Follow by Email

Monday, November 12, 2012

Older And Far Away

[Updated May 2, 2013]

In S3-5, episode 11 gave us a clue to the season finale by presenting a version of Buffy’s challenge in the finale and giving us a solution which was either wrong (Gingerbread) or incomplete in some way (Triangle). For reasons I don’t know, in S6, as in S2, it’s episode 14, Older and Far Away, which gives us this clue. I won’t say anything more in order to avoid spoilers.
I think OAFA is extremely well constructed – the demon trapped in the sword, the gang trapped in the house. And Buffy feeling trapped in her life.


The title of the episode comes from the book Empire of the Sun, which is the book Dawn’s class is discussing when she’s summoned to the “counselor”. This is never an accident, so I’ll review the outline of the book and note how I see it applying to OAFA.
The basic plot of the novel is the story of Jim, a young boy who is separated from his parents in WWII. After barely surviving on his own amidst the chaos of war, he ends up in a Japanese prisoner camp. There he’s safe and secure, even if he’s a prisoner. However, the other prisoners simply ignore him. When the war ends, he leaves the camp but soon returns there because the world outside seems so insecure. He’s finally reunited with his parents, but “for all their affection for him, they seemed older and far away.”
This reasonably summarizes Dawn’s view of her own life. She survived a war last year (albeit not on her own), and now she’s feeling trapped. Naturally the world outside seems unsafe to her, particularly since Buffy was so overprotective of her last year and pays no attention to her (in her view) this year. For all Buffy’s affection for Dawn, to Dawn she seems older and far away.
Two flaws keep OAFA from being a great episode IMO. First is the magic/drugs stuff which dominates much of the plot. I’ve given my views on that issue before, so I’ll leave it at that except to note one glaring failure: Tara’s “work without the net” advice is terrible. Whether it’s a good idea or not for Willow to go “cold turkey”, only a crazy person walks a tightrope in a dangerous situation without a net. The two situations aren’t comparable.
The second flaw involves Dawn. Dawn is feeling trapped, and we should see this on the level of both story and metaphor. As metaphor, it works perfectly: Dawn represents Buffy’s human, adolescent self, which Buffy has locked up in the belief that she needs to do so as part of being an adult. This is causing Buffy the psychic distress which we see played out by Dawn: cries for attention, feelings of neglect by friends and family. Dawn’s immature behavior is Buffy’s. It works for the episode, and it’s essential for the seasonal arc.
As storyline, though, it doesn’t work quite so well. Dawn is a teenager, and we’re all familiar with whiny, ungrateful teenagers (all too often from personal experience J). The trouble is that from the outside, it’s real damn hard to sympathize with a whiny teenager. Yet the end of the episode – Halfrek’s final words about the failure to hear Dawn’s cries (“the cries around you, you don’t hear at all”), Buffy’s decision to stay inside with Dawn – leaves the impression that we’re supposed to be sympathizing with Dawn. MT succeeds in playing a spoiled brat all too well for the sake of the audience on this level.
Here’s an example of contemporary reaction which I’ll leave anonymous, but which is pretty typical for the episode:
“Alright, I'm obviously already in disagreement with some posters about this episode, so I'm just going to rant.

Dawn is fifteen years old, not eight. Not ten. Yes, I'm sure we were all inconsiderate brats at at least some point in our teenage years, but great googly-moogly, the whole house is in mortal danger and Dawn stomps off because people 'don't want to spend time with her' against their will by being trapped in a house? And what's all this 'child' nonsense? She is not a child. She's almost sixteen, for crying out loud!

