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(I) Lie to me: self-deception in Buffy

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  • (I) Lie to me: self-deception in Buffy

    "I may be Love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it", says Spike. His role is often a truth-telling one, but that doesn't stop him from lying to and about himself. And he's not the only one. A lot of characters seem to have their pants on fire at some point or another when they're expressing their feelings, or their motives.

    Who do you think is the character most liable to self-deception (and/or trying to convince others of their own particular brand of "truth")? What scenes make you think "oooh, you big fibber you"...or, as Spike shouts at the screen..."Pacey you bloody idiot, can't you see she doesn't love you?" (or words to that effect)?

    One of the big self deception moments comes for me in Into the Woods. You may not agree with me on this of course...

    When Xander comes back from giving Buffy a pep talk about Riley, that leads to her running after Agent Finn, he tells Anya he is "powerful, painfully in love with" her. He talks to her in the same way Riley talked to Buffy, when he said she made him tingle all over ("my every inch of me"?.eww, Riley, TMI!). But the difference is, when Riley says he's scarily in love with Buffy, I completely believe it. When Xander says it to Anya, I get the impression he's trying to convince himself that he's more in love with her than he is ? that he wants to feel like that, and be that kind of man?almost, to be better at love than Buffy? That's just one interpretation, and I'm not saying that's his reason?but, anyway. The whole scene comes off as if Xander is not just telling Anya how he feels ? he's creating an image of their relationship that Anya wants, and he wants to believe?but none of his behaviour shows him to be "powerfully and painfully" in love. He's often quite dismissive of Anya, and unless he's very different when they're alone (which we don't get to see all that often, admittedly), I haven't seen any signs of "no holds barred need".

    With Buffy, I felt Xander could've had that kind of love, but with Anya, I think he just wants to?and realises this in season 6, when he has his moment of clarity. Being with Anya is corrosive to him, because, on one level, he's living a lie. I'm not saying he doesn't love her at all, but it's not a Big Love, if you know what I mean (and no I don't mean the Mormon kind!).


    EDIT: I think Buffy's feelings for Riley, and hte way she frames those feelings, runs somewhat parallel to Xander's arc here...when she tells Riley she's given him her heart, body and soul, I'm as full of disbelief as Riley is. Perhaps the main difference is that Riley calls Buffy on it, while Anya lets Xander get away with it.


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  • #2
    I agree to some extent with your Xander thoughts. The problem I have with it though is that it indicates that there is a big love which must be had/felt/experienced for a person/character to be all complete, and my point of view is that love is what you make it and therefore Xander had nothing to run away from... but I digress!

    Having said that, my instincts are that Willow is the most self-deceptive of the gang. (Shall I mention that the last episode I watched was 'Life Serial' when Giles calls Willow on her stupidity.) It's not just that's she deceptive (to everyone, herself included) but her arrogance that she is the one who has the answers and the right to use her power willy nilly.

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    • #3
      I think an obvious choice would be Spike and how he wants everyone to believe he's the 'big bad,' a term he constantly prattles on about during the shows run. I think this stems mainly from the insecurities he has and whilst yes for the majority of the time he is an evil murderer, he isn't as scary as he'd like everyone to believe.

      Spike basically breaks down and whimpers when Buffy tells him he is beneath her in Fool For Love, is most certainly "Love's bitch" and watches 'Passions.' Not to mention the fact he becomes, at times, pathetically obsessed with Buffy- I'd say he isn't the badass he tries to make people view him as. Now I'm not saying there is anything wrong with a guy crying, but to where the mantle of the 'big bad,' one would assume this isn't a trait Spike would like people to know he had.

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      • #4
        I'm having trouble remembering exactly what Xander sounded like, but I think it always seemed to me that his lack of sincerity was an acting problem. I have trouble making these kinds of distinctions anyway, but I believed what he was saying.

        Is it okay if I say Joyce? I mean, up to a point I can buy the "gets into fights" thing...although Buffy looks very much not the type...but surely she should eventually have noticed that things just were not right, even allowing for the general not-see-it-ive-ness of Sunnydale.
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        • #5
          going from the above can i nominate the entire population of sunnydale for the denial or obliviousness of people to whats going around them in various programs.

          If not you'd have to say that most characters have these blind spots. buffy with her relationship with angel, giles with his insistence that jenny was back in iohefy, etc etc.

          In fact the more interesting question might be who is the most honest with themselves. Xander? Anya?
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Veverka View Post
            I agree to some extent with your Xander thoughts. The problem I have with it though is that it indicates that there is a big love which must be had/felt/experienced for a person/character to be all complete, and my point of view is that love is what you make it and therefore Xander had nothing to run away from... but I digress!
            If love is about action, what you do with the relationship, then I'd say that that's exactly where Xander talks bigger than he acts: it's not just about what he feels inside in some secret heart sense, but it's how he treats her. He doesn't act like someone deeply in love, or someone who wants to focus on one person and respect them and all that.

            Could you expand on the love is what you make it though, just curious?.

            Mabus said: I'm having trouble remembering exactly what Xander sounded like, but I think it always seemed to me that his lack of sincerity was an acting problem. I have trouble making these kinds of distinctions anyway, but I believed what he was saying.
            It's not just a lack of sincerity in that scene that's the problem ? it's disjunction between what he says in that scene, and how he acts in his relationship with Anya leading up to that. He may say he loves her in this all-consuming way, but we hardly ever see him demonstrating/experiencing/behaving in a way that shows he really and truly wants to be with her. There's a few moments when he's properly affectionate ? in Triangle, there's a sweet scene when they're in bed, but that's mostly him providing reassurance when Anya's worried about him leaving her one day, and it seems more like he's trying to make her feel better than necessarily expressing his own desires?.then there's the bit where he says "I've come to buy sugar"?but that could just be a fond, sexy feeling rather than lurve.

            Maybe there are more moments that I'm forgetting? Counterexamples, anyway? But, the general impression I get from his behaviour through season 4-5 is that he's often trying to persuade himself and Anya that he feels more than he does. Anya does call him on it actually? eg when he proposes ? and I don't just think she's being paranoid.


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            • #7
              These are all people that lie to themselves quite a bit. It's part of what makes their moments of lucidity so enjoyable.

              Anya is probably the most admitted self-deceiver because of her identity issues. To me, she pretty much discredited most of her feelings for Xander when she conceded that she just clung to what came along.

              Willow is probably worst overall, though, because she has some deep seated vindictive traits but always protests that she is very harmless ("I'm very seldom naughty", she tells herself).
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              • #8
                I will have to agree with a few of the previous posters, Willow is the biggest liar. She lies several times to cover her use of magic (and even wipes the gangs memory). She also with-holds information. She did not, for example, share the details of the spell that brought back Buffy. And she does seem to lack an awareness of how dependent she was becoming on magic. On a side note: It was a shame that they ended up giving Willow back the magic, like it was all ok, so soon. After they spent so much time building the addict analogy, it seems strange that they would then suggest that an addict can go back to using (as long as it's the good stuff).

                As far as Spike being self-deceptive, perhaps he wanted to believe that he was badder than he was, but I actually feel he was pretty honest about a lot of stuff, especially his own feelings. I would also point out that while he may have been reduced to a smaller baddie there at the end, he had been a bad, bad, man for a long time (what with killing two slayers). But I was really thinking about how Spike seemed to be so incapable of lying to Buffy. He admitted rather quickly to being in love with her, despite the fact that it was quite disturbing for him as well. There's a scene where he and Buffy run into each other in the basement of the Magic Shop and he is stealing something, he starts to claim he was going to pay for it and quickly admits that no he was going to steal it because thats what he does. When he and Buffy chat about his date at Xander's wedding, he again admits that he will probably take her home. "Evil" SHRUG. The times he does lie, he just doesn't do it well. Remember the story about the girl in the coal bin that Spike was telling Dawn? When Buffy comes in he tries to alter the story to be more child friendly, but it is utterly obvious that he is lying. Also who can forget the "cramp" in his leg that he tells Tara Buffy was helping him with. "What...it's a thing."
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dorian's Kitten View Post
                  As far as Spike being self-deceptive, perhaps he wanted to believe that he was badder than he was, but I actually feel he was pretty honest about a lot of stuff, especially his own feelings. I would also point out that while he may have been reduced to a smaller baddie there at the end, he had been a bad, bad, man for a long time (what with killing two slayers).
                  As I said in my initial post I don't for one minute believe he wasn't bad, I'm a firm supporter in stating Spike was bad up until he got his soul. However, he tried to pass himself off as a certain image which IMO he did pretty lously. All vamps are bad but many don't go as to quite the amount of trouble that Spike did, to try and convince people he was 'the big bad.'

                  But I was really thinking about how Spike seemed to be so incapable of lying to Buffy. He admitted rather quickly to being in love with her, despite the fact that it was quite disturbing for him as well. There's a scene where he and Buffy run into each other in the basement of the Magic Shop and he is stealing something, he starts to claim he was going to pay for it and quickly admits that no he was going to steal it because thats what he does. When he and Buffy chat about his date at Xander's wedding, he again admits that he will probably take her home. "Evil" SHRUG. The times he does lie, he just doesn't do it well. Remember the story about the girl in the coal bin that Spike was telling Dawn? When Buffy comes in he tries to alter the story to be more child friendly, but it is utterly obvious that he is lying. Also who can forget the "cramp" in his leg that he tells Tara Buffy was helping him with. "What...it's a thing."
                  I think Spike can lie to Buffy or at least withhold information, depending on the severity of his actions. As for example, he admits openly he was stealing to Buffy but this is hardly a big deal considering his past crimes, it is a possibility he may have believed this would seduce Buffy. However, he states to be a changed "man" to Buffy and yet tries to feed on a girl in Smashed. I doubt very highly that he ever told Buffy this, so whilst he may not always lie directly (although he did about holding the demon eggs) he chooses to not tell her everything.

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                  • #10
                    Self - Denial? Hmmm. Now there's a tough one. Oh wait, Not! Everyone in Ats and BtVS has at one point or another had bouts of self - denial. The Difference is with degree with respect to every character. To me, though, I would give it to Connor. He knew Jasmine was evil, He knew that Angel was not the monster he wanted him to be, He deluded himself about him and Cordy and, of course, pretending he's one of the Brady Bunch even though he knows what he really is.

                    I don't want to elaborate on the other characters because you guys pretty much nailed it, so I'm just going to jump to the most honest (IMO): Faith and Angel.

                    Faith, was always in rampage. She was always screwing (not the sleazy kind) people with her unstable, irrational outlook. But this personality did not emerge from some kind of self- denial, it came from a nihilistic honesty and a consciousness of what a Slayer's life is like: Alone and short-lived. Buffy knew this too but she kept trying to fight or denying it. This isn't necessarily my opinion but there have been many references throughout BTVS and ATS that confirms this, especially in Conversations with Dead People (see Holden Webster).

                    Angel is to me the most honest of everyone. He was honest with his relationships, He was honest about what he wanted to do and He was honest about who he was and what he wanted to become. This honesty causes him to brood unlike Spike who tends to rationalize things with a sort of "Semper-Fi" perspective and tends to think in terms of the now and its benefits. Honesty with one's self is never easy and as Frank Herbert said: "The respect for Truth is the basis of all morality." but accepting who we are is not an easy enterprise look at what happened to the characters everytime they tried to have a heart to heart with their inner selves.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
                      If love is about action, what you do with the relationship, then I'd say that that's exactly where Xander talks bigger than he acts: it's not just about what he feels inside in some secret heart sense, but it's how he treats her. He doesn't act like someone deeply in love, or someone who wants to focus on one person and respect them and all that.

                      Could you expand on the love is what you make it though, just curious?.
                      To expand: to be honest, this just comes from recent experiences. I find that some people are the 'the one', 'the big love' kind of people- some of whom 'make love happen', and some of whom wait for it to bite them on the ass and still don't recognise it! I find it's more a case of a calmer sense of genaral rightness being with a person than fireworks- that's about the sum of it, really. And I just think Xander fits the catagory where he's always got a secret 'grass is greener' wish, which to an extent, I think includes Buffy- not becuase he wants her wants her, but just coz she's unatainable.

                      Other self deceptive people: Joyce- right- i was laughing when I read that, coz it's just so true!!!

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                      • #12
                        I don't think Xander has feelings for Buffy just because she's unattainable. He thought she was attainable or would never have asked her out. I do think he has feelings for her that have never stopped, though, and that it interferes with his commitment to Anya.
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                        • #13
                          Yeah, I think I finished too quickly: I don't think the entire reason Xander wants buffy is becuase she's unattainable, more that it's a part of it. Not so much unattainable per se, but simply so 'other'- the 'you're not like other girls' thing, which in his cloud, he fails to see Anya as.

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                          • #14
                            Self deception: it's not unusual. Where would we be without those beautiful lies we tell ourselves? I think the most obviously deluded are the trio, allowing themselves to believe they're something far away from what they actually are. But I think they show us the most common kind of self delusion: lying to yourself to make everything more exciting; creating a world without the mundane. Of course, the irony is they do live in a world where their fantasies can become reality, but it's still not enough. Even if they can summon demons they still appear to the viewer as merely a joke.

                            Andrew especially takes the brunt of being the self-deluded joke, but since this is almost out only source of humour in season 7, his lies turn into something more than just lies. We pity him for being someone who can thrive only when deluding himself: but at the same time, I have a lot of respect for him. He adapts and becomes an interesting and likable character. He says "I hate my free will" but at the same time he becomes someone who can make choices, decisions. I think his lie aids him in doing this. And I see no harm in having one beautiful lie: often, I think it makes it a lot easier to get on with living than the truth could.

                            Xander's deluded about a lot of things, but, he unlike the trio, doesn't pretend he has any more power than actually has. Unless we think that his idea of himself as the "eyes" and being important for seeing everything is a lie he tells himself? He's not really important for anything? Just a thought!
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Veverka View Post
                              To expand: to be honest, this just comes from recent experiences. I find that some people are the 'the one', 'the big love' kind of people- some of whom 'make love happen', and some of whom wait for it to bite them on the ass and still don't recognise it! I find it's more a case of a calmer sense of genaral rightness being with a person than fireworks- that's about the sum of it, really.
                              Right, gotcha. Thinking of Spike now...Drusilla saying that she knew before he did.

                              Other self deceptive people: Joyce- right- i was laughing when I read that, coz it's just so true!!!
                              She is rather blind. Like Ros says about Andrew - her blindness becomes a running joke, but then takes on a serious note: at the end of season 2, when Buffy talks about Joyce "washing blood out of [her] clothing".


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                              • #16
                                Most of the extended Scoobies created an aura of self deception, especially as the seasons progressed. Buffy, Willow, Xander, Anya, Giles, Spike and Angel all where guilty of deluding themselves at at least one crucial moment, whether it was a man trying to convince himself love would be enough top sustain a life with a woman he loved, or a woman (as Ververka pointed out) too drunk on her own arrogance to realize she doesn't control the world. Andrew was maybe one of the most prominent offenders, his every decision becoming justified under false pretense (Shut up. You always do this. You make everything into a story so no one's responsible for anything because they're just following a script.). But then he was never fooling anyone else, so his self deception was flimsy at best and not often sustained. In my opinion Giles was one of the buffy-verse pros at lying to himself. Many times his decision to wait where taking action would be the hard, but right, thing to do, became cataclysmic into a disaster. Willow too was a repeat self fibber. It's really very hard to pinpoint one character.

                                Who was the most truthful? The only character I can think of who never during the duration of the twelve collective seasons of Buffy and Angel ever lied to herself was Drusilla. And she was insane. The instinct to lie is a basic defense mechanism, and one, although hazardous, is definitely excusable and justified in a nightly war.
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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Lexus View Post
                                  Who was the most truthful? The only character I can think of who never during the duration of the twelve collective seasons of Buffy and Angel ever lied to herself was Drusilla. And she was insane. The instinct to lie is a basic defense mechanism, and one, although hazardous, is definitely excusable and justified in a nightly war.
                                  Dru states that she knew all along that Spike was in love with Buffy and yet she stayed with him for a while. Could this not be self-denial?

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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by vampmogs
                                    Dru states that she knew all along that Spike was in love with Buffy and yet she stayed with him for a while. Could this not be self-denial?
                                    Personally as a viewer I never found that logic particularly convincing, as Spike and Buffy, you know, loathed each other before season 5. But hey, maybe that's my own self denial of self denial :confused2:

                                    Even with out the above semi logic, Drusilla admitted to knowing Spike loved Buffy freely and with out pretense giving me at least, the impression she just didn't care. It was obvious at least at that point that Buffy would rather stick pins in her eyes then relate to Spike, and that Spike's crush would never amount to anything other then humiliation (which, er, it did.). It's not like Drusilla cared if Spike had sex with Buffy. In my opinion Drusilla had no illusions over Spike's caring for Buffy, she just didn't care enough about Spike to be really proactive about it.
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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Lexus
                                      Who was the most truthful? The only character I can think of who never during the duration of the twelve collective seasons of Buffy and Angel ever lied to herself was Drusilla. And she was insane. The instinct to lie is a basic defense mechanism, and one, although hazardous, is definitely excusable and justified in a nightly war.
                                      I don't think Dawn practiced a lot of self-deception. She lied to other people, certainly, but I think she was quite honest with herself. She can say to herself "I actually used to be a little ball of energy until two years ago when some monks changed the past and made me Buffy's sister, and, for some reason, a big klepto." That's going pretty far with not lying to herself. She knows she was a klepto. She admits to herself that she used to be a ball of energy. I should think it would take a lot of strength to admit to yourself that you're not really human, you were created for a purpose.
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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Lexus View Post
                                        Personally as a viewer I never found that logic particularly convincing, as Spike and Buffy, you know, loathed each other before season 5. But hey, maybe that's my own self denial of self denial :confused2:
                                        Oh I agree neither did I, Joss even admits it is fanwanking to suggest Spike really loved Buffy from the start, all it is, is fanwanking but it is what most people believe and it is what Dru stated. I'm looking at Dru's perception here and she believed Spike had always loved Buffy but stuck with him for a while through it anyway which I thought could be one example of self-denial.

                                        Even with out the above semi logic, Drusilla admitted to knowing Spike loved Buffy freely and with out pretense giving me at least, the impression she just didn't care. It was obvious at least at that point that Buffy would rather stick pins in her eyes then relate to Spike, and that Spike's crush would never amount to anything other then humiliation (which, er, it did.). It's not like Drusilla cared if Spike had sex with Buffy. In my opinion Drusilla had no illusions over Spike's caring for Buffy, she just didn't care enough about Spike to be really proactive about it.
                                        But the fact that she never tells Spike he loves Buffy or lets her feelings known until after they broke up could be one example of Dru lying to herself and keeping in a relationship in which she believed one parties heart was for another.

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