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  • The Watchers council

    So, I've read quite a bit on a few threads now about the Watchers Council and their motivations for doing what they do the way they do it.

    For me the council is an outdated, tradition bound bastion of patriarchal power run mainly by stuffed shirts who care more about the history of their organisation than they do any given slayer. The Slayers themselves i think the Council see as being merely tools, weapons in the fight against the vamps and the demonsand as such one is very much like the last and very much like the next; one Slayers death is immaterial as long as another will follow. I Also think there could be some truth to the theory that the Council prefers to keep their Slayers young and compliant (After all a weapon shouldn't think for itself should it?)

    But is any of this borne out of any truly malevalance or is it just (Just?) unthinking blind obedience to outmoded ways of thinking? Do the Council represent anything more sinister than an outdated institution desperately trying to cling on to some kind of power? Could the be playing a more active 'behind the scenes' role in the balance of powere between good and evil? Perhaps more inportantly is there any evidence for such speculation?

    Als o if the above were to be the case what would this mean for Giles and Wesley? Are they now free of the council's influence or do they still somewhere inside themselves feel the burden of it's traditions?

    What do we think?
    JUST ENOUGH KILL

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  • #2
    I don't think the Council are evil. But I don't think you have to be evil to do a lot of harm to a lot of people. The Tories in the 80s weren't evil. They were just bastards. It's that evil/bastards distinction that I think holds true for the Council.

    Bastard = someone who doesn't care about the feelings of others, who runs roughshod over other people to get what they want. That is what the Council does.

    They don't believe in the rights or needs of individuals, so focussed are they on some Greater Good... but they forget that it's important to remember lots of smaller goods along the way. They're a mix of traditions-for-the-sake-of-them and dangerous utilitarianism. Ends justifying the means... except I sometimes wonder if they even know what the ends in question are, any more, so stuck in their ruts are they (and my grammar suddenly went all archaic just there).

    Originally posted by tangent View Post
    Do the Council represent anything more sinister than an outdated institution desperately trying to cling on to some kind of power?
    I think that they're not sinister or somehow "up to something" that we don't know about, but that what they are is bad enough. It's not the worst thing in the Buffyverse, of course not. But of people who consider themselves the good guys, they should be pretty far down the waiting list for white hats.

    There are, I'm sure, plenty of good people who work for the Council (or were before Caleb blew them up). But the institution itself is rotten - whatever it was originally, it's now certainly not set up for the benefit of the slayer, and it's doubtful how much it is aimed at purely saving the world. It seems that keeping its own power has become a goal in itself.

    Now so many of the watchers are dead, there is very much a blank slate... but I'm not sure that Buffy and co are doing brilliantly in setting up an alternative. They're hesitating to put anything at all in its place, perhaps? Too afraid to recreate the council, they're ending up apeing more military structures instead.


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    • #3
      Wolfie, I think "The Big Lebowski" articulated that distinction even better --

      WALTER: Am I wrong?
      DUDE: No, you're not wrong...
      WALTER: Am I wrong...
      DUDE: No, you're not wrong, you're just an *******!
      The Watcher's Council is a lot like Walter in some ways.

      I agree very widely with Wolfie's overall point -- malice isn't the Council's game. They were obsessively committed to their mission and placed it above all other priorities.

      But some things need to be said in their defense. They were not, by any outward indication cruel or unreasonable toward the Potentials or their families. Kendra's parents understood and believed in the Slayer mission. Robson's Potential, Nora, apparently lived with him or felt comfortable enough to walk in at any time -- he expected her to be there in "Sleeper", just not dead as she unfortunately was. Nikki Wood's Watcher raised her son, after she was killed and his responsibility to her ended. Faith had real affection for her murdered Watcher, and was perfectly ready to trust Ms. Post. Giles' pointed out that the Watcher diaries that Buffy and he studied in "Fool For Love" were incomplete as to the deaths of their Slayers because it was too painful to detail for the record.

      We know from Travers that it's inappropriate for a Watcher to develop "a father's love" for his Slayer, but clearly the relationship is a lot more permissive along those lines in daily practice. Since Cruciamentum is a very specific moral and emotional challenge for only one Watcher at any given time out of hundreds that probably actively care for and train a Potential, that rule apparently doesn't have any effect on the Watcher-Slayer relationship.
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      • #4
        I loved the idea of the WC at first, but it became increasingly obvious that they were quite pointless.
        I think(not even 100% sure) that they 'helped' Buffy in s5, but apart from that i dont see how the ever helped. When Giles was fired and Buffy quit, they got on just the same as when they worked for the council, nothing seemed to change. what exactly was the point in WC. Remember Checkpoint, all those watchers show up, id love to know what exactly all their roles were back in England. And id love to know where the council got their funding, as they seemed to me quite rich and powerful.

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        • #5
          I agree with the people who stated that they aren't evil, just lacked empathy towards the slayer.

          Their watchers are great and important men. They are arrogant and proud and sometimes unlikable ... sure, but what would've become of the world without them? Giles and Wesley are always the people who do the dirty work when Angel or Buffy can't do that. They are trained to make the hard choices, the choices their warriors can't make. Sometimes their choices are cruel, like what Wesley did to Faith only to lock Angelus up. But who else would do that? Who else had a good plan to capture Angelus? Lorne can be pissed at Wesley for the ethical wrong plan he made, but Lorne did nothing to save the world, Wesley saved it.

          Sometimes, there are people needed who don't stop because of emotions and morals ... because some bad guys don't stop there either. And that's why the CoW is so incredibly important, they give us these people.

          Besides, Slayers are very fond of their watchers. Buffy liked Merrick and loves Giles, Faith loved her first watcher and in the end ... she seems to care about Wesley, Kendra was almost worshipping her watcher and Nikki trusted her watcher with her son ...

          The CoW is flawed, but I doubt that we can say that the new slayers are better off than the slayers with a watcher. I think that Buffy's watcherless structure is just as flawed as the structure with watchers. There are only different problems.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
            Wolfie, I think "The Big Lebowski" articulated that distinction even better ?
            Oh, the Dude? if only he was running the WC, all would be a lot nicer (though possibly the slayers would end up a bit too stoned to save the world).

            I agree very widely with Wolfie's overall point -- malice isn't the Council's game. They were obsessively committed to their mission and placed it above all other priorities.
            I tend to distrust people who believe themselves to have a "higher" purpose. People who love Humanity with a capital H tend not to like people very much, as a wise person once told me. However?

            We know from Travers that it's inappropriate for a Watcher to develop "a father's love" for his Slayer, but clearly the relationship is a lot more permissive along those lines in daily practice.
            Yes, I think there is a distinction between the institution and the individual people in that institution? and also between the official line of the institution and the daily practices. I'm sure there are people who would turn a blind eye to "inappropriate" conduct, and in certain respects, the institution as a whole wouldn't interfere with the personal relationships, so long as the slayer didn't cause too much trouble. Perhaps a little like "Don't ask, don't tell" in the military?


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            • #7
              I think it's really important to give a distinction between the institution and the individual people as Wolife has pointed out. King summed up wonderfully all the positive relationships we've seen between Watcher and Slayer and IMO, it clearly demonstrates that the Watcher's are not a bunch of evil bastards at all.

              They think about the bigger picture, and as a result they don't value the slayer's life at all. That's the institution talking, but one can't help but feel the personal connection when they're actually on the field.

              They battle evil, granted through their ?weapon' the slayer, but they do it nevertheless. Does this make them, as Buffy described the Shadow men, "weak and pathetic."? Well I guess one could choose to say that if they wanted, but they battled evil nevertheless. As Giles states to Travers, "you're waging a war she's fighting it there's the difference." But they were fighting evil.

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              • #8
                But didn't we hear that the watchers fight as well.

                SPIKE
                Daddy, eh? I always thought Wesley was grown in some sort of greenhouse for dandies.

                ROGER WYNDAM-PRICE
                Spike.

                SPIKE
                (grinning)
                You've heard of me?

                ROGER WYNDAM-PRICE
                No. We've met. 1963. My colleagues and I fell upon you slaughtering an orphanage in Vienna. Killed 2 of my men before you escaped.

                SPIKE
                Oh... how've you been?
                Watchers do fight as well, they don't have the power the slayer has, but they don't sit on their lazy asses while the slayer saves the world.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Nina View Post
                  But didn't we hear that the watchers fight as well.

                  Watchers do fight as well, they don't have the power the slayer has, but they don't sit on their lazy asses while the slayer saves the world.
                  Yeah fair call, I can take that on board, certainly can't argue with the evidence you've provided right in front of me.

                  Really, I think it's rather unfortunate so many people take Travers at face value as the ambassador for the Watcher's Council. And not people like Giles, Wesley or Faith's Watcher, or two of the Watcher's who gave up their lives trying to save children from the likes of Spike as you mentioned above. Many of these Watcher's were clearly evil fighters and good people, just like Buffy and the Scoobies and it's unfortunate Traver's can overshadow this sometimes.