This episode starts showing us just how terrible poor Dawn has it, as her sister gets 'called to work'…. Buffy does the concerned but overworked mom thing as she heads out the door; I'm surprised she didn't remind Dawn to brush her teeth. Dawn does the 'I'll be okay, sitting here alone, in the dark, like a dog. You go ahead!' stiff upper lip guilt thing. Then she wanders on over to the Magic Box to get a little face-time with the Scoobs. Those horrid, unfeeling brutes put things like earning a keep and staying on the wagon above shopping with Dawn (who has at least one friend, Janice, who I'm sure could've gone with her) so Dawn is apparently forced to go by herself and shoplift to fill that gaping attention hole left by her sister's... friends. Yes, not being able to hang with your sister's friends is now a cause of juvenile delinquency. Would that I had known such a handy excuse was right around the corner in my formative years; I too might never have had to pay for lipstick again. Somehow, though, I got the idea that STEALING was WRONG, even without the benefit of having a twenty-one-year-old hold my hand while I wandered the big store with the shiny, candylike tubes of lipstick/jewelry/leather jackets to prevent me from taking what I wanted.

Then we get to the party itself; Dawn is once again trying to fit in with the older. She listens politely enough, then as Buffy is opening her present (noticing the security tag still on the coat) and tells her she likes it, Xander and Anya wheel in Xander's hand-made weapons chest. Buffy immediately goes to coo over the chest, which of course upsets Dawn mightily. Oh God no, how dare Buffy like something her friend obviously spent hours crafting with his own hands better than her five-fingered discount leather jacket, which she told her she loved? Dawn, the ever-persecuted. She just gets worse from there, and the thing is, everyone goes along with it! Even 'say what I think' Anya cuts her some serious slack in order to goad Willow into magicking them out of there.

Dawn proceeds to get pissy about everyone treating her like a kid with Anya, everyone wanting to 'leave rather than be in the house with her' (at this point, I'd say they have ample reason to want to get away, Dawn's just icing on the cake) and the Scoobies once again make with the understanding 'we were all teenagers once' schtick which I don't buy for a minute. See, I was a teenager too, and the last thing I remember wanting to do is spend time with my parents, my siblings, or my sibling's friends (well okay, maybe sometimes I'd tag along with my sister). Now granted, I had not lost my mother and almost lost my sister, but I rarely saw the former because of work (or because I was out when she was home) and I never once pulled the 'I want you to not work so you can stay home with me.' Of course, I had impressed upon me at a young age just how important work was to things like bill-paying and roof-keeping and food-buying. Apparently Buffy's money troubles (she has no excuse for 'saving the world' ignorance) have just slid right by Dawn.

Dawn doesn't want to be treated like a child. Hallie says 'none of you could feel this child's pain because you were too wrapped up in your own lives!' Well excuse the hell out of Buffy's friends for having their own lives, including such selfish pursuits as _doing their jobs_ and _trying to get their own lives in order vis a vis addiction_, or in Buffy's case _working a crap minimum wage job to try and keep a roof/food/clothes yadda over a certain ungrateful kid's head_ while _trying to keep people from being killed_ in her off hours. So is Dawn a kid or not? She's a teenager, in that nebulous between area, but so far she's been acting like an eight-year-old.” 

The one thing to say in Dawn’s favor is that this is the one year anniversary of her discovery that she’s not real (called back, to the distress of most viewers, by the “get out” screams), and it’s been a tough year. She’s gone from the center of everyone’s attention to an outsider who’s neglected. Dawn isn’t wrong about that, she’s just immature in the way she tries to compensate. When Joss said that the theme of S6 would be “oh, grow up”, he meant it.
Trivia notes: (1) The story line of being trapped in the house is based on Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel. The movie also includes a witch and references to drug addiction. (2) Dawn’s kleptomania began in Intervention. I’ve called attention to it each time she’s done it. (3) Willow’s “Spellcasters Anonymous” group takes its name from Alcoholics Anonymous. (4) Buffy’s dialogue with Tara puns on the gay experience: “TARA: So, is, um... (looks around) Spike coming? BUFFY: No. He may be a chip-head, but ... he still doesn't play too well with others. BUFFY: Besides, I'm definitely not ready to, to...TARA: (turns back) Come out.” (5) Star Trek fans will have appreciated that Richard wore a red shirt. (6) Willow’s described her gift to Buffy as a “back massager”, but it could obviously be used as a vibrator as well. (7) Xander’s mention of a cornfield refers to the Twilight Zone episode It’s a Good Life. (8) Buffy’s birthdays are notoriously disastrous on the show. Previous birthday episodes include Surprise/Innocence, Helpless, and Blood Ties. (9) Dawn said she was “called out of class like I was a total J.D.”. The initials stand for the phrase “juvenile delinquent”. (10) Drew Greenberg took advantage of Kali Rocha’s roles as both Cecily (Fool For Love) and Halfrek to tweak the audience by having Halfrek seem to recognize Spike.

