Analysis: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The ultimate description of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is its own title
Well not quite, but for a show that is so full of tropes, it is quite tempting to just try and define it with a single, short, unusually capitalised phrase
; so we might as well use the one it already provided for us.
Inside the title the name of the heroine shows the young side of a young/old juxtaposition. The show has a focus on youth so expect Adults Are Useless
. In an effort to avoid Totally Radical
, we had Buffy Speak
. Really it's still the result of a thirty-five year old trying to write dialogue for teenagers. Other thing to note is the tone of the name, irreverence. That tone appears in Buffy's Establishing Character Moment
. Finally it's the Character in the Character Name and the Noun Phrase
and the hero is
undeniably that character. While we may have a Hero's journey, expect a dark side. If the writers go off the track with the hero then the viewers go off the show. For instance, the seasonal rot in season six is connected to viewers discomfort with Buffy's behaviour.
Well, see above but quote with us now "In every generation there is a Chosen One
. She alone
will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer
." (emphasis added) The starting voice over informed us that she was The One and we saw in the starting season the tropes that accompany The Chosen One in high school
: I Just Want to Be Normal
, It Sucks to Be the Chosen One
, The Only One
, Refusal of the Call
. Then in season 2, we learn There Is Another
. Then after that season she runs away but The Call Knows Where You Live
and so on. Eventually in the end there is an attempt to Screw Destiny
and we come up with The Chosen Many
In this series, the "the", unlike some other shows, is an indication of being The Only One
which gets reflecting in many of The Call
tropes recurring and running through as a theme.
One notably fact about the first season was the lack of vampire villains. Really the vampires in the title provide the old side of the young/old juxtaposition. So its not just Our Vampires Are Different
, it's possibly all Our Monsters Are Different
. The old legends will be taken and put up against youth culture (and bazookas). Also, vampires = fantasy genre and one important aspect for a piece in the genre is Applicability
fell on the allegory side, sometimes rather blunty, so the Aesops
and associated tropes came with it.
This indicates several things but above all, an action show. Consider then its aim of having a "strong" female character in the context of an action show. She can be emotionally messed up and run away, she can get into a messy relationship with a bad boy but she is important and strong because she is physically
strong. That is the starting point. This extends to the other characters, Willow is superior to the other "wanna-blessed-be's" because they are worried about wicca as a religion. Willow on the other hand wants to learn magic to fry demon ass.
The ultimate invalidation (and that's a good thing)
We can consider the ending, then, as the ultimate invalidation of the show's ultimate description. Surprisingly, this can be considered the perfect ending for the show, as the show was constantly trying to invalidate its own title:
- Buffy : We couldn't get rid of Buffy. We killed her twice and her friends kept bringing her back.
- Vampire : We couldn't get rid of vampires, or even the evil in general, that bug people throughout the series. No matter how many vamps bit the dust, no matter how many Big Bads were taught a lesson, there was always another around the corner.
- Slayer : Well, we can't get rid of the evils of the world so we need a slayer. The show's mythos takes care of that, insuring that any time a slayer dies, a new one pops up in its place. The slayer can try giving up, but, no matter what, after some Wangst and some Epiphany Therapy, she'll be back.
So how is the title ultimately invalidated? We left one word out:
- The: at the very end of the show, we the lose the definite article. Buffy releases the magics that limits the number of slayers. She is thus no longer The Slayer, but one of many. Once that happens, all the themes above come to a head. Buffy now could die and we wouldn't notice. The Vampires can be Slayed by someone else. Buffy may still be called "The Vampire Slayer," but it's clear that she is no longer absolutely necessary.
Season 6 was a massive Deconstruction of the series
The focus of the season was the main character's journey to adulthood. There was no long story arc or ancient evil to face. The bad guys are a bunch of nerds who never outgrew their childhood hobbies, symbolizing the fans who only liked the show's sci-fi and supernatural aspects. The real villain is not defeated by the strongest wizard or the mightiest warrior but by the comforting words of a friend. The season ended with Buffy affirming that she wants to live and Spike gets his soul back because the show is not about death or killing but the protection and sanctity of human life and that the world is a beautiful place to be despite all the hardships and tragedy we all face. That's why the Musical Episode
was appropriate to Season 6 rather than any other.
Buffy sins: Kennedy
A lot of fans hate this character and consider her the biggest scrappy on television. But just how bad was she really? In the spirit of cinema sins and gaming sins, hopefully going over some of her scenes we can find out.
- Bring On The Night
- Kennedy's first reaction of Buffy is clear disdain. 1 sin.
- Her challenging Buffy right here, at the time, is a scared girl and not a royal brat. No sins.
- Her encounter with Willow...I'll give this a pass as well, there's plenty to criticize in later episodes.
- Kennedy demanding weapons, okay now she's getting bratty. 1 sin.
- Show Time
- Kennedy pestering Willow, then trying to get her to do magic while hitting on her. I'm sure it was meant to be sweet but given how much she bragged, 2 sins.
- At the end it's shown Kennedy approves of Buffy's approach and is going to take it to heart. We don't know at the time but this is going to go very very wrong. The fact she seems to be a military buff (see later) one would think the Buffster quoting Richard Marcinko and taking a Hell Week approach should have been a big clue. 1 sin.
