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  • The Dawn Factor

    Having embarked on a buffy rewatch recently, I just got to the beginning of season five and was struck by the character differences I perceived in Buffy as soon as Dawn appeared on the scene. Her reactions to everyone, not just to Dawn, were subtlely different. She seemed more serious, and in some ways more mature, than she had at the end of season four. To what extent that can be attributed to Dawn vs the First slayer spell, I'm not sure. But it got me thinking...how did Dawn change the Buffyverse? Not the obvious differences, ie, Buffy's new obsession with whining, or Joyce's fun new tumor. Rather, how did a retroactive history as an older sister change Buffy's character, Joyce's, their relationship? And how did Dawn affect the Scoobies history as we know it? It's hinted that the events of Seasons 1-4 were subtly (or not so subtly) changed by Dawn's arrival - in what way? Did Buffy still leave for LA? When did Dawn find out about her slayer-ness? Was she used by other villains in Buffy's past? Angelus, almost certainly, but who else? In what way?

    So that's a lot of questions, but they basically boil down to two: How did dawn change the characters of Buffy and co., and how did she change the events of the first four seasons? Any thoughts?
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  • #2
    Interesting, interesting... well, I feel that Dawn's presence might have made quite a lot of difference to Xander's character, putting him more in the "big brother" role, instead of, perhaps, the "little brother" of "Restless". Instead of being somewhat in Buffy's shadow, he's "big funny Xander", crushee and mentor. Perhaps she put him on something of a pedestal (she seems to in "Real Me"), which gives him a lot to live up to and perhaps a fear of not living up to that? But it also lays the groundwork for him being a mentor for the slayers in seasons 7 and 8?


    -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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    • #3
      It certainly brought out a maternal side of Buffy we hadn't seen. She has always been protective but her feelings for her sister brought about something different, deeper some senses.

      We are indeed shaped by the people around us and we in turn shape them. We see glimpses of the 'little sis jealousy' with Faith but what that lack was a certain purity of sorts, on Faith part, with want for a better word and also Faith was a lot less dependent on Buffy so the idea of her being more mature in some areas makes sense.

      It's a possibility or even a likelihood that she would haven't gone self loathing she went through in season 6. Well, she wouldn't have had to die for Dawn and also would have a greater need to eschew her responsibilities.

      We see a little of this with Angel. He has always had a protective/big brother type side (we see this even when he's Liam and disturbingly with Buffy in some ways) but Connor changes things, brings out a side to him he never knew existed, it literally redefined love. I think that's true of Buffy. Her line about the monks making her out of her was something profound, almost an preternatural instinct of familiarity. It could be her slayer powers or it could be more. Someone once said that, what if Buffy was wrong about jumping into the portal and it didn't save the world? As unsatisfactory as it may sound I think Buffy 'just knew'. She sensed more than a sister. She sensed an unrealised version of her, almost what she could be if she were not the Slayer, a kind of innocence if you will.

      Sorry for the ramble but it got me thinking...

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      • #4
        What I find curious is that when Dawn first appears, Buffy is super jealous of here and her relationship with her friends and her mom. Can?t stand her but as soon as she knows that Dawn is "fake" and that she doesn?t have a sister, she completely changes her way towards Dawn.

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        • #5
          She sensed more than a sister. She sensed an unrealised version of her, almost what she could be if she were not the Slayer, a kind of innocence if you will.
          Yeah, I'm in the camp that thinks at some times Dawn really represented Buffy's own innocence.

          Can?t stand her but as soon as she knows that Dawn is "fake" and that she doesn?t have a sister, she completely changes her way towards Dawn.
          I think a large part of this is that she is moved by the understanding that Dawn is an innocent, a pawn in a much larger game. And yes, her bond with Dawn as a sister grew as well. I don't see these two views of Dawn as exactly the same. Many people criticize Buffy in the Gift on the grounds that it was selfish for her to take such a risk just because Dawn was her sister. But I think Buffy's desire to protect Dawn at any cost was based more on her belief that it was simply wrong to sacrifice an innocent being, a child, and that if this was the price of saving the world then there is something very wrong with the world. I see this perspective in Spiral, when she's talking to Gregor.

