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March 31 2007

Ten minutes with Amber Benson. A great interview over at GayWired.com. Her new film 'Race You To The Bottom' and the legacy of Tara get discussed.

An interview with Amber!! Now, I'm happy. Any chance you could do the same with Emma? Just thought I ask:)
Gay cinema is taking a turn. Itís not just about dealing with coming out or with AIDS anymore. We own our sexuality. We donít have to sit there and fight for itónot to the same extent. We can start addressing other things now.

Y'know, I either never new or totally forgot that Amber Benson herself is gay. It's actually sort of cool that in other interviews and so on it just never came up. I still feel like the last kid in class to understand fractions though ;).

Nice interview, she seems like a very thoughtful woman. I'm gonna have to search out some of her films one of these days.
Amber actually is not gay, Saje, as she notes later in the interview when she says, "I wish I were a lesbian, because then I would get lucky every night. It's so unfair," or something to that effect.

But, yeah, great interview. I wanna see that movie.
Err, but my quote was also from her where she says 'We own our sexuality. We don't have to fight for it...' (my emphasis) clearly in the context of gays and gay cinema. Confused now.

Still, it'd probably explain why I hadn't heard she was up to now. Maybe the interview has been edited to (accidentally) render it inconsistent and she didn't actually put it quite like that.

(teach me to "read" anything that early in the morning. Hey, it's early to me ;)
Not that it matters, but she is always seen in the company of Adam Busch. So she is either in a relationship with himi or he is a beard. :-) Though it is striking that nearly all her interviews are in the gay press- this reflects the love people have for her character Tara, and the fact that many of her films are gay themed. And in all honestly, without knowing a thing about her and despite the fact she's dating Warren Mears, I could argue that she is. But I won't. :-)

As to the interview, I thought this was one of the better ones I have seen with her. Not that it provides any new information, but it was nicely done. The top pic there is one that really shows off her quirky beauty- though I like the fact that they called her young, when she just turned 30. Of course, to me, that IS young!

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2007-03-31 12:20 ]
Amber's not gay, but I can totally see how the quote you...er, quoted makes it sound that way Saje. :-) Maybe she is refering to gay *characters* though- THEY (we, as she is/was playing one) can now "own [their] sexuality..." and "start addressing other things."

*giggle* Thank goodness for the 'preview' feature as I had typed "makes it sound that *gay* Saje!" Clearly I need more coffee! LOL!
Paging Dr Freud, Dr Freud to the front desk, stat ! ;-)

Yeah, elsewhere she mentions she's always wondered about being a straight woman and having a gay male friend attracted to her. That and Adam Busch's beard (? Google is my friend ;) make me think the quote should actually be read (and may have started out) as
... It's saying "We own our sexuality. We donít have to sit there and fight for itónot to the same extent. We can start addressing other things now."
as if she's taking on the conversational role of a third (gay) party when speaking.

Sort of a pity because her gayness has gone from not appearing in interviews because "it's just not worth bringing up" to not appearing in interviews because "it's not actually true" ;).
Poor Saje! Last year she and Adam Busch appeared at a con and did a Q & A together and it was very clear that they were a couple. Which kept freaking out those who hadn't heard and who would come up to the microphone to ask a question and just spend the first few moments saying "Tara and Warren. wow. I didn't know. Like.....wow" before they could actually ask their question.
Lioness, with all due respect, I'm thinking you're both wrong. Would you two please take a gander at the subject line.

Again, perhaps I'm reading more than I should. Pity me.
Amber isn't Tara and Adam isn't Warren. Most of us realize this. I'm a diehard Willow and Tara fan, and I'm troubled when I see the occasional Adam-bashing on the W&T boards.

Adam Busch is a wonderful person who just happens to be a guy. He's not at all like Warren Meers. Warren was a creep, and worthy of loathing. Adam, on the other hand, is a talented actor and musician. Amber has said Adam describes her as his "favorite person." What more proof do you need?

If Amber and Adam are romantically involved, I wish them the very best together.
Analogy; I was reading an editorial in a newspaper once where a black man jumped from the admitted fact that whiteness is sort of a defualt in aMerican culture, therefore white pople don't have to think about their race, to assumignt hat no white person ever does.

So ownign one's sexuality doesn't have to be confiend to GLBT eprsons, and i think that's what AMber was implyinmg. (sorry if thsi is vague I'm on library 'pueter and time is out.)
Oh true DaddyCatALSO, straight people think about 'owning' their sexuality but they don't say stuff like:

We donít have to sit there and fight for itónot to the same extent. We can start addressing other things now.

Since when was heterosexuality embattled enough that it needed to be fought for ? And why would straight people worry about 'coming out' or being pigeonholed into just dealing with AIDS issues ? That and the whole context of the paragraph (as presented) being about gay cinema makes me think there was probably some kind of verbal or non-verbal cue left out of her response. No big deal though, I just misunderstood/misread. If I had ten bob for every time that's happened ... ;)

And it seems like the lad Busch is a lucky fella. Bastard ;).
Since when was heterosexuality embattled enough that it needed to be fought for ?

Well I would say that female sexuality is still being fought for. American society remains extremely puritanical when it comes to sex in general, but even more so when it comes to women – sex is something that happens to women, not something that they should ever, ever enjoy.

So yeah. I suspect that we're missing some context on Amber's quote there, but it does still apply, regardless of orientation.
Fair point. In my own mind i'm absolutely certain that's not what she's talking about given the context of the paragraph but everyone's take is gonna vary (and obviously only Amber Benson really knows). Variety, it's, like, saffron or something ;).
Oh, no, I don't think that's what she's saying there either. I looked at the quote itself as just a case of Amber making the gay rights issue her own. Whether it directly applies to her or not, the fight is hers, and that's what I felt she was personalizing. But yes, saffron, as you say. :)
Saje Jet Wolf : Like i said, i was rushing (I posted that with under a minute left) so I wasn't comparing just saying what you both basically agreed with, that people who can occupy a default position don't always do so without thinking about a bigger picture.

I've noticed it before, Amber sometimes makes big and valid points in ways that *sound like* she's saying soemthing else. It's a disease of spoken langauge that real writers like her and failed writers like me are prone to.

And even as a straight male, I can testify to the impact Tara and W&T could have on the audience. The second half of S-5 was on at a time when *I* needed some assurance that human love wasn't an illusion and caring wasn't a lie. And, other than the very brief every-other-weekend visits with my daughter, that was about my only reinforcement of that at the time.

Of course there's the cliched complaint from the straight woman (which admtitedly is fueled by the number of straight guys who *like* to be walking cliches themselves, so I'm not unsympathetic, ladies) For me personally, I'd love to dress nice but I have no taste and less cash, and as for a real career I can't really afford the training for that either. (Hmm, I wonder how, and i know it's not my business, Mr. Busch will interpret her comments?)

Actually I love that Amber is involved with Adam.(How serious it is isn't my concern altho it end to think it is.) Partly because I like irony a lot (to an unhealthy degree soemtimes, albeit not ehre) and so I actually *like* the fact that I can't forget the, err, connection between the characters. The other reason is I ahve an eneormous celebrityt-ype crush on her, and while Adam doesn't look like me, we have very approximately the same general type of face so it's the closest I'd ever get
I'd never actually seen her directly link what she perceived as Joss' irresponsibility towards the lesbian community with her refusal to participate in CWDP. Now that I have, I sorta wish I hadn't--that unprofessionalism makes me think less of Amber. She now goes in the same bucket as Isaac Hayes, in my mind: holding a personal philosophy in higher regard than an existing committment to a creative team and audience. Not saying it's not her prerogative to do so, of course, but it would have been professionally irresponsible for Joss to bring Tara back from the dead after Amber's refusal to fully participate in Joss' arcs. Wonder what would have happened to David Boreanaz' career if he'd refused to trust Joss and play Angelus?
jclemens, don't believe everything you read - even something written as a direct quote can be taken WILDLY out of context. Having spoken to Amber *and* Joss about this subject...well, don't believe everything you read. ;-)
1.2 ems of line-spacing, that's all I ask for :)

I think it would have been just as bad for Joss to have said: "Hey, I'm going to kill Tara" and then come back and decide not to because she was a lesbian. Letting Tara live because of her sexuality would be the same as killing her because of her sexuality. By treating Tara like he would any other character, he showed that their relationship was just as "normal" as any other. If Tara weren't in the show, and Xander and Anya's relationship was in the same place as Willow's and Tara's then he probably would have killed one of them instead. Maybe it would have been Xander, and Anya would have replaced Willow in those last episodes (what with the ex-demonness and all).

Likewise, I think pain was the exact reason why Joss wanted to bring Tara back. To give a false sense of hope, and then yank it away. I know it would have affected me, and I would have loved it, even on repeat viewings.
The storyline that Joss took was exactly on the mark. In the seasons before six, we saw a different side of Willow that had to be answered. I think Joss did that very well.

Now, everyone screams bloody murder about Tara's death. Think a second of the affect this would have on Willow. Wouldn't this push her over the edge, cause her to break through the mask she was hiding behind all this time?

THAT was the point Joss wanted us to get. 'Course that's my opinion.
I don't see where she says anything about Joss being irresponsible toward the lesbian community. She says that she, operative word "she," felt that she did not want to put that community through any more pain, noting that this was her choice, nothing more. Frankly, I think that if Joss really had wanted her back, he'd have had her with contract before the end of S6- though that might have signalled to people that she was indeed going to be back. But she has been consistent in interview that it was a combination of her unwillingness to create more pain for a group she felt idolized her and viewed her role with great love (and she would know, since she was the ones getting the letters) and her growing involvement with the BBC Ghosts of Albion online cartoon. My take is that when you are told you are being killed off, you don't wait around to see if you will get more work on that show; you get on with getting on, and you go and find more work. That's why I remain surprised that Joss did not have a contract with her before the end of S6; we would now be having a moot discussion.

But truthfully, I honestly hope this thread does not turn into yet another debate about whether or not Joss should have killed Tara- I have very strong feelings about that and really don't want to rehash them all over again. We just did this a couple of weeks ago.
"I'd never actually seen her directly link what she perceived as Joss' irresponsibility towards the lesbian community with her refusal to participate in CWDP. Now that I have, I sorta wish I hadn't--that unprofessionalism makes me think less of Amber. She now goes in the same bucket as Isaac Hayes, in my mind: holding a personal philosophy in higher regard than an existing committment to a creative team and audience. Not saying it's not her prerogative to do so, of course, but it would have been professionally irresponsible for Joss to bring Tara back from the dead after Amber's refusal to fully participate in Joss' arcs. Wonder what would have happened to David Boreanaz' career if he'd refused to trust Joss and play Angelus?"

I don't think its ever as easy as what I just said jclemens nor do I think that Amber has any kind of commitment to the audience or creators of a show, that commitment ended the moment that she took the bullet in Seeing Red, anything beyond that is gravy, its a sense of entitlement that pervades this generation of fans, and its really unbecoming I must say. I could respond by wondering what Joss's career would have been like had SMG not become famous, I could speculate that David Boreanaz would have become a star like he is now much sooner had he not been on a show that only garnered 3-4 points in the ratings and languished with only a small (compared to other popular culture entertainment) cult following, but that would be wrong on my part. She placed a personal philosophy above existing commitments to the audience? Sounds like she placed her personal philosophy directly in tandem with a large portion of the audience to me, but that doesn't make her right. No what makes her right is that the audience isnt entitled to anything...

I used to think I was, I was so pissed when I saw seasons 6 and 7 of Buffy, I thought Joss had taken away my hero, and I blamed him for it, I knew I was entitled for him to NOT do these things because I bought the dvds and watched his shows. Of course, the argument goes further than that too, those who feel entitled to commentaries, conventions, or commitments to their favorite writer/God, I was in the same group as those people, except I was on the other side. And I was wrong. The words unprofessionalism and entitlement seem to go hand in hand, its professional to trust Joss implicitly here on Whedonesque and to question whether DB would even have a career without him but on TWOP or the Kittens website its professional when Amber Benson stands up for a principle she believes in that just so happens to mesh with their beliefs.

Above all else thats what gets me about this entire fandom, the entire fandom cant see the forest for the trees sometimes, they defend their guy, whomever that may be, and they call the other guys unprofessional, and then I get on here and call you guys spoiled fans who feel entitled to things. A while back, we talked about the paper I was going to write for that Buffy conference, ďThe Moral, Ethical, and Feminist Failings of Seasons Six and Seven: How Joss Whedonís Message Died on Top of a Tower", and part of that paper was on this very topic. How the line between entitlement and unprofessionalism is blurred simply by whom one likes better and who one deems as unworthy of respect because they don't fall in line, because they don't go to conventions or try to distance themselves from Buffy just a tad too fast for a fans liking. Half of that section, the main thrust of that section, was simply taken from the archives here at Whedonesque and the other half from SMGfan.com, but its broader than that too. Whedon's seasons 6 and 7 didnt fail, IMO, because of the writing or story, it failed because they were perhaps the most polarizing and radical views of the story possible, and it shows here on the internet. Suddenly people have to take sides, suddenly Amber is unprofessional for standing up and saying something true, and suddenly the entire fandom becomes a product of group-think just like the rest of the country. Now instead of blue states and red states, we have Whedonites and Sarah lovers, Spuffies and Bangels, and the list could go on and on. Amber isnt unprofessional because she thought that what had happen to the kittens was enough already, she isnt unprofessional because any fan is entitled to anything, she isnt unprofessional because she didn't fall in line with Joss, but most importantly, entitlement is not the same thing as professionalism. The forest for the trees and all that...

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-04-01 03:49 ]
Ahh, I'm getting a headache. Again, please keep your points concise and to the point. Thanks!
Gay cinema is taking a turn. Itís not just about dealing with coming out or with AIDS anymore. We own our sexuality. We donít have to sit there and fight for itónot to the same extent. We can start addressing other things now.


I read the "We" in the above statement as being "We" the entertainment industry or "We" as a nation, not a personal statement about Amber herself.
Jerryst3161, I'm not sure what post you were reading. I made no reference to the fandom, save the reference to the concern attributed to Amber (and, as OzLady rightly points out, that may not be what it seems) for the fandom. If it went down like the interview implies, then I'd call that unprofessional: it is not the actor's place to sit in judgement on a script, nor to be an advocate for his fans. Actors sell themselves--the appearance, emotion, delivery, whatever--as if they were brushes in the hands of a director who used their talents. They do it well in the hands of a capable and visionary director, and we weep when they die or cheer when they triumph.

