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Standard disclaimer: I'll often speak of foreshadowing, but that doesn't mean I'm at all committing to the idea that there was some fixed design from the word go -- it's a short hand for talking about the resonances that end up in the text as it unspools.

Standard spoiler warning: The notes are written for folks who have seen all of BtVS and AtS.  I'll be spoiling through the comics as well.  Basically -- if you are a spoiler-phobe and haven't seen or read it all, read further at your own risk.
Standard Credits:  I've written the material in black; Strudel (aka my Bro) writes in blue;
[info]local_max  writes in purple.  Or at least, that's what they've done when I finish editing and formatting!

Buffy 1.11  Out of Mind, Out of Sight, in Which an Invisible Girl Helps Us See Many Things

The third big theme: social status with a large side order of meta.


Social Status.  Buffy’s first heroic act was to choose the losers Willow and Xander over Queen Cordelia.  Here we learn that it’s too easy to think that the losers are the good guys and the winners are the bad guys.  Cordelia finally gets some depth, and in Marcy we learn that losers are every bit as prone to self-absorption as the winners.  We get to look at all of this from a bunch of different angles.


1.  Buffy’s low social standing comes up in the teaser, where she is clearly wounded by Cordelia’s dismissive snark.   That sets up a basic contrast between Buffy and Marcy.  Both are social outcasts, but one chooses to be a hero anyway, while the other chooses to be a villain.   We get some nice foreshadowing of season 6 where the nerds are the big bads… and as I said, it’s a nice inversion since our first reason for sympathizing with the Scoobies is that they are often unfairly treated due to their low social standing.  Here we learn that being downtrodden is no guarantor at all of being a sympathetic good guy. 


2.  Cordelia gets a lot of nice commentary on this, most notably the moment she gets real with Buffy and tells her that she’s every bit as subject to the loneliness of the human condition as anyone else.  All the status stuff has little to do with what matters.  Cordy’s going to keep pursuing the status, but here we learn she does this on the grounds that given that there’s no real cure for existential loneliness, we might as well pursue the external goods that aren’t real but are better than nothing.  Cordy also gets to call out any idea we might have that the socially wounded are less self-absorbed that the socially privileged.  It’s selfish of Shylock to demand his pound of flesh no matter what his damage is.  In yet another layer, it’s a nice move to have spent ten episodes cementing Cordy’s status as a character we despise, only to reveal here that she too can bleed.   On a meta level, we’ve been treating the character of Cordy as a one-note self-absorbed bitch who we in the audience can look down on.  Here we find we have been as blind to her humanity as she is generally blind to the humanity of others.  It’s gently done, though, this calling out the audience on its own proclivity to dehumanize the low-status other.  Joss’s patience is worth noting here since he spent ten episodes setting Cordy up as the stereotypically shallow self-absorbed prom queen only to remind us that we ought not to judge by appearances and that most people have more depth than we’d imagine.  Cordelia turns out to be remarkably self-aware, and possessed of surprising insight into the human condition.  (A revelation accompanied by numerous reminders of all the surface signals we’d falsely taken as indicative of the whole).


3.  We get our first glimpse of the quiet status game going on within the Scoobie circle.  Xander and Willow have a special bond and Buffy is an outsider relative to them.    In a scene where Xander and Willow find some recollection they share hysterically funny, Buffy’s stance as an outsider is underscored when Xander comforts Buffy on the loss of the popularity she once had in LA by saying she’s still got Xander and Willow, only to turn immediately back to Willow and resume laughing at their private joke.  Later Buffy sits and watches Xander and Willow walk off talking about having dinner together, again underscoring her position as a relative outsider here.   We’ll get lots more of this dynamic in the next couple of seasons.  Buffy isn’t quite one of the scoobies.

Strudel jumping in:  This is a HUGE issue that has just started percolating up in the last few episodes.  While the big division is going to cleave Buffy from the rest of the Scoobs, we are seeing other sources of alienation at work in the group that are worth mentioning as well.  The Willow-Xander chummy dinner plan talk echoes the scene in I, Robot when Xander followed Buffy out of the library, leaving Willow behind.  It's the basic precariousness of any group of three, with one always being in danger of being left out.  We also get a nice line in this episode from Giles and his difficulty connecting with his charges:  "once again I teeter on the precipice of the generation gap." 

4. Max adds: We also get a good look at the viciousness of the social game this week, as we did in previous episodes (especially "The Pack").  Cordelia and her gang are cruel to Buffy, Xander and Willow (and Marcie, in flashbacks).  We see too that Xander and Willow mock Cordelia mercilessly, and even Buffy more or less tells Cordelia to shut up in the middle of their bonding moment.  The need to criticize and set apart those outside one's social group is fairly universal, and we even see a pre-crazy Marcie trying desperately to join in the Cordettes' mockery of the alumnus with the cabbage toupee.  Conversely, many types of kindness are repeatedly shown up as being self-serving.  Mitch implies in guy-talk that he's close to Cordy because he's aiming to have sex with her.  The Cordettes don't really know Cordy.  And we see that, to avoid awkward confrontations, the entire class of Sunnydale High write "have a nice summer" in Marcie's yearbook, even though they don't really care about her at all.  (Willow: "Have a great summer.  See, I cared!")  The show is calling out the idea that only bad people have the instinct to be cruel--and, relatedly, that kindness is automatically a sign of goodness and caring.

Meta.  We also get some commentary on the show itself in the scenes in the English lit. class.  The first discussion about Shylock obviously mirrors the theme of the episode. As already discussed there’s a nice meta commentary on the audience’s own tendency to distinguish between characters who matter and characters who are jokes.  More intriguingly the second discussion has Cordelia suggesting that the fact that someone is a protagonist of a story doesn’t mean they are necessarily a hero.   Xander throws in that a person character can be both if they do heroic things, but this apparently is open to contention.  The class discussion gets cut off here.   But I think we’ve just been introduced to the possibility that Buffy’s status as a protagonist who does heroic things does not necessarily mean we should look at her as a standard-issue hero.    When we get to Angel as the protagonist of his own show, the question of whether the protagonist who does some heroic things is necessarily a hero becomes even more acute.


The second bit of meta is Giles’ commentary on how what we see is what makes things real or not real.  Up until this episode we haven’t seen Cordelia and she hasn’t been real to us.  She’s had no standing with us at all.  We only get the reality of Cordelia when the narrator turns our attention towards her, which is dramatically done here in the penultimate episode of the season.  Narrative focus mirrors our own tendency to not look and to not listen.  We frame the world smaller than it is.

The increased understanding the audience gets is reflected in-story by Buffy's arc.  Her natural inclination is to sympathize with Marcie, of course.  But while Marcie may deserve her (and our) sympathy, she is incredibly dangerous, and writing her off as a victim as opposed to a villain is almost another way of ignoring her.  Buffy sees the real Cordelia (not a villain just because she's a bitch) and the real Marcie (not blameless just because she's a victim) by taking Marcie's advice--look, listen, learn--and it's by close listening (active listening, to tie into last week?) that she knocks Marcie out.  Marcie, by contrast, spies on Buffy et al. for weeks, but seems only to pick up the surface.  "I see right through you," she says to Cordelia, but that doesn't mean she sees her.

More Willow foreshadowing.  With that in mind, it’s interesting that Willow gets a throwaway line about witches and the possibility of fighting them.   Joss spent ten episodes setting up Cordelia as someone who can be dismissed only to be revealed as someone worth paying attention to.  Retrospectively we know that Joss is playing a much longer game with respect to Willow.  One really has to admire how much care went into crafting Willow as the sweet geek, while setting in motion themes that are going to be amply cashed out in Willow’s development.  Marcy becomes a murderer.  Sweet nerdy picked upon Willow is going to go for genocide – and this one line points to that. 

The in-episode similarities between Willow and Marcie--e.g. the red hair, and the way Willow, like Marcie, stews internally about Cordelia, as opposed to Xander's open (and mutual) Cordelia-mockery--are underscored by the fact that Marcie (Ross) is right next to Willow (Rosenberg) in the Sunnydale Yearbook.  Plus, the discussion of Shylock (and Willow's being the one to point out in the class discussion that everyone looked down on him) reminds me that the Jewish Willow will later take her pound of flesh from Warren in revenge.  As Cordy says, "It's not justice--it's icky!"

The May Queen and the Slayer.  We see this week that the disconnect between Cordelia and her "friends" is not just a function of Cordelia's choice of company, but the social hierarchy they all buy into.  Cordelia is elected May Queen in this episode, and she is treated throughout as royalty: for two examples, Harmony (who, in the opening, seems to be wearing cyan pants to match Cordy's outfit) and the Cordettes are expected to talk only about Cordelia and her life, and there's a scene of several girls surrounding Cordelia on high, tending to her dress as servants.  Cordelia is expected to do the talking and no one is allowed to speak ill of her in her company.  Everyone wants to be her friend, including Marcie in a flashback.  But as with any ruler (and I'm anticipating Cordelia's "Lie to Me" identification with Marie Antoinette here!), her relationship with her subjects is precarious, and founded on certain expectations of her behaviour.   Early on she states the reciprocal nature of her campaign cookies.  Mitch mocks her at the mere thought that she might be hanging out with Buffy and the Scoobies.  When Xander suggests that the invisible person could be using a cloak of invisibility usually reserved for the gods, Buffy points out that the girl seems "petty for a god."  It makes me laugh because it prefigures Glory, but I think it points out that idols (gods, royalty, May Queens) aren't expected to have human failings. (Of course, pettiness is one of the failings that are allowed Cordelia by her social group.)  Note that Cordelia buys into this system, and for her depths that we are exposed to this week, Cordelia does, I think, assume that she is better and more deserving than other people.  ("She just wanted to talk about her leg, as if my pain meant nothing!")

This sheds an interesting light on Buffy's relationship with Xander and Willow.  Even though her social standing took a considerable hit by becoming their friend, she is still seen as their superior.  Cordelia doesn't think much of Buffy but still differentiates between Buffy's weirdness and her friends' being "total losers."  Both Buffy and the Scoobies, on some level, do see Buffy as superior to them, both socially and supernaturally (she's the slayer, and they're the slayerettes!), and this is part of what bonds them and creates the tension.  I don't think Buffy & the Scoobs are as devoid of real connection as Cordy & the Cordettes, but there is a similar self-serving dynamic at work: Buffy is the centre of attention and Xander & Willow help her out, and in exchange Buffy gives them her company and saves their lives.  Buffy's the leader and the hero and the cool one, but Xander & Willow are the ones who get to be themselves without fear of recrimination.  Merging points 2 and 3 then, Cordelia's speech about feeling alone when surrounded by friends resonates with Buffy because she, like Cordelia, is an idol and icon all of her own.  The fact that Buffy's a Slayer who saves lives, and Cordelia is a May Queen who...looks beautiful, changes the fundamental emotional difficulties involved only in degree.

And Marcie tries to hurt them both.  The punishment Marcie offers to mete out (carving up Cordelia's face so that everyone will remember her) is the ultimate in noticeable Otherness, which all leaders and idols and beautiful people already have to some extent.  In fact, her atempt to turn Cordelia's gift (great beauty) into a curse (great ugliness) is reminiscent of Buffy's nightmare last week, where she is transformed from slayer to vampire.  It's also reminiscent of the divide between Jasmine's glamorous, shiny human face and her rotting, diseased one.  Jasmine, like Queen C here, was worshipped by all, and those few who spoke ill of her were brutally cast out.  I have gathered that the original plans for AtS season four, before real world exigencies (rotating showrunners, Charisma Carpenter's pregnancy) interfered, would have had Cordelia in the same role.  How Buffy and Cordelia deal with their perception of their own specialness continues to be important in both their stories all the way down the line; and indeed the two continue to reflect and parallel each other even on different series.

Maggie adds: The parallel between Buffy and Cordy is important and worth remembering when we consider that Xander crushes on Buffy and then when she rejects him bypasses Willow to get to Cordelia.  Back in The Pack, Hyena!Xander clearly points to Willow's low-status as the reason he's not sexually attracted to her.  And for all her sweetness now, this gets added to Willow's cache of resentments towards Buffy.  The Scoobies are friends first and foremost, but status issues are almost always in play with them. 

Power.  I love that Marcy becomes invisible and thereby nearly invincible.  In Plato’s Republic the exploration of the role of power is done with the thought experiment of what someone could do with the Ring of Gyges, which renders its wearer invisible.  There’s a neat commentary on this when Angel refers to his own lack of reflection, with a sense of the nothingness that communicates.  As Cordelia just told us, people with power can still feel invisible and non-existent. 

Strudel:  John Hodgeman (the guy who plays the PC in the Mac commercials) has a piece on This American Life with some relevant insights to this theme.  He describes a dinner conversation gambit he often used:  what superpower would you rather have, flight or invisibility?  This seemingly pleasant diversion actually opens up some interesting psychological questions as you start to entertain the notion of what you can do with invisibility.  It's a power inextricably shrouded in shameful dishonesty.  The only way to make use of it is to deceive others, and the opportunities to use the power for ignoble purposes likely outnumber opportunities to use the power for good. (Xander: "I'd use my powers to protect the girls' locker room!"  See also, Chapter Eleven in the Sinister Government Agency book: "Assassination and Infiltration") 

By comparison, choosing the power of flight shows a kind of open-ness, a willing to let others see you for what you are.  To some degree, Buffy's superpower is in a similar vein (Max chuckles about relevant season eight developments, noting that Strudel hasn't read them) -- though, interestingly enough, Buffy avoids using her power in a highly visible, show-offy way (unlike Johnathan in Superstar) for social status, which is another plus in the Buffy hero column.  The clearer contrast is Cordelia.  As Maggie observes, Cordelia is the polar opposite of the invisible girl.  She is completely, overwhelmingly conspicuous in this episode (I especially love the Cordelia poster in the cafeteria).  In a way, what we are seeing is an indication of Cordelia's version of a  superpower, which is to be the opposite of invisible.  She is what she is, and that is an enormous source of strength.  Of course, she delightfully has more of this than anybody.  (I love when she asks in When She Was Bad, "Well, I already have a lot of character.  Is it possible to have too much character.")  I'll add quickly that we do later see Willow flying when she goes dark ("Tough Love," "Two to Go"), which is not a moral positive but does reflect Willow's desire, at these moments of great emotional pain and "thundering looniness", to be seen and heard.

