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Old January 16 2014, 08:08 PM   #1
Apple Goblin
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Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Mental Illness really isn't a stranger to Buffy The Vampire Slayer; season five featured mental illness as a strong theme, with Glory's instability and trail of catatonic 'victims', and season six had a strong focus on depression and addiction. The protagonists in most sci-fi shows are shown to be somehow ill or defective. Nothing new, really

However, I've always been dumbfounded by Buffy's deep, unrelenting depression. It's never really talked about - and Buffy, by far, is the craziest, most unbalanced person on the show. She's even crazier than Glory or Willow, and that's saying something. Willow, Glory and even the angry, vile thing known as Xander Harris act out at various stages. Buffy never does. Instead she holds everything in and dies inside until she quite literally dies, only to be resurrected by greedy Willow... then B literally becomes living death.

I watched Buffy when I was a child and I always got a weird vibe. Charmed, Angel, most of the Star Trek series...they all had a charm to them. So did Buffy The Vampire Slayer, only the charm was evil. There was always a weird undercurrent to Sunnydale and Buffy's slaying that made me just uncomfortable enough to change the channel. I realize now that that something was Buffy's deeply disturbed psychology.

2.1 "When She Was Bad" - Buffy returns to school showing textbook signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. She snaps at Angel, sexually teases Xander and then blows him off, is vicious towards Cordelia, and most notably continues to have nightmares that the Master might come back to life and kill her. And guess what? NONE of her friends, with the exception of maybe Giles and Cordelia, recognize her suffering. Only when Buffy has a mini-mental breakdown by smashing the Master's bones in fit of fearful anger. (Off topic: in this episode, Xander nonchalantly threatens to kill Buffy. Gross, gross, GROSS!)

3.1 "Anne" - Buffy runs away from home without telling even her friends (can't say I blame her), then returns, only to try to run away a second time. It's unstable behavior, and Buffy isn't being abused at home. Even considering Angel's death, this instability is quite extreme. Of course, Buffy is judged horribly and nobody bothers to get her the help she desperately needs.

3.9 "The Wish" - An alternative reality Buffy bears an uncanny resemblance to Faith - stoic, cynical and kinda dead inside. Looks like she had the time of her life getting her neck broken.

5.21 "The Weight of the World" - Another episode where Buffy's over-the-top reaction to Dawn's abduction can only be ascribed to some sort of deep psychological trauma. Buffy goes into a state of catatonia. Willow uses a spell to see into Buffy's mind, where Buffy relives the deed of smothering Dawn to death with a pillow. Even in her mind, Buffy's emotions are deeply suppressed, with Buffy neither taking pleasure in or feeling guilty about murdering Dawn, though her mind seems to cling to this delusion so she can preserve her catatonia. It's a good prelude for her modus operandi in season six.

5.22 "The Gift" Buffy's cynical words of 'wisdom'; "the hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it." Frightening suicidal ideation that will worsen in episodes to come.

6.12 "Doublemeat Palace" - Buffy now works in a fast-food joint. On her break, she has sex with Spike in an alleyway. This is not sane behaviour. This is somebody who is burying their self-loathing behind various sexual rendezvous and fast-food.

6.13 "Dead Things" - Buffy, in an episode with eerie parallels to Faith's character arc, is convinced she killed a civilian. She's not hypocritical in that she turns herself in, but she does go slightly over the edge, just like Faith. She beats Spike into a pulp, renouncing him as being 'dead' and 'nothing', and seems to get some sort of sick release from pulverizing him (much like Faith did in season three when she used to beat up vamps for release). Amusing is the fact that Buffy immediately pointed out that "Faith is not playing with a full deck of cards" back in season three..yet in this episode, Buffy replicates the behavior she previously judged Faith for.

6.17 "Normal Again" - This harrowing episode is the biggest clue into Buffy's diseased mind. Yes, the whole 'alternate reality in a mental institution' plot has been done before in most sci-fi shows, but what's interesting about this one is that

A) The possibility of Buffy suffering from catatonic schizophrenia is presented as a possibility (unlike in say, Charmed, where we know it's just a demonic illusion).

B) Even if the viewer chooses to not believe in the alternate world, the episode still portrays Buffy as a highly unstable woman who is willing to escape reality by contriving a vastly different fantasy world (one in which she is a center-staged heroine, another where she has no responsibilities whatsoever). It doesn't matter if she contrives World A to escape World B, because in World B she's contriving to escape World A. either way, she's sick.

The pent up resentment she has for Dawn and her friends is also made evident here, storing them in her subconcious (the basement), as is the trauma of losing her mother.

Lastly, Buffy's chilling confession to Willow reveals Buffy has a history of mental illness (wrongfully diagnosed):

WILLOW: Buffy, look at me. You are not in an institution. You have never been in an institution.
BUFFY: Yes, I have.
WILLOW: What?
BUFFY: Back when I saw my first vampires... I got so scared. I told my parents... and they completely freaked out. They thought there was something seriously wrong with me. So they sent me to a clinic.
WILLOW: You never said anything.
BUFFY: I was only there a couple of weeks. I stopped talking about it, and they let me go. Eventually... my parents just... forgot."
WILLOW: God, that's horrible.
BUFFY: (crying) What if I'm still there? What if I never left that clinic?
The irony is that Buffy was committed to a clinic for telling the truth - it's an obvious trauma, one that contributes towards her deranged fantasies in this episode. Joyce was an excellent character but she fundamentally failed to meet her daughters psychological needs on more than one occasion.

