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  • ?I like my fantasy like I like my men?fantastic?: how do you like yours?

    This thread is inspired by something Michael said in another thread, here:


    https://www.buffyforums.net/sh...079#post250079

    He was talking about the nature of fantasy, and the extent to which it's grounded in reality. He was arguing (am I correct?) that the best fantasy is the stuff that's closest to the "everyday" (eg the grounding of the X-Files in a police procedural structure, involving all the bureaucracy of that).

    Michael said: I am interested in what I take to be your preference for the fantasy to have little connection with the real world. For me credibility is important. Having worked once in a bureaucratic police organization I enjoyed the bureaucratic realism of The X-Files. The H.G.Wells principle was to have one fantastic premise--and one only--be it a Martian invasion, a time machine, or an invisible man, and make everything else as logical and realistic as possible, including recognizable,everyday characters.

    Michael, hope you don't mind me starting this thread? I posted about you starting it in the other thread, but then I got bored? my legs started to cramp.

    In the context of Buffy, do you feel it's a show that merges the realistic and the fantastical? What about the shift when we move into the comics, where fantasy seems to get more free rein, and the setting involves them moving into a castle a la Dracula, rather than a suburban house on revello drive.

    Do you like the elements of Buffy that bring in the nitty gritty of real life ? eg social workers in season 6, or Faith going to jail (though that's more in Angel really?)? What about the contrasts between Buffy and Angel on this score?

    Do you think that the more fantastical ? ie the more involved in monsters and supernatural stuff, and less in the practical, everyday stuff ? aspects of Buffy are escapist? Or is there something different at play ? the "escape" is into a world that's even harder than ours?

    So, how do you like your fantasy?
    33


    -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

  • #2
    Good idea to put this into a seperate thread. Here's a bit more of the context:
    Originally posted by Michael
    My point is that the closer the fantasy sticks to the real world the better, because the friction, tension, and dramatic energy are all the greater. You can see this in the early seasons of BtVS especially in seasons 2 and 3 when Buffy was in trouble with the authorities, including the police.Remember the Finch affair. The popularity of these seasons, in my view, is precisely for this reason. The X-Files in its golden days had the same quality.
    Originally posted by Me
    Interesting observation. I may have to think about it some more, but for now I agree. I'm not sure, however, that I like the presence of the police because they are a tie to the real world. It's more about their narrative function - they introduce a general background threat in addition to the specific primary threat she was faced with, transforming Sunnydale into hostile territory for her. I think a supernatural way to achieve that effect would have been just as satisfying for me.
    Originally posted by Michael
    I am interested in what I take to be your preference for the fantasy to have little connection with the real world. For me credibility is important.
    Originally posted by Me
    I think that's overstating my opinion. I'm not saying that entirely fantastic settings are better suited than those firmly grounded in reality for engaging the reader ethically and exploring the human condition. I'm just saying that for me, they can be just as suited for it. "Credibility" is probably a really good term here, yes. Incredible premises don't bother me in the least.
    I very much enjoy reading Wells, but I honestly can't say that I find his characters, which for the most part are entirely human but belonging to a different era, easier to relate to than a wholly fantastic creature, as long as said creature gets the character development needed to provide them with the equivalent depth.

    Comment


    • #3
      I want a link to the normal world, and that link should be with the characters for the biggest part. I prefer the flawed, human characters more than the gods, the saints and the characters who are there for the laughs. I need to identify with the characters. Good character development and a realistic flaws/virtue combination makes a story a good story for me. The characters can be green/blue/orange and have a tail ... I don't care, but the character should act like a person.

      Other important point, good storytelling. Too much plotholes, deux ex machinas and writer fiats = evil.

      The world around the characters doesn't have to look like mine, it can be in space, in Narnia or in LA ... I love both, a fantasy story in a made up country and I love it when they are in the normal world. In the first case, I want it to be different from my world ... knights (hello prince Caspian!), pretty dresses, talking animals, fairies etc.

      But if they place it in the real world, in ths case the characters should find a way to live in that world without being noticed, to keep it realistic (who doesn't love Lorne's cap and glasses?). I love it when there is a world created in my world, a world with his/her won rules which don't fit in the normal law ... so there will be grey areas and dilemmas. I had no problem with Faith going to jail because she is human, was guilty of human crimes and it was important in the story. On the other side, Buffy's season 6 was in no way what I liked. Because her 'normal' life was not normal. I'm not waiting for a soap series with demons in it. If you want to keep it real, keep it real.
      What I don't want, is forcing my world to their world. You can't say that they should use human laws for magical crimes or to start nit picking about unrealistic things (okay Spike going on his motorcycle to Africa in less than two days was a bit much ...).
      Fantasy needs some fantasy sometimes.


      Hee, a poll;
      I haven't seen the X-files or Twin Peaks ... so there goes a good choice. But my decision was between Angel and Supernatural and I picked Angel because I like that one more. (So don't take my choice to serious in this poll)
      BtVS failed for me after season 3, the character development became less, the writers used more deux ex machinas than RTD and season 7 was one big plothole with some writerfiats and some pretty deux ex machinas. While the characters were devoped in a way that was in no way natural or realistic. And the best, they didn't learn a thing in the last two years (maybe Dawn and Xander, but I'm not sure ... they were not on my screen the most of the time).

      Angel had some very weak developments, Cordelia after Mexico comes to mind and the lack of Lorne development. But at least the main character grew up in a realistic way. Wesley had probably the best development in both shows and Spike finally grew up as well ... just like Gunn. If the characters made mistakes, they weren't glossed over and Angel's plan sucks sometimes ... and than we got HelLA. And if we want to hit Angel on his head with a heavy thing, the writers don't give us a lame story how right Angel is.

