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April 01 2003

"Ahh! Bad wig alert!" An especially cranky TWOP review of BtVS 7x17 "Lies My Parents Told Me"

[ edited by Vamp_Insurance on 2003-04-02 09:52 ]

"Watching episode after episode about Spike's journey when Giles has become a prick and I don't know a goddamn thing about what Willow or Xander are thinking, or even who they are anymore, and will likely never find out, breaks my heart."

So if they hate everything and everyone, why do they bother reaching out to others? This was the first TWOP review I took the time to read, but the reviewer was rather unpleasant even when I agreed. Oh, and for anyone who is going to make so many Anne Rice comparisons, it might help if they took the time to look them up, cite it chapter and verse. Add true reference to the arrogance.

Are they always like this?
Yes, TWOP is pretty much always like that. I don't read recaps of shows that I like over there, because they can really wring the joy out of things sometimes. I fully believe in ripping stuff apart, and I like to overanalyze Buffy just as much as the next obsessive fan, but even I'm not that cynical. Personally, I criticize the show from more of a place of love than (it appears) they do.

Of course, reading their recaps of shows with little redeeming value is great, because they deserve that level of snark. But I sort of can't stomach it when it comes to my beloved Buffy. I'm getting soft in my old age, I think.
Why does the link lead to the middle of the recap?

I fixed it, link now leads to start of story.

The recaps at TWOP used to be just snarky and funny and still full of love for the show. As the show declines, they've turned very bitter.

I felt about the same way about this episode but probably wouldn't put it so strongly.
My favorite part of this episode was that Kennedy and the potentials were barely in it.

[ edited by fiveironalex on 2003-04-02 18:04 ]
Prolific, are you saying that show is in decline?
As I read the review/recap of the episode, I found myself nodding in agreement to everything Sep wrote......with the exception of the Giles hate. I thought what Giles did was very much in character and IMO...just!!!! I still love Giles. Hate Spike like I never did before. Loosing my Buffy love episode by episode. Come to think about it. I'm as bitter as Sep is!!
Why does the link lead to the middle of the recap?

I thought it'd be better to link to the page containing the quote. Seemed like a good idea at the time. :-)

Thanks for fixing it.

Are they always like this?

No. Cases in point: the relatively positive TWOP recaps of Season Two's "Innocence"

"This recap might be less snarky than usual because, well, this episode is an extremely good forty-four minutes of television and I'm a big sap who can't think of too many snide things to say while I'm sniffling over teen angst and groping for the Kleenex."

and "Becoming, Part 2".

"You know, I love recapping Buffy, but sometimes I wonder why I didn't just pick a really, truly crappy show that would be easy to tear to shreds."

"Behind Angel, the vortex meets him and suddenly closes into Acathla's mouth, taking him with it. Buffy stares at the demon, who is again stone, and she, I, Sep, and probably the rest of the free world begin to sob."
Unitas: Yes. I don't think it's as good as it was. It's still better than other things I see on TV. But it doesn't resonate with me as much as it did before -- thus for me the series is in decline. I don't mind characters changing, but I miss the dynamic they had among each other. That's life and that's progress, and that's fine, but but my favourite main characters have been pushed aside in favour of a secondary character and ALL characters suffer from that.

To me that's pandering to the demographic, not letting a story unfold naturally. That's TV. That's business. I don't blame anyone for it.
Hmm. I may be asking for something I don't want, but I've just got to know. What with a few relevent comments in this thread, it seemed an appropriate place and time to ask.

Why so much hatred for Spike? I honestly don't get it. He's an interesting, well-written, well-played character, IMO. I suppose I could guess, but I'd rather have it explained by those who actually feel the hate.
I don't hate Spike at all. I regret that his character dominates the series so much lately. I loved Spike before when he was a character that occasionally came in and stirred everything up. Like Ethan Rayne. But ultimately, I'm not too interested in his story. I'm interested in the Buffy/Giles/Xander/Willow dynamic. Whether they ride into the sunset together, or have the ugliest of fights and never speak to each other again - to me it's about the four of them.

