Never Kill A Boy on the First Date

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Not really much happening here.

Except this is the first time we see Buffy trying to balance her destiny as a Slayer with her desire for a “normal” life. Owen, the brooding guy who tries to connect with Buffy and succeeds brilliantly, but in the process, without learning that she is the Slayer, wants to become “Dangerman” and pick fights with everyone.

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The famous “If the apocalypse comes, beep me, ” phrase appears.

As does the first time Buffy says, “Bite me.”

And Cordelia really does not come out of it good at all. After she bumps Buffy aside to sit with Owen at the lunch table, knocking Buffy’s tray down in the process, Buffy says to Owen, “Boy, I didn’t realize Cordelia’s hips were so wide.” Owen then proceeds to ask Buffy out for a date.

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Cordelia’s reaction to seeing Angel for the first time (“Hello, salty goodness!) is undercut by Angel ignoring her and approaching Buffy. “What’s happening to me?” she asks. We can only respond with Xander’s answer to basically the same question in “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” (1.11).(muffled cough) “Karma.”

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Teacher’s Pet-Xander Faces the Procrustean Bed and Lives to Tell the Tale

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In Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book Gods in Everyman, she explains the myth of the Procrustean Bed . Everyone on their way to Athens was forced to lie on the Procrustean Bed and be measured and if the person was too short for the bed they would be stretched to fit. If, on the other hand, the unfortunate soul was too long, they would find themselves cut down to size.

Bolen says that patriarchy is much like the Procrustean Bed for men, in that  if men don’t fit a certain ideal, they are in one way or another ostracized or are not able to achieve personal or professional success.

Xander, to me fits the persona of Hephaestus, god of the forge-the craftsman, the loner, the inventor. He had a club foot, was rejected by Zeus in Olympus as well as others and was unlucky in love.

Xander was the Wounded One. His family, as is well alluded to and finally seen for the monsters they truly are in Hell’s Bells (6.16), rejected him in one way or another and he finally found his family in his friendship with Buffy and Willow. He also found his calling as a carpenter and we even saw an example of his gifted craftsmanship in “Older and Faraway” when he presents Buffy with a beautiful weapons chest for her 21st birthday (and Anya made helpful suggestions from a safe distance).

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Teacher’s Pet begins, though with a touching scene between Buffy and a teacher, Dr. Gregory, who instead of being condescending with Buffy about her not doing the reading, is actually supportive of her.

(Dr. Gregory) “You have a first rate mind and you can think on your feet. Imagine what you could accomplish if you actually did the…”

(Buffy) “The homework thing.”

(Dr. Gregory) “The homework thing. I understand you probably have a good excuse for not doing it. Amazingly enough, I don’t care. I know you can excel in this class, and so I expect no less. Is that clear?”

(Buffy) “Yeah. Sorry.”

(Dr. Gregory) “Don’t be sorry. Be smart. And please don’t listen to the principal or anybody else’s negative opinion about you. Let’s make them eat that permanent record. What do you say?”

(Buffy) “OK. Thanks.”

(Dr. Gregory) “Chapters six through eight.” (“Teacher’s Pet”, 1-4)

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But, sadly, he is eaten right after this by Preying Mantis Lady, who immediately assumes the persona of Natalie French, substitute science teacher, and begins to prey on the virgin male students of Sunnydale High. This is, possibly, the very first instance of Joss making us love a character only to kill him off at the end of the episode. This was also the very first authority figure that actually showed Buffy any kind of support. Even her relationship with Giles at this point was more contentious than anything else.

Xander is one of the students that Natalie preys upon and he refuses to listen to Buffy when she tries to explain that he might be in danger.

This is also the very first mention of the word “shawarma”, which, as any true Joss Whedon fan knows, has had a long history with his projects.

(Natalie) “Martini? Oh, I’m sorry. Would you like something else? I just need to relax a little. I’m kind of nervous around you. You’re probably cool as a cucumber.”

(Xander) “I like cucumbers, like in that Greek salad thing with the yogurt. Do you like Greek food? I’m exempting shawarma, of course. I mean, what’s that all about. It’s a big meat hive.”

The fact that Xander was a virgin and this was what made him vulnerable to the creature, and was, in fact something to be ashamed of is a perfect example of how patriarchy can be just as constricting  and damaging to men as it is to women. It was, and possibly still is, considered shameful for a guy to be a virgin at sixteen years old. As the opposite is true for girls who are pressured to both retain their virginity, and to be sexually savvy.

Fortunately, Xander is rescued by Buffy in the nick of time, as per usual and his fellow prisoner Blayne threatens a lawsuit if anyone tells that he is a virgin, so his secret is still safe. And he will remain a virgin until Faith does the deed in another Xander-centric episode, “The Zeppo” (3.

(Faith) “You up for it?”

(Xander) “Oh, I’m up. I’m suddenly very up. It’s just, um, I’ve never been up with people before.”

(Faith) “Just relax and take your pants off.”

(Xander) “Those two concepts are antithetical.”

(Faith) “Don’t worry. I’ll steer you around the curves.”

(Xander) “Did I mention that I’m having a very strange night?”

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Witch or This Parental Pressure’s Killing Me

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Not much really to say about this episode, except that Joss Whedon really wanted to drive home the point that, in addition to the myriad pressures that being in high school brings, there’s also the pressure that parents, sometimes unknowingly, place upon their children as well.

