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Instances of "Scavonian Dissonance" in the show

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  • Instances of "Scavonian Dissonance" in the show

    I'm borrowing the term "Scavonian Dissonance" from Still Pretty's Lani Diane Rich : it's basically named after the character of Tom Scavo from Desperate Housewives, who is constantly presented by the writers as an amazing husband and father but actually does not behave as such.
    The notion of dissonance between the writers' intent (either confirmed or inferred) and the final product often comes up in various discussions, and as I find the subject (inc. the creative process, the death of the author theory, etc..) quite fascinating, I wanted to ask you if you ever felt this dissonance while watching the show, and if yes in which storyline/scene/character...
    Of course, with the usual caveat of the whole thing being (at the very least) subjective on a number of level, and for both the viewer and the writer/creative person (it could also include actors or directors).
    What a challenge, honesty
    What a struggle to learn to speak
    Who would've thought that pretending was easier

  • #2
    Well the first thing that springs to mind is Xander, but that may be the difference between what was expected from young men in the 90's and what we expect today All the women on the show just seem to accept his sexism and the way he talks to his girlfriends. The way he belittles Anya is annoying, but at least Halfrek does question how good he actually is for Anya.

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    • #3
      Great topic! What comes to mind for me is probably As You Were (the whole episode.) I've actually grown to see its positives over time—there was a time I just disliked the entire episode. But I actually quite like Sam in it, and there are other things I've come to really appreciate about it, besides the last scene.

      But from a Buffyverse standpoint, I feel like there couldn't be a stranger recipe for trying to get viewers to see a character in a positive light. (I'm talking about Riley and Doug Petrie's writing of him there.)

      The intention, and the reaction it provokes, are completely at odds for me (at specific points.) If anything, I can see how the writing there might actually induce dislike for a character, whilst supposedly trying to do that character a service.

      And yet, there are two ways of seeing it. I saw one reactor respond to this episode with total appreciation, he loved it and loved Riley's depiction in it. I've also seen other reactors hate it. So it's clearly polarising.

      Comment


      • Priceless
        Priceless commented
        Editing a comment
        Very much agree with this.

      • redtent
        redtent commented
        Editing a comment
        Completely agree. Riley and AYW is a great example of this term.

    • #4
      At least IMO, definitely Riley. But I think SpuffyGlitz raises a good argument that any specific viewer doesn't really hold the authority over what is and isn't effective writing (which the term 'Scavonian Dissonance' is just a propped-up way of saying).
      Last edited by HardlyThere; 10-04-21, 02:27 AM.

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      • #5
        Very much the same again. I have come to appreciate Riley as a character overall, but I do feel the writing shows us issues with him and then seems to steadfastly dismiss them in quite a strange way. It's somewhat jarring for me with Into the Woods and As You Were (the latter especially). But if I view it from Buffy's perspective and how she feels, then it makes it easier to see the dissonance make more sense.

        Comment


        • #6
          I suppose the spell activating the Potentials in Chosen could also be seen an example of Scavonian dissonance. It was meant as a jubilant gesture of empowerment, but many people saw it as a violation of the Potentials (the ones not with Buffy, who did not consent to it) that was no better than what the Shadowmen did to the First Slayer.
          https://www.youtube.com/c/DoubleDutchess

          Comment


          • #7
            If you believe that Buffy felt she was asking the Potentials, that they all had gathered in Sunnydale as she was told was happening, then it isn't intended as a violation but a choice being offered. Then they went global with the images of potentials everywhere becoming slayers and Willow feeling them and the scope of the decision they made with the empowerment spell was unfortunately somewhat muddied.

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            • #8
              I wouldn't call it an example of dissonance, just an example of a particular person selectively embracing the text.

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by Cheese Slices View Post
                I'm borrowing the term "Scavonian Dissonance" from Still Pretty's Lani Diane Rich : it's basically named after the character of Tom Scavo from Desperate Housewives, who is constantly presented by the writers as an amazing husband and father but actually does not behave as such.
                The notion of dissonance between the writers' intent (either confirmed or inferred) and the final product often comes up in various discussions, and as I find the subject (inc. the creative process, the death of the author theory, etc..) quite fascinating, I wanted to ask you if you ever felt this dissonance while watching the show, and if yes in which storyline/scene/character...
                Of course, with the usual caveat of the whole thing being (at the very least) subjective on a number of level, and for both the viewer and the writer/creative person (it could also include actors or directors).
                Riley is the obvious one here. When the creator of the show says the fans rejected the character because they didn't want the lead character to be happy, you know there is some dissonance

                Comment


                • #10
                  Riley definitely had issues right from the start but they weren't worse than any other character's issues. So, yes I agree about Riley being an obvious example of a Scavonian dissonance but only when it comes to As You Were. He basically was a sleazy douchebag in that episode - which is something he had never been before - but the audience was supposed to view him as a white knight in shiny armor.

                  flow

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                  • #11
                    I think the nature of the trope is not that the character doesn't have issues, but that the writers don't seem to acknowledge or be aware of them.

