Monthly Archives: August 2012

Life Lessons From My Husky

Since Buffy the pup opted to wake me with an accident of spectacular proportions this morning and subsequently ate up my blogging time, I thought this post would be appropriate.

Life Lessons From My Husky

 

I’ve been observing this puppy of mine for the last couple weeks, and I’ve decided that there’s a lot to learn from her. Here are some of the lessons she’s taught me!

“Mom, I found a softball. It’s so much better than my dinky tennis balls!”

No Matter How Much You Like It, It Can Be Tough To Carry Around

We went to the dog park last week, and Buffy found this softball. Oh, how she loved it. She was determined to haul it around with her — even though it’s about the size of her head. Sometimes as humans we carry around our nostalgia like Buffy’s softball. Sure, it can still look shiny and new, but really it’s just something old we keep finding over and over again.

Continuing to carry it with us is a chore, though not always one we see as such. Sometimes we never know how much weight we’ve been hauling with us until someone makes us let it go.

Satellite dishes!

Your Ears Should Be Your Biggest Asset

Even if they resemble satellite dishes more than auditory devices, your ears are important. Listening to the world and the other people around you is one of the greatest tools you can ever use. So often we surround ourselves with sound without taking the trouble to sit down and really listen — and all too often we hear words without listening to the meaning behind them.

We’re all guilty of it: people with differing viewpoints, our parents, our spouses, our friends, our bosses, our employees, our children, that homeless guy on the corner. The list goes on and on. We think we know best and wonder why things aren’t working out the way we wanted them to. Nine times out of ten, our problems can be more easily solved if we just open up our ears and hear people out.

Everybody loves an ice cube on a hot day.

Even If You Are Very Different, You Still May Have Things In Common

When Buffy and Willow first met, there was a lot of bottle brush tail, a few lunges, several hisses, and a full-clawed swipe or two. They may both have four legs, fur, and a tail, but they’re still different kinds of critters who speak a different language. It took them some trial and error and a lot of listening to the occasional yelp and mew to get it right — and they still backslide a little — but now they’re able to hang out and share something they both like: ice cubes.

I gave them both ice cubes the other day, and lo and behold, they both love them! They sat there just lick, lick, licking them until they were gone. Even if you’re different than someone, even if to you a friendly bark sounds, well, friendly and you can’t understand why it scares someone else — you might be able to find some common ground somewhere. That’s where those satellites above come in handy.

“Willow’s toys look like much more fun than mine, Mom!”

Some Things Are Out Of Reach For Good Reason

I don’t think people like to hear that, even though we tell our kids and our pets over and over. “Don’t touch the stove; it’s hot!” “Just because you can get on the roof doesn’t mean you should!” “Yes, but how are you going to get down from the tree?”

Willow’s bird sure looks like fun to Buffy, but that plastic rod could splinter easily. It has small parts that could choke her. Just like Willow shouldn’t gorge herself on Buffy’s treats, Buffy shouldn’t get to play with toys that could be hazardous to her.

Think about 2008, the splintering plastic rod in the US mortgage world. For a decade, Americans bought houses that were out of reach. Just barely, maybe, but they overextended themselves. Then the rod splintered, and we all choked on it. I worked in real estate that year. It went boom, and not in a good, exploding values sort of way. More like diamonds to dirt. If something is out of reach, it doesn’t mean we should stop at nothing to get it; it sometimes means we should be content with what we have and be thankful for it.

Something tells me she won’t fit.

What Works For Someone Else Might Not Work For You

This also can be a tough splinter to swallow. Willow loves her boxes. Spouse went through a whole twenty minutes of trouble to carve out holes, make little danglies, and generally create a cardboard paradise for Willow Kitty. Buffy doesn’t have anything like that, and she tries to chase Willow inside her little havens.

But she doesn’t fit. She instead knocks them over and then sits there looking bewildered.

If she did get inside, she’d likely feel trapped and panicked and try to get out, breaking the box in the process. We’re back to the people are different theme — what works for you might not work for someone else. That can go for politics, religion, waking up early, who you want to marry, and what kind of cheese you like on your sandwiches. Trying to fit into someone else’s comfy box could cause panic and claustrophobia. Find something that works for you, and be yourself.