When Buffy doesn’t make the cheerleading squad, Joyce tries to encourage by suggesting she join the yearbook club.

(Joyce) “Look what I found. It’s my yearbook from junior year. Oh, look. There I am.”

(Buffy) “Mom, I ‘ve accepted that you’ve had sex. I’m not ready to know that you had Farrah hair.”

(Joyce) “That was Gidget hair, don’t they teach you anything in history?”

(Buffy) “Well, it’s really cool, but I gotta book.”

(Joyce) “Well, I was thinking. I know the cheerleading thing didn’t work out. Maybe you should think about joining the yearbook staff. I did it. It was a lot of fun.”

(Buffy) “Not really my tip, Mom.”

(Joyce) “I was photo editor. I got to be on every page. Made me look much more popular than I was.”

(Buffy) “Have you seen the kids who do yearbook? Nerds pick on them.”

(Joyce) “Some of the best times I had in school were working on the yearbook?”

(Buffy) “This just in, I’m not you. I’m into my own thing.”

(Joyce) “Your own thing, whatever it is, got you kicked out of school and we had to move here to find a decent school that would take you. (to herself) Ugh. Great parenting form. Little shaky on the dismount.”

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Not great, I’ll grant you, but much less frightening than Amy’s mom Catherine, who is the actual, titular witch. She switched bodies with her daughter to relive her glory days as a cheerleader. At the end, Buffy uses a mirror to make the Catherine’s spell return on her and she ends up in her own cheerleading statue in a display case at the school.

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When Amy finally gets her body back, she realizes she has no desire to be a cheerleader. However, the witch gene is obviously passed on…Be careful what you witch for…

Add to that Giles’ cautionary words about not allowing her personal life to distract her from her duties and we see the seeds of a series long arc where Buffy tries to have a normal life while saving the world…a lot.

(Giles) “This is madness. What can you have been thinking? You are the slayer; lives depend upon you. I make allowances for your youth, but I expect a certain amount of responsibility instead of which you enslave yourself to this—this…cult?”

(Buffy) “You don’t like the color?”

(Giles) “I don’t—do you, um, ignore everything I say as a rule?”

(Buffy) “No, I believe that’s your trick. I told you I’m trying out for the cheerleading squad.”

(Giles) “You have a sacred birthright Buffy. You were chosen to destroy vampires, not wave pom-poms at people. And as your watcher, I forbid it.”

(Buffy) “And you’ll be stopping me how?”

(Giles) “Well I…by appealing to your common sense, if such a creature exists.”

(Buffy) “I will still have time to fight the forces of evil, ok? I just want to have a life; do something normal, something safe.”

This, as we will see, will be a life-long struggle for her.

Coriolanus and the Procrustean Bed: or Maybe This Patriarchy Isn’t Such A Good Idea After All-I Blame The Mother

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Serendipity happens. I was reading Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Gods In Everyman and had just seen National Theatre Live’s broadcast of the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Coriolanus. I realized that Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Coriolanus was the perfect manifestation of the Greek god archetype Ares.

This had happened before-when I was reading Bolen’s Goddesses in Everywoman and realized that the female characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fell so very neatly into Bolen’s model.  I’m still working on this series of essays.  After all there’s seven seasons and 144 episodes and nine characters to explore.

In Bolen’s book, Gods In Everyman, she discusses the Procrustean bed.  Everyone on their way to Athens was placed on Procrustes’ bed.  If they were too short, they were stretched out as on a medieval torture device.  If they were too tall, their limbs were cut off to fit the bed.  Bolen likens the pressure of…

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Welcome To The Hellmouth/The Harvest

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We’ll start at the very beginning. I understand it’s a very good place to start. (Cue eye roll) As I mentioned before, I was reading Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s seminal (ovarial?) book called Goddesses In Everywoman. Dr. Bolen is a Jungian analyst and was beginning her practice in the late ’70s-early ’80s when she realized that she could perceive her female patients as representations of the Greek goddess archetypes. This helped her to heal her patients by helping them to imagine themselves as heroines on a journey; a quest. Much as Ayla in Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear stories or, more recently, post-Buffy, Arya Stark in Game of Thrones (or even Daenerys, for that matter) or Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games stories, are today’s heroines, she helped her patients understand the challenges that they were facing in terms of a mythical journey. Once they were able to see themselves as heroines and each problem a challenge along  a heroine’s quest, there were able to overcome their challenges.

I was reading this as I, myself was experiencing a health crisis. Buffy, the television show had just ended and I was watching the reruns on VCR (Yes, I said it. There.) The very last episode’s message was, “Now you’ve gone on this journey with us. Go be your own hero.”

