A Discussion About Inconsistencies and Fashion in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

A couple of weeks ago, the Agents of DOUX were discussing our upcoming observation of Buffy's 20th, and had the following impromptu conversation about inconsistencies in the series, as well as issues we had with Buffy fashion.

Mallena: Some of the inconsistencies drove me crazy, like when Angel said he had no breath to revive Buffy, but Spike smokes and I've seen vampires huff and puff after they ran. Not to mention the fact that their hearts don't beat, but they can have sex? How does that work? That's okay, I really don't want to know. Plus they have no soul and some are monsters, some are sweet. Didn't Giles say early on that a demon moves in? The Vampire Diaries had it easier, they acted human and ate/slept, etc.

Victoria: An amazing show. Two things that bugged me, though, were (1) Joyce not knowing that Buffy was a vampire slayer for a while (I love Spike's reaction: What? Your mum doesn't know? and I agreed with his stupefaction) and (2) the Watchers' Council not giving so much as a stipend to Buffy. If, for plot reasons, they needed her to be broke, they could have had her have a fight with them (which they did anyway), or have made some bad investments and have been broke (the First has embezzled the Watchers before blowing them up).

Mallena: Joyce was a very busy single mom, plus she didn't believe Buffy when she was younger and tried to tell her. It also bothers me every time I watch Supergirl. Kara looks exactly like her [Supergirl], glasses or not. It really wasn't fair that the Watcher Council people (including Giles) all acted like they had money, but poor Buffy had to struggle. Another thing that bugged me was the outfits that those "teenagers" wore to school. I've never seen a high school student wear a thigh high satin sheath dress to a regular day of school.

Victoria: Like going to fight in a long straight skirt.

Lamounier: Dear lord, if there was something that was consistently bad, it was the fashion. It did get better in season seven, though.

Sunbunny: The 90s were truly a dark time in fashion.

Victoria: Yes, I understand that they tried to get around it in Buffy with Joyce's disbelief, but it still didn't work for me. You're the Vampire Slayer, target numero uno, and you don't tell the people you live with who can invite in evil vampires? At least when Dawn joined the show they made it clear that she knew she was not supposed to let in strangers.

Joseph: I have a theory about this, Victoria. Other Slayers don't seem to have the same problem. At least one Slayer mentioned their parents (the Slayer from China who died at the hands of Spike). Suppose Buffy's unique in this parent-not-knowing thing? Suppose Slayers usually have parents involved in training? Suppose Buffy's first Watcher dying in Hemery also led to her resistance to involve adults? It's not logical but it could be very teen. It would explain why Giles and later Wesley are such dorks — they expect the servitude ground into parents and thus Slayers and have no training at all for Buffy's kind of rebellion.

Maybe Buffy's unique rebellious nature comes from her own historical antecedents. It doesn't explain why Giles didn't tell Joyce when he arrived — something she much later yells at him for. I have a feeling his silence was his way of trying to forge a connection with Buffy, who was traumatized and difficult to reach, something Giles himself sympathized with because of his background. All told, Joyce found out two years after the events at Hemery (Buffy's awakening as a Slayer) and moving to Sunnydale. Thoughts?

Victoria: There are many ways to explain it, but none of them work well for me. You (and your family) are the target of blood-sucking killers. You warn them. How can you not? If they express disbelief (likely) you make a demonstration of your superhuman strength, and even show them a vampire or two if needed. But I am assuming that there are vampires and vampire slayers, so I am in a different world than all the hero-based shows that keep those in danger in the dark.

Josie: I think the events of the terrible episode "Normal Again" clarify some of these answers: Buffy tried to talk to her parents about vampires, and they thought she was crazy. I can see why she didn't push the issue, especially considering any guilt issues she might have had about the divorce (which she seemed to feel partly responsible for) and the move to Sunnydale (which Joyce tells her was due to Buffy burning down her school gym in LA).

Victoria: That is one of the best explanations out there, but coming so late in the series (sixth year) and having not been referred to earlier (unless I missed something), it feels retrofitted.

Joseph: It's also possible that outside of Hellmouths vamps aren't that common and Buffy couldn't just reach out and grab a Spike equivalent.

I forgot about "Normal Again." I hate that episode.

Well, I mean I do agree with you — this is just me trying to understand the intended emotional arc for Buffy. What I think is that if a person becomes convinced viscerally, after friends and allies die, that people who find out about their world get killed (like her friends and enemies in LA and the boy she meets in Episode One) and that the convinced person convinces herself she can control the situation by maintaining silence and is confident in her ability to get all the baddies, it might make sense to them: I do not come from that background. Nor do I agree with the decision.

The secrecy vibe made no sense for me with Iris and Barry on The Flash for the very reason you state and likewise with Oliver and Thea [on Arrow] and the shows somewhat reward the rejecting of that much of the superhero secrecy by turning both Iris and Thea into strong allies once they learn the truth. Just like Joyce was when she was fully able to provide support to Buffy as the Slayer.

I think the overall morality of BtVS demonstrably spotlights the decision to hide the truth as a bad choice on Buffy's part and 'agrees' with you — and me — on this. I think Buffy pays for her choice to hide from her mother — and Giles pays, too. Even by the episode "Restless" the show was still exploring Joyce's role in Buffy's life and the lives of her friends. It took almost three years for them to get their relationship really strong again. I do wish the show had showcased how Giles and Joyce reconciled but one weakness of BTVS was how often fights took the place of emotional character development (even as I recognize how effective they were at dramatizing and symbolizing relationships.)

