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September 21 2006

Buffy and Katrina. Constance Ash takes a look at the end of Buffy season 7, and the Sunnydale residents evacuation in comparison to new Orleans and Katrina.

Well, that might be the longest bow ever drawn. Comparing such a devastating real world event to a fairly badly drawn not-too-similar event in a genre show suggests that maybe the writer needs a wider frame of reference.
I'm not sure that you have much of a point, there. I think I have a fairly wide frame of reference, and can still draw the references together in terms of official malfeasance, as this writer does.
California has the whole Jasmine thing going on so events in Sunnydale would have seemed pretty minor to officials.
Two things have always bugged me about Season 7. The major one being, why are people suddenly fleeing Sunnydale? With all the badness and wacky deaths in the past, it seems sort of... odd.

The second one being, what's with the Super Weak!Uber-Vamps in Chosen? Was it just because the first one that was raised was the leader or something? Or because the Slayer blood somehow diminished their power?

They just... bugged me. And this seemed a good a place as any to discuss them, seeing as the first one has a lot to with the this topic.
Roger that, Simon.
Not the first time someone's seen parallels between dealing with disaster(s) in Sunnydale and dealing in the real world. At the recent Slayage 2 conference, two papers examined BtVS as a model for coping with disasters such as hurricane Katrina. Or consider the [in]famous Biological Warfare and the "Buffy Paradigm" by Anthony Cordesman (2001).
I haven't re-watched Season 7 yet because I am still in denial that it is over. But I know that it struck me as odd that everyone was leaving. I vaguely put it down to the fact that they had been living over the hellmouth for so long that even normal humans could sense something was up.
I liked the discussion of Clem as a not bad but not good demon although I wouldn't point to his eating kittens as being what makes him bad. If that is what his kind eats, then it just is.
Yeah, Clem said people could feel it that time. That something big was coming they didn't want to be around for. And they were right, because even if Hellmouth hadn't eaten the town (destroying all their homes), they would've been slaughtered by UberVamps and who knows what else.

Plus you had crazier than normal things going on, like at the school when all those things were happening to the kids in Storyteller, all at once. Not even Sunnydale could ignore that.
Yeah, I was thinking that lioness. Eating dogs or horses may seem weird to Westerners but I don't think it makes the people who do even slightly bad. In fact, apart from a certain apathy about evil I don't think there's much evidence that Clem is anything other than a fairly decent being albeit one who's quite unheroic.

We see in S7 that a lot of bad stuff is going down for (presumably) a few days to weeks before the big battle. Kids are attacking each other left and right in schools, the police are acting like vigilantes and generally the rule of law and with it civilization is breaking down. I don't think you need to be particularly attuned to the supernatural to get the hell out of Dodge under those circumstances ;).

ETA: Oops, pat32082 beat me to it on a lot of points. This may make them twice as true. Or not ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2006-09-21 14:20 ]
Ubervamps are ninjas, like Aliens. The more there are, the less dangerous each can be.

In-character, that was probably the best fighter of the brood, the Spike of the species as opposed to the Mr. Sanderson From The Bank.

But yeah, the Inverse Ninja Rule was clearly in effect.
Personally I find the blogger's representation of New Orleans and the people who live there pretty offensive. But putting that aside I would say that yes, Sunnydale had clearly reached the point where even the most obtuse had to see the threat all around them. It could be said to be like a natural disaster, but the proverbial water in Sunnydale had been rising slowly but surely for months before people realized that they had to abandon their homes. The death toll had gone up, property values were non-existant, and businesses were closing (including the schools), so it only would make sense to leave. I like to think that no people died when Sunnydale caved so dramatically into the Hell Mouth.
I had always gone with the idea that Sunnydale operated with two big principles in mind: the first being that something about Sunnydale and its inherent Hellmouthy magic made people less aware of what was going on, or likely to explain it away (like the anesthetic produced by parasites), and that the people in the town worked in some level of willful ignorance, like the towns near concentration camps who kept saying, "No, that was a sausage factory. We all thought it was a sausage factory. Or they made ammunition."

When the threat got large enough, people couldn't ignore what was going on. That's the real Katrina connection for me. People manage to live somewhere that might, one day, be unsafe, and somehow just keep going.
Ocular, that's how I see it.

And Craig, ditto with INR; plus I always thought the slayer possession of the Scythe had a deleterious effect on all the ubervamps, not just the ones currently being sliced and diced. If it just made the wielder extra strong and/or fast, the "vast number" of baddies would still have overwhelmed Buffy.