So, the female characters, and later the male characters as well, kind of fell into the Greek goddess and god archetypes. Buffy was the archetype of Athena, the warrior goddess, her father’s daughter. Her father, of course, not being her real father, but Giles, whose relationship with her actually became more and more familial until the the third season when he was fired by the Watcher’s Council because they considered his relationship with her detrimental to her progress as a Slayer. Of course, he was reinstated two years later in a fan favorite episode (“Checkpoint”, 5.12)

Joss’ intent when he first created the film, was to as he often said himself, subvert the paradigm. The horror film cliche of the little blond girl who gets killed in the dark alley was to Joss, tiresome. His mother was an incredibly strong, beautiful, funny woman and both his father and stepfather, in his words, “… prized wit and resolve in the women they were with, above all things, and they were among the rare men who understood that recognizing somebody else’s power does not diminish your own. When I created Buffy, I wanted to create a female icon but I also wanted to be very careful to surround her with men who not only had no problem with the idea of a female leader, but were in fact, engaged and even attracted to the idea. That came from my father and step-father, the men who created this man, who created those men, if you can follow that.” So he created a heroine who completely turned that idea on its head. A blond girl who was chosen to fight vampires, demons and the forces of evil. “The mission statement of the show is–nothing is as it seems.” (Joss Whedon, commentary for “Welcome To The Hellmouth”) But the biggest battle that Buffy had was with her calling and trying to balance her vocation with the struggles of being first a teenage girl and then a young woman, with all the responsibilities and challenges (and then some) that being a young woman this day and age encounters. This was the constant theme for Buffy’s character arc throughout the entire series. Even the show’s theme, composed and performed by the band Nerf Herder, showed that this was to be no ordinary horror TV show. The first few notes represent a typical theme for a horror film,  but suddenly it turns into a hard-driving rock melody. This was no accident. “Here’s a girl who has no patience for a horror movie…is not willing to be the victim. She’s gonna bring her own rocking attitude to [the show].” (Joss Whedon, commentary for “Welcome To The Hellmouth”)   But it was this struggle, this determination to try to have a normal life that actually kept her in this world, alive and able to live much longer than any of her Slayer predecessors. But the journey to this acceptance was a very long and difficult one for this, at first, reluctant hero.

(Giles) “A Slayer slays; a Watcher…”
(Buffy) “Watches?”
(Giles) “Yes…No! He trains her. He prepares her…”
(Buffy) ”Prepares me for what? For getting kicked out of school? For losing all of my friends? For having to spend all of my time fighting for my life and never getting to tell anyone because I might endanger them? Go ahead prepare me.”

Xander is the first one that Buffy meets as she drops her purse and everything in it and he helps her gather her things and asks, as only Xander can, “Can I have you?” Xander’s character, along with Giles, was the first of those supportive men surrounding Buffy and helping her to fight the forces of evil.

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“The idea of this band of, kind of outcasts being the heart of the show and sort of creating their own little family is very much the mission statement.” (Joss Whedon, episode commentary)

We meet Willow first as a friend of Xander. I always thought their relationship at the beginning of the show was much like the relationship between Artemis and her twin Apollo.

“He was her male counterpart…as a second-generation Olympian, Apollo was in the generation of sons, rather than the fathers…Like his sister, Apollo is androgynous: each had some qualities or interests that are usually linked to the opposite sex.” (Bolen, Goddesses In Everywoman, p. 61) As Xander and Willow grew into their own person through the help of Buffy, they each lost those qualities of androgyny, although Joss did admit that during the fourth season the writers had toyed with the idea of making Xander gay instead of Willow. And there’s that wonderful scene in “First Date” (7.14) where Xander asks Willow to “gay him up”.

Xander had always, obviously, thought of her as a sister, even though by the time we meet her she was interested in taking their relationship further. The dance that those two do throughout the series was incredibly intricate, delicate and always interesting.

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Cordelia appears first as very friendly and cool, but we’re not even halfway into the episode when the dark part of Cordelia emerges:

(Cordelia) “Willow. Nice dress. Good to know you’ve seen the softer side of Sears.”

(Willow) “Uh, well—well, my mom picked it out.’

(Cordelia) “No wonder you’re such a guy magnet. Are you done?”

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“Charisma Carpenter, here as Cordelia, is sort of the classic, evil high school bitch. Obviously there’s a lot more going on there, she’s not the total cartoon, although she does often act like one…but the idea here was to set up that she would see Buffy as someone she would identify with…the idea that Cordelia, the popular, mean, kind of superficial one would latch on to her makes perfect sense and we wanted to introduce Cordelia as someone you thought might be nice, a little scatty, maybe, but kind of endearing, and then turn it around and have her just lay into someone-into Willow, so that you realized, oh she’s not exactly what I thought she was, either and to set our sympathy for Willow and also when Buffy gravitates toward Willow, clearly because she’s upset that Willow has been attacked..Allyson, King of Pain. Whenever anybody attacks her, we learned early on, it just opens up your heart, it’s a terrible thing. She’s just so good at playing that vulnerability.”  (Joss Whedon, episode commentary )

Buffy sees this and immediately makes a decision that will affect the rest of her life. She automatically gravitates toward Willow, first out of sympathy and then out of genuine friendship. She also seals her fate as being in the band of misfits rather than the “cool” people: as Cordelia points out.

(Cordelia) “Are these guys bothering you?”

(Buffy) “Uh, no.”

(Willow) “She’s not hanging out with us.”

(Jesse) “Hey, Cordelia.”

(Cordelia) “Oh, please. I don’t mean to interrupt your downward mobility, but I just wanted to tell you that you won’t be meeting Coach Foster—the woman with the chest hair—because gym was canceled due to the extreme dead guy in the locker.”

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Buffy’s first encounter with Giles was full of the great writing and character revelation that we came to not only love but actually expect from the writers of this show.

(Giles) “What do you know about this town?”

(Buffy) “It’s two hours on the freeway from Nieman Marcus?”

(Giles) “Dig a bit deeper in the history of this place, and you’ll find a steady stream of fairly odd occurrences. I believe this whole area is a center of mystical energy, that things gravitate toward it that you might not find elsewhere.”

