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I love all your thoughts here. Especially the dual arcs for Lilah.

And also especially, Willow & speeches. Because, while Willow is quotable, she's quotable in a much different way from the other characters, and many of her best lines really do need AH to push it through and don't translate as well on paper -- which is not a criticism of the paper, because they were of course written for AH, so....

I actually *do* think the "doesn't make big speeches unless she's evil" thing does relate to some of the big Issues in Willow's story, about how power and evil get so closely intertwined in a way that is either problematic or awesome or just confusing, depending. What's interesting, of course, is that the actual evil-evil Willow is the ultimate in laconic, and her catchphrase is the sentence-fragment "bored now." Vamp!Willow doesn't monologue. Dark!Willow monologues, but I think that those monologues have something to do with the intersection of Willow's goodness and badness rather than just her badness. Willow has, at her core, a powerful, strong desire for justice, which she pretty frequently *suppresses* because she knows that she won't get it, and the line between desiring justice and hoarding anger when one is in an actual no-win scenario is actually pretty fuzzy. When she accesses that anger, she speechifies -- but while trying to deny that anger, she either runs around in circumlocutions or she just lets small bits of anger come out in tiny sentences. I know you listed Willow's statements to Faith as being part of the more individually-directed rhapsodization, but I do think that she's talking, at least in part, about her view of the world when she lays into Faith in "Choices," and at that point she is accessing some part of that anger, and she speaks more clearly than usual: she is letting Faith know what she has thought for some time, but has held in. The act of holding that in distorts her speech and prevents it from coming through. And that's good and bad. Willow really tries to hold onto her non-judgmental attitude and much of the time that is healthy. But it does mean that she's never quite able to speak her mind, and it's only when a certain threshold is crossed -- that she makes a conscious decision to give up on her usual rules of extending generosity to others as much as possible, either because she's given up on THEM (as is the case with Faith in "Choices" or Warren in "Villains" or, to an extreme lower extent, Giles in "Pangs") or she's given up on herself -- that she is able to articulate How Things Should Be, and even articulate criticisms of others directly. It goes to the point you raised about her "Prophesy Girl" monologue, too -- Willow is able to articulate the pain she is in particularly *because* she has passed a threshold over which she can no longer maintain her belief that she should keep these things to herself, and while she is not advocating any course of action she does have a clear statement about what is wrong that happened and what that means. All of which suggests that Willow has beliefs about the way the world should be, which are perhaps even fully-formed in her mind, but which she deliberately suppresses most of the time -- preferring either to sublimate it into action, sometimes even *directly* since her spells are mostly verbal acts, or to ignore it entirely, until something snaps and she can't hold her tongue anymore, and it pours out.

I really agree. I also agree that Willow was also laying out her view of the world in Choices. Although, I do think that Willow was over-doing her philosophy of "Those who have it tough have no right to go bad if they have advantages" . Given Willow's various defenses of Chris in Some Assembly Required, the Chumash, James in IOHEFY, Warren in IWMTLY, Tara before the rest of the gang in Family, Angel generally, I think Willow's rant to Faith was more about her Faith antipathy than her life philosophy although she was trying to develop a hard-nosed clear-cut philosophy of "no breaks" as she was ranting. I think AH's acting really does this nicely. I like how she REALLY emphasis that Faith DID TOO have advantages because she had FRIENDS LIKE BUFFY because IMO, Willow is clinging to Buffy as the shining beacon to justify this new hardlined approach to Faith.

I'm glad that you brought up Pangs. It's the clearest example of Willow self-righteously speechifying- but it's actually not. Willow *is* self-righteous. However, Willow's dialogue is recounting "Just the facts, ma'am" of the atrocities committed against the Chumash, rather shyly questioning whether they should be helping the Chumash, and then making very short and funny expressions of disapproval to Giles and Buffy for the rest of the day. By contrast, Giles makes a big general speech about vengeance is always wrong and it's never sated and it's their duty to end it and how Buffy has a duty to Xander to take out the Chumash. Spike takes the mike so much with his big general speech on the ethics of what conquering nations have the right to do that everyone stops and shuts up and even Willow basically gaped mouthed watched *Spike* filibuster a treatise on the subject. The only time that Willow gets to give a POV big long speech on the ethics of it when Willow is basically repeating Shelia Rosenberg's speeches word for word and the whole thing is so unWillow that Buffy immediately gets that Willow was just imitating her mother.