- -1 sin for snarking at Buffy's and Spike's training.
- And -1 sin for busting their relationship.
- The Killer In Me
- Kennedy faking sick so she can court Willow. Buffy did the same thing, so just 1 sin.
- Make that 2, with the mission to try and seduce her.
- Kennedy should really know better than to be this confrontational on homosexuality, 1 sin.
- I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and guess she was joking about date rape, 3 sins. One for suggesting it, one for joking about it, and one for the possibility she may not have been.
- Okay, since Kennedy was the butt of Willow's joke about knocking girls off their feet, -1 sin.
- 1 sin for thinking turning into Warren is funny. She may not have had context but I'm counting it.
- 2 sins when she meets the Wiccan group, 1 for insulting them, 1 for her open distaste of magic when she wants Willow.
- Not Kennedy related, ha ha ha ha ha. I really liked Giles asking if he's evil for taking girls camping and not touching them. -1 sin for him.
- -1 sin for even Amy seeing that she is genuinely concerned.
- While we're at it -1 sin for Amy on predicting what happens in the comics.
- -2 for Ken on quickly picking up on Amy not being as she appears and then confronting her.
- When Willow storms in with the gun Kennedy does what anyone worth their salt would do and immediately goes caring and try to talk down the murder/suicide. -1 sin.
- Then she immediately drops it bragging how good she is. 1 sin.
- Get It Done
- Oh boy this is gonna suck. 1 sin right off the bat.
- Kennedy helping the other potentials train is okay. Her leading them thinking she's Sergeant Hartman, not so much. 1 sin for this and 1 sin for this being in promos, given hindsight.
- 1 sin for picking on Chloe. You know if she had done any research on Full Metal Jacket she would have seen that who she is emulating is a bully and a failure. So 2 more sins for this, and 1 more for not doing the research.
- Then she brags about picking on Chloe and being a bully and failure, how charmingly sickening, 3 sins. It's a shame Jack Bauer didn't follow Wayne Palmer from 24 just to kick the shit out of Kennedy for this, 1 sin.
- "Who the hell are you?" He's the President so shut your mouth before CTU nuke your ass. 1 sin for the comment and another for acting this way in Buffy's home.
- Enough with the drill sergeant nasty shit already. 2 sins, 1 for the attitude and 1 for not getting the hint the first time.
- Gotta admit, The First has a point. 1 sin.
- Even though it's partially Kennedy's fault she's right in the way Buffy is acting. F*ck it, 1 sin.
- 1 sin again for the magic bashing.
- I'll cut Kennedy a little slack about the pants joke, -1 sin.
- Gotta admit Willow and Kennedy going full kissage was sweet. -1 sin.
- Dirty Girls
- Kennedy would fight Godzilla if need be? That would be enough for -1 sin.
- Empty Places
- Kennedy speaks without thinking. Must be Tuesday. She would get a sin for this, but then she immediately backpeddles and apologizes profusely. -1 sin.
- Cute to see Dawn and Kennedy together discussing the show's band. -1 sin.
- Kennedy confronts the cops first verbally then physically. Girl seems to have phases, thinking she's Buffy, or Bishop from Rainbow Six, or Price from Modern Warfare. Here she clearly thinks she's Trinity from The Matrix. -2 sins.
- Some fans hate that Kennedy stood up to Buffy. Here though it was warranted. -1 sin.
- Kennedy apologizing when trying to take command may get her -1 sin. Wait...
- ...she blows it. Maybe she would like to see if she could do a better job. 1 sin.
- The seething hatred she looks at Faith with gets her another 1 sin.
- Kennedy going Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique on the Bringer? -1 sin. The fact it's a possessed Andrew? -1 sin again.
- The first aired lesbian sex scene was so explicit it was cut from some broadcasts, looking like something out of Sons of Anarchy, -1 sin for making history, and -1 sin for not being a pussy about it.
- End of Days
- At last Kennedy tries to lead. Emphasis on tries. -1 sin for the attempt.
- And she gets a comeuppance for trying to play where the grown up Slayers play. -1 sin.
- I'm 99% certain that Giles, Dawn and Buffy wanting to throw up at the tongue comment was a nod to the fans, -1 sin for each of them.
- Kennedy gets a twofer here, -1 sin for saying Buffy believes in her, and -1 sin for getting the reply Buffy's not that bright.
- We figured at this point Kennedy's a brat, but her heart's there and at least she admits it. -2 sins.
- Again some fans may think Kennedy getting Buffy the scythe makes her a Mary Sue. Me, I say -1 sin for the assist.
- Talley: 10
- Punishment: "It's a total loss of control, and not in a nice, wholesome, my girlfriend has a pierced tongue kind of way." *cue Giles, Dawn and Buffy throwing up*
Verdict: It got up to as high as 27 at one point, an impressive number in a short amount of screen time, but Kennedy did go some way to redeeming herself. We could leave it there, but the comics are canon even if some fans don't count them. I'll go over the ones I have.
- Time Of Your Life
- Kennedy getting jealous that Buffy may have gone gay and go for Willow, and threatening to kill her, was just off and out of left field. 2 sins.
- Okay, her saying Buffy's other look was fine when the demon appeared from the future was enough to get 1 sin taken off.
- What's with the vamp face after sleeping with Willow. No sins, but what is up with that?
- The end. Very inappropriate comment at the worst of times. 2 sins.
- Anywhere But Here
- Buffy likes Kennedy? Was that when she was Faith without any of the warmth and trying to replace her, or when she was being a horrid person? No sins added or detracted, thought it was worth mentioning.
- This line was added to the motion comics and it really does bear repeating, when Kennedy guesses Willow is upset over Tara's death she says, "You know when I said I was open to a threesome I had something more fun in mind." WHAAAAAAT THEEEEEE F***CK?!?!?!?!?!?! 10 sins. Yes I counted them. 1 for speaking ill of the dead, 1 for doing so of the beloved Tara, 1 because it was to Willow, 1 because Willow is clearly upset, 1 for such a horrid comment, 1 for being the absolute worst time to say it, 1 for such a take that comment at Tara, 1 for the film's ad lib, 1 for ignoring earlier story, and 1 because Kennedy comes across as a total bitch.
- I have to go with Satsu's comment. Kennedy!? Since when did she become a cool gun toting commando? -1 sin.
- Okay, Satsu being bratty doesn't entitle Kennedy to be as well. 1 sin.
- This whole thing with her being upset about turning straight people gay really needs to stop. 1 sin.
- Kicking Satsu so hard she throws up. Gross, but it gets the demon kitty out of her, so -1 sin.
- Kennedy's a big fan of the Arctic Flare mission in Rogue Spear ain't she? -1 sin.
- I hope Kennedy gives Satsu a lot more than that for a frakking sub. -1 sin.
- Losing her powers is bullshit? I...guess that's what she'd say. No sins.
- Last Gleaming
- Hope fans liked the nod to their hatred of Kennedy when Willow dumps her. -1 sin.
- In retrospect, great thing she did. As she says herself she gets a lot better from here. -1 sin.
- Kennedy's kind enough to give Buffy a high paying job. -1 sin.
- For that matter, giving Slayers work as bodyguards is awesome. The fact if she didn't they may be out on the street or living in abandoned buildings addicted to drugs or turning tricks to get by makes it doubly awesome. -2 sins.
- Remember when Buffy was in charge and Kennedy was the bratty trainee? Days are long gone now. -1 sin.
- I have no quarrel with Kennedy trying to speak some hard truths to Buffy here. At least she goes about it in a more mature way. No sins.
- Until she starts acting bratty. 1 sin.
- Koh looks cute. Not for a demon, for a guy. Just what are Kennedy's tastes these days? Commander Shepard? No sins.
- Willow dumping her was the best thing that could have happened, and it shows. And Kennedy still would like to help her if she can. -2 sins.
- Bop! Kennedy could have lost another sin for saying about thinking about the little guy, but then ruins it by bringing up Giles. I'd add a sin but Buffy beats me to the punch.
- Guess guns are good after all if you want to screw over Wolfram & Hart. -1 sin.
- And Buffy gets to keep her job. Too bad she rejects it. -1 sin.
- The Core
- So just what was Kennedy doing since getting Buffy and co to where they needed? Looking for another girl? That's exactly what she did and is trying to recruit Faith. Cool, but where was she when she could have been needed? Gun wielding Slayer against gun wielding Slayer, someone dropped the ball. 1 sin.
- New Rules
- Hey check it out it's Call of Duty: Slayers. Awesome. Wait, that's Kennedy? More awesome. And a bit of meta humor there, with both being The Scrappy. -3 sins.
- She still has a bit of brat in her, but avoids getting a sin for immediately apologizing for it.
- Where The River Meets The Sea
- Damn Kennedy looks awesome decked out like SEAL Team Six's biggest fan. And she gets Faith a job as well, which was nice of her. -2 sins.
- Kennedy should have known Faith wouldn't have RTFM. On the one hand she's more mature, and when she lets her emotions overtake common sense it's altruistic these days. But it's Faith, 1 sin.
- Way to go Kennedy, she's less upset at losing a loser's contract and more upset Faith thinks she supports pedophilia. Great she has her priorities in order. -1 sin.
- And she pushes the contract on Faith to find Riley. That's kind of her. It gets her helping Buffy through helping her ex. It gives Faith a chance at redemption for what she did. And it brings Sam in, who is just awe inspiring. And Faith gets to rock a flamethrower in a way that would make Garfield Lenz perform a Heel Face Turn. -5 sins.
- Talley: -2
- Punishment: "It's bullshit!" Not losing Slayer powers, how in universe she's despised to the point Buffy would rather be on the streets than ask her help.
Final words: I may be a little biased but I tried to give most of her scenes a fair call, and was surprised myself that Kennedy is perhaps not as bad as some say. Some of what she does wrong are very big (Get It Done and Anywhere But Here being the low points) but she goes a way to redeem herself.
Questions? Comments? If there's support I'll do other characters.