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BtVS rewatch: SEASON 6

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  • Well, here’s my review of Buffy Season Six’s Seeing Red at last! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays.

    It’s very long - the whole review is over 300 pages in Word – yeah, I know!

    So this time I’m going to try an experiment.

    In the past, there have been complaints about the length of my posts and I agree that it’s really hard to keep reading gigantic posts that take forever to load. So this time, I’ve broken the whole review down into small segments. I’ve titled them and I’m planning to give them all their own separate posts to make the review easier to read. I’ve also tried to cut down on the amount of pictures – I still have a lot, but not as many as before. I’m hoping it will be much easier to respond to the smaller individual parts rather than one long post from hell.

    I’m hoping that posting the parts bit by bit every half a day or so will keep the review going without making it burdensome (and time consuming) to read. I’m also hoping that people don’t wait until the end of the review to comment. I’ve got a lot of thoughts about different aspects of Seeing Red that I thought would make great jumping off points for discussion – so please don’t feel you have to wait for me to post the next part before telling me I’m wrong.

    Seriously, I’ve been following the current discussion on Entropy in this thread and I think there are some fantastic posts. I also think the discussion is obviously relevant to Seeing Red, so please continue talking about Entropy or any other episode if you like in between the parts. I’m hoping immediate feedback in small parts is easier to handle instead of trying to wade through three hundred pages to pick out things to talk about.

    As I post each part, I’ll will link back every time to all the previous posts of the review at the beginning and keep them in order so there’s no need to worry about interrupting the review with posts.

    With that said, I hope you all enjoy this review! I had a blast writing it and I encourage everyone to post their thoughts on Seeing Red whether you agree with me or not – I welcome criticism! The whole point of having a rewatch is to hear different voices and different points of view – it’s the only way to really see every side of this incredible episode.

    Buffy Forum review: Seeing Red by American Aurora

    1.Introduction: Buffy Season Six: A Silence Made in Heaven

    Can't call to mom.
    Can't say a word.
    You're gonna die screaming
    but you won't be heard. (Hush)

    Seeing Red, the 19th episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Six, premiered on May 7, 2002. Written by Stephen DeKnight and directed by Michael Gershman, Seeing Red was the dramatic climax of a season-long story arc in which a depressed Buffy struggled to readjust to life after Willow and her friends brought her back from the grave under the conviction that Buffy was suffering in Hell – when in reality, Buffy was at rest in what she perceived to be heaven.

    Afraid to tell her friends the truth, Buffy confided in Spike alone – which eventually led to a secretive sexual relationship that caused angst on both sides. Meanwhile, Willow’s attempt to resurrect Buffy pushed her down the path of magical addiction and Xander’s engagement to Anya resulted in a disastrous wedding in which a self-loathing Xander refused to walk down the aisle. Even the nominal villains, a group of goofy nerds who declared war on the Slayer in their bid to be Sunnydale supervillains, took a dark turn into rape and murder. It was truly A Season in Hell – and fans complained loudly on the internet and at artist/author appearances.

    Many felt that the season forced their favorites to act utterly out-of-character – Buffy’s suicidal depression, Giles’ callous abandonment of Buffy, Willow’s aggressive arrogance about magic, Xander’s abandonment of Anya at the altar and his judgmental attitudes, Spike’s violent attacks in the alley and in Buffy’s bathroom, the Trio (with lovable recurring character Jonathan involved) suddenly turning into monsters was upsetting and sometimes over-the-top ridiculous in trying to show Life was the true Big Bad.

    All of this is part of growing older, of course – what happens to us as children and teenagers affects us as we move into adult life, for better or for worse. The Big Bad of Season Six was about life in the sense of learning how to take responsibility, gain confidence and assert one’s independence. And perhaps gain a little perspective and humility and wisdom as one tries and fails and then tries again.

    But I’ve always taken a little bit of an issue with the idea of Life as the Big Bad of Season Six in the general sense of learning how to be a grown up. I know that the show promoted that and it’s nice PR, but most of us generally don’t end up murdering our exes or beating lovers to a pulp or try to destroy the world after suffering from magical addition. Buffy working at DoubleMeat Palace may satisfy the conceit that young adults have to take entry-level jobs to make ends meet – but it’s uneasily wed to the whole Slayer mythos and Buffy’s calling and superior strength. In some ways, the parallels to young adulthood break down altogether when it comes to certain subplots, complicating the season unnecessarily.

    JOSS WHEDON: Okay, Buffy’s come back from the dead, so you have to deal with that in a big way. Season six was basically about, “Okay, we’re grownups.” We have no mentor, we have no mother, we have no parental figures. We’re dealing with marriage and alcoholism and a really abusive relationship. We’re dealing with someone who is practically suicidally depressed. It’s weird, but people didn’t respond to that so much.
    Others may not have responded, but I found the bleak quality of Season Six to be fascinating in so many ways because the creators pushed the characters – especially Buffy – outside of the traditional “comfort zone” for television – with Buffy a sort of anti-hero that prefigured shadier characters in The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. So what appears at first glance to be a series of coming-of-age lessons (or ABC After School Specials) became something else entirely. In some ways, I feel like it’s a dodge – the whole “growing up” theme a cover for a much grimmer view of life that was unacceptable to address in a teen show.

    Scenarios that were generally avoided in 90s network television because of fears of perversity or amorality were deemed acceptable BECAUSE of the supernatural elements – Whedon could allude to certain sex acts between Willow and Tara because the “spell” of Once More With Feeling obscured it. The Spuffy relationship in particular was so far outside the “norm” for a teen show that it even made the actors themselves feel uncomfortable and distressed. Amazingly grimdark if you think about it.

    But these elements were all were present in one way or another in previous seasons and only amplified in Season Six because the UPN network allowed it. In many ways, the excesses of shows today can be traced back to shows like Buffy which tried (not always successfully) to take things as far as they could go.

    It can also be traced back to the success of Season Two in which Angel – a character who had seemingly reformed – lost his soul after sex with Buffy and went apes**t through the streets of Sunnydale, murdering major characters, tormenting Buffy and trying to destroy the world. Whedon has mentioned that he felt Season Two was his most successful season in utilizing the supernatural as a metaphor for teen angst and Season Six feels like a more advanced version of that breakdown of order with multiple characters an adult stand-in for Angel in their own way. Season Two first and foremost made the issue of transformation – of ‘becoming’ – the major theme of the season and Buffy’s resurrection can be looked at as a parallel to Angel’s siring and ensoulment – with the subsequent loss of direction and depression.

    I think that Season Six has more to do with Whedon (and Noxon’s) bleak view of the possibilities of change than anything else and it follows where The Gift left off. Buffy’s journey in the series slowly divests her of all naïve beliefs in justice and fairness, in societal codes that only serve to inhibit freedom. She makes it clear to Giles that if Dawn dies, there is nothing left for her – right before she dives off the tower. The show even strips her of her humanity when she dies and is brought back feeling more like a corpse than her old self. Forced to forge new relationships with the Scoobies and Spike, Buffy seems almost suicidal as she drags herself around Sunnydale to patrol the Hellmouth. What Whedon is really talking about here isn’t growing up in terms of a straight line where things get “better” and growth is always progress – it’s about the act of ‘becoming’ itself and the inherent capacity to change as the real center of life.

    I think this is why Season Six is full of episode titles that describe the process of the transformation of a being – from the origin story of Bargaining to After Life to Entropy to Grave. We’re seeing Buffy’s growing pains after being given a second chance at life – once more with feeling – and it’s a subtle satirical mirroring of the unlife of a vampire’s rebirth. Did Buffy come back wrong? Is there a way for her to be “normal again” as she becomes “older and far away”? We eventually realize that there is no going back to “as you were” for Buffy, but this constant sense of change keeps the season balanced between angsty memories of the past and realistic fears of the future.

    This makes the idea of growing older a reminder that we are always in a state of change – our memory and past experience is what guides our perceptions and beliefs about the future. We live in the past even as we move forward. Old Buffy and New Buffy – different and yet the same. And the things that hold us back from change – like the social/cultural tropes that spread misogyny or racial/sexual prejudice – are so damaging that they can literally destabilize one’s life in pursuit of a hateful chimera.

    There’s a famous psychological paradox that everything seems to always be moving forward even when we are standing still. Time seemingly has a direction, it moves forward, and growing up is all about accepting that the past that is behind us. Some events are irreversible – you cannot unbreak an egg – what’s done cannot be undone. We are all constantly moving forward in time because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics that predicts entropy (an episode title later in the season when things really do get out of hand) – as DanSlayer said, it’s the idea that as time moves forward, the degree of disorder of any system will increase. We consume an ordered form of energy – food - and radiate a disordered form of energy – heat – until the system fails and death occurs.

    And I think that the ways in which we run away from our past and future is really the main theme dramatized in Season Six. How we deal with our past determines how we face our future and all the characters are weighed down by a fear of real transformation that drives them to create scenarios in which they can pretend that superficial changes are enough – and this is accomplished through a form of denial that is best personified by the old Hans Christian Anderson tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”:

    A vain emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two weavers who promise him they will make him the best suit of clothes. The weavers are con-men who convince the emperor they are using a fine fabric invisible to anyone who is either unfit for his position or "hopelessly stupid". The con lies in that the weavers are actually only pretending to manufacture the clothes. Thus, no one, not even the emperor nor his ministers can see the alleged "clothes", but they all pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions. Finally, the weavers report that the suit is finished and they mime dressing the emperor who then marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk uncomfortably go along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Finally, a child in the crowd blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is then taken up by others. The emperor realizes the assertion is true but continues the procession. – (Wikipedia, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”)
    The fear of being called an idiot when recognizing an obvious change – that the emperor is wearing nothing – leads everyone to pretend that their emperor is fully clothed. This kind of conspiracy of silence is at the heart of Buffy Season Six – and I’ve italicized the last few words to show that even when exposed, the conspiracy continues as long as it benefits those involved.

    So what is a conspiracy of silence? It’s a well-known sociological term that refers to a group of people (or even an individual) who ignore something because it is too upsetting or terrifying to address. This can refer to everything from sexual abuse to white lies – but whether it’s Buffy keeping her relationship with Angel/Spike from her friends or Principal Snyder forcing Willow to secretly write papers for a prized athlete, it is unmentionable. Known but never discussed. An uncomfortable truth hidden in plain sight. And it’s the tension between that knowledge and the refusal to openly acknowledge it that causes all the problems – eventually becoming a selective version of “seeing” which leaves a person receptive to seeing certain things and blind to others. And the easiest way to do this is to remain silent.

