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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Once More With Feeling

[Updated May 2, 2013]

I’ve watched Once More With Feeling more than any other episode (Becoming and Chosen are close), and I think I like it better every time. There are so many clever, subtle points that I can’t possibly mention them all, so I’m just going to hit the main issues.

Joss gave extensive commentary, part of which explains his goal in the episode:
“The important thing was to set up not just this show, but the rest of the season, the rest of the series. The episode before, the episode after. … I didn't want to say, "Look! We're better than a TV show!" I wanted to say, "You can do all of this in an episode of television. It just depends on how much you care." And because I think one of the other things about musicals is everybody saying, "Oh, look! We're taking you outside the world of television. We're better than the world of television." Which of course drives me crazy. I love TV. I love what you can do with it. And to be able to go this far emotionally, and be this silly on a regular old episode of television – albeit eight minutes over – is a way of saying, "This is just an episode. This is just what we do. It's not better, it's just TV in all its glory." And the way I celebrate musicals, I celebrate this medium; and hopefully that comes through a little bit too.”
I’ll start with the most important fact about Buffy: she’s depressed.  We learn this in the teaser, with Buffy staring blankly at her suddenly different alarm clock and then coloring a page all in black. She tells us that she’s depressed in the opening song. Joss: “This number here – very much in the Disney tradition, what Jeffrey Katzenberg would call an 'I want' song. … the song where the heroine tells you exactly what it is she's missing in her life. Which in Buffy's case is her life: she just doesn't feel connected.” Follow the lyrics, with my emphasis added to make the point:
Every single night, the same arrangement
I go out and fight the fight.
Still I always feel this strange estrangement
Nothing here is real, nothing here is right.
I've been making shows of trading blows
Just hoping no one knows
That I've been going through the motions
Walking through the part
Nothing seems to penetrate my heart.
I was always brave, and kind of righteous.
Now I find I'm wavering.
Crawl out of your grave, you'll find this fight just
Doesn't mean a thing
She does pretty well with fiends from hell
But lately we can tell
That she's just going through the motions….
Will I stay this way forever?
Sleepwalk through my life's endeavor?....
Going through the motions
Losing all my drive.
I can't even see
If this is really me
And I just want to be-

Buffy’s description of her emotional state fits with the symptoms of depression:
“Depression is a medical illness that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Depression can cause physical symptoms, too. … [I]t affects how you feel, think and behave. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn't worth living.”

Her other 2 songs reinforce the theme: “I touch the fire and it freezes me/I look into and it’s black….I want the fire back”. The fire, of course, is emotion. She’s not feeling any, a classic symptom of depression (“blunted affect”). Later she begs Sweet to “give me something to sing about”. There’s no melody when she reveals that she’s been pulled out of heaven. Even her participation in “What Can’t We Face” is more fatalistic than optimistic. Joss: “she says what appears to be a rousing chorus of ‘We can handle this, we're a great team’, but what she's actually saying is ‘I'm bored, it means nothing to me, they've got nothing new.’"
The fact that Buffy is depressed should come as no surprise. I mentioned in my post on Bargaining that the title referenced the third of the stages of grief; depression is the fourth stage. As in every other season, episode 7 is giving us the key to the season, just as Joss specifically stated in the passage I quoted above.
If we translate this back into life terms, Buffy devoted her late teenage years to achieving the goal of adulthood. Now that she got there, she finds that it isn’t some glorious, heavenly state, it’s hard work. She doesn’t want to do it, so she’s “going through the motions” of her slaying. She’s listless and lifeless, passively aggressively refusing the return to reality to put it in Hero’s Journey terms. As we’ll see, slaying isn’t a job that she can sleepwalk through, it requires commitment and dedication. The absence of these will have significant consequences. Joss is setting up the season, indeed the rest of the series, right here in this episode.
What makes OMWF such a great episode – it would almost certainly win a fan vote for single best/favorite episode – is that it doesn’t “merely” establish Buffy’s arc, it gives us important information about each of the core 4. I’ll take them in turn.
Joss explains Giles’ song this way: “He's singing about, you know, it's every parent's dilemma. ‘I want to take care of you, but eventually I have to teach you to take care of yourself.’” This is a very basic theme common to all parents. Buffy has to make decisions on her own now, but she’s not doing that (as we saw at the end of All the Way, an incident Giles mentions here). The whole point of Giles’s role from here on out is that he needs to remain involved in Buffy’s life but not to the point of making decisions for her. She’s going to need to learn from her own mistakes, not from Giles doing things for her. As I mentioned in my post on Bargaining, I think a lot of fans struggled with this even though it’s a very natural life transition.
Note that when Giles tries to explain how he’s “standing in the way”, Buffy doesn’t hear him. She doesn’t want to. Metaphorically, Giles is useless at this point. Buffy’s crisis is one of the spirit, not the mind.
Dawn feels stifled, which we see when Giles takes the book away from her in the teaser, from her insistence that she can stay alone in the house, and from her brief song: “Does anybody even notice/does anybody even care?” Her dance was an effort to escape confinement. I’ll suggest that this is a metaphor for the journey her character will take in S6.
In his commentary, Joss says: “Here we see in this dance how [Sweet’s] bringing Michelle– bringing Dawn – to a more mature, almost sexualized place; that she's been saying "I'm ready to go here, I'm ready to grow up", but she's not sure that she is. And as in a classic fairy tale, which is the feeling I wanted to get from this particular sequence, the demon shows her a little bit more of herself than she knew was there. And although it frightens her, she comes out the wiser for it after he's defeated.”
This follows very naturally from the events of All the Way, but I should also note the metaphor in All the Way: Dawn is Buffy’s inner child, and Dawn kissed a vampire, just as Buffy did all the way back in Angel. That’s what Buffy herself does at the end of OMWF. There’s additional foreshadowing in All the Way which I’ll mention in two more episodes.
Although Xander just committed publicly to Anya in All the Way, we now see that “committed” is the wrong word. He’s harboring important doubts, notably about Anya’s fundamental nature (“am I marrying a demon?”). He told Anya in Into the Woods that he was “powerfully, painfully” in love with her. The inner doubts revealed in OMWF call that declaration into serious question.
Maybe he’s right to harbor those doubts. Anya spent 1000 years as a demon, inflicting untold harm on humans. While we’re assuming she now has a human soul (it’s never stated), her actual understanding of human nature remains a work in progress (e.g., The Body). Xander has to confirm for himself that Anya really is “reformed”. More importantly, Anya herself has to do so.
Separate sentence to emphasize the point: their relationship stands in obvious parallel to that of Buffy and Spike, now that Buffy took the next step and, putting aside her doubts for the moment, kissed an actual vampire (which I’ll discuss in succeeding posts).
Joss had a fairly whimsical take on making Xander the guilty party: “Just for fun. Just because we didn't see it coming.” Joss aside, Xander’s invocation of Sweet was (and remains) very controversial among fans. Not only did he fail to learn his lesson in Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered, but in this case it appears that multiple people actually died. His motives, of course, were much better this time, but the consequences reinforce the theme, mostly relevant to Willow, that magic is not a toy.
The spell is consistent with his song: he'll never tell because he's deliberately blinding himself to the problems. He's not seeing how serious Buffy's situation is, he's completely blind to Willow, and he's repressing his own doubts about Anya. Given that he himself created his problem with Anya, it's not surprising that he'd want to escape rather than deal with it. That's pretty much going to be true for everyone in S6.
Sweet can be defeated, but not killed, as Joss explains: “And to me it was never about killing him, because ultimately he represents something you can't kill off. And so rather than that I thought it would be better if he had his own send-off, a little reprise of his bluesy number, which would contain, of course, the title of the piece. As a way of saying, "I've done my work, and you can't really undo it." He's not a guy you kill. Even though people die – he's a demon, don’t get me wrong; just because he wears really well-designed costumes doesn’t mean that he's anything other than a villain – but he is the musical, incarnate. And he's all around us; and that's where we put him. We made sure that he ended up in the air, more than life, settling all over them. It's a symbol thing, you know.”
This brings me to the one person who didn’t sing: Willow. There are various explanations why she didn’t. The real world reason is that Alyson Hannigan was uncomfortable with her voice and begged Joss not to make her sing. Within the story, the explanation that I like best is that the point of Sweet’s magic was to force the characters to reveal their inner selves – “all those secrets you’ve been concealing” – but Willow can’t reveal her inner self because her whole persona is devoted to concealing it (see her dream in Restless).
I also see Willow’s relative silence as consistent with the fact that she represents Buffy’s spirit. DEN at AtPO suggested at the time that Willow, like Buffy, was already burned out before Sweet even appeared:
“We all process BtVs through our own matrices. Some posters are students of religion or philosophy. Others know literature. I study war, and suggest that there may be some useful parallels and comparisons to be drawn from that field as well. More even than Buffy, Willow resembles to me one of those teenagers of the "Greatest Generation" who became a fighter pilot or a Marine rifleman and spent four years learning to do what they had to in order to survive. That experience did not always produce judgment and maturity in other areas of life.

