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April 02 2008

(SPOILER) For the discussion of Buffy #13. Drew Goddard's "Wolves at the Gate" arc continues. So come and tell us what you thought of it.

Well, have 8.13 in hand, and figured I'll give it a quick review before starting the transcript. Let me start by saying this was my least favorite issue of the season so far. Not because there's not a fascinating story being pushed along, but everything feels... a little out of sync. Characters feel off.

The Good

-- Renee -- I love that she is absolutely in Dracula's face and assertive throughout, and also doesn't have any patience for the thrall bullshit coming off of Xander.
-- Buffy -- it's not "good" per se, but it's at least consistent. Makes her plan, rushes headlong into it ignoring the reasoned advice of others, and also their feelings. I'm also glad to see, good or bad, that all illusions anyone in the audience had about the heirarchical nature of the Slayer organization are shattered ("This isn't up for discussion, Satsu... I gave you an order. Get moving."). Also liked that the Aiko character reinforces the mythic concept of Buffy to the other Slayers.
-- The Vampires -- we get the main villain's name, Toru. He and that whole gang are badass. And their plan is, generally speaking, what we thought it was, to reverse the spell. And their demonstration of it was about the most viscerally nasty and symbolically nasty evil act in the Buffyverse in a longtime.

The Bad

-- Xander -- granted, I should have seen this coming, but I was sort of hoping that the thrall thing would be as pervasive. Buttmonkey. Of course. Is he ever elevated at all anymore other than for the pleasure of shoving him back down?
-- Willow -- Probably the biggest WTF in the book is Willow going from a very legitimate (if really pushy, unsolicited) talk with Satsu about Buffy, her general-ness, her not gay-ness, the one-night-standy-ness of it, and the advantages taken... to shaking Satsu down for graphic details of how Buffy is in bad? It's not that Willow having the same curiousity about Buffy in the sack as, say, Xander would is off-putting, but... hello, crass? And kind of undermining the theretofore serious chat?
-- Satsu -- kicked puppy for the foreseeable future, unless she's the traitor.

The Ugly

-- Dracula -- what's the point of the pervasive racism being thrown into this character? Other than how dated he in general, has *any* Dracula myth ever supported this? It's so over the top, Xander metas about it, and he's right -- I don't remember Dracula being a big racist either? Moor? Filthy yellow people? Really?
-- "Antique" retcon -- Wow, and retcon barely begins. "Semester abroad"? Xander decided to mourn Anya in seclusion with Dracula? Occasionally letters? To channel Sam Rockwell from "Galaxy Quest"... did you guys even watch the show?

There's a compelling story going on, like I said -- the villains rock, the peril is high, the threat to the Slayer spell is intense. But it feels like the major characters are all off, except for Buffy, who's only "on" because we can recognize her conforming to the least common denominator of her personal tendencies -- shutting people out and not thinking things through.
Woohoo, I totally called the scythey slayer unmaking!

And am I totally misreading a joke, or does Dracula have a soul?!?!
I really liked it. Goddard has definitely brought the funny with this arc, and the reveal of what the Tokyo vampires are doing is mega-awesome. I can't wait to see where this goes. Based on the general "big loss" outline for issue 4, and Buffy fighting Fray for the scythe... does anything think it's possible Buffy gets de-Slayered and has to fight to get her powers back?

Just thinkin' out loud here. Anyway, I liked issue 13 quite a bit. The only scene that felt a little weak to me was Andrew's. Otherwise, everything was spot-on.
About 2/3rd into the transcript, which involves pretty close reading, and I think a little better of it. The characterization still doesn't seem spot on with Willow, but Xander's holding up better to the potential character abuse than I initially thought. I'm actually being, unwillingly, swept along into being a bit of a Xander/Renee 'shipper. Don't get me wrong, I still have a drop-everything-and-say-thank-you preference for Buffy/Xander, but Renee is really growing on me. LOVE her complete impatience with and hostility towards Dracula.

Also, best line, easily, in this issue, is Aiko joking that if she can't keep up with the vamps that Buffy should "take her Slayer card". That should be worth a shiver.

The idea that Buffy loses her powers in this arc would be... pretty awesome, actually, but I don't think that it's likely

And, yeah, Dracula with the soul-having? Interesting.
Just finished it. I liked it a lot. I'm enjoying the upsurge in comedy in Drew's issues. Andrew giving a lecture in a George Hamilton costume, complete with C.O.A., was particularly funny. No major surprises, since I think many of us predicted that the scythe would be used to deactivate slayers. Also, the Willow close-up in which she jokes about the H.G.O.G.A. cookbook may be Jeanty's finest Willow drawing yet. Beautifully done.

I found nothing really bad or ugly in this issue, contra KingofCretins, although Dracula saying "Oh, balls!" doesn't immediately ring true as something he would say.

Re: Dracula's racism, I took it to be more a reflection of his character's outsized ego and self-aggrandizing, his puffed-up sense of himself as the Lord of Darkness, the baddest Big Bad, etc. Just so much boasting, which again, plays up the humor as so much else in the issue does.

Re: Willow's shaking down Satsu for bedroom details, I liked it. It humanizes her, and I think it lightened up Satsu to switch topics from something heavy to something fun.
What those demonic vampires did to poor Aiko - my god. That sent shivers down my spine. So evil....I love how this story is developing. It's epic as all hell.

Dracula's slurs took me aback a little. I don't remember similarly old vampires in the Buffyverse spouting off that way. Oh well. Renee more than held her own. I'm a total Renee-Xander shipper, or at least as much of a them-shipper as I can be, since I'm not the shipper type. She's great.

Butterfield cracks me up. But "H.G.O.G.A. cookbook"- huh? 'Splainy?

Can anyone say what transpires in "Antique" that renders this current issue such a retcon for KingofCretins? I read it ages ago and the details are fuzzy.
It's not really a retcon at all. It kinda just adds to it.
HGOGA = "Hot Girl on Girl Action"
Dracula doesn't have a soul. If you read his line that way, read it again. (Sorry short-tempered; I'm trying not to comment in the Angel #6 thread. Worst issue yet by a long, long margin.)
Oh, I see. He risked his soul for ancient magic and lost, therefore becoming a vampire?

Thank you, waxbanks, for urging me to read the line again, although it seems that you could have simply explained it to a comic-book luddite like me in the time you took to comment on your disappointment with AtF.
"...to comment on your disappointment with AtF." The nature of which interests me. I wish you would comment in the #6 thread, waxbanks.

I'm not sure Dracula saying he "risked his very soul" means that it was a soul for ancient magics transaction. I just took Dracula's statement as an over-the-top pronouncement, of which he seems to make many. Such a drama queen, he. Yet maybe I read it wrong. Do most people think karosurly's interpretation is the correct one? I'm happy to be enlightened (I do need a lot of that.)
If only waxbanks had told us! Then we would know for certain! ;-) :-) :-)
A long-standing exchange of letters between Dracula and Xander isn't a retcon? April 1st was *yesterday*. Really, that's a very natural extension of the canon, with how Dracula was never mentioned in Xander's presence again after "Real Me". Obviously they were exchanging mail, and obviously Xander's first impulse after losing Anya would be to go hole up for a few months with the guy who brainwashed him. What other explanation could there have been for the complete lack of any textual support for Xander ever having felt anything other than embarrassment and seething resentment? Nope, no retcon there of any kind :)

About Dracula, the line is "These powers you speak of – they’re part of the ancient magics. I risked my very soul to attain them. I am their worldly guardian."

What's the secret password on this that allows it to not suggest that he either has or had a soul? I'm not a comic luddite, and it seems to suggest such.
Do most people think karosurly's interpretation is the correct one?

Dracula seems to have risked his (demon?) soul to obtain the ancient magics (gypsy stuff, as Spike would call them). He obviously won, since he has the powers and considers himself their guardian.
KoC,

Maybe the gang (Willow and Buffy) told Andrew to say that to the slayers. Maybe they don't want the other Slayers to worry that Xander was or has ever been under the thrall of the Dark Master.

Bator.
A long-standing exchange of letters between Dracula and Xander isn't a retcon?

I'm not sure how seriously we're supposed to take Andrew, who is a known storyteller, after all. He may have the facts right, but his interpretation may be distorted.
Crazy, I sure hope so. But it doesn't feel that way -- feels more like Andrew was given the role of Don Juan de Exposicion for the backstory and that we're meant to take it at face value. At least the assembled Slayers found it as highly dubious as I did.

I also find it interesting that they recognize Anya's name, like it's a part of Xander's life story they've gotten before.
There is also the whole "unreliable narrator" thing possibly going on. I mean, come on, it's Andrew dressed up in a cape giving this spiel.
I loved that there was a Slayer in glasses. Just... never occurred to me that they don't get 20/15 vision by default.
Regarding the Dracula risking his soul point, I haven't read the book where this was referenced but, just as a thought, is it possible he risked his soul for these magics while still human and that he had possession of them before he ever became a vampire? In the original Stoker story Dracula was something of a living legend, famous warrior, prince, and general of armies and such, a man that even his adversary Van Helsing greatly admired. Possible that he acquired his magic as a human?
I'm baffled by the need to fully canonize the Xander/Dracula thing. Xander was grieving, so...he went to live with Dracula? Voluntarily? I'm sorry, that's just ridiculous, especially just to bring current continuity into line with a 6-page anthology story from 4 years ago that could, in my mind, easily be written off as non-canon.
Regarding Willow's conversation with Satsu, I think it was totally in character. Willow is sometimes crass, and she's admitted as much. Want proof? I mean, besides almost destroying the entire planet?

Crass Willow quotes:

"Great. I'll give Xander a call. What's his number? Oh, yeah, 1-800-I'm-Dating-A-Skanky-Ho."

"It is kind of novel how he'll stay young and handsome forever, although you'll still get wrinkly and die... and oh, what about the children? I'll be quiet now."

"If you hurt her, I will beat you to death with a shovel. A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend. Have fun!"

"Why are you suddenly so worried about looking like an idiot? That came out wrong."
I laughed a lot, which is saying something because obviously we are moving into a serious (dire even) fight! I loved how creepy, stupid, and pitiful Dracula is (but I have to agree, I don't see why Xander would have volunteered for the butt monkey gig).
Don't forget:

"I'm a breast girl myself."
Great issue, even with the few continuity sticklers. Like always, I find ways to rationalize them in my own mind.

Just because Andrew says that Xander went to live with Drac voluntarily doesn't make it true. That line could be absolute crap with the true story being something about Dracula coming around and putting Xander back under his thrall.

Also, I agree that Dracula probably was being overdramatic when he claims that he risked his soul. Going back to 5.01, he really is dramatic. Or: he got his magicks and stuff when he was human.

And Willow in the HGOGA cookbook panel? Absolutely stunningly amazing. I wanted to marry Jeanty after seeing that panel.
If Xander didn't go voluntarily, then why would Buffy wait as long as a year (according to "Antique"), to go get him back?
Although I did enjoy the issue, the Xander/Dracula roommate scenario just makes me shake my head. Gotta agree with KoC on that one. No sense does it make. And if Andrew isn't telling the truth, that's going to be very hard for people to pick up on/too much for most people to actually decipher or think about.

I'm 50/50 on Willow asking Satsu for bedroom details. Part of me thinks she would say it, but the other part of me is annoyed at the thought of both of Buffy's best friends being interested in her bedroom antics. I dunno. I think it's more of my feelings toward Buffy (rather than Willow) that make the line annoying. Besides the whole personal/female power importance, I hate when Buffy gets put on a pedestal. /end rant

I want Giles back.
/set tangent on

Hmm, what's that on page 13?

/set tangent off
The Xander and Dracula Odd Couple-ness at first had me raising an eyebrow (even though oh boy, do I love the Xander/Dracula dynamic), but there are some very interesting things about it after mulling it over.
Xander has always been puzzling over what it means to be a man (note his proposal to Anya, his attentiveness to Riley, even his soldier-self and identification through a manly job) and his being drawn to Dracula, a hypermasculine figure may have some echoes of these previous situations (as well as explain some of the thrall).

There are also some similarities between their situations. Dracula is out of time and out of place in the modern world with modern vampires, much as Xander is still slightly out of place with the Scoobies and now at the BHC, so to some extent they are both heroic figures who don't quite fit into the current scheme. Plus, there's also the implication of some sort of Anya bond since she and Dracula used to hang out--so maybe the mourning idea is a possibility. Likewise, I also thought that Dracula is the only vampire who Xander has ever come close to liking (even in a thrall way)--he's been vicious to Spike and Angel, but there's not the same lust for death for him.
(That doesn't mean that they are instantly best friends either, but it is a possibility...and perversely, the thralldom that Xander got in the episode was with him having an important job when Xander didn't actually have one or feel very important. So, there may be an element of strange understanding with them too. Again, thrall is thrall, but there's something interesting in looking at how the thrall is executed. Xander is looked on as a person of value and maybe Dracula actually sees something special in him that remains.)

So, while it seems like a strange idea, there could be some interesting twists to be taken with it. I hope that's what happens.

I also really like Renee. Yay Renee!

(and "shoe sale noise"--I thought that was sextacular and cute and that's all I have to say about that.)

[ edited by JessicaMelusine on 2008-04-02 23:40 ]

[ edited by JessicaMelusine on 2008-04-02 23:49 ]
See, to me, the thrall factor completely invalidates any kind of regard Xander is meant to hold for Dracula, because it is, by definition, not his own. I mean, is Buffy turned on by Dracula because he seduced her in her bedroom? I really doubt she'd be held to the same "she is fast friends" with Dracula silliness if it was her struggling in these scenes and calling him master. There is no friendship, no mutual understanding, no admiration -- there is Xander being brainwashed, end of conversation.

Part of why I love Renee in this issue is that she seems to implicitly understand that -- I love her flippance with Dracula, and the fact that she clearly would love to see him try when he's threatening her. I also like that Xander nearly 'girlfriended' Renee. Like I said, I'm being caught up in their 'ship in spite of my own, still much greater preferences.

I just had a sad thought -- could Aiko have been the girl standing up from her table in "Chosen", since Satsu wasn't?

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-04-02 23:50 ]
As much as I am liking this series less and less and less, I have to mention that Andrew has never been a reliable source for any interpretation of human actions. He has always gotten everything wrong. As I read it I found myself rolling my eyes at Andrews version of events. I did not read the story, and have no idea of what the true story might be, butI am sure Andrew's version is not it. (Of course with how much I am not enjoying the series, it might turn out that I am wrong and Andrew is the new Keeper of the True History.)
KoC, I read it that way. Sad thought indeed...
Andrew speaks in 10% truth and 90% embellishment. It would be a retcon if he were suddenly Mr. Just the Facts.

Willow is nosey about Buffy's sex life...as always. LOL

These powers you speak of – they’re part of the ancient magics. I risked my very soul to attain them. I am their worldly guardian.

Bram Stoker's Dracula studied at Scholomance. Kinda like Hogwarts, only for black magic with Satan as the headmaster and he takes the tenth student for payment.

Really gotta read the book and not rely on the movies.
An okay issue, but dear god is it just me or is Andrew even more pointless and annoying then he was in the series?

An utter waste of panels. Sorry Joss, I just don't why he gives you such a 'happy'.
I'm elated! I'm shocked! I'm all kinds of other things that I don't have words for! And I must say, finally, it looks like Willow! I've been waiting for that.
but besides that, poor Aiko, poor Satsu. Poor every other girl that they might possibly take the slayery goodness from. :(
Also, I hope there is much more talking to be done about the whole Batsu thing (love that name), especially between Willow and Buffy.
I loved all the Xander/Dracula/Renee bits as well, it's a good thing Renee went along.
The cover for this issue is still mysterious to me, but whatever, it's beautiful anyway!
and, one last thing, I love Andrew! Even though this wasn't his greatest scene ever, it's just good to see him again.
Re: Dracula's "racist" remarks. As far as his referring to Renee as a "moor", remember that, originally, "Moor" did not have the racist connotations it has now, rather referred to the people of a specific region of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, portions of which later became part of the Ottoman empire; this is important to the Dracula story because, once Stoker decided to use the name Dracula for his vampire, he explicitly identified him with Vlad the Impaler, who was, for most of his life, in direct conflict with the Ottomans. Vlad was even held hostage by the Turkish sultan for several years. Given the connections between Moors and Ottomans, I don't really think Dracula's attitude is too far out of character.

Re: Willow being crass - um, not really all that unusual; besides the previously mentioned examples, there's Willow:

in "Where The Wild Things Are", announcing to Giles as Buffy and Riley make lame excuses to disappear, (with a grin) "They, they're probably going to-"

in "Forever", "You had two eggs sunny-side-up. I remember 'cause they were wiggling at me like little boobs."

Also, just two other points about Willow's talk with Satsu:
1. Willow has often been guilty of inappropriate timing, and
2. At least now we can stop arguing about whether Willow's ever thought about Buffy in "that way." :-D

I'd be surprised if she hadn't, actually; since she's familiar with Buffy's "shoe-sale noise", I take it that Riley's Initiative buddies weren't the only ones being kept awake...
Or she just knows what the shoe sale noise sounds like because she has been in Buffy's presence when Buffy noticed a shoe sale.
Ah, so Dracula did get his magic before he was a vampire then. That explains a great many things. I really must re-read the novel, it's been twenty years since I read it.