(Buffy) “Like vampires.”

(Giles) “Like zombies, werewolves, incubi, succubi; everything you’ve ever dreaded was under your bed but told yourself it couldn’t be by the light of day. They’re all real.”

(Buffy) “What, you like sent away for the Time/Life Series?”

(Giles) “Oh, w-well, yes.”

(Buffy) “Did you get the free phone?”

(Giles) “The calendar.”

(Buffy) “Cool. Wait. First of all, I’m a vampire slayer. And, secondly I’m retired. Hey, I know, why don’t you kill them?”

(Giles) “ I’m a Watcher, I haven’t the skill.”

” Tony Head was one of the few people that we saw and instantly knew right away that nobody else was gonna play that part—He embodied it perfectly. Tony brought this undercurrent of—kind of youth and sexiness and great acting chops to the role, so it was clear this was the guy who still trying to figure out his own life while the kids are as well and that really works for us because it gives us places to go with Giles.” (Joss Whedon, episode commentary)

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Also , the idea that Sunnydale was on the center of a mystical convergence (a Hellmouth) was not only a convenient plot device that explained things in the series that was otherwise inexplicable, but it was actually what, at least partially sold the network on the show. “The network was obsessed by the idea,” according to Whedon.

Another thing unique to the world of Whedon-vision was the blend of genres. “The idea that the show might be as schizophrenic; that it could be bouncing from horror to comedy to action to drama all the time is something that some people had trouble getting used to. Luckily, my performers all turned out to be people who could do all of those things and turn on a dime between one and the other, and to their great credit the network completely understood that mix and was behind it.” (Joss Whedon, episode commentary).

And then, of course, there’s Angel. “…young Angel, who was possibly the most difficult for us to cast. We saw dozens and dozens of guys, never anyone. David came in, gave a pretty good reading. I liked him. Wasn’t exactly, you know, my type. I wasn’t sure we necessarily had the guy here, and then I asked the women who were in there, (producer) Gail Berman, and (casting director) Marcia Schulman, who had both turned into puddles the moment he walked into the room.” Joss Whedon, episode commentary)

(Angel) “Is there a problem, ma’am?”

(Buffy) “Yeah, there’s a problem. Why are you following me?”

(Angel) “I know what you’re thinking. But don’t worry. I don’t bite. The truth is, I thought you’d be taller, or bigger muscles and all that. Oh. You’re pretty spry, though.”

(Buffy) “What do you want?”

(Angel) “The same thing you do.”

(Buffy) “Okay. What do I want?”

(Angel) “To kill them. To kill them all.”

(Buffy) “I’m sorry, that’s incorrect. But you do get this lovely watch and a year’s supply of Turtle Wax. What I want is to be left alone!”

(Angel) “Do you really think that’s an option anymore? You’re standing at the mouth of Hell and it’s about to open. Don’t turn your back on this. You’ve got to be ready. “

(Buffy) “What for?”

(Angel) “For the Harvest.”

(Buffy) “Who are you?”

(Angel) “Let’s just say I’m a friend.”

(Buffy) “Yeah, well maybe I don’t want a friend.”

(Angel) “I didn’t say I was yours.”

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One character that hasn’t been mentioned yet and yet was the very first long term character to be introduced, even before Buffy herself was Darla. Darla was meant to be killed in the first episode but when they were exploring Angel’s past in episode 7, they thought a triangle between Buffy, Angel and Darla would be much more interesting.

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Darla represents the Aphrodite aspect. In her life as a human, she was a prostitute, which Bolen explains is one manifestation of the Aphrodite persona. She also, because she was very beautiful, could have her choice of mates and she, like Darla, took her time making her choice. Darla waited a long time before she found the Irish Liam and turned him into Angelus.

It’s in “The Harvest” that we see Willow’s character first beginning to blossom from her Persephone persona to Artemis.

(Harmony) “Are we going to the Bronze tonight?”

(Cordelia) “No. we’re going to the other cool place in Sunnydale. (Harmony looks puzzled) Of course we’re going to the Bronze. Friday night? No cover? But you should have been there last night. ‘Cause I ran into Buffy and could she be any weirder? She attacked me? Do you believe it?”

(Harmony) “I think we did this part wrong.”

(Cordelia) “Why do we have to develop these programs? Isn’t that what nerds are for?

(Harmony nods, and Cordelia nods in Willow’s direction) What’d she do?”

(Harmony) “Uh, she’s doing something else.”

(Cordelia) “OK, and then ‘pattern run’, right? Or, ‘go to end’. That’s it.

(Harmony) “Maybe.”

(Cordelia) “Anyway, I come out of the bathroom, and she comes running at me, screaming, with a stick. “I’m gonna kill you! I’m gonna kill you!’ I swear!”

(Stoner dude) “Ha! Who?”

(Harmony) “The new girl.

(Stoner dude) “What’s her deal?”

(Cordelia) “Well, she’s crazed.”

(Harmony) “Did you hear about her old school? (Stoner and Cordelia shake their heads) Booted.”

(Cordelia) “Well, I exhibit no surprise.”

(Stoner dude) “Why was she kicked out?”

(Cordelia) “Uh, because she’s a psycho loony.”

(Willow) “No, she’s not.”

(Cordelia) “What?”

(Willow) “She’s not a psycho. You don’t even know her.”

(Cordelia) “Excuse me? Who gave you permission to exist? Do I horn in on your private discussions? No. Why? Because you’re boring.”