    Silence can be a form of denial – a way of avoiding uncomfortable truths. Things are swept under the carpet that are deemed too transgressive or too terrifying for others to handle. The show itself is predicated on the idea that Buffy and her Scoobies hide their vampire slaying from most of Sunnydale to “protect” the world from fear and worry. But in Season Six, the characters remain silent about almost everything. Buffy’s memory of “heaven”, the Scoobies resurrection plans, Xander’s fears about the wedding, the Trio’s murder of Katrina, Willow’s magical addiction, Dawn’s theft, Giles’ departure, Buffy’s relationship with Spike, Spike’s alleyway attempt to bite the girl – the list goes on.

    Of course, characters have hidden their motives in previous seasons – but what makes Season Six different is the determination to ignore the truth even when it stares them in the face. After they learn of Buffy’s “heaven” memories, Giles still leaves and the Scoobies still expect Buffy to be the same – the revelation of the truth is quickly ignored in favor of whatever they need the truth to be. Spike refuses to accept that he and Buffy are over – or never were. Denial comes from avoidance of pain. No one wants to be hurt – which is why Xander and Anya’s song in Once More With Feeling is literally called “I’ll Never Tell.” Real transformation is frightening and it’s much easier to believe that a series of superficial changes will cure all ills – Xander chooses not to tell Anya about his real fears to avoid hurting her – which ends up harming her even more. After the wedding, Xander wants things to be like they were in the past – without any real change – just as the Scoobies want Buffy to be the same old Slayer again and Tara wants Willow to go back to the Willow she once knew and Spike wants to be treated like a man without actually transforming into one.

    So it’s easier to just stay silent – like when Spike “takes care” of Katrina’s body – and ignore signs of depression, addiction or abuse. Worse, the characters believe that they can rise above these things by simply turning their back on them cold turkey – even as they secretly keep certain magical items and lighters in their pockets. And this is the ominous silence that destroys peace of mind and prevents any real growth.

    But it takes a lot of effort to stay silent – to avoid the obvious. The concerned looks that Xander gives Buffy throughout Season Six are indications that the conspiracy of silence isn’t as effective as it seems. But certain unimaginable taboos prevent him from seeing the whole picture – Buffy’s relationship with Spike is hidden from Xander’s view because he does not want to see it – even when rushing in to find them both having sex in bed. But Buffy is invisible to him – her silence prevents him from consciously acknowledging what he most likely already knows.

    Buffy finally lets Tara in on her furtive relationship with Spike – but breaking the silence is only on a “need to know” basis and the confident is sworn to strict secrecy. Buffy relies on her friends willingly refusing to see the truth – to pretend to be unaware that she is suffering. The same goes for the closeted nature of Andrew in the Trio – both Warren and Jonathan “know” that Andrew is most likely gay – but it remains hidden, a truth only voiced in jokes and asides even as Andrew himself pretends that he is attracted to women. This double wall of silence is common when approaching taboo subjects and it is never acknowledged even as all parties are aware of the wall between them.

    And this kind of social pressure is dangerous – because watching others stay silent encourages even more people to stay silent until it becomes a giant conspiracy of dozens who all refuse to see that the emperor has no clothes for fear of looking foolish. Buffy and Xander want badly to believe that Willow has successfully gone through “rehab” because of her real struggle to stay away from magic – but after Tara’s death, Rack acknowledges that Willow’s recovery wasn’t all it was cracked up to be:

    RACK: Guess the rehab didn't take, huh. That's the way it goes sometimes. (Two to Go)
    And Anya’s quick return to being a Vengeance Demon again after D’Hoffryn gives her the choice must make Xander pause – had she truly changed? Or like chipped Spike, was she merely a serial killer in prison? His silence regarding her past crimes during the past three years was predicated on a reading of Anya as newly human – and therefore no longer interested in demonic things – but there was a disconnect between her desire to be a human woman and her seeming lack of repentance over her thousand years of torture and murder. But the longer things remain undiscussed, the harder it is to break the silence.

    Like the vampires and monsters that Buffy slays, conspiracies of silence only grow in the dark – when dragged into the sunlight, they lose their power. And like Buffy in her grave, the truth can never really be revealed until it is uncovered and let free. But even when a confession is made, it doesn’t mean that others are willing to hear it. Xander is disgusted after he finds out about Buffy and Spike. Buffy’s confession of heaven is quickly passed over with the admonition of Giles to grow up and move on with her life. A lot of people prefer blindness – they don’t want to be forced to open their eyes. And there are a lot of self-serving “false” confessions in which characters try to convince other that they’ve changed without telling the whole truth – Spike tells Buffy that he’s different now without mentioning his first monstrous actions after his chip fails to work on her.

    Many prefer delusions to painful realities and believe what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Andrew is led by Warren to believe that the murder of Katrina is no big deal. The Scoobies mistakenly see the Trio as a minor threat despite the mounting evidence that Warren is a murderer. Spike and Willow foolishly believe that they can control themselves – with disastrous consequences.

    And the various ways in which silence is used as a shield to avoid change – to see only what one wants to see – is at the heart of Seeing Red – a phrase which literally means to be blinded by violent emotion to the point that one loses control. This follows every conspiracy of silence because our own senses are questioned to the point where we slowly lose our grip on reality and tragedy is unavoidable.
    Last edited by American Aurora; 22-01-19, 03:58 AM.


    • Extended promo for Seeing Red


      • Buffy Forum review: Seeing Red by American Aurora

        Previously on Buffy Forum: Seeing Red Review
        1. Introduction: Buffy Season Six: A Silence Made in Heaven

        And now:

        2.Introduction: Seeing Red: Virtual Perception

        RILEY: God! Does she think that – what – that I'd be comparing? She knows she's the one I care about.
        JONATHAN: Have you let her know that?
        RILEY: I think I - Haven't I? - She has to know
        JONATHAN: People can't always see what's right in front of them. (Superstar)

        The common idea of the phrase “Seeing Red” means to be so overcome with emotion – generally rage – that one is blinded to anything other than the origin of the offense. It seems to come either from the red cape of the bullfighter that attracts the attention of a bull and causes the animal to charge – or from the idea that the eye’s blood vessels swell up in anger so that the person is literally blinded by the blood pulsing in their veins. The color red itself is one of the earliest words invented in most cultures after black and white – not surprising since it is the color blood – and of life itself.

        This informs the idea of “red mist” – an old term that refers to a condition brought on by extreme stress/anger. The facial muscles become tense and internal blood vessels in or near the eyes start leaking. The blood can sometimes spill into the inside of the eye, causing the person to see everything through a "red mist". At this point, the person may become so aggressive that they completely lose control. Supposedly, the condition causes the person's eyes to actually turn red – or demonic. And the color red itself – with its connotations of blood and life and death – has been proven to affect mood – when subjects in a study gripped a bar while watching colored lights, red caused them to grip the metal thirteen times stronger than other colors. The color “red” has been proven to lead to poor performance in terms of cognitive tasks – but high performance in physical competition and dominance behavior.

        And this makes sense – we have the evolutionary eyes of a predator who needed mechanisms that gathered light, focused on an image and followed it through space at a distance. And it still remains the farthest of our senses that stretches outward to collect information. Over seventy percent of the body’s receptors are in the eyes and our understanding of the world is often conveyed by the word “see” – do you see what I mean? Some neurologist believe abstract thinking developed out of a need to process sight. When two lovers kiss, they close their eyes to block out all extraneous information and rely upon touch instead.

        Our eyes work much like a camera with lenses and cones and retinas and rods – but sight doesn’t really originate in the eyes so much as in the brain. Whether dreams or memories, we can “see” things that aren’t really there – and fail to “see” things right in front of us. In that sense, our sight becomes part of our desire to deny an uncomfortable truth in plain sight. And light itself affects our hormones even as it blinds or illuminates – it triggers our circadian system and hormones and deepens happiness or depression. And even dusts vampires.

        Seeing Red plays with the conventional notion of emotion as something that potentially blinds a person and distorts their perception – it’s not only Spike and Warren who become enraged and lose control. We see Xander still in a fury over Spuffy, Anya angry over her wedding and Jonathan pissed off at his treatment at the hands of Warren and Andrew. And Willow is so emotionally volatile after Tara is shot that her eyes literally turn red as her inner defense against the dark arts shatters completely.

        But emotions don’t exist without a foundation and colors don’t exist without a cause – the color red is created when light hits a red object and only the red rays are reflected into our eyes. But the color we see is a reflection – the colors that aren’t absorbed – even though the red apple in front of us is anything but red.

        But as obvious as that reading is, there is another more complex understanding of the phrase “seeing red” by neurologists. There is a condition that affects about ten people in a million. Known as synesthesia, it is a condition where the brain is wired to experience the senses in a different way – one can feel shapes, hear colors, see sounds, smell emotions. We see a bit of this in Buffy from vampires who use senses other than sight or sound to determine the emotional states of their victims:

        VAMP: I smell fear and it smells good.

        This is because their senses are governed by the limbic system, the most primitive part of the brain that runs through the nervous system and spinal cord. Unlike the average person whose limbic system works in conjunction with the more recently evolved cortex, it is an evolutionary vestige of how early mammals – and man – must have perceived the world. The Buffyverse vampire or demon seems to relate to the world much like this, with senses attuned and connected to unusual concepts of sensory perception. I've been reading the most marvelous books on Affect Theory suggested by StateofSiege and it's really made me think about these issues and how they might be entirely different for a vampire.

        Modern experiments splitting the brain in parts reveals that our minds are not solely controlled by the cortex – the cognitive, reasonable part of the brain. It’s just the opposite – they are only seemingly controlled by reason when in reality our emotions are unconsciously running the show behind the cognitive brain’s back. And when damage occurs to that limbic system through birth or injury, emotions become untethered from the mind and free float.

        Studies on psychopaths – people who are born without necessary connections between the emotional limbic part of the brain and the cognitive part – find it hard to understand fear or empathy. They also scored lower on tests for sadness and guilt. In fact, they found it hard to react emotionally to the color red. And when they were given drugs to induce emotional connections, they reacted with anger and violence much like Angelus after his experience in I Only Have Eyes for You:

        Cut to the atrium at the mansion. Angelus stands by the fountain bare-chested, breathing frantically and scrubbing himself hard with the water.
        SPIKE: You might want to let up. They say when you've drawn blood, you've exfoliated.
        ANGELUS: What do you know about it? I'm the one who was friggin' violated. You didn't have this thing in you.
        DRUSILLA: What was it? A demon?
        Angelus: Love!
        Drusilla: Poor Angel.
        Angelus: Let's get outta here. I need a real vile kill before sunup to wipe this crap out of my system. (I Only Have Eyes for You)

        Our consciousness is constantly in an emotional state, reacting to all stimulus, monitoring the body for ill effects. Even in simplistic AI experiments, the addition of emotion actually improves performance – an action system works best if it has an adaptive critic monitoring it and subtly making changes when necessary. It is also the only way in which to understand the subjective experience of another person – because imagination is a kind of emotion. To suppress the emotions in favor of logic doesn’t rid oneself of them – it creates a dysfunctional condition much like a pressure cooker that builds and builds due to stimulus until it literally blows its top and reveals what has been hidden.