          As for how Dawn changed things, particularly the past- I hate thinking about it. I don't like rewriting the history, and I'm glad the writers didn't spend a lot of time doing this. I guess because I love that history the way it is.

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          • #6
            I don't think anything major happened to the history. Which fits with Dawn's identity issues really, she wasn't there, she didn't effect anything. Their lives were barley changed, Dawn had no impact on them and not surprisingly she feels greatly alone because of this.

            Buffy still went to LA between s2 and s3, she states it in 'DoubleMeat Palace' and from what I can tell nothing appears to have changed between what went on with Angel/Buffy and later Faith and Buffy, only that Dawn was with Joyce when Faith kidnapped her.

            There was a noticeable change in Buffy, I actually think s5 was where the fandom split on her character. Some begin to have issues with her pretty much after this season, others still love her. But I don't think a lot of people's issues with her began until s5. There was a change in Buffy, she wasn't the same as s4 Buffy or anything that had become before that. Like Wolfie, I couldn't decide if it was because the slayer spell in 'Primeval' or because of Dawn's effect on her. But she was most certainly different.

            I actually think a great episode they could do in season 8 would be to show things how they would have been if Dawn had never been added into their lives. It could be a great character piece for Dawn, and at the same time quite shocking and upsetting too, we honestly don't know if they wouldn't have been better off should she never have come.

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            • #7
              I think it's easier for Buffy to relate to Dawn as a 'big ball of mystical energy' than as a sister which is a bit frightening. As 'the key' Buffy is able to pity her and protect her as the Slayer which is a role she is comfortable with and one that comes naturally to her. As a sister and understandably, as a mother figure, Buffy is quite confused how to relate to Dawn.

              Without Dawn, there would have been no catalyst for a lot of problems that eventually occurred in the Buffy world. For example, don't you just loathe Dawn when she says to Riley that everything with Angel was all serious and teary but she's different with him (Riley)? But it creates a problem and tension which is largely why I think Dawn was brought into the show.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by caughtup View Post
                Without Dawn, there would have been no catalyst for a lot of problems that eventually occurred in the Buffy world. For example, don't you just loathe Dawn when she says to Riley that everything with Angel was all serious and teary but she's different with him (Riley)? But it creates a problem and tension which is largely why I think Dawn was brought into the show.
                I don't loathe Dawn in that scene at all. She was trying to make Riley feel good about himself, she had really nice heart warming intentions there. It's a pity she didn't understand she made him feel worse, but she was genuinely trying to be nice to him in that scene. I mean she was just a 14year old after all, and didn't know enough about Riley to know something was wrong.

