Season Ate

The other day, another person wrote asking if I was going to do ATPo analyses of the Season 8 comics. With the usual argument–“Joss says they’re canon!” Yeah. Uh. Joss also once said spatulas were haunting him.

Anyway, leaving aside the fact that a great deal of what’s going on in the comics is just recycling of old villians (and not even the most interesting ones), in a medium (comics) where the sky *ought* to be the limit with new and interesting stuff from the master’s imagination,

one of the main points of ATPo analyses was to explain what the frig is going on in an episode (or issue) and I can’t for the life of me figure it out! Every panel, I’m like…”*Now* where are we?!” “Who’s that?!” “How’d we get from what was just going on to *this*?” “What are they *talking* about!?”

If I can’t understand it, I can’t explain it, and…

I suppose there’s a part of me that wants Season 8 up at ATPo for completeness’ sake, and that’s why I’m even bothering to mention it. ‘Cause, not impressed with it (the paranoid military story line’s kinda cool, but still feels a bit recycled….) for the most part, and, I guess I’m one of those fans who was satisfied with season 7 being the end of the story.

What counts as new canon?

I’ve been puzzling over additions to the Buffyverse canon post-TV. There is a lot of Buffyverse stuff out there. I’m dismissing the novels as fan fic some people get paid for (i.e., non-canon). If they make a movie with any of the actors in it reprising their original roles, I assume that will be canon.

But what about the comics? Which are canon? Which are not? It would be cool to, at some point, expand ATPo to include canonical works, but I don’t want to bother if isn’t canon.

X-posted to ATPo.

Doing a novel synopsis…

I have no problem telling people I’m writing a novel. It makes me sound Interesting at parties. “You’re writing a novel?” But inevitably, people ask me, “What is it about”? They want a 30-second synopsis. Or is it 30 words? Anyway, that’s when I get tongue-tied. I suck at giving synopses, and usually just say lame stuff like, “I don’t know,” or “It’s complicated”, or… I change the subject.

It’s not like I’m embarassed about my novel or anything. It’s just it’s… it’s a character-driven novel with a bit of a complicated plot, and how do you summarize such a thing? Plot-driven novels usually have a concept, or a premise. Something that started the whole writing process in the first place, something the writer is shooting for that lets him/her know when it’s complete.

My novel

All Things Philosophical on Harry Potter

current film: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I’ve been reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and it is a really charming read. Delightful prose, interesting characters, and a magical world that should guarantee that any Buffyverse fan also become a Harry Potter fan (alas, if only the reverse were true as well!)

So as I’m reading the book and walking down the sidewalk simultaneously, I find myself veering over to the video store to rent the movie. The US version of the movie, of course, with its repeated references to the “Sorcerer’s Stone”, because we are woefully ignorant and have never heard of the legend of the Philosopher’s Stone. After all, if it aint practical, it’s just worthless nonsense. And why do philosopher’s need stones, anyway? They’re up there in their ivory towers sucking up student tuition and the working man’s taxes contributing nothing to the economy.

Anyway, I digress. This is only the third time I’ve seen the movie, and I rented the VHS tape from the corner video store instead of netflix ’cause you can’t video tape the feed from a DVD. Ssssh! Don’t tell anyone. It’s not like I’m going to sell copies or anything. I want it for my private collection.

I’m still digressing. OK, so towards the end of the movie, Harry is confronted by Professor Quirrell/Voldemort, who is looking for the aforementioned stone. He is trying to persuade Harry to help him get it, and he thinks Harry is warming up to doing just that. Pleased, he says,

“There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”

This pricks up my ears. Now, I’m only on page 126 of the book, but I sneak ahead to the end and check to see how the scene goes there. Sure enough, these are Rowling’s words as well. Well, words she puts in the mouth of Quirrell/Voldemort.

And it’s interesting. Any Buffyverse fan worth two shakes of philosopher’s salt would recognize that statement. It’s almost word for word what the First Evil says to a trembling, half-crazed souled Spike in “Lessons”:

“It’s not about right. Not about wrong. It’s about power.”

But this isn’t the first time Mutant Enemy has put such words in the mouth of their Big Bads. Jasmine-in-Cordelia or “The Beast’s Master” says the same thing in Season 4 of Angel:

“What does that mean, really? Being good? Doing the right thing? By who’s judgment? Good, evil–they’re just words, Connor. Concepts of morality they forced around your neck to yank you wherever they please. You’re with me now. You don’t have to live by their rules. You remember why?”

