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18 May 2006 @ 12:18 pm
2.1: When She Was Bad  
Welcome to the start of our discussion for season 2! Sorry for the delay in getting the discussion start posted. Look for a poll/discussion later this week about the posting days, how the two-episode a week format is going, and for a call for volunteer discussion leaders with details about posing topics and questions.

And now, on to 2.1: When She Was Bad:

Cordelia: What an ordeal. And you know what the worst part is?
Jenny: What?
Cordelia: It stays with you forever. No matter what they tell you, none of that rust and blood and grime comes out. I mean, you can dry clean till judgment day, you are living with those stains.
Jenny: Yeah that's the worst part of being hung upside down by a vampire who wants to slit your throat: the stains.
Cordelia: I hear ya!


Below the cut you'll find a series of topics that we might take up as we talk about episode 1.12: Prophecy Girl. All of the prompts and questions are there to spark discussion. If they're useful or interesting to you, go ahead and respond to any aspect of them.

But please feel free to bring up anything else that interests you in our conversations about this episode, and definitely chime in on any thread/comment to get into a discussion already in progress. You can bring in earlier or later episodes, or any topic at all, as long as it somehow relates to the episode under discussion.



2.1: When She Was Bad
Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
U.S. Airdate: September 15, 1997



1. Demons and Analogies
Cordelia: So, did you guys fight any demons this summer?
Willow: Uh, yes! Our own personal demons.
Xander: Uh, such as, as, as lust and, uh, thrift!

Are there shifts between season one and season two in how demons are figured as baddies-of-the-week versus something more? Does this episode, which very much does concern Buffy's personal demons, inaugurate a new way of dealing with the demon-to-adolescent-problem analogy, or simply advance a way of dramatizing problems through genre that's already been established?


2. Slayer Stuff
Buffy: Look, this is Slayer stuff, okay? Could we have just a little less from the civilians, please?
In a related but slightly different issue, how have we been instructed the Slayer + Slayerette relationship works so far (or for that matter, the Watcher + Slayer relationship)? Does this episode reaffirm our ideas, expand them, or change them entirely? How does Buffy's conception of Slayer versus civilians inform her behavior in this episode and more generally?


3. Reading Danger
Willow: Well, what about the rest of the note?
Buffy: What rest of the note?
Willow: The part that says, 'P.S. This is a trap'?

Who runs interference with Buffy, and how? If a major part of this episode is not only reintroducing Buffy but dealing with, as Giles says, her "issues", then in what ways do the different characters sympathize with her, challenge her, react to her? How does this set the stage in marking changes since s1? Changes to come? How adept is Buffy at reading threatening situations? Where does she shine, and where does she lack for appropriate responses? What about other characters and their ability to read/misread threats or challenges?


4. Buffy & Angel
Buffy: You think you can take me?
Angel: What?
Buffy: Oh, c'mon! I mean, you must've thought about it. What would happen if it ever came down to a fight, you vampire, me the Slayer, I mean, you must've wondered! Well, why don't we find out?
Angel: I'm not gonna fight you.
Buffy: Come on! Kick my ass!

Well, well. *pauses to let this sink in*
And here we have in many ways the theme of the season -- Buffy and Angel, the status of their relationship, can he "take her", what will happen if he does, are they all sexual burn, and/or part adversaries already? This is such a rich moment -- what do you make of it?


Other Potential Topics: Buffy's dream; Buffy & Xander's sexy dance; changing methods of dealing with vampires; Xander/Buffy/Willow issues; the role of ceremony and sacrifice; Joss Whedon's second round of directing, and continuation of writing/directing from "Prophecy Girl"
 
 
 
zandra_x on May 19th, 2006 01:51 am (UTC)
Well, first of all, you have to admit that everybody looks beautiful in the second season. All so young and fresh.

I think the treatment here of Buffy as heroine has got to be unique in television. She is allowed to be wrong, to reject her friends and then put them in danger because of her stubbornness. Most always the lead character in a tv is shown to be the one who remains clear-headed and reasonable while everyone else fumbles about.

And we have the reinforcement of the idea that when Buffy is afraid, she chooses, instead, to show anger. She shows a lot of displacement of emotion, lashing out at Xander and Willow, projecting Giles as the Master and the one who killed her in her dream, trying to reduce Angel to just another vampire.

There is something that always struck me as very dark about this episode: Buffy torturing the female vamp before killing her. Again, torture is something you don't see the hero (or heroine) do very often. Is it ok to do because it's 'just a vampire'? Is anything Buffy chooses to do ok, because she has right on her side? For myself, that's a pretty slippery slope.

Buffy, for me, is a hard character to embrace because she has a tendency to lie to herself about what she's feeling. She does it later with Spike and in this episode, she does it about her fear and about Angel. If Angel and she did get into a fight in the alley, I'm betting it would have ended up pretty much like "Smashed". It's funny how her serious attraction to men usually involves violence between the two of them.

I love Xander for standing up to her; this might have been a profound reassessment time for him concerning his feelings for Buffy.

I love the dialogue at the very end when Xander talks about 'miniature golf'. And I submit that nobody could sleep on the crocheted pillowcases that Buffy has on her bed, not without have a pattern engraved on their cheek in the morning.
(Deleted comment)
zandra_x on May 19th, 2006 07:35 pm (UTC)
I know, crocheted pillow cases! Sometimes that show just isn't realistic!!!
your royal pie-ness: oh noes!entrenous88 on May 23rd, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
Have you heard about those new courdoroy pillows?
your royal pie-ness: buffy chosen oneentrenous88 on May 23rd, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
I like that too, that Buffy is allowed to experience the impact of what happened to her at the end of s1, and not handle it perfectly. And it's nice there's not a mess-ups versus completely capable formulation either in terms of the characters. They all make missteps; this just happens to be an episode in which Buffy missteps and strikes out with particular pain.

YES, I'm so glad you brought up the vampire torture. That's what I was hoping someone might raise when I mentioned changing methods of dealing with vampires as a potential topic. It's incredibly startling, seen in context, when Buffy seems completely prepared for this, when it's nothing we've ever seen her do before. It's a great register of how badly she is doing at this point emotionally, as well as the greater ruthlessness of her as a fighter from s2 onward.
zandra_x on May 23rd, 2006 08:08 pm (UTC)
Vampire torture. In Teacher's Pet, Buffy takes the big vampire from house to house to see his reaction. He's so scared of the big bug that he senses her presences and starts to quake. No doubt, after subjecting him to this, Buffy dusts him, though that happens off screen. As does the dusting of the female vamp in this episode.

I think these are murky waters to get into, in the sense of Buffy's own interior life. Torturing another always leaves a mark on the torturer. To do it you must come to believe that they are less than you, that you are always right. That's why the soul in Angel becomes so important to Buffy, I think. It's the only justification for not killing him. After all, she waits for newly-risen vamps who haven't hurt any one, but rejects claims that justice demands that Angel die for the things he has done in the past.
tx_cronopio: evilwes tks to littleilly!tx_cronopio on May 20th, 2006 03:22 am (UTC)
Well, first of all, so weighing in with the crocheted pillow thing. That has bugged me forever. I know crochet, and you don't sleep on it! It did look good, but...

Ah, this was the episode that started off my very complex relationship with the character Buffy. For me, she's like one of those acquaintances that you admire in some ways, you want to keep in touch with because she's so interesting, but you never want to trust.

I find this episode difficult to watch. Yeah, Buffy had to meet the master, and more importantly, face the realization that her own death was always going to be a possibility....oh, wait. That's something we all face every day, if we are awake and aware. And her friends got hung upside down and threatened with death, and had to face that, but Buffy gets to be the only one who is self-absorbed and fairly nasty. To me, it's a foreshadowing of later events in the series. This is the episode that foretells so many things in Season 5,6,7.

