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February 09 2010

(SPOILER) Buffy meta on Buffy #20 "After These Messages..." . An interesting analysis and new reading of "After These Messages" ... related to recent developments in the comic. Spoilers abound.

Interesting, but not convincing. I think this is like Nostradamus or the Bible Code, where it's easy to see patterns after the fact. Some of the links the author draws are tenuous at best, and seem more clearly relating to the "recent" Willow situation.
Sure, but this is a Joss project. He was foreshadowing "The Gift" in "Graduation Day." And the repetition of the first three panels? Oh yeah, they're sending us a message.
After the initial read, and re-read of #20, there are only a few things that I could parallel to the recent reveal of Twilight. Most of it had to do with Willow.
However, Season 8 Is An Epic Fairytale is interesting and thorough. A great read.
I'm with the not-that-convincing crowd, but I'll have to re-read the issue for a definitive judgment. I've been planning a re-read of the entire series for a while now. Was meaning to wait for the Twilight arc to end first, but might as well just do it soon regardless ;)
It's not just unconvincing, it's completely illogical to me.
It was weird. I read it and by the end, I was like, "Wait, what was the proof again?" I'm all for foreshadowing, but I think this was more aftershadowing the Willow situation as others have stated.
The author didn't really make any points. Just posted panels and said, "see?" I'm not sure that leaving your own interpretation up to the reader you're trying to prove it to is the way to go about proving it.

I'm all for it in theory, though if I'm interpreting the author's interpretations correctly, methinks there's a bit much reading into things going on here.

As there seems to be a consensus on already. |-)~
Dana5140, you might want to add a spoiler in the title saying the meta has Twilight-identity spoilers.

(Okay, since the meta itself is about Twilight's identity, I'm assuming that I don't need to use invisi-text...? Because this is a spoiler thread discussing that Angel is Twilight and what evidence there is in #20.)

I think it's pretty much a no-brainer to say that Angel's appearance in Buffy's dream world during this season is referential of Twilight. Angel's stated motivation (both in the dream and as Twilight in reality) to Buffy is that the end of the world is coming--that's the future. Angel says to Buffy in this issue: "You can't change a person's past. And just by telling them, you'll change their future into who knows what."

The key thing to note in the above quote is that Angel doesn't trust others because if you tell them it'll "change [the] future into who knows what." That is the definition of what Twilight is doing--Angel's hiding his identity as Twilight, not telling Buffy what the real deal is, and manipulating her like a pawn on a chessboard. Why? Because he doesn't trust her to react in the way he deems necessary. That's the key note to take from "After These Messages" imo. The characterization that Angel doesn't trust others with big information because he can't control their reactions. Note how Buffy does tell Willow about her future even though Angel advised against it. And the opening panel with the lines "can't say I didn't warn you" resonate both for Dark Willow and for Twilight. Twilight has been warning Buffy this entire time, but the problem is he hasn't actually given her useful information to act on it. Which is so Season 1 Angel where he shows up and goes 'be ready for the blah dire blah blah' and Buffy goes 'huh what?' and Angel's gone. He gives her hints of what's coming, but it's always something she needed to take back to Giles to decrypt.

To me, this meta is more about giving everyone the opportunity to read Angel's scene in light of his reveal as Twilight. The panel where Buffy is completely in Angel's dark shadow as he stands overhead speaks well of his role as Twilight. His shadow is looming over her in an ominous fashion. And I agree with the flying as being foreshadowing--Buffy's been flying a lot this season, her first panel is of her jumping out of a helicopter. She spends a lot of time suspended in the air. Recall her fear of jumping out of the building in WatG to save Willow? There's been a lot of Buffy facing her fears about flying (and falling) and being airborne in general. And this is specific to Season 8, a season where she does gain the ability to fly. So while flying with the dragon was already part of the cartoon, it fits Season 8 in that lock and key manner. Where as a writer you go "oh wow, love how that already perfectly fits the story" and you don't have to tweak it to make it fit better.

That's my take anyways.

And thanks, Guestage Drew! Glad you liked the Season 8 is an Epic Fairytale meta.

