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Seeing Red (Steven S. DeKnight)

seeing-red-amber benson in the credits

The teaser finishes and straight away I’m calling the makers of Buffy bastards as Amber Benson appears in the credits.

Andy and I had a very long discussion about this episode after we watched it.

[Followed by a discussion about the implications of  “Normal Again” and sexual violence on TV and particularly in Mad Men.]

seeing-red-buffy-and-spike

We discussed the ambiguity of Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy. If Spike was human and if Buffy was an ordinary woman and if they hadn’t been involved in a violent abusive relationship then there would be no ambiguity. It seems an appropriately sad and tacky culmination to the Buffy and Spike relationship. The fade to black for an advert break was pretty outrageous though. I hadn’t actually given the incident any thought at any time because I was distracted by the other important event so it made a change to consider it.

I asked Andy for his reaction to Tara’s death (I hesitate to call it murder when manslaughter seems more appropriate) bearing in mind that Andy isn’t an obsessive Tara fan and doesn’t read much about the show. He felt her death was undramatic and that the sex and the kissing and the intimacy were in poor taste considering what unfolds.

seeing-red-willow-and-tara

I can only agree.

I find it really hard to separate my thoughts about Tara’s death based on season 6 alone and those based on subsequent events (or non-events) because they are all tangled up together.

The way season 6 was designed means that Tara’s death is necessary for Willow to go dark. Buffy or Xander wouldn’t have done. It had to be a lover. It could have been Oz. They could have cheated and had Willow think Tara was dead when she wasn’t but that wouldn’t be dramatically satisfactory. If Tara has to die why is it so undramatic?

They have just back to together, they are a hot sexy couple (who knew?), they appear to be happy and in one measly episode it’s over. Tara was interesting. She had a relationship with Buffy, She even had friends (do any of the other Scoobies have friends? Real friends? Janice. Gotcha.) If Tara had been offed in season 5 who exactly would have cared? I may have just understood why Tara is interesting in season 6 – so we can miss her.

And all the winds go sighing, for sweet things dying.

And all the winds go sighing, for sweet things dying.

I do know one concrete reason why I dislike her death so much and that is because it is so unbelievable. The scriptwriters (or just Steven S. DeKnight) know they have to kill her but they don’t take any care to make it plausible. She hugs Willow and impossibly sees Xander arrive in the garden. Warren’s final shot must have taken the amazing ricochets to enter her body the way it does (it looks as if it’s horizontal and as if it was directly fired at her) to kill her instantly and to splatter her blood over her lover.

I have read that the ricochets aren’t actually impossible but to a layperson who knows nothing about guns it seems impossible. If they had been in the kitchen then I would be placated but then if they had been in the kitchen then the whole sex and then death thing wouldn’t be there to rankle.

Putting Amber Benson in the credits suggests a lack of respect to the character (and to the actor…). I often wonder about that. I think it speaks volumes of an unknown nature that AB didn’t come back for ‘Conversations With Dead People”. I don’t suppose we shall ever know the complete story but Amber if you are reading this…!

It is so lame in many respects. Warren was a genius because he was the first person to realise the most likely way to kill a Slayer is to shoot her.

The lovey-doveyness in the episode doesn’t assuage my discomfit at Tara returning to her violator. Willow may be off the drugs but she hasn’t muttered a word of apology for what she did. It may have happened off screen but I guess it wasn’t deemed important enough to show us.

I have never seen a single minute of any of the rest of season 6 and all of season 7 since my initial dazed and rushed viewing. It will be interesting to see if I can watch the rest without seething over my other problems with Tara’s death.

Also: poor Jonathan. He was betrayed by Warren and what’s his name who is such a weasel. In spite of myself I do laugh at the antics of the Trio. The jetpacks were stupidly OTT but it was funny to see Andrew hit the roof.

I’m disappointed that I haven’t written a more profound entry on this episode but that’s the way it goes I suppose. Thanks Amber, thanks Tara and thanks to Joss, Marti and co for creating her.