I know this is anathema, but hey, entrenous88 said all opinions were welcome. This was the episode where I started to lose respect and trust for Buffy. It took a long time, it was a slow process, but this was where it started. And I just have to end by saying go Joss Whedon, for making a heroine who is allowed to be flawed.
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on May 20th, 2006 03:33 am (UTC)
Oops, forgot to say something. I would have dealt with her behavior in this episode better had she acknowledged it, much as she did in early S3 (oh what was the name of that ep, where she frets with Giles about having lost all her friends...), but in S2, there's never an indication from Giles, or from her friends, or even from the omniscient narrator that is Joss that she isn't perfect. That bothered me.
your royal pie-ness: buffy iconentrenous88 on May 23rd, 2006 06:40 pm (UTC)
Interesting -- do you think her conversation with Giles, when she says that she can't face Xander and Willow, because she knows she put them in mortal danger, is less of an acknowledgement than seems necessary? Genuinely curious here; I'd always thought she addressed that worry really well there, and sees with shame what her actions led to.
lizzygir3lizzygir3 on May 22nd, 2006 07:34 pm (UTC)
This was the episode where I started to lose respect and trust for Buffy. It took a long time, it was a slow process, but this was where it started. And I just have to end by saying go Joss Whedon, for making a heroine who is allowed to be flawed.

I'm with you on the cheering for Joss not making Buffy perfect but I don't understand why you'd lose respect for her because of it. We make excuses for every other character's flaws and can still respect them but not with Buffy?

I respect her because of her flaws, because in the end she always fights against them and doesn't give into them like say Faith.

To me Buffy's anger towards her friends, her Watcher and Angel is pretty easily comprehensible. In season 1 and early season 2 Buffy has yet to come to grips with the Slaying and what it all means for her. And she just wishes to have the normal lives that Willow and Xander still had back then. This is why she's so unnerved by their silly jokes and everything else, because she can't have all that.
And Giles is the one who keeps her at it, or so she still thinks. He "makes" her do this job. And in a way contributed to her almost dying at the Master's hands.
And as for Angel, well he belongs to the people she is meant to kill, she has feelings for him, and she doesn't know if she can really trust him. Oh and there is the little fact of him being all for the idea of Buffy facing the Master even if that means her death. Who wouldn't be at least a little bit pissed off?
your royal pie-nessentrenous88 on May 23rd, 2006 06:50 pm (UTC)
It's really interesting to hear how different viewers react to Buffy here. I find her behavior hard to watch in the episode, and I don't like it, but my heart aches for her at the same time. She's so very young, and she's already gone through this trauma -- her only way of dealing with it so far is pushing it aside and saying at least it won't happen again. But when the spectre of dealing with the Master once more arises, not in a comparable situation, but bringing the actual guy back, it makes tons of sense to me that she'd lash out, react strongly, make poor decisions, and hurt herself and her friends.

I know many viewers who point to different character behaviors during the high school years, not just with Buffy but with Willow and Xander, and bring that to the table in an examination of how ethical or strong or morally sound the characters are as a whole. And part of me thinks, yes, let's bring behaviors to the table, because that's what we have to go on. But another part thinks, man, they're so young, and adolescence is such a rough time. People do stupid things and make terrible choices. That's not a write-off of those behaviors, but it seems really worth taking into consideration.
lizzygir3lizzygir3 on May 23rd, 2006 07:54 pm (UTC)
I find her behavior hard to watch in the episode, and I don't like it, but my heart aches for her at the same time.

That's different with me, I love Buffy getting bitchier. For me the appeal in BtVS always was that they have very imperfect characters who have to struggle to do the right thing. And this episode illustrates it better than most in the early seasons so it's one of my favorites.
your royal pie-ness: buffy double (beneathgulmissy)entrenous88 on May 23rd, 2006 06:43 pm (UTC)
Oh, and definitely, all opinions absolutely welcome.

It's definitely intriguing to me to hear from someone who dislikes Buffy try to pinpoint where that process began for them.

I see your point that people everywhere face bad things, though it does seem that the bad Buffy faces is particularly nasty. Just on a scale of things, the impact seems justifiably more extreme to me because the experience was more extreme. She's asked to do things that other people are never asked to do, told she has to play the hero because she's slated for it whether she likes it or not.

Anyway, it's certainly interesting to consider a range of points of view here -- thanks so much for weighing in.
aycheb: buffiesaycheb on May 20th, 2006 07:26 am (UTC)
I remember watching this episode and feeling that things had stepped up a notch. On the shallow side SMG was noticeably fitter looking but also this was the Buffy character’s first major break from textbook hero, as instead of just going on to the next stage of Campbell’s metamythological journey her death in Prohecy Girl has real and lingering consequences. So if what follows may come across as a little over defensive of the character I apologise.


Buffy, for me, is a hard character to embrace because she has a tendency to lie to herself about what she's feeling. She does it later with Spike and in this episode, she does it about her fear and about Angel.

I see it more that she’s a character who has conflicting feelings about things. Some of these feelings like anger and fear cancel each other out. Some feelings are just better repressed. Sexual attraction to Spike would be one of those given that when she doesn’t love him and hates what he is, has done and would do again without regret.


Buffy had to meet the master, and more importantly, face the realization that her own death was always going to be a possibility....oh, wait. That's something we all face every day, if we are awake and aware. And her friends got hung upside down and threatened with death, and had to face that, but Buffy gets to be the only one who is self-absorbed and fairly nasty.

I think there’s a difference between Buffy and most of the rest of us. Yes we all have to face up to our own mortality, although 16 is young for that fact to be hammered in as literally as it was for Buffy. But she doesn’t just face death as a simple consequence of being alive, she goes out and actively risks it every night she patrols. When the other scoobies put their lives on the lines they’re heroes, for Buffy she’s just doing her job. When other people stay in for the night or take a holiday it goes unmarked, when Buffy does that she’s a bad person for failing to do what’s expected, what she expects of herself. To save the world because no-one else can.

I would have dealt with her behavior in this episode better had she acknowledged it, much as she did in early S3 (oh what was the name of that ep, where she frets with Giles about having lost all her friends...), but in S2, there's never an indication from Giles, or from her friends, or even from the omniscient narrator that is Joss that she isn't perfect.

Well the name of the episode is When She Was Bad, doesn’t that count as a mark of Jossian disapproval? In the final scene Buffy seems utterly ashamed of the way she’s behaved, it would be kind of redundant for Giles and the others to tell her how she done wrong. But this is probably the reason I like Buffy and like her more and more as the series progresses. To me she always seems all too aware of her faults. She has very high standards for herself that she fails to live up to but she goes on and doing what she can in spite of that.


your royal pie-ness: buffy double (beneathgulmissy)entrenous88 on May 23rd, 2006 06:57 pm (UTC)
That's a great comment, and something I hadn't thought of specifically, that the title of the episode is a type of judgement. It also implies its corollary, that "when she was good, she was very good indeed" (since Joss gave us the latter part of that same nursery rhyme).

So yes, it's judgement -- this isn't good behavior, this is a bad way to handle things. Further, it's a marker -- when she was bad of course implies that she's not bad all the time. This isn't typical Buffy way of handling herself. The situation has been drastic and urgent, and this is an extreme reaction to it.

And to me it's also a really exciting mark of a complex character. She can be amazing, heroic, but also petty and harsh when she's threatened.
JG: Buffy by mara_shojgracio on May 21st, 2006 08:43 pm (UTC)
This was the episode where I started to lose respect and trust for Buffy.
That never happened to me, but I wouldn't want to be her friend.

Difficult episode to watch. I'm unsure what we're supposed to make of Buffy's behavior in this ep, granted she's young, so we can't expect her to be perfect, but she seems to either want to punish the people that are closest to her or push them away from her, when they've been nothing but supportive.

This episode, S7, and the Wishverse Buffy have painted a Buffy that's very much a "Doesn't play well with others" person.
your royal pie-nessentrenous88 on May 23rd, 2006 06:51 pm (UTC)
I agree with you here, that she's in part reacting this way because she's still so young and doesn't have good strategies to deal with/protect people when she's the thing they need to deal with or be protected from.
belleimani on May 23rd, 2006 05:54 pm (UTC)
First I love this community. Second, I think the seeds for not just the Buffy/Angel dynamic but for all the Scoobies relationships with each other and how they treat the world around them all the way to Season Seven are laid out here.
The torture of the vamp. Buffy's combatitive/sexual relationship with Spike.
The double/triple standards?
All laid out here.
your royal pie-ness: buffy so flyentrenous88 on May 23rd, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC)
Glad you're liking the discussions!
belleimani on May 23rd, 2006 08:06 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, love having brain food!