27 comments:

  1. You forgot "A New Man" also a Buffy birthday episode, though Giles centric. Her birthdays even infect the lives of those around her.

    I hear ya on the hard time sympathizing with Dawn part, but some people process better than others. I was no innocent, but my teen philosophy was the less Mom knew the better, so I kept my head down so as to not get caught, so shoplifting, vandalization was out and since I was allowed to set my own curfew(see what happens if you ix-nay the lawbreaking kids?) breaking curfew was difficult.

    So I have a hard time with it, but I also went through all my Dawn trauma at a younger age. And hell, I knew plenty of teens who acted JUST LIKE DAWN, without any of the trauma.

    This episode is where the magic=drugs thing becomes painful. In previous episodes, I could buy that Tara initially wanted Willow to stop using magic so she could gain perspective in how she'd been abusing it for her own purposes. And when Willow finally figured it out for herself how her actions were hurting herself and others, she understandably took Tara's advice and blew it completely out of proportion("No more magic, I'm finished), something I led myself to believe that Tara didn't actually want her to do.

    But now, here is Tara, gleefully jumping on the bandwagon of Willow not using magic. Because if there was ever a situation that called for appropriate magic use, it's this one. But no, instead there is no allowance for appropriate and necessary magic use.

    SPOILER

    And of course this failure to instill in Willow the ability to discern appropriate vs inappropriate magic use is what leads to her actions at the end of the season.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SPOILERS

      Well, as I’ve articulated in other comments, I think that it is possible to view Tara as being reticent about Willow’s power since early season five (where she seems a bit freaked out that Willow has supercharged the “let there be light” spell). Indeed, well before Wrecked, Tara finds it frightening how powerful Willow is getting (TL), doesn’t think she should have made those party decorations (AtW), wants Willow not to do the confusion spell (OMWF), and does seem to respond to Willow’s suggestion that she give up magic.

      I think that Tara’s perspective, especially by the time Willow violates her, is that Willow simply can’t be trusted with magical power. We don’t even know that Tara finds out about Rack’s. And I think Tara believing that Willow can be a good person as long as she denies her power is a way of reconciling her desire to get back with Willow with her recognition of how badly Willow hurt her. The irony, of course, is that Willow’s power is also part of what makes Tara attracted to her (c.f. Hush, the “and your power shone brighter than any I’ve known” in OMWF, for example).
      I think, in a lot of ways, Tara represents, to Willow and the show, the idea that one can become a good person by cutting oneself off from one’s power. Willow can be a good person if only she depowers herself so strongly that she doesn’t risk making any bad moral judgments, because she can’t affect anyone. To me, I think that this is consistent with Tara having been told by her family that her power is itself demonic—that she has internalized to some extent that power is evil, even as she has the opposite voice, from her mother, saying that magic is also a spiritually wonderful way of life. When Tara dies, the idea that being powerless is a possible way to live for Willow goes with her, and she becomes convinced that she has no choice but to become a monster.