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                • #9
                  I agree that Dawn symbolised Buffy?s own innocence, that?s why Buffy decided to sacrifice herself instead of Dawn in "The Gift". She wanted that last part of innocence, the one who hasn?t been touched by darkness and loss to continue living.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
                    I don't loathe Dawn in that scene at all. She was trying to make Riley feel good about himself, she had really nice heart warming intentions there. It's a pity she didn't understand she made him feel worse, but she was genuinely trying to be nice to him in that scene. I mean she was just a 14year old after all, and didn't know enough about Riley to know something was wrong.
                    I do think the introduction of Dawn introduced significant tension into Buffy and Riley's relationship though. Not just in the obvious ways such as that conversation, or the 'kitteny' comment, but more significantly, in the way that Buffy related to Riley. In some ways, when she discovers Dawn's true identity, she really begins in her role as Generalissimo Buffy - her first instinct is to keep everyone but Giles in the dark, to hide it from them to keep them safe, and to keep Dawn safe. This seems to me subtly but significantly different from the distance she helped between the scoobies in season four - this was Buffy not only "acting all superior", but also knowing better than her friends, and for this particular point, knowing better than Riley. His comments throughout the season that she won't let him in have a validity in season five that they never could have had in season four.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by litzie View Post
                      I do think the introduction of Dawn introduced significant tension into Buffy and Riley's relationship though. Not just in the obvious ways such as that conversation, or the 'kitteny' comment, but more significantly, in the way that Buffy related to Riley. In some ways, when she discovers Dawn's true identity, she really begins in her role as Generalissimo Buffy - her first instinct is to keep everyone but Giles in the dark, to hide it from them to keep them safe, and to keep Dawn safe. This seems to me subtly but significantly different from the distance she helped between the scoobies in season four - this was Buffy not only "acting all superior", but also knowing better than her friends, and for this particular point, knowing better than Riley. His comments throughout the season that she won't let him in have a validity in season five that they never could have had in season four.
                      Agreed. I feel really sorry for Riley in that scene during 'Family' because he was right, Buffy was pushing him away, but he didn't know why. Dawn's presence did cause tension within the group, I just don't loathe her for it because I don't see it as her fault. As for example, in 'The Gift' Buffy and Giles have it out over Dawn, so her existance caused tension, but Dawn never specifically said or did anything with the objective to cause said tension. Anything she did say was usually by accident. I like her character, but my main problems are when she's being bratty towards Buffy in other ways, I just was a bit taken back someone could loathe her for that scene with Riley.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
                        Agreed. I feel really sorry for Riley in that scene during 'Family' because he was right, Buffy was pushing him away, but he didn't know why. Dawn's presence did cause tension within the group, I just don't loathe her for it because I don't see it as her fault. As for example, in 'The Gift' Buffy and Giles have it out over Dawn, so her existance caused tension, but Dawn never specifically said or did anything with the objective to cause said tension. Anything she did say was usually by accident. I like her character, but my main problems are when she's being bratty towards Buffy in other ways, I just was a bit taken back someone could loathe her for that scene with Riley.
                        Valid point. I do generally find dawn annoying when she's making accidental trouble for other people's relationships, but it's more from a plotty, wanting it to all work out point of view vs being annoyed with Dawn.

                        I guess what has really intrigued me while rewatching the series is the way in which the characters changes, and how much of that was an intentional response to the ways changing one's memories would alter one's personality. If we are all made up of some kind of combination of our genetic impulses and our lived experiences, changing those lived experiences seems likely to change our make up.
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                        • #13
                          I just was a bit taken back someone could loathe her for that scene with Riley.
                          I remember being surprised that Dawn would be that stupid to say something like that to Riley. She's fourteen years old, not seven. She should be aware enough to realize that telling your sister's boyfriend that she was a lot more emotionally invested in her ex than she is in him is not a very good idea. And if she didn't know that ahead of time, she should've realized it from Riley's facial expressions and reaction. I don't blame Dawn for this though; I blame the writers.
                          The story's kinda bland. It's about this guy named Dumbledore Calrissian who needs to return the ring back to Mordor.

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                          • #14
                            To be honest Dawn's just a bit of a spaz sometimes. As Mogs said, it wasn't really her fault. She rarely said or did things with malintent. I've certainly never hated her.

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                            • #15
                              She didn?t do that on purpose. Honestly, she was trying to help and try to make Riley better. That looked bad for Riley because Riley was already uncomfortable with how little he contributed to the group. That scene turned out painful because of Riley?s feelings, not Dawn.