(Harmony) “OK. I think this program’s done.”

(Cordelia) Finally the nightmare ends! OK, so how do we save it?”

(Willow) “’Deliver’.”

(Cordelia) “’Deliver’? Where’s that?”

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“This is one of those little scenes that doesn’t register much, but to me is very important just because it’s the beginning of Willow’s real empowerment. The experience she’s gone through, almost being killed by a vampire, gives her just a little bit of an edge, and she actually speaks out against Cordelia. Over the years, Willow’s character has blossomed considerably and she’s much more self-assured than she was. At this point, to see the beginnings of that, to see already the effect that her friendship with Buffy was having on her is very sweet.” (Joss Whedon, episode commentary)

Joyce’s scene with Buffy when she forbids her to go out is also an important scene.

(Joyce) “Buffy?”

(Buffy) “Mom.”

(Joyce) “You’re going out?”

(Buffy) “I have to.”

(Joyce) “I didn’t hear you come in last night.”

(Buffy) “I was really quiet.”

(Joyce) “It’s happening again, isn’t it? I got a call from your new principal. Says you missed some classes today.”

(Buffy, sighs) “I was running an errand.”

(Joyce) “We haven’t finished unpacking, and I’m getting calls from the principal.”

(Buffy) “Mom, I promise it is not going to be like before. But I have to go.”

(Joyce) “No.”

(Buffy) “Mom!”

(Joyce) “The tapes all say I should get used to saying it. No.”

(Buffy) “This is really, really important.”

(Joyce) “I know. If you don’t go out it’ll be the end of the world. Everything is life or death when you’re a 16 year-old girl.”

(Buffy) “Look, I don’t have time to talk about it—“

(Joyce) “Buffy, you have all the time in the world, you’re not going anywhere. Now, if you want to stay up here and sulk, I won’t hold it against you. But if you want to come down, I’ll make us some dinner.”

“This scene just embodies primarily the message of the show, which is the difficulty of being a teenager and the fact that parents can’t understand or can’t remember how difficult it is, and we played it a kind of broad, on-the-nose joke, but one that registers in terms of mom saying, “That’s right. If you don’t get go out, the world will end”, when in fact, it will, because when you’re a teenager that’s how it feels-it feels like it will.” (Joss Whedon, episode commentary)

And at the very end of the scene is what Whedon calls one of the primal images of the show.

Buffy gets out her trunk to get her weapons. “In this trunk we see a very normal girl’s life. You see all the things in there girl might have and then we see what lies beneath. And that’s a literal, visual metaphor for the way we feel when we’re young.Not that we ever stop feeling like that, but this is adolescence when it hits us the hardest.” (Joss Whedon, episode commentary)

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Buffy’s mission statement changed over the course of the series, but the original idea of how difficult life always is and how you never somehow feel like you lose the awkwardness of your high school years never really went away.

It was a great introduction to an amazing, peerless television show.

 

 

 

 

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Goddesses in Buffy

Introduction

In the spring and summer of ’03, I was reading the classic by Jungian psychologist Jean Shinoda-Bolen, Goddesses in Everywoman. Bolen discovered that she could sense the archetypes of the Greek goddesses in her female patients. One woman may exhibit the practical strategy-making characteristics of Athena, while another may exemplify the nurturing and compassionate qualities of Demeter. Since I am a huge fan of “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” (or basically anything that Joss Whedon creates), suddenly the female characters of Buffy fall into the Greek goddess archetypes.

A brief introduction to Bolen’s seminal (ovarial?) book would be in order. Bolen divides the seven main goddesses into three categories. The three virgin goddesses are Athena (whom I see as Buffy)

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, Artemis (manifested by Willow)

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and Hestia. (represented by (Tara).

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The word “virgin” in Jungian psychology does not necessarily mean a virgin in the medical or physical sense, but rather something undefiled, pure, uncorrupted and untouched by man. The virgin goddesses kept a significant part of their psyche entirely separate from any man. Essentially, they existed for their own selves, not changed by any man’s needs or desires.

There are three vulnerable goddesses: Hera (who appeared first as Cordelia, who then went on to eventually become what I call L.A. Gaia on Buffy’s spin-off show, Angel),

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and was replaced by Anya the former vengeance demon,

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Demeter (Joyce), the mother archetype,

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and Persephone(Dawn) the daughter archetype .

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Bolen explains the vulnerable goddesses as the ones who personify archetypes that represent the traditional roles of women. “They are the relationship-oriented goddesses, whose identity and well-being depend on having a significant relationship.” (Bolen, p. 132) The vulnerable goddesses were acted upon by the gods (rather than acting upon others on their own behalf) and suffered when an attachment was broken. They experienced powerlessness and reacted with an appearance of a mental illness-Hera responded with rage and Demeter and Persephone with depression. The focus of these personae was always relationships rather than autonomy, achievement or new experience.

The last, the alchemical goddess, is of course, Aphrodite, in a category by herself. This is, obviously, to me, anyway, Faith.

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Bolen also distinguishes each goddess by identifying the quality of consciousness in each category and goddess herself. For example the virgin goddesses have an extremely focused consciousness, not unlike a spotlight or perhaps even a laser beam. The vulnerable goddesses, on the other hand exhibit a quality of consciousness much like, in Bolen’s words “light from a living room lamp, which illuminates and casts a warm glow on everything within its radius. It is a generalized attentiveness that allows a person to notice feeling nuances, a receptivity to the emotional tone of the situation, an awareness of background sounds as well as whatever is in the center of attention in the foreground.” (Bolen, p133) Bolen explains that this diffuse kind of consciousness can absorb the whole of the situation-the “gestalt” if you will.

The alchemical goddess, Aphrodite (Faith), the goddess of love and beauty, had many affairs and symbolizes the erotic, sensual, sexual aspect of a woman’s life and heralds new beginnings. She achieved a perfect balance between the autonomous qualities of a virgin goddess and the relationship orientation of the vulnerable goddesses. (Bolen, p 17). Bolen assigns to Aphrodite the quality of consciousness similar to theatrical lighting, or limelight. “What we behold in this limelight enhances, dramatizes or magnifies the impact of the experience on us…What is in the limelight absorbs our attention whatever we see in the golden light of Aphrodite consciousness becomes fascinating… Aphrodite’s “in love” way of attending to another person as if he or she were fascinating and beautiful is characteristic of the archetype…Such a woman takes in people in the same way that a wine connoisseur attends to and notices the characteristics of an interesting new wine…it would be a mistake to assume that the “loving attention” and interest she pays the wine means that the particular wine is special, valued or even enjoyed. This is the mistake people often make when they respond to a woman who uses Aphrodite consciousness. Basking in the glow of her focus, they feel attractive and interesting as she actively draws them out and reacts in a loving or affirming way (rather than assessing or critical). It is her style to be genuinely and momentarily involved in whatever interests her. The effect on the other person can be seductive—and misleading if her way of interacting creates the impression that she is fascinated or enamored, when she is not.” (Bolen, p 226-7).

Bolen’s addition of the Aphrodite consciousness to the traditional Jungian concepts of focused consciousness and diffuse awareness was a big step in helping women to define and articulate their desires in a healthier and more productive manner.

By dropping these concepts into the frame of a universe that contained a popular and powerful icon, I hope to perhaps make them more accessible to a greater number of people and empower a younger generation with these timeless archetypes. In later posts I will be adding references to Bolen’s “Goddesses In Older Women” and “Artemis, The Indomitable Spirit” as I explore these myths more deeply and how they relate to Buffy and her family and friends.  I will also be adding Darla and Fred/Illyria as minor representations of goddesses.

The last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Chosen” shows Buffy sharing her power, activating what Bolen would call her Metis, or “wisdom” persona . Joss’ assertion was that the message of this was basically, “You’ve gone on this journey with us. It’s now time to become your own hero.” This is what I would wish for every person who joins me on this journey as well.

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Tara as Hestia-The Centre Did Hold

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Goddesses in Buffy

Tara as Hestia

The Centre Did Hold”

Things fall apart…” So begins Tara’s plea to Willow to resume their relationship at the end of “Entropy” (6.18). The phrase is the first half of a line from W.B. Yeats’ oft-quoted and oft referenced poem, “The Second Coming”. The second half of that line is “…the centre cannot hold”.

But the center did hold-until a bullet from a misogynistic sociopath ripped through its heart.

Hestia, and her Roman counterpart Vesta, was the goddess of the hearth and home. She is the least known of the goddesses, although while she was in power, the most beloved. In fact, she very probably was one of the last of the matrifocal goddesses, if not the last. Matrifocal societies were “centered” or “focused” around the women in the community. In Latin, the word for hearth is focus.

Hestia was not represented in human form but by a flame. Her hearths, as well as her temples, were always round. No home or temple was truly sanctified until she was present and her presence provided spiritual illumination as well as physical warmth and heat.

In “Villians”, (6.20) before Willow exacts vengeance on Warren for Tara’s murder by flaying him alive, she says that the bullet that took the life from Tara took her light away from Willow and the rest of the world.

Because she was the Goddess of the hearth and home, the domestic environment was an element that was very important to Hestia. Tara’s room at college is a place that feels as enchanted as it does safe. Doug Petrie, in the Season Six overview, says that the relationship between Tara and Willow was meant to be a safe place that viewers could retreat to no matter how dark the rest of the series was. In “Restless” (4.22), Willow tells Tara that she never worries in Tara’s room. Designer Carey Meyer did an outstanding job in creating whatever environment Tara was a part of to be a balance of security and enchantment. After Buffy’s death, Tara and Willow move into Joyce’s old bedroom and it is transformed in to a magical and safe retreat as well.

To understand Hestia’s influence while she was in power, it may help to explore her relationship in the genealogy and hierarchy of the Greek gods and goddesses (I promise I’ll try to make this as fast and painless as possible).

Hestia was the first child of Cronus and Rhea (“Of course,” I can hear you saying. “I know who she is now.”) Cronus was the offspring of Gaia and her son Uranus (apparently if you are a Greek deity you get a get-out-of jail-free card when it comes to the taboo on incest. Or maybe the in-fighting that came from the in-breeding was the origin of the taboo.) Cronus and his sister Rhea (more in-breeding) were among the twelve Titans. Uranus grew resentful of his progeny and buried them in Gaia, (also known as the earth). Gaia appealed to her children and the youngest, Cronus, (Saturn in Rome) came to her aid by castrating his father. Cronus then became the most powerful deity and created the first generation of Olympians. They were Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus.