      Delete
    2. SPOILERS, cont'd from previous

      I don’t think Tara is 100% wrong. I think Willow is so used to being powerless, and has grown accustomed over the years to both being smarter than her peers and to rules being essentially meaningless (she has to break out of “I can’t make the first move or I’ll be a slut” and “I can’t walk off campus when I’m not a senior!”, after all), that her judgment is fairly terrible; she can’t distinguish good uses of power from bad ones. I think Tara’s attitude is that Willow simply can’t be trusted with power, because she abuses it automatically, and if only Willow stops using power, well, everything will be better. That attitude is wrongheaded, though, because Willow needs to learn how to use power effectively, not just to give up on it. But I don’t think Tara’s position is psychologically incredible: I think that it makes a lot of sense for her, and for someone of her background, to have a knee-jerk feeling that Willow is just one of those people who can’t be trusted with power, and who can only be trusted otherwise.

      I think that you can argue that season seven continues Tara’s role as skeptic of Willow’s power, a role Willow has to grow beyond needing/wanting. The First/Cassie, representing “Tara,” also functions as a dark mirror for Tara. While Giles tells Willow that giving up magic is harmful to her and that she should use her power for herself and others, “Tara” tells Willow that she can’t be trusted to do even a single spell, because her power itself is so deeply corrupting that she will eventually kill all her friends. And the ne plus ultra of that is, of course, that she should kill herself. What is killing herself but the ultimate way of cutting herself off from her power. The thing is, Tara—the real Tara—may have an element of being anti-power, where Willow is concerned, in a way that I actually do think is wrongheaded. But she would never take it to the extreme of wanting Willow to kill herself. But I think that the First actually does seize upon something real with Tara to manipulate Willow. In The Killer in Me, as I have seen pointed out elsewhere, Willow getting over Tara is parallel to Spike getting his chip out—because the idea of Tara and the chip are both artificial limitations on their power, and ones that season seven ultimately paints as wrongheaded. Tara never comes back, so these issues don’t get vetted, but I think it is not necessarily the show’s fault that Tara’s advice is wrong: I think it is Tara’s, and her fears about Willow are ultimately not altogether nuanced.

      Delete
    3. SPOILERS

      A final point, just because I thought of it today!

      I think that Willow's problem that leads to her giving up magic is the exact same as the one that leads her to nearly destroy the world at the season's end. When she becomes convinced something has bad traits, she destroys it/turns her back on it, rather than trying to see it in a more nuanced way. Actually the whole cast does it, but it's Willow who is the most extreme offender. "I made really bad decisions while using/influenced by magic [the nature of the influence can be debated], ergo I should give it up forever under all circumstances" and "the world is full of pain, ergo the world would be better off destroyed" are basically the same thought process, and they both have in common an inability to deal with complexity, with the fact that some things have genuine downsides but can be otherwise good, which stems from Willow being unable to love and accept increasingly vast swaths of herself.

      Delete
    4. Very fine analysis here—I very much agree. I particularly like your analysis of Tara’s role in relation to the perspective of the show and the way the First makes use of something in her essential attitude to attack Willow (a very Firsty thing to do).

      I think that much of this can be put down to a lack of effective parenting—of both the natural and the magical kind. First, as you point out, while Tara was shaped by her mother, she lost her early and had to contend with the noxious patriarchal force of her father, brother, and cousin, which still colors her view of magic more than she knows. Even more, Willow lacked any strong parenting whatsoever: my sense is that her mother instilled in her a drive for high academic achievement without any sense of morality about it, save that the work had to be her own—what the work was to be used for seems to have remained undefined, save in the vaguest, most arbitrary of senses (academia itself is good, patriarchy is bad, one is not to have boys—or crucifixes or puppies—in one’s room, dating musicians, who are not part of academia, is suspect). Combined with their general neglect of her—how often do they seem to be out of town—Willow’s parents seem to have given Willow both too little and too much responsibility, leaving her to herself and assuming she would be a good girl, while not teaching her about how to use the power she did have—her intelligence, or even her time left alone—wisely. Her response is what you describe: she assumes her powerlessness, but she also assumes that rules are meaningless because those presented by her parents (and school, being school) are so arbitrary.

