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BtVS top ten: #7: "The Prom"

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  • BtVS top ten: #7: "The Prom"

    I don't see many people putting "The Prom" on their favorite lists. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone do it. I get why: The hellhounds are super basic (possibly because so much of the season's budget was earmarked for "Graduation Day, Part 2″), the narrative isn't high-concept or experimental, it doesn't introduce any new favorites, etc. It's workmanlike, not revolutionary? but it's quality work.

    The monster of the week is almost beside the point in this episode: Tucker is mad that he didn't get the date (Harmony, odd as that is) he wanted to the prom, so he unleashes hellhounds to attack the happy prom-goers. Buffy tracks him down and kills the hellhounds. Whatever. The show had already done mass school killings in "Earshot," and I don't think anyone watching really thinks that the writers would let Buffy get seriously hurt by some rando's demon dogs this close to the finale.

    We do, however, have a lot else to care about. "The Prom"'s job is basically to solidify all the relationship statuses that need to be in place for the finale. While that may make the A-story anticlimactic, the B,C, and D stories more than make up for it.




    Should Joyce have intervened in Buffy's love life? I'm of two minds on whether Joyce should've visited Angel to suggest that he rethink his and Buffy's relationship. On the one hand, Buffy is old enough to get married, without parental permission, in any state in America, and she's been saving Joyce's (and everyone else's) necks for years now. You can make a case that, whether or not what she says is true, it's not her place to say it. If Buffy were an ordinary girl, I'd say Joyce was out of line.

    On the other hand, Buffy isn't an ordinary girl. She hasn't even figured out all the ways in which the Slayer is different? something that has a profound effect on her personality. On top of that, she's still suffering from an endless series of traumas, including being thrown out of school, drained of blood and drowned until her heart stopped, and forced to send her lover to Hell. It's a little rich that Joyce is looking to protect her now, because I don't recall this sort of devotion when she tossed Buffy out of their home for trying to save the world and then punished Buffy for running away, but I can see why a mother would feel extra-protective under the circumstances. IMO, this is one of the two or three episodes that does the best job of presenting Joyce as a sympathetic, complicated character, someone who's out of her depth and making mistakes, but also genuinely trying to do the right thing for her daughter.




    "I believe you care for her. I'm just not sure you care enough." Joyce also gets the best line of the episode. It nails the Buffy/Angel problem, albeit in ways Joyce herself may not understand.

    The thing is, what I think he doesn't care enough to overcome isn't, deep down where it matters, infertility or sun intolerance or the even the curse. If Ethan Rayne can change all his clients' identities in a matter of minutes, and Giles can set them all right again by breaking a mask, and Willow can open a portal to an alternate universe to send a vampire home, then I've got to believe that someone, somewhere can patch over the clause in Angel's curse. (And give Buffy the scoop on vibrators in the meantime.)

    Headcanon time: What he doesn't (can't?) care enough to overcome is despair. In part, it may be driven by an underlying propensity to depression, but a lot of it comes from his conception of Good vs. Evil, in the capital-G, capital-E sense. It's no coincidence that Angelus preferred to go after pure and innocent victims like Drusilla, or that modern!Angel doesn't even think Buffy should have to touch his face when he's in vamp mode. Although a traditional Christian cosmology wouldn't hold up in the face of the things he's seen, he still perceives everyone through a prism which divides the good and sacred from the evil and unholy, with hardly any room for or acknowledgment of the merely profane. Angel, the experienced, part-demon vampire, puts himself in the category of evil/unholy; Buffy, young and "Called" to fight his kind, exists in opposition, and so is good/holy? a fact which renders their affair blasphemous. Whistler gave him hope that the sacred could redeem the unholy; the events of "Surprise" and "Innocence" destroyed that hope. Now, he's obsessed with his fear that only the reverse is possible, and that his contact with Buffy, the personification of anti-vampirism, will inevitably be destroyed, both physically and spiritually, by his demon.