Willow really does feel the Chumash didn't have justice. And she *does* identify with their desire for vengeance. Those feelings are real. Willow spent the day crusading on that issue even though she was totally outnumbered by "still trying not to refer you lot as bloody colonials" Giles and Spike, "I LOVE Thanksgiving" Buffy, and "got syphillis and am angry about it" Xander. And she was miserable at Thanksgiving because two seconds of conflict with an indiginous person and she turns into Gen. Custer after everyone else has moved on. However as deep as those feelings are, Willow clearly didn't feel as equipped and empowered to deliver her own big social justice speech about the needs of the disempowered or a self-righteous rebuttal to Spike's speech.

And I think as real as Willow's feelings are, the fact that she doesn't get on her horse with some general "how to be good" speech allows fans to dismiss her as shallow, petulant, and annoying there.

Yeah. I have a slightly dim view of Willow's anti-Faith tirade in "Choices" specifically because I think while she believes everything she's saying, I think it's also somewhat manufactured to allow her to have an outlet for her anger. She's really angry at Faith primarily because of jealousy that Faith had an intimacy with Buffy and Xander that she couldn't touch, and on some level she thinks Buffy was more invested in her friendship with Faith than in her friendship with Willow. Of course, Faith is vaguely threatening to kill Willow -- but I actually think that is relatively low on Willow's lists of reasons to dislike people. Even Anya in "Doppelgangland," I think Willow is much angrier at for *tricking her* than trying to kill her, by a fair margin.

I feel like one of the difficulties I have with fandom discussion of Willow is that Willow's reasons for being annoyed with people get frequently dismissed because usually, the things that bother Willow the most are *not* the things that are universally viewed as legitimate slights, but I think they also are valid. I think mostly, Willow reacts to threats to her identity more strongly than threats to her physical well-being, as befitting the Spirit character. OTOH, I do think that those physical threats do take their toll -- but she very rarely expresses displeasure at it, partly because I don't think her brain is wired to consciously recognize her life being threatened as a legitimate reason to be cranky. This also means that she can very rarely articulate how badly people treat her when they treat her badly, and when she does lash out at them it is either on pseudo-objective grounds (ala the Faith rant) or is kind of a swirl of emotion-driven attacks which blindside people. But anyway, it clearly is *terrifying* for Spike to kidnap her and threaten her with a bottle, or to sneak into her room and nearly rape/kill her, or for Oz to wolf out and nearly kill her right after tearing out the throat of her romantic rival, or for Faith to hold a knife to her face, or for Anya to ally herself with a room of vampires against her, or for Buffy to lock her up in a basement to feed her to a demon. And these feed into her sense that she's at the mercy of others and her desire for power, both for literal self-protection and for the sense that power will give her psychological immunity in some way. But she doesn't actually bring these up directly, and when she does bring them up it's only to support some other primary thesis, ala bringing up Buffy's nearly killing them all as proof of Buffy's dissatisfaction with life. Faith is bad because she hurts Buffy, Anya is bad because she hurts men and might hurt Xander.

I do think that the attack on Faith is also *really* tied in with her desire to be a Buffy cheerleader, which kind of shoots her in the foot in the long term, since eventually "Buffy is always right" is not a philosophical stance that is going to lead to much good. But really, "Buffy thinks it's okay to hate Faith!" is the reason why she not only accepts but loops around and improves on it. It's not as if Buffy disliking someone is in itself reason to dislike someone -- she kept liking Jenny, for instance -- but Buffy's stamp of disapproval combined with the already existing antipathy gives a retroactive reason for that antipathy which she's "allowed" to have.


Edited at 2014-06-11 04:32 am (UTC)

The words that she does use for Faith -- "selfish worthless waste" -- are significant because, I think, those are the key words for how Willow assigns value. Selfishness is the worst thing to be, hence bringing it up about herself in "Tabula Rasa." "Waste" gets reused for Warren and, implicitly, all non-Tara persons, in "Villains." And within the mini-arc within "Choices," Willow's words going after Faith are the inverse of her later decision to join in the good fight, and statement that Buffy doesn't do it because she has to -- which is another contender for Willow's Big Speeches, which is also wonderful and also...something that is, I think?, a little bit practiced, even down to the Willowy digressions ("Although I'm fond, don't get me wrong, of you" even feels practiced). I think "selfish worthless waste" is the type of thing Willow thinks she is if she doesn't do (X,Y,Z) of goodness, and in "Choices" there is some relationship between her decision to commit to Be A Good Person and her agreeing to come down on Faith as A Bad Person. I think she recognizes in Faith what she could be and chooses to not be that person -- and part of the fully-formed invective that comes out results from the fact that Willow already has clearly set rules on how to Be A Bad Person, which normally *only* apply to Willow herself.

(yay discussion! I think I can only do fandom in small doses these days, but it's nice to talk about it once in a while :) )

Your connecting the use of "selfish" and "waste" in Willow's vocabulary is brilliant. I also agree that her Choices speech is very practiced. I mean, Willow came in with a prop/document in her acceptance letter to UC Sunnydale. LOL.

