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April 15 2008

Buffy Goes Dark: Essays on the Final Two Seasons of Buffy. This book which covers seasons 6 and 7 will be out sometime towards the end of the year.

And it's available for pre-ordering over at Amazon.com.

Sounds like something I'd love to read but way pricey. Or that's just my "way broke' perspective. Long term planning, my mom may get this for me for Christmas. :-)
You just can't go wrong with this collection. Individually, the editors have all written some very solid, well-researched material. Getting them all together on this topic - fantastic!
I'll be very interested in this; I've been mulling over seasons 6 and 7 for a while now (and decided it's all Giles' fault) and I'd love to hear what these authors have to say.

I'll be even more interested when they knock a few bucks off that price. Is this a hardback or something?
Both links say it's a paperback, which makes it pretty pricey IMO. Does sound interesting though so i'll keep my eyes open at the library (once it's released).
Anthologies always seem pricier than regular paperback books - the curse of academia lol I have a bunch of the Buffy scholar books and I'm looking forward to getting this one as well! I, too, am way broke and will probably have to wait until I stumble across it at Half Price Books or something :/ (unless I find the money under a mattress or something...)
It may seem obvious advice, but the best way to get your local library to stock it is to pop in a few weeks ahead of publication and fill out a request card for it. If your library is much like the one where I work, then the selection teams are usually more than happy for the recommendation of where to spend their budget. Worth bearing in mind, though, that the majority of UK libraries will generally only consider purchasing UK publications or titles with official UK distribution. Definitely worth a shot, though.


Season 6 is one of my favourites, so count me among the interested.
Speaking of Buffy-related academia, has anybody read "The Existential Joss Whedon"? Is it good? I'm very tempted to get it, but it's also quite pricey...
I have that. It was a very good read and well worth having.

I am not a fan of S6 or S7 in any way, but I respect these authors a great deal, so I am interested in what they have to say. I'll certainly get this when it is available.
Season 6 was, in my opinion, sensational. Aside from having what I hold to be the finest single episode of any show ever (you all know which one I mean), the gorgeous symmetry of Buffy ending the season as she began it, climbing out of a grave, but what a miraculous transformation has occurred, as miraculous as her resurrection.

For the full seasons, it usually takes a while to figure who's the Big Bad, but it took remarkably long to unveil the latest threat to end the world in Season 6, and what a horrific development that was.

And the Spike/Buffy dynamic was just splendid, beautifully presaged in Seasons 4 and 5, brilliantly realized in Season 6.

I know, I know, chacun à son goût, but the Season 6 hatred is utterly mystifying to me.

I love these books, except when some of the writers overthink matters and try to stuff Buffy into their own ideological straightjackets.

Picked up 2 that I didn't have at a used book sale recently. Have no idea how many I have by now. This one will definitely add to the collection.
I, too, love Season 6, though I do think that the ideas and themes behind it were often better in theory than in execution and it was a bit uneven. I still enjoy it.

Regardless, I may just have to buy this book. I haven't ever read any scholarly books about any of my favorite television shows, though they seem like they must be fun combinations of some of my favorite things.

Everyone's speaking highly of these authors. What else have they written and are these other works "must reads" as well?
Well, since I have every study, guide and collection of essays ever published already I think it's safe to assume I'll be getting this one as well. Shame it won't be available in time for this years Slayage Conference...
Chris, you said: "I know, I know, chacun à son goût, but the Season 6 hatred is utterly mystifying to me." I know you qualified this, but I offer exactly the same take as you do, only from a 180-degree change of perspective: "I know, I know, chacun à son goût, but the S6 love is utterly mystifying to me." I say this only because it seems people have extremes of opinion on this season, and I obviously fall in the camp that intensely dislikes it. And believe me, I have very good reasons, for me, right? One of the things that has ever, well, mystified me, is how we can hold such oppositional opinions, and not really give credence to those whose opinions are opposed to ours. I am in the minority, as I often am, in this, given this is whedonesque, where the Joss love is high. I see S6 as a subversion and even at times a perversion of much of what came before it, the season where the writers went after new Coke without appreciating the old. It failed miserably for me, I rarely watch its episodes at all, and they give me no viewing pleasure. That is, however, just me and to those who like or love this, more power. I just can't.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-04-15 15:42 ]
I'm pretty much in that same minority with you, Dana5140. So you can be comforted or disturbed, whichever seems more appropriate. ;)
I might be buying this, too. Season 6 is one of my top favourites (up there with Season 5 and Season 2), and I have very strong opinions on both it and Season 7. What some others view as "degrading" for Buffy, I view as very respectful and brave on Joss's part. Buffy shouldn't have skipped the necessary lows of her Hero's Journey on account of being female, just like Tara shouldn't have gotten special treatment (as in, not been killed) on account of being homosexual.
Sounds good, I'll preorder the book -- rather have books than food anyway. Thanks, Simon.

On Season 6 (which I like a lot), maybe one reason it makes us uneasy is that Buffy is finally out of school -- and crash and burn seems like a pretty universal experience for the first months or years on our own. Is there life after high school (or college)? Still not sure.
Minority? Based on my travels through the Buffy fandom, I've found that far more people hate S6 than like it. It's always seemed to me as a vastly underrated season.
On here at least it seems fairly balanced. The usual run of it is, one person will make a comment derogating S6 (often taking it as read that that's the majority opinion) then several will come out for, more against etc. until it gradually evens out.

I may be in an actual minority because I neither love nor hate seasons 6 and 7, they're not my favourites but they're far from my least favourites either (and they have some of my favourite individual episodes). Most opinions i've come across seem to hold fairly extreme views either way (though that could be the polarising effect of it being a contentious issue - embattled perspectives sometimes become extreme ones).
I say this only because it seems people have extremes of opinion on this season, and I obviously fall in the camp that intensely dislikes it. And believe me, I have very good reasons, for me, right? One of the things that has ever, well, mystified me, is how we can hold such oppositional opinions, and not really give credence to those whose opinions are opposed to ours.

I love S6 to death - for some of the same reasons that I hate parts of it. It doesn't surprise me at all that it polarised the audience.

I ~hate~ that Tara died. With a passion. I want her back, in canon, with Willow, not evil, eventually. But my hatred of her death is absolutely proportional to how much I love and care about the character.

I ~hate~ that Willow went to the dark place she did when Tara was killed. But I love that their love was powerful and important enough that its loss was gut-wrenching and took Willow there.

As the song says, there's a fine line between pleasure and pain - and Joss pretty much walked that line all the way (laughing maniacally whilst doing so, no doubt). :-)
For my part, hate is a pretty strong word. But then I was referring to the minority of being critical of it, as well as being critical of all of Joss' work. I love him and all his worlds, but I also recognize many faults and sometimes (just sometimes) it feels like that puts me in a minority. But maybe I'm just hypersensitive to things like that after spending years on another board where any disenting opinion or criticism was met with torches and pitchforks and cries of, "Well if you don't like it go watch something else," (which soooooo misses the point.)

Admitedly it's not like that here... hardly ever. ;)
Season 6 is the reason I started watching Buffy regularly and became a fan.
I'm trying to remember the last time I watched an episode of Buffy. It's been a couple of years at least. One day I'm going to have to sit down and watch from the beginning cause I'm sure I'll change my opinions on the episodes I hated at the time 'Amends', 'Smashed' and the episodes I loved 'Seeing Red', 'Becoming Part 2' and so on.
I agree with others that it's nice to see a balanced dialogue on the S6 response. I think that the degradation of Buffy in S6 is just so hard for the fandom to digest. She sort of embodies that which she has fought against for so long. I must confess it's not my favorite season, although I think it makes Buffy a more sympathetic hero in S7 and in the comic books. Her experience certainly gives her perspective and understanding. Furthermore, her suffering in S6 will also contribute to her being a better leader--a role that will become increasingly demanding. Long story short, S6 vividly shows that Buffy is a survivor.

I think after reading all of the posts that I am looking forward to reading this new anthology on S6 and S7!!
Me too, Sunfire.

It is a polarizing season, which does not bother me. I only get annoyed when people start saying that "everyone agrees" that blah blah blah. I would rather people recognize that it is a season that people have strong and conflicting opinions about, sometimes within individuals, and that each side as good points that they can make.
We should get pitchforks. Anyone want to start a kitty ?

But then I was referring to the minority of being critical of it, as well as being critical of all of Joss' work.

I dunno Haunt, it doesn't really seem to me like folk are reluctant to criticise season 6/7 (on here at least), anytime there's a "favourite/worst episodes" thread there seems to be plenty of healthy dissent (not to mention very widely varying opinions).

The people that seriously mean that "Joss is God and can do no wrong" seem few and far between (as I say, on here. Stuck my head in the door of a few other sites - which shall remain unspecified - and quickly withdrew for the reasons mentioned).
One day I'm going to have to sit down and watch from the beginning cause I'm sure I'll change my opinions on the episodes I hated at the time 'Amends', 'Smashed' and the episodes I loved 'Seeing Red', 'Becoming Part 2' and so on.

I just rewatched part of Season 6 a few weekends ago. It's fascinating to me what I forgot, or glossed over, or misremembered a bit. And what never changes. "Smashed" and "Wrecked"? Always shocking and painful, even knowing what will happen. "Doublemeat Palace"? I'd forgotten Willow's heroic moment at the end there, and the funny double "ewwww" with the shot of the ground up demon. "Gone" is still funny-sad when Buffy is pranking people, but this time I was appalled at how she affected the social services worker. But now I know how overworked and underpaid that profession generally is, and I was seeing it more from her perspective and less from Buffy's.
The title actually makes me titter a little, no disrespect to the writers. What was Buffy before S6/7, Buffy Lite? Buffy Vanilla? For me, it was always dark by virtue of its subject matter, the wonderful humor notwithstanding. I'm like Saje I guess, sort of middle of the road about both seasons. Some eps enjoyable, some not so much. There was a weird ennui happening with those seasons that really bugged, particularly when Giles returned. The characters (particularly Buffy and Giles) seemed to be pale imitations of themselves and I've never figured out why.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2008-04-15 17:21 ]
S6 is without a doubt my least favorite season ("Gone," damn it!!!), but I still love it. I also love S7, which for my money, has some of the series' best episodes.

ETA: I look forward to the essay collections on S8. :-D

[ edited by UnpluggedCrazy on 2008-04-15 17:35 ]
Speaking of kittys and the darkness of the last two seasons, MKF, RIP, sniff;)

I agree with mikejer. The only board I frequented at the time where opinion was about evenly split was All Things Philosophical. On all of the others, majority opinion turned more and more vocally against the season from Wrecked through Seeing Red. I'd say there were some boards I went to where, for a while, it took guts to defend the season, you were going to be so vehemently disagreed with.

Although, since internet posters are a subset of the actual fandom, it's possible that those who were less passionate about the show also hated S6 less, I don't know.

S6 polarized me, actually. Hated the execution, sometimes, especially, but I've come around to liking it a lot. I think Simon is right that his opinions will change on re-watching. Mine certainly have. I re-watch certain S6 episodes more often than I do those of the sainted first three seasons, where everybody's just acquiring their scars, and seem to me now, and please don't hurt me, a little shallower. I feel more distant from them somehow.
Well, s6 is always making me schizophrenic. I think it's a great season, but I can't watch it again. Too exciting. strange huh? I rewatched all the seasons at least 3 times, but season 6 is burned in my brain with only one viewing. I still know all the dialogue with only one watching. So that and what I read here, i.e. extreme polarization tells me that the writers there really did something right. It's almost like Buffy's not "just" entertainment anymore(if it ever was), but much more serious than that: IT#s ART! :)

So probably if you were looking for entertainment and viewing pleasure you're having trouble with s6, if you liked Buffy for the hidden truths behind the wittiness you revel in s6. Since I assume that every Buffy fan has a bit of both it's only natural that emotions run high, since nothing makes you argue as much as when you don't want to see the other's point (especially if you do).