Connor: “‘Cause we’re special.”

It was behind Faith’s infamous words in Season 3 of BtVS:

“Want, take, have.”

And her belief that Slayers could do whatever they want by virtue of being stronger than others and saving them from unspeakable demons.

Holland Manners of Wolfram and Hart has a similar philosophy in Season 1 of Angel:

“I’m talking about that sharp, clear sense of self a man gains once he’s truly found his place in the world. It’s no mean feat, since most men are cowards and just move with the crowd. Very few make their own destinies. They have the courage of their convictions, and they know how to behave in a crisis.”

Observing the actions of Wolfram and Hart over the years and the rationalizations they give for them, this is indeed the governing philosophy of the “evil” law firm:

The world is designed for those who know how to use it, those who can control themselves and others. You must find your role in the scheme of things–you are either the user or the used. “Good” and “evil” are mere constructs invented by the losers to feel better about their lot in life. But the weak deserve their lot because they lack of courage to do what they want and take what they want.

One of the reasons Mutant Enemy and Joss provide us with such intelligent shows is because their “evil” characters aren’t running around hurting people for no apparent reason. This is the problem with a lot of books/shows/movies. Trying to figure out the motivations of the bad guy. A lot of two-dimensional bad guys have to be finally just called “megalomaniac evil over-lords” because their actions lack the courage of any convictions.

But this philosophy I’ve been quoting is so compelling as a way of demarcating “bad guys” because it has a certain rational ring to it. Ultimately, this philosophy comes down to self-interest, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to serve your own. Indeed, many would not call this a “philosophy” at all, they’d call it “Reality. That’s just the way things are.”

Who says there’s any “Good” or “Evil”? These are social constructs that every society defines differently, by the way. Look around at nature and at human life, and all you see are plants, animals and people pursuing their self-interest, even these so-called “heroes” who believe in “Good”.

If you want to use such an outlook on life as a way of demarcating the bad guys from the good guys, it becomes a very rational way to tempt the morally upright, law-abiding hero into doing things s/he’s been taught are wrong. Especially if they use “any means necessary” to accomplish ends they think are “good”.

And so Faith tempts Buffy.
Voldemort tempts Harry (you were wondering when I’d get back to Harry Potter, right?)

And the fact that both Rowling and Mutant Enemy have seized on this philosophy as a way of explaining their “bad guys” outlook makes me think their Hero’s struggle is also the struggle of western society at large.

Taking the red pill

The Matrix starts out with intriguing promise: you know exactly where it’s going–Neo’s world isn’t real–but that’s cool. You want to see what they’ll do with that, especially after Morpheus says to him,

“You’ve felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind.”

Then he wakes up in that vat in the “real world” and it’s so chilling!

After that, the movie falls into a familiar ennui-filled post-apocalyptic sci-fi mode that is broken only by action!packed moments of gratuitous violence. The basic premise behind the future world is incredibly lame–machines harvesting people for energy? Puh-lease. There are much more efficient ways to create energy. This was something someone made up at the last minute to have an excuse to keep humans locked up in virtual reality.

The philosophical quandary the movie’s premise turns on is also nothing new. It’s a contemporary spin on an empiricist brain-teaser that’s been around since the 17th century–“just because we can sense things with our five senses, does that make them real?” Philosophers call this “problem of the external world”. Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s “Normal Again“, in which Buffy is shown switching disorientingly back and forth between the story world we’ve come to know on the show where she is a small-town superhero, and another life, in which she is institutionalized and only imagines she’s a small-town superhero, did a better job of driving home that philosophical dilemma and its existential horror.

The one genuine truth to come out of this movie is the absurdity of our socially constructed reality. When I was a teenager, I had this fantasy that I suddenly fell and found myself looking back up at my life as if it was a play on a stage. At that moment, I realized that everyone around me, including myself, was an actor playing a role. Suddenly I didn’t know what was real, what was genuine, what was “really me” or “really you,” or if asking for genuineness was even meaningful. You see, unlike The Matrix or “Normal Again”, there is (probably) no conspiracy of machines or demons or other sinister Others creating a false reality for us: we do it to ourselves. We create social rules and mores, roles and constructs for each other, and we create them as individuals for ourselves. And we do it because we’re programmed by nature and nurture to have this deep need for a solid “reality” to live in.