      Then, when she begins her magical life, Giles does not really give her much guidance, as I believe you have pointed our before: he is Buffy’s watcher, not hers, and he primarily encourages her accumulation and use of power. His only expression of doubt, in SB, is based upon a Willow’s momentary state of being, does not involve a teaching of general principles, which he never seeks to impart, knowledgeable as he must be about them. As Mark noted at one point earlier this season, Giles does not function as Willow’s father-figure, much as she might want him to. Finally, Tara, for all her doubts about Willow, never seems to discuss these issues with her on a peer level, although she must have learned about them from her mother; their only mention comes during the argument with Dawn in Forever, and they are not then directed at Willow.

      Thus, for all of Willow’s intellectualism, she does not take an intellectual approach to magic—not on the ethical level. That is one of the differences between her and Buffy, for Buffy is always thinking about the ethics of power, perhaps obsessively so, to the point of missing the point at points (as in this episode), particularly through self-punishment… (Willow self-punishes, but for far different reasons…) But then, Buffy had a mother who taught her such things…


      PS On another note, I have finally posted the first part my reading of relational identity in BtVS—under Primeval. I would love it if you were to have time to take a look.

      Delete
    5. Just read your last comment, which you posted while I was writing mine: yes, the logic is exactly the same—excellent point. I think it also fits in with the extremes of Willow's view of power, as she has learned it growing up, where she fantasized about power and being in the world: have power (and all will be good) or have none of it; have the world (and all will be good) or have none of it. And now that she has power and the world, and neither are good...

      Delete
    6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    7. Sorry, but I need to put a spoiler tag on Aeryl's comment. It's repeated below:

      SPOILERS

      One of the interesting things the comic has done, is explore Willow's power and path to it, and it was actually the focus of a one shot, titled Goddesses and Monsters(and yes, it's pretty much understood that Willow's spell in Chosen elevated her to a Goddess, Kennedy was NOT being hyperbolic).

      And one of things brought up, is her lack of TRUE magical training that she skipped over in her "teach herself" path. So, in G&M she undergoes a spiritual journey to find her a spirit guide. After the journey is complete, she is actually offered the chance for Tara to be her guide, an offer she ultimately rejects.

      Now, I am viewing that issue differently in light of this discussion, as I initially saw the offer as a "reward" and she rejects it because she has moved on. But now,...?

      Was she offered Tara because Tara wasn't the limit to her power that you mention? Or did she reject Tara because of the limits you say she represents?

      Delete
    8. I can buy that Tara has serious qualms about Willow's use of magic, and that this has been developing since Out Of My Mind.

      I'm less convinced that "give up magic altogether" is a natural consequence of those qualms. For one thing, OAFA puts Tara's concern in the language of magic = drugs, which makes no sense for Tara precisely because she herself is a "user". I agree with Aeryl that having Tara display this attitude both reinforces a bad metaphor and contributes to missing Willow's very real issues.

      I'm not convinced that Tara's qualms about Willow's abuse of magic lead inexorably to the conclusion "no more magic". That's certainly one possible conclusion, and Willow's "mind wipe" behavior supports it. But there are less drastic reactions too, and Tara seems uniquely well-placed to do some teaching on the proper use of magic. Jumping to the most extreme solution in direct opposition to her original admiration of Willow's power, seems a bit discordant to me. Not "out of character", because I think your explanation is certainly a plausible read, but "off". Obviously, that's a very subjective reaction.

      Delete
    9. See, I can buy that Tara wanted to Willow to get some distance, but her initial ultimatum was a week.

      Now, we'll never know what Tara's next step would have been, because Willow couldn't even do that. but I honestly doubt it would have been, "Ok, now never touch it again."

      Sorry about the spoiler Mark. I post on a few different ones, and I sometime forget which ones I gotta note that on.