Willow has been fighting on the Hellmouth since she was sixteen. More than Xander, more even than Giles, she has been what Buffy calls her in "The Gift:" "my big gun." She has no Slayer powers (goddess knows she's been seriously hurt enough times) and no Watcher. Willow's hacking and her magic alike have been developed to fight evil. She has held things together, rallying the Scoobies time and again when Buffy was absent, or non-functional--or dead! Indeed, I believe Willow has never had any time off the line since the show began!

If we extend this "combat" matrix, it is no wonder that by now Willow's judgment is poor; that she uses threats rather than reason in her interaction with Giles; that she compounds mistakes in spellcasting by casting more spells. She doesn't question herself in the musical because she can't afford to: she might break. Even the forgetting spell on Tara, inexcusable in any principled sense, can be interpreted as the act of a person who can no longer bear the limited stress of a lover's quarrel.

None of the above is meant to give Willow what another thread on this board calls a "get out of jail free" card. I do wish, however, to suggest that Willow is no less burned out than post-resurrection Buffy. She has her own version of the thousand-yard stare.”

While Willow didn’t sing, the fall-out from her “forget spell” in All the Way reveals a great deal about Willow to Tara: “God how can this be/Willow don’t you see/there’ll be nothing left of me?” Willow’s fear of confrontation has created a far more fraught confrontation to come.
We don’t get to that confrontation in OMWF, so I’ll hold off discussing it and deal with another issue which I see discussed often on the net and which Groovypants specifically raised in a comment to my post on All the Way. I’ll talk about it only with some trepidation because I know that people have very strong reactions about the issue.
The issue is rape. In order to discuss that, I need to set up the facts as we saw them. At the end of All the Way, Willow performed her “forget” spell and erased Tara’s memory of their fight. Though the chronology isn’t completely certain, it appears that the events of OMWF begin the next morning when Tara finds the Lethe’s Bramble under the pillow, but mostly continue on the day after – the scenes skip to a night patrol in which Buffy sings the opening number and then to the following morning when she walks into The Magic Box. Later that afternoon – say, 45 hours after the spell – Willow and Tara had sex as Tara sang “I’m under your spell”. She was, both metaphorically and literally. Some viewers claim that when Willow had sex with Tara after erasing her memory, that amounted to rape.
There are two ways we can look at this claim. One is that, regardless of how it appears in real life, it was rape within the show. I discussed this point in my Introduction and it happens all the time in performance art. An easy and slightly related example would be Buffy and Angel having sex. We can be very sure that David Boreanaz and Sarah Michelle Gellar did not actually have sex in that scene. It was merely filmed to make it appear that they did. Nonetheless, within the show itself it remains true that Angel and Buffy had sex. This is a dramatic convention and applies to a nearly infinite variety of plot events.
We therefore need to decide first if Willow’s behavior was treated as rape within the show. The answer (a mild spoiler, I guess) is that it was not. At no time in the series will it ever be described that way. As far as I’m concerned personally, that’s the end of the inquiry. In a dramatic sense, it doesn’t matter what we would call the events if they occurred in real life, any more than it’s important that DB and SMG didn’t “really” have sex. What’s important is how we’re supposed to interpret the events within the show.
Nevertheless, the issue remains controversial so I’ll move to the next step. What viewers seem to mean is this: that if Willow’s behavior had occurred in real life, it would (or should) have constituted rape. We have to be careful of this, because, of course, her behavior included magic, which doesn’t exist in real life. I’ll try to suggest a real life parallel, but the fact that the events are entirely fictional and can’t possibly “occur in real life” suggests that we need to be very cautious in how we interpret them.
Whether her behavior “should” be treated as rape is far too complex for me to address in a blog post. I’m going to limit myself to whether it does under CA law. Even with that limit, I’ll have to leave out a great deal of real legal analysis here, including important factors such as principles of statutory construction. This is a blog post, not a legal brief.
I’ll start with the text because all legal analysis starts with the text. California Penal Code Section 261 defines rape and I’ll quote the basic parts:
(a) Rape is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished …under any of the following circumstances:
(1) Where a person is incapable, because of a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability, of giving legal consent, and this is known or reasonably should be known to the person committing the act.…
(2) Where it is accomplished against a person's will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the person or another.
(3) Where a person is prevented from resisting by any intoxicating or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance, and this condition was known, or reasonably should have been known by the accused.
(4) Where a person is at the time unconscious of the nature of the act, and this is known to the accused. …
(5) Where a person submits under the belief that the person committing the act is the victim's spouse...
(6) Where the act is accomplished against the victim's will by threatening to retaliate in the future against the victim or any other person, and there is a reasonable possibility that the perpetrator will execute the threat….
(7) Where the act is accomplished against the victim's will by threatening to use the authority of a public official to incarcerate, arrest, or deport the victim or another, and the victim has a reasonable belief that the perpetrator is a public official….
(b) As used in this section, "duress" means a direct or implied threat of force, violence, danger, or retribution sufficient to coerce a reasonable person of ordinary susceptibilities to perform an act which otherwise would not have been performed, or acquiesce in an act to which one otherwise would not have submitted. The total circumstances, including the age of the victim, and his or her relationship to the defendant, are factors to consider in appraising the existence of duress.
(c) As used in this section, "menace" means any threat, declaration, or act which shows an intention to inflict an injury upon another.