ETA:for finishing sentences

[ edited by Harpy on 2008-04-15 17:53 ]
I have a rather serious question. Did Joss intend to create as much pain as he did amongst some of his viewers when he developed the season (S6)? I am not asking if he intended it to be dark and unhappy with bad things happening that upset his viewers. I am asking, did he mean for it to hurt people as much as it did?

I have comments on this but would prefer to see people's thoughts before I offer them.
"Gone" is still funny-sad when Buffy is pranking people, but this time I was appalled at how she affected the social services worker. But now I know how overworked and underpaid that profession generally is, and I was seeing it more from her perspective and less from Buffy's

Sunfire, I know exactly where you're coming from. I frequently work with protective services employees in my current position and they truly are overworked, under-paid, and way under-appreciated. I could not do that job. I remember sympathizing with the worker the very first time I saw that episode. I mean, I laughed, because of the funny, but there was a definite pang of "that sucks-poor lady." Huh. Maybe she left protective services and got herself a better job somewhere.

Re: season 6, I liked it, but then I saw it on DVD, not when it was originally aired. I wonder how much seeing it over a 3-day period, as opposed to a full season, affected me liking it. There are a few episodes I absolutely loathed (especially Double-Meat Palace) but overall, I enjoyed it very much. Seasons two and three are still my favorite, though.
Did Joss intend to create as much pain as he did amongst some of his viewers when he developed the season (S6)?

Dana5140, I don't look at it as Joss intending to cause viewers pain. I think he was just serving the story. I was uncomfortable with certain aspects of the season, and I absolutely hated Tara's death. But at the same time, I think seeing Buffy in a dark place and then fighting her way out of it was compelling and actually rather inspiring. I'm sure Joss (and to be fair, Marti) knew some of his fanbase would react strongly, but I don't think that's such a bad thing. It's been how many years? And we're still talking about it.
What, there were certain groups of people that Joss wanted to stick it to so badly that he wrote the season specifically to deeply pain them? Never seen any evidence of that.
My favourite season is probably S4, then S6, with the remaining seasons tied in third, just too difficult to seperate them.

Dana5140 I don't think Joss intended pain on anyone, and I doubt a TV show could cause anyone actual pain in any case. But I don't think it is his job to just offer comfort. The stories have to challenge or they just become stale. The subject matter will be divisive, because real issues are always divisive, and the issues dealt with in BtVS are very real. But I don't think the intention was ever to hurt the viewers.
I'm not overly fond of Season 6, even though it has some of my favorite episodes (After Life, OMWF, Tabula Rasa, Dead Things, Normal Again, Seeing Red). I have recently grown much more fond of Season 7, though I'm damned if I can name a particularly special episode. So go figure!

Love the title of this book.
Did Joss intend to create as much pain as he did amongst some of his viewers when he developed the season (S6)?


In as much as he caused pain to some viewers during every other season of Buffy. I don't see why season 6 should get the bragging rights for the season that caused the most angst for certain groups of fans.
Dana, I have never understood your position on this subject. I will never believe Joss has willfully tried to create pain in and for his audience. No one has that much power, not even Joss, nor is he an egotist of the disturbing level one would have to be, to do such a thing. I've joked about Joss being an evil puppet-master, toying with my emotions, but that's all it is; a joke. Anything and everything is in the eye of the beholder and I really believe that any pain someone feels with regard to a Joss-run show or any entertainment is directly related to their own psyche and perspective. Blend that with extremely well-executed characters and you have a panoply of emotions, not just pain. I've really been at a loss as I've read over the years about the angst-inducing, polarizing properties of these two seasons.
Dana5140 - that is a good but LOADED question isn't it? I kind of wonder about that myself sometimes. I usually refer back to Joss talking about giving the viewers what they need, not necessarily what they want. Which means that some days - Joss probably thought we needed a big old dose of angst and pain. I think he intended to include the full spectrum of emotional responses when he wrote this series and I think pain was probably one of the responses he expected to get. Of course I can't speak for JW myself - this is just my observation. What he might not have anticipated is the degree to which some of his viewers experienced the pain he was projecting. We all come to this series with our own lenses, so what is extremely painful for one viewer can be an enlightened Hero's journey for another (see the ongoing discussion between Saje and yourself; both of you make such excellent, yet diametrically opposed observations about the show that I find myself emphatically agreeing with BOTH of you - goodbye dualistic thinking!)

To me, there is no definitive experiene of Buffy because of our seperate lenses. I sometimes wish I knew exactly what Joss intended but if I did - I would miss out on these fabulous conversations.

Haunt - I hope I never participatd in your public burnings at our old board. I always loved what you had to say there and it was refreshing to see your opinions on the board.
Oh gods of déjà already vued.

I love the moment on the Chosen extras dvd Buffy panel when Marti interjects in the middle of a comment something like, "...that was before I ruined everything on Season 6."

It made me like her humor even more, if that were possible...
The thing with season 6, I think, is that it might be dark - but it's also the funniest season they did. Seriously - it's hilarious.
QuoterGal, I loved that moment, too. Where was it that she joked about how much fun it is to kill characters? I always remember that when the conversation about that gets intense here, but I can never place where I got it from. I think it was something like "Ooo! Do I get to kill them?"
gossi, I couldn't agree more. S6 seems to have a reputation of being unrelentingly dark and disturbing, but a lot of the episodes had really funny comedic elements. Just like all the other seasons, the drama was nicely balanced with humour. The Trio had hilarious moments, the freeze ray, the groundhog day spell, etc. "OMWF" had some great comedy, "Tabula Rasa" was a gem. And the witty, snappy dialogue was present throughout, as rich and inventive as any of the other seasons.
gossi: The thing with season 6, I think, is that it might be dark - but it's also the funniest season they did. Seriously - it's hilarious.

And therein is a family problem, we are re-watching Buffy with our ten year old son, and we have just watched "Smashed" and he is mortified that Spike is having sex with Buffy - "I thought Spike was cool" he complained (watching it through his fingers). He thinks the Trio are really funny and now we are censoring episodes - I have no desire to explain to him what Willow is doing in "Wrecked" and what Spike is doing in "Gone" and what the Trio are doing to Katrina in "Dead Things".

So on the one hand, dark, dark stuff and on the other hand the Trio being, well, the Trio - often in the same episode. The tone of S6 is uneven, imo, and that is my complaint about it.
Season 6 - seriously hilarious or hilariously serious ? Discuss ;-).

(I think most of the time the tone is deliberately uneven, jaunty to disarm the viewer then BANG ! 'Dead Things' or 'Seeing Red'. The Trio being such a joke just makes Warren's actions all the more horrific IMO)

Did Joss set out to deliberately cause his loyal viewers that'd stuck with the show for 5+ years across 2 networks intense emotional pain ? Nah. That said, I do think he may have been what, if we were talking about reality, you might call callous in that he put the story first, did what he felt was best for that and didn't necessarily stop to consider if people would be genuinely hurt by it.

Which, to me, is exactly how he should have acted but that's said with a bit of distance that the people utterly ruined by Tara's death don't seem to have.
But, moley75, tonal shifts in the same episode are one of the hallmarks of the show. For me, in fact, one of it's glories. The way any given episode can pivot on a dime from humor to heartbreak to creeped-out horror just knocks me out.
Quotergal- you made me laugh with your lead there. :-)

A few comments from me. First, of course my question is loaded. But it is not unfairly loaded. I say this because many interviews with Joss make specific mention of creating pain and killing characters. So I think this is a fair question. Was the response unexpected? I believe that in some ways it was; some people really invested in the characters, not just Tara, and some of them really were hurt in the doing. We kid about the Kittens, but I am in no position to tell them they have no rights to their feelings. They do, and they were quite obviously hurt, hurt to the point they turned their back on the program that gave them their existence, so to say.

I also note that I received a number of different answers, some of which did not directly address my question. Betsy- you feel he did not intend to cause pain. Should he have expected it? In comments he has made he has noted that he was surprised by the response from some of his fans. Did he misread them? Was it all only ever about the story, and viewers be damned?

Shambleau, did I ask if Joss wanted to stick it to anyone? I did not, and do not believe that. My question was very clear: did he mean it to hurt as much as it did? Given what I said above, I think he did not intend to create the response he got. But it occurred nonetheless. My question, really, is why?

Furball- but as I have noted, he really did hurt people and that is why the kittenboard still exists today. Right? So I do think a TV show can cause people pain. It may not cause you pain, but you can only really say that for yourself. Which I mean in no bad way. What hurts people hurts people. Some invest heavily in a show, and when the characters they invest in suffer, so do they, for whatever reasons. I cannot say why, but it happens. We would normally say, this is due to good writing.

Simon, S6 is a polarizing season. Why do you think that is? Why this one more than any other?

Tonya- but Joss has said that this is what he does! He causes pain. He does toy with people's emotion, and I think that is pretty much indisputable. Certainly I agree with you that HOW you experience that pain is directly related to your psychological make-up.

ruthless1- This is the crux of the question- could he have anticipated the response? I am not asking if he would have done anything different, just whether he knew how people would respond. You certainly are correct in noting that we view this through our own lenses- mine are patent and well known. But I mean no disrespect with this question; I constantly try to monitor myself to understand why I feel as I do. I've noted the characters over the years that have drawn me in: Tara, Sara Sidle (CSI) and Sophie (In Treatment) and have tried to see why they did, and why when bad things happen, it hurts. But the truth is, it does hurt.

My own feeling is that Joss did not intend the response that occurred. He intended to cause pain, but he's the writer so he cannot experience the show in the same way those who watch do. He has thought things out in advance, he knows what is coming, and he is telling a story. But he can err as well. It is not just Tara that bothers me in S6. Believe it or not, I have never seen Hell's Bells. It is the only episode I have never seen. I won't watch it. I know what happens and it is wrong, to me. They hurt Anya and Xander, Buffy, Willow, Spike and Tara in S6. They messed with everyone. There was nothing positive that season, really. Yeah, it ended okay for Buffy. But not for Willow, not for Spike, not for Xander, and really, really not for Tara. And in the end, Joss made a conscious decision in S7 to return the program to more of its original roots. That, more than anything, is recognition that S6 went off track.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-04-15 19:06 ]
The tone of S6 is uneven


Unlike say 1-5 and 7? ;)
Season 7 was comedy gold 24/7. I have no idea what zeitgeist is alluding to.

It was strange how it was only 20 minutes long and all about Andrew, though.
Unlike say 1-5 and 7? ;)

I do think more so than any other season but as I can see not every(any)body agrees ;-)
Was I the only one that thought of 'Laverne and Shirley' every time I saw Andrew and Jonathan together ?

The way any given episode can pivot on a dime from humor to heartbreak to creeped-out horror just knocks me out.

Exactly Shambleau. To jump shows, 'Spin the Bottle' is heartbreaking at the end, after being pretty much hilarious all the way through. That kind of "puncturing" of levity with seriousness (and vice versa) is very Joss (it's not unique to him - it's pretty common in British comedy for instance and the best of the US stuff e.g. 'MASH', 'Cheers' etc. - but he does it extremely well).
as I can see not every(any)body agrees ;-)


:D
Dana5140 said
There was nothing positive that season, really. Yeah, it ended okay for Buffy. But not for Willow, not for Spike, not for Xander, and really, really not for Tara.

Had the story ended there, I could fully accept the criticism. It would probably have been an unsatisfactory conclusion for all concerned, characters and audience alike. But S6 wasn't the end, it was just a chapter in a much larger story, the darkness before dawn, if you will. Someone else said it better than I can:

"It’s like in the great stories. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why."
Samwise, in "The Two Towers" movie.