“I love my chicken quarter, Mom. It’s deeeeelicious. And tastes even better on the floor!”

Think Outside The Bowl. Erm, Box.

There are seven billion people on this planet. (Anyone else remember when it was *only* six? Yeesh.) Most of them probably disagree with you. That’s fine. But what we have to remember regardless of who disagrees is that we’re all stuck on this little round rock together. We have to breath each other’s air and drink each other’s water. Sometimes we have to help other people’s children.

This world can be a big and scary place, but it’s full of faces. Full of people who might look and think differently than we do, but people who ultimately desire the same things we do. Safety. Love. Food. Sex. Warmth. Companionship. We’re all different, but we are also all the same. We’ll never get along if we can’t think outside the box and step out of our comfort zones a little.

Besides. Sometimes you find that life just tastes a bit better when you do.

Buffy the Siberian Husky and Willow the Domestic Medium Hair Mutt Cat are already best pals — they play, drink from the same water bowl, and wreak havoc for Mom. Between the surprise pouncing matches, the war on Mom’s bamboo, and Buffy’s ability to pee twice in two minutes right after she comes inside, life’s always a trip in the Mears household. They’re only 9 weeks into this life, but they’re already showing me that they’ve got some wisdom to teach me.

Advertisements

Why Do You Write These Strong Female Characters?

I had planned (and I say that in the loosest form of the word) to blog about something else today, but during my morning romp through the Book of Face, I saw a meme posted by the lovely Traci Douglass.

You can probably already guess that it hijacked that original “plan.”

In other words, because people find strong women strange.

You all know me and Joss Whedon. He’s one of my all-time heroes. And I love that quote. The greatest writers know how to dig their fingers into the pulsing heart of an issue and draw out the gold. I consider Joss a Great Writer.

But the creator of the meme did something I find interesting. And I’ll read into it, because that’s what I do.

For those of you familiar with Buffy and Angel, you’ll see two characters in this meme who are familiar, but that are using the faces of other characters.

The dark-haired witch at the bottom? For most of Buffy, she looked more like this:

Willow Rosenberg

Not so much with the veiny. Willow Rosenberg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And the blue-haired, leather-sporting chica in the bottom left corner, she is best known to us like this:

Winifred Burkle

Winifred Burkle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What struck me as interesting was that the creator of the meme either subconsciously or consciously chose to represent the alter-egos of Fred Burkle and Willow Rosenberg — Illyria and Dark Willow, respectively. Which to me says that this person felt on some level that Illyria and Dark Willow were stronger than Fred and Willow.

I disagree.

Both Illyria and Dark Willow were in part evil. Illyria was a former Old One who returned by stealing Fred’s body. Illyria was an ancient god who ruled by fear and whose temples had crumbled to dust during her long slumber in the Deeper Well. Dark Willow was a product of vengeance and fury who embraced dark magics to punish those who murdered her lover.

Fred and Willow? Fred was a brilliant physicist who got sucked into a hell dimension (at least hell to humans) for five years, where her intelligence and ingenuity saved her life over and over. When she joins Angel back in L.A., she overcomes the damage that Pylea did to her psyche and her mind. She has a darker side, seeking revenge on the professor who damned her to those five years in hell, and she is one of the more open members of Angel Investigations to joining Wolfram and Hart in season five.

But Fred is strong. She has faced huge trauma and come out of it better. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone watching Angel and hating Fred. She’s a brilliant character in her own right.

For me? Illyria is sort of meh. It should have been Fred’s face on that picture. Fred and Illyria are two discrete entities, no matter that Illyria is able to alter her own genetic structure to impersonate the former owner of her body. Once Illyria is there, Fred is gone.

And then there’s Willow.

Sure, Darth Rosenberg could sizzle Warren into a flayed, dangling pulp. Sure, she could physically best Buffy. But Dark Willow was still weak, as anyone running on pure fury is. They may have a powerful frontal assault, but they leave their flanks unguarded, which is how Giles is able to set the events in motion that allow her best friend to reach her through her anger.