      Delete
    10. No apology necessary. I doubt anyone reading here is unspoiled, but I did promise to keep it that way at the beginning so now I'm committed to it.

      Delete
    11. StateOfSiege: Thanks, and I will check out the first part! I agree about the differences in the parenting styles; I'd have more to say but I should get on to work today.

      Mark/Aeryl: Well, it's not a perfect theory, but to me the idea that Tara doesn't trust Willow with magic at all anymore seems to me to fit the story best. Her being frightened of how powerful Willow is getting back in Tough Love predate any drug metaphors, and predate (for the most part) Willow actually abusing her power, though Tara may well be reacting to Willow's increased social confidence that comes with the increased magical power, in addition to maybe suspecting that Willow slipped Dawn the book in Forever and seeing how Willow was with Anya in Triangle. But I don't really think that Tara's fears about Willow's magic use, or her level of comfort with a depowered Willow, are strictly rational, or were even before Wrecked. This *does* sit uncomfortably with Tara as being a voice of magic within the show, and I admit it's perhaps not a textual read.

      The difference between Tara at the beginning of TR and at the end of TR is in the interim Willow went back to magic to solve her emotional problems in a way that violated Tara again. I don't actually think that Tara was giving Willow an ultimatum, though, when she said "go for a week" -- she immediately followed that up with "I don't think this is gonna work," suggesting that she's not really sure that that will be sufficient for her to trust Willow again. Regardless, even if she would have stayed with Willow and not suggested "okay now never do magic again," I think her attitude toward Willow's magic would have become even more severe as a result of the TR spell.

      I do think that it is true that some people, morally/emotionally, are more able to deal with large amounts of power than others, and I think Tara's belief by this point is that Willow is not emotionally/ethically suited to magical power.

      SPOILERS

      I think that Willow's rejection of Tara as a guide in G&M is not strictly related to these issues, though I do think that "I will choose the trickster" is a way of rejecting the order-based, religious-toned attitude toward magic that Tara represents. I do think that the reasons that she rejects Tara as guide are the ones she gives: she doesn't want to disturb Tara's peace of death if it's the real Tara, and if it's an illusion and not the real Tara, she doesn't want to pretend that it's her. This is one of my favourite moments in the comics (in fact, in the whole of BtVS) because it shows in a powerful, moving way how far she's come since season six -- since she recognizes both the sanctity of the life/death boundary, refuses to use magic for selfish purposes on Tara, and doesn't want an illusion, all of which are things she violates by wiping Tara's memory (making their relationship partly an illusion) and trying to resurrect her in season six.

      Delete
  2. I like that Tara has sass in this episode. So much so that she out-sasses and unnerves Spike, which is saying something.

    I do feel sympathy for Dawn. She wanted missed her dead sister. She probably fantasized about having her back. And now that Buffy's back, it feels like a disappointment to her because the instability and lack of attention/affection is still there. While there isn't much logical justification for her actions, I can understand why she isn't acting at the maturity level of the normal teenager.

    Also the SG is a bit more than just Dawn's sister's friends. They pretended Buffy was still alive in Bargaining I to keep Dawn out of foster care. If they weren't prepared to step in and be Dawn's family, then that's a pretty irresponsible move. Tara is established as parental in Smashed: "my moving out had nothing to do with you, and I, I will never stop loving you."

    And I remember being impractically demanding of my parents' attention at 15. Being a privileged overachiever, I thought my success in school/sports/band and eventually college applications, was, like, WAY more important that my parents working hard to put food on the table. Obviously I was spoiled and out of line, but my point is that there did exist at least one 15 year old who didn't stay out of her parents' way but instead demanded their constant support. Maybe it's not common, but openly attention-needy teenagers don't constitute unrealistic writing in my opinion.

    SPOILERS
    That being said, Buffy doesn't seem to learn the right lesson (seasonal theme?). She doesn't completely transition into a more active parent, which would imply dealing with Dawn's spoiled behavior and pointing out that her jobs as the slayer and provider for the family are important. Instead she piles more guilt on herself for not being there when she's not with Dawn.