That’s why Normal Again demonstrated the philosophical “problem of the external world” better than The Matrix. Because when Cypher says he wishes he’d taken the blue pill, you know he knows he’s accepting a lie. He wants to live a lie, and it’s made quite clear in the universe of the movie that the world create by the machines is the false world. Buffy is never quite sure which world is the real world. Both worlds–the world of the Sunnydale superhero, and the world of the asylum–are presented by the narrative as in some sense products of her mind and her conflicted needs. Not for Cypher. In the narrative of The Matrix, there is a real world and a fake world in the absolute metaphysical sense, and neither is a product of his needs and wants, he simply chooses one over the other due to his needs and wants.

Buffy, on the other hand, must make a choice between the superhero world and the asylum world without knowing which is “more real” in an absolute metaphysical sense, if either is. Both are presented as “created” out of her differing needs. The demon in the episode merely makes them come alive for her via magic. And in the end, when Buffy makes her choice, it is a choice between which is more real to her as an individual choosing the way she wants to live, as an individual choosing the way she wants to think about herself.

In my teenaged fantasy, I imagined myself superior to those around me because I fell off the stage of life and saw it in all its absurdity. I could see “reality” on a different level than those around me. Unlike them, I didn’t buy into the necessity of the social constructs. I was Neo, choosing the red pill. Yay, me. Now I understand it’s a little more complicated than that. Taking the red pill, seeing the basic non-necessity of our conception of the world, is only the first step. If there is a proper way to conceive the world, who knows if we are even capable of having that conception? We may just have to settle for building a new construct to live in. And that demands choices.

But if, like Morpheus and his gang, we do discover the proper conception world, we still have to live in it, build in it, create it. Cypher was unhappy in the “real world” because it was all fighting, a daily grind of bad food and fear of being caught. Was that “necessary”? Could they have built a better life for themselves in the “real world” than they did?

In so many ways, reality is a choice. So easy to say. But not easy to put into practice. Most of us just end up “taking the blue pill”–accepting the socially constructed world we happen to live in as unavoidably “real.”

The end of days

Current music: I don’t listen to music! Honestly, why can’t they have…
Current book: “The Man Who Fell to Earth” by Walter Tevis
Current film: “Tuck Everlasting” with the beautiful Jonathan Jackson and the absolutely to melt for Amy Irving

People are getting all gooey the past few days on the board, waxing nostalgic and heaping praise on each other and on the board itself and generally acting like it’s the last day of school before graduation.

Part of me understands their reasons, part of me is panicked that all the non AtS-watchers are just going to disappear under the assumption that there will be no more Buffy talk on the board. And maybe they don’t want to talk about it if there is nothing new to talk about, but among us think-too-muchers, there is plenty to talk about.

Last night’s A&E special brought it all back. Seasons 1 through 3–my personal favorites, the angst that was season 2 and the beauty of the ending of “Becoming, pt 2”. I didn’t join fandom until after “Lover’s Walk”, but I did start lurking at the Bronze at the end of Becoming pt 2 because I needed reassurance that Angel wasn’t gone. Angelus be damned, and maybe because of Angelus in part, Angel had become my favorite character and he had to come back.

I basically remembered why I liked this show in the first place, because there haven’t been a lot of reminders in recent seasons. Episodes like “Selfless” and “OMWF” are exceptions to that, but my interest in the show has been kind of mechanical, as going-through-the-motions as Buffy herself. And I will complete the episode analyses because I believe in completeness.

But part of me really needs a break from it all. I suppose I’ll cry, too, next Tuesday night at nine, for old time’s sake, but I don’t think it’ll really sink in until later. Right now, I’m too burnt out, in need of a break from the episode analyses and the board. The absolutely bizarre ending of AtS Season 4 didn’t help with that much.

So this blog will, hopefully, become a place for me to talk about other things, non-Buffy things, non-Angel things, a little, more intimate community where I feel a bit more free and more open to self-expression.

Not that I’m criticizing my own board. It is an amazing place, so I’m told, very different from other internet communities. I don’t know. I don’t go to other boards. But it has its share of human foibles aggravated by the medium of the internet and sometimes you just need to hang back, step away, even if it is the last week of new episodes.

So back to my movie, which is promising to be a magical thing with beautiful boys and tom-boyish girls and immortality and deep poetic narrative and joy and contemplative philosophical moments.