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Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Was Made To Love You

[Updated May 1, 2013]

Pygmalion, or I Was Made To Love You:
This has never been one of my favorite episodes, mostly because I’ve always found the metaphor somewhat confusing. While listening to her friends talk in the Magic Shop, Buffy seems to identify herself with Warren:
“ANYA: Why would anyone do that [make a robot] if they could have a real live person? WILLOW: Maybe he couldn't. Find a real person. BUFFY: Oh, come on. The guy's just a big wedge of sleaze, don't make excuses for him. WILLOW: I'm not, I'm just saying, people get lonely, and maybe having someone around, even someone you made up ... maybe it's easier. (Shot of Buffy looking pensive.) TARA: But it's so weird. I mean, everyone wants a nice normal person to share with, but this guy, if he couldn't find that, I guess it's ... kinda sad. (Shot of Buffy staring at her hands.)”

Writer Jane Espenson confirms this when she says “When Buffy’s talking with Warren about his break-up with April, she’s actually identifying with him, because she did a lot of the same stuff with Riley that he did with April.” I think that’s a really weird interpretation of both the Buffy/Riley relationship and the Buffy/Warren conversation, so let’s look more closely at what Buffy says in her conversations with Warren and April.


When Buffy’s talking to Warren in the house, I interpret her words to mean that she sees herself as April and Warren as Riley:
WARREN: Okay, I didn't really dump her, as much as I, uh, went out, and, uh, didn't come back. (Buffy stares) I left her, I ... left her in my dorm room.
BUFFY: (angry) You left her in your dorm room?!
WARREN: Well, I figured I could just kinda get away until her batteries gave out. Which should have been days ago.
BUFFY: Did you even tell her? I mean, did you even give her a chance to fix what was wrong?

JE apparently believes Buffy was the one who failed to give Riley a chance to fix things, but that’s a pretty odd reading of the events leading up to Into the Woods. The salient feature of Warren’s behavior, which Buffy expressly calls him on, was that he left April in his room and skipped town. As I read it, Warren maps to Riley because both left town without giving their respective girlfriends a chance to fix the problems. Buffy maps to April because neither one was told there was a problem that needed to be fixed (or was told only at the last minute in Buffy’s case).
Now we get to Buffy and April:
APRIL: I rechecked everything. I did everything I was supposed to do. I was a good girlfriend.
BUFFY: I'm sure you were.
APRIL: I'm only supposed to love him. If I can't do that, what am I for? What do I exist for?
BUFFY: I don't know. (shakes head) It isn't fair. He wasn't fair to you.

Buffy correctly tells April it was Warren’s fault that he left her. Buffy can’t be identifying with Warren because he was the one who left town and Buffy didn’t do that. Besides, Warren was kind of a sad human being and perhaps a sleaze, which Buffy most definitely is not, so I can’t see how we’re supposed to compare her to him. In addition, in Blood Ties Buffy was blaming herself for Riley’s departure; to keep the equivalence she’d have to blame April for Warren’s departure. That would make no sense, and she’s doing the opposite of that in the dialogue above.
Buffy also seems to identify with April in the episode generally. She first decides she needs to be a better girlfriend. Then she sees the result of that with April and realizes that’s the wrong route; hence she cancels her date with Ben.
Given the discrepancy between JE’s comments and what I consider the natural reading of this episode in light of Into the Woods, the whole metaphor seems clumsy to me. Anyway, since I get confused on the metaphor, I’m not wild about the episode overall.
In comments, aaron and State of Siege convinced me that there’s a more charitable reading. I’ll give their take, slightly edited:
Aaron: “I think whether Buffy identifies with Warren or April (or Katrina, even) is less important than that she's sort of trying to identify with all of them (or at least parts of all of them). She's still not over Riley and she still doesn't quite get what her relationship future will be like. She's questioning a lot of things about herself, about men, about her romantic outlook, etc.

In a normal life (and especially a normal TV life), one would hope that Buffy would use this time to figure things out about herself, to grow a bit. But hers is not a normal life, and with the interruption that is to come, she has to put those questions on hold.

