itsnotmymind (itsnotmymind) wrote,


So this is about Faith.

Or maybe it's about Buffy. I'm not quite sure.

I was originally planning on having better organization to these thoughts, but I didn't like my initial plan, and making new one would be, like, work. So, it's a little scattered.

This is about how the bad slayer/good slayer dichotomy contributed to Faith's turn to evil. This is also about the ways in which Buffy's actions contributed to Faith's turn to evil.

This isn't an argument that Buffy was mean and rejecting to Faith and therefore it's totally understandable that Faith would run to the mayor. Buffy wasn't mean and rejecting to Faith. She wasn't a perfect little saint, but she was very kind to Faith.

That's actually part of the problem.

In my experience, we in fandom have a tendency to focus on blame. Don't get me wrong, I love blame! The sci-fi/fantasy TV shows I enjoy are full of characters making horrible choices. By all means, blame away.

But sometimes this blame prevents people from analyzing what actually happened. Why characters made the choices they made. How they react to each other, influence each other. Obsessing over what was who's fault can make it hard to see the complexities of a situation. If a conversation between two fans turns into an argument over which character wronged which character the most...well, there's a lot that a conversation like that is going to overlook, no matter how smart and respectful the fans in question are.

One more thing to think about before I start: Suppose someone says or does something the can only interpreted as good and fair. I'm not talking about a bad thing disguised as good and fair, but something genuinely good and fair. And this interaction leaves you feeling bad and dirty, even if you haven't done anything wrong, or haven't done anything that wrong...

Who is at fault? Are you at fault, for feeling attacked when you aren't? Are they at fault, for making you feel bad? Is anyone at fault?

So. A handful of thoughts about the good slayer and the bad slayer.

Faith comes into Sunndale completely ripe for taking on the title of "bad slayer". She's introduced to us by Cordelia describing her as "Slut-O-Rama". She's out of control, as we see when she punches a vampire repeatedly instead of killing him, ignoring the fact that Buffy is in danger despite Buffy's repeated cries for help. We soon find out she's on the run from Kakistos, and is hiding this from Buffy and the Scoobies.

When Buffy finds out, she reassures Faith that the other slayer did the right thing when Kakistos killed her watcher. Together, the girls defeat Kakistos. Buffy is undoubtedly helping Faith here. Her motives are good. She sees that Faith is scared and guilty and wants to help. She's going the extra mile to reach out to Faith, whom up to this point she has resented, and help Faith overcome her fears.

From Faith's point of view, Buffy's support and reassurance helps her to overcome at least some of her fears and guilt. This naturally causes her to think positively of Buffy, to even look up to her a bit. But even at this point, I think it's more complicated than that. It causes her to feel inferior to Buffy. It causes her to feel like that Buffy is better than her...and to feel that Buffy also thinks Buffy is better. Faith wants Buffy to be like this, to be supportive like this. But she also wants Buffy to come down to her level. The idea that Buffy is wonderful and she's just a loser is exquisitely painful.

Buffy's attitude in her interactions with Faith is superior. Admittedly, it can be nice to have someone around who acts like they know what they're doing, especially when you're as out-of-control as Faith, but being treated (whatever Buffy's intention) as not as good starts to hurt after awhile. And create resentment, anger, and bitterness.

In Revelations, Faith comes close to trusting Buffy--and then doesn't. Faith's trust is at a low ebb after Gwendolyn Post, and Buffy didn't trust her with Angel. It's worth noting that even with all of those issues, Faith still almost trusted Buffy.

The fact that Buffy so nobly reached out to her and Faith rejected her is going to be something that will sting. Faith can argue to herself that Buffy shouldn't have lied about Angel--but when Faith lied about Kakistos, Buffy didn't hold a grudge. Faith is probably starting feel that Buffy just does this shit, these attempts to reach out to Faith, just to make herself look like the good guy. And while that's certainly not a fair assessment of the situation, I'm not sure it's entirely off-base. I would have to write several paragraphs to explain what I mean, exactly, but I'm not going to do that, so all you Buffy defenders will just have to deal.