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      Another dissonance is in Chosen when you have a speech from Buffy about giving a choice then a montage of a bunch of girls (one looks like she's 12) who don't get a choice. Only 7 episodes ago this had been a rape metaphor and now because Buffy is doing it, its empowerment
                      This never sat right with me

                      Spike on Ats S5 was made deliberately more crude and more selfish to make Angel look more nobel by comparison. His forcing himself on Harmony because Joss says he's a guy, he needs sex, thats such a Bull reason. Then later his description of his relationship with Buffy "All those times I was putting it to her"

                      Comment


                      • Stoney
                        Stoney commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Spike never respected Harm, that it's true souled too isn't unbelievable (+ he didn't force himself on her). His crude referencing of Buffy makes sense for not being open to Angel as we're seeing he was about Dru.

                    • #13
                      Stoney He immediately tries to kiss her, she pushes him off, he tries again and grabs her arm and drags her away telling Angel, he needs to borrow his Gal Friday and that he literally says he's not asking permission. Harmony eventually pushes him off, yelling oh my God. He then tells her that's a pretty skirt she's wearing and that makes her decide to go with him (its then played for a laugh at this point but still)
                      BUT until that moment he was literally forcing himself on her and saw her as Angels possession. Its a very problematic scene.

                      Comment


                      • #14
                        I don't think Spike's treatment of Harmony or his crude words about Buffy in AtS S5 are examples of Scavonian dissonance, because we were not expected to see them as positive things.
                        https://www.youtube.com/c/DoubleDutchess

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                        • #15
                          He's typically crass/cruel with Harmony in a way that isn't positive behaviour and the way he treats her reflects badly on him for sure. She pushes him away when he's really presumptuously grabbing her and treating her like a possession as you say, but then she fairly readily changes her mind. It's unpleasant and his initial approach is definitely problematic, but I don't think overall describing it as forcing himself on her reflects the complete scene. She rejects him and then decides she's interested and chooses to go with him. I will reconsider it and what you've said when I next see it though. But like DD, I don't think it fits the OP though in that I think we are supposed to see faults in Spike in AtS. And using Harmony is consistent characterisation in fact. It is just surprising perhaps that he continued to be like that once souled. But then we saw William willingly judging/dismissing others as vulgarians at the party. You can certainly see that as responsive to being bullied. But it could also be a tendency to judgemental and critical of others he sees as 'less' than himself.

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                          • #16
                            First off, great responses all around ! I'd say that Riley is indeed the poster child for this particular phenomenon,

                            Re. Spike in ATS S5, I'd say it's an example of the writers pushing very clearly a certain narrative in a very jarring way (imo), but it's not exactly "scavonian dissonance", because the sentiment they elicit from the viewers is the intended sentiment; only a lot of viewers simply don't buy it or care for it. I'd say there's a dissonance, but not the one I was gunning for originally. Still, I'm always interested in discussing (read: ranting about) Spike's (and other btvs characters) ATS characterization, so if anyone wants to open a thread, I'm here for it.

