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Old March 28 2009, 07:07 AM   #91
Rii
Rear Admiral
 
Location: Adelaide
Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Hermiod wrote: View Post
She spent a thousand years killing men because one cheated on her, but that's okay, she said sorry.
That's just it, that's not why she did it. "Selfless" was about the fact that Anya lacked a sense of self, that her life had been defined almost entirely through externalities.

Anya didn't spend thousands of years avenging the wrongs of men because a man cheated on her, she walked that path for a thousand years because nothing deflected her from it. She embarked upon that path not only because Olaf cheated on her and she was furious, but because she'd defined herself through her relationship with him, once that was gone she had nothing left and took the first rope offered to her - by D'Hoffryn.

Notice her drastic shifts in sociopolitical thought. With Olaf she believes in the power of charity, in Russia amidst the revolution she believes in socialism, when thrust into 21st century America she becomes a died-in-the-wool capitalist. Anya reflects her environment to such a frightening (and amusing) degree because she has no internal anchor, no sense of self.

We see the same pattern repeated in her relationship with Xander. Her identity as a vengeance demon is thrown into chaos when Giles strips her of her powers and again she latches on to the first rope offered - Xander - and goes on to define herself through her relationship with him, the extent of which is made clear by Anya herself in "Selfless" during the flashback to "Once More, with Feeling":

I'm just lately Anya
Not very much to the world, I know
All these years with nothing to show
I've boned a troll, I've wreaked some wrath,
But on the whole, I've had no path
I like to bowl, I'm good with math,
But who am I?
Now I reply
that
I'm the Mrs.
I will be his Mrs.
When her relationship with Xander falls apart in S6 she returns to the only path she's previously known, despite her experiences with Xander and the other Scoobies having left her obviously uncomfortable with the actions required of a vengeance demon. When she tells Xander to get out of Buffy's way in "Selfless" it's not because she thinks she can beat Buffy, it's because she's discovered that she can no longer be a vengeance demon yet can't envision being anything else, resolving instead to meet her end on her own terms, at the point of Buffy's sword.

The beauty of "Selfless" is that, in the end, it's Xander who sets her free. Anya tells Xander that she doesn't know who she is, that she needs to be alone to find out, yet she doesn't move. She's teetering on the precipice of self-determination and one gets the sense that all Xander needs to do is reach out to her and all that she's struggled with would be undone. Xander, to his credit, gets it. More than that, his love for her is such that he's able and willing to do what she can't: to walk away.

"Selfless" is a relatively subtle and grounded tale of female empowerment that's often lost amidst the more heavy-handed material in the series, and like all such tales in BtVS it refuses to paint men as demons or women as angels, rather as flawed and complex individuals. It's unfortunate that subsequent episodes didn't follow up on it.
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Old March 28 2009, 09:20 AM   #92
Hermiod
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

^It's funny, you say "Selfless" doesn't portray men as demons as women as angels when, in fact, a female demon took the choice to murder a room full of men. I'm not defending the actions the men took to get there, but Anya made a choice, one that she was rapidly forgiven for.

You can only judge people by what they do, and she never hesitated to inflict suffering upon men because Judge Anyanka decided they were in the wrong. We never even got a decent explanation as to why she only went after men. The other Vengeance Demons didn't.
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Old March 28 2009, 09:58 AM   #93
Rii
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Location: Adelaide
Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Hermiod wrote: View Post
^It's funny, you say "Selfless" doesn't portray men as demons as women as angels when, in fact, a female demon took the choice to murder a room full of men. I'm not defending the actions the men took to get there, but Anya made a choice, one that she was rapidly forgiven for.
She was forgiven because the deed was erased, because she was willing to sacrifice her own life to erase it, and because she turned forever from that path at that moment. In the absence of those things Buffy was willing to kill her.

You can only judge people by what they do, and she never hesitated to inflict suffering upon men because Judge Anyanka decided they were in the wrong. We never even got a decent explanation as to why she only went after men. The other Vengeance Demons didn't.
D'Hoffryn recruited her for that purpose:
Anya: "What would I have to do?"
D'Hoffryn: "What you do best. Help wronged women punish evil men."
Anya: "Vengeance."
D'Hoffryn: "But only to those who deserve it."
Anya: "They all deserve it."
D'Hoffryn: "That's where I was going with that, yeah."
Given the immediate context of Olaf's betrayal it's not surprising that Anya would be amenable to this idea, nor is it surprising that, once assigned and accustomed to a niche, she would stick with it. D'Hoffryn's a smart (and hilarious) guy, folks who are personally motivated to do their job tend to be more reliable and dedicated than those who aren't. Anya alleges that Halfrek's speciality is "bad parents", you think she might've had an unhappy childhood?

Once she joins the Scooby gang and hooks up with Xander she discovers that all men don't deserve it. Once she returns to being a vengeance demon she has great difficulty in fulfilling her role, her murder of the frat boys comes in response to heat she's receiving (from Halfrek and D'Hoffryn) for not pulling her weight in the vengeance department. She tells Willow that they deserved it, but she's not trying to convince Willow of that, she's trying to convince herself; she knows it isn't true.
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