While it’s a bit simplistic for full legal analysis, we can pretty much rule out any argument that Willow’s behavior could be considered rape under (a) (1), (2), (4), (5), (6), or (7). Her actions simply don’t fit any of those categories. [Note the discussion in comments about the possible application of (a) (1). Spoilers there, of course.]
That leaves subsection (a) (3). Now, her behavior doesn’t fit literally within the words of (a) (3) because Willow didn’t administer any “substance” (rohypnol, say). This is where the analogy of fiction to real life begins to break down. At best, we can say that Willow did something “like” administering a “substance”.
The problem is that there is no real life “substance” which has the very narrow, limited effect of her spell. Willow temporarily blocked one particular memory of a specific event. The “substances” we’re familiar with tend to affect all mental faculties at once; the victim is unconscious or completely lacking in the ability to reason. One’s a scalpel, the other’s a broadaxe. Being unable to remember a particular fact strikes me as intrinsically different from being entirely unable to exercise conscious judgment.
To illustrate the difference, I’ll try an analogy. The best I can do for a real world example is to compare Willow’s behavior to a lie. Suppose my partner wants me to do something which is very important to her, but I fail to do it. She asks me about it and I don’t want to fight so I lie and say I did it. We then have sex, which we wouldn’t do if we just had a big fight.
If you accept my analogy (and you certainly don’t have to), it seems unlikely that most people would consider this rape, at least not within the meaning of the statute. Unlike the case with drugs, a person who has been told a lie has full conscious judgment and understands the nature of the act. In addition, it’s hard to define the kinds of lies which would result in criminal liability. The statute recognizes a particular kind of deception – impersonating the victim’s spouse – but that’s a lie which changes the basic nature of the act. Most lies are far less significant and “little white lies” are common and not generally criminal. Whether other lies should be considered or not, they aren’t under the existing law.
I can’t stop the analysis with this argument, however. Legal reasoning may begin with the text, but it seldom stops there. Only in cases where the text is capable of only one meaning do we lawyers ever look just at the text, and that’s very rare. What’s often true is that a text seems plain and unambiguous to us, but other people see nuance there. That’s not surprising – it’s the same issue we face in analyzing a TV show or a poem.
This bothers some people. They want legal answers to be fixed, determinate. If a text is plain to them, it must be plain to everyone else and those other people who read it differently are just being dishonest. The legal system is a bit more open than that, and one of its solutions to the problem of meaning is to look to see how other courts have interpreted similar problems. Maybe they see something we don’t.
The problem in this case is that this brings us back to the lack of real world comparisons for fictional events. There aren’t going to be any cases “similar” to Willow’s spell because there aren’t any real world actions “like” it.
If a viewer is willing to compare Willow’s behavior to giving Tara a date rape drug, despite the problems with that analogy mentioned above, then there will be cases supporting a finding of rape. If not, then it’s going to be hard to find support for any legal argument that it’s rape, regardless of how you may feel philosophically.
That conclusion may seem tame, though it’s pretty easy to see that I personally don’t consider Willow a rapist. She’s plenty guilty, just not of that. The fact that I can’t absolutely rule out the alternative just means that, to paraphrase LOTR, lawyers are like elves and will say both yea and nay when you ask them for advice.
One final comment on the episode as a whole: it’s an absolute disgrace that Joss Whedon never won an Emmy.
Trivia notes: (1) Anyone who’s interested in the music of this episode, or of the show generally, should read Music, Sound, and Silence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (2) The line “she ain’t got that swing” is presumably a reference to the Duke Ellington song, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”. (3) Xander’s “respect the cruller” line is a reference to the movie Magnolia. (4) David Fury was the mustard singer, while Marti Noxon got the parking ticket and Joss himself was one of the pallbearers in the graveyard scene. The choreographers, Adam Shankman and Anne Fletcher, were dancers in the parking ticket scene. (5) Dawn mentioned pterodactyls, which were (very roughly) winged reptiles capable of gliding or flying. (6) Joss mentions in the commentary that Dawn’s backpack was actually his. (7) Dawn took the talisman which was lying on the counter, thereby setting up Sweet’s threat to take her to the underworld and continuing a plot point which will be important later. (8) Tara referred to bacchanals, which are basically drunken revels. (9) When Giles said that he was a “hair’s breadth from investigating bunnies”, there’s probably a pun intended. The phrase “a hair’s breadth” means “very close”. The word “hare”, meaning a bunny, sounds like “hair”. (10) Willow said she wasn’t “large with the butch”, which is a slang expression meaning she’s not particularly masculine (as a stereotype of lesbian women). (11) Xander’s use of the phrase “get-a-roominess” is Joss-speak for the phrase “get a room”, used to describe couples who are getting too romantic in public. (12) The demon’s name is Sweet, though that’s never spoken on the show. His “That’s entertainment” refers to the movie of that title. He was talking about the man who died while dancing, which was an homage to the Hans Christian Andersen short story The Red Shoes. Continuing to dance helplessly is also perhaps a metaphor for Buffy’s situation. (13) When Xander says that under California law Anya will own half of his waffles, he’s referring to California’s system of community property under which (simplifying) spouses own half of all property acquired during marriage. (14) Xander got syphilis from the Chumash spirit in Pangs. (15) Anya mentioned David Brinkley, who was a long time news anchor on NBC. (16) Anya’s “I take the Fifth” refers to the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, under which accused criminals need not testify against themselves. (17) Anya mentioned the “fourth wall”, which is an imaginary wall that would separate the stage from the audience if it were real. To “break the fourth wall” means to have the actor directly address the audience rather than another actor. (18) Anya’s description of her song as “retro pastiche” means it’s in an old style and consisted of a variety of parts combined from different artists. For a “book number” see the link. (19) Giles’s reference to the police “taking witness arias” uses an opera term to describe a song. (20) Yma Sumac was a famous Peruvian soprano. (21) Spike’s song is titled “Rest in Peace” which is the phrase traditionally put on tombstones. James Marsters played the guitar for the song. (22) Spike’s “I can’t find my sweet release” is a sexual statement: he can’t have sex with Buffy. (23) Tara assured Dawn that the “lord of the dance” was not the scary one, referring either to Nataraja, the depiction of the Hindu god Shiva as he dances to destroy the universe, or to Michael Flately’s musical of that title. (24) Sweet’s minions all wear masks depicting former US president Richard Nixon. (25) Sweet’s reference to a “soft-shoe” is to a tap dance performed in shoes without the hard metal taps which make the clicking sound you hear from a tap dancer. (26) Sweet’s reference to buying Nero a fiddle is to the story that the Roman Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burned.  (27) The flower Willow used for her forget spell was called Lethe’s Bramble. Lethe was one of the 5 rivers of Hades in Greek mythology. If you drank from it, you immediately forgot everything. (28) Spike commanded Sweet’s minion to “sing” which is American slang meaning “talk”, and in context is a pun. (29) Spike’s “someday he’ll be a real boy” is a reference to Pinocchio.  (30) When Buffy says that Dawn’s in trouble so it must be Tuesday, she’s referring to the fact that the show appeared in the US on Tuesday nights and that she’s constantly rescuing Dawn. (31) The opening guitar theme to “Walk Through the Fire” sounds very much like that in Paul Simon’s “Sounds of Silence” (which happens to be my favorite song). This may be coincidence, but the opening lyrics of “Sounds of Silence” fit the depression theme perfectly: “Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.” (32) Compare Buffy breaking down the door at the Bronze to the scene in The Harvest where she can’t – it’s a sign of how far she’s come. (33) Xander asked Sweet if he had to be Sweet’s “queen”, making a pun on the word which means both female royalty and a gay man. (34) Spike’s “get your kum-ba-yayas out” refers to the old Negro Spiritual song “Kumbaya”, as well as (probably) to the Rolling Stones album “Get Your Ya Yas Out”. (35) Spike’s mention of seventy six trombones refers to the song of that title in the musical The Music Man. (36) Musicals frequently end with a kiss, as formerly separated lovers overcome the impediments to their relationship. Joss noted the genre tradition – “the curtains close on a kiss, God knows” – while subverting it by having Buffy kiss Spike. I’ll discuss this in more detail in two more episodes.