                            Anyway, I've been thinking of a few, and I'd like to have your opinion :
                            • Xander : is kind of a tough one, because I think you have to take into account that some of things that feel dissonant now didn't necessarily at the time (though this can be said for any character/scene). However, I think Xander benefits often from the fact that the writers consider him to be inherently good, and therefore puts in less effort into redeeming his bad actions because they sort of expect the audience to shrug them off since he is after all one of the good guys. So you get OMWF, where he causes the death of at least one person which is promptly dismissed by a no homo joke (ngl I laugh at that line), you get BB&B where his retribution for attempting to mind control Cordelia is...Cordelia swooning and taking him back and you get The Pack, where he attempts to rape Buffy but never has to deal with the consequences or the effect it might have had on Buffy (regardless of whether he was reponsible or not). And that's without mentioning Becoming pt 2 (it's brought up in Selfless without being dealt with at all), or the numerous mean or entitled comments he's made about Buffy, Cordelia, etc.. over the years without ever having someone tell him off for them. I'm always afraid of coming down too harshly on him (even though I quite like him), but I don't think I'm off base by saying that he very often gets away with it and is not framed as being in the wrong or deserving some kind of consequence for his actions.
                            • Angel in Halloween : clearly we're meant to be swooning at his telling Buffy she is "not like other girls" and his gross dismissal of the noblewomen of his time as "simpering morons", instead of thinking : "God, what an ass !"
                            • Ben : I think we're supposed to see him in a much more sympathetic light. In particular, the fact that he summoned a demon to kill any mentally ill person (it does not discriminate between Glory's victims and regular mental patients, not that it would make it any less messed up) and nothing in the text points to how callous and ****ed up it is.
                            • I was going to make an argument about some of Buffy's scene in S6, notably the alley scene in Dead Things, where clearly the writer (basing this on an interview from Steven S Deknight) were clear on what the scene was about (Buffy projecting her self-loathing onto Spike), but not so clear on the implications; i.e. she still projects her self-loathing onto his face, repeatedly, all the while having an affair with him : at this point, Spike has become a character, a "person" in many fans' eyes, and they argued that you would never see Buffy do that to one of the other characters, let alone without having some kind of follow up (OAFA is kind of jarring in that respect -- they give Spike a shiner but the incident is completely brushed off). All that said, I feel like the show is not entirely disconnected from the implications of the scene while it is happening, and it certainly does eventually address it in general terms several times in S6 and esp in early S7.
                            What a challenge, honesty
                            What a struggle to learn to speak
                            Who would've thought that pretending was easier

                            Comment


                            • Stoney
                              Stoney commented
                              Editing a comment
                              I'd definitely say the Dead Things action is followed up by how Buffy feels about herself and what she's doing in S6, what the relationship is 'releasing' her to do. It's why being with him is killing her.

                          • #17
                            Xander:

                            I dunno. I watched the show very late - in 2017 - but I was already an adult when it aired. So, I was around in the late nineties, and early aughts. I definitely would have thought back then and still think today that Xander is actually a good guy. Okay, he has some lame jokes. Okay, he sometimes clearly oversteps some boundaries. But I feel his flaws are being way overblown nowadays. This is the guy who has thrown himself into the fight again and again and again with no superpowers at all. He isn't a superhero but he for sure is a hero.

                            He lied to Buffy in Becoming Part II because he was afraid Buffy might hold back in the fight against Angelus. That would not only have gotten her killed but also ended the world (including Xander). He had to make a split-second decision that involved him and the world just as it involved Buffy. I don't know if I'd have made the same decision but I can see his point.

                            Getting a pass for the spell in BB&B is not different from the many passes Willow gets for spells that have gone awry. Or for example the pass Jonathan gets for the Superstar spell. In The Pack I find Giles' behaviour much more problematic than Xander's because he more or less endorsed the lie.
                            OOWF is a tough nut. I give you that. I have a personal headcanon that tells me Xander summoned Sweet accidentally because he was still a demon magnet (and was cleaning the amulet, I think) and he only confessed to it in order to save Dawn. He actually (and falsely) thought Dawn summoned Sweet and didn't want her to have to marry Sweet. I know this is very far-fetched and I am not trying to sell it but it's may way of dealing with the fall-out of OOMWF.

                            Cordy has many mean quips directed at Xander (and also Buffy and Willow) but we don't see that as problematic. On the contrary. Cordelia is nowadays seen as a heroine who has been treated really badly by the writers.

                            flow






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                            • Double Dutchess
                              Double Dutchess commented
                              Editing a comment
                              Yeah, I also don't get the Xander hate that seems to be fashionable nowadays.

                            • Priceless
                              Priceless commented
                              Editing a comment
                              I don't hate Xander, but I'm not a fan either. A man can fight evil, be brave and put his life on the line at every turn, and still not be a man I'd want to be around. I prefer him in Season 7 and in the comics

                          • #18
                            Ben

                            I think Ben is a character the writers handled quite well, imho. Let's not forget, that Ben had something happen to him that wasn't his fault. An evil goddess was put into his body from the day of his birth.