I feel old now...
Marion the Geek
Or she just knows what the shoe sale noise sounds like because she has been in Buffy's presence when Buffy noticed a shoe sale.

We-ell, yeah, BUT: she must have some reason for associating the two events (of course, maybe a shoe sale is an orgasmic event for Buff...)
^_^ Buffy does like sales. If she already knew Buffy made that sound during sex... why ask about it? Methinks Willow thinks of that sound in her own fantasies.
1. Because she wants to know if she makes that sound during sex with... er... Willow's sex? and
2. Of course, she does. Why'd you think she asked? ;-)
You know... I thought the usage of racial slurs, and generally taboo language in this issue actually made it better than the last. For one, the writing is once again pushing certain boundaries, hedging in on comfort zones. Satsu's usage of that word that can also mean a dam is refreshing, and heck, from personal experience, we (homos, that is) aren't the most PC people in the world. I mean heck, our very existence threatens the moral core of the world upon which everything is built. Or so they'll tell you in some circles I avoid.
But on with the un-PC, I thought Willow's talk with Satsu was very well done. I'm with MadetoLoveJoss on this one: "I'm a breast girl myself."
Also, it's a nice break from the mopey-ness.
As for retcon... I hardly think so. Andrew was probably bloody euphemising the entire situation... or throwing his own crazy spin on things, as per usual.
I did enjoy the visceral brutality that came right after the revoking of Aiko's slayer card. There was almost a sense of poetic justice (this may rub some of you wrong, but it is a personal reading)... she obviously enjoys a good kill (ref: her comments about the Kabuki demons), and it seemed that she was probably one of the wetworks gals the Slayer organization now has.
As for the hierarchy of power in slayerhood... it is to be expected. I mean, it's not just Buffy. Even when fun-loving Faith took charge, she told Kennedy to stuff it and fall in line. Plus, Buffy's almost like Santa Claus in terms of the slayer mythos, shown by Aiko's reverence.
Also, it's been getting progressively more obvious, but Buffy is meant to be alone. She's cutting more and more ties, and that's probably the way the overall season arc's supposed to go for now.

[ edited by wenxina on 2008-04-03 02:18 ]
*shrug* not bad. Nothing great, but not bad at all.

I don't really have a problem with the whole Xander/Dracula relationship, because I just thought back to the Tales of Vampires comic that featured them. I don't know if that counts as canon, but it makes the whole thing easier to swallow. Besides, that part of the book was more interesting to me than the Buffy parts.

I am rather confused as to what exactly happened to Aiko and what the shiny red thing is. I don't have a problem reading comics usually, but after read that part two more times I'm still lost.
Is there no pity for the poor demon sucking his thumb?!
Nolan, the shiny red thing took Aiko's slayerness away, undid what the scythe gave her (hence the "normal girl" line as well as the inability to defend herself).
It's terrifying to me that they've managed to do this, but it seems to only work with the scythe, which I'm confident Buffy will get back, so I don't feel all too worried... yet... maybe.
I have to say that I don't know how I feel about this issue. I thought the stories were structurally good, but I can't make a decision on how I feel about it until the arc is complete.

This issue feels like it is the first part of a two part episode. I know that sounds weird considering this is part two or a four-part story, but this issue seems like it is building to something bigger even more than part one. I think part one is more self-contained.

I loved Renee in this episode. She really didn't take any of Dracula's b.s. lying down. She was ready to thrown down with Dracula and any moment. She really has come into her own since issue 1, and she may actually become Xander's equal. While I still have problems with their relationship, i.e. the power-structure thing, I do love them together. Hopefully, she doesn't die in this arc, which I have a feeling might happen.

While, I don't think Xander's butt-monkeyery is all that great, I fell that he isn't completely under the thrall of Dracula. I felt that he was standing up to him at some points, so maybe it's only residual thrall that he's under because he wasn't all hump-backy in this issue.

I do feel bad for Satsu. Buffy shut her down there, and Satsu had a really good idea with keeping some slayers at the BHC to protect it. And I loved Willow's conversation with Satsu, being reassuring and crass at the same time. It was endearing.

I really love the current villains in this arc. They are the right mix of scary, creepy and entertainment. That deslayering panel was visceral and disturbing, which made it work. I also love how they managed to get Dracula's powers, they stole it through a rigged card game. I wonder who's the witch who helped them.

Buffy is a whole 'nother story. Buffy's isolating herself even more. [sing song]She's Ms. Lonely[/sing song]. I think this whole incident with Satsu might actually make isolating herself even more. It really does feel that the only person she can open herself up to emotionally at a small level is Xander. I feel like if Xander was on that plane ride, she'd be sitting or standing next to the Xan man. (BTW, who's flying that thing? Wash? And how did they get a plane?)

I also noticed that Willow considers herself part of the army, does that mean she doesn't view herself as equals to Buffy, which is a shame because I feel that the four core Scoobs as equals.

Too bad we have to wait a month to get the next installment. Joss loves the comic because he can can make our withdrawals even longer. That's why I liked having Angel, Buffy and Serenity all come out in different weeks, so the wait times wasn't as bad.
Vow, what a day - I teared up more than once over Angel:ATF, and laughed like crazy over Buffy. Each one was great in its own way!
Xander and Dracula were absurdly hilarious together, and so was Andrew - I forgot how much fun he could be. :)
And the twist in the end? Something I saw coming, but great nevertheless. And Willow/Satsu banter? Priceless.
And Buffy is still a General and still not like the others - I guess also because her powers couldn't be taken away with the Scythe, because she's the source of it all somehow.
I too am a little uncomfortable, if not disappointed, with the Dracula part of the story. While in general I like Goddard's work, I never much cared for "Antique." Sure, the ending bit when Dracula is alone is nice. But the story also dials up Xander's butt-monkeydom to 11, if not 12 or 13. I hate seeing any of the previously 3-dimensional core cast members reduced to joke. And now it's made canon. Sigh.

Well, now that it's canon, let's deal with it. I'm glad that Xander is not exactly under Dracula's thrall anymore, but teetering on the brink of rethralldom. It ends up mostly a reference to past butt-monkeydom, which is more acceptable than full-fledged current BM. And I liked learning that Dracula's cool sophisticated persona is at least partly a conscious pose. (Is Dracula gaining dimensions as Xander loses them?) I think his comment about risking his "soul" could have been metaphorical -- maybe he risked becoming some other villain's slave if he lost. As for his racist comments, I took that mainly as a way of showing him to be a creature of, not his own, but Bram Stoker's time. I wonder how he'll fare in 21st century Japan?

I read Andrew's lecture as a seriously biased and unreliable account of the Xander-Dracula relationship. Remember in The Real Me when Dawn told her diary about Xander "going undercover" to stop Dracula? Well, this is probably similar. (Though the reasons aren't quite the same. Dawn had a crush on Xander, while Andrew just likes to dramatize life's sordid events.) I think we're supposed to read between the lines that Xander's "friendship" for Dracula was entirely thrall-based.

As for Andrew himself, I dunno.... He had a nice little character arc in S6-7, and a couple of decent guest appearances on Angel. But I'm not at all sure that he's justified the amount of space he gets in the comics, where he's been mostly just a joke dispensing machine. Sure, usually I laugh at the jokes. But if he appeared half as often and got half as many panels when he does appear, I'd be just as happy. Especially if the saved panels went to further illuminating the old core four, Dawn and Faith.

On the plus side, I liked Renee's part when standing up to Dracula. I liked Buffy's part. And I bought Willow's part too -- sure, pumping Satsu for info (ahem) is a bit insensitive, but how could Willow resist this once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear about Buffy's performance from a fellow lesbian? My only problem there is that she didn't draw Satsu out of the other Slayers' earshot before asking....

The vampires' plot to attack the Slayers could be a great story. And it had better be. Because the Dracula part has now put Wolves at the Gate at a disadvantage, and it's going to have to make up that lost ground to prove itself equal the previous storylines of Season 8.
I don't think of Xander's thrall as any different from what Glory and Willow did to Tara or what Warren did to Katrina with the cerebral dampener. Not one bit. I'd love to have the rational difference between mind control/enslavement as serious moral issues and as comic relief explained to me.

I can't even speculate on Buffy and Faith probably being safe from Toru's toy -- it seems logical, scythe giveth, scythe taketh away, and that doesn't affect them.
I've been more focused on the new issue of Angel today that I haven't had a chance to comment on Buffy season 8 #13 which I also read.

I liked the issue but not as much as issue 12.This seems to be more set up although I do like the setup with the Scythe and what it's going to be used for and the Xander/Dracula stuff.I loved Renee in this issue.

The Willow/Satsu conversation was interesting but it was a little jarring to see Willow ask Satsu how Buffy was in bed although I can understand Willow's interest.I sort of would expect Xander to ask something like that over Willow.

It seems sleeping with Buffy hasn't given Satsu any special points in the work related area.Buffy is still the boss.
I don't know... Satsu got something very special, professionally speaking -- she's joined the Scoobies in the luxury of having very intelligent points ignored by Buffy when the Slayer is in a foul mood :)

I would not be surprised if the BHC doesn't survive this arc.
KoC: I don't think that Whedon actually ever thinks his plot devices all the way through enough for a fully rational, coherrent explanation. My personal opinion is that he uses whatever is convenient and necessary to move the internal story/tension along, and the details are more like props for the actual character stories.
Warren's cerebral dampener was a device to finally propel the "supervillains" into an act that truly violated another person's right (not saying that playing mind games with Buffy wasn't infringement of some sort, but it was played to comedic effect).
What Glory did to Tara was to allow Willow to finally have to care for someone else who completely depended on her, so that she could finally truly understand a part of Buffy's burden, with Dawn, and the world.
And as for what Willow did to Tara, it was simply to move Willow in the direction that she was set up to go in Season 6, down the road to addiction, and the long battle back after.

I guess what I'm saying is that there is no fundamental difference there, except pending the outcome.
Renee is awesome, but I just hope Xander's loss of Anya is addressed sometime before they go full on date-mode. I hate seeing my favourite character get tossed aside and forgotten like this...
At first I was a little disappointed with this issue, but reading it again, I like it quite a bit (probably didn't help that I was in a very sour mood when originally reading it, plus my comics shop's orders got shorted and I didn't get the variant).

Some thoughts before I hop on over to .Org:

I love Renee.

I don't have any problem with Xander being under Dracula's thrall, nor did I ever. It's funny, it makes sense continuity-wise (unlike the whole time they spent together, which still makes me scratch my head), and it's used to good effect in the issue.

It was initially jarring to see Willow ask Satsu for Buffy sex details, but it's funny.

The ending is fucking great.

wenxina:

I don't think that Whedon actually ever thinks his plot devices all the way through enough for a fully rational, coherrent explanation. My personal opinion is that he uses whatever is convenient and necessary to move the internal story/tension along, and the details are more like props for the actual character stories.


...Yet all of the examples you give clearly show how well thought out and important they were in the grand scheme of things. Not really getting your criticism.
I'm like a dog with a bone on this, if Xander under Dracula's thrall is funny, then Katrina under cerebral dampening is funny.

Renee and what happened to Aiko save the issue. I acknowledge that Willow does have that crass streak -- and pumping Satsu for info about Buffy in the sack is nothing if not callous and strange. It just seems incongruent that she'd be trying to get Satsu to let go of any high hopes than asking her for girl-talk gossip about it.
Oh come on, that Dracula beginning was friggin' classic. That's the first time in a long time that I've ever laughed out loud at a comic. I liked how they even merged the Tales of the Slayers Xander into this issue. Each character (just like each person in real life) has ups and downs, and being enslaved by Dracula is just one of Xander's unfortunate events that happen to him. He willingly put himself in this situation for the good of the team.

The de-Slayer bit was pretty cool in a bad way, and I actually liked that Aiko Slayer the most of any Slayer introduced since Buffy, Faith, and Fray, so I'm sad to see her go like that, even if it was obvious she was toast.
Is the whole forcible override of free will thing funny because he's a man, or just because he's Xander? Would it still be funny if it was Gunn or Giles or Wes? Once I realized the lack of any meaningful difference between Xander being under Dracula's thrall and the events of "Tough Love", "All The Way", and "Dead Things", I can't un-realize it. It's either whacky fun every time or none of them. Maybe we could make a matching game out of Katrina's "Dead Things" dialogue and Xander's dialogue in this arc and in "Buffy vs. Dracula" and see who gets them all right.
UnpluggedCrazy: You misunderstood me. It wasn't so much criticism as an observation. The examples given illustrate how well he does what he does, as in move character stories along. The details as to how are less important. The question/comment was: "I'd love to have the rational difference between mind control/enslavement as serious moral issues and as comic relief explained to me."
My point was that in all cases, they're violations of another person. Is there really a difference between the "funny" ones and the evil ones? I was saying no, but it's the outcome that is important.
KoC: I think it's probably the image of Nick Brendon's Xander that keeps the chuckles going. Plus, the whole exchange between Dracula and Xander over tea that's amusing.
As for whether it'd be funny with some other male character... I guess it depends on how farcical it gets.
But if you have to have the dichotomy, then in the words of Faith as Buffy: "It's WRONG!"
Each time with the mind control mojo has been to the selfish advantage of one party over the other, and so no, in that case, thinking of it all as whacky fun would probably be well... wrong.
And for the benefit of your matching game, I think Katrina only said "Yes, Master" about 5 times on air. I didn't keep track, but I remember feeling kinda grossed out by it.
Not a bad issue. And I thought Dracula's racism fit the character pretty well. He's an old school evil European douche bag, after all. He seems like the type of guy who would use the term "lower races" in casual conversation.
Having not read the Tales of the Slayers issue that every one has mentioned, I might be missing some info here but...I have no trouble with the notion that Xander would have exchanged letters with Dracula. In fact, I can see him doing it easily without being under a thrall of any kind.
I'm like a dog with a bone on this, if Xander under Dracula's thrall is funny, then Katrina under cerebral dampening is funny.


Xander under the thrall of Dracula is funny because it's a man under the thrall of another man. It's satirical. It takes the notion that men cannot fall under such thralls or be manipulated because they're men, and pokes a stick at it.

For centuries men and women have been led to believe that women are the lesser sex because they can be overpowered, while men are the greater sex because they can't be overpowered (lest they be gayish). Any woman who manages to overpower/manipulate a man surely has had help from the Devil. But when a man overpowers/manipulates a woman they are righteous.

By reversing the scenerio it reveals the absurdity, and laughing commences.

Satire is not always humorous however. Katrina under the control of a mysogynist is not funny because that behavior is generally tolerated by society.

The satirical element is Warren actually having the real power to do such a thing with a cerebral dampening device. This takes it to the extreme in which most rational people would begin to object. Would any misogynist take such an opportunity if they had that power? Yes. Which then causes people to question whether it is ever okay to tolerate such attempts with or without a device.

If you have to stop and wonder why one is considered funny and the other is not, the point is still made. Just with less laughter.

But if Xander under the thralls of Dracuala is just not funny to people who are offended by the notion that men might possibly have the same weaknesses as women, then it's simply a matter of "pissing off all the right people." That is mostly why it's funny to me....because I know it would rub certain people the wrong way.

ETA: Just for clarity, Xander is one of my favorite characters. I don't think he is a butt monkey. I love him because he doesn't take things as a threat to his masculinity. Not Buffy or Willow's power, nor that they've slept with women makes him feel he is less of a man. Which makes him a better man than most many.

[ edited by GrrrlRomeo on 2008-04-03 09:40 ]

[ edited by GrrrlRomeo on 2008-04-03 09:42 ]
quick note on the credibility of Andrew: I thought the entire C.O.A. mention early in the scene was not simply about Andrew being geeky enough to carry that on his person, but specifically, Andrew would need tangible proof to back up anything he said, and even he acts as if that is the case, whether or not he'd ever admit it. The COA being more or less the equivalent of: hey, remember Andrew completely exaggerates so don't panic when he turns info-new-to-you (that has normal subtext) into a shippy fanfic that's only held back by the fact that eventually Xander would hear about it so he couldn't outright lie.

also yay to the return of crass Willow! I was so ready for her to stop processing for a moment and yknow... gossip. heh. really though, most of the Willow conversations we've seen have been Willow processing- with Dawn, with Buffy, with Kennedy. Almost felt like she was glad she was talking about someone else's relationship for once.

Also, I think the Xander under Dracula's thrall works so well because Xander has no issues questioning the people he cares about and holding them accountable. The really big Buffy-Xander scenes usually feature him doing exactly that. Sure he's not super well-read, but he's always mentally in the game. To watch him struggle with independent thought in the presence of a stranger, a foreign legendary campy vampire is hilarious. So yknow- it's funny because it's opposing character.

The Katrina-Warren storyline is creepy because it's more about Warren's character, than Katrina, and Warren is creepy. The storyline is primarily about showing that Warren isn't just delusional and power-hungry, he's dangerous.

Katrina is in service to Warren's story; whereas, Dracula is in service to Xander's. And, there in lies the difference.
Dracula. Bad idea then, bad idea now.
Both this entry and the Angel one are now linked to on the side bar so the discussion can carry on once this item falls off the front page.
Is the whole forcible override of free will thing funny because he's a man, or just because he's Xander?


Both. *g*

I thought that element was quite cute in a way, and subtlety handled given the circumstances. To draw comparisons with Katrina seems to be taking things far, far too seriously.
I'm like a dog with a bone on this, if Xander under Dracula's thrall is funny, then Katrina under cerebral dampening is funny.


