Before I get started I just want to say that when I read the title of this article to my partner, he said “I hope there’s cat litter in those beds”. I hope you laughed at that, because we’re about to get heavy.
Now, for the last few months, I’ve had a half written post sitting in my drafts about the unhealthy relationship between Faith and the Mayor in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 3. I binged the entire series late last summer as either my third or fourth show of quarantine. I had this idea that I would get my partner to love Buffy as much as I do, but quickly settled for him just being fine with me watching it while he was in the room.
When I first began watching Buffy my parents told me I wasn’t allowed to because it gave me an attitude problem. I’m sure that they were right, but I’m not so sure that it was a bad thing. Watching Buffy made me believe, for the first time in my life, that I could be strong and powerful, a force for justice in the world. My neighbor, Lizzy (whose house I would sneak off to whenever a new episode of Buffy was premiering) and I would pretend that we were kicking ass and taking names in our backyards. Buffy made us both believe that we could be anything, even superheroes.
As I watched Buffy again last year, I was struck by the relationship between Faith and the Mayor and how masterfully it was portrayed in the show. With some shows, you can tell that the show runners feed every episode through a focus group and adjust the storylines accordingly. In others, you can tell that the arc has been set since before the season began filming, and Faith’s storyline in Season Three is one of those.
Faith comes on the scene with a big splash. She is boisterous and draws every eye to her. She knows how to tell a story, and she’s oozing confidence.
I cannot count how many times that I have bounded in to a social situation, taking over the room and monopolizing the conversation, because I felt insecure. The more afraid I am of fitting in, the harder I try to make myself seem like the coolest person you would ever meet. Maybe that’s why Faith really drew my eye this time around. I could see my own unhealthy patterns reflected in her character’s actions. It becomes clear, slowly and subtly, that Faith is not confident, that she is guarded and fears acceptance because she believes that it only leads to rejection.
It’s no surprise when, through a series of unfortunate events, Faith feels that she has been left out of the Scooby Gang and easily falls in to the arms of the Mayor, and that they proceed to develop a creepy paternal relationship that clouds her logic. Their relationship reminds me, in a way, of Kreacher the House Elf, who does not understand the concept of good and evil, and only understands kindness and disdain. The Mayor shows Faith not only kindness but acceptance. He leads her to believe that he loves her for who she truly is (whether this is true or an abusive manipulation is something to discuss). He feeds the part of her that has always been starving, and she cannot resist.
Comparing Faith and Kreacher comes easily to me now, because I’ve been comparing all of the news stories and witness accounts that I’ve been reading this last week about Joss Whedon’s abusive behavior with JK Rowling’s TERF-y comments from last summer. Both of these situations feel the same to me. When I was young, living in my head more than in reality, scared that I would never be understood, both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Harry Potter Series brought me transformative acceptance. Just like Mayor Wilkins gave Faith her first experience with unconditional love, both of these worlds gave me my first taste with true acceptance. They led me to believe that I was not only special, but important.
This entire blog exists on the premise that art belongs in the eye of the beholder. I proclaim in every post that I care more about my experience with the media than I do about the media itself. In my real life, outside of these internet pages, I live by an ethical code in which I believe that I vote with my dollars. I don’t buy Chik Fil A because I believe that it is more than a sandwich that feeds me in the moment.** I shop with brands that are eco-friendly because I believe that giving them my money shows corporations that they should be making more of an effort to protect the planet.
Back when Lizzy and I were pretending to slay vampires in the backyard, neither of us could have imagined a world in which those two ideologies of mine would have conflicted. People our age, who remember when the first computer labs were established in our schools, could never have imagined a world dominated by the internet and social media. We never could have conceived that with a combination of Twitter and Push Notifications, it could feel like our favorite celebrities were texting us directly. Back then, in the eons and ages ago that was the late 90s, the art stood on its own, and all that mattered is how it made us feel. I think that, maybe, all of us misfits that felt seen and saved by worlds like Buffy or Harry Potter, need to forgive ourselves for that.
Knowing what we do now, however, we have a responsibility to stand up for the people that we love. We can responsibly harness cancel culture, and make better decisions based on information that we have now. If I had not watched Buffy, I would not be the strong woman I am today, and as a strong woman I have no problem with telling Joss Whedon to fuck right on off with his abusive bullshit. I am a better ally because JK Rowling wrote that every life had value whether or not we understood them or treated them with respect. Those lessons still matter, and we still need to hold them close.
And I hope that both of those assholes know that they created these beautiful monsters, this army of confident people that identify as women, that will continue to hold them accountable for their words and actions. That, in my opinion, is true justice.
**I learned to make my Chik Fil A at home, so if you want that recipe let me know, I’ll happily share it. Until they stop giving money to take away other human’s rights, I’ll be making it at home instead of supporting that cause. (PS – go ahead and sue me, Chik Fil A. I’ll show you my blog stats. You ain’t getting nothin’.)