From this contrast, we can see (ha ha) that the invisible girl's power isn't just a literal metaphor for her social status, but it also is a reflection of her moral weakness. And so, we have in this episode a wonderful inversion.  Cordelia the throw-away vacuous bitch turns out to have the source material for a hero.  So, with that insight in mind, who gets skewered?  

Angel.  Angel's back after an extended holiday.  And, even as we see him starting, at last, to put together his heroic resume, this episode explicitly draws attention to the fact that he often acts as if he has the power of invisibility, lurking, spying and disappearing with impunity.  Here, Angel materializes standing just behind Giles in the library.   They both reflect (ha ha) on the absence of Angel's reflection in the glass, with Angel mordantly saying it's an "overrated pleasure."  In any event, the Invisible Girl/Angel parallel is drawn pretty clearly here, and given how poorly she comes off in this episode (Buffy, heretofore Patron Saint of Losers:  "You're a thundering loony!") this doesn't reflect (ha ha again) well on Angel.

I'll add that Giles, when talking about Marcie, says "The loneliness, the constant exile...she's gone quite mad."  Another reference that's particularly resonant for Angel, who has spent the last few decades primarily living in alleys eating rats. 

More on Angel.  Giles delivers the line about the maudlin poetry of a vampire in love with a slayer.  Angel’s trying to help Buffy behind Buffy’s back, and Giles and the Scoobies keep Angel’s proximity from Buffy.   In Lie to Me the Scoobies will again collude with Angel in this rather paternalistic pattern with Buffy.  

Strudel:  'Scuse me, Maggie, but let's pause for a second here:  why did Giles decide to lie to Buffy about how Angel saved the Scoobies?  Why did Willow and Xander immediately follow suit and support the lie?  The fact that they owe their lives to Angel becomes a highly significant issue in Season Two when they -- especially Xander -- decide that Angel is entirely dustable.  I don't have an immediate sense what the motivation is here.  Candidate theories:  Giles doesn't want Buffy to know that he is researching the Slayer lore to help her fight the Master (Buffy's lack of preparation for that confrontation becomes clear next episode)?  Giles doesn't want Buffy to know that Angel is helping him?  Giles doesn't want Buffy to be attached to Angel, so the less mention of Angel the better?  I really don't know, this is not Angel's idea, but Giles', and Willow and Xander intuitively follow his lead, leaving Buffy in the dark. This is a highly peculiar moment that deserves some discussion.

Max: My guess is that Giles is responding to Angel's earlier statement that he can't be around Buffy.  Angel sneaked off to visit Giles to warn him that something, he doesn't know what, is going on (thanks, Angel!) when Buffy wasn't present; his avoidance of her is very calculated.  I think all three points you make could be in play, but it seems to me that the most obvious motivation is honouring Angel's wish to be allowed to stay away from Buffy, with the understanding that the less Buffy knows about him, the easier it will be to keep the two apart.  Xander and Willow's reasons for going along with it are a little more obscure; Xander probably doesn't mind covering up details that make Angel look good, but Willow, probably, is just following Giles' lead.   Maggie: I tend to think it's mostly the last.  In Angel the big decision was made that Buffy and Angel can't hang out.  The move of keeping his proximity a secret would suggest that everyone is aware it's a big deal for Buffy -- which is odd given that the writers have been stone cold silent about Buffy's feelings about giving' up Angel.  Whether that's weak serialization at this point, or a conscious decision to divorce the surface epic romance that Bangel will become from the reality.  As I will make much of in the notes to the opening episodes of season 2, Bangel is almost all tell and no show.  What do you guys think?

Max: And in this past run of episodes, there's been very little tell, either.  Between "Angel" and this episode Angel has been mentioned only once, by Buffy in IRYJ, and there given about the same weight as Xander's mention of Praying Mantis Lady.  I can see two arguments.  One is that Buffy isn't all that attached to Angel in this run of episodes, and it's in "Prophecy Girl" that Angel is there when her life changes, and that's what leads to the change in Bangel in season two.  The other is that her attraction to Angel is something Buffy doesn't consciously understand, and so it's played out entirely unconsciously, and so no mentions.  I lean toward the former, but not with complete conviction.  As far as keeping it a secret, it could just be that Giles knows it's a big deal for Angel, not Buffy.  Why Giles doesn't question how Angel can be in love with Buffy after such a short time is its own mystery, and I'm not sure I have an answer.  I know that we have a privileged position, having seen "Becoming" where the beginning of Angel's love/fixation is shown to us, but first time viewers didn't, so I think they were just expected to go along with the surface epic romance story.

Angel as a hero watch.  Meanwhile, let us record that Angel does save the Scoobies from the gas leak.  It’s not so much heroic, since he was wandering by and it didn’t take much for him to open the door, but it’s not the big nothing we got from him for the first half of the season, so let’s give the guy some partial credit here on the big hero score card.  Of course, the Scoobies were at risk because they’d been off playing the heroes themselves, so Xander is still way ahead of Angel in the who’s the bigger hero competition as we turn into the final act of the season.  Strudel:  competition?  What competition?  Xander wins in a, uh, heartbeat.  Maggie:  Poor Angel.  We'll have to keep a watch in seasons 2 and 3 for his move into actual hero territory -- with special attention to whatever role Buffy plays in forming him.  That said, the latest page in the comics devoted to Angel portrays him as Captain Hammer, and I'm pretty sure that even way back in season one, Joss was more than happy for there to be a distance between Angel's heroic apperance and the actuality.   When he gets to his own series, that gap becomes a vein of rich dramatic material and Angel becomes a much more compelling character than he is here in season one. 


Lameness.  Evil losers go to work for the government as assassins.   Yes, Joss.  Military-types bad.


(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 06:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Watching the early seasons, I'm always kind of intrigued that Xander has so much to say in English class, compared with the sometimes cartoonishly oafish guy he's played as later on. It's a great peek at his "one who sees everything" status - if Xander can be convinced that it's worthwhile or relatively risk-free to do something, he's actually a pretty good observer and interpreter of people and structures. He isn't stupid, he just crumbles under intellectual pressure.

As for Cordelia, this is the episode that makes it harder for me to get on board with Cordelia's later "I think it, I say it" stance. Without it I could buy that she is just vapid until she grows up a bit. If she's bright and empathetic, she knows exactly what she's putting people through. Even if she did love being popular, she's rich and pretty and her competition is Harmony. That's not vapidity or honesty or self-preservation, it's sadism. It's a disservice to write that off. She eventually becomes admirable, but I really dislike the idea that bullying is a result of honesty, because it doesn't have to be.

Like, stomping all over Buffy's May Queen history? Cordelia knows Buffy is cool, because she's the first one who tried to befriend Buffy when she moved to Sunnydale, and Buffy passed all her trend-girl tests with flying colors. Shoving something inconvenient out of mind (SEE WHAT I DID THERE??) isn't exactly honest. Cf Spike/William both pre-and post-vamping, whose actual honesty leads to him getting picked on and rejected and second-best with Dru, whether it manifests as poetry or fists-and-fangs brawling; he doesn't become a hero, or even a well-liked guy, until well after he's learned to bluff - and even then, he can't not notice enough to put together the truth.