In that sense, I think the episode is kind of fascinating. It's as if the writers (intentionally or not) set up a typical TV situation (young woman gets her head on straight, re: boys), and then structurally interrupt that situation with the many tragedies to follow….

State of Siege: IWMtLY exemplifies one of the things I like best about the BtVS as a whole: it is willing to show its heroine confused without adding that additional layer, so common in most television, that tells us what she should—and thus eventually will—be feeling and how we should interpret, indeed judge, her. I have always found that layer condescending to both character and reader, and its absence has been one of the signs of respect Joss accords his characters and viewers.

Aaron: This, right here, is what I was getting at and you put it so well. I think that lack of telegraphing is part of what makes the episode confusing at first. And what I really love (as I guess I've already mentioned) is, not only do they not tell us how we should feel about Buffy, but with the coming episodes, they cut off her path to understanding in a way that delays her understanding and our ability to decide how to feel about it for many many episodes to come.”

However you see the Buffy/Riley/Warren/April comparisons, there’s the whole issue of whether we’re supposed to see Spike’s obsession with Buffy as in some way comparable to April’s obsession with Warren. There seems to be a comparison. Giles and the SG rather forcefully, one might even say cruelly, reject Spike’s attempt to get to Buffy through them. The scene then cuts immediately to the boys at the café cruelly deceiving April about Warren. I can’t tell if we’re supposed to see a comparison there.
Perhaps we’re supposed to compare Spike’s obsession with Buffy to Warren’s not-so-healthy attitude towards women. I’m not sure about this either, but if we assume it’s true then it raises some issues. Was it morally wrong for Warren to have built April? Perhaps we shouldn’t care since she wasn’t technically sentient and he doesn’t seem to have infringed on any person in building her. He also said that he expected to love her, so his intentions at least weren’t evil. Then again, he designed her to be submissive to him, and that’s not so healthy. Spike’s robot order is different, since he’s using things he stole from Buffy and the robot will presumably be similar to her. That’s more invasive, even if no person is actually harmed.
Other aspects of the Buffy/Spike situation are also interesting. Following up on my post on Crush, where I suggested that Buffy was concerned that something about her made her attractive to Spike, she expressly states this in the teaser:
BUFFY: (punches) Spike! (more punches) Spike wants me, how obscene is that?
GILES: Well, it is very strange. I can't imagine what he's thinking. (stands) Uh, not, not that you're not, uh, attractive...
BUFFY: (stops punching) I feel gross, you know, like, like, dirty.
She resumes punching.
GILES: That's ridiculous, you can't be responsible for what Spike thinks or, feels.
BUFFY: (stops punching) Well, aren't I responsible? I mean, something about me had to make him feel that, right? Something that made him say, "woof, that's the one for me!" …
BUFFY: That's my secret to attracting men. You know, it's simple really, you slap 'em around a bit, you torture 'em, you make their lives a living hell-
XANDER: Buff...
BUFFY: ...and sure, the nice guys, they'll run away, but every now and then you'll meet a real prince of a guy like Spike who gets off on it.

OTOH, did you notice the look on Buffy’s face when Spike went up to April at the party? He clearly did it to make her jealous, and Buffy’s face suggested there might be something to that, her words notwithstanding. As I said in my last post, the dynamic here is fascinating.
Since I was very critical of Xander’s behavior in Into the Woods, I should make a point of his reaction to Buffy’s concern about Spike’s attraction to her:
BUFFY: It's just ... I just wanna know that there's gonna be another good one. One that I won't chase away.
XANDER: There will be. Promise. He's out there, he could come along any minute.
BUFFY: Yeah, and the minute after that I can terrify him with my alarming strength and remarkable self-involvement.
XANDER: What? I don't think you're like that.
BUFFY: Maybe I could change. You know, I could, I could work harder. I could spend less time slaying, I could laugh at his jokes, I mean, men like that, right, the, the joke-laughing-at?
XANDER: Or maybe you could just be Buffy, he'll see your amazing heart, and he'll fall in love with you.

