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Whatever happened to the cookie dough? 
12th-Apr-2010 11:33 am
Issue #34 of the Buffy Season 8 comics, chapter 3 of the Twilight story arc, is entitled Them F#©%ing (Plus the True History of the Universe). On the first reading it's remarkably difficult to properly make sense of the second point of the story, because the incredibly skilled Georges Jeanty had far to much fun drawing the first. The issue is, more or less, twenty three pages of Buffy and Angel having (apparently literally) apocalyptic sex. Which is fine if you like that kind of thing, and disturbingly, Buffy's little sister really does, given how she spends the entire issue watching it. It does, however, rather detract from the all the exposition the Scooby Gang's trying to do. Although having said that, I don't think all that exposition actuially says anything. What I have managed to gather, I'm not sure I like.

I don't blame Brad Meltzer. I realise this is getting to be a habit with me and Meltzer, but I like his dialogue and writing so much I have a hard time blamking him for what appears to be editorial decisions from on high, although his name does get attached to a lot of them – Meltzer is the writer of DC's infamously appalling Identity Crisis, but his work on JLA was great except when editorial got their hands on it, and he did write The Archer's Quest, which remains as my favourite Green Arrow story to date.

Meltzer's handle on the characters and dialogue is so good that I can only assign to him a portion of the blame for the confusing nature of this issue and that nothing seems to get actually said; it's been a regular feature of Season Eight comics, in which pacing of the four-issue story arcs has always been problemmatic. No, most of what I'm not liking about this arc, I'm placing firmly at the door of editorial: in this case, Joss.

When you're writing fantasy as metaphor, which Buffy has always been since its conception, it's worth making the effort to remembering the metaphors you've laid down, because later plot developments can lead to unfortunate implications – and that's assuming Joss wasn't cynical enough to mean them to come out in the way they have in Season 8.

Take, for example, Willow being envious of her ex-boyfriend's family, and his convincing her that if she wants one of her own, she just has to give up her magic. This is the magic whose metaphorical meaning was troweled on in Season four as being directly analogous to female homosexuality. Oz essentially told Willow she could have what he had if she just stopped being gay. Fortunately, it didn't stick.

Ex-boyfriends have been a theme in Season 8. Not just Willow's married settled and happy ex, but the demon who acted out magical violence on Dawn when she cheated on him, and Dracula, who is the nearest thing Xander has to an ex-boyfriend, being jealous, controlling, and heaping abuse on his current flame right up until she died.

Then of course, there's Buffy's exes; all three significant examples of which have now shown up – albeit one of them in dreams, exposition and a one panel hint-of-things-to-come. One of the other two was of dubious loyality; it's still not clear whether he was Buffy's man on the inside or Twilight's, and the other was the Big Bad himself; Twilight.

And he and Buffy spent all of #34 having sex, while the Scoobies exposited around them.From what I can gather, what they were expositing was that Buffy/Angel love was the strongest, most powerful, specialist thing in the world, something "nature" or "the universe" had planned from the very beginning, and something which literally makes Buffy glow. It's so strong that Melaka Fray can feel it from the 23rd century. It's so powerful that Buffy had to 'evolve' (comic evolution, not real evolution) extra super special powers just so she can survive the sex.

I'm not even kidding. Giles said it!

This is Buffy, remember, who gave Angel that speech at the end of season seven which basically amounted to "I have more important things to worry about that you boys right now!". This is Buffy, whose entire character concept was born out subverting the 'pretty blonde is killed horribly by monster' trope. This is the titular character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the entire conceit of which is women with power. Women who may or may not abuse their power, but who generally adhere to the Spiderman Principle. Women who have power in a patriarchal world that is so scared of that power that an entire society has developed so men can restrict and control those women. Women with power that is linked in various ways to love between women (Willow and Tara, yes but Willow and Buffy, Buffy and Dawn). Women with power who nevertheless find the easiest thing to do is play by the patriarchy's rules (Harmony). Women who, from the pilot to the finale, resisted playing an active role and above all, resisted playing the victim.

And now, Joss turns around after all of that, and says "Just kidding! After all that, Buffy's true power is heterosexual love!" and what's worse, he puts it in the mouth of Angel, the high school boyfriend who turned abusive and clingy after she slept with him, the one man many women spend far too long trying to recover from. Having spent the last issue very carefully and at length mansplaining to Buffy about by giving women power she'd nearly destroyed the world, and he, Angel, had had to save the world from the horror she created, he then tells her that her real purpose and her true power is how much she loves him.

And then we get 23 pages of sex while Angel and Buffy create a Brave New World – Big Bang puns unneccessary, because after all that, it turns out that Buffy is just another Eve.

And I was enjoying this season so much, because I thought I was going to get a pay-off. Any pay-off that wasn't this.
12th-Apr-2010 10:43 am (UTC)
Yeah, I just found the sex too off-putting to actually read any of what was being said and just skimmed that issue.

I was going to go back and read it properly but now I'm not all that sure I want to...
12th-Apr-2010 10:46 am (UTC)
Buffy's true power is heterosexual love.
Buffy's true power is heterosexual love.
Buffy's true power is heterosexual love.

...I keep lookihng at that sentence and trying to figure out what broke in Joss's brain and when, or whether he's always been like this and I didn't notice.
(Deleted comment)
12th-Apr-2010 11:05 am (UTC)
My familiarity with the Buffyverse only extends as far as the TV series, but I hope Joss hasn't gone mad and lost sight of the original point of the whole thing. :(

Edited at 2010-04-12 11:06 (UTC)
12th-Apr-2010 11:23 am (UTC)
I'm only reading it if it has anything worthwhile about Mel in it. Or art that I could make Mel icons from.

Why couldn't Joss just stop while he was ahead? just once?
12th-Apr-2010 11:35 am (UTC)
I'm still trying to make heads or tails of what happened. But that Angel crtique seems a bit unfair as him turning evil was a metaphor and very literally not actually him.
12th-Apr-2010 11:53 am (UTC)
I'm aware that the writers on Angel tried very hard to play a 'multiple personality' card and seperate Good!Angel from Bad!Angelus, but that's not how it was played back in the Buffy series, which has now been established as a separate universe, thanks to the Willingham stropapalooza.

In Buffy, the strong connection between the person and the vampire was emphasised over and over again, not just with Angel (who was always just 'Angel' until his own TV show went and played silly buggers with established mythology), but with Harmony, whose personality was unchanged when she turned, with Willow (Angel explicitly denied the claim that the vampire was not the person) and especially with Spike. Souled!Spike doesn't have a super special extra personality just because he has a soul, he just has a moral compass. Just like Angel, who was still creepy and so possessive he had to leave town even with a soul.

Regardless, saying it's just a metaphor flies not at all, with regards to Buffy, which has always been about the metaphor. It was the metaphor I've been talking about, as I explicitly stated. I was critiquing him as a metaphor.
12th-Apr-2010 01:20 pm (UTC)
Thiank you; this is really vindicating my decision to drop the comic just prior to Meltzer's arrival.

Although as I understand it the key plot points which made Identity Crisis such a horror were, again, editorial's fault.
12th-Apr-2010 01:27 pm (UTC)
Oh! Yes, I knew that. This is what I meant to imply; everything Meltzer's done that I don't like, I blame editorial for.

(Though I think I have to blame him for thinking Black Canary could be stopped with, IIRC, a paper bag over her head.)
(Deleted comment)
12th-Apr-2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
*laughs* probably right.

I loved Satsu quitting, but it was ruined by her giving the screen to Dawn. Who spent the rest of the issue staring at it.

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12th-Apr-2010 02:09 pm (UTC)
Just because a character said something doesn't necessitate its truth.

This is why I love knowing three act structure. What is occurring right now is that the hero is being brought down to their lowest point by the villain(s). We have yet to reach the climax--hell, reach the point where the hero recovers from being brought low by the villain.

Trusting anything Angel exposits at this point is a massive mistake.

Still, I share some of your misgivings about this arc.
12th-Apr-2010 08:06 pm (UTC)
I agree. I still have no idea what's going on and it's clear Angel is playing a larger game here.
12th-Apr-2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
I stopped reading the comic after DeKnight showed up.

Hearing reports like this is why I have no intention of returning to it even now.
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12th-Apr-2010 09:51 pm (UTC)
I haven't read any of S8 because I have never been able to find it. No comic stores are near me.

Now, I am afraid to even try.
13th-Apr-2010 01:56 am (UTC)
I've been thinking a lot lately about the problem with the core conceit of BtVS, which is, as you say, women with power.

The women with power are Slayers and witches and seers and (occasionally) Watchers.

Fantasy women, in other words. Women who don't exist in the real world.

(I don't think I realized this before, but that's one of the things that bothered me about Willow becoming a witch and all but forgetting that she's also a master computer hacker.)
13th-Apr-2010 09:33 am (UTC)
I don't count Watchers as fantasy women, because they're Real Women (i.e. unpowered) women living in a fantasy world.

You're right though: at its root it's about women who have fantasy power in a world Joss has constructed to have no women in 'real' power. I mean, there's Maggie, but she's clearly a Tool of the Patriarchy.
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