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February 29 2008

Ten Beloved Characters, Ten Ignoble Deaths. New York Magazine puts Wash at #7.

Hey, let's keep it in perspective: number one is Jesus.

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2008-02-29 03:23 ]

I'm not sure if I should be offended that Jesus is mentioned. On one hand, he did die in a seemingly unheroic death that was reserved for criminals. On the other hand he did die for a good reason. Oh whatever... its the internet... its all offensive!
On the other hand he did die for a good reason.

So did Wash, structurally speaking. ;)
Trip's death on Enterprise still pisses me off
Trip's death on Enterprise still pisses me off...

As to the list, yeah, not bad. I think Sam Jackson's death in "Deep Blue Sea" is one of the great screen deaths - because it's unexpected and HILARIOUS.

And, Sunfire, Xena had died before - they really had to make sure it was done "properly" the last time!
Wash's death was ignoble? Are these people on drugs? No, no, of course not, let's be civil. Wash had just saved everyone on-board Serenity with his mad flying skills. If anything, his death would fall under shocking and unexpected.
I'm sorry, but in my eyes Tara > Jesus.

And also Wash.
Where the heck is Tara?
I can't believe they forgot Captain Kirk getting shot in the back in Star Trek: Generations. Talk about an ignoble death!
The difference between Wash and Jesus is that I believe in Wash. :)
Also Wash's water to wine trick is pure sleight of hand, much like Schmendrick's.
Didn't we just do this one?
Oddly, no. There was a "movie endings you'd change". And then, suddenly, there was this.
I feel like I've lost the will to angst. Does anyone know if there's any serious academic work on why fans get so emotional on the deaths of their favourite tv/movie characters? The whole fictional versus real life aspects of losing someone a fan feels close to is extremely interesting.
Where the heck is Tara?

Kicking Jesus' ass in a popularity contest apparently. I'm totally getting a T-shirt with "What would Tara do?" printed on the front. On the back will be "Die".

Also Wash's water to wine trick is pure sleight of hand ...

That's a difference ? [/controversial] ;)

I'd pay folding money to see Jesus in a lightsabre fight though. "You are not my father ! ... You are ? Seriously ? But I still have to die in horrible agony ? OK, you're losing me ... just go over the whole rending of flesh thing again...".

The 'Deep Blue Sea' comments show point missage on an epic scale. It's because he's just delivered the soul stirring, triumphant speech that Sam Jackson's character dies. Normally characters like that are rallying points, sources of hope. The writers take that away and throw chaos into the mix. Unexpected and hilarious is absolutely right crossoverman (love that film, it's one of my favourite B-movie guilty pleasures ;).

(I agree about 'The Shining' though, that always sat wrong with me, not least because it's different to the book)
Simon, I am pretty sure that studies of why fans react so intensely to characters/character deaths exist, at least in academia. While this is not (at least, not always) the same thing, I have read two late '80s/early '90s books (both by academicians) on why fans write fanfic/create videos, "Enterprising Women" and "Textual Poachers." Whether or not one agrees with all of the premises presented therein, both comment to some extent on the phenomenon.
Personally I think it's because fans feel like they own their favourite characters to some extent, that they're a "stakeholder" (gods how I hate that term ;) in the character's future and also that it's a safe way of expressing grief - ultimately you can remind yourself that "It's only fiction" (in the same way that horror movies let us experience terrifying events in safety, under our control). You can abstract yourself from the event to some extent and so "learn a lesson" from it in a way you can't really do with the real death of a loved one (which is also why I think that the most upsetting fictional deaths to some people are the ones without any sort of lesson e.g. Tara's, the ones that even rob us of fiction's "meaningful death" consolation).

I reckon people sometimes react negatively because we know that what happens to them is deliberate and, therefore, avoidable. If they die it's always because, in a sense, they've been murdered, it's never just an accident, there's always someone to blame (the writer/creator), a specific point to focus all the emotions of grief (anger, betrayal etc.).
Personally I think it's because fans feel like they own their favourite characters to some extent,


I agree Saje and I think fans who feel that way are missing out on the best part of the experience of putting yourself in the hands of a fine writer/writing team. "Trusting" the writer isn't about believing that you'll never get hurt, it's about believing in the writers' ability to take you on a journey in which you can enter and experience a different reality. And trusting that the writer will honor the integrity of the story and the characters.
Which brings me to .....

the most upsetting fictional deaths to some people are the ones without any sort of lesson e.g. Tara's, the ones that even rob us of fiction's "meaningful death" consolation).


It may be true that there wasn't any sort of 'lesson' in Tara's death .... except that random tragedy is a part of life .... but her death had meaning in another way. It served the story, by serving Willow's arc in the story. And Willow was after all, one of the main characters from day one.
A fan may or may not like how Willow's story progressed from that point on (loved it myself) bur it's hard to argue the fact that we'd seen Will heading for a meltdown related to her use of power, from the earliest point in the series when we learned that she was developing powers.
In that sense, Willow's story progressed with perfect symmetry. And Tara's death was absolutely essential to Willow's story.

Umm, channeling my inner film/TV critic. ;-)
True Shey but to appreciate the meta-textual meaning of her death you need to be able to remove yourself from the experience of it slightly. Seems to me that the people most upset by Tara's death can't do that for whatever reason (presumably because they're so upset, circular though that argument may be ;).

Or maybe the meta-textual reasons, being more abstract, just aren't fair recompense (as they see it) for the pain ? Saying "But look it serves Willow's story" probably isn't much consolation to those that loved Tara.
Or maybe the meta-textual reasons, being more abstract, just aren't fair recompense (as they see it) for the pain ? Saying "But look it serves Willow's story" probably isn't much consolation to those that loved Tara.


But I loved Tara, too. Just not as much as I loved the totality of the story that her death served. And I kinda love the pain, too, because it's part of the intensity of the emotional journey. I never loved BtS more than when it made me cry, so maybe I'm an angst junkie. (But only if it's done really well, no "soap opera" stuff.)
See, here I think you are both wrong. It is not that we own the characters, or feel we own them; it is that we identify with the characters. Kill the character and think what that means to the person who identifies with that character. That's why it hurts somuch and is so powerful.

And shey, though I know you know I was going to say it, serving the story is a pretty poor excuse, if that is all it is- you are simply saying it is nothing more than a plot point. Tara's death was NOT essential to Willow's story; Robert Black, among others, have demonstrated several alternate storylines that would have served as well within canon.
Kill the character and think what that means to the person who identifies with that character. That's why it hurts somuch and is so powerful.

Of course you identified with her, that's true of everyone that cared to any extent but the interesting question (for me) is why do some care so much that there is basically no consoling them ?

I must confess, I do sort of wonder about projection onto the character. This really isn't intended to wind anyone up but much as I loved her, Tara always struck me as quite a bland character, almost a blank sheet that you could write yourself into, a kind of paragon of virtue and maybe even a sort of canonical "Mary Sue".

(and though this may not apply to you Dana5140, the "ownership" idea comes into it when you have people demanding that Tara be brought back because they were so hurt by her death. Frankly, even calling for it, however mildly, indicates that the caller somehow feels entitled to have the character around, like it's owed them)
And shey, though I know you know I was going to say it, serving the story is a pretty poor excuse, if that is all it is- you are simply saying it is nothing more than a plot point. Tara's death was NOT essential to Willow's story;


Well obviously I disagree. I can see no other possible justification for Willow's turning as dark as she did, (nothing that would have kept her in character). And IMO, serving the story is never a poor excuse, if you're talking about serving the characters'(Willow's) personal story, as I was.

And Robert Black (who ever he is) or an army of armchair critics can demonstrate alternate storylines until the cows come home, the bottom line is that they did not write the story or create the characters.

Another point, not everyone has the same reaction to characters they identify with being killed. Some of us are along for the emotional roller coaster ride and you can't get that kind of intensity out of anything less than a "nothing sacred" mentality on the writer's part.