But that's just me. Others might just 'hate Spike', I don't know.
TWOP is just mean! I mean I noticed the bad wig and the lame fight sequence between Spike and Nikki and even that James Marsters is looking older (but who isn't? Not Boreanaz that's for sure) - but to just rip into such a great episode....

Oh, well, guess that's what they do. What I do is love the show, warts and all.
yup, warts and all---me too.
Tamara: Personally, I don't like Spike because, well, he's a jerk. He's mean to the Scoobies, he's mean to Buffy (that whole trying to separate her from her friends bit and then trying to rape her), and I'm not convinced that the soul has made him all peachy keen. I just don't like him, and like prolific, I would like to see more of the unambiguously good guys.
"and like prolific, I would like to see more of the unambiguously good guys."

Hmm, you got me wrong there. They don't have to be good. They just have to be original Scoobs. If they go bad, are morally ambiguous, if they hurt people, if they have deep dark secrets...that's great, as long as they develop their characters, make them go places.

We've had no Xander episode since Hell's Bells, no Willow episode since S6x21/22, no Giles episode since eighteen-bloody-forty-seven. Instead we got new characters nobody cares about, and the "he's got a sooooul now" marathon. This, for want of a better word, blows.
prolific: I'm sorry, I just meant I wanted more Scooby focus, like you. I didn't mean to link my reasons to yours, only the desired result, if that makes sense.

On that note, "unambiguously good" is perhaps the wrong phrase. I guess I mean the characters whose goodness and worth (namely, B/X/W/G) I truly believe in, no matter what screw-ups (even evil ones) they make along the way. I just don't believe in Spike the same way.
I agree with prolific. The reason I've continued to watch Buffy all these years is the dynamic between the original characters. As far as Spike, I just don't find his character interesting or all that likable anymore. I thought he was interesting in seasons 2, 3, and the beginning of 4. The "ow, my chip" line got old pretty fast, and has now been replaced with the "ow, my soul" subplot.
Prolific, I wholeheartedly agree with you. I've watched the show and loved it from the very first episode, but the last two years of the show just haven't been "Buffy" to me. It has, as you so eloquently put it, stopped resonating with me in a way it had before. I was bored to tears with "Lies My Parents Told Me" and while Spike was formerly a favorite of mine (especially in Season Five), I could give a fig about the character now. Willow, Xander, Anya, and Giles have all been pushed to the wayside (to say nothing of Dawn) and Buffy has become a wholly cold, unlikeable character instead of the fun, fierce, feminine icon she used to be, all quippy and vampire butt-kicking. To me, the show ended with Buffy's sacrifice in "The Gift." (With a notable coda in "Once More With Feeling.") Since then the show has lacked the dynamic relationships (can you remember the last time the characters actually *spoke* to one another?), and the cinematic vision that it once had in spades. The show just looks *bad* since the move to UPN--lighting, combat scenes, costumes, set pieces. (With the addition of a higher licensing fee, the show has somehow managed to look cheaper than it ever did before.) Even the actors themselves seem faintly bored lately. While years ago I would have never said so (much less thought it), it is definitely time for "Buffy" to take a bow.
I never agree with the anti-Spike comments here, but this ep was the first one where I understood where you guys were coming from. This ep put Buffy and Spike as the focus at the expense of the overall story. I agree with the mean-spirited TWOP for the most part; the characters feel like they're being played by different actors. To me, there's much more to Spike than his chip/trigger, and that storyline has grown extremely stale. There was a decent kernel in the story about Spike's past, but it felt like some other show in the flashbacks. Flashbacks on Buffy/Angel are usually chocolaty goodness, but not this time. The other main characters should be a bigger part of the show, and could Buffy be *less* of a shrill egoist? Willow was actually funny and interesting in the recent Angel; why not more of that? BTW, didn't Landau(Drusilla) look sickly, especially around the eyes? Earlier this year, she wasn't playing Dru right, but it seemed to jibe with the story. Now, I wonder if the writers did that to cover for her. She doesn't look or act like she has in every appearance previous to this season.
I loathe Spike cause he freakin chews up the scenary. Why not just rename the show Spike, the Vampire with a soul who is in love with a slayer!! Words can't express how much I loathe Spike. He seriously needs to be staked!! And this is comming from a former Spike lover. Loved him in season 2 and 3. Liked him in season 4 and 5. Now I just hate him and want him dead!! Remember how back in the day.....all the secondary characters were treated like secondary characters? Jenny, Angel, even Oz. They were there to push along the storyline for the main characters. Now....it seems Willow, Xander, Anya, Giles and even Dawn's only purpose on the show is to push along the storyline for Spike. BtVs should of taken some hints from it's more quality and enjoybale show...Angel, and killed off Spike...like Angel did with Lilah!!!!
The thing is, I kept hoping for one and a half season that it all would make sense in the end. But now 'the end is near' as they say, and with only a couple of episodes left, even if the others were get their time in the limelight, it would be too late. Even if we find out they're creatures from another dimension or they just plain dead and that's the reason they're so... off.

I was thinking earlier how this used to be an ensemble show - and that all came about because the actors worked really well together. Maybe the storylines reflect the real world - maybe all has not been well on the set and it really is time to end it.

But, as I said, I'm still enjoying this a whole lot more than other shows. I've more or less given up on Enterprise, which is just painful. Six Feet Under's still great - they're in S3. God knows they'll probably start going down the drain next season. ;-)
I think we have to be careful about judging the current season before it's over. And judging the entire series before it's over.

For example, my enjoyment of Season Six was radically increased once it was over. :-)
Just to inject a little more positivity, I just want to say I'm still loving the show as a whole. And to be fair, it hasn't really been as Spike-centric as maybe it feels with these long gaps in between new episode airings to stew on it; there have only been 2 really Spike centered episodes this year, 7x08 and 7x17.

As long as the final 5 eps bring some real emotional closure to the story of the Core Four, I'll be happy. I trust in Joss.
A lot of this discussion reminds me of some issues brought up in the Willow essay "She's Not All Grown Yet" in the recent Slayage. The author brought up Umbertco Eco's theories about serliazed narrative, about how even when it's full of twists, it's ultimately the same story told over and over again; the 'twists' serve to sort of inflate our egos because we guess them before they happen; they *appear* to be twists when all they really are is a resettling into the same mold.

Or something like that.

My point is that I get the sense that so many people implicitly desire Eco's "sameness" theory: they want the original dynamic of the characters to remain the same; they want the focus of the show at the end to echo the focus of the show at the beginning. When the show truly deviates from its original schematic, people get pissed.

I don't like that. I don't like Eco's theory, not because it isn't true (I think it is true), but because I wish it weren't. In my opinion, BtVS peaked at Season Three: it has never been and will never be quite as good as it was back then; it'll never resonate quite as resoundingly as it did back then; but I don't pine away for those days, I accept the show for what it is, I accept the change, in fact I desire the change, I appreciate the change, and I tell myself how great it is that we had the show as it was back then and the show as it was later and the show as it is now, because they're all good and interesting and they shouldn't all have to be the same.

And LMPTM was a great episode, and the folks at TWOP are morons. So there. :-)
Ooh, ooh, TWOP hate?? Is there TWOP hate going on? Can I join in?!

I was a big TWOP fan until they turned from snarky to downright bilious, and suddenly lost all objectivity. I mean, I'm not calling myself the master of objectivity or anything, but their reviews of the show discuss it not as something that's "in decline," or even something that's inferior to what came before, but as if all of a sudden, in Season 4, every single writer turned into a no-talent ass-clown and became fundamentally incapable of ever producing anything of merit. OK, now I'm not being objective. That's not true. Generally, the recaps have stuck to making snide comments here and there. It's the forums. The forums. Where every single detail that could potentially be identified as a flaw is magnified, projected onto a screen, and discussed at length among the regulars until someone pipes up that they actually enjoyed an episode and is promtly nuked.

Sample forum talk, from the ep "Storyteller":

Sure, it was funny. But I am so fucking pissed off with this show, it is not even funny. Why must everything be nudge-nudge, wink-wink with this goddamn show? Can't the writers make up jokes by themselves?

And good lord, have they even heard of continuity? Why the hell would Buffy quip at some kid exploding, when she weeped for five days after Cassie died? And why must this show continue to do stupid things, and then make fun of them later? I didn't find it funny with Anya's comments about "The Gift" back in "Potential," and I don't find it funny now.

That's not criticism, that's just bile. Please, the show's been self-referential ever since it had a self to reference. Remember when they were all making jokes about how they always seemed to end up dating demons? Or, or, ooh, remember that time when Mr. Trick talked about how there weren't any black people in Sunnydale? If those characters made the same jokes today, this guy would get mad because the show was being too "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" about itself. I'm rewatching all the seasons on DVD with a friend who's never watched the show. We started with Season 1 just this past fall. If you applied these sort of criticisms to the show in its earliest incarnations, you're honestly left with nothing to like.


And now, to the point.

I'm on board with the criticism that the show's become less about the core relationship between Buffy, Willow and Xander. But for me, that's less a criticism than a declarative statement. That relationship has never been the focal point of the show for me, and if it was for you, then I can understand why you'd consider the show less interesting. In fact, all this talk about primary characters and secondary characters and plots and subplots doesn't really interest me, because for me, Buffy's always focused on ideas. All the people, all the dialogue, all the events that transpire on the show are in service of ideas.

I've watched the show since "Welcome to the Hellmouth" because it has always had an uncanny, wholly unique ability to explore truths about life in a way no other show can even approach. Buffy mirrors reality by distorting it in strange and fascinating ways, posing dark questions that aren't normally asked but should be, and that's always been its principle allure to me. It corrupts dichotomies that social convention indicates should never be corrupted light and dark, good and evil, love and hatred, male and female, of course; but then it gets interesting. How about abuser and victim? Lover and rapist? Father figure and master? Slayer and vampire? Dead and alive? And it does all this at a conscious distance, under a veneer of comedy, of trivia.

From the very first moment of the very first episode (remember?), we began to be confronted with reversals that have played on each other in subsequent seasons to slowly conceal the world behind shrouds of ambiguity, until there's nothing left that's quite certain, or quite sacred, and that's the way I like it. Reality happens to be complex in just that ambiguous, frustrating way. Take, for example, the war right now. Who's right, and who's wrong? Saddam's guilty of something on the order of genocide, back in 1988. Yet he's a demon we helped create, and all signs point to him being mostly declawed (chipped? souled?). Furthermore, by the end of this war, hundreds of innocent Iraqis may be dead. There's nothing, anywhere, that's black or white or simple about this, and that is one of the truths of life that Buffy has made clear at every opportunity.

I'd like to add at this point that I'm actually not advocating moral complexity merely for the sake of the same, as much as it may sound like I am. I'm not running around praising a show that arbitrarily screeches "Bad can be good! Good can be bad! Look! Look!" all over the place. It's that the show has asserted itself and subverted itself to pose the most interesting, least asked questions. We've seen countless murders on this show, and still (arguably) the most horrible moment to watch is Spike trying to rape Buffy in "Seeing Red." Many think that moment crossed a line it was unnecessary and exploitative and melodramatic and wrong of them to portray. I'm not inclined to disagree with those people; if Buffy in that moment violated a fabric of society too sacred for even this show to touch in your mind, I have no defense to offer for it. I will take issue with the suggestion that the writers were seeking to make any one moral claim with that action, or that they were using it only as a catalyst for some plot event. One of the scariest things about that scene, I think, is that it is staunchly amoral. It wasn't in service of some ultimate point about rape; it was all consequences and questions. That's the nature of Buffy for me. It has challenged me to continuously evaluate my actions and the events around me. It requires that I watch actively, that I form opinions and make judgments, and then question those things.

Let's take a Buffy character generally considered to be the whitest of the White Hats. No murders lurking in his past; his only dabblings with the dark arts have involved a small love spell gone awry. He's a profoundly solid guy. Many TWOPpers complained about Xander's behavior last season as being out of character ... "No way my Xander would ever be as heartless to Anya as he was in 'Hell's Bells'!" Except that he tried to rape Buffy (see episode 1x6, The Pack). Yeah, he was possessed by a hyena at the time, but character development has suggested that the possession only amplified aspects of his normal personality. Then, of course, we had his famous misrepresentation of Willow to Buffy in Becoming, Part II. And the ever-disturbing "Can I come?" when Faith announces in Revelations her intention to slay Angel. There's always been a side to Xander that's horribly sadistic and vengeful, which is part of why I think he made such an interesting pairing with the ex-Vengeance Demon herself. The point is, Xander is not fundamentally anything. Is he even as capable of love as Spike, the only vampire we've seen whose demonicness did not diminish his capacity for love, even when he didn't have a soul? What is Xander capable of? Aren't I glad I've never had to really ask? Because I like Xander, right? Why? This is what I mean. These characters, these plot points, these arcs, these symbols, these metaphors, these lines of dialogue all wander vaguely toward something deeper than the show, beyond the show, and in fact, within myself. And it's only because each of those things is so well-done and so intricate that these questions have any actual heft, so I'm also not saying that they don't matter.

One day, I'll launch into perhaps an even longer and more thesis-less essay about what I love in the show's storytelling, but this is what I love about the show, and this is why I'll be sad it's over, and this is what no other show on television can do for me in quite the same way, this questioning. It's Buffy's fundamental essence for me, and that has not changed in seven seasons. It's just a television show, of course. But like all the best art, it explores, not expresses, casting its own fantastic lens on the details of the real world.

ZachsMind, are you around? Can you beat this? I'm spent.
grrarrgh00: It always amazes me when someone seizes on something like Buffy's reaction to the exploding student in "Storyteller" as a continuity flaw. Hello people, ever heard of tone? This is not a documentary. Every episode has a theme and a tone; "Storyteller" was about going for the funny, much as in "Doppelgangland" when the gang thought Willow was dead. Obviously, their reactions would have been different if it had been played for drama, like "The Body", but "Doppelgangland" was a comedy at heart and played accordingly.
Wow, grrarrgh00, that was great. You're like the opposite of a TWOP forum goon.

I discovered TWOP just as season 7 started. I think I gave up reading it about 4 episodes in because it was just beginning to annoy me. If I hated a show, I'd stop reviewing it. Of course, you have to factor in that they pay their recappers...
If there's one thing I like about TWOP it's their very strict rule that there's to be no bashing of other sites on their forum. We haven't got a written rule like that, but I'd like to remind everybody that a rule like that is 'a good thing'.

That said, good post, grrarrgh00. Very... academic. My mind doesn't work that way, I'm afraid. It wants pretty pictures and it wants to feel. And I don't feel as much as I used to, watching the series. So if it's about ideas, they seem to be all over the place right now and not triggering emotions. In me, that is.
I'm new and pretty late in the discussion but I had a big problem with this episode and I have a big mouth.

First, when this season started Joss described it as back to the beginning. The show has been about the core four group from the start, and it's been so much fun to watch them all grow and mature. Instead we've seen Willow thrown into a relationship that has been given no depth, Giles become evil in Buffy's eyes (plus no one hugs him, which as a Giles fan upsets me), and Xander get pushed to the side. There is no more character development for any of them, and there is definitely no growth. Plus, it was always a family between them. Now it is a dictatorship with Buffy holding power over everyone. I almost wish they would strike so she could see how hard it is to do anything without them.

Also, what always made Buffy special was that she wouldn't let slaying or her duty overrule her emotions. Her emotions and love gave her strength. When I heard her say that she would give up Dawn to save the world, my heart nearly broke. IMHO, the power of The Gift is watching her make that decision, that those she loves are the reason that she fights, that she won't give up being a human for the world.

As for Spike, I miss the old Spike. I liked evil Spike, and I liked Chipped Spike. Also, I liked his dynamic with characters like Dawn. I wouldn't even mind Spike now, if they would develop him. It is not the Spike LUVS Buffy show, and the writers should stop making it that. Spike with a soul would be an interesting chance to show how a soul can effect a vampire. I doubt everyone would repent like Angel, espicially Spike. I also don't think the Buffy/Spike relationship should be explored anymore. Buffy said it herself, she was using him. When she stopped seeing him, it almost signaled her regaining her strength. So what if he has a soul? It shouldn't change things that drastically.

Personally, I like TWOP. It's nice to have someone poke fun at the show. We can't take everything so seriously in fandom.

Hope I didn't overstep my first-timer bounds :)
Well-written first post, Beth. I agree with your points on Spike and I miss his relationship with Dawn, too. When Spike took care of Dawn as season 6 began, he had no reason to except that he cared for her. Sweet.
I really miss Joyce most now, because of her relationship with Spike that started with their second meeting. Actually LMPTM is kind of a background for that relationship. If the Joyce that keeps visiting people is the real Joyce, I think it'd be fitting if Spike were the next one she saw.
grrarrgh00, I think I love you. :) Very well put, IMO.
(Except that that I do tend to think that the AR was a plot device to push Spike into seeking his soul, based on various interviews I've read.)

I guess I'll never really understand the problems people have with Spike. I can sort of get why one might feel some resentment toward a character if one felt that he was taking away from a preferred character. Still, there've been only two Spike-centric eps this season, thus far. Personally I don't see him taking up that much screen time. But then again every time I see Kennedy or any other SiT (except Rona - she doesn't bug me for whatever reason), it feels like too much, as I find them dull.
I really don't get how Spike can seem "mean" now though. He hasn't been mean, really, since early season 5. Honestly I thought Buffy was crueler to him last year than he was to her.

Ah well. I doubt anyone's going to change their minds. I think I should count myself lucky that I'm still as in love with the show and characters as I ever was. I would enjoy seeing more Xander and Giles and more Scooby-interactions, but ultimately I still get giddy every Tuesday night. It makes me happy. And in the end, for me, that's what matters.
I'm new, but have been following this thread with great interest. Haven't seen LMPTM ( in Australia we have just had Sleeper) so I'm not qualified to weigh in, but thought it interesting to note that despite the vitriolic review , the 1700 or so users at TWOP gave this episode an average of A- .
The votes at TWOP are easily rigged and suffer from this on a regular basis. The episode topics give a clearer overview of what people think of an episode.
Yes...Prolific is correct. I believe "Him" got a score of B+.....and the majority of what viewers on the episode topics had to say about that particular episode was pretty much negative
Why would the TWOP people rig a vote to say the opposite of what they do? TWOP hated LMPTM, as I understand it. Why would they make the voting come out as positive?
Tamara, maybe people who were upset by the spitefulness of the review would give the episode a higher rating ? to balance the scales so to speak?
just as I was tempted to do even though I've not seen it.

Like you, I love this show for better or worse, I don't think there has been a character in the show yet that I've hated.

Wasn't keen on Riley or Tara at first, but watching S4 & S5
on DVD came to love Tara and think that Riley served his purpose plot-wise.

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