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Random thoughts on depression and Buffy

red_satin_doll at More thoughts about "Anne": Buffy's depression arc (2/?) makes some interesting considerations about Buffy and her depression arc. Read it, it's great!
And it makes me think about something I didn't quite focused before.
I've always believed in the progression of Buffy's illness, very realistic because that's what happens in RL. Buffy gradually slips into depression and she slips into depression because she was already connected with that kind of illness. She was already the girl that stands alone watching her lover go and doesn't do anything, she's already the girl who feel detached and cold inside when the pain is unbareable. And that brings me to Buffy's nature as Slayer: a Slayer needs to fight to survive, because every night can be the last, and a Slayer can develop a death wish.
It's an incredibly powerful meta for depression - having a death wish - and Buffy actually spoke about this desire with Angel ("When you kiss me I wanna die") In her emotional turmoil, Buffy choses the most dangerous lover, the only one who can actually grant her a death wish. Xander, his human counterpart in S2, can't do it.
There is an incredible appetite for death in all the Buffy/Angel romance (Their settings, their dialogues, their decisions) and Buffy is in love with this sort of thing. Her hatred for her life is almost embodied by Angelus deathly perfection. And when she faces the trauma of Angel's death, she leaves town and stops to be the Slayer (to be herself).
And depression is actually a lot about apathy and desire to stop struggling, to desist in the fight for life.
Fun fact about the word desist: it's a latin word and it literally means "cease to exist". When you stop fighting (and I mean it metaphorically) you cease to exist. You die.
Later, in S6, when the depression isn't anymore about sweet kisses besides the tombstone, but actually depression portrayed in a more realistic way, Buffy choses Spike as her partner - once again a vampire and a killer. Except that, this time, I don't think he makes her want to die. Struggling with him, she can find the streight to struggle with her life again and understand how she can overcome her death wish.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 20th, 2012 10:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the kind linkage! I'm glad you enjoyed this. A lot of my understanding of Buffy's psychology is just personal experience, but gabrielleabelle's "Buffy Came Back Wrong" series was tremendously helpful as well.

What you said about Xander really struck me; as a human he is "not able" to do it for Buffy as you say (which I think is arguable - the heart wants what it wants, in S1-2 Buffy didn't go looking for a vampire lover. there was chemistry involved, as much as Spuffies (and yes, I suppose I'm one, if a heretical one) don't like the admit it? (And vice-versa I might add.)

But for a human Xander's darkness is very close to the surface (I know you've read my Dopplegangers meta on Xander), in his sexuality, his slut-shaming of Cordy and other girls, his attraction to Willow only after she's with Oz, his jealousy of Buffy's lovers, his lie to her in Becoming (and I don't hate the boy, really!) It's expressed in Hyena!Xander and Vamp!Xander.

What's of interest to me is that his relationship to Cordy very much resembles what will happen between Buffy and Spike in S6: they are incredibly sexually attracted to each other, and I'd argue there is genuine affection between them that gets lost under insults, slut-shaming, name-calling and put downs. They are rarely nice to each other, so their relationship imploding (violently so, when Cordy is impaled) was a foregone conclusion.

Then there's the fact that he's a "demon magnet" - as if Buffy, in the romantic sense, and his next lover, Anya, is/was a demon with thousands of years of history of harming and killing men. Something he never acknowledges in his negative judgements of Buffy's relationship with Spike. I suspect there's more than a little projection (self-loathing) onto Buffy on his part there. They both have to come to terms with their demons - inner demons and demon lovers - in S7.
Nov. 20th, 2012 11:00 pm (UTC)
I've never thought about Cordelia and Xander as pre-Spuffies. There's a rasemblance but, I don't know, maybe Cordelia and Xander are different. I will compare them to Buffy and Angel in a sense, because both couple are invested for the first time by unknown feelings and desires and they don't share much but sexual attraction.
GabrielleaBelle's meta was also very inspiring and amazing to read for me. It makes you look at S6 and depression with immense simplicity. And I enjoyed very much your meta, clearly! :D
Nov. 21st, 2012 12:41 am (UTC)
It only started to occur to me when I wrote about Xander in the Doppleganger essay the other day, but watching Anne again today, it was rather startling. I'm not saying exactly alike, but there's a definite resemblance. And some of that may not have anything to do with anything Hellmouth-y, but just dysfunctional family dynamics: Buffy's parents are divorced (and then Hank disappears altogether); Xander's parents probably SHOULD have divorced a long time ago; we know about Spike and his mother issues (I haven't seen AtS but I guess it goes more into his relationship with Angel, which sounds like a mess; and I don't know much about Cordy's family other than her dad was in jail for tax fraud/evasion at the end of S3.