[ edited by Emmie on 2010-02-09 19:40 ]
Well, I disagree with the consensus. I think the meta is not making any grand claims, and should be evaluated for what it is--a few thoughts suggesting that this issue may have important things to say, foreshadowing-wise, in ways that aren't entirely obvious. Looking for foreshadowing and connections in an issue--one that is a dream sequence, which are almost always loaded with foreshadowing in Whedon works, ala "Restless" etc.--is not the same as looking for evidence that Nostradamus could see the future. For one thing, we know with certainty that Whedon knew who Twilight was at time of this issue's writing. He knew he was going to give Buffy flight. We can be pretty sure that Whedon knew what the endgame of the season is. Now granted, this issue was written by Loeb, not Whedon, and it is based in part on the animated opening. But that doesn't mean that additions and deletions aren't important for the season, or that Whedon didn't have a hand in the structure or some of the dialogue. In particular, the Angel/Buffy scene and the Buffy/Joyce scene weren't in the animated show.

ALSO: this is the first issue we've seen Angel-as-Angel with a speaking role. He's been alluded to. He's had a role with Spike in Buffy's dream in #3, and since this issue he's appeared, again with Spike, in "Always Darkest." This is his ONLY appearance appearance without Spike, and his only speaking appearance in the mainstream comics. That alone makes it significant. (Yes, it's Joyce's too, and Snyder's too--but they aren't important to the main arc.)

I don't think that the meta is explained in much detail, but to an extent I think that's because it was written for the lj crowd, and not for general Whedonesque discussion--I don't think this is meant exactly to preach to the unconverted, and I don't fault the author for that. Probably if she (I'm assuming "she" since it's "ladyofthedog") knew she would be linked here she would have been clearer. Anyway.

The essential claims of this meta are:

- The mention of Harmony helps to introduce her role in the next issue.

I don't think any deep point is made here. It's neat that the first mention of Harmony in season eight is the issue before her major appearance. It may not have been the reason for the line but it can't have escaped Whedon/Loeb's notice.

- The reference to "unique" vampires who work for deities could refer to Angel.

Angel is unique as a vampire. Angel works for the Powers That Be. If the PtB turn out to be important for Twilight later on then I'll give this one more credit.

- "Shift the balance of good and evil beyond all reckoning" could be a reference to the "Chosen" spell.

As that was part of the whole season seven deal (the First went on about the balance), yes it could.

- "You can always come home again" is a significant line, which may be foreshadowing.

I agree that this line is significant. This was not in the animated presentation. It's what Buffy alludes to at the end of the issue. The concept of home is repeated throughout the season--in particular the first arc is called "The Long Way Home." This issue has Buffy returning home in a literal way (remember "I miss my mom?"). Is Joyce telling Buffy the truth, or is this meant ironically, because clearly Buffy can't? We don't know. There are still 8 issues left.

- This issue links Angel with Twilight visually.

Angel's shadow looms over Buffy. This definitely connects both with Angel's role in the series (especially s1) and with Twilight. For an obvious example, Buffy is in Twilight's shadow in the Jo Chen cover to #11. Twilight is frequently above Buffy, as he is in his very first appearance (in "The Long Way Home"), and Angel is positioned above her here.

- Angel tells Buffy that he would not tell someone something that could change their future--because then you wouldn't be able to predict what is going on.

OK. Yes, this obviously has to do with Willow. It's why Buffy asks. But Twilight has been hiding information from Buffy all year--he had a chance to "talk" to her in "A Beautiful Sunset" and only gave very little information. If Twilight knows something that could impact Buffy's future, will he tell her? We find out here Angel's answer, or, more accurately, what Buffy believes Angel's answer would be.

- There are parallels in Buffy's "saddest sad" speech.

This one I'm not sure about.

- Buffy being "too late" could be significant.

Yeah. ALSO, I think this looks a lot like the room where Buffy is betrayed in "Anywhere But Here."

- More flying foreshadowing.

Yes.

So anyway. I think that this meta is incomplete because identifying foreshadowing is difficult before the fact--because we don't know how the story will end. But there are visual connections between Twilight and Angel. There's more Buffy flying imagery. There's another reference to home and whether Buffy can return there. There's Angel telling Buffy that he wouldn't tell someone information that could change their future. This all points to "not pure filler." So I agree with the meta's basic points.
HAHA Emmie, I just said hi to you on your livejournal and now we're posting at the same time with part of the same basic point. SMALL WORLD.
Another thing about "you can't go home again" is that it's winking at the Long Way Home and the changed status quo of the Chosen spell. And if you can't go home again, that means you can't go back to when the world only had one Slayer.