From here on, Buffy and Faith fall into their roles as the "good" one and the "bad" one. In Helpless, we see that Faith goes on "unannounced walkabouts," while Buffy is conscientious about her training.

By the time we reach Bad Girls/Consequences, the good slayer/bad slayer dynamic has been solidified. We see Faith rather aggressively trying to convince Buffy that Buffy is "bad" like her. These range from Faith's insistence that staking vampires gets Buffy "juiced" early in Bad Girls, to Faith's declaration at the end of Consequences that "You can't handle watching me living my own way, having a blast, because it tempts you!"

Although some of Faith's claims are on the mark, others are not. Faith's insistence that Buffy is just like her is not entirely about what Buffy is actually like. It's about what Faith, for various reasons, wants her to be like. Part of this is a way of building up Faith, herself, as being enviable rather than a loser, and Buffy, the good girl, as a boring person who secretly wishes to be just like Faith.

As the above quote from Consequences implies, Faith during this period is getting every bit of enjoyment that she can out of her role as the "bad" one. This starts with taking delight in killing vampires, moves to her insisting that their role as slayers means that she and Buffy can do whatever they want, and ultimately turns into enjoyment of violence against humans, even innocent civilians such as Xander.

But until the end of Bad Girls, Buffy does not have much in the way of moral high ground over Faith. Faith might be the ringleader, but Buffy is happy to join her in shoplifting, escaping from the police, and other escapades. Buffy expresses a lot of concerns about the ethics of what they are doing, but it doesn't actually stop her.

Even the killing of Finch was a matter of misjudgment and possible recklessness than any kind of malice. Buffy is the one who tosses Finch into Faith's path, and Buffy herself admits that she only realized a second before that Finch wasn't a vampire. Furthermore, Buffy screwed up the previous season when she killed Ted--and just got lucky when Ted turned out to be a robot.

It's only when Faith goes into denial about what happened and refuses to accept any responsibility that Buffy becomes the good girl again.

Strangely, by the end of Consequences, Buffy's role in Finch's death has completely and permanently disappeared from the narrative and as far as we know from the minds of all the characters. In fact, even when Buffy attacks Faith in Graduation Day with the intent to kill and puts her in a coma, there's little in the way of fall-out, either narratively or in terms of how the other characters react. It's not these actions make Buffy "bad"--certainly, Faith has done worse, and the lack of follow-up to what she did to Xander is worrisome. It's that Buffy can go pretty far without anyone being concerned about her morality or, more to the point, without getting pushed her out of the box of "good slayer". Faith was the bad one before Finch's death. Buffy is the good one after Faith is in a coma.

Back to Bad Girls/Consequences. Buffy, after playing with being bad for most of Bad Girls, approaches Faith to discuss what they are going to do. Buffy talks in terms of "we". Faith talks in terms of "I". The only time she says "we" is when she is trying to intimidate Buffy into not telling anyone what happened.

Buffy is oh-so-gracious (but also kind of accurate) in her attempt to treat it as something they were both responsible for, as opposed to Faith alone. But Faith screwed up. Faith knows she screwed up. Buffy realized what was going on, shouted at her to stop, and Faith couldn't stop quickly enough. Maybe if she'd been more conscientious about training, she would have. For Faith, Buffy being so helpful and gracious is like getting her face rubbed in the fact that Buffy is just better than her.

Something that I think I've discussed before is that Faith plays a big role in getting Buffy's participation in Finch's death forgotten, in reinforcing the good slayer/bad slayer polarization. Faith is the one who goes to Giles and tells him, not that she killed Finch, not that she and Buffy both screwed up, but that Buffy alone did it. This leaves Buffy desperate to convince Giles that it was actually Faith who committed the "murder". From then on, any culpability that Buffy might have in Finch's death is forgotten. Faith's attempt to turn Buffy into the bad slayer in Giles' eyes backfired terribly.