Getting back to Warren, I said that he was kind of a sleaze, but he’s not completely without sympathy. Building a sexbot isn’t high on the list of noble efforts, but he’s kind of sad in being so lonely that he felt he had to do that, as Tara suggested in the quote above. Here’s how Adam Busch (Warren) described his character: “I don’t see Warren as a villain. I don’t see him as a typically evil person, that’s what’s so great about him. I think he’s a human being. He has flaws and he has positives and he’s always given the chance for redemption and he’s always given that moment where he can do the right thing that he never ever does because he is flawed and he does have a lot of issues and an inability to communicate or talk to anyone or really explain what it is that he wants.”
While it sometimes gets neglected or forgotten because of what happens at the end, it turns out that the events of IWMTLY will have a significant impact on the rest of Season 5 and are seminal for all of Season 6.  It’s important to keep them in mind.
Oh, and April’s words immediately before she shuts down are not random or accidental.
Trivia note: (1) Before this episode aired, rumors were swirling that the network wanted Britney Spears to play the role of April. Just think what we all missed. (2) The Anya/Tara scene is one of just two in the entire series (the other was when they went into Giles’s bathroom during the fight in The Yoko Factor). (3) You can tell this episode aired in the early days of the internet by Tara’s comment that “everyone’s spelling is really bad”. (3) Spike’s “if looks could stake” plays off the expression “if looks could kill”. (4) Warren Beatty is a well-known American actor from the ‘60s and ‘70s. (5) Warren Harding was elected President in 1920. (6) Willow mentions “code red”, which is typical shorthand for a fire (at least in CA hospitals). (7) “Code Pink” is an anti-war women’s group. (8) Buffy’s description of Joyce’s date as “Prince Charming” refers to a stock character from fairy tales. (9) As is fairly well-known, Amber Benson (Tara) and Adam Busch (Warren) were a couple for a number of years.

29 comments:

  1. This is an episode that has grown on me slowly. First time through, its (seeming) stand-alone nature sort of annoyed me, and I didn't really get or appreciate the many tonal shifts (broad comedy, melancholy, brief snippet of the massively tragic, etc.).

    But now I'm coming to think it occupies a fascinating space in Buffy's journey. I think whether Buffy identifies with Warren or April (or Katrina, even) is less important than that she's sort of trying to identify with all of them (or at least parts of all of them). She's still not over Riley and she still doesn't quite get what her relationship future will be like. She's questioning a lot of things about herself, about men, about her romantic outlook, etc.

    In a normal life (and especially a normal TV life), one would hope that Buffy would use this time to figure things out about herself, to grow a bit. But hers is not a normal life, and with the interruption that is to come, she has to put those questions on hold.

    In that sense, I think the episode is kind of fascinating. It's as if the writers (intentionally or not) set up a typical TV situation (young woman gets her head on straight, re: boys), and then structurally interrupt that situation with the many tragedies to follow.

    MILD SPOILERS

    In fact, after this episode it's going to take a good long while before Buffy starts to get a grip on her take on relationships as the questions she seems to be concerned with in this episode get pushed WAY to the back of her mind. And, I'd posit, Buffy's understanding about romantic relationships is one of the key developments in her growth from teenager into adulthood

    BIGGER SPOILERS

    oh, and Warren is totally totally evil. I'd say, in a very important sense, he's the evilest villain in the Buffyverse . . . but I guess we can get to that later!

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    1. I agree, aaron. When we look for reflections in our lives, they rarely present as clean, one-to-one relationships. I'm not sure if the writers intended such complexity, but this episode manages to bring some realism (for me) to a fantastic situation. It does improve with repeated viewings--after we can appreciate all of its facets.

      Re: Warren, I vote sociopath. I thought maybe just pathetic...until he redirected April's rage onto Buffy. He didn't even know she had super strength then. Or did he? In any event, I don't think he cared if April killed her.

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    2. My judgment of this episode has shifted as well…

      I used to dislike it because it seemed to me that Espenson, like other writers (especially Noxon), was trying to say, once more, that the break-up was Buffy’s fault—but that what they were telling us here was going against what they were showing us, at best leading to incoherence, at worst suggesting that in this area, the writers themselves did not understand the characters…

      I’ve come around, however, to aaron’s point of view, and in this sense, IWMtLY exemplifies one of the things I like best about the BtVS as a whole: it is willing to show its heroine confused without adding that additional layer, so common in most television, that tells us what she should—and thus eventually will—be feeling and how we should interpret, indeed judge, her. I have always found that layer condescending to both character and reader, and its absence has been one of the signs of respect Joss accords his characters and viewers.

