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June 04 2012

Does Buffy really want to be "normal"? Cracked.com explains why they believe Buffy doesn't really want a normal life.

Check out #3.

I kind of have to agree. It is always hard to sympathize with superheroes who want to me normal, yet it is in almost every superhero story where they are given powers against their own will.
I think the article is kind of missing the point. It's not just that Buffy doesn't want to be the Slayer, it's that she doesn't want to live in a world where there is any need for a Slayer, a world with no demons or vampires. That's her idea of 'normal'
I don't agree with this so much. What Buffy wants is a choice. The choice not to go face the Master even though it's prophesied she will die, the choice to simply not go to graduation like Anya does, the choice not to have to worry about the end of the world all the time.
Willow, Xander and Giles have that choice which she doesn't. Xander has his own job and doesn't want Buffy to work there when he thinks that gets him demons. Giles can retire to England when he thinks his job is done, Willow can decide she shouldn't use magic anymore.
It is true that Buffy also likes her powers and like the fight, it's one of the central conflicting characteristics about her that is at the heart of the show, but it's not being ignored.

A better example of these fictional character traits in Buffy is Xander being a loser. It's something that they talk about in the show, how he feels that he doesn't have a lot to offer when he really does. I can understand him underestimating himself but I don't get how the others can do it. It's most evidenced in The Zeppo, but not just there.
Xander proved himself a fighter when without powers he manages to slay lots of vamps. And he proved himself essential at least twice in the first two seasons, once when he is the one who gets Angel and goes looking for Buffy. The second time is when he is the one who comes up with a way to beat the Judge when no one else had a clue.
After all that where do they get off thinking they don't need his help?


Also, their argument about Dexter is filled with Bullshit, ignoring for example the possibility of buying in bulk, paying in cash and buying from different places. Also the fact that when you have your own lab you basically manage it's inventory so getting weapons, drugs, needles and more is easy.
That was sort of an interesting read, although some of those examples seemed like a stretch (I'm thinking of Dexter in particular). I think the argument about Buffy seems pretty flawed. I don't think it really makes a case for Buffy's desire for normalcy being only told, and never shown. It seemed to come down to : Buffy doesn't want a normal life... because normal life is hard? I think "Helpless" did a nice job of dealing with the issues between Buffy wanting to have a normal life while actually relying on her powers. Yeah, it's somewhat contradictory, but people have layers, like onions. Or pie.
Lovely COMEDY story from a COMEDY website, I thought it was funny and didn't take it at all seriously since it's a COMEDY site.
The only episode where Buffy has a clear choice between being "normal" and being the Slayer, if memory serves, is Normal Again; and she chooses the former. I agree with mewling: she doesn't want to live in a world where a Slayer is needed. She doesn't want to live in a world where she is only sixteen and has to go get killed by an ancient vampire instead of going to prom; where she has to kill her evil boyfriend to stop an apocalypse; where she has the potential obligation to let her sister die for the greater good. A major part of her arc in season 7 is resenting the origins of the First Slayer's powers, and how the giving of these powers was completely non-consensual—and in the Angel episode Damage we get a clear picture of just how horrible that can be.

There's a difference between resenting your duties and refusing to carry them out; Buffy has proven time and again that, however heavy her burdens are, she will still go above and beyond what's expected of her. Of course she doesn't want to be helpless—Helpless showed that clearly—but if she didn't have the duty to live on a Hellmouth, she wouldn't quite need extraordinary physical strength to survive on a day-to-day basis.

I really, really don't think that character trait is bullshit; I think it's one of the things that make Buffy relatable, and brave, and amazing.
I have to disagree as well, on two counts. First, Buffy clearly embraces her powers and her heritage because they can be used to protect the people she cares about. However, this does not mean that she doesn't want a normal life, too. People want contradictory things all the time, and they often want what they can't have.

But second and most importantly, am I the only one who feels that the author of this piece grossly mischaracterizes Sunnydale? It was not a "war zone". Buffy was hardly the only person who would walk alone at night. Demon attacks happened, but they weren't so rampant that everyone knew or believed in them. We see this time and time again, with Joyce's convenient rationalizations in the first two seasons, with Oz's reaction to a vampire being slayed in front of him for the first time, with the "Class Defender" speech, or with the girl Nancy in "Beneath You". There's a real sense that something's not quite right about Sunnydale, but it doesn't stop people from living normal lives. And we have a clear point of comparison: what the author of this piece describes sounds much more like the alternate reality of "The Wish", where Buffy never came to Sunnydale. And so it's true, if Buffy were normal, she probably would die in -that- world, but the point is that she wants to be normal in -this- one. Let someone else be responsible for guarding the Hellmouth for a while so she can go off to college and settle down with a normal guy and have 2.5 kids and a house with a picket fence.

Sure, she wants that. But she wants other things more.
I agree noway234, there is no point in arguing against a joke. Besides the really hilarious part was how Warf isn't much of a warrior!
On the other hand, in the specific sub-area of normal life which involves being with a normal guy, I don't think Buffy can ever quite want that. She has a lot of traditonal stuff, and a lot of Valley Girl cliche stuff, underneath the hero persona.
So I don't think she can ever quite be satisfied with an ordinary guy who can accept her life and who'll have a nice turkey sandwich and cup of diet cocoa waiting for her when she gets back from patrol, listen to her stories, and massage the kinks out of her super-strong back muscles. She wants a guy alongside her in the action, not just as a supportive partner.
The most she could handle, if she can't have a guy with some kind of super powers himself, is soemone like Wesley, who's normal but highly trained and confident of his own figthing ability.
I wrote my take on it here. I think Buffy wants both and is at a constant state of War with herself.
Well I had no idea the site was steered toward comedy. Looking at it knowing that, it is all taken differently. It's like when you read something someone wrote and imagine it in a different tone.