Maybe the scythe itself generated the INR? That would make it the SINR, and would tie in with the religious interpretations.
Sorry, don't buy it for one second. People outside New Orleans knew Katrina was coming. People outside Sunnydale had no clue what was going to happen to the Hellmouth. About the only thing that ties these comparisons together is that a lot of property got destroyed real good.
Honestly? I just figured there was really no good reason for it save that none of the writers wanted to have to defend Buffy for destroying the town and killing everyone in Sunnydale. Having a canonical answer well, it didn't really seem that important. The civilians got out safely, that's the important thing.
On Clem, just because he eats kittens, does that make him any "worse" than Angel during all the years he got by on eating rats? We just like kittens more than we like rats! ;-)

Sunnydale and New Orleans, hmmm. IMO, it's hard to compare real lives lost to any fiction, especially one where everyone got out safely.

I do object to the writer's talking about the people of New Orleans as being violent, unemployed, drug-using slackers. Every city has its share of people who fit that description; from what I've read in the months since Katrina, what New Orleans had too much of was poverty, and had too little of opportunity to escape from poverty -- a poor education system, not so much in the way of work opportunities (it's not like there were thousands of jobs that went unfilled, in other words), and so on. New Orleans also had a strong spirit of loyalty among its citizens, loyalty to the city, loyalty to family, loyalty to history. Many people had ridden out previous hurricanes, and believed they could do it again; some wouldn't leave behind family members who were too ill or weak or stubborn to leave; some wouldn't leave homes that had been earned by a lifetime of hard work; others didn't have means to go. And the government (at all levels) on whom many relied didn't have the organization to provide rescues, water, food, or financial assistance to restart lives (which have been things the government at all levels has provided in the past to many citizens in many disasters, as recently as the hurricanes which hit Florida in the past few seasons).

You can't compare that to fictional extras (plus Clem) driving their cars away from Ubervamps and a Hellmouth, IMO.
You're not necessarily comparing in the sense of measuring when you're writing, or analyzing, fiction. You're trying to find meanings that may not be measurable or subject to direct comparison. That's why I was defending this writer. But beautiful post, billz. You can get an amen from me.
Eating kittens is evil because cats are a highly evolved species with superior intelligence. Just ask my cat companion. Which one of us spends the day working in order to pay for the other's food? Which one of us cleans up the other's crap? Which one of us is in total thrall, adores and worships the other?

Admittedly cats have an ALIEN intelligence, but there is no doubt that it is superior - I personally believe cats originally came from outer space, and finding proto-humans trainable, colonized the earth and cleverly enslaved the human race and have trained it to serve their needs, while making us think it was all our idea.

Back on-topic. One of things I did in my Buffy obsession after I finished watching the series was to read or listen to every review of the program I could find. I was particularly amused by National Public Radio's last episode commentary, which included the announcer asking why people stayed in Sunnydale as long as they had.
I was particularly amused by National Public Radio's last episode commentary, which included the announcer asking why people stayed in Sunnydale as long as they had.

Cheap houses, nice weather, pretty girls, and occasionally you got the chance to be in a musical.
I concur cats have superior intelligence and invariably enthrall their humans. But come from outer space? Nah. They're clearly the spawn of the devil. At the very least they are sociopaths diverting resources that could go toward saving much more deserving baby seals, who are obviously of angelic ancestry.

billz and Saje, I don't disagree about with your comments that different doesn't mean evil, but what if Clem was still a nice guy in every other way but liked to eat human babies? Would he still be just different, or evil, or something else? Would you stop him, kill him, try to change him, or live and let live? Just curious what people think of the term "evil".
This article's got an interesting point...but they went about the argument the wrong way, I think. Cuz I too didn't like the commentary on New Orleans having a significant number of slackers, drunks and druggies...and I ain't from New Orleans. Far, far, far from the Big Easy;)

Still..there's a workable analogy here. Even before Buffy arrived in Sunnydale, there was still decades and centuries of history involving violent and messy deaths occuring from local vampire, werewolf and daemon populations. People still stayed out of ignorance or mystical mental muddling; even when Buffy came along and the craziness stepped up its game plan (blowing up a school comes to mind;D), people still stayed and weathered out the craziness. A similiarity exists to New Orleans in that hurricanes have pounded the Gulf Coast and Southern Atlantic for a long time; even before the advent of modern meteorological science, people knew New Orleans was in a location where hurricans liked to hit and that good chunks of the city were below sea level. Yet people stayed, weathered out the storms and kept on with their lives and their sense of community. Both places had a survivor's mentality: We got through the last brouhaha, and we'll do it again, damn it! Except in both cases, something unexperience came along and all those expectations were blown away (pardon the pun). Now, the difference with Katrina is that it's reality and that studies had shown the levees were in crap shap overall, along with studies showing increases in hurricane severity. People knew Katrina would not just slap and tickle New Orleans...but they thought they could take the bigger blow better than they did. Same thing seems to apply to Sunnydale, but in a less severe manner. There was no mystical levees really (except the seal covering the Hellmouth) to keep the really bad f-ing mojo back and you didn't have national agencies telling local media to report a big ole slobberknocker of a mystical blowup was around the corner. Hence the early stages of the supernatural hurricane that was the arrival of the Bringers, Caleb and the Ubervamp before things got a point where people started thinking evacuation was needed.

I understand the points made about the article having bad assertions and crap logic. Have to put my support behind that group...but with reservations. Mainly, I think it's a valid observation left to go to pot.
Are they evil maniac babies intent on sucking our brains out as we sleep jlv ? Cos then he'd be, like, a hero or something.

I take the point that those kinds of lines are pretty arbitrary but people keep frogs as pets, yet the French eat frogs legs. Hell, people even keep pigs as pets, I won't be swearing off bacon any time soon though ;). My point is that just because something is cute and fluffy and in our culture (in my case Western European) we don't eat them, doesn't make eating them evil (or even a little bit bad).

But yeah, humans are the other side of my arbitrary line (at least until i'm stuck in the Andes after a plane crash, then the line gets kinda wavy ;). Without an absolute moral arbiter I think the notion of good and evil is pretty complex though (of course, even with said arbiter you're only pushing the problem back a step because arbiters can be kind of arbitrary, which is to say, why does the arbiter's decision make something good ?). Pretty much everything in me says that certain things are 'just wrong' but I think i'd struggle to come up with reasons why. 'Do unto others ...' is probably a useful starting point for a moral system but then the damn masochists come along and screw everything up ;).

We could maybe say that removal of choice (which you could accept as an inevitable consequence of sentience) is 'evil' since I think most people would be disgusted by say someone who volunteered to be eaten (there was a case like this in, I think, Germany a while back) but i'm not sure they could say it was actually wrong (unless their belief system had some prohibition against suicide) since, after all, the person is only harming his or her self. But then babies can't really make informed, uncoerced choices anyway, so why would depriving them of a choice be evil ?

It's a moral minefield that's fer sure. A wiser head than mine is surely required ;).

(cats, BTW, are just as stupid as dogs but they seem cleverer because they don't do as you tell them and folk associate independence with smarts. They're basically untrainable but 'clever cat' proponents should maybe ask themselves how clever they'd think a human was that was also basically untrainable and could happily spend hours chasing a ball of string ;)

[ edited by Saje on 2006-09-22 00:17 ]
If I didn't belive some things were arbitrarily wrong, even without being able to prove it, I would have lived a very different life, and mine enemies would be smashed before my terrible exalted presence.
The demonstration of cat intelligence lies not in their being untrainable, but rather in their recognition that WE are trainable. It is very, very clear to me that my cat applies operant conditioning to me in order to get me to do what she wants me to. She may not have the intellectual capacity to verbalize that that's what she's doing, but she is very deliberate in doing it. It's been a pretty fascinating experience having her here, but hey you give an animal behaviorist and animal and guess what - we study it.

But as for being happy chasing a ball of string - well, I spent today essentially chasing a string of integers through the labrynth that is our new on-line expense reporting system, so that I could get reimbursed for $100 for a book that I purchased for our department. Everytime I tried to submit it, the system "corrected" the account number from the one I had entered to the default which is only there to show us what number we are NOT supposed to use, and then, big surprise, rejected the expense report because it had the wrong account number. This is how I spent a good portion of my day and at the end of it I don't have the money, the Business Manager has suggested that we delete the report and start over but we can't do that because the system won't allow it to be deleted, and I get to go in tomorrow and fight with this all over again. Being happy chasing a ball of string - yeah I can see the appeal of it.
(Now if only Angel hadn't killed Jennie, maybe she could've exorcised the demon that's clearly inside this computer system.)
Saje, were you, per chance, referring to Rasselas? Just wonderin'. . . .
Would that I were Sangchaud, though my interest is definitely now piqued (and since it's available free online it also appeals to the stereotype in me ;).

(or rather, possibly but only as distilled through a bunch of other people since I was primarily thinking of J.S. Mill and 'On Liberty' which i'm about to re-read. One of the goodies, old John ;)

barboo, family members agree with that, guess i'm just more of a dog person ;). Why though is it any different to say Pavlov's dogs wherein, the cat associates a certain behaviour with a certain outcome ? If hungry then meow and generally annoy big feedy being = food served.

(OK, untrainable was a bit much, they can certainly learn. Maybe they're just lazy ;)

Apparently cats are also very quick to start eating their owner's body in cases where the owner dies and is left undiscovered. Dogs have to be very hungry to do so. We're pack mates y'see and they know that. Also, there will never, ever be a Greyfriars Tiddles, cat's just aren't built that way. So, much as I love moggies, I just prefer dogs.

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