If anything I kinda lose sympathy for her here - just because she gets attacked, like everyone else in Sunnydale has and usually without Buffy babysitting them, doesn't make her blameless or likable either. I very much dislike the idea of violent attack as redemption anyway, and my low opinion of her at this point aside, I'm not sure being a Mean Girl requires redemption. A little maturity and repentance, sure, but not this.

the latest page in the comics devoted to Angel portrays him as Captain Hammer

This cracks me up. I kind of think Angel has always been Captain Hammer. The stake pretentious weapon collection car hammer is his penis.

I can never take the main plot quite seriously. Clea DuVall has such a distinctive voice, Marci is just always that girl from But I'm a Cheerleader to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 07:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I certainly don't think this episode magically wipes away Cordy's faults -- which are many. What the episode does do is make the audience realize that she's more than that. It's our habit to pigeonhole characters. Either they are the ones we are rooting for, or they are shallow, manipulative, whiny or whatever. Cordy is a bitch and she hurts people (if they care enough about social status to be hurt by her). But that isn't all she is.

That's important to recognize because the Scoobies often do the same things that Cordy does. In the next episode, Xander will summarily tell a low-status student to move, and because that scene is Xander POV, we aren't even going to notice how that student reacts to being treated like he's nothing. The 'villain' has some admirable traits; the 'protagonists' have some traits that are less than admirable. The show is inviting us to look past the labels and notice that things are more complicated. In particular, here it's just asking us to notice that it's the POV that has caused us to see Cordy as nothing but the self-absorbed bully. The POV shapes what we see (or more importantly don't see).

I don't know if I want to say Angel has always been Captain Hammer. But it is true that one of the many things that delighted me about Dr. Horrible, was the commentary on Angel that was Captain Hammer. I pause to wonder what the show would have been like if Nathan Fillion had played Angel. Cause one problem I have with Angel, especially in these early seasons, is that Boreanaz is just not a very good actor.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 08:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Mmm. I agree that this episode shows us depths, it's just that those depths make me less sympathetic to her. Before this, I didn't see her so much as a villain as much as a jerk who got some good one-liners ("I have to call everyone I've ever met" still cracks me up), and also I've seen enough teen movies to already know that the princess is sometimes lonely inside. I go from interpreting it as thoughtlessness to deliberate cruelty.

Depths for sure, but, ouch. If anything, it's her cute obliviousness in the talent show that keeps her from being cookie-cutter. And I get whiplash going from Cordelia who does more than what needs to be done to be part of a group she dislikes, to Cordy who says what she thinks to people she chooses to surround herself with. That should be an arc, not an on-off switch based solely on her relationship with Xander.

And I'm not sure that I entirely agree that this is the episode where POV-privilege gets compromised. We've already accepted that Angel is a good-guy vampire (well, a not-eating-people vampire) and that the Master is a scenery-chewing old paternalist who loves his "children" and that nerds can go bad (IRYJ) and that Buffy's real loving family can betray her and that the Scoobies aren't immune to personalized infection by evil social/supernatural forces (The Pack).

I guess I'm uncomfortable with the social implications of the "victim as villain" trick that Joss loves so much. Not that I'm arguing someone who is a victim of something bad won't also have done something bad to someone in the past and/or will do so in the future. But it's not necessarily a cycle of nasty; that turns into victim-shunning, or the horrible situation with Saffron. (sleeping pills kicking back with this tomorrow, because I think this problem starts showing up early in BtVS).

I pause to wonder what the show would have been like if Nathan Fillion had played Angel

I for real stopped in my life to mope for a half hour when I heard NF had auditioned for Angel, because I think it was a very unfortunate miss for the B/A-verse. An actor who could have showed us the complexities of the character early on would have been far more intellectually challenging (in an enjoyable way), I think, given the nature of B/A.

It's not like we never would have gotten Boreanez. Strangely enough, I could buy him as Riley in a way that he didn't grab me as Angel.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 11:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I go from interpreting it as thoughtlessness to deliberate cruelty.

Yeah, I had a long comment I ended up not posting because I felt like I was just hardcore hating on Cordelia. Truth be told, being shown how sensitive and empathetic she can be makes it hurt more. Like you, I initially thought she was just being thoughtless, but being shown these depths of her character makes it worse. She knows how everyone else is suffering and what does she choose to do? Look out for numero uno. Her pain, her status, her her her.

It's the moments when she breaks away from this pattern that I like her best like when she tells Buffy the truth in When She Was Bad or when she gives Buffy a ride home in Helpless.

It's really only when she turns her back on her status-seeking ways that I really start to feel for her (or really right before that in BBB).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 02:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Like I just said to pocochina, I don't think we have to like Cordelia in this episode (at all) to notice that up until now we've been seeing Cordy pretty much the way she sees others -- i.e. as not real and as someone whose feelings don't matter.

That said, we'll probably run into differences because Cordelia does end up being one of my favorite characters. She falls and instead of getting bitter, she gets better. For now, it doesn't bother me that she's got zero empathy because she's never experienced any pain, and because she's been raised as the queen. It's that she doesn't let that initial molding define her that I appreciate. (Just the way that I appreciate that this episode invites us to not let the initial framing of Cordy as a caricature be the last word on us either).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 09:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well right, but in the meta discussion we go on to discuss Cordelia's arc many years into the future. I mean, if the topic of Cordelia's character is brought up, why can't we discuss how we feel about her at around this time and how it changes for us?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 10:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Feel free to talk about not liking her at this juncture! There's much to not like!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 12:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
being shown how sensitive and empathetic she can be makes it hurt more

Yes. I just expect more from her than I do from, say, Harmony. Especially since, as she'll later point out, her friends are sheep - they might well be less cruel if she chose to use her powers for good. Someone who's just thoughtless and petty wouldn't think to do that, but this episode turns it into "actually she has no interest in doing that," which is a different issue altogether.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 12:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's worse than that actually. It's not that she has no interest in lessening the brutality. Rather, she is using the brutality to increase her social capital. The brutality of social politics isn't something Cordelia created and it's not going to disappear if she doesn't reinforce the structure. But she figures she might as well profit from it and make herself safe. She then becomes the biggest bully so that everyone fears her and thus loves her. She is cruel to acquire her status. Being kind would mean siding with the losers. She doesn't want to be a loser, ergo she will be a bully.

It's only when she removes herself from the sheep system when she says openly that she's going to be dating Xander that she really progresses.

Being kind is counterproductive to her interests and so she is cruel. She chooses to be cruel because she'll profit from it. It's bloodthirsty social politics where Cordelia buries her ability to empathize in order to make herself safe. And like you pointed out above, Cordelia is already entering with a lot of advantages: beauty, wit, money, fashion sense, talent (erm, not singing), and confidence.

Have you seen Veronica Mars? I'm reminded of this one character Meg who was part of the popular group because she also had all these things (beauty, wit, money, fashion sense, talent, confidence) yet she was the only popular girl who was kind to Veronica. What's more, her being kind didn't hurt her social standing. Rather, all the popular kids understood that Meg was kind and loving--they'd tease her about it, but they didn't circle her like sharks sniffing blood.

