And I’m gonna blush. And then I’m gonna smile.

Oh, you didn’t think I’d get into comix mode and not talk about today’s issue of Season Eight, did you? Hell, the bloody New York Times talked about today’s issue, and I am about twelve million times more qualified than them to write about Buffy. Particularly this issue, because not only does being a fangirl give me street cred, I’m about to do something I only save for the most relevant and important of times: I’m busting out the Membership Card. Oh snap. If you know me, you know this just got real. If you don’t know me, this just got real.

For serious, guys, if you have any interest in reading this series at all, or if you haven’t got this far yet, stay the hell away from this post.

SPOILERS!

Let’s just get to the chase: throughout the various story-arcs of the Season Eight comics, Satsu, one of the several thousand Slayers that Buffy called into service via Willow’s beaucoup-du-mojo as the climax of the TV series finale, falls for the title character in question. Buffy learns of this, is flattered, and in the previous issue, she and the junior grade Slayer have a heart-to-heart about the fact that she just doesn’t swing that way.

AND THEN. I stop by Amazing Fantasy after work, chat with my friendly neighborhood geeks, go home, sit down in the comfy chair, put up my feet, get into the story, turn a page, and promptly scare Meg, who thought my “AAAAAA WHAT THE FUCK?!” was actually indication that something was wrong in the real world. Here’s why:

buffy190.jpg

Ok, so I’ve sputtered, I’ve stared, I’ve rambled, I skimmed through the explosion on Whedonesque and I’ve pondered long and hard about this. Here’s my two cents.

At first glance, I was ready to scream “FAN SERVICE!” and punch somebody at Dark Horse in the face. One of my hugest pet peeves is the misogynistic tendency modern media has to show two women kissing in order to boost ratings. It’s insulting and demeaning, and I am so sick of it. Did they really think they could pull this? I’d expect this kind of bullshit from DC, but from the Buffyverse? To put this in the proper context, we are talking about the series that had a HUGE influence on the pop-culture view of same-sex relationships in its heyday. Who among us didn’t see Willow and Tara and think, “Oh my god, they’re lovely and all their friends love them and they’re like me“? Sexuality in Sunnydale, regardless of what flavor it may be, has virtually never been about ratings (although it certainly didn’t hurt), and was always done with sensitivity and intelligence. How could the comics, which are every bit a pure and good extension of the television series, stray from that noble path? My next thought was that this wasn’t something my heroine would do. I mean, come on, as an expert on the topic, I can tell you right now that Buffy is the straightest girl in the history of straight girls. If nothing else, it’s the only thing in the world that can account for Riley.

But then I actually read the panels. The dialogue was so in character that I could practically hear Sarah Michelle Gellar dubbing over it. It was smart, it was funny, and it was anything but clichéd. I read it again, showed it to Meg, and read it again. It was sweet. It was sad. It was touching, and it worked.

I’ll say it again. It does work, and here’s why.

Let’s start by looking at the woman herself. Buffy’s character development is one of the best examples of the spirit of the Hero’s Journey (an explanation of my view on this requires you to have a good deal of time, patience, and coin with which to buy drinks). She is a flawed character, as every true hero should be, and it makes her eventual rise to the by-proxy position of Slayer General all the more epic. She may be a damned cunning strategist on the battlefield, but in her personal life, she’s rather a noob at times, particularly in the bedroom. She has never had a good healthy romantic attachment (as blindingly sexy as she and Spike were, healthy and good that was not). That doesn’t mean she’s a glutton for punishment. She just always tries something new, tries to grow and change. Look at the men she’s been with. They’ve all been as different as night and day, and rightly so. Once Buffy breaks away from a pattern, she never goes back to it. She’s a fighter; she learns from her mistakes.

Now, going from this, let’s look at where she is in the comics right now. She’s risen so high that she doesn’t have a moment to let go (her talk with Xander about this in last month’s issue killed me). She has become The Slayer, and she has no time to be Buffy anymore. Xander’s off leading Mission Control, Willow comes and goes as her goddess self chooses (which I love, by the by), and Giles, the father figure in Buffy’s life, is estranged from her for reasons that aren’t clear. She’s got two thousand Slayers at her command, and she is utterly alone.

So in enters Satsu – somebody outside the inner circle, somebody who hasn’t known her since high school, somebody she’s had fighting at her side, somebody she trusts and whose company she enjoys. All of a sudden, this new friend expresses interest in pursuing something more. It’s not her cup of tea, but then again, the attention is welcome, and god knows she could use a bit of comforting companionship amidst the never-ending war zone that is the life of a Slayer. I don’t care which team you play for, I can see that as a mindset most people can at least wrap their brain around, if not imagine themselves in.

The thing that clinched this for me is the pillow talk scene the reader enters on. A relationship with Satsu would’ve been highly suspect to me, and an “Oh my god, this was such a mistake” scene would’ve felt ugly. This was just right – two people who shared a beautiful moment together, and are completely content to leave it at that. Satsu doesn’t expect anything more, Buffy is glad of the time they spent together. There is in each of them respect, fondness, and appreciation for the other, which sometimes is every bit as touching as romance. It’s stuff like that that makes it a story, and not a cheap tactic to sell more issues (take notes, DC).

HOWEVER. I must say that while I am glad that Buffy had a nice night for once, my heart bleeds for Satsu. My fellow similarly-persuaded ladies out there know that there is not one among us that didn’t go through the painful Straight Girl Rite of Passage. You fall for a straight girl, you become friends, you finally are honest with her, she decides to give it a try, she thanks you for the trouble and goes back to the boys, you smile and wish her well while your heart quietly breaks. I feel this is the part of Satsu’s story we will never see. Then again, though we do not know her as well as the characters from the show, she seems like a mature girl with a good head on her shoulders. The mutual respect and understanding suggests to me that this is a lovely experience that both of them will remember very fondly, and I’m sure Satsu will take her part in it with a note of pride. Oh, she’s going to pine something fierce and have many a wistful night in an empty bed, but she’ll be just fine. Poor thing.

It’s stories like this that make this comic series so great. In a flimsy little monthly, I went through a bevy of emotions and ponderings that have lasted the whole night. Joss Whedon, bastard that he is, is a truly great storyteller, and having Buffy veteran Drew Goddard at the writer’s desk for this one made it come through triumphantly. I love these characters, I love the whole story, and I loved (yes, I loved) this little piece of it.

Read this comic.

(On a side note, if you’re interested in the article from the New York Times, here ya go. There’s a fine interview with the man himself that further solidifies for me that this issue really works, but I found the writing of the article unsatisfactory. Referring to Spike as just “another vampire” in regards to his relationship with Buffy is like saying the Titanic was “a sunken boat”. The following comment made me cry noob: “Buffy sleeps with a fellow slayer. And, oh yeah, she’s a woman.” Bwuh?! ALL Slayers are women, you buffoon, that’s a crucial part of the mythos. Christ on a crutch, with all the fans out there, couldn’t they have found somebody better to write this thing?)

25 Responses to “And I’m gonna blush. And then I’m gonna smile.”

  1. Weathersapart Says:

    I found myself in a similar turmoil over this when I picked up the new issue. I’m pretty much in agreement with all your points. I want to see how it plays out before I settle on my feelings towards it. I have too much faith in *deep breath* Joss-likes-to-breaks-hearts-by-messing-with-your-favourite-character-
    Whedon.

    Your blog is cool. I am one of those initiated into the the comic world thanks to Mr Whedon and it’s nice to find a point of reference for other series!

  2. I haven’t read the issue yet, but I was spoiled by dear Sarah Warn over at afterellen.com. Anyway, living in Europe sucks, or maybe living in Vienna sucks, because it always takes too long until I can read the issues…sorry for ranting. Anyhoo…I just wanted to say that I really liked your ideas on how it makes sense that Buffy spent the night with Satsu because ever since I was spoiled I’ve been wrecking my brain to figure out how this is not soooo wrong.
    Now, I just feel blind and I wonder how I could not see that it’s acutally pretty obvious. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi Becky, I am in total agreement with your final conclusion about this issue! It DOES work. It DOES happen and why wouldn’t it happen to/for our beloved, Buffy. There is nothing unreal about this scenario and I love the pillow talk. It was honest and sensitive and exactly the way that I expected and trusted Joss Whedon to handle this sort of same-sex experimentation by his beloved, Buffy. Buffy may be very straight, but I don’t think that matters a bit in this situation. She is not going to start a long term affair with Satsu, but she will have the beautiful memory of that night that she spent with someone that loves her. To be loved…that’s what she was missing and that is the only thing that is important here. BTW, I’m heartbroken for Satsu too.

    Also, I love it when my geek-self gets to discuss something that was actually in The Times. This never happens.

  4. Found this via afterellen.com. I like your analysis but I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with it. I hate that apparently no one is ever allowed to be canonically bisexual in the Buffyverse, and certainly not our heroine! People are either Gay or Straight, their history and behavior be damned. I hate that when Buffy finally gets to “experiment” (god I hate that word), it’s with a character of no real consequence and no history on the show. I guess it doesn’t help that I find all the Slayerettes annoying as hell, Satsu included, and haven’t liked Buffy herself since about Season 5.

    It’s interesting that you brought up the Straight Girl Rite of Passage aspect of it, because Whedon won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. It’s not like he’s a queer chick who’s been through it. I’m not really seeing the “beautiful moment” here, but maybe that’s the bitter bi chick in me still angry over the handling of Willow and Tara talking.

  5. great blog, agree with every point.
    @Finn I can send you the issue per email, wenn du dass willst

  6. This is great…I just happened upon your blog by accident…actually I think you’re on the top page on wordpress today…maybe that’s it. Well, it’s great, however I found you. I’ll be back…I promise. Need to check out your books on planes. I’m just a lowly Daredevil regular reader. But I’m in the comic store all the time getting anything that catches my eye for art. I’ve got a blog here on word.press if you’ve got time to kill (I write about that on the blog by the way…and paint and draw a little). Great stuff. Thanks, Helen

  7. Excellent write up! Coming here was like a breath of fresh air after coming from the slayalive forum on this issue. Some of those people, wow. I don’t think you can call yourself a true die-hard buffy fan and then threaten to give up on buffy because she sleeps with a girl and a lot of those people over there seem to be trying to say they can be. Maybe it’s because I too am a “member” and I appreciate anything I can get when it comes to matters that are important in my life that also happen to be so well written. I know nothing will happen with this in the future and really, I’m not saddened at all – Joss and Drew did a great job of showing that this happens (and it DOES happen in real life) and that it’s ok.

  8. Thanks for writing this post, I really love it. I had a really similar initial response but your post totally made me go back and reread it with a kinder eye. I don’t think it would ever be simple fanservice but Joss and Drew are heterosexual guys as well as being highly talented writers, it’s not like they’re free from libidos or desires or anything.

    I think what maybe irked me about it more, and this is my faggy viewpoint here, is how the Buffyverse seems to be so ripe with flexible sexuality when it comes to the women but not the men. And don’t try to sell me on Andrew since they so crappily undid his obvious gayness in that one Angel episode where he had those two Slayer playthings. Sigh.

  9. “If nothing else, it’s the only thing in the world that can account for Riley.”
    I knew someone would come up with an explanation eventually. Great discussion of this issue. I found you via AfterEllen, too.

  10. Chimp told me you had a review and it made me wish I had still had the T.V. series on a regular watching schedule (especially since I never saw the end of the last season). I’ll be honest, I would read a few comics here and there, but never found anything to hold my interest and I had convinced myself that the Buffy one would never hold up to my expectations. Well appearently I was wrong and now I need to hope to god that there is a decent comic shop in town and catch up on some reading

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