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November 16 2006

Entertainment Weekly talks top ten watercooler moments and Buffy is mentioned. The death of Buffy's mother makes it onto the list: "Dismissed by the clueless as little more than culty teen fantasy-horror, Buffy... proved unequivocally with its fifth-season episode ''The Body'' that it could leave viewers gasping without throwing a single punch."

"Indeed, the sudden, unexpected, and heartbreaking death of Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), and in particular the moment she was found lying on the living room couch by the show's titular heroine, proved as devastating as it was watercooler-worthy. The show, alas, is still waiting for its Emmy."

You know, the only critique Ive heard about The Body is that its too perfect, that Anya knows exactly what to say, that they all grieve so perfectly that it isnt ugly at all. In a way, I agree, its like paint by numbers, I could be Picasso if I painted by numbers, but really The Body is so good that im not sure it matters to me. Its so powerful that im not sure that critique really matters.

Oh and I should thank Slayerverse for the heads up.

I always thought this ep got most of it's emotion from Anya and Xander's reactions.
I cried with everyone. Buffy, Dawn, Willow, Xander and Anya, so I'd say the emotion came from everywhere.
The show, alas, is still waiting for its Emmy."

This is the show's biggest dichotomy. Terrific work for the most part, technically and artistically, and yet overlooked in the mainstream awards during its seven years (though for technical awards, music, cinematography, yeah it got nominated quite a bit - acting/writing, left by the wayside).

Joss was nominated for a Nebula Award for The Body,

2002 -- Nominated Nebula Award
Best Script -- Joss Whedon

but not one Emmy. I don't know if this means mainstream Awards are useless unless everyone in a top-quality series gets their props or it's just part and parcel of the genre. Did the Emmy Academy of Voters think it embarrassing to even nominate the actors and writers ... "Oh God, what will the public think of us, promoting this **cough cough** Vampire Show?" But it would have been nice if the actors and writers had gotten the recognition they deserved without the Emmy voters thinking they were slumming.

BuffyNominated Awards

[ edited by Tonya J on 2006-11-16 22:41 ]
The only major criticism I've seen of The Body, is that of the vampire in the morgue. I've seen posts which say it jars with the rest of the episode.
I'd say the show got ignored for Emmys because, sadly, the awards tend to reward shows that deal with the same handful of formats (not that some of them aren't good). It's not a committee that takes a whole lot of chances. Let's face it; those of us who are Buffy fans and have said this to family/friends who never watched almost always get laughted at because it's a "bad show." When I mentioned one Thanksgiving that I loved the show, people asked me why I'd waste my time on that trash. I pointed out I have an MA in lit with a specialization in drama, so if I said it was good, there was a pretty good chance I was right. Rather quickly silenced them.
I liked "The Body," quite a bit. The vampire in the morgue, to me, was a signal that Buffy's life/mission/calling isn't going to take a convenient time-off, not even for the death of family. I think the episode would have been jarring without it.
People have never laughed in my face about liking Buffy. Maybe they're laughing behind my back...
double post

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2006-11-17 01:10 ]
[T]he only critique I've heard about The Body is that it's too perfect, that Anya knows exactly what to say, that they all grieve so perfectly that it isn't ugly at all.

I find that a very perplexing critique -- and also a new one on me (I'd only ever heard the one Simon brought up, about the vampire fight in the morgue).
"Mom? Mom? Mommy?" Still kills me everytime I even think about it, both as a daughter AND a mother...

One of the single most poignant moments in all of televsion, bar none.
I find that a very perplexing critique -- and also a new one on me (I'd only ever heard the one Simon brought up, about the vampire fight in the morgue).

Although I dont share this objection (though I cannot for the life of me come up with a counter), my friend once argued that the reactions were artistic and too staged to feel real. He felt like the whole episode is one big play with really good ideas because everyone reacts exactly as you would expect, everyone is able to express their thoughts perfectly, Anya gives a a perfect speech about death, and the reactions all fit into this perfect system. In that sense, The Body is TOO perfect and becomes unrealistic in so being. In other words, there are no real ugly reactions, Anya knows exactly how to express her feelings in this beautiful off the cuff speech, Tara is right there with the right words and experiences for Buffy, and in that sense, my friend argued that thats not how death plays out. When relatives of friends die, we dont know what to say, we dont have the answers readily available, we dont experience these perfect moments, we stumble over our own selves in vain attempts to help and we search for the right words at the right times.

