Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: In defense of the First Slayer

  1. #1
    Graveyard Patrol ghoststar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    349
    Thanks
    265
    Thanked 688 Times in 265 Posts

    Default In defense of the First Slayer

    I really dislike the fandom interpretation that the First Slayer (referred to in tie-in materials as Sineya, so I’ll go with that) is nothing but a brutish, racist stereotype of Darkest Africa. To, she’s probably the third or fourth most compelling character, despite a large cast of characters who have much more screentime. And I didn’t know why until I noticed this: Everyone criticizes her for the exact same things that make communication with autism hard.

    Sineya isn’t “too dumb” to speak, as I’ve seen claimed. She’s able to communicate complex and haunting details about her personality and experiences to Buffy in “Restless,” notwithstanding that she has to find an unconventional method of doing so (using Buffy’s concept of Tara as an intermediary). The truth is that she is periodically separated from her normal capacity to speak. In "Get It Done," she offers important advice on dealing with the First Evil. How much of her difficulty communicating derives from her demonic alterations and how much from social expectations laid on her by the proto-Watchers is uncertain, but it certainly isn’t from a lack of intelligence. Note that Giles says he can defeat her with his intellect... only to be scalped by her a few seconds later.

    At the same time, she’s unable or unwilling to use her face to express subtle and complex emotions (although, of course, she gets a beautiful monologue through dream!Tara), the result (impetus behind?) of her thick mud mask. Her body language is rigid, her arms held out and her fingers stiffened in the way that not only shows her animosity, but also reveals a person who can’t escape the tension of the moment. The progression of Buffy’s meeting with Sineya in 4x22 with her increased dedication to “hunting” in 5x01 hints that Sineya, except for her isolation, has the same capacity as Buffy for complicated and dark and heroic impulses. How does Sineya handle her attraction to vampires? Does she keep trophies of her kills? Did she plan her skull-like face paint, her talon-like fingernail growth, the rags that show how far she is from a society where people care for the trappings of status? Does anyone think of her as a woman, rather than an overgrown and troublesome murder-child?

    They probably don't, for understandable reasons. Everyone is less interested in dealing with Sineya’s prehistoric emotional issues than with trying to stop the next apocalypse. But the complexities of her personality are all there. The fact that no one in-universe has the time and patience to unravel them (and perhaps that she doesn’t want anyone to know her that well) doesn’t mean they don’t exist in the text.

    Sineya’s isolation comes with a price: People who succeed at creating bonds have a source of strength that she doesn’t. There’s no idealization of her shortcomings, no attempt to argue that “neurotypicals” or “immortally influenced” people, or whatever the going term is, aren’t sick. She needs relationships, and she doesn’t have them, and she’s weaker for that– even though, thanks to her brilliant and unconventional use of her own demonic power, she’s able to defeat any one of the Scoobies, despite being literally dead.

    Now, I’m not saying that Sineya is actually, technically autistic. I detest attempts to shoehorn disabilities that evidence suggests are not universal into every single context. In the case of autism in particular, there is overwhelming evidence that condition per se (not just a few personality traits) results from immune dysfunctions created or, at least, made vastly more common by modern alterations to the human microbiomechanges which would not have existed for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of years after Sineya’s Calling.

    Nonetheless, I feel a pull toward Sineya, a character with deep feelings and great determination, inexpressive of the nuances of her thoughts and feelings, and either unable or forbidden to engage in more than sporadic, stilted conversation with others. The evidence points to a rich, if painful, mental world– but it’s one that none of the others ever sees.

  2. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to ghoststar For This Useful Post:

    TriBel (13-03-19),vampmogs (13-03-19)

  3. #2
    Scooby Gang SpuffyGlitz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Posts
    697
    Thanks
    5,742
    Thanked 2,090 Times in 810 Posts

    Default

    To, she’s probably the third or fourth most compelling character, despite a large cast of characters who have much more screentime.
    @ghoststar, I very much agree with this! Though I wouldn't view her traits as comparable to autism (which I see you're not doing when you say she isn't), nor do I see her traits as symptomatic of an emotionally diseased state stemming from loneliness. Sineya is capable of very comprehensible (and affecting) speech in her direct address to Buffy in I Was Made to Love You when she tells her she is full of love, that her love is blinding, that death is her gift. And this line below ----


    I have no speech. No name. I live in the action of death, the blood cry, the penetrating wound. I am destruction. Absolute...Alone.
    —-- Sineya


    ...is crucial. In fact, to me she's probably the most directly allegorical of all the Buffyverse figures. Textually she's so symbolic that reading her as a character on the same level as the other characters brings its own tensions. Symbolically, she represents a threat to language itself, to the way words shape meaning and come to define historical events - and it all keeps taking me back to Barthes's Mythologies. S7 does some very interesting things in its treatment of language.

    Anyway, really interesting thread!
    Last edited by SpuffyGlitz; 12-03-19 at 06:27 PM.
    .
    buffylover made this stunning banner

  4. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to SpuffyGlitz For This Useful Post:

    ghoststar (12-03-19),TriBel (12-03-19)

  5. #3
    Scooby Gang Willow from Buffy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Posts
    411
    Thanks
    348
    Thanked 1,034 Times in 367 Posts

    Default

    "Restless" references Heart of Darkness and Coppola's Apocalypse Now before presenting us with a barbaric creature-person. Buffy goes to the 'heart of darkness' but does not allow it to taint her. She is not frightened like Marlow is. She makes a racially loaded joke about the heart of darkness's hair care, instead.

    "Restless" is an amazing episode, but while Hear of Darkness makes it clear that white people are as barbaric as black people (which is an interesting inversion of the common anti-racism spiel), Buffy declares herself as superior to Sineya. Apart from the oh-so unnecessary joke, it is not decidedly racist, but it just looks very very bad.

    The episode follows the same patterns as with Buffy and Kendra. Kendra has grown up in a country that is very patriarchal and they can't pronounce chick fight, while Buffy is an all-American girl who likes to shop, date and say what's on her mind.

  6. #4
    Slayer TriBel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Manchester, UK.
    Posts
    1,873
    Thanks
    4,904
    Thanked 5,001 Times in 2,190 Posts

    Default

    Spuffyglitz

    Symbolically, she represents a threat to language itself, to the way words shape meaning and come to define historical events - and it all keeps taking me back to Barthes's Mythologies. S7 does some very interesting things in its treatment of language.
    I have no speech. No name. I live in the action of death, the blood cry, the penetrating wound. I am destruction. Absolute...Alone.
    —-- Sineya

    Get your point (I agree with everything you say) but I'd forget Barthes (or go for a very late Barthes). If I didn't know better I'd swear that was a definition of "woman" by Irigaray, Kristeva or Cixous.

    Seriously, I think Sineya, could in some way (and don't ask me how) relate to the Khora.

    "Following Derrida, John Caputo describes khôra as: neither present nor absent, active or passive, the good nor evil, living nor nonliving - but rather atheological and nonhuman - khôra is not even a receptacle. Khôra has no meaning or essence, no identity to fall back upon. She/it receives all without becoming anything, which is why she/it can become the subject of neither a philosopheme nor mytheme. In short, the khôra is tout autre [fully other], very."

    If, as one contributor concludes, "khôra" means "space", it is an interesting space that "at times appears to be neither this nor that, at times both this and that," wavering "between the logic of exclusion and that of participation." (Derrida, The Name, 89).

    IMO, the only other character person who comes close to this is Spike. My other point of reference would be the Archaic Mother. The idea of "the penetrating wound" is actually a negation of lack.

    Buffy goes to the 'heart of darkness' but does not allow it to taint her.
    There's the presumption here that darkness taints. What if the dark is just...I dunno...dark? That darkness is evil not because it's fundamentally evil but because light tells us it's evil - and light tells us dark's evil a) in order for light to define itself as good (there's no fundamental "good") and b) because light has the power to do it. Long time since I've read HoD but, as I recall, Achebe was pretty pissed off with it.

    PS. I'd argue that in Touched we see Buffy "tainted by dark" - literally - but a dark that comes from love. Spike's the source (there's a reason he's "in her heart").
    Last edited by TriBel; 12-03-19 at 11:05 PM.

  7. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to TriBel For This Useful Post:

    ghoststar (13-03-19),SpuffyGlitz (13-03-19)

  8. #5
    Scooby Gang SpuffyGlitz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Posts
    697
    Thanks
    5,742
    Thanked 2,090 Times in 810 Posts

    Default

    TriBel I've not read your whole post yet, I'm just doing so (it's fascinating!) - Just a quick note to say - in relation to what you've raised about darkness and light, it struck me that Spike's resurrection from the amulet in "Just Rewards" on AtS connects him with darkness even in his re-appearance. I mean, the script describes him emerging out of an ashen "black whirlwind" that "starts to glow with flecks of orange" in it.
    .
    buffylover made this stunning banner

  9. The Following User Says Thank You to SpuffyGlitz For This Useful Post:

    TriBel (13-03-19)

  10. #6
    Slayer TriBel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Manchester, UK.
    Posts
    1,873
    Thanks
    4,904
    Thanked 5,001 Times in 2,190 Posts

    Default

    What interests me about Touched is there are 7/8 light sources in the Stranger's house (I call it that to distinguish it from the abandoned house (Smashed) and her mother's house). This includes candles and lanterns but none of them are lit. There's no light because the "powers" gone - and this is a season about power. In the morning, his shadow clearly "taints" Buffy - as though there's been a transfer of darkness - a darkness that gives her strength. The knowledge she receives from the Shadow Men is coded as white light. I hadn't made the connection between "dark" and his reappearance on Angel (Doh!)

    The following might be useful (I don't agree with his entire argument). Elsewhere, he makes a point that the demon in Get it Done has "tribal markings" very similar to Sineya's. IMO, Spike's an attempt to recuperate the abject (I found Irigaray quite useful for thinking about this). It's quite telling that Kristeva identifies "the corpse" as the most extreme form of abjection. The most abject thing we see is Joyce in The Body - the living corpse.

    http://aesthethika.org/Re-Cognising-the-Body

    Having attempted to destroy the others, the first slayer and Buffy come to encounter each other in the
    dreamscape of a desert. We find that the first slayer is abjection personified. Speaking through Tara in Buffy’s dream, she says: “I have no speech, no name. I live in the action of death. The blood-cry, the penetrating wound. I am destruction. Absolute. Alone. . . .The First.”

    Being outside of speech, outside of language is representative of abjection–she is that ‘beyond’ which puts into question the coherence of a subjectivity forged in discourse; she is the incomprehensible, the incoherent, the unintelligible. She represents that which cannot be represented, and that which puts into question–makes incoherent–that with which she is associated, in this case Buffy herself. Indeed, in a Cartesian sense, the first
    slayer is all body, no mind no civilisation. Her selfhood is collapsed into the capacities and attributes of her body, she is expresses nothing but her responsibility to destroy demons and vampires. Furthermore, as has often been suggested, a particular trait of both Buffy and Angel has been a structuralist and post-structuralist awareness of the ways in which meaning and being occurs only through language, and that language is not only that through which coherence is found, but that all subjects are embedded in language and proficiency of specific languages (eg. Overbey & Preston-Matto, 2002: 83; Wilcox, 1999: 22). This abjection is reinforced by her statement that she is the “penetrating wound,” that which, not unlike the vampires, interferes with the wholeness and containment of the self as it is represented by the consistency and completion of the body.

  11. The Following User Says Thank You to TriBel For This Useful Post:

    SpuffyGlitz (13-03-19)

  12. #7
    Graveyard Patrol ghoststar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    349
    Thanks
    265
    Thanked 688 Times in 265 Posts

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Willow from Buffy View Post
    "Restless" references Heart of Darkness and Coppola's Apocalypse Now before presenting us with a barbaric creature-person. Buffy goes to the 'heart of darkness' but does not allow it to taint her. She is not frightened like Marlow is. She makes a racially loaded joke about the heart of darkness's hair care, instead.