Which really drives home to me that Cordy didn't have to become Queen C. She wanted it. And in order to get it, she had to be cruel. So she was. That's her character flaw. Her desire for status. She'll sacrifice a lot in order to be special. That's something that'll stay with her throughout her character arc. I'm reminded of Local_Max's commentary on how Season 4 Jasmine-as-Cordelia was actually meta on Cordy's own character flaws. Every time Cordy-Jasmine talked to Connor about being special and deserving things because they're special, it was a warped look at Cordy herself.
Edited Date: 2010-09-28 12:34 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 01:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Cordy didn't have to become Queen C. She wanted it

It's kind of a disturbing superiority thing, because once she has it, she finds out she doesn't like it, but she keeps up with the bullying. It seems like she convinces herself that this is how you show you're better. Not better-liked, not a better politician, but better. And she's smarter than that, but she goes on choosing to believe it anyway.

I have seen VM! And I love the Meg touchstone - to me, she, along with a less-traumatized Logan and Duncan, had a modest "DUDE NOT COOL" impact on the 09'ers. They were still the exclusive cool kids and not, you know, paragons of maturity, but series-era Neptune High kind of feels to me like the second half of Lord of the Flies. It didn't actually have to get to that point, but when it does everything goes downhill fast.

I don't think the Cordettes would have been all daisies and sunshine either, but sheep take their cues from the leader, and I don't see any actual competition for that position.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 04:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I basically agree with what you're saying. But I disagree to your point about Meg. Neptune High is not Sunnydale High, and Cordy is immediately mocked by Mitch for even talking to Buffy at this episode's end. The Cordettes all turn on her when she starts openly dating Xander, sheep or no. Harmony is not bright or talented but is apparently mean enough to lead the group in Cordy's absence.

Anyway. Cordy learns a lot of empathy. She learns a lot about what being a hero really means. But ultimately I agree that she wants to be special--scratch that, see herself as special--and will sacrifice a lot on that altar. In season 1, she sacrifices having actual friends. In AtS, her desire to be special is a *part* of what makes her refuse to let go of her visions to Groo when she's in Pylea and back in L.A. It's part of what makes her accept Skip's offer for demonization, and, more significantly, accepting his offer to become a Higher Being. I think in Birthday, she really didn't have a way out of it, given the scenario she was presented; but she probably could have, if she were less convinced of her specialness, either let go of the visions which were killing her, or saw that Skip's statements to her ("You used your glowy powers for good, not evil!") didn't make complete sense (did she even have control over them?).

All that said, I think that the arc doesn't quite fit. It seems like Cordy made some very, very understandable mistakes in AtS, and ones that a mere desire to be special don't explain away. I think the punishment she received for it was far out of proportion if you want to take the story as a classic tragedy. Possibly in the version of AtS season four where Charisma Carpenter didn't get pregnant, and where, perhaps, Cordelia actually returned as herself as a higher power, we could have gotten a coherent story that played on her weaknesses without being quite so distorted. It would have been fun, too, to compare to the Dark Willow arc, which comes at somewhat similar material from the other end (Willow is at her core convinced she's unworthy).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 02:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I hadn't heard that NF auditioned for Angel! Now that is depressing.

I guess I'm not up in arms about a 16 year old who has some depth, but who has not yet managed to break out of her upbringing enough to be kind to others. This Cordelia has suffered no pain, which means her empathy skills are pretty much zero. If she stayed that way, I'd not like her a bit. But we know she doesn't stay that way. We are going to want to ask going forward whether her arc on BtVS makes any sense. It's on AtS that she experiences the pain of others and which makes a big difference to her character. But so far, I think all I've argued is that this is the episode where she goes from being a caricature to a character, not that she's mysteriously revealed as a character we should admire.

I do want to defend the claim that this episode does something your other examples don't do. Angel is introduced as a character who matters pretty much from the get-go since he's tagged with the 'love interest' label. Learning his secret is an example of learning that things are not what they seem, true. In that sense, it's been done. But he's been put on our radar as the mysterious guy we're to learn more about in the first episode; and we know we'll learn it because we know Buffy's going to end up involved with him. You are right that we've seen nerds going bad in IRYJ. But we didn't see the story so much in the context of victim/victimizer which is what we get here. I don't think the Master ever becomes a character. And the point about lurking evil in the protagonists has been made, but I'm not sure how that's related to the different point being made here. We've been assuming that Cordelia was a caricature. The only clue we have that she's not is that she's in the opening credits. We haven't paid her any attention except to feel superior to her because we aren't bitches the way she's a bitch. We haven't seen her as a person, and if she got munched on by a vampire it could easily be played for cheers or laughs. I just think it's kind of cool that up until this episode the narrative POV has been as oblivious to Cordelia's status as an actual human being as she typically is oblivious to the status of others. It's not that the show makes her more sympathetic here. It's that it challenges the question of whether we don't have the same bitch-like quality. Cordy can only be cruel because she's not seeing others as real. But we haven't seen her as real until this episode.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 03:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I guess I'm just not down with the idea that viewers who dislike early Cordelia (or the Scoobs who have learned to avoid her for good reason) are dehumanizing her, and I don't think the narrative was ever playing her as one-dimensional. She smiled when she accepted that dance with Jesse in the pilot, showing that at least some of her nerd-bashing is hiding an attraction to at least one nerd, which, teen behavior, fair enough - crushes and status anxiety just like everyone else. And she says insightful (if self-serving) things in class, so we know she is smart. After all she's the first person to come up to Buffy in the pilot, IIRC - she's totally capable of niceness with nothing in it for her.

I mean, we know her better after OOSOOM, because she gets more lines than usual, but it's not like she suddenly became a person to me. She was one before the episode, and she's still one after the episode, albeit one I found less likable. *shrug*

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 03:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
We see it differently then!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 09:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Agreed. I don't think disliking Cordelia in the early seasons means one is dehumanizing her.

After all she's the first person to come up to Buffy in the pilot, IIRC - she's totally capable of niceness with nothing in it for her.

Yes, why is disliking someone for being selfish and cruel somehow dehumanizing to them?

I still think they're a cruel person. I still thought it was unfair how Cordelia was made to suffer in The Witch. I empathized with her pain when she lost her sight. I just don't like her because she's typically selfish and cruel.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 10:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The dehumanizing I'm talking about isn't about disliking her. It's about not seeing her in all her dimensions. Different issues!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 12:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can't speak for [ profile] angearia, but this:

we have been as blind to her humanity as she is generally blind to the humanity of others

and this:

We haven't seen her as a person

as well as this:

up until now we've been seeing not real and as someone whose feelings don't matter.

suggest a level of dehumanization on the part of the viewer, given the use of "we." And I (along, I think, with Emmie) am saying that my opinion of S1 Cordelia wasn't about ignorance of her humanity, so the effect on her characterization is different.

So when I say "I am not wild about Cordelia given her actions thus far, and I am unsatisfied with the implications for her story" and you say "this is where we start seeing her as a person" it feels a bit as if you are inadvertently implying I do not see her as a person, because, as you say, they are different issues. It looks to me as if that's the sticking point.

