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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Get it Done

[Updated May 3, 2013]

Buffy formally and dramatically took on the role of General in BotN, but she has always seen herself more as a protector than as a commander, even if she does assert authority in some cases (most recently Selfless). We saw her protector role in Showtime. Here in Get it Done, she’s much more playing the role of General; she’s having Kennedy train her “soldiers” in the back yard; she’s recruiting Wood; she’s demanding that Willow and Spike go back to being warriors.


Part of Buffy’s problem is that the roles of General and Protector are incompatible. Generals send soldiers off to fight, knowing that some will die. “They're not all gonna make it. Some will die…”, as she tells Wood.
Protectors? Well, they protect people. Her conversation with Wood at the house demonstrates that Cassie’s death in Help continues to exact an emotional toll on her because of this dual role: she continued her sentence to Wood with “… and nothing I can do will stop that.” This isn’t new; we’ve seen the Protector side of Buffy from the beginning. She went to face the Master in Prophecy Girl to save Willow. In Consequences she was the one who cared about Allan Finch:
Faith:  People need us to survive. In the balance, nobody's gonna cry over some random bystander who got caught in the crossfire.
Buffy:  (sadly) I am.

The Protector side is under increasing stress and we see the consequences in GiD. Buffy blames herself for not preventing Chloe’s suicide, believing that she should have interpreted her dream as a cry for help from Chloe. This anger at herself for her perceived failure, in turn, drives her reaction to Chloe’s death and her harsh (if true) outbursts which follow. That’s also a side of Buffy we’ve seen before:
When She Was Bad
Willow:  What do we do?
Buffy:  (exhales) I go to the Bronze and save the day. (starts to go)
Xander:  I don't like this.
Giles:  Nor I!
Buffy:  (turns back) Yeah? Well, you guys aren't going.
Willow:  What do you mean?
Buffy:  I can't do it anymore. I can't look after the three of you guys while I'm fighting.

The Yoko Factor
BUFFY: (raising her voice) No! No, you said you wanted to go. So let's go! All of us. We'll walk into that cave with you two attacking me and the funny drunk drooling on my shoe! Hey! Hey, maybe that's the secret way of killing Adam?!
XANDER: Buffy . . .
BUFFY: (hurt and angry) Is that it? Is that how you can help? (a beat) You're not answering me! How can you possibly help?
BUFFY: (somberly) So . . . I guess I'm starting to understand why there's no ancient prophecy about a Chosen One . . and her friends.

The Gift
Buffy: "Remember: The ritual starts, we all die; and I'll kill anyone who comes near Dawn."

In short, the conflict between both sides of her Slayer role is whipsawing her behavior. She can’t resolve her season dilemma until she can resolve this conflict.
What makes Buffy’s situation more difficult is that, as always in the show, there’s something to be said on both sides. We, the audience, know that Buffy is struggling with the inconsistencies of her twin roles and that she isn’t as harsh as she appears in this episode, even if other characters don’t. We’ve seen her with Spike at the end of Showtime. We understood her dream in the teaser as reflecting her concerns about the Potentials’ safety. We watched her cry as she buried Chloe. But that’s not the side she’s displaying to anyone else; as usual, Buffy’s holding back her deepest feelings from everyone else. As a consequence she appears harsh and demanding to them.
One question is whether her boot camp methods are likely to be effective. This was hotly debated among fans. Here are representative defenses of her behavior by Cactus Watcher and Malandanza at AtPO:
Cactus Watcher: “The girls aren't there for a quilting bee. Something is trying to kill every last one of them. Buffy is trying to keep them alive, however she can. It was important for the survivors to understand that Chloe didn't die because Kennedy yelled at her, and made her do pushups. Chloe died because she gave in to what they all must struggle with, the fear of the First. Buffy has been trying to tell them all along that some of them weren't going to survive, but if they stick together some will survive and the world will be saved. Chloe chose to 'go it alone.' She gave in to despair. Not only did she let the others down by removing what strength she had from the group, the manner of her death could very well have shattered the morale of the group. It could have left them all thinking too much about how hard it was to do what they were facing, and too little about how necessary it was. Buffy was right to say Chloe was an idiot. She has learned that being a leader sometimes means saying things the blunt, harsh way, so that everyone understands you mean business. Buffy has grown up.”
Malandanza: “I think the speech was needed, brutal as it was. The Potentials were utterly demoralized by Chloe's death, filled with exactly the kind of doubts the First can exploit. Why is Andrew alive and Chloe dead? Because Andrew's faith in Buffy is stronger than his fear of the First. The Potentials, at the start of Buffy's "everybody sucks but me" speech, would have followed Chloe's path -- now they will fight.