I'm not one who believes that Joss kills off characters for shock value alone. You don't make a supernatural action omelet without breaking a whole bunch of eggs. Or you could, but it would be totally boring and ordinary.
Well, again, I disagree. See other posts active on this board right now, with regard to other media. I think Joss has become a one-trick pony with regard to character deaths. It is no longer a question of whether he will kill someone, just whom. And with only a little thought, it becomes easy to figure out who that will be- as again, witness comments on other threads active right now.

I take no offence with people not viewing Tara like I do- I certainly understand that we all experience these tales different; if we did not, there would be little to talk about. But the storyline could have been written a number of different ways; Joss simply chose one way to do it, and of course, he is the writer. That does not make his decisions correct, but they are his decisions. I am not sure how to define "right" here, since writers can write what they want and readers can like or not like what was written. For example, I've given up on the comic; I don't find it compelling, it is not giving me what I want or even what Joss thinks I need, and so it is, as we say, geshtorban.

But all it would have taken for this story line to turn Willow dark was for her to believe Tara had died, not for Tara to die. In fact, one storyline would have been for Willow to go dark (though, obviously here, not because of Tara's death) and for Tara to have to help fight her.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-02-29 15:47 ]
I'm sure that some fans feel a deep sense of ownership or entitlement, but I ain't one of them. I mean, I do, in a way, but not like that, if that actually makes sense to anyone who's not me.

Much like you, Shey, I would much rather put myself in the hands of the creators and let them do what they may.

(Though I must say there's a difference between railing against something that's genuinely bad and something like Tara's death. Like, imagine if Buffy had turned into Charmed. I would've been pissed.)

Tara's death is entirely devastating and crushing (and I must must must disagree with your "blank slate" thing, Saje, as Tara was one of my very favorite characters; on that note, she was my dad's favorite character, and when I asked him why, he said, "Because she always protected the one she loved," which touched me on a personal level probably because he's my dad), but it does serve the story, and brilliantly. The "yellow crayon" bit at the end of "Grave" turns me into mush every time I watch it, and though I'm sure put in almost any context it would make me slightly teary, when robbed of its proper context, it wouldn't work nearly as well. I mean, Tara was just murdered. Willow had struggled and climbed one hell of a mountain to overcome her magic dependency, and during that time had lost everyone, including herself. Buffy turned from her, Dawn turned from her, everyone cast her aside; she was the junkie of the family, the one you couldn't slap sense into even if you tried. So the fact that Willow had earned her life back, had fucking earned Tara's love back (never mind the fact that she had never lost it), to immediately kill Tara is, to me, the only possible way to justify Dark Willow and the yellow crayon.

(That should be the title of a children's book.)

Not even killing Xander or Buffy (again!) would've brought that out, and to me, the Dark Willow storyline--"saga," if you will--is one of the series' greatest chapters. And Dana5140, while the idea of Willow thinking Tara had died instead of her actually dying is compelling, I still don't think it would've worked nearly as well dramatically.

I, for one, hope Tara doesn't come back. I mean, if she does, am I gonna tell Joss to "Change it! Change it now!!!"? No. I trust him as a storyteller, and he's yet to steer me wrong. Though again with saying that this is different than railing against something genuinely bad: Joss' proposed Buffy sneaker wish scenario was just lame. Incredibly, incredibly lame. I apologize, Joss.

Do you know who I most identify with in the entire Jossverse? After Xander, it's Wash, and the two are extremely close. Wash was my favorite member of Serenity's crew and, in some way, I felt he was something of a me archtype. When he got that big ol' "grappling hook" (is that what it was?) through the chest, I instantly burst into tears and could not stop crying for at least the next ten minutes. Did it anger me? Yes. And it was supposed to. The life of your loved one, and one of the most beloved characters Joss ever created, was just taken away for absolutely no reason, and now's the time you let that righteous anger take hold. Let it course through your veins and take down the bad guys. This holds true for both the real Browncoats, as well as the fan Browncoats.

None of Joss' deaths (those of his characters, I mean; I just got a funny Joss/Groundhog Day montage in my head) has ever been meaningless. They've been upsetting, terrifying, and crushing. Which is the point.
Here's my two cents, not adjusted for inflation, on why some people take some character deaths so hard -- ultimately, the way we experience *everything*, real or not, is in our brains. For some people who are not getting certain necessary emotional experiences out of real life -- and I do *not* mean these people are insane, or cannot separate fantasy from reality -- they derive them from fiction. When the source is cut off in a way that affects closure, not only do they have the immediate reaction of "I liked that character -- I can't watch that character any more," but they experience it as being suddenly deprived of an emotional experience that they are already not getting in real life; if they're aware that the reaction is based on this, they may also experience a sense of shame at how they are meeting their emotional needs and also at their inability to access these experiences in reality. And, if anybody's wondering, yes, of course I speak from experience, but no, the experiences were not in the Whedonverse (they were long before even the film of "Buffy" was a twinkle in Mr. Whedon's neurons). Grief + shame + deprivation of formerly-met need will provoke some pretty strong responses. I do not think *this* is the viewer/reader reaction the creators intend to elicit with character deaths, but I think that sometimes it happens. It is neither right nor wrong, it just is.
But all it would have taken for this story line to turn Willow dark was for her to believe Tara had died, not for Tara to die

Except that this misses an important aspect of writing: It's not just about the character's experience, but about the viewer's as well. Even if one conceded (and I'm not sure I'm ready to) that "believing Tara died" would have been enough for Willow, it would not have been enough for the viewer, who likely would have known what Willow did not (especially if you add in your second "Tara helps fight Willow" bit).

Really, that all comes back to what several people above already have said: Somehow, for some reason, some viewers are unwilling to let a writer impose an experience upon them ("impose" is the wrong word, since one chooses to let them, but you get the idea).

For me, and others here, I think our lives would be much poorer if we were unable to find writers who would impose experiences upon us. Tara was awesome, and she was murdered, and it was an accident. The visceral experience of that, and of having it be real, could not have been accomplished in any other manner than actually doing it.
This certainly is not a new phenomenon. People invested their emotions in Dickons' serials, we know. Quite famously:
When The Old Curiosity Shop was approaching its emotional climax — the death of Little Nell — Dickens was inundated with letters imploring him to spare her, and felt, as he said, “the anguish unspeakable,” but proceeded with the artistically necessary event. Readers were desolated. The famous actor William Macready wrote in his diary that “I have never read printed words that gave me so much pain. . . . I could not weep for some time. Sensations, sufferings have returned to me, that are terrible to awaken.” Daniel O’Connell, the great Irish member of Parliament, read the account of Nell’s death while he was riding on a train, burst into tears, cried “He should not have killed her,” and threw the novel out of the window in despair. Even Carlyle, who had not previously succumbed to Dickens’s emotional manipulation, was overcome with grief, and crowds in New York awaited a vessel newly arriving from England with shouts of “Is Little Nell dead?”

Taken from the blog Web expo.
I imagine that we have always been able to care this way. It is part of what makes empathy possible.
The best thing about Joss Whedon, probably? He is a rare bird who is uncompromising in his beliefs about dramatic construct. As uncompromising as P.T. Anderson's film, There Will Be Blood, which is only part of its greatness. Never will I grouse, in terms of the emotional moments that are the core of his shows.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2008-02-29 19:26 ]
unplugged, I think it highly unlikely that Tara will be brought back. I think Joss cannot do that becuase to do that is to indicate that he is correcting something, and in today's environment no one is ever willing any more to admit that did something wrong or even that they hurt people. Joss never really apologized for what he did, for the pain he caused some of his fans-and he could have done so and still defended the writing decision; instead, he offered justifications and he deflected the issue onto the fact that Tara was gay- that was an out on dealing with the pain some people felt. It would have been nice to see him acknowledge the pain he caused, but only surrogates did that, and most them did it years after the fact. I am at times disturbed by the glee some people exhibit when these things (character deaths) happen, as if those who do take the hit are simply somehow deficient for not supporting Joss in anything he does. How often do we read here, "I'll follow Joss wherever he goes"? So, okay, I take Tara too seriously, but they don't take Joss just as seriously? Joss is whatever you want him to be, since the vast majority on this board have never met him and never will; we project onto him as much as some of us do onto his characters.