    "Restless" is an amazing episode, but while Hear of Darkness makes it clear that white people are as barbaric as black people (which is an interesting inversion of the common anti-racism spiel), Buffy declares herself as superior to Sineya. Apart from the oh-so unnecessary joke, it is not decidedly racist, but it just looks very very bad.

    The episode follows the same patterns as with Buffy and Kendra. Kendra has grown up in a country that is very patriarchal and they can't pronounce chick fight, while Buffy is an all-American girl who likes to shop, date and say what's on her mind.

    Just about everything in “Restless” is open to interpretation, which makes it hard to declare which of our takeaways is right or wrong, and that’s true regardless of how much one bugs either of us. FWIW, I think that your take probably is closer to Joss’s, even if he doesn’t see, as you do, why such a portrayal would be problematic. If you’ve read the shooting script or watched the commentary (both of which I have done... more than once, alas), then you know that there’s a lot of cringe fodder there.

    OTOH, I don’t really care whether Joss set out to make a fully-fleshed character or a borderline caricature. I mean, it’s interesting, the way the making of props and the choice of locations is interesting, but it doesn’t set the parameters of valid audience reactions. Even if, on a Doylist level, the beautiful speech about the nature as the Slayer was meant as exposition for Buffy, it’s still Sineya’s beautiful speech. Even if the paint was mostly intended as a clue to the audience, there’s the unavoidable implication that Sineya applies it by choice, which says all kinds of interesting things about her grasp of symbolism and implies her self-identification as the personification of death. What does it mean that she’s wrapped in loose strips of cloth, rather than normal clothes? Where did she even get that much cloth, no matter how ragged it’s become, in the Paleolithic? It must have been a precious gift, or perhaps an offering to someone perceived as godlike. I particularly love her long, slightly twisted nails— they’re pathetic and magnificent, and I wonder if she can use them in combination with thrall, the way Drusilla did in “Becoming, Part One,” or if she literally tears into a beautiful demon during sex, the way Buffy apparently did during sex with Spike between “Smashed” and “Wrecked.” Again, I have no idea if the writers meant her to be more than a foil for Buffy; however, foils are characters, and a great foil can be a great character.

    So, yeah, I think that she’s a really interesting character with more parallels than contrasts to Buffy. No matter what Joss was thinking, the First Slayer turned out great. (On a related note, I don’t think the modern, white, shopaholic Slayer is as liberated as the writers meant for her to be, either, but I feel like that’s a conversation for another time.) That you disagree is fair enough, and your opinion is certainly more popular than mine, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be challenged. Different viewers, different foci.

  13. The Following User Says Thank You to ghoststar For This Useful Post:

    TriBel (13-03-19)

  14. #8
    Scooby Gang Willow from Buffy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Posts
    411
    Thanks
    348
    Thanked 1,034 Times in 367 Posts

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TriBel View Post
    There's the presumption here that darkness taints. What if the dark is just...I dunno...dark? That darkness is evil not because it's fundamentally evil but because light tells us it's evil - and light tells us dark's evil a) in order for light to define itself as good (there's no fundamental "good") and b) because light has the power to do it. Long time since I've read HoD but, as I recall, Achebe was pretty pissed off with it.

    PS. I'd argue that in Touched we see Buffy "tainted by dark" - literally - but a dark that comes from love. Spike's the source (there's a reason he's "in her heart").
    Tainted was a poor choice of words. Touched would be better, as in that Marlow is affected and humbled by his experiences. He knows that there is something fundamentally cruel in all of humanity.

    Back in London, Marlow seems to have turned Asian, as he has yellow-ish skin and he is described as sitting cross legged as a guru or a Budda (I can't quite remember). He no longer feels apart from the other peoples of the earth. This is very different to Buffy who defines herself as decidedly different from Sineya. Sineya is a monster. Buffy is a complete person.

    What Marlow learns is that the darkness of the inner Congo is everywhere and that there really is no light of civilisation, because the civilised are just as barbarous, if not more, than the uncivilised.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •