you, but then we both know that's a big fib.
    ANGEL: I won't be long.
    BUFFY: No, you'll just give me a cryptic warning about some exciting new catastrophe, and then disappear into the night. Right?
    ANGEL: You're cold.
    BUFFY: You can take it.
    ANGEL: I mean, you look cold.
    XANDER: Oh, right! Give her your jacket. It's a balmy night, no one needs to be trading clothing out there!
    BUFFY: A little big on me. What happened?
    ANGEL: I didn't pay attention.
    BUFFY: To somebody with a big fork?
    ANGEL: He's coming.
    BUFFY: The Fork Guy?
    ANGEL: Don't let him corner you. Don't give him a moment's mercy. He'll rip your throat out.
    BUFFY: Okay, I'll give you improved marks for that one. Ripping a throat out, it's a strong visual, it's not cryptic!
    ANGEL: I have to go.
    BUFFY: Sweet dreams to you, too. (Teacher’s Pet)


    I’ve read in some places the belief that Angel is actually representative of a sinister older man in his first appearances as he lurks in the shadows, supposedly grooming the young Buffy for a future romance. But that not only goes directly against the entire mythology of the Gothic romance, but it ascribes questionable ulterior motives to what is obviously meant to be the first few faltering steps towards redemption. It’s possible that Angel is unconsciously setting the stage for a romance, but Angel has been living in alleyways and feasting on rats for a hundred years – Buffy isn’t a sexual object to him – she gives his life meaning after doing so much evil. And Buffy says as much to him in Amends – she doesn’t feel “groomed” or “used” – Angel, like Spike, gives her the opportunity to love the Other – to be merciful – to learn to forgive – and in forgiving the two vampires, she’s more able to forgive herself.

    The show actually parodies the idea of Angel being a creepy stalker in The Wish when a cynical Buffy sees Angel through jaded eyes:

    ANGEL: I waited. I waited here for you. But you never – I was supposed to help you.
    BUFFY: You were gonna help me.
    ANGEL: The Master rose. He let me live – to punish me. I kept hoping maybe you'd come. My destiny.
    BUFFY: Is this a get-in-my-pants thing? You guys in Sunnydale talk like I'm the Second Coming. (The Wish)


    And that brings up the third voiceless monster that lies within – the terrifying instability of self that haunts everyone. And this is reflected throughout the series through the personal trauma of Buffy –the Chosen One – the one girl in the world who fights the powers of darkness. It cannot be overstated how much it affects Buffy’s psychological attitudes towards the world – her relationships with her family, her friends, her lovers and even the enemies she defeats. As the Slayer, Buffy represents both the center of the story and the margins outside it – an endless tug-of-war in Buffy that is very postmodern – the “normative” Buffy Summers pitted against the liminal, the “Other” – and Buffy must find her moral and ethical boundaries within that undefined space.

    BUFFY: Love makes you do the wacky.
    ANGEL: What?
    BUFFY: Crazy stuff.
    ANGEL: Oh. Crazy, like a two-hundred-and-forty-one-year-old being jealous of a high school junior?
    BUFFY: Are you fessing up?
    ANGEL: I've thought about it. Maybe it bothers me a little.
    BUFFY: I don't love Xander.
    ANGEL: Yeah, but he's in your life. He gets to be there when I can't. Take your classes, eat your meals, hear your jokes and complaints. He gets to see you in the sunlight.
    BUFFY: I don't look that good in direct light.
    ANGEL: It'll be morning soon.
    BUFFY: I should probably go. I could walk you home. (Some Assembly Required)


    As a demonic figure in human form with a foot in both worlds, Buffy represents an incoherent body – a form suspended between forms. And yet she’s our entry-point into the supernatural world of the Buffyverse – we look to her reactions and her world view to guide us in understanding the various meanings of “otherness” that reside at Sunnydale’s Hellmouth. But Buffy constantly looks backward to an imaginary golden age that exists in a pre-traumatic time – a past before her parent’s divorce and her vocation as the chosen one – a time before fracture and fragmentation. This trauma of loss permeates the show – but what seems like a dissolution of wholeness to Buffy is actually a reconfiguration of being that develops into a powerful state of autonomy by the end of the series.

    So Buffy’s interest in Angel (and later Spike) isn’t just some weird sexual quirk – it’s not that vampires get her hot – it’s that they represent a latent part of herself. She understands them, connects with them, and recognizes their trauma of separation from themselves. And at the same time, this is humiliating to her – Buffy doesn’t want to remotely recognize this in herself for a long time. And so she prevaricates, she hides, she lies, she deceives. Once Buffy finds out Angel is a vampire the first thing Buffy tries to keep from her close friends is her love for Angel – although it’s so obvious that Xander immediately sees it. Buffy is open about being a warrior – that’s completely acceptable. But falling in love with the enemy? It falls into the category of weakness and Buffy is somewhat embarrassed about Angel as her Achilles heel. Especially because Giles explains that a vampire is not a person – there is no halfway. They’re still a demon at the core. So what does that make Buffy if she identifies with Angel?

    WILLOW: Angel's a vampire?
    BUFFY: I can't believe this is happening. One minute we were kissing, and the next minute – can a vampire ever be a good person? Couldn't it happen?
    GILES: A vampire isn't a person at all. It may have the movements, the memories, even the personality of the person that it took over, but it's still a demon at the core. There is no halfway.
    WILLOW: So that'd be a no, huh?
    BUFFY: Well, then what was he doing? Why was he good to me? Was it all some part of the Master's plan? It doesn't make sense!
    XANDER: Alright, uh – you have a problem, and it's not a small one. Let's take a breath and look at this calmly and objectively. Angel's a vampire. You're a Slayer. I think it's obvious what you have to do.
    GILES: Uh, it is a Slayer's duty –
    XANDER: I know you have feelings for this guy, but it's not like you're in love with him, right?
    Buffy looks away silently.
    XANDER: You're in love with a vampire? What, are you outta your mind? (Angel)


    Because of her compulsion – the unique way in which she’s drawn to Angel – even when Buffy believes that Angel has attacked her mother, she can’t kill him. Well, at least not without an explanation – and Angel’s clarification blows her mind.

    BUFFY: Why? Why didn't you just attack me when you had the chance? Was it a joke? To make me feel for you and then – I've killed a lot of vampires. I've never hated one before.
    ANGEL: Feels good, doesn't it? Feels simple.
    BUFFY: I invited you into my home and then you attacked my family!
    ANGEL: Why not? I killed mine. I killed their friends-- and their friend's children. For a hundred years I offered ugly death to everyone I met, and I did it with a song in my heart.
    BUFFY: What changed?
    ANGEL: Fed on a girl about your age – beautiful – dumb as a post – but a favorite among her clan.
    BUFFY: Her clan?
    ANGEL: Romany. Gypsies. The elders conjured the perfect punishment for me. They restored my soul.
    BUFFY: What, they were all out of boils and blinding torment?
    ANGEL: When you become a vampire the demon takes your body, but it doesn't get your soul. That's gone! No conscience, no remorse. It's an easy way to live. You have no idea what it's like to have done the things I've done – and to care. I haven't fed on a living human being since that day.
    BUFFY: So you started with my mom?
    ANGEL: I didn't bite her.
    BUFFY: Then why didn't you say something?
    ANGEL: But I wanted to. I can walk like a man, but I'm not one. (Angel)


    This small scene laid out the framework for a huge vampire mythology that was somewhat confusing at times – but the essential traumatic angst is self-evident. In almost every way, Angel's background falls into the grand tradition of Gothic romanticism - the man who became a monster who will become a man again through the love of a woman.

    Born in 1727 to a pious linen merchant who found him to be a great disappointment, Liam was a Catholic at the time when Anglican intolerance was cutting a swath throughout Ireland, his family found itself in Galway, a tempest of religious hatred at the time where Catholic merchants were banned and land was repossessed by the British Crown. And yet none of this apparently touched Liam, who suffered under his father’s constant disapproval and reacted by becoming a debauched libertine, drinking and womanizing all night long as he fantasized about seeing the world.



    Liam’s mother and sister seemed to be close, however, and even as he left his family home , he gives a kiss and kind words to his little sister Kathy. As he says as Angelus – he always has a soft spot for the ladies. As Darla watches him carouse, brawl and plot his next petty theft, she sees that Liam will be a boon companion for her – handsome, strong and amoral.

    After being sired by Darla, a vampire from the New World, Angelus and Darla journeyed through Europe together after rejecting a position with Darla’s Sire, the Master. For twenty years, the two remained constant on-and-off companions as Angelus tortured a young maiden Drusilla into madness and then sired her to preserve his monstrous masterpiece for eternity and Drusilla in turn sired William Pratt who became William the Bloody in time and then simply Spike. But after Darla provides Angel with a gypsy girl, the clan finds their revenge through cursing him with a soul. And it is really then that Angel’s journey begins.



    So little and so much is given to us regarding Liam’s short life before Darla sires him that it is hard to determine what drove Liam to flout his father’s authority and live a dissolute lifestyle. We know that his father was a righteous man who wanted a morally incorruptible son – it’s possible that the pressures on Liam to conform to his father’s wishes led him to abandon the high road for the low road. Or perhaps there was some Willie Loman-esque infidelity or corruption that Liam found out about his father – his crack to their servant about his father’s religious temperament implies that his own son believes his father to be less than pure.



    His father certainly kept trying to terrifying him with the idea of hellfire – one imagines that poor Liam couldn’t move a foot in the house without his father finding some measure of sin in his action. There is also the possibility of the same kind of low expectations that plagues Xander and his relationship with his family. After Liam’s father slaps him across the face, Liam’s response is to taunt his father and tell him that he had only acted as his father wished. This implies that Liam gave up trying to please his father under any circumstances since it was impossible – and decided to turn the other way, indulging in every sin he can think of short of rape and murder since he was damned anyway.



    This kind of finality also makes its way into his conversation with ghostly Spike who fears hellfire in Angel Season Five – his resignation that he and Spike are both eternally damned seems to come from a deeper place than even the brooding Angel persona. One wonders whether it’s a left over remnant from Liam.

    His desire to do good works and deeds as the souled Angel also bespeaks a tremendous link with Catholic theology. For Angel, faith is not enough (unlike the Anglican Spike) – only works can earn him enough grace to save his soul.



    Angel’s belief that he must stand alone against the demons comes from Watcher theology – but applies to him even more so considering his belief in his own corruption stemming from his father’s words and Catholic beliefs. When Angel is struck with the horrors of what he has done, he wallows in his own crimes for a hundred years until the PTB send a messenger to offer redemption through the form of Buffy Summers. When he falls in love with Buffy, it’s not really about an older man falling in love with a younger woman – but a man who has known utter despair finding the true restoration of his soul through his love of Buffy’s innocence, her purity, her fundamental moral goodness.

    Angel’s biggest desire is acceptance – he never found anything other than contempt even with Darla – who basically took the place of his father in expecting grander things from Angelus – and brutally betraying him when the fire gets too hot. When Buffy asks him if he snores early on in the series, Angel sadly remarks that he doesn’t know – it’s been THAT long since he’s shared intimacy with anyone who would care. There's a sense that Angel believes that most people are sinful and evil deep down – a commonplace Catholic assumption – because he’s seen the absolute worst of humanity.



    Stoney's made some excellent points about the fact that Liam/Angelus/Angel are all the same person - and I agree that each is simply an aspect of the full person - only different in terms of potential and perspective because of the human soul/no soul/vampire with a soul prism that changes and shifts the way in which he looks at the world. The complexity of Angleus/Angel and what human traits are mixed into the demon is made harder by the show constantly changing the goalposts. But one can discern that Angel in no way believes as Buffy does that he is a different man souled and unsouled. There is absolutely a bit of Liam mixed up in there – it’s actually hard to know just how much Angel has told anyone about the degenerate man he was BEFORE his siring. Buffy wants to believe that Angel was a good, honorable man beforehand – and Angel is hesitant about her reaction if she were told the truth.

    It's not that Angel blames himself for his siring – he couldn't have honestly known what would happen - but it's probable that he suffers from the same guilt he bore as a human for giving up on his life altogether and leaving himself in the hands of fate to do with him what it will. Angel’s lack of responsibility for his siring does not leave him free of the total failure of his former human life and the foolish decisions that he made to spite his father.



    Interestingly, Spike often calls him Liam sarcastically and insinuates that the human Angel had as many unpleasant traits as his vampire demon – but that may just be Spike’s anti-Irish Victorian Empire chauvinism talking. But Angel hides a lot from the people he works with and is often characterized by silence just as his voice is needed the most – one of his biggest flaws.

    What is different about Angel and Angelus reaches beyond Liam/Angel because Angelus becomes the archetype of something that he could never achieve as either human or vampire with a soul – he achieves a level of purity – even though that purity is evil. When the Judge mocks Drusilla and Spike for being full of humanity, a contrast is made with Angel – who has no humanity whatsoever. This doesn't mean that he's essentially different from Angel - but that he has become akin to a psychopath - losing that essential connection between cognition and emotion that conveys certain feelings of guilt or fear. He is a perfect killing animal of malevolent intentions – and tragically the only time that Liam/Angel truly feels alive because he has attained perfection in his father’s eyes and in God’s eyes – he is a creature of pure darkness in that respect.



    Souled Angel feels weak and uneasy in comparison. It is so easy to be Angelus – and so difficult to be the morally ambiguous Angel or Liam. As Angel, he is the classic Gothic hero who knows he is a monster because he has humanity left in him - in the Buffyverse, it's a soul. He's aware of his original sin and the compulsion to do evil – and he chooses to act in humane ways even if he can never be one.

    This vow to keep to the moral high road is quasi-religious and matches Angel’s Catholic background – tainted with unforgivable damnation, Angel still embraces the path to heaven. And to prove this, he stakes his sire and first love, Darla, just as she is about to murder Buffy.



    Buffy accepts Angel’s “soul” gradually as a sign of her own redemption – keeping Angel around makes Buffy feel less monstrous for a multitude of reasons. And she can relate to his Otherness - and feel both trusting and a little nervous around this monstrous heroic figure who watches over her so carefully. In an ironic way, Angel is a healing presence that reassures her that dusting vampires is a good thing - because he's a living example of what they could be if they weren't lacking a soul.

    And Angel is willing to be helpful to Buffy's Watcher as well - primarily because he finds it hard to face her.

    Giles: A vampire casts no reflection.
    ANGEL: Don't worry. I'm not here to eat.
    GILES: Buffy told me you don't feed from humans anymore.
    ANGEL: Not for a long while.
    GILES: Is that why you're here? To see her?
    ANGEL: I can't. It's too hard for me to be around her.
    GILES: A vampire in love with a Slayer! It's rather poetic in a maudlin sort of way. What can I do for you?
    ANGEL: I know you've been researching the Master.
    GILES: Yes, the vampire king. I've tried to learn as much as I can about him for the day that Buffy must face him.
    ANGEL: Something's already in motion, something big, but I don't know what. You've read all the Slayer lore there is, right?
    GILES: I've studied all the extant volumes, of course. But the, uh, most salient books of Slayer prophecy have been lost. The Tiberius Manifesto, the Pergamum Codex.
    ANGEL: The Codex?
    GILES: It's reputed to have contained the most complete prophecies about the Slayer's role in the end years. Unfortunately, the book was lost in the 15th century.
    ANGEL: Not lost. Misplaced. I can get it. (Out of Sight, Out of Mind)
    But Angel's watchfulness turns to secrecy when he and Giles find out that Buffy is fated to die.



    In Season One, the first true blow to Buffy’s psyche isn’t that Angel exposed as a vampire. It’s the fact that her Watcher and her potential boyfriend are seemingly keeping the truth from her that she’s fated to die – and she’s going to have to face her fate alone.

    BUFFY: So that's it, huh? I remember the drill. One Slayer dies, next one's called! Wonder who she is. Will you train her? Or will they send someone else?
    GILES: Buffy, I –
    BUFFY: They say how he's gonna kill me? Do you think it'll hurt? Don't touch me! Were you even gonna tell me?
    GILES: I was hoping that I wouldn't have to. That there was some way around it. I –
    BUFFY: I've got a way around it. I quit!
    ANGEL: It's not that simple.
    BUFFY: I'm making it that simple! I quit! I resign, I'm fired, you can find someone else to stop the Master from taking over!
    GILES: I'm not sure that anyone else can. All the signs indicate –
    BUFFY: The signs? READ ME THE SIGNS! TELL ME MY FORTUNE! YOU'RE SO USEFUL SITTING HERE WITH ALL YOUR BOOKS! YOU'RE REALLY A LOTTA HELP!
    GILES: No, I don't suppose I am.
    ANGEL: I know this is hard.
    BUFFY: What do you know about this? You're never gonna die!
    ANGEL: You think I want anything to happen to you? Do you think I could stand it? We just gotta figure out a way –
    BUFFY: I already did. I quit, remember? Pay attention!
    GILES: Buffy, if the Master rises –
    Buffy rips the cross from her neck.
    BUFFY: I don't care! I don't care. Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I don't wanna die. (Prophecy Girl)


    The trauma from this moment reverberates throughout the rest of the series – Buffy reverts right back to the series opener and makes the decision to turn her back on Slaying. In fact, in every season, Buffy seems to be traumatized from the year before in an almost satirical echo of the original.

    WILLOW: Buffy's never acted like this before. Ever since she got back she's – different.
    XANDER: Buffy's always been different.
    WILLOW: She's never been mean. (When She Was Bad)
    Unusually for a show in the late 90s, there’s a real progression between seasons in terms of character development – Buffy doesn’t magically get over her experience of having died at the hands of the Master – she’s forever scarred by it.

    ANGEL: I can't help thinking I've done something to make you angry. And that bothers me more than I'd like.
    BUFFY: I'm not angry. I don't know where that comes from.
    ANGEL: What are you afraid of? Me? Us?
    BUFFY: Could you contemplate getting over yourself for a second? There's no 'us'. Look, Angel, I'm sorry if I was supposed to spend the summer mooning over you, but I didn't. I moved on. To the living. (When She Was Bad)
    And there’s an interesting theme each season that’s carried onward – the idea that Buffy slowly starts to cut herself off from her friends and family just a little more each time she returns from the latest Big Bad ordeal.

    HANK: Hank: She was just, I don't know, um – distant. Not brooding or sulking, just – there was no connection. The more time we spent together, the more I felt like she was nowhere to be seen. (When She Was Bad)


    Buffy faces death and comes back even more triumphant – except for the fact that she’s just a little more distant. And a lot more violent. The Slayer is expected to sacrifice, to die for the cause. Martyrdom becomes an ethical virtue that society wants to see reflected in itself through the sacrifice of heroes never allowed into the safe embrace of that system. In her need to create a wall around herself for protection, Buffy even tries to bait and attack the vamp who's on her side.

    BUFFY: Y'know, being stalked isn't really a big turn-on for girls.
    ANGEL: You need help. Someone to watch your back.
    BUFFY: Sure you don't mean my neck?
    ANGEL: Why are you ridin' me?
    BUFFY: Because I don't trust you. You're a vampire. Oh, I'm sorry, was that an offensive term? Should I say 'undead American'?
    ANGEL: You have to trust someone. You can't do this alone.
    BUFFY: I trust me.
    ANGEL: You're not as strong as you think.
    BUFFY: You think you can take me?
    ANGEL: What?
    BUFFY: Oh, c'mon! I mean, you must've thought about it. What would happen if it ever came down to a fight, you vampire, me the Slayer, I mean, you must've wondered! Well, why don't we find out?
    ANGEL: I'm not gonna fight you.
    BUFFY: Come on! Kick my ass!
    ANGEL: Don't you have somewhere to be?
    BUFFY: I do.
    ANGEL: Well, you're wasting time.
    BUFFY: Just stay out of my way.
    ANGEL: Happy to oblige. (When She Was Bad)
    But Buffy refuses to sacrifice her will and submit to authority in all matters – In fact, the more that Buffy experiences, the more demonic and boundary-shattering she becomes towards her prey.

    BUFFY: One more time: where are they?
    VAMPIRE: You're too late. Your friends are dead.
    BUFFY: Tell me where they are!
    VAMPIRE What are you gonna do? Kill me?
    BUFFY: As a matter of fact –
    She throws the vampire onto a pool table and yanks off her necklace.
    BUFFY: Yes. But since I'm not gonna kill you any time soon, the question becomes – how are we gonna pass the time till then?
    She burns the cross in the vampire's mouth, and she shakes her head. After several seconds Buffy pulls the cross back out.
    BUFFY: So. One more time. (When She Was Bad)


    After Buffy’s defeat of The Master, she’s much more aware of her Slayer side. She’s come back from death stronger and more akin to the demons she stakes because she now has a taste of the source of their power and she's become a bit like them - there's some loss of innocence here and some maturity as she appreciates Angel for who he is - even in vamp face.

    BUFFY: Your eye! Hey! Don't be a baby. I'm not gonna hurt you.
    ANGEL: It's not that. I –
    BUFFY: What?
    ANGEL: You shouldn't have to touch me when I'm like this.
    BUFFY: Oh.
    She removes her glove and reaches up to touch his brow and his wound.
    BUFFY: I didn't even notice.
    She moves closer to kiss him. He responds, and they kiss gently. (What’s My Line, Part One)


    And this, in turn, ironically draws her even closer to Angel and her friends and farther away from the regulations of the Watcher’s Council and any ideals of normality. And Buffy even starts to change herself to please Angel - demonstrating in the process that she knows very little about Liam:

    ANGEL: I don't get it, Buffy. Why'd you think I'd like you better dressed that way?
    BUFFY: I just wanted to be a real girl for once. The kind of fancy girl you liked when you were my age.
    ANGEL: Oh, no.
    BUFFY: What?
    ANGEL: I hated the girls back then. Especially the noble women.
    BUFFY: You did.
    ANGEL: They were just incredibly dull. Simpering morons, the lot of them. I always wished I could meet someone – exciting. Interesting.
    BUFFY: Really? Interesting how?
    ANGEL: You know how.
    BUFFY: Still, I had a really hard day. You should probably tell me.
    ANGEL: You're right. I should.
    BUFFY: Definitely.
    They kiss gently yet passionately. (Halloween)
    Angel's shadowy past becomes more clear when certain secrets are revealed - what's interesting is that he hasn't really volunteered anything of his early years as Liam/Angelus and Buffy hasn't really asked. Up to the middle of Season Two, it's an unspeakable subject that both agree is better left unvoiced. But when Buffy sees Angel with Drusilla, Angel is forced to fess up the whole story:

    ANGEL: Buffy. May I come in?
    BUFFY: Sure. I thought once you were invited you could always just walk in.
    ANGEL: I can. I was just being polite. We need to talk.
    BUFFY: Do we?
    ANGEL: It's about your friend Ford. He's not what he seems.
    BUFFY: Who is these days?
    ANGEL: Willow ran him down on the computer.
    BUFFY: Willow?
    ANGEL: We found this address, we checked it out with Xander, and it turned out –
    BUFFY: And Xander? Wow. Everybody's in. It's like a great big exciting conspiracy.
    ANGEL: What are you talking about?
    BUFFY: I'm talking about the people I trust. Who's Drusilla? And don't lie to me. I'm tired of it.
    ANGEL: Some lies are necessary.
    BUFFY: For what?
    ANGEL: Sometimes the truth is worse. You live long enough, you find that out.
    BUFFY: I can take it. I can take the truth.
    ANGEL: Do you love me?
    BUFFY: What?
    ANGEL: Do you?
    BUFFY: I love you. I don't know if I trust you.
    ANGEL: Maybe you shouldn't do either.
    BUFFY: Maybe I'm the one who should decide!
    ANGEL: I did a lot of unconscionable things when I became a vampire. Drusilla was the worst. She was – an obsession of mine. She was pure and sweet and chaste –
    BUFFY: And you made her a vampire.
    ANGEL: First I made her insane. Killed everybody she loved. Visited every mental torture on her I could devise. She eventually fled to a convent, and on the day she took her holy orders, I turned her into a demon.
    BUFFY: Well. I asked for the truth. (Lie to Me)
    Buffy's words - I love you but I don't know if I can trust you - aren't just reserved for the vampire with a soul, but Spike and Riley as well. All three men eventually lie to her about less-than-noble deeds and as each blow lands, Buffy rightfully becomes more and more on the defensive. And not long after Angel reveals his big secret, her own Watcher reveals one of his own.

    GILES: I was twenty-one, studying history at Oxford. And, of course, the occult by night. I hated it. The tedious grind of study, the – overwhelming pressure of my destiny. I dropped out, I went to London – I fell in with the worst crowd that would have me. We practiced magicks. Small stuff for pleasure or gain. And Ethan and I discovered something – bigger.
    BUFFY: Eyghon.
    GILES: Yes. One of us would – go into a deep sleep, and the others would, uh, summon him. It was an extraordinary high! God, we were fools.
    BUFFY: You couldn't control it.
    GILES: One of us, Randall, he lost control. Eyghon took him whole. We tried to exorcise the demon from Randall, but it killed him. No. We killed him. We thought we were free of the demon after that. But now he's back. And one by one, he will kill us all.
    BUFFY: Three down, two to go? Then it's going after Ethan. I better beat it there.
    GILES: We'd* better.
    BUFFY: I'd better. Giles, you're barely mobile, and speed is of a serious essence here.
    GILES: I don't know how to stop it without killing Jenny.
    BUFFY: I've got the guys working on it. I'll, um, try to contain it until we figure something.
    GILES: Buffy? I'm sorry.
    BUFFY: I know. (The Dark Ages)
    Secrets and lies - who is trustworthy? Buffy's learning very quickly that the answer for the Slayer is to trust no one outside of her tiny group of friends. As Buffy and Angel become closer and closer, Buffy is able to reveal more and more of her feelings about being a freak because he's the one freaky thing that makes sense.

    BUFFY: Right. Well, then you know it's a whole week of 'what's my line', only – I don't get to play. Sometimes I just want –
    ANGEL: You want what?
    Buffy looks into her long mirror. She's alone in the reflection.
    ANGEL: It's okay.
    BUFFY: The Cliff Notes version? I want a normal life. Like I had before.
    ANGEL: Before me.
    BUFFY: No, Angel, it's not you. You're the one freaky thing in my freaky world that still makes sense to
    me. I just get messed sometimes. I wish we could be regular kids.
    ANGEL: Yeah. I'll never be a kid.
    BUFFY: Okay, then a regular kid and her cradle robbing, creature-of-the-night boyfriend.
    Angel picks up a picture of Buffy on ice skates.
    ANGEL: Was this part of your normal life?
    BUFFY: Oh, my God. My Dorothy Hamill phase. My room in L.A. was pretty much a shrine. Dorothy dolls, Dorothy posters, I even got the Dorothy haircut. Thereby securing a place for myself in the geek hall of fame.
    ANGEL: Hmm, you wanted to be like her?
    BUFFY: I wanted to be her. My parents were fighting all the time, and skating was an escape. I felt safe.
    ANGEL: When was the last time you put on your skates?
    BUFFY: About a couple of hundred demons ago.
    ANGEL: There's a rink out past Route 17, it's closed on Tuesdays.
    BUFFY: Tomorrow's Tuesday.
    ANGEL: I know. (What’s My Line, Part One)


    The introduction of Kendra as a shadow slayer who follows rigid rules to a fault makes it even clearer that the Slayer can never have a normal life when following Watchers dogma. No family, no friends, no lovers, no life at all. And Buffy pushes against this - she feels that Kendra goes too far on the side of conformity. Following rules and regulations doesn’t make one a better fighter – it handicaps a slayer who must understand the boundary-shattering anger of monsters instinctively:

    KENDRA: Your life is very different than mine.
    BUFFY: You mean the part where I occasionally have one? Yeah, I guess it is.
    KENDRA: The things you do and have – I was taught – distract from my calling. Friends, school – even family.
    BUFFY: Even family?
    KENDRA: My parents, they sent me to my Watcher when I was very young.
    BUFFY: How young?
    KENDRA: I don't remember them, actually. I've seen pictures. But, uh, that's how seriously the calling is taken by my people. My mother and father gave me to my Watcher because they believed that they were doing the right thing for me, and for the world. Please, I don't feel sorry for myself. Why should you?
    BUFFY: I don't know, I guess it just sounds very lonely.
    KENDRA: Emotions are weakness, Buffy. You shouldn't entertain them.
    BUFFY: Kendra, my emotions give me power. They're total assets!
    KENDRA: Maybe. For you. But I prefer to keep an even mind.
    BUFFY: Mm. I guess that explains it.
    KENDRA: Explains what?
    BUFFY: Oh, well, when we were fighting, uh, you're amazing! Your technique, it's flawless, it's, hmm, better than mine.
    KENDRA: I know.
    BUFFY: Still, I woulda kicked your butt in the end. And you know why? No imagination.
    KENDRA: Really? You think so?
    BUFFY: Oh, I know so. You're good, but power alone isn't enough. A good fighter needs to know how to improvise, to go with the flow. Uh-uh, seriously, don't get me wrong, you really do have potential.
    KENDRA: Potential? I could wipe the floor with you right now!
    BUFFY: That would be anger you're feeling.
    KENDRA: What?
    BUFFY: You feel it, right? How the anger gives you fire? A Slayer needs that. (What’s My Line, Part Two)


    A Slayer needs fire – but not too much. There's a real tug-of-war in Buffy's heart in terms of a balance between being a good little Slayer who is carefully controlled and an out-of-control Slayer who gives into the monster within. When Faith is introduced in the following season, she’s the counterweight to Kendra’s all-too-careful deliberation. She’s embraced the monster a bit too much – and pays the consequences of the embrace of chaos. And Faith is acutely aware that she’s the monster by which Buffy defines herself in order to achieve her own level of “normal” despite her own sense of divided self. In this sense, Faith is the element of Buffy’s monster repression that turns into murderous vengeance.

    And alongside that comes one of the most problematic elements of the Buffyverse – the attitude towards romance and sex.

    BUFFY: I was – just thinking – wouldn't it be funny some time to see each other when it wasn't a blood thing. Not funny ha, ha.
    ANGEL: What are you sayin', you wanna have a date?
    BUFFY: No.
    ANGEL: You don't wanna have a date?
    BUFFY: Who said 'date'? I never said 'date'.
    ANGEL: Right. You just wanna have coffee or somethin'.
    BUFFY: Coffee?
    ANGEL: I knew this was gonna happen.
    BUFFY: What? What do you think is happening?
    ANGEL: You're sixteen years old. I'm two hundred and forty-one.
    BUFFY: I've done the math.
    ANGEL: You don't know what you're doing, you don't know what you want –
    BUFFY: Oh. No, I, I think I do. I want out of this conversation.
    ANGEL: Listen, if we date you and I both know one thing's gonna lead to another.
    BUFFY: One thing already has led to another. You think it's a little late to be reading me a warning label?
    ANGEL: I'm just tryin' to protect you. This could get outta control.
    BUFFY: Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?
    He grabs her by the shoulders and pulls her closer. She draws a startled breath.
    ANGEL: This isn't some fairy tale. When I kiss you, you don't wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after.
    BUFFY: No. When you kiss me I wanna die. (Reptile Boy)
    In many ways, the whole show was predicated on a dick joke – Buffy the Vampire Slayer with her HUGE phallic symbol inserted in a monster with a mouth full of teeth shaped like a you-know-what – and all the demons come to Sunnydale because it’s situated over a giant, black cavernous hole called the Hellmouth that Buffy has to constantly plug up – well, anyway, now I’ve beaten this metaphor into the ground. But there’s also a kind of prudery that overshadows the feminist elements of the series. Every time a character wants to have a good time with a consenting partner – have kinky sex, have dangerous sex, have no-strings-attached sex – it’s either portrayed as a total joke (Anya and Xander) or something absolutely dreadful happens to them. Especially if they’re female.



    Even when it’s loving sex – half the time something dreadful happens. Soulless Angel and the shooting of Tara are just two of the most egregious examples, but what was set-up at the beginning as a parody of all the hilarious sex=death messages of teen horror movies (when Darla attacks the boy in the pilot opener) became too rigidly defined as the Sex = Bad Crap trope as the series went on.

    BUFFY: I'm guessing dating isn't big with your Watcher either.
    KENDRA: I'm not permitted to speak with boys.
    BUFFY: Unless you're pummeling them. (What’s My Line, Part Two)
    Many of the earlier seasons used sex as a metaphor for teens exploring that part of themselves – but as the series progressed, the obsession with alternative sexuality and promiscuity as a moral failing becomes a bit much. The fact that Buffy has only had sex with five people in a period of ten years in the series – and three of those people only once or twice – and the rest of the series she spends in forced celibacy – is indicative of the puritanical streak in the series. Buffy can’t just roll into bed with some nice, good-looking guy for a pleasurable, fun friends-with-benefits type relationship that doesn’t have to end in together 4evar! – and I get the feeling that the answer isn’t so much about wanting true love as it is “Because it’s wrong!”

    WILLOW: 'I like you at bedtime?' You actually said that?
    BUFFY: I know, I know.
    WILLOW: Man, that's like – I dunno, that's moxie or something.
    BUFFY: Totally unplanned. It just – came out.
    WILLOW: And he was into it? I mean, he wants to see you at bedtime, too?
    BUFFY: Yeah, I think he does. Well, I, I mean he-he's cool about it.
    WILLOW: Well, of course he is. 'Cause he's cool. I mean, he would never – you know –
    BUFFY: Push.
    WILLOW: Right. He's not the type.
    BUFFY: Will, what am I gonna do?
    WILLOW: What do you wanna do?
    BUFFY: I don't know. I mean, 'want' isn't always the right thing to do. To act on want can be wrong.
    WILLOW: True.
    BUFFY: But – to not act on want. What if I never feel this way again?
    WILLOW: Carpe diem. You told me that once.
    BUFFY: 'Fish of the day'?
    WILLOW: Not carp. Carpe. It means 'seize the day.'
    BUFFY: Right. I think we're going to. Seize it. Once you get to a certain point, then seizing is sort of inevitable.
    WILLOW: Wow –
    BUFFY: Yeah.
    WILLOW: Wow – (Surprise)
    One of the reasons we’re supposed to see Faith as a bad, damaged person is because she thinks dirty thoughts and engages in wild sex – even in Season Seven, she’s the temptress who screws around with newly ensouled Spike. And if Riley had just decided to have fun, kinky sex with Buffy that was a change from their usual wholesome love-making, the viewer would have been expected to turn away from him with disgust despite that fact that it was an act between two consenting adults. And there’s an entire world of wrong in the Spuffy relationship – but not necessarily in any consensual sexual activity despite the writers trying to make us believe that Buffy basically violated every sexual boundary there was. And some of Buffy’s shame regarding her relationship with Spike in Season Six is tied into the retrograde sexist tropes of previous seasons and especially the behavior of her three sexual partners, each of whom betrayed her trust.



    But Angel was the worst offender of all because she loved him more than anyone she’d ever known – and the ways in which he hurt Buffy were possibly more damaging than even her parents’ divorce or her calling because it instilled a core fear in Buffy that if she allows anyone to love her or allows herself to fall in love with someone that it will somehow destroy both of their lives.
    Last edited by American Aurora; 11-02-19 at 08:05 AM.

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    Buffy Forum review: Seeing Red by American Aurora

    Previously on Buffy Forum: Seeing Red Review
    1. Introduction: Buffy Season Six: A Silence Made in Heaven
    2. Introduction: Seeing Red: Virtual Perception
    3. Introduction: Gender Toxicity: Light Willow and the Cool Girl
    4. Seeing Red, Part 1:From Morning at Buffy’s to the Kingdom of the Nerds
    5. Seeing Red, Part 1: Love and Silence: Dawn
    6. Seeing Red, Part 1: Hurting Buffy: Supervillains
    7. Seeing Red, Part 2: Dead Girls: Women in Refrigerators and Redemption Narratives
    8. Seeing Red, Part 2: Love and Silence - Buffy
    9. Seeing Red, Part 2: Gender Toxicity: Vengeance Demonsplaining
    10. Seeing Red, Part 2: The Trio – In a World of Pure Imagination: Andrew
    11. Seeing Red, Part 2: Love and Silence: Spike
    12. Seeing Red, Part 3: The Trio – Wearing the Mask of a Demon: Jonathan
    13. Seeing Red, Part 3: Gender Toxicity – You Haven’t Got the Stones
    14. Seeing Red, Part 3: Misogyny: Villain with a Thousand Faces
    15. Seeing Red, Part 3:Gender Toxicity: Xander Harris and the “Nice Guy Syndrome”
    16. Seeing Red, Part 3: Love and Silence: Xander and Willow – Children of Trauma
    17. Seeing Red, Part 4: Purity and Danger
    18. Seeing Red, Part 4: The Chosen One – The Slaying of Buffy Summers
    19. Seeing Red, Part 4: Love and Silence – Buffy and Angel

    And now:

    20. Seeing Red, Part 4: You Made Me the Man I am Today - Buffy and Angel's 'Freak' Show

    BUFFY: Oh, I told you, that faux parenting gig we're doing at school. Like I'm really planning to have kids anytime soon. Uh, maybe someday, in the future, when I'm done having a life, but –right now kids would be just a little too much to deal with.
    ANGEL: I wouldn't know. I don't – well, you know, I can't.
    BUFFY: Oh. That's okay – I figured there were all sorts of things vampires couldn't do. You know, like work for the Telephone Company, or volunteer for the Red Cross, or – have little vampires.
    ANGEL: So you don't think about the future?
    BUFFY: No.
    ANGEL: Never?
    BUFFY: No.
    ANGEL: You really don't care what happens a year from now? Five years from now?
    BUFFY: Angel, when I look into the future, all I see is you! All I want is you.
    ANGEL: I know the feeling. (Bad Eggs)
    The doomed Romeo and Juliet star-crossed romance between a vampire slayer and a vampire with a soul was romantic – but also left permanent scars over past scars just as a vampire bite covers another. Buffy’s fears of abandonment – starting with her father – are triggered by Angel’s earlier determination to get the various parts of the Judge as far away as possible and what precipitates their first time together is her fear of losing him. Sex in many ways is Buffy's need to drawing Angel closer to her to ensure that she will never lose him again:

    BUFFY: You almost went away today.
    ANGEL: We both did.
    BUFFY: Angel – I feel like I lost you – you're right, though. We can't be sure of anything.
    ANGEL: Shhh. I –
    BUFFY: You what?
    ANGEL: I love you. I try not to, but I can't stop.
    BUFFY: Me, me, too. I can't either.
    They start to kiss. After a moment Angel breaks off.
    ANGEL: Buffy, maybe we shouldn't –
    BUFFY: Don't. Just kiss me. (Surprise)


    Angel’s momentary pause – maybe we shouldn’t – is silenced by Buffy. She doesn’t want to hear any more “should” or “shouldn’t.” She just wants Angel to kiss her, to hold her, to be with her so that she will no longer feel so alone. In flashbacks, we get glimpses of their lovemaking – and it seems to have been a very fulfilling night for Buffy – which makes the morning after just that much more awful. The reason she had sex with Angel was linked to her fears of being “different” and abandonment by those she loves – and when she awakes, she’s alone as a storm rages outside.

    Buffy’s walk of shame that morning is followed by a brief encounter with her mother – who doesn’t know that she’s seeing Angel, doesn’t know Angel’s a vampire and doesn’t even know Buffy’s a vampire slayer. The circle of silence is so tightly wound in her home life that she can’t even conceive of telling her mother how she feels. The conversation is a masterpiece of meaningless small talk that covers up oceans of emotion.

    JOYCE: Morning.
    BUFFY: Morning.
    JOYCE: So, did you have fun last night?
    BUFFY: Fun?
    JOYCE: At Willow's.
    BUFFY: Yeah. Yeah, fun at Willow's. You know, she's a fun machine.
    JOYCE: You hungry?
    BUFFY: No. Uh, no, I'm, uh, just gonna go take a shower.
    JOYCE: Well, if you hurry, I'll run you to school.
    BUFFY: Thanks.
    JOYCE: Is something wrong?
    BUFFY: No. What would be wrong?
    JOYCE: I don't know. You just look –
    She shakes her head, smiles and goes into the dining room. Buffy breathes a sigh of relief and heads up the stairs. (Innocence)


    And Buffy stays silent when she meets the gang in the library that afternoon – no one’s heard from Angel at all. Even when Willow follows Buffy into the hallway to express concern, Buffy refuses to tell her what happened. Instead, she goes back to Angel’s apartment only to find his bed made and a shirt laid out. It’s not only a parody of Angel’s careful preparations to help Buffy in the early episodes, but also his attitude is the opposite of how Angel lurked in the shadows before – now he comes out and acts flippantly with Buffy as if he’d gotten what he truly wanted. And on some level, it’s probably true for the demon.

    Despite the fact that Angel’s soul loss was a metaphor for how some men turn into jerks once they’ve had sex with women – and Angelus deliberately plays with this trope as he torments Buffy soon after they’ve had sex – Buffy characteristically ends up blaming herself for Angel’s loss of soul when they final meet again the next day:

    BUFFY: Angel!
    ANGELUS: Hey!
    BUFFY: Oh!
    ANGELUS: Hey.
    BUFFY: Oh, my God! I was so worried!
    ANGELUS: I didn't mean to frighten you.
    BUFFY: Where did you go?
    ANGELUS: Been around.
    BUFFY: Oh. Oh, my God! I was freaking out! You just disappeared.
    ANGELUS: What? I took off.
    BUFFY: But you didn't say anything. You just left.
    ANGELUS: Yeah. Like I really wanted to stick around after that.
    BUFFY: What?
    ANGELUS: You got a lot to learn about men, kiddo. Although I guess you proved that last night.
    BUFFY: What are you saying?
    ANGELUS: Let's not make an issue out of it, okay? In fact, let's not talk about it at all. It happened.
    BUFFY: I don't understand. Was it me? Was I not good?
    ANGELUS: You were great. Really. I thought you were a pro.
    BUFFY: How can you say this to me?
    ANGELUS: Lighten up. It was a good time. It doesn't mean like we have to make a big deal.
    BUFFY: It is a big deal!
    ANGELUS: It's what? Bells ringing, fireworks, a dulcet choir of pretty little birdies? Come on, Buffy. It's not like I've never been there before.
    He reaches his hand up to her face and she jerks back.
    BUFFY: Don't touch me.
    ANGELUS: I should've known you wouldn't be able to handle it.
    BUFFY: Angel! I love you.
    ANGELUS: Love you, too. I'll call you. (Innocence)


    Angel losing his soul had a catastrophic effect on Buffy’s positive world view that differentiated it from her previous traumatic experiences. Buffy could somehow feel that her parents’ divorce was in the end a good thing – it freed her mother from a loveless marriage. She could even convince herself that becoming the Slayer was a good thing – it enriched her life and gave her purpose. But there was nothing good or positive to be found about Angel losing his soul and killing her classmates and torturing Giles – in some ways, it was an existential glimpse into the abyss of meaning. What possible reason could there be for this to happen when the result was death and destruction? Why would the Powers That Be allow it to happen?

    After Angel attacks Willow in the school hallway, Giles asks the same questions obtusely even as Willow figures it out – she can read through Buffy’s silence:

    GILES: If only we knew how it happened.
    BUFFY: What do you mean?
    GILES: Well, something set it off. Some event must've triggered his transformation. Well, if anyone would know, Buffy, it should be you.
    BUFFY: I don't.
    GILES: Well, did anything happen last night that, that might –
    BUFFY: Giles, please, I can't.
    GILES: Buffy, I'm sorry, but we can't afford to – Buffy!
    WILLOW: Giles, shut up. (Innocence)


    Major traumas are a kind of death and rebirth every bit as wrenching as Buffy’s return from the dead. It not only marks the end of a chapter in our lives, but the eradication of much of one’s former identity and the emergence of something new. This coping mechanism is noted by trauma experts who see patients recall those moments as the key to their being, providing endless motivation and regret. Survivors often remain in a liminal state, alternating constantly between “back then” and “right now” and becoming figuratively stuck in time. And in some ways, Buffy remains locked into that day, blaming herself for all that’s happened despite Giles assuring her that it wasn’t her fault.

    GILES: It's not over. I suppose you know that. He'll come after you, particularly. His profile – well, he – he's likely to strike out at the things that made him the most human.
    BUFFY: You must be so disappointed in me.
    GILES: No. No, no, I'm not.
    BUFFY: But this is all my fault.
    GILES: No. I don't believe it is. Do you want me to wag my finger at you and tell you that you acted rashly? You did. And I can. I know that you loved him. And he has proven more than once that he loved you. You couldn't have known what would happen. The coming months are going be hard, I suspect, on all of us, but – if it's guilt you're looking for, Buffy, I'm not your man. All you will get from me is my support. And my respect. (Innocence)


    Buffy has still never gotten over the shock of finding out the truth about Angel – his torture and siring of Drusilla, his massacre of his parents and his village, the true nature of Angelus as a soulless vampire. And worse, she was the one who unleashed that potential – who boomeranged the ironic curse back on itself. Every potential partner since then – Parker, Riley, Spike – has had to deal with the aftermath of Angelus in Season Two.

    ANGELUS: You know what the worst part was, huh? Pretending that I loved you. If I'd known how easily you'd give it up, I wouldn't have even bothered.
    BUFFY: That doesn't work anymore. You're not Angel.
    ANGELUS: You'd like to think that, wouldn't you? It doesn't matter. The important thing is you made me the man I am today! (Innocence)


    And like the introduction of Dawn as the Key, the radical change in Angel plays into our deepest primal fears that “normalcy” is a lie – the stable self we know is not really that stable – and the people we know are really not who we thought they were. For a long while, Buffy is unable to kill Angel because she wants to believe that things can be as before – just as she continuously announces that she’s quitting Slaying whenever she hits a brick wall. The desire to reboot her life and do it again – the fervent wish that things can simply be put back together in the same way – is all connected to Buffy’s terror of the change within herself. And there’s little doubt that she hoped for the same thing before her parents’ divorce.

    But after the death of Jenny Calendar, Buffy realizes that living in the past won’t solve anything. She has to move on.

    BUFFY: I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't kill him for you – for her –when I had the chance. I wasn't ready. But I think I finally am. I can't hold on to the past anymore. Angel has gone. Nothing's ever gonna bring him back. (Passion)


    But there’s not a total loss of hope – Buffy still hopes that there’s a way – she encourages Willow to try and magic up the original Gypsy curse that Jenny Calendar was researching the day she died while she keeps Angel engaged. After one failure that results in the death of Kendra, the kidnapping of Giles and the near-fatal blow to Willow, Buffy resolves (with the help of Spike) to bring Angel down. And yet another catastrophe happens that merges the worlds of Buffy Summers and the Slayer every bit as much as Joyce and Hank’s divorce was forever associated with becoming the Slayer.



    Buffy’s mother finds out that her daughter is the Slayer – and doesn’t take it well:

    BUFFY: I told you. I'm a Vampire Slayer.
    JOYCE: Well, I just don't accept that!
    BUFFY: Open your eyes, Mom! What do you think has been going on for the past two years? The fights, the weird occurrences. How many times have you washed blood out of my clothing and you still haven't figured it out?
    JOYCE: Well, it stops now!
    BUFFY: No, it doesn't stop! It never stops! Do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous? I would love to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or – God, even studying! But I have to save the world – again.
    JOYCE: No. This is insane. Buffy, you need help.
    BUFFY: I'm not crazy! What I need is for you to chill. I have to go!
    JOYCE: No. I am not letting you out of this house.
    BUFFY: You can't stop me.
    JOYCE: Oh, yes I –
    Buffy shoves her back into the island, making her knock over several things. She heads for the door, opens it and steps out.
    JOYCE: You walk out of this house – don't even think about coming back!
    Buffy just gives her a long stare and leaves. (Becoming, Part Two)


    Already traumatized by her mother’s rejection, Buffy races to fight Angelus. And Buffy ends up having to stake Angel and send him to Hell even as his soul is returned to him. Despite Buffy showing tremendous resilience and bravery, there’s a kind of closing of the door here – an emotional wall raised sky-high that affects all of her relationships ever after and continues to grow every time Buffy finds herself at the center of a powerful moral dilemma – fighting the Master only to die, killing souled Angel, draining Faith to save Angel, sacrificing herself to save her sister – all heartbreakingly difficult ethical choices that ended up shaking Buffy to the core.

    ANGELUS: Now that's everything, huh? No weapons. No friends. No hope. Take all that away – and what's left?
    BUFFY: Me. (Becoming, Part Two)


    And in addition to killing Angel, there’s the shock in Season Two of discovering her death created another Slayer – that her line has now been bypassed in favor of another. A large part of Buffy’s identity is wrapped up in being the Slayer and meeting Kendra and Faith meant that she was no longer as special as she wished. But at the same time, there’s a sense of camaraderie – a feeling that there was at least one other person who could truly understand her – understand the kind of pressure that she was under.

    KENDRA: It is too strange that a Slayer loves a vampire.
    BUFFY: Tell me about it.
    KENDRA: Still, he is pretty cute.
    BUFFY: Well, maybe they won't fire me for dating him.
    KENDRA: You always do that.
    BUFFY: Do what?
    KENDRA: You talk about slaying like it's a job. It's not. It's who you are.
    BUFFY: Did you get that from your handbook?
    KENDRA: From you.
    BUFFY: I guess it's something I really can't fight. I'm a freak.
    KENDRA: Not the only freak.
    BUFFY: Not anymore. (What’s My Line, Part Two)


    So Buffy leaves her mother and her friends without telling anyone about what truly happened that day – we don’t hear the words that Joyce reads in her farewell letter, but we get the impression that they’re not sunshine and roses. Her friends have no idea if Buffy killed Angel or he regained his soul in time – it’s left to them to create whatever scenario they prefer based on personal preference like a “write-your-own-ending” book. Buffy’s decision to leave cold turkey without so much as a phone call is most likely predicated by guilt and shame – she doesn’t want them to know what happened right before Angel died just as she didn’t want to tell them about her sexual encounter that caused the loss of his soul. And this foreshadows Season Six.

    XANDER: You know, maybe you don't want to hear it, Buffy, but taking off like you did was incredibly selfish and stupid.
    BUFFY: Okay! Okay, I screwed up. I know this. But you have no idea! You have no idea what happened to me or what I was feeling!
    XANDER: Did you even try talking to anybody?
    BUFFY: There was nothing that anybody could do. Okay? I just had to deal with this on my own.
    XANDER: Yeah – and you see how well that one worked out. You can't just bury stuff, Buffy. It'll come right back up to get you. (Dead Man’s Party)


    And this is indicative of how Buffy becomes less and less open throughout the entire run of Buffy – the more she suffers, the less she opens up. Perhaps it’s necessary to perform her tasks as a Slayer to keep a single-minded focus on her duties without getting bogged down in other people’s problems – but it’s interesting to note how her friends feel hurt when she pulls away. Buffy seems to be very uneasy and wary of commiserating with others even when she tells them, “I Love You.” There’s always a distance – a space – that her friends find it hard to cross – and so they keep those feelings inside for the most part.

    When Willow and Oz try to get Buffy to dance with an interested guy, Buffy declines. Despite her words, she’s still not ready to move on from Angel and their great Gothic romance. But she won’t talk about it either – instead, she makes a pretense of wanting to get back to “normal.” And when new Slayer Faith starts poking around Buffy’s psyche, Buffy reacts with threats. With the arrival of Faith – a Slayer who veers perilously close to the monstrous even as she draws Buffy closer to violating her own personal moral boundaries – Buffy seems to split her identity even more between trying to being a “normal” girl and being the Slayer to keep her balance

    FAITH: Maybe it's time you started, 'cause obviously *something* in your bottle needs uncorking. What is it, the, the Angel thing?
    BUFFY: What do you know about Angel?
    FAITH: Just what your friends tell me: big love, big loss. You oughta deal and move on, but you're not.
    BUFFY: I got an idea: how about from now on, we don't hear from you on Angel or anything else in my life. Which, by the way, is my life.
    FAITH: What are you getting so strung out for, B?
    BUFFY: Why are your lips still moving, F?
    FAITH: Did I just hear a threat?
    BUFFY: Would you like to? (Faith, Hope and Trick)


    And there is a truth in there somewhere that only shows itself as the series moves on. Buffy feels as the Slayer that she cannot love without loss – and because she’s the one who sent Angel to Hell – she may not feel worthy of love to begin with. In Nightmares, we see how she irrationally blames herself for her parents’ divorce. And there may be something deep within that blames herself – Buffy Summers – for becoming the Slayer – some kind of deficiency or excess that convinced the Powers That Be to choose her of all the girls in the world.

    GILES: In my experience, there are two types of monster. The first, uh, can be redeemed, or more importantly, wants to be redeemed.
    BUFFY: And the second type?
    GILES: The second is void of humanity, cannot respond to reason – or love. (Beauty and the Beast)


    And hence the emphasis on artifice, performance and societal fantasies to replace what she feels she cannot earn or give. Buffy’s sense of unstable identity is duplicated by Angel’s sudden return from Hell – an experience that he is unable to describe or explain. As both awkwardly try to communicate with brief conversations and silence, there’s the sense that Angel’s not telling Buffy everything that’s happened to him. In many ways, it’s a parallel to Buffy’s reluctance to talk about her “heaven” experience in Season Six – both parties feel guilty about what happened, but no one wants to really try to discuss an indescribable experience. And then there’s the terrible awkwardness surrounding Angel’s supposed inability to have sex with Buffy because it will trigger the “happiness clause” of the curse – surely one of the more problematic aspects of Season Three.

    ENYOS: The elder woman has been reading signs. Something is different.
    JENNY: Nothing has changed. The curse still holds.
    ENYOS: The elder woman is never wrong. She says his pain is lessening. She can feel it.
    JENNY: There is –
    ENYOS: There is what?
    JENNY: A girl.
    ENYOS: What? How could you let this happen?
    JENNY: I promise you. Angel still suffers. And he makes amends for his evil. He even saved my life.
    ENYOS: So you just forget that he destroyed the most beloved daughter of your tribe?! That he *killed* every man, woman and child that touched her life?! Vengeance demands that his pain be eternal as ours is! If this, this girl gives him one *minute* of happiness, it is one minute too much! (Surprise)


    Of course, what “happiness” means is fairly ill-defined in the Buffyverse – the definition seems to be so broad that Angel later loses his soul because he takes a euphoric pill slipped in a drink in Eternity. And there’s something morally reprehensible about a curse that first restrains a monster and then sets him free – a punishment for Angel – but a death sentence to anyone around him as Jenny Calendar points out.

    ENYOS: To the modern man vengeance is a verb, an idea. Payback. One thing for another. Like commerce. Not with us. Vengeance is a living thing. It passes through generations. It commands. It kills.
    JENNY: You told me to watch Angel. You told me to keep him from the Slayer. I tried. But there are other factors. There are terrible things happening here that we cannot control.
    ENYOS: We control nothing. We are not wizards, Janna. We merely play our part.
    JENNY: Angel could be of help to us. I mean, he may be the only chance we have to stop the Judge.
    ENYOS: It is too late for that.
    JENNY: Why?
    ENYOS: The curse. Angel is meant to suffer, not to live as human. One moment of true happiness, of contentment, one moment where the soul that we restored no longer plagues his thoughts, and that soul is taken from him.
    JENNY: Then, if somehow, if it's happened – then Angelus is back.
    ENYOS: I hoped to stop it. But I realize now it was arranged to be so.
    JENNY: Buffy loves him.
    ENYOS: And now she will have to kill him. (Innocence)


    This “punishment” seems a bit unfair to Buffy – but no doubt Enyos believed that any woman who would allow herself to fall in love with a monster deserves what’s coming to her. And, indeed, the lifting of the curse does that by scarring Buffy psychologically for life – one kind of dead girl exchanged for another. Recent studies such as the one by University of Tennessee in 2013 show that negative first-time experiences have an enormous effect on later sexual behavior – especially for women. The subsequent stress and trauma create a self-fulfilling prophecy of unsatisfying sexual relations for years afterwards. And for someone like Buffy who already has intimacy issues because she’s afraid of revealing too much of herself to anyone, it can be devastating.

    JENNY: I'm sorry, Rupert. Angel was supposed to pay for what he did to my people.
    BUFFY: And me? What was I supposed to be paying for?
    JENNY: I didn't know what would happen until after. I swear I would've told you.
    BUFFY: So it was me. I did it.
    JENNY: I think so. I mean, if you –
    GILES: I don't understand.
    JENNY: The curse. If Angel achieved true happiness – even just a moment of – he would lose his soul.
    GILES: How do you know you were responsible for – oh. (Innocence)


    The horror of Angel’s transformation is also combined with immense embarrassment that EVERYONE – even her father figure Watcher – knows all about her sex with Angel that caused him to go bad. And the association of pleasure with extreme emotional punishment creates an expectation that any potential sexual relationship will end badly. And it can’t possibly end worse than killing your lover and sending him to Hell. It’s so painful that Buffy can’t even speak about when she first returns – it’s only the need to acknowledge Willow’s spell worked that finally prompts her to confess:



    BUFFY: Angel was cured.
    GILES: I'm sorry?
    BUFFY: When I killed him, Angel was cured. Your spell worked at the last minute, Will. I was about to take him out and – something went through him – and he was Angel again. He didn't remember anything that he'd done. He just held me but it was too late and I had to. So I told him that I loved him – and I kissed him – and I killed him. I don't know if that helps with your spell or not, Giles.
    GILES: Uh, yes, I believe it will.
    WILLOW: I'm sorry.
    BUFFY: It's okay. I've been holding on to that for so long. Felt good to get it out. I'll see you guys later. (Faith, Hope and Trick)


    But when Angel returns, Buffy isn’t quite as forthcoming. Is she afraid that they’ll harm Angel? That they’ll think less of her if they knew that she was still seeing him? Or does she just want to keep that part of her life secret like her Slayer identity because in the end she knows that they’ll never be friends.

    ANGEL: What are we doing?
    BUFFY: Training. And almost kissing. Sorry. It's just – old habit. Bad, bad habit to be broken.
    ANGEL: It's hard.
    BUFFY: It's not hard. Cold turkey. That's the key to quitting. You think they make a patch for this?
    (Revelations)
    So Buffy doesn’t bother to tell anyone else that Angel is back except for a newly deceased guidance counselor – she’s afraid of their reaction – and rightfully so since the gang are particularly rough with her when they find out that she’s been hiding his return.



    GILES: We know Angel is alive. Xander saw you with him. It would appear that you've been hiding him and that you lied to us.
    WILLOW: Nobody's here to blame you, Buffy. But this is serious. You need help.
    BUFFY: It's not what you think.
    XANDER: Hope not. Because I think you're harboring a vicious killer.
    WILLOW: This isn't about attacking Buffy. Remember, 'I' statements only. 'I feel angry.' 'I feel worried.'
    CORDELIA: Fine. Here's one: I feel worried – about me! Last time around, Angel barely laid a hand on Buffy. He was way more interested in killing her friends.
    BUFFY: But he's better now.
    XANDER: Better for how long, Buffy? I mean, did you even think about that?
    BUFFY: What is this, Demons Anonymous? I don't need an intervention, here.
    GILES: Oh, don't you? You must've known it was wrong seeing Angel or you wouldn't have hidden it from all of us.
    BUFFY: I was going to tell you, I was. It was just that I didn't know why he came back. I just wanted to wait.
    Xander: For what? For Angel to go psycho again the next time you give him a happy?
    BUFFY: I'm not going to – we're not together like that.
    OZ: But you were kissing him.
    BUFFY: You were spying on me? What gives you the right?
    CORDELIA: What gives you the right to suck face with your demon lover again?
    BUFFY: It was an accident.
    XANDER: What, you just tripped and fell on his lips?
    BUFFY: It was wrong, okay? I know that, and I know that it can't happen again. But you guys have to believe me. I would never put you in any danger. If I thought for a second that Angel was going to hurt anyone –
    XANDER: You would stop him. Like you did last time with Ms. Calendar.
    WILLOW: Buffy, I feel that when it comes to Angel, you can't see straight. And that's why we're, we're all gonna help you face this.
    BUFFY: But he's better now. I swear. Look, you guys, he's the one that found the Glove of Myhnegon. He's keeping it safe for us in the mansion.
    XANDER: Right! Great plan. Leave tons of firepower with the Scary Guy, and leave us to clean up the mess.
    BUFFY: You would just love an excuse to hurt him, wouldn't you?
    XANDER: I don't need an excuse. I think lots of dead people actually constitutes a reason.
    BUFFY: Right. This is all nobility. This has nothing to do with jealousy.
    CORDELIA: Hello? Miss Not-Over-Yourself-Yet?
    BUFFY: Don't you start with me.
    WILLOW: Giles, no one's doing the 'I' statements!
    GILES: That's enough! Everybody. Now, Buffy knows our concerns, and her actions, however ill-advised, can be understood. Our – priority right now is to retrieve the Glove of Myhnegon and try to destroy it. Now, all of you, back to classes.
    BUFFY: Thanks for the bail in there. I know this is a lot to absorb, but Angel did find the glove, and that was a good –
    GILES: Be quiet. I won't remind you that the fate of the world often lies with the Slayer. What would be the point? Nor shall I remind you that you've jeopardized the lives of all that you hold dear by harboring a known murderer. But sadly, I must remind you that Angel tortured me – for hours – for pleasure. You should have told me he was alive. You didn't. You have no respect for me, or the job I perform. (Revelations)


    Unpacking this entire conversation would take some time, but it’s clear that the reaction of Xander is extraordinarily close to his statements in Seeing Red. There’s not much of a leap from “What, you just tripped and fell on his lips?” to “Oh, like, uh, "Say, you're evil. Get on me"? Whereas Willow’s all about “let’s not attack Buffy” – and indeed, she does stay silent in Buffy’s front room at the beginning of the episode. As for Giles, it’s a hell of a speech coming from someone who almost killed both Buffy and Jenny by refusing to talk about the Mark of Eyghon and someone who would soon inflict even more trauma on Buffy during the Cruxamentum.

    But their immediate condemnation certainly wouldn’t make it likely that Buffy would want to ever tell them about Spike or any other demon – it’s not that they’re wrong, but the ways in which they subtly jab Buffy with sexual shaming and act as if she can’t make her own decisions (they may be wrong but they’re still her right) is somewhat off-putting. Questions of practicality vs mercy and redemption are worth debating – but this is a genuine hostile attack towards someone without finding out the who, what, why, where and when. They have no idea whether Angel’s dropped from the sky yesterday or been hidden for months.

    So even as Buffy tends to a feral Angel, freshly returned from Hell, she’s also determined to keep herself at arm’s length from him. She loves him – but she can’t allow them to ever be intimate again. So throughout Season Three, they stay uneasy friends with no benefits despite Spike’s mockery and the disapproval of her friends. But Buffy still can’t tell her mother that Angel is back – as always, her life is a series of secrets and silences.

    ANGEL: She doesn't know about me.
    BUFFY: Big no. She's having enough trouble dealing with the Slayer issue. I don't think she's ready to process the information that – you and I are friends again. Anyway, I think this college jones is just a reaction to the whole Slayer thing.
    ANGEL: She wants you to get out.
    BUFFY: Someplace a little less Hellmouthy. She has a point. Y'know, but there are reasons to stay, too.
    ANGEL: What are they?
    BUFFY: Um... you know, there's my Slayer duties, obviously. What do you think I should do?
    ANGEL: As a friend, I think that you should leave. This is a good opportunity for you.
    BUFFY: Yeah. It's not like there's any great thing keeping me here. (Lovers Walk)


    The more that Buffy begins to cling to Angel, the more he starts to move away from her – the fear that Angel might lose his soul is compounded by his sojourn in Hell most likely makes Angel feel even more isolated from Buffy and her Sunnydale life. In Season Four, we get an idea of how isolated Angel feels when he's with Buffy - like Riley and Spike in future seasons, he feels that he has Buffy - and yet doesn't have her at all.

    ANGEL: Believe me, I’m not getting the good half of the deal. To be outside, looking in at what I can’t - I’d forgotten how bad it feels. (Pangs)
    And there are several reminders in Season Three that Angel isn’t as toothless as he seems – the demon may have a soul, but he’s still a demon. And he’s still a man – when Angel is driven by the First to lose his soul through Buffy, Angel doesn’t blame his demon – he blames Liam – and the original psychological makeup of the former human he once was.

    ANGEL: It told me to kill you. You were in the dream. You know. It told me to lose my soul in you and become a monster again.
    BUFFY: I know what it told you. What does it matter?
    ANGEL: Because I wanted to! Because I want you so badly! I want to take comfort in you, and I know it'll cost me my soul, and a part of me doesn't care. Look, I'm weak. I've never been anything else. It's not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy. It's the man.
    BUFFY: You're weak. Everybody is. Everybody fails. Maybe this evil did bring you back, but if it did, it's because it needs you. And that means that you can hurt it. Angel, you have the power to do real good, to make amends. But if you die now, then all that you ever were was a monster. (Amends)


    In terms of Buffy’s love life, Season Three in many ways is anti-climactic in comparison to Season Two. In many ways, Angel’s presence on the show was an audition for his own television show with Amends as the pilot episode. And Buffy, in trying to convince Angel to stay alive, is unintentionally putting the idea in Angel’s head that his work in Sunnydale is done. At this point, he’s more harm than help to Buffy – coming between her and friends/family, pulling her more into the darkness with him, forcing her to sacrifice all the things that constitute a normal life and live like a demon. When Buffy accidentally opens a window to let in the sunlight when they’re lying platonically in bed, Angel cringes and moves away from the window. His world is not her world anymore – she’s strong enough to stand on her own without him.

    And the proof of this is the difference between Buffy’s arrival in Sunnydale and her attitude on her 18th birthday when she finds out that her powers are gone. At the beginning of Season One, Buffy was actively running away from her Slayer calling – but now – she doesn’t want to go back to the girl she was.

    BUFFY: Angel, what if I have lost my power?
    ANGEL: You lived a long time without it. You can do it again.
    BUFFY: I guess. But what if I can't? I've seen too much. I know what goes bump in the night. Not being able to fight it – what if I just hide under my bed, all scared and helpless? Or what if I just become pathetic? Hanging out at the old Slayer's home, talking people's ears off about my glory days, showing them Mr. Pointy, the stake I had bronzed.
    ANGEL: Buffy, you could never be helpless or boring, not even if you tried.
    BUFFY: Don't be so sure. Before I was the Slayer, I was – well, I don't wanna say shallow, but – let's say a certain person, who will remain nameless, we'll just call her Spordelia, looked like a classical philosopher next to me. (Helpless)


    This is the first time that Buffy has ever looked back at her old self with such derision – her self-identification as the Slayer has come so far in only three years that she mocks the old Buffy Summers as a shallow fool. She’s now seen too much to go back now – she knows about demons and vampires and other monsters – and she’s lived too long with the monster within. Buffy’s power has been wielded too long now to voluntarily give it up – the betrayal she feels when she finds out that Giles has deliberately drugged her is immense and not easily forgiven.

    There’s also a certain hardness developing in Buffy in late Season Three that comes with that grasp of power – she’s no longer as malleable as in her youth. As she prepares to graduate high school, her future widens with possibilities from new careers to college programs. Buffy has had to make another major decision as to whether she should stay in Sunnydale or leave for greener pastures (and Hellmouths) and she has chosen UC Sunnydale – for the moment. She could make a career for herself that is mobile and allows her to fly all over the world to fight the powers of darkness. She could work with the Watchers Council in Europe to fight on another continent altogether where another Hellmouth awaits in Nairobi or Shanghai or Rio – and see the world. Or she could just stay in Sunnydale for a few more years to finish college and then take flight.

    Night, in a graveyard. Buffy and Angel are holding hands, sitting on a blanket, leaning against a gravestone.
    BUFFY: It's gonna be fun. Will and I are going to go on Saturday to check out the campus. I'm hoping Mom will let me live there. It's too far to come home every night. Plus the whole lack of cool factor. Either way, I'll be close to your place. I don't know what the Mayor was talking about. How could he know anything about us?
    ANGEL: Well, he's evil.
    BUFFY: Big time. He doesn't even know what a lasting relationship is.
    ANGEL: No.
    BUFFY: Probably the only lasting relationship he's ever had is with evil.
    ANGEL: Yeah.
    BUFFY: Big, stupid, evil guy. We'll be okay.
    ANGEL: We will.
    Buffy leans her head against Angel's chest, looking not very okay. (Choices)
    The possibilities are endless – but Angel most likely feels that he’d be an impediment to any of that as a vampire lover. He can’t spend time with her in the sun, he can’t fly (at least not in a non-Wolfram and Hart plane) and he can’t give her children. He can’t grow old with her. But most importantly, he doesn’t want her to curtail her life and make the choice to stay in Sunnydale for him alone.

    Does this mean that Angel doesn’t long for a future relationship with Buffy? I don’t necessarily think so – there’s a hint of promise in Chosen that things might develop in the future if it’s meant to be. But Angel realizes that she’s far too young to make that kind of life-altering decision at 18 – and Buffy eventually sees it as well. She needs to develop further with other people – the love she and Angel had was shared by a Buffy who doesn’t exist anymore – but that doesn’t close the door on the future – journeys end in lovers’ meetings and what’s to come is still unsure.

    But for now, Angel feels that he’s standing in the way (as Giles says a few seasons later) – especially when Joyce comes to visit him. So the last few months with Buffy are a bit like treading water for Angel as he muses on what he should do – and when Faith’s double-dealing comes into play, it feels like a flood. Buffy and Angel agree on a plan to fool Faith into believing that Angel has lost his soul – but Buffy still finds it hard to forgive him for all the foreplay between Angel and Faith:



    ANGEL: I know how hard it was for you.
    BUFFY: I really doubt that.
    ANGEL: Is there anything I can do to make it better?
    BUFFY: Look, I know you only did what I asked. And we got what we wanted.
    ANGEL: I never wanted it to go that far.
    BUFFY: I know that. It's not even a question of that. It's just, after – I need a little bit of a break. Please.
    ANGEL: You still my girl?
    BUFFY: Always. (Enemies)


    Buffy’s irrational response to a sting that she set up herself – her unhappiness with how well Angel played his part as a soulless demon – probably just solidifies Angel’s decision to leave. He can see that she’s still growing, still emotionally vulnerable – and the longer he stays, the more likely it is that something terrible will happen once again.

