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March 11 2011

The darkness of Buffy's Passion. Rhonda V. Wilcox (of Buffy academia fame) gives commentary on one of the show's most acclaimed episodes.

Btw all the essays in the Spotlight on Joss Whedon series now have the popmatters essay tag. That should help keep track of discussions.

I do adore Rhonda Wilcox' essays. I hadn't really connected the window imagery to the extent that Wilcox does, and it's noteworthy that it further connects to the window imagery used constantly on Angel, where windows are smashed basically every episode as Angel crosses metaphorical lines (some dramatic examples: Russel in City Of, Angel falling from the windows of W&H in Reprise, Angel running away with the baby in Darla flashbacks...).

That the voice-overs are passed off from Angel to Buffy later in the episode is a very good point. Angel really does control the episode, on the surface--it's his narrative that Buffy is playing in. But Giles breaks out of it, to an extent, when he launches an attack on Angel and Angel is surprised by it; and then Buffy takes it back even further. As Wilcox says, Angel's monologues are Angel telling us (the viewer) the meaning of life, which is mostly the importance of passion, and Buffy's are merely describing what she will do. But Buffy is self-reflective in a way Angel (literally, no mirrors after all) can't be. Giles nearly gets himself killed because of a surfeit of passion (fire), but he finds a way to move past it, and so Buffy will too. It's interesting, too, how Angel's monologues themselves are devoid of the passion he speaks of. It's a trait we see a lot in Angel, without a soul. He knows what feelings are and he wants to feel them, but only from a safe vantage point where he is unlikely to be burned. He watches from afar. And for various reasons, we see some of the same patterns with Angel, positioning himself on the outside of windows looking in. Compare Angel watching Buffy receive the phone call in this episode to Angel watching her in Pangs, or to his scene looking through the window at the end of Home....
Good essay, the Buffy nerd in me would love it if smart people wrote awesome essays like this about every single episode.
Awesome essay. Loved the discussion of the threshold imagery, the voice-overs and the use of shadows and light. Passion is one of my favorites. The episode transformed Buffy from a witty, interesting series into something extraordinary.
That wasn't only stuffed to the gunwhales with insights, the prose was a joy to read, definitely the best essay so far IMO (of the ones i've read anyway).

It's interesting, too, how Angel's monologues themselves are devoid of the passion he speaks of. It's a trait we see a lot in Angel, without a soul. He knows what feelings are and he wants to feel them, but only from a safe vantage point where he is unlikely to be burned. He watches from afar.

Very true. He mostly speaks as if he's describing some species of insect he's studying under glass, observing its parts and understanding how they operate but not really grasping the beauty of the living whole. He's kind of a dispassionate observer of passion (another thing voiceover does is take you inside the head of the narrator but outside of what you're seeing, it reminds us of specific viewpoints and so of the idea that there's one threshold no-one else can ever truly cross i.e. the one into you. We're all looking out through our own little windows, literally and otherwise).

The essay mentioning it has made me wonder if there's something to Jenny's screen (specifically) being destroyed. Computer screens are a sort of window too I reckon, another sort of threshold. Bit thin maybe.

(as an aside, that's another issue with onscreen destruction of computers BTW - quite often destroying the monitor is equated with destroying the computer itself when it's obviously nothing of the kind)
I just want to mention that, most if not, all the PopMatters essays will get a front page entry and discussion. But they will be spread out so we don't get overwhelmed by them. So the Willow and Xander ones will be up at the weekend by the latest (assuming that's today is the end of the Buffy run).
Simon, BUFFY will run into next week. We got more proposals on BUFFY than any other show. On Tuesday we will begin shifting from BUFFY to ANGEL (I scheduled the essays to run out roughly - sometimes very roughly) with the order that things came out.

So on Tuesday we get an essay on Anne (aka Chantarelle aka Lily) in BUFFY and ANGEL. Monday will have the final two essays devoted exclusively to BUFFY. Also on Tuesday will be the Whedon 101 essay on FRAY.

The rest of the week will be on ANGEL, with the first half of a very, very long interview that Tim Minear did. It is a really nice interview. Tanya Cochran (who also did the Harry Groener interview) read all the Minear interviews she could find, and then came up with a long list of questions that no one had asked before. So they cover some new ground. The interview ran so long that we had to split it into two parts.