Even at this point, when she seems to have completely embraced her role as the "bad" one, Faith is trying to be the "good" slayer. She can't be as good as Buffy--and she can't present herself as good as good as Buffy. Her attempts to become the "good" one have become increasingly underhand--and they're only going to blow up in her face. Faith hasn't yet figured out that in order to truly be good, you have to accept that not everyone in the world is going to see you as good, and that sometimes you are going to screw up, and then you are going to feel like a pretty bad person.

By the end of the episode, Buffy is still trying to reach out to Faith. This after Faith betrayed her and tried to rape and murder her best friend. Once again, Faith is using her role as the bad one to place herself as superior to Buffy, claiming that Buffy is as bad as her but afraid to act on it. Buffy's compassionate attempts to reach out to her can only backfire--it's just more evidence that Buffy's a better person, that Buffy never does anything wrong, and that Faith's options are evil or loser.

A lot what I've talked about in this post, in terms of Faith's feelings towards Buffy, is made explicit in Enemies. "I'm the Slayer. I do my job kicking ass better than anyone. What do I hear about everywhere I go? Buffy. So I slay, I behave, I do the good little girl routine. And who's everybody thank? Buffy." Also, in response to Buffy requesting Faith to listen to her, "Why? So you can impart some special Buffy wisdom, that it? Do you think you're better than me?"

Faith at this point has not yet worked out an understanding as to why her life up until now has been such a mess. She's on the right track--referencing her miserable childhood, the way people around her treat her as inferior to Buffy, the fact that Buffy has support that she doesn't, and Buffy's own holier-than-thou attitude. But she doesn't actually make any kind of sense of all those complaints, and instead projects every single problem onto Buffy. She also doesn't seem to get the part where being hard done by is not an excuse for unleashing a soulless monster on the earth and trying to torture someone to death.

Skipping ahead to Who Are You?: While both Spike and Faith play a similar role in their relationships with Buffy, and both of them are redeemed through Buffy, these redemptions take a very different form. Spike redeems himself though his interactions with Buffy. Faith, instead, starts her redemption through the experience of living Buffy's life. Faith can't acknowledge to herself how much she wants to be the good one until she starts playing the role of the good one, of Buffy--first on a very shallow level, and then more sincerely. And she can't have that experience, can't move out of the role of the bad one, until she is the good one--specifically, until actual Buffy is out of the picture. As long as Buffy is there, eternally better than her, she can't be good. Buffy is her idea of goodness, and being Buffy allows her to be good for its own sake. She can't, at least at this point in her life, understand goodness separate from Buffy.

Sanctuary: Buffy gets a lot of criticism for her behavior in Sanctuary. And yeah, she's a brat. A brat who has every right to be pissed, but still, a brat.

And yet--if Buffy had showed up as the person she was at the end of Faith, Hope, and Trick, at the end of Revelations, and the end of Bad Girls...if she had shown up as the compassionate good one, what would have happened? At this point, I certainly think Faith's desire to redeem herself was separate from anything Buffy could have said or done. If it wasn't, it wouldn't have been much of a desire for redemption. But what would have happened?

Sanctuary has one of my favorite television quotes of all time (okay, I have a lot of those, but shush): "You're all about control. You have no idea what it's like on the other side! Where nothing's in control, nothing makes sense! There is just pain and hate and nothing you do means anything."

When Faith tells Buffy, "You're all about control" it's different from her previous observations about Buffy, that were generally more about Faith's own issues that about Buffy. I'm trying to think of another time a character described Buffy as "all about control", or something similar, and nothing's coming up. I don't think Faith means that Buffy is controlling. I think she's referring more to self-control. Self-control is something that Faith has lacked since her first appearance.

And it's in this context that Faith asks Buffy to tell her how to make it better, and ultimately follows Buffy's rather forceful suggestion and turns herself in to the police.

And that's all I've got.
Tags: btvs, buffy is my girl, faith is my girl

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