9 comments:

sunbunny said...

I can attribute some of the inconsistencies, especially those related to Joyce, to the monks' interference. Maybe they fiddled around with things when they inserted Dawn.

The thing that bugs me the most hands down is the inconsistencies around vampire's souls. Like...pre-soul Spike was totally different than Angelus. Soulless!Spike loved Buffy, cared about Dawn, etc. Angelus was super evil. And then everything Spike did without a soul was his fault but no one ever blamed Angel for Angelus's actions? It still bothers me, honestly. And what happens to a person when they're vamped? Are they completely gone, replaced by a demon as is stated in Lie to Me because Angelus still had Liam's memories and Daddy issues. Ditto for Spike and William (replace Daddy with Mommy).

magritte said...

I felt like the biggest inconsistencies were with the vampire lore. Not only do we see them smoke, hear them breathe, and I think I even remember seeing Angel's breath, they sometimes get affected by poisons being injected into their presumably nonexistent circulatory system.

And you're absolutely right about the souls thing. The explanation in Lie to Me can't be right. In addition to sunbunny's examples, Drusilla remained mad, and still had the sight, after becoming a vampire. For it to make any sense, there has to be some kind of fusion with the human soul. Harmony doesn't seem much changed at all as a vampire. Maybe Angel is simply in denial that he has nothing in common with Angelus, and when human just represses his darker traits.

While Supernatural has not had as interesting vampires--really the only vampire character of note was Benny--at least the lore is consistent.

Josie Kafka said...

There is a Twitter account devoted to Bad Buffy Outfits: https://twitter.com/badbuffyoutfits?lang=en

For what it's worth, I agree that many of the outfits were awful. But I've always loved Season Four for the long skirts and tank tops, which is exactly what I wore in that era (Buffy and I are the same age), although of course my versions had less embellishments, decoupage, and whatever else they plastered onto themselves that year.

Juliette said...

I felt there was a massive inconsistency in attitudes towards characters' past evil deeds - not only the continuing to blame Spike for his soulless actions, which was maddening, but even worse - Anya CHOSE to become a vengeance demon and didn't express one iota of remorse until 'Selfless', and yet she and Xander can get engaged and live together, but the thought of Buffy so much as kissing Spike it totally wrong? Hmpf. See my general complaints about season 6!

On the other hand, I seem to be the only person who really likes Normal Again!

TJ said...

Except for a few bumps, I think one of the things I loved about Buffy was the consistencies. There were lots and lots of quotes to earlier episodes, and Selfless is a great example of how they didn't forget the little details (Xander's lie in season 2 comes to mind). So for me, the inconsistencies loses 100-1. Not many shows even remember what happened last month!

Sera said...

Ahh how I love those Buffy discussions... Makes me want to dust off my DVD set and pay a visit to Sunnydale again :)
I agree on the vampire lore and want to add: How do they EAT? Not only blood obviously, but Spike eats and drinks human stuff to. How?!
I think the breathing can be explained away. The actors need to breath and it might be hard to film outside in the cold without the breath showing. I read a lot of fanfiction that explained that as the vamps faking being human to easier blend in and hunt people. Works for me.
The soul issue however... being a hardcore Spuffy shipper, that drove me N-U-T-S. Especially Angel! As far as I remember, he wasn't exactly a pleasant human while still alife as Liam, so how come he's Mr. Perfect as a vampire with a soul?

The biggest inconsistancy: Seeing red. Spike's characterization. Years, even decades later, it puzzles and bugs me. That never made any sense to me.

Lamounier said...

I like "Normal Again" too, Juliette. :) But I hate the retcon that establishes that Buffy told Joyce about vampires before "Becoming". I disregard it because it makes no sense.

magritte said...

Juliette, while I agree with some of your complaints about Season 6, I have to disagree on Spike in Seeing Red. Maybe you need to re-watch Buffy's treatment of him in Gone? She's been brutally toying with him, and physically and emotionally abusing him for weeks. He's completely powerless in the relationship: she's physically stronger than him and much less emotionally involved in their relationship. His only bargaining chip is threatening to reveal their relationship. I don't think it's out of character for him to try to assert himself, and how else can he do it? And with Buffy's back-and-forth I hate you--let's do it oscillations, how can he really tell whether no means no this time or not, except by testing her? After all, she can force him to stop physically, and they both know it. He's trying to prove that she really does belong with him in the dark, and believes it himself; he doesn't think it's rape. Granted, many real life rapists have probably persuaded themselves that "she really wanted it", but they probably weren't dealing with women who could kick their ass.

Marianna said...

I agree with magritte regarding Spike. It's important to remember that although Spike is highly intelligent he's also highly impulsive and that makes him not think about the consequences of his actions. As he says on Angel http://www.douxreviews.com/2002/06/angel-in-dark.html "I had a plan. A good plan, smart plan, carefully laid out. But, I got bored." He's also highly driven by his emotions, especially love, which is what takes over here. All he can think is that he loves Buffy and he has to prove to Buffy that she loves him too no matter what. He's not thinking about any consequences of his actions because Spike is thinking with his heart not his head.