    The question is – is there a paternalistic attitude in making this decision for Buffy? Angel is deciding for her own good that he should break up with her and leave Sunnydale altogether – without asking Buffy herself what she wants. Then again, it’s not exactly as if he’s 18 as well and they’re making a foolish mistake together. For a hundred years, Angel sat in squalor brooding on his crimes – it was only the advent of Whistler that brought him to Buffy and gave him a reason for living. And now that Angel’s grown past a selfish kind of abjuration of the world through Buffy’s example, the greatest tribute he can make is to stand on his own and help other people as she does. It’s telling that Spike eventually comes to the exact same decision in LA – instead of racing back to see Buffy, he begins to understand how important it is to grow apart for a time before seeing her again. Not only for her sake, but for his own. And Angel is making the same decision here.



    The problem is that he’s coaching it in somewhat condescending terms – instead of telling Buffy how she’s inspired him to go off and be someone – be a person – he lectures her as to what she should want. Even worse, he calls their relationship a "freak" show - something that surely presses the worst of Buffy's buttons in terms of identity and the idea of "normal" vs "Other."

    ANGEL: You deserve more. You deserve something outside of demons and darkness. You should be with someone who can take you into the light. Someone who can make love to you.
    BUFFY: I don't care about that.
    ANGEL: You will. And children.
    BUFFY: Children? Can you say jumping the gun? I kill my goldfish.
    ANGEL: Today. But you have no idea how fast it goes, Buffy. Before you know it, you'll want it all, a normal life.
    BUFFY: I'll never have a normal life.
    ANGEL: Right, you'll always be a Slayer. But that's all the more reason why you should have a real relationship instead of this, this freak show. (Buffy is stunned.) I didn't mean that.
    BUFFY: I'm gonna go.
    ANGEL: I'm sorry. Buffy, you know how much I love you. It kills me to say this.
    BUFFY: Then don't. Who are you to tell me what's right for me? You think I haven't thought about this?
    ANGEL: Have you, rationally?
    BUFFY: No. No, of course not. I'm just some swoony little schoolgirl, right?
    ANGEL: I'm trying to do what's right here, okay? I'm trying to think with my head instead of my heart.
    BUFFY: Heart? You have a heart? It isn't even beating! (The Prom)


    And so it’s not surprising that it ends badly with Buffy resentful and in pain – she would have felt awful anyway, but the whole “I’m doing this for your own good,” rankles when it actually is closer to Angel doing it “for his own good,” thanks to Buffy. They meet accidentally right before the Prom and Buffy naturally seems a bit embittered over the whole thing.

    ANGEL: How are you?
    BUFFY: Right as rain, whatever that means. Don't look at me like that. I can lie to you if I want to now. We're ex, remember?
    ANGEL: If it means anything, I miss you.
    BUFFY: Could we not, please? When I think about us, I have this tendency to sort of go catatonic. And I really can't afford to do that right now. Gotta stop a crazy from pulling a Carrie at the prom.
    ANGEL: You still planning to go?
    BUFFY: Strictly in the chaperon capacity. But it's fine. I mean, the – I'm cool with going stag. I'm over the whole Buffy gets one perfect high school moment thing. But I'm certainly not going to let some subhuman ruin it for the rest of the senior class.
    ANGEL: Let me help you.
    BUFFY: I'm okay.
    ANGEL: If you ever need my help –
    BUFFY: Look, I got it! Thanks. (The Prom)


    After hearing about Buffy’s “one perfect high school moment thing,” Angel must realize that he’s been a bit of a douche – and he surprisingly shows up for Buffy’s Prom Night in full heartthrob regalia. But he also makes it clear to her that the best thing for both of them is to just fade into the night – just as he first met her – as soon as they’ve successfully defeated the Mayor. And she’s okay with that – but for one night, she’ll just pretend.

    BUFFY: Every now and then, people surprise you.
    GILES: Every now and then.
    Giles takes her umbrella as Buffy turns to see Angel at the door.
    BUFFY: I never thought you'd come.
    ANGEL: It's a big night. I didn't want to miss it. It's just tonight. It doesn't mean that I –
    BUFFY: I know. I mean, I understand.
    ANGEL: Dance with me? (The Prom)


    But a subsequent meeting with Buffy causes all the tension between them to come flooding back – Angel even calls her a “brat” after increasingly bad attitude – which makes Buffy lash out even more. With every word, she’s making it easier to Angel to leave because of the way in which he’s hurting her.

    ANGEL: Are you just making this harder to make this easier on yourself?
    BUFFY: Could we stop with the brain-teasers? I just wish it was over, done.
    ANGEL: It's not that simple. I mean, once the Mayor –
    BUFFY: I know, world in peril and we have to work together. This is my last office romance, I'll tell you that.
    ANGEL: I'll get out of your face.
    BUFFY: Isn't it even a little hard for you?
    ANGEL: How can you ask me that? Just because I'm not acting like a brat doesn't mean I don't feel –
    BUFFY: It's nice to know what you think of me!
    ANGEL: What do you expect me to say when you just attack?
    BUFFY: I just can't do this anymore. I can't have you in my life when I'm trying to move on.
    An arrow is suddenly fired through Angel’s back and passes through the front of his jacket. He falls as Buffy catches him.
    BUFFY: Angel!
    Behind a neon sign atop a nearby building, Faith and a vampire look down at the couple.
    VAMPIRE: Missed the heart.
    FAITH: Meant to. (Graduation Day, Part One)


    When Angel falls ill, the gang contacts the Watchers Council to find that there’s no help at all:

    GILES: Did you reach the council?
    WESLEY: Yes. They, they couldn't help.
    BUFFY: Couldn't?
    WESLEY: Wouldn't. It's not Council policy to cure vampires.
    GILES: Did you explain that these were special circumstances?
    WESLEY: Not under any circumstances, and yes, I did try to convince them.
    BUFFY: Try again.
    WESLEY: Buffy, they're very firm. We're talking about laws that have existed longer than civilization.
    BUFFY: I'm talking about watching my lover die. I don't have a clue what you're talking about and I don't care.
    GILES: Buffy, we'll find a cure.
    WESLEY: The Council's orders are to concentrate on –
    BUFFY: Orders? I don't think I'm gonna be taking any more orders. Not from you, not from them.
    WESLEY: You can't turn your back on the Council.
    BUFFY: They're in England. I don't think they can tell which way my back is facing.
    WESLEY: Giles, talk to her.
    GILES: I've nothing to say right now.
    BUFFY: Wesley, go back to your Council and tell them, until the next Slayer comes along, they can close up shop. I'm not working for them anymore.
    WESLEY: Don't you see what's happening? Faith poisoned Angel to distract you, to keep you out of the Mayor's way, and it's working. You need a strategy.
    BUFFY: I have a strategy. You're not in it.
    WESLEY: This is mutiny.
    BUFFY: I like to think of it as graduation. (Graduation Day, Part One)


    This is Grade-A Bulls**t – why wouldn’t the Watchers Council aid someone – even a demon – who has been immensely helpful to them in their investigations. My belief is that this is direct payback for what Giles rebelling in Helpless and allowing Faith to escape their clutches. A great deal of Season Three has to do with the downfall of the Watchers Council as a competent authority and Buffy’s slow understanding that the demon world isn’t as black and white as they would have it – and that in turn, leads to a greater understanding of her own nature.

    Faith’s brilliant plan to poison Angel with “Killer of the Dead” – an elixir that can only be countered by draining the blood of a Slayer – was intentionally designed to force Buffy to choose between coming after Faith to take her life (and thereby destroying Buffy’s whole moral cosmos) or Buffy sacrificing herself for Angel. Either way, Faith wins.

    BUFFY: Someone should take over for Giles after a while. Watch Angel.
    XANDER: I don't mean to play devil's advocate here, but are you sure you're up to this?
    BUFFY: It's time.
    XANDER: We're talking to the death.
    BUFFY: I can't play kid games anymore. This is how she wants it.
    XANDER: I just don't want to lose you.
    BUFFY: I won't get hurt.
    XANDER: That's not what I mean. (Graduation Day, Part One)


    Buffy has found the monster within – and it’s as dark and as ugly as she feared.

    And Faith almost does win – Buffy is goaded into casting away all of her moral values and becoming just as reprehensible – as monstrous – as Faith by coming after her with murder on her mind – and it looks like Faith dies but is inconveniently placed out of reach. Buffy’s only recourse is to allow Angel to drain her – and this in turn acts as a purgatorial penance for what Buffy has done. She allowed the monster to overcome her and win – and now she must let another monster drain her as an act of purification for her sins.



    BUFFY: Angel, I can cure you.
    ANGEL: It's okay. - I'm ready.
    BUFFY: Angel listen to me. Sit up. You're gonna live. You have to live.
    ANGEL: What –?
    BUFFY: Drink. Drink me.
    ANGEL: No.
    BUFFY: It's the only way.
    ANGEL: No. Get away.
    BUFFY: It'll save you.
    ANGEL: It’ll kill you.
    BUFFY: Maybe not. Not if you don't take it all.
    ANGEL: You can't ask me to do that.
    BUFFY: I won't let you die. I can't. Angel the blood of a Slayer is the only cure.
    ANGEL: Faith –
    BUFFY: I tried. I killed her.
    ANGEL: Then it's over.
    BUFFY: It is never over! I won't let you die. Drink!
    ANGEL: Please – (Graduation Day, Part Two)


    And Buffy goads Angel into draining her, punching him over and over until the demon emerges and bites her in the neck. When Angel realizes what he has done, he races to the hospital with Buffy only to find that Faith is still alive. For Angel, Buffy’s sacrifice is the last straw – he knows now that her infatuation with him is so strong that Buffy will even comprise her own moral standards. And he cannot allow that to happen – because if Buffy falls, then he falls too.



    So he leaves silently at the end of Graduation Day, Part Two when he disappears after the explosion of the high school. Buffy looks up to see him dimly through the smoke and chaos of the aftermath – and then he is gone.

    This event in of itself is traumatic and Angel’s absence leads to a whole series of disastrous choices as Buffy tries to come to terms with his absence. From this point onward, Buffy suffers another shift in identity as she adjusts from being part of a couple to a solo state. This can be wildly disorienting for most people – losing their first love requires a lot of time and processing to reassess who they are.



    And the worst of all is the constant return to “what might have been” – a dream that causes Buffy to judge everything and everyone in the future by what she and Angel might have become had things worked out. And it’s never a good idea to live in a future based on a romanticized past.
    Last edited by American Aurora; 11-02-19 at 09:01 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Buffy Forum review: Seeing Red by American Aurora

    Previously on Buffy Forum: Seeing Red Review
    1. Introduction: Buffy Season Six: A Silence Made in Heaven
    2. Introduction: Seeing Red: Virtual Perception
    3. Introduction: Gender Toxicity: Light Willow and the Cool Girl
    4. Seeing Red, Part 1:From Morning at Buffy’s to the Kingdom of the Nerds
    5. Seeing Red, Part 1: Love and Silence: Dawn
    6. Seeing Red, Part 1: Hurting Buffy: Supervillains
    7. Seeing Red, Part 2: Dead Girls: Women in Refrigerators and Redemption Narratives
    8. Seeing Red, Part 2: Love and Silence - Buffy
    9. Seeing Red, Part 2: Gender Toxicity: Vengeance Demonsplaining
    10. Seeing Red, Part 2: The Trio – In a World of Pure Imagination: Andrew
    11. Seeing Red, Part 2: Love and Silence: Spike
    12. Seeing Red, Part 3: The Trio – Wearing the Mask of a Demon: Jonathan
    13. Seeing Red, Part 3: Gender Toxicity – You Haven’t Got the Stones
    14. Seeing Red, Part 3: Misogyny: Villain with a Thousand Faces
    15. Seeing Red, Part 3:Gender Toxicity: Xander Harris and the “Nice Guy Syndrome”
    16. Seeing Red, Part 3: Love and Silence: Xander and Willow – Children of Trauma
    17. Seeing Red, Part 4: Purity and Danger
    18. Seeing Red, Part 4: The Chosen One – The Slaying of Buffy Summers
    19. Seeing Red, Part 4: Love and Silence – Buffy and Angel

    And now:

    19. Seeing Red, Part 4: You Made Me the Man I am Today - Buffy and Angel's 'Freak' Show



    The doomed Romeo and Juliet star-crossed romance between a vampire slayer and a vampire with a soul was romantic – but also left permanent scars over past scars just as a vampire bite covers another. Buffy’s fears of abandonment – starting with her father – are triggered by Angel’s earlier determination to get the various parts of the Judge as far away as possible and what precipitates their first time together is her fear of losing him. Sex in many ways is Buffy's need to drawing Angel closer to her to ensure that she will never lose him again:





    Angel’s momentary pause – maybe we shouldn’t – is silenced by Buffy. She doesn’t want to hear any more “should” or “shouldn’t.” She just wants Angel to kiss her, to hold her, to be with her so that she will no longer feel so alone. In flashbacks, we get glimpses of their lovemaking – and it seems to have been a very fulfilling night for Buffy – which makes the morning after just that much more awful. The reason she had sex with Angel was linked to her fears of being “different” and abandonment by those she loves – and when she awakes, she’s alone as a storm rages outside.

    Buffy’s walk of shame that morning is followed by a brief encounter with her mother – who doesn’t know that she’s seeing Angel, doesn’t know Angel’s a vampire and doesn’t even know Buffy’s a vampire slayer. The circle of silence is so tightly wound in her home life that she can’t even conceive of telling her mother how she feels. The conversation is a masterpiece of meaningless small talk that covers up oceans of emotion.





    And Buffy stays silent when she meets the gang in the library that afternoon – no one’s heard from Angel at all. Even when Willow follows Buffy into the hallway to express concern, Buffy refuses to tell her what happened. Instead, she goes back to Angel’s apartment only to find his bed made and a shirt laid out. It’s not only a parody of Angel’s careful preparations to help Buffy in the early episodes, but also his attitude is the opposite of how Angel lurked in the shadows before – now he comes out and acts flippantly with Buffy as if he’d gotten what he truly wanted. And on some level, it’s probably true for the demon.

    Despite the fact that Angel’s soul loss was a metaphor for how some men turn into jerks once they’ve had sex with women – and Angelus deliberately plays with this trope as he torments Buffy soon after they’ve had sex – Buffy characteristically ends up blaming herself for Angel’s loss of soul when they final meet again the next day:





    Angel losing his soul had a catastrophic effect on Buffy’s positive world view that differentiated it from her previous traumatic experiences. Buffy could somehow feel that her parents’ divorce was in the end a good thing – it freed her mother from a loveless marriage. She could even convince herself that becoming the Slayer was a good thing – it enriched her life and gave her purpose. But there was nothing good or positive to be found about Angel losing his soul and killing her classmates and torturing Giles – in some ways, it was an existential glimpse into the abyss of meaning. What possible reason could there be for this to happen when the result was death and destruction? Why would the Powers That Be allow it to happen?

    After Angel attacks Willow in the school hallway, Giles asks the same questions obtusely even as Willow figures it out – she can read through Buffy’s silence:





    Major traumas are a kind of death and rebirth every bit as wrenching as Buffy’s return from the dead. It not only marks the end of a chapter in our lives, but the eradication of much of one’s former identity and the emergence of something new. This coping mechanism is noted by trauma experts who see patients recall those moments as the key to their being, providing endless motivation and regret. Survivors often remain in a liminal state, alternating constantly between “back then” and “right now” and becoming figuratively stuck in time. And in some ways, Buffy remains locked into that day, blaming herself for all that’s happened despite Giles assuring her that it wasn’t her fault.





    Buffy has still never gotten over the shock of finding out the truth about Angel – his torture and siring of Drusilla, his massacre of his parents and his village, the true nature of Angelus as a soulless vampire. And worse, she was the one who unleashed that potential – who boomeranged the ironic curse back on itself. Every potential partner since then – Parker, Riley, Spike – has had to deal with the aftermath of Angelus in Season Two.





    And like the introduction of Dawn as the Key, the radical change in Angel plays into our deepest primal fears that “normalcy” is a lie – the stable self we know is not really that stable – and the people we know are really not who we thought they were. For a long while, Buffy is unable to kill Angel because she wants to believe that things can be as before – just as she continuously announces that she’s quitting Slaying whenever she hits a brick wall. The desire to reboot her life and do it again – the fervent wish that things can simply be put back together in the same way – is all connected to Buffy’s terror of the change within herself. And there’s little doubt that she hoped for the same thing before her parents’ divorce.

    But after the death of Jenny Calendar, Buffy realizes that living in the past won’t solve anything. She has to move on.






    And the worst of all is the constant return to “what might have been” – a dream that causes Buffy to judge everything and everyone in the future by what she and Angel might have become had things worked out. And it’s never a good idea to live in a future based on a romanticized past.
    Is it her or Joss. His love of Romeo and Juliet and Seeing how S12 ended up, it feels like Buffy is still thinking like that in her 30's due to what he considers love to be
    Last edited by BtVS fan; 11-02-19 at 11:17 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BtVS fan View Post
    Is it her or Joss. His love of Romeo and Juliet and Seeing how S12 ended up, it feels like Buffy is still thinking like that in her 30's due to what he considers love to be
    Hey BtVS fan, could you please edit your post to reduce what you quote to a specific part you're responding to. Quoting such large amounts really just clogs up the page in the thread with lots of repetition to scroll through, as well as somewhat burying the point you are wanting to make.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stoney View Post
    Hey BtVS fan, could you please edit your post to reduce what you quote to a specific part you're responding to. Quoting such large amounts really just clogs up the page in the thread with lots of repetition to scroll through, as well as somewhat burying the point you are wanting to make.
    Of course sorry Stoney it wont happen again . Lol It was the last paragraph I was responding to

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    Quote Originally Posted by BtVS fan View Post
    Of course sorry Stoney it wont happen again . Lol It was the last paragraph I was responding to
    Fab, thanks. If you look at the bottom of your posts you should be able to see an 'Edit Post' option that means you can always click and go back in and delete parts you didn't need/mean to include.

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    And I'm all caught up again. Really enjoyed getting back into the episode, thanks Aurora for sticking with it after a gruelling week of work.

    I found the information about colour perception in children really intriguing. I wasn't overly surprised that they associated some early colours differently simply because there are positive and negative ties that can be applied to most colours and so it makes some sense that experience could matter (as an aside, it is also interesting to note that the quantity of some colours can often impact how people perceive them and 'too much' yellow for example can often elicit negative responses as the brightness can be visually tiring if overused). But to attribute some of the difference to their actual sensory development was really very interesting, and worked well as you then went on to compare it to emotional development, social development, integration, self-identity and the show's concept of examining the experience of growing up.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Whedon cleverly sets Buffy’s discovery of her Slayer nature at exactly the same time that the marriage of her parents falls apart and it’s a terrific metaphor for how Buffy must reassess and rearrange her new identity. Buffy’s unhealthy perspective seems to be linked to her constant desire to project an image of normality despite being the Slayer – always holding back the darkness.
    This really underlines the consistent point that we're seeing the past constantly interplaying with the present and perception of what the future can be. So many specific experiences muddle into who the complete/complex person is, and undoubtedly some are negative or even outright traumatic.

    The way Buffy had this sense of separation of 'sides' of herself from the start on finding out she'd been called is underscored in the story by her responses to the expectations on her from 'work', school and home. Your consideration to the different social expectations on men and women for what would be regarded as correct masculinity and femininity alongside this is fab.

    It’s not surprising that in a supernatural show, secrets and lies abound – a great deal of horror is predicated upon fear of the unknown. But from the beginning, BtVS was predicated upon the fact that everyone keeps secrets. In many ways, the wholesome face of Sunnydale where the inhabitants deliberately live in denial of the monsters from the Hellmouth below is a parody of American Gothic Romances like Peyton Place – small towns with Stepford-like inhabitants who all carry a deep, dark secret of their own.
    The ways in which social expectations feed into the desire to keep secrets and lies is such an excellent point for consideration. Yes, especially in a season where so many of the characters are facing personal struggles and a deepened loss of their surety about who they are as we're currently considering. But as you showed in looking back to Buffy's past pre-Sunnydale and when she first arrives, this has been something that has been a persistent theme from the start and we've repeatedly discussed the secrets/lies during the seasons. All of these build into the senses of identity that are part of the past which paved the way to where we are now.

    I've never heard of the Ervin Goffman book before but will add it to my ever-expanding list of ones to look at. The idea of social interactions as a form of performance of roles of course is something that we've looked at from the start of the season too. There are so many different examples, how the gang tried to adapt to the loss of Buffy brought this to the fore straightaway. Variations of this theme have been evident throughout the show, but especially this season. From Buffy adopting the persona of the bot at the end of After Life to cover for her unhappiness at her return, trying different people's 'jobs', through to even singing out about how she was acting out a part whilst hiding her inner thoughts in OMWF.

    In this sense, everyone is acquiescent to performing certain roles for each other and even when a person is unmasked, everyone can agree to look the other way until the mask is put on again. This works in many ways like a conspiracy of silence – but the secret is actually the dangerous threat of insecure identity. To combat this threat, everyone will pretend that it never happened, thereby maintaining their own masks.
    That's brilliant and works so well with the idea of how people self-govern based on their perception of how they would be viewed by others. Considering how the show continues to look at the roles people take on as they progress in finding places in society, all part of growing up and performing effectively, is fab. As is drawing all this back to the role that silence plays alongside the secrets and the separate identities people feel within. The security that silence can offer by not risking breaking veneers and the negative and destructive effects that could occur to our senses of self from affecting our relationships.

    When Buffy tells Xander that her life is none of his business, there’s a consequence inherent in that silence. Lying and keeping secrets can become an easy way to avoid self-examination or conflict – it becomes a natural way of talking to lovers and family and close friends. It isolates a person and causes incredible loneliness because one starts to believe that the truth isn’t good enough. Buffy wants to deny reality and maintain control over it at the same time. For all of Buffy’s pronouncements and girl power, she fundamentally denies herself the right to speak when it comes to relationships.
    Yes, this is greatly tangled into that self-governing silence you brought up. Seen, as you say, in how she keeps aspects of the darker side of slaying to herself. So when it comes to relationships that are even difficult for her to process and make sense of, in this season for how she does share some degree of connection to Spike and does have feelings for him, it's impossible for her to imagine trying to articulate it to those around her. The bridge she gets between slaying and herself when involved with Angel and Spike clearly gives her something her human relationships don't, but they also enhance the feeling of separation in other ways. Which of course serves to interact with the feeling that there are expectations on her and things that she should keep concealed.

    It's certainly very interesting considering back through what we know of the characters which adds into their current troubles and responses, all that helped to build up who they are and why they make the choices they do. There's no doubt that Buffy's relationship with Angel and her experiences there play a significant part in how she processes both her own sense of 'otherness' as well as her responses to Spike. And Angel's and Spike's responses of course come from their own histories and issues too.

    I think it's a good while before Buffy starts to accept that there is a constant feeling of balance to accept is inevitable and so manages to make choices that are more about managing it for herself rather than fixating as much on outward perceptions. In fact I think it really only happens more completely when Spike's need once souled to manage his own sense of separation and balance leads him to want to integrate into the group more effectively and so from that changes the potential integration of the two aspects for Buffy too. In S10 onwards it offers Buffy that bridging relationship still, but now with less distance from the other side of her life, at the same time as consulting with local law alongside slaying. Even with the choice to break them at the start of S12, her path is still looking at more tightly combining the separate aspects of her life and as a pair they remain openly committed to continuing to share their lives. So although it is alongside the openness of other possibilities, there is still also the potential for the relationship with Spike to reestablish and to do so stronger as they're both addressing individual issues too. But all that is a long way off from here and it certainly also contains problematic aspects of what is perceived to be the 'correct' behaviour for a woman to show that she is strong and independent.

    I really enjoyed your thoughts on the gothic romance and earlier romantic fictional use of the irresistible, seductive male 'other', the attraction of the danger/sex combo and the parables focusing on transformation and change. Especially in how the heroine steps across into the dark and comes to know herself more which is very much a part of Buffy's interactions with her vampire lovers and how Angel specifically mirrored both normality and monster as hero and vampire. I wish my mind were less like a sieve when it comes to remembering these comparisons and references.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    It’s clear that there are at least three kinds of monsters in Buffy – the romanticized monster-Other who prowls the schoolyard and the streets and the graveyards to kill and is defined by various traits that are listed in the Watcher Books – this monster represents a threat to the integrity of the body. The second is a monster of habitation – an embodiment of a “monstrous” potential that lies within, representing a kind of transgression of social norms or corruption of power like cruelty and greed or systemic issues like racism, sexism, homophobia and intolerance. But the third kind of monster is left unnamed – like the conspiracy of silence, it lurks just at the edges of our sight and the limits of our thoughts. It seems to represent a space before the act of becoming itself – always uncanny, terrifying and random. And it is linked in part to trauma – the terror of a divided Self.
    This is great and is something that we can see to differing degrees in all the characters as we constantly explore perceptions of self and group/social expectations on them. That these stories of progressive personal development so repeatedly contain key moments that can be seen as both pivotal and traumatic is so important for understanding the characters and how their perceptions of their relationships and past experiences are so deeply tied together to influence their sense of self.

    Angel is also a metaphor for change and restoration in the Buffyverse – his cryptic, silent presence a sign of tentative steps towards redemption as he tries to help Buffy in small but psychologically important ways – like lending her his coat as a metaphoric armor against the darkness.

    I’ve read in some places the belief that Angel is actually representative of a sinister older man in his first appearances as he lurks in the shadows, supposedly grooming the young Buffy for a future romance. But that not only goes directly against the entire mythology of the Gothic romance, but it ascribes questionable ulterior motives to what is obviously meant to be the first few faltering steps towards redemption. It’s possible that Angel is unconsciously setting the stage for a romance, but Angel has been living in alleyways and feasting on rats for a hundred years – Buffy isn’t a sexual object to him – she gives his life meaning after doing so much evil. And Buffy says as much to him in Amends – she doesn’t feel “groomed” or “used” – Angel, like Spike, gives her the opportunity to love the Other – to be merciful – to learn to forgive – and in forgiving the two vampires, she’s more able to forgive herself.
    Yes I think that we again need to look at the wider context to understand where Angel is focused in his first appearances and although the show outright acknowledges the questionable aspect of the relationship with Buffy, it isn't where Angel's story focuses. His progression in the early seasons as he works out who he can be and how to work well alongside the humans is a great influencing factor and is something very deliberately continued for him as a personal struggle across into AtS. I completely agree that both vamps connect Buffy to her own Otherness, to accept it within herself, and as I say, when Spike moves more into her world this deepens for her further in the future. Angel however remains more segregated narratively it seems to me. But again if we turn to his greater history the intensity of his focus back and especially on redemption makes sense because of his religious upbringing. I also agree that this aspect plays its part in his deep belief in his/Spike's inevitable damnation that he expresses in AtS 5.

    I enjoyed reading your recap of Angel's background. It always seemed to me that the expectations on Liam were defined enough that he felt always destined to fall out of line and fail and so he fell to the emotionally safer, although inherently negative, approach of meeting the poor expectations of him with zeal rather than risk trying his best and still be found wanting. You're probably right though that he likely started trying to please his father before learning of the impossibility of it. Sadly something that probably happened at a far younger age than when he was turned. Something I'll consider when watching Spin the Bottle next. His father's inability to see how his high wishes for his son were actually what held him back always strikes me as a very depressingly relatable parental obstacle.

    I've never considered before if Liam viewed his father's religious attitude in a way that questioned his purity, but it makes sense for both a sense of realism and cynicism from him. I'll definitely look at that when I watch those eps again in the future too.

    And that brings up the third voiceless monster that lies within – the terrifying instability of self that haunts everyone. And this is reflected throughout the series through the personal trauma of Buffy –the Chosen One – the one girl in the world who fights the powers of darkness. It cannot be overstated how much it affects Buffy’s psychological attitudes towards the world – her relationships with her family, her friends, her lovers and even the enemies she defeats. As the Slayer, Buffy represents both the center of the story and the margins outside it – an endless tug-of-war in Buffy that is very postmodern – the “normative” Buffy Summers pitted against the liminal, the “Other” – and Buffy must find her moral and ethical boundaries within that undefined space.