        We are of two minds – the cognitive and the emotive. The cognitive is future oriented and concerned with desire, possession and control. Fulfilling our desires relieves that part of our brain because a goal has been obtained. The cognitive mind is interested in analyzing and explaining – because it desires to control all that it understands. It believes that it can change anything to suit desire – it represses limbic input from the outside world. We refuse to accept reality because our cognitive mind is fixed on a desire for things to be different. And so we end up fooling ourselves – even when we know from all indications that our best friend has been vamped, we refuse to believe it.

        It’s hard to say how vampires in Buffy are wired in terms of cognitive and emotional brain activity – the inability of vampires to “feel” or “empathize” certain emotions because of their lack of a soul seems to have some relationship to the rewiring of the limbic system. In that sense, they are somewhat like a psychopath in that the connections between the cognitive and the limbic system are confused – but the magical element makes it almost impossible to make a direct corollary. Since vampires are still set in the same emotional state as the human they once were with the same memories and the same psychological issues, it’s likely that the vestige of their former selves somehow relates in a strange way to the cognitive, power-dominated part of their minds.

        And in that sense, the concept of the “soul” isn’t some floating mumbo-jumbo religious notion, but a link to the expansive quality of their former emotional limbic system that allows for real transformation. The soul as a complex, unexplained magical rewiring of the limbic and cognitive cortex might shed light on Angel and Spike’s soul difference – why an unsouled vampire is genuinely different from a souled vampire – and yet both share the same memories and emotional makeup of the human that they once were.

        So the emotional, sensory mind perceives things as they are whereas the cognitive, intellectual mind comes up with strategies to deflect reality, only the merging of the two allows for a full range of emotion versus intelligence. Cavemen AND astronauts. The cognitive will try to change what cannot be changed and ignore real transformation as dangerous. The emotional mind will remain receptive and feel without analyzing or making assumptions. The cognitive mind always lives in the past/future, analyzing whereas the emotional mind always lives in the present. So no matter how much we believe we can avoid the obvious in a world of silence, our brains and bodies are telling us otherwise.

        ANDREW: Crime tastes Funny.
        In that sense, the title Seeing Red isn’t a negative one despite the influx of violent emotions. It can also represent a shattering of skewed perception that will reveal the truth beneath. In reality, transformation can happen at any moment and our senses can make unusual connections that reveal our true, inherent nature.
        Last edited by American Aurora; 22-01-19, 04:35 AM.


        • The Game of Life - who knew it would be a Big Bad?


          • Buffy Forum review: Seeing Red by American Aurora

            Previously on Buffy Forum: Seeing Red Review
            1. Introduction: Buffy Season Six: A Silence Made in Heaven
            2. Introduction: Seeing Red: Virtual Perception

            And now:

            3. Introduction: Gender Toxicity: Light Willow and the Cool Girl

            In 2017, a major study of media by USC found that stereotypes in film and television still abounded – among the not-very-surprising findings were that men had almost four times as much dialogue as women despite sharing the same screen time; African-American and Latino characters acted more aggressively, swore more frequently and talked more about sex; Asian characters were more deferential and introverted; and the majority of female characters were written as kind, sensitive people who only expressed positive thoughts. Those female characters who did not – almost always ended up as the villain.

            The study also showed that the biggest difference came from the writers’ room or writing collective – if female or minority writers were part of the group, the representation of female or minority characters drastically changed to match that of the white male characters. The female characters were far more likely to express negative emotions – become angry or unpleasant – and even the villainous female characters became less obviously wicked and more emotionally direct.

            There’s definitely a cultural bias against women who become angry or express negative emotions – the ideal of womanhood for some time was the happy homemaker who smiled through childbirth and never complained about her life with her man. In more modern times, women are expected to be both feminine and strong – needing to polish their feminist bona fides and be one of the “guys” while still maintaining a positive, cheery demeanor that isn’t too threatening. They can be tough girls – but just as long as it doesn’t threaten male prerogative. Like actors in a play, women often act out roles that don’t always express how they truly feel because they’re afraid they’ll be labeled a bitch or a whore. They’re trained to allow a guy to take the lead even when something doesn’t feel right – often with disastrous consequences.

            WILLOW: Sure is dark.
            THOMAS: It's night.
            WILLOW: Well, that's a dark time, night. Traditionally. I still can't believe I've never seen you at school. Do you have Mr. Chomsky for history?
            Thomas turns to head into the cemetery.
            WILLOW: Uh, the ice cream bar is this way. It's past Hamilton Street?
            THOMAS: I know a shortcut.
            He grabs her hand and leads her. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)
            In the best-selling book Gone Girl, the author Gillian Flynn created a trope based on this kind of post-feminist fantasy – one that she called the “Cool Girl”:

            Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, s**t on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

            Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they're fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, co-workers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I'd want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who'd like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them." I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every f**king thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn)
            I’ve seen some rants on the net about Buffy as a “faux” feminist show – and many center around the depiction of Willow Rosenberg as a “cool girl” who quickly devolves into a “Psycho Lesbian Bitch” until she’s tamed by the men around her. The whole Light Willow/Vampire Willow/Dark Willow divide irks them – because they feel she feeds into pernicious and even homophobic stereotypes that are damaging.

            But I think that they’ve utterly misunderstood the character. Yes, there are a lot of elements of the “cool girl” in Willow from the outset. The cool girl is often a computer nerd who loves pop culture. She wears comfortable clothes or eclectic outfits because high fashion doesn’t mean anything to her. She’s hot as hell but doesn’t know it – feminine and tough and non-threatening even when she’s brilliant. The cool girl knows how to have fun – she’s kind and sweet and always accommodating – and even cute when she’s bossy.

            She might even fiddle with a touch of magic like Kim Novac or Elizabeth Montgomery – so long as she drops her mask and shows extreme vulnerability so that someone else can swoop in and save her. And that boyfriend is usually cool himself – someone like Oz who plays in a band and has an alter-ego himself as badass werewolf. And a lot of women try to be that kind of girl - a girl’s best friend forever and a boy’s best mate – always accommodating and never complaining.

            But what saves Willow from falling into this stereotype are a hundred indications that Willow doesn’t really believe in the mask that she’s created for herself – that she’s actually concealing a lot of unresolved anger and frustration about the lack of fairness in the world. Things like the death of Jenny Calendar hit Willow hard – and she longs to eventually hit back despite her inclination to be the Cool Girl.

            We get a glimpse of this rather nihilistic, dark internal struggle in The Wish when her vampire counterpart is a match for Angelus in terms of sadism and self-regard. Willow knows that she’s smarter and more gifted than almost anyone in Sunnydale – and yet she’s bound by a code of unwritten rules (well, sometimes written) that dictate how a good girl would act – or a cool girl. And sometimes the expectation that she will always be accommodating causes her to push back against the stereotype:

            XANDER: Willow, did you remember to tape Biography last Friday?
            WILLOW: Uh-huh.
            BUFFY: See, I told you. Old Reliable.
            WILLOW: Oh, thanks.
            BUFFY: What?
            WILLOW: 'Old Reliable'? Yeah, great. There's a sexy nickname.
            BUFFY: Well, I-I didn't mean it as –
            WILLOW: No, it's fine. I'm 'Old Reliable'.
            XANDER: She just means, you know, the geyser. You're like a geyser of fun that goes off at regular intervals.
            WILLOW: That's Old Faithful.
            XANDER: Isn't that the dog that, that the guy had to shoot –
            WILLOW: That's Old Yeller.
            BUFFY: Xander, I beg you not to help me. Will, I didn't mean it as a bad thing. I think it's good to be reliable.
            WILLOW: Well, maybe I don't wanna be reliable all the time. Maybe I'm not just some doormat person. Homework Gal.
            XANDER: I'm thinking nerve strike.
            WILLOW: Maybe I'll change my look! Or cut class. You don't know! And I'm eating this banana - lunchtime be damned!
            BUFFY: Will – wait. I'm really sorry!
            WILLOW: Buff, I'm storming off. It doesn't really work if you come with me. (Doppelgangland)
            It’s a little different from Buffy’s moral compass as the Slayer – Buffy engages with violence on a daily basis to fight the wrongs of the world – her power comes from conquest and so she has to be morally beyond reproach in her mind or she’s nothing more than a killer. But Willow doesn’t have that kind of agency – she’s winnowed in by her own fears of doing the wrong thing and realizing her greatest fear – that she’ll reveal she’s essentially worthless and unlovable. Luckily, she comes from a progressive family – and so coming out of the closet wasn’t as traumatic as it could have been because her parents hadn’t labeled it as “wrong” as it might be for someone in a more fundamentalist home.

            Still, it takes a lot of bravery for Willow to come out – and to fight against her self-perception that she isn’t pretty enough, she isn’t smart enough, she isn’t good enough to find a partner, have a fulfilling career and do what Buffy does to save others. As the viewer sees Willow grow from the timid shy girl of Welcome to the Hellmouth to the brilliant hacker and powerful witch, they also see her struggle as she tries to jettison all the baggage that she was handed as a child.

            It’s apt that the first real connection between Willow and Tara is in Hush – an entire episode about the inability to speak out – and Tara is bringing information from a book about spells of speech and silence. Willow’s new relationship with Tara actually helps her pull away even more from the narrow strictures of Cool Girl-dom because coming out of the closet often creates a distancing effect in which one can see the societal tropes and conformity of thought even more clearly than before – because one is now officially, truly outside the social idea of “norm.”

            The act of change is frightening to others – because change isn’t always necessarily a good thing. The argument between Willow and Tara in Tough Love says a lot about ways in which Willow is and isn’t changing. Willow is becoming more proficient at magic, acing all of her classes, proudly out at school – and yet, it bothers her that she can’t have an opinion on how Buffy’s raising Dawn in the absence of Joyce because her mother didn’t die. There’s a presumption here that Willow should have a say even though she hasn’t experienced Buffy’s trauma like Tara has – instead of listening to Tara, Willow is making it all about herself because she’s fearful of exclusion.