                            I think in the beginning he was the sympathetic guy we saw. He trained to become a doctor. He was compassionate and kind towards Buffy and dawn when Joyce was treated at the hospital. He warned Dawn to get away when he morphed into Glory. But at some point, he realized that his own dreams were being taken away from him. That was a turning point. He could have turned into a hero - for example, he could have killed himself and thus made sure Glory was no longer a danger to the world. But when push comes to shove not every one of us becomes a hero. Some of us - most of us - become cowards and try to save our own lives. And that's what Ben did. At first by killing the mentally ill and later by betraying Dawn. But I think it's a realistic picture because it's far more likely for the sympathetic guy to take the easy way out than to sacrifice himself to save the world.

                            flow

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                            • #19
                              Originally posted by flow View Post
                              Xander:

                              I dunno. I watched the show very late - in 2017 - but I was already an adult when it aired. So, I was around in the late nineties, and early aughts. I definitely would have thought back then and still think today that Xander is actually a good guy. Okay, he has some lame jokes. Okay, he sometimes clearly oversteps some boundaries. But I feel his flaws are being way overblown nowadays. This is the guy who has thrown himself into the fight again and again and again with no superpowers at all. He isn't a superhero but he for sure is a hero.

                              He lied to Buffy in Becoming Part II because he was afraid Buffy might hold back in the fight against Angelus. That would not only have gotten her killed but also ended the world (including Xander). He had to make a split-second decision that involved him and the world just as it involved Buffy. I don't know if I'd have made the same decision but I can see his point.

                              Getting a pass for the spell in BB&B is not different from the many passes Willow gets for spells that have gone awry. Or for example the pass Jonathan gets for the Superstar spell. In The Pack I find Giles' behaviour much more problematic than Xander's because he more or less endorsed the lie.
                              OOWF is a tough nut. I give you that. I have a personal headcanon that tells me Xander summoned Sweet accidentally because he was still a demon magnet (and was cleaning the amulet, I think) and he only confessed to it in order to save Dawn. He actually (and falsely) thought Dawn summoned Sweet and didn't want her to have to marry Sweet. I know this is very far-fetched and I am not trying to sell it but it's may way of dealing with the fall-out of OOMWF.

                              Cordy has many mean quips directed at Xander (and also Buffy and Willow) but we don't see that as problematic. On the contrary. Cordelia is nowadays seen as a heroine who has been treated really badly by the writers.

                              flow
                              Much of the Xander dislike has always come from the perceived lack of consequences for anything he does. Even in BBB, he winds up getting Cordy back in the end and thanked for not taking advantage of the situation. The scenario isn't entirely different than the one discussed in the Happy Anniversary thread. He's not sorry for the intent of the spell, only the unforeseen consequences. The Lie, whether right or wrong, had long-lasting ramifications that were glossed over. It's down to him seemingly being the character used to try to force perspective from the writers.

                              I definitely have to agree about Cordy. One of the more grating things in fandom is how they tear apart Xander or Willow or Buffy for saying things that pale to things Cordy says, yet she gets stanned for it.

                              Comment


                              • #20
                                I've just come to like Xander more and understand him better through rewatching and discussing him here. I'm finding it interesting watching the reactors consideration of him as a character as I keep hearing about modern audiences lacking patience with the character. He does deserve criticism sometimes, as most characters do. But he's incredibly brave and does try to do what he can to help for the greater good. I'd agree that you can definitely see his lie in Becoming as focussing on the overall good and not wanting to distract Buffy from the fight in a way that could cost her life or risked the world. Even if there was a layer of jealousy woven in, it doesn't detract from the other points being valid considerations. And let's not forget it was an 'in the moment' decision. There were just a lot of factors at play.

                                Regarding Giles at the end of The Pack, I think it is worth bearing in mind flow that he wasn't in the library when Buffy arrived and said Xander had tried to assault her. I think it is understandable though, why Xander wants to move on from what he did/said when possessed by the hyena spirit as they weren't things he would have done if he was in control of himself. It feels very like the distinction of souled/unsouled to me.

                                I don't find Xander calling on Sweet in the belief it would be a harmless spell that would help to allay his fears over getting married impossible to believe. What is difficult for me, is believing he wouldn't come clean when he realised it was far from harmless and people were dying. I have to believe that he kept believing/hoping it was an unrelated problem or that (as I think American Aurora suggested in her review of OMWF) that the spell prevented him talking about it somehow.

                                Cordelia is outright cruel to Xander, Buffy and Willow at different points in S1-3. She is going through the process of becoming more socially aware though and if you carry through to AtS she definitely looks back on her high school attitude/persona with personal criticisms.

                                I have to agree with flow about Ben. I think he is sympathetic but in the end succumbs to fear and self preservation.

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