      I never saw much of SN, but from what I saw ... the storytelling was good and the characters were realistic.
      Nina
      and her haircut.
      Last edited by Nina; 25-07-08, 01:35 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        i completely disagree.

        the appeal of the early seasons of btvs was its connection to ancient literary and mythological archetypes that people still identify with. what those early seasons had was a very strong hook with a beauty and the beast story, plus many other story elements. that's not realism so much as escapist literary devices that people have had a strong attraction to for millennia.

        now, there are a lot of real life allegories at work within the jossverse. angel is a recovering alcoholic metaphor. you've got willow's magic crack and then there's innocence's 'day after' scene. jasmine is a marxist-communist utopian concept that, by it's very nature, needs to brainwash people to exist--and that means taking away freedom of will/choice.

        so you do have 'real life' elements like that, but, imo, the thing about fantasy is that you can raise the stakes. it isn't about about the ability to work human justice in fantastical situations. it's about testing the human condition and showing how human behavior works in such magnified situations.

        most people are never going to be put in a situation where they are made to choose between their own life that could help people or the life of an age-old ex-whore former-vampire who as a human, couldn't save the people you could. people en masse have decided between marxist world peace and freedom of choice, but people don't really do it singlehandedly.

        another aspect that michael misses a lot is that there are characters who live outside the human law in this universe. tell me. how was holland manners ever going to be brought to justice? he owned the police, he owned the law, he killed many, many people through his actions and he was human. at some point angel had to decide that w&h's head honchos weren't any different than the big, slimy monsters who eat babies, if not worse.

        fantasy allows the human condition to be raised to its best and worst possibilities. i couldn't care less about joe blow mowing his lawn down the street. honestly. this is why i avoid reality television, procedurals (bones, aside--it's more of a relationship dramedy), stupid, annoying scheming shows of any kind (most reality shows and rich business people soaps fall under this category), etc... like the PLAGUE. as far as i'm concerned, i could do with more reality being banished from the tube.

        you can have material that makes you think (the jossverse is great with allegories, existentialism and morality tales), despite being in a completely foreign world, or you can ground a story so much in reality that it turns into a procedural.

        now, i like the x-files... somewhat. the leads are likable, some of the cases are pretty damn freaky in the horrific sense...

        but the jossverse fits my love of the old-fashioned flawed anti-hero/hero's journey with metaphorical monsters made literal, morality tales, fables, [mental] tests of human strengths and weaknesses, human drama in a fantastical context, forbidden romances, the ability to make the tough decisions that others would have trouble making, but are the right decision in a future-thinking context (has a real world element during wartime), etc... the whole enchilada. all these things are combined.

        perfect people are boring. humanity, by definition, is flawed. it has an amazingly heroic side and an extremely ugly side, but most of it is somewhere in the middle. fantasy allows the reality of the human condition to be revealed in extraordinary circumstances that people don't normally face... sitting in front of their computer typing about them.

        and some people prefer material that doesn't have completely clear-cut answers and solutions. people aren't always going to win with everything wrapped up in a neat, tidy package or make the right decisions all the time. and sometimes people make hard, morally gray and unpopular decisions that people don't recognize as great until MANY years later. if we only chose popular, easy decisions... sprechen sie deutsch?

        and guess what...?! many of us grew up on fairy tales, mythological stories, shakespeare, literary figures (not all of which are grounded in realism), fables, etc... the modern child is raised on a diet of disney movies and star wars for crying out loud! some of us are attracted to those story elements. some of us dream of prince charming (even with fangs) and others dream of battling dragons and orcs.

        not everybody feels satisfaction in having every 'baddie' neatly wrapped up at the end of an episode. that doesn't make for good drama. antagonists and protagonists aren't always neatly wrapped up. good drama is, even if the villain is truly a vicious bastard, you still want them to affect the characters to be effective. that's one of the main failings of most procedurals.

        who is the villain of les mis?rables? by michael's definition of justice, jean valjean is the loaf-of-bread-stealing convict. and he was that. but he's the protagonist! inspector javert, who believes he is doing the right thing by carrying out the law, believes he is morally right. and yet, it turns out that jean valjean is the hero of the piece. victor hugo is an author (and a personal favorite of mine) who is very influential as far as taking the characters who have certain attributes that are generally considered as 'monstrous' and turning them on their heads. same guy who wrote notre dame de paris (better known as the hunchback of notre dame).

        mary shelley is another who dealt with the sympathetic monster. tim burton's whole career has been built upon that archetype.

        and if people hated the fantastical, and only demanded ?ber-realism, we wouldn't have thousands of years worth of fantastical stories. and not all of them have clear cut heroes and villains--case in point... have you ever read homer's odyssey? anti-heroes have been around as long as heroes, villains and miracle babies via immaculate conceptions have. and so have bitching, jealous gods. lmao. golden apple, anyone?
        NileQT87
        The Dark Avenger
        Last edited by NileQT87; 25-07-08, 02:30 PM.

        "If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
        "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions."

        Comment


        • #5
          Having started this thread, I realise I’m not actually sure what flavour of fantasy I prefer. I definitely don’t like the unironic wearing of fur bikinis and the inclusion of people called anything “the Mighty”, unless it’s done for a joke (I love the whole Pylea arc of Angel, for example). So, swords and sorcery fantasy does nothing for me, apart from Lor of the Rings, which is a childhood love story for me, so I couldn’t tell you whether I’d like it now if I read it for the first time. But I would argue that Lord of the Rings (and perhaps other fantasy I haven’t read in a similar vein) manages to capture something of the “real” world, in its depiction of a) hobbits (offering us a route in to all the high flown elven drama and mighty warrior stuff via the little guy/bloke in the street/average English chaps) and b) it’s steeping in real experiences of war. The fact that everything takes so fcking long to happen actually plays in its favour – there’s no sense of escapist short cuts. Though why they didn’t just get the eagles to fly the ring to the fires in the first place is baffling

          Maybe the eagle union doesn’t let them fly that long?

          In terms of Buffy, I think a nice balance is struck on the whole. I like the light touch they take when dealing with the “real” world of institutions and the other day to day stuff. I don’t think they need to deal with the nitty gritty of how things work, because there’s an emotional realism, as Nina says, in the way they depict characters. It’s the old ordinary people, extraordinary situation equation.

          I like the joke that the residents of Sunnydale are all in deep denial. I don’t think that Buffy would’ve been a better or worse show necessarily if they’d taken a different route, but the tone they did hit on, and the approach they took to the real world – ie a slightly dream-logic, skipping over the details approach – works when dealing with teen characters, for whom the world of grownups is so often at a remove, and it’s the emotional peer dramas that seem real.


          -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

          Comment


          • #6
            Right. Wanted to post on this all day but workiness ensued. In the meantime people have basicall said a lot of what I was going to say sooo...

            I want a link to the normal world, and that link should be with the characters for the biggest part. I prefer the flawed, human characters more than the gods, the saints and the characters who are there for the laughs. I need to identify with the characters. Good character development and a realistic flaws/virtue combination makes a story a good story for me. The characters can be green/blue/orange and have a tail ... I don't care, but the character should act like a person.
            Absolutely spot on for me. I need a way into any work of fiction and that entry point is usually a character i can, to some degree, identify with. If that character is an elf, a dwarf or whatever I don't really mind as long as i can understand their motives and empathise with their struggles. Goody two shoes never really swing it for me either by the way. I want a bit of complexity in my heroes.

            The world around the characters doesn't have to look like mine, it can be in space, in Narnia or in LA ... I love both, a fantasy story in a made up country and I love it when they are in the normal world. In the first case, I want it to be different from my world ... knights (hello prince Caspian!), pretty dresses, talking animals, fairies etc.
            Now this is the flip side. Fantasy should give you enough to be able to identify with characters and their traumas but from their the door is open to let your mind soar. One of the greatest things about fantasy, for me, is how many possibilities the genre opens up. It can make the familiar unfamiliar or use another world to hold up a mirror to our own. It can explore themes, morals and ideas in new ways thanks to the variety of settings it offers. The scope of fantasy is greater because the rules can be changed and the limits are as much as the imagination allows.

            and guess what...?! many of us grew up on fairy tales, mythological stories, shakespeare, literary figures (not all of which are grounded in realism), fables, etc... the modern child is raised on a diet of disney movies and star wars for crying out loud! some of us are attracted to those story elements. some of us dream of prince charming (even with fangs) and others dream of battling dragons and orcs.
            possibly another element of fantasy that really attracts me is this. It's the opportunity to relive your childhood, to lose yourself in another reality like you used to when you were a kid playing make believe. There's a strong element of escapism in fantasy that allows you to get away from the humdrum. Late season Buffy might not have the same draw to some as earlier seasons because they feel this element isn't there but to me it definitely is. Although the themes are a lot darker there's still the element of escapist fantasy running through them. Who hasn't wished they could be blinvisible for a bit for instance? The darkness of my favourite season (6) lends it a sharper contrast between life and the fantasy elements.

            I like the joke that the residents of Sunnydale are all in deep denial. I don’t think that Buffy would’ve been a better or worse show necessarily if they’d taken a different route, but the tone they did hit on, and the approach they took to the real world – ie a slightly dream-logic, skipping over the details approach – works when dealing with teen characters, for whom the world of grownups is so often at a remove, and it’s the emotional peer dramas that seem real.
            Again I really agree here. That slightly knowing element, the 'We're actually being a bit silly here' element of Buffy is one of it's main draws to me. Fantasy allows a great scope for humour by being in and of itself both unreal enough for the unusual and the commonplace to combine in that slightly surreal way and being cliched enough to be self mocking about it's own roots.

            Now what i don't like in fantasy is probably easier to mention than what I do. I don't like rehashings of Tolkein. Quests with Wizard/Elf/Dwarf/Hobbit combos going up against dark Wizards who have a magic Ring/crown/Jewel/Wand etc and are a bit unsubstantial/wraithlike have been done to death. We need no more. What is much better is fantasy that pushes back the boundaries, that challenges it's own conventions and which does so with wit, originality, deeply realised non generic characters and that undefinable hook that draws you in. That's what I like
            .
            JUST ENOUGH KILL

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            • #7
              A few more words on escapism seem pertinent:

              Fantasy is always escapist to an extent, but that isn't really the point. After all, it's very possible to create escapist entertainment without involving the supernatural. Any teen soap, in which all the characters are beautiful and constantly deal with larger than life emotional situations is totally escapist. But it doesn't do anything for me, because I can't relate to the characters, which makes them uninteresting. The mere fact that the background happens to be the real world doesn't add a lick of realism to the setup.

              On the other hand, Fantasy can be very gritty, even if the setting is entirely outlandish. All that is required are imperfect characters with both flaws and virtues that mirror those we are familiar with, and a sufficiently complex situation to force them to face the whole range of their strengths and weaknesses. To continue tangent's example, the problem with Tolkien rehashes isn't anything that's missing in the original, it's that most rehashes are bad. "Lord of the Rings" is just as much about internal than it is about external struggles. The way in which the two mirror each other, especially in the two protagonists - Frodo's journey into darkness, Aragorn's journey into greatness - is what sets the work apart. Any contemporary writer who thinks the fascination lies in the fantastic setting and the questing theme alone, or even primarily, is doomed to produce something that comes nowhere near its appeal.

              My favourite active fantasy writer is Raymond Feist. What sets him apart, in my eyes, is that he's really pushing the envelope of the genre. His works are continually experimenting with cultural influences and story motives different from those classically used. The mainstay fantasy world is very much based on medieval Europe; Feist's world does incorporate the traditional elements but plays them off against entirely different ones, such as nations and races based on imperial China or the mesoamerican high cultures. The mainstay fantasy themes focus on lone heroes on the one and massive battles on the other hand; Feist takes character types familiar from non-fantasy genres and plunges them into his world. The experimental nature of what he's doing shows through in parts, the characters and the settings seem a little incongruous at times. Still, even an imperfect fantasy take on "James Bond" and "The Dirty Dozen" is such a nice change of pace.

              What I'm hoping some writer will try one day is to take this all the way - in giving us a protagonist that's entirely non-human, with a completely different set of character traits and a completely different moral system. I think such a character, if developed with the necessary consistentcy and depth, could achieve the seemingly impossible in remaining endlessly fascinating while completely unrelatable. Or maybe not, it could also get boring as quickly as the teen soaps, I'm honestly not sure.
              kassyopeia
              Cutting Room Florist
              Last edited by kassyopeia; 26-07-08, 09:01 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Wolfie, what big ideas you've got!

                C.S.Lewis says somewhere, " A strange tale about strange people dealing with strange problems in a strange world is just too strange." That is my problem with a lot of fantasy.If I can find no connection to it then I cannot care about it. It does not have to be this way. Jekyll and Hyde achieved its fabulous mythic force from a combination of simplicity and credibility. And the credibility depends on the loving evocation of the legal and medical world of Victorian Britain.

                The first stage version of Jekyll and Hyde opened at the Lyceum Theater in the Strand in London in 1888--at which point the Jack the Ripper murders started. This was almost what we might call a "reality clash". However, Richard Mansfield, the famous American actor-manager of the age, canceled the run after a final performance to raise money for East End charities.

                Sherlock Holmes may have broken no scientific laws but he was a fantasy all the same, and he depended on the very ordinary Dr Watson and the mundane world of Baker Street to provide a setting for him. Of course that world with its horse drawn cabs and fogs and gas lights has become romantic to us now that it has all gone with the wind.

                I have little interest in time travel ,but I would love to find a way to get Buffy into Baker Street and to meet Holmes: "Vampires Miss Summers? Do have some tea. I perceive from the curious manufacture of your shoes that you have come to see me from some time in the future.Remarkable. How can I be of assistance?"

                Wells' War of the Worlds gained force from having Martian war machines appearing in Woking and Folkestone and the outer London suburbs.Orson Welles obviously understood the point when he used a radio adaptation to present the tale in the form of a breaking radio news story.

                Obviously I have a preference for science fiction over fantasy, and I like my science fiction to be set in the present or the past rather than the future.

                I see nothing wrong with escapism. It is the comfort zone of the imagination. For escape I like romantic comedy and especially the great musical comedies they don't make any more because we don't have the composers like Irving Berlin or Cole Porter. My idea of heaven is to live in a musical comedy world with Cyd Charisse and Ann Miller.

                What does not impress me is the kind of contrived story in which some villain like Holland Manners "cannot possibly be brought to justice" so our fascinatingly flawed hero has to "take the hard decision to do what has to be done." Such a drama has the excitement of watching a fixed fight knowing that it has been fixed. I will call it "compensatory fantasy" until I can think of something better.
                Michael
                Hellmouth Tourist
                Last edited by Michael; 28-07-08, 02:10 AM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Michael View Post
                  Wells' War of the Worlds gained force from having Martian war machines appearing in Woking and Folkestone and the outer London suburbs.Orson Welles obviously understood the point when he used a radio adaptation to present the tale in the form of a breaking radio news story.
                  ... and transferred the setting to an equivalent one his American listeners would be as familiar with as the British readers with the original one. Yes, I completely agree, the clash of the alien and extraordinary with the familiar and mundane gives stories of that kind a very special appeal.
                  What does not impress me is the kind of contrived story in which some villain like Holland Manners "cannot possibly be brought to justice" so our fascinatingly flawed hero has to "take the hard decision to do what has to be done." Such a drama has the excitement of watching a fixed fight knowing that it has been fixed. I will call it "compensatory fantasy" until I can think of something better.
                  So, do you feel that way independent of the supernatural elements involved? I mean, one could set an equivalent tale at any point in the past, or in any country in the present, in which men were/are not equal before the law.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    michael's problem with the jossverse, i feel, isn't at all the fact that it is fantasy (though he prefers things that don't break our universe's rules of science and dislikes the idea that a universe could be beyond the scope of our law). i feel his bigger issue with the jossverse is rather his dislike of moral ambiguity. he is uncomfortable with the gray area. he is uncomfortable with the idea that characters who act in ways that would have them loaded with our world's convictions are considered heroic or somehow fall outside of the rules. he also dislikes villains he has to feel sorry for (see the darla thread).

                    what this means is that it is mostly a problem where he wants the jossverse to deal in absolutes. absolute good and absolute evil. that gray area is an uncomfortable place, as is the area where decisions and actions can be considered ambiguous, despite being legitimately for the greater good in the overall scheme of things.

                    for example: do you think harry truman dropping the a-bombs is a black or white decision? on one side, it killed many people. on the other, it stopped WWII. it was a gray-area decision where a loss of life is done to prevent an even greater loss of life. you don't even have to agree with the politics of it, but you should be able to understand that there was a future-thinking purpose to it.

                    if we only did things that were popular and unambiguous, the american founding fathers, abraham lincoln, winston churchill, franklin delano roosevelt and harry truman would not be retroactively considered heroes and never would have been able to do what they did if they had listened to the likes of say... neville chamberlain. none of them first acted with anything resembling resounding support.

                    angel's situation with holland manners can be seen in that context. think of holland as having the totalitarian power of a dictator, because that's probably accurate. those kind of decisions are not completely devoid of historical context. they have nothing to do with being fantastical either.
                    NileQT87
                    The Dark Avenger
                    Last edited by NileQT87; 28-07-08, 08:05 AM.

                    "If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
                    "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I think the distinction that many people see between the two is that democratic leaders are entrusted with power over life and death by others, whereas say the Watchers' Council simpy decided that it should have that power on its own accord. So here, again, it comes down to the end justifying the means, and whether or not we think of that as a sound principle.

                      I find the Hiroshima question a perfect example of a situation in which black-and-white thinking blows up in one's face, btw, but I'm not sure if this is the right forum to discuss it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        i brought it up to show that OUR WORLD has situations where decisions are made that aren't unambiguous. one of the accusations seems to be that the jossverse is so far outside of human morality and law, that it is flawed because of it.

                        my point is that the best morality plays are those that make you question things and SHOULD have people of all beliefs make up their own minds about them. that is morality play writing at its best. it doesn't really take just one point of view. for example, with the holland situation, both people who think angel was right and wrong have valid reasons supported within the show. it's not supposed to be clear cut. that's a strength of the writing, not a weakness.

                        the jasmine arc's moral ambiguity was also given much attention in the show (freedom of choice vs. world peace). jasmine ate thousands to save billions the same way angel chose to let a group of ambiguous humans die who are in the fight against humanity, to save all the innocents that w&h hurts. holland and lilah continue to go on, but in the case of holland, it was clearly a large blow to w&h's faithful evildoers (listen to the way they mention holland in season 5).

                        one of ats' largest strengths is that while btvs prefers to stay in the realm of black vs. white, ats focuses on gray vs. gray. angel vs. holtz is pretty much the ultimate example of this. the two shows suit who their lead protagonists are.
                        NileQT87
                        The Dark Avenger
                        Last edited by NileQT87; 28-07-08, 10:42 AM.

                        "If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
                        "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by NileQT87 View Post
                          it's not supposed to be clear cut. that's a strength of the writing, not a weakness.
                          Right, that's the way I see it too. The equation "clear cut = uninteresting" seems only a mild exaggeration to me.
                          the jasmine arc's moral ambiguity was also given much attention in the show (freedom of choice vs. world peace).
                          I dunno, I thought they made that one way too black and white, actually. I mean, Lilah's little speech in the finale rattled team Angel, but did it rattle the audience? Is there a single member of this forum who's on Jasmine's side? You'd know better than me...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by kassyopeia View Post
                            A few more words on escapism seem pertinent:

                            Fantasy is always escapist to an extent, but that isn't really the point. [?] On the other hand, Fantasy can be very gritty, even if the setting is entirely outlandish.
                            After mulling this over, I'd substitute "escapism" for "paradigm shift". Or, as I think Kassyopoeia quoted Oz somewhere else? "Rules change". A fantasy story has the chance to change the basic rules of the game, and to rewire our perspective on experience by putting us in a foreign setting, or making our own "setting" (our world) seem foreign to us by the inclusion of marvels.

                            Spoilered for being a bit too much like school?but, if you're wishing there were more than twelve grades, and that the math could be mathier?do come in. And correct me, if I've forgotten things I learned a long time ago.

                            Spoiler:

                            I think the best way of describing the power of fantasy (for me) is by calling up dim memories of some of the only literary theory I studied at university that I thought actually shed any light on literature (rather than only shedding light on other theory). Ok, that's unfair, but the fact that I still think about their theories, seven years later, means they must have something.

                            The people I'm talking about are the Russian Formalist school of literary theorists. Their mission was to understand the nature of poetic or literary language, and consequently, to work out what literature actually is? helpful, if you're studying literature, to know what it is.

                            They did a lot of interesting work about the mechanics of stories, but the thing that's relevant here, imo, is their idea that literature draws attention to the world by making it seem strange and unfamiliar. Their focus being more on poetry, you can see how that makes sense about the language of poems, which mangle language and create sometimes bizarre images and ideas.

                            But I think their concept of "defamiliarization" or "estrangement" is particularly useful when it comes to fantasy and science fiction. Those can take the everyday ? whether that be human experience, or an actual everyday setting ? and twist it, so that we not only think "gosh, those monsters are strange" but we also come to think, "wait a minute, human people are pretty strange too?so is life."

                            Buffy makes real life seem strange by using monsters as metaphors ? or, when it's not using ?em as metaphors, using the exaggerated drama of fantasy violence and apocalypses (that is the plural of apocalypse, right?). But I think that her strange life can also shed life on the strangeness of all life. For example, when she changes the world at the end of season 7, and through season 8, it's an image of how everything in your life can shift around, and how much of a shock that can be, even if you planned for things to change. Like?if you emigrate, you know that things will be different, but so often they're different in ways you never could have predicted.



                            Little recommendation for anyone who likes their fantasy like they like their Milton?full of Satany goodness.

                            Glen Duncan is one of the fantasy authors who gets the gritty side of fantasy right ? I Lucifer (about a guy becoming the devil, or rather, the devil inhabiting a human body) takes you to nasty, nasty places in the human soul.

                            And, googling because I couldn't remember whether there were two n's or one in his name, I've just found out there's going to be a movie with Daniel Craig and Ewan McGregor and I'm squeeing my pants right now.


                            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0444646/

                            [quo
                            All that is required are imperfect characters with both flaws and virtues that mirror those we are familiar with, and a sufficiently complex situation to force them to face the whole range of their strengths and weaknesses.[/quote]

                            Nice definition of requirements. Like.

                            "Lord of the Rings" is just as much about internal than it is about external struggles.
                            Very much so. It's interesting that something so sprawling actually contains a really small, intimate story. It's as if there's a novel (Frodo and Sam and the other hobbits' stories, to a lesser degree, within an epic (Gandalf, Aragorn, Galadriel et al). Or, as you point out in the mirroring example, a novel woven into the fabric of an epic:

                            The way in which the two mirror each other, especially in the two protagonists - Frodo's journey into darkness, Aragorn's journey into greatness - is what sets the work apart.
                            Further on the mirroring topic, the mirroring of Frodo and Gollum was the first experience I ever had of the Buffy/Faith type opposition, in which you start off with the "good slayer" (or hobbit) and the "bad slayer" (or sort of hobbity thing), but as time goes by you begin to wonder if they're really so different. The moment when Frodo takes the ring and becomes his dark mirror self?well, that just set me up for a lifetime of rooting for the bad guy

                            Also - Lord of the Rings? It's all about power. Only power is seen as far more dangerous in LOTR. The only people who should be in charge are the ones who are reluctant to do so (Aragorn spends a LONG time bunking off being king, and Gandalf?well, he doesn't trust himself to be boss and prefers to meddle from the sidelines).

                            It deals with very much real world questions about who should be in charge and how one should take charge (or rather, you shouldn't take charge, you should always be given it). But it's not an overtly political novel, which I think makes it rather like Buffy in the way that it deals with the real world questions of politics? it's not about the ins and outs of the political system, but about the effects that power has on people, whether they're kings, hobbits, wizards or slightly scary rebel elf women.


                            What I'm hoping some writer will try one day is to take this all the way - in giving us a protagonist that's entirely non-human, with a completely different set of character traits and a completely different moral system.
                            Damn, I'm sure I know of a character like that, but can't remember where I read em! I suppose the most radically Other character I've come across is the ocean in Solaris, which, being the only organism on a planet for so long, can't quite bridge the gap between it and humans, though has a go at communicating in unsettling ways? or perhaps the aliens who we never see in Stalker (Mmm, Tarkovsky, master of the weeeeird).

                            My dad always sings the praises of China Mieville, in terms of non human characters who are very different, but I haven't got around to him?books too big to put in handbag = books I'm unlikely to read in the near future.

                            I think such a character, if developed with the necessary consistentcy and depth, could achieve the seemingly impossible in remaining endlessly fascinating while completely unrelatable. Or maybe not, it could also get boring as quickly as the teen soaps, I'm honestly not sure.
                            Perhaps there needs to be a slightly relatable element, in the end? For a character to fit into a narrative that engages us, I mean?

                            Originally posted by Michael View Post
                            Wolfie, what big ideas you've got!
                            All the better to eat you with. (or to put it in the lolcat demotic, "Nom nom nom, I r in ur thread, stelin ur thred ideaz")

                            C.S.Lewis says somewhere, " A strange tale about strange people dealing with strange problems in a strange world is just too strange." That is my problem with a lot of fantasy.
                            I think a lot of my problem with fantasy is that it's badly written with no character depth. It's not the strangeness that's the problem, but the lack of skill! Ditto the number of crappy fantasy TV shows (in the Hercules mould). But that goes for any potboilerly fiction, of any genre so, unfair to fantasy.

                            Jekyll and Hyde achieved its fabulous mythic force from a combination of simplicity and credibility. And the credibility depends on the loving evocation of the legal and medical world of Victorian Britain.
                            The credibility doesn't need to come from the setting, for me. It can do, but it should also (and primarily) come from the characters and from the force of the story. That said, I do like a good bit of a mix up of the real and the fantastical. As a Londoner, I get a real thrill out of books like Hawksmoor and Neverwhere, where London is shown to be as strange as I know it is.

                            Love the idea of a Sherlock Holmes/Buffy crossover. Hmm, fanfic time perhaps?

                            Such a drama has the excitement of watching a fixed fight knowing that it has been fixed.
                            But when I fix a fight, it should stay fixed. That's ethics. [/randommillerscrossingrandom]


                            -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
                              Kassyopoeia
                              Oy, no fair adding vowels to my tag, it's bloated enough as it is.
                              apocalypses (that is the plural of apocalypse, right?
                              Nooo, it's "apocalypsisises", obviously!
                              literature draws attention to the world by making it seem strange and unfamiliar
                              Yeah, I like that notion a lot. Take something familiar, place it in a new context, and voila the familiar thing shows you its unfamiliar face. I'm sure Ethan would approve.
                              Also - Lord of the Rings? It’s all about power. Only power is seen as far more dangerous in LOTR.
                              Yeah, that's definitely the big theme of the entire Tolkienverse. The "Silmarillion", for all its weaknesses as a narrative, also addresses it quite nicely.
                              The only people who should be in charge are the ones who are reluctant to do so
                              Just to make sure we don't miss the nerdyness quota in this thread, I'll follow that up with a Trek quote:
                              "Great men do not seek power, they have power thrust upon them."
                              Actually, I never thought about it before, but this can beautifully be applied to the Buffyverse in terms of the powerplay between Slayer and Watchers: Buffy as the reluctant leader, the council corrupted by actively seeking leadership.
                              It deals with very much real world questions about who should be in charge and how one should take charge (or rather, you shouldn’t take charge, you should always be given it).
                              Don't forget, though:
                              "PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted;
                              persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished;
                              persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."
                              (Okay, different author, but to an extent Tolkien subscribed to the same idea.)
                              I’m sure I know of a character like that
                              Well, there are plenty of characters like that, Lovecraft's writings abound in them. But they're never protagonists, always foils for the human-like characters.

                              Mieville sounds like a must-read for me, thanks a lot for the mention!
                              Perhaps there needs to be a slightly relatable element, in the end?
                              It's certainly possible. I just have this idea that it might be a fascinating experience to bond with a character who we, ultimately, don't understand because they are built on an entirely alien mental framework. Similar to the way we bond with literary villains, even though we don't share their evilness, but going much further than that.
                              The bonding would require that the character is both consistent and complex, which I imagine is an amazingly difficult thing to accomplish within such a framework, because the writer can't draw on their experience at all but solely on creativity and logic. And even then, your suspicion might be correct.
                              I think a lot of my problem with fantasy is that it’s badly written with no character depth. It’s not the strangeness that’s the problem, but the lack of skill! Ditto the number of crappy fantasy TV shows (in the Hercules mould). But that goes for any potboilerly fiction, of any genre so, unfair to fantasy.
                              But, somehow, fantasy and sci fi can get away with it better. I suppose it might be due to the fact that, given one-dimensional characters in a weird setting, the weirdness of the setting still affords mild entertainment in itself, whereas one-dimensional characters in an everyday setting are dull all around? Whether that's the reason or not, it gives the genre a bad name, unfortunately.

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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by kassyopeia View Post
                                Oy, no fair adding vowels to my tag, it's bloated enough as it is.
                                Oops! I think I shall go with Kass instead, if you don't mind?

                                Nooo, it's "apocalypsisises", obviously!
                                My total bad. This is obviously the spelling.

                                Yeah, I like that notion a lot. Take something familiar, place it in a new context, and voila the familiar thing shows you its unfamiliar face. I'm sure Ethan would approve.
                                I'm sure he would. He's all about making things strange. I really enjoy mischief-focussed baddies, all the Loki types ? Ethan and (sometimes) Spike in BtVS ? though in that respect, the hellmouth/the supernatural forces generally is the playful villain at times, turning familiar things on their heads.

                                Yeah, that's definitely the big theme of the entire Tolkienverse. The "Silmarillion", for all its weaknesses as a narrative, also addresses it quite nicely.
                                It's a shame Tolkien didn't have someone who was prepared to be more brutal with his text, and turn it into a better novel. Well, into a novel full stop.


                                Just to make sure we don't miss the nerdyness quota in this thread, I'll follow that up with a Trek quote:
                                "Great men do not seek power, they have power thrust upon them."
                                Actually, I never thought about it before, but this can beautifully be applied to the Buffyverse in terms of the powerplay between Slayer and Watchers: Buffy as the reluctant leader, the council corrupted by actively seeking leadership.
                                Buffy even remains a reluctant leader in season 8 ? not that she's reluctant to take charge per se, but more that she's reluctant to be the figurehead, the "Ma'am" figure, I feel, makes her uncomfortable.