    As a demonic figure in human form with a foot in both worlds, Buffy represents an incoherent body – a form suspended between forms. And yet she’s our entry-point into the supernatural world of the Buffyverse – we look to her reactions and her world view to guide us in understanding the various meanings of “otherness” that reside at Sunnydale’s Hellmouth. But Buffy constantly looks backward to an imaginary golden age that exists in a pre-traumatic time – a past before her parent’s divorce and her vocation as the chosen one – a time before fracture and fragmentation. This trauma of loss permeates the show – but what seems like a dissolution of wholeness to Buffy is actually a reconfiguration of being that develops into a powerful state of autonomy by the end of the series.
    Well put. It isn't hard to see that Buffy is drawn to the vamps and it brings back to mind Dracula deliberately emphasising the similarities in their power that Buffy first starts to dwell on in early S5. The side of herself that she kept denying to Faith but which we see to actually be something within in her that she feels she should turn from. This always seems such a key factor in her sexual relationship with Spike, the release and freedom of exploring that side of herself. Whilst greatly tied to some of the more questionable and negative choices she makes within that relationship it is also a positive point of self expression which brings her closer to knowing and accepting a side of herself she has tried to bury. A silence somewhat broken, but, one that still remains something that she is concerned about and feels uncertain of. But this path of increasing self awareness and acceptance is something that continues across the remainder of the show and into the comic seasons too.

    Angel’s biggest desire is acceptance – he never found anything other than contempt even with Darla – who basically took the place of his father in expecting grander things from Angelus – and brutally betraying him when the fire gets too hot.
    I very much agree. For me the curse breaking when Angel slept with Buffy was tightly bound into him feeling accepted and wanted by someone that he saw as inherently good and the intimacy of the moment and significance for him went well beyond the actual sex.

    It's not that Angel blames himself for his siring – he couldn't have honestly known what would happen - but it's probable that he suffers from the same guilt he bore as a human for giving up on his life altogether and leaving himself in the hands of fate to do with him what it will. Angel’s lack of responsibility for his siring does not leave him free of the total failure of his former human life and the foolish decisions that he made to spite his father.
    Yes, I'm sure that the depth of guilt and brooding that we see in Angel greatly connects to his feeling that he was already proven to be a useless being before he was sired. His attempt to return to his vampiric family was in great part because of trying to deal with the suddenness of the shift in himself with the soul alongside the demon, but it was also greatly bound to his sense of worthlessness and fear of an inability to be something better and be able to change.

    When the Judge mocks Drusilla and Spike for being full of humanity, a contrast is made with Angel – who has no humanity whatsoever. This doesn't mean that he's essentially different from Angel - but that he has become akin to a psychopath - losing that essential connection between cognition and emotion that conveys certain feelings of guilt or fear. He is a perfect killing animal of malevolent intentions – and tragically the only time that Liam/Angel truly feels alive because he has attained perfection in his father’s eyes and in God’s eyes – he is a creature of pure darkness in that respect.
    I think there is an extra layer perhaps in it not truly being a lack of capacity that goes beyond what Dru and Spike are able to feel, Angel unsouled is as disconnected from his emotions as other vampires and is inherently limited too in what he could feel. The difference I think comes from the intense rejection towards emotions unsouled. They are a weakness to him that should be turned from influencing you and he rejects those lingering aspects of humanity to focus on being the ruthless killer. But he also fails to see that his rejection of his father, his murder of him was still inherently tied to his love for his father and in fact about still caring that he was seen as a failure and had felt defeated by him. His fixation on his moral path and failings once souled, the quasi-religious aspects to it as you say, seems to almost look for reparation in part through taking those teachings back on board in how he views himself/his past.

    And there’s an interesting theme each season that’s carried onward – the idea that Buffy slowly starts to cut herself off from her friends and family just a little more each time she returns from the latest Big Bad ordeal.
    This is an interesting observation. I've never thought of it as something that increases each season, but I can see it. One of the aspects I enjoy the most about the final two tv seasons is the distancing Buffy gains from her friends as they redefine their dynamic and how this works alongside romantic relationships and general life shifts. For me it is one of the most relatable and toughest parts of growing up they try to convey, accepting inevitable and natural change in relationships that were very important and strong in earlier years. That it does result in a reconfiguration rather than losing touch and breaking away completely is testament to the importance of those relationships, that they are retained and eventually shift/change along with the individuals.

    Great point about how the representative contrasts Buffy saw in Kendra and Faith also links to the judgmental attitude in the writing of how some sexual relationships are good and other times are labelled as wrong. There's no question there are aspects of the Buffy/Spike relationship which are unhealthy and toxic, but their consensual activities that they find mutually satisfying shouldn't be lumped in there by default.

    And some of Buffy’s shame regarding her relationship with Spike in Season Six is tied into the retrograde sexist tropes of previous seasons and especially the behavior of her three sexual partners, each of whom betrayed her trust.

    But Angel was the worst offender of all because she loved him more than anyone she’d ever known – and the ways in which he hurt Buffy were possibly more damaging than even her parents’ divorce or her calling because it instilled a core fear in Buffy that if she allows anyone to love her or allows herself to fall in love with someone that it will somehow destroy both of their lives.
    There's no doubt that the traumas Buffy encountered through her relationship with Angel impact her ongoing romantic relationships. In great part this is because the responses of the time were those of an inexperienced child who was still maturing and so the processing of what happened and the emotional responses to it are intrinsically tied back to the feelings of the time. It isn't always easy to look back with increased knowledge and maturity to something that you experienced with emotional intensity.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Major traumas are a kind of death and rebirth every bit as wrenching as Buffy’s return from the dead. It not only marks the end of a chapter in our lives, but the eradication of much of one’s former identity and the emergence of something new. This coping mechanism is noted by trauma experts who see patients recall those moments as the key to their being, providing endless motivation and regret. Survivors often remain in a liminal state, alternating constantly between “back then” and “right now” and becoming figuratively stuck in time. And in some ways, Buffy remains locked into that day, blaming herself for all that’s happened despite Giles assuring her that it wasn’t her fault.
    This relates very much to the presence of the past that we've discussed before and StateOfSiege explored so recently as key in the NA review. Which springs the Faulkner quote to mind, "The past is never dead. It’s not even past." I don't care if it's overused, I love it.

    Then with this we have the fact that the presence of the past in the current isn't always felt as a part of a whole that we've become but with a feeling of distinction, of loss and of negative change. I love the connections you draw between the fear of what we feel we know being changeable, unstable, that normalcy is a lie with the wish to return to previous times. The illusion of a security in 'what was' draws us as a time that was simpler or more understood, that came before something which happened after that feels unmanageable or that we'd wish to undo.

    So Buffy leaves her mother and her friends without telling anyone about what truly happened that day – we don’t hear the words that Joyce reads in her farewell letter, but we get the impression that they’re not sunshine and roses. Her friends have no idea if Buffy killed Angel or he regained his soul in time – it’s left to them to create whatever scenario they prefer based on personal preference like a “write-your-own-ending” book. Buffy’s decision to leave cold turkey without so much as a phone call is most likely predicated by guilt and shame – she doesn’t want them to know what happened right before Angel died just as she didn’t want to tell them about her sexual encounter that caused the loss of his soul. And this foreshadows Season Six.

    And this is indicative of how Buffy becomes less and less open throughout the entire run of Buffy – the more she suffers, the less she opens up. Perhaps it’s necessary to perform her tasks as a Slayer to keep a single-minded focus on her duties without getting bogged down in other people’s problems – but it’s interesting to note how her friends feel hurt when she pulls away. Buffy seems to be very uneasy and wary of commiserating with others even when she tells them, “I Love You.” There’s always a distance – a space – that her friends find it hard to cross – and so they keep those feelings inside for the most part.
    Interesting tie between the seasons as Buffy shuts herself off. Of course the connection between her friends and a key source of her pain in S6 is an additional barrier to seeking their emotional support, but it only plays a part of why she shuts them out over her relationship with Spike. As you've explored, there is far more at play within about her sense of identity, her sense of 'otherness', and that 'Faith' side we keep seeing her try to deny or bury. Considering this as a gradual shut down the more that Buffy goes through is interesting. I think there is also a small degree to which it indicates a greater wish to find an increased surety of self that she is coming to realise is separate to the experiences of her friends/family, but very much a part of her. She just isn't comfortable presenting that side of herself for criticism yet, even as she is partly responding to the fear of such by shutting down.

    Your suggestion that Buffy feels that the Slayer can't love without loss is an interesting suggestion for how she processes the separations she feels within as somewhat irreconcilable at this stage and particularly in the early seasons. Whilst she feels her identity is severed the instability stops her feeling surety and adds into the sense of trying to perform roles and meet expectations that she may feel aren't what she wants or even realistic for her.

    Of course, what “happiness” means is fairly ill-defined in the Buffyverse – the definition seems to be so broad that Angel later loses his soul because he takes a euphoric pill slipped in a drink in Eternity. And there’s something morally reprehensible about a curse that first restrains a monster and then sets him free – a punishment for Angel – but a death sentence to anyone around him as Jenny Calendar points out.
    It feels a bit of an aside so I won't dig into it, but I can't help but say that I don't think Angel is supposed to have literally lost his soul in Eternity. It doesn't have to be returned to him, he just has to come down from the drug and his out of control behaviour that is always potentially within him. But I agree that the curse is a morally corrupt vengeance as it condemns more people to die at the hands of the soulless monster if the souled version finds some peace. I was always really pleased they had Jenny state frustration at the insanity of it.

    Unpacking this entire conversation would take some time, but it’s clear that the reaction of Xander is extraordinarily close to his statements in Seeing Red. There’s not much of a leap from “What, you just tripped and fell on his lips?” to “Oh, like, uh, "Say, you're evil. Get on me"? Whereas Willow’s all about “let’s not attack Buffy” – and indeed, she does stay silent in Buffy’s front room at the beginning of the episode...

    But their immediate condemnation certainly wouldn’t make it likely that Buffy would want to ever tell them about Spike or any other demon – it’s not that they’re wrong, but the ways in which they subtly jab Buffy with sexual shaming and act as if she can’t make her own decisions (they may be wrong but they’re still her right) is somewhat off-putting. Questions of practicality vs mercy and redemption are worth debating – but this is a genuine hostile attack towards someone without finding out the who, what, why, where and when. They have no idea whether Angel’s dropped from the sky yesterday or been hidden for months..
    That's a great catch and really just shows how layered and muddled these things can get as obviously their own traumatic experiences overlap (both from the events of S2 and Buffy going missing afterwards) and bring in additional factors to how they respond to the news of Angel's return and Buffy's secrecy. I'm not behind the tone of the intervention, but I can understand it and equally how it plays into Buffy's reluctance to share these aspects of herself that she feels so torn and uncertain about too. As you identify, the secrets and silences abound.

    Does this mean that Angel doesn’t long for a future relationship with Buffy? I don’t necessarily think so – there’s a hint of promise in Chosen that things might develop in the future if it’s meant to be. But Angel realizes that she’s far too young to make that kind of life-altering decision at 18 – and Buffy eventually sees it as well. She needs to develop further with other people – the love she and Angel had was shared by a Buffy who doesn’t exist anymore – but that doesn’t close the door on the future – journeys end in lovers’ meetings and what’s to come is still unsure.
    And I think this is very much the feeling they were going for at the end of the series in S12. It was unfortunate that it promotes a women's strength and independence as being connected to being single and I really disliked that, but I think the intention was to show that she is still on a journey and life takes bumps and turns along the way. Sure it can be criticised too for leaving every door open but in doing that, in showing that the most recent relationship to end could be made stronger through time apart and then choosing to come back together they are showing that things keep moving forwards but also the essential belief in the ability to change what is ahead of you and be open to all possibilities is promoted. Sorry, you can't skip more forward than I keep doing, this all just keeps bringing where they took things to at the end to mind and the openness to becoming as we've been discussing so much during these most recent episodes.

    And now that Angel’s grown past a selfish kind of abjuration of the world through Buffy’s example, the greatest tribute he can make is to stand on his own and help other people as she does. It’s telling that Spike eventually comes to the exact same decision in LA – instead of racing back to see Buffy, he begins to understand how important it is to grow apart for a time before seeing her again. Not only for her sake, but for his own. And Angel is making the same decision here.
    Angel's own need to leave I think is really at the core of his departure. It works excellently against Spike's AtS 5 need to work out who he can be and the path he wants to follow independently too, great catch.

    There does feel to be something patronising about how Angel presents it as being for Buffy's own good, but I can see how this would realistically play a part in his decision. I just wish he'd led with the part that was for his own path/direction. Really interesting to see Buffy giving Angel her blood as an affirming act for him that his presence is dangerous for her, possibly even in a moral sense.

    I think you're right to pull focus onto the conversation they have in breaking up and the buttons pressed inadvertently through Angel's choice of words. Something that Buffy directly links to her relationship with Spike as we noted in Wrecked, "Last night was the end of this freak show." Just one example of the many times the spectre of her relationship with Angel is shown to play very directly on hers and Spike's minds through the season, as well as the ways in which the related traumas have affected her generally.

    A great run down of the past's influences on Buffy's perceptions and how it remains present. And of course it isn't just Buffy's 'what might have been' at play, there's also Spike's insecurities too, which I'm suspecting are about to be explored. Looking forward to reading what you have lined up next.

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    BtVS Fan
    Is it her or Joss. His love of Romeo and Juliet and Seeing how S12 ended up, it feels like Buffy is still thinking like that in her 30's due to what he considers love to be
    I do think Joss regards Buffy and Angel as a grand Romeo and Juliet-like romance, but hasn`t he himself called that kind of story boring?

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    Quote Originally Posted by flow View Post
    BtVS Fan

    I do think Joss regards Buffy and Angel as a grand Romeo and Juliet-like romance, but hasn`t he himself called that kind of story boring?

    flow
    What's ironic about the whole R and J Romance is that 2 kids who barely knew each other and who decided to kill themselves felt less like Shakespeare doing a Grand Romamce and more a commentary on the feuding Noble Houses that were common in England at the time and the damage they cause to those around them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stoney View Post
    Hey BtVS fan, could you please edit your post to reduce what you quote to a specific part you're responding to. Quoting such large amounts really just clogs up the page in the thread with lots of repetition to scroll through, as well as somewhat burying the point you are wanting to make.
    Speaking as someone who is consistently hopeless with these things, I really appreciate this instruction.
    You know what I am. You've always known. You come to me all the same.

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