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Is the Slayer's 'death wish' depression?

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  • Is the Slayer's 'death wish' depression?

    I was rewatching Fool for Love and had a thought about the possible meaning of the Slayer's death wish theory that Spike proposes in this episode.

    Before Buffy, historically Slayers had no ties to the world. Removed from friends and family, Slayers had to devote their whole existence to the cause. I would imagine this would have immense consequences on mental health.

    So is the Slayer's death wish due to the depression that their existence could induce?

    Fool for Love could also be seen as foreshadowing for season 6.

    Buffy loses those ties to family and friends in this season, bringing on a state which could be interpreted as depressive. This is a season where Buffy wishes for death until the very end.

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited by Yosso; 26-12-16, 05:34 PM.

  • #2
    It's, like...slayer's life is brutal. Every night you hunt, risk your life, get hurt. No family, no friends, no lovers. Day after day, it just never stops. Meanwhile, you know that afterlife is a fact because, I mean, there are vampires and souls and all that shit. So death is less of an unknown, you know I mean? The life you live wears you down and at some point you have enough, decide that afterlife just can't be worse. Is it like depression? I don't know - you can stop being depressed ( overcome it, learn to manage it etc ) but you can't stop being the slayer. You can try to walk away from it but instincts/fate/magical whatever will pull you back.

    On the other hand, however, it's possible that slayers don't truly have a death wish and the entire idea is just Spike's over-romanticized responsibility-deflecting bullshit. Yeah, I killed those slayers b-but they had a death wish! Bints wanted it, I did them a favor! Barf.
    Last edited by a thing of evil; 27-12-16, 05:32 PM.

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    • #3
      The "Slayer's 'death wish'" is, before it is anything else, one bystander's unqualified attribution. Just want to point out that one has fo first make the choice to lend credence to that before even bothering to drill down into it. I don't agree with the premise, personally. I don't think Slayers consciously or unconsciously want to die, out of misery or curiousity about the nature of mortality or otherwise. Not moreso than the very small baserate of people, at least. Indeed, I think they would probably tend to cling to it more desperately than other people since it is so much more at issue for them.

      Like visitors to a tropical paradise appreciate it more than those for whom it is an everyday presence, a Slayer, who is in so much daily danger they rarely last much past the age of majority prior to Buffy and her/Willow's paradigm shift, is more likely to savor the "just being alive" of it. I think that tracks closer to Buffy's observed behavior in the whole run up until that conversation anyway, her near lust to "do" everyday life no matter how often it got mangled on her. It seems part and parcel, also, in her lamentations during "Once More, With Feeling"; the pieces inside her she senses are missing from her ordeal are the bits that enjoy and appreciate everyday life, that crave it like she did.

      I would also point out that relying on the short careers and abrupt end of so many Slayers as per se evidence of this theory kind of throws a bit of shade at Buffy's own success and prowess in surviving as long as she had. Either other Slayers would tacitly not have been "trying", or Buffy would be bad at deathwishing. I don't think Spike was providing voice of the author, think he was saying what suited his own world view but was off the mark.
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      • #4
        But it actually came true. And Buffy said to Willow in "The Weight of the World" that for a moment, she wanted out. Maybe Spike is referring to a moment that comes to every Slayer: a moment where they want out or maybe desist what they're doing.

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        • #5
          As I recall, Buffy's confessed moment of weakness was that she wanted Glory to succeed, i.e. capture and destroy Dawn, make her escape, and that Buffy would mourn her and feel bad but otherwise go on.
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          • #6
            Also, she told Giles in the "Gift" that if Dawn dies, she is done being the Slayer. So yes, I guess, in some ways, it has to do with a sort of depression. Maybe losing all of her human ties to the world, it's just too much to handle, besides the whole saving the world.

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            • #7
              Interesting opinions here.

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              • #8
                The Slayer "death wish" is just Spike talking out of turn and way out of lane.
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                • #9
                  I think there must be some sense of fatality about it. Once you know that death will come early and probably be violent and you may be reduced to a demon's food source . . . well that would make a lot of people feel pretty depressed. I can imagine, fight after fight, that you may just want it over with. Not sure I'd call it a 'death wish' or depression, but living that sort of life, knowing what could become of you, it is bound to have an effect on your psyche.

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                  • #10
                    I can see that losing her connections would make it harder to fight. For Buffy at least, but not necessarily all slayers. This kind of links to the thread about the pros/cons of slayers being trained by the Council away from their families and I think it could work better for some than others. Losing Dawn after losing Joyce (if Buffy had lost Dawn too at the end of S5), would have made it a lot harder for Buffy to fight because her connections matter to her. But that aside, it must be tough to live facing the threat of your death nightly and the pressure of the weight of the world going with the need to continue to do so. So I can understand that there could be an appeal to it all stopping. That some days, days when you aren't as mentally tough and possibly are also physically tired, are ones that having the release of death might have a depressive appeal to it.

                    Buffy did remark when she was resurrected and struggling with returning that she had been happy, at peace, that she was finished. So I do think the life is draining and the contrast of having been at rest and being pulled back into such a violent and hard existence indicates that there could be a subconscious truth in what Spike says. Even if the actual specifics as he presents it aren't spot on. Generally though, I think Buffy is a resilient character and she would naturally fall to continuing to fight and looking for what she was fighting for rather than giving in to wanting it all to end. That she faces this in her depression in S6 supports that for me, even if the release it offers does ever briefly flit through her mind.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                      The Slayer "death wish" is just Spike talking out of turn and way out of lane.
                      Nail meets head. It's made clear in the episode Spike doesn't know what he's talking about.

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                      • bespangeled
                        bespangeled commented
                        Editing a comment
                        How is it made clear?

                    • #12
                      For me in this instance Spike was partially right. I mean to say Buffy want through Hell during this season is an understatement, so by the end I think part of her wanted 'release' from it all.

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                      • #13
                        I think Spike had an insight into slayers simply from being a predator. He had no real humanity at this point, so it wasn't a matter of sympathy. But any predator has to have a very good idea of what will bring down their prey. There are plenty of ways to gather information and see patterns. Spike said he was obsessed, and given the way he is with an obsession I doubt we saw his only interactions with slayers in general.

                        Slayers have to deal with constant stress, and we see that Buffy ages far beyond her years as the show goes on. It's not all that unusual in that situation to sometimes think you wish it would stop, wish it would be all over and done. I've always seen Buffy jumping as her gift to the world and to Dawn, but also away to escape a life that she no longer wants to live. It's not so much wanting to die as no longer wanting to live.

                        BUFFY: I loved him so much. But I knew ... what was right. I don't have that any more. I don't understand. I don't know how to live in this world if these are the choices. If everything just gets stripped away. I don't see the point. I just wish that... (tearfully) I just wish my mom was here.
                        Can we agree that the writers made everyone do and say everything with a thought to getting good ratings and being renewed. This includes everything we love as well as everything we hate.

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                        • #14
                          Originally posted by bespangeled View Post
                          How is it made clear?
                          Because he's completely wrong about the other slayers not having ties to the world. Though he can't understand it because he "doesn't speak Chinese" when Xin comments about her mother and he never speaks to Nicki at all. He's completely off the mark about Cecily and his attempts to woo Buffy by flaunting his past leave him sitting on the street. Even Spike admits in the end she doesn't have one, but she won't need one.

                          Spike is right about some things, but wrong just as much, if not more often. Not just about slayers, but most human interactions. He's just talking about himself.

                          BUFFY: I loved him so much. But I knew ... what was right. I don't have that any more. I don't understand. I don't know how to live in this world if these are the choices. If everything just gets stripped away. I don't see the point. I just wish that... (tearfully) I just wish my mom was here.


                          The rest of the scene makes it clear she has no intention of dying.

                          BUFFY: The spirit guide told me that death is my gift. Guess that means a Slayer really is just a killer after all.
                          GILES: I think you’re wrong about that.
                          BUFFY: It doesn’t matter. If Dawn dies, I’m done with it. I’m quitting.

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                          • #15
                            I think as usual Spike's statement is a mix of projection and truth, but I don't see anything that contradicts his statement. The show skirts around the subject most of the time because otherwise it would be just too dark and depressing (more than it already is, I mean). Imagine being given powers at an incredibly young age and being more or less forced to use them to kill all sorts of dangerous creature at night, knowing that one misstep will lead to a likely painful death. Most people would want an out at one point or another, if only due to accumulated trauma and stress. The chinese slayer having a mom, or Nikki having a son, does not preclude that at all : a lot of suicidal people have families that they feel guilty/sorry about leaving. But sometimes it's just too much. I think this was definitely Buffy's case by the end of S5, though it doesn't mean that her act wasn't incredibly heroic as well.
                            Originally posted by HardlyThere View Post

                            The rest of the scene makes it clear she has no intention of dying.

                            BUFFY: The spirit guide told me that death is my gift. Guess that means a Slayer really is just a killer after all.
                            GILES: I think you’re wrong about that.
                            BUFFY: It doesn’t matter. If Dawn dies, I’m done with it. I’m quitting.
                            Suicide often works by impulse rather than planification. I don't think Buffy was always intent on dying, but at that particular moment on the tower, she felt it was the right way, and felt the relief that she would feel if she ended it.
                            What a challenge, honesty
                            What a struggle to learn to speak
                            Who would've thought that pretending was easier

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                            • #16
                              I agree that Buffy had a death wish by the end of S5 and pretty much throughout S6, but what Spike seems to imply is that all Slayers have a death wish lingering under the surface all the time, and I don't think that's the case. I don't think the reason he won from Xin Rong and Nikki Wood is that they had a death wish; he was just lucky.
                              https://www.youtube.com/c/DoubleDutchess

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                              • #17
                                Personally I think If you live the life of a Slayer with all the stress and horror that entails, well then suicide is going to cross your mind eventually. I mean to scale it down you only have to look at the real world and stressful jobs to see various high suicide rates that comes with them.

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                                • #18
                                  Originally posted by Cheese Slices View Post
                                  I think as usual Spike's statement is a mix of projection and truth, but I don't see anything that contradicts his statement. The show skirts around the subject most of the time because otherwise it would be just too dark and depressing (more than it already is, I mean). Imagine being given powers at an incredibly young age and being more or less forced to use them to kill all sorts of dangerous creature at night, knowing that one misstep will lead to a likely painful death. Most people would want an out at one point or another, if only due to accumulated trauma and stress. The chinese slayer having a mom, or Nikki having a son, does not preclude that at all : a lot of suicidal people have families that they feel guilty/sorry about leaving. But sometimes it's just too much. I think this was definitely Buffy's case by the end of S5, though it doesn't mean that her act wasn't incredibly heroic as well.
                                  As usual. You say that as if it's a given. Spike's statement is that they off themselves because they have no ties. Proven wrong. They both most definitely did have ties. Everything else is only a rationalization of what you already believe. There is nothing in the show to back it up. Much like Spike's claims later to Wood that he 'knows slayers' and that Nikki didn't love her son, he's only trotting out his own issues in an attempt to lure Buffy to him. He does the same in S6 with his darkness crap. If Spike never takes his shot at pop psychology, the thought would never enter anyone's head.


                                  Suicide often works by impulse rather than planification. I don't think Buffy was always intent on dying, but at that particular moment on the tower, she felt it was the right way, and felt the relief that she would feel if she ended it.
                                  So the other times she went into something believing she'd die, that was a suicide as well? Buffy found a way to save her sister. She opted to jump in front of a bullet. If the crowbar Glory flings at Dawn hits Buffy in the heart instead of the shoulder, would it be a suicide? Had there been a way off that tower with both alive, they both would have come down. If you had a choice between you or your daughter or sister, would you fling them off the tower or jump yourself? Most people would take the bullet for their loved ones. It's not 'suicide', it's a sacrifice. I have to say it's rather ironic this old post gets bumped after not too long ago people were bashing Ben about why he didn't off himself and how selfish it was.

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                                  • #19
                                    Originally posted by HardlyThere View Post

                                    As usual. You say that as if it's a given. Spike's statement is that they off themselves because they have no ties. Proven wrong. They both most definitely did have ties. Everything else is only a rationalization of what you already believe. There is nothing in the show to back it up. Much like Spike's claims later to Wood that he 'knows slayers' and that Nikki didn't love her son, he's only trotting out his own issues in an attempt to lure Buffy to him. He does the same in S6 with his darkness crap. If Spike never takes his shot at pop psychology, the thought would never enter anyone's head.
                                    .
                                    No, it just happens to be my opinion, and since most people don't bother to always type "imo" or "I think", I thought that for once I could spare myself the extra finger cramping. But apparently no
                                    Here's the thing : we know that they had some ties to the world (although I'll add to this later) ; Spike, as far as I can tell, doesn't. He doesn't understand what the Chinese slayer says. He doesn't know that Nikki has a son. So he is telling the truth in the sense that he believes what he says. What he is saying may be wrong, but it doesn't mean he is lying. Personally I see nothing in the performance or the text that indicates that he deliberately manipulating Buffy. Puffing himself up ? Sure. Trying to provoke a reaction ? You bet. But I think he means what he is saying.

                                    As for whether it is the truth (tm) or not : again, we don't have enough info to know how strong or impactful those ties were to them. Some people have ties to the world, but it doesn't always help. Maybe the chinese slayer only had her mom left, but hadn't seen her in years. Maybe Nikki was crumbling under the pressure of being the slayer and a single mother. We don't know. But again, I think this gig would be enough to depress the hell out of the most well balanced person, so it wouldn't surprise me.

                                    Originally posted by HardlyThere View Post
                                    So the other times she went into something believing she'd die, that was a suicide as well? Buffy found a way to save her sister. She opted to jump in front of a bullet. If the crowbar Glory flings at Dawn hits Buffy in the heart instead of the shoulder, would it be a suicide? Had there been a way off that tower with both alive, they both would have come down. If you had a choice between you or your daughter or sister, would you fling them off the tower or jump yourself? Most people would take the bullet for their loved ones. It's not 'suicide', it's a sacrifice. I have to say it's rather ironic this old post gets bumped after not too long ago people were bashing Ben about why he didn't off himself and how selfish it was.
                                    I don't think you're understanding my point. What I'm saying is that yes she absolutely did this to save her sister, and it was absolutely a sacrifice. However, I think part of her welcomed it. She was at a point where dying didn't seem like such a bad option. It felt right, at that particular moment, and this feeling partly came from what she'd been through all season. She was not at that point in Blood Ties, and of course had she found a way to save both Dawn and herself, she would've taken it. But by the time the Gift rolls up, she is just too goddamn tired, and I do believe that it made it "easier" (for lack of a better word) for her to make her decision.
                                    There are clues in the text and the performance that signal that part of her decision is motivated by wanting to feel the relief that it would bring her. Notably her expressions when she is going through the mystical energy seem to harken back to the ""that final gasp, that look of peace" part of Spike's speech.

                                    Again, not saying that Buffy wouldn't have done that anyway, or that she was just looking for a way out above all else. Just that sacrificing herself happened to be the right thing to do, and that she was okay with it A) because she's a hero but also B) because part of her wanted to rest. It felt right, she felt "finished". Of course she's wrong about that, but that's a topic for s6.
                                    What a challenge, honesty
                                    What a struggle to learn to speak
                                    Who would've thought that pretending was easier

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                                    • #20


                                      Because he's completely wrong about the other slayers not having ties to the world. Though he can't understand it because he "doesn't speak Chinese" when Xin comments about her mother and he never speaks to Nicki at all. He's completely off the mark about Cecily and his attempts to woo Buffy by flaunting his past leave him sitting on the street. Even Spike admits in the end she doesn't have one, but she won't need one.
                                      Of course Spike is not absolutely correct, but then no one in the show is ever absolutely correct. What he is talking abut is his personal experience with slayers, and that's what Buffy wanted him to do. She wants his insights, and a lot of them are spot on. Buffy did get over confident, and she got hurt.

                                      Buffy is the first slayer with friends who work with her, and that is what Spike is pointing out. Throughout the series this is seen as one of her defining differences, and something that keeps her alive. She has more connections than the normal slayer. It's not exactly rocket science for Spike to point out an ongoing and critical thread in the series.

                                      We have no idea what connections Xin Rong had, whether she ever even saw her mother. We don't know if she was taken from her parents, like Kendra, and raised by a watcher. In Chinese culture parents and ancestors matter in a different way than they do in contemporary American culture, so her apology to her mother didn't really indicate any closeness.

                                      Nikki did leave slaying for Robin. Her watcher hid her from the council. As I understand it she returned to slaying even though she had a child because she felt a duty to continue. She flat out tells Robin that she loves him BUT the mission is what matters. Given the choice she had to make between her ties to the world and her son, she chose the mission. The pain of making that choice, of pushing away her most important tie to the world, had to be devastating.

                                      Buffy never had to make that choice. She works with her ties to the world, rather than choosing between them and her mission as the slayer. Her ties to the world ground her, and help her stay stable. But as her life changes so that she's left with responsibilities where she once had comfort, she does tell Giles that she is ready to give up.

                                      As for Cecily, not sure why you threw her in the mix.


                                      Spike is right about some things, but wrong just as much, if not more often. Not just about slayers, but most human interactions. He's just talking about himself.
                                      Spike doesn't speak any absolute truth, he just tells Buffy what he believes he knows about slayers because she asked him to, because she is paying him, and because he feels she needs to hear it. He's not wrong, even if he's not completely right. A death wish is not the same as a plan to commit suicide. It's not even a conscious thought. It's just a need to let go of the burden - I don't know how to live in this world if these are the choices. If everything just gets stripped away. I don't see the point.

                                      [/I]
                                      The rest of the scene makes it clear she has no intention of dying.

                                      BUFFY: The spirit guide told me that death is my gift. Guess that means a Slayer really is just a killer after all.
                                      GILES: I think you’re wrong about that.
                                      BUFFY: It doesn’t matter. If Dawn dies, I’m done with it. I’m quitting.
                                      Agreed, she has no conscious plan to die before she is presented with the choice between losing one more tie to the world, or jumping. Her sacrifice saved the world, and it saved Dawn. None of that contradicts the idea of having a death wish.

                                      Addendum: I'd say it is not depression. Depression leaves you unable to cope, to make complex plans like the one to defeat Glory. It leaves you unable to fight, like Xin Rong and Nikki did. Depression is what Buffy suffered when she was torn out of heaven by her friends. She drifts through life not caring about the people she once cared about, and seeking sensation to blot out the pain.
                                      Last edited by bespangeled; 18-04-21, 12:33 AM.
                                      Can we agree that the writers made everyone do and say everything with a thought to getting good ratings and being renewed. This includes everything we love as well as everything we hate.

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