Nope. The reason that Xander under Dracula's thrall is funny, isn't because of the situation as it stands, it's because of how it's played. Obviously, morally, one person controlling another against their will is wrong in any of these cases. That's a given.

It's just that in the case of Katrina, the wrongness was emphasized (and - yes - enhanced because Katrina was a woman, and the situation had echoes of many reallife situations) in the story. With Xander, it's the funny that's being played up. The reason that works, is because Nicholas Brendon is very good with the whole comedic timing and line delivery. It also worked because Dracula is already evil - it's a given. There's no "oh no, and now this soulless vampire has stooped to this" added to the mix, whereas with Warren, it was a different situation completely.

But the fact that Xander under thrall is funny, in this case, does nothing to change the fact that it's still objectionable and wrong, just like the other examples you mentioned, King of Cretins. Playing it for laughs may seem like an implicit lack-of-judgement of the event, because there's no emphasis on the whole moral dilemma, but that doesn't mean that the dilemma disappears completely.

Xander under the thrall of Dracula is funny because it's a man under the thrall of another man. It's satirical. It takes the notion that men cannot fall under such thralls or be manipulated because they're men, and pokes a stick at it.


I'm not sure if I agree with you there, GrrrlRomeo. Maybe I'm just not a person who's hip to the standard pre-conceptions, but if any person would have that notion, they'd be fairly silly. Men have been manipulated by other, charismatic men (leaders), all through history. So I guess I don't see how another example of this should, by definition, be funny.

The only reason that this particular case is funny, is because it is made funny by the dialogue and the exact way Xander reacts. Again, that still doesn't make it right in any way.

Also:

But if Xander under the thralls of Dracuala is just not funny to people who are offended by the notion that men might possibly have the same weaknesses as women, then it's simply a matter of "pissing off all the right people." That is mostly why it's funny to me....because I know it would rub certain people the wrong way.


I'd say that if people didn't find this funny, they simply have a different sense of humour from mine (and most of Whedon's fans) or - just as valid - are not able to laugh at it because there's still an underlying moral wrongness to what's happening on screen (like I feel is the case for King of Cretins - but correct me if I'm wrong). I, however, don't think there's anyone reading this (or watching Buffy vs. Dracula, for that matter) who'd not see the funny because they're thinking 'Bah! This should be a woman who's under Dracula's thrall! Not a superior man! They have inbuilt resistance against this kind of nonsense!'. It's hard to imagine anyone picking up a Buffy comic, thinking along those lines.
Underlying moral wrongness, and it has nothing to do with it being a man and therefore 'implausible'. It has to do with the rape of someone's free will, any someone's. My challenge was to ask if it's different for the people who *do* think it's funny because it's happening to a man instead of a woman (as if to say that makes it a fair comeuppance of a de facto beneficiary of a patriarchal society), or if it's just funny because it happens to Xander (as if to say that nothing that happens to Xander really matters, because he counts less than the other characters somehow). It's just one more 'funny syphilis'.

Really, if Xander doesn't end up getting the 'win' over Dracula in some way -- be it killing him after they presumably learn how to kill vampires with these powers or simply giving him a proper insulting that gets his power back -- it will have been a wasted arc for the character. When Willow or Buffy have a story where they get humiliated somehow, it inevitably ends with them getting the "win" and their power back. See Buffy taking down Sunday by herself in "The Freshman", or even bonking Parker in "Beer Bad". Willow roughing up Glory in "Tough Love", doing the big scary threatening on Amy in "Doublemeat Palace", or telling off Faith in "Choices". I hope that Xander will be shown the same simple amount of respect in this arc.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-04-03 13:23 ]
I'm not sure if I agree with you there, GrrrlRomeo. Maybe I'm just not a person who's hip to the standard pre-conceptions, but if any person would have that notion, they'd be fairly silly. Men have been manipulated by other, charismatic men (leaders), all through history. So I guess I don't see how another example of this should, by definition, be funny.


It's not about being hip to standard pre-conceptions. It's about knowing the history of inequality between men and women and how "silly" it is indeed. It's funny because in this example Xander knows and admits that he is manipulated by Dracula where other's would be too proud to and get a full on case of denial. It's silly because the notion that men are too strong willed to be manipulated (while women are not) is absurd...yet has been a commonly held belief...or denial rather.

This sort of manipulation is never right, of course. The difference in the way it's treated, denied, or allowed to happen is what's silly.

I, however, don't think there's anyone reading this (or watching Buffy vs. Dracula, for that matter) who'd not see the funny because they're thinking 'Bah! This should be a woman who's under Dracula's thrall! Not a superior man!


Neither do I. I just tend to think outside the Buffy box and see the cultural signficance and not just the effect on Buffy fans specifically. You'll never see me make an absurd blog post outlining how Joss is an anti-feminist, because I do believe he is a feminist and I appreciate whatever positive cultural impact he makes. This stuff is more than creating fodder for fans.

To draw comparisons with Katrina seems to be taking things far, far too seriously.

Plus Dracula isn't sexually assaulting Xander. What Faith did to Xander was quite unfunny and serious in comparison to Dracula.
Plus Dracula isn't sexually assaulting Xander.


That's a whole separate complaint, because there is a ton of slasher intrigue in this that I find grotesque for exactly this reason. Any slash fantasy about these two is by definition a rape fantasy.
Dracuala isn't sexually assaulting Xander within the canon. And I do hope you are not characterizing gay slash as rape fantasy on the basis that it's gay...because that is truely absurd. Xander is a fictional character. He's not a real boy. It's no different than slashing RJ/Buffy.

[ edited by GrrrlRomeo on 2008-04-03 13:54 ]
No, that's explicitly the opposite of what I said. I said it's a rape fantasy because consent is as impossible here as it was between Warren and Katrina. If anything, it's the ones finding amusement in the slash and ignoring the obvious and insurmountable consent issue that are doing a disservice to homosexuality -- it's tantamount to saying that the consent issue is only "real" if it comes up between a man and a woman.
Xander under the thrall of Dracula is funny because it's a man under the thrall of another man. It's satirical. It takes the notion that men cannot fall under such thralls or be manipulated because they're men, and pokes a stick at it.


I wasn't aware that anyone had any such notion. At least not in such sweeping terms ("men cannot fall under such thralls"). And if the intent was to satirize such a notion, wouldn't it work better with a consistently strong-willed man like Giles, rather than a man who already gets butt-monkeyed on a frequent basis, like Xander?

My problem with the Dracula storyline is not the man-on-manness of the thrall. It's not even really the idea of finding humor in such profound personal violation (though that is an issue). No, my problem is simply annoyance at writers who think that humiliating Xander over and over again is automatic comedy gold. It's not. This is a major character in a rich fictional universe who's been developing for over seven seasons. He should be more than just comic relief. All of the continuing characters should be more than just comic relief.

In Buffy vs. Dracula it works because it set up Xander's character arc for the season, as he tries to grow up and stop being the constant BM. (NB's performance helps too.) What's the character significance here? I really hope that Xander gets a "win" over Dracula, as KoC mentions. But even if he does, I'm afraid it just puts him back where he was at the end of The Replacement. Oh, well. Maybe the Renee relationship will give Xander a chance to turn back into a 3-dimensional character again.

Does anyone think it would be funny for Buffy to get turned back into CaveBuffy anytime the writers wanted to lighten things up? Or for Dawn to fall under the spell of some jock's magical letter jacket again and again? I don't think so. But IMO what's being done to Xander is pretty similar.
That's a whole separate complaint, because there is a ton of slasher intrigue in this that I find grotesque for exactly this reason. Any slash fantasy about these two is by definition a rape fantasy.


Just because you have 'issues' about slash doesn't mean you should read so much into this side of the story.

I think this was handled really lightly, and is meant to be viewed as such. You can't honestly think that Joss and co are trying to deal with any other issues apart from humor here. "Rape fantasy" it is obviously not.

I think the writers would be amazed to hear such a strong reaction to such a light hearted element of the plot.

As I think I've said to you on other boards, I believe that by the end of this arc Joss will leave Xander's character in a better place in regard to his 'relationship' with Dracula, then he was before. The whole 'manservant' thing will be a thing of the past, and they part as equals.

[ edited by sueworld2003 on 2008-04-03 14:19 ]
idiot jed, the really inexplicable part is that this all started with what was, on its face, a Xander episode, "The Zeppo". That episode is supposed to be this big character moment, but it first had to basically pretend that the past... 46 episodes of Xander's arc never happened and that he was suddenly useless in a fight and in constant danger and not worth having around. That set a storytelling norm of artificially reducing Xander to something less than he was, restoring him to where he started at the end of the episode, and then acting like it was "growth".

Really, his big moment in "The Zeppo" was supposed to be feeling comfortable about his contribution and not being bothered by Cordy anymore... but would anybody have even thought either of those would be a problem for him late in Season 2? Oy.

Sue, my subsequent post definitively refutes any attempt to make my criticism of the rape aspect of the Xander/Dracula slash an issue about the homosexual aspect. Warren/Katrina slash is rape fantasy, too.
No, that's explicitly the opposite of what I said. I said it's a rape fantasy because consent is as impossible here as it was between Warren and Katrina. If anything, it's the ones finding amusement in the slash and ignoring the obvious and insurmountable consent issue that are doing a disservice to homosexuality -- it's tantamount to saying that the consent issue is only "real" if it comes up between a man and a woman.


Xander is not completely unable to control himself. There is ambiguity in how much he is actually in control of himself. How much control one interprets he has is based on bias. Katrina was pretty much cut and dry not in control...she was practically a robot.

I wasn't aware that anyone had any such notion. At least not in such sweeping terms ("men cannot fall under such thralls"). And if the intent was to satirize such a notion, wouldn't it work better with a consistently strong-willed man like Giles, rather than a man who already gets butt-monkeyed on a frequent basis, like Xander?


100 Dracula films later...the notion exists. See the George Hamilton costume and the Dracula parody it symbolizes.
Xander is not completely unable to control himself. There is ambiguity in how much he is actually in control of himself. How much control one interprets he has is based on bias. Katrina was pretty much cut and dry not in control...she was practically a robot.


So just... partial rape? Buffy was able to struggle with Dracula's thrall in her bedroom, but it is at least pretty reasonable to guess he could have had sex with her had he been so inclined. S'okay, s'allright?
Sue, my subsequent post definitively refutes any attempt to make my criticism of the rape aspect of the Xander/Dracula slash an issue about the homosexual aspect. Warren/Katrina slash is rape fantasy, too.


But the difference is this is clearly being played for laughs, whether you like it or not. Whilst Katrina's situation was delt with far more seriously.

You may think there's a problem here, but obviously the writers do not.
So what, sue? I think that went without saying -- you act as though the fact that the writers choose to treat Xander like a joke makes it right that they should. You've got... on your nose... there's a thing. That it's played for laughs is the problem, not the solution.

I will give credit for this much -- whether Joss and Drew meant for it to be that way or not, at least Renee is there as a stand-in for those in the audience who realize the very unfunny truth of Xander being brainwashed and victimized by Dracula. And, I call that a win, since she was the best thing in the issue in the first place. Excluding for the moment the possible 'she's the traitor' thing, my love for her goes way up in this issue.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-04-03 14:42 ]
So just... partial rape? Buffy was able to struggle with Dracula's thrall in her bedroom, but it is at least pretty reasonable to guess he could have had sex with her had he been so inclined. S'okay, s'allright?


*sigh* But he didn't, did he.

That episode was also just played for laughs. Sometimes folks just have to try and take a step back and just accept something for what it is, a piece of humor, rather then the 'play for today'.
It's called a hypothetical, and you are blowing clear past the point. I really doubt they *would* have written Dracula sleeping with Buffy in that episode precisely because it would have obviously been rape. And, there's certainly no large component of the fandom who thinks "gee, it would be great if Dracula still has Buffy under his thrall and they hooked up".
Comedy is not restricted to a moral-neutral realm; it inevitably gets tangled up with things moral and not. In the real world, yes, someone controlling someone else's mind is not inherently amusing. But in a fictional story, we take our cues on how to judge a narrative element from what the writers give us. Drew clearly has coded the entire Dracula/Xander bit as ha-ha, not AH! (I'm not sure I would even call what's happening to Xander in 8.13 "mind control." Xander seems in possession of his wits, except for the occasional "Master" relapse.)
The fact that what would only be played for its moral severity with Buffy or Willow is being played for a joke with Xander is the thing I am complaining about. It's this pervasive sense that, despite being presumably equal to them in stature as the main characters of the Buffy series, he is the one specially held out as the punchline pretty much any time there's a whacky subplot to be drawn out.

My reassurance here is that, with the exception of "Antique", Drew Goddard has always played pretty fair with Xander -- has taken the character seriously and given him some real moments of heroism and autonomy (tackling Buffy in "Selfless", solid work in the fight in "Never Leave Me", pretty much all of "Dirty Girls"). But this arc feels like the referendum on Xander's place in the Buffy franchise. If, after 12 issues of being really well-written and mature and important again in more than just a moral support way, he comes out of "Wolves at the Gate" as just the punchline, it feels like that's all he'll ever be. Of course, if he's just treated as significant again as a set up to being turned villain, that's not really any better.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-04-03 15:24 ]

It's called a hypothetical, and you are blowing clear past the point.


No I'm not, but I've said my peace. This conversation is just going round and round in circles. As I said, maybe you should just 'loosen up' a wee bit, and just accept that sometimes things aren't meant to have too much read into them.

Excellent post by the way 1starbuckstown. I agree with all your points.

[ edited by sueworld2003 on 2008-04-03 15:32 ]
Buffy S8 #13, fulfills my primary criteria for a good story, it brings the funny and it makes me wonder what's going to happen next.

Here is an interesting idea, in all fairness isn't it time for Andrew to be sent on a dangerous mission sometime soon ? I think it's very unfair that he gets to stand around telling stories while the slayers get sent out to sacrifice themselves fighting the undead.
IMO it's time for Andrew to volunteer for a dangerous mission to some exotic locale, get torn to pieces by large animals, stomped on by elephants and eaten by locals with a interesting new recipe using peanuts and fava beans.

I suspect this very special 'Tuckers brother dies' issue could gather (almost) the same audience as the one where Buffy wakes up in bed naked with Willow and Satsu, saying "Wow, Willow thanks for lending us the instruction manual and pointing out the errors, we really appreciate your help" - Willow "no problems, why dont you lean over here and let me show you whats wrong with page 55".

"Shoe sale noise", heh funny, a nice tip from Willow to future slayer layers, the way to Buffys heart clearly goes through good footwear.
A few things -

Which issue is this Xander/Drac story in? In which series?

What's a retcon?

And a little rant,

I thought Willow's questioning Satsu about Buffy's bedroom performance was odd. Not only did it seem more like an Anya thing to ask, it also brings a (I think) very stereotypical bent to the Willow/Buffy relationship. It posits that a gay woman and a straight woman can't just be friends. That passage implies that the gay woman in such a relationship would, of course, want to have sexual knowledge of the straight woman. There is no previous text (of the tv show or comic) to support this sudden Willow desire to have sexual knowledge (even secondhand) of Buffy. Her question implies sexual attraction on some level. Sexual attraction that for seven seasons and 12 comic book issues has been completely hidden. I just think it's too big of an issue to be a throwaway line for jokes. I've come to expect more consideration in Whedon's exploration of gender, sex, and sexual orientation than this issue provided.

Not to mention that this brings the total of people who desire Buffy to everyone minus Giles. (Which, by the way, if they ever go there, I'll vomit - he's her "dad"!) Buffy may be isolating herself but the expectations of desire (sexual, authorial, etc.) that everyone is placing on her probably isn't helping her very much. With desire often comes the propensity to objectify. Buffy has always had so many problems being a real, human person. With so many desire scopes focused on her, it may create even more of a desire within her to withdraw.
If, after 12 issues of being really well-written and mature and important again in more than just a moral support way, [Xander] comes out of "Wolves at the Gate" as just the punchline, it feels like that's all he'll ever be.

KingofCretins, can't Xander, or any of the characters, occasionally be the punchline? As you have acknowledged, he is treated respectfully most of the time (12 out of 13 issues). Once in a while, he gets played for laughs. It happens to all the characters at some point or another. On the TV show, Xander may have been played for laughs more than the others, but I think that had more to do with Nick Brendon's flair for comedy than anything else.
The only parts I enjoyed in this issue were the parts with Aiko!!! That's pretty bad isn't it?
The story with Dracula and Xander that's referred to is called "Antique", it's part of the Dark Horse published "Tales of the Vampires" anthology. In that story, Dracula keeps Xander as his "manservant" for an unclear amount of time until Buffy shows up and saves him.

A "retcon" is "retroactive continuity" -- a revision of story history to accomodate a previously unestablished set of facts that weren't true at the time earlier story was told. In this case, the retcon is that Dracula and Xander became penpals or something, despite Xander hating and wanting to kill Dracula for making him a "spider-eating man-bitch".

1starbucks, you say 'occasionally' as though Xander being the punchline was the exception and not the rule. I refer again to the spider-eating manbitch speech, and the countless references to demon women and his rotten dating luck. From "The Zeppo" on, turning Xander into the buttmonkey has been as common a device in the Buffyverse as Put Willow/Dawn In Peril was. I already discussed this above, but when Buffy or Willow gets to be the butt of the joke, the story invariably ends with them getting their power back in some measure -- conking Parker in "Beer Bad". Heck, even staking the vampire that tells Buffy she smells bad. When Xander gets to be the punchline, it always seems to stand. The closest he got to getting his power back in any of those buttmonkey stories was throwing oranges at Hus in "Pangs".
Thanks, KingofCretins!