            WILLOW: Buffy was just a little crabby at Dawn about her schoolwork.
            TARA: Well, it's understandable.
            WILLOW: Yeah, sure it is. I'd totally be blowing off classes if I were in Dawnie's shoes.
            TARA: Sweetie, you wouldn't blow off a class if your head was on fire. And, I meant Buffy.
            WILLOW: Buffy what?
            TARA: Understandable about the crabby. She has to look after Dawn now.
            WILLOW: Yeah, but not in a Miss Minchin's Select Seminary For Girls way. I mean, she's just gonna make Dawnie more rebellious.
            TARA: I had to deal with my brother's problems after – I mean, you can't really know what it's like to-
            WILLOW: Yeah, I know that.
            TARA: I, I didn't mean to-
            WILLOW: No, I just – I know I can't know what you went through. But I just –it's no big.
            TARA: I made you mad.
            WILLOW: No. No.
            TARA: All I meant was –
            WILLOW: No, it's okay. This whole Buffy thing, let's just forget it.
            TARA: No, please. I mean, I mean, tell me if I said something wrong, otherwise I know I'll say it again. Probably often and in public.
            WILLOW: No, I was snippy gal. It's just I know I can't – on some level it's like my opinion isn't worth anything because I haven't been through – I didn't lose my mom, so I don't know.
            TARA: Well, I'm not the expert. I mean, I've only lost the one. Do I act like the big knowledge woman?
            WILLOW: No.
            TARA: Is that no spelled Y-E-S?
            WILLOW: S-O-R-T of. I mean, I just feel like the junior partner. You've been doing everything longer than me. You've been out longer – you've been practicing witchcraft way longer. (Tough Love)
            And the real issues between them rise to the surface – all to do with change. Tara has been gay longer than Willow and she’s practiced magic longer than Willow. But Willow’s tired of being told what to do by those who claim to know more – she’s ready to spread her wings and feels like Tara and the others are part and parcel of a society that has kept women like her down for so long. Especially when Tara insinuates that Willow is becoming too powerful – a common complaint about women who have the same ambitions as men. And Willow takes it badly because it pushes the wrong buttons – it sounds like all the other times that she’s been told to shut up and sit down and lower her head and just be ‘Old Faithful’:

            TARA: Oh, but you're way beyond me there! In just a few – I mean, it frightens me how powerful you're getting.
            WILLOW: That's a weird word.
            TARA: Getting?
            WILLOW: It frightens you? I frighten you?
            TARA: That is so not what I meant. I meant impresses – impressive.
            WILLOW: Well, I took Psych 101. I mean, I took it from an evil government scientist who was skewered by her Frankenstein-like creation before the final, but I know what a Freudian slip is. Don't you trust me?
            TARA: With my life.
            WILLOW: That's not what I mean.
            TARA: Can't we just go to the fair? (Tough Love)
            One can clearly see here where Willow’s thought-process is heading – she’s conflating Tara’s concern over too much magic too fast with a sexist train of thought that women shouldn’t assert themselves or try for too much. Willow’s past struggle to surmount the whole good little girl expectation leads her to attack Tara because she’s reading the criticisms through a prism of past experience. Willow feels that no one will give her the opportunity to change – that they all want to put her in a box and clip her wings.

            And Willow becomes furious at the implication that Tara can’t handle the new changes in Willow and sees how it’s all connected to her insecurity that Willow’s sexual orientation is one of those “changes” that may change back instead of a real, genuine thing:

            WILLOW: I don't feel real multicultural right now. What is it about me that you don't trust?
            TARA: It's not that. I worry, sometimes. You're, you're changing so much, so fast. I don't know where you're heading.
            WILLOW: Where I'm heading?
            TARA: I'm saying everything wrong.
            WILLOW: No, I think you're being pretty clear. This isn't about the witchcraft. It's about the other changes in my life.
            TARA: I trust you. I just – I don't know where I'm gonna fit in in your life when –
            WILLOW: When I change back? Yeah, this is a college thing, just a little experimentation before I get over the thrill and head back to boys' town. You think that?
            TARA: Should I?
            WILLOW: I'm really sorry that I didn't establish my lesbo street cred before I got into this relationship. You're the only woman I've ever fallen in love with, so how on earth could you ever take me seriously?
            TARA: Willow, please!
            WILLOW: Have fun at the fair. (Tough Love)
            Willow believes that she’s being attacked for trying to change and grow – that becoming more experienced with magic would somehow affect her love for Tara or her sexuality. But despite mistakes, Willow is determined to continue on in her studies. She claimed at several points that it was to help Buffy – but was it solely to help others? We see several instances in which her anger gets the better of her and she uses magic as an instrument of retribution and revenge on a world that seems to have wronged her time and again – so much so that D’Hoffryn makes a visit because he believes he’s found another potential Vengeance Demon.

            There’s a fascinating internal battle here between “Old Faithful” Willow who always works for the benefit of everyone else and the burgeoning power of New Magical Willow who wants to take just a little for herself as well. Does this make Willow particularly selfish? No, it makes her human – trapped between what she believes a “good girl” should want and what she actually wants for herself – which she suspects is wrong.

            But it was self-evident that when Willow’s power began to grow that she became impatient with the expectations of her friends that she would remain the same person she was before. Just as with many people who become extremely talented at one thing, there’s a tendency to feel pulled down by those who want the person to remain the same. Everyone agrees that change is a good thing until it happens to someone you rely upon.

            They certainly outstrip Tara’s powers and this created an imbalance in their relationship that was even worsened by Glory’s mind suck. But in a way, Tara’s madness created even more of a division in Willow – it allowed Willow to play the part of the Cool Girl Deluxe by taking care of her helpless lover – but also incited Willow to power up on black magic to revenge herself on Glory. So when Willow undoes Glory’s action in The Gift, there still remained a huge magical imbalance between them that was heightened by Willow’s position as the group leader in Buffy’s absence and the seeming failure of her resurrection spell to bring Buffy back right.

            I’ve said this before, but it’s kinda sad to watch Willow try to go back to before in Season Six since that’s clearly as impossible as Buffy pretending that night with Spike never happened. Willow cannot unlearn what she has learned – she’s steeped too much in magic to back away considering the profound experience of enlightenment she’s received by mucking about in what Dipstick once memorably called The Watcher’s Council’s White Man Repository of Books and Magical Items. Giles has handed over the reins of power to Anya who has basically allowed Willow to access anything she wants in order to resurrect Buffy.

            Despite Willow’s moral grounding and reticence to break rules, I would imagine those forbidden words of dark magic that opened up the very nature of life and death would be a fatal draw for a brilliant woman who constantly repressed her own inner nature while being constantly ignored, teased, and beaten down by adult figures (and even her own peers) and was forced to play the Cool Girl who is always helpful and always positive throughout six seasons of Buffy.

            Morals are always subjective, but Willow’s desire to remain a Cool Girl always fought with her intense interest in taking learning as far as it could go. Her Faustian desire to know everything – to understand everything – was always at war with her social conditioning to be the meek little mouse who submitted to what society wanted of her. Her self-loathing at her inability to accomplish this – due to her inner urges to break free of her confining bonds – only made Willow more anxious to make everything “okay” at all times. And it’s hard to say whether her initial break-in at the Magic Box in Tough Love was completely centered on avenging Tara – or whether it also spoke to darker, repressed urges to know the forbidden that Willow always repressed inside.

            But Willow always covered up those urges with a smile and a resolve face – it’s only when her magic grows so powerful that she can actually control minds that she starts to realize that she no longer has to go through all the impossibly complex and emotionally damaging processes of real-time image management – convincing everyone that she’s still the Cool Girl. Now she can just pluck whatever memories she likes from Tara’s mind – leaving her with the exact impression she wanted. Tara is rightfully horrified by this and leaves the relationship – creating even more of a division in Willow as she tries to detox from her magical “addiction” – but she can’t detox from herself.

            And so Willow reverts back to the Cool Girl computer nerd – a time when her friends still loved her and didn’t blame her even when she made mistakes. But now as a mature adult, she’s resolved to turn her back on childish things and grow up. But does she? Can she?

            Was Dark Willow avoidable? Was it necessary for the writers to have Willow to go through that hellish trauma – violently beating up Buffy and Giles – almost killing dozens of innocent bystanders – murdering a human by torturing and skinning him alive – in order to achieve a redemptive arc? The same questions swirl around Spike’s soul journey and the necessity of showing such a reprehensible act as attempted rape so that he could find redemption?

            But Buffy Season Six doesn’t pull any punches with regards to change – would their narrative journey have been more powerful if they changed after a few therapy sessions or some meaningless act that wasn't offensive or caused direct harm to anyone? I’ve seen in real life that it often takes a terrible tragedy for someone to change their life and stop behaviors that are destructive to themselves and everyone around them.

            I think the problematic element for some people happens in narratives when the writers focus on the perpetrators and not the victims of traumatic and terrible events – centering the narrative on the perpetrator to achieve a redemptive arc. There’s a modern view that we should focus more on the victim and how they suffer. But sometimes, that’s just as troubling and I would say in some cases, just as damaging because of pernicious stereotypes about how victims of violence or rape should react in the aftermath of a terrible event – something I think Seeing Red tried to depict with difficulty.

            The actual word “dark” comes from the Proto-Germanic word “derkaz” which means “to hide or conceal” which only later turned into an “absence of light” – and at first glance, that seems fitting for Willow’s alter-ego. The magical power that she seeks to explore, to learn, to control is forbidden and locked away in a bookcase that no one but Giles himself is allowed to access. But it also means that only the dark can create the contrast to reveal what’s hidden within – that only by exploring the darkness can bring certain things to light.

            Whereas “light” comes from the Latin word Lux which comes from the Greek word for the dawn and the rising of the sun – but “light” can also mean wan and weak these days when the word is plastered on every food receptacle possible, to remind women that the socially acceptable thing is to be light, moderate, balanced like Light Cream Cheese or Light Soda or the Light Cookies of Guilt.

            WILLOW: Look, cookies. A very not-evil thing I did. Oatmeal? (Something Blue)

            I think that’s why there’s actually a huge fan base for “Dark Willow” in the Buffyverse – a celebration of the corruption of Willow Rosenberg into a master of “dark” magic. Dark Willow is a Cool Girl in a very different sense than the Cool Girl described by Gillian Flynn – she wields female power and she’s not afraid to use it and she’s not answerable to anyone. The depiction of Dark Willow’s power as “evil” rankles a bit – it feels like what the writers are really saying is that female power is uncontrollable and needs to be contained. She’s hysterical as only a woman can be – don’t you see why they shouldn’t ever have that kind of responsibility or power? They can’t handle it.

