I’m just sitting here ruminating about Episode 19 of Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in an exploratory kind of way. Thinking that Faith is a fairly obvious name for a character that may also extend a metaphor made popular by J. Michael Straczynski in Babylon 5. That
- faith and reason are your shoes, you’ll get farther with both.
There are two slayers in Sunnydale, despite prophecy and tradition and common sense which dictate there can be only one at a time…on. the. entire. planet. And Faith (Id) is a trifle unbalanced, perceiving the gift of her slayer powers as unqualified license to satisfy all of her amoral appetites, spurn all personal responsibility for her independent actions, and deny the importance of untoward consequences that flow naturally and logically from the free exercise of those powers. It’s all 5×5 to terminate vampires, but the moment she exterminates one measly human, a scrutinizing circle of social condemnation converges on her judgment and her capacity for reason…which leads her into the ridiculous happy arms of affable, fatherly evil. Faith in The Unknown versus rationally-deduced knowledge of empirical fact; there’s probably a wildly-successful televison show or 50, somewhere in that dogfight.
Two slayers in Sunnydale should lead one to the natural conclusion that Buffy, is probably the story’s repository of reason. Um, no. Regroup. (Return with us now to Dopplegangland, where ultra-inhibited Willow meets her evil alternative-self, who’s surprisingly attractive, amoral, and kinda gay [Foreshadow much?]) I’m thinking it’s gotta be Willow because this episode coincides with the (shockingly-arbitrary) natural order of high school seniors choosing which college (destiny) toward which they’ll embark for the following season(s). Willow’s option-identity is exactly opposite Faith’s with regard to offers from Oxford, Harvard, MIT…while the more-amoral slayer (who dropped out of high school long ago) is presented with a decidedly limited number of far-less-illustrious options (that might involve hopping a freight out of town). And this episode’s entitled, Choices. But Willow’s abduction by the forces of mayoral evil (during the theft of the box of bat-spiders) forces the Slayity (Scoobies — I just prefer to call them the Slayity) to choose between rescuing Willow from torture and death or to thwart the mayor’s plans for the box. Oz wordlessly casts the deciding vote. No choice.
I’m going with the college-choice thingy, for now. So if Buffy isn’t the Fort Knox of Reason, I’ve just got to conclude she’s always been the dynamic balance between two terms of an inspired contradiction; the primary target of terrifying evil…who just happens to be a champion evil-ass-kicker. Buffy’s always been the pivotal oxymoron, the neo-iconic contradiction to the hackneyed stereotype of cheerleader victimization, damsel in distress, virgin/whore…and stuff, taking back the knight for refund (and maybe a delicious cookie — I just love the way she delivers that line, as though this show were Sesame Street and she’s a precocious 3year-old). So Faith and Willow represent a cardinal opposition of faith and reason that encompases a rare confrontation between the two of them in the mayor’s office when (to my ear it’s entirely clear that) Willow’s the master of her destiny, while Faith is a leaf on the wind of fatal circumstance. “Tough life? Boo-hoo.” (Do better!) ♫Willow, weep for M.E.♪ (Superego much?)
But, while faith, reason and balance work just fine as a nifty, patented triunity of Goddessnessness ness, Cordelia presents an interesting problem in the narrow confines of my tidy little uberchick-community. In Earshot, she’s the only person who speaks her disgustingly-human mind without restraint, shame, edit or euphemism…and Buffy’s new telepathic ability makes Buffy (Ego) a psychological leper in her tightly-knit knot of hypocrites, who uniformly flee her company — except for Cordelia, who seems never to have met an unpleasant thought she didn’t express immediately, which calls directly back to Out of Mind, Out of Sight; to the soliloquy in which she candidly expresses her preference for being an isolated, ignored and unknown star at the gooey center of popular attention, offering up a fascinatingly paradoxical perspective on the universal human condition of agonizing isolation with relatively-acceptable options. By the way, she’ll become that solitary star more literally, a few seasons later. Ripper Giles is a living validation of the hope of redemption, while Angelus and Spike are unliving examples of that hopey principle. Anyanka and Amy also, kinda. And Wesley will shortly justify some small extension of our charity, because, well, what the Hecate.
So, for now, I’m dropping Cordelia into the Goddess pot of tetrunity, positing faith and reason as opposites to the fist of secrets (Buffy) and the slap of streaming insults (Cordelia), as the four-part manifestation of Joss Whedon’s philosophy of human ecology/psychology/entomolgy. And that makes Xander…? Joss!, the Jimmy Olson of The Daily Hellmouth, the erratic/spurious chronicler and life-restoring resident fuck-up whose attentions and affections wobble from one cardinal female character to the next (serially and in peculiar combinations), forming a kind of eternal pyramid that’s mystically resistant to network cancellation, which Willow chooses to maintain in Sunnydale. Nice Choices. Cookie!
In the best of Cartesian worlds, Faith and Willow define a locus of points on the X-axis; Buffy and Cordelia are on the Y; while Zander/Joss lends canny and inane perspective from the semi-illiterary Z.
I stink, therefore I am. 3D!