I don't want to get embroiled in the discussion you have going on. I'm new and don't want to offend quite yet. But do you think the whole Xander being the butt of jokes and not recovering from that, while Buffy and Willow always do, has partially to do with the women's magical powers? Is Xander never able to emerge from the punchline zone because he was not imbued with extra abilities? Kind of like Buffy and Willow could get out of a box if they were trapped because they were given tacks, scissors, and razor blades, but Xander couldn't get out because all he was given was tape?
When Xander gets to be the punchline, it always seems to stand.

How? I see nothing in the TV show or in the comics to suggest that any of the characters see him as a fool (or "buttmonkey"). Occasionally (and I do think it is only occasionally), he is made the fool. (His bad luck with dates goes back at least as far as Teacher's Pet from Season 1.) But that is not his permanent status. For an example of a permanent fool, see Andrew, who gets (deservedly) no respect at all and is virtually always a punchline.
KingofCretins, and also Idiot Jed you put this quite well, I think you’re striking on something with Xander that I’ve often wondered about with Andrew... why is something happening to one character funny because it’s that character when it would be upsetting if it happened to another? The way that the Scoobies treat Andrew in season 7 is pretty terrible, and it’s played up for laughs in a series that otherwise has a lot to say about the strength of friendship and sticking up for the underdog...I’ve never quite understood this. Anyway. Just a thought.
It's occurred to me to wonder if they are differentiated by gender like that, but never the superpowers/special abilities angle. I could see, however ham-handed it would be, that there's a decision to make the women incapable of being held down while the guy sort of stumbles through on account of the female empowerment theme. I tend to hope that's not what's going on, though.

1starbucks, would you not concede that this arc goes better for the Xander character if he gets the proverbial last word in this whole thrall/brainwashing thing with Dracula? Tells him off, kills him, something?
[W]ould you not concede that this arc goes better for the Xander character if he gets the proverbial last word in this whole thrall/brainwashing thing with Dracula?

KingofCretins, Xander's "wonkiness" around Dracula is an acknowledged weakness. It may be embarrassing for him, but it's hardly necessary for his character to triumph over that weakness in some decisive way. In fact, the weakness serves a comic purpose. Xander's weakness is a strength for the purposes of creating a bit of humor. Take that away and you may have a stronger Xander, but no humor. Since humor is the intended objective, Xander pretty much has to stay Dracula's buttmonkey when Dracula is around.
Why wasn't Buffy being obsessed with thinking Parker actually liked her but didn't realize it just an "acknowledged weakness" that she didn't have to triumph over decisively? I mean, it was played for laughs, too, right? Dreams of ice cream and flowers? Amusing fixation on pumpkin guts? I'm sure they could still squeeze laughter blood from that comedy stone.

The implication being that humor in the Buffyverse is only achievable at Xander's expense. There's really nothing I can do with that.

I wonder if Dawn is going to be brought in to bring down that giant red disk that poses the threat to the Slayers, and that will be her CloverDawn/DawnKey Kong moment, scaling that building and swatting flying vampires.

Also, not to get bogged down in the exposition, but just how many banks did Buffy rob? Aside from the castle, the villa Andrew was at in Tuscany, their other locations, and all their equipment, we've now seen two large helicopters, one smaller one, and now what appears to be a C-5 Galaxy transport jet (which Wikipedia shows has a unit cost of $167.7 million). Are they, like, hiring pilots for these things, or just training all these late-teens and early-20s folk to pilot them? Sometimes I have to sing the MST3K theme song to myself when I think of these things.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-04-03 16:40 ]
For what it's worth: I thought Xander/Dracula stuff was completely consentual on both sides, Xander wasn't under a thrall more than he wanted to be - but the problem as it was presented there was that Xander wanted to be under that thrall more than he wanted to admit to himself or to Renee, and that's what made it so hilarious and silly.
I didn't see any rape scenario there at all, as Dracula himself was pretty tame and didn't push Xander more than Xander himself wanted it. They really made a cute couple there, and somehow you could feel it wasn't going to be nasty to any of them. Just some weird guy thing, some strange emotional bond without any sexual undertones. My most enjoyable part of the issue - brilliantly done by Drew!

[ edited by Nata on 2008-04-03 16:50 ]
I haven't read the issue yet (waiting for it to arrive here in Germany ...), but following the discussion, I'm actually looking forward to the Xander/Dracula part. For one thing, I always felt that what makes him a strong character is his ability to deal with his occasional lapses into silliness. I felt that his character was never seriously diminished by being played for laughs, because Xander is the kind of person who knows when and how it is the best choice to make fun of himself. Even when he's silly, he's at the sime time kind of above it. And I can imagine this beautfully with the whole Dracula-scenario.
And regarding the moral wrongness of mind control: I think the buffyverse is full of these kinds of internal contradictions. Similar situations are played absolutely different - take for example Angel 3.1. Here the dusting of a quite normal, soulless vampire is played for tragedy - while in most of both series, it's played for laughs. Now, are we supposed to take the typical soulless vampire, despite being evil and all, as a rounded personality with some entitlement to respect for his life and feelings? Characters like not-ensouled Spike, Gunn in Angel:AtF and ocassionally even Drusilla seem to reinforce this notion. But how can the dusting of such beings be played for fun then?
I think the point is that the buffyverse simply doesn't have a mimetic or straightrforward metaphorical relationship to reality. "Mind control" is not simply "mind control" (as we would have to assume if Buffy were a work of mainstream realism); and it's also not necessarily a metaphor for psychological control and violence (Though, in the case of Warren and Katrina, it quite clearly IS). It can be many things, depending on what the situation is played for. In the Xander/Drac case, I would guess that it is being played to make fun at masculinty. We know from the series that certain conservative concepts of masculinty have some appeal to Xander (the military, being a hard-working husband, laying someone, being a hero ...), but that he also constantly experiences and reflects upon the fact that most of these concepts just don't work for him and the people around him and might not be that desirable after all. Dracula's thrall could be seen as a kind of metaphor for Xander's melancholical longing for an overblown, conservative, aristocratic model of masculinity. However, following such a model is obviously not what smart Xander would do normally. Nevertheless, there is a part of him that wants to do so - why else would he be so vulnerable to Dracula's thrall?
I would expect that, in the end, Xander turns out to be above that. But somewhere inside, there's a small part of him that actually wants to follow Dracula. And that seems to be the point of the thrall thing to me, and not whether mind control is is intrinsically funny or not.

OK, may that's all totally missing the point - as I said, I haven't read the issue yet. But that's what I gather from Buffy 4.1., from "Antique" and from reading this thread.
the retcon is that Dracula and Xander became penpals or something, despite Xander hating and wanting to kill Dracula for making him a "spider-eating man-bitch".

This really does not fit the definition of retcon, because it's easily explained by story we simply didn't ever see. The fact that we haven't ever seen the story which gets us from "wanting to kill" to "became penpals" (presuming Andrew's story is correct, of course) does not mean that such a story doesn't exist.

The fact that there might be stories which fill in the gaps perfectly well, but we just have not seem them yet, does not make any and every alleged inconsistency into a retcon.
Bix, since it is in direct contradiction of what we know to be true of Xander's feelings toward Dracula at the time he's last mentioned in his presence, yes, it's a retcon. Even if we get a story. That story would be, by definition, continuity that's made retroactive.

You can't get much farther apart than hoping to chase the guy down with a torch and calling him a creep, and being penpals so tight that Xander chooses to mourn Anya not with his lifelong friends, but with the guy who brainwashed him in the first place.

There is nothing "alleged" about the inconsistency. Res ipsa loquitur, it *is* inconsistent. And clearly a retcon, since, again, with the being great penpals and confidants despite Xander never saying his name again after "Real Me".

Keep in mind, it's precisely the obvious inconsistency that got people talking about whether Andrew's account could possibly be true earlier in the thread. In a way, it's not even consistent from 8.12 to 8.13... how many times have you said "aw, crap" about seeing your "fast friend"?

As to the earlier question of Xander deserving to "triumph" here, here's a different angle -- Dracula is clearly still a bad dude. He hunts frightened Albanian boys (yeah, it's consistent with Xander's character that he'd tolerate this ina friend. He wants the Slayers wiped off the face of the earth. Call me crazy, but it's just as worth wiping him out at the end of this arc as it would be to wipe out Toru, Raidon, and Kumiko*. I'd say Xander should do the honors, or if not him, Renee.

*If those three are really just one-offs for this arc, they easily jump ahead of Sunday as absolutely coolest one-off vampires in the history of the Buffyverse.
Wow, that's a big conversation caused by a whole lot of deep infering. All I'll say about it is I am sorry for those that are reading all the negativity into it, as that makes for less enjoyment and fun. I'll not claim you are wrong, but I do see it differently. And I will point this out: If you care so deeply for Xander and what happens to him, then the writing team as a whole must have certainly done a lot right with his character over the previous seven seasons.

Also, Willow's comment to Satus. Such a humanizing thing. What's the problem here? Of course she's sexually attracted to Buffy. Buffy is an attractive, powerful woman. Doesn't mean Willow wants her. But why can't the girl be curious?

I'm a hetero male and I have a hetero female friend I've known for 7 1/2 years (a little less time than Willow has known Buffy to this point) and it's completely platonic. We've had people (a whole lot) think we were together over the years because we are so close. We've never explored anything other than friendship though and we both have no interest in such. Am I curious? Sure! Is she? Probably! How could we not? Do we ever talk about it on screen? No! And barely ever has it come up off screen, and then only as a joke (like when others think we're dating).

There's really no such thing as a platonic relationship where at least one person isn't attracted on some level (only when sexual alignment allows for attraction of course).

Willow played the concerned friend/mother figure first, and had Satsu not responded in the way she did, Willow would not have asked what she asked because it would have made Satsu uncomfortable. Asking the way she did though, takes the edge away from the conversation, forms a bond. Satsu is much more likely to trust Willow and take her advice to heart now. They'll be fast friends. Uh oh! Two homosexual females! Maybe they'll sleep together! No, doubtful, but will they both wonder at some point? Probably, physical attraction is only human.

Phew, sorry. I just was so pleased by this wonderful, normal, human moment, that I have become quite upset at the negative response to it. I'm sure I wasn't even too clear. If I am greatly challenged, I'll try to clarify.
My problem with Xander/Dracula is not any deep, moral or philosophical revulsion; it's that it is utterly, completely, and totally implausible for Xander to have spent as much as a year living with Dracula. There is simply no way (that I can see) to make it make any narrative sense. And I'm a top notch fanwanker.
The implication being that humor in the Buffyverse is only achievable at Xander's expense.

Xander as Dracula's manservant = humor. If Xander fully disenthralls himself from Dracula -- or kills him -- the equation changes, and the writers have to find humor elsewhere. It may be satisfying to see Xander reclaim his dignity and give Dracula his comeuppance, but it would eliminate what amounts to a running gag dating back to Buffy vs. Dracula. The gag is legitimate, in my view, and I would miss not having it around. Not every gag works for everyone, but this one works for me just fine. Because Buffy or Willow are not subject to comparable running gags is really not even relevant. Why should they be? Some characters are made to carry the comic burden more than others--Andrew, Cordelia (in her stint on BtVS), Anya, Wesley (for a while anyway). If no one was allowed to be silly and funny, there would be virtually no humor in the Buffyverse. Who wants that?
I'm not totally digging Xander's thrall, but I think we should all wait for the end of the arc. I'm sure he's gonna have a Zeppo moment and either kick Drac's ass or just make him realize what a sad, pathetic old man he is and wipe himself clean of it for good.

Re: Willow/Satsu moment, I thought it was great. I mean, do the people who are complaining about it ever talk about sex with other people? Sex is goofy, exciting, and people love talking about it. It doesn't matter if their friend is the subject. I know people who talk openly about sex with their siblings or parents. Not everyone takes it so seriously.

And I think Dracula talking about his soul can be written off as him being overly dramatic.

[ edited by dingoes8 on 2008-04-03 18:03 ]
I forgot to mention, I really liked having a reference to how Xander reacted after Anya's death. It's one of the things I was really hoping the comic would spend some time on after I finished watching the series.
Nolan, well, I liked having a reference to the fact that Xander reacted to Anya's death, although we already could have assumed that. The apparent form of his reaction was rather ridiculous and incongruent with the character and preexisting canon, though. I mean, he wouldn't have tromped off into the jungle to hang out with Riley, who was *actually* his friend, or gone and meditated about his hyena experience with Oz, who was *actually* his friend? Seriously, isn't him deciding to go back to dancing at the Fabulous Ladies' Night Club more in character than pretending he had a long-standing friendship with Dracula?

1starbucks, so you're saying it would be great for Xander to have a moment that gets his dignity back except for the end result being that he'd have his dignity back? Is he really not as important a character as Buffy and Willow to anyone else anymore? I think I've been pretty clear, and pretty repetitive, that the problem isn't using the characters for occasional sport, it's the fact that Xander, alone, seems to be the only one that isn't made whole again at the end of the story.

dingoes8, I can honestly say that I've never tried to give someone a difficult message about not getting their hopes up of ever sleeping with someone again and then immediately asked them to gossip about the sex they had. It's not the conversation, it's the context that I found really off.
Okay I really liked Georges' artwork. It was just magnificent, his Buffy is spot on (it's that nose!!!) The story does seem great but this issue just didn't appeal to me much, Aiko senes, I loved.
I got the last issue in the shop (twas in the window), I really enjoyed the issue. I really enjoyed it. Xander was the comic foil which made a nice change. Dracula was his usual pompous self and Willow was just being a brat.
Xander being the comic foil was a change from... Season 2? I get enjoying the issue, I enjoy it more on re-reading and after having bitten down on the jagged little buttmonkey pill, but... change?
Gah, way too many posts to keep up with....

GrrrlRomeo, re: gendered vampire-thrall -- Maybe I just haven't seen enough vampire movies, but I never thought that "only chicks can fall under vampires' thrall, never guys" was a standard trope. And they don't seem to be emphasizing the butt-monkey's sex here, so if it is meant to be a satire of some only-women-get-enthralled convention, it's an extremely subtle satire.

KingofCretins, re: The Zeppo -- I used to be really torn about this episode, loving the humor (and sex) but hating the inconsistency in Xander's character that you mention. Finally I found a new way of looking at TZ: it's all symbolic. Of course Xander wasn't useless in the previous 46 episodes, but he's portrayed that way in The Zeppo because at that time he feels useless. Who knows if that's what ME intended; but it works well enough as a way for me to thoroughly enjoy The Zeppo now.

Jakob Schmidt -- If I can just quibble with one word there, I don't think being a hardworking husband, wanting to get laid, or being a hero are "conservative" masculine values. Even military service isn't a conservative-only value.

Re: lots of posts, the problem with Xander's frequent butt-monkeydom is not just that he gets into humiliating situations more often than other characters (though he does). It's also that the writers seem more willing to throw character continuity out the window to get in a joke with Xander than with the others. "Xander's grown to be an effective fighter over four years, but now we have a chance to put him in a hair-pulling contest with Harmony? Cool!"

Re: lots of other posts, I think we have to wait and see how "friendly" Xander really feels toward Dracula. Andrew is the very model of an unreliable narrator. It could be that the whole "friendship" is a figment of Andrew's imagination, or it could be that it existed but only as a result of lingering thralldom. Personally I hope one of those two options turns out to be the truth. Or else there'd better be one hell of a story to explain the friendship. Remember what I said about character continuity? The Xander Harris we know does not befriend vampires, especially ones that aren't fighting on Buffy's side, and especially especially not the one who made Xander his butt monkey. It simply would not happen.
Just got it and read it. Big meh for me. Don't like Buffy here, don't like Andrew- really, really don't like Andrew and think he wastes space. And the story really did little for me, the Dracula stuff and now the Scythe showing up in someone else's hands. How did that happen?
[T]he problem isn't using the characters for occasional sport, it's the fact that Xander, alone, seems to be the only one that isn't made whole again at the end of the story.

KingofCretins, I know your argument is that Xander is currently not whole, or diminished, but I don't see how that's the case. He is currently being used for "sport," but I don't see how that diminishes him as an important character to be taken seriously. If Xander slips and falls on a banana peel, we may laugh at his temporary clumsiness and that's that. We don't need to see Xander get his revenge on the banana peel to be made whole again.
Dana, the Scythe got into the vampires' hands in issue 12. During and after the Buffy-Satsu tryst, the vampire gang used the magic they stole from Dracula to get by the BHC's defenses. They stole the scythe from the vault it was locked in, using their ability to turn into fog.
No, but we tend to see one step around the next banana peel.

idiot jed, that's a great post through and through. It's the constant backpedalling of Xander's development for the sake of the comedy that bugs me far more than using him for comedy ever could.

Also, some more thoughts on the flat-out implausibility of Xander being friend and confidant to murderous evil vampire Dracula over the course of Seasons 5 through 7 -- it basically undercuts every part of his reaction to Spike and to Buffy and Spike and Spike and Anya in Season 6. If it's true, and Andrew knows about it, it's unbelievable that Andrew would know but not Xander's actual close friends. So why, then, didn't Buffy or Anya throw Xander's pal Dracula in his face when he got on a roll about "evil, soulless things" and appropriate social interactions with them? Because... it's a big ole retcon, and not a very sensible one.