            And Willow as a lesbian makes it fifty times worse because it falls into really damaging tropes about gay women and then adds a shot of “witch” to go with that – in that sense, Willow is the gorgon/Medusa who has to be destroyed by the Hero in order for the proper social order to be maintained. So it really seems to go against the whole “girl power” message of BtVS.

            But I think that the Light Willow/Dark Willow storyline is vitally important to the feminist message of Buffy. I don’t believe that the writers – many of whom were women – felt that female power had to be contained or that lesbians should die. Unintended consequences, perhaps – even naiveté – but I think that Willow’s journey is emblematic of the difficulties that women face every day as they try to balance the emotional desire to be the socially acceptable Cool Girl (who is always cherished and loved and adored) with the multitude of possibilities of Other Girls they could be.
            Last edited by American Aurora; 22-01-19, 04:41 AM.


            • Gillian Flynn on the cool girl


              • Buffy Forum review: Seeing Red by American Aurora

                Previously on Buffy Forum: Seeing Red Review
                1. Introduction: Buffy Season Six: A Silence Made in Heaven
                2. Introduction: Seeing Red: Virtual Perception
                3. Introduction: Gender Toxicity: Light Willow and the Cool Girl

                And now:
                4. Seeing Red, Part 1: From Morning at Buffy’s to the Kingdom of the Nerds

                The events of Seeing Red take place in one day – from morning to morning. It begins the morning after the volatile events of Entropy where we left Xander and Anya in a rage over her dalliance with Spike, Buffy furious over Spike’s reveal of their relationship and Spike still seething over Buffy’s rejection. But unexpectedly, it begins with the soft, gentle morning after of Willow and Tara who we saw kissing in the final image of the previous episode. So Willow and Tara only have a precious twenty-four hours together before they’re separated forever.

                When Tara appears in Willow’s bedroom, she’s obviously already decided to take Willow back. But she wants to make it clear that her objections about what happened between them still stand despite the fact that she longs for Willow so much that she’s ready to give in.

                TARA: Things fall apart. They fall apart so hard.
                WILLOW: Tara?
                TARA: You can't ever put them back the way they were.
                WILLOW: Are you okay?
                TARA: I'm sorry, it's just, you know, it takes time. You can't just have coffee and expect –
                WILLOW: I know.
                TARA: There's just so much to work through. Trust has to be built again, on both sides. You have to learn if we're even the same people we were, if you can fit in each other's lives. It's a long important process, and can we just skip it? Can you just be kissing me now? (Entropy)
                Tara acknowledges at the end of Entropy that change is the only constant – once something starts to devolve, it can never reassemble in quite the same way. The “Willow and Tara” of the past can never exist again – the two women can never go back to before when floating pencils and air dancing was the pinnacle of Willow’s magic. Willow’s magical addiction has been halted, true, but only time can tell what Willow will then change into after her rehab is finished. It’s the same argument that Willow and Tara were having in Tough Love – Tara is afraid of what Willow may become.

                And this time, Willow is accepting of that – she understands now that trust is more than just proclaiming you’re going to do something – you have to follow through with actions and decisions that match your words. Trying to manipulate Tara’s mind to force happiness and love upon her was a brutal kind of mind-rape that stripped Tara of her agency – a magical means of manipulation not that far removed from the social pressure that Willow was subjected to as a young girl.

                But Tara decides that she’s going to trust to fate – even though there hasn’t been enough time to see if Willow has genuinely changed, Tara’s going to embrace the possibilities of change, the potentiality of change in Willow anyway. She misses Willow so much that emotional need takes over and she’s ready to forgive.

                The episode begins and ends in the same space – the master bedroom of the Summers home. We get an establishing shot that reassures us that we’re not going to see any vamp or demon action in the graveyards that so often opens a Buffy episode – but a domestic scene. And the resultant scene in the bedroom plays out like an oasis of love and happiness and warmth in a desert full of hatred and despair, safe behind the walls that protect them from the violence of the outside world.

                The camera pans across the floor to reveal the PG trappings of TV sex – clothes strewn across the floor in a similar manner to the opening ofDead Things when Buffy and Spike were going at it. But unlike the rough sex of Spuffy where candles illuminated the dark and only a thin carpet protected the Slayer and the Vampire from the hard, cold floor as the bed lay untouched, the camera pans upward to find Tara and Willow snuggling in the warmth of the sun in a soft bed, bodies wrapped in a large blood-red patterned blanket that peeks beneath a white lace covering. This Ominous Blanket of Foreshadowing was there in early episodes – but since Amber Benson was apparently told that Tara would die in Season Six during the filming of The Gift, it’s very probable that the color was intentional from the start.

                The script pointedly mentions the soft light of the morning that pours through the window – a crucial distinction from the darkness that has surrounded Willow since Season Six began:

                The soft light of morning filters through the window, creating a warm glow. Willow and Tara are in bed under the covers, glowing even warmer, slick with sweat and out of breath.
                As Tara rests against the headboard, Willow clings to her – an apt literalization of their relationship with Tara acting as Willow’s emotional lifeline while coping with addiction and depression. It’s obvious that they’ve been making love all evening and lost track of time as Willow finally notices the sun and laughs.

                WILLOW: When did morning happen?
                The joke is cute – Willow is annoyed by the sun because she’s wishing that their night together would never end – but there’s also a sense of the morning as a metaphor for a new beginning. Tara smiles as she pretends to take her seriously.

                TARA: After the moon went down.
                Tara’s view of the world seems to encompass the Buffyverse idea of “good” magic being connected to Gaia and natural cycles – and how all organisms are connected and contribute to the biosphere. The moon naturally follows the sun which naturally follows the moon just as death returns to life returns to death as part of the natural process. This joke associates Tara with the lunar cycle that alternates with the solar return and it rests in opposition to Willow’s desire to bend the natural cycles of nature to her will – hence her questioning the morning. Willow laughs at Tara’s gentle mockery – and leans up to kiss her passionately. As the script says here, it’s deep love territory.

                Both Tara and Willow make noises of mutual appreciation as Willow slides down to rest her head in Tara’s lap.

                WILLOW: Mmm. Oh, I forgot how good this could feel. Us. Together. Without the magic.
                The way in which Willow describes her night with Tara is telling – it substitutes the “high” that Willow gets from practicing magic for physical and emotional involvement with Tara. It works within the dynamic of silence in wiping away the recent past in favor of a “love conquers all” solution that merely papers over Willow’s emotional problems. And Tara is complicit in this by making a joke about Willow’s addiction:

                TARA: There was plenty of magic.
                Willow laughs at Tara’s joke, but the pointed mention of her refusal to use magic anymore shows that Willow is viewing Tara’s love as a reward – Willow is acting out the role of the proper good girl who finds both true love and happiness after ridding herself of all that immoral power. Tara gently pushes this interpretation even farther by using the idea of magic figuratively – Willow can no longer literally control the world around her and push through boundaries, but the enchantment and wonder of being in love should compensate for that.

                The idea of the emotion of love as a powerful drug that is addictive comes back in Seeing Red several times – especially at the end when Willow’s sudden withdrawal from “love” is followed by another breakdown that threatens not only to tear apart Willow, but the world as well. But at the moment, Willow believes that she’s kicked the habit – and Tara isn’t in the mood to contradict her right now.

                Willow smiles, snuggling closer. Totally at peace. Tara gently strokes her hair. Willow eyes the sunlight streaming through the window.
                The script makes it clear that Willow feels her troubles are behind her. With Tara at her side, she’s finally at peace for the first time since Buffy died. And now the sunlight takes on a different meaning as Willow remembers the main reason that she raced out of control to begin with – the return of Buffy.

                WILLOW: It's getting late.

                In a literal context, this sounds funny – the sun has just come up. But Willow is thinking of Buffy’s nocturnal schedule as the Slayer when baddies scurry throughout Sunnydale out of the sun’s reach – since the sun is now shining now, Buffy should have been home by now. Then again, she’s hunting down human beings this time – ones who have done her significant harm. And perhaps one vamp. But Tara misunderstands Willow – she thinks her lover means that they’ve been lying in bed too long.

                TARA: Want to get up?
                Willow giggles as she stretches in bed with Tara – she’s obviously not going anywhere.

                WILLOW: No. Oh, God, no. I was just thinking about Buffy.
                TARA: Oh. She's still isn’t back?
                WILLOW: I didn't hear her. She wouldn't talk about what happened at the magic shop when she got home last night.
                And we finally hear about the aftermath of the events of Entropy – Buffy came home that evening after Spike revealed their relationship – and only asked for the coordinates that would lead her to the Trio’s back door. Even though Xander knew about Spike, Buffy still wasn’t ready to reveal all to Willow before Tara made her surprise visit. The conspiracy of silence has widened but is still left intact with poor Willow the only one left out. Still, Willow’s had an ear to the door ever since despite having an all-nighter with Tara because something in Buffy’s manner has Willow worried.

                Willow saw Buffy’s distraught reaction to the video and it wasn’t of the “Eww, Spike!” variety that she would have expected from her friend. Weirdly, it wasn’t even the kind of “Whoa, Xander!” reaction that Buffy would have had if Xander had been caught on camera – but the kind of shock and dismay Buffy would show if it were Angel or Riley doing Faith. And that has Willow on edge – surely it’s not even in the realm of possibility that Buffy and Spike are together, but maybe in her loneliness Buffy has developed a crush on Spike because of his relentless obsession with her. Or seeing him with someone else has hurt her pride or her belief that she was everything to him.

                WILLOW: She just wanted to know how close I was to tracing the camera signal back to the Empire of the Nerds. Then she left again.
                The casual constant references to the Trio as “nerds” is disquieting in Buffy – sure, they’re just using shorthand to describe the three infantile guys – but these are the guys who kidnapped Willow in Gone, poisoned Buffy in Normal Again and may have murdered Katrina in Dead Things. There’s almost a willing refusal to accept that Warren, Andrew and Jonathan are anything other than dead-end losers and some of this has to do with their feelings about the three in high school. The Scoobies are dangerously under the preconception that they can be easily managed or handled – they delay going after them, mock, their latest attempts to foil Buffy and call them derogatory names as if they were still back in high school.