S7 would bring redemption for Buffy, Willow, Spike, Anya, even Andrew, made all the more poignant because of the dark places they had journeyed through to get there.
Since I don't mind negativity, a season doesn't have to be positive for me to like it. Most of the shows I deeply care about (Deadwood, Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire) hurt and/or kill characters I love constantly and there's no uplift at the end at all, which is fine with me.

Different strokes blahblahblah.
Oh, boy, I disagree. There is NO redemption for Willow. You don't get to wipe the slate clean of murder (in fact, two murders, one of which involved torture) by just casting a spell. The standard definition of "redemption" is "delivery from sin." I do not believe Willow being able to cast that spell, though we get indications that something happened because of the whitening of her hair, balances the scales. In fact, one of my great disappointments of S8 is the fact that this issue has not been touched on at all.

In all of S7, it is only Spike who I see as redeemed, offering his life to save humanity, Christian allegory notwithstanding. Anya, nope. Andrew, nope. Look at him now, for pete's sake. He is a standing joke, mainly comic relief. And even Buffy is arguable. What is she redeemed for? Being a general? Well, that seems to not have changed much in S8. Heck, she just slept with one of the troops and then proceeded to treat the person she just slept with as one of the troops.

But take S6 on its own merits, though. Not much good really happened in it. Period.
But take S6 on its own merits, though. Not much good really happened in it. Period.

Period? Are we allowed our own opinions?
My own feeling is that Joss did not intend the response that occurred. He intended to cause pain, but he's the writer so he cannot experience the show in the same way those who watch do.


I'd argue that the writer often experiences a character's pain more intimately than the audience. After all, the writer gives birth to the character and the writer is the one who makes them suffer. It isn't easy to torture and kill your own fictional children.

Of course, fictional is the key here. A writer isn't a brutal monster just because he or she uses a character's pain to tell as story or make a point. They just have to maintain a certain emotional distance and objectivity to tell an effective story. And maybe the audience needs to do the same thing to fully enjoy it.

I've watched/read plenty of things that made me uncomfortable or made me cry, Buffy included. It's simply a sign of good writing when an emotional response is elicited from the audience. But for those who are so sucked in that the story causes them actual pain? I don't think the writer is at all to blame for that. And I honestly don't think that needs to be a serious consideration when writing.
I'm not a big fan of season 6-7 but they aren't my least favorite.My least favorite is season 4.My favorites are seasons 2,3 and 5.I thought they had the best balance of light and dark and they had the arcs I enjoyed most.
gossi, of course. This is all opinion, and by now we should not have to state that. I am only ever offering my opinions. :-)
Aside from having what I hold to be the finest single episode of any show ever (you all know which one I mean)
"Doublemeat Palace" wasn't that great.
Dana5140, I guess this is an 'agree to disagree' deal. For me, S6 is fabulous, as a standalone chapter of a larger story, and also as part of the whole. There is little in all 22 episodes of it that I dislike. Tara's death was upsetting, of course, but it was an event in a fictional story, and although I found it moving, upsetting, even emotionally distressing, it did not cause me pain. I just don't believe that fictional drama can cause actual pain, drama is after all just a simulation, and if it caused its audience actual, genuine, bonafide pain, we as a species would not be anywhere near as keen on it as we are.

As far as redemption of the characters is concerned, well, I have to disagree there also, strongly, but that is a longer post for which alas at the moment I don't have time. I'm sure that discussion will come up another time, however.

Lady Brick, agree wholeheartedly with all your points.
Re: season 6, I liked it, but then I saw it on DVD, not when it was originally aired. I wonder how much seeing it over a 3-day period, as opposed to a full season, affected me liking it.
I suspect it did. I only got into the series on DVD, so I can't say for certain, but I recently watched both Buffy and Angel together in air date order, and switching between the two shows diminished my enjoyment of both. S6 suffered particularly; I think that one really does need to be seen with minimal interruption for full impact.
I just don't believe that fictional drama can cause actual pain, drama is after all just a simulation, and if it caused its audience actual, genuine, bonafide pain, we as a species would not be anywhere near as keen on it as we are.

Isn't that a matter of degree ? Where's the line between "moving, upsetting, even emotionally distressing" and "genuine, bonafide pain" ? Because it strikes me that it's thin and in a different place for each of us.

(and if you pursue an extreme sport are you feeling actual genuine fear ? How about on a rollercoaster ? Cos last I checked our species were pretty keen on those and a lot of other ostensibly unpleasant experiences to boot ;)

Weirdest thing when Wash died, I had an actual physical sensation, not necessarily pain but like I had a hole in my guts. Before that I also didn't think fiction could do that. You live and learn ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2008-04-15 21:21 ]
Chris in Virginia ; I find your position hard to believe.

I mean, since when do books about Whedonverse shows show up at used book sales??????????
Lady Brick, I agree about the writer experiencing a character's pain just as deeply as viewers. In the commentary on Wild at Heart, Joss and Marti start tearing up during the Willow/Oz break-up scene, and Rebecca Rand Kirshner did the same while watching Anya's devastated walk down the aisle. There were probably more instances I'm blanking on.

As far as redemption, phttt. A story can work fine without anybody being redeemed at all. Anya never truly felt remorse for all the pain she inflicted and then she died. Now THAT's true to life. It's perfectly fine for a character's arc to end with them being works in process, which is all anybody ever is anyway. Or Joss can pick up on Willow's and other characters' supposed lack of true redemption in S9.

[ edited by shambleau on 2008-04-15 20:36 ]
Dana5140: "...but Joss has said that this is what he does! He causes pain. He does toy with people's emotion, and I think that is pretty much indisputable."


I'd like to take a wee exception to this use of the word "toy." Joss may approach his work with a variety of intentions and emotions, but I don't believe "toying" with our feelings is one of them. He has said on numerous occasions that he intends for the viewer to experience the characters' emotions, high and low, but I don't believe he does this lightly or for his own amusement, which is what the use of the word "toy" implies. He does this because he's a writer, and that's what writers do.

Wait, but maybe writers of all stripes are sadists. I hadn't considered that.

*runs trippingly in her mind through her bookcases.*

Well, okay, I'm willing to concede that Marie Corelli, Elinor Glyn and occasionally E. Phillips Oppenheim were possibly sadists that enjoyed inflicting pain and tedium...

But not Joss. I draw the line at Joss.
"But take S6 on its own merits, though. Not much good really happened in it. Period."

Buffy was brought back to life and came to terms with being a slayer and being alive.

Spike won himself a soul.

Willow became connected to a more positive kind of magic.

Xander saved the world.

Anya made a choice to risk herself for her friends.

Admittedly most of those things happened in the last few episodes, but that is how fiction often works...including some of the other seasons of BTVS...the ones that did not end with Buffy dying or killing the man she loved. Often the good comes at the beginning and at the end with a lot of pain in between.

I love S6 because it is so dense and it is dealing with such difficult issues. The characters are in crisis with issues that have been building since they were kids...much like they do in life.

I think Joss meant to cause people to understand and feel some of what the characters were feeling. That included pain. IMO, he wanted us to feel it so we could understand and be invested in the journey of the characters. What I think he may not have expected was how many would feel the emotions so strongly that they would deny the journey and concentrate on the writers instead....though I could certainly be wrong.
Roland, I recently rewatched BtVS from "Graduation Day" to "Chosen" over the space of three weeks. I agree, Season 6 does benefit from being watched uninterrupted and in larger chunks, as a lot of subtle connections and themes stand out that are perhaps more easily missed in weekly viewing.

Saje, rollercoasters are simulations too, but they are a nice analogy. Rollercoasters allow us to experience the adrenaline of fear without actual danger. The same is true of drama, it allows us to experience a whole range of emotions without fear of being damaged by them.
I never watched Buffy till it was out on DVD, then I watched it marathon style. For me, S6 was the hardest thing I ever watched. I had never been as hooked (obsessed) with a tv character ever before (or since) as I (still am) with Spike. While I would swear that I could never again watch the episodes in which Buffy treated Spike like something on the bottom of her shoe, at the same time if asked what some of my favorite episodes are, they would be from S5,6 &7. S5 had a great story arc with Glory, S6 had some of the best humor right along side of the worst traits I ever saw coming from each of the characters, and S7 had some of the best Spike scenes.

I think it would be easier for me to rewatch all of S6 if in S7 there would have been a big group hug where everyone apologized to everyone. I just felt like some characters didn't really get closure on their previous actions.
I feel each season had their own realistic progressions as each character is concerned. Take Buffy, she was heading down the path of questioning herself during season four. Willow, her problems started in season two.

Yes, I know we all see it a bit differently, but, isn't that the point? I always thought that's what Joss was pressing with his stories. To see things in a different shade light, to feel something else.

Ahh, sorry! I'll hush now:)
Saje, exact same reaction to Wash's death and he wasn't even one of my favorite characters. I couldn't enjoy the rest of the movie, felt numb and in, I believe, actual shock for days after. I'm fine with it now, and think it's proof to me how great a writer Joss is, that he can affect me that strongly. Although, unlike some, I never felt animosity toward him for being able to gut me like that even when the feeling of loss was the strongest.
Hmmmm. Season 6 didn't end well? Willow got off an obviously destructive path; given the magic/drugs parallel they draw that first step is IMPOSSIBLY difficult and the moment you look back on for the rest of your life as the moment that saved you. Spike decides to fight to get his soul back. He's done the impossible, having chosen that over trying to get his chip out and being evil again. He realizes he has a choice, he's done something beyond horrible and decides to become a better person even if it kills him. Xander doesn't have a grand sweeping character revelation, but he stands up and acts on something other than his jealousy or insecurities.

Yeah, Tara dying was horrible, doubly so after what Glory did to her in S5. However, I can't imagine it not happening any more than Joyce not dying, or Jenny not dying. Buffy did some horrible things, but they contextually made sense and as someone remarked, finally rose from her grave at the end, leading her to be the person she NEEDED to be for S7 (and 8, of course). I can see not liking to watch S6 because so much of it IS uncomfortable to watch. I can see editing it for your children because it was not written for children. I can understand not liking the season, but I don't understand it going against anything that came before it. The show has always been at its most basic, the development and growth of Buffy. Right from the beginning she's had to go through horrible, horrible things to become the person she is. I'd be curious to hear what you found to subvert the previous episodes and why you feel that way.
I think it would be easier for me to rewatch all of S6 if in S7 there would have been a big group hug where everyone apologized to everyone. I just felt like some characters didn't really get closure on their previous actions.


This is the first time I can probably say this without wanting to grate my teeth, but maybe they weren't supposed to get closure.

For a long time it really bothered me that no one really resolved a lot of the issues that plagued them throughout the series. But in reality, maybe that's just wishful thinking. It would take more years than the show had for everyone to work through their various problems. So expecting them to kiss and makeup might be a tad unfeasible, at least to me. Which is not to say that I still don't get incensed about Buffy's (or Xander's, or Willow's, or everyone's) behavior from time to time, but I suppose that's to be expected. ;)
We should get pitchforks. Anyone want to start a kitty?

Well, if you're talking an actual kitty, I know a loan shark who would cut you a deal.
When Joss included the bit about Xiang Yu in the Firefly episode "War Stories," I don't think it was just throw-away musing or riffing on the episode's theme. You only really find out who your characters are when you take everything away from them - hold them over the volcano's edge, so to speak.

For me, season 6 only faltered when it didn't embrace the darkness ("Gone"). And it gave way to season 7, by far my favourite season of Buffy.

