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Buffy Thoughts on the Concept of Change

Having some Buffy thoughts, based on two really similar quotes from this season's episodes:
"In the end, we all are who we are, no matter how much we may appear to have changed."
(Giles to Willow, Ep. 7.01, "Lessons")

William: Whatever I was, that's not who I am anymore.
William's mum: Darling ... it's who you'll always be: a limp, sentimental fool.
(Ep. 7.17, "Lies My Parents Told Me")

When I heard that first quote in the first episode of the season, I thought it sounded like something that was going to be important, for some reason. It had that sort of feel to it ... and I really didn't agree with it, because I firmly believe that people can change. And so when I heard the same sentiment repeated in the most recent episode, it made my brain start chugging along.

Because William/Spike's mother said that he couldn't change, and Spike later defused his trigger by realizing that during that conversation she'd been lying to him, that it wasn't truly his mother speaking but rather the demon he'd released when he sired her. This raises a number of questions:
  1. Was William's vamped mum telling painful truths that Spike just doesn't want to believe? Is he merely lying to himself now to try to heal the wounds she caused in that long-ago conversation ... the wounds which allowed The First to control him?

  2. Was William's vamped mum lying to him purely to hurt him, simply because demons enjoy inflicting pain? If so, does that then cast a shadow of doubt over everything she said in that conversation? Or could some parts of it still be true, even if other parts were lies?

  3. Joss has oftentimes referred to Buffy as a metaphor for the painful process of growing up. Is one of the steps in that process learning to let go of the painful things your parents have taught you, in order to find your own truth, even if it is not the same as theirs?

I don't have answers to these questions ... they're just thoughts running through my mind. But -- given the fact that Giles has long served as a surrogate parent to the Scoobies (especially Buffy, to whom he lied in the episode "Lies My Parents Told Me"), and since Giles was set up in fairly explicit correlation to Spike's mother in LMPTM -- I'm wondering if this season is going to be leading toward some sort of proof that people (Spike? Willow? Buffy? all of the above?) really can change.

After all, Anya seems to have changed fairly definitively, which seemed to be the primary point of her intended sacrifice in "Selfless" (Ep. 7.05). And Buffy seems to trust that Spike has changed, since she told him, "You're alive because I saw you change. Because I saw your penance" (Ep. 7.09, "Never Leave Me"), and then proceeded to have his chip removed a few episodes later. And, yet, we've also seen considerable evidence that Spike hasn't changed, at his core ... that he is -- in fact -- the same deeply loving and desperately lonely man he was when he was human.

Is it coincidence that The First forced Spike to change between two personas, via the trigger? Is it coincidence that The First changes shape repeatedly, and did so even in the first episode of this season, titled "Lessons"? Is it coincidence that in The First's initial speech in that first episode, some of its final words were "The next few months are going to be quite a ride. And I think we're all going to learn something about ourselves in the process"?

What is the nature of change in one's path through life? Can we change with effort and with the lessons we learn? Or is the idea of change merely an illusion we use to comfort ourselves into believing that we have power over the course of our lives?

Again, I don't have answers as to what this all means on the show. Only thoughts. I do know what I think of some of these issues in the real world, but I'm not sure what they mean in the Buffyverse.

Wherever ME ends up taking this, it seems to me that this issue of change is building this season, and I'm interested to see where it goes.

I predict that Shannon will say I think too much about this show. But I like thinking. :)



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 2nd, 2003 12:55 am (UTC)
I couldn't resist either of these:

Omnia mutantur, nihil interit. "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."


- Um. What's the name of the word for things not being the same always. You know. I'm sure there is one. Isn't there? There must be a word for it ... the thing that lets you know time is happening. Is there a word?
- Change.

People definitely change. They don't usually change beyond recognition (although I'm not sure how much my 16-year-old self would recognise me), but they can certainly change an awful lot. Unless huge changes happen in your life you will probably keep a certain core of similarity.

What people really have is continuity. Each person that you are has things in common with the next, so while you may not keep anything over a 20 year period, each year has something in common with its neighbours.
Apr. 2nd, 2003 01:11 am (UTC)
Yep. I agree with you. I'm just not sure that Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy do ... I'm waiting to see. :)
Apr. 2nd, 2003 05:18 am (UTC)

In the end, we all are who we are, no matter how much we may appear to have changed

I read a very interesting opinion piece linked of slayage.com a while back (and am cursing myself for not having saved the URL or tried to remember the title!) which had a beautiful theory on what Giles was really saying here. If I'm remembering correctly, the author's point was that our personal issues never change, though if we grow to know and understand what those issues are, we can improve our lot in life (after all, Giles is trying to be comforting here, not make Willow depressed at the hopelessness).

So Willow needs to understand her weaknesses (ie everything that made her insecure in high school) and circumvent them, rather than just denying them (like when she told Tara she'd moved on from those "geek infested roots"; clearly not, hence her "Willow was worthless" DarkWillow speech) Ditto with her weakness for witchy power.

And the same may be true with Spike... realizing that his tough guy persona has all been an (frequently ineffectual) attempt to deny the sentimental fool he was, he may be able to find some sort of more natural and healthy way to reconcile who he was and who he wants to be, one that doesn't involve hating his old self, just greater self-awareness.

okay, the author of the essay put it much better than that, but hopefully I've got the gist...

Apr. 2nd, 2003 10:29 am (UTC)
I like that. I hope they do develop it further on the show.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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