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September 07 2010

Buffy is so whiny. Except she's not.

I'm finding it oddly hard to know what to say about this. The post was certainly very interesting, as were the comments below, but I think I'm kind of finding it hard to draw my own conclusions about this becuase there isn't anyone to compare Buffy to. I know the author brings up Batman etc. but none of the comic book heroes compared are actually on par with what Buffy was, i.e. a television show.

The comics of Batman, Spiderman, X-men, etc. all kind of rely upon their characters not changing so much, Batman will always be this rich loner philanthropist with parental issues for example, I'm really having a hard time thinking of any part of Buffy that has remained that static over 7 season, I was leaning towards being the slayer, or slayer strength, but she isn't the only slayer from right early on and she doesn't even always have her slayer powers (Helpless).

She's a really dynamic character who changes and grows, I think this means viewers have more leeway to interpret Buffy as a person than they do with most comic book superheroes. This then might lead to people being more critical of Buffy than they might otherwise be. I'm sure gender plays a part too, don't get me wrong, there is always a desire to beat back and decry a woman who usurps the patriarchal order, but there's definitely more than that going on.

Also, people are jerks, watching depressing shit on tv isn't always as fun as watching funny shit. Buffy gets the least fun bits out of all of them.

Sorry for length. Morning caffeine high.
Pretty much disagree with this article.
I loved it, especially the "Buffy is held to a different standard" part - because some fans obviously missed the memo that the entire feminist underpinning thing is about Buffy not being held to a different standard that any of the other deeply flawed main characters of either gender, or to a different standard than any male super-hero. She gets to brood and withdraw and alienate people (which is exactly what Angel does).
She gets to fuck up, along with being strong and saving the world a lot. So there's a good bit of irony in the whole Whiny Buffy deal, IMO.

A bit self righteous, I can see (and so does Buffy herself, in her opening song in OMWF).
I liked it too, my thoughts exactly but better expressed.
She seems no more whiny to me than most any other superpowered adolescent character I've come across.

Also, Spiderman - not whiny. Really?
Yep, in some writers hands Spidey's whiny to the point of neuroticism.

Pretty much agree with digupherbones. Buffy is apples to e.g. Batman's oranges because Buffy's a human being with flaws who changes and develops whereas Batman's a mythical archetype in a man suit (... in a bat suit ;).

And that aside, she never seemed whiny to me anyway - is that anything like a majority opinion or is it just another of the many, many things for which you can find some fans that agree ? Because i'm pretty sure you could find some fans (more than a few) who think Spider-man IS whiny or that Batman should just get over it for instance, does every unwarranted criticism of Buffy really always have to be because she's a woman ? Can't it sometimes just be because some people make unwarranted criticisms of everything ?

Still, as I say, sometimes she seemed unreasonable or pompous or autocratic or callous (particularly in season 7 when she was meant to be all of those things as she initially dealt - badly - with her position and responsibilities. In that sense she's very much a standard super-hero BTW since the abuse and management of their powers is such a frequent super-hero story point it's pretty much a genre trope) but she never really seemed whiny. By and large, when she complained it was over the sort of stuff that would've had me curled up in a sobbing ball begging to be put out of my misery. That's not whining to me, that's just stating the facts ;).
I never thought Buffy, as a whole, was whiny. She definitely had whiny moments but she was entitled to those moments for all the reasons listed in the blog post. I think as viewers and fans we tend to brush off traumatic events Buffy experienced because in serialized shows the characters hardly bat an eyelash in the episodes following the trauma and we take that as the norm. Also, the situations that Buffy finds herself in (save for the death of her mother) are things wholly outside of reality. We can talk all we want about metaphors and applying them to our own lives but at face value they are fantastical - there is some sense of self-removal for us. These are obviously just my thoughts on the matter but I'm open to other ways of seeing Buffy.
I never thought Buffy was whiny. But I did think Riley was.
Man, the article was harsh to Riley. Poor bugger's only crime was falling in love with the "wrong" girl. Well, that and treason of course, if you're, like, totally hung up on facts.
In teaching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the hardest things to convince students of is the necessity of taking Buffy off her pedestal and keeping her human. If she's always, ultimately, right then she can't grow or stay interesting for long. Episodes like Sanctuary are really important to freeing the viewer from hero worship to hero appreciation by encouraging them to have a more nuanced understanding of heroes.

