Ruminations on a Vampire Slayer

Over the past month or so, I’ve been sick with a persistent URI (though my doctor and I are working on a different theory now — more on that some other time), and I’ve been taking advantage of the situation to rewatch all seven seasons of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Angel.  Of course I’m working while doing this; the DVD’s play on my laptop computer next to my desktop computer, unless my desktop is disabled for some reason (see below).
Right now, I’m just over halfway through season six of Buffy. It is certainly different and darker than earlier seasons. I can see why many fans didn’t care for this season very much, but I like it just as much as, say, first or third seasons. The demons are more representative of the dark side of reality, I think, and the metaphors are more explicit. I also like the deepened characterizations and the darkened themes. Life is hard at times, and everyone knows this. We all go through periods like this when we’re adolescents, times when we feel like our friends are deserting us, when we aren’t sure what’s the right thing to do, when we have to take crap jobs just to keep our heads above water, and so on.

Currently, I’m watching the episode called “Normal Again”, in which Buffy is infected by a demon’s venom which makes her believe she’s in a mental hospital, and the whole Sunnydale experience has been an hallucination. One of the most telling scenes, I think, which encapsulates the entire season in a few brilliant seconds, is when Buffy has the chance to drink the antidote, but after a chewing out by Spike, she just dumps the antidote into a nearby trash can. During those dark times of our lives, we all probably entertain the happy idea that everything we’re going through is just a dream or a mind trip; I know that there have certainly have been times when I’ve wished that everything that’s happened to me since 7th grade was just a dream. This one scene represents a moment when Buffy chooses the fantasy over the painful reality, even if the fantasy itself is painful. The reality of her situation, of the poverty, of the wage slave job, of the friendships imploding, of her relationship with Spike, all of that is just too painful; she chooses to believe instead that everything she’s experienced has just been a dream in a psych ward. One of the most poignant scenes in this episode is a flashback to the mental hospital when Joyce, Buffy’s dead mother, tells her that “the world looks like a hard place”, giving her a pep talk to bring her back to “reality”. They are the words of a loving mother. And then Buffy chooses the Sunnydale life again over the mental ward. She affirms reality and her role in it, affirming herself. I think this really marks the beginning of Buffy’s recovery from the trauma of being brought back to life at the beginning of the season; and this recovery of her confidence and her self affirmation are essential to setting up the final season of the series.

Of course, there’s also that little scene at the end of the episode back in the mental hospital with the catatonic Buffy and the doctor saying, “I’m afraid we’ve lost her.” It’s a nifty little mindfuck, and I’m always up for one of those. But it also reasserts the episode’s theme, and, I think, one of the central themes of the entire season (and possibly the series): coming to terms with yourself, even if the alternative seems more pleasant. As we’ve seen throughout the entire series, Buffy’s always wanted to be just a normal girl, and not have the duties and responsibilities of being the Slayer; yet, when given the opportunity, she chooses Slayer-hood over a potentially different existence which seemed, at least for just a moment, more pleasant.

So, yeah, this season isn’t as purely entertaining in a “gosh wow yippee ha ha ha” sort of way as the earlier seasons were. But for me, the deeper characterizations and explorations of darker themes makes it more enjoyable for me.

This is a controversial position, I know. But then I also really enjoyed the season finale of BSG, and I thought the series finale for Angel was brilliant.

In other news: I’ve been busy with work, and with personal IT projects. I got it into my head to upgrade my desktop workstation to the latest beta release of Kubuntu, otherwise known as “Dapper Drake”. I upgraded to “Flight 5”, which is still a beta release, and thus inherently unstable. This required two reinstalls, since the first time I made a critical error which resulted in the removal of nearly two dozen key libraries, making KDE — and X, really — unusable. I learned my lesson there. But after two days of tinkering and messing around I’ve got my system back to a stable place, though I’m still not happy with how some GTK applications, like Firefox, are presented in KDE. And Konqueror is a touch unstable still. And I haven’t been successful in setting up file associations to launch the proper applications when I click on a link to a file on my desktop. Kind of annoying. Oh, and setting up udev so that newly connected USB devices work properly took a few hours of tinkering and research, and I almost gave up and reverted when I just couldn’t get MP3’s to play. Turns out the new core system along with the latest beta release of Amarok required eight new libraries to decode MP3’s, instead of the two that were required before.

I’ve also been working on a web-based submissions tracker for my writing. That’s been fun.

And, of course, I’ve been sick, and I’ve also been really busy with work. Hence my non-communicativeness over the past couple of weeks.

All of this, of course, is basically a way of saying that I’ve been avoiding revising Fred, Again.