                  But even Travers is a complicated man IMO. He's all about the bigger picture and doesn't have time for personal feelings, he regards Buffy as a weapon, Giles as wrong for having a fatherly love for her, and that's that. But deep down he's head of a organisation who wages a war against evil, there's obviously more to him than he's letting on. And really, I think after ?Checkpoint' there's some rather admirable qualities in him, despite all his horrible flaws. I did enjoy his sense of humour when he asks Giles to crack open the liquor because he thinks he could take a shot. And despite everything in the past I did feel a sense of upliftment and triumph when he gathers the Watcher's around him in 'Never Leave Me' and declares war against the First Evil. His "it's about time we fight back" gave me chills.

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                  • #10
                    I think that Travers isn't much different from Roger. Nasty men, but not evil ... just proud and without empathy for others. Roger ignores Wesley since Wesley is fired ... there is more than one hint that Wesley is abused by Roger and still ... Roger saves innocents and fights evil.

                    I agree that it's a pity that people think about people like Travers when they think about the counsil ... but I blame the writers for that. Sometimes they wanted to empower Buffy too much. Don't get me wrong, I disagree with the way the CoW treated the slayer and I'm all for power to the people and such ... but if you think about it, they bashed the CoW sometimes.
                    Wesley became an idiotic and flat character who was send as a watcher for two slayer by a counsil who has many great watchers? It was nothing else than Buffy and friends being better than the CoW (Wesley) .. while a good watcher (or a better developed Wesley) would've created a grey area between two flawed parties with good arguments.
                    Last edited by Nina; 01-07-08, 03:36 PM.

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                    • #11
                      The Council always views and will always view slayers as a "weapon" to achieve their means. They are waging a war, so they don?t mind getting to know the slayer or the persons who are helping. Giles started like that, but as time went by, he started to have feelings for her, father-daughter feelings and that was prohibited, so that was why he was fired. But I don?t like the angle of "the big picture", that leaves out feelings. Like I said before, the Council is a little black and white in a world of grey, imo.

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                      • #12
                        Yeah I always thought it was kinda silly how Wes kinda portrayed negatively in 'Choices' for dare suggesting that they shouldn't trade the box for Willow. I get it, she's Willow, but Wes had a point. "You'd risk the lives of your friends, your family? It could all end right here we have the means of destroying this box!" It's not as if he didn't value Willow's life, he did "I want to help Willow as much as the rest of you but we will find another way" he just didn't want to give up the towns best hope for survival.

                        And really he wasn't wrong. I kind of got the impression both Giles and Angel knew that. We see a shot of Angel as he looks down at the ground and doesn't say a word as Wes is speaking, and Giles tries to calm the situation down.

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                        • #13
                          One thing I've always wondered is about the development of what is now the "Watcher's Council of Great Britain". One of the things that makes me think of them in a negative light is the colonialist connotations of the name of the shop, and the fact that English guys are running it. It started in Africa, after all.

                          But as a slightly alternative route, one thing I was wondering (TOTALLY speculative) was if it came to be run by Rome in medieval times (given the power of the Church) and then the English council split off at around the time of the Reformation, and in the end the Roman branch withered and the English branch split with the Church of England to become secular...

                          Ok, that's a totally works in my head thing with no evidence from the text whatsoever.

                          But I am curious to know what people think was the evolution of the council over time.


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                          • #14
                            Yeah, i was with Wes in choices. Especially seeing as it was Willows own stupidity that lead to this situation. (couldnt she have grabbed the books and ran?)
                            But the council does have a *slayer=weapon* policy, but when a watcher gets close to
                            his/her slayer, inevitibley they stop looking at her as just a weapon.
                            The Scoobies were right to hate Wesley for what he said(willow is a friend after all) but looking in from the
                            outside, i was with Wesley.

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                            • #15
                              Really like the idea of the Watcher's Council starting in Rome Wolfie, I'll have to give that one some thought!

                              Originally posted by buffyholic View Post
                              The Council always views and will always view slayers as a "weapon" to achieve their means. They are waging a war, so they don?t mind getting to know the slayer or the persons who are helping. Giles started like that, but as time went by, he started to have feelings for her, father-daughter feelings and that was prohibited, so that was why he was fired. But I don?t like the angle of "the big picture", that leaves out feelings. Like I said before, the Council is a little black and white in a world of grey, imo.
                              I never even got a sense of it from Giles, not even before he grew feelings for Buffy. He was set in his ways that "a slayer slays a watcher-" but from the very beginning he treat Buffy differently and with care. From sympathising with her in 'The Harvest' saying she was being too hard on herself. Whereas, I think the Watcher's Council would have wanted the exact opposite response, since Giles was cutting Buffy some slack for being reluctant to do her duties.

                              I don't think he ever had it in him personally.

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                              • #16
                                Not only was Giles never looking at Buffy that way, also Wesley never did, and he was the golden son of the CoW. He was confused when he found out that Buffy and Faith were different than the slayers in his schoolbook, but he accepted Buffy and Faith as independant humans. He let them date, go to school, go to the Bronze etc. Or you can also say that they did ignore him. The only moment that I ever saw a watcher really using his slayer as a weapon, was in Ats season 4 when Wesley used Faith in a way that isn't very correct.

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                                • #17
                                  Really like the idea of the Watcher's Council starting in Rome Wolfie, I'll have to give that one some thought!
                                  I think I shall have to give it some Fic. Hee, thinking of fun Asterix crossovers now!


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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by buffyholic View Post
                                    The Council always views and will always view slayers as a "weapon" to achieve their means. They are waging a war, so they don?t mind getting to know the slayer or the persons who are helping. Giles started like that, but as time went by, he started to have feelings for her, father-daughter feelings and that was prohibited, so that was why he was fired. But I don?t like the angle of "the big picture", that leaves out feelings. Like I said before, the Council is a little black and white in a world of grey, imo.
                                    I think the difference in Wes and Giles is kind of shown in 'Choices' though. Wes says that she can't leave Sunnydale because she's the slayer and by "the power of the Council he forbids it!" Giles also begins to say "Buffy I know we talked about you going away but-" before being sidetracked by the fact she got into North Western and congratulating her instead. Which fits with how he thought she deserved a first rate education after seeing her SAT scores in 'Lovers Walk.'

                                    In the end Buffy knows it, "I'm a Sunnydale girl, no other choice!" but it's how Giles and Wes approached it that was different. Maybe Wes was just bad with words, who knows?

                                    I think often Watcher's forgot that a slayer's life may not revolve around fighting evil. Aside from Giles, as far as we know lots of the Watcher's chose this profession, their whole life is dedicated to fighting evil. Whereas, a slayer is chosen she doesn't choose, sometimes they forgot they may not be satisfied with their whole life being about the battle, because there's is.

                                    Though I wouldn't be surprised if like Giles, Wes was also forced into it by his father, and it probably happened to other Watcher's with higher ranking parental figures or relatives.

                                    There's endless fic possibilities here! Wolfie you should most certainly write one!

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                                    • #19
                                      Very hard to gauge accurately and fairly given how incompentently and poorly presented they were in the show.

                                      **EDITED IN**

                                      What I mean to say is I think the show put an over-emphasis on the traditional aspects of the Watcher's Council. Any orgnization that has existed for as long as they have, in conditions they have and against foes like they have, they struck me in the show as being portrayed very... I don't want to say inflexible but very forced into the role they were given.

                                      Prime examples of that for me are "Checkpoint" where they appeared unaware of everything that had happened prior to their actual appearance in Sunnydale. As well as the test on Buffy's 18th birthday, etc...

                                      I just don't see how such an organization that fufills the roles the Watcher's Organization does could run or fuction at all with any degree of success for very long. I mean look at Travers who's apparently the head of the group. He just doesn't seem at all like the leader type for a group like the Watcher's council unless he possess several skills not shown in the series, chief amongst them, the ability to adapt and compromise.

                                      I get that in a lot of works of fiction, especially those aimed at the younger audience, the us against the world card is played a lot. The Scoobies vs. the Sunnydale Mayor and Prinicipal. Then in college against the Initiative and then against the Watcher's council. I get that but you know I think the writers didn't have to be as heavy-handed with how they portrayed the Watcher's Council if for no other reason then any logical measure, what the Watcher's Council ends up doing, doesn't really make a lot of sense.
                                      Last edited by Charles; 01-07-08, 10:52 PM.
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                                      • #20
                                        In the end Buffy knows it, "I'm a Sunnydale girl, no other choice!" but it's how Giles and Wes approached it that was different. Maybe Wes was just bad with words, who knows?
                                        I think Wesley's poor choice of words and more authoritarian approach had more to do with his strict upbringing then anything else. Wesley appeared t always put great stock in duty and being a 'good little soldier', more then I imagine Giles ever did when he was young (look at his Ripper persona) and so I imagine he expected everyone who worked with him to have the same respect for authority. Faith must have been a hell of a shock to him!

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