  1. Great stuff. I don't have much to add on Buffy here except that her depression is very, very well presented -- excellent writing and acting all around. The fire imagery works especially well, since it suggests (accurately) that Buffy recognizes that the only way for her to be able to feel again is to feel pain. It also suggests why she has defenses set up to prevent her from feeling anything. The pain is the biggest, most powerful emotion in her life right now, and she will have to pass through the fire and let it burn in order to get to any of the other feelings she misses.

    I am ambivalent about Giles here. I think that his failure to provide Buffy with any financial support when she has to wage a nightly war and he gets, or at least in the past has been, paid by the Council is pretty bad/inexcusable. We can say that the metaphor is that Buff doesn't get paid because slaying is NOT a job -- it's a calling. But that doesn't really explain why Giles does get paid, since Watcherdom is a 'calling' too. Putting that aside, Giles also is quite reckless in leaving Willow when she clearly also needs his help. On the other hand, I do think that Buffy, and Willow too (and Xander, though I find it unlikely that Giles, who doesn't show much interest in Xander, would have done anything there), need to make their own mistakes this year. I'd say that Giles is right that Buffy is using him as a shield from her adult problems, but wrong that the solution is to leave her entirely. On the other hand, it seems as if Giles even tacitly admits that it's really his fault, for being unable to find a middle ground with Buffy while he's in Sunnydale.

    I tend to not view Xander's summoning Sweet too literally -- Joss saying he was just having fun somewhat backs this up. I think that the somewhat phony-seeming ending, where apparently Xander has been lying all episode, reinforces the artificiality of the episode. So I think that Xander's responsibility for the deaths isn't actually something we should worry about -- they are metaphor deaths and his action was a metaphor actions. If Xander can be taken as a metaphor for the Everyman or, indeed, the VIEWERS of the ep, then his action also make sense of the meta level, we (in the audience) want our musical, want our happy ending, but the price we have to pay for our entertainment and catharsis and for life to be "a song" is death and destruction.

    OTOH, I do agree that his summoning Sweet, if not something we should take literally, gives a lot of insight into his state of mind; he wants a happy ending and is ignoring the possible damage that that happy ending will cause. Xander sings, "Am I marrying a demon?" and indeed, the episode nearly ends with him doing just that. The fact that Xander/Sweet is certainly NOT a match we should want to happen maybe should make us think that, as long as Anya still identifies in part with her demon self, the wedding to Anya is not a good idea. You could also say, and I do, that the fact that Anya still hasn't really fully rejected her demon roots -- she didn't lose her powers bye choice -- is a mirror of the fact that Xander hasn't really confronted his own "demons" as set up in Restless, the possibility that he is a monster/abuser himself.

  2. I love the passage from DEN about Willow and I concur. The inimitable beer_good_foamy on LJ once pointed out that if Willow is, as Buffy termed her in The Gift, the Big Gun, "what do you do with a big gun in peace time?" The whole cast struggles with this issue, but it's clearest for Willow as the spirit (second clearest for Buffy as the protagonist). They have spent so long marshaling the resource to fight the war against the metaphors for the worst parts of the world, that they then try to apply the tools that they have built up for years to tackle problems of everyday life, which can't be controlled with these fantasy tools. Tara's song about how Willow and magic set her free also apply to Willow -- who was a bullied loser and whose ascension into magical power was the thing that allowed her, quite literally, to survive -- and indeed, which allowed TARA to survive (in s5). In Tough Love, Tara mentioned that Willow is changing so fast that she doesn't know where Willow will end up; Willow took this entirely as a criticism, and I think it would be unfair if Tara meant it as purely a criticism, because Willow genuinely HAS to change, in order to live in Sunnydale and help save the world.

    Another friend on lj, pocochina, said that she thinks Willow seems anxious to her, and I think that actually fits quite well -- Buffy's trauma manifests in depression, Willow's in anxiety. As Spike said in Something Blue, she is hanging by a thread, and somehow I think that that thread has been on the verge of snapping ever since Something Blue, if not before, where the main things Willow learned was that her friends would NOT support her emotionally if she is not okay, and that she might be a bad person destined for vengeance. All this is what led to magic and in particular the idea from Tara that Willow can be a good and powerful witch (and the comibnation of the two) being so absolutely essential to her ability to maintain her identity. Discovering that her magic might make her a bad person -- and might lead to her doing damage to those she loves -- is so painful a concept that she can't even deal with it.