I'd love to think Andrew is lying for Xander's benefit, but it's hard to figure, since the Slayers clearly thought they were listening to something completely nuts (which, yes).

Dana, I'm confused by your scythe comment -- the scythe is in exactly the same hands in 8.13 as it was when we last saw it in 8.12.
Since when is anything Andrew says canon? I found his version of the story quite amusing and completely in character. In fact, I'd say Andrew is getting progressively more Andrewy by the issue. Both in speech and appearance. There's something about the hair though.
Willow/Satsu talkiness - fun. Glad it wasn't done all negative.
Xander/Dracula/Renee triangularity - fun. Renee's personality is becoming a thing.
Aiko/Vamp deathy action - painful, horrible, well done.
I'm liking it.
Looking forward to the next issue.

Random thought: Willow hooked up with a slayer and then everybody started doing it. It's all the rage now.

As for the the thrall vs cerebral dampener thing... Warren was just a nerd, and the dampener plot was an exploration of what horrors he was capable of, what a sick bastard he was. Dracula is a famously evil vampire who is known for his mind control. He is expected to do evil things and control people; it has already been established that he's sick. We already know he's evil and has done many horrible things, so putting Xander under his thrall is not at all shocking. Also, Warren dampened Katrina with the intent of raping her, and ended up killing her. Dracula never intended to rape Xander, and didn't end up killing him, so that's a difference. He did intend to sire him, but it was kind of obvious that that wouldn't happen (and if it had, all the comedy leading up to it would have made the event so much more horrible and shocking and thus negating the retrospective funny much like the Andrew/Jonathan comedy stuff in the dampener episode didn't make the whole Katrina thing one bit less horrible). And then there's the whole reality/fiction separation thing and how it's all played out in dialogue and actions and so forth.
I really didn't have a problem with Xander's buttmonkey-ness, mostly because I notice that he is a competent fighter for the most part in Buffy's presence, but becomes/feels useless when she deems things too dangerous for his involvement. As for Dracs, *everyone* (except for Riley) was under his thrall to some extent, including Anya for x-number of years. So for Xander's thralliness to continue makes sense.
I don't think it's backpedaling his character, because there are key moments of Xander bravery versus Xander the buttmonkey.

As for Willow hooking up with the slayer and it's all the rage, I think it's just a slayer sexuality thing. After all, they have all this extra energy/stamina. Gotta let it out some way.

Willow's questioning Satsu about Buffy seemed enough in character not to bug me. After all, the two have been known to engage in a little bit of talk about their respective sex lives. Even if their friendship was totally platonic before because of Buffy's not being a "friend of Sappho," now that she has embarked on a same-sex fling must give Willow cause to wonder.

I was so sad for poor Aiko. Even if she hadn't been set upon by vampires, we already know how hard it is to be slayer-ified, then to lose the powers (re: Helpless). It's times like this I question my own secret desire to be a slayer.

As for Andrew, I think he's full of it as usual. But there are always some grains of truth in his overblown accounts. Perhaps he's projecting some of his own questionable sexuality onto the whole Xacula thing.
Argh. Right! Brain freeze!
bobw1o: You know, it's refreshing to finally meet someone (maybe there were others, but I've just been skimming the posts for a bit now) who doesn't think that just because Willow asked about how Buffy was in bed means that she wants to boink her.
Because they've never actually had that kind of relationship.
The way I read it, Willow has finally accepted Satsu into the fold, and it was more of a girl-talk-peer-share situation. Out of character... not so much. Good way to break away from the mother-hen mode? Yes. If for nothing better than chuckles.
Friends on another forum are encouraging me with an idea that I hadn't thought of -- that Xander could actually be affecting at least three quarters of the thrall thing in order to flatter Dracula into cooperating. As you can imagine, I much prefer the idea that he's using some cunning and guile and not just being abused. I could see things like calling Renee a moor being the leftovers of thrall and the rest being a well-planned act.
So just... partial rape? Buffy was able to struggle with Dracula's thrall in her bedroom, but it is at least pretty reasonable to guess he could have had sex with her had he been so inclined. S'okay, s'allright?


Yes...for the same reason I think "Him" is a funny episode despite the near rape. (Even if RJ didn't know he had an enchanted jacket, he clearly took advantage of women.) I thought it was hilarious that Willow wasn't immune to RJ's jacket and her line about being able to work around it was priceless. I continue to like Spike. I laugh when Family Guy makes fun of Jodie Foster. I'm not particularly offended by Dracula movies either. What bother's me is that because it's Xander or because it's a guy it's somehow a huge deal. Everyone probably feels like their favorite character has been abused for storylines for one reason or another.

GrrrlRomeo, re: gendered vampire-thrall -- Maybe I just haven't seen enough vampire movies, but I never thought that "only chicks can fall under vampires' thrall, never guys" was a standard trope. And they don't seem to be emphasizing the butt-monkey's sex here, so if it is meant to be a satire of some only-women-get-enthralled convention, it's an extremely subtle satire.


I would say primarily from the first Dracula movie with Bela Lugosi up until the 80s, this was common. In the 1931 one Dracula only bites men (because it was the 30s and they didn't want it to come off as gay) and the women are completely helpless and stupid.

And now a quote from Mr. Whedon:
The first thing I ever thought of when I thought of "Buffy: The Movie" was the little...blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed, in every horror movie. The idea of "Buffy" was to subvert that idea, that image, and create someone who was a hero where she had always been a victim. That element of surprise...[and] genre-busting is very much at the heart of both the movie and the series. -Joss Whedon


And I suppose one could argue that he didn't mean to include vampire movies under the horror movie umbrella. But...the series is about a girl that slays vampires. Perhaps both he and I are imagining things and the horror genre has always portrayed men and women as equals. But I doubt it.
I thought this issue was completely hilarious. Which is a lot more than I can say about this thread. Jeez!

[ edited by Capt. Logic on 2008-04-04 00:48 ]
EDITED: I'm just not going to argue about this anymore -- there are other things about this issue to discuss. I'm going to hold onto the vague hope that Xander is doing more flattery and less thrall.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-04-04 01:25 ]
It's Xander that is pretty uniformly dealt the short end of the comic relief stick.


I guess it depends on which you think is worse, being the comic relief, or put through hell. I think you're selling Xander short myself. Or maybe it's always greener on the other side. Xander is the most stable character to me...and he cracks jokes instead of whining and moping and trying to destroy the world.

While it appears to be how you read Joss' vision for the show, and the way in which you engage, I for one have never thought that the Buffyverse was premised on simply *reversing* the gender victimization of the horror genre.


I never said it was simple. It's never simple. That's just an element.

if you think the rightful order of the Buffyverse is that the women are strong and capable and the men meek and relatively helpless, then we're not likely to come together on anything.


No, I just think both sides of the equation need to be balanced. You are taking it to some crazy extreme. Women are stronger than people assume, and men are not as strong as people assume. In fact I think men are trapped in a box just as women are, it's just a different box. Expectations for men is too high and expectations for women is too low. I just don't think Xander is weak. He's not, you know, Mr. Macho Man, but that doesn't mean he's weak...not in my eyes anyway. He's fallen under the thrall of Dracula. This does not mean he's meek or helpless...not to me. It just means he's human. Xander's a hero, he's just not a super hero, and that's okay. He doesn't need to be "as strong as the women". He just needs to be as strong as Xander.

And...I'm going to go watch Temple of Doom with girlfriend. g'night.
........I was just talking to someone who said that things other than Xander and Dracuala having man love hapened in this issue, is that true?



Thought i'd be snarky there. It was fun. Anyway, i liked this issue, not only in itself but also for what I know its building up to. I mean slayer revokiness? And a field trip to Japan? Totaly awesome. Plus every step brings us closer to #16. And im really starting to enjoy Renee as a character, perfect balance of hilarity and slayer sensibilities (but not so much that she seems self-righteous like others have at times) to complement Xanders fondness of the many antics that obviously arise whilst fighting the forces of darkness.

Sucks to be Aiko though. That was just mean.
Dracula and Xander's conversation was hilarious. I love the catty posturing Dracula is doing, and the way Xander only just slips up on the thrall a few times but recovers, all while Renee is standing up to Dracula. The ending was scary unlike anything in Season 8 to date. The threat level has definitely been elevated.

I was entirely unprepared for Andrew in that outfit. Giving a lecture, no less.

Page 13 is super pretty. I was happy to see it when I turned the page.

ETA: Mmmmm hot mealworms. I think I'd prefer waxworms, myself-- less crunchy-crunch.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2008-04-04 02:52 ]
If no one was allowed to be silly and funny, there would be virtually no humor in the Buffyverse. Who wants that?


Well, 1starbuckstown, I think we can all agree that no one wants a humorless Buffyverse. Then again, there's no need for a 'standard buttmonkey' - which is what we're talking about here. Just take a look at how Xander was portrayed in the first two seasons of Buffy. He was certainly without question "the funny character", but that was because he said funny things, that - sometimes - broke the tension in a pleasant way, or just simply "served the funny". Then somewhere along the line, the way in which Xander was "the funny character" shifted. He no longer was the one with the funny line (some of the best lines started to go to Spike in season 4, for instance), but he started being the one stuff happened to, so that he could react in amusing ways.

I can even see why it happened: Nicholas Brendon is greát with the slapstick, so the writers propbably started using that more and more as they discovered what Nick did with the material. But that doesn't change the fact that somewhere along the line Xander changed from being the 'Chandler' of Buffy, to being the 'Ross' of Buffy (although, admitedly, that analogy may be a bit of a stretch). And - to me - there's no question that that diminished his character somewhat (even though there were also plenty of stories or events where Xander got to prove his worth).

But as a part of the core Scoobygang group of Buffy, Willow, Giles and Xander, it was Xander who was most often the butt of the joke - by a long shot. And that may even have been fine if the character was set up as such from the get-go (like, for instance, Andrew was), but Xander has been portrayed pretty inconsistently over the years ('buttmonkey'-Xander and 'reliable friend and capable'-Xander don't always seem to mesh as naturally as they should). So I'm left with no other conclusion than that the character has strayed somewhat from where he seemed to be going in the early days of Buffy.

But all of this wasn't my original point (it's the middle of the night here, so I'm getting sidetracked :)): there is no need for a 'buttmonkey' to have comedy. Take Firefly, for instance: that was a very, very funny show, just like the Buffyverse shows were. But there was no 'Xander-a-like'. Even Jayne, who was more frequently the butt-of-the-joke than others, had things happen to him that were consistent with the established flaws in his character. Hell, the show even featured 'Wash', who was somewhat like Xander, befóre he became the butt of many a joke.

So: are some of these things funny? Yes. If you ask me, Xander being under thrall in Buffy vs. Dracula was very funny, for instance. Is there a trend where Xander is the butt of the joke more often than others? Yes again, as far as I'm concerned. Does this diminish his character? Yep. How could being the repeated butt of the joke not? Is that a shame? Yes. Xander has always been the character in Buffy I could relate most to, and I liked the way he was protrayed in 'early' Buffy better than the prone-to-sudden-slapstick-version of later seasons. Is all this 'buttmonkey'-ness necessary to keep the Buffyverse funny? Nope. Just take a look at early Buffy, Firefly or all the episodes of Buffy where characters were just being funny instead of being made fun of.

(and to add another coin to the 'retcon' thing - if Andrew's story proves to be accurate, I'd be very, very surprised. I think the people who've mentioned in this thread that, without a plausible explanation, there's just no way that the Xander we know would befriend Dracula are right - as well as the fact that it contradicts almost everything that has been implied on screen in the last three Buffy seasons).
I got the last issue in the store too. Yay me. Read it quickly just now - enjoyed it very much, from comedy high to horrific bloody death low. Quick reactions: Xander seemed not quite as in thrall as I expected him to be, either playing along, or just not under Drac's dominion; nice mislead on the Willow-Satsu conversation; good solid transition is my summary.
And I suppose one could argue that he didn't mean to include vampire movies under the horror movie umbrella. But...the series is about a girl that slays vampires. Perhaps both he and I are imagining things and the horror genre has always portrayed men and women as equals. But I doubt it.


Well, I doubt it too. You'll note that I never said otherwise. But that doesn't prove that this particular incident, Xander being under Dracula's thrall, was intended as a satire of the gender conventions of horror movies.
I think that whenever we think of the whole gender conventions of horror movies thing, we have to remember that classic vampire lore was an expression of Victorian sexuality. Namely, (and here, I'm having images in my mind of Tom Cruise turning Brad Pitt in Interview With a Vampire) an expression of homosexuality and stories concocted to keep women from going out at night or inviting strange men into their homes.

So yes, in that sense, there is very much a gender convention of weak, impressionable, women that is promoted--and thus subverted by BtVS. On the flipside, there is also an underlying theme of homosexuality. Even AtS touched on that a bit in S5, with the whole suggested SpAngel thing.

So based on that, Xander as the buttmonkey under Dracula's thrall fits.

As far as Xander's character, I think it is in keeping--especially if it is an act, but would be so regardless. If we look at The Replacement, we see the two sides of Xander: brave, capable Xander, and the guy who gets smacked in the face by a 2X4. Sometimes his competent side comes out, sometimes the "other guy."
It's the same thing with Willow, how sometimes she's all intellectual and more or less proper, and how sometimes, she's "callous and strange." In this ish, we saw a little more of the inappropriate Willow.

Ps...please, pleeeaase, no more comparisons of BtVS to Friends. It hurts. It's like comparing The Godfather to Mickey Blue Eyes. Or, 10 Things I Hate About You to, you know, The Taming of the Shrew.

ETA: Oops. Haven't seen the movie in a decade, and I'm on vicodin right now. I really do know the story, and who turned whom, and have now emended the error.

Still, no excuse. Ugh. Off to bed. *Walks away shamefaced, then trips on rug*

[ edited by BandofBuggered on 2008-04-04 06:27 ]
BandofBuggered: Tom Cruise's Lestat turned Brad Pitt's Louis.
idiot jed wrote: Jakob Schmidt -- If I can just quibble with one word there, I don't think being a hardworking husband, wanting to get laid, or being a hero are "conservative" masculine values. Even military service isn't a conservative-only value.

> Yes, you're right. I find it difficult sometimes to express a thought correctly in English ... I just meant that it's all somehow about notions of "how to be a man".
Ps...please, pleeeaase, no more comparisons of BtVS to Friends. It hurts. It's like comparing The Godfather to Mickey Blue Eyes. Or, 10 Things I Hate About You to, you know, The Taming of the Shrew.


Well, I did say the analogy was kind of a stretch ;). But then again, I really like Friends (especially the early seasons), so to me: not an insult or cause for pain. Still, sorry to cause hurt there, BandofBuggered ;)
GVH: Great post!

About the satirical thrall thing, something else just occurred to me. When it started in Buffy vs. Dracula, Xander's thralldom was clearly modeled on that of Renfield. And in both Stoker's novel and later film versions, the character of Renfield was male.
Actually, Chandler and Xander both started out as clever, smartass boys with attitude and gradually became the butt monkeys of their shows by the later seasons.
idiot jed, and let's also mention that both Jonathon Harker and Rupert Giles fell under the spell of Dracula's "wives"...
Y'know a good model of a character that I think demonstrates the balance between the "serious" treatment -- strength, integrity, autonomy -- and the comic treatment? Wallace Fennel in Seasons 1 and 2 of "Veronica Mars". Not Season 3 where he basically vanished, obviously.

Wallace is, if one were forced to label, the Xander of Neptune to Veronica's Buffy (although Logan shares some of this duty -- I think of Logan as being a hybrid of Spike and Xander when comparing to the Buffyverse). Even in Wallace's first appearance in the pilot, , I think the story treated him with more basic dignity than, for example, "Buffy vs. Dracula" treated Xander. Even when he was dragged through more or less humiliating storylines, he was always shown as being other than helpless to circumstance, and more or less always got his "power" back, as in that pilot.

I think that's a perfect model of a character getting the comic pummeling by the story but always with an eye toward the dignity of the character, and it's one I think it's fair to wish would be applied to Xander as it is to a Wallace Fennel.

Qualifying my earlier arguments, if SNT and others I've discussed this with elsewhere are right, and Xander is actually bluffing the thrall a good bit, that's a perfect handling, because then the comic bits, like him reflexively telling Renee to "watch your tone, moor" because part of the thrall is real, are not undermining the overall integrity of the character as it would be if he really is just being helplessly dragged along in buttmonkey mode.
GVH, I liked your points very much. I seem to have created the impression that only slapstick buttmonkey Xander can bring the funny to Buffy. No, no. A thousand times, no. I guess all I'm really trying to defend is the writers' choice to occasionally (slap)stick it to Xander. You wrote in your post that somewhere along the line, Xander "no longer was the one with the funny line (some of the best lines started to go to Spike in season 4, for instance), but he started being the one stuff happened to, so that he could react in amusing ways."