6.21 "Two To Go" - Willow sums it up.

DARK WILLOW: [to Buffy] Please! This is your pitch? You hate it here as much as I do! I'm just more honest about it. You're trying to sell me on the world? The one where you lie to your friends when you're not trying to kill them? Where you screw a vampire just to feel and insane asylums are the comfy alternative? This world? Buffy, it's me! I know you were happier when you were in the ground. The only time you were ever at peace in your whole life was when you were dead. Until Willow brought you back. You know, with magic?
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Old January 16 2014, 09:35 PM   #2
Trekker4747
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Mentally Ill Protagonists #1: Dexter.

He's a serial murderer. No, it doesn't matter he only kills bad people who are murderers themselves. He's still a serial killer.
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Old January 16 2014, 09:36 PM   #3
Saga
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

this sort of analysis would be more fun if you were to take on more challenging characters. such as Gilligan, Mister Ed or KITT.
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Old January 16 2014, 09:51 PM   #4
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Breaking news: repeated horrible trauma can be damaging to mental health. Film at 11.
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Old January 16 2014, 09:53 PM   #5
SpocksLeftEar
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

So ... what?
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Old January 16 2014, 09:59 PM   #6
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Buffy's evil cos she knows exactly what she's doing - bitch is a living-supremacist genocidal maniac, with psychosexual addiction/self-loathing problems as a bonus.

Which actually makes her very - personality and psychology-wise - like Heinrich Kramer, author of the legendary Malleus Maleficarum, which is one of the most genocidal bits of misogyny (Gynocidal? is that a word) texts in history...

It's at times like this that I really wish they hadn't stopped doing Buffy novels just as I got into the show...

ETA - uh, yeah, just remembered my Av... Might be biased!
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Old January 16 2014, 10:28 PM   #7
The Dominion
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Apple Goblin wrote: View Post
This is somebody who is burying their self-loathing behind various sexual rendezvous and fast-food.
She's the next Hitler!
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Old January 16 2014, 10:30 PM   #8
TayLaLaLa
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Loved Buffy Summers!
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Old January 16 2014, 10:42 PM   #9
Misfit Toy
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Apple Goblin, are you suggesting that someone who is mentally ill cannot also be a hero? You consider mental illness to be "evil"?
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Old January 17 2014, 12:32 AM   #10
Hound of UIster
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

It's amazing how you can use some of the worst moments of the show to build a case that she was crazy. Really goes to show how bad season 6 was.
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Old January 17 2014, 12:36 AM   #11
Wereghost
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Lonemagpie wrote: View Post
Buffy's evil cos she knows exactly what she's doing - bitch is a living-supremacist genocidal maniac, with psychosexual addiction/self-loathing problems as a bonus.
And, on occasion, a self-righteous pain to boot.

Right, I think we're done.
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Old January 17 2014, 01:33 AM   #12
Turtletrekker
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Buffy was not perfect and she was certainly no angel (I groan with the rest of you at my un-intentional pun) but that just made her human. Nobody goes through life, even with the best of intentions, without doing the wrong thing or fucking up once in a while.

Buffy was willing to (and did) sacrifice herself for the well-being of others. That is the essence of a hero.
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Old January 17 2014, 03:49 AM   #13
Captain Qwert Jr
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Apple Goblin, All of the points you make are true, but it was actually one of the strengths of the show. With all the crap in her life reaching critical mass in season 6.
Unfortunately, they could never get her out of the hole they dug for her.

I blame the influence Marvel Comics had on Whedon. Pouring so much shit on the head of the protagonist till you start thinking. "You know, maybe it's you Peter Parker. Stop being such a toxic asshole."

Last edited by Captain Qwert Jr; January 17 2014 at 09:08 PM.
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Old January 17 2014, 04:36 AM   #14
Hound of UIster
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Well season 6 and season 7, he really wasn't that involved. Of course it could also be argued he burnt out around then.
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Old January 17 2014, 08:16 AM   #15
Apple Goblin
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Re: Mentally Ill Protagonists #1 - Buffy Summers

Misfit Toy wrote: View Post
Apple Goblin, are you suggesting that someone who is mentally ill cannot also be a hero? You consider mental illness to be "evil"?
I'm not saying that. Her constant heroics, however, might actually be adding to her already serious psychological damage.

Buffy NEEDS help. No wonder she was so intimidated by Faith, who acts out her pain in various inappropriate ways. Buffy needs helps but her friends and family never get it for her. When was the last time you saw Buffy smile a genuine smile that wasn't laced with irony? Why are the lights in her eyes dimmed? Why doesn't she seem to fit in anywhere she goes? She's a bigger outcast than Willow because at least Willow has her Wicca friends and narcissistic tendencies. Buffy's deep depression makes me uneasy just to think of it.

Last edited by Apple Goblin; January 17 2014 at 08:28 AM.
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