    I think I agree on the rape issue. Two things I will say, which are spoilery:


    Tara does call it "a violation" in the next episode, which to me is a somewhat loaded term that suggests rape. That said, I think that my interpretation is more that what Willow did is as bad as rape, but is still a different thing. We don't really have a word for what Willow did; violating Tara's mind seems like the most accurate and precise description.

    OTOH, Katrina calls Warren's attack on her in Dead Things 'rape,' and there are parallels between the application of the cerebral dampener to Katrina and Willow's tinkering with Tara's memory, where the difference is one of significant degree. I think that parallel means you could argue that the authorial intent is for the possibility that Willow raped Tara to be on the table.

    Willow's singing "I've got a theory / some kid is dreaming / and we're all suck inside his wacky Broadway nightmare" seems to me to be a reference to "Nightmares", which is another reminder that Willow couldn't sing there. And indeed she didn't know her lines in Restless. So it seems that Willow's not singing is consistent with those earlier episodes -- her fear of her core self, if that core self even exists. Interestingly, Willow doesn't even notice that she doesn't sing/play her part, unlike in Nightmares and Restless, which goes to show how far she's gone in repressing her fears to the point she doesn't see them. The way Willow expresses herself, arguably, is in the literal and figurative spells she's done on Tara -- like the writing on Tara's back in Restless.

    1. Excellent points as always. A few thoughts in response.

      SMG got a lot of criticism for her acting in S6, but I always told the critics that they should try acting depressed -- an actor has to repress her affect, yet affect is an actor's stock in trade. SMG makes her living by her expressiveness, but had to limit her expressions in order to portray depression. It's a very tough job and I think she did it well.

      I go back and forth on Xander summoning Sweet. It is, as you say, a metaphor, and Joss was pretty carefree about it. I'll note that he really didn't have much choice -- when you go through the possibilities (which I won't do here), Xander was his only choice.

      But the best metaphors work within the storyline as well as figuratively, and in that sense Xander's conduct is rightly criticized. The spell is consistent with his song: he'll never tell because he's deliberately blinding himself to the problems. He's not seeing how serious Buffy's situation is, he's completely blind to Willow, and he's repressing his own doubts about Anya. Given that he himself created his problem with Anya, it's not surprising that he'd want to escape rather than deal with it. That's pretty much going to be true for everyone in S6.

      I almost added a note on the liklihood that Willow was referring to Nightmares in "What Can't We Face". I didn't because I wasn't entirely sure that was intended.


      Tara does call it a "violation" in TR, but her full expression was "you violated my mind". That's quite different as I see it. Likewise, the cerebral dampener in DT is a perfect comp to a date rape drug because Katrina lost all understanding of the nature of her actions (see (a) (4)).

      For me, the very fact that the show unequivocally uses the term "rape" with Katrina and with Spike, yet doesn't with Willow, is actually evidence for me that it's the wrong term for what Willow did. That doesn't excuse Willow in any way, of course.

    2. (SPOILERS)

      I think for me with Xander, it's a matter of degree. I do think that ignoring the problems staring him in the face, with Buffy and Willow and Anya. And indeed, his whole arc of these two seasons involves his redeeming himself by actually starting to deal with the people around him -- being there for Willow in Grave, Anya in Selfless, Dawn in Potential etc. So I agree that he is rightly criticized. I just don't buy that Xander is so blind that he would ignore people dying when he knows exactly why they are dying and never feel bad about it. Joss does sometimes not pay too much attention to the details, so that might be what's going on here. Anyway, my conclusion is: it does describe accurately a flaw in Xander and something essential to his arc, but it exaggerates it to comic proportions so I can't bring myself to really hold Xander responsible for what would probably be considered manslaughter, because I don't really buy that we are meant to take that too literally in and of itself.

      Another important difference between Willow/Tara and Buffy/Spike, I think, is that Willow is "spirit" and Buffy is "hand": the worst things Buffy and Spike do to each other are physicalized (the alley beating in DT, the AR scene in SR). The worst things Willow and Tara do to each other (which I'd consider Willow's memory spells and Tara's spell in Family) are spiritual violations. Since Warren is a dark mirror for the whole cast, his violation of Katrina is both physical and spiritual. So in that sense it makes sense that rape, which is physically-associated, isn't really the appropriate term for W/T but is for Spike and for Warren. Relatedly, the worst thing Xander does to Anya (which I would say is not so much leaving her in HB as failing to examine his feelings in the months prior) is a failure of the heart rather than any physical or spiritual violation. (Though he does physically attack her in the nightmare in HB.)

  3. Fellow lawyer chiming in to argue the other side on the rape issue:

    I don't think you should have ruled out subsection (1) so quickly. (I understand there are discussions going on in other groups about the wisdom of laws assuming those with certain disabilities are presumed incapable of consenting. It's an excellent point and worthy of serious discussion, but I would prefer to leave that outside the scope of the argument I'm about to make. If I accidentally offend anyone, please know that's not my intention.)

    The question for me here is whether or not Tara would have consented without the spell. We generally assume she would not. So is the spell analogous to a drug, or to a mental disorder? The parallels to a drug are obvious, but I'm a little unclear on one point, which is the sticking point for me: how long does the spell last? If it wears off in a few hours, then I think the drug analogy may be the correct one. If it's meant to be permanent, or if Willow intends to renew it every time it comes close to wearing off, then I think we should view it as a mental disorder, and one which may render Tara incapable of giving legal consent. SPOILERS: In Tabula Rasa, the spell only breaks because Xander accidentally smashes the crystal; even though Willow herself was under the spell, there's no indication she would have ever lifted it if it had worked properly.


    "For me, the very fact that the show unequivocally uses the term "rape" with Katrina and with Spike, yet doesn't with Willow, is actually evidence for me that it's the wrong term for what Willow did. That doesn't excuse Willow in any way, of course."

    I disagree. I think that language choice is more about how the show wishes us to see the characters overall rather than their specific actions. Warren is undoubtedly a villan. We are not meant to have any sympathy for this character, to the point where we are probably meant to cheer when Willow skins him. Calling an evil man a rapist is not a great leap for the audience to take. On the other hand, we've been rooting for Willow for five years now, and even when the Dark Willow storyline takes over, we're still meant to see there is a little girl in overalls in there, who doesn't really want to hurt the world (hence Xander's speech at the end of S6). It's one thing to be ok with Willow hurting people we've come to view as evil; it's another thing altogether to accept that she could be capable of raping her girlfriend.


    I'm surprised you didn't mention the obvious point about Buffy and Angel--technically, he committed statutory rape when he slept with her on her 17th birthday. (I'm not licensed in CA, so correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears the age of consent there is 18.) The show does not want us to see Angel as a rapist, even though he turns evil afterwards, and obviously it's not like Buffy is going to use traditional law enforcement to go after him anyway.