BTW, looking at the site now it seems great. Read about how the kid from Home Alone will handle a zombie apocalypse.
I think this article, comedy as it is, is actually a really good point, and someone should point it out to Buffy now, as she's still complaining about this. I think it would at least give her pause. Spike should be like, "I have a cracked.com article I think you should see, Slayer." Also, guys, the Worf video is hilarious. I've never really seen that show, but this video leaves our "Giles Getting Knocked Out" video in the dust.
The one I thought they really got wrong was Freaks and Geeks. Complaining that we don't see Daniel Desario being beaten up by the jocks or being laughed at for being a nerd is really badly misunderstanding the fictional world that the program is set in. The "freaks" and the "geeks" aren't interchangeable. Complaining that the "freaks" come across as cool and "James Dean"-ish is like complaining that the cheerleaders are hot or that the "geeks" are good at math. The "freaks" are always seen as "cool" in the conventional school hierarchies--they're the ones who are openly rebellious against the received order, not the ones who are hopelessly put-upon by the other kids.

The other ones are all reasonable enough--they're just pointing out that fiction isn't the real world. Having a loser like George Costanza dealing with a string of hot girlfriends is funny, so we allow it for its comic potential even though it wouldn't really be believable in the real world. Having Buffy struggle with "the weight of the world" and yearning for a "normal life" is moving and dramatic, so we allow it even though in any realistic universe based on the rules of the Buffyverse everyone who didn't have superstrength would be living in cowering terror of the myriads of nasties that would perpetually be lurking waiting to feed upon them.

Whenever I try to think "what would Sunnydale be like in the real world" I'm torn between thinking that absolutely no one would live there because of the absurd murder rate and that everyone would be flocking to live there because it's the only place in the world where you've got a chance of having the vampire population kept in check. But insisting that fantasy universes add up perfectly is simply a way of losing out on enjoying the stories for which they are created.
I actually do think that Buffy doesn't always realize what it's like for the people around her not to be chosen, and not to be able to defend herself. But ultimately she also is the one who has to give up nearly every night of her life fighting vampires -- that's not what the "normal" people have to do. The point is that Buffy is a superhero who allows for the people around her to have normal lives, but she doesn't get to have it. That's poignant. If Buffy moved away from the Hellmouth, she would not really be under constant threat -- indeed, in future seasons Buffy's status as slayer represents more and more the reason that she's under threat at all. If Buffy weren't the slayer, Dawn wouldn't be sent to her and she wouldn't have to face Glory, etc.

Anyway, the show clearly establishes its psychological ground rules in episode two: people who don't know about the supernatural ignore/deny what's going on around them. Buffy sometimes wishes she could live with that denial. In Prophecy Girl, Buffy is both hoping that if the Master rises, she can survive out there and won't be one of the (presumably) thousands who die; and if the world does end, at least it will end with her being able to have some last moments along with her mother.

[ edited by WilliamTheB on 2012-06-04 20:24 ]
Anyway, the show clearly establishes its psychological ground rules in episode two: people who don't know about the supernatural ignore/deny what's going on around them.

Yes, that's the very clear season one and season two rule. Later seasons destroy that premise pretty thoroughly, though. Moreover, "The Prom" actually destroys it retroactively--it turns out that the normal people neither ignore nor deny (at least, in the psychological sense) what is going on around them, they just do their best not to talk about it.

I think what urkonn says above--that they really should have gone with Xander as the loser/weakling--is probably right. Xander's ability to hold his own--over and over again--in one-on-one fistfights with vampires is a serious contradiction in the Buffyverse world-building. Again and again in the early seasons we are told that Xander is useless against anything stronger than a wet noodle, and yet again and again we see him either besting or, at least, seriously inconveniencing vampires; the supposedly superhuman beasts whose reign of terror required the creation of the Slayer line lo these many generations ago.

Not that it seriously affects my enjoyment of the series or anything, but I do get a bit frustrated that the series plays so fast and loose with the basic abilities and strength of both vampires and slayers. At times we are asked to believe that no ordinary mortal could in any way be a match for a vampire (indeed, that's pretty much the premise of the Slayer concept), and at times it seems that any reasonably strong and fit person (like Charles Gunn, for example) is more than a match for the average vamp. At times vampires and slayers can do astonishing feats of strength (leap 20 or 30 feet from a standing jump, pop padlocks or very sturdy chains with their bare hands etc.) at times you'll see them being constrained by ordinary mortals, or with their hands bound by rope, or locked in a room with an ordinary wooden door. Essentially slayer and vampire capabilities are whatever the needs of the story are at any given moment.
The Cracked.com lists are hit & miss.

In this case, I think the author was pushing too hard. Many of his "obvious" opinions are sillier than the "outlandish" stuff the characters are doing.
Yoink you're absolutely right about Freaks and Geeks. They totally misunderstand who is what in the schools social hierarchy.

I will say that the video of Worf being beaten by everybody including Deanna Troi was pretty funny (the bit where he is being apparently tortured in the lines is cheating though because he was deliberately undergoing an initiation ordeal to demonstrate bravery and endurance so he's not really being defeated).
[Snip] "...in any realistic universe based on the rules of the Buffyverse everyone who didn't have superstrength would be living in cowering terror of the myriads of nasties that would perpetually be lurking waiting to feed upon them."

Yoink | June 04, 19:05 CET

That... is a thing of beauty.

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