    Note the line to Spike in AYW, "I'm not letting her down by letting you in." Having sex with Spike isn't very closely related to her problems with Dawn, except that it's another time drain. That's like saying to a guy you know you shouldn't be hooking up, "We should stop because I really should be spending more time catching up on work." Really Buffy is just linking her guilt about being inadequate with Dawn with her guilt about Spike, which I wouldn't say does anyone much good and isn't the lesson she should be taking away from the events of OAFA.

    END SPOILERS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, the scenes where Tara protects Buffy by sassing Spike are great.

      In a moderate defense of the SG, I think they expected to give up their in loco parentis role with Dawn once Buffy came back. That's a reasonable assumption, and Buffy should be paying Dawn more attention (seasonal theme, here). We can criticize Willow and Xander for being too wrapped up in themselves, but that's true of them all, including Dawn.

      I completely agree that Dawn's behavior as a teenager was very realistic. Perhaps all too realistic for some. But not bad writing and not bad acting, although I've seen both criticisms on the net.

      Your spoiler point is dead on, but of course that's a major part of S6 as a whole and won't be resolved until the finale.

      Delete
    2. Hi, a bit late here - not sure if you'll still read it. But I just recently watched this episode again and I found myself liking it much more than I remember (for one, it's very well filmed and does a great job of mixing humor, horror, and the seasons themes).

      After the recent re-watch, I'd say I'm with Rachel on this. I see Dawn's behavior here as pretty much completely believable. In the past year, she's lost her mother, her sister, a potential father-figure (Giles), and to a certain degree her surrogate-mother (Tara). That's pretty heavy duty and the abandonment issues she is going through must be immense and incredibly difficult for a young teen to deal with, especially when her entire familial safety net is ignoring her almost completely. In that sense, Halfrek's words at the end ring very true.

      Furthermore, I do think the SG is more of a family to Dawn than a typical big sister's group of friends would be (for that reason and many more, I find the long block quotation you posted way misses the mark on Dawn!). (This is somewhat related to what I wrote the other day (sort of jumping forward in time) in your entry on Showtime (S7) about the enjoining spell). I do think that Dawn's arrival in S5 affected all the core SG and they've acted as such ever since. As early as Real Me, we see Dawn relating to Xander and Willow (not so much Giles) as her extended family and them treating her the same. If, as you say here, they assumed Buffy would take over the parenting duties they took on in her absence, then they don't communicate that to Dawn very well at all.

      In any case, at this point it's a very dysfunctional family and Dawn's actions are pretty spot-on for how a teen in such a family might respond.

      Delete
    3. I get notification of all comments, so don't worry about going back to old posts.

      I see Dawn's behavior as very believable. I'm just not very sympathetic to it. But I also agree that they've become a very dysfunctional family and that Dawn is reacting to that just as most teens would.

      Delete
    4. Aha, I see. I guess the more I watch this season, the more I warm-up to Dawn and become sympathetic to her plight. MT's acting is not horrible, but I admit she's certainly no standout in a cast of otherwise very fine actors. But I guess that knowing what to expect with Dawn and MT's acting lessens their potential for damage on repeated viewings.

      Admittedly, that's an extra-textual way to think about her (or . . . um . . . them? both MT and Dawn), but it's really no different from the reverse - having difficulty with a character because of the actor's performance. I seem to be achieving the flipside wherein I sympathize with the character enough to overlook aspects of the performance that might otherwise be troubling (although, yes, the "get outs" still grate!).

      I also like the way that Dawn represents not only Buffy's "inner child," but also Buffy's (and, I guess, by extension, the SG's) responsibilities or obligations. The mundane necessities of adult life (it seems no coincidence that in OMWF Buffy is tired of "going through the motions" as well as being tired of Dawn "needing" her). In that Dawn, a person, becomes an afterthought for Buffy and the others, I guess I've come to see that I can highly sympathize with her. Which is not how I felt about her on my first one or two go-throughs.