I may have to check out that book.
Some viewers obviously placed the character of Tara so highly in their affections that for them her loss basically derailed the whole show. I can partially understand this, because I also adored the character of Tara, the relationship between Tara and Willow was literally magic, and Amber Benson was pure brilliance in the role. However, not to be disrespectful to anyone of course, but ultimately Tara was a supporting character. Like Joyce, or Jenny, the character existed in relation to a primary character, in this case Willow, and her death was a plot device to further Willow's storyline. In that light, the authorial intention appears clear, to move the story forward in a challenging and dramatic way. It was evidently a difficult decision for the writers. I for one am thankful they had the courage to go for it.
narse, life is hard. Must live with it.

BTW, don't think I ever spoken with you before. Welcome, nice to meet you!
Although, unlike some, I never felt animosity toward him for being able to gut me like that even when the feeling of loss was the strongest.

I agree with this, and it's pretty much my response to Dana's orginal question as well. Yes, season 6 hurt in a lot of ways, and I believe that most, if not all, of those ways were intentional. But the reason I watch this stuff is for it to inspire some emotion in me, to stir something up. Episodes like Chosen and, in Angel, To Shanshu in LA bring out the nicer emotional responses, yes, but I don't think they could if not for moments like in season 6 and... uh... I guess slightly earlier in To Shanshu in LA.

So I believe whatever pain is caused was intentional, and I'm grateful for it.

I'll also agree that I don't think season 6 was particularly dark in comparison to other dark points in Buffy. The Body, Passion, and Becomings all come to mind immediately.
But, moley75, tonal shifts in the same episode are one of the hallmarks of the show. For me, in fact, one of it's glories. The way any given episode can pivot on a dime from humor to heartbreak to creeped-out horror just knocks me out.

Amen, and vice versa. The backstory of how Angel got to Sunnydale--to make something of his unlife, to help a young girl who'll need a lot of it--and he fell in love with her, she with him, and as a result, the world may come to an end...and he says he wants to learn from Whistler...but not dress like him.

Season 6 ended magnificently...the rush of wind that delivered Willow from evil (Joss knows his theology) after having been defeated by nothing more simple than love...as noted above, the bookend to Buffy's first appearance above ground in Season 6, but not ugly, jagged, and bright, but beautiful, lush, and sunny...and all of it to the gorgeous humility that is the St. Francis Prayer.

Re: Whedon books at a used book sale: first time ever, and we go to every one we can.

Hey, I liked Doublemeat Palace a lot, but I'm referring to OMWF, of course.

Nothing good there? All they did was take the essentially absurd concept of the musical and seamlessly integrate it into the season's arc, makeing it the literary climax of the entire season, the moment from which all the signficant activity--Buffy/Spike, Anya/Xander, Willow/Tara, Dawn's estrangement, Giles' sense of redundancy...a truly remarkable achievement.

And the music was superb, perfectly calibrated to both the characters as well as the cast's relative musical ability (Tara and Giles, tons, Willow and Dawn, not so much, everybody else somewhere in between.)

I also think it was brilliant that Buffy was brought back not from hell but heaven. Why wouldn't she find this ugly old world horrible and be distant and estranged herself, to the point where the only place she can feel the least bit alive is in the arms of a dead man?
But in reality, maybe that's just wishful thinking. It would take more years than the show had for everyone to work through their various problems.

I'll go you one better deepgirl187, I don't think most people ever "get right" from certain issues, I reckon that could just be a story we tell ourselves (possibly perpetuated by psychiatrists and the authors of self-help books ;). Cheery thought, eh ?

Furball: Rollercoasters allow us to experience the adrenaline of fear without actual danger.

Of course but the fear is real, right ? Maybe there's some fine distinction between pain due to a simulation of reality and pain due to reality that i'm not getting cos to me they're both pain. If someone says something that makes you laugh and then tells you they didn't mean it to be funny, do you then think "Oh OK, I must not have really found it funny then" ? If you feel something then you feel it, whatever the root cause. Course, YMMV ;).

... and think it's proof to me how great a writer Joss is, that he can affect me that strongly.

Yeah, agreed Shambleau. Shocking as it was though, I didn't see Joss as "punishing" me or that he was somehow "wrong" to kill him, to me the risk of feeling like that comes with investing in great characters and experiencing great stories. Basically, you have to take the rough with the smooth, just like in life ;).
I don't think most people ever "get right" from certain issues

Maybe the truest sentence in this thread. A group hug would have been so clanky.

Remember what one essayist called "Angel's wet dream" in which he--with the others, as a team--killed the beast, saved the day, and resolved all the estrangement issues with Connor, Gunn, Wesley...and he finally consummated his love for Cordy...and that's when he wakes up, souless again.

A lesser show and lesser writers would have gone with the shaman-induced dream and ended the episode there. Meh.

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2008-04-15 21:55 ]
Agree with everyone who said that the writer actually experiences the pain even more deeply and intimately than the audience does. To quote the man himself:

Joss Whedon: I killed Tara. Some of you may have been hurt by that. It's very unlikely it was more painful to you than it was to me. I couldn't even discuss it in story meetings without getting upset, physically. Which is why I knew it was the right thing to do. Because stories, as I have so often said, are not about what we WANT.
narse; Hindsight is only 20/20 if you're flexible baout it, but the fact I have seen some hindsight scenarios which allow for development of DarkWillow without Tara 's actually dying. Not saying i prefer those, or that I don't, and admittedly these are people re-working joss 's original brilliance, not coming up with the idea on thei own. So blaming the original people for not doing it "better," quotes very intentional, is a problematic thing to do. (Even tho I admit to being one who has bashed Joss over this and idnetified it as the start of the process which had me essentially turned off canon by the time "you're Welcome" aired)

I think i've lost my point anyway but i hope I got soemthing across. If I go on too far I'll evnetually criticize the entire turn the series took some time before S-6 even started and I don't want to do that.
Saje, the distinction is that the emotions you experience through drama are vicarious. You get them without being exposed directly to their source, you are suffering on behalf of the characters on screen, not for yourself. The emotions experienced in watching "The Body" are palpable, moving, even distressing, but weighed against the actual pain of losing your own mother, they just don't compare. Drama gives us an outlet to experience those emotions without the cost, a safe forum to allow us to learn and grow, an echo of the events in our own lives. Vicarious pain, sure, but not actual pain.
Season 6 was my introduction to Buffy as well, and I am glad for it. The dark places it went with most of the characters rang true to me, and my life at the time. I was recently out of college and dealing with a lot.

Though I think some season 6 episodes are imperfect, I think many of them are wonderful and chilling. I'd like to check out this book, since the 2 Buffy academic books I've read don't deal with them extensively.
in retrospect years later, Season six remains the most controversial and debated season of all.

I loved it.
Drama gives us an outlet to experience those emotions without the cost...

Yeah, of course this is true BUT the "cost" you're avoiding is the actual death of a loved one NOT the pain. Just as with a roller-coaster you get to feel real fear but without actual danger (assuming the ride's safe).

... you are suffering on behalf of the characters on screen, not for yourself.

Ah, no, there we differ (and i'd wager so do the people hurt by the death of Tara). I'm suffering because of my attachment to the characters and because I see myself in the "people" onscreen. Dana5140 for instance (if i'm reading him right) was extremely fond of Tara himself, he's upset for what he's lost, what he sees as having been done to him, not (just) on behalf of Willow and the others.

With 'The Body' for instance, I think most people are either reminded of actually losing someone or are imagining, through the characters, what that will be like. When viewers become emotional from film/TV I don't think it's usually because they feel sorry for the character they're watching (or the characters around them) I reckon it's because they connect what they're seeing to themselves or maybe connect to it as a more general property of humanity (of which they are, presumably, a part ;).
Discourse is good, and discourse here is almost always balanced and fair. In fact this spot, and Simon and the other moderators in particular, deserve(s) extra plaudits for civilized behavior. However, there is one behavior that burns my buns every time and makes me want to rant every time, and I'm weak today. Stating your opinion is a right and a privilege I respect. I do not respect bringing in the opinions of undefined others that the poster has run across on the internet or in RL who may or may not constitute a majority or minority in their opinion. I don't repect reports that others in various places I have or have not been feel a certain way. Please don't tell me about the opinion of anyone but yourself. Please, please don't. Please. This 'strategy' has been misused a lot in this fandom (unfortunately, because it assumes that fellow posters are kind of stupid). It doesn't stengthen your case for me, it makes me suspect it.
Did I mention lately how much I loved this room? Good topics all.
Some people whose posts I have read think I shouldn't mention the overwhelmingly anti-Clem atmosphere of this board I once posted to, BUT... ;)

ETA: I agree with cmbackshane, but I distinguish between musings about trends, and authoritative generalizations.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2008-04-15 23:07 ]
I love seasons 6 and 7. I just pre-ordered it on Amazon.com and found that it gives a 5% discount for pre-order. In addition, it is also offering a free 20 issue subscription to Us Weekly OR if you don't want the magazine, you can get a refund for the 20 issues ($19.80) instead. The only requirement for the $19.80 refund is you must have a purchase confirmation e-mail from amazon by today, 4/15 and you must mail in the form by 4/30 (i think). Amazon usually doesn't charge my card till it ships out the product so my card won't get billed til Sept. So if they don't give me any trouble on the refund, I should be paying $13.45 for the book. Hope this helps.
Saje: "I reckon it's because they connect what they're seeing to themselves or maybe connect to it as a more general property of humanity (of which they are, presumably, a part ;)."

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.


- Gerard Manley Hopkins
Sunfire, please don't. We rather not hear those kind of discussions in this room. You are most certainly welcome, but we are a cordial bunch. Please.
Hi, Furball- I have a few questions. You said in one of your posts that "even emotionally distressing, it did not cause me pain." What is the difference between emotional distress and pain? I mean, of course, emotional pain; the writing in Buffy does not cause my muscles to ache (though since I am chiropractor I could actually do something about it if it did!). And I do look forward to us discussing redemption; I've given this thought and have much to say. But furball, in your subsequent posts you seem to completely reject what people feel when they invest in a text, whether that text is televisual, textual, or even musical. It is not ersatz feeling, or faux feeling; it is feeling. You say this: "The same is true of drama, it allows us to experience a whole range of emotions without fear of being damaged by them." And this: "Drama gives us an outlet to experience those emotions without the cost, a safe forum to allow us to learn and grow, an echo of the events in our own lives. Vicarious pain, sure, but not actual pain." I strongly disagree with you here. Pain is pain, fella. If I watch TV and a character I love gets hurt, I hurt. This is not vicarious, which seems to minimize what I feel; you are effectively saying that it is not real to me. Or cannot be taken seriously, because, you know, it's vicarious. It is dismissed. That I do not agree with. If I watch The Body and it reminds of someone's death, that's pain; if I watch it and I hurt for Buffy's loss, fictional though she is, that's pain. I have not really had conversations with you before, but as everyone here knows I am a big fan of reader response, which posits that the reader constructs meaning from the text in ways the author cannot known or predict; the reader in fact is the author of his or her own text in the reading. As a reader response fan, the meaning I view in Buffy is constructed by me; Joss simply provides the means for me to do that. I am simplifying horribly here, of course. But you may feel the pain is vicarious for you; you CANNOT tell anyone else how they feel of how what they feel means or gives meaning to them. Right? That meaning grows out of their entire interpreted life. So saje really hits the nail on the head in his post there; Tara's loss had meaning for me. For me. Why it does I cannot say. That it does, I can.

Quotergal: had I used the word "manipulate" rather than "toy" would that change anything. What I mean is that Joss writes to evoke a response- you can call this toy, manipulate, whatever, but I do believe it is clear he wishes to cause you to feel something. In that sense, he "toys" with your emotions. I understand you attach a negative connotation to the term, but I did not mean it that way.

narse, it's a long discussion about why I feel that S6 went off the rails as it did. Yes, we can follow character development from earlier times, but none of the characters come out of S6 well. IN fact, the Willow of S7 is a pale shadow of the Willow that came before, minimized and cast to the side to make room for exchangeable potentials. Though I lurves Felicia Day... :-)
When I first started watching Buffy, chronologically on DVD, I didn't understand why the later years were referred to as the series going dark, because it seemed to me that the first few years were pretty dark already (season 2, Angel goes evil and kills Giles' beloved, finally Buffy must kill him; season 3, Faith goes evil, Buffy tries to kill her, Angel comes back and nearly dies again, then leaves. Seemed pretty heartbreaking to me.)