Dana5140, the "irresponsibly" bit of my post is indeed my shorthand. Although I suppose one could feel both that Joss' decisions (killing her off and placing her in CWDP) would be justified, a balking at the latter because it might cause pain would more reasonably seem to imply that the pain caused by the former decision was sufficiently excessive that an echo of it would be over-the-top. Like I said: shorthand.

Caleb, Xander/Anya wouldn't've worked. Anya wasn't a central character and Xander didn't have power. Anya was always an interesting foil, a Cordelia-replacement with possibilities all her own, but people who love Anya more than Willow? Weirdos. ;-) Remember, Joss shot Andrew-dies and Anya-dies scenes for Chosen. Can't think of him taking a cavalier-yet-undecided attitude like that about any of the other character deaths. Frankly, the only reason I wish he'd spared Anya is so that we'd've been spared Andrew's appearances in AtS 5.

Likewise, Willow's power-up arc had been going pretty much since S1. Giving Xander enough power to destroy the world with his pain and rage would have seemed contrived.

PS: Not sure how Mutant Enemy handled recurring, non-credited cast contracts, so I really can't speak intelligently to your argument about them, Dana5140. It strikes me, though, that it wouldn't be the first time a Joss-desired character was unavailable--wasn't Tom Lenk cast as Andrew since Brad Kane (Tucker) wasn't able to commit to S6?

[ edited by jclemens on 2007-04-01 10:01 ]
Heh, problems?
Just a couple of short comments. jclemens, I did not get the shorthand but read your words literally. Take my comments in that vein.

Jerry- I understand your point in many ways (as you know) and agree with you.

And back to jclemens- I am no expert on contract issues as well. My only point is that if what happened in S7 was at all planned, then Joss as a person who plans far in advance should have tied her up when he knew he needed her. It just seems odd that he kills her off, knows that in Hollywood work comes only when you find it so that if you lose a job you have to get more work, and yet somehow does not tie her up? This can only mean that her use in S7 was not planned at the time she was killed, and the storyline for CWDP had not been fleshed out, and of course they had never planned for the outcry and controversy that did occur, which impacted issues as well. There are many times when I think that Amber Benson has made mistakes- for example it has been reported that she was earler on offered a full-time contract for Buffy but turned it down in order to keep her options open to do other work while she was working for Buffy- but this is not one of them. I think she did what her conscience dictated she do. And in truth, I respect that while wishing she had made a different decision.
Above all else thats what gets me about this entire fandom, the entire fandom cant see the forest for the trees sometimes, they defend their guy, whomever that may be, and they call the other guys unprofessional


Show me a fandom that isn't like that. We're no better or worse than anywhere else. There is no wonderful utopian fandom out there with one sole rational mindset. Our fandom is made of diverse thinking (and on occasion irrational) people who will never agree on anything. To expect anything more would be naive.

and then I get on here and call you guys spoiled fans who feel entitled to things.


Calling people "spoiled" doesn't go down too well here to say the least.

And btw people were taking sides back in Buffy season one. It's hardly a new thing.
And I remember some fans insisting the show had jumped the shark in the beginning of season 2!
If it went down like the interview implies, then I'd call that unprofessional: it is not the actor's place to sit in judgement on a script, nor to be an advocate for his fans. Actors sell themselves--the appearance, emotion, delivery, whatever--as if they were brushes in the hands of a director who used their talents.


No, actually, actors do sit in judgement on scripts in deciding whether or not to take a job, for whatever reasons they choose, including how they think it may affect their careers. Seth Green left the show because he didn't feel that the character of Oz was being developed enough. Since Amber Benson wasn't contracted for the episode CwDP, she was not under any obligation to appear in it. That she made her choice at least in part in regard to how she felt it would have affected a portion of the audience for whom the character was hugely important emotionally, was an act of generosity.

Nor are actors the living equivalents of paintbrushes in a director's hands. Actors are artists in their own right, and the theater arts are, of all the arts, a collaboration of many people's talents (including all those other artists whose names we see in the credits, set designer, lighting director, stunts, composers, musicians, special effects, costume designers etc.). The best actors have an understanding of what their characters are, perhaps a far better one than a single director in a television series, since they have played the role continuously whereas the director comes in intermittently, and may not be aware of particular nuances or subtleties that have developed over the course of a series. One reads regularly about actors on shows advocating for particular developments (I think it was here on Whedonesque that I read that Jonathon Frakes had argued that in the Next Trek episode where he falls in love with a member of an ambiseuxal race they should have been played by men rather than women, and I keep imagining how much better and sharper that episode would have been if his suggestion had been followed.)
There's also the factor of Amber Benson going to England to direct the animated "Ghosts of Albion" from the script she'd written with Christopher Golden. Most people who want to direct, as Ms. Benson clearly does (she's got two feature films under her belt to prove it), will choose directing over other work whenever the opportunity presents itself. It's a little unclear to me from the quoted text/discussion what the deciding factor was in her not doing Season Seven, but I agree with everyone who has expressed the opinion that if an actor is not under contract, she or he is within rights to turn down a role for any reason whatsoever, just as Joss Whedon is within rights to write/supervise whatever he felt would best serve the story he wanted to tell.

[ edited by Shapenew on 2007-04-01 19:40 ]
Well guys and gals, Joss has done his job. He still has us arguing about a decision he made so many years ago. People sit on both sides of the "Tara's death fence," yet we all care about the work itself. What more can an artist hope for?

My wish remains for the future, and it is this: that Amber Benson be allowed to write for Tara in the new comic book series. I think she did an excellent job with Chris Golden on the earlier W&T comics. It goes without saying I want Tara back, and I hope Willow will be the instrument to bring her back, whether or not it's the right thing to do. There's so much potential there. Lots of pain and angst can be mined given the will to write such a story.

Whether Joss agrees with me or not remains a big dark secret. You can never tell with Joss. Joss is Joss, and his imagination goes places where mine doesn't.

Alas, if Joss doesn't bring Tara back, there's always thekittenboard.com and btvschosen.com. :)

[ edited by quantumac on 2007-04-01 18:47 ]
Shapenew, we don't sign our posts here. Your username at the bottom of your post takes care of that for you.
It's interesting to me, this debate. I just spent a few days over on yourtaxdollarsatwork, which is deedicated to the romance between Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle on CSI, and the posters were really up in arms abouot an upcoming episode for later this season, which involves an iconic character called Lady Heather. She has been in 3 previous episodes over 4 years, and is an interesting and intellgient dominatrix who runs Lady Heather's Domain. And the people were angry that the writers were bring her back- they had all sorts of reasons, including that LH is not a feminist, that she is oracular in her knowledge, that she could ruin the GSR- and they said that if she did threaten the GSR (Grissom Sara Romance), they would never watch again. And of course, mostly they were flitering their own psychosocial issues through the lens of their identification with GSR. Anyway, it makes me think very much of the issues jerry is raising here. And Simon is of course right; there is no one fandom- but I think jerry is saying that we tend to protect OUR fandom at the expense of others. This board is dedicated to Joss; get too critical and run the risk of drawing warninigs. This happens on all boards, though- try to talk S6 on the kittenboard, even in the context of a discussion where certain points cannot be made without doing so- and run the same risk.

I just think the entire phenomenon is fascinating.
Dana5140, I know what you mean.

I once wrote a W&T story which brought back Tara and gave Kennedy a heroic death. I can't post it on a certain W&T centric board, because they have rules against mentioning Kennedy (she is character-non-gratis over there). They even when so far as this: when you type "kennedy" in a paragraph, their text parser translates it to "JFK." Kinda irritating, actually.

So yeah, the fanbase is fragmented, even within its sub-groups.

[ edited by quantumac on 2007-04-01 22:14 ]

[ edited by quantumac on 2007-04-02 00:02 ]
I know this has been mentioned in a while but I would remind posters that if people do have problems with other sites (and their rules), it would be best not to discuss them here.
"Calling people "spoiled" doesn't go down too well here to say the least."

Uh, I was kinda making the point that I was wrong in doing so Simon, obviously I did that badly, but hey we agree!! I guess my point Jclemens was that I disagree with you about what an actor does, but Barboo put it much better than I ever could so I refer you to his/her post.

Buffy is the law, people are their own worst enemy, the show is darker than it ever was before, both Warren and Caleb were misogynistic villians who were basically castrated and then killed--all of those things are beliefs widely held by those who look at seasons 6 and 7. To me, its not whether you agree with it or not, its the kind of emotion those things elicit and how the story interplay works within the context of social responsibility. We run a thin line, we always do, between social responsibility and artistic freedom, and while I fall completely on the artistic freedom side of the debate (Joss can say or do, create or destroy anything or character for any reason--end of story), I also think consumer freedom controls both of those ideals. By not watching the art in question, by not buying the dvds, the consumer can influence artistic freedom (though not necessarily), but the consumer can also influence the impact of the artists social responsibility. Hence, its like a checks and balance system, like our government itself, and like our government itself, it can be overcome by politics and extreme views. Those views can then filter down to those that are ruled, those that are influenced, and those that follow along, and in the end, we are back once again to walking the line between social responsibility and artistic freedom. Just like politicians walk the line between social responsibility and freedom itself, and sometimes those politicians fail. Politicians fail, IMO, by either not serving their community or becoming corrupt, and I believe the same goes for artists too. And here is the thing, when that happens, the only thing we are left to do is to either tag along or vote them out (metaphorically for artists). You are most correct Simon, people were divided in season 1, but I wonder sometimes if it was as big a deal then, as it is today?

ETA: Think of it this way, back then did being a shipper have the same negative connotation it does today? How about a Whedonite or a lover of SMG? Its funny, when I debate someone today and they dont know me, they are as suspicious of me as I am of then, and its like we almost have to reassure each other that we arent of the preconcieved notions. Its the Jew and the Arab, naturally suspicious of each, always, because of what the worst of them do, and yet, the better ideal, the hope of freedom and peace isnt division, it's the Jew and Arab together.

Honestly, I dont want politics in Buffy, I want to enjoy it for the art, and yet, thats the debate today. I can't enjoy the art when I am inundated with the division and political course of the art itself because then its not about the art anymore. Its about what the art means now, and thats not why I loved BTVS. Its because, God, what a last 10 minutes of The Gift, what an emotional and powerful story that gains its ferocity because of the characters and the love I have for them. But in that debate, there is no room for politics and division, only emotion and characters...

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-04-01 23:11 ]
Hi, Simon- I can't tell if you were commenting on my post, the one that followed it, or both. And let me say just two things- I both agree with you, but also, your comment makes my point. My point, which I wanted to make without really being too specific about other boards but which required me to cite one we know about, is that each board has rules, which if you transgress you run into trouble. These rules come from that specific board's approach to its fandom. Now, I am not talking about rules that say you cannot swear, for example- those are just commonsense rules to ensure civility. I am talking about rules that limit the ways in which you can approach discussions and counterexpressions about the fandom you are a group of. Listen, this is whedonesque, we often talk about Joss Whedon as though he is God, but he isn't; he's human and he can make mistakes. He is a talented artist lucky and skilled enough to bring his vision to the screen (whether TV, movie or comic) and to have a large and appreciative fanbase.
You are most correct Simon, people were divided in season 1, but I wonder sometimes if it was as big a deal then, as it is today?

I suspect not since, given time, people's views usually tend to harden (once you've settled on an interpretation it's very tempting to see confirmation for it everywhere in a hammer/nail stylee and you also tend to become more married to that interpretation and, therefore, more defensive when it's threatened - that's the big 'you' BTW, not the you 'you' jerry ;).

I tend to think, incidentally, that Caleb was 'castrated' (technically not but we'll let it go) purely so Buffy could say 'He had to split' and then laugh at the joke (it's an Arnie line from 'Running Man'), never really read much more into it (Faith delivers another male action hero's line in 'Chosen' where she tells Wood to "Ease off, we're clear". Hicks says almost the same thing to Ripley in 'Aliens' and there are other scenes in S7 where we see homages to films but with women in the male role - Terminator, The Matrix etc.).

Re: consumer mediated artistic freedom, a) i'm not sure why that's better than any other kind of stifling of artistic freedom (though I guess the artist still has a choice, strictly speaking) and b) I think it only really works in art with a high financial barrier to entry (TV, film etc.) which may explain why we tend to get so much lowest common denominator dreck in those media.

Apart from that I agree with the gist though. My main problem with 'shippers is that sometimes (not always obviously) they're kind of the fundamentalists of the Buffy fandom and fundamentalists of whatever stripe are, almost by definition, not really open to argument. Everything is coloured by their initial position. People who read it politically ? Not a problem to me, what you see, you see and if you can provide some textual justification for it, I reckon it makes for a great discussion.
I can only agree with Jerry and wish that our fandom wasn't so divided. It would be a breath of fresh air to go back to the beginning. Arguements may have happened as early as season 1 but it's different now. People actually left because of it and that's unfortunate.

Jerry...what do you call a Whedonite who is also a SMG lover and Bangel? Just curious.
A whedogellangel?

I see that shipping is perhaps the worst offender in dividing fandom, but not the only one. My comment above about GSR was very much in the shipping vein- the GSR's feel threatened by the relation Grissom had with Lady Heather in the past. And they have a hard time separating themselves from the fictional relation they invested in. But we see that even here. Using Tara, and I know I said I would not do this, my feeling is that those people who are really invested in Tara, and only by extension Tallow, view S6 and S7 vastly different from those not so invested. And it is that which leads us to such immovable object vs. irresistable force arguments about whether or not S6 storytelling was a good decision. Now, I am not saying this is true for everyone, but in general I think this is true. There are all sorts of psychological reaons to invest in Tara, some of which are extremely heartfelt by those so invested. I don't think we see this phenomenon with any other relation in Buffy because the other character relations are read very different from Tara and Willow.
jerryst3161, thanks for the compliment. For the record, I'm a her.

Hicks says almost the same thing to Ripley in 'Aliens' and there are other scenes in S7 where we see homages to films but with women in the male role - Terminator, The Matrix etc.).

Damn, I've missed so many allusions. Saje, you would definitely be a good person to watch things with. And I saw Aliens and the Terminator. I just rewatched "This Year's Girl" with Doug Petrie's commentary, and he kept pointing out all these scenes that were homages to films like the Shawshank Redemption that I hadn't seen.
Shawshank ? Cool, missed that completely. I'm not too bad at the verbal stuff but unless it's fairly overt (as with 'The Matrix' in 'End of Days' where Caleb = agent and Buffy = Neo) I tend to miss visual homages (it helps if there's a musical nod at the same time as the visual one). Terrible memory for faces too which may well be related ;).

(and i've got to get the Buffy DVDs, for the commentaries if nothing else. Soon as i've made my way through the Angel ones in the complete UK boxed set. That's the one you guys don't have yet. The complete one, in all its boxy glory. Boxity, box box. Not that i'm trying to rub it in or anything ;)
And let me say just two things- I both agree with you, but also, your comment makes my point. My point, which I wanted to make without really being too specific about other boards but which required me to cite one we know about, is that each board has rules, which if you transgress you run into trouble.


Eh. No. It was more of a courtesy thing. They do their thing, we do ours and that's that really.

And the whole fandom thing? The trick is not to take it that seriously. When I'm not wearing my Whedonesque admin hat, I just roll my eyes and move on. Fandom can be damn silly sometimes but it is close to my heart.
Mine, too. But for some, it seems it has become their heart. My experience on ytdaw showed just how closely some people identify with fictional characters and to what extent they are willing to go to protect that. I have strong feelings about Willow and Tara, but I keep mindful it's fictional (though with some real-world ramifications); thus, I can't personalize it and say Joss is a bad man. I've always couched my arguments in terms of I think it was a bad writing decision- but in the Tallow shipper world I am in the minority. It's that emotional investment people have, and for some reason I think they feel threatened in some way when their favorite ship alters or undergoes its own threat. I think someone on slayage did a good paper on fandom, and if I can find it I'll link it.
jclemans ; Amber didn't walk out on a commitment - ehr contractual involvement with ME was done, What she did was choose not to take a job which was offerred to her. There's very little room to criticize that, especially in the professionalism ctageory. (nancy McKEon's r3efusla to do the "Facts of Life" reunion movie, well, if yyou're enough oof a fan of that show to put a spin on it it can be viewed negatively or positively, but I don't think it can be called unprofessional. Same with Amber.)
Ok, jerryst3161, now I am totally confused. By the earlier thread that you referred to, I had figured that the differences that I was having with the perspective on the show with you and with some others was based on my not seeing it through a political or ideological filter. That made sense. Then I read this:

"Honestly, I dont want politics in Buffy, I want to enjoy it for the art, and yet, thats the debate today. I can't enjoy the art when I am inundated with the division and political course of the art itself because then its not about the art anymore. Its about what the art means now, and thats not why I loved BTVS."

and I agree. I find the political elements interesting to notice and try to understand but only as an element of the art, not as the purpose of the art.

When you said the following, it rang very true.

"Its funny, when I debate someone today and they dont know me, they are as suspicious of me as I am of then, and its like we almost have to reassure each other that we arent of the preconcieved notions."

But it seems inevitable when you also state preconceived notions as fact that you know others strongly disagree with. The presupposition that S6 and S7 failed for instance.

"Whedon's seasons 6 and 7 didnt fail, IMO, because of the writing or story, it failed because they were perhaps the most polarizing and radical views of the story possible, and it shows here on the internet."

On that earlier thread, which I cannot find now, when I tried to find out if you were purposely trying to polarize your audience by putting that assumption in your title, you indicated that you were. That answered my question and ended my inquiries.

IMO it is difficult to bemoan the suspicion that fans have about each other's intent when one is also stating that they purposely try to polarize fans. So I'm confused.
From my persepctive, polarizing fans in a debate is a tactic which can be used to tease out factors that are at the heart of that debate. It may not indicate evil intent, and I am not answering for Jerry. But as an academic, we often do this to each other in order for use to get at the issues at the bottom of topics where there are two or more distinct lines of thought. Nothing wrong with that. I might, for example, offer my thought that in my reading of the research in my field, there is no such thing as a functional short leg- which others measure daily as part of how they work up and manage patients. Now, my comment is polarizing certainly, but it also raises an important issue in that those who use that technique now have to defend it- which is what we often see here in our debates on whedonesque. I think jerry understands that his opinions about S6-7 are his and not anyone else's, but by making that argument, it helps to draw out why others don't agree.
But doesn't it strike you as odd to deliberately go for polarization in how you put forth your case while simultaneously bemoaning the polarization among fandom?
Sure! :-) Whoever said we had to be consistent? :-) And of course, I cannot speak for Jerry. But his paper might be polarzing in topic given the audience he is presenting it to, without him intending that it be that way. He is just trying otm ake a point, and I am not sure he is contextualizing it in terms of polarization. In fact, the only time he uses the word is when he says "Whedon's seasons 6 and 7 didnt fail, IMO, because of the writing or story, it failed because they were perhaps the most polarizing and radical views of the story possible, and it shows here on the internet." And here, by polarzing, he obviously means that how these two seasons have been read have led to the longest and deepest schism in the buffyverse, a combination of Tara's death, Spike's AR and the general tone of the whole of S6, which ties into those two events. It's why we talk about it now- there are no similar arguments for any other season in Buffy, and certainly not as divisive.
"But it seems inevitable when you also state preconceived notions as fact that you know others strongly disagree with. The presupposition that S6 and S7 failed for instance."

All I will say is this: isn't it interesting that even the title of my paper made people initially suspicious of my motives? Doesn't seem that I had to try very hard to polarize the fandom...

My paper was not only an attempt on my part to argue why the final two seasons failed, but it's also meant as a mirror on the fandom in general. I play the part of the "other" side, I show just how bad Whedonesque or smgfan.com is, I present quotes by everyone from Willowy to Rogue Slayer, I present defenses by Leigh or The Hostess over at smgfan.com, I have quotes from the kittens, and everyone in between. And in the end, this is part of the last paragraph:

Mirrors reflect who we are, we see that which we desire or believe to be correct, and yet, we are also inundated with images of the flaws that we ourselves can make better. Seasons 6 and 7 of Buffy are polarizing, there is no doubt, and the world today is a place where politicians employ the politics of fear to divide Americans. As Ive shown, it seems Joss is certainly capable of doing the same, whether seasons 6 and 7 attempted to or not ... but the thing about mirrors, the thing that is most vital in the discussion, is the notion that they reveal the flaws we never thought we would perceive, and in that sense, they are not panacea's but they can be important aspects of healing. People need to be shocked out of apathy, House and Batman tell us that, and in a paper on popular culture, it seems our guides should be that which is good about entertainment and humanity. When the two parts touch, where what is and what should be are the same, it is the mirror which allows us to bring those concepts together, and Edward J. Stevens never said it better.

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-04-02 21:11 ]
Jerry- the polarization was already there. Lines were drawn long ago as to where people fall on this issue, and all your title does is give yet another forum to debate the issue while reflecting that schism. Actually, I'd rather the full paper get done, for then we could see the logic and ammunition you have to offer. The result is unquestionable- this schism does exist and the Buffy fandom has staked out positions at odds with one another. But how we got there, ah! This would be of interest to me.
I show just how bad Whedonesque or smgfan.com is
And you're still surprised that people view your motives with suspicion?
"ďThe Moral, Ethical, and Feminist Failings of Seasons Six and Seven: How Joss Whedonís Message Died on Top of a Tower"" Doesn't seem that I had to try very hard to polarize the fandom...


Idle speculation leads one to wonder what it might've been called had you been trying to polarize folks ;) "Why S6/S7 Suck and How You Suck Personally for Liking Them, Especially If You Also Post At Whedonesque.com/SMGFAN.com" has a sort of zing to it, no?

(+5 humor, -3 flamebait)

In all seriousness, though, you don't see how that title could polarize people? If, as you say, you weren't trying to polarize people, it also doesn't seem like you were overtly trying to AVOID polarizing people is all I'm saying :)
zeitgeist, , you must be reading my mail, as they say...

:>

Keep on idly speculatin'.
cheers, QG :) - sorry to be in lay low mode lately, soooo much going on at home right now and work both. Miss you guys!
Over at the Bastardly.com (I know, I know, I'm a gossip whore), they posted some pictures of Amber today from the Race You to the Bottom premiere with the caption that she looked "sickly". What's up with that? IMHO Amber always seemed to have among the healthiest physiques of the actresses on the show and has always had a lovely, albeit pale, complexion.

[rant] Hollywood contines to foster the twisted body ideals that few people can realistically attain...[/rant]
I've not seen these photos but in the past Amber has looked rather washed out in photos because she often doesn't bother with makeup.
There are far better photos from the same event, though I really don't think that the dress does Amber any favors, colorful though it is. She is very striking looking and should wear clothing more sedate to have people focus on her face, and what the hell am I doing making these comments anyway? Jesus, what have I become! :-)

But bastardly.com? Not a very nice place.

Amber is stunning looking. Just not typical, is all.
"In all seriousness, though, you don't see how that title could polarize people? If, as you say, you weren't trying to polarize people, it also doesn't seem like you were overtly trying to AVOID polarizing people is all I'm saying :)"

My argument relies on two important factors: one that I present a coherent and logical defense of what I claim in my title, and two, that I show that the "other" side isnt quite as bad as one should believe. I hope that people are polarized by my paper, at least at the beginning anyway, but at the end, I hope they see the inherent flaw of polarization itself. What I hope to accomplish is simple and Ill show you through politics: conservatives inherently dont trust liberals, they hear liberal and immediately think of the negatives of the position, such that being liberal is enough to disprove the argument. Politics is division. How do you fight that? You show that the other side has valid and sound arguments too, that the other side isnt out to get you, you show what the worst of the other is (Whedonesque sucks, SMGfan.com sucks, Joss Whedon sucks, SMG sucks), and then you show how its not indicative of everyone. But more than anything, you show that common ground and difference of opinion do in fact exist, and that as it turns out, that isnt so bad. That maybe Whedonesque doesnt quite suck so much, that maybe SMG isnt so bad for not doing commentary afterall, and more importantly that the division of the fandom is more than it seriously should be. I am the "other" side, the mirror if you will, the side which has good points (maybe the message wasnt so good in seasons 6 and 7), and though you may disagree, though you may have become polarized with what I said, there is a WAY TO COME BACK TOGETHER. If for no other reason than the reflection you see while you read and digest what I say, makes you uncomfortable with what it makes you, its the absurdity of division placed right there in a an academic paper, its the fandom and the absurdity of division. Look at how wrong it is guys...maybe then we can change for the better.

Because honestly, just telling people of the problem isnt enough, you have to give an answer to the problem, and THATS my point.

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-04-03 05:54 ]
Not entirely convinced that's the best way to change minds jerryst3161, unfortunately I think a lot of folk will read the title and go no further BUT I absolutely applaud the aim.

One of the worst aspects of modern life to me is the general feeling that people who disagree with you are in some way deficient, that rational, intelligent people cannot possibly have a difference of opinion or look at the same evidence and come to another conclusion. It's damaging because it leads to 'demonising' of the other side and, as you say, writing off their opinions just because of whatever particular arbitrary category either they self-identify as or someone else puts them in.

A way of thinking that's not open to being wrong or to new evidence isn't an opinion, it's dogma.

Except Batman definitely beats Buffy in a fight. That's just objectively true. ;-).
I hope that people are polarized by my paper, at least at the beginning anyway, but at the end, I hope they see the inherent flaw of polarization itself.


A lofty goal, indeed.
That old joke that there are two types of people in the world, those that divide things into two groups and those who donít, always rang true to me. Generally I am one of those who donít, but since I have become a member of this fandom, albeit a bad and sometimes reluctant member, I have found myself dividing people into two categories, those looking for a fight, and those who arenít. The latter always seems like the smaller group.

If I understand jerryst3161ís strategy, it is that by purposely having a polarizing title, he will get the audience he wants, the most polarized fans, to read/listen to his essay. During the course of the essay he will then try to repair that rift and bring the groups together. It is an interesting idea and I would be interested to read the essay to see if it seems likely to achieve that end.

jerryst3161, my next question is, if that is your purpose for the essay, what is your purpose in throwing out the same supposition as fact here on Whedonesque where your essay is not available?

Personally I donít see art as something to debate. Discuss passionately? Yes. Debate? No. Art is not science. There is no right answer that will take us to the next level of understanding and discovery. In art all answers have the possibility of bringing individuals to another level of understanding and discovery. Art is not politics. We do not have to make a decision and vote yes or no on issues that will affect the future of the world. All we need to with art is to let it expand our minds, deepen our understanding and/or see things in a way we may not have before.

I would love to actually discuss BtVS, but most forums I have seen are so intent on a particular point of view and have so much rage for any other point of view that discussion seems impossible. That is why I have tried not to give my friend who is watching BtVS for the first time, my opinion on just about anything. I want her to form her own opinions without my influence. Then we can discuss them with the possibility of having the widest range of opinion.

Since for many people S6 and S7 made people think about human relationships, the individualís need for power, the nature of grief, how society has presented homosexual relationships, the function of a conscience, the concept of redemption as it applies to different individuals, whether empowerment and strength is something that automatically carries responsibility and whether it is fair to give it to people without their consent etc. etc. etc. IMO S6 and S7 succeeded as art. They were flawed but did not fail. To carry on from the assumption that they did fail, as though it was unchallenged fact, simply denies my voice and those of others who see value and even greatness in those seasons. That makes me annoyed and suspicious that the purpose of the statement is to start a fight rather than discuss the question. I feel the same way when people I agree with do the same thing. Hence polarization. Not because of the opinions being put forward, but because the ideas are put forward in such a way as to deny any other opinion and therefore create anger.
That would be your read, newcj, that they are being put forward to create anger. And, if I can respectfully say, it seems to me that you might be privileging your own voice by denying Jerry the right to choose his title, and therefore his tactics and his argument. But this kind of discussion can go nowhere, when each side accuses the other of denying it its voice.

I think S6 failed. Miserably. I don't like the season, and don't watch it, or at least most of it. I'll be willing to discuss why I don't like it to whomever, when the forum and topic are appropriate. I don't expect anyone to tell me that my arguments have changed their mind, that all of a sudden they now think that S6 is bad; I do expect people to listen to my comments and see if they make sense. But no one has to agree with them. And I do not see the difference between "debate" and "discuss passionately," and would be grateful if you let me know what you mean. Debate, in my mind, just means to open a dialogue about something, where more than one person makes comment.

I believe that on whedonesque, had Jerry's title been "S6 and 7: How two years of writing created perfection of vision and achieved great success" we would not be having this debate or passionate discussion- even though to me I would not agree. I'd certainly not single his title out as denying me my voice- I'm still free to argue with him about it. It is because he has chosen a title contentious to members that some disagree. And he has chosen it based on what I believe is the most divisive topic in the verse.

So what would you have jerry do? He feels strongly about this season, and you disagree, and you state that he is denying you your voice. How do we preserve his? By having him say it is his opinion that S6 and S7 fail? Does that change anything? I am not really following this. I am honestly asking, not trying to be contentious.

In part, here is why. I was co-author on a paper in my profession which was written to create debate. The paper was entitled "Chiropractic as spine care: a model for the profession." And we knew in advance that this would anger some people, because there are other approaches to chiropractic, including the alternative of primary care as opposed to focusing on the spine. Anger was not the point; this was unavoidable because people are invested in their perception of the profession. But the issue has import, and the issue needs to be discussed. Now perhaps fandom is not the same, since we were dealing with a national health care issue, but in microcosm it is similar. The title piques interest, people read, they respond, and this is all quite appropriate. I just don't see how your opinion is denied because he chose a title that you don't like. In my mind, denying someone their opinion is telling them to shut up and not express it, but that is not the case here.
I don't think it's anything at all to do with denying Jerry his voice. To me it's more that if he really wants people of all opinions to listen to his piece maybe he shouldn't couch it in such a way as to tell the people who disagree that they're wrong from the outset. Now maybe if this was a matter of presenting two highly slanted addresses then I'd understand it more. As it is, the title makes me less interested in reading the piece. So, Jerry is more than welcome to title his work anyway he wishes, but maybe he should consider how his title will influence how his audience will receive his work. If he wants to bring fandom together, I'd suggest he's not picked the best title he could.
If you feel passionately about S6 one way or the other, I think you read. Passion is what draws us TO read the paper, despite its title. If you are unwilling to read a paper solely based on its title, what does that say about you? Now, I am not relegating this to the "Kill all the (insert favorite group)" kinds of papers, but in an area such as media studies, there isn't any harm in any of these papers. I have an interest in S6 because I think it was all wrong. If he wrote a paper why he thought it was all right, I'd read it just to try and discuss (passionately) the issue. I do this all the time, in media, in science, and in politics- I write letters to everyone, I use email to contact authors, etc. I'm involved. Isn't that what we want?
Well speaking as an academic, I try not to prejudice people's opinions before they approach a subject. For me, a neutral approach works. Something simple like "Buffy season 6 and 7 - the effect on the fandom". I may disagree with what the paper says but at least I would go in with an open mind rather than have my defences raised.
Actually, if you read my post again, Dana5140 I am not talking about jerryst3161 paper title in the paragraph where I talk about denying someone else's voice. Nor am I suggesting that jerryst3161 or anyone else not state their opinions. Quite the opposite, I would like to hear his or anyone else's ideas in a non-inflamitory context. My objection is in the use of a statement posted by him up-thread that I had quoted in an earlier post,

"Whedon's seasons 6 and 7 didnt fail, IMO, because of the writing or story, it failed because they were perhaps the most polarizing and radical views of the story possible, and it shows here on the internet."

where the starting place of any discussion based on that statement includes an accepteance that s6 & s7 failed and more specifically I am talking about it within the framework of jerryst3161's statements that he is ultimately trying to bring people together.

As far as the difference between debate and discussion. Simplistically, debate is usually two sides each putting forward their stated positions and supporting and defending them while trying to show why the other side is wrong. Discussion is people putting forward ideas and listening to others ideas, weighing what they are hearing with the possibility of incorporating them into their own understanding of the subject. Unlike a debate, one does not *win* a discussion. It is an exchange of ideas, not a contest or battle.

Is couching things in such a way to make it seem as though you have already won your point a time tested debating technique? Of course it is. To my mind, however, trying to understand and get the most out of art is not a place to be looking to score points.

"If you are unwilling to read a paper solely based on its title, what does that say about you? "

In the case of any paper that just seemed to be repeating dogma, or was created soley to annoy people, (which I am not saying jerryst3161's was) I would say it says that I do not want to be bothered reading papers that just repeat what has been agreed upon by a certain faction or written in order to anger another faction. I read a bunch of those already when I first became interested in BtVS, and they got old fast. That goes for "S6 and 7: How two years of writing created perfection of vision and achieved great success" as well as "Why S6/S7 Suck and How You Suck Personally for Liking Them, Especially If You Also Post At Whedonesque.com/SMGFAN.com" Either one would turn me off. Do I think someone should have the right to write either of those essays? Absolutely...in fact I would assume someone probably already has...two separate someones to be more accurate, and I would defend their right to do so. There is a difference, however, between having the right to do something and it being more constructive to do something else or do it in another way.

[ edited by newcj on 2007-04-03 21:41 ]
What does that say about me? That I donít feel like fighting over BtVS with fans whose view of the show is so different to my own I suppose. I know some people love debating, and will take every opportunity to debate and prove the correctness of their view and find the whole process very enjoyable. Personally Iím more interested in sharing perspectives rather than trying to convert the rest of fandom and similarly I prefer not to face people intent on persuading me to their view. So Iím interested in hearing why someone dislikes season 6 and 7 and Iím sure Iíd agree with some of their criticisms. However, I prefer to do that in a context where my view is regarded as valid rather than as Ďwrongí. This also reflects the years that have already been devoted to debating the show, Iím just sick of the vitriol I guess. So a discussion of why Jerry, or anyone, feels seasons 6 and 7 failed interests me, whereas a discussion of why season 6 and 7 failed doesnít if you get my distinction.
Saje: "One of the worst aspects of modern life to me is the general feeling that people who disagree with you are in some way deficient, that rational, intelligent people cannot possibly have a difference of opinion or look at the same evidence and come to another conclusion."

I agree with you, Saje, that this is one of the worst - in my book, most disheartening - aspects of humanity, but I tend to think that this little trait isn't so much a modern development, but runs throughout our recorded history - leading to wars, etc.

Another little trait that can become evident, I think, when people are arguing/debating is the need to win - the need to dominate - which can come to the fore when in discussion, and put the kibosh on communication.

I can argue rings around my partner, but this ability can be irrelevant to actual communication - between acquaintances and intimates alike.

I once "out-argued" my partner on some aspect of our relationship on which we disagreed. Verbally defeated, he said, "Well, you've won. Now what have you won?"

This can be true in many types of communications, and if one's need to be "right" and to dominate wins out over one's desire to communicate, than one hasn't truly persuaded or convinced the other of anything, in reality - they've just won.

I'm gonna go out on a limb, and say I'm pretty sure this happens constantly in communications and discussions of all stripes, and prevents genuine communication and influence.

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2007-04-03 21:20 ]
Simon- I am both anacademic and a journal editor with 18 years experience, and one of the things we teach our budding scientists is to give papers titles that reflect what they are about. So from that perspective I had no problem with the title as it was presented by Jerry. It tells you what it is about. The title you offer as an example, for example, tells me little. Effect? What effect? Fandom? Which fandom? I'd be rewriting a title like that. And I'm not being pedantic here; I used to do this all the time. Spinal manipulation for low back pain- what kind of low back pain? What kind of manipulation? What outcomes? What was found- did it work or not? All from a little title. So I think that titles that reflect the contents are good.

newcj- I do agree with you that all too often the kinds of discussions/debates that occur in fandom are built around winning, beating down a dissident or different point of view. And I, personally, have no interest in that. All these discussions illuminate- yes, we may "argue" but at least here we accept that there are other points of view, that they are valid, that conversion is not the goal or even likely. We illuminate.

hc- where did we get in all of this to saying that your perspective, generically, is wrong? By which I mean, jerry gave a title, and from that we have somehow gotten well beyond the paper to feeling that we are wrong for disagreeing. I'm like you with regard to discussing things.

QG- Yes, I agree. This happens all the time. And writing words is harder than talking them.

I am off to see Eric Clapton in a few moments, and Robert Cray, as I hit the big 54 in a couple of days. Back tomorrow!
Because Jerry starts with the statement that season 6 and 7 are failures, that is his contention. I don't think the seasons were failures. So the title tells me that the article is going to discuss how the seasons were failures and to me seems to exclude the possibility that they weren't.

I'm not sure your examples from your own work really mirror the situation of discussing a television show or anything as subjective as art. In medicine or science in general you have hypotheses and you can test them - however deeply one believes something to be true we can accept we were wrong when new data emerges that proves that. Plus everything is already peer reviewed so you're at least assured that there has been serious consideration as to whether the title is justified by the data included in it. In art you have interpretation. There is no new experiment that will reveal something previously unknown that will suddenly illuminate why everything post season 5 is rubbish now a new statistical test that can demonstrate why season 6 is the pinnacle of the shows whole run. Instead we are dealing with something highly subjective and as such I prefer to discuss it in a manner that reflects that rather than starting with an assumption up front that isn't an accepted 'fact'.
"Because Jerry starts with the statement that season 6 and 7 are failures, that is his contention. I don't think the seasons were failures. So the title tells me that the article is going to discuss how the seasons were failures and to me seems to exclude the possibility that they weren't."

I did the same thing for another paper I wrote for the slayage conference, it was entitled "Buffy Summers is an Aristotelian Tragic Hero." It wasn't "Buffy Summers might or might not be an ATH, I don't really know, I am allowing for the possibility that she might not be, so please read my paper". I have an argument which concludes with the notion that seasons 6 and 7 failed, I am not going to argue that it might not be if I have an argument to back that up, because I am not only going to undercut my thesis but also create serious flaws in my own paper with said admission.

That and I don't believe its subjective, I don't believe everything is subjective because this kind of philosophy seems prima facie inconsistent. I am an academic too, and most of the time I don't like to provoke, but in this case, that provocation is part of my paper. We shouldn't be justified in ignoring academia or arguments because of those suspicions of another person, we shouldn't allow ourselves to cut ourselves off other forms of literature because we suspect or disagree out of hand, but more than anything else, we shouldn't judge the liberal on the face of being a liberal and it's the same thought for my paper. Thats the kind of thinking that I am trying to put to bed here, the kind of thinking that I can barely stand anymore in the fandom itself, this fandom made up of good and passionate people who simply cannot get past division itself, and of course, it's not easy. But sometimes destruction is the best form of construction, and thats what I hope this paper is truly about.

In the end, the title is inflammatory because you disagree with it, I said the same title on TWOP and they loved it, I said the same thing of SMGfan.com and most loved it, and its because my title is polarizing that this occurred. In that sense, it's exactly like Empty Places in many ways, it's such an extreme that some people scream "hell yeah" when Buffy is kicked out and others can't wait for Spike to come back and defend Buffy against these ingrates, but to me, its never that simple. There is a middle ground, there is a place of common interest, both in Empty Places and in my paper. We just have to find it, and guys, this is the only way I got to do it. I see a problem, I have a solution, and it's my responsibility to try. The rest be damned...

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-04-04 06:11 ]
That and I don't believe its subjective, I don't believe everything is subjective because this kind of philosophy seems prima facie inconsistent.

Ah, there we part company jerryst3161. So you are actually saying Season 6 is a failure (i.e. not just in your opinion) and not only that but anyone who disagrees is objectively, provably wrong ? That's left 'ambitious' way behind and moved into "rewriting reality" territory ;).

I do agree that not everything is subjective (the very idea of a 'relativistic' framework making absolute statements is kinda funny ;) since even in fiction some things are empirically 'true' (Buffy is female etc.). I can claim "Buffy was a space warrior sent to protect us from other aliens which look like vampires" but nothing in the text backs that up, therefore, though i'm obviously entitled to that opinion it is, basically, rubbish.

But to claim a season is an objective failure presumes too much IMO. You are saying a) there is an objective way to judge what makes a season a failure and b) I have weighed all the evidence and discovered S6 is wanting. I don't believe (a) and i'd take a lot of convincing to believe (b).

(incidentally, I like S6 and 7 - though they're not my favourites - but I don't feel passionately enough about them to defend them, don't think I ever have, beyond routine statements about one side or the other making unsubstantiated claims. I still think the title is inflammatory though simply because it's designed to get people to take one or another position without thinking and before even reading the paper i.e. to inflame passions)

FWIW, BTW, I was interested before but my interest has sky rocketed since you claimed to have discovered an objective metric for judging fiction, so in that sense, mission accomplished ;).
we shouldn't allow ourselves to cut ourselves off other forms of literature because we suspect or disagree out of hand

Sorry but in what world is your paper going to be 'literature'? As for "Buffy Summers is an Aristotelian Tragic Hero" I think that is fine if only because there has never been raging controversy as to whether Buffy is or is not an Aristotelian Tragic Hero to begin with.

There is a middle ground, there is a place of common interest, both in Empty Places and in my paper. We just have to find it, and guys, this is the only way I got to do it.

And if you really believe that I repeat I think your title is going to stand in the way of achieving that.

As for the whole subjective vs. objective debate, of course not everything is subjective but whether a season of a TV show is a worked or failed is subjective.
...and my whole point and question had nothing to do with that paper, it had to do with what was stated on this board and the difference between stated purpose and action. I am not sure why that keeps being ignored.

Earlier in the thread I made my objections to trying to apply what might be considered normal in science or politics to art. I won't bore people by repeating them. Suffice to say that when one assumes that there is a totally right interpretation of art that excludes all others, one will always be denying oneself the most amazing aspects of it. Art reveals things as one delves deeper into it and as one changes. Art that one experiences when young, is perceived totally differently when one is older. Art changes with familiarity. Art changes the one who experiences it who then changes the experience of the art through perception.
hc- No it's not- there are all sorts of metrics that can tell you whether or not it was successful- ratings, advertising sales, fan reactions, internet chats, focus groups, etc. At a personal level, perhaps, but not always.

What it sometimes seems people are really saying is that they like what they like and they take offense when someone suggests that what they like is flawed. I honestly don't think we'd be arguing if Jerry had chosen a different title. One that those arguing seem to want tempered in some way, to reflect the fact that he is offering his opinion and not some hard, cold fact. Well, here is a fact- I don't like S6 or 7. And I could write a paper about it and tell you categorically why I think it failed. Using my own metrics, of course. I see nothing wrong with polemics. It seems that we are offering up rationalism/scientism here- that we need objective measures before we can offer our comments. Jerry can tell you why he did not like S6- you can choose to read or not, agree or not, write him or not, etc. But how in God's name can jerry decide for anyone except himself whether or not S6 was a failure or success? All he can do is offer his thoughts. If the title puts you off, don't read. Don't comment. Some people took offence at comments I made on ytdaw, with one telling me I should express myself differently. Well, hell, it's a fanboard- you don't have to comment, you don't have to read, you just don't. The people who comment are somehow invested- certainly I include myself here because I really do have strong feelings on S6 and every now and again it's nice to have them validated, because I care about this program in ways I don't for a lot of other things, though I would be hard pressed to tell you why. But if I am, why are you guys? Why argue with jerry about a title for a paper? What piqued your interest and concern here?

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2007-04-04 13:52 ]
Err, Dana, no offence but unless i've lost the ability to parse English (or he's simply misstated his intent) jerry is categorically NOT saying the same thing you are. You say:

Well, here is a fact- I don't like S6 or 7. And I could write a paper about it and tell you categorically why I think it failed. Using my own metrics, of course.
(my emphasis)

jerry on the other hand says:

I have an argument which concludes with the notion that seasons 6 and 7 failed, I am not going to argue that it might not be if I have an argument to back that up, because I am not only going to undercut my thesis but also create serious flaws in my own paper with said admission.

That and I don't believe its subjective, I don't believe everything is subjective because this kind of philosophy seems prima facie inconsistent.

(again, my emphasis)

I am definitely not saying he can't have his opinion (no-one is), i'm not even saying he can't call his paper what he wants (I still think he'd reach more people with a less polarising title but i'm gonna read it anyway, given the chance). I am, however, saying I don't believe there's a way to objectively judge the merits of a piece of fiction, categorically and beyond argument. And judging by many of your previous posts, you agree (in fact in the past you've gone even further than that, saying there isn't even an objective reading of a piece of fiction).
But how in God's name can jerry decide for anyone except himself whether or not S6 was a failure or success?

Well that's for Jerry to answer because, if I've understood him correctly, that is exactly what he is proposing he can do.

As to why speak up about it here. What can I say, the idea of on the one hand lamenting the polarization of fandom while at the same time presenting a talk seemingly entitled to accentuate the polarization seemed worthy of comment. My point being if you want to try and bridge those divides maybe trying not to put one part on the defence from the outset might be a better way to go.
I am always in awe when I read the in depth discussions on this board. The way a lot of the posters define BTVS as art or a great piece of literature. The passion involved in all those posts.
That being said, I don't know what it means when someone claims that BTVS is a piece of art. When I think about art, I think about something that IS open to interpretation, something that isn't very well defined as being one thing or another. Something that is looked upon and then defined by the viewer.
Maybe I am way off base here in trying to compare but with BTVS, the writers, Joss in particular, did have a vision and managed to tell a wonderful story. There was a message in mind with each enstallment. Something that wasn't and isn't open to interpretation. Some may have taken something other than Joss's vision with them when they left but the intent to tell something specific was there. I guess I can't wrap my mind around the notion that BTVS is or was just some random peice of art. IMO, it was the best damn storytelling ever. There was a clear message in every arc. There were defined characters. Defined paths for those characters.
I guess for me, it has always seemed a little egotistic to try to insert my own interpretation into the series. Joss did and does a way better job than I could ever do or will ever do.
Maybe I am thinking about this in the wrong way?
So what is Buffy if not art?

There was a message in mind with each enstallment. Something that wasn't and isn't open to interpretation. Some may have taken something other than Joss's vision with them when they left but the intent to tell something specific was there.

So you know what Joss intended in every scene? What about when Joss says that he left something open to be interpreted as fans felt most fitting? To me Buffy was a lot more than one mans artistic vision, or even one set of writers artistic vision. It was a collaborative work between writers, actors, directors, musicians etc. That allows people to take different things from the story and to my mind as long as they are basing their interpretation on the 'text' (in this case the aired show)then they're as entitled to that view as anyone else. If the rest didn't matter why didn't Joss just write a book and not bother with all those other wonderful elements?
Cheryl, IMO art is not random or accidental. Admittedly there are artists that work more intuitively than others, but that still does not make it random. Joss had a vision and a plan which changed and developed as the series continued. The finished product had layers of meaning and subtext and could be looked at from many different perspectives and through many different lenses. That is what makes it art.

Saying it is art, by the way, is not an insult. It means that Joss et al created something more than a one dimensional story about a girl who kills vampires. Yes there were defined characters with defined paths, but they were complex characters trying to find their paths. Nothing and no one was simple or simplistic.

"There was a message in mind with each enstallment. Something that wasn't and isn't open to interpretation. Some may have taken something other than Joss's vision with them when they left but the intent to tell something specific was there."

And yet almost every episode had multiple messages, many of which could be seen as conflicting, that if you add together may equal another message altogether. Why isn't what we see on the screen open to interpretation? If four people each look at the screen and see something different, 1. who decides which had Joss's message "right" and 2. isn't it possible that team Joss purposely wrote acted and filmed it in such a way as to give different people different perspectives?

Joss may call himself a hack, but we should not make that mistake. The people who put together BtVS were artists and understood what they were doing. They laid on layers and ambiguity and puzzles within puzzles on purpose. That is what artists do. It is our job to try to get the most out of it we can. For some that will mean enjoying it's most surface level, and that is fine. This group may enjoy it at that level for ever or may find themselves joining those that enjoy seeing it through other perspectives. Either way is fine, and valid, and IMO should not be seen as insulting to the creator of the piece.

[ edited by newcj on 2007-04-04 16:14 ]
saje- been a rough week and I am not entirely making myself clear. (I had to put my little Miniature Schnauzer to sleep, and it pretty much knocked me off my game- he was this little noble fella who in his last 18 months had diabetes, went blind and never stopped giving it his all, until he just couldn't).

Art is most defnitely subjective. One man's beauty is another's ugly. One man's love of S6 is another dislike. No question there. I am not arguing that there is only one interpretation and never have. I guess I am just traying to wrap my arms around what people find upsetting in jerry's thesis and title. If, as we all accept, he can use the title he wants and write the paper he wants, what more do we need to say? After that, it's up to use, as readers of the text, to decide to read, comment, argue or whatever. But right now we are doing this before the fact; we have not seen how he has mustered his arguments, no matter what his intent is.

cheryl- you cannot escape the fact that you inserted your interpretation of the show into your viewing. You are positing a setting wherein there is only one way to view the show- Joss' way- but what is Joss' way? That would make him monolithic, and I don't think he'd agree with you on this comment. Which is why he always said, for example, "bring your own subtext." YOUR own subtext, not his. I understand that you may mean that you want to read the story from the persepctive of what you believe he intended the story to be, but as you have seen, there are vastly different ways to read his tales. I am not a person who believes that "if Joss says its so, that's good enough for me." But that's me, and I am known for being a person who dives into things looking for my own meaning. And a clear message? What was the "clear" message of S6? That life is tough? Or, that if you treat your girlfriend badly she will leave you? That demons do bad things? That power corrupts? Or, that nerds are stupid? Or evil? I'm not so sure everything is so clear.

"They laid on layers and ambiguity and puzzles within puzzles on purpose. That is what artists do." I am not so sure. I think the motivations for artists are unique to themselves, and we cannot know what drives each person to create what they do. In the case of the Buffy writers, this is in part the approach they took to expressing their "art," but it does not hold true to creative people in general. But how we enjoy that, for sure, that's an individual choice. The music I listen to drives people out of my office. :-) (Magma, for example; Sun Ra, ALbert Ayler, Charles Gayle, Diamanda Galas). My Buffy love generally makes "leper, outcast, unclean" amongst my friends, whoc cannot understand this love at all (but I have a plan- I start with Firefly, and gradually win them to Joss Whedon and then shift to Buffy- works every time; sci fi seems more palatable, and then once they see h9ow good he writes they are willing to see more).

But criticsm as well does state that artistic works are good or bad- read any Ebert review, for example. I do not allow myself to be influenced by reviews, but I do read them. Someone else, not me, is judging art. People then do what they want. And it a consumer-driven enterprise as well.
"Well that's for Jerry to answer because, if I've understood him correctly, that is exactly what he is proposing he can do."

An argument is an argument, it is either valid or invalid, sound or unsound, and there is no middle ground to arguments themselves, they are either correct or incorrect. The idea that all opinions matter or can be true boggles my mind if for no other reason than "I like chocolate" and "I hate chocolate" cannot both be true at the same time for the same person. We may be skeptics, we may question whether we can ever truly know which one of those is true and which is false, but the logical answer is that one is true and false. It will always be the case that there is A and ~A, where A is a proposition and ~A is the counter to that proposition, and logically speaking, one must be true and one must be false. I am not proposing that I have the answers about seasons 6 and 7, my argument is like any other argument, it is either sound or unsound, and thus, that is for you to decide, whether I am correct or not, but the argument is objectively right or wrong. Simply because we believe that we cannot get to the truth, doesn't mean that the truth doesn't exist, for when we do this we conflate skepticism and the true ontological nature of the world.

Oh and I agree with Cheryl. Just thought I'd throw that out there, let her know she isn't alone. Except for that "best" story-telling part, its not the best, but its right up there! Sorry, nothing beats Dickens or Sorkin for me...

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-04-04 19:51 ]
The idea that all opinions matter or can be true boggles my mind if for no other reason than "I like chocolate" and "I hate chocolate" cannot both be true at the same time for the same person.

They can't be true for the same person at the same time but they can certainly be equally true for two different people or for the same person at different times. Thus there is no reason to decide that either is right or wrong as far as their views on chocolate.

Simply because we believe that we cannot get to the truth, doesn't mean that the truth doesn't exist

Well I believe that there is no "truth" to whether an artistic endeavour was a success or a failure, there is only opinion and both can be equally valid because there is no single definition of what constitutes artistic success and any imposed definition changes the argument. I mean we can all debate whether something experienced commercial success but for the most part I think that is rejected as a measure of artistic success. It may make the world a simpler place to believe everything can be boiled down to a right or wrong answer. I personally find that a ridiculously reductionist concept. For me season 6 was a success, for you it was a failure. I see no reason why both views can not be seen as perfectly valid. You can reason out why you think the season failed and I'm sure you will, and each step can follow logically just fine but unless you can find that elusive definition of 'artistic success' you won't be able to prove your point.
So, helcat, you think my opinion is wrong then?

It might be a reductionist concept, I'll grant that, but reductionism isnt this wholly bad thing. It works for many concepts, including causation and morality (sometimes), and though I am right there with you on the skepticism, I think many times we do conflate the ontological with epistemological or skeptical. Saying that "we cannot know something" is not the same as "something doesn't exist", and in that sense, it can be the case that season 6 was a failure to me and a success to you but then those statements have to be qualified, they have to be given reasons, and those reasons are what we can then debate. I disliked season 6 because of reason A and as it turns out you liked season 6 because of reason A, that does in fact make both our points valid, but reason A is true, has meaning, and is objective in a sense.

You are right, unless I find that elusive definition of "artistic success" I wont be able to prove my point, but simply because I cannot or havent found it doesnt mean it doesnt exist either. Like I said, I am right there with you on the skepticism, I think many things are far too complicated to actually find answers too with our limited abilities, but in the end, there could be this grand idea of truth out there that we simply cannot access or something to that effect. Essentially, it seems to me that skepticism has to go both ways, if you question one way, then you have to question the other...
Yes I think you are wrong in your belief of a universal truth by which to artistic merit. Iím not saying that any opinion is by definition irrefutable, just that opinions on such nebulous issues as Ďartí are highly associated with personal preference and, thus, I donít see how you can divide them up into correct and incorrect. You seem to be saying that we can even though we donít know the metric for doing so, but that strikes me as entering into a wholly futile debate merely for the sake of debate and I personally have no interest in that. So if you concede you canít prove your opinion is correct because there is no current means to show that then what is the point of trying to do so? Why not simply state your view, give your reasons for having that view and leave it at that? We can agree entirely on what we saw on the screen but that doesnít mean we will agree on what that adds up to (actually I suspect weíll differ as to what a particular facial expression does or does not convey). In my experience artists understand that their audience will bring different perspectives to their work and for the most part are all for that. If Jossís opinion is the only one that matters why do fans bother putting forth their views, why not just interview Joss and be done with it.

As for reductionism Iím not saying that in and of itself it is a Ďbad thingí but Iím saying that applying it to art results in an over-simplification of a rather wonderful thing which is pretty much always going to be more than the sum of its parts.
Ah, sorry about your wee dog Dana5140, been there and it's not easy. For a so-called 'dumb animal' they certainly find a way into your heart and leave a ragged hole when they're gone. Hope you feel better, fella.


jerryst3161, this is starting to sound familiar but I could've sworn it was someone else I went round this with (have you always had the same screen-name ?).

I think 'artistic success' is not objective for the same reason humour isn't. If one person finds something genuinely funny then it is funny, even if it's only to that one person and no amount of pointing out why the joke is poorly structured or unoriginal or lacking narrative cohesion is going to change the fact that they laughed. Likewise, if someone enjoyed season 6 then it doesn't matter how many times you point out that it's not an 'artistic success' by whatever metric you've devised, to them it is a success because that's how they feel.

I think you're seeing the interpretation of art as if it were e.g. history where there is a definitive version of events (i.e. the version that actually happened) that can, in principle, be discovered (though never 100% proven), hard though it may be, if we only amass enough evidence or examine what we have anew.

In art there is only a definitive interpretation if we arbitrarily choose to give one version that position (usually the creator's version - in fact the first time I discussed this with someone on here we ended up at the point where they felt Joss' version was definitive and, therefore, any interpretation that differed from his was in some objective sense wrong and I simply didn't agree i.e. Joss' interpretation isn't definitive to me and, in fact, there is no definitive interpretation, just some that are more valid than others owing to their textual justification. The point being we disagreed on a fundamental 'axiom' but unlike say, Euclidean geometry, that axiom did not follow from the state of the world - even a small, flat part of it ;) - it was actually just an assumption disguised as an axiom).

For me, it boils down to "What is the point of interpreting art, what do we hope to gain ?". As newcj has pointed out, you seem to think it's to find the one correct interpretation, presumably because you can then subscribe to that however you actually feel and 'be' correct as if, as with science for example, that's actually an aim in itself. The thing is though, there even being one correct interpretation is an assumption and even allowing that assumption, how can you tell, in principle, what it is ? With science you just compare your version to the world's, if it matches you provisionally say "Yep, correct" otherwise it's probably back to the drawing board. What would you compare an artistic interpretation to in order to check its correctness ? Aren't we back to an arbitrary definitive version, a kind of 'God' of interpretation ? And who chooses that ? And so on ...
What Saje and helcat said - I've just been here (but only sorta) before, and haven't got the stomach or whatever for it. Started to write a longer post, and then just went, "Nope... my life is - possibly - too short."

Not meaning to imply even remotely that anyone is wasting their time on this thread - if it works for them - just saying that I can't summon the strength, though 1) I care about this topic and 2) I agree with you both. I wanted to be supportive, however feebly...
Thank you , saje. I had never had a dog and inherited this one when I met my wife. He adopted me, really. He was an exemplar of the breed, so to say- friendly, social, always willing to bark a greeting at everyone. In his later years, he carried his infirmtities with grace and stoicism- he would take his walk, but slowly, he'd bump into things and just keep on going, and each morning he waited for me to hold him for abut 10 minutes while he just sat there and made what I called his "sounds of contentment." His last week was just so bad, with pancreatitis and he just couldn't kick it this time- and with a diabetic, pancreatitis is a real problem- dog needs insulin, so has to be fed but should not be- no food, blood sugar levels climb, so no matter what you do, you have problems. And when I watched him, in pain, try to climb the stairs to go lie down when he should have wanted his walk, we just knew that my force of will was no longer enough. Some of you may know of jetwolf; her mom has her own website in part devoted to animals that have died, and she placed a plaque there for my lil' schnook dog. All OT, for sure, but I miss him tons. Nothing in my house seems right.

On T, I now return us to reader-response theory:
"The central tenet of all varieties of reader-response theory are that meaning is not something that is contained within a text or that can be extracted from it, and that what a text does is more important than what it is. Far from being pregiven, meanining is produced by readers working in conjunction with the structures of the text, and in accordance with the reading straegies and interpretive conventions that bind readers together into interpretive communities and put them in possession of an internalized literary competence that allows them to respond appropriately to the texts they encounter."
Dana, my condolences on the loss of your little guy. Having to watch them grow old and leave us is the hardest price to pay for the joy that pets give us. I miss my cat all the time and still think I see her occasionally out of the corner of my eye, even though I had to put her to sleep 4 years ago now. ...And they really put us to shame in the bravery department.

About all the rest, yes, I have also been here before and didn't really enjoy it the first time. I had hoped that we could go to new territory, but unfortunately it is just same old, same old. Too bad for me, but good for others, I guess. Enjoy.
They do, indeed. I had a set of cats that lived 21 years, if you can believe it. As to Evan, here is the novareinna site: http://www.novareinna.com/bridge/bower.html. Read down to the friend's arbor.

I do not wish to bring up the old. I just thought that it would cast light on trying to make sense out of art. I struggle with this. For example, my mom has a superb collection of fine art photography, including originals like the puddle jumper by Henri Cartier Bresson, and to my dad, all he says is, it's a picture of an old guy jumping a puddle and big whoop. So what makes it art, beyond the dada idea of art being whatever anyone says it is. In the context of our discussions here, I think that we all work together to provide a community that helps to construct meaning and to give a framework for our interpretations of Buffy and the other 'verse shows. SO to that extent, I like the idea of RR theory; it sort of demonstrates how we, the community, construct meaning provided by the text, in this case, Joss's writings.
Dana...I am so sorry to hear about your dog. Nothing I can say could possibly reduce your pain at this moment and I am very sorry.

Helcat...I can only speculate that if and when Joss leaves something open for the fans to interpret, that means he himself doesn't really care enough about that topic. IMO, any message that Joss wants us to get, we get. Anything else isn't important to him. I don't mean he could care less, more like it just isn't all that important in the story he is telling.
An example would be when Joss said the fans could interpret the scene between Buffy and Spike anyway they wanted.( I use this because it's the only one I can think of) He did follow that up, in the same comentary, with his feelings on the subject. He said something like, for him, yada, yada, yada.
So Joss did in fact, do as you say but not without telling us his thoughts on the matter. In examples like this, those little moments where we are told to think what we want, a scene that doesn't give it all away, I think that's fine. I don't however, believe you should feel comfortable taking that stance while viewing the entire series and it's because I believe that Joss and his writers did have some specific messages in mind. If an artist leaves everything open to interpretation, is he really telling a story at all? Wouldn't that method be more designed to provoke thought and creativity than actual intertainment?

Newcj...I really don't know how to explain what I mean any better than I have. I do agree that the writers gave us puzzles to ponder and such but I honestly can't think of one, that would have an impact on the story itself. Do I believe that I understood the story Joss was telling? Yes. Could I have walked away with a few different interpretations? Yes. I did the best I could to understand the story as Joss and his writers told it.

Dana again....I agree that all fans bring their own perceptions to the series with them but I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Joss has a wicked talent in that he can speak to many of us through his stories. I don't believe that's the same thing as making an interpretation of the text that differs with the creators vision. An example of that would be fan claims, during season 6, that Buffy was a cold heartless bitch. I don't believe from viewing the series and listening to writer interviews, that THAT was the intent of anything that happened in season 6. Making that interpretation, based off the text and interviews would be wrong, imo and I really don't think Joss intended us to take it that far. He did have a vision and a story to tell. We could argue with him, that we interpret his story different than him but imo, that would be silly. It's his creation, his vision.
If we look at his what you need v's what you want message, that implies that Joss is very much in touch with his audience and the way they interpret the series. How could he possibly give us anything if we lost his message in search of a better message of our own?

Jerry...thanks but I really don't feel alone. There are quite a few people puzzled by the art aspect theory of the series. Having my question answered has helped me tremendously. I'm starting to believe it depends on the way you define art and this just isn't my definition.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer me. I really appreciate it.
"Yes I think you are wrong in your belief of a universal truth by which to artistic merit. Iím not saying that any opinion is by definition irrefutable, just that opinions on such nebulous issues as Ďartí are highly associated with personal preference and, thus, I donít see how you can divide them up into correct and incorrect. You seem to be saying that we can even though we donít know the metric for doing so, but that strikes me as entering into a wholly futile debate merely for the sake of debate and I personally have no interest in that. So if you concede you canít prove your opinion is correct because there is no current means to show that then what is the point of trying to do so? Why not simply state your view, give your reasons for having that view and leave it at that? We can agree entirely on what we saw on the screen but that doesnít mean we will agree on what that adds up to (actually I suspect weíll differ as to what a particular facial expression does or does not convey). In my experience artists understand that their audience will bring different perspectives to their work and for the most part are all for that. If Jossís opinion is the only one that matters why do fans bother putting forth their views, why not just interview Joss and be done with it."

I didnt say I couldnt prove my position correct, honestly, I wouldnt believe it if I didnt think it was true, and really, thats how beliefs work in general. You don't hold beliefs that you think are wrong, you hold beliefs because you think they are right, but in that lies the distinction, for your argument is that we cant know the metric and so truth doesnt exist. My counter is that it doesnt matter if we can or cannot KNOW of the metric, it matters whether the metric exists, for one way lies skepticism and the other way lies nihilism. In fact, I do think we have a metric for right or wrong, but I cant show you that unless I get you to admit that you conflate skepticism and the ontological status of the world, and hence, thats where I started. If you agree that "knowing" something isnt the same as it existing, then we can actually debate whether I have a true metric for measuring opinions and facts. That metric is logic, its A or ~A, with no middle ground, and its my contention that once we qualify everything, once we argue and debate, that we can get to a right or wrong answer even in art. Because as difficult as art may be sometimes to qualify, difficulty does not imply impossibility, even when art is complicated.

But more than that, if all opinions are not right or wrong, then what are we doing here? We arent actually debating anything, we are simply and aimlessly throwing out ideas that we dont even think are right, if you dont think opinions are right or wrong, then you dont think your opinion is right, so why should I listen? And it goes further because if no opinions are right or wrong, then we have to remember that opinions arent simply "I love chocolate" or "Season 6 was great", opinions consist of real world situations, "I believe the Qu'ran says I can participate in Jihad", "The Bible tells me that its ok to kill abortion clinic doctors", and others that arent even nearly as fun as those. At some point, we need to be able to say that those thigns are objectively wrong because if we can't, then nobody can ever TRULY be moral, evil, or even right about the most basic of ideologies. So, what's the point? Opinions, art, everything, if they arent right or wrong in some sense, then they have no meaning, you can believe whatever you want, I can believe that Buffy was never happier than when she stuck a sword through Angel or when her mom died, and her worst moment of sorrow was when she won the class protector award. In that sense, the metric MUST exist and I think we know what it is because if it doesnt, then the price is too high to pay to believe that it doesnt. A or ~A, there is no middle ground, things are either consistent or not, as are opinions...

Oh and I have never had another name. I had this debate on TWOP though, and my name is TWWGUY over there so maybe thats where you get it newcj...

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-04-05 04:26 ]
I don't however, believe you should feel comfortable taking that stance while viewing the entire series and it's because I believe that Joss and his writers did have some specific messages in mind. If an artist leaves everything open to interpretation, is he really telling a story at all?

So what about older literature where you don't have the author on hand to tell you what the story is and set you straight on the interpretation, is it wrong for someone to form a view of a piece of art in the absence of reassurance from the creator that they have it right? I think Joss like many writers tells a story on several levels and leaves some ambiguity in there, if only to leave some options for future directions he can take later. I also believe that if someone sits down and watches the show that they should be able to give their opinion as to what was going on without needing to listen to commentaries or read interviews to be sure they've got it right. If a story needs that much explaining then I think it's in deep trouble myself. I don't think anyone's imposing anything on the story, they're just seeing it differently, in part because they bring to it their own life experiences and opinions. I also think Joss is well aware of this.

ETA To address Jerry briefly,can you give me one example of how logic can prove anything about art? One real world example. I am mystified that you think it can but it seems clear to you. When I put forward my view on something like Buffy I am offering my perspective, I am sharing with others my view of something. I'm not saying it's the only way the text can reasonably be interpreted. I'm not saying everyone who disagrees with my view is wrong. Now maybe sharing perspectives seems pointless to you in much the same way that arguing about unknowable standards of right and wrong in art are for me but there you have it. When I argue about how the strengths and weaknesses of season 6 I do it in the understanding that it's my perception and not a universal truth. This kind of brings us back to where we started, I have no interest in having my view dismissed as 'wrong' out of hand just because someone else doesn't share it.

NB I'm confining my comments to art here and not going off on real world tangents about what people get out of holy texts as it seems a pointless sideline to the point I'm trying to make. However, I'm not saying all opinions on all subjects are to be granted equal weight, I'm saying all opinions on art that can be shown to be grounded in the text are as good as each other.

[ edited by helcat on 2007-04-05 04:47 ]
helcat...thank you again for your opinion. FTR, I wasn't implying that most of the time I needed someone to explain to me what was going on. I got it, I loved it even. I was just showing that at times, Joss and his writers, through interview, backed up my thoughts that I was in fact understanding the story as intended. There is always going to be debate about this or that, in all honesty, it's what makes all these discussions so much fun to be a part of and read but at times, I think some people take it too far. I think that's an insult to Joss as the creator. That's all I really wanted to say. That and I wanted to get a firm understanding of how "art" comes into play in your discussions here.
I also believe the best story tellers in the world, like Joss, don't need to rely on interviews to reach their audience. The audience is there because the writer took them there.
"can you give me one example of how logic can prove anything about art? One real world example. I am mystified that you think it can but it seems clear to you. When I put forward my view on something like Buffy I am offering my perspective, I am sharing with others my view of something. I'm not saying it's the only way the text can reasonably be interpreted. I'm not saying everyone who disagrees with my view is wrong. Now maybe sharing perspectives seems pointless to you in much the same way that arguing about unknowable standards of right and wrong in art are for me but there you have it."

If I argued that Buffy's happiest moment on the series was when her mother died, thats an opinion, one that if I truly held, people would disagree with, and I guess my point is that its wrong. That clearly wasn't Buffy's happiest moment, and though thats a fairly easy one, I once said that I fear the slippery slope more than the hatred itself. I fear what happens when we say that no opinions about art are right or wrong because where do we draw the line? Some would consider the Qu'ran or The Bible works of literary art too, some would consider my opinion that Buffy's happiest moment was the death of her mother to be incorrect too, but here is one that I know rings true. When Buffy chooses Dawn over the rest of the world in The Gift, I cheered and thought she made the right call, just like when I thought she made the right call in Choices about Willow and the box of Gavrock. Thats an opinion that I truly posit where ever I go, and many people disagree with me. See, its not about whether I am right or wrong, its that I have the *possibility* of being right or wrong, and I am not saying art is easy either, I am just saying that if that possibility doesn't exist, then maybe the consequences for that are far too high for me to except.

I once argued that seasons 6 and 7 were all a delusion of Spike's, that his love had driven him insane and that he was now dreaming of Buffy with what happened after The Gift. I meant it as a joke, I meant it as something that wasnt true (I was being purposefully fecicious), but some people liked the idea so much that they adopted it as fact. But thats clearly wrong isnt it? Its clearly wrong to believe that Buffy's happiest moment was when her mother died, and its clearly wrong to think that all opinions on the Qu'ran or Bible are true, especially when they lead to what they lead too. In the end, the slippery slope is what matters I think, if anyone can believe anything, even if its not true, then we truly can do whatever we want, we don't have to be moral because my defense could be that I don't think thats wrong, we dont have to be good people, and there is little to no meaning to anything beyond aimless arguing that leads to nothing. We cant argue for arguments sake, thats not how this goes...
Jerry...you just gave a perfect example of how I think some fans go too far. If we claim that BTVS is art and art is open to interpretation, then every scene in the series can be anything the viewer wishes. It is no longer about the creator and his vision, his story. It truly becomes the viewer ignoring the story for what they want to happen. Joss can no longer give anyone anything in this situation because the viewer makes up what they want, defines it as art and calls it a day.
Now I am not saying that I think the posters here do this, not at all. I have seen nothing but insightful and intellegent posts on this board BUT this way of thinking sometimes goes to far and it's the concept rather than the posters here that I question.
Sorry, I'm not going to equate views on interpreting a TV show and arguments that have raged for 1000s of years as to the meaning of holy texts - and even though you may think they can be logically proven they don't seem to have been. I don't see how having a permissive view on opinions of art equates to agreeing with every interpretation available on religion though there's enough in the bible to support multiple interpretations which is why we don't have a single 'brand' of Christianity for instance.

To get back to your Buffy point the problem is that you have to make up an extreme example that you don't believe and that has never, to my knowledge been stated. It ranks along with the 'opinion' that Buffy's actually a boy or that Xander and Willow are twins. What I'm thinking about are real world differences based on the text - say was Buffy's sacrifice at the end of the Gift evidence of Buffy feeling suicidal. It didn't read that way to me, it seems to read that way to others. How do you prove via logic that one side is right or wrong?

In my world if you can justify it in the text it's a reasonable view to take. I don't have to agree with it. I may argue that your ignoring too much of the text to make that conclusion but I can't go further than disagreeing and expounding as to why. So yes, you can impose frivolous readings of the text which you don't really believe but if they fit the text then I can't see how it is provable as wrong. It's probably provable as 'not what the writers were intending' but that's a whole other argument.

To my mind 'the slippery slope' defence is brought out far too often and by extending ideas to their extreme almost anything can be shown to be dangerous. I mean gay marriage leads inevitability to acceptance of bestiality by the 'slippery slope' advocates. I refuse to go from 'multiple interpretations of a work of art can be valid' to 'anyone can believe anything about anything regardless of truth' is a similarly ridiculous extension. You believe the world is flat, I can provide evidence that it isn't, your 'belief' is wrong that has no connection to whether you think season 6 of Buffy was an artistic failure or not.
helcat said: In my world if you can justify it in the text it's a reasonable view to take

Exactly. Here's an extreme one: "Buffy is mad and the whole Buffyverse is in her mind". Most people would disagree with that but to me the point of 'Normal Again' (one reading of which supports that interpretation) was partly that, ultimately, you choose what you want to believe. For some that's that reality is the ultimate arbiter of Truth, for others not. At base (and unfortunately IMO) either position is an article of faith, not ultimately provable.

In the end, the slippery slope is what matters I think, if anyone can believe anything, even if its not true, then we truly can do whatever we want, we don't have to be moral because my defense could be that I don't think thats wrong, we dont have to be good people,

jerry, if you're that bothered by the slippery slope then what you need is a God, someone to decide an absolute morality that is absolutely binding on every possible topic (and it'd really help if his instructions were also absolutely clear and unambiguous cos as you've mentioned, once interpretation gets into the mix people will go any which way). And surely the whole point of being good is that you don't have to be, it's an arbitrary choice (chemical abnormalities aside), there's nothing inevitable about it (which is why some people, y'know, aren't).

As an atheist the hardest thing I had to come to terms with was that morality, like meaning does NOT exist in the world unless we produce it. The physics of the universe work exactly the same whether I am a good man or a bad one, there is no fundamental constant for tolerance, no such thing as natural justice and the cosmos doesn't even know what 'fair' means (just ask the anti-matter lobby ;). From my perspective that's not nihilism, it's realism. Nihilism would be accepting that because nature has no justice we can't make it up, that everything worthwhile about people must have a demonstrably 100% proven foundation and without that we're drifting. Though i'm not a believer, to me "Do unto others as you would wish to be done to" is a pretty good foundation for morality (leaving aside masochists ;) and to me, therefore, empathy (which almost all humans are given by nature, it's part of our 'theory of mind') is the basis for pretty much all morality (in a similar fashion to special relativity, 'do unto' and empathy are the twin assumptions upon which the whole beautiful edifice is constructed).

Oh and I have never had another name. I had this debate on TWOP though, and my name is TWWGUY over there so maybe thats where you get it newcj...

Actually that was me not newcj but it must just have been someone else with the same opinion since i've never posted over there (only very occasionally post anywhere but here actually).
I think the way out of this conundrum is in the words I posted slgihtly above: "...readers working in conjunction with the structures of the text, and in accordance with the reading strategies and interpretive conventions that bind readers together ." See, this is how we can move from Buffy is a boy (which is patently not true in most metrics (boy, I sure like that word)and Willow and Xander are twins, to a more nuanced reading of what Buffy's death at the end of The Gift signifies. We can move from complete chaos to a a general communitarian understanding of the "text" we love to talk about. I find it difficult to go from having differing interpretations of a TV show to challenging the very basis for morality; it's really a different calculus. There is a Bible; to some it is the inerrant word of God and to others it is metaphoric and a basis for modern ethics, and to others it's just a book. Who's right?

The argument we have about Joss and his vision imbues my profession. Chiropractic was founded by DD Palmer, and its philosophy was expounded by Stevenson in his 33 Principles. Today, more than 100 years later, we still have some people who view DD Palmer's writings about chiropractic as the One True Way and believe that chiropractors who, for example, use physiotherapeutic modalities are not chiropractors, no matter what their license says. Because our interpretation ofour profession does not mesh with that of The Founder. I see frank similarities that the only real interpretation of Buffy is theone provided by Joss Whedon; I've seen a lot of "Joss said it, so that's how it is." And in all my arguments, I keep saying no; that's just how he sees it. I see it different. And frankly, in that siutation, there is no "right." If Joss said that Buffy's death at the end of S5 was a noble sacrifice, and I see it a suicide that commits her to hell, who is wrong? Neither of us; we each have valid readings of the work, and I might see things in ways he did not anticipate, because I am not him, I do not have his mind, I have a different upbringing, etc.
Thinking about it I think the clearest line for me is that when interpreting holy texts the aim is to understand the authors intent - what is this book trying to tell us. When analyzing fiction we can also argue about authorial intent but I'm actually not particularly concerned with that, I'm interested in the story and whether the story as I saw it is identical to the authors intent doesn't overly bother me. So whilst there probably is a 'correct' answer to 'what did Joss think Buffy's sacrifice at the end of season 5 meant', there isn't a 'correct' answer to 'what did I take from Buffy's sacrifice at the end of season 5'. I would suggest that multiple interpretations of a given text easily co-exist and we can debate the textual support for our view but that doesn't mean no other view can also supply as much textual support. Now clearly some people feel that the only 'correct' way to view a text is according to direct authorial intent and that's fine by me, I think it's rather limiting and leaves you in something of a quandry when authorial intent is not explained elsewhere, plus of course, the fact that Joss and the other writers sometimes had different takes on things and thus we have a series of not always easily compatible authorial intentions. Personally I've always viewed art as an interactive process, the impact a painting or a play or a song or a tv show has on me is as much to do with me as it is to do with the work of art.

And to get back to our original point, how assuming you can 'prove' a show was an artistic failure or success takes it another level out because we're no longer justifying our interpretation of the text but also placing it against our view of artistic success. So even if we're bound by authorial intent as to our interpretation of the show how we further then find that lacking or not remains totally unprovable without imposing definitions of artistic success up front.
Dana...I think this is where I disagree the most. If Joss says that Buffy's death at the end of season 5 was a noble sacrifice, then that's what it was. You use an example of the belief that Buffy's death was a suicide that commits her to Hell but the series, AKA, Joss, showed us that Buffy was in heaven, not hell.
I know you were just using that as an example.

My whole issue with the concept that the series is art, rather than a planned message, is evident in your thoughts that because you see the series differently than the writer intended, neither of you are wrong. I think it's all in the creators vision. Does that make sense?

Helcat...I understand what you're saying. Some writers make their point and take you there way better than others. Sometimes what you get out of it IS better than what they planned. I just don't associate that with Joss Whedon.
hc- hey, guess what? I completely agree with your post! :-)Amazing! LOL.

And yep, we need to define terms as to how we measure success.
"jerry, if you're that bothered by the slippery slope then what you need is a God, someone to decide an absolute morality that is absolutely binding on every possible topic (and it'd really help if his instructions were also absolutely clear and unambiguous cos as you've mentioned, once interpretation gets into the mix people will go any which way). And surely the whole point of being good is that you don't have to be, it's an arbitrary choice (chemical abnormalities aside), there's nothing inevitable about it (which is why some people, y'know, aren't)."

LOL, well that would help sure, but thats no fun either because then you disagree with the rules, and God gets all mad at you. The idea that morality cannot be absolute unless there is a God is, I think, flawed in some way, Divine Command theory is not the only manner in which to garner some form of morality, and thus, I don't need a God (that would upset my atheism and its too early for me to fight that guy--he gets all angry at me, damns me to hell, and then remembers that there isnt one--its not pretty), I need logic. Could Kant's Categorical Imperative work as an absolute morality? How about virtue ethics? In many ways, I think morality works like mathematics, we have to discover, through logic, what it means and how it works, and I think logic and debate can get us there. Essentially, its a trust in the human condition that tells me that we can do it, that we should do it, and that it actually does work that way. The world cannot be bereft of all things non-relative, if for no other reason than its hard to see how we made up the laws to physics or mathematics, and in that sense, thats how I see things like meaning, purpose, and morality. Because logic tells me that thats the way it is...

"How do you prove via logic that one side is right or wrong? "

Dont know and doesnt matter. I could say that we have to qualify the terms specifically, but the real meat of the argument is this: prove that its impossible to show via logic that one side is right or wrong. If you can do it great, but I tried for five years while I was a philosophy undergrad and then graduate student and I failed miserably. You know what I have to do to get my side going? If you claim that all opinions of art are not right or wrong, then it doesnt matter how extreme the position is because even one extreme position defeats that position. Hence, it cant be "all opinions", it has to be some opinions (including real world opinions too), and now, not only has it begun to become arbitrary in nature, its sliding down that slippery slope nicely. So you eliminate my extreme opinions because they are obviously wrong, why not eliminate opinions about Buffy in The Gift that think she committed suicide? How about opinions that you dont agree with? And thats my point really, I can use extreme opinions to get started but once I get the ball rolling, the idea that no opinion is right or wrong has consequences that far outweigh the benifit, and just seems illogical too. Cause then I can ask whether Buffy really is art, whether opinions about Buffy can be cleared up with authorial intent, why the clearest line for you matters even the slightest to me, and so on and so forth. To me, that way lies inconsistency so I choose a different path...

Its like claiming that everything is relative. Really? Including what you just said?
Because logic tells me that thats the way it is...

I beg to differ jerry. You say you feel morality (and interpretation of art) should be like maths but as per GŲdel even maths is not complete and statements can be made in a formal system that cannot be definitively proven true or false within that system (i.e. without external information). And whether maths itself is intrinsic (i.e. whether numbers for example have some kind of objective reality) is still open for debate.

To me, the universe does not 'owe' us a moral framework and if something doesn't follow from reality itself then it's arbitrary. And I say, so what ? Many things work just fine on a consensus basis (the law for instance or driving on the same side of the road as everyone else), why not morality ?

Also, a text can be logically consistent and have multiple possible interpretations. Trivially,

'"Duck !", said the farmer'

can be read at least two ways, neither of which can be proven definitive without more information (i.e. information external to the text as presented). We can make statements about our interpretation of the text (e.g. "The farmer is exclaiming about a water fowl" or "The farmer is telling someone to duck") which contradict each other but are both consistent with the text. How do we know which is 'true' without additional, external information ?

Its like claiming that everything is relative. Really? Including what you just said?

No, it's really not (as I mention upthread, statements like that are hilariously and obviously ridiculous). Some things are relative (or subjective) as in, oh, say, subjective experience yet still we have an objective reality and the sky doesn't appear to have fallen in yet ;). So long as you have some fixed 'yardstick' to compare (in reality that would be, well, reality ;) you can check your experience for Truth. In fiction that only exists at the arbitrary choice of the viewer.

(and gotta go with cheryl on this point, we know from the text that Buffy was in something like Heaven, not anything resembling Hell as we know it, so that interpretation would be less consistent with the evidence. Of course, suicide doesn't necessarily send you to Hell, that's just another belief but it was part of Dana's claim)
prove that its impossible to show via logic that one side is right or wrong.

Jerry, are you really of the opinion that the absence of a logical proof that disproves your theory it must be true even though you can't produce a logical proof to support it? That seems rather a stretch to me. Not that I'm denying you the right to hold it as an opinion but I'm not the least bit swayed by your explanation as to why anyone else should be swayed by your argument to agree with you.

If you claim that all opinions of art are not right or wrong, then it doesnt matter how extreme the position is because even one extreme position defeats that position.
Let me state it as clearly as I can. All opinion on art are subjective. The objective underpinnings can be discussed as to try and get at why people hold a particular opinion and dig into alternative ways of viewing the text. Also, in the absence of textual support for a view it is unlikely ever to be widely held and people may decide not to pay much if any attention to the person advocating it but I'm not going to tell them it isn't their opinion. I may say it was in no way the intended reading of the text, if I happen to know what that was, or that it is a rather radical interpretation of the text, or that it's not an opinion I feel the need to consider further but no I wouldn't lambast it as 'wrong'.

Hence, it cant be "all opinions", it has to be some opinions (including real world opinions too), and now, not only has it begun to become arbitrary in nature, its sliding down that slippery slope nicely.

FIrst off I don't exclude extreme opinions (see above) so I'm happily sitting in a place where all opinions on art are valid as just that without having to draw arbitrary lines which so concern you. Plus why can't opinions on art be kept seperate from opinions on everything else? Why do they all have to fit in one big pot and thus an argument addressing one must apply to all of them? You are the one who needs to make this all one discussion so you can invoke your beloved (or is that afeared) slippery slope.
"I beg to differ jerry. You say you feel morality (and interpretation of art) should be like maths but as per GŲdel even maths is not complete and statements can be made in a formal system that cannot be definitively proven true or false within that system (i.e. without external information). And whether maths itself is intrinsic (i.e. whether numbers for example have some kind of objective reality) is still open for debate."

True, but Godel's theorem takes into account only first-order systems of logic. And besides we are doing just fine with Math today and we deal with it absolutely too, I mean its not like we are running around and claiming not to know absolutely what 2+2 is (5, I know), and in that sense, alright cool. If morality is just like mathematics and encompasses a first order system of logic, then it isnt fully complete, but if we discover it just like mathematics, it wont be like we are running around and claiming not to know that the serial killer was absolutely wrong. Furthermore, its not like we question the efficacy of mathematics because the system cannot be complete, we know things about calculus and differential equations, we know them absolutely not only because they work, but because we have seen the math. If morality is of a system other than a first order system of logic, then Godel doesnt even apply and we need not worry about it.

If you claim that morality cannot be absolute, then you need to prove it, its a fact of science, math, and philosophy. That doesnt mean that you just have to prove it for the stuff in the middle, you have to prove it for the entire spectrum, you have to deal with the extremes and all possible cases because if not then your proof is lacking either a necessary or sufficient condition and is thus unsound. All I need are possibilities, and hence, Godel can disprove that a first-order system can be complete, but it can't prove that a first order-system of logic like morality doesnt exist or that morality isnt of some other system of logic, one we haven't discovered yet.

The universe doesn't owe us a framework, I agree, and I hope that what I said didnt come off like thats what I meant. But we owe ourselves the possibility that there is meaning, and thats all I need for this argument is possibility. The possibility that morality isnt a first order logic system, the possibility that there is an opinion (even an extreme one) that is right or wrong, and when that happens, when that possibility exists, it calls into question the argument that all opinions about art are relative and have no right or wrong answer, it calls into question whether morality isnt in fact relative or subjective, and logically thats what I meant by the logic telling me so.

So what you have to do is prove your point absolutely, you have to prove that all opinions about art have no right or wrong answer, and you know how I know you are going to fail with that? Because it certainly sounds like an opinion about art, when you make that argument, and if its not right or wrong, then I don't have to believe you. Its self defeating on the most logical of scales, and in that sense, yeah I do believe its like saying everything is relative.

ETA: Oh and I hear you Helcat, I think this post answered your post, but if not, then I will answer it.

ETA2: "Jerry, are you really of the opinion that the absence of a logical proof that disproves your theory it must be true even though you can't produce a logical proof to support it? That seems rather a stretch to me. Not that I'm denying you the right to hold it as an opinion but I'm not the least bit swayed by your explanation as to why anyone else should be swayed by your argument to agree with you."

I did want to answer this though: my argument isnt that I can produce a proof for an absolute morality or even that I can show how all opinions are either right or wrong. My argument is simply, that when you claim all opinions are neither right or wrong, that is a claim, one you need to prove, and hence you present an argument for that. My argument is a counter to that argument, it says that your argument cannot be true, and that since this be the case, there must be at least one right or wrong answer to an opinion in art. I make no claims that I have a grand scale view of this nor do I believe that I know how to do it, I just believe that the argument itself is self-defeating, and hence what I claim. Believe it or not, I argued this exact position for over 5 years while I was both an undergraduate and a graduate student, I went from professor to professor claiming that art is subjective, that morality was relative, and that all things are given meaning by us. And each time, I was argued out of it. So, I decided to embrace Cartesian skepticism, the idea that we can truly be certain of nothing and have no knowledge whatsoever, but at the end of the day, once I got past the word "demon" everything I said in philosophy meant nothing because I allowed for that possibility. Sure, skepticism is irrefutable, good for me, but it calls into question every thing I say too and is wholly untenable as a position because I trust that every day I am going to wake up and the sun will rise, which contradicts skepticism in itself. I am right because I believe that I have shown that its impossible to prove what you claim, not that I have the right answer mind you, just that your right answer isnt the true and correct one, and in that sense, I have no idea how the world works, I can say that with certainty. But I dont believe it works the way you have posited, and my argument is meant to show that. I am a philosopher by trade, which means that pretty much 95% of my stuff is wrong, and thats ok because if my opinion or argument is wrong, then it has no place in a system that seeks truth. Fair enough, in my book.

Of course, thats just one man's opinion. :)

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-04-05 17:39 ]
Stupid button, I swear I didnt mean to post here. Look above! Sorry guys.

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-04-05 17:40 ]
Jerry I am not a philosopher and do not pretend to be one and truthfully have no interest in becoming one. I just know that arguing about an unprovable 'correct' and 'incorrect' view of art is to my mind ridiculous and essentially a waste of breath outside of the ivory towers. When the metric becomes known maybe we can discuss it but whilst it remains a theoretical construct of some philosophers I would say it is pretty much irrelevant to current discussions. So it's fine for debate between scholars though from what you've said I still don't follow how belief in multiple interpretations of art equates to belief that everything is relative and there is no truth in anything but honestly if I want to follow that up I'll go find a book on the issue. What I'm left with is the thought of what value is there to spending your time telling people their view of art is wrong when you can't define what is correct in the first place and certainly can't prove your own interpretation is correct beyond showing that it's a logical reading based on the text? To me art loses much (most?) of its appeal if you boil it down to a single absolute meaning devoid of any texture or nuance.
In fact, jerry can't even tell them their view is wrong, simply that it might be.

So what you have to do is prove your point absolutely, you have to prove that all opinions about art have no right or wrong answer, ...

No, I don't, in order to disprove your statement that (as I understand it) "Every piece of art has a definitive interpretation in principle even if in practice it may be difficult or impossible to know due to textual loss, complexity of metric etc." I only have to prove that there is a complete piece of art with more than one valid interpretation none of which can be proven definitively. Stretching the definition of art until it's in absolute agony (hey, i'm no Shakespeare, sue me ;), my 'duck' example does that (or i'd be interested in hearing why not, i'm way rusty on all this stuff ;). Or are you claiming that there are absolute rules for some pieces of art but not others ?

Of course, the way you frame the question is effectively asking me to prove 'All Swans are White' which I can't do as you well know jerry.

And anyway, taking morality, it seems that you are the one making a positive statement i.e. that morality somehow 'exists' outside of what we decide it is, that it's inherent to the universe. As with the existence of God my position is the default one i.e. why would morality exist outside of us, where's your evidence that it does ?

... it wont be like we are running around and claiming not to know that the serial killer was absolutely wrong.

No because that really is the moral equivalent of 2+2 but the more subtle statements which actually test the framework i.e. the ones which demonstrate GIT and cannot be proven true or false are probably more along the lines of abortion or even meat-eating vs vegetarianism (presumably in your way of thinking there is one correct answer to these questions).

Because it certainly sounds like an opinion about art, ...

Well, to me it sounds more like an opinion about opinions of art, like the special case that breaks you out of a recursive loop or the step back/up required in the undecidability of the halting problem (or maybe like a higher order logic that can fully describe the lower orders but can't in turn be described by them). Or say the way comparative mythology is about mythologies but is not itself a set of myths and shouldn't be judged on the same basis.

I also don't understand your talk of 'extreme' opinions. In my view the measure of an opinion is how well supported it is by the text. If it's 'extreme' (my example was "Buffy's mad and the Buffyverse exists solely in her mind", so extreme-ish ;) but supported then so be it.

... to embrace Cartesian skepticism, the idea that we can truly be certain of nothing ...

Well, except that if you think you, err, am ;).
Wow. I'm not really sure how to say this without fully stepping - as I don't want to do - into a discussion predominantly held in a language not my own (and I think that sometimes words can be a great impediment to communication :>) but one thing this discussion seems to be about is ambiguity - in the creation of art & in the interpretation of art. It has gone on to be about a great many other things - including (but not limited to) the acceptance of ambiguity and paradox and nuance in life in general.

Each person's tolerance and understanding of ambiguity will/must differ, but I think that to fail to accept its existence in art, at the very least, is somewhat akin to being unable to hear certain notes in a concerto - in my view, it's like having a kind of artistic "deafness" in which one can only hear crescendos.
I swore I would not participate in this but I had to say "Brava, Quotergal, well said."

You too, Saje and helcat, but without my support being expressed in quite as theatrical a way. ;-)
I'd have to add in a Brava of my own to Dana and Jerry as well.
This thread has been fascinating and fun to read. I get jazzed at times by the way you guys communicate. All of you.
"Well, except that if you think you, err, am ;)."

LOL, actually thats the big problem with The Meditations, Descartes doesnt prove the existence of a thinker, he proves the existence of thought, which ontologically is not enough to posit a self. Just saying, but that clearly is off topic here...

"In fact, jerry can't even tell them their view is wrong, simply that it might be."

At this point, pretty much. I don't seek to change minds, Im not obsessed with other people believing my point of view, I learned a long time ago that forcing my view down other people's throats or being angry that someone disagrees with you is simply wrong. In many ways, I think thats the part of my paper that you guys dont understand and thats not because of you guys, its because I havent explained that part of the paper and because you dont have it in front of you to examine, I dont seek to change people's minds or prove that seasons 6 and 7 suck, I honestly think its possible to do that mind you, but I am unfamiliar with how to logically and objectively argue a position on art that could take on that sort of status.

"Of course, the way you frame the question is effectively asking me to prove 'All Swans are White' which I can't do as you well know jerry."

We can't logically prove that blue unicorns dont exist or define chairs with any efficacy so I dont blame you. But thats not what this is about, its about the nature of absolute and relative (which is a branch of subjectivity anyway, so lets just deal with that), the existence of absolutes supported by logic but unknown and the existence of relative truth supported by common-sense. Its not easy to pick between the two sometimes, though it would seem that common-sense should win out (I mean duh, common-sense should tell you that--of course, thats the problem but whatever), but its easy to show that at least one thing has to be absolute and that not everything can be relative. After that, its about proving or disproving what is absolute or relative, but here is the thing, we know that there is at least one absolute and we know that not everything is relative (which is all that this argument can logically prove unless you infer past the conclusion--and induction is a useful logical tool but its still induction--in fact, I dont believe in God because of induction, but that too is for another day), but that way lies the slippery slope. A slope paved with relative arbitrariness and absolute meaning because what I think happens when we show one opinion to be right or wrong is this: why cant this one be right or wrong too and we just dont know how to do it yet? How about these few here? How about this one here? And then the question truly is this: why shouldnt we believe that there is an absolute answer to "seasons 6 and 7 were great"?

"No because that really is the moral equivalent of 2+2 but the more subtle statements which actually test the framework i.e. the ones which demonstrate GIT and cannot be proven true or false are probably more along the lines of abortion or even meat-eating vs vegetarianism (presumably in your way of thinking there is one correct answer to these questions)."

And that leads to this: inherently the reason that you claim this is because you see grey, you see trouble, you see incredibly difficult tasks that couldnt possibly be solved, but also inherently, the only word that you could consistently put there is "probably". They are probably along these lines...

LOL, see, after all that, the question boils down to this, this long drawn out flow of logic boils down to this one question: which is more likely? Is it more likely that we have no right or wrong answers or is it more likely that absolutes exist for opinions?

Did you notice that THAT was where I started? Whichever you think is more likely is actually something that induction should provide clues too and deduction should give us a starting point from (one absolute and all that), but if there is a right answer there could be others, even in art itself. Of course, where we agree, where you didnt think we would is that I find it incredibly hard and possibly impossible to side with anyone but the relativists. I know that sounds strange coming from what I have argued, but as a relativist, I balance the logical with the absolute, I balance the relativity of philosophy and the absolutes of math, and even in that, I recognize that I clearly do not have all the answers. Since the argument is relative, you have to leave the possibility that absolutes could exist, especially given the deduction and induction we have done and given that we cannot logically prove our point relatively, and to me that simply means that even if things are relative we have neither the capability or capacity to express the thought with the tools of logic and language that we possess. Hence, what I have to avoid, above all else, is inconsistency because inconsistency is the magic bullet, its the logical construct that keeps me from being a full on relativist, its math versus philosophy, its the idea that absolute relativity is simply inconsistent and something I cannot embrace. And here we are...back to possibilities again. In the end, all I seek to show is that the idea that things are absolutely subjective or relative is inconsistent, that absolutes do exist (to what extent or in what capacity escapes me), and that even art that is as rich and textured as this has some absolutes that belie the need for opinions which are not and cannot be relative or subjective. In other words, meaning and truth do exist, though if I had the answer to how much and how so, I wouldnt be as frakkin poor as I am now.

That and my freaking head hurts! Although I gotta say Saje, this has been fascinating to me. It really has...

ETA: I guess my argument can be summarized as such: I believe that opinions are or can be absolute because I cannot prove otherwise, but I also embrace a form of skepticism that forces me to believe that it is incredibly difficult or even impossible for our understanding of logical constructs, to deduce the correct manner in which those absolutes work (I think if you qualify everything, every word, and present an argument, then its possible but that requires omniscience, and since I aint that, I got nothing). Hence, pragmatically things can only be relatively true until we either discover a manner in which to describe absolutes and employ them in every day discourse or find a manner in which to disprove the existence of those absolutes. Induction and deduction tell me that absolutes are more probable, but I also think we are at an impasse most of the time when it comes to these sorts of philosophical questions. And now my head really hurts...

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-04-06 02:35 ]
Lord, I wish I could bring this back to reader-response, because I feel like quotergal in noting that this is a discussion in a language I do not fully comprehend- and I teach medical ethics, so I understand at least a modicum of some philosophy. :-)

But thankee, all. I've been out of the conversation today because (a) too much age (I turned 54 today), and (b) too much Scotch and wine, because of too much age. There is something about an 18-year-old Highland Park that really brings clarity of understanding to these issues- but that soon disappears unfortunately, and I cannot remember any of it. LOL. And that was before the 21yo Bushmill's...
Hah, Happy Birthday Dana5140 ! 18 yo Highland Park ? Dunno about US prices but over here that's not a cheap way to put the world to rights (if you'd only written your conclusions down you could make your money back ;-). I like 'Isle of Jura' from that 'region', quite smooth and mild (though I take after my Dad in that, for a Scot, i'm not really that big a Whisky drinker).

And yeah, we did kind of ignore reader-response theory, sorry ;). I think in these situations you tend to gravitate towards the framework you're most familiar with and in my case at least, that ain't it (reckon i'll look at it at some point though).

I dont seek to change people's minds or prove that seasons 6 and 7 suck

Ah, then that does put the onus back on 'us' to prove a positive statement. Like you i'm struggling jerry, I know what 'feels' true but I can't see a ready way to prove it without tripping over the problem of induction.

... but that way lies the slippery slope.

There it is again. I think we should all chip in for a set of crampons or something ;). See, as an argument, it doesn't hold much water. Slippery slopes are not (always) logical necessities, they're just dangers which, as sentient beings with the ability to consider the future, we can avoid.

Hence, what I have to avoid, above all else, is inconsistency because inconsistency is the magic bullet

See, I don't consider having some things which are relative and some things which aren't as inconsistent if for no other reason than in that case the world would be inconsistent (since we know subjective experience is relative and that reality is not, again *waves hands* given the basic 'articles of faith' of all naturalistic viewpoints) and that is never the case (paradoxes or apparent inconsistencies just mean there's something wrong with our explanations, NOT the world).

I think if you qualify everything, every word, and present an argument, then its possible but that requires omniscience

If that's really the case then I think you're in trouble. As far as I know, omniscience isn't necessarily logically inconsistent but it is inconsistent with the physical universe as we understand it (trivially, how can any being 'know' all the digits of Pi ? And, even if they could, within our physical universe where would they 'store' them ?). If your position needs me to throw out even basic things we know about reality, well, that's a lot to ask. Would nigh omniscient do ;) ?

Yep, i've enjoyed this too and I must say jerry you've given me pause for thought about the solidity of what I think about relatives/absolutes. Brav(a|o) to all ;).

(edited to correct my woeful geographical knowledge of my own homeland, Jura's actually one of the Western Isles not the Orkneys. For shame)

[ edited by Saje on 2007-04-06 11:35 ]
Yep, and I have that Isle of Jura malt as well, and liked it muchly. Not to change the topic of the most interesting debate here, though- and the Highland Park was a present, but in truth, I am way into Scotch and have 20 different bottles at present, plus i keep each old bottle I finish and have another 20 in storage. :-)

I was reading the Heart Sutra today, and perhaps here is the key: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. I am not sure that we have cast much light on the original topic of this thread, which was about Amber Benson and her interview, which led to complaints about some comments she made, which led now to a discussion about we infer meaning from art- this is what makes whedonesque so fascinating and the envy of so many. But I will weigh in again in a bit; I've a son visiting and he will be needing to head out with me shortly.
I've avoided responding to the Jerry chronicles, but here's an absolute fact that I simply must share. 1) I like Michelle Trachtenberg. 2) Older Michelle Trachtenberg is better than younger Michelle. 3) Seasons 1 - 4 of Buffy had no Michelle. Season 5 had some but she was younger than she was in season 6 and 7. Therefore, season 6 and season 7 of Buffy were superior to seasons 1 through 5. That, sir, is a fact. Pronounced FACT!!!!

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