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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
                                Interesting, interesting... well, I feel that Dawn's presence might have made quite a lot of difference to Xander's character, putting him more in the "big brother" role...he's "big funny Xander", crushee and mentor...it also lays the groundwork for him being a mentor for the slayers in seasons 7 and 8?
                                ...and yet "mentor to the potentials" Xander also readily has other kinds of thoughts with respect to potentials Kelly and Colleen in Act 1 of "Dirty Girls." How soon before the "mentor to Dawn" would have other kinds of thoughts with respect to a Dawn that Faith aptly describes as "women-sized" in the same episode? Consider the "clothes-fluke" that changed [pre-Dawn] Season 3 "Homecoming" "crushee" Xander's relationship with another gal with whom he had [apparently] heretofore seen as more as a sister than anything else. Perhaps the fact that Dawn is now super-sized is the only thing that is saving her from the attentions of a serial ill-user of love interests...

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by branboy View Post
                                  ...and yet "mentor to the potentials" Xander also readily has other kinds of thoughts with respect to potentials Kelly and Colleen in Act 1 of "Dirty Girls." How soon before the "mentor to Dawn" would have other kinds of thoughts with respect to a Dawn that Faith aptly describes as "women-sized" in the same episode? Consider the "clothes-fluke" that changed [pre-Dawn] Season 3 "Homecoming" "crushee" Xander's relationship with another gal with whom he had [apparently] heretofore seen as more as a sister than anything else. Perhaps the fact that Dawn is now super-sized is the only thing that is saving her from the attentions of a serial ill-user of love interests...
                                  Ah, well, the convergence of mentor and sexual teacher is fairly common in warrior cultures. Ancient Greece, samurai warriors. Perhaps Xander is just practising a het version of shudo?

                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shudo

                                  Except if he tried that, Buffy would gut him like a fish. I think Dawn's giganticism is probably not quite such a barrier to Xander approaching Dawn in "that" way as Buffy's fists of fury.

                                  Without Dawn, I wonder if he would've thought of the potentials MORE sexually, because he's less used to having an "off limits" younger girl around? Or perhaps it's just inevitable either way, young chap in a house full of frequently sweaty and scantily clad pubescent girls?


                                  -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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                                  • #18
                                    I also liked how Tara and Willow instantly embraced Dawn like a kind of "little sister". Also like how Tara and Dawn bond in "Real Me". They are two outsiders, so they understand each other.

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                                    • #19
                                      Sorry, I haven't read the entire thread so I may be repeating what others have said.

                                      Originally posted by litzie View Post
                                      Having embarked on a buffy rewatch recently, I just got to the beginning of season five and was struck by the character differences I perceived in Buffy as soon as Dawn appeared on the scene. Her reactions to everyone, not just to Dawn, were subtlely different.

                                      I believe I can speak with some authority on this matter! I was an only child up until my dad married another woman and I suddenly acquired a younger brother, exactly the same age difference as Buffy and Dawn.

                                      To be an only child is to be the apple of your parents' eye. You can be their little princess, and not really have to take any responsibility with anything aside from your own matters. Obviously, with Buffy, slaying would have upped this responsibility and would have enabled her to mature faster than her peers. However, suddenly acquiring a younger sibling (bear with me here - I know Dawn was written into their whole life, but Buffy didn't have to react to Dawn until she was created) brings a whole new sense of the word 'responsibility'. There's more a feeling of looking out for someone else as a matter of duty rather than just because you want to be nice.

                                      IMO, Buffy felt this weight on top of all her slaying, and started reacting differently to others around her because she may have felt they didn't understand this new responsibility (buzz word!) that was put on her.

                                      I find it pretty easy to tell from how people act whether they are the eldest child, youngest child, or only child (middlies are harder to guess), and all because of how they react to people around them, not just to the relevant siblings. It completely affects your outlook on life, and Buffy adjusted to take into consideration a younger sibling.


                                      Man I sound like a bloody know-it-all! All just my opinion

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by buffyholic View Post
                                        I agree that Dawn symbolised Buffy?s own innocence, that?s why Buffy decided to sacrifice herself instead of Dawn in "The Gift". She wanted that last part of innocence, the one who hasn?t been touched by darkness and loss to continue living.

                                        I totally agree, I love how you put it

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