Some blabbermouth psychic told Cronus that his son would overthrow him so Cronus, determined not to let that happen, swallowed all but one of his children (are we seeing a pattern yet?). Rhea, still pregnant with Zeus, appealed to Gaia and Uranus. They told her to go to Crete. Rhea followed their advice, and when she gave birth to Zeus she tricked Cronus by giving him a stone in swaddling clothes (sometimes you have to wonder about the intelligence of some of these gods). Zeus eventually tricked Cronus into regurgitating all of his children.

Hestia was the last of the children to emerge from her father’s body. She was also the first swallowed and therefore spent the longest time in darkness and solitude. “I lived my life in shadow, never the sun on my face. It didn’t seem so sad though, I figured that was my place,” Tara sang to Willow in “Once More with Feeling”, (6.7).

Cronus was a tyrannical father who showed no regard for his children and Rhea was distant and ineffectual. Hestia was the child left the most on her own. Tara’s distant and disapproving father who appeared in “Family” (5.6) to take her home entirely embodies the Cronus archetype. Although Tara’s mother was apparently very powerful, she died early enough in Tara’s childhood to make very little impression on her. Tara’s father arrived to take her away on the pretext that when Tara reached her 20th birthday she would become a full-fledged demon like the rest of the women in her family. Spike ultimately and characteristically settles the question once and for all by punching Tara in the nose, consequently suffering intense neurological pain and proving that Tara is human.

Hestia was the oldest sister of the first generation of Olympians and maiden aunt to the second. Although she was eventually replaced by Dionysus, god of wine (you know, the archetypical party dude), she refused to participate in the love affairs and wars that other deities became embroiled in. As a result, she was given the highest place of honor in the center (there’s that word again) of every temple and given the best of the offerings from the mortals.

Hestia shares a focused consciousness with Athena and Artemis, but hers is an inward focus, toward herself. Hestia’s perception is fueled by her intuition. Time after time, in the fourth season, the very first in which she appears, Tara perceives much in her immediate environment that others miss. She was the one who sensed that Faith was in Buffy’s body in “Who Are You?” (4-16) and helps Willow to locate Buffy and conjure the magical tool that will recover Buffy to her own body. She also senses Buffy’s pain and feeling of betrayal when Buffy discovers that Riley slept with Faith when she was in Buffy’s body (“Superstar”, 4.17).

Bolen’s description of the Hestia archetype growing up in a dysfunctional family describes what we first see of Tara in “Hush” (4-10), “…She tries not to be noticed, has a surface passivity, and an inner certainty that she is different from those around her. She tries to be unobtrusive in all situations- she becomes persona-less like the goddess herself…” (p. 49) In Jungian psychology, the term “persona” (from the Latin word meaning mask) represents the mask of social adaptation. In other words, it is the way we present ourselves to the world and how we are seen by the world. Bolen compares a person with a well-functioning persona as having a large wardrobe to choose from that is appropriate for all occasions. Hestia has no interest in persona and is often awkward and socially reclusive.

In her introductory scene, with Willow and the Wanna-Blessed-Be-s, Tara practically exudes the desire to disappear and doesn’t even fully complete her contribution to the meeting.

However, the connection between Tara and Willow, through a mere meeting of the eyes was obvious to anyone. Later in the same episode, Tara and Willow join hands and move the drinks machine to prevent the Gentlemen from entering the laundry room. Joss Whedon, in his commentary, says that the moment was meant to be “…physical, empowering and beautiful…It is a statement about love-two people together can accomplish more than when they’re alone, more than the sum of their parts.” He also said it was one of the most romantic moments of the entire series.

Although their relationship developed rather quickly, Willow kept the growing love between her and Tara to herself because, as she explains to Tara in “Who Are You?”, she wants to have something that is just hers alone. “I am, you know,” Tara says to Willow. “What?” Willow asks. “Yours,” Tara replies.

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Even after Willow acknowledges the relationship, Tara still feels a bit like the outsider, saying in “Real Me” (5.2) that she’s like Dawn who’s not considered part of the Scooby Gang, and that she’s not sure if she wants to be included. Although Willow assures her that she is definitely one of the gang, the feeling doesn’t seem to quite dissipate until Buffy declares Tara as part of the family four episodes later.

That Tara’s inclusion of the Scooby “family” is concurrent with Joyce’s developing illness and death is possibly not an accident. Joyce, especially from the third season on, was a safe center that all the people in the Buffy universe could go to for some semblance of sanity and security. Joyce was a constant source of comfort, offering a bowl of soup or hot chocolate and a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to cry on (“Innocence”, 2.14; “Killed By Death”, 2.18; “Lover’s Walk”, 3.8; “Fear Itself”, 4.4; “Restless” 4.22). The exception being, of course, when she was dating a homicidal robot (“Ted” 2.11- with an unforgettable performance by the gifted John Ritter); being controlled by demon eggs (“Bad Eggs” 2.12); trying to come to terms with her daughter’s vocation (“Becoming-Part Two”, 2.22); under the spell of evil chocolate bars (“Band Candy” 3.6-, magical Jane Espenson’s debut), or simply preparing to burn her daughter and her friends at the stake under the suggestive power of a demon who takes the form of the real Hansel and Gretel (“Gingerbread”, 3.11).

But with Joyce’s death, Tara’s compassion and wisdom begin to take center stage, and, in fact, Tara does become the emotional center of the Scooby Gang. Her experience with her own mother’s death makes her a rock for Buffy to turn to when no one else seems to know what’s going on inside of Buffy.