Small corner of our internet world. :)

[ edited by Emmie on 2010-02-09 19:58 ]
Can someone explain to me what "meta" means here? Is it just another word for analysis?
Metatextual. I think of it as when something calls attention to itself being a story. For example, in "Once More with Feeling" Buffy says "so Dawn's in trouble...must be Tuesday." alludes to the show airing Tuesday nights. Or a character breaking the fourth wall. Or even maybe Nathan Fillion dressing up as Mal in the Halloween episode of "Castle."
Though the author of this seems, like everyone else points out, needs a better persuasive argument and evidence. Getting whipped around by a dragon still doesn't forebode flying powers to me.
I think of metatextual as when the text itself admits it's a story, not when somebody outside does it. Also, I'm not sure I've ever seen it used as a noun before.
I've been confused as well, so i looked up metatextual. which referred me to metatextuality of course. Technically it is one text making a critical commentary of another text. It looks like the author of the linked "meta" uses the term as defined. Whereas CaptainB and Rachelkachel's definition (they are both essentially the same) seems to be more of a pop-culture distortion of the term, and is how I seem to see it usually used. Metatextuality is a form of Intertextuality which seems to have a history of being redifined by every user of the word.

So, like Ironic, Moot, and Ignorant, we define as we will. My favorite though, is Decimate, which literally means, "to reduce by one tenth." I find that as long as there is a general consensus, specific definition tends not to be extremely important. Yet, I care immensely...
bobw1o--I am all for proper definitions, and was merely putting the word into perspective of how it's typically used. Though, how does the author in question use it in the traditional sense? What other "text" is being critiqued by Buffy #20? The show, itself? Or future stories? I'm sensing a blurred line between foreshadowing and metatextuality.
Wasn't challenging your use of the word, oh captain, my captain.

The author refers to her own writing as Meta. Her text is critically commenting on Buffy #20.
I'm still left scratching my head a bit over what the author of the meta was trying to tell me. Seems like they interpreted and then alluded to the interpretations, but didn't actually explain what they interpreted. Joss likes to dance willy nilly in the foreshadowing realm, or as I like to say, "it's raining anvils", so I know the foreshadowing is perfectly possible. I'd like to see definitive proof that that's what happened. I don't think the author has supplied it, though. It was an interesting read, and were it fleshed out a bit more, I think I'd actually be open to persuasion.

I have to add myself to those that aren't sure what a meta is. Maybe I'm having trouble interpreting the interpretation because I don't know how to interpret a meta. I know what the prefix "meta-" means, but I'm having a hard time figuring out the meaning as a noun. I hear/read "meta" as a noun and my brain tacks "meta-" onto it, which makes it just go into an endless cycle of trying to define "metameta". Then my head explodes. Then Topher gives me a new personality and I'm fine again.

So maybe that's adding to my confusion. I like reading the theories, though. Keep 'em coming.
In the livejournal circuit especially meta is used for any textual analysis--as opposed to fanfic or some such. I assume it comes from metacommentary.
It's not just a livejournal thing. I think it's more generally a pop culture usage, or at least in the U.S. it is. I see "meta" used all the time to just mean a thing or layer of a thing that is commenting on the thing itself. If Buffy #20 is meta then it just means it's a Buffy story that reads as a commentary on Buffy stories. Cabin for example is described as "meta-tastic." It's a horror movie about horror movies.

Joss has earned a reputation for doing meta well but I don't really see it here. I think there's a lot of upcoming stuff that will resonate and call back to past stuff that Buffy was mulling over in that issue. Seven years of history is rich stuff that way.
"Meta" as it's meant here is a form of meta-analysis that includes (but is not limited to): Meta discussion, Meta fiction & Meta narrative.
Wow, I see that I seemed to have stopped another conversation dead in its tracks.

Hey, maybe that's my superpower.

You think?
I think that the general consensus has been reached on this piece; that it is unconvincing because the author didn't really go to any lengths at all to argue their point. I only gave it a cursory look, but I don't think I actually found an argument/idea/concept/meta that was particularly present.
I am not sure that is a general consensus. And such a pronouncement could kill a thread.
I think on the internet that phrase actually does the opposite a lot of the time.
On a second glance: yes, there's a lot here that's fairly insubstantial. But there's also some stuff that isn't. Changing the balance between good and evil? That's what Twilight's been going on about. Angel casting his shadow on Buffy? Well, he always could be ominous, but this does seem telling...
I don't think there's a general consensus, myself. It's hard to tell what's truly foreshadowing before an event actually happens. The post linked does a damn good job at looking for it in a piece that most thought was a simple one-shot comic.
When I said "general consensus", I didn't mean on the topic of "foreshadowing" or grasping at straws. I meant that the general consensus was that the author failed to offer a convincing argument. Not much ambiguity in what I meant, now that I look back at it... since I pretty much explained what the general consensus was.

[ edited by wenxina on 2010-02-10 21:38 ]

[ edited by wenxina on 2010-02-10 21:40 ]

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