I hope this doesn't come across as combative, I just want to explain myself, because it looks as if I haven't done a great job of that thus far.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 12:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Like you don't necessarily want to speak for Emmie, I don't want to speak for Maggie here, but I think I know where she's coming from. Or at least, I know how I interpret her points here and how I see this episode. When she says "we," I think she's referring to a hypothetical audience member that is following only the explicit cues that the story has given. You and Emmie might disagree with Maggie (and me, though I'm not sure exactly how firmly I stand on this point) on what those cues are. OR, your natural inclination might be to assume full three-dimensional humanity to all characters, regardless of what the cues are. I think those are two different issues, and I'm not quite sure which one is where the disagreement comes in.

I know for myself, I didn't even really notice Cordy as a character until around The Puppet Show (though to be fair I missed WttH on a first watch!). It's very easy to read Cordelia's being nice to Buffy in WttH as being just about a new apparent high-status person that Cordy wants on her team (she's from LA!!!). The first ten episodes mostly involve Cordy saying ridiculous things for comic relief. Her nightmares are ludicrously shallow in ep 10. So the cues suggest to me that there is no depth there. This episode is where Cordelia actually speaks about emotional wants beyond the shallow aspirations she's shown before.

Of course, you and Emmie could be following different cues. Or, you could not be following the cues at all, and looking strictly at her actions. Her actions are indeed a legitimate reason to dislike her! But I do think there's something to be said for Maggie's point that the in-story cues don't portray Cordy as a real person until this episode, and I think that's what the statement about the audience (and the "we") is a shorthand for.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 01:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Max has me right on this! The cues are such that if this were a different show, she'd stay put as caricature, and bad things happening to her could be treated as 'yay' moments for the audience and/or as a joke.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 03:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

We're definitely supposed to cheer when she gets her files deleted in The Harvest. We're also supposed to laugh at how bad her singing is; with the Scoobies' awful performance, we're laughing for different reasons (not "they're stupid," but "they don't want to do this! ha ha").

But we're not really expected to cheer when Luke tries to eat her, or when she goes blind (I think).

So, there's a balance.

The other example that pops to mind, oddly, is when the stake falls on Cordy's head near the end of "After These Messages, We'll Be Right Back." Or the weird, cruel joke Buffy says about Cordy being dead. Which, when you take Cordy as being a shadow for Buffy, maybe says something big about Queen Buffy's self-loathing (assuming you don't want to write it off as Loeb being a crappy writer).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 09:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Re: victim-as-villain, I can see why you mind it. For me it seems reasonable as the show itself starts off with the victims/outcasts as heroes, and that's one of the key lenses fans of the show see it through. So questioning the assumption that victims can't do bad works well. Plus, Joss sees himself as a victim, so I think much of his work on that subject is about self-recrimination rather than trying to shun victims who are Other. But I see how it could be problematic. Have to think more.

Horrible situation with Saffron?

I'm not sure I could see Boreanaz as Riley, actually. Certainly, I can see Boreanaz as Riley more than Christian Kane (which would be SO WEIRD, and maybe awesome but it probably just wouldn't work and am glad we got Lindsey instead).

I'm so attached to Firefly that I really wouldn't want to lose those few hours of Nathan Fillion as Mal. But I suppose an ideal world where he could do both Angel and Mal would be pretty sweet. Maybe Boreanaz, who plays a great asshole, could have played Caleb (assuming, in this ideal world, that Caleb would still exist).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's reasonable for sure, it's just that it happens a lot.

I'm not sure I could see Boreanaz as Riley

I was thinking that he does a good job as Booth from Bones, IMO, who's basically Riley all grown up and from Philadelphia. But yeah, CK would have been weird, I'm glad they didn't go with him.

Saffron...this is kind of a mess. trigger warning for sexual abuse

I know a radfem a few years back ad hominum'd the hell out of OMR, but seriously? Saffron - given that she's has identity issues, expects that people (particularly older men) will use her for sex, can't trust anyone, is nearly suicidal ("aren't you going to kill me?") - just pings my radar as someone who might have been sexually mistreated. I'm not any kind of expert, and I am not implying that this is all or even most abuse victims, just that those traits showing up in one person in such a pronounced way...make me worry.

Therefore, it is what I see as a potential effect of abuse that makes her a villain. Even if that's emphatically not her background, ME should have considered how they were presenting this character and how it would come across.

And overall, but especially with my read on Saffron, the image of Mal the patriarch straddling and pistol-whipping her (guns being a not particularly subtle stand-in for, y'know, hammers) and being presented as the hero for it just makes me queasy.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 03:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hm, actually that sort of does fit Saffron. That makes me sad. I love OMR crazy amounts, but I've felt a little uneasy about the straddle/gun-hit you mention. Now I have more reason to. Grumble.

continued trigger warning for sexual abuse
On radfem generally: I read a piece that *started* with the assumption that every time a man and a woman have sex, he is raping her. I think I felt nauseous the rest of the day.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 04:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love OMR crazy amounts

EXCELLENT TIP: shut it down once Saffron gets away. Then she gets to be nasty but zany and independent, and Mal is still respectable. Being a Whedon fan means never having to admit you're in denial.

Because the first four acts of OMR are just kooky fun! You know they're not going to be ok, you know she is just too great a character to get dropped out the airlock, it's just the how. And then that last scene just ruins it for me because I had nobody to ask you WHAT THE HELL, J-bird? Then I go all screechy and veiny.

For someone who doesn't give a crap about westerns or spaceships, I have surprisingly complex feelings about the politics of Firefly. I feel like it is the first clause of a sentence...and then Dollhouse is the next ten pages. I've been trying to get these thoughts out but it's for real not an essay, it's a whole project.

Radfems...I feel like they get a disproportionate amount of attention, because you read some of the het-sex-critical stuff and you're like WHUT, but everyone else is doing that too - feminists and anti-feminists and people who don't give - and then it turns into a whole yellfest.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 05:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The ending is a weird anticlimax anyway, so I might do that. Does that mean I get to end with Jayne shooting Vera in a space suit?

Are you counting the Mal/Inara scene as part of what ruins the episode for you? Because I'm inclined to admit as part of my generalized denial that I'm going to see if I can argue that Mal's male-fantasy interpretation of Inara's being knocked out (omg!lezbianz!) helps contextualize his knocking her out as part of the same male-fantasy behaviour that remains unquestioned because we're so clearly in Mal's POV and that the show was going to be all about deconstructing Mal's POV but then got cancelled?

Speaking of: I get the "first clause" a lot. Joss has said that the show was eventually going to prove Mal wrong about a lot (most?) things and I tend to believe him. Of course, Joss might have just gone and made it problematic anyway, and almost certainly would have, but it makes me forgiving of all the regressive aspects the Western setting brings with it automatically. Jaynestown is the "Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," yes-this-story-is-a-lie-ask-me-how show, and it's episode 8 (BtVS didn't get to Lie to Me until ep 19). I can only imagine the inversions that were going to happen. Sigh. I can still have my unbounded love for the characters and for the density if not the politics of the world, right? Right.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 06:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Does that mean I get to end with Jayne shooting Vera in a space suit?

Say what you will about Jayne, and it's probably true, but he uses his Vera for good.

Mal's male-fantasy interpretation of Inara's being knocked out (omg!lezbianz!) helps contextualize his knocking her out as part of the same male-fantasy behaviour that remains unquestioned

Is this before or after Inara hosts the Ambassador in the shuttle? Because if it's before, it makes me a little nervous that his fantasy gets validated.

I'm lukewarm on the Mal/Inara scene - I think NF and MB had great chemistry in general but she's so....flaily around him. Like she's OOC on her own show. Girlfriend is a professional, and composed in her personal life, and he ain't that special. But I guess if we're in Mal's POV that makes sense because he wants to think she just adores him (but can't deal with her actual feelings for him, as for missing that she kissed him at the end of OMR). I kind of never identified with Mal - I just got Simon right away so I was more for hitting Mal than anything - but that gives the show a spin for me.

I actually haven't read a whole lot of interviews about Firefly, so while makes perfect sense I am mulling. I have major love for Firefly cast and characters but yeah, it makes me wince sometimes. I'd have loved to see it spun out in the Firefly world.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 07:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Is this before or after Inara hosts the Ambassador in the shuttle? Because if it's before, it makes me a little nervous that his fantasy gets validated.

It's before, so, point.

I know what you mean about Inara. But there's lots of missing story there. And years of buildup to the point htey are in the show; Out of Gas shows her entirely in command, and then one supposes Mal's constant Mal-ness wears her down. Special or no, he's special *to her* after a long enough time; he's the only person as strong-willed as her in life choices around. (Zoe is stronger-willed than Mal in many respects, naturally, but in terms of direction-in-life-stuff less so.) I'm not sure it explains everything, but I'm willing to let it explain some of it.

Joss has said that if he and Mal were to get together, they would just yell at each other for ever, unable to agree on anything. He's also indicated that the Alliance aren't that bad. (And indeed, the first thing we see of the Alliance is that they are willing to follow a distress call rather than pick up Mal et al.) I do believe we would get shown lots more of Mal's reactionary-ness as bad, but the baseline has to be set somewhere.

I was mostly in Simon's POV too! But I always loved Mal. Part of that may be that I was also in River's later in the show, and she loves Mal so much.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 08:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Joss has said that if he and Mal were to get together, they would just yell at each other for ever, unable to agree on anything.

I've heard that quote about Joss and Book as well. It would just be a yell-fest? Joss, honey, it's not them it's you. Because I must shamefully admit that if I was going to be in a room with Joss for an unspecified amount of time, there'd be some fangirling and then he would answer one of my Serious Fan Business questions WRONG, and then there would be YELLING! (Or I might skip right to Saffron. YELLING! Or Tara! Sniffles and then yelling!)

I do remember reading somewhere that FF was inspired by a memoir of Southerners after the civil war, which. Oooof. It is interesting for sure, but yeah, if that's the quote, I'm a little more uncomfortable with the lack of problematization. Heart of Gold and Safe certainly start it, but....yeah. Start.

I just popped a sleeping pill, so I'm probably out soon, but, thank you for the excellent Firefly talk! I feel like my FANDOMS are Buffy and Dollhouse, but there's good thoughts everywhere. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 08:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Haha. Yeah, I feel that way too about the Serious Fan Business questions...

I think what Joss said was that he and Mal would disagree on everything and hate each other, but he and Book would disagree on everything and have a wonderful time. Which I like.

FF by Southerners after the Civil War: yes. And it's interesting, because I never really saw Mal-as-Southerner being a problem, because it was so obvious (to me, at the time, while watching) that this civil war actually was fought over states' rights and not slavery. But in retrospect it's not so obvious. Minear is probably actually pretty libertarian so that might have affected things too. That said, I think the series really was conceived to problemetize Mal's position, because there's such a great setup there to do that and that's what Joss does. Sighs and sighs.

I love Firefly talk, I don't get enough of it! It's been a while since I've cracked the DVDs. The show is more visceral than intellectual (Dollhouse is mostly intellectual, but with the gut-punches periodically).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 12:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Watching the early seasons, I'm always kind of intrigued that Xander has so much to say in English class, compared with the sometimes cartoonishly oafish guy he's played as later on.

I wish they kept writing Xander as a real person instead of "Stupid Guy Who's So Stupid It's Funny" guy. I think Xander is smart but lazy -kinda like Oz. He's not as book-smart as Willow, but if he'd put an effort into studying, he'd have gotten into a good college.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 04:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm uncomfortable calling it laziness...more like "criminally under-addressed insecurity." He clearly doesn't not care if he can read the books enough to converse with Willow in class. Even what he'd have accidentally absorbed being sometimes ready for school would have gotten him more than what he eventually gets on the SATs, unless there was a serious anxiety issue under there (which given later events and characterization I think we can hypothesize there is). I think this is actually a pretty interesting character thread that gets dropped in service of "lol Xander dumb lol."

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 06:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm not sure how school exactly works in the US, but I've always had the impression that they have levels. Level A as in the highest, and it's obviously Willow's level. Xander shares most of his classes with Willow. That probably says something.

Though Xander does mention in The Zeppo that he's been tested for special education when he was seven, and that he's slow in math and related curriculums.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 12:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, if Sunnydale is big enough, Willow would be in honors classes.

he's been tested for special education when he was seven

I think that's consistent with my read on him, though - can you really see his a-hole parents doing squat if he had been diagnosed with mental health issues or a learning disability? I cannot.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 03:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
He tested as slow in math and *spatial relations*. But we know later on that he can do spatial relations--he becomes a carpenter! So more indications that he acts much better than he tests.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 09:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, poor Xander, thinking he's dumb. He's not. I believe that he's actually poor with math, but the guy who says "Those two concepts are antithetical" when Faith is telling him to take his pants off should be able to do well on the verbal SATs. That he often says and does stupid things strikes me as reasonable; Willow does too ("Kiss rocks? Why would anyone want to--oh, I get it") but no one assumes that she's dumb. But Xander's assumed dumbness starts really early (by IRYJ they're already shocked that he knows anything at all). Really, Xander seems like someone who, for whatever reason, has had it drilled into him that he's not very bright, and because he is constantly telling this to others in different ways those around him believe it too. It'll be interesting to see going forward how much the writers do that actually goes against this reading and makes him dumb for laughs, as opposed to as part of his general insecurity.

I know what you mean about Cordy. I find her fairly unsympathetic in this episode too. There's real insight coupled with real distortion, often at the same time--c.f. her putdown of Shylock, followed by her talking about the woman whose leg was hurt by her on her bike. I think Cordy's flaw, down the line, is a lack of ability to apply the "I think it, I say it" standards to herself. She learns major, major empathy throughout this and AtS, but continues the self-aggrandization in a different way, which is I think what allows her to buy into the idea that she's a higher being after almost no actual heroic behaviour between Birthday and Tomorrow. But she also does get a real sense that she was cruel to people in high school (c.f. Room w/a View, Disharmony to an extent). Anyway, it's interesting to think about the question of how her bullying others relates to her honesty; I'm not sure we necessarily have to see them as part of the same thing. I haven't thought too much about Cordy's arc in BtVS (to get from here to her "tact is not saying true stuff" point by "Killed by Death").

"Captain Hammer's here, hair blowing in the breeze!"

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Xander seems like someone who, for whatever reason, has had it drilled into him that he's not very bright, and because he is constantly telling this to others in different ways those around him believe it too<./i>

Yes, and I think this is just dropped in favor of doofy Xander and his wacky parents. Kid slept outside, by himself, in Sunnydale. Folks are for sure not paying attention to his safety, let alone his self-image.

it's interesting to think about the question of how her bullying others relates to her honesty; I'm not sure we necessarily have to see them as part of the same thing

I don't think we have to see it that way, but I do think the show expects us to (ie the "UUUGH can we go now" echo in Earshot, which was very S1 Cordelia).

I haven't thought too much about Cordy's arc in BtVS (to get from here to her "tact is not saying true stuff" point by "Killed by Death"). Or when in ARwaV, she yells "I'm the biggest bitch in Sunnydale!" like it's this empowering thing against the vicious ghost. That's...actually not a good thing!

I mean, I like who she eventually becomes, largely because it is frankly refreshing to see female characters with a sense of entitlement, but I don't think it takes away from that to point out that it's not showing up in a good way here.

I'm really trying to put it together. Because making people afraid of he is also not saying true stuff, since we know she is capable of seeing the best in people. I see it as an inconsistency.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 03:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, and I think this is just dropped in favor of doofy Xander and his wacky parents. Kid slept outside, by himself, in Sunnydale. Folks are for sure not paying attention to his safety, let alone his self-image.

Yeah, definitely on the parents not being great supervisors. On this rewatch I'm going to try to pay attention to how they are treated as the show goes on. I think the "wacky parents!" in "Hell's Bells" was perhaps not the wisest choice, but doesn't bother me too much because I see it as misdirection; Xander can write them off as having silly funny problems like his and Anya's silly funny problems until he sees them again at the end of the ep. So my theory/fanwank is that most of the wacky parents stuff in the show (of which there isn't that much) can feed into this.

But I agree that how smart Xander is academically vs. in actuality is a thread that they could have run with. I mean, they did with Buffy. And we got to see how high school!Anya was flunking math, but Magic Box!Anya was good with math.

Or when in ARwaV, she yells "I'm the biggest bitch in Sunnydale!" like it's this empowering thing against the vicious ghost. That's...actually not a good thing!

Ha! No it's not. But it also is, because it's the source of her strength. She's like Angel, right, whose strength is tied up in being a demon. And there's no doubt that the ghost needed to be bitched at. I think part of the joke in the episode (which is a comedy) is that Cordy doesn't change after one bad experience, and that it's a cheer-worthy moment when Cordy says she's a bitch. The fact that it's meant to be funny helps code in the ambivalence we should be feeling about Cordelia reclaiming her entitlement. I like Room w/a View, which is one of my top 5 or so s1 episodes before Faith's arrival (Five by Five is where the show really, really picks up for me). Although I've never been able to figure out what exactly the thing with the mother and son ghosts is supposed to represent, if anything. (Foreshadowing for Darla/Angel somehow?)

I'm not sure about her arc either. The next few eps are where she sort of joins the Scoobies so it'll be interesting to watch out for the change there!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 05:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
what exactly the thing with the mother and son ghosts is supposed to represent, if anything

Darla/Angel is an interesting take on it! If it means anything, I kind of think Bad Mom is the worst of Old Cordelia, whacking away at someone else's weak spots to protect her territory, and Phantom Dennis is the good stuff about New Cordelia, doing his thing and persistently sticking around and helping people.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 05:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ooh I like that!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 01:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I kinda agree with pocochina about Cordelia. I'm not sure when I started to sympathize with her, I know for a fact that I cheered when Buffy threw a sharp one at her in When She Was Bad. I think I started to like her somewhere before she and Xander started their kissing affair.

We get our first glimpse of the quiet status game going on within the Scoobie circle. Xander and Willow have a special bond and Buffy is an outsider relative to them.

Interesting thoughts. It stays that way until Cordelia and Oz discover Xander and Willow's cheating. And then it becomes more a Buffy/Willow with Xander as the outsider. And then, from S7 and on, it'll be Buffy/Xander with Willow as the outsider.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 02:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As I've said above (twice now!) it's not about liking Cordy. It's about seeing that she's not just a cliche.

The Scoobie dynamics are complex and ever-evolving!! That's a big reason why we're doing the notes. Bro and I ended up with volumes and volumes on the ins and outs and ups and downs of that little tribe. There's never just one pecking order or one set of issues involved.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 02:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't think it is about "liking Cordelia" - it is about re-humanizing the cliché. People do have depth, even if it would be easier the other way (if we could demonize or saintify).

I think my "3 episode heroes" (Maggie, local_max and Strudel) explained it well: This episode we see threedimensional "villains" (Cordy the high school villain and Marcy the MotW).

This episode sits extremly well with my own sociological convictions, just because someone is a victim doesn't make them the good guys, suddenly. And really, why should the victim be better than the rest of society? And Cordelia, who is somewhat of an evildoer (in respect to the high school) is not worse than the rest - just more successful.

The people we despise (for their social ranking above us) are people just like us. Same as the people we pity (who stand below us). No saints or devils, here.

We may hate the function people have in society, but not the person .

The difference between the two people caught in the high school social warfare is that one looses, and the other wins. But that doesn't make one or the other a good or a bad person. Cordelia just knows what she wants - she attends to her interests (something everybody - should - do!). She protects herself and is able to do so because she is able to identify her "wants" and "needs" and the mechanisms by which she has to interact with the world. She is able to put away her "wants" as inattainable - which makes her pragmatic rather than heroic, but then, Buffy is the hero in this play (i think this ability to identify is tied to Cordelia's innate honesty - she's honest enough with herself and others to see the world and smart enough to understand - mostly). Marcie, on the other hand, doesn't identify her needs and wants (beyond a rudimentary "i want social status") and is unable to identify the mechanisms by which to achieve her rather vague goals. Someone like that is indeed perfect human material to be molded into a secret agent/killer: no own needs and wants (beyond a pat on the head) and unable to identify the rules (morals).

This episode is just, well, in-your-face commentary about society.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 02:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, you put it all so clearly! Thanks!!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 02:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, since You are all about foreshadowing: When confronted by Buffy, Marcie is unable to even articulate her wants beyond "i want You to see me" - which is the position late-seasons pre-soul Spike is in.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 07:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Blerg. There's something really weird going on where I never get notified for replies to comments on your journal. It's LJs fault. I mean, I also have your journal on track so I see when you put up new posts and that never works either. I don't get it. :(

I just thought I'd drop in and say that because the conversation kinda moved past me and I missed it.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 01:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've heard people having that sort of problem before. LJ is inconsistent! (But while we're on the subject, what does it mean to put a journal on track? There's a fair amount about LJ that mystifies me).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You know the pin symbols or when it says track? Well, if you click on that you can keep track of a person's journal when they post a new entry or you can track a specific post and you'll get notified by email. So the people who I like knowing when they post or if I wanna keep track of comments in an interesting discussion, it'll go to my email instead of me combing through my flist (which is very large and I always miss stuff).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-29 03:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
New information! Thanks!


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