This is, in fact, the beginning of the separation of Willow and Tara, which was, as it turned out, not necessarily as bad it might have seemed. In “Tough Love” (5.19), Willow is momentarily resentful of the fact that Tara can understand more than she what Buffy is experiencing. This moves on to the revelation that Tara is fearful that Willow’s feelings for her are a phase and a college fling and that Willow will return to being heterosexual. The seeds of this appeared as early as the first episode of the season, “Buffy vs. Dracula”, when Tara is alarmed that Willow seems to be attracted by Dracula’s allure. The argument then goes on to Tara’s unease at the breakneck speed of Willow’s advancing magical skills.

Glory’s malicious brain-suck of Tara, the ensuing battle and Buffy’s death and resurrection put these conflicts temporarily on the back burner, but eventually the issue of Willow’s abuse of magic surfaces again. However, even after Tara left Willow, she remained a vital part of the group. We see her as a surrogate mother to Dawn in “Smashed” (6.9), taking her for a movie and milkshake fun day, but also extracting a promise from Dawn that she eat something leafy green late that night (she’s very specific about it being leafy green, not gummy green). She then reluctantly stays with Dawn because both Willow and Buffy are out all night.

And in “Dead Things” (6.13) Buffy turns to Tara to learn why Spike can hurt her and begs Tara not to forgive her as she confesses that she’s been sleeping with Spike. The last scene with Buffy falling on her knees and sobbing on Tara’s lap is one of the most heart-rending moments of the entire series.

Her gift is to listen with a compassionate heart, staying centered in the midst of whatever turmoil a friend brings to her, providing a warm place by her hearth.” (Bolen, p 122)

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Though the break-up is incredibly painful to watch, during the separation Tara finally becomes her own person. This is what Bolen recommends for those who have a dominant Hestia personality. As Drew Z. Greenberg, the writer of “Entropy”, (6.18), points out in the Season Six Overview, when Tara and Willow finally do get back together, it’s on Tara’s terms and it’s what both of them want. The seeds of Tara’s blossoming into her own person actually began in “Hush” when Tara sought Willow out to do a spell to restore everyone’s voices. She, in a sense, became the aggressor.

Hestia’s replacement by Dionysus was probably not as sudden as Tara’s death; the replacement of any societal icon can take hundreds of years. But it was just as permanent. Hestia all but disappeared from the pantheon and very little is known about her except what is found in the Homeric hymns.

Tara’s death, on the other hand, was swift and shocking and left many viewers with a sense of betrayal. So much has been written about Tara’s death and its socio-political impact that anything I would have to say at this point would be superfluous. I will however, say one thing. OK, two things.

Actually, I’m going to reiterate Drew Z. Greenberg’s response to those who protested Tara’s death as a lesbian cliché. Greenberg pointed out the hypocrisy of that opinion, as it represented Tara only by means of her sexual orientation, not the complete, beautiful person and character that writers created and developed for the better part of three years. The second comment was from Joss Whedon himself, who revealed on the Bronze Board on May 22, 2002 that he got physically upset while discussing Tara’s death in story meetings. That, he added, was how he knew it was the right thing to do.

Tara’s death did, however, leave a hole in the Scooby family that was never filled while the show was on the air. In fact, Tara was one of the few main characters, possibly the only one, who never returned to the show after she was killed.

It was the writers’ contention in Season Seven that Xander had been the rock for the Scooby Gang all along. Because of his lack of superpowers and sometimes literal invisibility to the rest of the gang, he was in a perfect position to see things objectively and sometimes to tell the hard truths that were hard to hear (although Spike performed that role extremely well many times over the years himself) and even save the world with his love for Willow. But the nurturing, compassionate wisdom of Hestia was something that, by nature, was missing from Xander and, indeed, the season after Tara’s death was the last for the television series. I would suggest that without the feminine nurturing element from either Joyce or Tara, the real center was gone and at that point things really did fall apart, until Buffy found that bit of Hestia within herself and shared her power with the rest of the potential slayers, much like Tara and Willow combined their powers for the first time in “Hush”.

So, was Joss Whedon wrong when he killed Tara? Far be it for me to argue with a genius. To the contrary, I’m grateful to him and the rest of the incredible writing staff for the creation of a character that became as beloved as much as, if not more than Hestia herself (extra props go to Marti Noxon, who recognized that Amber Benson was the one to play Tara). He did something that no one else in history has done, at least for me. He finally gave Hestia face and form. I am also extremely grateful to the gifted Amber herself for giving the character life and making her so beloved, not just by Willow but by many others as well.

While Tara’s death was devastating, the image and moment that lingers for me is the last scene of “Entropy”, where we see two people who each went on an incredible journey come together again, each as a whole unique individual, hungry for each other as only two people who were meant to be together can be, kissing each other like the world doesn’t exist, and for them, at that moment, it truly didn’t.

Credit must be given to the music editor Tim Isle and music supervisor John C. King. The song “That Kind of Love”, by Pat Bergeson and Michael McDonald, sung so beautifully by Alison Krauss, always, always breaks me, completely.

They fall apart so hard. You can’t ever put them back they way they were…it’s just…you know, it takes time. You can’t just have coffee and expect…there’s just so much to work through. Trust has to be built again on both sides. You have to learn if…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?”

“…though there was not faith enough

Still my heart held on…

When we find that kind of love.”

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