      And yes to that fleeting look of jealousy on Buffy’s face…


      As for Warren: I see him as borderline sociopathic, on the verge of true evil, with a small chance at redemption, one that he repeatedly misses in this episode. His sociopathy is seen not simply in his making April utterly subservient—subservient to the point of craven adoration, if not idiocy (“But you’re never wrong!”)—but in his making her experience pain if she did not come when he called. Of course we can say she was not “real,” was below even a soulless vampire on the scale of humanity, but he created her to believe that she was human, and that gave her to capacity to experience virtual suffering and pain. Even more, what he made in April implied that she was his ideal: he thought that this is what a woman should be—if he could have breathed life into her, been Pygmalion, he would have been…

      Warren’s one saving grace lay not in that he expected to love April, for that only means he thought he could only love a deeply subservient woman, but that he did not—that he fell for Katrina instead.** But by failing to treat April properly—all he had to do was shut her down, but I would suggest that he was still so enamoured with his creation, of his having made her, perhaps combined with the lingering thrill her adoration gave him, that he was unable to do so—he put his relationship with Katrina (as well as her life) at risk. And when April shows up, he indicates his sociopathy not only in his treatment of Buffy—I agree with CMMcK here*—but also in his treatment of Katrina: his dismissiveness, which borders on cruelty. This leads me to wonder, too, about his ability to truly love Katrina, no matter what he says—I’d like to think that staying with her longer could have saved him, but clearly he was incapable of doing what that required.


      *I think he did know that Buffy had super-strength: when she first comes to his door, she askes him if he knows who she is, and he says yes—they did go to high school together, if only for a year.



      SPOILERS

      ** “Yes, Master…” If this episode is dark—and for me it is, despite to humour—I see it as the twin episode to the much darker Dead Things. There, Warren essentially seeks to turn Katrina into April, suggesting that he has gone beyond to border into full sociopathy and evil.

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    3. MINOR SPOILERS cont'd

      SoS97: "it is willing to show its heroine confused without adding that additional layer, so common in most television, that tells us what she should—and thus eventually will—be feeling and how we should interpret, indeed judge, her."

      This, right here, is what I was getting at and you put it so well. I think that lack of telegraphing is part of what makes the episode confusing at first. And what I really love (as I guess I've already mentioned) is, not only do they not tell us how we should feel about Buffy, but with the coming episodes, they cut off her path to understanding in a way that delays her understanding and our ability to decide how to feel about it for many many episodes to come.

      and . . .

      "I see it as the twin episode to the much darker Dead Things. There, Warren essentially seeks to turn Katrina into April, suggesting that he has gone beyond the border into full sociopathy and evil."

      Spot on!

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    4. Thanks!

      SMALL SPOILERS

      And I agree about the way in which not only is Buffy's progress toward understanding cut off, but so, too, is ours—along with our ability to know hoe to feel about it... It is one of my favorite things about the next season and a half, at least.

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  2. All fair points. And I agree with your big spoiler point. To be clear, my comments about that were limited to what we see just in this episode.

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    1. SPOILERIFIC

      I agree that on first watch Warren in this ep seems more pathetic than evil. He's a kind of brilliant schmuck who's too smart for his own good.

      But on re-watch, I think his nastiness is already there to see.

      I find this episode to be one of those few Buffy episodes that looks forward and backwards at the same time. The most obvious example is "Restless" - and, no, I don't think this ep is anywhere near the overall brilliance of "Restless." But it does take a similar mediating position. It almost lets Buffy come to some conclusions about her past relationship situations. At the same time, it obviously points forward to S06 (and beyond) - not only with Warren, but the moment of Spike jealousy that you point out.

      Also, the way it enfolds misogyny within the entire narrative points both backwards and forwards - and that's a key, I think, to understanding Warren. He is, in one interpretation, a sad sack. Alternatively, he's a sociopath ("I left her in my dorm room" is beyond sane). Finally, he is, in many ways, representative of patriarchal disregard for women's feelings. All of these elements are integral to the show, and the way they come up here is, I think, subtler than I originally gave the episode credit for.