                                While we're making parallels between Buffy and LOTR, it does strike me how very different they are? Buffy is set in the "real" world to a degree, while LOTR doesn't have high schools and proms and tivo to contrast with its balrogs and wizards. But is that what makes it different?

                                I'm wondering if this is partly a progressive/improvisatory vs conservative* division as much as a difference in the settings. BtVS's fantasy universe is one that throws off its own conventions ? the initial setup of "every slayer has her watcher" being thrown off course with Giles leaving the council, and with Buffy confronting the council themselves. Angel is introduced as the "vampire with the soul", but his status re that changes various times in various ways. And the whole "one girl in all the world" thing is now gone?well, not just now, because that was even thrown away in the second season, with the introduction of Kendra.

                                Mind you, Merry and Pippin do undergo something of a transformation. Perhaps they're the most Buffyish characters in the mix?


                                *In narrative terms rather than political, though there's an element of conservatism in LoTR, what with all the kings and the sentimentality about old things and traditional lifestyles (the hobbits in particular, all their rustic charm and class system action). Though it does show an interesting way in which the Tories might approach claiming the environmentally friendly/conservation territory.

                                Don't forget, though:
                                "PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted;
                                persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished;
                                persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."
                                (Okay, different author, but to an extent Tolkien subscribed to the same idea.)
                                Who said the things about being shot? But yes, Tolkien is distinctly anti-allegory, though he is pro "applicability", and perhaps he wouldn't mind us exploring the ways he talks about power, so long as we don't then say, "And, btw, this book is totally about World War One. Trufax!"

                                Heh. If Gandalf was on the internet, perhaps his horse would be called Trufax?

                                Well, there are plenty of characters like that, Lovecraft's writings abound in them. But they're never protagonists, always foils for the human-like characters.
                                Yes, that interesting?the Other works most smoothly if there's someone more recognisable to give them context perhaps.

                                Mieville sounds like a must-read for me, thanks a lot for the mention!
                                Well, I must follow up my own recommendation too! Just so intimidatingly long and not at all portable. Hmm, maybe they come as books on tape??

                                It's certainly possible. I just have this idea that it might be a fascinating experience to bond with a character who we, ultimately, don't understand because they are built on an entirely alien mental framework. Similar to the way we bond with literary villains, even though we don't share their evilness, but going much further than that.
                                The bonding would require that the character is both consistent and complex, which I imagine is an amazingly difficult thing to accomplish within such a framework, because the writer can't draw on their experience at all but solely on creativity and logic. And even then, your suspicion might be correct.
                                There's an interesting book called "What is it like to be a bat?" by Thomas Nagel that explores this idea. Strictly speaking, it's a philosophy book (but very short and readable), but it does throw up interesting questions about whether we can ever know what an "alien" or "other" mind would be like.

                                But science fiction obviously doesn't need that kind of certainty, it just needs to feel believable. I think that perhaps just having some sense of mental or cultural overlap would be a way in ? eg an alien culture who has never had money but still has a system of exchanges, or at least, still faces the problem of how to divvy up resources. Even if their solution ? and their reasons for that solution ? are radically different, there's some sense of common ground.

                                But, somehow, fantasy and sci fi can get away with it better. I suppose it might be due to the fact that, given one-dimensional characters in a weird setting, the weirdness of the setting still affords mild entertainment in itself, whereas one-dimensional characters in an everyday setting are dull all around? Whether that's the reason or not, it gives the genre a bad name, unfortunately.
                                Yes, the fact that people can get away with bad sci fi does tend to tar the other stuff with the same brush, and mislead people into thinking the setting is the only thing that marks it out.


                                -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
                                  Oops! I think I shall go with Kass instead, if you don’t mind?
                                  That'd be quite acceptable. Or, you could braid my hair and call me Pollyanna, but there's not much gain in brevity.
                                  I really enjoy mischief-focussed baddies, all the Loki types
                                  Mmmh, yes. I wonder if one would have worked as a Big Bad? Probably not, not epic enough. Would have given the hypothetical season an interesting structure, though, instead of the occasional funny non-arc episode it would need lots of really dark non-arc episodes (the likes of "Lie to me" and "Helpless") to maintain the right balance.
                                  Buffy is set in the “real” world to a degree, while LOTR doesn’t have high schools and proms and tivo to contrast with its balrogs and wizards. But is that what makes it different?
                                  See, I don't think Tolkien would agree with assessment. As you say, he was a traditionalist, and the Shire his idea of what rural Britain should be like. So, the "Green Dragon" is supposed to literally be the pub around the corner, not just figuratively. Still, your point holds for most intents and purposes, because the hobbits leave the "real world" (the Shire) in the beginning and return to it in the end, while the Buffyversians (damn, I was hoping I invented a term, but I do get a single google hit) interact with it throughout.
                                  BtVS’s fantasy universe is one that throws off its own conventions
                                  True, it goes well beyond the classical "overcome the threat to the idyllic status quo" motif that much of fantasy uses. Another reason why I really like Feist, btw, his world is in rapid socioeconomical flux, both influenced by and influencing the epic battles the book cycles center on.
                                  Who said the things about being shot?
                                  Twain, it's the opening notice to "Huck Finn". And yes, it's absolutely not meant anti-applicability, I think it's mostly anti-literary-critics!
                                  There’s an interesting book called “What is it like to be a bat?” by Thomas Nagel that explores this idea.
                                  During the dinosaur hype kicked off by "Jurassic Park", someone wrote a novel which chronicles the life of a Velociraptor, complete with glimpses into the "protagonists" mind (that would be limited omniscient narration, yes?)
                                  The product was mildly entertaining, but on the whole not very satisfying, because of protagonist's lack of intelligence. If the only driving forces are animalistic urges and instincts, there just isn't much of a story to tell. *shrug*
                                  I think that perhaps just having some sense of mental or cultural overlap would be a way in
                                  Yeah, that's a good point. It would be fair to assume that all civilizations face certain fundamental challenges, like you say, so some common ground can be taken for granted. Nice.

