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Why Anya is right about charging

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  • Why Anya is right about charging

    “You provide a valuable service to the whole community. I say cash in!”

    Anya, “Flooded.”

    Notwithstanding that Anya herself lacks a coherent philosophy (after all, she doesn’t apply this laissez-faire attitude to her career as a vengeance demon), there’s some value in listening to a perspective from somewhere, anywhere, outside the philosophy that the Scoobies have been steeped in for years. The paradigm of the Slayer as a public good turns Buffy into nothing more than a serf, bound to work the land (here the Hellmouth) for others’ benefit. Worse, having had no one but the Watchers to guide her in the early years of her Slaying, Buffy has internalized the acceptance of her lifelong servitude. While she broke free of the Watchers' Council as such back in season 3, she merely transferred the ownership of her labor from a small group to the public at large. The fact remains that, except for Anya, Buffy and all of the Scoobies treat it as a given that a 15-year-old can be rightfully drafted into lifelong, unpaid public service that (supposedly) trumps her romantic and family relationships, her attempts to earn a living, and her general pursuit of happiness, for no reason beyond the facts that she has unusual strength and that that is useful.

    Words like “sacred birthright,” “Calling,” and “destiny” get thrown around a lot, but their meaning and, in some cases, veracity are questionable at best. How can anything be defined as “sacred” in a world where there’s “nothing solid” ("CWDP") to prove the existence of worship-worthy gods, and the supposed gods range from morally gray to downright malicious? “Calling” is nothing more than inheriting the results of a spell that forced a demonic essence into an unwilling girl thousands of years ago; prior to “Get It Done,” the Slayer’s origins are unknown. “Destiny” is malleable enough for a prophecy of death to be subverted into a need for CPR. Further, who cares if some god is influencing the Slayer line? If we don’t trust in the gods of the Buffyverse to be just, then why should the characters follow their rules?

    It makes more sense to follow the rules that generally apply to people with rare and needful talents. A surgeon with lifesaving skills is not, generally speaking, obligated to visit a war zone to heal bomb victims. A person with the physical strength to drag water hoses into burning houses is not, generally speaking, obligated to join the fire department and save people from fiery deaths. A brilliant engineer is not, generally speaking, obligated to upgrade infrastructure in the Third World for free.

    There are exceptions, although their morality remains a matter of debate. Someone drafted in a time of war might be forced to work on a project not of their choosing. Someone who has spent their life improving a property might be forced to sell it for the creation of a road.
    I seldom endorse these exceptions, but even if you accept them, they differ from Buffy’s situation in a crucial way: Compensation. U.S. soldiers returned from WW2 to a massive program of financial aid. The U.S. Constitutional principle of “eminent domain” requires that a person receive fair market value for real estate. There’s no reason Buffy doesn’t deserve as much.

    If Buffy is obligated to protect the world from demons, then the world is obligated to compensate her for her time, danger, and lost opportunities. If the world doesn’t pay up, then the Slayer equivalent of the “social contract” is null and void.

    Based on “The Prom,” people in Sunnydale (which is ground zero for demon invasions) do know that their town “really isn’t like other places.” Buffy once organized her entire graduating class into an anti-Mayor militia. Demons show up in clothing stores, the bank, and the Doublemeat Palace. Sunnydale folk may not discuss it publicly, but they understand that Buffy is protecting them from Bad Things. It would be relatively easy to demand that the townspeople pay an informal “Slayer tax,” even of just, say, two dollars per person per year. Less than that–> no patrols. Citizens would have a strong incentive to pay up, to pressure their neighbors to pay up, and to make up the difference for any free riders. With Sunnydale’s surprisingly steady population of ~38,500, that adds up to $77,000– enough to give her a nominal job at the Magic Box, put her and a dependent (Dawn) on the company insurance plan, pay for necessities like plumbing repairs, and cover Anya’s collection fee (say 10%– Anya’s already getting a pretty big benefit in knowing she’s less likely to be eaten), all without drawing attention from outsiders.

    Buffy would be well within her rights to demand a salary for her services. In fact, I think it’s kind of sad that she treats her powers, time, and safety as public property. At the end of the day, no one owns Buffy but Buffy, and she should feel entitled to demand compensation for her career as a warrior.

  • #2
    Notwithstanding that Anya herself lacks a coherent philosophy (after all, she doesn’t apply this laissez-faire attitude to her career as a vengeance demon)
    Maybe she doesn't need to - maybe she gets a stipend from D'Hoffryn. He refers to himself as "a patron of a family of sorts". Patron - "a person who gives financial or other support to a person, organization, or cause" as opposed to a father, a watcher's council (and a watcher?) who don't? This is the season Giles, arguably, buys his way out of any familial obligation to Buffy. Buffy's predicament is largely due to medical bills. Anya's suggestion she charge is vehemently rejected by DAWN with this: "Yes it is! You can't charge innocent people for saving their lives". I always presumed that the text wanted me to think Anya's suggestion was reasonable and the Scoobies wasn't.

    Maybe it "being a job" enables Anya to distance herself from the role of V.Demon? In Sleeper, BUFFY apologises to a vampire for killing her. "Sorry, ma'am, but it's my job". In the same episode, she refuses to kill Spike (ostensibly because it wasn't his fault) when he asks. Perhaps she could have killed Spike if she hadn't been as close (emotionally involved)?

    There's these two examples from "Real Me"

    XANDER: You nut. Your mom loves you both equally. But if I'm wrong, I find money usually helps tip the scale. Slip Joyce a 10 or a 20 once in a while. Then we'll see who's the favorite.

    "ANYA: Oh, crap. (slaps down her cards) Look at this! Now I'm burdened with a husband and several tiny pink children, more cash than I can reasonably manage...
    XANDER: That means you're winning.
    ANYA: Really?
    XANDER: Yes. Cash equals good.
    ANYA: Ooh! (claps her hands in excitement) I'm so pleased. (Scoops up the plastic markers that represent children) Can I trade in the children for more cash?

    Dawn gives her a disgusted look."

    I don't need persuading - I've always thought Anya was right. The text seems to imply that to think otherwise is kinda naive.
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    • #3
      The Watchers Council seems to be well off financially. A nice headquarter in the middle of London, lots of non-Slayers who are employees and thus get paid, offices all over the world and a large library. Where did they get their money from? Do they charge? Whom?

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