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Does the argument to not tell Joyce stand up to any real scrutiny?

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  • Does the argument to not tell Joyce stand up to any real scrutiny?

    In S2 we see Joyce finally pushed to face the truth about Buffy,

    Buffy: (steps closer) Open your eyes, Mom. What do you think has been going on for the past two years? The fights, the weird occurrences. How
    many times have you washed blood out of my clothing, and you still haven't figured it out? (Becoming pt 2)

    Joyce's response is understandably far from positive towards the suggestion her daughter is out fighting for her life every night. There is vehement denial and a heated disagreement, which of course plays its part in Buffy's brief absence to LA. But S2 is the season when Joyce is directly targeted in her home by Darla and it follows a season when she had an Incan mummy staying in her home. Isn't the risk to Joyce greater when she doesn't understand the truth that comes with Buffy's calling as the slayer than it is when she does?

    Of course, Joyce's initial wish to deny the truth can be seen to work alongside the later S6 revelation in Normal Again that Buffy had spoken to her parents about vampires when she was first called, leading to her brief time in an institution. But it doesn't seem like this specific reaction is the reason that Joyce is kept in the dark by the Council, and other families are approached about their children being trained. So, is there any real justification that isn't primarily about separating a slayer to keep them under greater control by The Council? Do you think Joyce or anyone closely connected to Buffy should be kept in the dark?

  • #2
    I hate that Joyce doesn't know. She is the person that loves Buffy the most, that cares about her, and she should be told. It makes me quite angry at Giles that he councils Buffy, in fact he virtually orders her, not to tell her mother. For her own safety, if nothing else, Joyce should be told.

    People say what a terrible parent Joyce is and how she didn't pick up on all the clues. Buffy even throws that in her face. Yet there are countless stories of people living double lives and those closest to them know nothing about it.

    I wonder if perhaps the more you love someone, the less likely it is that you will pick up on their secrets? It's like the love really does put rose tinted glasses on you and you just don't see what's right in front of you.

    Not sure that answers any your questions Stoney, or is even relevant to this thread


    • #3
      Originally posted by Priceless View Post
      Not sure that answers any your questions Stoney, or is even relevant to this thread
      It's all relevant to the point of any attempts to justify Joyce being kept in the dark, so I think it is.

      I think any argument that Joyce should have known is somewhat of a deflection. I understand why Buffy felt betrayed by her acceptance of signs her daughter was in trouble, but these things are often complicated with many factors/influences in the mix. Whether she should have picked up on it, been questioning Buffy more or if the denial of Buffy having told them earlier from the later reveal of the Normal Again history means she is partly responsible for not being involved, is almost a separate issue. That Buffy was told to keep her identity a secret and the Council didn't approach Joyce is the position of those of authority, influence and responsibility for Buffy as the slayer.

      It just seems to me that any attempt to justify not telling her is going to fall apart. The risk she is at as a potential target because of her connection to Buffy is surely greater than any disruption she might cause in finding out while you are having to deal with helping her come to terms with the reality of her daughter's situation?


      • #4
        Honestly, I think the main reason they didn't tell Joyce is because they felt she'd intervene and try and prevent Buffy from Slaying. Not many parents would be ok with their daughter patrolling early into the morning every night, wandering the streets alone, risking their life to battle the undead, and the understanding that as a result she'll likely die young. Would Joyce have let Buffy face The Master in Prophecy Girl if she'd known that she was going to her death? Would she have tried to intervene from Buffy slaying again in early S2 if she'd known Buffy had died? etc. We saw faint glimmers of this in S3 when Joyce pushed Buffy strongly to leave Sunnydale for college in Lovers Walk ("You belong in a good old-fashioned college with keg parties and boys. Not here with Hellmouths and vampires") and when she tried to compel Buffy to flee Sunnydale with her in Graduation Day I. The tension between Giles and his Watcher role and his fatherly love for Buffy is that he is actively sending Buffy out to risk her life and pretty much condemn her to an early death and Joyce would get in the way of that. That tension is laid bare in Prophecy Girl when Buffy screams at him for the role he plays ("Read me the signs! Tell me my fortune! You're so useful sitting here with all your books! You're really a lot of help!") and then blames him in her dream in WSWB ("I killed you once. It shouldn't be too hard for me to do it again").

        The original intention was also to keep Buffy's identity a secret from everyone. In Never Kill A Boy On The First Date Giles warns Buffy that if her identity is revealed it would "put everyone she loves in grave danger." As you say, they don't manage to achieve this with Angel initially complicating things (adding a "personal interest" to Darla gunning for her as The Master says and leading her to Buffy's house) and Buffy's life getting more intertwined with the slaying as the series progresses (Angel/us then becoming the enemy, Faith etc) but I do think they originally thought Joyce would be safer not knowing. To be fair, Buffy only had an Inca Mummy staying with her completely by chance and it wasn't because she was the Slayer.

        However, I completely get why Joyce is so angry at Giles in Anne. I think most parents would be livid to find out another adult has had a secret relationship with their child behind their back when he's regularly putting their life in danger and is actively instructing them to lie to you about it and keep secrets from them. And that's not even taking into consideration that I'm sure for at least a vey brief moment in time Joyce had to think about what exactly this relationship had entailed and whether it ever crossed terrible and unspeakable boundaries. I do think by mid-S2 Joyce was in greater danger not knowing (Angel coming after her in Passion) and that there was no reason to be keeping her in the dark other than 'that's what Slayers are meant to do' and 'she might become a problem and get in the way.' Buffy herself recognises that she's putting her mother at greater risk at this point by keeping her in the dark.

        I do love the moment in Becoming II where Buffy snaps at Joyce for "not figuring it out" despite actively working to keep it a secret from her. It's one of those emotionally raw moments in the series that feels so real and authentic to me in all the messy, contradictory ways human emotions actually are. Buffy tried to keep it a secret from her but deep down resents her for not being perceptive enough or, I suspect in Buffy's mind, not caring enough about what's going on with her to see through it. It's very much an allegory for 'coming out' and the way kids try and hide it from their parents but then resent their parents for not seeing who they really are. I also love Joyce's frustration and anger at continuously being lied to or the nagging feeling that she's routinely kept in the dark and shut out of her daughter's life ("No I am sick of 'I don't have time' or 'You wouldn't understand'! I am your mother and you will MAKE time to explain yourself!"). It's such a great scene.

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        • #5
          The more personal danger does increase the risk factor when everything happens with Angel and Joyce's is directly drawn into it. I appreciate Ampata was a chance occurrence, but when beasties gravitate to the hellmouth, the chance of chance occurrences occurring increases. We saw from the prophecy linking The Master and Buffy and with what happened between Faith and Kakistos that powerful demons targeting a slayer deliberately is always a risk. This perhaps doesn't put Joyce in direct danger most of the time, but she is always a potential pawn in getting to Buffy. This supports why the Council want a slayer to work alone and be more isolated. But as soon as they were accepting of Buffy staying with her family and going to school, her connections to others is then a potential risk to them and a potential weapon to use against Buffy. It is hard not to believe that Joyce is safer with the danger flagged to her.

          But the likelihood of the only impact of her knowing being an increase in her safety is small and is what brings focus on what is probably one of the biggest influences in not saying anything. I agree Mogs that it is the possible disruption of Joyce knowing which is a major factor from the Council's perspective. We see immediately that she is very understandably disturbed by hearing about it and is pressing for Buffy to stop. It is a recurring element and a difficult thing for Joyce to manage to become supportive of. I appreciate that the demon is plaguing her thoughts, but her turning up on patrol and the underlying wish to not have her daughter as a slayer is really underlined in Gingerbread. As is knowing leading to her putting herself in danger too of course.

          But as this is far from the first time that the Council has dealt with training a slayer and we hear from Kendra that she had a very different experience, they are obviously mixed in what they do when it comes to the parents. I think seeing the Normal Again revelation as having played a part in why the Council were more inclined to use Joyce and Hank's ongoing denial as a reason to keep a distance, backs up a belief that in Buffy's case her parents would get in the way of Buffy performing her duty.


          • #6
            I'm afraid I just can't take the Normal Again retcon seriously. It's so clearly not something that was intended when you watch S1-S3 and IMO it's a really careless piece of writing and possibly my least favourite retcon in either show's run. I know some people make sense of it by speculating that it was an altered memory from the Dawn/monk spell but then that bugs me too because it'd just mean that the character's histories really were significantly altered from S5 onwards and they're not the same people we watched in S1-S4. So I prefer to just chalk it up to Buffy being delirious and confused from the demon poison and not being able to separate the two realities. I really don't factor it into my analysis of the story or it's characters at all which is a big deal for me because it's possibly the only piece of "TV canon" I outright choose to dismiss.

            As for Joyce, I think had she been told in S1 she would have tried to put a stop to it. I think the only reason she comes to accept it in early S3 is because the sensitivity of the situation around her huge fight with Buffy in S3, Buffy running away, Joyce speaking with Giles and the Scoobies throughout the summer, and then wanting to tread delicately with Buffy upon her return. If things hadn't been so climatic as they were in Becoming II I do think she'd have put up a much greater fight to get Buffy to stop. I think she feels she has no other choice but to accept it in early S3 to keep the peace with Buffy.

            By S5 she seems to have compartmentalised Slaying in her mind as if it's a hobby or special interest of Buffy's. In S3 she agonises over Buffy having died ("Oh I hate this! I hate your life!") and likes the idea of Faith being around ("two of you fighting is safer then one, right?") whereas in S5 she actively encourages Buffy to resume slaying despite the risk to her life. She talks about it as if it's a special interest in Real Me ("I know you and Mr Giles have this whole new Slayer thing") and in Into the Woods she's pushing Buffy back into it ("Well what about slaying and your friends? I want you to have your life back"). I think Buffy has worked so hard to shield her from the harsh realities of her calling that Joyce is able to have convinced herself it's going to be fine. In Fool For Love she does hide her injury after all because it would "freak" Joyce out.

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            • #7
              I know what you mean about Normal Again and I used to be the same. But StateofSiege but a lot of really fascinating points forward in her review of the episode that had me see how the denial and shutting down of traumatic events can explain the avoidance of thinking about it. It did make me look at it in a different light and as, like you, I really don't like to dismiss elements of canon I've taken it on to help to be more comfortable with it. But I can understand disliking the retcon.

              In terms of Joyce's acceptance, I do agree that we would have seen her push to stop it more if it had come up in S1, but that could have just created a different climactic argument and split and break from Buffy which gave her time to reassess. I think that initial kick back was always inevitable, it just might not have coincided with something that caused the same time apart. Or at least not in the same way.

              Joyce's pained acceptance and framing of it in ways that make it easier to cope with is a great point and as a tactic to be able to deal with it, it does make sense. And actually is a more positive, but similar version of the total denial and avoidance that the Normal Again retcon reveals as a coping mechanism.


              • #8
                Yeah it's pretty stupid for Buffy to keep the truth from Joyce for so long cause it actually puts Joyce in danger. I think that the writers just really wanted to play up the whole secret identity thing and have Joyce get in the way of Buffy's slaying in the same way that Aunt May gets in the way of Peter Parker's crimefighting in the early Spider-Man comics.
                Last edited by Lostsoul666; 29-08-21, 07:55 PM.
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                • #9
                  I suppose it works well in a story about growing up to have that period where there is a wider gap of understanding between parent and child and to feed a child's tendency to hold back elements about themselves because they believe their parents won't understand. And it also side steps the inevitable part of the adults having grave concerns about what their child is doing and whether they can accept that it is going to continue whether they wanted it to or not when they are in life threatening situations in these stories. The child having done it for longer makes it more established before the parental acceptance is pressed. But I think doing so just delays an inevitable part of the story. Although, it is probably reflective of experiences and how a lot of children will initially handle pressures and a sense of something weighing on them their parents can't shoulder. The position from the writers perspective supports it well I think.

                  From the in story point of view though, it is harder to justify. Isolating the slayer only really works if you really isolate them and the Council seems inconsistent in what they do in that sense. But where a slayer isn't extracted from her family environment using those closest to the hero against them is always going to be a danger and presses the point that they probably should know.


                  • #10
                    I think it's utterly wrong to keep the truth from Joyce.

                    Yes, she might try to intervene with Buffy's slaying but to be quite fair, until Buffy turns eighteen she has every right to do so. Buffy is her daughter and she is a minor. Full stop.

                    If she says Buffy is not allowed to slay the Watcher's Council has to accept that. Of course, I would for the sake of the world prefer it if the Council tried to talk sense into Joyce and win her over for the good side. However, they don't even try. They take a shortcut and keep it a secret so they don't have to do the hard work and deal with consequences they might not like. For example, Joyce demanding health insurance for Buffy, a college fund, and a pension.

                    But keeping the whole slayer gig a secret was even worse when it comes to the impact it had on Buffy.

                    First of all, she had to lie to her parents, the persons she loved most in the world. It wasn't her idea and she did not like doing it. She explicable asked Giles if she could tell Joyce. Secondly, she had to secretly sneak out of the house. That's a betrayal of the trust of her parents. Thirdly, her parents sent her to an asylum when she let slip she had fought a vampire. This is something that could totally have been avoided if Joyce had been in the know. Her hospitalization traumatized Buffy and it sowed mistrust between her, Joyce, and Hank. Even if the asylum was nothing but a fake memory created by the monks they would not have created that particular memory had Joyce known about vampires.

                    Fourth - there are the bloodied clothes, the injuries, and getting kicked out of high school because Buffy burned down a gym. Joyce did not only have to find a new high school for Buffy, she had to move to a different town and find a new job for herself on top of it. Joyce would have understood the reasons for Buffy's behaviour so much better had she known Buffy was a vampire slayer. And Buffy would have felt so much more loved and accepted had Joyce not constantly demanded not to get disappointed again.

                    So, no the argument does not stand up to the tiniest bit of scrutiny and that's even before the apparent danger that comes with Joyce meeting not only Darla but also Angelus and (unchipped) Spike.


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                    • #11
                      It is an interesting element to bring in for consideration flow , the damage that it does to Buffy in not being able to have the support and understanding that she might get, as well as the issues it brought up between her and her parents and the traumatic experiences she went through.

                      Originally posted by flow View Post
                      I think it's utterly wrong to keep the truth from Joyce.

                      Yes, she might try to intervene with Buffy's slaying but to be quite fair, until Buffy turns eighteen she has every right to do so. Buffy is her daughter and she is a minor. Full stop.
                      I do agree about Joyce being told and it being greatly about avoiding the hard work of getting her on board. But I do also feel it isn't as simple as the normal parent/minor situation. There is a weight of responsibility on Buffy, a duty that she clearly feels strongly about. I don't think it is fair on her and I think it is even a good argument for why she should have all the additional emotional support she could get. But would a parent be able to offer that when their teenage child is being put in danger? I don't know that I would care about her destiny/duty if she was my daughter, not over keeping her safe, but the argument of the greater good and the world being at stake is possibly why the Council would argue they do what they do.


                      • #12
                        Not telling family is a great way to get them killed but it does simplify things for the council.

                        (1) family cannot object (or even sue or go to police about creepy men messing with their daughter)
                        (2) it drives a wedge between slayer and family because her behaviour becomes unexplainable, erratic and even violent.

                        This makes slayer easier to control and indoctrinate.

                        The family may not know who the slayer is but the demons usually figure it out fast. (AEB Darla and a parade of other demons at Buffy's house over the years)

                        If the family are killed or just taken hostage, this puts the slayer in a vulnerable (potentially dependent on council) position.

                        The only advantage of family not knowing is panic avoidance, but most people adjust to the inevitable - you only have to look to wars and things like the London blitz to see this. Joyce did panic and initially tried to see how Buffy could avoid her fate, but eventually she became an ally. And safer.
                        Last edited by DeepBlueJoy; 04-09-21, 04:25 PM.