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September 09, 2005
by Daniel Erenberg
Finally There Is Clarity
About a month ago, my girlfriend of many months told me that she had cheated on me. She'd slept with someone else. I remember the moment she told me really well. I got an actual physical pain in my chest. I felt as though I'd been impaled.
About a week ago, I was watching an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer called "Lover's Walk". In it, Cordelia and Oz raced into a factory basement to save their significant others, who they found making out. Horrified, Cordy raced up the stairs, falling through. She landed in some debris. She felt as though she'd been impaled. Because she had been.
And that's Buffy in a nutshell. It's always been that way. It's a show that takes normal life events and dramatizes them demonically. And that's always how Buffy has dealt with love. Either it kills you, or it's your salvation. I agree with this point of view. We've seen it many ways.
The most brutally realistic scene in season one of Buffy was when Xander asks Buffy on a date ("Prophecy Girl"). She lets him down easy, but he still acts bitter towards her. "I guess a guy's gotta be undead to make time with you", he says. "I don't handle rejection well", he cries out. "Funny! Considering all the practice I've had." He then goes into an empty classroom to quietly bounce a ball against the wall in pure anger. There was even a scripted scene (never filmed) in which Xander quietly walked around campus as the sky rained stones on him. A sign of the apocalypse. Just as Buffy turning him down, was a sign of a personal apocalypse for Xander Harris.
A year later, in an episode called "Innocence", Buffy, having lost her virginity to Angel, meets up with him the next day and is shocked to discover how mean he is to her. This is the most classic Buffy "love" metaphor. We know that Angel has literally lost his soul. What the episode is playing with is how some men metaphorically lose the "souls" that they appeared to have, after a night of sex. Buffy's initial reaction to Angel's loss of humanity is a tearful "Was I not good?" The scene manages to have a soulless bloodsucker and a vampire slayer act out something that has happened to nearly all of us in an intensely realistic manner. "You were great", says Angel(us). "I thought you were a pro." It'd be a funny line if it didn't hit home so damn hard.
There is the "love as salvation" thing as well. This can be readily seen in Xander‚s proposal before the big fight with Glory at the end of season five ("The Gift"). Anya's line of acceptance really rings true. "I'll marry you when the world doesn't end". That's what it is for Anya. It gets her through the battle. The world doesn't stop turning just because of some fast-talking Hell-God. The world keeps turning, as cheesy as this might sound, because of her love for Xander.
Little does Anya know. In a year, this salvation will be seemingly spat upon when Xander leaves Anya at the altar ("Hell's Bells"). The reasons for this aren't important. Xander had issues with the future (dramatized literally with his fake look into the future) and with family (dramatized frighteningly with a look into the uber-dysfunctional Harris clan). The important thing is the aftermath. Anya uses the grief she has endured on the worst day (which was supposed to be the greatest day) of her very long life to literally become a vengeance demon. It was after her last long-term relationship with Olaf when she initially became a vengeance demon. She lost her powers. She fell in love. Her heart was broken again, and she took up her post as a vengeance demon. And isn't this how it always works? In between relationships, we can't stand couples or the idea of being with someone forever. But then we fall in love again. And all that hatred; all that potential vengeance; it just goes away.
It was in season five when Riley Finn decides that Buffy cannot love him. In his desperation to be loved, he goes out and is unfaithful to her. In the real world, Riley, a nice college boy, would have slept with some slutty rebel. In the world of Buffy, Riley, a military demon fighter, goes out and gets his blood sucked by some slutty vampire. Buffy naturally catches him and they break up. Though, this being the world of Buffy, the heartbroken Riley takes off on a helicopter to fight demons deep in the depths of the South American jungle, while the equally heartbroken Buffy works out her inner feelings by beating up a humongous troll. The troll turns out to have been an unfaithful man. Anya's original unfaithful man. It all comes full circle.
This brings me back to "Lover's Walk". In that episode, Spike returns for the first time since season two. Drusilla has broken up with him. She has cheated on him with some ugly, disgusting Chaos demon ("all slime and antlers"). He comes to Sunnydale, a drunken mess, looking for a love spell. At the end of the episode, he realizes that magic will never work in his favor. He has to work in his own favor. He drives out of town listening to the Sex Pistols‚ version of "My Way" (here being approximated by Gary Oldman in the film "Sid and Nancy").
About a month ago, my girlfriend cheated on me. About a week ago, I watched an episode of Buffy. I'm doing okay.
|Daniel Erenberg (AKA: Dan)(AKA: Nighthawk) is fairly happy with the life he lives in his house in the Yorkshire section of Lynbrook, New York. He's got a band called The Doldrums which he alternately thinks are brilliant and awful. He writes almost as often as he watches television, which any reader of his Slayage column knows is saying a lot. Beautiful girls and other types of Buffy fans can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.|