Willow herself, though, is truly something spectacular. She teaches herself magic and learns through her (many) mistakes. She fights alongside Buffy and is usually Buffy’s most stalwart friend. And when the magics run away with her? She quits.

She manages to do what few people are capable of — she comes back from the darkness after letting it fully suffuse her being. And she learns the true essence of magic and uses it to change the world.

Now, I don’t know the creator of the meme, and I can only assume that he or she didn’t intend to make a statement by opting to go for the flashier characterisations portrayed by two beloved actors. But where I think Joss truly excels in his writing of strong female characters isn’t only when he makes them wield magic and guns and kick ass.

It’s what he builds over seasons and episodes. It’s that he taps deeper and deeper into what makes them go, what makes them strong, what makes them become strong. Buffy Summers, standing on the edge of the Sunnydale crater? She’s in a different  stratosphere than the Buffy Summers who buried the Master in a shallow grave.

The women Joss writes don’t come out of the gates perfect. They’re flawed. They’re sometimes broken. They’re frightened. But they persevere. And in doing so, they become something greater.

I watch a lot of different shows, and I have seen very few I would say come close to the level of development that Joss gives the women in his stories. Veronica Mars, definitely. Walking Dead? Not so much. Dexter? I could give Deb a nod for sure.

What Joss understands — that the people who continually ask him the titular question of this post do not — is that women are not memes. Women are not confined to archetypes and stereotypes. Women are more than that, and they deserve to be portrayed as such.

Joss operates in a mindset where the Strong Female Character is only a reflection of Strong Women. A mindset where “Strong Female Character” really means Strong Character, female. What is unfortunate is that, whether they want to admit it or not, much of the world still operates on tropes — which is why Joss’s attention to the development of his female characters is so mystifying to many.

And I couldn’t help but think when I saw the pictures mashed into that meme, that the creator sort of missed the point. Fred and Willow exemplify Strong Characters, period. Illyria and Dark Willow are strong females.

There is a distinction.

For every Buffy Summers, there are fifty or more Megan Fox’s in Transformers. They might have some strength, but they lack two of their three dimensions. And that, more than anything else, makes up Joss’s response.

Why do you write these strong female characters?

Because you’re still asking me that question.

 

The world needs more Willow and Fred. 

The Monster Who Became a Man

I’ve been missing Spike lately, so I decided to re-share this post with you from a few months back. Some of you may have seen it, but many of you are new round these parts. Get your Spike fix, and enjoy!

At least for me, you cannot discuss the men of the Buffyverse without mentioning Spike. Perhaps without a dissertation on Spike. So dig in, get cozy, grab a cuppa (or a cuppa blood with some Weetabix), and get ready for some serious Spike discussion.

Aside from Buffy, Spike is my all-time favorite character in the series. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a spectacular character development or transformation occur on television. (And Joss Whedon agrees with me — at least that Spike is the best-developed character of the show — so there.)

Born with the name William and later known under the rather ignominious alias of “William the Bloody” — ignominious because it referred to his “bloody awful poetry” — Spike gained his more punkish nickname after Drusilla sired him, showing a proclivity for torturing people with railroad spikes. As the show reveals, even as a young vampire, Spike demonstrates fierce loyalty and protectiveness, as well as a tendency to fall deeply in love. He also attempts to cure his mother’s tuberculosis by siring her — but that unleashes all sorts of mommy issues when she turns on him with some propositions that would make even Oedipus blush. His back story is explained through several seasons in flashbacks, from his lovelorn life as a human poet to how he managed to kill two slayers over the course of his existence.

When Spike entered the scene in Sunnydale, side by side with Drusilla, he was well and truly evil. He came to Sunnydale to get a third slayer notch on his headboard…er, headstone.

Spike became Buffy’s arch nemesis — and later an ally when Angel went the way of the uber-evil and tried to end the world. This shaky alliance paved the way for the events of season four.

If you’ve never watched Buffy, you might be a little glazy-eyed right about now. So I’ll perk up your glazed eyes with some sugary Spike-candy.

