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  • The Unified Theory of Killin' Stuff

    Season 8 is raising all kinds of serious moral questions for fans, questions that started getting raised but never answered in the first seven seasons. These questions primarility deal with the sanctity of human life and the Slayer's, Slayers', or anyone else's right to take it and under what circumstances.

    I approach the analysis this way: what is being killed, why is it being killed, and who is killing it?

    What is being killed?

    Here is where I consider the distinctions between the inherent right to live possessed by humans vs. that of demons, if one exists at all. What determines when such a right is found.

    Why is it being killed?

    Is it evil? Is it presenting an immediate danger, or a long-term one, or no danger at all but you just feel like it? Does killing it save the world, yourself, or someone else, and do the circumstances make it okay for you to make the decision there?

    Also here would be the arguments of whether is killing it necessary? What, if any, alternatives are there, and is a duty to find them reasonable?

    Who is killing it?

    Human? Slayer? Does that difference always actually mean anything?

    My hope here is that we get our big philosophy hats on and try to discern a unified theory of the morally justifiable circumstances of killin' stuff in the Buffyverse.
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  • #2
    Good thread

    Before I start in (or actually, as part of my starting in, but not as a direct approach to the question) I'd like to make a point about metaphor and demons and the Buffy comics.

    At the start of BtVS, demons are metaphors. They give slayable flesh to the evils of adolescence, the high-school horrors that we all (or almost all) go through. When she slays a vampire or a demon, she's metaphorically dealing with the things that life throws at her ? whether it's problems with boys, issues of self-worth, trust issues, parental issues (eg by "killing" Ted, she's confronting the pain of watching Mommy get together with a new person who isn't Daddy).

    So, the moral question of killing demons isn't really raised, because the viewer isn't expected to think of the demons as real beings, on one level. Angel, because he has a soul, is bracketed with the humans in terms of his moral status, though this is one of those things I feel was done in a slightly lazy way?or at least, wasn't thought through, because when you get sympathetic demons later on, you start to wonder how much value a soul really has. What about Clem? What about Anya-as-vengence-demon? What about Lorne? I mean, come on, who can think Lorne is evil, with or without a soul. Anya isn't a metaphor. She's a person with desires, feelings, thoughts, loves?.she's not really all that different in her demon state, and her two conditions come to blur (demon anya regrets killing the fratboys, and later offers her life for theirs).

    So, demons cannot simply be seen as metaphors by this point?or by far earlier points even?and yet, there is a difficulty when comparing the metaphor demons with the "person" demons, the demons with a developed character. Perhaps not a diffuculty, but a slight fog of confusion because we're operating at two different moral levels ? the meta level, in which you can't take any action literally, and the literal level in which the metaphors are embodied as particular characters.

    Season 8 is, imo, far less metaphorical than almost all of the other seasons, but the move away from metaphor began before then. Season 6 makes something of a break with the demons-as-metaphors premise to an extent, because demons stop being the real foes? "Life is the Big Bad", and humans become the main enemies (whether the Nerds or Dark Willow).

    So, in some senses, we can take the moral questions at face value: if Buffy kills Gigi, say, she's not killing a metaphor-demon, she's killing a person, in a way that's morally equal to me killing a person (given the same circumstances). As King said elsewhere, when it's human-on-human violence, a slayer is just another human being, so shouldn't get special moral treatment. However, I do feel that Buffy has more options in a fight than most humans, especially given the magical armoury at her disposal. Willow could take out a lot of people without hurting them?eg the trick she pulled with the dancing zombies, she could equally do that on people, which would stop the immediate threat until another solution could be worked out? What is the moral relevance of Buffy having magic at her disposal?

    Hey, perhaps some specific questions would be illuminating, so we can compare past choices of Scoobies with the new choices they're facing?

    Was Willow wrong to kill Warren?

    Was Buffy wrong to try and kill demon-Anya? (Incidentally, Xander says to Buffy in selfless, doesn't he, that when our friends go evil we try to help them?when actually, in season 6, Buffy didn't do that, she tried to kill Willow. She just failed!).

    What would justify Giles's assassination-of-Gigi plan?

    If Buffy was about to kill Gigi, would Faith be justified in protecting her with lethal force? Or should we only protect the lives of the innocent?

    How "guilty" does someone have to be before you should protect them at the expense of their (nominally-good) attacker's life?


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    • #3
      Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
      So, in some senses, we can take the moral questions at face value: if Buffy kills Gigi, say, she’s not killing a metaphor-demon, she’s killing a person, in a way that’s morally equal to me killing a person (given the same circumstances). As King said elsewhere, when it’s human-on-human violence, a slayer is just another human being, so shouldn’t get special moral treatment. However, I do feel that Buffy has more options in a fight than most humans, especially given the magical armoury at her disposal. Willow could take out a lot of people without hurting them…eg the trick she pulled with the dancing zombies, she could equally do that on people, which would stop the immediate threat until another solution could be worked out? What is the moral relevance of Buffy having magic at her disposal?
      Not sure on this one. There's only so much she can do with magic, even now.

      Was Willow wrong to kill Warren?
      Yes

      Was Buffy wrong to try and kill demon-Anya? (Incidentally, Xander says to Buffy in selfless, doesn’t he, that when our friends go evil we try to help them…when actually, in season 6, Buffy didn’t do that, she tried to kill Willow. She just failed!).
      No and Buffy tried to stop Willow, not kill her.

      What would justify Giles’s assassination-of-Gigi plan?
      If he was telling the truth.

      If Buffy was about to kill Gigi, would Faith be justified in protecting her with lethal force? Or should we only protect the lives of the innocent?
      I don't know about Faith being justified in using lethal force, but then again she never quite went that far. I can see why she's trying to protect Gigi, but actually I think it would be far kinder to let her die. Gigi, unlike Faith, can't simply be persuaded to hand herself in to the police and become fit to be in society at large. Her view of the world is so far out of touch with reality that it may be impossible for her to ever lead any kind of life except for the one of isolation in her mansion, and that life is already over regardless.

      How “guilty” does someone have to be before you should protect them at the expense of their (nominally-good) attacker’s life?
      I wouldn't say its a question fo guilt. Its a question of whether there's any chance they can be made safe for the rest of society. A slayer turned serial killer can't simply be left running around, but if they can't contain or redeem her then there really is no other option.

      When it comes to KoC's questions about when is killing right or wrong, I would only use the first two questions. In terms of what is being killed, demons that pose a significant threat to humans can justifyably be eliminated. Humans should only be killed as a last resort. As for who is killing, it doesn't matter.

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      • #4
        It is going to be really hard for me not to just repeat everything I've already said, and probably bore half the people who have already read my thoughts on the matter to death. But I do want to get into this conversation because it is an interesting one, I'll try and keep my post as brief as possible.


        Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
        I approach the analysis this way: what is being killed, why is it being killed, and who is killing it?
        First off, I think that is an excellent start. The why being a big factor for me.

        Was Willow wrong to kill Warren?
        Yes, because Willow could be dealt with by human law. Though I'd be lying if I were to say I don't think I would have done exactly the same thing, or was to broken up about Willow doing this.

        Was Buffy wrong to try and kill demon-Anya? (Incidentally, Xander says to Buffy in selfless, doesn't he, that when our friends go evil we try to help them?when actually, in season 6, Buffy didn't do that, she tried to kill Willow. She just failed!).
        Well firstly, I don't believe Buffy ever tried to kill Willow though down in the grave she seemed to be reaching that place saying she wouldn't let Willow destroy the very thing she was chosen to protect and that she'd stop her. On the subject of Anya, yup Buffy was right to kill her. She makes a valid point that Anya had chose to become a demon twice, Anya had been given plenty of chances, Buffy makes it clear she has been thinking about this for a while and it wasn't some blase decision for her, and Anya had just murdered 12 innocent people. As far as I can tell Buffy was completely in her rights and doing her job.

        What would justify Giles's assassination-of-Gigi plan?
        I agree with Anon, if what he is saying is true than yes.

        If Buffy was about to kill Gigi, would Faith be justified in protecting her with lethal force? Or should we only protect the lives of the innocent?
        No she shouldn't use lethal force whatsoever.

        How "guilty" does someone have to be before you should protect them at the expense of their (nominally-good) attacker's life?
        I'll have to get back to you on that, have to think about it for a while.

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        • #5
          Well firstly, I don't believe Buffy ever tried to kill Willow though down in the grave she seemed to be reaching that place saying she wouldn't let Willow destroy the very thing she was chosen to protect and that she'd stop her.
          Yeah, ignore that bit...I think it was something that I hadn't thought through properly!

          Re Gigi and Giles, I have yet to see anything that he's said that would justify the execution. Even if he's telling the truth, ie he has been told by psychics that she's going to destroy the world, that's not good enough for me. It's like Minority Report, where to me the idea of someone being done for a crime they had yet to commit is a terrifying idea, and one open to mistakes and miscarriages of justice of the worst kind (not just being done for something you haven't done, but being done for something that you'll never do, because there's been a mistake and the prediction is wrong!).

          And if Giles is doing it to protect Buffy, not the world....that makes it no better for me.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
            Yeah, ignore that bit...I think it was something that I hadn't thought through properly!

            Re Gigi and Giles, I have yet to see anything that he's said that would justify the execution. Even if he's telling the truth, ie he has been told by psychics that she's going to destroy the world, that's not good enough for me. It's like Minority Report, where to me the idea of someone being done for a crime they had yet to commit is a terrifying idea, and one open to mistakes and miscarriages of justice of the worst kind (not just being done for something you haven't done, but being done for something that you'll never do, because there's been a mistake and the prediction is wrong!).
            If he had a large number of sources all saying the same thing then trusting them isn't unreasonable. Not that it really makes that much difference in terms of Gigi's life expectancy. Her chances of surviving long after the battle with Buffy don't appear to have been that great regardless of what Giles did. Faith might have drawn things out a little, or might even be able to save her, but to be honest I'm not sure that the latter is in her best interests.

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            • #7
              If Giles knows how much of a pawn Genevieve is and didn't care, he's just brutal and honestly I like him less. If he doesn't know, then deciding to execute her without doing enough research (especially since he's been out of touch with the BHC, who may actually have more information than he does about Twilight, etc), then I think it's out of line.

              In either instance, I agree with Wolfie -- it's like "Minority Report".
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              • #8
                Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                If Giles knows how much of a pawn Genevieve is and didn't care, he's just brutal and honestly I like him less. If he doesn't know, then deciding to execute her without doing enough research (especially since he's been out of touch with the BHC, who may actually have more information than he does about Twilight, etc), then I think it's out of line.

                In either instance, I agree with Wolfie -- it's like "Minority Report".
                He could have known exactly what he was doing, cared and still come to the same conclusion. What kind of future would Genevieve have if she survives? Rehabilitation would be a very difficult process, if it's even possible and the odds of her being able to cope with it aren't great.

                It could simply have been a bad call, misjudging how much his information was worth, but in any case, giving Gigi a quick death before she could do too much damage would probably have been the right thing to do.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                  In either instance, I agree with Wolfie -- it's like "Minority Report".
                  And anything involving Tom Cruise and women, you KNOW that won't end well. There'll be drugless silent childbirth before you know it

                  If he had a large number of sources all saying the same thing then trusting them isn't unreasonable.
                  But these aren't sources as in "we saw Gigi do X last night". It's sources as in "we had visions that Gigi WILL do X". She hasn't done it yet, so none of this is evidence to convict her of anything. It's just one possible future. Prophecies are tricky things and require interpretation. Damning someone based on prophecy seems like very shaky ground to me.

                  And as I've said before, there are other things he should try first before offing her!

                  ...giving Gigi a quick death before she could do too much damage would probably have been the right thing to do.
                  Euthanasia for troubled teens? Yes, very kind.


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                  • #10
                    Rehabilitation is pretty much implicitly difficult. But it's a thing worth doing. Really, without Roden's influence, would Genevieve be anymore objectionable than any bitchy teenage narcissist? Would it be implausible that if Buffy had been the first influence on her as a Slayer that she wouldn't be a proud and perhaps even favored part of the team?

                    More fundamentally, would she be dangerous to anyone at all if she hadn't had superpowers dumped on her?

                    And anything involving Tom Cruise and women, you KNOW that won't end well. There'll be drugless silent childbirth before you know it
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                      Rehabilitation is pretty much implicitly difficult. But it's a thing worth doing. Really, without Roden's influence, would Genevieve be anymore objectionable than any bitchy teenage narcissist?
                      Not the point. The point is that everything about her personality, including the most fundamental filters that she uses to view the world are completely incompatible with real life. She would probably qualify as insane even before she met Roden or got her powers.

                      Rehabilitation would involve writing over pretty much her entire personality and I don't think she has the strength to cope with the process. Gigi has been doomed, for years, to have a terrible life from the moment the real world catches up with her. As in now, more or less.

                      Would it be implausible that if Buffy had been the first influence on her as a Slayer that she wouldn't be a proud and perhaps even favored part of the team?
                      Yes.
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                      Last edited by Anon; 14-11-07, 05:39 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Rehabilitation would involve writing over pretty much her entire personality and I don't think she has the strength to cope with the process. Gigi has been doomed, for years, to have a terrible life from the moment the real world catches up with her. As in now, more or less.
                        So, are you saying that Giles or Buffy or whoever from the White Hats has the right to kill someone because helping them is too difficult?


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                        • #13
                          Not the point. The point is that everything about her personality, including the most fundamental filters that she uses to view the world are completely incompatible with real life. She would probably qualify as insane even before she met Roden or got her powers.
                          I still don't like killing her even then. You could use the same arguement to get rid of large parts of the population including anyone with a mental illness and probably most of the upper classes.

                          I think Killing humans should be the option of last choice in any given situation not the option of first choice. If someones death is inevitable then it's always going to be better that it be the other guy and not you (and that dincludes apocalypses) but if there is no pressing emergency and there are other options that can be taken then to me, you should take them.
                          JUST ENOUGH KILL

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                          • #14
                            So, are you saying that Giles or Buffy or whoever from the White Hats has the right to kill someone because helping them is too difficult?
                            Admiral, if we were to act as though these whales were ours to do with as we pleased, we would be as guilty as those who caused their extinction.

                            Seriously, if this is how Buffy herself comes to feel, then Twilight will have been right about her. I don't particularly enjoy that thought or expect it to play out that way.
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
                              So, are you saying that Giles or Buffy or whoever from the White Hats has the right to kill someone because helping them is too difficult?
                              It's not just about how hard it is for them to do, it's about what Gigi would have to go through in order for it to work. Unless they can pull a stunt similar to Revan in Knights Of The Old Republic then she really doesn't stand any chance of fitting in anywhere without going through years of hell and there's no guarantee that it would ever be successful.

                              I still don't like killing her even then. You could use the same arguement to get rid of large parts of the population including anyone with a mental illness and probably most of the upper classes.
                              Most mentally ill people, if they can be cured, would then have a reasonable chance of being able to fit in with some part of society. The upper classes, for the most part, would be able to interact with others and deal with the outside world. Gigi isn't insane in the normal sense, she's insane in the sense that she was never in touch with reality on any level. She wouldn't fit in anywhere in society, including with Buffy's organisation, and she doesn't have any mental condition that could be treated through normal means.
                              Anon
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                              Last edited by Anon; 14-11-07, 06:01 PM.

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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Anon View Post
                                It's not just about how hard it is for them to do, it's about what Gigi would have to go through in order for it to work. Unless they can pull a stunt similar to Revan in Knights Of The Old Republic then she really doesn't stand any chance of fitting in anywhere without going through years of hell and there's no guarantee that it would ever be successful.
                                But it's still not their choice to kill her - in some bizarre twisted sense - "for her own good"! That's not acceptable, imo. These are supposed to be the good guys, not Judge, Jury and Executioner in some Slayer-led Dystopia!

                                Though I would love to see Xander in a Judge Dredd uniform. Would be brilliant


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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
                                  But it's still not their choice to kill her - in some bizarre twisted sense - "for her own good"! That's not acceptable, imo. These are supposed to be the good guys, not Judge, Jury and Executioner in some Slayer-led Dystopia!

                                  Though I would love to see Xander in a Judge Dredd uniform. Would be brilliant
                                  If not for the fact that she is trying to kill Buffy and possibly end the world, thus forcing them to deal with her, I would agree with you. Leaving her alone and letting her live out her life as she had done up to that point would be a perfectly acceptable option. As it is, they have to deal with her somehow, and letting her carry on as she was is no longer an option. There is no future for her.
                                  Anon
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                                  Last edited by Anon; 14-11-07, 06:19 PM.

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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Anon View Post
                                    If not for the fact that she is trying to kill Buffy and possibly end the world, thus forcing them to deal with her, I would agree with you. Leaving her alone and letting her live out her life as she had done up to that point would be a perfectly acceptable option. As it is, they have to deal with her somehow, and letting her carry on as she was is no longer an option. There is no future for her.
                                    But there's always a potential for a human being to change, or at least...I feel that we should always act as if that's possible. The White Hats are trying to find their way in a new world, and it's a chance for them to do things differently from the WAtcher's Council, who just wrote off people like Faith who turned out to have a chance to change (with help from Angel). She might have seemed irredeemable to some at the time, but she wasn't. Sure, she's still a work in progress...but so's Willow, so's Spike...doesn't mean they should be killed.

                                    I don't agree that Gigi is beyond help. But even if she was, they could "deal with her" in non fatal ways. Prison, for example. With all their money, they could build a prison strong enough to hold a slayer. Presumably they've got Dana somewhere, and hopefully they're trying to help her.


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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
                                      But there's always a potential for a human being to change, or at least...I feel that we should always act as if that's possible. The White Hats are trying to find their way in a new world, and it's a chance for them to do things differently from the WAtcher's Council, who just wrote off people like Faith who turned out to have a chance to change (with help from Angel). She might have seemed irredeemable to some at the time, but she wasn't. Sure, she's still a work in progress...but so's Willow, so's Spike...doesn't mean they should be killed.

                                      I don't agree that Gigi is beyond help. But even if she was, they could "deal with her" in non fatal ways. Prison, for example. With all their money, they could build a prison strong enough to hold a slayer. Presumably they've got Dana somewhere, and hopefully they're trying to help her.
                                      Well, if you don't mind putting her through anything from depression to a nervous breakdown to actually making her as bad as Dana was then I guess she could, eventually, get to the point where they could start teaching her how to deal with other people.

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                                      • #20
                                        Why go get Dana at all, even? Just cap her. Or let her be Angel's problem.

                                        It's part of the 'not being bad' that separates them from the bad guys.
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