      Delete
    5. I'm like you. On first watch, I felt much like the poster I quoted. I had zero sympathy for Dawn. Since then I've come to have some. I'm still identifying with Buffy, but now that I get the point of the season I can step back a bit.

      MT will probably never live down the "get outs".

      Delete
    6. I mentioned over in www.criticallytouched.com/buffy/6x14_older_and_far_away.php that the "shooting script" in www.buffyworld.com has:

      DAWN (practically screeching) Get out! Get out! Get out! Get out!

      If that really is the shooting script, then I think MT was just doing what she was asked to do and unfairly blamed for that scene.

      Minor point.

      JEL

      Delete
    7. Yeah, I agree that the scene was written that way. It seemed to grate on lots of people, including me the first time through, and the actor is getting the blame for someone else.

      Delete
  3. This is easily my least favorite S6 episodes, for all the reasons folks above noted. I did like Anya's insights here, and the writers could have crafted a better balance with the magic-drug story by developing her arguments with more validity explaining why Willow should use her power to save her friends . She (and Xander) are right to criticize Willow's failure to step up in this situation. With a bit of a tweak, Anya could have articulated the real issues facing Willow, even if Willow wasn't yet ready to deal with them. Then the audience would have more perspective, and wouldn't feel the the writing supported Willow's version of the situation. Instead, Anya is mostly played with her usual 'dense former demon' persona, whose ideas are off kilter. And so her words get no weight, her insights get no attention.

    SPOILERS
    I suppose the writers already had Dark Willow in their view, but the audience doesn't realize yet that Willow's power can potentially end the world (the universe?). The writers needed to build that concept for the audience, to create a sense of the consequences not just for Willow but for all of humanity if Willow loses control of her power. Instead it seems like Willow is just incredibly selfish for refusing to risk herself to save her friends.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the idea of being trapped in her house as a metaphor for the season.

    SPOILERS

    So, then, Buffy's decision to stay in her house with Dawn, WILLINGLY, as opposed to feeling forced to live in the house, is what foreshadows Grave?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SPOILERS THROUGH S6

      Yes, albeit in a slightly wrong way. Buffy's epiphany in Grave is that she needs to show Dawn the world, not hide it from her. Staying inside with Dawn at the end of OAFA represents one step forward (willingness to recognize and include Dawn) and one step back/sideways because "staying in" continues to shelter her.

      Delete
  5. Ah. I see now. (why people disliked the magic=drug metaphor). People are of the view of Anya - and Xander who for once sides with her.

    Look again that scene and how super well done it is shot: Anya freaking out and getting angrier, Willow paralysed, how Spike tries to defend her and what his faces expresses. Then you have Tara stepping in and protecting Willow only after Willow said "no". I like this scene. It shows how each character (and truly people) see the situation.

    I personally see Anya particularly out of line and coldly mean. Because she is freaking out she wants to be saved and completely disregards Willow's impossible situation - she is just not even ready to be around magic again... and also the fact there are 'always consequences'. She doesn't do much herself, only finding out that Dawn is stealing. Buffy is the one who understands that a vengeance demon is involved.

    Also note that at the end of the episode, Anya herself explains to the SG and us that nothing or no one could have lifted the wish anyway. Magic was not the answer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your last point is a very important one.

      Delete
  6. Thanks for this! Really interesting to see how other people view things. I thought Dawn was bratty but sympathized with her. I actually thought earlier in the season when Willow took Dawn to Rack's that she might get mixed up in "druggy" dark magic (hey! it's a dark season!), because that seemed to me a believable thing for a 15-year-old who had been left behind, in body or in spirit, by so many parental figures and who was without a lot of truly adult supervision. Maybe people would have actually liked that kind of storyline better than the realism of Dawn's brattiness! :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. That has real potential as a story line. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete