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Continuing the Top 5s- Top Five Buffyverse Women
Adorable Willow
For kikimay, I ranked my Top 5 Buffyverse Ladies. I adore all of these characters. To avoid too much clichéd gushing, I decided to fixate my mini-meta on each character on one trait/aspect that I find particularly engaging. It still got a little long for a Top 5 list. My Top 5 are pretty much always My Top 5 Buffyverse Female Characters. However, Anya and to a lesser extent, Darla, are my solid Honorable Mentions.

1. Willow Rosenberg: My homegirl! Arguably, my favorite female character of anything. I've written some about my Willow-love. I contrasted her with Mad Men's Pete Campbell here and discussed her as a Jewish character here.

In those essays, I covered some of the greatest hits of why I love Willow- her relentless pragmatism and ambition used for good no matter how much fandom or S5-6 demonizes it, how much I personally identify with her, the sincerity of her repentance. Thus, I'll go minor this mini-meta on Willow. In a 'verse of lots of speechifying, I love that Willow doesn't really speechify solemnly on broad concepts unless she's evil. Now, I love Buffy, Xander, and Giles. Moreover, I've been known to like some of their speeches on the nature of heroism, the need for foregiveness, shades of grey, battle cries on war, and on and on. However, Willow doesn't really deliver those general-theme speeches. She may get a little long-winded when she's rhapsodizing on why she loves Tara or Buffy or Oz or why she hates Faith or why she was hurt by someone’s actions- but those are about individuals and directed to those individuals. Her general arguments are usually tip of the sword short comments that strike to the heart of the issue.

Buffy: He's gonna do the whole speech?!
Willow: Man, just ascend already.


I think that Willow's general refraining from big speech strikes to the heart of her confidence and insecurity war. On one hand, Willow clearly doesn't feel like she's equipped to instruct someone else on how to be a good person- how to forgive, how to be strong, how cope with weakness. Willow doesn’t preach on morals and she doesn’t really chest-thump on how she is the moral-est person. The closest that she gets is defensively asserting that she is good because she studies and…flosses. Willow teaches throughout the series and comics. However, Willow teaches facts- science, history, the mechanics of magic to the Wiccans in Buffy's army. She doesn't go for teaching morals because Willow doesn't believe that she has the ultimate answer to all of the moral questions of the day. Willow is a yammerer from way back. She doesn't lack for being long-winded. However, Willow's yammering is Willow thinking aloud about how stuff works or how she feels about a situation. Willow yammers, she teaches, she has deeply felt reactions to whether something is wrong and talks out her emotional reactions- but she doesn't preach.

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. Even if Willow doesn’t have the knowledge or power yet to enforce her agenda, she’ll study on how to do it. It is very different from Xander who does give the big broadly-themed speeches on how to proceed and the nature of vampires which aggravate so many fans because Xander really does feel like his power and ability to affect positive change is in his mouth…that came out sounding wrong. ;-)

2. Buffy Summers: I really enjoy how canny Buffy is about human behavior and how that helps her mystery solve the MoTWs. I also think that it’s half empathy and half social velociraptor Spordia social acuity. A lot of my favorite Buffy-moments revolve around how she starts to figure out a MoTW based on her assumptions on human behavior-. Buffy guessing that something is up with Ampata because she packed a huge trunk but no lipstick. Buffy guessing that Billy likely needed to exorcise Lucky 19 after to regain his pride to dispense with the nightmare after the coach humiliated him.

I’ve never seen Buffy compared to one of my favorite literary characters- Miss Marple- but she should be. It’s a special kind of feminine mystery solving. Folks dismiss it as “feminine intuition.” However, rather, it’s more how smart people who casually but thoroughly observe human behavior in its smallest moments end up being the best detectives of all. I mean, I *love* Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot too. And those are the masculinized coding of mystery solving. However, that form of mystery-solving belongs to someone who is worldly, has received training in deductive reasoning, and is so prideful of his mystery solving that he even has the “little grey cells”/”Elementary” catchphrase to pat himself on the back. 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.

BtVS goes beyond Agatha Christie. Agatha Christie generally had Miss Marple solve her cases in small English towns and resorts where Hercule Poirot dealt with the Orient Express/Nile River International Cases of Mystery. Buffy takes her misnamed feminine institution but actually untrained but real sophistication about people to lead armies, solve supernatural cases on a global scale in S8, and throughout the series, mystery solves against alien creatures from demons to the US military.

3. Faith Lehane: My Faith-meta muse is a little on the fritz. Suffice it to say that she’s my third favorite Buffyverse female. I wrote about her to compare her to The Sopranos’s Christopher Moltesanti here on why Faith was successfully redeemed when I imagine that no one in fandom was predicting that while Christopher never got anywhere near real redemption.

4. Lilah Morgan: Speaking of redemption, I love that Lilah was never redeemed. Lilah is *fascinating*. No other Buffyverse villain got four solid well-written years of villaining. Lilah’s longevity allowed the writers to something very interesting with Lilah. Lilah has two simultaneously occurring developing arcs- (1) Lilah’s increased confidence, lack of squeamishness, and control/leadership of W&H’s evil acts and (2) insight into and development Lilah’s humanity and softer side.

The two arcs seem antithetical but with Lilah, they go hand in hand. Despite claiming that she wants no part in humanity, Lilah is particularly dangerous in part *because* of her *selective* humanity. The Senior Partners seemed to notice this when they condoned her murder of Linwood to take his spot as the head of W&H. Linwood was not human enough- just a narrow-minded, black and white, humorless, boring dude with nothing on his mind but the company. Linwood wasn’t taking the company anywhere because he was so narrowly focused on Point A to Point B schematics of evil.

By contrast, Lilah’s humanity with its mistakes and disobedience may be more of a risk but it certainly made her seem like more of reward to W&H's bottom line than Linwood. Her loyalty to her and hers brought her to W&H. She partly took the job at W&H to support her mother and it takes until mid/late-S3 to learn that. Her selfish love of her pretty things and bundles of cash that also motivated her career at W&H is human to the extreme. Inhuman slimy demons don’t care for pretty things or big salaries. As opposed to *Humans* or humanoid demons like vampires that have element of greed crossed with creature comforts.

Lilah's very personal antagonism toward Angel make her a disobedient risk- but it also gives her fire in her confrontations with him. Lilah breaks the rules in falling in love with the mark that she’s supposed to recruit to Team Evil in Wesley which makes her a risk- but it also shows that she engages in her whole self in her chess-board projects.
Moreover, Lilah’s uses her humanity effectively from the start even when she seemed to play second-banana to Lindsey. Even though Lilah is stronger, smarter, and tougher than Lindsey ever will be. Moral: Evil Inc. is very sexist.

While Lindsey spends more time navel-gazing, Lilah has the more cutting, incisive observations of the people around her. Lilah wondering whether Angel's soul will make him fight harder or be more of a softie in the gladitorial ring really gets to one of the key points about what makes Angel tick. Does his soul make him stronger or weaker? Does his soul need to be combined with a demon to be warrior!Angel instead of lay-about!Liam?

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. Buffy dated Angel which conferred moral prestige on Angel. Faith wanted Angel because Angel was part of Buffy's enviable life. Boom, Angel had the charisma and power to redeem Faith and turn her from his assassin to his most successful project. By contrast, Lindsey's observations of Angel are shallow remarks that are All.About.Lindsey. Lindsey has to point that Liam grew up middle class so Lindsey could point out that he grew up poor. Lindsey needs to find some B-movie line that means nothing- "You know, just when I think I got you figured out, you show up in a suit." Whatever Lindsey.

A lot of Lilah’s individual projects in S2 come from her understanding of humanity functions and more to the point, the fact that she’s human enough to ace the role of Human. Lilah was successfully nurturing Bethany into an assassin because Lilah really *is* the normal girl made uber-wealthy yuppie that Bethany is admiring. A lot of W&H players head right to assassins or spells or tattling of what’s right in front of them to get one over their co-workers. Lilah figures that she’s there to make money any way she can and she’d stash her illicit profits in off-shore account so that’s exactly how she investigates her superiors to save her ass. It’s so refreshingly real-people drama for a supernatural show and a supernatural multi-dimensional law firm of ultimate evil.

Lilah’s role in Home really elucidates the conclusion of those two arcs. Lilah has her most romantic scene with Wesley where she genuinely expresses love and appreciation with no benefit to her. However, it is directly married with Lilah spear-heading W&H’s ultimate evil goal- to recruit Angel with his team as a bonus to their company to corrupt, divide, or destroy them. Which, IMO, totally worked and hence, AtS S5,

From the standpoint of AI, Lilah’s humanity (even in death) makes her the ideal saleswoman to deliver AI toW&H. Certainly, Wesley went to W&H to save her. However, even other than that, Gunn and Angel came to see Lilah as a person (partly because Wesley did) and their defenses were down when dealing with her. From Lilah’s position, Lilah’s humanity allowed her to sense how to sell W&H to Angel and Gunn particularly.

5. Fred Burkle (with Illyria as the bonus): Fred is another character that aces dualities. In Fred’s case, I love that she’s the All American Girl Next Door Who Everybody Loves and simultaneously, frequently the minority at almost every point in the show. She was the pot-smoking conspiracy theorist in her little Texas homespun town. The history major turned physics major who was smarter than the students who knew they wanted to be scientists from the beginning. Then, the human in a demon-dimension and moreover, the lone wolf human who managed to escape slavery for some time.

Fred takes that ethos with her to AI. Fred was the only one to say that Angel's murder attempt on Wesley was wrong. The only one who thought it would be wiser to ask for Wesley's help than to allow sluks to run rampant through the hotel and LA to kill people, leave the inter-dimensional portal to Quor-Toth open, and continue to leave Cordy and Angel unknown. Now, all of this really should just count as Basic Humanity 101: How To Survive and Care About Others' Survival With a Modicum of Grace. However, AI studies a backward curriculum so Fred was alone there. In other news, Fred opposed Angel's rallying battle cry of "Give up on human emotions and connections to have the morale to defeat Jasmine's shell mind control. Better to be an unhappy shell that makes yourself miserable than an artificially happy shell". Then in S5, Fred was the only one to really help Spike- although Spike did only approach Fred.

IMO, AI is a team that ultimately died out and failed because of groupthink and even more insidiously, groupthink controlled by *Angel*. Fred and Wesley were the only two that tried to rebel against their ignominious groupthink end from S3 on (although Lorne actually did try to steer Angel another way in S3). Fred’s ultimate heroic moment was being a one-woman resistance movement to Jasmine because it works so perfectly with Fred’s general arc- the loyal opposition.

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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.)

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