      Finally, it's a great episode about the question of agency, which, I think, is one of the existential questions of Buffy (as you've touched on in the past) - Buffy was "chosen" to be the Slayer; April was "chosen" to be a girlfriend. Within those frameworks, how much free will does either of them have? (Incidentally, I'm currently going through my first watch of Dollhouse, which really takes such questions to town).

      Not trying to oversell the episode because, in the end, it's not stellar. But it is better than most fans think, and maybe even better than the writers thought it was at the time.

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    2. It's absolutely a better episode than I originally gave it credit for. Until we see how certain plot points and characterizations play out, we don't realize just how much was being set up here.

      The metaphor thing continues to bug me. I keep gnawing at it, feeling like I must be missing something (but I'm sure I'm not). That may cause me to underrate it.

      I think you'll like the first season of Dollhouse, especially Man on the Street and Epitaph One. Let me know what you think of S2 -- I don't think I get what they were trying to say.

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    3. Dollhouse summed up on two words

      Patriarchy=BAD

      HUGE SPOILERS

      I don't think it is unintentional that the "father" of that particular family is the one who is evil. And the whole point of the Dollhouse is about removing people's agency, just like the patriarchy, and it was excellent at getting its victims to help enforce the power structure that keeps them victims, just like the patriarchy.

      Plus, Paul was totally fridged, and I think it was completely intentional. He was the damsel in that final scene with the Head of Rossum, only so Echo could rescue him. He gets shot in the head, only so Echo will have a breakdown. Alpha wipes him, to cause Echo pain in addition to trying to learn WHY Echo loved him.

      Before it was cancelled, it was slowly making that point, as well as exploring how to become your authentic self(the episodes with Alexis Denisof were GREAT with that), but that storyline had to be dropped in favor of the ROSSUM IS THE WORST storyline instead.

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    4. Thanks for this. I'll re-watch S2 with this in mind. What has me uncertain is that I see the "authentic self" story as definitely present in S1, so I was expecting something different in S2.

      Delete
  3. Sorry for not commenting lately; it's been a busy time. I've enjoyed your posts throughout this season however.

    On this one, I don't think that the lack of clarity of the metaphor is as damaging as you write. I do think that the primary metaphor is that Buffy is April, and her attempts to remake herself into the perfect (potential) girlfriend, for Ben -- which results from Riley's departure and Spike's interest in her convincing her that she is wrong on some fundamental level -- are meant to be similar to April's. The point is that no man actually wants a robot, even as much as he thinks he might; even Warren, who is a bastard ultimately, ends up being bored by her and finds Katrina, who is authentically herself (and makes model trains), much more attractive and interesting.

    Meanwhile, there is also a layer in which Buffy is Warren and Riley is April. This layer is not dominant, which is why some of the points you raise seem to go against it. But while I don't think Buffy did anything particularly wrong during the ItW breakup and Riley generally left her in a douchey way, I do think that there was some truth to the idea that her attraction to Riley was because he was "dependable" (in a phrase she used herself). The reason I think that is, well, it's the result of many things, but part of it is because that is kind of Riley's defining trait: Riley is a "robot" as much as April is; though he was built to be the perfect soldier rather than the perfect boyfriend, in The Initiative he has some dialogue which I think reflects the way he views all these things as similar:

    RILEY: You don't understand. I'm good at things. That's what I do. Work hard, apply myself, get it done.

    It's actually a similar attitude to Buffy's in this episode in trying to woo get Ben's attention, and to April's generally. Riley is attractive to Buffy in great part because he is the clean-cut guy she's supposed to want. And ultimately, while Riley has many fine qualities and Buffy likes many of Riley's fine qualities, I think that this level of Riley being an inauthentic love interest, chosen by Buffy partly to avoid the hazards of riskier attractions, is definitely there. Buffy is much less skeevy than Warren because it was Maggie Walsh who built Riley and not Buffy herself, but that layer is there.

    SPOILER FOR SEASON SIX

    I've also seen it posited that Warren/April/Katrina is also a mirror of Buffy/Riley/Spike. A lot of this depends on whether you view Buffy as having any (subconscious) attraction to Spike at this point. I'd tend to say she does -- and did even as early as FFL. While there are lots of other layers here, the basic setup of April as the woman Warren thinks he should be in love with, versus Katrina as the woman who totally surprises Warren and whom he finds himself attracted to as well, does I think reflect Buffy's divide between Riley who is the ostensibly perfect guy, versus Spike who is her opposite whom she shouldn't love but does anyway.

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    1. I'm glad you're still around. I figured you had lots of free time now that the dissertation is done. :)

      I think that you, SoS and aaron have made a better episode than JE did. Yours (collective) is actually a good interpretation, tempered only by the fact that it appears to have been an accidental result from the writer. Still, I generally don't believe in privileging the writer's view, so it's perfectly legitimate to adopt the reading which makes it a much better episode than I've given it credit for.

      Delete
  4. Just wanted to say thanks. I've been keeping up with the essays and really enjoy the chance to see the episodes from a new point of view.

    I like to think I respect the overall show and characters enough to have my Spuffy shipping on a back burner and a lower level...but it's there. ;-) I agree that overall the metaphor(s) were confusing and contradictory. But one I always took away related to Spuffy - even though Warren's relationship with April wasn't real he owed her a certain respect, that even faux love, in some fashion, was a step on the path of love. (I was very interested in the suggestions in the Crush essay comments related to cupiditas and caritas, etc.) Thus Buffy is in Warren's position when relating to Spike, and needs to question whether she owes him a certain amount of respect regarding his emotions. If nothing else, Buffy shouldn't toy with Spike, as Warren toyed with April, and perhaps should stake him 'cleanly' as Warren should have ended April's role in his life 'cleanly.'

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    1. First, thanks. I think you raise a very good point.

      SPOILERS THROUGH S5

      It may very well be part of the explanation for Buffy's change of heart towards Spike in Intervention. At the very least, we could argue that Spike's sacrifice there will cause Buffy to show the sort of respect you suggest in The Gift.

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  5. I realize I’m reading these quite a while after they were written, but I just wanted to thank you for creating this blog.
    I first starting watching Buffy sometime during the original airings of season two, and have rewatched them too many times to remember (I used to watch reruns on FX after school). As I got older, my rewatches were less often. Recently, I attempted to rewatch the show and found myself almost bored. I had watched the show so many times that it was more going through the motions at that point.
    Discovering this blog helped me to realize what was missing from my watchings, which was intelligent conversation. I never had friends who watched the show and didn’t delve into internet discussions on it, so I was limited to my perspective. Reading your takes on the show has allowed me to understand it at another level. And now my rewatch, which I’ve dragged my husband into, has become an exercise in using the show to have a conversation, both about the show and about what the show discusses outside of itself.
    Also, one of the most important points I’ve personally taken from your writings is a new understanding of the character of Buffy herself. In the past, I’d always viewed Buffy deserving of the guilt that she accepts, perhaps because she accepted it. In light of what I’ve read here, I’ve seen her character as the hero she truly is; I saw her as a hero before, but mostly just in the battle-sense. Although she has flaws, they are much more limited that those expressed by other characters. Though one of her flaws is certainly accepting more blame them she deserves, perhaps because she is used to accepting responsibility in general.
    I love having her as such a strong role model (what would Buffy do?)!

    Anyway, the comment I wanted to make about this episode itself:
    I agree with the others that this episode gives no real conclusion to Buffy’s introspection on romantic love in her life. I don’t believe she really comes to any kind of conclusion to this until her infamous cookie dough speech, which in itself is an admission that she still has more growing to do to reach any kind of conclusion. I love the fact that BtVS doesn’t try to give concrete answers to life’s questions, as it makes the show more realistic and gives the audience the chance to discuss and come to their own conclusions.

    Thanks again!

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    1. Thank you! Your Buffy journey is very cool.

      I agree about Buffy's romantic life. She wants/needs to understand herself first. And really, that's what the show's all about.

      Delete
    2. There's still people commenting in 2016! I'm glad to read this post and I fully agree with what Jennifer says.

      In addition though, I'm a bit surprised that the metaphor is unclear to you, Mark because I think it is actually quite simple and straightforward. And it may explain why a lot of people don't like this episode. Personally, I enjoyed it back then at the first watch and still now on my re-watch because in the societies we live in, it's quite nice to have messages such as this one bashed over our heads a little bit. But before going to the 'metaphor', I'd like to highlight how brilliant the structure of this episode is. Look how it starts and ends, it's a double mirror/circle: first, the Summers at home in the living room with the girls on the sofa, followed by a scene with Giles/ Xander (but mostly Xander) and Buffy - and it ends in the reverse order with some amazing messages (more below). Also look how every single scene speaks about the theme of the episode, love, relationships, attraction and doubts - from Joyce having a date to Buffy and Ben, and even Glory seemingly sad to have her counterpart being rejected by Buffy! The only scene where the dialogue is not about love is the weird scene between Tara and Anya - who speak about computers - and somehow that, plus the theme, plus the robot, plus what Xander says to Buffy about how living on the hellmouth is not conductive to be happy in your relationships, make me think of the infamous 'I robot, You Jane'. Which is maybe why people dislike this episode too!

      Anyway - what do we learn? So this scene with first Giles as the mind trying to rationalise Buffy's fear of inadequacy who suddenly disappears (to go where?) and leaves the place to Xander, the heart, puffy and swollen and beaten. How ironic is that that the metaphorical heart says to Buffy how amazing her heart is! And at the end of the episode, again the second to last scene, with Buffy and Xander alone again, and the heart busy mending a window and who seems to have kind of find peace for now with what he does... how cool is that!

      The other message is more directly link with the April story. When she arrives in Sunnydale, she doesn't answer that she is looking for Warren but for "true love". And what does she find? People being cynical, these 4 guys joking at her, and even the scoobies basically commenting on her physical appearance and Xander drooling, same with Spike, and even Willow and Tara. Cynical.

      On these relationships, look at how Anya constantly needs reassuring herself in her relationship with Xander, and seeing how Xander reacts to April in front of his own girlfriend, and what he says to Buffy about living on top of the Hellmouth which is a bit weird knowing he is himself in a happy relationship... it doesn't foretell well their own love story.

      Last but not least, I don't think the writers intended to compare Buffy/Riley with Warren/April totally. If Warren is supposed to be a metaphor for Buffy, I think it is more to do with him before April and what he did because of his loneliness. (Buffy wouldn't go to such an extent but her fans would for her!) She seems to identify with April more for sure but I think as you said, she is over Riley and she has forgiven herself already in previous episodes. Here she has to deal with the loss and the fact to be single and loneliness. She says to Dawn and Joyce that she had two boyfriends, who both left her and left town... and when she blatantly lies to April about Warren coming back, she seems to realise how she also has been lying to herself. None of her ex will come back (except Angel does in the next episode but nothing changes really, right?). So it is definitively the same cookie dough message but distilled throughout the episode and I think in a way, the fact they stopped that episode with such a cliffhanger is also a reminder for all of us that there is more than love relationship to loose and therefore to value in life.

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    3. I love your points about Xander. Just great.

      If I understand you correctly, you're saying that Buffy sees herself as Warren because she created an image in her mind of a perfect relationship -- Riley -- only to find that she didn't really love him. Her agreement with April that Warren didn't treat her fairly would then map to Buffy admitting to herself that she didn't treat Riley fairly.

      I can see that, though I wouldn't agree with that way of looking at the Buffy/Riley relationship. But the writers may have seen that differently than I did.

      Nice idea. Thanks.

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    4. Oh- thanks to you! For this great blog and also for your answer... which is actually pushing my point further than what I had thought. It makes sense but I'm totally with you here on Buffy's treatment of Riley.

      Though your suggestion made me think today. And maybe to be fair if Buffy is "guilty" of anything towards Riley is maybe to have started and stayed with him while she wasn't really over Angel. And in this episode she is about to do again the same mistake: run into a date with a man that until now she didn't seem to have been attracted to, whom she doesn't know and have secrets to say the least, and above all mainly because she feels alone. And that's a big difference here between her and Warren. Because Warren hasn't learnt anything from his relationship with April and treats Katrina horribly.