Even better, Buffy clearly uses the war genre at times (season seven, Graduation Day). Shell shock was a staple of the war genre, at least until it became a political mine field to mention it. And, really, what is Buffy's fugue state at the end of season five, her heroic suicide in The Gift, and her depression in much of season six but the trauma of shell shock?

As for the link to the "it's all Marti's Fault" blog post, I've heard that before. But, you know, it took teaching Buffy to realize just how great season six is. The season's genuinely challenging both the creators and the viewers in really interesting ways. Yes, watching it in broadcast was like going in for your emotional beating. It wasn't pleasant or entertaining, but it was pretty fine art. Watching it is like watching artists question what their work means after 9/11. (It was the first season post that event.)
I don't think I ever thought Buffy was whiny. she got on my nerves a few times, but I didn't exactly blamed her for it.
like Alex Drake in Ashes to Ashes, they annoyed me but I didn't think that was a bad thing or caused by poor writing. they can't be perfect all the time. they're human, they're flawed.
I cannot remember a single line, tone, or moment that ever made me think Buffy was whiny.

And, actually, the only place I can remember seeing that opinion prevail at all was a (probably long-lost) thread on Something Awful. It doesn't sound like the heart of the Whedon fanbase shares it.
There have been times I thought Buffy was whiny, but I never thought that she didn't have the right to be whiny (I hope that makes sense).

Anyone who's been through all the stuff she has, has the right to whine every now and then.
I though Buff had plenty of holier-than-thou subborn moments but I never thought of her as whiny. Not once. You know who's whiny? The Skywalkers, both Luke and Anakin. Whinefest in New Hope & Phantom Menance... but I digress. I am one of those who LOVED the later seasons, 5 and 6 most especially. I felt the darkness and emotion really huminized and deepened the characters and story.
While I think the blog post had a very good point, I disliked the tone of it. Bashing other characters or the writers to make your point more valid isn't meta, it's ranting. IMO, of course.
I agree with the main point of this article - that Buffy isn't whiny and had to deal with a lot of horrible stuff - but I'm afraid I'm going to step up to the plate and defend my man Riley.

I hardly think that it was Riley's fault the relationship went south. Of course he's not blameless, and obviously getting sucked on by all those hookervamps was not the best choice. But the real reason he left was because Buffy shut him out. And Riley, I think, is the kind of person who needs to be needed. Who wants to be needed. And Buffy just wouldn't let him in. She was going through a ton of stuff, as this article points out, and all he wanted was to help her share the load. But she closed herself off. As she always did. That's kind of her thing. She is the slayer, she is alone. Whether or not that is true, it is how she feels she is throughout the series. So ultimately, Riley had to get out of there. It wasn't a healthy relationship and he needed someone who would want him around and need him back. Ultimately it was a story highlighting the nature of the slayer as isolated, one of the overall themes of the season and the series.

Also, just because Buffy is wrong doesn't mean she can't be whiny. I get the impression from this article that it is trying to justify all of Buffy's actions, whether or not they were in fact the right thing. But the important thing about Buffy is that she makes mistakes. She's human and doesn't always do the right thing. Does that take away her right to complain or be "whiny?" I don't think so. I think that if your life sucks as bad as hers did so much, it is completely justified to complain about it, even if some of it was your own fault. It's all part of growing up.
I'm not sure whiny is the right word but I'll admit I have my problems with her character, though I love the show.

She was far from my favorite character, mainly because she made a lot of choices I seriously disagreed with, and then there's that whole inferiority complex about a superiority complex, which I'm sure some people would justify because of the chaos of her life but since Xander, Willow, and Giles managed to deal with that, I just found it annoying.