I also love your point that Faith represents who Willow could be to destroy everything i.e. Vamp Willow. I hadn't thought about it until you brought it up- but yeah, Willow could have doubled-down more on the Faith-dislike once Willow saw leather clad, skanky, goth make-up, lesbian "I think the subtext is approaching text" Vamp Willow as her potential option.

Willow could very well be cautioning herself that if she has friend like *Buffy*, she has no reason to be evil.

Yeah, like, I sort of gestured at this in the other post, but without going too far into the Dark rabbit-hole, I have suspected for a while that part of the reason Willow is as impervious to Buffy et al.'s reaching out to her at the end of s6 is because she isn't going to be like Faith. When she says "I'm not coming back," she means it! It's way too late! And it's laughable to pretend it isn't. I think she *initially* believed that killing Warren was *acceptable* because Warren was evil -- but once it became clear that this violated The Buffy Code even though Tara was dead, I think it was clear to her, at least for a time, that if she did kill Warren she would violate The Buffy Code and thus be evil. She has a look when Warren tells her she'll lose her friends, too, that suggests she knows that's true. There is a tiny bit of give -- she thought Dawn would understand, for ex., but only a tiny amount. I think the shadow of Faith hangs over "Villains" especially, which might just be my projecting/my inferring from Marti Noxon's recurring themes/whatever.

Anyway, the primary criticism Willow offers of Faith to Tara is that she's a cleavagey slut-bomb going on about how cool she is, while she's in the midst of *not* pursuing a relationship because she's afraid of what it would mean if she was gay because being gay is being skanky and evil and.... The bad girl stuff and sexuality stuff and power are all wrapped up like a big evil Mexican serape /Andrew. And on some level a hero needs a villain, and Willow kind of needs Faith to be the villain now that Cordelia no longer is. I don't want to overstate the case here -- "Choices" is about the only time I think Willow actually does any damage to Faith by her animosity, and even there it's a drop in the bucket. But there is some projection surrounding the W/F dynamic on Willow's side.

Faith, I think, barely registers Willow at all until "Choices," at which point Willow is someone who delivered a certain big hurtful thing. "I forgot how much you don't like Faith!" in "Who Are You." Faith *did* observe Willow enough to know she was dating Oz -- but I don't think her statement about how much Willow couldn't get enough of Oz meant she was paying much attention, so much as finding the exact right way to deliver a gut-punch to Tara and (IMO) to implicitly vulgarize whatever connection Willow and Tara had to prove that people are all rotten and don't have real connections.

Edited at 2014-06-11 06:53 pm (UTC)

Yeah. I have a slightly dim view of Willow's anti-Faith tirade in "Choices" specifically because I think while she believes everything she's saying, I think it's also somewhat manufactured to allow her to have an outlet for her anger. She's really angry at Faith primarily because of jealousy that Faith had an intimacy with Buffy and Xander that she couldn't touch, and on some level she thinks Buffy was more invested in her friendship with Faith than in her friendship with Willow. Of course, Faith is vaguely threatening to kill Willow -- but I actually think that is relatively low on Willow's lists of reasons to dislike people. Even Anya in "Doppelgangland," I think Willow is much angrier at for *tricking her* than trying to kill her, by a fair margin.

I agree a lot. I also take a dim view of Willow's rant. Actually, I'm much more pro-Willow's "maybe she belongs behind bars" point in Consequences than Willow's rant to Faith in Choices- even though I think the Choices rant is popular (although it has its critics) and Willow just gets inattention or more often, criticism alone for the Consequences point.

I think the Consequences point needed to be said- and Willow acknowledged her biases and Willow wasn't dictating anything but instead bringing up a question. Willow's comment only served to actually give some voice to Xander's hurt which was lacking. Meanwhile, the Choices rant didn't include Willow acknowledging biases but just going full tilt negative to Faith. I actually don't think Faith would have abandoned the Mayor's team at that point of the game- but I have a problem with Willow shutting the door on any chance back.

However, you know, Faith was being a bully on murderous steroids. I agree that Willow was more bothered by the humiliation/trapped and helpless feeling of Faith's bullying than the literal threat to her life. I think that big part of Willow was reacting to Faith like a high school bully. Victims are instructed to do this swash-buckling stand up for yourself routine. Willow really followed that manual- but on steroids accordingly because Faith actually is threatening Willow's life and is working for Evil's Administration. I am always amused at how high-schooly Willow recounts her confrontation with Faith.