    Thanks for the fantastic posts though. Wondering if you saw Alyssa Rosenberg's post on ThinkProgress this week about the way S6 predicted the levels of geek misogyny we're seeing now on Reddit?

    1. Good points, and I'm happy to have someone take the other side. I also appreciate the compliment.

      To take your last point first, yes when Angel slept with Buffy that was statutory rape, assuming Angel was an adult (that is, 18 years old). I think we can reasonably assume that he was, though it's a bit unclear what age he was when he was turned. At a guess, I'd say early 20s. Under CA Penal Code 261.5, that could be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Generally speaking, it would be charged as a felony.

      While there are times when statutory rape becomes equivalent to forcible rape (damn, it's hard to use the right adjective), I didn't think B/A was one of those so I didn't use it in the comparison. If it were up to me, what B/A did wouldn't be criminal at all.

      No, I didn't see Alyssa's post. Thanks for alerting me to it; I'll go read it.

      Now to the crux of your comment. I agree that the timing issue is important. My assumption is that the spell was in effect for roughly 48 hours total before it was broken based on the chronology I gave in the post. I'm answering under that assumption.

      The reason I didn't apply the "mental disorder" section is that the spell appeared to be temporary at best. In this case, the mere mention of the fight by Dawn was enough to break the spell; most mental disorders last much longer than that. That's one reason I used the analogy to a lie.

      A related issue is that we can't, in real life, cause someone else to have a mental disorder (at least not as suddenly as Willow did, unless you have kids :)). Because the spell was temporary, and because the causation issue made it seem more like a drug, I focused on that.

      I'd also be somewhat reluctant to call "forgetting a key fact" equivalent to a "mental disorder". In the portion of the statute I omitted, the prosecution must prove that the mental disorder "rendered the alleged victim incapable of giving consent." I don't think Tara falls into that category, but I haven't checked the case law to see how that phrase gets interpreted.

      Still, you're right to note that (a) (1) could be read to apply, depending on the circumstances and on how we analogize the spell to real life. Willow should assume that any court would be pretty unsympathetic, but then again I can't imagine Tara pressing charges. As a practical matter, if she doesn't treat it as criminal, nobody else will.


      I actually was thinking of the Warren and Spike cases as a form of inclusio unius. That's a sign that I think too much like a lawyer.

      Putting that aside, I get the point about not wanting to vilify (word used advisedly) Willow, particularly since the show goes pretty far out of it's way to do that after TTG/Grave. I still don't think that really explains the difference. Tara returns to Willow and is willing to forgive her, while Warren is unrelievedly evil and Spike goes off to get a soul. I see these events as drawing a legitimate distinction between the actions of the 3 characters.

    2. (SPOILERS)

      Alternatively, Tara returning to Willow at the end of the season is also because she has seen Willow willing to not use magic even in life-threatening situations -- which is a big deal.

      But anyway, I think that we in the audience have the option of deciding whether Tara did the right thing returning to Willow in Entropy. It's played ambivalent -- Tara makes the point that they SHOULD be working on their relationship and shouldn't jump to the kiss, but "can we just skip that?" The fact that Willow clearly wasn't "better" -- I actually think that using Tara's blood to track Warren down, which Tara would emphatically not have wanted, is another major violation, and suggests Tara was wrong to think that Willow was better. Further, the contrast may be in place in order to make Buffy/Spike look "better" by pointing out that they are more careful.

      On the other hand -- some fans decide that the show not treating Willow's actions as rape basically ruin her character and arc and make her redemption hollow. I disagree strongly with that point of view (as one could imagine). What I would say more so is that the gang are kind of not sure how to deal with the types of mistakes Willow are making because they are so far out of their experience, and it takes the big end-of-season blowout for all her issues to come to the surface.

      I do think that an argument can be made that they don't play up the severity of the memory spell specifically because Willow herself is still in denial about how dark she is on the verge of becoming, and that denial is necessary in order to get to the explosion of darkness at the end of the season. As a result, while I wouldn't say I "blame" Tara per se, I think her accepting giving up magic as sufficient proof of Willow's commitment to other people's autonomy is the result of Tara making a bad judgment call. (Relatedly: I actually do think that giving up magic is a bad reason for Willow not just because it doesn't get at the root of the problem, but also because it's, in a sense, overkill -- as with Giles just leaving rather than trying to figure out how to help Buffy while stepping back, giving up her power entirely rather than trying to figure out which aspects of her power hurt her is part of the problem for Willow herself, and it puts her in danger of getting, you know, killed repeatedly [Gone, by the Trio, Normal Again by Buffy, e.g., situations that a magical Willow would have less problems dealing with].)

    3. @Mark Field

      "The reason I didn't apply the "mental disorder" section is that the spell appeared to be temporary at best. In this case, the mere mention of the fight by Dawn was enough to break the spell; most mental disorders last much longer than that."

      I don't think it was made at all clear that the spell actually broke when Dawn mentioned the fight. My reading of the scene was that Dawn mentioning a fight she can't remember just aroused her suspicion and caused her to look more closely at the magic herb that she had found hidden under Willow's pillow. It's not even clear that she ever regains that memory (at least in this episode, i can't remember if she mentions anything specific about remembering in future episodes) , she just knows that Willow made her forget.

      I always interpreted Tara's line "Wish I could trust that it was just this once" to mean that she couldn't know whether Willow had messed with her head multiple times before or not, which would speak to the longevity of memory spells and the idea that even the one memory spell she knows about hasn't actually broken. However, I suppose one could argue that she's saying she wishes she could trust that Willow would never do it again if they stayed together. I still lean towards my interpretation of the line, though.

    4. Your interpretation is certainly possible. The reason I read it the other way is that Tara seemed to know exactly where to go to find the Lethe's Bramble. But you're right that it's not entirely clear that she now remembers the fight per se, as opposed to just knowing Willow played with her memory.


      I very much agree with the parallel you draw between the no-magic response to Willow's problem and Giles' decision to depart as a response to Buffy: I'll have more to say about this in my post on TR, where I was going to write something similar, but for now I'll just note that I think this all-or-nothing response to problems is symptomatic of the season.

      With regard to Tara, I think it is understandable that she would agree to the bar on magic, for, well as she knows Willow, perceptive as she is, I do not think that she fully understands how deeply the problem goes: she only knows Willow as a witch—indeed, as you point out, Tara knowing her as a potentially good witch was what allowed Willow to reconstruct herself after Oz and SB—so it makes sense that she sees the power as the source of the problem. She does not really grasp Willow's problems with identity because she has not seen that identity waver yet—or does not understand it when she sees it, reads it as a problem of power and not of identity. And going without magic only intensifies this annealing of Willow's problems with identity to her problems with her power in the eyes of her friends, as will become clear in a few episodes. (This is, indeed, why I changed my mind about the addiction metaphor, which I used to hate—but more on that when the time comes.)

    6. StateOfSiege97 -- yes, I agree with that. It's notable that Tara doesn't quite register Willow's statement in All the Way about her nerd roots -- she is surprised and kisses in support, but the big argument about magic happens right afterward, and the fact that Tara doesn't come right out and say "Oh Willow I would love you anyway!" moment (not that she should be expected to: how does she know that Willow is talking about one of her absolute core issues) but instead criticizes her display of power right afterward is a big part of what pushes Willow to feel like she has no choice.

      The all-or-nothing response is TOTALLY symptomatic of the season, I agree.

      I also agree about the reason behind the (SPOILER) addiction metaphor working and why I changed my mind on that.

    7. SPOILER

      Yeah, the reason the addiction metaphor doesn't bother me, is because it doesn't work. Willow treats magic like drugs and stops using. With drugs, it works because once the physical addiction is broken, working on the mental reasons behind it can be dealt with.

      But stopping the use of magic didn't help her, and didn't allow her to look at the underlying problem her magic use was covering up(identity).

      To me, it's like the characters in the show figured out they were IN a show where supernatural metaphors are used to represent real world struggles, and were like, DUH Magic=Drugs, cold turkey is the way to go!!!

  4. I haven't read any of the previous comments yet, so I don't know if this has been addressed, FYI.

    Something I didn't see brought up, is coercion. And I think that what Willow did, and your example about lying to avoid a fight, followed by having sex, is coercion. It is using deception to create a situation that would make a party more accepting of engaging in sexual intercourse they would have been reluctant to participate had the truth been known.

    We can't know that the fight would have been a deal breaker to future sexual relations, but that is because of Willow's actions. If you can't know whether someone would have consented to sex, it's rape.

    1. Your point was not raised before. It's an interesting one philosophically. However, the statute uses the term "duress" rather than "coercion". They may seem like synonyms, but the statute goes on to define "duress" to include violence: "As used in this section, "duress" means a direct or implied threat of force, violence, danger, or retribution sufficient to coerce a reasonable person of ordinary susceptibilities to perform an act which otherwise would not have been performed, or acquiesce in an act to which one otherwise would not have submitted."

      This is consistent with the long-standing definition of rape as requiring some form of violence.

      Lying wouldn't normally be considered a form of "violence". OTOH, the statute does include certain kinds of lies. For example, (a) (5) is a kind of deception, and I left out another one covered by the statute, namely a physician telling a patient that the sex was "medically necessary" (paraphrased).

      Lying is often but not always considered wrong, and it's very hard to write a statute treating all lies as criminal. For example, if I tell my date that she looks great, even though I don't think she does and I'm just saying that to get laid, I've told a lie to obtain sex. I'd be pretty reluctant to extend the definition of rape that far. Lying includes a pretty wide spectrum of conduct, some of which might reasonably be considered enough to justify criminal penalties, but a lot of it wouldn't.

    2. My issue with focusing on the sole legal definition, is the fact that through my experiences with survivor's and advocates, rape rarely includes overt violence. There may be a threat of implied violence, but most victims are raped by someone they know using coercion, not by strangers using drugs/jumping out of bushes.

      That the legal definition continues to reflect this erroneous idea of rape means its difficult for many survivors(who are completely aware of the terrible conviction rates of rapists) to use that as the final arbiter of Willow's actions here.

      For us, rape isn't defined by violence or force, but by the lack of meaningful enthusiastic consent. And while it appears that Tara does meaningfully and enthusiastically consent, she is doing so with incomplete information, which makes her ability to consent dubious.

      Would it have fit a legal definition of rape? No. And I can definitely see where people can agree that it's a violation, but not rape.

    3. Not that it completely solves the problem, but the statutory language allows for threats of various kinds and isn't limited to actual violence.

      I definitely see the issue and where the survivors are coming from. The difficulty from a legal point of view -- I'm trying not to be too much of a lawyer here, but it's hard -- is trying to write a statute which defines "meaningful and enthusiastic consent" in such a way that it's not overinclusive. And, of course, this being a democracy, people will naturally differ on the exact place to draw the line on that spectrum.

  5. Again I thank you for a terrific review, Mark. I especially was struck by the idea of Willow as dealing with a sort of a PTSD, as I had not previously read this twist on her situation. Thinking back to how many summers she spent 'covering' for Buffy, how often she was the one who stepped into the breech when needed, it makes a lot of sense.

    I also wanted to comment on the issue of rape, and my thoughts about why it's so tangled, both in the Buffy 'verse and in reality. As Aeryl says, the legal definition is not always sufficient to be useful in other contexts. While we are a nation of laws, and while legal codes are certainly the bulwark of civilization all the way back to Hammurabi, there is still a difference between legality and morality. I suppose in a perfect utopia the two would be synonymous, but they are not. And so we have phrases such as 'the spirit of the law' and 'a higher law' and so also we have debates about how to name things, how to categorize them, how to describe them. To name something 'rape' doesn't always mean the person is expecting it would meet a legal test. So I really like that though you are a lawyer, you also mention the poster at AtPO who notes that "we all process through various matrices." I don't know exactly how this plays into 'construction of meaning' overall, except that there is, still, so much passion about the topic it's clear the overlap between the legal definition and the various moral interpretations is rough at best even today.

    1. Thank you. With respect to your larger point, I completely agree. While I think the in-series treatment is important, that needn't be definitive for any interpretive art. And while I naturally tend to look next at the legal definition, the very nature of law is something that's subject to revision according to changing moral values and social circumstances.

  6. Some random thoughts, some in response to the above, but it seems easier to group them all in one post…

    About Willow—
    I am very taken by the PTSD reading (I study trauma), and I think it is important to note that Willow, unlike Buffy, lacks a mother: the Scooby group and Tara are really all she has, which makes the threat of losing them even more dire—which is not, in any way, to excuse her actions.

    I would note, too, that her one spontaneous expression of desire (outside of the scene with Tara) is her order that Sweet leave, to which he responds “I smell power”—that is, while others are revealing their soft inner selves, Willow can only show power to cover what she is feeling.

    On the issue of rape, I have always, I suppose, been so horrified by Willow’s violation of Tara’s mind that her possible violation of Tara’s body seemed secondary to me. This is emphatically NOT to discount rape in the real world—nor anyone whose memory is moved by this scene: it is more to argue that all of Willow’s interactions with Tara post-spell, including the beautiful song, are a violation, in that Tara is engaging in them without knowledge of the violence done to her memory (a violence, ironically, sadly, much greater than that of the fight which moved Willow to perform the spell). We focus on the sex because it is the most intimate, but to me there is something almost as dreadful in the song, with its emotional intimacy—a dread that Joss underlines by having Tara repeat crucial lines once she discovers the truth.