Then I got to the later seasons and began to see what people were talking about. I was particularly interested that by Season 7 Joss was talking about going back to the beginning in trying to lighten the tone, but that the show refused to go there. The story stayed dark despite authorial intent, and to me it was because ultimately, despite the humor, the story is a dark one. It is the story of a woman who is a warrior in a prolonged, unending war, and eventually that has to corrode the soul.

In one of the commentaries it was pointed out that the structure of individual episodes typically started lighter and then darkened in the second half, and that seasons went that way too. I think that is the case for the series overall. Buffy gets those occasional moments of what playwright Tom Stoppard describes as "the summer lightning of personal happiness", but when those momentary flashes are gone, the central truth of the series is that she lives in a hideously violent world, where she and everyone she cares about is constantly in danger, and statistically, if the story goes on and is faithful to itself, a large number of her friends will die young and in violence.

(Which is why I for one, would like to have the storyline end at some point before it becomes either Battlestar Galactica bleak or succumbs to the Jean Grey phenomenon whereby characters die, come back, die and come back so many times that one can't keep track of what incarnation they're in, and stop caring).

This of course is true of all of Joss' shows, that they are about people living in violent situations, and those who complain that he kills too many of his characters ignore this fact and that what Joss does that is revolutionary for the media he works in, is to make the danger his characters face genuine.
Quotergal: had I used the word "manipulate" rather than "toy" would that change anything. What I mean is that Joss writes to evoke a response- you can call this toy, manipulate, whatever, but I do believe it is clear he wishes to cause you to feel something. In that sense, he "toys" with your emotions. I understand you attach a negative connotation to the term, but I did not mean it that way."


Dana5140 - but I don't think it's a "whatever" - the different words you list mean different things; they are not synonomous - and your choice of the word "toy" imo expresses something different than "evoke a response" - (which is why all writers write, of course, to evoke a response.) I'm not attaching a negative connotation to the word, or misinterpreting it - it has very specific meaning that in this context is either negative (Joss plays with us, he messes with us willy-nilly for fun) or its use is inaccurate.

TOY: 1. To amuse oneself idly; trifle: a cat toying with a mouse. 2. To treat something casually or without seriousness: toyed with the idea of writing a play. See synonyms at flirt.

I took exception with that word, because I don't think that's what Joss does, and if you weren't trying to convey that either, than "evoke a response" certainly would be a better choice.
Dana5140; Again it's interesting how people differ in their views of things. I don't have that much problem with seeing Willow as redeemed because I see what she did to Warren (and to a greate xtent with Rack -Rhack?- as well) as handing out a legitimate sentence to them. Her crime was in that she wasn't an authorized agent to do so. Admittedly a value judgement I prefer to keep in fantasy worlds.

gossi Sunfire Furball; I see the point on the humor but it largely left me cold when I watched that season. It just didn't seem that humorous at the time. Or as gallows humor at the absolute best. Of course the order in which I saw the episodes and the other things going on with me could have affected that. If I ever see it again maybe I'll know.

Tonya J; Hmmm, I'm thinking about the concept of "Bitter Vanilla" now. PRobably work better as a title than as an actual flavor. Maybe I should call my memoirs that.

QuoterGal; Good point. Your take on it, in all honesty, describes how I sometimes feel about Joss. But if Dana5140 didn't mean it that way, perhaps you're right on its being an unfortunate choice. (Voters can misspeak just like candidates can.)

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2008-04-16 01:17 ]
Watching Season 6 right now and its pretty draining. The Spike thing has been too drawn out and it lacks the pizazz of the earlier seasons. It does make me appreciate Season 3 of Angel which is darker, funnier and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Dana5140, while I believe reader response is important in that it is how the audience is able to connect with the work, I don't feel it should in any way supersede the writer's intent for or control of the story. While a writer may want to elicit a certain reaction, there's simply no way to take into account the emotions of every single person in the audience. And there's absolutely no reason that they should have to apologize for not doing so.

For readers who feel that their connection to the story is more important than the writer's, I'd say it's more the reader's responsibility to avoid stories that they will find painful than it is the writer's. After all, said reader is the only one who really knows what they can and can't handle emotionally. And to be honest, Joss and company made it pretty clear in the first five seasons of Buffy that no one was ever truly safe.
Dana5140, I certainly wasn't attempting to diminish or dismiss anyone's response to the events of the show. Apologies if that was how my comment came across, it was unintentional. I appreciate that we all have an emotional connection to these characters, and that these connections can be incredibly intense.

The distinction I was trying to make, and feel free to disagree with me as it is only my opinion, is that when you engage in a drama you are experiencing those emotions at a degree removed from the action. If you feel afraid while watching BtVS, surely it is fear for the characters you are experiencing? The vampire isn't going to leap from the screen and attack you or me, the audience, we are in no real danger. We are experiencing the sensation of fear without actually being at risk, like the rollercoaster.

When Joyce died in "The Body", I experienced all the emotions that the characters were going through, right along with them, as the drama unfolded. But did I feel actual pain? Did that death stay with me for several weeks, months, years, preying on my thoughts? Did I go through a grieving process as I mourned one lost, with all the encumbent heartache that goes hand in hand with that process? Did it affect me the way the death of my own mother did? I have to say, no, it did not.

Drama is a very real experience. But in my opinion, the emotions it creates are vicarious, they exist within the viewer on behalf of the characters onscreen, in that sense they are not "actual" but "virtual" if you will. It may be a very dry, academic kind of point, and it again it is only my opinion, but I think this is an important mechanism which helps us differentiate fact from fiction, and allows us to fine-tune our own emotional responses. It is my own personal take on catharsis.

Personally, I think if we had actual emotional reactions to everything we watched on television, we would be nervous wrecks.
CLEM! That bastard...
QG- I am trying to avoid having to parse language, so I apologize for not being clear. No question Joss wishes to evo0ke a response; eh talks about this all the time. My argument was that sometimes, be careful what you wish for.

LB- your comments get at the basis of the schism between authorial intent and reader response. That is an argument we have been making for a long time. :-) Well, I have been making for a long time, to be sure. I would never say that my connection is more important to the story than Joss or anyone else's; I will say that it is MY connection to the story, so it matters to me. And a reader cannot know in advance what stories may trigger what responses. This is a risk that both authors and readers take.

furball- I still disagree. Let me see if I can explain. Yesterday I watched the program Dirty Jobs. In it, Mike Rowe was working on top of a skyscraper in New York with a crew building a new wooden water tower. I could not watch; I am terrified of heights. And they were near the edge of a 150-foot drop. I cannot go to am IMAX theater and watch the show. Now, I am not in any danger, right. But my brain cannot stop processing what I see as if I were. I am, frankly, scared. My physiological response is the same as if I were actually there. But I am not. What I feel is what I feel.


But I think my friend, the estimable jet wolf, said this best in her comments about the death of Tara in her top 100 Buffy countdown, where this comes in at #13:

"If you've made it this far into the list, then this shouldn't come as a surprise. Or, actually, perhaps it does, since you're probably expecting nothing but favourite moments, and this isn't really something that I'd say I'm happy about. But then, this is a Top 100, which isn't quite the same in my world. This moment ranks so high on pure, unbridled emotion. Nothing I have ever seen in media -- not books, TV, comics, movies, plays -- nothing has ever upset me as much as Tara's death. I've been sad when characters have died before. I've cried about them and for them. But I mourn Tara. I miss her like I would if she were a personal friend. When I first realized this, I came to know just how effectively Buffy had wriggled into my life and I hadn't even really noticed. I'm not sure if it could be counted as an advantage or disadvantage, but watching the episodes one after the other courtesy of downloads puts you in something of a different place than watching it week after week. For one thing, there's no waiting. Finish an episode, open the next file, simple as that. On the one hand, that's great because there's no torturous week (or weeks) waiting for the next ep to air. On the other hand, though, it means you don't really sit back and analyze where the story is going very much. You don't have to, because you can just open that next file. As a result, much as I probably should have, I never, ever saw this coming. I hadn't heard rumours of a character death, May wasn't approaching so I wasn't dwelling too much on what the season finale would be. I was just watching and enjoying the hell out of the reunion. And then ... Just like that, it was all over. Tara was gone and Willow's world was destroyed. I won't ruin a perfectly good future essay topic by going into my own reactions to her death and the controversy that it spawned. I will instead simply say that I love Tara. Months later, I still mourn for her. Depending on my mood, this scene either makes me sad or makes me cry like a little baby. And I think it speaks volumes for everyone involved, from Amber and Aly to the production and writing staff to Joss himself that I could care so damned much about people who don't exist."
Furball: "Personally, I think if we had actual emotional reactions to everything we watched on television, we would be nervous wrecks."

Yeah, see, this is why I think it's so hard to be an actor - or rather, why only certain kinds of people can really handle the emotional roller-coaster that is acting.

Good actors have to feel everything they convey... it's different, of course, than actually and personally experiencing the emotions of their character - but not that different, and the body can't really tell the difference. Fear and anger and joy and elation and all those other other juicy emotions gotta get channeled through them, body and soul, and then they have to let them go, or get stuck in them.

Add to this the fact that you need to be emotionally available and sensitive to create and express your character, in a profession that for the most part (and certainly in Hollywood) requires you to be tough as nails with nerves of steel, and I don't understand how anyone can hack the profession, I really don't. My admiration for good actors is LARGE.

How much more off-topic can I be? What were we talking about?

Oh, yeah, Clem sucks almost as much as Joss does. Those heartless bastards.
Dana5140:
as everyone here knows I am a big fan of reader response, which posits that the reader constructs meaning from the text in ways the author cannot known or predict; the reader in fact is the author of his or her own text in the reading. As a reader response fan, the meaning I view in Buffy is constructed by me; Joss simply provides the means for me to do that.

Then I submit that no author is responsible for any pain you may get from their story - if you construct your own meaning (which "the author cannot know or predict",) how is the author to blame? Nor does any author have any responsibility to consider whether their work may cause someone else emotional pain; I mean, since authorial intent has no bearing on what the reader/viewer gets out of the story, it really doesn't matter what the author does, he's gonna take a dump in somebody's Wheaties - may as well be one person as another, no? I'm sorry, but if a writer is to be censured for writing a story that a reader/viewer is going to interpret to suit themselves anyway, what's the incentive to write at all? Or, for that matter, what is the reader's/viewer's incentive to actually read/view their work and risk exposing themselves to the potential for emotional turmoil - knowing that most writers try to evoke an emotional response of some type from their audience?

A hammer is an excellent tool for bashing things, but if you deliberately hit yourself in the knee with it, it's not the manufacturer's fault.
To quote the salon.com take on Season 6 (because I couldn't be arsed making up my own stuff, and because they put it better than I possibly could!)


This year.. threw the show and it's characters into yet another light; it has changed the shape of their shadows, showing us things in them- resources of unusual bravery or cruelty- that we couldn't previously have imagined.


Marti, as showrunner, took Season Sex Six in a new direction and I reacted to that with a fiery hatred at the time.

In hindsight and with the knowledge of the entire series arc behind me, it was absolutely a vital part of the 'Buffy' tale.

After all, in order to appreciate the light, you have to know what darkness is.
Dana5140, I would not argue against the dramatic power of Tara's death scene, nor would I attempt to dismiss anyone's reaction to or interpretation of the show. You originally asked:

Did Joss intend to create as much pain as he did amongst some of his viewers when he developed the season (S6)? I am not asking if he intended it to be dark and unhappy with bad things happening that upset his viewers. I am asking, did he mean for it to hurt people as much as it did?

My response to this, my own view, was that he did not intend to hurt his viewers, and as an aside I added that I did not think a TV show could cause actual pain to its viewers anyway. A few people including yourself challenged me on this point, and I have put forward my opinions on the matter. In my own defense, I studied literature a long time ago at a very stuffy English university, so my opinions on matters relating to drama, catharsis, audience participation and such are perhaps very outdated. This I admit. I am very much in the "learning should be smelly" category, Giles would indeed be proud of me.

All that said, I still hold with the opinion I gave in my last post, and I won't be tiresome and reiterate it again in this one. It is an opinion I have long held, chiefly because I have never seen any rival theory which could displace it, although I am always open to learning something fresh. And I think debating it has distracted this discussion into a side issue away from your original question. I will just re-emphasise, this view is my own and was not intended to cause anyone offense or upset, nor to diminish anyone's emotional reaction to the characters or events of these stories.

Dana5140, you asked if the author of the work intended to cause his viewers pain, but, as Rowan has pointed out, you have also argued that the 'reader is the author'. These two statements seem, to me, to be entirely at odds. If you are the author of your own reading of the work, who was meant to be causing who pain? I admit bafflement.

I think, as I mentioned several posts previously, we will probably have to agree to disagree on these subjects. It has been an interesting discussion, nonetheless.
I think you both ask a good question, one that I have to consider. I strongly believe in reader response, but perhaps I have stated it poorly. Theory suggests that meaning is constructed by the reader, but the basis of that construction is the text, whatever that text is. I have never denied that I take responsibility for my own feelings; that is, I do not blame Joss for how I feel. I never have. I have suggested that my response was likely far sronger than Joss intended. If I am in any way clear?

Furball, my mother was my high school English teacher many years ago, and I come by my literary analysis by way of her, and she was very good at what she did. How many 10th graders were reading and analyzing Samuel Beckett, like I did? Or Chaucer- interesting classes back then!

Good talk today. Made a tough day go by easier- my father-in-law had surgery today to remove a bladder tumor, using a transurethral method- and you guys all know what that means. :-0 But I just spoke to him and he is in fine fettle and doing well, at 88 as today is also his birthday. Real life stuff. :-)
QG--Thanks for the GMH poem. A very nice addition to this thread.
Furball wrote:
But did I feel actual pain? Did that death stay with me for several weeks, months, years, preying on my thoughts? Did I go through a grieving process as I mourned one lost, with all the encumbent heartache that goes hand in hand with that process?

You were talking about Joyce' death above, but I for one can say categorically that when it comes to Tara it ~has~ stayed with me, I ~have~ grieved (and still do when re-watching), and my heart ~still~ aches. As someone else pointed out, the fact that the kitten board (which I only discovered relatively recently) was created and still continues, and that fans still write revisionist fanfic that seeks to explore alternatives, or bring solace, or ease our hearts, demonstrates that it is not an isolated experience of that character arc.

Just as, in some very real way I do 'love' Tara. I see aspects of myself in Tara, and in Willow. I see aspects of women I have loved (in RL) in Tara, and in Willow. I know the difference between RL and fiction, but the emotions I experience are sometimes - in the very best TV, musicals, books, and movies - very real. Perhaps not as intense as if those same events had happened to me in RL, but still very real.

My take on it is that the best fiction resonates incredibly strongly precisely because it speaks to us very personally and deeply. For me, some musicals do this too - Sondheim's Into the Woods is one such, for a range of reasons. When I first came across it many years ago, I was struggling with some of the same sorts of issues in my own life - issues with my mother, finding the path, love and loss, etc. I watched and re-watched ITW countless times. It was terribly cathartic, and assisted me to work through and process things in my own life. Plus, with the funny and the clever. ;-)

You may argue that what I'm experiencing is the reflected emotion from the real events that mirror what I'm seeing on screen. That's a more refined argument, and not one that I necessarily disagree with terribly strongly. I guess what I'm saying is that the reason we have strong reactions to ~anything~ fictional is that it resonates with us, for good or ill. Perhaps Cordy says is best with "Over-identify much?" :-)

If you don't experience these emotions as real, then of course I can't say that you do. It's your experience, not mine. And vice versa. You may say "I don't understand how some people can experience these feelings as if they are real", but I don't accept it's valid to say "other people cannot possibly be feeling 'real' pain or emotion".

And here we are it's 2008 and we all care enough about Buffy and the characters to bother thrashing this out here. What a truly marvellous testament to an amazing show.
As usual, I'm late to the thread, but I wanted to add my two cents' worth. ;) I'm looking forward to reading this book.

I also came to Buffy on DVDs and have wondered on occasion if I would have reacted differently to some things had I watched a week at a time, with months in between seasons!, rather than the whole show in about three months. Also, I was spoiled for some things because I had friends who watched the show and, in spite of having the DVDs, I was working fulltime and could only watch two or three episodes a night, so I would go online to read the synopsis of upcoming episodes. I already knew about Willow and Tara, about Tara's death and Willow's reaction to it and about Spike getting his soul, but by going online, I knew when they were coming - and sometimes I regret that I had that prior knowledge.

Be that as it may, S6 & 7 remain my favourites, although it took a couple of viewings of S7 for that to happen. When I finished the series the first time, I immediately started on S6 & 7 again and when I finished them, I went back and started again from S4! (Luckily, I was off for three weeks at Christmas.)

It is not an exaggeration to say that Buffy changed my life - and it was the last two seasons which somehow reached into my heart to do this. Joss made me feel again and that means pain as well as joy, but isn't that what life is about?

Watching "The Body" does hurt; not as much as my mother's death did - and sometimes still does - but it is still pain. When Wash dies in Serenity, it hurts on a physical level - every single time (and I have seen the movie 17 times just in theatres!) Do I wish these deaths - or Jenny's or Tara's or Fred's or Wesley's - had not taken place? No. Joss's willingness to go to the dark places that we have known (or will likely know during our lifetime) is what makes his writing so strong and visceral.
Didn't really enjoy s6 at the time, having re-watched it for the 4th time I enjoyed it more than I ever thought possible.
That snippet of GMH was lovely QuoterGal (as well as being absolutely germane). Cheers for that ;).

Watching "The Body" does hurt; not as much as my mother's death did - and sometimes still does - but it is still pain.

Exactly samatwitch. I doubt most people would argue that drama doesn't let us experience traumatic events "safely" (I, among others, have argued exactly that in the various "torture porn"/horror threads) and I also think most would agree that the death of a real loved one is worse than (for instance) the death of Tara but that, to me, is like saying "Being shot is more painful and has worse consequences than stubbing your toe so therefore stubbing your toe isn't painful". Non sequitur much ? ;)

It's not really a matter of literary analysis so much as what people feel and only the individual in question actually knows what that is.

Good thread everyone, as usual ;).
Yay for 111 comments!

I think this book looks quite good despite the expensivness. Season 6 was the first I watched on tv, and the first I bought on DVD but its definitly not my favourite. There are parts of it I absolutly loathe and have to stop myself from skipping. Recently I did a week long season 1-7 marathon of BtVS and throughout the whole thing my emotions spanned the scale from elation to maddening frustration but not until season 6 did I notice things that realy made me wince and want to give up and get some sleep.

But in saying that, it also felt like I was experiencing someones life, or in this case a group of someones. There are always chapters you want to gloss over when telling your life story or reading a biography of somekind and in this case, season 6, for me atleast, seems to be that chapter. So I watch it, and I love it and hate it in equal measures because I can totaly see where it fits into everything.
I have to say that Tara's death - and Buffy's, the previous year - affected me like only one or two other fictional characters' deaths ever have (for that matter, like only one or two real-life deaths ever have.) But that's exactly why I got hooked on Buffy to begin with. For me, drama is all about the characters: if I can't care about the characters, I can't care about the story. And I really can't relate to a bunch of characters for whom everything is all rosy and perfect and nothing bad ever happens; where's the story in that? So-- go ahead, Joss, cut my heart out...
Rowan- what were the other two? Fictional, that is?

I can say that the character who drew me in nearly as much as Tara was Sophie on the little seen In Treatment, which just ended on HBO. Her arc ends differently, but how she gets there is so phenomenally moving it hurts to watch.

Fun question for a new day: If we, the reader, do not respond to what the author writes in the way the author intended, did the author fail? :-)
If no-one responds the way the author intended then they would presumably consider it a failure. As with all these discussions though, it eventually simplifies down to whether you consider the author to be the final definitive commenter on their own work. If you think they decide what it really means then yes, it's a failure, if you think the reader decides then it's up to them.

(my own position is that if the reader gains by the work and doesn't consider it a failure then it isn't)
Dana5140, Mr. Spock and Modesty Blaise, both of whom I'd been fans of from the beginning.

To answer your other question, not necessarily; but if the reader doesn't have some emotional response, then there's a failure on someone's part, whether the author or the reader. Unless, of course, the work was intended to create no emotional response whatsoever, in which case I hope I don't come across that work, because I would find it hopelessly boring...
I've seen the table of contents for this book. Dana5140 and others may be interested to know that, among other things, it includes two essays on the season 6 Willow and Tara controversy.
Thank you, Rowan. I remember thinking, but that's Spock! And feeling that somehow he was not really dead forever. So while I was troubled, I was not hurt; I simply did not see this as a forever thing.

Maeve- thank you for that information. I was going to buy the book anyway, but I will be highly interested in those chapters. I suspect they may be counterpoints to each other.
Sometimes a work of art proves to contain more than the artist consciously intended, and may surprise even her as it later reveals itself more fully. There may be a lot of intellect, and/or craft and technique involved in the making of it, and plenty of conscious intent, but there is still something in there at times that was not solely the product of any of these things.

I have heard many creative people talk about the feeling that some of their best work kind of "blew through them". A reader, viewer, or whoever may respond deeply to aspects of a work that were never consciously intended to have a particular effect. No failure there, IMO. Rather, great success- and much benefit to all involved.
A teeny thought experiment.

In the book you are reading, an unattended toddler wanders onto a busy street. You look up from the book, engrossed though you are, to see an actual toddler wandering out onto the street outside your window.

Who do you save?

We’re not talking apples and oranges here. We’re talking apples and fictional apples. They require different sorts of responses. For the real child, you drop the book and run out onto the street. For the fictional child, if you’re going to immerse yourself in that world and take what it offers you, you just have to let whatever happens happen.

Even if the toddler dies.

We all of us die, after all. If the fictional “Tara” is going to real and not simply fantasy, then death has to be real for her too. If “Tara” is going to be Tara, her death has to be inscribed in her from the start, as our deaths are inscribed in us by the generative stuff that allows us life. Tara is real only because Joss wrote her own death into her, and she was dead the moment she entered that world. To wish a do-over, to wish the author to re-write Tara, is to take the reality from her and reveal her as “mere” fiction, a cipher to be manipulated at a whim, empty but for the feeling you invest in her.

God knows there is enough fiction that is "just" fiction out there.
I like your hypothetical, bigsofty. It seems to fit very nicely, in my mind, with the point I was making earlier about the viewer/reader experiencing through sympathetic or imaginative participation in the experience of another, that being drama.

To take this hypothetical to an unpleasant place, imagine that you are too late to intervene and see the real child killed on the street. In the book you are reading, the child also dies. Which experience would have the more profound effect? The real death, or the fictional account of a death?

My opinion: when we as audience view a drama we are experiencing those emotions at a degree removed from the event. There is a safety barrier, a fourth wall if you will, between us and the pain, and if we don't like what confronts us, we can switch off, change channel or leave the theatre. If we buy in and immerse, we relinquish ourselves voluntarily. We have a safety word, our own participation is in our control. On the other hand, when something bad happens in real life, the event is immediate, our participation is locked, and there is no barrier between us and the emotional consequences. Therefore, through drama we can experience the joys, grief, highs and lows, the funny and the pathetic, without the threat that the events onscreen can ever be actual. We get the "Woe, that could be me!" as opposed to the "Woe is me!". That is why as a species we love drama, in my opinion, it allows us to indulge all the wonderful emotions our mind and physiology can conjur, without the inherent risks.

Some contributors here have taken this opinion as some form of sweeping diminishment of their emotions, a minimising of their feelings, a trivialisation of their connection to the characters they love. As I said above (and apologised for any misunderstanding), that was not my intention, neither was it my point. I fully recognise the depth of feeling involved, as I share those feelings for these characters myself. I have felt for them, shared their joys and disasters alike, and enjoyed every moment of the wonderful rollercoaster ride that BtVS offers.

However I would add that, for myself, if I believed that I had the same level of emotional response to the death of a fictional character as I do for a real person, I personally would find that deeply troubling.
As I say, I don't think anyone is claiming it's as bad, of course a real person dying is worse but pain is pain and once we do "relinquish ourselves voluntarily" then we can experience real sensations as the result of fiction (and for some people at least "unrelinquishing themselves" may be less straightforward than just thinking "Ah well, it's only made up").

At risk of me also repeating myself, if a fictional character says something funny, you laugh. Are you not actually laughing because they're fictional ? Is it not really funny because it didn't actually happen ? Is there some distance between you and the joke wherein you consciously decide whether to laugh or not ? Likewise, if something sad happens to a fictional character, you cry. Do you not really feel sad ?

... it allows us to indulge all the wonderful emotions our mind and physiology can conjur, without the inherent risks.

Exactly. We experience those "wonderful emotions". What's different is the state of the world, not (at that exact moment) our own state. Afterwards we haven't lost a friend or parent in the real world, the consequences of the event are different, hence not as bad.

... our participation is locked, and there is no barrier between us and the emotional consequences.

People put barriers there all the time in reality. They do it so often in fact that "denial" is seen as one of the stages of grief. The difference being, if you insist on denying reality then you're deemed pathological (OK, for some things you get a pass *cough* religion *cough* ;) whereas if you "insist" on denying fiction that's obviously not a problem. And i'm pretty sure there was no choice to avoid watching Tara die, don't remember the continuity announcer warning "Oh and to those that don't want to watch Tara being shot to death, you might like to switch off about 5 minutes from the end" ;).

Basically, all your points are just matters of degree IMO Furball. Nothing about them precludes feeling pain through fiction, it's just that intense emotional distress hasn't been your experience. As I say though, people know what they feel themselves (and themselves alone) and no amount of learned literary analysis (or us heating the air ;) is gonna change that.
Rowan Hawthorn:"...Mr. Spock and Modesty Blaise, both of whom I'd been fans of from the beginning."


Ohmigods, a fellow Modestarian Modestinian Modesty-lover. She is one of my big ol' heroes - the Modesty from the novels; I don't know the comic-strip gal - and I was gutted when Peter "Just as Heartless as Joss" O'Donnell done what he did to Princess and Willie in Cobra Trap.

Modesty - the novels introduced me to a fictional world where it was possible for men - some men, at least - to be led in combat by a woman without feeling diminished, preceding BtVS by a few years...

I think the '66 film is a hoot having very little to do with the Modesty I know and admire... I'd be so interested to see what Neil Gaiman did in his script treatment of I, Lucifer.
QG, the "novel" Modesty and the "comic" Modesty are essentially the same, as O'Donnell was the author of both. And the reason he decided to make a definite end to the series was because he didn't want anyone continuing it after him. (Surprisingly enough, the '66 screenplay actually follows the book quite well - but you'd never know it from watching the finished product...)
bigsofty; Point sort of taken. Which doesn't mean it stops being a fantasy world. And the real world isn't programmed; that's Newton, not Heisenberg.
Season six is definitely about "ennui" as much as it is about darkness, which is part of the reason I think it's so polarizing. There's a fine line, I think, between realistically treating ennui, self-loathing, laziness etc., and simply becoming boring and lazy as writers. This season was basically about deconstructing everything that had come before (let's drop metaphors! let's see where Buffy's digging the darkness really leads her! let's remove the Big Bad! etc.) while still being true to it, and I think that half the time the writers weren't quite on the same page. The emotional lines in earlier seasons were often complex, but they were never as *murky* as they are here. And don't forget that self-deception is a theme in this season, so that half of the things the characters say, particularly about themselves, might actually be wrong.

And again, this season never really supplied definitive answers. Was Willow "just" a junkie or was she getting off on the power? Was Buffy using Spike or did she love him? Was Spike an irredeemable monster or was there a spark of humanity in him? Was Giles right to leave or did he abandon his loved ones when they needed him the most? Was Xander right that leaving Anya was the right thing to do, or was he honestly just a scared little boy in over his head? The answer to all these questions, it seems, is "both." I've given a lot of thought to this season, and I honestly can't say for sure how much of this ambiguity is intentional on the part of the writers, and how much is because they honestly didn't know what they were doing.

In the end, maybe that's okay. I think ELEMENTS of S6 are absolute genius (I'm thinking especially After Life, OMWF, Dead Things and Villains), elements were practically unbearable in their amateurishness (my opinion, but the Willow parts of Wrecked, the execution of Gone and parts of Older and Far Away), and I still don't quite know what I think of some episodes (As You Were, Hell's Bells). But I do know that I connected with it in a way I didn't with any other season. "Grave," like the season itself, has problems, some of them kind of severe, but virtually nothing I've ever seen has moved me as deeply as Buffy crawling out of her grave right after Xander stops Willow from destroying the world. Cheesy? Maybe. But it's HOPE that there's life after depression. It wasn't entirely successful, but it's still probably one of the bravest things on television.
I've just started reading this (computer problems) but have to stop for this ....

Buffy shouldn't have skipped the necessary lows of her Hero's Journey on account of being female ....
Enisy | April 15, 15:50 CET


I've said the exact same thing in almost the same words, in every season 6 debate I've ever participated in. The absolute essence of a genuinely feminist portrayal of a character is that a female protagonist be treated/judged no differently than a male protagonist.
And this "rock bottom" segment of the Hero's Journey is indeed absolutely essential to the arc.
But take S6 on its own merits, though. Not much good really happened in it. Period.
Dana5140 | April 15, 19:47 CET


Define "good", as it relates to the creative arts, be it a novel, a film, a painting or a TV show.
This is my definition: It made me laugh, it made me cry, it shocked me, broke my heart, tied my gut in knots, left me with a feeling of awe that such imagination and artistic courage and brilliance of execution can exist.
It made me think, and feel, and puzzle over the joy and grief and irony that is life.

Season 6 wasn't just "good" it was brilliant (as was most of BtS). If someone doesn't want to be "hurt" by art, I'd think that person would stick to Mary Poppins and Disney (actually, better skip Bambi).

There is a reason for the existence of the "comedy/drama" masks as a symbol. Joss's work personifies that symbolism, nowhere more than Buffy season 6. Coins are not one sided.

QuoterGal I'm still laughing ....

.Oh gods of déjà already vued.'d,

;-)
Define "good", as it relates to the creative arts, be it a novel, a film, a painting or a TV show.

good = Buffy season 6. There, that's that settled once and for all.

;-)
good = Buffy season 6. There, that's that settled once and for all.


Well .... thank the great goddess and the god of the wood and all the lords of Kobol, we will never again have to deja that vu. ;)
Oh, Shey, if I could just believe that I might cease to be an atheist and embrace religion with fervor and from deepest gratitude... but sadly I don't.

I don't. I don't. I don't.

*headdesk, PRN.*
But it's been defined QuoterGal, that's it, end of chat.

I mean, who could argue with such incontrovertible evidence ?
good = Buffy Season 6

But Saje, it's written in math, and as you may remember (it's a proven fact!) All Math is Simply Horrifying.TM

Does that mean I have to start believing in math? 'Coz I dunno if I can do that, either.
maths equals not horrifying. There, sorted.

Really don't know why politicians make such a big deal over this stuff, I could fix the world in about 30 seconds, fewer if i'd ever bothered learning how to touch type.

[ edited by Saje on 2008-04-17 15:59 ]
Saje, let me turn the question on you for a second (if anyone is actually still reading this thread?)

You claim your emotional reaction to a fictional death is as real as it would be if you were to witness a real death. Let's test that.

Then, why, when you saw Tara shot dead, didn't you rush to the phone to call an ambulance? Or the police?
I'm going to guess and say that its because he meant his emotional reaction and not that he had thrown his reasoning conscious mind in the bin with last night's takeaway ;) Calling the medics would be an action of the reasoning part of his brain and viola as they say, no fines for misuse of the emergency services number.

Moss: [Watching the commercial] Well that's easy to remember! 0118 999 881 999 119 725...3.
I'm still lobbying to have it changed but so far no joy ;).

Yeah, that's about right. It's because the event isn't real. As I say, that doesn't mean the emotional response isn't.

Just as if someone makes a twisted joke about killing someone I don't call the police to report them but I might still laugh.

Or does what you know and what you feel always match completely for you Furball ? If so I guess, to be consistent, you must never have cried at a film or TV show since you know they're not real, yes ? An intense emotional reaction is just like you crying only moreso.
Define "good", as it relates to the creative arts, be it a novel, a film, a painting or a TV show.

Good = that episode of the X-Files where Mulder and Scully nearly got eaten by a giant fungus and much of the episode was actually their hallucinations.
And bad = the one where Samantha is "in the starlight".

Kant clearly wasn't trying hard enough, this good/bad thing is a piece of piss.
Yeah, take that, Immanuel, if that is your real name!
No, I cried at Spiderman 2.

So, it's because we know the event isn't real that we don't rush for the phone after seeing Tara shot. We are permanently aware on some level, as we watch, that we are watching a simulation. Which is pretty much THE point that I have been trying to make, that our emotional reaction is coloured by the fact that we as viewers know, on some level, that what we are looking at isn't real. No matter how much you are immersed, the fact that you don't grab for the phone shows that you are aware that it is a fiction.

As a further example of this, a viewer watching Tara shot dead might well enjoy the experience, not because they are evil or morbid, but because the art of the scene, the beauty of the acting, the delicate turn of the dialogue, Alyson Hannigan's hairdo, or whatever, inspires a sense of enjoyment. To experience enjoyment in the moment of someone's death in real life would, to most people, be an utterly repulsive notion and probably indicative of psychological illness, and yet, in watching a drama we can feel enjoyment at a tragedy and not feel disturbed by it. Tragic pleasure is as old as drama itself.

For the record, I have never claimed that the emotions obtained from drama are in any way "substandard", "inferior" or "less potent" than emotions derived from real events, as in some cases they clearly can be. Other commentators here have inferred those points from my remarks, and also, might I say unfairly, insinuated that I am somehow cold and unfeeling to boot. Which is quite hurtful. What I have tried to point out is that those emotions stem from a simulated source, and as such, though they may move us to floods of tears, they ultimately can't damage us. Which was my answer to Dana's question: did Joss intend to actually hurt his audience? My answer, no, and in my opinion he probably couldn't anyway. Oh, he can put us through the mill, he can make us laugh, cry, pull out our hair, shout at the screen, and he can even teach us stuff, all through his writing. But actual pain, real injury, the kind of scar that the death of a friend or loved one would cause? I just don't believe drama can do that.

In fact, on the contrary, I think drama insulates us from that, and that's why we as a species love drama so much. We get an emotional workout without the risk of emotional damage.

Now, just to clarify, I am not asking anyone to buy into this opinion, nor am I claiming it to be fact. This exact debate has raged since Plato and Aristotle first drew breath on the subject, and it still isn't settled to this day, and in truth it probably isn't even settleable, since it relies on an interpretation of that most unfathomable enigma, the human mind. Like religion, you pretty much just have to pick a side and hope you aren't wrong.

But this is how I see the relationship between drama and human emotion working, due to my own experience, education, and due to the fact that I have never really seen any rival theory to supplant it. However, as always, I am willing to learn, should a rival theory prove its merit.
I think drama insulates us from that, and that's why we as a species love drama so much. We get an emotional workout without the risk of emotional damage.
Furball | April 17, 23:22 CET


Bingo!

But in fairness to Saje, I have to say that I think you two are much closer to agreement than either of you realize. You both seem to have got lost in "how many angels can fit on the head of a pin" territory. (Which is the polar opposite of "tree pretty, fire bad" territory.) ;)

I think the vast (as in 99.9%) majority here are in total agreement that it simply isn't possible for the death of a fictional character to have the same effect on a person as the R/L death of someone near and dear.
And that there is almost as much agreement that the author of such an event (in whatever form of media) has absolutely no "responsibility" for whatever degree of pain is experienced by any given member of the audience that choses to stick with an artist who clearly demonstrates that their intent is to take you on a wild emotional ride (as opposed to "toying with you", but that nit has already been picked).

Joss: ""I don't want to create responsible shows about lawyers, I want to invade people's dreams."

My favorite Joss quote, along with "Bring your own sub-text", both have a special place on my bulletin board.
(My proselytizing is subtle, but that's the subject of the other most interesting thread going, right now).

And Furball, .... "if anyone is still actually reading this thread?".
Ah, you are new and relatively unschooled in the .... um, 'tenacity' of whedonesquer's.
And perhaps have yet to discover "Recent Comments".

....did Joss intend to actually hurt his audience?


I still maintain that this is an irrelevant question. If the author of any work of fiction/art were to take into account the possible reaction of some members of the "audience", no great art would exist
Did Van Gough "intend" to elicit all those intense and sometimes disturbing emotional reactions, with his paintings? ;-)
Yeah, I pretty much only look at the site via 'Recent Comments' (which means I sometimes miss interesting posts because no-one else finds them interesting enough to respond to. So it goes ;).

(re: tenacity, if it's a good discussion and both sides are there by choice, why ever would you stop ? ;)

I've agreed several times with your bit about "drama allowing us to ... etc." Furball, I haven't seen anyone argue that that isn't the case (and as I say i've put it the same way myself previously, most recently here - in that instance talking about horror films). Where we disagree is, you claim that makes a qualitative difference to the experience whereas i've been saying all along it's only quantitative i.e. it's a matter of degree, it's not a fundamental difference in the emotional response itself. Or rather I thought that's where we disagreed ...

For the record, I have never claimed that the emotions obtained from drama are in any way "substandard", "inferior" or "less potent" than emotions derived from real events, as in some cases they clearly can be.

... but clearly I was wrong ;). That's what i've been saying all along - the events that cause it are different but the emotional response is as potent.

What I have tried to point out is that those emotions stem from a simulated source, and as such, though they may move us to floods of tears, they ultimately can't damage us.

Yes Furball, and what I and others have pointed out is, how can you know what other people are feeling ? And so how can you possibly say whether they're "damaged" or not ? You're being very nice about it but you are, however much you might not like the idea, making a claim about someone else's internal state and I just don't see how any amount of theory can do that in any meaningful sense. If you said you were cold and I said, "Well, i've measured the temperature and you can't be", how would you interpret that, would you just agree and say "OK, I must not actually be cold then, sorry" ? People are telling you that they are "damaged" and you're still claiming it isn't possible for that to happen, the only way to interpret that is as you claiming that folk are wrong about how they feel.

As I say, my thinking is basically, people know their own feelings better than I do (or than any theory does). Theory helps us with the causes and effects of feelings and it can even tell us that we "shouldn't" be feeling what we do (for instance, you might be feeling the cold when most people wouldn't because your hypothalamus is on the fritz) but it can't tell us what we actually are feeling, only we know that.

(and Shey's right IMO, we're arguing over the difference between "really emotionally affected" - which you accept fiction can do to us - and "intense emotional distress" - which you don't. The line between, as I said waaay upthread, is thin and in a different place for each of us)
Saje said
You're being very nice about it but you are, however much you might not like the idea, making a claim about someone else's internal state and I just don't see how any amount of theory can do that in any meaningful sense.

I could accept this criticism, my friend, were it not a misrepresentation of pretty much every post I have made in this thread:

"I don't think Joss intended pain on anyone, and I doubt a TV show could cause anyone actual pain in any case." (Furball | April 15, 18:12 CET)

"I guess this is an 'agree to disagree' deal... I just don't believe that fictional drama can cause actual pain" (Furball | April 15, 20:16 CET)

"I certainly wasn't attempting to diminish or dismiss anyone's response to the events of the show. Apologies if that was how my comment came across, it was unintentional...feel free to disagree with me as it is only my opinion...again it is only my opinion, but I think this is an important mechanism which helps us differentiate fact from fiction, and allows us to fine-tune our own emotional responses. It is my own personal take..." (Furball | April 16, 01:47 CET)

"I would not argue against the dramatic power of Tara's death scene, nor would I attempt to dismiss anyone's reaction to or interpretation of the show....I will just re-emphasise, this view is my own and was not intended to cause anyone offense or upset, nor to diminish anyone's emotional reaction to the characters or events of these stories." (Furball | April 16, 03:09 CET)

"Some contributors here have taken this opinion as some form of sweeping diminishment of their emotions, a minimising of their feelings, a trivialisation of their connection to the characters they love. As I said above (and apologised for any misunderstanding), that was not my intention, neither was it my point." (Furball | April 16, 20:22 CET)

"Now, just to clarify, I am not asking anyone to buy into this opinion, nor am I claiming it to be fact... But this is how I see the relationship between drama and human emotion." (Furball | April 17, 23:22 CET)


Forgive me for tediously quoting myself, but I really can't see where I made this claim, or any pronouncement of 'this is how it is, fact.' Am I missing some blog-etiquette here where my statements are being read opposite to their intent? Because I really don't see how I can cram any more "in my opinions" into a paragraph and still have room for a point.

As far as opinions themselves go, are we limited to only having opinions about events within the realm of our own conscious experience? I don't believe we are (which is an opinion), since we have opinions about things of which we can have no experiential knowledge, if there is life on mars, does heaven exist, and so forth. If you are saying that opinions must be limited to what we can experientially prove, that the exploration of human behaviour in its most general terms is not valid, then I would contest that most of the Humanities, Philosophy, Psychology, Psychiatry, Aesthetics and a dozen other schools of human knowledge are pretty much rendered invalid. I don't believe that to be the case (an opinion).

I believe I am entitled to an opinion on the relationship between fiction and human emotion as a general concept. It should not be taken as an inherent criticism of any given viewer's reaction to a drama. Obviously my manner of expressing this opinion has not been succinct. But I think I will refrain from further comment on the matter. To which I would think everyone still reading this is heartily glad.
Not me, been enjoying it up to now ;).

OK, how is saying "I just don't believe that fictional drama can cause actual pain" not making a claim about the way other people feel when watching fictional drama ?

As soon as you make a claim about something outside of yourself, you're making a factual assertion Furball. If your position all along was "I personally have never been damaged by fiction" then I probably wouldn't even have responded because that's your experience, different to some but just part of the wonderful variety of life BUT you've (roughly) said "I don't think it's possible to be damaged by fiction" which is a general statement about everyone, including the people that claim they have been damaged by fiction. Since it's a statement about the world it's an opinion that's open to challenge (and that's surely what makes it worth our while to discuss this stuff, part of what makes this weblog more than just a long list of people saying they think "Amy Acker is great" or that "Joss is a genius" ? If it was just us stating our opinions without debate then what would be the point ? We don't need other people to do that ;).

If I said, "Gordon Brown isn't the Prime Minister in my opinion" then you're gonna call me on it, right, even though it's only my opinion ? If I say "Gordon Brown isn't a good Prime Minister in my opinion" then you may or may not bother to call me on it (if you disagree ;) - arguments can be made either way, evidence presented etc. - but if you do you'll be aware (as am I) that it's not really a right/wrong thing, it's just an opinion (like "I thought BtVS season 6 was rubbish") and that we'll very likely end up agreeing to differ.

The former is an opinion about the state of the world, the latter is an opinion about the state of me. One's open to challenge, to "disproving" if you like, and one isn't. Your claim is the former.
You have selected as a basis for your reply the original statement that I made in this regard, which I have already admitted was perhaps not worded precisely enough, which I later clarified several times, and for which I have already apologised for any misunderstanding caused. And completely glossed over the fuller posts I made on the subject.

Nevertheless, "I just don't believe that fictional drama can cause actual pain" is not the same as the bold statement of fact "fiction cannot cause actual pain". The wording implies that it is my belief, my opinion, and in the context of the post in which it was made, I don't think it sounded like a statement of categorical fact. That said, I should have written "I am not of the opinion that fictional drama can cause actual pain". Perhaps that would have served better. My posts are unedited, people can judge for themselves.

Dana5140, much earlier, said
This is all opinion, and by now we should not have to state that. I am only ever offering my opinions.

To which I fully subscribe, yet for some reason I seem to have been held to a much stricter benchmark in my comments. I have no desire to nitpick further on the clumsiness of the English language, nor sustain this debate, it has already gone on far too long as it is. Joining this board has been my first experience of blogging, I am doubtful I will make a habit of it if these are the requirements.
Pardon me for interruptiing. Furball, No need to get upset. People are just talking.

I do think you are misunderstanding the point, however. No one is holding you to a different standard. It is not that you did not state that it was your opinion. I think everyone agrees you did.

They are saying that there are people who have stated that they have experienced actual pain from fictional drama. If anyone else, you included, then says that he or she does not think it is possible to experience actual pain from fictional drama, then they are either calling the first person a liar, or saying that person does not know what they are feeling. That is the objection. It would be like me saying that I don't think it is possible for someone to feel picked on while having a debate on Whedonesque, when you just told me that was how you felt. ;-)
Precisely newcj.

Or rather I thought that's where we disagreed ...

For the record, I have never claimed that the emotions obtained from drama are in any way "substandard", "inferior" or "less potent" than emotions derived from real events, as in some cases they clearly can be.

... but clearly I was wrong ;). That's what i've been saying all along - the events that cause it are different but the emotional response is as potent.


Whoever thought, Furball, that pointing out that we actually agree would cause so much disagreement ? ;)

I've "selected as a basis" for my reply a quote you yourself made in the comment immediately preceding my response. Why quote it if it's not still relevant ?

And anyway, what's so offensive about having your opinions challenged ? If you post on here i'd humbly submit that that's exactly what you're opening yourself up to, it's certainly what I expect when I post on here, that's part of the fun. Dana5140 and I have had some epic disagreements, there's no hard feelings though (or most definitely not on my side at least - as I hope i've made plain, I can't vouch for his feelings ;).

Dana5140 (as an example ;) has, as far as i'm aware, only ever made statements about how he feels, whereas you, Furball, are making claims about how others feel. Hence your assertions are open to challenge whereas his basically aren't.

I've (possibly mistakenly) assumed that "the relationship between fiction and human emotion" is not at the very core of your being and argued against your position appropriately. If i'd known that you took it as seriously as, for instance, other people take religion then I may well have steered clear. I've not much wish to "hit people where it hurts" because, apart from causing offence (which is almost never my aim) they struggle to approach the topic rationally in that situation which makes for a basically pointless debate (i'm just the same, reckon we all are - everyone has their "hot-button" issue ;).

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