I suppose I should say in her defense that I typically don't like lead characters so that could be part of my issues with her.
Buffy wasn't whiny. Now, Sydney Bristow was whiny: You could probably count the number of Alias episodes in which she didn't have an emotional breakdown on one hand.
I think I'm kind of finding it hard to draw my own conclusions about this because there isn't anyone to compare Buffy to

I think it's kind of interesting to compare her reactions to trauma to Faith's- apples and oranges, sure, both in terms of the situations and their reactions, but they both endure such extreme trauma and deal with it so differently. And, in the end (of the TV show- no need to drag the comics into this just now), both make it through and end up stronger and calmer.

roguerogue, I love and agree with everything you said! And I, for one, just adore season 6.
The season's genuinely challenging both the creators and the viewers in really interesting ways. Yes, watching it in broadcast was like going in for your emotional beating. It wasn't pleasant or entertaining, but it was pretty fine art.

Hear, hear. Season 6 is my favourite season for those very reasons. It got even better when I first saw it on DVD. One of the most daring pieces of mainstream/network televsion I've ever seen (Dollhouse's being a close second, mainly because it was only potentially so for most of its run.)

I've never really come across this idea of Buffy being "whiny", so I find it difficult to respond to this article. Depressing, yes, but never whiny. There are many times when I don't like Buffy, but that is just because she is a real person, much like everyone else in the show. It also shows even more bravery by the writers to write a hero that has to be a real hero and be unlikable at times.

It seems pretty clear the reason why the author thinks people may have this response though (because Buffy is female,) even if they don't say it out loud.

like Alex Drake in Ashes to Ashes, they annoyed me but I didn't think that was a bad thing or caused by poor writing. they can't be perfect all the time. they're human, they're flawed.

This was a problem I had with first series Ashes to Ashes. Drake always felt like she was being portrayed as completely insane, as if we were encouraged to be on the side of Hunt. I never felt this was the case with Sam Tyler, who always seemed to be portrayed as in the right, or at least the one the viewer should identify with. Drake became more likable as the series went on though, but this coincided with her becoming more won over by the Gene Genie. Loved Ashes to Ashes by the end though, particularly the finale.
Interesting to see someone's pov on this common complaint. I can see where others might define Buffy as whiny, but to me her complaints were always well justified so her objections/comments never bothered me.

Also, just because Buffy is wrong doesn't mean she can't be whiny. I get the impression from this article that it is trying to justify all of Buffy's actions

Par for the course though. I think people tend to take fairly intractable stances when it comes to these things. I'm not sure why. I'm not sure why, "Buffy whines sometimes" is a damning statement. Whereas, Buffy is always whining or Buffy is never whining needs to be the poles we're arguing from.

Riley is an example of a bad mix of people, but if you spend any time discussing, it will devolve into a "who's more at fault" discussion every time. The nuanced truth is that they were ok for each other for a while, and then they were incompatible and were unwilling or unable to fight through that patch.
I think Buffy's a major bitca, and unfair with it, but not whiny.
I think people tend to take fairly intractable stances when it comes to these things. I'm not sure why.

Yeah, I think that's true and I also think that the more we discuss it the more entrenched our opinions become (not ALL the time but a big chunk of it). As to why, IMO it's as simple as polar opinions are easier to hold i.e. they need less thought (they even use fewer brain resources) and added to that, people's sense of self partly stems from the idea that "I am the person who believes x, y and z" so if you challenge x, y or z you challenge their sense of self. And we're pretty keen on our sense of self ;).

That said, the simple fact of the matter is I don't ever remember listening to Buffy and thinking "Oh ferchrissakes, quit whining" - whining needs an unjustified component and it needs a weak, wheedling component IMO and her complaints were never both at the same time (to me). There's a difference between e.g. having a moan or complaining and whining.

(disagree about Riley though - aw, and I was doing so well too ;). In a sense they were "OK for each other for a while" but only because it took "a while" for him to realise she wasn't into him the same way he was into her - and what a heartbreaking moment that was BTW, "But she doesn't love me". Buffy didn't fall out of love with Riley, she was never in love with him to begin with, unwilling to let herself be. That's totally understandable and not really her fault given her experiences. Sure as shit wasn't his either though)

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