    On a related matter, I do not think that the spell was broken by Dawn’s words: Tara’s suspicions were aroused, and because she is a skilled witch, she knew which book had information on magical herbs and flowers—but this does not mean that she recovered the memory of the fight itself.

    I find it telling that in their song, while they both complain about each other’s habits, Anya’s deepest fears center around the questions of her knowledge of the typical arc of marriage and her doubts about Xander’s continued love, while Xander doubts his commitment and Anya’s fundamental nature (am I marrying a demon?).

    Buffy’s Depression
    I have always been taken by the interplay of sing-song cheeriness and violence in “Life’s a Song,” as it so beautifully represents the daily life of a depressed person: on the surface, the attempt to create a face to meet the world, a mask of cheer and normalcy, as the words and tune articulate, while beneath, a violent, affectless despair, as expressed in Buffy’s methodical dispatch of the minions and her awkward dancing during the refrain and her final swirl towards death: there is no grace in that desperate clutch at life (or slide toward death).

    And here, again, we see Buffy turn away from her friends and towards Spike, who is the one to save her. I will have more to say about that turn in subsequent episodes, but will note for now that she does not have to act with Spike: it is not so much, as Spike sings, that she can “whisper in a dead man’s ear/[and it] doesn’t make it real,” but that he is not part of the SG, so she does not owe him anything, meaning that she need not put on an act with him, can be as she feels, affectless (think of her blank silence when she goes to him in AL). Yet on this level, perhaps, his deadness is important, for it meets her own—for all that Spike is far from lacking in emotions.

    1. Nicely said. Just to supplement your point on Spike, she also doesn't have the repressed resentments towards him that she harbors towards the SG.

  7. Just watched the edited Netflix streaming version last night, followed by the full version from DVD right after that because I was so angry. I'm unsure of the legal tangles keeping Netflix from showing the full version of ONCE, but the edited version is really a travesty - more of a READER'S DIGEST version of such an incredible accomplishment in the history of television. While keeping the bones of the episode, it flays the skin and muscle from it. If you haven't seen this version, I recommend a one-time viewing, if only so you can appreciate the uncut version even more.

    The major cuts:
    * the introductory instrumental sequence which sets up all of the characters,
    * the beginning of the Magic Box sequence before Buffy enters ("Respect the cruller!"),
    * the entire end of What Can't We Face after Anya's "Bunnies!" verse (!),
    * an entire verse from Spike's Rest In Peace,
    * Dawn's dance sequence with the Nixon heads,
    * verses from Walk Through The Fire and Where Do We Go.

    ...and there are lines and bits cropped constantly. If you ever felt frustrated by Dawn just being able to sing "Does anybody even notice? Does anybody even care..." before being cut short - now you get to have that feeling through the entire episode.

    The fact that there are no signs of BUFFY being released on BluRay, and the DVDs don't seem to be out on retailer shelves much anymore means that the streaming version on Netflix is, for all intents and purposes, the only version that new fans will get to see. That's a bloody shame. Truly: Grrr and furthermore, Aaargh.



    Giles asks Tara and Anya to back up Buffy while she's singing to Sweet in the last act. Buffy has died twice, and Tara and Anya won't survive the series. I don't think that's a coincidence.

    1. I've never seen the Netflix version because I just use my DVDs. Sounds terrible.

      Your spoiler point is a good one. I never noticed that.

    2. On a lark, we started watching on Netflix even though I had heard how botched the High Def version was, supposedly. But it's actually not bad at all - I think they might've corrected the framing/lighting issues mentioned all over the place online, because I didn't notice them at all, even when I was looking for those issues.

      However, I have gotten used to the improved picture quality, so switching back to the DVD was a little jarring for a few minutes. But I don't mind the loss in resolution to get the entire OMWF episode.

      If you have an HDTV, the image quality is really stunning from Season 3 forward. I would really love a BluRay edition of the show.

    3. I was hoping to get something special for the 20th anniversary, but I haven't seen any ads yet.

    4. Yeah, my fingers were crossed too. Maybe for the 25th?

      In a time when it seems like almost every Intellectual Property ever created is getting a revival or revisit of some kind, (Hello CHiPS!) the fact that Fox is doing nothing with BUFFY right now is extremely puzzling. I mean, a Joss-exec produced mini-series on FXX (a la FARGO) seems like a no-brainer to me. What am I missing?

  8. Amazing analysis; sorry for coming back to a 5 year old discussion, and feel free to ignore this little ramble. Most of this was probably said before.

    Somehow, as I saw someone say above, the physical aspect of Willow's violation never seemed to be the worst part of it, within the series; you talked about how the years and years of fighting changed Willow. But by this point, Tara's mind has also been repetedly violated, one way or another. First, the mental abuse she sufferd from her family; even though the witch/lesbian metaphore was the important bit there, she actually believed not to be human for most of her life. Then there is the Glory issue. So, agreeing with a previous comment on the nature of the "worst thing" that could be done in their relationship, this violation can be put in paralel with both Spike and Warren. There is, indeed, no perfect real-life comparison, but there seems to be at least some degree of metaphore linking Willow's actions with rape, though not necessarily in a physical sense. Willow uses force (a spell, in this case) to enter her mind, without consent, consious of what she was doing and to whom. If not her body, her spirit forces itself on Tara. When later mentioned, the act of invading a mind that had been tampered with so many times always seemed to me to be the point in question, combined with Tara's uncertain feeling of whether that had happened before or not, in something of a mirror to her previous family situation.

    Sorry, again, for the ramble and the bad "stream of consciousness".

    1. Welcome, and thanks for the good comments. Don't worry about being "late". The nature of the blog is that people get here whenever they do, so the discussion can keep going. Feel free to comment on any or all of the episodes.

      I agree that the nature of Willow's offense is such that it's about as bad as could be imagined for Tara. I like particularly your reminder of Tara's abuse by her family, which I hadn't focused on before. Thanks.

  9. In addition to setting up many of the emotional conflicts and themes for the rest of this season, this episode also directly foreshadows the rest of the season through the lineup of characters during Where Do We Go From Here: Buffy-Spike-Dawn-Giles-Anya-Xander-Tara-Willow
    Buffy and Willow are at opposite ends. Buffy is connected only to Spike, with Dawn being next closest. Willow is connected to the rest of the group(read:the world)only through Tara, with Xander being the next closest. Giles is far away from Buffy, Willow, and Xander, but next to Anya, with whom he will share several memorable scenes this season. Giles is also the only link between the Summers/Spike and the Scoobies. With Spike and Tara gone, the remaining sequence is Buffy-Dawn - Giles-Anya - Xander-Willow, pairings which appear in the finale.
    Also, the line pairs off female-male-female-male, except for Willow, who takes a male spot. I don't immediately see anything to read into this, though.