Friday, November 06, 2009

Saving the World from Creatures of Wrong Geometry

Twitter Sonnet #78

In life there are infinite sandwiches.
Delivery schedule's always changing.
New plan from a hen randomly hatches.
While the provolone continues aging.
You cannot touch the Baker's tomatoes.
The bad vision has stark hue gradients.
Madness expels the cheese from burritos.
Zip codes are unwise droid ingredients.
The warheads were in the cranberry juice.
Smart goblets are heralded by trumpet.
Olives seek the vaginas of Grey Geese.
Electricity destroyed the carpet.
Plagues make many Bokuzen Hidaris.
Preserve your flesh between slices of cheese.

But "goose" rhymes with "juice", not "geese"! Slant rhyme, motherfuckers. Pretty much. If you still have a problem, face me in combat.

Last night I watched "Seeing Red", a sixth season episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that's a bit controversial. I actually saw it when it was first run, though I'd mostly stopped watching the show at that point. There were things I'd totally forgotten about, like Spike's attempted rape of Buffy, but I think I mainly forgot about that part because it didn't make any sense to me, and I had a tendency to omit such things from my viewing experience now and then.

Logically, it still doesn't make sense that Spike could overpower Buffy for that long, or that so many people would come barging into Buffy's bathroom without knocking. This time, though, I tried to meet the writers halfway and see if I could at least appreciate what they were trying to do. From the Wikipedia entry;

Writer Rebecca Rand Kirshner agrees that the viewer "could feel how [Spike's] very innards were twisted into this perversion of what he wanted," and she found that experiencing the scene from his perspective was additionally disturbing.

And there are two motives I can appreciate--creating a rapist character the audience can identify with, and being intentionally disturbing. The first because I do believe it's inherently destructive to see people who do such things as inhuman, the second because I like being scared. I'm still coming down on the side of the scene not being appropriate, though. Not just because it doesn't make sense from a logistical standpoint, though that's significant because I think a viewer will latch onto the evident artificiality of a scene if they can instead of going with a concept that might be unpleasant. This isn't a moment for hoping the audience will just go with you on something. But, it also, as is often the case with Buffy's worst moments, relies on concepts that were too weakly established earlier on, mainly the differences the absence of a soul creates in a person.

The main reason I think Spike comes across, especially early in his neutered phase, as especially sympathetic is that not having a soul generally seems just to mean he cares only about the characters we care about, while the other characters are burdened with showing a phoney compassion for poorly established minor characters.

Suggesting at the end of the episode, apparently, that Spike's going off to find himself a soul because he's ashamed of himself for trying to rape Buffy makes us wonder if it is the absence of a soul that made him try to rape her. He obviously cared about her--taking care of her sister after she died is hardly the actions of someone interesting in just sex, and his desire to take her by force was evidently a confused effort born of frustration over the fact that she didn't appear to love him. So would the message here then be, "This is the behaviour of someone without a soul"? This would make it completely pointless to convey Spike's POV, which is of course the point of having soulless characters to begin with--people you can kill without feeling guilty about it. So it's too muddled to really be a useful statement.

Also, it doesn't make sense in terms of the characters and the relationship they have--they had sex for the first time when they were in the middle of trying to kill each other. Buffy'd beaten Spike to a pulp a few episodes earlier. Their relationship was already established to be based on the two of them fulfilling selfish needs with violence being the only definitive way of saying "yes" or "no". Buffy certainly sounded like she didn't want Spike on her in the episode, and he looked like he knew on some level he was taking advantage of her, but knowing what the two are physically capable of makes the scene feel conspicuously like a pantomime--borrowing rules from another universe for a moment to shock and make a vague point. The other controversial moment in the episode, Warren coming in and shooting Buffy and Tara, has exactly the same problem. We've had an implicit understanding with the writers since season one that we'll just ignore the fact that the villains almost never exploit this very obvious weakness the Slayer has, that she can be killed by ordinary firearms. Introducing guns to kill off a character we care about, we automatically go through the shock stage of "How could this have happened?" And we're forced to conclude, "Gee, when Buffy lives surrounded by extremely powerful mortal enemies, it's kind of foolish of her to ever be outside of a bunker unless it's necessary." Of course, Buffy in a Bunker isn't as much fun as Buffy Facing Teen/Young Adult Problems While Fighting Monsters.

Now, if Warren had shown up with a death ray and played out the scene exactly the same way, I think I'd actually dig it.

The "nerd trio" is actually, in my opinion, collectively the best season villain since The Mayor/Faith duo. Precisely because they're a bit haphazard about their commitment to being villains--they largely lack the capacity for self-reflection, or examining a situation beyond their own superficial needs, so much so that Jonathon honestly didn't think hypnotising a woman to sleep with them was rape until she actually used the word, at which point he was mortified. After years of conspicuously campy villains, here we have a few guys who are too lost in the aesthetics of what they're doing to really understand what they're doing on a fundamental level.

But I was sorry to see Tara go. Especially since Amber Benson and Alyson Hannigan had really gotten to enjoy making out, which is great to watch, even if they are both straight in real life.

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