      I personally see the metaphor beyond Buffy/Riley relationship, and I would also see reflections on her previous relationship and the next one - with a strong message towards the shippers from both ends.

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    5. Fair points. And I totally agree on Buffy's conclusion that she doesn't need/isn't ready for a relationship at this point in time.

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  6. Just rewatched Intervention now, and your point on Buffy not being fair to Riley (from the writers' point of view) is totally there:
    "I was never there for Riley, not like I was for Angel" and "Riley left because I was shut down. He's gone."

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    1. Yes. And Xander told her the same in Into the Woods.

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  7. You know, I was surprised that I really liked this episode because my reaction to the Netflix summary was, “Ugh. Robots again?”

    I can see where the metaphor is confusing, but in this case, I thought the overall themes of what’s “fair” in love (Buffy talks about fairness with both Warren and April in different ways) and how far you should go to get it really compelling, especially in light of the Spike situation.

    And while I’m with you on the Buffy/Riley breakup, I can see a little bit of what JE is saying about the conversation between Warren and Buffy. Buffy is primed to identify with Warren because she feels lonely (as she shows in the Magic Box, as you mention). During their conversation, I see two ways she could been seen to be identifying with him. One is what you said in your reply above to Anonymous: “If I understand you correctly, you're saying that Buffy sees herself as Warren because she created an image in her mind of a perfect relationship -- Riley -- only to find that she didn't really love him.”

    The second is when Buffy says: “Did you even tell her? I mean, did you even give her a chance to fix what was wrong?”

    While you see that mapping on to Riley, and I agree, I think there’s a parallel to Buffy, too, at least in her mind. I think her big regret is that she didn’t make it to the helicopter in time. So, in her mind at least, she didn’t give Riley a chance to fix the whole vamp suckhouse thing. She was basically willing to let him go after that (and I don’t blame her!), until Xander goaded her into running after him.

    I also think, in the conversation with April, when Buffy makes up Warren’s regret for him, she could be seen as talking to Riley: “He'll tell you how sorry he is. You know, he told me how proud he was of you and how impressed he was with how much you loved him and how you tried to help him. He didn't mean to hurt you.” I think, no matter who was really to blame for their breakup (cough, Riley, cough), that that sentiment probably really does sum up Buffy’s feelings toward Riley at this point – looking at their relationship as a whole, and not just the ending – and it shows mature understanding.

    I do think she identifies more with April than with Warren overall, but it’s fun to look for this kind of stuff.

    (As an aside, I can’t really get there with the Scoobies being “cruel” to Spike. While I love his character, he did just put Buffy in physical danger and with Drusilla of all villains – the same vampire who murdered Kendra, right in the library, no less. Maybe if they would have kicked him out of the Magic Box without his blanket, I could see it!)

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    1. All fair points. I still think the episode suffers from the fact that our natural sympathy is with April, while Buffy seems to identify with Warren (wrongly, in my view) on certain aspects. But I think you (and others) probably captured what JE had in mind.

      A better word than "cruel" might be "harsh".

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    2. I agree that it could have been handled better, for sure.

      Thanks for taking the time to respond to comments so long after the fact. I'm getting SO much enjoyment out of your posts.

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    3. I really appreciate your comments. It's easy to take the time to respond. Thanks.

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    4. Mark, I would like to second Erica's thanks to you for taking the time to respond. And even though this is my fourth time going through the series, this was my first time noticing April's remark "It's getting dark..." and I said to myself "I'll betcha Mark caught that!" And you did!

      It was the day right after the election that I said to my wife, "It's time to watch Buffy again." And watching the show again has been a perfect antidote to the times that we're going through right now. Have you thought about revisiting the show again, now that a few years have past? I'm still finding plenty of insight from your commentary and the comments from 2012, but I can't deny that I feel like I'm seeing it with fresh eyes in view of the days we're living in. It feels like The Master rose and The Mayor ate the senior class, for sure.

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    5. First, thank you. I really appreciate all the readers and I learn a lot from the comments.

      Second, you read my mind. You'll see on March 10 (20th Anniversary post).

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  8. Very cool. Looking forward to it!!

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