Willow: So Faith was like I'm going to beat you up and I'm all "I'm not afraid of you" and then she had the knife which was less fun a-and then, oh! I-I told her you made your choice, Buffy was your friend...
Giles: This is fascinating, but let's get back to the point. You actually had your hands on the Books of Ascension?

I feel your pain, Giles...

There's a lack of professionalism in how Willow dealt with Faith- to get Faith to stand down, as a soldier talking tough to an enemy combatant who is righteously upset about danger. Willow dealt with Faith like a frequent victim of bullies who finally found her voice ironically at the *end* of high school. Except, she found it with a super-powered slayer holding a knife AND with a damaged, sick girl who maybe could have been convinced off Team Evil which would have saved a lot of grief.

But you know, the whole point of the ep lands on the note that Willow's not an adult, professional evil-fighter yet but she'd like to try to become one. So yeah, Willow dealt with Faith like a high school girl because she *is* one.

Absolutely agreed. I also really agree that "maybe she belongs behind bars" is genuinely admirable. It really did need to be said, AND Xander was literally silenced in that scene.

The truth is, I think, that Willow's reasons for hating Faith are not the same reasons she tears into her. Her reasons aren't completely illegitimate, and Faith is about to kill her. But Faith in that moment becomes a representative of every person who has ever pushed Willow around, in addition to being the girl who badly hurt Xander *and* Buffy *and* briefly stole both away from Willow, with Willow left to pick up the pieces (from her POV). Willow has a lot of legitimate reasons to be angry, and some legitimate reasons to be *upset*. But she just went off at Faith primarily because she became convinced that Buffy's disapproval and Faith's full-tilt dedication to Team Evil meant that Faith was a safe target for her anger and righteous indignation. That's understandable, and very high school. People have gone full-on critical you-are-an-asshole-no-more-chances! for a lot less. *I* have gone you-can't-come-back-from-that for a lot less when I was 16-7. But it's not really right.

I do kind of think that Willow's attitude here solidifies her internal position that *she*, Willow, gets no breaks, which screws her over in the long run. She will forgive herself lapses only if those lapses can be justified as not lapses at all -- and that means that she has a greater responsibility to rationalize. I tend to think that part of Willow's anger is related to her Good Girl issues, and the fact that she suspects that if she stopped being Miss Reliable for a few days she'd lose all her friends instantly. I think her unforgiving stance on Faith is related to her feeling she has to walk that impossible tightrope, and her frantic breakdowns when she falls off it. (Which is why I think her changed attitude toward Faith in AtS s4/BtVS s7, though under-focused on, is good to see.)

Loved reading this. Your assessment of Willow is extremely astute. I'm worn down with fic writing tonight or I'd be more eloquent, but suffice it to say I am so glad you are now on my LJ radar.


Aw, thank you! I am glad that you are on my LJ radar. I read some of your drabbles since friending you and enjoyed them- like the Willow/Oz one that I mentioned in my other comment. I don't ship Willow/Angel or Willow/Spike but based on the drabbles I read, I think you're talent transcends my shipping preferences. I'll be reading your fanfiction when I can!

Interesting observations! I really like how you pointed out some underrated characteristics in the female characters, like Willow's pragmatism or Buffy's intuition. These qualities are often overlooked when it comes to these characters in order to underline other major attributes. Lots of good ideas.

Yet on the other hand, Willow doesn’t deliver big speeches because Willow *does* have a certain confidence that her powers can enforce her agenda. She is a woman of action and carries herself that way.

. The Miss Marple and Buffy model of detective are women who were never praised as ace deductive reasoners, never really learned formal logic, never traveled and became worldly, do not get cooperation from the police- but end up solving the mystery because they know people and they have innate detective gifts.

Lilah observing that Angel can't even be killed by a *vampire slayer* because he used to date one gets right to the heart of the Angel/Buffy/Faith story in Sanctuary.

Good answery-meta.

Thank you! For such dynamic and deep characters, I think meta on Buffy and Willow should really be varied. There's a whole field of characteristics to discuss.

This was a really fun Top 5 and something I've had on my mind for awhile so it was releasing getting some it down on the laptop screen.

The Miss Marple and Buffy model of detective are women who were never praised as ace deductive reasoners, never really learned formal logic, never traveled and became worldly, do not get cooperation from the police- but end up solving the mystery because they know people and they have innate detective gifts.

LOVE THIS. Wonderful comparison. And very true how it's coded in a gendered way.

Thank you for your comment!

Such an interesting point! I love what you said about Buffy's intelligence and understanding of the human animal - it's one of my favourite things about her too.

Thanks! Buffy wears a lot of great hats through the series but Detective!Buffy is my favorite.

Wow, these are really fresh insights for all these characters, some of whom I've thought about A LOT. A great read. :D

Glad you liked this piece!

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