    In short, his belief that he and Buffy aren't meant to be is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as he sees their relationship as inherently harmful to her, he can't commit; and as long as he can't commit, it will hurt her.




    "I had no idea that youth en masse could be so gracious." There are a lot of grace notes in this episode, but I don't find them out of character. I think that Sunnydale's denizens can sense that they're approaching the end of something, maybe everything, and they want to make the most out of the chances they've had for personal growth. The students that Buffy's saved manage to thank her for saving them, even as they shy away from saying what she saved them from. Giles puts away his own feelings about Angel to support Buffy, with the offer of ice cream and by pointing out Angel in the crowd. Xander pays for Cordelia's dress, and she even thanks him for it. Of course, she's still Cordelia, so she disguises her gratitude as acceptance of a compliment on her looks.




    Is anyone else relieved that we finally get an acknowledgment of the frequency of surveillance video? I was 12-13 in ?99, so I remember the cameras in the stores. I didn't even shop for clothes at the boutiques that the Sunnydale kids seem to visit. I got my clothes at Wal-Mart. THERE WERE CAMERAS ALL OVER THE CLOTHING AISLES. They creeped me the hell out and still do. They weren't yet common in schools, but were beginning to be discussed in the fallout of Columbine. Cameras were prominent in courthouses, hospitals, etc. (IIRC, the Mayor does see Buffy & Co. on video in one scene, although he doesn't appear to have any video of the gang's break-ins in since that could've quickly put an end to Buffy's plans to stop him.) The fact that it isn't a plot point in every single season suggests that the writers just didn't think it through (Doylist explanation) or that Sunnydale's officials deliberately destroy local business and government tapes on a regular basis (Watsonian explanation).




    DAT DRESS. It doesn't change my feelings that millions of kids (myself included) never get a prom at all, or that almost no kids could afford that dress. Buffy's always looking for little islands of perfection in a vast sea of trauma, and I want her to find them. She saves the day, fights the gross hellhounds, and changes into a sparkly, princess-worthy ball gown, and goes to look for that one happy moment, even when she thinks she'll be doing it alone. She doesn't know that there's an award for her, or that Angel will show up. This is Buffy being brave and saying that she's not going to give up on what she wants. And it just might be the best, Buffy-est look of all the looks she ever has.

  • #2
    Originally posted by ghoststar View Post
    The thing is, what I think he doesn't care enough to overcome isn't, deep down where it matters, infertility or sun intolerance or the even the curse. If Ethan Rayne can change all his clients' identities in a matter of minutes, and Giles can set them all right again by breaking a mask, and Willow can open a portal to an alternate universe to send a vampire home, then I've got to believe that someone, somewhere can patch over the clause in Angel's curse. (And give Buffy the scoop on vibrators in the meantime.)
    To get gross, I think Buffy takes care of herself (ahem) when she's dating Angel. However, I wonder what's the dominant fanwank on why S3 Angel never seemed to pleasure Buffy with his fingers and mouth even if he couldn't/shouldn't orgasm from sex with Buffy himself. Neither Buffy nor Angel were imaginative enough to bring it up? Angel offered but Buffy refused because she'd feel embarrassed and weird if all of their sexual interactions were about her pleasure alone? They considered it but they thought it was too dangerous to go down the slippery slope of sexual pleasure beyond making out?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Dipstick View Post
      To get gross, I think Buffy takes care of herself (ahem) when she's dating Angel. However, I wonder what's the dominant fanwank on why S3 Angel never seemed to pleasure Buffy with his fingers and mouth even if he couldn't/shouldn't orgasm from sex with Buffy himself. Neither Buffy nor Angel were imaginative enough to bring it up? Angel offered but Buffy refused because she'd feel embarrassed and weird if all of their sexual interactions were about her pleasure alone? They considered it but they thought it was too dangerous to go down the slippery slope of sexual pleasure beyond making out?
      I think it was the latter, that both Angel and Buffy felt it was a slippery slope and that in the middle of their enjoyment they wouldn't be able to stop Angel from going too far and getting too happy. They didn't know exactly where the line would be and didn't want to tempt fate, or that's my view.