Farewell 2006

It’s been a good year.Adam continues to be as lovable, funny, smart, sweet and gentle as ever and his achievement in passing his grade 2 piano exam with merit makes me especially proud. Andy and I have now been together for sixteen years since the Villiers House Christmas party…and, in a number of ways, I don’t think our relationship has been stronger. I like my work and I’m well paid for what I do. It’s not always inspirational but there aren’t many jobs like that that I am qualified to do (or can be bothered to do; effort and ambition not being my strong points). I have completed my sixth year of studying at the Open University and I could accept a degree if I wanted (BA/BSc Open degree). However, I think I would like to get a named degree but finding a course I want to do and finding time to do it in is getting harder. Here are some reasons that I have less inclination to study:

  1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – although we finished season seven in January, the rest of the year has been taken up with rewatching it (and in the case of some episodes, rewatching and rewatching)
  2. Firefly and Serenity – a Western in space is no way to sell a tv series but that’s what it is and it works very well indeed – the ensemble cast is perfect but I have a soft spot for Summer Glau who played River with serious mischievousness
  3. message boards
  4. blogs
  5. fan fiction – if I had been asked a year and a half ago what fan fiction was I would have had no idea and when told I would have snorted and sniggered with derision – however, I have surprised myself spending a lot of time reading the stuff – I admit that a great deal of it is poor (most of it isn’t even edited for spelling and punctuation) – and far too much of it has far too much sex (considering its early 70s roots as romantic fiction that isn’t surprising) but some of it is stunning; Bread by Tulipp is one of the best things I have ever read. And it doesn’t hurt to mention it again but Jet Wolf’s The Chosen which is a continuation of BtVS is an amazing body of sustained writing which is as funny and moving as the “real” thing. Jet Wolf loves Tara and brought her back and that leads to…
  6. Amber Benson – “In the end, I discovered that being the nice guy – when it’s really just a front for being a coward – eventually leads to you becoming the Spawn of Satan. It’s best just to be honest and forthright from the beginning – even if it means people call you names behind your back and don’t like you as much. Just ignore them. I do.” – I wish I was ever as insightful as that (and I am a coward).
  7. comics – or graphic novels to make it sound grander
  8. our ever expanding DVD collection – best films this year seen on DVD include Adaptation, Fight Club, Heathers, Twelve Monkeys, Doctor X, Serenity, and Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
  9. television – Ugly Betty, Life on Mars and University Challenge
  10. music – Audrey, Espers and Aimee Mann
  11. books – I do have time to read them, most of them unmemorable except We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Night Watch, Case Histories, and A Darkling Plain

You are Columbus, I am America, Discover me!

Romy and Michele - dressesAs the name of this blog suggests (other than what it literally suggests) one of my guilty pleasures is Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion which is not as daft and brainless as it first appears. Its miserable rating on IMDb versus its rating on Amazon.com shows…I dunno…that there are too many blokes on IMDb?

Romy and Michele - laundrettePlotwise, there isn’t much to it but it is propelled forward by the exceptional cast. Lisa Kudrow (BSc) and Mira Sorvino (magna cum laude) play dumb with great intelligence (not that getting a degree is a sign of intelligence – I have one). Janeane Garofalo slouches around swearing a lot; memorably summed up by Michele: “For me, it’s like I’ve just given birth to my own baby girl, except she’s like a big giant girl who smokes and says “shit” a lot. You know?”.

It is the mini-scenes that make it – any dance scene or exercise scene or Heather scene, or shop scene, or any scene when Romy and Michele are talking to each other, you know? (and the Ramon sex scene) are special.

Aside: Mia Cottet, one of Christy’s friends is also in Amber Benson’s Lovers, Liars and Lunatics (what an excuse for a link but turn off those lights, remove those frames and lower the price).

Finally, Mira is most definitely the Mary but only if you accept that Mary Tyler Moore is more attractive than Valerie Harper.

Moving away from sheer pleasure, may I take a moment to mention just how much I hated The Squid and the Whale (even more than The Royal Tenenbaums)? Both share angst filled middle class intellectual lives which are not worth spending two minutes contemplating, much less enduring the longest sub-80 minute film ever. And if Romy and Michele is superficial then what is there to say about the bloody awful scene with the school psychologist which is the definition of facile?

Catching up with a whole new world

When I was a child I used to read The Beano, the Broons and Oor Wullie, and moved on to Tiger and Roy of The Rovers (The Safest Hands in Soccer was my favourite story: initially it was beautifully drawn and it was about a goalkeeper who was Scottish so…bliss) but as I got older I left that all behind except for a brief sojourn as a student to read Maus. In 2005, the tv showing of the film of Ghost World prompted me to get the graphic novel from the library which was absorbing but didn’t enchant me. Andy, who was a collector of Crisis as a younger man, remembered Watchmen so we read and enjoyed that but my interest had still not been excited.

As I have said before Buffy has ruined my life except what I actually meant was that Buffy has improved my life. And one of those improvements has been the encouragement to get further into the world of comics aka graphic novels aka sequential art. And it’s all Amber Benson’s fault and the fact that Ealing Libraries has a healthy collection of Buffy trade paperbacks. I slowly fell in love with Tara Tara in Entropyon BtVS and with Amber Benson: the more I know about her the more there is to admire.When I realised she had co-written a Buffy comic I had to get it. I liked it well enough but wasn’t that impressed. I have subsequently come to believe that the more sequential art you read the more you appreciate it.

However, it was Amber Benson’s afterword for WannaBlessedBe is the thing that did it for me:

“As someone unexposed to comics, I had no idea that there was such a plethora of genres out there. All I knew was the superhero. I think if I had been turned on to Promethea or Strangers in Paradise as a kid, my whole comic outlook would have been changed. Here are comics that deal with things that appeal to me as a female. As a kid, I could have so related.”

These are the comics I have read so far:

Buffy: The Death of Buffy – various (“Lost and Found” by Fabian Nicieza is excellent)
Buffy: Willow and Tara – various (the Terry Moore illustrated WannaBlessedBe has the classic line “My heart doesn’t stutter” but I thought Tara and Caitlin looked too much alike – in fact, my only criticism of Strangers in Paradise is the sameyness of some of the characters)
The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones – Alan Moore and Ian Gibson (it took a while for me to warm to this but by the time Halo got to Moab, I did not want it to end – the art work is dated which takes a bit of getting used to)
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Ghost World – Daniel Clowes (I need to read this and to see the film again – “Ghost World” by Aimee Mann is one of my favourite songs)
Maus – Art Spiegelman (the subject matter is unforgettable but what I remember most distinctly is that Volume 1 just ended and it cost me a lot of money)
The Plot– Will Eisner (the story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion told superbly)
Preacher: Gone to Texas – Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (oh my word, this is unpleasantly gruesome and, well, graphic – intriguing story but the style is just too much)
Promethea Book One/Two/Three – Alan Moore and J. H. Williams III (this started off brilliantly and then got bogged down in philosophical and metaphysical musing and, quite frankly, by Book Three I was bored – fantastic art work though, it looks gorgeous)
Shadowplay: Demon Father John’s Pinwheel Blues – Amber Benson and Ben Templesmith (this is graphic and gruesome but unlike the traditional look of Preacher it has an arty quality (you can tell I haven’t done art appreciation) which I liked – the story itself is intriguing and tantalizingly brief)
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Strangers in Paradise: Pocket Book 1 – Terry Moore (wonderful – worth a post of its own)
Strangers in Paradise: Love Me Tender – Terry Moore (I read this first and I just adored it – apparently I have been Katchoo’d but I do relate more to Francine)
Stuck Rubber Baby – Howard Cruse (I liked this but I couldn’t love it – Toland was too dull)
Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (I need to read this again)
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