Giles and Jenny MIGHT have become a model for the Scoobies of a mature relationship but her death ends any possibility of that. (I loved Jenny so much - she was a mature woman who owned her sexuality and sensuality, and isn't made the butt of a joke because of it.)

Watch Anne again and tell me what you think about Xander and Cordy.

And thank you very much for the compliment! Your comments make me all kinds of happy.
Nov. 21st, 2012 12:58 am (UTC)
And thank you very much for the compliment! Your comments make me all kinds of happy.
You're welcome and the feeling is mutual.

I'll rewatch it again and yes, all the parental figures in the Buffyverse are incredibly disfunctional. Personally I believe that Xander left Anya mostly because of his parents, because they teach him over and over and over that marriage is a torture and a failure. With a better model, I think he would overcome his anxiety.

Edited at 2012-11-21 12:58 am (UTC)
Nov. 21st, 2012 02:09 am (UTC)
all the parental figures in the Buffyverse are incredibly disfunctional.

Joss working out his own issues? I think one problem with the show IMO is there is sometimes a lack of variety, ie: all parents are dysfunctional, everyone is S6 is at their worst and abusing/abandoning their lovers ALL AT ONCE. Sometimes watching the show I longed for characters who could remind the Scoobies of other options, but Sunnydale is definitely a very sealed-off, hermetically-closed environment.

local_max has a lot of ideas about Xander and the reasons for leaving Anya - and why he considers it a good thing; he's thought about it a lot more than I have. (Not sure that I agree, but it's food for thought.)
Nov. 21st, 2012 10:53 am (UTC)
I need to read his thoughts! I don't spend a lot of time analyzing Xander's actions.
Also another reason that makes me think that it would be great, but also *right* to portray a good relationship in the comics.
Nov. 22nd, 2012 02:22 am (UTC)
Interesting thoughts on Spike vs Angel. There is a lot of irony in the way her relationship with Spike -- which she consciously sees as twisted and degraded -- actually helps her heal emotionally, while her relationship with Angel -- which she consciously sees as pure, true love -- ends up dragging her down.
Nov. 22nd, 2012 11:00 am (UTC)
It's really ironic. I think that Buffy in the first seasons wasn't capable of see why she was so attracted by Angel. After all she was very young.
Nov. 24th, 2012 02:34 am (UTC)
I think that Buffy in the first seasons wasn't capable of see why she was so attracted by Angel. After all she was very young.

When I first fell "in love" with my S.O. I couldn't figure out why I was suddenly so attracted to the woman I'd known for months but barely noticed. I realize now that chemistry - as in, bodily chemicals, hormones, the time of year (all through my college years I would have a crush on a woman in March or April - the early spring, of course), loneliness, attention, etc. (Attention is a huge thing - suddenly this woman was looking at me in a way no one ever had, she took me ought, got me presents, she felt warm and nice to hug, etc.)

It's what nature does, the trick it plays on us to bring us together; the thing is, what do you do once the chemical haze of "in love" (infatuation) wears off? Realize you don't really know one another, and either try to find a way to stay together and actually learn to love one another, or split apart.

And there's the irony - the only thing remarkable about Buffy and Angel are the Slayer/Vampire aspects. the entire "chemical attraction/infatuation/gee I like kissing you" dynamic is in fact the most normal thing in the world - and it's what our culture has of course decided is what "love" should look like, and so anything that deviates from that is wrong and abnormal and for a woman especially, you're wrong and flawed for not getting it "right". (think about all the self-help book about relationships. We're all tilting at windmills.)
Nov. 24th, 2012 02:26 am (UTC)
Excellent points - in terms of Spike, the healing had to happen on her terms; I know a lot of people argue for unsouled redemption and all that, but they both had to learn that "love" has to include a measure of empathy, which I'm not sure existed before. Just giving into "I'm in love with you" regardless of your own feelings, being led by that because it's the path of least resistance, can be toxic. What makes them such a great pairing is that they were eventually able to allow each other to heal, to give each other both space and support, something Angel and Riley (and I'd argue, in his own way, Giles though not romantically) were not able to do.

while her relationship with Angel -- which she consciously sees as pure, true love -- ends up dragging her down.

*nods* When I was watching the series I didn't know the concept of "ships" and had never heard of "shipper wars". I know it's nothing compared to back in the day, but I do see that there are Bangels to whom the "true love/soulmate" concept is appealing And they have very good reasons, but I just can't get into that. What I wasn't prepared for was how huge the divide is between the two groups. (I've heard that most fans in fact aren't shippers, but I apparently don't hang out in the same places they do.)

I'm sort of glad that I didn't get into fandom back in the day - too much drama, thanks muchly.
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