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      • #4
        Dipstick
        However, I wonder what's the dominant fanwank on why S3 Angel never seemed to pleasure Buffy with his fingers and mouth even if he couldn't/shouldn't orgasm from sex with Buffy himself.
        I have no idea, what the dominant fanwank is, but my personal fanwank would be, that Angel`s happiness wasn`t caused by orgasm(s) but by intimacy. Sex can be intimate but doesn`t necessarily has to be. Angels has perfect non-happy sex with Eve, Nina and Darla.
        To get Buffy off with his fingers or his mouth could be just a technical affair. But it also could be a very intimate experience. They didn`t take the risk. Knowing the traumatic incidents that followed the last time they were intimate, it`s not that surprising. Maybe they would have developed a "modus operandi", had they had more time.

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        • #5
          I think all opinions are valid. For my part, though, I'd guess that Angel offered but Buffy rejected it because she'd feel too weird to enjoy it if she was the only one being sexually pleasured. I don't know if it's right or wrong but I feel like the popular conception was that Angel needed that O-moment to reach perfect happiness. That's why Buffy and Angel were dancing around other forms of intimacy like long make out sessions or sleep overs without any concern of whether a particularly beautiful cuddle and pillow talk session will break the curse.

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          • #6
            Dipstick
            the popular conception was that Angel needed that O-moment to reach perfect happiness.
            I think, that was, what Angel believed himself, until he had sex with Darla.

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            • #7
              Angel still believes it's the orgasm that's the issue when discussing a relationship with Nina in Smile Time. Wesley tells Angel that he's 'hiding behind a gypsy curse' and that 99.9% of humanity make do with 'acceptable happiness'. Their conversation is framed in a way that suggests that Angel simply doesn't want, or doesn't think he can have or handle, an emotionally mature relationship.

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              • #8
                I say there's two questions here. One, did Angel think that he could lose his soul with any woman? Two, provided that Angel is with a woman who can make him perfectly happy, does he need an orgasm to actually reach the moment of perfect happiness?

                I think Angel's feelings evolved on the first question. For starters, Angel really doesn't go for casual no-strings sex. That's not Angel's personality at all. Not to over pathologize but Angel is pretty much demi-sexual. Angel is only interested in sex when he has feelings or a potential for feelings. So, that's how Angel thought of the danger of losing his soul during sex. Obviously, he didn't have sex with Buffy because she was proven to able to make him perfectly happy. Angel's next real prospect where there were feelings on both sides was Rebecca Lowell. Angel stayed away because he really liked her to start. However in Guise Will be Guise, Angel defends himself that he's not a eunuch because "the curse isn't even all that clear." I think Angel suspects that maybe he could have some casual sex without feelings but it's a moot point because he won't go for that. As flow said, Angel fully expects to lose his soul when he slept with Darla but sex with Darla isn't casual, emotionless sex. Angel and Darla have a sick, twisted, eternal love between them. However, then, Angel finally had confirmation that great sex with like, his eternal soulmate wouldn't make perfect happiness so he'd probably be free to have low-emotion sex. It's just, again, Angel is basically demi-sexual and won't try out his ability to have sex without losing her soul with any alacrity.

                Angel's and Wesley's conversation in Smile Time is actually haunting because of the mindwipe. As far as I'm concerned, Angel already got confirmation in Epiphany that he could have sex without achieving perfect happiness. I would venture that I don't see how Angel could be perfectly happy after he just killed and gave up his son within the year and started working for Evil Inc. so he could have a fake son built. Angel is using the curse as an excuse for not having a decent relationship with Nina. Poor Wesley thinks he's offering insight here but he necessarily can't because the truth has been mindwiped out of him. I don't see why Angel having sex with Darla would have come out in Veil's alternate reality. Angel wasn't honest about having sex with Darla until Darla showed up pregnant. Wesley has no idea about Angel killing Connor and building a new Connor and that as the real reason why they're at W&H instead of Angel's party line of "We're changing the system from the inside." And not only is the mindwipe in place, Angel recently got visions from Cordelia that he'd need to kill every member of the Black Thorn and Angel has also made a choice to keep that information from his team. I don't know if Angel recognized it even by Smile Time as a potential suicide mission that he'd have to complete in short order, but he probably did and it's another reason why this isn't an honest conversation with Wesley by any means.

                So essentially, I don't even read Angel's conversation with Wesley about his real fears of losing curse. Angel isn't inclined to have a relationship with Nina because he's not into just an Average Joe non-epic relationship or because he expects that he'll die soon or whatever but I don't think it's really about the curse. The curse is a convenient excuse.

                Now for the second question- provided that Angel is with a woman who can make him perfectly happy, does he need an orgasm to actually reach the moment of perfect happiness? That's not as sure a question. I think Angel does proceed like a guy who think he can do Anything But with a Special Lady and keep his soul. He cuddles and makes out with Buffy and has sleepovers. He embraces starting a family with Cordelia as the mother-figure. He just shies away from orgasming. I think that's based in some reality. We truly see Angel lose his soul twice. In both cases, he needed the orgasm to actually lose his soul.
                Last edited by Dipstick; 09-12-18, 10:35 PM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ghoststar View Post
                  “I believe you care for her. I’m just not sure you care enough.” Joyce also gets the best line of the episode. It nails the Buffy/Angel problem, albeit in ways Joyce herself may not understand.
                  Sorry, I don't mean to nitpick but in this case I feel it's important as what Joyce actually says is;

                  JOYCE
                  I know you care about her. I just hope you care enough


                  I think that strikes a very different tone then "I'm just not sure you care enough." The actual line is far less confrontational and hopeful, even, that Angel will do the right thing. Had Joyce said what you said, I think that comes across with far more scrutiny, judgement and antagonism than the actual scene itself. I do think that the *actual* line still guilt-trips Angel majorly into breaking things off but "I'm just not sure you care enough" is way more confrontational and biting.

                  I... actually think Joyce did the right thing. Buffy may be 18 but she's still Joyce's daughter and it's a mother's *responsibility* to meet her teenage daughter's boyfriend and suss him out and Buffy/Angel escaped most of that for the majority of their relationship. Basically, I feel like Joyce is finally stepping up to the plate here. She has expressed concerns about Buffy/Angel on multiple occasions and it's only understandable that she'd feel uneasiness about the whole thing given her experience with Angelus in Season 2 even if Buffy has assured her that the curse has fixed that. I'd actually be more critical towards Joyce if I knew that she had this uneasiness about Buffy/Angel but she didn't voice her concerns more prominently because she's had no problems expressing her concerns about anything else (despite trying to march in the Slayer Pride Parade) and she's Buffy's mother. It's, like, her job.

                  I actually *really* respect Angel for taking Joyce's words to heart. I also respect him a lot for being polite and respectful towards Joyce instead of defensive or telling Buffy that Joyce had went to see him behind her back. I've seen a lot of fans criticise Angel because he didn't tell Buffy about Joyce (they feel what Joyce did was out of line and she should be 'exposed', basically) but I really relate to Angel respecting Joyce as Buffy's parent. I don't know, maybe it's just how I've been raised, but I've always had a lot of respect for my boyfriend/girlfriend's parents and I seriously side-eye and judge people who start a relationship with someone and then immediately encourage them to ignore their parents or criticise their parents etc. You should be working overtime to impress those parents and demonstrate what you're a positive influence on their daughter/son's life and you should have respect that you are involving yourself in their family and how much their kid means to them. Obviously there are exceptions if the parents are terrible people or abusive etc but if someone's parents approached me the way Joyce did it *would* really rattle me as well.

                  Sadly, Angel breaking up with Buffy would have actually been the most Joyce would've ever respected Angel. She asked him whether he "cared enough" and, in Joyce's eyes, Angel would've proved without a doubt that he did. It's sad that we never got another Joyce/Angel scene after this as I imagine Joyce would have thought pretty highly of Angel from that point on and it would be interesting to see their dynamic. My only real criticism of Prom (which I also adore! ) is that we never got to see Joyce's reaction to the Buffy/Angel breakup at all. I have no need for Buffy to find out that Joyce went to Angel but I'd have loved to see Joyce's reaction to, for instance, Buffy sobbing in Willow's lap. I imagine Joyce felt a lot of guilt throughout those days knowing how heartbroken her daughter was but also a steely resolve that she did the right thing for her. Given the significant role they had Joyce play in the Buffy/Angel breakup in this episode I feel it's a missed opportunity that we don't see Joyce again for the remainder of the episode.
                  Last edited by vampmogs; 09-12-18, 11:43 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dipstick View Post
                    To get gross, I think Buffy takes care of herself (ahem) when she's dating Angel. However, I wonder what's the dominant fanwank on why S3 Angel never seemed to pleasure Buffy with his fingers and mouth even if he couldn't/shouldn't orgasm from sex with Buffy himself. Neither Buffy nor Angel were imaginative enough to bring it up? Angel offered but Buffy refused because she'd feel embarrassed and weird if all of their sexual interactions were about her pleasure alone? They considered it but they thought it was too dangerous to go down the slippery slope of sexual pleasure beyond making out?
                    LOL! Why is masturbation considered gross? Babies do it! I didn't think his moment of true happiness was related to orgasm.

                    Ghoststar:

                    Headcanon time: What he doesn’t (can’t?) care enough to overcome is despair. In part, it may be driven by an underlying propensity to depression, but a lot of it comes from his conception of Good vs. Evil, in the capital-G, capital-E sense. It’s no coincidence that Angelus preferred to go after pure and innocent victims like Drusilla, or that modern!Angel doesn’t even think Buffy should have to touch his face when he’s in vamp mode. Although a traditional Christian cosmology wouldn’t hold up in the face of the things he’s seen, he still perceives everyone through a prism which divides the good and sacred from the evil and unholy, with hardly any room for or acknowledgment of the merely profane. Angel, the experienced, part-demon vampire, puts himself in the category of evil/unholy; Buffy, young and “Called” to fight his kind, exists in opposition, and so is good/holy– a fact which renders their affair blasphemous. Whistler gave him hope that the sacred could redeem the unholy; the events of “Surprise” and “Innocence” destroyed that hope. Now, he’s obsessed with his fear that only the reverse is possible, and that his contact with Buffy, the personification of anti-vampirism, will inevitably be destroyed, both physically and spiritually, by his demon.

                    In short, his belief that he and Buffy aren’t meant to be is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as he sees their relationship as inherently harmful to her, he can’t commit; and as long as he can’t commit, it will hurt her.
                    I agree with much of this. In fact, I'm not sure it's head-canon as such. I think it could be self-fulfilling. I thought A11 offered a possible explanation with Angel's recovered memories of his sister and father (issue 10 IIRC). You probably have to be clued into Freud to see it but it also explains the attraction for Angel of Illyria.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by TriBel View Post
                      LOL! Why is masturbation considered gross? Babies do it! I didn't think his moment of true happiness was related to orgasm.

                      Ghoststar:



                      I agree with much of this. In fact, I'm not sure it's head-canon as such. I think it could be self-fulfilling. I thought A11 offered a possible explanation with Angel's recovered memories of his sister and father (issue 10 IIRC). You probably have to be clued into Freud to see it but it also explains the attraction for Angel of Illyria.
                      I have literally never understood a single Freudian concept. I can kinda see Jung if I squint really hard, but that’s as far as my understanding of early psychology goes.

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