Friday, February 10, 2012

Buffy Season 8, slaying the metaphor

Warning, I'm going to spoil the hell out of the Buffy Season 8 comics (and the show itself). So if you don't want me to do that, probably stop reading now.

So at the end of Season 7 there was a very, very explicit message of feminist empowerment. Buffy gives all potential slayers the power they deserve. This couldn't be more clear if Joss Whedon had appeared, waved a flag and said "women should be empowered, damnit!" As metaphors go, it worked pretty well (there is an issue with the selective nature of it, but one can overlook it), and was a fairly good way to go out in style. The series as a whole was a call for feminine empowerment, while being about growing up in general (with the theme of letting go of power to your children, represented by the potentials in the final series).

Of course, there are more stories to be told. The universe is pretty rich, and the characters are fun, and comics allow the authors to try out stories they had not before, so Whedon was tempted to write an "eight season" for Buffy. And, indeed, it was a lot of fun. Demons could be bigger and nastier, threats could be more epic, battles much larger, because budget was no issue anymore. There were problems: comics don't translate dialogue as well, so Buffy, which has always been a wordy show (with notable exceptions) had to portray its characters in different ways, leaving some characterisation feeling a bit rushed.

There was also the issue of brining back old characters purely for fan service: Amy and Warren are back, even though they don't make a great deal of sense, because we recognise them, and the writers weren't brave enough to build up new enemies.

Still, my biggest problem was the thematic arc. Throughout the series the leads are threatened by a deadly force called Twilight, who aims to bring an end to all magic, and attacks our heros at several points. Finally it is dramatically revealed that it is Angel, who um.. well isn't evil. He was pretending to be evil to protect Buffy. By violently attacking her. And bringing together forces who clearly wouldn't have joined up without Twilight. Um. So yeah. But anyway, turns out that Buffy and Angel are to be rewarded with magic sex and a new lovely universe while the old universe, where all their friends, and lives, and everything they fought for, gets blown up. Um. So yeah. So obviously Buffy doesn't accept this deal, because who would, and she heads back, and finds the seed of magic. And chooses to destroy it. Oh, and Angel, who is evil again, murders Giles. Um. So yeah.

So Buffy undoes the act of good she did at the end of Seaosn 7. The reason she does this is that Slayers simply cannot be trusted with their power. Rogue slayers are killing people, and even Buffy decided to rob a bank. This imbalance was going to destroy the world, so power had to be taken away. From women. Because they couldn't be trusted with power. Um. So. Yeah.

Now the comic has dropped the previous metaphor. Its done this before. In season 4, magic=gay sex. Thats pretty obviously the metaphor, and was there to deal with network qualms primarily. As the show got more adventurous, the metaphor got unattached, and magic became something of an addictive force, basically equalling power in season 6, or sometimes drugs. There was... some.. anger at Tara's death and Willow's craaazy killing spree because people were hung up on the old metaphor, and were thinking the show was saying that gay sex makes you go on a craaazy killing show. Which it was not. It was saying grief and an addiction to power makes one do that.

So the comic was doing the same, and replacing the metaphor witha "power corrupts" story. Only the show had actually rejected this as kinda bad- Season 7 argued that you can't just ignore power, you need to harness it for good, because its not just going to go away, and you can do good with it. I really hate this luddite notion that the only thing humans ever do with power is abuse it because historically it isn't true. Its certainly true that people abuse power when given it, but people also use power to save people's lives and make it better. All the goddamn time.

So all in all... not a massive fan of Season 8 of Buffy, it has to be said.

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