Week Three will be FIREFLY, several essays on his comics, and at the end of the week the beginning of DR HORRIBLE. There is a lot of DR. HORRIBLE stuff; people really wanted to write about it.
Njal - thank you for the whole enterprise and and separate thanks for this essay. I posted a link to the "Joss Whedon Spotlight" on Russian community, so don't be surprised if you get traffic from Russia.

Tanya Cochran (who also did the Harry Groener interview) read all the Minear interviews she could find, and then came up with a long list of questions that no one had asked before.


I wonder if she has asked him about his opinion on Joss Whedon's take on Angel on BtVS season 8.
Njal- any Dollhouse essays? And will you be running any new stuff during the weekends?

Moscow Watcher - as far as I know Tim doesn't read comic books* so you might not get an answer to that one.

*Though to be honest I don't know why I know that. An interview?
Simon - a lot of my fandom friends don't read comics, but they still know what happened to Angel. Either through fanfiction or through our conversations. So maybe Tim Minear knows too. I just thought it was a chance to find out.
I've said it before and I'll say it now: single best episode in TV history.

The only other contender for that title--for me--is Two Cathedrals from TWW. But I give the edge to Passion for making me cry.
Simon, a fair number of Dollhouse essays.

Also, towards the end I placed a bunch of essays that cut across several shows, like a couple of nice essays on Whedon's willingness to kill his characters.

In fact, all of the TV shows get a fair number of essays. My one regret is that we didn't get submissions for essays on the comics books, other than the 101 essays. So while we have just about all the comics covered (most, not quite all - we didn't do the Serenity comics) by 101 essays, we don't have any feature essays that try to approach them thematically.

But looking at the full five weeks, I'd have to say that just about every aspect of Joss Whedon's career will be covered. We even have Whedon 101 essays on The Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers, which obviously can only state the few things that we currently know about each projects (I did ask that no reference be made to The Cabin in the Woods script reviews that can be found around the Internet - too spoilery).

It is probably the most comprehensive look at Joss's career that has been done to date. I could be wrong about that. The caveat is that Slayage has been covering so many aspects of Whedon's work for so many years, that they obviously are more comprehensive in terms of what they've done over the years. But for a single event, this may be it.

Four more weeks to go!
Moscow Watcher, I'll see if I can find out if we can track hits from Russia. I think it would be wonderful if we did.

To me this is one of the most exciting things in the world today, how we all can influence each other from around the globe.

I once wrote a review of the first season of Friday Night Lights, one of my all time favorite series. Someone from Belgium later added a comment, saying that they decided to buy the series based on my review and how despite knowing nothing about American football had fallen in love with it. The idea that someone in Belgium could be sitting down to watch this series because I wrote something about it in Chicago just seems bizarre to me. Contrast that with the fact that in the late 19th century it was a two week journey, if you were lucky, from Boston to Philadelphia. Amazing.
Njal-How many Angel essays are there going to be?
That was really excellent. Passion was for me, the point at which BtS made a real statement about just how deeply into the dark side this show was going to be willing to delve. Which is my favorite thing about Bts, and what makes it totally unique .... the whole working on multiple levels thing.

The scene where Angel watches Buffy take the call about Jenny, is one of the most emotionally raw scenes in series TV. You can never know for certain, but I see Joss's visual hand in that scene.

I'm really thrilled that this series is going to include Dollhouse.

EF:typo

[ edited by Shey on 2011-03-12 09:14 ]
Njal - sorry for bombarding you with questions, but there should definitely be plans to try and publish these essays in a book. I don't really know what kind of organisation Pop Matters is, but I'm certain that if it was possible to do there would be the demand from a fair few of us fans. Any chance at all it could happen?

Great essay here. Passion was definitely a turning point for me, which really got me to sit up and actually take notice of what I was watching. Before then, Buffy was just a fun little programme to me. This episode showed how deep they were prepared to go. The scene with Giles finding the body and THAT phone call are some of the most harrowing scenes in the whole of Buffy.

Looking forward to the other essays appearing on here. Particularly interested in people's reaction to the Xander essay posted a few days ago.

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