Like I said, I cant come up with a counter to that, though I love The Body's artistic merit still. And it does kind of make sense, when my friends father died, I had no real words and I stumbled all over myself trying not to say something insulting or patronizing. He compared it to paint by numbers, where I could paint a Picasso like painting, where anyone could if they simply followed the pattern, and in that sense he felt like The Body was too perfect for it to be considered great art. Ill be honest, I disagree because of the emotional punch of the episode (again "were not supposed to move the body" is freakin unbearable on rewatchings) but he may have a point.
I think it was because The Body depicted a natural death so painfully, that the element of the supernatural some how did didn't fit in with it all. I can see that point of view but the vampire raising up was a very creepy moment.
Actually, I thought Anya sounded idiotic, just like her to spout off nonsensical crap and have it come up smelling like roses, which it did in that particular instance.

The part that gets me out of all the wonderful/awful/painful parts that make up this intelligent and gorgeous episode, like Willow not being able to find anything suitable to wear to the hospital/morgue, is when Buffy says, "It's not her. It's not her. She's gone." And Dawn: "Where'd she go?" Because I know I'll go through this when my mom goes. We're so attached to the physical body because it housed the person we loved, but their essence is no more and only the shell remains.
But other than Tara, who WOULD know what to say to her girlfriend, and to Buffy--but really, the only thing she did was relate her own experience and tell Buffy she'd be there if she needed her (which, actually, isn't that what everyone says to someone who's gone through a loss when they can't think of anything else?)--no one did know what to say or do.

Anya's reaction was how Anya would react. But no one knew what to say to Buffy or Dawn, who suffered the loss. In fact, they didn't really say anything. They talked with each other, but that's different.

Frankly, comparing the episode to a Picasso paint-by-numbers feels very insulting. The episode was a very personal one for Joss (as you hear in his commentary), and it touched many people, and to describe it in such a way...

I can't think of what to say.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2006-11-17 03:31 ]

[ edited by pat32082 on 2006-11-17 03:37 ]
Yeah, I don't understand the paint by numbers point.
The Body was the first episode that I watched of Buffy from beginning to end. I had caught bits of pieces of the show, here and there, enough to catch most of the main characters names, but not enough to decide whether or not I liked it or not. I was waiting until I managed to catch an episode from the beginning to watch a whole episode and give the series a chance, when I stumbled upon the beginning of The Body.

After a couple of minutes, I realized this wasn't your average tv show and by the end I was completely blown away and an instant fan of the show. After watching a handful of episodes here and there, I bought the first season on DVD and in around 6 months time went through season 1 to 7. However, it all started with the Body and the sad death of Joyce Summers.
I thought that was the point of this ep-- they don't know what to say or do. Anya was the only one who was able to say what she did because she's the outsider who doesn't know not to be inappropriate.

I liked it. I can't think of other tv shows that showed death as a thing everyone stumbles around dealing with, even though it's the biggest thing in the room.

I loved the nervous fixation on clothes and food. That's very much what family funerals are like for me. People want to help, but they don't know what to do, or what to say, so people make too much food and worry about random things.
"Mom? Mom? Mommy?" Still kills me everytime I even think about it....

One of the single most poignant moments in all of televsion, bar none

Ditto that -- and I'm a big old guy.
Sunfire: "I loved the nervous fixation on clothes and food. That's very much what family funerals are like for me. People want to help, but they don't know what to do, or what to say, so people make too much food and worry about random things."

Yep, Sunfire, I agree: Having planned and spoken at two close family funerals this year, and more within the past few years, I can say with some assurance that the focus frequently gets put on these kinds of details - by both the grieving, as well as the helpless friends and family. It's like life in general - zoom in on the details to get a break from or avoid the big pain or picture.

A friend of mine recently helped out with funeral/wake preparations for the uncle of her partner, and the deeply grieving uncle's sister went off about the pickle dish on the buffet table. It was the wrong one, it wasn't classy enough, people would think they'd been brought up in barns. All the bystanders could do was look on in bewilderment 'til my friend went up and hugged her and brought her outside to cry.

Willow's hunt for the right sweater was heartbreaking - I remember going on a three-hour search for and being devastated because I couldn't find the right quote to put on the photo program I was making for my Dad's memorial.