My problem with the speech was less about the things Buffy said and more about her friend's reactions. Is Buffy the general? Then why so much insubordination? Kennedy, Spike and Xander all openly defied her in front of the troops. Xander claimed that they were just waiting for orders, subtly shifting the blame for the current malaise to Buffy, but even in this season we've seen him obey only the orders he agreed with. Think of Selfless: General Buffy heads off to slay Anyanka. Corporal Harris runs ahead to warn the enemy. Second Lieutenant Rosenberg calls up enemy General D'Hoffyrn, explains what's happening, and asks if, as a personal favor to her, he would intervene. The Scoobies can't have it both ways -- either they are also responsible for the decision making or they should follow Buffy (questioning her when alone, perhaps, but not in front of a group of scared girls).

I don't think Buffy was being too harsh -- she was trying to save the lives of these girls in spite of themselves. I wouldn't have minded seeing Buffy grab Kennedy, drag her outside and have her dig the next grave, for the potential who dies because she helped destroy morale at a crucial point because she thought Willow wasn't getting enough credit. Then maybe busting her back to private for insubordination and sticking her on KP duty with Andrew.”
 

For a very well-expressed contrary view, see the comments by farmgirl62.
What’s driving the harshness from the “General” side? Several things, I think. One is what I’ll call institutional. The role of a commanding officer – though she’s really more like a drill sergeant here – seemingly requires making harsh demands on one’s subordinates (see Malandanza’s argument). Giles’s words at the end of First Date, which I emphasized in my post on that episode, probably have had an effect too. Adding to the burden is that the First/Chloe uses Buffy’s self-recrimination to goad her towards the path of greater power.
The First, it becomes increasingly clear, is the Iago of S7. And as we learned in Earshot,
“TEACHER Jealousy clearly is the tool that Iago uses to undo Othello. But what's his motivation? What reason does Iago give for destroying his superior officer? …
BUFFY Well, he, um, he sort of admits himself that his motive are... spurious! He, um, he does things because he, he enjoys them. It's like he's not, he's not really a person. He's uh, the dark half of Othello himself.”

I’ve said all along that for me the show is All. About. Buffy. so that makes the First the dark half of Buffy. But the same metaphor applies pretty easily to all the characters, as we’ve seen with Spike, Andrew, and Wood. After Showtime aired, manwitch and Rahael posted thoughts about the First which I can repeat here:
Manwitch: “The First Evil on BtVS seems to represent separation. It is separate from others, untouchable. It manifests itself as those separated from us by death.
The First Evil's mode of attack appears to be separation. It is attempting to separate the Slayers from their line (preslayers), from their support (the council, watchers), to separate Buffy and her friends from each other through lies that destroy their trust in each other and confidence in themselves.”
Rahael: “And most especially because it plays delightfully with the idea that 'it's all connected'. Separation and connection, two ideas that coexist in a kind of creative tension.” 

While all of Buffy’s behavior in GiD was controversial, what generated perhaps the most debate was Buffy’s demand that Spike and Willow access their dangerous powers (my emphasis):
BUFFY
Anyone want to say a few words about Chloe? Let me. Chloe was an idiot. Chloe was stupid. She was weak. And anyone in a rush to be the next dead body I bury, it's easy. Just...think of Chloe, and do what she did. And I'll find room for you next to her and Annabelle. I'm the slayer. The one with the power. And the First has me using that power to dig our graves. (throws down the shovel angrily) I've been carrying you—all of you—too far, too long. Ride's over.
KENNEDY
You're out of line!
WILLOW
No, she's not.
KENNEDY
(to Willow) You're gonna let her talk to you like that? Willow, she's not even the most powerful one in this room. With you here, she's not close.
BUFFY
You're new here, and you're wrong. Because I use the power that I have. The rest of you are just waiting for me.
XANDER
Well, yeah, but only because you kinda told us to. You're our leader, Buffy, as in "follow the."
BUFFY
Well, from now on, I'm your leader as in "do what I say." …
WILLOW
Come on, Buffy. You know everyone here's doing everything they can.
BUFFY
The First isn't impressed. It already knows us. It knows what we can do, and it's laughing. You want to surprise the enemy? Surprise yourselves. Force yourself to do what can't be done, or else we are not an army—we're just a bunch of girls waiting to be picked off and buried. (Spike stands and walks toward the door) Where are you going?
SPIKE
Out. Since I'm neither a girl, nor waiting. All this speechifying doesn't really apply to me, does it? (walks away)
BUFFY
Fine. Take a cell phone. That way, if I need someone to get weepy or whaled on, I can call you.

Not exactly the St. Crispin’s Day Speech, to quote The Gift.
Some argued that she was, in effect, telling both Spike and Willow to regress to an evil state. I don’t see it this way. As I see it, both were pretending that the power which had led them astray was no longer a part of them. This was self-deception.
Both Willow and Spike, especially Spike, spent the first half of the season thinking they were “new”. Spike dressed conspicuously differently, as if he could put on his new persona with his new clothes. But neither Willow nor Spike is new. They already have power. Buffy didn’t ask them to gain more power. She didn't ask Willow to go drain another Rack, she didn't ask Spike to become an UberVamp. What she did was demand that they use the power they already have.
What they need to do is to confront the fact that the power, dark though it may be, is part of them. Giles told Willow this in Lessons: “This isn't a hobby or an addiction. It's inside you now, this magic. You're responsible for it.” Similarly, Spike’s demon didn’t leave him when got his soul back; he’s like Angel now, with the soul able to control the demon.
Buffy needs them to face the same reality she faces – that the power is part of her, but she controls it and uses it in the struggle against evil. She controls that power in order to use it for good. She demanded that Willow and Spike do the same. Both have been gripping the hammer near the head – lots of control, no power. She needs them to find the balance Xander explained in Help. She herself is struggling with that balance, as we see from the harsh tone of her demand.
That doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to approve of what any of them do, certainly not unreservedly. Spike, in my view, does do what Buffy wanted. Some suggest that Spike’s retrieval of the coat was a form of triumphalism, a display of his trophy gained by murder like Cain’s display of werewolf teeth in Phases. If that were the case, then clearly it would be wrong. I’m disinclined to see it this way because Spike gave up wearing the coat in Seeing Red and this is the first time he’s put it on. If he were making a trophy display, he could have done that at any time.
As I see it, the sole reason Spike went back for the coat was so that he could do what Buffy demanded of him. In my view the coat serves as Spike’s reminder of what he once was. It’s a step on the road to the acceptance of his true self that I described above. That doesn’t make it any less painful for Wood, as we see from Wood’s reaction to learning where Spike got the coat. And it emphasizes the ambiguities inherent in the exercise of power.
Willow’s case is different. For one thing, she commands the “mighty forces” in much the same tones as Buffy used in her speech. Willow most certainly does NOT use her own power as Buffy tells her to do, she instead steals power from Kennedy and Anya. We see this as wrong – her eyes and hair turn black in the circle, Willow herself apologizes to Kennedy later on. Turning to the metaphor, we understand that Willow – Buffy’s metaphorical spirit – reinforces the theme of the episode in the course of her spell: Buffy’s harsh words and actions, in their own way, suck the power out of others. Anya hangs a lantern on this point when she describes Buffy’s speech as her “everyone sucks but me speech”.
Kennedy’s reaction to Willow’s violation mirrors everyone’s reaction to Buffy’s exercise of her power earlier in the episode. Willow’s (and Buffy’s) excuse of necessity simply makes the moral dilemma more difficult and the real solution of Chosen harder to see. Willow described her power as if there were no alternative: “I'm really sorry. It's just, you were the most powerful person nearby, and—well, that's—that's how it works. That's how I work.” Willow’s phrasing begs the question whether she can find a different way of exercising power. Because her actions parallel Buffy’s, the same holds true for her.
Buffy didn’t enter the portal in search of more power. She went in search of knowledge. But when the Shadowmen did “offer” her extra power, was she wrong to reject them after she berated Willow and Spike for not using their power? Here’s one argument that she was:
“Didn't she just ask, no, not ask, DEMAND that her friends make similar sacrifices? Didn't she declare herself the infallible leader of all of them? Didn't she tell them that she would do anything, anything at all to beat the first? WELL THEN WHAT GIVES?

Leaders must lead by example. If Buffy is truly the leader, the most powerful among them, then she has no right to ask others to make sacrifices that she herself is unwilling to make. That, to me is pure moral arrogance. Or, does she truly believe that her humanity is worth more than the others.

Dawn did her job; she read the incantation to open the portal;
Spike did his job; he tracked down and killed the exchange demon, at the cost of a new, powerful enemy;
Anya did her job; she came up with the portal re-summoning ceremony;
Willow did her job; she opened the portal to get Buffy back, at a personal cost to her;
And, when the floor is repaired, Xander will have done his job.
-Everybody did their jobs here-

However it was the slayer's job to bring back the strength from the source of the slayer, the strength they all need to beat the First; without that there was no point to this little exercise. Buffy did not do her job here because she didn't like the cost to her. The very same cost she demanded of her friends.

This is unacceptable in a Slayer, improper in a leader, and unworthy in a friend.”
 

I disagree with this pretty strongly. I have no doubt that we were meant to see her rejection of additional demonic power as the right choice. The metaphorical attempted rape was barely metaphor. No larger purpose could justify this. Any imaginable obligation ended when they chained her to the rock.
Moreover, I doubt that the supercharging would have been effective. I don't see the FE as being defeated by Buffy having SuperSlayer strength. Note the First Slayer’s words: “It’s not enough.” That’s Delphic – what’s not enough? Maybe that refers to the amount of power, but maybe not.
This ties in directly to the claim that Buffy asked Spike and Willow to risk their own humanity while refusing to risk hers. I made the point above that Willow and Spike already have the power within them and that Buffy hasn’t asked them to get more. Now let me address the point about “believing her humanity is worth more than theirs”.
The way I see it is this: the exercise of special powers by any of the three (Buffy, Willow, Spike) runs along a continuum. Using Willow as an example, we might say that the continuum runs from locater spells to teleportation to raising the dead to attempting to destroy the world.
Now, if any exercise of power along this continuum puts their humanity at risk, then Buffy certainly did ask Willow and Spike to take that risk. By the same token, however, Buffy cannot be accused of hypocrisy because she exercises her power every day and, by the same logic, must therefore put her own humanity at risk.

I don't believe that the mere exercise of power alone puts their humanity at risk. It's the abuse or excess of that power which does so. Buffy pushes herself as far as she can, but made the decision that the "extra" “offered” by the Shadowmen went too far.

What she told Spike and Willow was, in essence, "Hey, you guys are limiting yourselves to the Tinkerbell end of the spectrum. I need you to go further because I know you can. I believe in your ability to control it and I myself am taking that same risk." Buffy did not tell them to "risk their humanity". She told them to use the power they had while remaining in control. Again, Buffy herself does this. Given the circumstances, it's fair to demand no less of Spike and Willow (and, on a different scale, Giles, Xander and Wood). None of this is to justify the harsh way Buffy made her demands.
Now let’s turn to the actual evil of the Shadowmen. One obvious point is that they metaphorically (or perhaps actually) raped the First Slayer by forcing power upon her – note the up and down movement of their (ahem) staffs – but it goes well beyond that. The existence of that power then became the reason for making her The Slayer, which condemned her to a life fighting demons that was inevitably solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. It’s a harsh judgment on patriarchy: men control women through sexual violence.
But there’s more than this, even. The natural consequence of this assault on the Slayer is that she remains under the control of a patriarchal system, never having been given any say in the matter to begin with and without any real ability to contest it. Compare Buffy’s rejection of the additional power offered her by the Shadowmen to her speech asserting her power to the Watcher’s Council in Checkpoint. It is about power both times, but in very different ways.
There seems to be a fairly clear metaphor also about the way “the system” co-opts leaders in order to undermine the potential for disturbances by those now having lower status. The Shadowmen offer Buffy more power as a bribe, in effect. This is a standard feature of the Hero’s Journey – there’s temptation for the hero to divert from her journey for her own aggrandizement (think Satan on the mountaintop with Jesus).The Shadowmen try to get Buffy to believe that this will allow her to prevail, but she knows that the stake is not the power. Note that Buffy didn’t reject power per se, she just “didn't like the loophole.” Nicely vague about what that might mean, but her instincts are good.
Dracula warned Buffy that her power was “rooted in darkness”. GiD shows us how true that is. I should note, though, that the episode doesn’t directly say (nor did Dracula) that her power itself is evil, nor that having the power somehow makes Buffy evil. It only says that her power was forced on her in an evil way. Vampires aren’t evil because they have superhuman power, they’re evil because they don’t have a soul to control the exercise of those powers. Buffy’s power may have been “rooted in evil”, but Buffy uses it properly and on behalf of Good based upon her personal character.
Leave the Slayer aside for the moment, though. What’s the consequence of all this for other women who aren’t Slayers (e.g., the Potentials)? That’s the question which will be answered in Chosen.
Oh – since I made a point of criticizing the special effects when the WC blew up, I should note here the great special effects with the shadow casters.
Trivia notes: (1) Anya told Spike she liked her sex on top of the table, referring to Entropy. (2) I can’t say for certain, but I like to think the bag Wood gives Buffy is the same bag Buffy gets the face paint from in her dream in Restless. (3) Andrew's concern that "they'll see the Big Board" is a reference to the movie Dr. Strangelove. h/t local-max (4) Any viewers who still liked Kennedy after TKIM mostly changed their minds after her “pushups, maggot” command to Chloe. Apparently there weren’t very many fans of Full Metal Jacket – the source of the quote – in the Buffy audience. (5) Willow’s “bring it on” while they’re watching the Potentials refers to the movie of that title. (6) Spike used the phrase “beat him off”, which is American slang for masturbation. (7)  Spike’s statement that he’s unique “more or less” refers to Angel, of course. (8) Ancient Sumer, where they spoke the Sumerian language in which the book was supposedly written, was located roughly in the area which is now Kuwait, and included part of Iraq as well. (9) Xander’s “ja wohl” in response to Buffy’s demand that they follow her orders implies that she’s reaching Nazi levels of authoritarianism. The German phrase acquired that connotation in the US from American movies about World War II. (10) Kennedy’s “don’t make a case out of it” probably should have been “don’t make a federal case out of it”. That’s an American idiom meaning don’t make a big deal out of it. (11) Kennedy’s suggestion that Willow try “all 32 flavors” is a reference to the ice cream company Baskin Robbins. (12) The Shadowmen are speaking Swahili. (13) Kennedy sarcastically suggested chanting Kumbaya, for which see the link. (14) Willow first attempted a spell in Latin. The words meant, roughly, “Path of time, I call to you. Path of space, I command you to open. Open!” (15) Spike did get his coat in New York, as we saw in Fool For Love. (16) Buffy used the phrase “knocked up” to refer to what the Shadowmen were trying to do to her. That’s American slang for “become pregnant”. (17) The ending scene of the massed Turok-hans is an homage to the Peter Jackson movie version of Lord of the Rings.

15 comments:

  1. I loved this episode. I know it took a lot of heat because of Buffy's somewhat callous attitude towards Chloe's suicide, but that scene worked for me. I loved how the Slayer mythology was finally explained.

    And Buffy was completely correct in calling out her A team for bringing their B game. For me, Spike collecting his jacket was him embracing his violence. He had been denying his own violence(which is what was symbolized when he put the coat down in Seeing Red) that putting it back on symbolized Spike beginning to find the balance between his demon's violent nature and the soul's desire for peace. When he had been fighting, he held back, risking injury and even death for those with him.

    Willow, yes she failed. She fell back on her old paths to power, and I think that is because of her guilt. Giles gave her access to imaginable powers, but because of how she lost herself in the dark power, I think she is even more afraid that this natural power will consume her, which is why she is hesitant to even try to use it, which is why she goes the old route.

    IMO, what she does with Kennedy and Anya is actually similar to the way she and Tara used one another to increase the power of the spells they did, but because Tara gave the power up freely, it worked like a battery and alternator, feeding off each other. With this, similar to Rack, it is an unnatural violation that leaves them drained.

    The imagery in the cave is very important.

    SPOILER

    It will be important to contrast the darkness of the cave, with the demonic mist wafting around Buffy seeking entry, with the brightness of Willow when she empowers all the Slayers. This is the big visual cue to clue the audience in as to why what Willow is doing is any different than what the Shadow Men did.

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    1. This was a very controversial episode, so I'm glad to find someone else who likes it. That's a good point about the difference between Willow/Tara and what happened here.

      I also agree with your spoiler point.

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  2. As these eps were airing, I was taking a small business administration class in college. We were discussing leadership, and what makes for good leadership. Based on what I was exposed to in the class, I'd have to say Buffy was not a very good leader.
    It's no shame to her, or wouldn't be, except I got the impression they were trying to present her as some kind of great, natural leader, rather than a young woman who was out of her depth but doing the best she could.
    I think part of that is Whedon's own anti-authoritarianism. Anti-authoritarians typically make bad leaders, b/c of the way they view leadership.
    Also, I find it highly implausible that any member of a Slayer's family would be allowed to keep a 'memento' like the shadowcasters. It would've made more sense if Giles had delivered the bag and its contents along with a group of Potentials.

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    1. I agree on the last point. The bag and its contents are a MacGuffin.

      I'm going to post more on Buffy's leadership in future episodes. I'll say now that in my read, there are 2 important points the season is making:

      1. I think we're supposed to see her leadership as mixed, at best. Certainly we're supposed to see her as overly harsh here in GiD. That said, there was a LOT of controversy about this at the time, and you can see from my quotes that plenty of people defended her even here.

      2. Whether her leadership is good or bad doesn't matter. I'll explain this later in order to avoid spoilers now.

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  3. I generally agree with this but haven't much time today. More later, perhaps.

    Quick note: Andrew's "Keep bringing people in, they're gonna see everything. They'll see the big board" is a reference to Dr. Strangelove, which is relevant to the episode's themes about war and the dangers of any individual or group accruing too much power.

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    1. Thanks. I'll add that as a trivia note.

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  4. "And it emphasizes the ambiguities inherent in the exercise of power." What a cool way to look at the coat! Definitely true. It seems like a lot of the characters are doing (or trying to do) what Buffy praised Spike for back in Never Leave Me: "You faced the monster inside you and you fought back." I also really like what you said about Willow's use of power and her connection to Buffy. Like many S7 episodes, GiD works for me thematically, even moreso after your essay, but I just am not so fond of the execution.

    Did they mention why Giles isn't in this episode? Is he just picking up more Potentials?

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    1. Thanks.

      No, they don't mention Giles in GiD or, for that matter, in Storyteller. He shows up again in LMPTM. I guess we have to assume that he left to get what he returns with in that episode (vagued up to avoid spoilers).

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  5. Great review that highlights why an important "quality" episode may not be everyone's cuppa. I think I 'respect' this episode and see its place in the arc more than I 'like' it. I definitely understand that Buffy as a leader and Buffy as a protector are in conflict, and so she isn't very sympathetic...but I still continue to see things from her POV so I am easily able to justify for myself her actions and forgive her (possible) failings.

    I agree that issues of power continues to dominate. I like your observations related to the abuse of power, the control of power, and the purpose of power (selfless use, not self aggrandizement) and would add that the FAILURE to use power is also a key element being explored in the arc. I also really like how the theme of 'patriarchal power structures' continues, as the Shadowmen directly correlate with Travers and the WC.

    And given her burdens as The Chosen One I also think that Buffy's rejection of more power from the Shadowmen is a very important moment in her 'calling' since it would come at the cost of her humanity. Given her relationships with souled and unsouled vampires, perhaps she intuits that she can never really use her power legitimately (morally) without a human soul as guidance. It ties in nicely with the dilemmas both Willow and Spike are facing as they move from, as you call it, the tinkerbell end of the spectrum to a full use of their abilities.

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    1. Very good point about the failure to use power as an issue too.

      "I think I 'respect' this episode and see its place in the arc more than I 'like' it."

      An excellent way to put it.

      "I definitely understand that Buffy as a leader and Buffy as a protector are in conflict, and so she isn't very sympathetic...but I still continue to see things from her POV so I am easily able to justify for myself her actions and forgive her (possible) failings."

      Yep. I think part of the difficulty many people had with S7 was that they tended instinctively to defend most of what Buffy did. She was almost always right in the first 5 seasons, and it was signaled pretty clearly when she wasn't (e.g., WSWB). That's what made it all the harder to recognize that she (and we) were being led down the wrong path in S7, especially since the logic of the situation seemed to demand that she act as she does (as I'll detail in upcoming posts).

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  6. As I mentioned weeks ago, this is one episode I'd definitely be commenting on.

    Here's MY harsh assessment:
    - Buffy is a LOUSY General. But that's OK -- Buffy was never trained to be a General and despite the use of the analogy in the show, it's clear that the writers also have no clue what it means to BE a General.
    - Most of the "defend Buffy" arguments that she handled things well in GiD clearly ALSO don't know what it means to be a General.

    The definitive statement on treatment of those you command is the Maj Gen Schofield Quote (from his address to West Point in 1879). It is so fundamental to leadership that it's required to be memorized by cadets at many institutions (including the AF Academy). Here it is in total:

    "The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an Army. It is possible to impart instruction and give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the Soldier no feeling, but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them respect for himself. While he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect towards others, especially his subordinates, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself."

    Buffy engendered disrespect from everyone with her harsh and tyrannical treatment. From a leadership perspective the speech is an epic fail. BUT THAT'S OKAY. She was never trained for it and it's not an innate characteristic in everyone. Her power (her might) does NOT make her right.

    My personal opinion is that if the show writers didn't know what they were doing here then they really shouldn't have gone down this path. But that's spilt milk. They did, so what can people take from this flawed example? Well obviously people view the episode from their own lens -- how they perceive the concept of leadership and their individual biases on the show.

    I'll offer up 3 opinions in the "reply" comment below:

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    1. Doyleist view: Buffy is a flawed leader. She cracked a bit under the pressure of losing Chloe and bit the hands that were feeding her. Her people, on the other hand, are just as confused and frightened and are happy to step back from responsibility and let Buffy make the calls. Buffy's treatment of them was clumsy but the overall message of the episode "Get it Done" was a wake-up call to all of them to put aside there fears and throw themselves at the problem. Rejecting the misogynistic solution of becoming a monster to solve the problem shows Buffy's instincts are superior than those who created the Slayer line. Better to handle the issue in her own way than to fight evil with evil. Her team also learned that when thrown into the deep end of the pool (which is what Buffy did) they swam just fine. So ultimately, although handled clumsily -- Buffy's stunt helped get her team back into the effort.


      Watsonian perspective: Buffy can't do this all on her own and her team needed to know this. She threw a bit of a hissy fit but, as usual, it all worked out because they worked together as a team. Buffy needs them and they need Buffy if they are going to survive The First. So, suck it up and get it done or we're all going to die. And somebody needs to tell Kennedy that "An Officer and A Gentleman" is about more than calling the troops "maggots".

      farmgirl perspective: Buffy's lucky her team didn't leave her for being so harsh. But the mission is more important and the good news is she surrounded herself with people who know that. Her friends know her true heart and know she's suffering so they'll forgive her snapping. Jumping into the portal and telling them to "get it done" was actually a really good way of getting the team to realize they are capable of more than what they were doing. So Buffy correctly understood things were broken and needed to be shook up. Her speech was the OPPOSITE of inspirational but her actions helped them to find their confidence anyway. They'll survive and be better for it. Buffy should apologize publicly for her words regarding Chloe because she blamed the girl for her own suicide. It's just wrong. She should also open up her heart to them and say she doesn't want to lose anyone else. THEN follow up with a "I need you all to dig deep. WE are IT. We're the ones, whether we are ready or not. I can't do it without you." In short, she needs them to know she understands she was too harsh but also give them verbal praise for their actions.

      Bottom line: PLEASE do not take Buffy's speech as a sign of good leadership. I cringe everytime. It's an epic fail. It's understandable but it it NOT how you motivate people. Getting angry sometime can work -- can have the right effect. Buffy went over the line to harsh and tyrannical. OTOH, throwing them into the deep end of the pool was a good move. At the end of the day they'll survive.

      SPOILER***
      It's a poverty of storytelling that Buffy didn't really learn the lesson that tyrannical doesn't work. Her instinct and power alone don't make her a good leader. But... they didn't fix this and then they made it look like she was right all along. *sigh*

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    2. Very nice analysis. I completely agree on her (anti-)motivational approach.

      It's a mystery to me how the harsh approach appeals to so many people, whether athletic coaches or military commanders (Patton slapping the soldier). I coach youth soccer, and screaming at the players is the single most effective technique I know if you want to destroy their confidence and ruin their game.

      SPOILERS

      In response to your spoiler point, I'd disagree that the writers intended to justify Buffy's behavior. As I'll argue later, I think they wanted us to see Buffy as wrong in her approach, even as she may have been right in her instincts.

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    3. Thanks. I'm looking forward to your take on the future episode in question.

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    4. Hey there, just saw this one again today . . . just a quick word about the "harsh approach." I think it's "appealing" to so many would-be leaders because we've been acculturated to believe it works: from coaches like Vince Lombardi to impassioned (movie!) speeches by the likes of Patton, to so many fantasy and war movies, we see the "tough-talking" leader have success. It's part of the patriarchal acculturation that we all come in contact with in one way or another (especially if we've never trained to be leaders), and Buffy's no different in that regard.

      As a teacher, I would never use such an approach because I've come to appreciate either that it simply doesn't work or that I don't have what it takes to pull it off (namely the desire, but also a convincingly menacing disposition!). However, as somebody who has worked in some sort of teaching capacity for many many years, I can say that I can relate to the frustration that comes when a group is not rising to what you see as its potential. Group dynamics are weird and highly unpredictable (especially when the First Evil keeps popping in to muddy up the waters). It's so odd how I can teach a class two years in a row - same material, same assignments, same expectations - and get two completely different reactions. When the reaction is negative or challenging or even just uninspiring, there can be an urge to try different tacks, anything that works. I've certainly been compelled to let a particular class know in no uncertain terms that I was disappointed in them. I try to frame it in terms not of their being failures but in their having so much more to offer. But it can still come across as harsh.

      Buffy tries that tack here because she's in over her head, she's not trained to lead, she's go too much going on and, yes, her A team is bringing their B game, and so putting even more pressure on her.

      I agree with Mark and fg62 that it's not a wise choice on Buffy's part (even if a necessary part of her growth process), but I totally get why she'd make such a choice. Exasperation.

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