                And I think that it’s intentional – we’re supposed to see how Buffy and her friends are unable to realize that things have changed. Warren, Jonathan and Andrew are no longer the nerds they used to be in the context of high school cliques – they are grown adults who are playing a dangerous game with powers far beyond most of the Scoobies themselves. The refusal to see that the Trio is dangerous is yet another refusal to accept change – another means of denial that they themselves are not who they were in high school. It’s a corollary to the refusal to see that Buffy is a different person than before her leap off the Tower.

                But Buffy’s silence about what happened with Spike and Anya allows Willow to fill in the blanks – even though she’s been carefully kept in the dark regarding Spuffy, Willow worries that there’s something more going on here – has Buffy been keeping something from her? Tara misunderstands Willow’s concern by reassuring her that Buffy can probably handle the Trio:

                TARA: I'm sure she'll be okay.
                And Willow protests – well, of course the Trio isn’t dangerous. They’re such losers that they couldn’t hurt anyone, right? They’re barely a credible threat in her mind:

                WILLOW: I'm not really worried about her going up against Warren and the others.
                No, in Willow’s mind, the person who is the most threatening to Buffy right now is the same person who tried to immolate themselves in Once More With Feeling – it’s Buffy herself. And Willow slowly realizes that she rarely sees Spike and Buffy together – and yet Buffy is always missing. Hmmm.

                WILLOW: I know this is going to sound crazy, but – I think something might be going on. With Spike and Buffy.
                Tara subtly shifts her body as Willow says this – she’s been keeping her own conspiracy of silence with Buffy for some time. But now that she and Willow are back together, she’s torn between her loyalty to Buffy and her loyalty to Willow – should she tell her girlfriend the truth? Willow continues to muse abstractly as Tara looks uncomfortable at the secret she’s been keeping.

                WILLOW: I mean, she looked so hurt when she saw him with Anya. I think maybe –
                And Tara suddenly blurts out the truth that she’s been keeping secret since Dead Things:

                TARA: They've been sleeping together.
                Is this a violation of her promise to Buffy? Why does Tara tell Willow this? Does she feel that keeping secrets from Willow is wrong at this point? Or is she simply trying to tell Willow she knows before Buffy confesses herself – since Willow has almost figured it out anyway. Or perhaps not – Willow laughs at the thought that Buffy is sleeping with Spike:

                WILLOW: No, I wouldn’t go that far.
                It’s interesting that for both Willow and Xander it’s almost inconceivable that Buffy is sleeping with Spike even though all of the signs are clearly there for months. But almost everyone misses the clues – Anya doesn’t even guess that the woman Spike is complaining about in Entropy is Buffy and the irony behind all the Trio’s spying and stalking is that they manage to miss the two biggest events in Buffy’s life – her resurrection from the dead and her relationship with Spike. To the end of Season Six, none of the three ever do seem to learn about either – Andrew is still speculating as late as Storyteller that there might have been something between Spike and Buffy:

                ANDREW: Buffy and Spike have some kind of history—you can feel the heat between them. Although, technically, as a vampire, he's room temperature. (Storyteller)
                It takes as much effort to ignore the giant elephant in the room as to admit it’s there – but the emotional consequences are far less disturbing. The Trio doesn’t want to know that Buffy is depressed from being resurrected or that she’s sleeping with a vampire because it might diminish her reputation as the heroic Slayer that they have to defeat. And Willow and Xander don’t want to know about Spike for the same reason that they overlooked Buffy’s obvious trauma at being resurrected – Buffy reaching for Spike as a partner could only reflect badly on their decision to bring her back. She’s so miserable that she’s turning to a soulless demon for solace – and they placed her in that situation.

                But Tara is determined to break through the wall of silence and firmly states the truth again – and adds that this isn’t hearsay or speculation – Buffy herself confessed it to Tara.

                TARA: No, I mean she told me they've been sleeping together.
                And Willow looks shocked – not only at the fact that Buffy is doing it with Spike, but that Tara was apparently her confidant instead of Willow:

                WILLOW: Sleeping together? You mean like the naked kind of together?

                Knowing Willow as well as she does, Tara seems to be a little concerned – she knows that Willow will start blaming herself by taking Buffy’s silence personally. And there’s another problem – the reason that Buffy told Tara instead of Willow is because she suspected that Willow had screwed up the spell and brought Buffy back wrong. And she doesn’t want Willow to know this. Tara apologizes for not saying anything to Willow, trying to pull the blame to herself:

                TARA: Sorry I didn't say anything, but I promised her I wouldn't.
                But immediately, self-loathing Willow starts to make it all about her – is she a terrible person? Why didn’t Buffy trust her enough to tell her what she was doing? Why would she go to Tara instead?

                WILLOW: Does everybody else know? Am I the only one she didn't –
                And Tara replaces one conspiracy of silence with another.

                TARA: God, no. She didn't even mean to tell me. It just came out.

                Tara’s not necessarily lying here – Buffy did blurt it out in her living room – but she’s not telling the whole truth either. Willow doesn’t need to know why Buffy came to Tara in the first place – it would only make her feel even worse. And she also doesn’t need to know that Spike’s chip doesn’t work on Buffy anymore. At least not right now.

                WILLOW: How could she hide something like this from me?
                And Tara focuses on how Willow is making it all about herself and points out that perhaps Willow (and Xander) wouldn’t exactly have offered their congratulations:

                TARA: I think she was afraid of the look you'd get on your face. Kinda like the one you're wearing now.
                Tara’s mild accusatory tone takes Willow aback for a second – she’s not judgmental, it’s just that it’s Spike – the vamp who tried to kill them all – the vamp who tried to twist a bottle in her face and sire her – the vamp who’s only kept in check through his chip. And Buffy had mocked any relationship with Spike multiple times – in Something Blue, in Crush, in Intervention – but that was before her resurrection. Before Buffy pulled away from Willow and kept things from her.

                WILLOW: Oh, no, I'm not – I'm just trying to understand.
                And Tara makes it clear that even Buffy herself doesn’t fully know why.

                TARA: So is she.
                Tara watches Willow carefully for her reaction – and it’s a relief to see Willow immediately looks sympathetic and willing to listen to Buffy and help her friend even if it reflects badly on her.

                WILLOW: Oh, she probably really needs someone to talk to.
                TARA: Probably. We’ve been kinda busy. Maybe we didn't hear her come home.

                Tara’s comment shows how their bedroom has turned into a sanctuary from the emotional storm outside – even as they use the restroom and chat with Buffy and the gang downstairs, their movement is strictly limited to the parameters of the house except for the brief time they visit the county clerk’s office to match blueprints – it’s as if they can’t bear to remain away from their bedroom too long and that feeling of peaceful contentment.

                We saw them retreat to this sanctuary earlier in Once More With Feeling when everyone was full of song; we watched Willow cast a “forget” spell on Tara in the same room; and watched exiled Willow cry slumped on the floor of the bathroom as Tara removed her things from their room at the end of Tabula Rasa. And even though Willow and Tara leave the house temporarily to help Buffy, the couple never really emotionally leave the sanctuary of their bedroom or the Summers house again – at least, not together.
                Last edited by American Aurora; 22-01-19, 04:21 AM.


                • dear American Aurora

                  just a tiny thought and a buffer:

                  no complaints at all about the length—

                  wild anticipation over all you have written...


                  • Buffy Forum review: Seeing Red by American Aurora

                    Previously on Buffy Forum: Seeing Red Review
                    1. Introduction: Buffy Season Six: A Silence Made in Heaven
                    2. Introduction: Seeing Red: Virtual Perception
                    3. Introduction: Gender Toxicity: Light Willow and the Cool Girl
                    4. Seeing Red, Part 1:From Morning at Buffy’s to the Kingdom of the Nerds

                    And Now:

                    5. Seeing Red, Part 1: Love and Silence: Dawn

                    We see Willow in an oversized football jersey as she silently walks through the hallway to knock on Buffy’s bedroom door. Her expression is forgiving as she prepares to have a frank talk with Buffy about her relationship with Spike. There’s a moment of hesitation before she knocks on the door.

                    WILLOW: Buffy?

                    Willow opens the door to find Buffy’s bed undisturbed – either Buffy’s still hunting the Trio down or she’s gone off somewhere – perhaps to see Spike again? Does the thought run through her mind that Spike might have been in Buffy’s bedroom at some point?

                    The fact that Buffy hasn’t returned seems to make Willow nervous. She makes a face of concern as she closes the door – which is compounded by Dawn suddenly opening her door and appearing behind her.

                    DAWN: She back yet?

                    Willow turns at Dawn’s question with a sigh – Dawn has obviously been up for a while now and she’s worried about Buffy – but for different reasons than Willow. Willow puts on her best Joyce impression and smiles at Dawn reassuringly as if Dawn is six years old and has just woken up from a bad nightmare:

                    WILLOW: Not yet. I'm sure she'll be home soon. Everything's fine. Just go back to bed.

                    But the whole “everything’s fine – go back to bed” line rings hollow here. Dawn looks at Willow with disbelief. After all that’s happened, are they still going to treat her like a child?

                    DAWN: It's ten o'clock.

                    And Willow is embarrassed that she’s lost track of time during her night – and apparently day – of passion with Tara.

                    WILLOW: Oh, umm –
                    But before Willow can explain about Tara, Dawn approaches Willow with a worried look on her face. It may not be a nightmare, but Dawn is worried about something.

                    DAWN: You don't think she's gonna hurt Spike, do you?
                    It’s interesting to note how confused Dawn is about the dynamic of the Spuffy relationship because she’s romanticized Spike and demonized her sister.

                    In a cut moment from Entropy, Dawn assumed that Spike had broken up with Buffy rather than the opposite – a belief that leaves Buffy somewhat indignant:

                    DAWN: I know it must hurt. To feel like you have to hide, to keep secrets from everybody and then he goes and breaks up with you-
                    BUFFY: What?
                    DAWN: I'm sure he's just confused –
                    BUFFY: Confused? No! Dawn - I did the breaking up. Spike was obsessed with me.
                    DAWN: Oh. I just thought –
                    BUFFY: I'm serious. He was acting like a total stalker. (Entropy)
                    It’s obvious why this was cut – Buffy would never be that open with Dawn about Spike before Grave. The only thing that’s interesting about it is the possible motive that Dawn has to go and see Spike – she’s convinced herself that Spike broke up with Buffy rather than the opposite so that she wouldn’t have to accept that Spike cheated on Buffy. Which is interesting.

                    But Dawn’s now concerned that Buffy will somehow hurt the chipped vampire. Her skewed vision of what she imagines to be the dynamic of the Spuffy relationship comes from her resentment that Buffy refuses to engage with life – or her – upon her return. Whereas Spike was dedicated to her every moment that Buffy was gone, refusing to leave her side for a second until Buffy’s resurrection. His devotion to Buffy is imprinted on Dawn’s psyche – whereas Buffy’s bitchiness makes her assume that Buffy is the bad guy in their relationship.

                    What Dawn seems to want is for Spike and Buffy to get together – she’s the original Spuffy shipper. But she never talks about it with her sister – or anyone else for that matter. In many ways, she compares herself to Spike and assumes that Buffy is the one who’s hurting him because she feels that Buffy hurts her as well.

                    But Willow is more concerned with her own hurt feelings than Spike’s safety – Buffy seems to have told everyone but her about her relationship with the vamp:

                    WILLOW: She told you about Spike?
                    DAWN: It was kinda obvious after last night.
                    Willow shifts suddenly from feeling left out to an expression of total knowing – Willow’s embarrassed that even Dawn figured it out before she did and puts on a show that, oh, yeah, she knew all along. It’s common with conspiracies of silence that members react as if they’d never been in one – they hadn’t blinded themselves to the elephant in the room – to what was going on around them. They were just playing the waiting game, that’s all. And as Buffy’s best friend, Willow should have known – in fact, it’s embarrassing that she doesn’t know – and so Willow pretends that she knew all along:

                    WILLOW: Yeah, I totally knew.
                    I love how Alyson Hannigan nods her head vigorously here as if to say that she’s aware – totally aware of everything that’s going on with Buffy.

                    But Dawn isn’t interested in whether Willow knew about Spuffy – she’s more concerned with how Buffy knew about Spike and Anya:

                    DAWN: It must have hurt so much. To see him and Anya like that. And poor Xander – Everything is so screwed up.
                    Dawn starts out by talking about Buffy’s pain – and then Xander – but she’s really talking about her own feelings of being deliberately kept out of the loop and treated like a child. Willow doesn’t help by trying to placate Dawn with a clichéd phrase that parents tell their children when they want to keep them from knowing how bad it is:

                    WILLOW: It's gonna be all right.

                    Dawn looks at Willow with frustration – why can’t anyone tell the truth around here? Why doesn’t anyone do anything proactive to fix the situation? Things haven’t been okay for some time now – not Buffy’s return, not Willow’s magical addiction, not Xander and Anya’s failed wedding, not Giles leaving. Even her close relationship with Spike has become distant - and now Dawn is starting to realize why. And she’s worried – what if Buffy hurts Spike? What if Xander hurts Anya? What if something even worse happens? Willow’s reassurances feel hollow as she stumbles through an explanation for why all of this has happened.

                    WILLOW: It's just – complicated.
                    This is an exemplar of how the Scoobies isolate and marginalize Dawn – the word “complicated” covers up an enormous amount of information that everyone is trying to keep secret from each other. And even while they do this, Dawn is kept from knowing any of it. Buffy has to go to prison – and even though Dawn will be directly affected, she’s not given the whole story as to what happened. Spike won’t be coming around anymore – but even though Dawn will be directly affected, she’s not told exactly why or what went down.

                    Even after the events of Older and Far Away when it looked like Buffy and the others would be more attentive to Dawn, confiding in her, showing her things, they’re still pushing her away. Dawn feels that it’s because of something wrong with her – but in reality, it’s because keeping even one person out of the loop enables the process of denial. As long as Dawn doesn’t know, then they don’t have to deal with it. And so Willow’s explanation is accordingly lame with generic thoughts and no real details:

                    WILLOW: You know, when people have such strong feelings for each other, sometimes they --
                    And right on schedule, Tara enters the hallway wrapped in a blanket. But it’s not just any blanket – it’s the bright red Ominous Blanket of Foreshadowing!

                    Tara’s waited in bed for some time now and probably heard voices in the hallway and assumed Willow was talking to Buffy.

                    TARA: Is she back yet? Oh. Hey.
                    Perhaps Tara thought it was too early for Dawn to be up, but she looks genuinely surprised that Dawn is standing there – oops, secret exposed – and wraps the blanket more tightly around her for modesty’s sake – or maybe she’s hoping it will turn her invisible somehow.

                    But Dawn looks flabbergasted – despite all the terrible events of the past few months, the sight of Tara – who’s obviously stayed the night – almost makes up for it all.

                    DAWN: You and –
                    Dawn actually starts to bounce and sputter in her excitement – Tara turns to Willow with a knowing smirk:

                    TARA: That's my cue to put some clothes on.

                    But Dawn stops her – Tara can’t put on clothes! Not when she’s having happy make-up sex with Willow!

                    It’s actually a wonderful parody of discovering something that has been kept silent. Dawn wasn’t supposed to know yet that Tara was back – but Tara accidentally reveals the secret. But this time, it’s a happy discovery that provokes squeals of approval even as the silence is broken. Interestingly, as Dawn grins and stammers, she reassures the two women that she’s going to intentionally pretend that she can’t see the giant elephant in the room – ironically pointing to how everyone has been in deliberate denial all season long.

                    DAWN: No! I'm totally not here. You guys – you do whatever you want. I'll watch TV downstairs. Really loud. In the basement. Where I can't hear. Anything. Oh my god! Oh my god!

                    Dawn will pretend not to hear or see certain things so that Willow and Tara can have their time together. It’s actually kind of sad that Dawn so easily slips into the whole “I know nothing” persona because she’s so used to being shielded from everything. But on this occasion, she doesn’t mind. As Willow and Tara show amusement at Dawn’s enthusiasm, she runs off to give them some space – but then thinks better of it. Did she even say how great it was that they were back together? Dawn turns around one more time to express her happiness just in case it wasn’t clear:

                    DAWN: I love you guys!

                    Willow and Tara can’t help but laugh at Dawn’s enthusiasm – but they also look somewhat grateful that Dawn is leaving because it gives them more time alone – and allows Tara to get dressed so she doesn’t have to stand naked in the hallway. Willow helps Tara hold up her blanket as the two go back into the bedroom. Or perhaps she’s just waiting to close the door to pull it off.

                    As Willow and Tara go through one door, Buffy breaks through another.

                    Splinters fly everywhere as she descends into the basement of the house that Warren, Andrew and Jonathan rented after the events of Gone. As the hero, it’s Buffy’s job to walk down to the lowest level to reveal the supervillain lair below – and reveal all their hidden secrets.

                    Last edited by American Aurora; 22-01-19, 04:19 AM.


                    • Tara and Dawn bond


                      • Buffy Forum review: Seeing Red by American Aurora

                        Previously on Buffy Forum: Seeing Red Review
                        1. Introduction: Buffy Season Six: A Silence Made in Heaven
                        2. Introduction: Seeing Red: Virtual Perception
                        3. Introduction: Gender Toxicity: Light Willow and the Cool Girl
                        4. Seeing Red, Part 1:From Morning at Buffy’s to the Kingdom of the Nerds
                        5. Seeing Red, Part 1: Love and Silence: Dawn

                        And now:

                        6. Seeing Red, Part 1: Hurting Buffy: Supervillains

                        M'FASHNIK DEMON: You hired me to create chaos and carnage for you. Told me you were powerful men –commanding machines, magicks, the demon realms below.
                        WARREN: We are.
                        ANDREW: Yuh-huh.
                        JONATHAN: We're, like, Super Villains.
                        M'FASHNIK DEMON: Which of you is leader?
                        ALL: I am.
                        M'FASHNIK DEMON: I will kill your leader.
                        They point at each other.
                        ALL: He is. (Flooded)
                        Each Season of Buffy features a different Big Bad that represents a new facet of Buffy’s heroism. From Head Vampires to Ex-Lovers to Government officials to Human-Demon Hybrids to literal Gods, Buffy fights each with a plan and style that matches each villain’s unique attributes. Some are sadistic, some are power hungry and some just want to go home – but each is selfish enough to try and take half the world – or universe – with them and Buffy is the only hero who can stop them.

                        But not so with the Trio of Warren, Andrew and Jonathan – their desires aren’t focused on a single-minded objective like opening the Hellmouth or a Hell dimension or even dimensions between universes. Nor are they planning to raise a mutant army to control the world or rise as a demon to create chaos and destruction. Buffy is about to meet her arch-nemesises-ses of Season Six – and they’re different from the other Big Bad that she’s faced.

                        What the nerds want most of all is an abstraction that only has meaning in relation to Buffy herself – if Buffy is the hero of the story, then they long to be the supervillains who oppose her. They don’t yearn to accomplish their goal with an end point in mind – the whole idea of being the Big Bad is enough. There’s a real sense of aimlessness in the aspirations of Warren, Andrew and Jonathan in terms of what they want to accomplish – the process seems to be more important than the endpoint if their obsession with playing with big toys is any indication:

                        WARREN: Flamethrower's up.
                        ANDREW: Periscope's working.
                        ANDREW: It looks like your mom's weeding tulips again.
                        JONATHAN: Action figures? Fully deployed. (Flooded)

                        There’s no moral or emotional center to their decision to become supervillains – it’s all about the “coolness” factor – looking and acting cool is everything. Turning the basement of Warren’s mother into a supervillain den with periscopes and weapons at the ready isn’t a matter of strategic importance – it’s just playacting what they believe they should be doing as self-proclaimed foils to Buffy.

                        Even when they have rented an entire house, they can’t sleep in a normal bed upstairs because it wouldn’t fit the supervillain ethos. They have to lurk in the shadows below with toys and games and techno gizmos – and in a single room where they can keep an eye on one another in case some guilty character like Jonathan runs to squeal to the Slayer. Like Spike maintaining his dank crypt like a proper vampire should, maintaining the appearance of a supervillain is just as important as being one:

                        JONATHAN: I haven't had a decent night's sleep since – I mean, I'm going Jack Torrance in here, you know? Stuck in this basement for weeks! I mean, we rented the whole house, can't we at least sleep upstairs?
                        ANDREW: We're on the lam. We have to lay low. Underground? (Normal Again)
                        Jonathan’s reference to The Shining only points to how claustrophobic it feels to live in the basement together with two pairs of eyes watching him at all times – and perhaps Katrina’s ghost as well.

                        Why appearance is so vital to the Trio’s endeavors has a lot to do with how they identify themselves through the prism of American culture – and the media – and through the reactions of others who affect their perception of themselves. As former nerds who have barely made the transition from high school students to young men, the ways in which they’ve struggled to project a certain ideal of what an adult man should be based on cultural memes and spurious values – and this has both shaped and warped their emotional development. And so a great deal of their opposition to Buffy is based upon a certain level of misogynist resentment that a women should succeed when they have supposedly failed.

                        Unlike the vampires and demons that Buffy fights nightly, the Trio are merely human beings with technological and magical skills that enable them to be a big fat pain in Buffy’s ass. Of course, Buffy has faced rotten humans before – the Mayor who sold his soul, the Scientist who created a hybrid monster – but never on this level of incompetence and failure. They’re not even on the radar of most of Sunnydale’s baddies – the vampires in the bar and Rack almost laugh in Warren’s face when he tells them who he is.

                        Generally, Buffy would take them out as a typical monster-of-the-week, but she’s spared them for the same reasons she won’t slay Harmony – she finds them so pathetic and nonthreatening that she’s not really focused on chasing them down. Her determination to find them isn’t spurred by any fears for her safety or that of her friends – but reflects more her anger that they’ve forced her to see Spike and Anya doing it in the Magic Box – which then led to the big reveal of her relationship with Spike. And typically for Buffy, when she’s hurt by someone, there’s nothing like a bit of violence to get it out of her system.

                        And Seeing Red features a set of variations on the ways in which everyone hurts Buffy. It’s been pointed out before that Buffy is dramatically put through the ringer in Season Six, almost becoming a parody of suffering through awful choices and terrible luck. The constant schemes of the Trio slowly break her down and humiliate her without ever truly drawing blood until the fateful events of Dead Things – and even then, she has no real proof of their involvement in Katrina’s death. Only a suspicion. But she is certain of their culpability in filming her every move and decides to finally put an end to their harassment.

                        We learned from Willow that Buffy returned home after the scene with Xander, Anya and Spike at the Magic Box and asked for the coordinates to the Trio’s lair. But now it’s past ten in the morning – and one assumes that Tara didn’t arrive at four in the morning. So assuming that Buffy left her house between 10 and 2 am, where has she been all night?

                        From all accounts, she didn’t go to see Spike despite Dawn’s fears. He’s found drowning his sorrows in booze by Dawn later in the day. She didn’t go to see Xander – that’s clear from their later talk. Giles isn’t in town, Willow, Tara and Dawn haven’t seen her and Anya cleans up the Magic Box alone. So Buffy must have been either patrolling most of the evening or searching for Warren, Andrew and Jonathan for hours. Regardless of what she did, it’s obvious that Buffy didn’t get much sleep and is both tired and irritable about Spanya – which most likely didn’t help her avoid her temporary injury later in the day.

                        She did change outfits when she returned home because she’s wearing a different warm leather jacket. Her jacket in Entropy was black – but this one seems to be a deep blood red. Which makes it most likely another allusion to the title and a premonition of the ending - the Ominous Jacket of Foreshadowing.

                        BUFFY: All right. Let's make this quick.
                        There is no response as Buffy descends the stairs – either they’re in hiding somewhere or she’s talking to herself. Why does Buffy continue to speak? Considering the overloaded technology the Trio possess, there’s a good chance that they’re watching or listening to what’s going on from a remote location. She may even expect them to answer via some kind of device. But there’s only silence.

                        BUFFY: Fine. But I'm not leaving till we have a little chat.

                        Buffy walks over to a computer and rifles through what seem to be plans as she scans the room carefully.

                        BUFFY: Very little, considering the pummeling that needs to occur.

                        Walking past a collection of games, toys and numerous pop culture items, she stops to look more carefully at a series of action figures on top of a large screen TV. Buffy picks up a Vampirella figure thrusting her goods in a thong bikini – also the fateful color of red – and makes a disgusted expression as she puts it down again.

                        Buffy is frustrated. She’s come over for a little chat and a lot of ass-kicking and the Trio are nowhere to be seen – only the physical manifestations of their creepy obsessions. Now that her big secret regarding Spike is out, she can finally deal with overthrowing what Willow called the Kingdom of the Nerds – but it’s too late. They’ve already flown the coop.

                        Their lair with its beaded curtains, bunk beds (one assumes that Jonathan and Andrew took them while Warren slept in the single bed) and collection of games, books and flashing strobe lights is truly abysmal for a villainous lair. I mean why not throw in a disco ball or some peacock feathers while they’re at it? The lack of taste and juvenile obscenities is the point, of course – the refusal to grow up in favor of living out a retrograde childish fantasy.

                        But even though by this point Buffy knows that the Trio’s not there, it feels good to break the silence at last and directly confront them in absentia.

                        BUFFY: I mean, guys, hello. Slayer here. Did you honestly think I wouldn't find you?
                        Buffy’s deliberately playing the same game the Trio play at and asserts her hero status – Slayer here who’s ready to take the three “supervillains” out. As she scoops up some more plans (including Jonathan’s map), she notices the white board that the Trio use to write up their evil schemes. As she tilts the white board down, she reads the words TOO LATE.

                        BUFFY: Well, that can't be good.
                        And moving the board has obviously triggered the fail-safe program as a giant buzz-saw slices through the board, pivoting on a mechanical arm. Buffy moves to the side as the blade comes perilously close to her.

                        Another blade come crashing through a shuttered door to make a second pass. Still clutching the papers, Buffy twists the other way to avoid both blades. And then another blade appears from the ceiling, cutting down sharply. Buffy takes it all in and calculates their path as she rolls on the floor and then rights herself.

                        Buffy manages to avoid the first two and then do a backflip to avoid the third even as another blade makes its appearance. As she heads towards the stairs, she grabs a few more books and races through the door even as another blade slices through the staircase. Outside the house, Buffy throws herself to the ground with evidence flying everywhere. The assumption is that even more blades or something worse most likely appeared in the main part of the house and we never get to see Buffy dodge them until she makes her escape outside. This is confirmed by the noise of blades and the splinters flying behind her, apparently making mincemeat of the front door.

                        The intricacy of the buzz-saws as they demolished the house indicates that the Trio were prepared to make their escape probably from the day they moved into the rented house and planned accordingly. For a technological wizard like Warren, it wouldn’t have been that hard and the whole 80s horror movie ethos of the ripping saws chasing down Buffy would thrill pop culture mavens like Jonathan and Andrew. And perhaps the Trio have rigged it with something even worse – like explosives – and Buffy’s not keen to see if there are more deadly triggers in the house. But it’s typical of the Trio to come up with such a grandiose idea to protect their lair. Did they hope it would kill Buffy? Or just send her a warning?

                        But did they really leave in a hurry? Would Warren really have been so foolish as to leave all of the schematics and papers lying around for Buffy to view? Surely it would have taken about five minutes to throw them all in a box along with discs and other important papers and dump them in the van. So what gives here? Why would the Trio leave them behind?

                        It’s possible that they thought the house would be demolished enough that Buffy wouldn’t be able to retrieve anything. But this still doesn’t explain how they knew that Buffy would turn that fatal white board over before she collected the papers and books? It’s also possible that the white board was a feint and the saws were motion activated on a timer the second the door was open – but what if Buffy had brought the police/her friends with her and they were either hacked to bits or able to collect all the pertinent information in time? Why doesn’t Buffy turn off the electricity, go back in there and collect even more information? The blades don’t look like they could have done that much damage. Something doesn’t add up here.

                        It’s far more likely that the whole Buzz-Saw Blood House gambit was a feint – a game designed to make Buffy sweat to get those schematics and papers. Like any video game, she had to make her way through numerous death traps while gathering the papers – and the Trio must have laughed at the live-action horror video game they’d created.

                        As for the papers, they probably say NOTHING that could possibly incriminate the Trio – or at least incriminate Warren. It would be just like him to leave clues that would point to Jonathan and Andrew as the culprits while every spec of his involvement is wiped clean. Since we hear nothing about the hunt for the Orbs of Nezzla'Khan, it’s likely that no information about the secret of Warren’s powers was amongst the stuff left behind. The papers and discs probably DO tell Buffy what their plans were concerning the big heist and where it was going to take place – leaving just enough clues like a Batman villain to allow the Slayer and Willow the Brainiac Witch to solve the puzzle. But for now, Buffy’s not concerned about what’s in the evidence she’s taken from the basement – she’s more interested in why she’s feeling a breeze in the midriff area.

                        As Buffy looks down, her blood red Ominous Jacket of Foreshadowing has a ragged slash across the middle – and her face darkens as she realizes the leather jacket is permanently ruined.

                        BUFFY: Okay. That's gonna cost ya.
                        Buffy’s comment is funny – but it shows that she’s still not taking the Trio seriously enough. Despite their grandiose visions of power, their childish desire to be Buffy’s arch-nemesises-ses and their inane fascination with cool toys, what really drives the Trio is an aggrieved sense of injustice that will eventually lead to a greater cost than Buffy can imagine.

                        More Tomorrow!
                        Last edited by American Aurora; 22-01-19, 04:22 AM.


                        • Originally posted by Silver1 View Post
                          Huh, I'm with the he's an unsouled demon, so what'cha gonna do.

                          - - - Updated - - -

                          You can talk about what you want, even though (again imo) this argument has been done to death and nobodys opinion in the end changes.
                          Well, I can't speak for vampmogs, and I don't think he'd want me to, either!
                          But I'm not seeking to change his view, and I don't think he's seeking to change mine, either. This is a forum in which to express our opinions about this great show and the fantastic characters. This argument may or may not have been done to death, but I learn something different every time I read a post in this thread, or look at something differently.
                          I simply enjoy the opportunity to join in some lively thoughtful discourse, without being concerned about being labelled or have someone jump down my throat (online) about my views.
                          Vampmogs' posts have been enormously helpful to me. And not just me, I suspect.
                          Last edited by debbicles; 22-01-19, 01:29 PM.
                          You know what I am. You've always known. You come to me all the same.

                          "There's a lot of comedy to be gotten from the world's doom spiral right now." Tracey Ullman, June 2018


                          • Fair enough, It's just I've seen so many debates on here finish with bad feelings on both sides my own included.


                            • Originally posted by Silver1 View Post
                              Fair enough, It's just I've seen so many debates on here finish with bad feelings on both sides my own included.
                              Oh, I completely understand. If and when I find myself getting unduly het up, I just take a break.
                              You know what I am. You've always known. You come to me all the same.

                              "There's a lot of comedy to be gotten from the world's doom spiral right now." Tracey Ullman, June 2018


                              • Originally posted by Silver1 View Post
                                Fair enough, It's just I've seen so many debates on here finish with bad feelings on both sides my own included.
                                If you've been in fandom long enough it can feel pretty circular. The difference to m is it never devolves into serious argument, and people tend to respond with more thought here. I'm willing to risks discussions of topics I would never bring up elsewhere without a flak jacket.
                                Can we agree that the writers made everyone do and say everything with a thought to getting good ratings and being renewed. This includes everything we love as well as everything we hate.