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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by kassyopeia View Post
                                    That'd be quite acceptable. Or, you could braid my hair and call me Pollyanna, but there's not much gain in brevity.
                                    Polly?

                                    Mmmh, yes. I wonder if one would have worked as a Big Bad? Probably not, not epic enough. Would have given the hypothetical season an interesting structure, though, instead of the occasional funny non-arc episode it would need lots of really dark non-arc episodes (the likes of "Lie to me" and "Helpless") to maintain the right balance.
                                    Various people from the old forum (Buffyworld) did a virtual season 8 (well, we never finished it, everyone got wrapped up in other things in the end, real life draining the fantasy world of fanfic as it does) that had a Big Bad whose aim was Chaos. With Ethan and Drusilla as his sidekicks. I think the angle we had on it, how we figured it would work (whether we succeeded or not, perhaps we’ll never know, due to not finishing it) was that chaos/mischief has a way of ending with evil, from a human perspective. Because, if someone causes pain and doesn’t care about the pain they cause, are they any less evil in our eyes just because they don’t actively want to be evil? Also, you need someone sensible around to do the planning, if a villain is chaotic (so we had him leeching off Dru’s madness, and through that process, she became more sane and goal-oriented).

                                    I thought the Joker in the current Batman film was very well played as a chaos villain – someone whose motives are indeterminate, or overdetermined, like Iago (he keeps giving himself different origin stories about why his face is scarred and why he’s so fcked up), and whose goal is to shake things up. But that shaking up always ends in badness.

                                    See, I don't think Tolkien would agree with assessment. As you say, he was a traditionalist, and the Shire his idea of what rural Britain should be like.
                                    True! Perhaps you could say that the shire is the “portal” into our world – it’s the place where “our” universe, or a cosier version of it, juts out into the scary strange places. It’s as if the shire is Sunnydale in a state of deep denial, for whom the supernatural things are real, but they never talk about it or think about it (or have any adventures, due to their meal-delaying properties ) There’s some kind of analogy with Narnia in there somewhere that I can’t quite unravel, to do with reality, belief…and closets.

                                    Still, your point holds for most intents and purposes, because the hobbits leave the "real world" (the Shire) in the beginning and return to it in the end, while the Buffyversians (damn, I was hoping I invented a term, but I do get a single google hit) interact with it throughout.
                                    Mind you, Willow and Xander aren’t really “inside” Buffy’s world of monsters until they meet her. Their main Big Bad up until that point is probably Cordelia. Entering the Buffyverse is perhaps more a process of becoming observant, rather than physically moving. It’s about opening your eyes to what’s really going on. Which is a similar process to Frodo’s journey. He physically moves to a new place (well, many places), but when he returns, it’s with the knowledge that the world is not what he thought it was, and he can never really return home, because he’s not the same person, and the world is not the same cosy world.

                                    True, it goes well beyond the classical "overcome the threat to the idyllic status quo" motif that much of fantasy uses. Another reason why I really like Feist, btw, his world is in rapid socioeconomical flux, both influenced by and influencing the epic battles the book cycles center on.
                                    Shall have to check him out too. Do we have a book recommendation thread? We should make a list.

                                    Twain, it's the opening notice to "Huck Finn". And yes, it's absolutely not meant anti-applicability, I think it's mostly anti-literary-critics!
                                    Ahhh, yes! Love Twain. I think he would’ve made a good Buffyverse writer. And literary critics are a shower of bastards on the whole. That’s what people did when they wanted to be mean and rant about people they’ve never met before the internet was invented.

                                    During the dinosaur hype kicked off by "Jurassic Park", someone wrote a novel which chronicles the life of a Velociraptor, complete with glimpses into the "protagonists" mind (that would be limited omniscient narration, yes?)
                                    The product was mildly entertaining, but on the whole not very satisfying, because of protagonist's lack of intelligence. If the only driving forces are animalistic urges and instincts, there just isn't much of a story to tell. *shrug*
                                    Perhaps the issue is not relatability then, but narratability?

                                    Yeah, that's a good point. It would be fair to assume that all civilizations face certain fundamental challenges, like you say, so some common ground can be taken for granted. Nice.
                                    Food, shelter, sex and all that. Or at least reproduction (obviously many alien/fantasy creatures don’t need to reproduce, due to being immortal, or not in the same way as we do… I’m a particular fan of sci fi that deals with this. Ursula Leguin, forget which book, had people who didn’t have fixed genders.)


                                    -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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                                    • #19
                                      Nile, if you want ambiguity I can probably get you as much as you need. However I don't do vigilantism or torture. IMO if you want a half decent civilization you have to draw the line somewhere.

                                      Ambiguity is one of the mature pleasures of Alfred Hitchcock's movies. In Notorious (1946) and in North By Northwest (1959) we see attractive, charming villains played by Claude Raines and James Mason respectively, who both genuinely love the heroines, who are themselves being ruthlessly used by the "good guys" who are so similar to the Watchers Council that it cannot be a coincidence.

                                      Truman was wrong to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because the war was over. Japan was flat on her back by the spring of 1945 and only wanted to end the war. But Washington would not return the calls from Tokyo.Washington wanted to drop the bomb, having paid for it. Ike and MacArthur, to their credit, opposed the decision.

                                      I can handle ambiguity but I have a problem with inconsistency, and I have still not found a satisfactory answer to my problem with vampires and their souls. Angel loved Buffy, but love turned to hate when he lost his soul. Spike, on the other hand, fell in love with Buffy when he had no soul, and still loved her when he got it back--although he became a bit doolalee. This does not actually make sense.

                                      Back to vigilantes. I was very angry that Jodie Foster, my favorite movie star, made a pro-vigilante film called The Brave One.Yet it is very well acted and written and directed. I detest the film, yet in a perverse way I also recommend it. (That's enough ambiguity. Ed.)

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                                      • #20
                                        This does not actually make sense.
                                        Welcome to the great wide world of the Buffyverse.

                                        A lot of what went on in the show either didn't add up or would end up contradicting itself at some point along the way. You sometimes just have to let certain things wash over you, because If you analyze things too closely it all falls to pieces.

                                        Can we say 'Vampires getting erections' for a start.

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