But I strongly disagree with shapenew, who admits to projecting into this issue. I do not think people identify with characters because they lack something in their life, because they do not get the right emotional experiences out of their own lives; I think they see something of themselves in those characters and that intrigues them and draws them in. Good writers (and even bad ones) exploit this. That is what Joss does with death, he exploits your feelings and emotions. He screws with you, which I say nicely. If you invest, what do you do when what you have invested in is taken away? I post as well on yourtaxdollarsat work, which is devoted to the GSR relation- Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle- on CSI. Well, Jorja Fox (who played Sara)quit the show, and now there is no GSR, and a board that was every bit as active as this one 6 months ago is moribund. Many no longer watch. Their entre into the show was via this relation. It is not fair to call them not fans- they were, of course, and pretty rabid. But without the emotional overlay of this relation, the show is now nothing more than a police procedural, without the emotional resonance that that relationship brought. Buffy without Tara was a lesser show for me, vastly reduced. To some, that makes me less of a fan. I am not. But now, it is just a show about supernatural beings, without the resonance that really drew me in to begin with. It's a good show, but just another show.

I find the most compelling viewing when I do invest. I am utterly hooked on the new HBO show In Treatment, because of the character of Sophie, played by incredible 17-year-old newcomer Mia Wasikowska. I swear, I go to bed at night thinking about what I see happening on the show. It is riveting TV, with great acting. But the other parts of this show don't quite grab me as hard, though they are also compelling (this shows airs 5 days a week and features Gabriel Byrne's psychologist Paul Westin doing therapy with 5 different people or in one case a couple). Sophie is my entre; lose her, and the program will not resonate as much with me. It'll be good, but that's it. Sophie is my draw. Sara Sidle was my draw. Tara was my draw. No draw, it is hard to care much about the show. It's just then another show, some better than others, but not compelling, and not necessary. Just like Buffy became to me after Tara was no longer involved.
No time to read it all, will be back tomorrow.

Shey; I won't say joss kills characters for shock value per se. But I think killing characters is Joss's default modus operandi and he has doen it with no fictional purposes, probably more than once. I agree Tara 's death had a purpose.
I think it highly unlikely that Tara will be brought back. I think Joss cannot do that becuase to do that is to indicate that he is correcting something

Except there had been a plan to bring her back.
Joss never really apologized for what he did, for the pain he caused some of his fans-and he could have done so and still defended the writing decision


Why should he apologise? It's his show, his characters not ours. The attitude that fans are entitled to blood from the creator and that we are owed something because something didn't happen the way we wanted is wrong in my book.
The one thing that would have kept Tara alive would be not being female.

Has anyone ever tallied up a list of the fates of the various characters in BtVS & AtS to figure out the balance between male and female character death?

Because it seems to me that if a male character leaves the show, he survives and comes back at some point later for a bit, where a female character who's leaving one of the two shows is almost certainly going to die.
attitude that fans are entitled to blood from the creator and that we are owed something

Agreed, and I've probably said this before, but the only thing fans "own" is their share of the space that exists BETWEEN the creator and the audience -- where the cultural experience takes place. (Meaning, a creative endeavor, and certainly this must be true for television, has no life if it just sits on a shelf and never sees an audience; and so the audience is part of the experiential equation.)

But that's very different from having any entitlement when it comes to the creation itself or what the creation does. We can walk away if a creator takes us to places we realize we didn't want to go. But we can't act like we were OWED being taken only to places we approve of.
And shey, though I know you know I was going to say it, serving the story is a pretty poor excuse, if that is all it is- you are simply saying it is nothing more than a plot point. Tara's death was NOT essential to Willow's story; Robert Black, among others, have demonstrated several alternate storylines that would have served as well within canon.


The entire construct is about serving the story, so I think its a pretty good reason (not an excuse, a reason). I think that people who view Tara as one of their gateway characters will certainly be willing to see other story possibilities for Dark Willow serving just as well, but I'm free to disagree :)

I'm with Simon on entitled fans and I also rebel against the idea that the 'socially responsible' thing to do is to keep Tara alive BECAUSE she's part of a lesbian couple. I understand that this relationship was very important and groundbreaking and I literally cry when she gets shot, BUT... the ultimate in equality for any minority group being represented is to treat them EXACTLY as you would if they were not a part of that group. Joss would not have hesitated to kill another character to do something that he felt best served the story.
Simon, there was some buzz in the press during the Deathly Hallows release about advice for parents of children going through grief due to character deaths. HP does tend to leave a wide information trail in the media for such research. Lots of noise in the signal though. It'd probably take some digging. I really think there were adults going through the same thing.
I agree exactly with what Simon and zeitgeist have said.
zg- actually, I noted that the issue of Tara's homosexuality was something that allowed Joss to shy away from addressing the other issues involved in her death; I personally do not believe her gayness was at play at all in the issue because if it was, if it became a consideration, Joss would not have killed her. My point is, having done so, I think he should have addressed that in comments to people who were hurt by it, because they were really hurt. Acknowledging that pain would have gone a hell of a long way toward mitigating what became a debacle, something that cast a lot of negativity on a program not at all known for it. By recasting the issue in terms of "the gay thing" it diverted the issue. It is not about Tara being gay. It is about the pain that people suffered. Period.

Onetruebix: Let me state what I have stated so many times before. The get out of jail card came late, and I simply have trouble buying into it. My reason has not changed- Joss is known for plotting years in advance. If he really wanted Tara back, he'd have offered a contract to Amber Benson to do so when he knew he would do it, not just a few weeks before he needed her, since in Hollywood, if you are not on one show, you need to go find work. So if he did not tie her up, he could not guarantee her availability. We do know that he wanted her for CWDP, but that AB opted out because she did not want to play an evil Tara; but AB has also noted that by the time she was asked she was already tied up with GOA. I have no way to prove this, but I think a lot of this came later, and some of it was directly related to the outcry. BTW, I think the discussion that Joss had with Marti Noxon about whether to keep Willow gay, and to do so, was a direct response to the outcry. That was a writing decision they could not make in any other way.

But in the end, writers write and watchers watch, and sometimes it does not work. Firefly failed, you know? So did quarterlife earlier this week, with 2 huge writers involved. A lot of people loved Lost and later left it, me included. Dollhouse might make it or it might not. I am the last person to tell a writer what to do, but I do have opinions on what I wish they would do, and what I would suggest they do if ever I had a chance to talk to them. But writers also cannot tell me what to think any more, and I surely am under no obligation to watch or read what they do simply because of who they are. I think it pretty obvious that the main reason I post here is because I love talking about the Buffyverse, and the discussions here are both civilized and intelligent, but it is not because I think Joss is God. I am invested in the former, not the latter. If that makes sense.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-02-29 20:18 ]
I'm totally getting a T-shirt with "What would Tara do?" printed on the front. On the back will be "Die".

This made me laugh out loud.

Ultimately, I don't think Joss should ever apologise for killing off his characters. As a viewer, I want to see them go through a story. A meaningful story involves a lot of pain, as that's when you get to see character.
By recasting the issue in terms of "the gay thing" it diverted the issue. It is not about Tara being gay. It is about the pain that people suffered. Period.


Then someone needs to tell a huge number of fans who are saying otherwise. I distinctly remember hearing (and still hear) that a lot of people were hurt specifically because there needs to be a functional gay couple on TV.
But writers also cannot tell me what to think any more...

Heh. The only part of this which I blinked at was the "any more". Was there a time when they COULD tell you what to think?
Joss is a god in a story teller sense. In he can do absolutely what he wants, and nobody has any recourse over that, except maybe the network. I don't think Joss himself is a god or godly or whatever, as I don't know the man, and I'm pretty sure I'd disagree with him about a bunch of things in terms of the world. 'cos I'm like that.
Yeah, I'm with gossi and others - Joss and other creators owe us no explanations nor apologies for character deaths or anything else in their writing.

I'm the absolute first in line to identify with fictional characters - I started living through fiction at about age four - but I've never felt owed a specific outcome, other than to be allowed to believe in it enough to experience it for a while. I'm deeply invested (some would say overly) in the fiction I care about - but the only thing that upsets me is poor writing, poor acting and unbelievable outcomes.

I'm inclined to believe that what some folks think an author "owes" them in their fictional lives somehow reflects or is related to what they in (so-called) real life think others "owe" them - which in my opinion is much less than many people apparently believe. I enjoy what I get and experience from other people - but I am owed almost none of it, including that from my partner. People can do for us what they are able and want to do, and not what we might wish them to do. I think we should only try to control our own behavior, 'cause that's all we can do anyway.

Obviously, this is relative - I will try and "control" the behavior of someone trying to stab me - I feel "entitled" to live - but thinking you must get what you want in the way you want it has ruined many a life (not to mention birthdays and anniversaries) the world over since society began.

And the idea that artists of any kind owe us anything truly sets my teeth on edge. I always liked and agreed with the stuff John Lennon said in his 80's Playboy interview - there's a lot more to this effect, but it boils down to this essentially:

"Why should the Beatles give more? Didn't they give everything on God's earth for ten years? Didn't they give themselves? You're like the typical sort of love-hate fan who says, 'Thank you for everything you did for us in the Sixties... would you just give me another shot? Just one more miracle?' "

"What is this game of doing things because other people want it? The whole Beatle idea was to do what you want, right? To take your own responsibility."


Um, peace out...
Hah! They are not HIS characters, gossi. :-) We all make them our own. He just created them. You can read Moby Dick as a stroy about a man and a whale, or you can read it a whole lot of other ways. But if Melville is God, well, then, it's a story about a man and a whale. :-)

And Joss can do what he wants and networks can cancel him. And here is the thing; to a degree, Joss better be doing what the networks want, or he won't be on TV. At the end, this is about commerce every bit as much as creation and creativity. Striking the balance is the hard part.

TOTB- yep, there really was. But I should note that I was lucky in many ways. My mom was a high school English teacher, a damned good one, and in fact, my high school English teacher. I come by my analytic skills from her training and my own nature as a clinical researcher- it is in my nature to ask lots of questions and to not accept the conventional wisdom. I am often on the small side of a given debate, because I have need to understand things. In research, we shy away from the method of authority- that is, the belief in something because someone in authority states it is so. It is why I enjoy the work that Joss does but do not and cannot idolize him. I full well know he can write what he wants, and I can analyze it and we can both be right. There is no certainty. I am not contrary to be contrary and the easy thing to do would be to simply go with the flow. But I think mistakes were made, I really do, and I don't think they were ever adequately addressed. And of course, I have no way to actually let the person who in my estimation made them know, and I am not shy with regard to writing to celebrities or politicians, believe me. I'm sad I will never have a chance to let Joss know how much I appreciate his work, but how much at times I honestly disagree with it.
Xena's dead?

Yeah. No mystical return like the first time. It was in the series finale. It was kinda brutal. If you liked the series, and check it out sometime, just be forewarned.
Dana5140, I think sometimes you mistake "idolizing Joss" with what is simply a basic difference of opinion about an author's role and rights to his own characters and story.
I just need to point out here that there's a difference between Joss idolatry and simply saying that he can do what he wants and doesn't owe us anything.

ETA: Or, QuoterGal can say it first.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-02-29 21:32 ]
Totally with zeitgeist. For me, the most important thing in writing is serving the story. While indulging the audience or yourself doesn't have to be a bad thing, it should never compromise the story itself. If it does, it's weak writing.
QuoterGal, can I just say I love you for quoting John Lennon's brilliant (and final, which makes me all kinds of crushed) interview?
Hah! They are not HIS characters, gossi.

They are, though. He created them - he holds legal rights over them along with the networks and studios involved. He also oversees their story. Fans have absolutely no say in it. They might think they do, or they might take them on as their own - but at the end of the day, they're Joss' babies. Because he has the power, and we don't as fans of those creations. If he says Tara is dead, she's dead. If people don't want to watch that, they don't watch, but the story continues regardless. The minute you start apologising to fans and start altering the story is... well... The minute you're working on Heroes season two.

I don't idolise JW in a sense that I love everything he puts out. I mean, he wrote 'Family', an episode which fails at life for the most part. I do think he's incredibly talented, though.
I'm in the QuoterGal camp (which I think is the Lennon camp?). I don't idolize the writers, but I also don't feel entitled to a certain story. Also whenever I read these debates I have this fun mental image where Buffy is a one-man show, and Joss is acting out the parts and directing himself and responsible for the lighting and sandwiches. Buffy was the creative product of a group of people. And it's true that the buck stops at Joss first and last, but it got passed through a lot of hands inbetween.

I think writers aren't true authorities, since stories take on a life of their own, but they're the closest thing. They're artists, and they know the work best. Fans, less so. We know what the work means to us, but we don't know what it takes to make it, usually. We don't see that side of it. I didn't like the ending of Xena. Closest I've come to that "oh no they screwed it up; fix it!" feeling. Still, it wasn't my show. I don't know what my decision would have been if I'd been a writer. I just know my opinion as a fan. My problem is when people don't distinguish between those two things. If Joss showed up in my office and told me I was doing something so very wrong and I should apologize for it, I'd throw him out. If he was a user of the products of my work and said "I think you can do this better, like so" I'd listen, but even if I agreed, the suggestion might get trumped by other things.

Oh, gossi did not just go there with "Family."
I can analyze it and we can both be right


And to you, sir, I sing this little snippet of an MTX song ;) All in good fun!

If there's no such thing as objective reality
why can't we quit our jobs and just imagine
we won't have to pay the rent?

Family? Family! It's one of my faves! Wotta surprise. . :-)

I think I am misunderstood, or am not clear. Yes, Joss created the characters, and they are his, or whomever owns the rights. Of course, no debate. But they are also mine. They are mine because I view them in a particular way, perhaps not the way Joss views them or has written them to be viewed by his audience. Tara is certainly dead. In the existing series. She is alive in fanfic series. Was alive in the writing of Chris Golden. These bring their own pleasures. And they have nothing to do with Joss, really, save that he created the original characters. But when I say mine, I really mean mine in the sense that they have meaning that is unique to me and that meaning may differ from what Joss intends.

And if Joss showed up in my office to tell me I was doing something wrong, I would listen carefully to what he says. Because I might in fact be doing something wrong. And I say this as a person who has had that happen often in my professional life, where I spent 20 years as an editor, and wrote 14 textbooks. I owe it to the people who read what I write, or what I edit, to hear what they say. They make it possible for me to do what I do. It might not mean that I change anything, of course not, but I owe them the time to hear what they say. It is important to me; it is a means for me to know whether I am doing what I hope to do. I am creative as well, and this is important to me. Let us get past the days of Sinead O'Connor saying she did not care whether people bought the music she recorded. If that is the case, don't go out and try to sell it. Sing in the shower. Write for yourself. But pay attention to the people who make it possible for you to do what you do.

And still, I believe I am not confusing people idolizing Joss. Again, read above for the comments of people who will follow Joss wherever he will go. I love Buffy beyond the telling, but have yet, for example, to watch all 5 seasons of Angel, even though I own them. I love Firefly and Serentiy. I don't much care for the comics. Way it is. :-)

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-02-29 23:12 ]
Well, Joss definitely heard what people had to say. No doubt ad nauseam. There is of course, as you acknowledge, a difference between the listening and the changing anything based on that feedback. Plus, not having watched Angel in its entirety? Are you mad, sir? ;)

ETA - textbook != the same kind of narrative as say, Buffy... unless it does, in which case, I need to read more textbooks.

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2008-03-01 00:00 ]
Quite famously: When The Old Curiosity Shop was approaching its emotional climax — the death of Little Nell — Dickens was inundated with letters imploring him to spare her.

I imagine that we have always been able to care this way. It is part of what makes empathy possible.
Lioness | February 29, 17:43 CET


Lioness, I think you are entirely correct, that what makes people able to respond so passionately to fictional characters is part of the same brain function that allows us to empathize with beings other than ourselves. Perhaps in some way, the feeling part of our brain isn't able to distinguish a fictional other from a nonfictional other - which is why no matter how many times we may tell ourselves, it's only a story, we can still feel uncontrollable sorrow at the deaths of Tara, Wash, Dumbledore, Boromir or in my case Charlotte the spider ("Charlotte's Web").

Although when it comes to Dickens, I do love Oscar Wilde's famous comment that "One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing." (But I still tear up a the end of "A Christmas Carol").
gossi, I know it was a joke, but Heroes Season 2 raises an interesting point. I thought Tim Kring's apology addressed legitimate weaknesses in the writing. Any future changes he makes will probably be just as much (or more) about satisfying himself as making the audience happy.

Writers definitely shouldn't be worshiped. But before you take them to task for their work, you need to take a step back and an objective look. Is the problem actually the writing? Or is it that the story they're telling isn't the one you thought it was/want them to tell?

Dana5140, I'd argue that what you possess is your unique vision/interpretation of the characters as opposed to the characters themselves (which is sort of a vague claim anyway.)
If someone who's familiar with my work says you are doing it wrong, then yep, I listen. And how. If someone who isn't says that, I don't give it the same weight. TV fans are generally familiar with the product but not the process. I realize there are exceptions hereabouts. But generally, as much as we feel involved, because good writing does that, we're on the outside looking in. My point is that to say "I didn't like it when they killed Tara; it upset me" is different from saying "They were wrong to have killed Tara; they should apologize to fans." Few people have the inside knowledge to help me identify when I am doing something wrong in the process. It's many fewer than the number who could tell me how they did or didn't like the end products and make suggestions about improving the end result.

I feel like a lot of these threads turn into fans speaking with authority about how Joss Whedon and people working with him should do something a certain way, and people seem to forget that we are fans. Maybe it's because Mutant Enemy and Joss in particular have had such a good relationship with fans, that we begin to feel like part of the team. But it's very different to say what we did and didn't like about what they made versus what they should have done to make it. We can criticize the product, but criticizing the process requires a lot of assumptions from us. We know something about the process, but it's not the same thing as first-hand knowledge. And even then, it is very different to say that something was not so good versus wrong.

But when I say mine, I really mean mine in the sense that they have meaning that is unique to me and that meaning may differ from what Joss intends.

My problem is when people think these two should be the same. That fans are owed an apology for their meaning not being the one reflected onscreen. I realize people think what they want about characters, and write their own stories about them, but I don't think the canonical version is ours or should reflect what we think it should be.

Yes, I wrote "canonical." Everybody panic.
I only know canonical correlations. And Bonferoni corrections, and Kruskal-Wallace tests. :-)

Sigh. I am always in the minority. But at the least I do know the process; I have family that works in television, including an aunt who spent 12 years with NYPD Blue and an uncle who was a producer for the Partridge Family when it first began. Who actually created TV shows-= they failed, but he got them on TV. So credit me that at least. I may not know Joss's creative process, but I know how it works, a little.

ZG- it is not so much the textbooks as the commentaries and position papers that cause the distress. Because I don't like to hide behind my screen name, to demonstate, this is me: w3.palmer.edu/lawrence- you can check the bonafides, as well as the link way at the bottom (:-)).

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-03-01 00:32 ]
Screw bonafides ;), that's the very argument by authority we're all so keen to avoid. If you have a point to make, make it, we'll all still be friends in the morning ;).

But it's very different to say what we did and didn't like about what they made versus what they should have done to make it.

This is precisely the nub of it. Here's what "they" should have done: exactly what they did. Here's what we are "entitled" to do: switch off if we don't like it. End of chat.

QuoterGal said it, gossi said it, a load of folk have said it. None of us seriously thinks Joss is infallible, Jesus, the guy likes 'The Core' and thinks 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' is fascist propaganda, his feet are just as clayish as the rest of us (love ya big man ;) but the fact of the matter is, it's his sandpit. Bring your own bucket by all means, we can't build castles otherwise, but without Joss' (and the other creators') sand, all you have is a funny shaped hole surrounded by plastic.

Basically, I will follow Joss anywhere but if I don't like where we end up, I won't beg (or demand) that he turn around and head back to where I want to be, i'll just piss off out of it.
Dana5140, I think you misunderstood my post. I am not saying that people identify with characters due to a lack in their real lives -- I'm saying that some people respond to specific fictional situations due to a very specific emotional/intellectual feeling they are not getting (or not getting in sufficient quantity/quality) in real life. One can have many friends, but no two relationships are identical, and we are (however slightly) different versions of ourselves depending on who we are with and what the interaction elicits from us. If the emotional experience of the show as a whole is one not available in precisely that form in real life *and is experienced as needed,* people will have strong reactions. But one needn't identify with any of the characters, any more than one needs to have a great deal in common with real individuals in order to care about them greatly.
Still don't see it, sn. It's a bigger step than I can intellectually make, or perhaps it is just not in my experience. (ETA: Oh. I see what you are saying. Well, yes. But then?)

saje- my bonafides are, as Holly Hunter says in "Oh Brother" bona fide! 'Sides, you missed the point; I wasn't portraying myself as some exalted person; I was demonstrating that I really did have the basis to talk about getting comments from people affected by what I do. Which I do. (Plus, I do enjoy the little link to some Buffy stuff on the bottom. How many of you have this on your work webpage, huh, huh, huh? Well, I do. :-))

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-03-01 03:23 ]
I used to live in Davenport, actually, Dana :)
'Sides, you missed the point

Well, one of us did ;).

My point was, quoting experience is an argument from authority. If we were talking about something technical I wouldn't say "look, I know what i'm talking about because i've worked in IT for X years and played with computers since I was 10", i'd explain why (I thought) whatever was being claimed was wrong and let others judge the content rather than its (irrelevant) wrapper.

(gotta agree though, your work website is way more interesting than mine ;)

And I have to agree with zeitgeist, textbooks are designed for a particular, measurable, objective purpose and can obviously have particular objective errors, not so with fiction i.e. if Joss doesn't feel he did "wrong" (and personally I don't see why he should) then why would/should he apologise or accept the "accusation" ?

(never used to live in Davenport but I did used to do a bit of rock climbing so we may have clung, sweaty palmed to the same planet at some point, small world ;)
If the emotional experience of the show as a whole is one not available in precisely that form in real life *and is experienced as needed,* people will have strong reactions.


That I can't quite relate to. Every so often I just want to say "What are you doing? These people aren't real. They're fictional. Move on." I've been to the dark places online, seen the extreme fan obsessiveness and it's really not pleasant. But it's part of the fandom and it's never going to change.
WOW! about 24 hours since I last logged on and 44 new comments on this thread, each and every one worth reading. I love this forum so much I wish there were a way to give it a big hug.

UnpluggedCrazy your long post was just brilliant. Which is another way of saying, I couldn't have said it better myself. ;-)

And for "the short of it" ....

This is precisely the nub of it. Here's what "they" should have done: exactly what they did. Here's what we are "entitled" to do: switch off if we don't like it. End of chat.
Saje | March 01, 02:05 CET


I just want to add that idolizing Joss (guilty as charged here) is not the same thing as deifying him or believing him to be infallible.
I idolize creativity, I am an unabashed gushing worshiper of those who can write like Joss. Or Jane E. or a few other ME alumni. Or John Fowles or Roger Zelazny.
And directors who can create a visual experience that takes my breath away and burns certain images permanently into my brain tissue, such as Ridley Scott.

An artist's creations belong to the artist. I am the grateful recipient of the pleasure I derive from the fruits of the artist's creative sensibility, and that includes the painful parts.

My favorite Joss quote (sorry I can't cite the source, I've forgotten , but the quote itself has a prominent place on my bulletin board).

""I don't want to create responsible shows with lawyers in them. I want to invade people's dreams."

Mission accomplished, Purple One. Can't wait for more. :)
Chiming in from the wilds of Borneo (well, actually, from Temple Bar in Ireland), just wanted to say to QuoterGal that's quite possibly the best, most poignant quote you've ever posted here. Almost the quote to end all quotes.
Coming in late as usual.

I always find myself grinding my teeth when it is asserted as accepted fact that killing Tara was a mistake everyone agrees on or that a need for an apology by Joss for anything he has written is a given truth. As people have said, the point of fiction is to take people on a journey. Some character's stories are secondary to other character's stories and are there to reveal something or propel the primary character's story. That does not cheapen the character nor is it an insult to the character's fans, it is simply the way fiction works.

I am someone who always ends up loving a secondary character but the author decides whose story he or she is telling and what he/she needs to do to have the audience experience that story. The idea that the author should be obliged to apologize for treating a secondary character as secondary and not changing the author's own vision of the story that they are telling because some readers/viewers want a secondary character to take prominence perplexes me entirely. That fans would consider it insulting to them personally perplexes me even more.

Of course I am not just talking about Tara here. Insert any number of secondary characters from the Whedonverse or from other fiction. The fact that a secondary character means a lot to a reader/watcher does not give that character some exalted status that raises it beyond the bounds of being a way to tell a story. The more the writer has to work around imposed limitations on what can be done to characters, the muddier the point of the narrative can become. Sure Joss could have found a way for Tara to live so the audience did not have to feel that pain, but the audience feeling the same pain as Willow was the point of having Tara die. The audience was supposed to go through what Willow went through and many of us did. Unfortunately, instead of raging at the injustice of the fact that such things happen in life, some fans pulled out of the story to rage at Joss for daring to use Tara to propel Willow's story by using something that happens in life too frequently; a beloved life ending suddenly and senselessly. That is when I got confused.

I am either in the story with the characters or outside looking at the writing and structure. Though people will often say the writing is bad when a particular character was not treated as they wanted, often they seem to be working from the fact that the event was not what they wanted rather than looking at the writing dispassionately. They are inside the fiction while commenting on the outside structure, if you will.

I do not think Joss or his writing is perfect, but I do think it is really well done. I also am not thrilled with the comic books, but even so, I am still more interested in where he wants to take the characters than where the fans want to take them.
Okay, let's all pick on Dana today! :-) Must have been the three hours of dental surgery I had Thursday afternoon changed my normally mellow good mood...

ZG- Davenport! Really? I live just off Jersey Ridge between Locust and Kimberly.

saje- I did my best climbing at Devil's Lake in WI. Even had an article published in Climbing magazine many years ago. I no longer climb; all my gear was stolen and I am older and have little chance to get away. Now, I bike- RAGBRAI, here I come. zg will know...

Again, I only gave my CV to demonstrate that I had some exposure to these issues. Accept that in the spirit given. I always feel that in order to say that I have the experience, I should show that I really do, otherwise all you have are words.

newcj- I speak only for myself and do not pretend to represent any other person or group. I am offering only my opinion, right? Like you are, right? To me, it is an accepted fact that it was a mistake. To you, not. As for the apology, I am trying to think of a way to show what I mean, but one is not coming. The best I can do is this, and please forgive how ham-handed this will be. Okay, we all agree that Joss can create and write what he wants. And I think we agree that he often writes stories to hit you emotionally, hit you hard. To affect you in some way. Now, he might not be able to predict exactly how it will hit you, but he has some goal in mind. And then he writes, and we suffer something- that is, we respond. And some of us might get hurt- much more hurt than Joss ever intended. Does anyone think Joss set out to really turn a part of his audience away from the show when he killed Tara? No, I don't think so, but even people like Joss can err in their calculations. As can, say, Carleton Cruse, who has admitted that S2 of Lost may have gone off the tracks and who is now writing a show that he hopes will bring back people who lost interest. But now, consider, say, Anne Coulter. She is a creative person, right? She writes with a goal in mind, to affect you in some way, to evoke a response. And she hurts some people. She set out to do this, and she got a response, perhaps not the one she expected. Do I think there are times when she should apologize? Yes. Will she do so? No. Because in her mind she did what she wanted to, and will not take responsibility for the way people feel about what she did. Where is the difference? Now, forget the politics, forget the fact I cannot stand Anne Coulter, while I love Joss Whedon, just deal with two creative people who write to get responses, end up hurting people and don't acknowledge it. Okay, like I said, it's a bad example, but I guess I am trying to say, when you take a chance to create a response in your audience and you get one that maybe you did not expect, why can't you acknowledge that?
Simon, I'm gonna make a clumsy analogy here: bear with me. Let's say a company that sells refrigerators decides not to pack the refrigerators in cardboard anymore, because it's environmentally unsound. Some refrigerator recipients won't care. Some will think it's inconvenient, but feel that it's for the greater good. Some will be actively annoyed. But all of these people are mainly concerned with receiving the refrigerator. However, homeless people, who are counting on the cardboard as bedding material, are having a more fundamental, close-to-home problem with this. Now, it's not that the refrigerator company was setting out to do something bad to homeless people; it doesn't really occur to them that the cardboard is being used as bedding. It's not part of their equation. This is not to say that fans who emotionally use fiction in ways the creator(s) did not intend to homeless people, or indeed, vice-versa, just to say that fiction is sometimes used by people for psychological/emotional purposes that the author(s) did not foresee. I do not believe a creative person must take this into account -- in fact, I think a creative person who embarks on a work with this possibility in mind is operating from a place of enormous arrogance, which would mitigate against exactly that type of emotional involvement by the viewer/reader. I'm just saying, it happens, and sometimes *that* is where some people are coming from. It might help others understand their reactions if they *said* this is where they were coming from, but the person having the experience would have to a) be able to identify the experience in terms that could be communicated to others, b) decide that there was value in trying to communicate this reaction to others who are not having the same reaction, c) that trying to have the reaction understood was worth possible misunderstanding and even ridicule and of course d) acknowledging that the emotional reaction was something internal, rather than something to be blamed on something external (i.e., a mistake in the creation itself). This may be clear as mud -- I guess a very short way of saying it is, not everybody experiences fiction in the same way :)
Uh, I'm sorry. But the work Joss produces can't be compared to the work Ann Coulter produces.

Joss' job as a creator of fiction is to tell the stories he wants, as best he can, in whatever context the people with the money allow him to do it. Sometimes people don't like certain stories he tells, and we've been debating that this entire thread.

Coulter's entire job is to lie in order to pump herself up by tearing other people down. Joss is telling stories which might or might not affect people, and do so in different ways, but Coulter's job isn't comparable in the least, because the entire point of her job is to attack people.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-03-01 17:28 ]
totb- you miss the point, and like I said, it was ham-handed; I just tried to pick an extreme to make the point.

SN- Joss should have better understood what was going to happen. He didn't. He said he didn't. Neither you nor I can say what he might have done had he understood; we only know what he did do.
And you miss my point.

The particular extreme you picked made it impossible for you to make a point relevant to the discussion. Coulter writes specifically to hurt people. Joss writes to tell stories, which sometimes end up hurting people.

You bring the two up as a comparison and specifically ask this question:

Where is the difference?


So when someone explains the very obvious difference, you can't just cop out and go "you miss my point".
Does anyone think Joss set out to really turn a part of his audience away from the show when he killed Tara? No, I don't think so, but even people like Joss can err in their calculations... when you take a chance to create a response in your audience and you get one that maybe you did not expect, why can't you acknowledge that?...Joss should have better understood what was going to happen. He didn't. He said he didn't. Neither you nor I can say what he might have done had he understood; we only know what he did do.


I don't think its erring in his calculations if some people are so affected by the work that they lose perspective. I think that that kind of deep and affected emotional response is what people were supposed to feel at least up to a certain point. It seems to me at the point where they get outraged at Tara's death its still in Joss' hands, but at some point the baton gets passed and a persons own brain/filters/experiences take control and they either go where the story is taking them or, because of something in themselves, entirely out of the author's control, they rebel against the narrative, remove themselves from that and take it personally. He has acknowledged that people had extreme reactions and I think he expected them to. Did he expect them to give up the show in protest? I dunno, maybe he did and maybe he didn't, but he did what he felt was best serving his primary characters and his story and I don't think it matters whether he did or didn't think he would lose anyone. All that matters to me is that he told a brilliant story that made me laugh and cry and think about it for hours and days and years after it was over. That's all you can ask from him. I, for one, hope that if he did know the reaction he chose to do exactly the same thing and know that he created a work of power and beauty and grace.

p.s. - I lived on Locust down towards Bettendorf -- 2207, I believe.
Coulter should be considered off-topic in a discussion of anything except her. As Time magazine said about her, it doesn't count if you do it on purpose.

We do add our agendas. I can't know if I'd feel so bad about Tara, and later Anya if I hadn't lost my house & marriage during S-5 and found things to relate to in the show's relationships.

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2008-03-01 19:28 ]

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2008-03-01 22:45 ]
True, that, DaddyCatALSO. My first marriage was collapsing around then as well and by the time the middle of S6 rolled around, I couldn't help but look upon Willow's growing addiction with disdain and disgust and Xander's path as one of spectacular cowardice, bringing my own experiences to the narrative, and seeing the characters through the lens of my personal history. Did my subconscious crave certain outcomes to suit my evolving world-view after going through what I did? Oh, I'm certain of it. But as Shey says,

An artist's creations belong to the artist. I am the grateful recipient of the pleasure I derive from the fruits of the artist's creative sensibility, and that includes the painful parts.

Preach on.

Of course Joss knew that the death of Tara would be painful and people would take it hard. That was the point; it had to be, to earn the belief that Willow might go That. Damn. Far. What he may not have expected, was this sense of entitlement to a character so beloved by some that they believe they owned a piece of her tale and a should have a say in her outcome. That their intense emotional investment in her story somehow gave them shareholder rights to vote yay or nay on her course, as charted by her creator. (In real time, or after the fact.) For many of us, that looks like the "losing perspective" that zeitgeist describes. To others, I'm guessing it feels like like passion and moral certitude. So be it. But either way, there's not a chance in hellmouth that the notion of Tara's death at the end of S6 being a mistake is "generally accepted as fact." No, sir.

[ edited by barest_smidgen on 2008-03-01 23:31 ]
barest_smidgen: I think a reader or viewer has the right to, if they decide to stop following a property, to leave with a aprting remark. Or for a continuing follwoer to say what they didn't like. But I agree that making "demands" (quotes intentional) is almost as improper as it is pointless.

Still, if watchign an epsiode like TOugh Love" reminded me that love isn't an illusion and caring isn't always a lie, otherwise nobody would keep writing about them, it gave me a permanent gift. Whatwever happened later.


I think I'll need to print out this thread.
I give up. :-) I am not getting my message across. Who lost perspective, ZG? What perspective did they lose? What was the right perspective? Let's not confuse outrage with pain, which is what I have focused on.

Anyway. There was a comment made there that caught my eye, vastly different from what we have been talking about. It was about Xander walking away from Anya at the altar. And, y'know, I find that infinitely more painful than Tara's death in many ways that are far closer to home- but it has not upset me like Tara's death did. I thought Xander was a jerk, and was stupid and was causing a world of pain for the woman he loved, and of course I had to deal with my own divorce 8 years ago, so it was sort of raw (remarried now, thankyouverymuch). So, in terms of hitting me hard and hitting me where I could empathize, this ought to affect me more, but it does not. I just realized this, and find it interesting. I won't watch Hell's Bells. I can watch Seeing Red, not that I like it. Weird, huh? But then, when I watch In Treatment, the character I care about most is the young gymnast Sophie; the couples therapy is very hard for me to watch.
I'm with you on that one, Dana. I reeeally prefer to skip over Hell's Bells, too. I like to believe it's not some garden-variety lingering bitterness over a cowardly ex-husband (I, too, am blissfully remarried, and in the interest of full disclosure, to zeitgeist, who I met here :)) but not sure I can be entirely objective and assert that with certainty. It probably does have a lot to do with identification... there's a sense-memory to that kind of pain, the still-in-love-but-it's-horribly-broken-and-i-don't-know-how-we-got-here panic and that episode captures it masterfully. Almost grotesquely, so. No matter how happy you are today, it's never fun to revisit those feelings. /shudder.

You know, your most recent post reminded me of something that I've been thinking about lately and has me reconsidering this broader discussion. What most of us want/need most when we're feeling pain, distress & loss, is not to be instructed or helped or redirected or pacified or even consoled in any way. It's to be acknowledged, to be heard. It's this thought that helps me make even a little sense of the craving for an apology we've been discussing, and that I have such trouble understanding. Makes me wonder if this isn't more than a little about being heard.
UnpluggedCrazy: "QuoterGal, can I just say I love you for quoting John Lennon's brilliant (and final, which makes me all kinds of crushed) interview?"

Caroline: "just wanted to say to QuoterGal that's quite possibly the best, most poignant quote you've ever posted here. Almost the quote to end all quotes."

Thanks. I miss him, too.

"My role in society, or any artist's or poet's role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all." - John Lennon
I was born a little less than a decade after he died, yet I still feel a powerful connection with him on levels both artistic and personal. Apart from Joss, he's definitely my favorite creative person, and the one who's most moved me.
Smidg- thank you. You have just said in only a few words what I have been trying to say in millions- I just want to be heard and acknowledged. There it is. :-)

And yeah, with Hell's Bells. It is worse than that; I really don't like to see movies with cheating spouses, either. That cuts too close to home as well, and try as I might I cannot get that "willing suspension of disbelief" that allows me to watch teh movie as a fiction.

Here is a think about me. Because of watching Buffy, I became interested in the experience of what it is like to be a gay teenager, bcause of W/T and also because of my kids telling me about some of their friends, who had to hide this from parents or other kids. And so I began reading YA fiction- Julie Anne Peters, Paula Boock, Brandy Ryan, Lauren Myracle and many many others. And I became very sensitized to what it means to have to hide away what you are, something that I think is changing but is still present. That probably colors this issue for me, to some dgree, though as I have said I do not view Tara's death through that lens, but through the lens of a writing decision and because, like I have alluded to with regard to Hell's Bells, how it may have affected others, not me.

If that is clear?

Oh, and good onya, for hanging with a former Davenporter. ZG'll tell you how friendly we all are here. :-) But most Davenporters drive so slowly it can drive you nuts!

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-03-02 03:41 ]
I give up. :-) I am not getting my message across. Who lost perspective, ZG? What perspective did they lose? What was the right perspective? Let's not confuse outrage with pain, which is what I have focused on.


Just because I don't agree with you doesn't mean I don't understand what you are saying :) Let's not ask 20 questions and confuse the issue. The perspective lost is the one we've been talking about for this whole thread, at least to my mind, - feeling a sense of entitlement vs. being a viewer who is affected by what they've experienced. To my way of thinking, you can certainly decide that you don't like the direction that the story is heading and step away from it, but when you start making demands of the creator to make changes, even perhaps to the point of demanding to be heard (by the creator, mind you, more on that to come), you've probably lost the perspective in question. And since the story was designed to make you feel pain, I don't see the point in demanding that Joss acknowledge that we felt pain from it. The response would possibly be an unceremonious, "Well, duh...". His aim was to invade our dreams, and mission accomplished!

On another tack, I think that one of the great things about communities like Whedonesque is that we can come here and be heard by one another. No one will think you're weird here for having strongly held convictions about a piece of fiction (well, unless you're a Riley shipper- KIDDING, Simon, I loved Riley, too). To put it shortly, I completely understand where you are coming from and I hope that being able to yell your position from the rooftops (metaphorically) here at Whedonesque is as helpful to you as it always has been to me. The only part I disagree with is that Joss should have to acknowledge anyone's pain or make any consideration other than what's right for his story.

I empathize with the pain of watching specific episodes, and I'll throw a hearty "me too" on the Xander/Anya and/or cheating spouses thing as I went through a story that's probably all too familiar to those who've also brought it up.

I was a short-timer in Davenport, attending CHS for a year and a half or so, but it was good times :) Its true, they drive so slow it'll drive you mad (no pun intended, I think). One thing that's always interested me in living in different places is the changes in the way people drive that seem to cling to state and regional borders, like some weird automotive accent. Try driving cross-country and observe the odd mannerisms that folks adhere to in different regions. Weird stuff, for sure!

Just to beat a dead horse, I think the ultimate compliment about how real Tara was to me, personally (which, I pause to note was largely vis a vis her relationship to Willow and Willow's love for her) was that when she died I thought 'How horrible, she was such a lovely soul' and that the world of Buffy was a little darker for her absence. Her sexuality never once entered into my thoughts about her death. Well, not until the web was inundated with people analyzing her death solely with regards to who she chose to have sex with and why it was wrong for Joss to kill a woman who had sex with women. I want to be clear that i understand the temptation to imbue a single character with meaning and resonance for all people of that race/creed/religion/sexual-orientation/hat-preference when there are all too few representatives of said r/c/r/s-o/h-p ;) in the medium, however... Its not right to do so. I've said it before and I'll say it again; if you say you want equality, its tacky to complain when you get it. Not every woman character speaks for all women, not all man character speaks for all men, etc, etc, etc.

I'll steal Quotergal's light for a moment here and leave you with a quote from the one and only Ani DiFranco that resonates with the last few thoughts of this post:

"People talk about my image, like I come in two dimensions
Like lipstick is a sign of my declining mind
Like what I happen to be wearing the day that someone takes a picture
is my new statement for all of womankind."

I've said it before and I'll say it again; if you say you want equality, its tacky to complain when you get it.

We're not there yet, though. Buffy set many firsts for the portrayal of lesbians on network tv. Even though, like you, I'm not of the opinion that Tara shouldn't have been killed because she represented a minority, I also recognize that if you take a step back from Buffy and look at tv/movies as a whole, it's too soon to declare equality has been reached. I'm glad Willow and Tara weren't shoehorned into being "gay reps" and treated differently because of it, but by being breakthrough characters for a very disenfranchised group of people, they do become icons. I think the complaints you alluded to lack a certain amount of perspective, but I would never call them tacky. Lots of gay teenagers in particular were very grateful for those characters. Seeing one them die carried extra weight because that kind of honesty was still rare on tv. But I agree that the story's more important.

I have a similar feeling about Alex from Runaways. I read the trades after people here recommended them so highly, and after starting Joss's arc. So I knew Alex was a traitor (but not just how calculating and long-term it was). But damn, did it suck that it was him. I liked him a lot, even knowing he was going to do something pretty majorly bad later. And on top of that, there still aren't many black characters who are smart, nerdy, and cool. Among a cast of excellent characters with several other minorities, he stood out to me. He was a little extra awesome. But in the story, it totally makes sense that it'd be him-- he's the only one with the strategic skills to pull off the level of planning and manipulation it took. So in the end, he's kind of a mixed blessing I guess. The coldness of his calculations to use his friends and let them die is pretty disturbing. But from his own viewpoint, he showed utmost loyalty and even a kind of morality. He was the bad guy, but he was very complex and interesting, so it seems to me that in the end the roster of prominent black comic characters only gains from his addition. I can understand why some people were very upset when his deception was revealed though.

I don't think BKV or Mutant Enemy should have done anything differently in either case, but I do think a kind of extra meaning becomes attached to characters who, for a certain group of people, are someone they can identify with in a way that still doesn't happen often enough. Until more progress is made in the real world, I think that's going to continue to come with the territory. Characters like Willow and Tara and Alex will continue to carry added importance until the people like them in real life aren't fighting to be recognized as worthy of equality and respect. In my opinion, sometimes people carry that too far, and have unreal expectations of what writers do with the characters, going so far as to feel entitled to a certain outcome. Maybe the behavior of some fans who take it that far that is sometimes tacky.
it's too soon to declare equality has been reached.


Definitely. To clarify, we are most assuredly not there at all from an overall perspective. Was speaking strictly within the confines of the show in question.

I think the complaints you alluded to lack a certain amount of perspective, but I would never call them tacky


I was trying (and failing) to be cute. The blanket statement was a bit over the top. Some, but by no means all (or even a majority), of fans (on either side), behaved in a tacky-esque fashion. I'm just a little short on patience soemtimes with the 'me me me, its all about me' that is sometimes on display. Instead of bringing their own subtext, they want (to paraphrase) to reject the reality of the text and substitute their own. At the same time, I do understand that its mostly an outgrowth of how deeply touched they are by the work, so I can only complain so much.
zeitgeist-- I didn't meant to come across as attacking what you were saying, and I figured that's what you really meant. There's currently a lot of "look, everyone's equal now, no special treatment" rhetoric getting thrown around related to both race and sexual orientation in U.S. culture in general. I only meant to describe the nuances I see involved in this kind of reaction from fans. But yeah, the tacky behavior doesn't seem to have a favorite side in any of these disagreements.
I'm with you :)
One other tack here- I was in the bookstore this morning, and there was a new book out about how we are in the machine culture- how computers, net access, etc. are changing the nature of our world. And they made a point about this now being the commercial culture, how in the past, without this net culture, we watched stuff and what happened happened. But now, we have the ability to interact in ways never before conceived, and as a result the culture becomes personalized so it is about us, us all the time. I see some of the roots of my own feelings here. Once I get the book (it was a hard cover and was nearly 25 bucks for a slim volume, so I'll wait), I'll note the passage next time I have the chance. But it was a good point, about the nature of celebrity- viewer-creator interaction, which I think we illustrate here.

Also, yes, we do imbue characters with all sorts of meaning. Willow is Jewish, for example, like I am, and that gives her an extra layer of meaning probably not shared by someone who is not Jewish. Not that this was a major issue for the show, but you see the point. Tara is a lot like me- gonna do the right thing no matter the personal cost- another reason to like her a lot. All these layers affect how we view what happens to the characters. We just cannot predict what those layers are.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-03-02 17:58 ]
See, here I think you are both wrong. It is not that we own the characters, or feel we own them; it is that we identify with the characters. Kill the character and think what that means to the person who identifies with that character. That's why it hurts somuch and is so powerful.

I think this is right; I loved Tara because she was the first character on TV external to bias (ie my mother) who told me that it was alright to be gay, and that made me feel wonderful (obviously there were many other reasons, but this was the main one). If it were Oz who had died, I really wouldn't have cared that much.

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