You’re welcome. Image via nerdreactor.com

What I love about Spike is that he is a demon in a man-suit at first — it takes time and several seasons for the demon to choose to be a man with a demon within. In season four, Spike is caught by the Initiative, a military organization that did experiments on vampires and demons to try and harness their powers to use. The Initiative implants a chip in Spike’s brain that prevents him from biting humans — or even hurting them.

As Spike slowly discovers that he is in love with Buffy, this chip is what plunks him into the role of Dawn’s protector in season five — a role that spawns no little bit of conflict between Buffy and her friends. Spike is still a vampire. He’s still evil at his core — a demon. But he begins to show signs of the man he once was.

His earliest moments of tenderness often involve Dawn. He looks out for her — even if his methods vary from what Buffy finds acceptable. He helps her figure out who she is and where she came from, and he stands up for her when Buffy berates her about it.

Spike’s evolution fascinates me — he is an icon among bad characters who go good. He is the beast who becomes something nobler.

Spike’s interest in Buffy is brought out into the light when he commissions a robot (er, sexbot) made to her likeness, and the Buffybot comes in contact with the Scoobies. Though this is unhealthy and frankly, disgusting, Spike’s emotions for Buffy are real.

He genuinely mourns her when she passes, and he continues to try and fulfill his promise to her to keep Dawn safe. He’s also one of the only people to see the truth of the matter when Willow performs the spell to bring Buffy back. Through season six, their relationship is dysfunctional — he’s the only one at first who understands why she has such a hard time adjusting to being alive again. This relationship hits rock bottom when she leaves him and he attempts to rape her.

If you’re anything like me, you blanched when you read that. For a while, I thought that would be the end of Spike for me. I couldn’t get past it for a time. The scene is traumatic and horrific — and it’s what comes after it that challenges every bit of lore the Buffyverse has about vampires.

Spike is a vampire. By definition in the Buffyverse, he has no soul, no conscience. He is evil. A demon in a man-suit.

But when he tries to rape Buffy, his memory tortures him. He flashes back to it over and over again. He cannot live with what he has done to her. That right there is the utter beauty of his transformation — and why I disagree with assertions of Spike’s selfishness. Following this moment, he travels across the world to seek out a legend. He goes to find a demon who holds the power to restore his soul.

Spike’s choice. Image via buffy.wikia.com

I’ve heard people say that Spike did this solely to get Buffy back, but I disagree. He did it because of the guilt he felt after hurting her, to be a better person. He never expected her to want to be with him after what he did to her, but he needed to be a better person. To prove he could be a man instead of a monster.

Spike proved over and over again why he is a worthy character. When it comes to love, I believe he’s better for Buffy than Angel is. Angel at his heart is a man cursed to decency, but his beast is always straining to be free, where Spike’s beast chooses to be decent. In many ways, Angel is a picture of an abuser more than Spike is. When Buffy does the wrong thing (sleeps with him), he turns evil and murderous. When he comes back, he “didn’t mean to hurt her.”

Spike knows he meant to hurt her, believes it because he didn’t have a soul to stop him — and even without a soul he tries to be a better man, even though he often flounders. His speech to Buffy in Touched describes why I love this character’s transformation so much. It shows that he risked everything to be a better man, to give the world the best of himself — and succeeded.

 I’ve been alive a bit longer than you, and dead a lot longer than that. I’ve seen things you couldn’t imagine, and done things I’d prefer you didn’t. I don’t exactly have a reputation for being a thinker; I follow my blood, which doesn’t exactly rush in the direction of my brain. So I make a lot of mistakes. A lot of wrong bloody calls. A hundred plus years, and there’s only one thing I’ve ever been sure of. You. Hey, look at me. I’m not asking you for anything. When I say I love you, it’s not because I want you, or because I can’t have you – it has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try… I’ve seen your kindness, and your strength, I’ve seen the best and the worst of you and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You’re a hell of a woman. You’re the one, Buffy.

I could probably write an entire dissertation on Spike and still have more to say, but this describes why Spike is  forever one of the most phenomenal characters I’ve ever seen.

%d bloggers like this: