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Random again, but all fannish this time - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Random again, but all fannish this time
In one of the books of King criticism that I pulled out yesterday (this is a roundabout way of getting to a totally different fandom, so bear with me), one of the critics talks about King's method of studying popular culture--a kind of Freudian dream analysis--as expounded in Danse Macabre. Which, yay, it's one of my favorite King books, so I was glad to see it get its props. But that's not the point. The critic looked at The Bourne Identity (the book) using this method, and mentioned the theme of losing identity through amnesia. Which got me thinking about amnesia as a theme, which led me to a pair of Buffy and Angel episodes.

So, here's my observation: Both "Tabula Rasa" (BtVS, season 6) and "Spin the Bottle" (AtS, season 4) deal with memory the memory loss of the entire regular cast via a spell, toward the beginning of a season in which one of the major sidekicks becomes the "Big Bad" (Willow in BtVS6, Cordy in AtS4). On the surface, there is a similarity, and in both cases, it's a welcome last breath of comedy before a fairly depressing and sometimes sordid storyline plays out. But there is a very basic difference between the botched spells, and I think that it points to a difference in the outcome of the sordid, heavy storylines.

In "Tabula," Willow's spell goes awry, making everyone lose all memories. They piece together enough to call one another something, and then go into the action of the piece, during which their personalities really start to assert themselves. By the end, when they get their memory back, they have all largely figured out where they guessed wrong, and come out with a stronger sense of who they are. (Spike is particularly interesting to me in this episode, as, with no memory of being either a vampire or of being chipped--or of being in love with Buffy, for that matter--his first natural instinct is not to be a monster, but to be a hero and take care of people.) Because they start out with almost nothing to hold on to, they end up finding their core personalities.

In "Spin," on the other hand, the characters retain a variety of memory--the most caricature-like version of themselves as adolescents. (This isn't a true memory of course; seventeen-year-old Cordy was perfectly aware of demons in her real life, which fake!seventeen-year-old Cordy is not.) As the episode progresses, they hold rather tenaciously to these scraps of identity, which are really just snapshots of a particular moment in time. They are grasping at the transient, because it seems like the most solid thing they have, as opposed to "Tabula," where they lack even the memories of a transient moment, and must grasp at the more nebulous concept of what is permanent about themselves.

As the respective seasons wear on, all of the characters in both shows are forced to deal with dark sides and shadows, most prominently Willow and Cordy. The brief moment of amnesia and relief of the comic aspect fade as the angst really kicks in.

While the end of BtVS6 is sad and angsty, it's a victory, and ultimately, the characters come back to themselves after all the internal battling, most prominently symbolized by the return of Spike's soul, the very last image of the season, which sums up in a single action the return of Willow, Buffy's returning value of life, Xander's return of love, Anya's... er, well, she's still a demon, but she's returned to trying to help, and Giles's return to his function as pater familias to the Scoobies. Heck, even Andrew and Jonathan revert to being goofy nerds rather than would-be supervillains.

On the other hand, AtS4 barely manages to defeat the threat, Cordy remains in a coma, the memories of Team Angel (except for Angel's) are wiped again, at least in regard to the unfortunate Connor, who gets a total memory wipe and is free to start over and find his core. They also are in the less-than-morally-clear position of being in charge of Wolfram and Hart, and even their victory over Jasmine (the nominal Big Bad) is muted, as W&H reminds them by referring to it as "ending world peace."

Is this because of the amnesia episodes? I'm not quite willing to go that far, but I think they point out a difference in the dynamic--the BtVS characters have the rare opportunity to remove all the dross and discover who they are without it--to discover that they do, indeed, have selves, which is the key to defeating dark!Willow in the end (what, after all, is the Yellow Crayon Speech, other than Xander reminding Willow who she is and that she is loved... which is also a reaffirmation of who he is, since Xander's (usually) platonic love for Willow is a major aspect of his character), and ultimately to defeating the First in season 7. The AtS characters, grasping desperately at the transient, are less able to name and identify threats in time (with tragic consequences for Cordy, of course).

Anyway, that's where my thinking happened to go on the bus to work this morning.

violet_quill did a ship_manifesto essay on Remus/Tonks today. I enjoyed it, and it did make me think of the difference between "shipping" and trying to figure out ships as part of general speculation on the series. In my case, general speculation eventually led to shipping, but on the whole, for me, the question is about canon plausibility and how it seems to be set up in OotP. That I like it is a bonus.

Of course, someone in a comment brought out the old "Ted Tonks is a Muggle" thing. :headdesk: Sorry, v_q... had to answer that one. It's a pet peeve of mine. Ted Tonks=Muggle-born wizard. I'd seen the "Muggle" thing less and less and I thought it had finally gone away, but apparently it hadn't.

Has JKR said that one of Remus's parents is a Muggle? I know she said he's half-blood, but so's Harry. The definition on her site would include someone with a Muggle-born parent as well as a Muggle one, so I was just going to leave alone the references in LoD to both of his parents being magical, but if she's said in an interview that one of his parents was a Muggle, I guess I'll have to re-write.

Back to Stephen King and the book I'm reading. This book of essays seems to have a lot of people talking about dystopian vision and so on. Kind of makes me wonder if they've read the last chapter of Danse Macabre, or the last page of It, for that matter. King is a profoundly hopeful writer--not necessarily optimistic, but full of hope (hence the ruminations on the subject at the end of Shawshank--the film voiceover is taken directly from the end of the novella). It's a very rare King book that doesn't end with a faith in the power of love and goodness, though of course they pay heavy prices along the way.

Oh, well.
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Comments
violet_quill From: violet_quill Date: October 6th, 2004 12:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was actually rather glad you caught that first - I've gotten tired of correcting people on it myself! For a while there I was afraid that I was remembering incorrectly because so many people kept saying that her dad was a Muggle... but no. They're just wrong. I wonder what it is that makes that such a common mistake?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 6th, 2004 12:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Someone pointed out to me that in Sirius's listing of what happens to his family, the word "Muggle-born" is split at the hyphen in the American edition, forcing "born" into the next line. But that's not his first mention and Tonks has already referred to her dad ("My dad's Muggle-born, and he's a right slob"), so it's hard to figure out why, even allowing for skipping half the word in one instance, so many people would ignore it in both. I mean, poor Ted is mentioned twice, and both times he's referred to as "Muggle-born." It's not like there's a lot of stuff to speculate on and forget!
mafdet From: mafdet Date: October 6th, 2004 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is such a KEWL icon.

And I thought the Ted Tonks = Muggle misconception had died long ago but it hasn't. Phhhbbbttt. It's a real peeve of mine, too.
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: October 6th, 2004 05:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I admit to thinking Ted Tonks was a muggle too. *Blush* But I realized he wasn't, and corrected it! (I'd written him as muggle in a fanfic).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 6th, 2004 05:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Then maybe you could answer violet's question better than chrystanza and I did... what was it that originally made you think that?
melyanna From: melyanna Date: October 6th, 2004 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interestingly, an episode of Stargate: SG-1 dealt with the main characters all having their memories suppressed and replaced with false ones. When two of the characters fell in love with each other again, it caused quite an uproar in the fandom, especially among those who thought that Jack and Sam didn't really love each other when they were themselves and were just using the Air Force regulations as an excuse. But "Beneath the Surface" said pretty explicitly that their romantic feelings for each other is part of who they are.

And to totally change the subject, I believe JKR said in a chat earlier this year that Remus had a Muggle parent. I could be remembering incorrectly, but it stuck out with me because I had written Remus as having a Muggle father before that chat. :p It was the one where she gave all the middle names, and a bunch of Weasley ages that made no sense.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: October 6th, 2004 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty sure that this was the interview where someone asked about Remus's ancestry and she replied with "Half blood." There wasn't any elaboration that I can recall, though it's fairly easy to find as it's the March 4 chat.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 6th, 2004 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah--well, I did read that; I wondered if there had been another one since. I don't keep up with all of them, so I wasn't sure.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: October 6th, 2004 04:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I could've missed something, of course, but I'm reasonably sure that is the one LadyofEmynarnen was describing, unless there was one with quite a bit of overlap but specifying Remus had a Muggle parent.
titaniawaking From: titaniawaking Date: October 6th, 2004 01:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Word to the icon - go genfic!
mylla From: mylla Date: October 6th, 2004 01:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your icon made me cheer out loud! Awesome.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: October 6th, 2004 07:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I adore your icon. Long may it reign.
sophonax From: sophonax Date: October 6th, 2004 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Adding my voice to the chorus of icon-adorers. Where'd you get it?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 6th, 2004 07:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I made it for the genfic revolution. ;) Anyone who wants it is welcome to it!
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