Devastated! Until I remembered that my Dad loved to read everything, and it really didn't matter what I chose... You also freak because you can do so little that you want to do the stuff you can do right. Sometimes it feels like the last thing you'll get to do for them...

I thought the vampire at the end of "The Body" was just right - it was important to bring the show back to its theme or source, and it really was one of the creepiest things on Buffy ever. The contrast between Buffy's life at that moment and her mission, and the brutality of the killing were jarring, but in a way that enhanced the meaning. Life goes on, it stays real, duties continue, the unreality of the death & funeral subside, and you must pick up and continue with - whatever.
If anything, the reactions is as far from perfect as possible. Maybe it's too perfect in its description of human imperfections. But Tara knows exactly what to say because she's lost her mother and has had years to think about this. Anya's speech is perfectly in character for Anya, and the thing that people love about the speech is its childlike innocence and incoherence. Xander punches through a wall, Buffy throws up, the Scoobies stand awkwardly around each other, silent and useless, first in Willow's dorm room and then in the hospital, and Dawn almost gets killed by a naked, hideous vampire. If the episode still manages to seem beautiful and not ugly in these moments, it's because, in a way, there IS something beautiful about grief and pain and death and life. We don't really understand it, but that lack of understanding, that fear connects us. And in the episode it connected them.
I think 'The Body' is great because it avoided all of the cliches of portraying death on TV or in the movies: the moments of revelation, the swelling music, people crying and realizing that life is precious, the 'life lesson' that comforts, etc., etc. In 'The Body,' there's no grand lesson - there's just that sinking feeling that our time on this earth ends, we don't know what happens to us afterward, and we don't know why. Next to 'The Body,' so much ELSE seems like "painting by the numbers."
OzLady, those words of Buffy always tear me up, too.

I find The Body so sad and heartbreaking that sometimes when I rewarch 5, I skip over it.
I love the depiction of death as something physical, the no lessons-thing, and the hours of shock, with its entire boredom. the body is great!!!

but what I "love most" of Joyce's death is, that it had an impact: nobody gets along anymore, Buffy is full of self-doubts, dawn feels (even more) cut out, Willow and Xander feel the death of a surrogate family member, Giles the pain of someone having left he raised a child together with, there arise financial problems...

and only the one furthest away even try to make sense out of it (namely Anya in forever), all the others just struggle in pain...

in drama series people get killed off quite easily, and it's a big drama, and everybody is shocked and tears up and there are the revelations, and the lessons, but in the a few acts further nobody feels the missing link anymore, there's no open wound, and about three eps later there isn't even a (n emotional or any other) scar anymore... why kill off anybody if it doesn't have any impact on the show (besides getting rid of annoying actors)?
Right there with you yet again, OzLady. (Good seeing you, BTW) I remember seeing that at the end of "I Was Made to Love You," and my heart sunk, and I knew I wasn't ready to watch the episode to come. It was the first Buffy episode I'd not watched in real time in years. I didn't watch it until about a year later. It was a good idea.
Buffy was 20 when her mother died, right? Most people that age haven't been through the death of a loved one yet and they don't know what to say to their friends.

The first time I went to someone's house after a funeral/memorial service was when a friend's mother died. We were all about 18 or 19 and none of us knew what to say. Most of us weren't close friends, but we hung around a fair bit. We all tried to say something but couldn't come up with more than "I'm sorry about your Mum". Luckily my mother was there and said and did what she could to comfort her, but especially if you haven't been through the death of a loved one, you have no idea what to say or do, so to me the whole episode is heartbreakingly realistic.

I've lost my mother, my father, all my uncles and a couple of close friends as an adult. Even though most of them were 'expected' and I spent a lot of time with them at the end, it never is an easy process and you are never 'prepared'. It may make it a bit easier to be there for others (my best friend and my good friend whose husband died said I helped), you still feel helpless and not sure that you are saying the right thing, so you do focus on the mundane.
Anya hit her peak character moment in the series for me in this episode. it was all downhill for her after that.

"it's too perfect?" man, ppl could bitch about chocolate covered ice cream sex.
I'd like to clarify what I said about Anya upthread. When I said she sounded idiotic in her speech about Joyce dying, I meant that mix of not knowing what to say just blurted out combined with Anya's being out-of-step for so long with human rituals and emotions. I cry every time I've seen that episode (about 4 times now, I think) and her stream of consciousness is touching, every single time.

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