It's been a while since I've dipped back into Season 1, but weren't the writers throwing stuff at Xander as early as Teacher's Pet (episode 4) and The Pack (episode 6)? I realize that neither of these episodes was played strictly for laughs -- especially The Pack -- but some funny Xander reactions did crop up, no? And also, wasn't our very first scene with Xander in the Buffyverse a slapstick pratfall off a skateboard (Welcome to the Hellmouth)? He sees Buffy and he crashes! Perhaps the seeds for slapstick Xander were there much earlier than we remember. And as The Replacement showed, both coexist in this character, and I think the overall character is not diminished because of it.
1starbucks, "The Pack" is still, IMO, the best Xander episode of the series so far -- first, because it's a nice thing when Nick gets to show his badass, second, because the funny was also intensely character significant and had meaningful consequences. Hyena thing is about as far from pointless funny syphilis or Renfield as they could get.

And while we see him pratfall in "Welcome to the Hellmouth", we also see him charm a little (his rambling thing about his 'relationship' with Buffy), see him assert himself (confronting Buffy about the Slayer thing), see him save Buffy's life on the mission in which he became the first Scooby by pulling her free of the vampires). Season 1 and Season 2, they really didn't do anything comic with Xander that wasn't there to say something meaningful, because he hadn't yet been all but dismissed as just some guy. That wouldn't come until about halfway through Season 3.
The evidence that Xander is not "all but dismissed as just some guy" is overwhelming. They wouldn't give the "crayon speech" to just some guy, would they? Or that moving speech with Dawn toward the end of Season 7? Or a position of authority over the slayer army? (I can think of many, many supporting examples beginning with "or" after that, but I think you get my drift.)
Okay, well, I thought I commented, but I didn't so....

1) What's BCH/BHS/BHC? I'm sorry, it was mentioned WAY at the beginning and now I can't find it. I have a feeling that it stands for their headquarters in Scotland, but words to letters please?

2) What's on Page 13? Why is it so pretty? Tell me! I'm dieing to know! (Yes, actually dieing. With the knowledge on page 13, I'll be able to revive myself and have ascended to a new plain...)
BHC="Big Honkin' Castle."
Ah, many thanks, Rowan Hawthorn.

Now, 'bout that page 13...
because he hadn't yet been all but dismissed as just some guy. That wouldn't come until about halfway through Season 3.

After which, he remained dismissed, insignificant, and merely the subject of jokes. Saving the world is pretty lame. And being targeted by The First as someone to injure because it will injure the Slayer is further proof of his meaninglessness. As is being described by Buffy as her strength and the only reason she'd gotten so far-- certainly that speech was entirely sarcastic. And just as insulting as what happened soon after, when Xander fought in a battle against hell's own army with a sword. Because in that battle, Buffy asked him to fight alongside Dawn, and as we're all aware, that's where Buffy likes to place the weakest fighter on her team. The DawnZone is the deadliest place on the planet, after all. Especially on Tuesdays.

Yep, he's really insignificant as a sidekick. That must be why Dracula's acting so catty now that he's moved on.

What do you want, KingofCretins? Xander the manly-man? Xander the seriously unfunny? Xander's never taken himself too seriously, and his brand of masculinity's always been deeply humble. There's true strength there, even when he's part of a joke. Do you want strength without weakness, a hero who's not clearly a geek? Because that guy isn't Buffy's right-hand man and never could be. That guy isn't the sidekick she trusts to protect Dawn, or the friend who can convince Willow that he loves her enough to help her overcome grief and the desire to kill herself. He isn't the one person who would confront Buffy about the way she undervalued Riley. He isn't the person coordinating the Slayer army and keeping Buffy a little bit in check, as much as that can be done by anyone. It takes Xander to do that. It takes someone who's approach is heart rather than brawn, because Buffy responds more positively to counsel than to competition.

Xander will always be especially valuable as comedic relief, and that makes sense, because he's the most able to bounce back and the least likely to take offense. And he's very funny. That's a job requirement for Xander nowadays as much as it's a personality trait. No one else could work with Buffy the way he does. And so his value, especially in the later seasons of Buffy, is clearly more than just as a joke.

Page 13 is an ad.
Sunfire, that was beautifully put. That's what I have been trying to say.
EDIT: Long post deleted. I really need to stop drawing this out. I really don't think a single word I've said could be actually read and understood to argue for Xander being all strength, no weakness, all "manly-man" and "seriously unfunny". I'd love it quoted back to me, though.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-04-04 22:37 ]
Sunfire, that was just beautiful! Made me think of Xander saving the world by means of unconditional love. About the most amazing superpower imaginable!
I remember watching "Primeval", back in the days when I was young and carefree and thought subtext and metaphor etc were for film school nerds and academics and the like (actualy I was 10 and would sneakily watch Buffy without my mother knowing coz I thought the fight scenes were awesome) and thinking pfffft Xanders the heart? that sucks! Giles was the brain and Willow had the awesome witchiness etc and then Xander was the heart.

My ten year old self said LAME. Ofcourse I always loved Xander, he was hi-ler-i-ous but I never saw his exact function in the scoobies as far as actual evil fighting went.

But then ofcourse I grew, I evolved, and reading the subtext in shows like Buffy became second nature (although I still have a fondness for the fighting) and I finaly understood the importance of the heart of the group. They can be as bad ass and as mysticaly powerfull as they want but it means nothing with out Xander there to keep them all balanced and grounded. Hes the butt monkey. He knows it. He even gets sick of it, like we see in "Buffy vs. Dracula". But he also understands that doing those things are important in the grand scheme of things.

He knows he'll never be the slayer or the very powerful man-witch (hehe) just as he says in his speech "Potential" about living so close to the spotlight and never steping in it. Being able to fulfill that role, to understand exactly what he needs to do in situations like this with Dracula and to offer support to the (often) seriously messed up people around him proves his place in the scoobies. He is measure for measure as strong as Buffy or Willow, always has been and always will be, even with his slightly altered depth perception.
SO GLAD that Draccy was made out to be a bit of a RACIST. Comics shouldn't be like real life, they should be fake. In real life there are NO racist people and so comics, being fake, would be more true-to-life if they only had non-racist people in them, but since I enjoy a bit of a fabricated yarn now and again it was nice to see something that doesn't reflect the real world in this story of vampires and other fake stuff.

Having said that I don't really care (at all!) for the Xander-Dracula storyline especially considering it's being linked to the Tales of Vampires. I'm not interested in Draccy's fragile side. Only his smug superiority and it's comic value.

Anyway am much enjoying Drew's arc! Loved most of this issue. Can't wait for the next.

And Jeanty's drawing of Willow saying "if that's not a recipe for an ill-conceived..." was absolutely stunning. He caught her expression perfectly! That image really caught my attention and made me go WOW!
Also, some more thoughts on the flat-out implausibility of Xander being friend and confidant to murderous evil vampire Dracula over the course of Seasons 5 through 7 -- it basically undercuts every part of his reaction to Spike and to Buffy and Spike and Spike and Anya in Season 6.


King of Cretins, I think you're really misunderstanding what was going on with Andrew in this scene. Others have already pointed out that Andrew is notorious for being an unreliable narrator. Not only that, but they actually have Andrew say, "They first hit it off when Dracula came to Sunnydale." Clearly, that's not what happened in BvD. So I think that's how we're supposed to know without a doubt that Andrew's just ignoring the whole thrall aspect of it and spinning a story about Xander and Drac being best buds, when the truth of it is that it's almost entirely based on thrall. Meaning the whole close friendship/pen pals thing is part of his lie. I don't think any of us were ever meant to believe that it's an actual attempt at any kind of retcon.

(By the way, I think you and I used to post together on the BABoards - I was Bob for a while, then became just Casey.)
About the whole Xander never mentioning Dracula thing, each season of Buffy took place over about eight months. Since there were only 22 episodes per season, we only actually saw about 22 hours worth of real-time events over the season. It's entirely plausible that Xander was in communication with Dracula during that time. I don't think this demeans Xander in any way. He just had a skeleton in his closet like most of Joss' characters.
Finally someone mentions Renfield.

In Stoker's novel Renfield was actually already crazy and in an asylum prior to meeting Dracula. He was mentally weak to start with. How he is portrayed in the films vary... sometimes he is left out altogether...sometimes he's a little gayish. In earlier films they avoided any gay subtext and he's just plain nuts.

idiot jed, and let's also mention that both Jonathon Harker and Rupert Giles fell under the spell of Dracula's "wives"...


Yes, that goes back to what I originally posted... Women can manipulate men when they have help from the Devil. That's as old older than the story of Eve.

KoC: I think Xander is emotionally strong. He is also dependable and loyal and pretty honest. (I think he'd make a great Dad actually.) He doesn't feel threatened by strong women. He stood up to Tara's brother. He saved the world by expressing his feelings. These are qualities and actions that are undervalued in our society.

Xander in "The Pack" is the weakest I've ever seen Xander.

It seems like you want Xander to be strong in ways that men are already typically portrayed in fiction. And if he were, then it would overshadow the undervalued strengths he has.

Joss and the rest of the writers have repeatedly bucked stereotypes of men, women, straight and gay. I think it's absolutely brilliant that Xander is the funny and the heart AND the straight guy.
GrrrlRomeo:
Yes, that goes back to what I originally posted... Women can manipulate men when they have help from the Devil. That's as old older than the story of Eve.

Right, which really explains why almost all of the characters - men and women - shown under the vampire's hypnotic spell were under the thrall of Dracula himself...

No, that goes back to the idea that the vampire's mesmeric abilities can affect anyone, and that only the strongest are able to resist it. Not one of the men in the novel are able to resist Dracula's spell; he can pretty much put them to sleep at will, just as he is able to control the women, and the men are no stronger in that respect than any of the women. In the original movie, Van Helsing alone is able to resist Dracula's hypnotic powers by force of will (though he very nearly succumbs,) but that scene does not, as far as I can recall, occur in the novel - Van Helsing is away when Dracula causes Mina's guards to fall asleep.
Wow, I really wanted to discuss this whole issue - because I loved it, but apparently this thread is about Xander being under Dracula's thrall only.

The issue was hilarious and this discussion seems to have been invaded by one humorless person attempting to bring everything back to one misguided reading of Xander's position with Dracula.

If he was really under his thrall would he have let Renee come into the house? If he was really under his thrall would he have talked back to him so much?

And did this same person really compare this to Katrina under the cerebral dampener? Really? WTF? Talk about your thread diversions...

Anyway - Drew pulled out another hilarious issue with some great drama at the end. Brilliant. One of the best issues of Season Eight so far.
My biggest complaint (as usual) is that it's just too short. Read too fast. Want more. WANT MORE - MORE!!

Okay, I know: it is what it is, and I'm just gonna have to live with it. I wish I had the patience to wait for the TPBs, so I could cover an entire arc at once, but hell, I'm having a hard enough time waiting the month between each issue.

But to get serious, here: Buffy/Willow/Satsu in the control center. Willow's expression is hard to read, but she seems to be feeling bad for Satsu: Satsu is right about leaving at least a small squad to guard headquarters. Willow might also be flashing back to Kennedy questioning Buffy and Faith (despite the Kennedy-haters, she was also right on more than one occasion. Just not very diplomatic about it.) And she's still taking Buffy's side, even while she's being sympathetic to the other. And she is being sympathetic - she isn't telling Satsu that she doesn't have a snowball's chance, or even that she shouldn't try; just, "Don't get your hopes up." I figure her inappropriate questions are as much to take Satsu's mind off her hurt feelings for a while as anything, but I also have no problems believing that the thought really has crossed Will's mind at some point.
I'm going to just wrap up my thoughts on Xander in general for this thread -- since, along with Buffy, he's my favorite character, I wouldn't want anyone to have the wrong idea on my thoughts on the character.

To me, Xander is the philosophical counterpart in the series to Buffy herself. If she is meant in any way to be Joss' statement on the idealized woman than I think it follows naturally that Xander is the same statement on the idealized man. I once described him as proving the distinction between how a heterosexual man can be 'feminized' without being 'emasculated' (I emphasize heterosexual for the simple reason that another stereotype is that any man exhibiting traditionally feminine traits must be gay, which I assume is a stereotype as important to break just as much as that Buffy isn't the blonde running from the monster). Very much a role model in that regard.

Buffy as a character excels in all those things that have culturally been reserved as the 'male' traits -- her strength, her resolve, her territoriality, even her emotional isolation. But she has always been that without having lost the traits that were traditionally 'female'.

Those traditional notions, to me, aren't per se invalid or morally unjust -- they are just incomplete. I feel the Buffyverse has been about showing that all people can show both sides of the coin, and not merely replace one for the other.

In Xander's case, I'm seeing a lot of points here that suggest that were he to *also* possess those traditionally 'male' heroic traits, it would devalue the character. I strongly disagree, and I think the series disagreed for the first two seasons. Xander proved in Season 2 that he can be the sensitive man, the comedy goofball man, but *also* the brave and strong traditional hero-man. He ran through fire to save Cordy in "Some Assembly Required". He fought back to back with Kendra in "Becoming, Part I". He stared down Angelus, with the latter being the one to blink, in "Killed By Death". Those moments didn't diminish his otherwise established role on the show. I don't think they ever needed to go away.

However, I do think they did go away. It became pretty routine to have those moments come only as Huge Milestones starting with "The Zeppo", which created the false notion that he hadn't passed them. Would the Xander who faced down Angelus several times *really* have been terrified of some high school delinquent with a knife? Even in "Two To Go"/"Grave", which was a triumphal episode for him and his relationship with Willow, from the teaser of "Two To Go", we first have to come back to the idea that Xander Feels Useless, even though he so very obviously isn't and hasn't been for years if he ever was. Anya even stamps home the obstacle for him in that story with the "do something right!" command. And, Giles and Anya get to share a moment about Xander having come through in the clutch that seems like they're finding out that Santa Claus really does exist.

In Season 8, I have been so delightfully happy that he is being shown at his full competence and usefulness without manufactured self-doubt being thrown into the character. In "The Long Way Home", he has no self-consciousness or shame about not fighting with Buffy, because he *knows he has nothing to prove* and is, at last, treated like it. The present story, however, has put me in great concern that we've come again to that place where the rewind button is being pushed on his development and that this thrall thing is going to be him learning to think for himself have courage blah blah blah self-reliance cakes and other stuff that we all knew in Season 2 if we were paying attention.

For all the time we've spent on this, I should point out, my only real hope for this season is that the main characters make it out alive and not evil. So, if more buttmonkey rewind mojo is what it takes to achieve it, so be it. But as the story progresses, I don't think I could just let possible repetition of that old device go without comment.

So... how 'bout Dracula's sword, huh? Pretty sweet.

EDIT: crossoverman, really appreciate the time and effort you spent on the personal insults. Obviously I wanted this to consume the entire thread, which is why Xander was, what, the 4th, 5th point on my review of the issue?

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-04-05 04:19 ]
Seems like a good time to move on to other things.

For me it was a good issue, though not a great one, which should lead to some fantastic stuff in the next two issues. However, I'm a bit confused on some points.

As nicetomeatyou said, I'm pretty puzzled by the cover. Where is that meant to be? Who's that beside Willow? I thought it would make sense after reading the issue, but not so much.

Before Xander and Renee arrive we see that Dracula has aged and has grey hair and a beard. How is this possible for a vampire? (and how the heck does he reverse it all in fifteen minutes?)

In the scene of devastation where Aiko says "I asked around", there's letters in the top left corner ending "ais". Anyone have a clue what that's about? Just looks weird to me.

I too was very impressed with the drawing of Willow in the H.G.O.G.A. cookbook panel, but part of me can't help wondering why the art isn't always this good (though I'm coming from a position of near total ignorance on art and comics ;) ).

Not wishing to stir up trouble by using the c-word, but I'd really like to know what the position of Tales of the Vampires (and Slayers) is regarding canon. It seems like "pretty much canon" sums it up, but for me this is like saying someone is pretty much pregnant. You either are or you aren't, but as far as I know, we're in the dark. Anyone got a cat and a box?

[ edited by cypher on 2008-04-05 15:57 ]
cypher:
Before Xander and Renee arrive we see that Dracula has aged and has grey hair and a beard. How is this possible for a vampire? (and how the heck does he reverse it all in fifteen minutes?)

In the original novel, Dracula first appears as an old man, and, as he finds new prey, gets progressively younger. Having said that, his youthful appearance in "Buffy" is probably a glamour, just another of the magick tricks he's picked up over the years.

cypher:
I too was very impressed with the drawing of Willow in the H.G.O.G.A. cookbook panel, but part of me can't help wondering why the art isn't always this good

Yeah, I like Jeanty's style, but it is inconsistent. Satsu looks different in every issue - Renee's appearance has probably been the most consistently... er... consistent since the comic started.
I'm hung up on the poor demon in Aiko's devastated room. It's sitting there, its knees pulled up, sucking its thumb, as red-faced as something with green skin can get. This demon was traumatized! Dangerous Kabuki demon or not, Aiko scared it to feebleness!

Yet Toru killed her so easily. This is gonna be a nasty fight.
I actually really, really enjoyed this issue.

Despite the jarring lack of Buffy (I still love her) everything else was topnotch. I don't think this is Buttmonkey Xander. I think this is New Xander being presented with his Buttmonkeydome and having the chance to say No More with us all watching.

He obviously grew up a lot in between seasons 7 and 8, and I think this is just emphasizing that.

The villains in this arc are helluva scary. And exciting. And things are just heating up brilliantly.

Loved the art in this issue, too. Colouring was fantastic!

Can't wait for the rest of this arc. Drew is doing fantastic.

(Oh, and Andrew's such a storyteller, but even if he's not lying - I can totally buy Xander heading off to live with Drac to mourn Anya. I can imagine the group being pretty fragmented in the immediate aftermath of "Chosen" and they all seemed to go off and do their own thing. I like it.)
Shpedoinkel -- First, I agree with what you say about Xander being the regular guy who keeps the superheroes grounded; but remember that this is a separate issue from being a butt-monkey. Butt-monkeydom doesn't mean being an ordinary guy, it means being the one who's put in humiliating situations where all his virtues count for nothing.

Second, you just made me feel really old.

GrrrlRomeo --

It seems like you want Xander to be strong in ways that men are already typically portrayed in fiction.


If wanting Xander to remain a well-rounded character instead of just a joke counts as this, then KoC might be guilty of wanting it, but I definitely am.... Seriously, I agree with you about what Xander's virtues are; but as far as I can tell, things like "Antiquity" are totally irrelevant to those virtues.

Also, I disagree with you about The Pack. Whenever Xander was not possessed, he was as strong as he had ever been up to then, standing up to bullies and diving in to help rescue Willow. Well, okay, pretending he didn't remember any of it might have been a little weak.

KingofCretins -- I like what you say about Xander's virtues. I would however argue that he did pretty well at the end of season 6. His feeling useless made sense under the circumstances, when things kept getting worse and he couldn't see a way to stop them. (And I don't think Giles was all that surprised in Grave, unlike Anya. I love watching her face as she tries to decide whether or not she's proud of her ex.) Also, in S7, while Xander gets BMed again (First Date), his good moments aren't treated as surprises or revelations. So I'm not sure it's all been downhill for Xander. I see the butt-monkey problem more as something that crops up at random intervals.

Crossoverman -- I don't think labeling someone you disagree with as "humorless" or calling his posts an "invasion" is helpful or appropriate. And if you want to discuss something other than Xander's thrall, well, what's stopping you?
Before Xander and Renee arrive we see that Dracula has aged and has grey hair and a beard. How is this possible for a vampire? (and how the heck does he reverse it all in fifteen minutes?)


I've actually had this idle speculation about this sort of thing since "Buffy vs. Dracula". I had always wanted an explanation for Dracula consistently breaking the 'rules' of vampires in the Buffyverse (which Joss said were important to him back in "Welcome to the Hellmouth"). I doubt it's the case, but one of the explanations I considered is that, in the Buffyverse, Dracula isn't a vampire at all. Just some undefined other type of thing with tremendous powers of illusion. Even when he bit Buffy -- his face didn't change, and he bit over Angel's bite marks. Could it have all been an illusion? I really don't think they'd ever take the time to construct such a creature since "Buffy vs. Dracula" was, at the time, a one shot thing and this arc doesn't really seem focused on Dracula's own background, it just always struck me as a possible explanation for the wierdness of him.

As for the "Tales of..." anthologies being canon, I take them, now that the events have actually been referenced, as being like what the movie was before Dark Horse published "The Origin", which is canon. That is, "Tales of..." is canon in general, but not specific. As in, it's not necessarily canon that Xander turned into a 3 and a half foot tall humpback, just that he was there. Unless Butterfield is really a 7 foot tall snarling purple demon and those are some really constricting bloomers.

I think this is New Xander being presented with his Buttmonkeydome and having the chance to say No More with us all watching.


Which is what I was trying to say the arc should be for him back in the first couple dozen posts... right. Shutting up now.
In the scene of devastation where Aiko says "I asked around", there's letters in the top left corner ending "ais". Anyone have a clue what that's about? Just looks weird to me.


I think that panel is set in some sort of a bar or cafe, so the letters are probably part of a sign that was in the window or behind the bar. Dunno what word the sign is spelling out though. Maybe the French "japonais"?

I agree that the artwork here is nice, especially Willow in that HGOGA panel. But I never had a serious problem with Jeanty, even in the earliest issues. He's occasionally had a hard time drawing the same face the same way twice, as Rowan says. But as long as no one looks wildly different from their TV versions, I'm satisfied.
I enjoyed this issue quite a bit. I thought it was funny and I liked the way they blended the Dracula lore with the Btvs lore. It's not easy mixing two fandoms together like that and here they do it well, much better than they did in "Buffy vs. Dracula", IMO.

Once again, I saw Buffy being just Buffy in taking the leadership role. I don't think she was actually putting Satsu off but to be honest, it reminded me a little of the way she treated Riley. I also think Satsu was right in saying the should leave others behind. That would have been the smart thing to do.

Willow's talk with Satsu was very well done and the drawing of her was excellent in those panels. I did find it a little strange that she'd choose to have that discussion amid a bevy of slayers on board the plane, though-that should have been a conversation held in private, especially given the sex questions.

Andrew's presentation to the slayers sounded exaggrated to me, although (as I said earlier) I have no trouble with the idea that Xander would exchange letters with Dracula, thrall or no thrall. Nor do I have trouble with the notion of Xander and Dracula developing a rapport in that exchange of letters. I do have a little trouble suspending my disbelief when it comes to Xander spending a vast amount of time with him after Anya's death (rather than his friends) but I don't find it utterly implauseable either: after all, Angel went off to a monastary after Buffy died so I suppose Xander could go visiting.

I don't think Xander's totally under Dracula's thrall, I believe a good bit of that was faked to lull the Unholy Prince bater into (at the very least) divulging information.

I loved that Dracula sensed when Xander was near and that it perked him up enough for him to shave, clean up and alter his appearance (showy gypsy stuff, wheee!) I agree with Rowan Hawthorn about the racial thing-her comments about his history with Moors and the Ottomans was spot on. I think, in his own way, Dracula was teasing Xander a bit (although I'm just as sure he does view Xander as a 'manservant' of sorts). I find the idea that he gambled his powers for a motorcycle ridiculous and I think his willingness to help them had more to do with boredom than anything else. However, I also thought he was a little over-the-top in declaring he didn't care if Buffy lived or died. I think he may care, more than he's willing to let on.

Loved Renee in this issue.

Aiko was kick-ass and so was her death. A great ending to a good issue.

And last but not least, in reflection after reading this thread, I think that I'm beginning to dislike the word buttmonkey as much as I do champion.

[ edited by menomegirl on 2008-04-05 18:25 ]
I've never had a problem with the term 'champion' -- it's a determinable thing, a term to describe characters in the Buffyverse. It has metaphysical significance of a sort. 'Buttmonkey' is just something that an episode conveniently provided us as way to describe the treatment of a character or character by the writers :)

Stormwreath, on his LJ, took a fic-based shot at coming up with something about Xander mourning Anya in Dracula's company -- I'm not sure anybody could have found a better "in" to justifying it, but really, it doesn't mesh with the timeline, and it still doesn't really make any sense. I get him going off to mourn alone, I really do. I just don't think there's any way to make hanging out with Dracula and keeping him in clean robes and rubbing alcohol for a few months a believable way for that to happen. I would have thought such a walkabout would have been spent learning stoicism from Oz, fighting demons with Riley, or (how about this?), since he had the money at that point, to make the trip he talked about after high school. Honestly, it's more believable to me that he'd have gone to be Wesley's administrative assistant/research monkey at W&H for a summer than for him to go hang with Dracula.

On a different note, does anyone else think that this arc will not have been fully paid off if we don't see Dracula and/or Xander riding motorcycles at some point?

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-04-06 00:45 ]
My take on the conversation between Satsu and Willow is that it wasn't done in private so it wouldn't come off as them having an intimate moment. The setting and dialogue set the mood.

I don't know why Xander went to Dracula after "Chosen". I'm assuming it has yet to be revealed 'cause Andrew isn't a reliable source.
Personally, I think the fears of Xander being a perpetual buttmonkey are a bit overblown. The guy came through any number of times and grew throughout the series. Buffy only came out from under Drac's thrall because he made the mistake of reinforcing who she really was...which hey, braintrust, was a vampire slayer. In the comic I thought there was a nice residual action while Xander mostly having his own free will. There are so many parallels that can be drawn for that, that I thought it was a nice touch.

As far as the rest of this, as someone way up thread also mentioned, the Willow Satsu moment undermines the shows message that lesbian women and straight women can be close without the lesbian having a sexual interest in the straight woman. The relationships between straight women and lesbians in BtVS was one of the things that made me smile. I loved Tara and Dawn's relationship. I loved Willow and Buffy's relationship. I feel like so much of what I loved in BtVS is being undermined and nothing interesting is replacing it. I feel like I am being pushed away. Yeah, I know, bye bye, don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

I always loved that unambiguously straight women were strong and had intense, trusting friendships with lesbian women. I loved that lesbian women had intense, mutually supportive, non-sexual friendships with straight women. I loved that not all women were two drinks away from making out with another woman. That is all pretty much gone or going.

In the media, if they know anything about the comics at all, Buffy will never be straight again. Without a stretch, the cookie speech now becomes about sexuality instead of letting girls grow into women without the constant pressure of finding someone to attach themselves to before they are too old for the market. It makes me sad. It is like I am saying a real goodbye to BtVS, when before there was always hope for it to come back.

Of course very few will ever read this because it is so far down the list, but maybe that is appropriate.
I didn't mind Willow's conversation with Satsu at all. Willow has always been interested in Buffy's love life and this doesn't seem out of character to me. OK, she usually asks Buffy directly (and maybe a little more innocently) but she has always been nosy.

“You dreamed about Angel again?” “Third night in a row.” “What did he do in the dream?” “Stuff.” “Oh! Stuff! Was it one of those
vivid dreams where you could feel his lips and smell his hair?” - Reptile Boy

"How's with you and Riley? You two seemed pretty snugly after class…Do I have to tie you two together?" "We almost, but..."
"Well, get with it - I need my vicarious smoochies." - Hush
Like moley 75 said, I didn't see Willow's conversation with Satsu as out of character or think that it implied Willow wanted to find out what Buffy was like in the sack to satisfy any serious vicarious lusts. Just that she's curious. If anything rather than saying that lesbian and straight women can never be friends the scene seemed to be more about lesbians being able to relate to one another through shared experience if nothing else. I also thought that Willow asking the sex question was rather a smart way of giving Satsu a way of taking the whole debacle less seriously. Objectifying Buffy is probably better than idolising her for Satsu at this point.
The pattern has been, though, that the Scoobies will make suggestive comments to each other about their sex lives, but quite a bit less to others, or seem comfortable hearing about them from others. Contrast, for instance, Buffy and Willow (and Cordy) both gawking appreciatively at Xander in "Go Fish" with both being kind of uncomfortable listening to Anya talk about the much more thoroughly clothed Xander in "Pangs". I would never have even blinked to have Willow just eagerly jump in with Buffy and ask her straight out if she made the 'shoe-sale noise'; it's just going through Satsu that seemed shady.

I found it a little disappointing to see Buffy holding herself apart like she was on the plane. In "The Long Way Home", she seemed so much more... chummy and integrated. Never would have picked up on her having these same 'connection' issues until it was raised in "A Beautiful Sunset" -- prior to that, she just seemed to have some specific distance with Giles, some with Willow, some with Dawn, but otherwise was closer to Xander than she ever had been, and with the Slayers as well.

I guess they're going to need to get Willow to teleport Dawn in to break the big disk thing.
Yeah, there is a difference between asking your friend what their lover is like in bed and asking your friend's lover what your friend is like in bed.
KoC said:
"I would never have even blinked to have Willow just eagerly jump in with Buffy and ask her straight out if she made the 'shoe-sale noise'; it's just going through Satsu that seemed shady."

One, I guess Willow and Buffy are still kinda on outs. Secondly, and I think this is the more important reason, this was a moment between Willow, and a possible addition to the core group. Willow has only ever referred to two new Slayers by name: Renee and Satsu, whom she knew by name, even before the tryst, as she was the one who asked Buffy what she was doing naked in bed with Satsu. The moment seemed private enough, with Buffy in the shadows, and some of the girls reading, talking amongst themselves and the girl sitting next to Willow is clearly shown to be sleeping. You see her face several times in various cells, including the one with Willow's HGOGA reference.

KoC said:
"I found it a little disappointing to see Buffy holding herself apart like she was on the plane. In "The Long Way Home", she seemed so much more... chummy and integrated. Never would have picked up on her having these same 'connection' issues until it was raised in "A Beautiful Sunset" -- prior to that, she just seemed to have some specific distance with Giles, some with Willow, some with Dawn, but otherwise was closer to Xander than she ever had been, and with the Slayers as well."

Well, her chumminess was BEFORE the whole Twilight issue became a major pain in the ass, which after #11, became quite literal. Plus, the nightmares about "Long live the Queen. The Queen is dead!" which I do not presume to have ceased once the "No Future for You" arc ended. And with the drifting apart of her core group... she's probably got some stress in her system. The connection issues she mentions in #11 could be extended to how alone she feels, but I think it was primarily a declaration of how she doesn't feel like one of the girls. And she isn't. As Willow puts it, she's the general, they're the soldiers. And she was already giving orders in "The Long Way Home", case in point when about to rescue Willow, she gives very clear orders to Satsu.

KoC said:
"I guess they're going to need to get Willow to teleport Dawn in to break the big disk thing."

Was also considering if Giant Dawn could fit into the hangar of the plane. Could be a wee bit tight, but I'm not sure how big the plane is, and how big Dawn is exactly. It's been pointed out before that her size tends to fluctuate. Maybe she was feeling a couple of dress-sizes smaller that day.

[ edited by wenxina on 2008-04-06 22:20 ]
Taking a close look back at the Willow/Satsu conversation - all of the slayers around them appear to be either asleep or else buried in books. The blonde next to Willow is quite specifically shown to be "sacking out", suggesting more privacy for the talk than we might have realized at first glance. And Satsu seems to be doing more of an at ease, "No way!" kind of smile at Willow's question than to be horrified or offended. I do think Willow was trying to relax Satsu more than anything; and that a good point was made upthread about friends with compatable preferences being curious about each other without being interested in pursuing anything sexual.

While I'm beginning to be glad that I haven't read "Antique", I was okay with Xander and Dracula here. I do think Xander is basically thrall-free, with an occasional residual slip which he quickly overcomes - I do see why someone could be upset about the issue if they read it as Xander being completely enslaved again, though. Honestly, I found Dracula to be pretty amusing, from his patheticness of "fifteen minutes earlier" to his pomposity until his "Oh balls" realization. And the whole account of how he lost his shapeshifting powers...

Which is a question, isn't it? Has he actually lost those abilities, or has the secret just been shared with this new group? (And I think GrrrlRomeo probably has it pegged, that he gained them while still human, since he apparently went to black magic school, according to Stoker.)

Like the Andrew - "In fact, I should write 'motorbiking' up here under powers,"; and that we finally got an Anya mention (makes sense that the author of "Selfless" would do it) - more, please. Not liking Buffy bringing (apparently) everyone from the castle. With that - scary - ending, we could get another "Dirty Girls" situation here.... (Although, with Raidon's remark about taking it "global", maybe it wouldn't matter where the next gen slayers would be....)

The plane's that expensive, by the way? Between the robbery (ies?) and access to whatever Watchers Council resources remain, I can see a lot of the equipment and assets explained - some of the bases - Tuscany, maybe even the castle - could have been Council holdings, for example. And come to think of it - the Council did use helicoptors, as well. But the transport plane... Maybe they stole that, straight up? It's not like the military wasn't already mad at them, as far as they were concerned....
I guess my edit came a couple of minutes late. Sorry for the repeat, but I agree with LKW on the sleeping slayers around them.
172 comments and no posts from Joss. It's like, there's actual material to discuss, or something.
LKW said:
"The plane's that expensive, by the way? Between the robbery (ies?) and access to whatever Watchers Council resources remain, I can see a lot of the equipment and assets explained - some of the bases - Tuscany, maybe even the castle - could have been Council holdings, for example. And come to think of it - the Council did use helicoptors, as well. But the transport plane... Maybe they stole that, straight up? It's not like the military wasn't already mad at them, as far as they were concerned...."

Well, they don't need to own it. I mean, they could always have chartered a plane. They have enough money to do that. That would also explain who's piloting the aircraft; whoever they paid, or someone who works for the person/company they paid.
gossi:
172 comments and no posts from Joss. It's like, there's actual material to discuss, or something.

Heh. Bit unnervin', innit?
Buffy giving orders isn't exclusive of her being friends and connected to the Slayers -- she's given her friends orders from time to time for years. Maybe it is just the stress. She's also probably a little embarrassed -- she got pwnd for the second time in as many issues in 8.12, and she does have a bit of an ego about her fighting ability.

Satsu seemed to be fine with the conversation with Willow... it was just very surprising to me that Willow would take that conversational approach with her at all. Assuming Satsu's not evil, I think she'll come out of this alright -- a little roughed up, but good.

I worry about Buffy's plan -- this *does* feel a lot like the disasterbacle that was "Dirty Girls", and for the same reason. Bad guy showed up and rubbed it in Buffy's face. And Toru seems pretty smart, Raidon seems to be imperturbible, and Kumiko is probably the baddest of them, and who knows how many are in their crew? It's a recipe for an ambush.

I raised this a couple months ago on another forum, but it seems to fit here -- do you think that the Slayer spell will be intact after this arc? Will "Wolves at the Gate" at least substantially downsize the Slayer population?

I doubt they could have stolen a plane like that -- it's impossible to hide. And if they chartered it, I'd be curious on the math there, too, since at the very least Twilight appears to have leveraged the US military bureaucracy into classifying the Slayers as a terrorist group of some kind, and that... has some pretty substantial consequences on one's freedom of movement, I would think. Honestly, I think the Slayers probably would have to have assets in the billions, or just under, to have all the toys we've seen.

I was really hoping David Nabbit would be bankrolling them :)
KoC:
at the very least Twilight appears to have leveraged the US military bureaucracy into classifying the Slayers as a terrorist group of some kind

We-ell... parts of it, anyway. Even in the Real World, the government's right hand doesn't always know what the left hand is doing (the last seven years' worth of news out of Washington should prove that.)
well said, newcj:

In the media, if they know anything about the comics at all, Buffy will never be straight again. Without a stretch, the cookie speech now becomes about sexuality instead of letting girls grow into women without the constant pressure of finding someone to attach themselves to before they are too old for the market. It makes me sad. It is like I am saying a real goodbye to BtVS, when before there was always hope for it to come back.


I can relate to what you're feeling here. I am enjoying the comics to be sure but at the same time there is a sense of loss. I'm reserving judgment until it's all published and we know the whole story, but more and more I'm feeling like the TV series was its own self-contained work and it didn't need anything more. I hate to see the empowering ending of "Chosen" diminished into a military-like organization... instead of submissive girls, we have super-strong girls obeying orders. Is this really empowerment?

...there's a lot of room here for consideration. For me, the comics can be canon in a sense, but not in the same way as the TV series. Honestly though, the debates about 'canon' can really seem a bit all-or-nothing instead of nuanced. (Which is ironic, given that historically the concepts of canon and authority in a religious sense at least are much more malleable and complex than common knowledge would have us believe!) But I've gone on too long here. Anyone want to write an article for Slayage on this? :) Parallels abound...
qui_ca said:
"I hate to see the empowering ending of "Chosen" diminished into a military-like organization... instead of submissive girls, we have super-strong girls obeying orders. Is this really empowerment?"

I would say so. The girls have power. The girls chose to be part of the collective. This is by no means something which Buffy and Co. throw them into, and if it is, it hasn't been explicitly stated yet. If I'm right, then I don't think they'll really try to stop anyone who wants to leave. But as long as they're within the Slayer organization, there has to be a hierarchy. Otherwise, you end up with girls like Simone. To rebel like that is not an act of free will so much as anarchy. It's an abuse of the power given to you.
Free will is not something that is lacking in the military. But it is something you choose to lay aside for a new set of beliefs. But you have to choose that path first. And by Jove, I never thought I'd see the day that I would defend the military. *sigh*

But to reiterate, Buffy's sharing of power was an act of empowerment.
Facially, it was an act of empowerment. I think over four years of steady analysis, it's clear that it raised some compelling issues of consent for the Potentials, issues that I think it's fair to say Joss probably didn't recognize, given the title of the episode and the text of Buffy's speech. Granted, it's a mostly *academic* issue of consent, since if they had taken a poll, the Potentials basically had the choice of "accept becoming a Slayer or die horribly to an army of ubervamps". But it's still a pretty serious moral dilemma. It initially became a moral dilemma back in "Get It Done" when the origin of female empowerment, the Slayer, was shown to be an act tantamount to gang rape by the Shadowmen and their demon Lostzilla cloud thing.

But within the context of the season, I don't think they are especially unempowered by being part of Buffy's quasi-military organization. They were pretty clear early on that this is a volunteer army, and that the girls in it feel this really deep bond inside of it, with all the crying in "The Chain". I think they're doing pretty well together -- the most empowered thing to which anyone, man or woman, can aspire is to use their gifts, whatever they are, for the benefit of something bigger than themselves. That's what they're doing.
Re: empowerment. I see the comic book as fleshing out the problematic shadings of the "empowering ending" that were suggested in, for instance, Damage. The ending of Chosen was beautiful and appropriate and moving, and empowering, but Buffy’s (and Willow’s) acts necessarily had consequences, which we are seeing now.

The story, like life, can't be reduced to a heartwarming political message. (At least, I hope it can't, because then it becomes agitprop. IMHO.)
My opinion regarding the events of "Chosen", at the moment that empowerment decision was taken, those Potentials were facing a pretty bleak future. Even had Buffy and the gang found another way to stop the Ubervamp army and thwart the First's immediate plans, the Slayer lineage was still going to be out of kilter after Buffy's ressurection, and ultimately those girls were still going to be hunted down by the Bringers. The First, undefeatable and with an "eternity to act" would have murdered them all in the end. Buffy's plan, and Willow's spell, gave those girls a chance to fight back, right at that moment and for the future, whether alone or as part of Buffy's group, whenever and wherever the battle should find them. For me, it's hard to see that as anything but positive empowerment.

The fact that there are negative consequences of that decision does not mean it wasn't a positive move at the time. I like the fact that there are repercussions, for me it makes the storyline more convincing and, dare it be said for something as fantastical as BtVS, more true to life.
It's a misconception that you can't do something positive by force and without consent -- you assault and batter someone whom you run into the street to push out of the way of oncoming traffic. Since, in effect, that's what the Slayer spell did, it was positive... but, it was forcible and without consent. I think the year's long debate has been about whether such acts can ever be genuinely empowering, whether they have an immediate positive consequence of not.
KoC: Using that analogy, the alternative presented is to do nothing and watch that person get hit by oncoming traffic. Could anyone in all conscience use the argument, "Well, I let that person get killed because I didn't want to run into them and assault them which would have been bad". It isn't a philosophy that stands up to real life, I fear.

As far as consent goes, those girls had already been chosen by fate, they were already Potentials. That made them targets. They were already in the path of oncoming traffic, they were going to die, whether that day or later. Buffy gave them the chance (and the choice) to fight back, on that day or later, wherever the fight found them.

As far as the Shadowmen and the First Slayer situation stands, Buffy clearly denied them any hold over her in "Get it Done", as she had done with the First Slayer in "Restless": You are not the source of me. And by sharing her slayerness with the Potentials, she was breaking the Shadowmen's rules and any lingering dominion they had over the slayer lineage. That seemed pretty clear when she pointed to Willow and indicated that Willow had more power than all of them combined: Buffy was in a way starting a new lineage, with new rules, based on the principle of sharing power rather than controlling it. Seemed a good move to me, and very much in character, since she had railed against the rules imposed by the Watcher's Council since the first episode.
What Furball said.

On Xander/Drac/Retcon... I interpret Andrew's explanation as half-exaggeration and half-gloss. Basically, Drew is saying, "Yeah, my story from way back when was a little silly, wasn't it? Let's tidy that up slightly." I think "Antique" bears as much resemblance to actual canonical events as the Kristy Swanson movie bears to Buffy's canonical experiences at Hemery. Yeah, something like that happened "for real," but it was a bit exaggerated to make it more silly.
Great issue. Interesting intro with Drac. Funny with Him, Xander, Renee. Aiko cool. Shockingly violent ending.

Then I come here and read the Whedonesque comments and it's like a black hole sucking all the fun out of the whole experience. I had a couple of paragraphs of considered refutation of the big points in this thread, but it's simpler to just say this:

Geez people, lighten up!
Well, commenting late, as usual....

I was very concerned about Andrew's speech, but I think previous posters are right that it maybe sounded more reassuring to say "Xander and Dracula are friends--Dracula's not all that bad really!" then "Xander was kidnapped by Dracula for a few months where he had completely lost himself, and now we're sending him back because if we send more than Xander and an escort we might bring on Dracula's wrath." The latter is my guess as to what's going on--taking "Antique" as more or less canonical, it really does appear that Dracula had been holding Xander against his will (thrall aside) and Buffy went to rescue him as soon as she found out. Probably Xander going off on his own after Anya's death is true though, although (my guess) he was captured by Dracula at some point.

The purpose of having Dracula in this arc does elude me a bit; Goddard obviously really likes the character, and writes him well, but he was never meant to be taken seriously in "BvD," so I'm not really sure exploring him further is necessary. (As an aside, if Xander did help Dracula kill Albanian boys ala Butterfield, even if under thrall, shouldn't he be in dire need of intense therapy?)

As far as Willow, two points:

1) Regarding her initial reaction to finding Buffy with Satsu: no, not all lesbian women are attracted to their straight friends. But frankly, attraction is a tricky thing, and Willow's relationship with Buffy is...complicated. They've been through a lot together, and Willow is right now wondering if she chose Buffy over Tara, and love and sexual attraction are not really so separable for a lot of people in their early twenties, and especially with Willow, whose sexuality has always been defined primarily by who she loves the most. Buffy sleeping with another woman has never been a possibility before from Willow's perspective, so

2) Re: her asking Satsu for details: OK, yes, crass, and probably actually not so great a thing to do. But fully Willow to me. And honestly, in its own way I can see it being reassuring for Satsu. Joking about sex demystifies it, and bringing the act out into the open a little more will probably help Satsu cope. Really what Willow is offering is the chance to talk about it. It's possible she's being a bad friend to Buffy by talking about the shoe sale noise, but I see her as being pretty good to Satsu. (On the other hand, a bit odd going from her total shock from last week to her reassuring speech to Satsu this issue, though--I'm not entirely happy with that.)

As far as the plotline itself: wow. The ending is pretty damn brutal, isn't it? Whether these guys are connected to Twilight remains to be seen, I'd guess, but I'm sort of unconvinced that they are; do any vamps really want to rid the world of magic?
Good points all, definitely. But I would tend to question the idea that hierarchy is inevitable, as well as the wisdom in nearly all active Slayers being part of the same organization (or the with us/against us dichotomy that is lurking around the corner).

Perhaps it's all just more indication that Spike knew Buffy quite well from the start: "The Slayer! I knew it! ... I always worried what would happen when that bitch got some funding, wised up a bit. Fine!"
What would be really interesting is if Buffy could garner the technology that would allow her to depower certain slayers. Should Buffy have the ability to take away power under certain circumastances? That would seem to be a good way to deal with Simone and her crew. It would also suit the rather morally ambiguous tone this season has had thus far.
I'd say yes, although there should be a "jury of peers" sort of thing rather than just Buffy's lone decision. After all, when the system works the way it's supposed to, a cop who abuses his position doesn't get to keep his job (or, well, in the Real World, often as not they do; but eventually someone else removes them if the department doesn't...)
How about this... instead of continuing the argument about how the slayer system should work, we sit back and just watch the show? It's obviously not the way some of us want it to be, but can we at least trust the creator of the show to do his thing for the sake of character development? I personally feel that Buffy as a character is a lot more interesting than say, how the slayer hierarchy should work.
I mean, it's not like Joss owes us anything, and it's his gig to begin with. Fan opinion is great and all, but not everything works like *insert nation* Idol... fan participation is not always needed. In fact, if he listened to half the garbage being tossed about for plot lines and tangents, a good number of people would probably wonder if Joss had truly lost it. I say probably... I'm sorry to generalize.

WilliamTheB said:
"(On the other hand, a bit odd going from her total shock from last week to her reassuring speech to Satsu this issue, though--I'm not entirely happy with that.)"

It's actually not a sudden thing at all. Take a look at Willow's facial expressions when Buffy gives Satsu an order... it's totally telling of what's going on in her head. She's intervention girl as she's a)Buffy's best friend, and therefore knows her the best, and b) one of Buffy's "lieutenants" and has served alongside Buffy for 7-8 long years now, and understands what it feels like when Buffy shuts down.
wenxina said

How about this... instead of continuing the argument about how the slayer system should work, we sit back and just watch the show?


Or perhaps maybe we could just let everyone carry on debating the points that interest them?
wenxina:
How about this... instead of continuing the argument about how the slayer system should work, we sit back and just watch the show?

Or, how about if I respond to any hypothetical question I feel like responding to? I'm more than happy to watch the show, and I have no interest in telling Joss (or anyone else) how to write his own story; I've spent enough time complaining about those who do that I'm not about to start. But the hypothetical question, "Should Buffy have the ability to take away power under certain circumstances?" is a good one, because at some point (sooner rather than later, I'd say, since we've already seen a group of Slayers abusing that power,) the question of how to deal with rogues in the new Slayer army is probably going to come up.
Buffy the Slayer Layer said

What would be really interesting is if Buffy could garner the technology that would allow her to depower certain slayers. Should Buffy have the ability to take away power under certain circumstances?


It's a very interesting point. Since she shared the power with the Potentials in the first place, does she have the right to take it away again?

I think her natural inclination in similar situations has always been to attempt to rehabilitate rather than strip away power. With Angel (after his return from Hell), Faith, Spike (post Chip and post Trigger) and Willow (after her dark magic rampage) she always seemed prepared to take risks to let the individual find their own balance again, sometimes at great personal cost.

Certainly I agree with Rowan that any such decision should never be in the hands of one person alone, even someone as noble as Buffy.
And another interesting thought occurs. If she did acquire the means to rid a slayer of their slayerness, would she ever feel tempted to use that power on herself? Buffy after all has been perpetually conflicted about her duality as a slayer and a "normal girl", and many times appeared to wish that she could just be a normal, regular person free of her mythic responsibilities.
And if she gets zapped with that thing and loses her power, will she try to get it back?
If she did lose/give up her power, she would probably very quickly be taken out by every evil thing in the vicinity. At first thought, I would say she should take away the power from psychotics and problem children.
I don't think she'd give it up on purpose. I think she'd be deeply conflicted but most likely unable to go so far as to abandon what she feels is her duty. But if one of the Tokyo vamps managed to de-power her, and there were obstacles in place that'd need to be overcome to regain the power, would normal Buffy want it back enough to fight to become Slayer Buffy again? Assuming she even could, of course. Even with help.

On the flip side, I wonder what Dracula is going to do at the end of the arc if he survives. He was lonely and bored, before.
Buffy already had her power taken away once by Giles. (Temporarily, but she did not know that.) She did not like it and seemed very glad to have it back. I think that question was answered.

Being able to take away a particular slayer's power, however, could be a really good thing. Then the slayers could have true choice. For better or worse, the only real choice that the activated slayers actually had in the past is whether or not to use the power they had. The ability to take away an individual's power would not have to be used just in cases where the slayer could not be trusted, but also in cases where the slayer did not want to be a slayer. Not everyone is Buffy. I think most would find it hard to go back, but there are always a couple people who fall way outside the norm.
I wonder, if someone were indeed reverted from being a slayer, would they become an ordinary person or revert to being a Potential slayer again? And if they revert to a Potential, wouldn't that break the entirety of Willow's empowerment spell, since the basic purpose of that spell converted all Potentials into slayers?
I still firmly believe Buffy can't be stripped of her powers by the scythe/red coin magic. Either could Faith as they were instilled with the slayer essence the 'good ol fashioned' way, through the death of the previous slayer.
The other 99% of the slayers in the world were given the power via the scythe, thus allowing it to be taken away again via the scythe.
I can actually see the vamps trying to take Buffy's though. Panel by panel as well. Floaty Asian witch goes ZAP, buffy goes all dramatically red in the eyeballs, goes "Oh" (or something similiar), then super jumps up to floaty asian witch, rips scythe out of her floaty asian witch hands, spins , slicing off her floaty asian witch head, lands magestically and quips "like that'd work on me" Cue trumpets, marching band and puppies. THE END.

[ edited by aus-mitch on 2008-04-09 05:04 ]
Power is a funny thing. If you can take it back when you decide to, you never really gave it away, did you? Not sharing, just bestowing temporary favors . You retained the real power all along.

And it wouldn't have truly lightened the burden. Could be that's all that actually happened with the scythe and spell- or not. If so, very sad.

It often seems, in the real world, that it would be best for all us not-so-powerful if power was held only by those who didn't especially want it , since wanting major power over others enough to go get it is, well, you know, really corrupting. It would be sad for the chosen, though.

[ edited by toast on 2008-04-09 07:12 ]
Yeah, nothing worse than a job you really hate. But it has been a long-held axiom (and, at this point, a fairly well-proven one) regarding the US presidency that anyone who actually wants the damn job is probably someone who shouldn't have it.
aus-mitch, I agree with you. I think the reason the scythe can only take away the power it bestowed in the first place, leaving Buffy and Faith immune. But I guess that will be addressed in the arc.

I'm really enjoying the Simone storyline--the brief, interesting snippets of it we've been given--and I love thinking about where it is leading.
Y'know, I'm wondering if maybe the reversing spell will start, but not go "global", but still depower the ones that were in Tokyo and that vicinity. So Slayers not in that area are spared. I think of this because of (spoiler)
toast said

Power is a funny thing. If you can take it back when you decide to, you never really gave it away, did you? Not sharing, just bestowing temporary favors . You retained the real power all along.


Agreed.

But (please correct me if I'm wrong since I haven't read issue #13 yet) this is still just hypothetical at the moment, isn't it? We don't know Buffy's take on this yet. And for myself, I don't think, given her character, that she would have shared her power with the intention of taking it back again later. I don't think she's wired that way. It'll be interesting to see how this is handled in future issues.
Buffy doesn't know about the depowering thing, it's just what she knows is the most likely reason to steal the scythe. The depowering itself is not hypothetical, though.
There's something strange about Willow's including herself in the army waiting for Buffy's commands... this from the "I'm not your sidekick, okay?" girl?
To all that are discussing Dracula/Xander playing house: Is it so hard to believe that Andrew is into fanfic? Where does he find all that free time to come up with those stories? I would think being Twilight takes up a lot of his free time.

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