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will57
I've been wanting to do this for a while, but it seemed like too great a task for me to realistically complete. And I initially had planned to finish it before posting but...well, that's just not practical (for one, it would be really, really long). So I'll just set up a tag for it and add to it when I have the time until I complete all the episodes. :)

And for those wondering about the FFL review...I had this project sitting on my hard drive a while. The FFL review is a priority once I get the time to sit down and watch the darn thing.

Okay, Buffy gets a lot of shit for her part in S6. And, yet, most people realize that she is depressed. Although I don't see her depression being described much more than, "She didn't want to be alive", which is true.

But I want to take a more in-depth look at that depression. How it's portrayed in the season. How it affects Buffy's behavior and perceptions. How the other characters react to it. And then her gradual recovery by the end of the season. And the best way I know how to explore that is to just take it one episode at a time.



Of course, Buffy's depression manifests in a myriad of different ways. And my explanation here is wholly relative to my perceptions and experiences, as I found Buffy's struggles mirrored many of my own at the time I watched it. So yeah, it's personal.

Setting the stage here, but at the time I watched S6, I had just been planning to kill myself. Okay, not the vague, "I wish I were dead" type of planning, but the actively suicidal type. I had a date and method set. I had notes written. Everything was planned, and in the month leading up to that day, I stopped living. I ignored bills, ignored friends, ignored work, ignored everything because I truly thought it wouldn't matter. I wouldn't be around next month to worry about any of it.

That was actually a pretty damn good month. There is a great freedom and unburdening when you think that things will be done soon and you don't have to worry about life's responsibilities.

No, the hard part came afterward. When I found I couldn't carry out my plan, I totally fell apart. Because not only would I be around next month, I had to figure out how to live again and start taking care of everything that I had been neglecting. I'm fortunate in that I was able to swallow my pride and ask for help from family.

Buffy finds herself in much the same situation in S6. She'd been done. She'd been free of her responsibilities. The Slaying, the money, the sister...none of it mattered because she was finished. Her struggle in S6 is dealing with the shock of being alive and having to...you know...live.

This exploration is going to try to look at the whole of Buffy's depression in S6, including how it affects her relationships with her sister and her friends. And Spike, who is pivotal to her emotional arc.

Spike represents the death that she was taken away from. The peace. The completeness. She craves him because he makes things "simple". Because it's easier to be with death than it is to try to live with a world that's throwing bills and menial jobs and troubled sisters and troubled friends at you.

Her entanglement with Spike represents her longing for the peace of heaven. It also represents her reluctance to try to be a part of the world. The more she clings to Spike, the more she ignores what's going on.

Dawn represents the exact opposite, though. The MacGuffin who was created wholly to give Buffy a reason to fight last year, she serves as a reminder to Buffy of why she has to live. Buffy will ignore her through much of the season. Buffy's eventual acceptance of her duty to Dawn is essential to her recovery by the end.

And now, let's just go ahead and get to it.

1. Bargaining aka OMGWTF I should be dead!!!!



Well, this is the start of it all. Before we get to Buffy, though, let's take a look at the Buffy-bot.

The Buffy-bot is perky. The Buffy-bot is happy. The Buffy-bot is like a freaking Stepford Wife.

After all, Buffy's in heaven. Her counterpart in the realm of the living displays this contentment and blind cheerfulness in the face of utter badness that is going on.

The demon biker gang heralds Buffy's return and the Buffy-bot's death. As Buffy is pulled from heaven, the Buffy-bot, with her incessant smiles and happy-go-lucky nature, just can't exist anymore.

This episode portrays the complete and utter shock Buffy feels upon simply being alive again. She can't even comprehend what's going on around her. After the blissed out environment of heaven, anything, even standard Slayer chaos, seems like hell.

In fact, her first words in the episode are to ask Dawn if she's in hell. Buffy doesn't know what's going on. She thinks she somehow got booted out of heaven and sent to the Bad Place. Her default has shifted after being at peace. Anything less than heaven, which is all of reality, feels like hell.

This is a feeling that will not go away until near the end of the season. She will go to great lengths to try to recapture that heaven feeling and regain the simplicity of death. She will often do so at the expense of those around her. It's not malicious. It's because she's almost literally out of touch with reality.

2. Afterlife aka I'm what? where? Why aren't I dead, again?



We're still in the "shock phase" here. Buffy is disconnected. She feels as if she doesn't belong (just as the MOTW demon tells her).

She spends a lot of time in this episode staring. Staring at mirrors, at pictures, at the house. She's trying to find some familiarity with the world again.

It's important to note that she feels the world as alien. She still feels dead. When she looks at the photos of herself and her friends, she sees them turn into dead people, skeletons. She won't shake this feeling easily. Instead, because of pressure from her friends, she will assume the guise of being "okay" while at the same time retaining that "not really there" feeling for a large part of the season.

This Mask of Okayness is formed because she quickly finds out that everybody wants her to be okay.

We see quickly that the Scoobies were invested primarily in getting Buffy back. They didn't at all consider the effects and ramifications of doing so.

Willow: No! She's not broken! She's just disoriented from being tormented in some kind of hell dimension. Probably tortured and...It's like, we don't even know how much time passed there for her, possibly years. That's not something you get over...(suddenly)Oh my God.

Xander: What? Where?

Willow: What if she never gets over it?

Anya: And you think of this now?

Upon finding her back at the house, the Scoobies are loud, inquisitive, and well-meaning, but decidedly not what Buffy needs at this moment. Even when Willow steps back and asks that everybody let Buffy tell them what she needs, she's placing the responsibility on Buffy to figure this out. Buffy can't even articulate what she needs at the moment. She barely even knows where she is.

More than that, there is a palpable expectation that Buffy be happy. The most annoying thing for depression-sufferers: Well-meaning friends who expect your happiness on demand.

Willow: But, Buffy... be happy. We got you out. We really did it.

In fact, we see in Willow and Tara's private conversation that Willow is disappointed that Buffy didn't thank her.

Willow: If it did go right? Wouldn't she be...happier? Like, wouldn't she be so happy we brought her out?

Tara: I'm sure she is.

Willow: Yeah...

Tara: You thought she'd say thanks? Be more grateful?

Willow: Am I a terrible person if I say yes?

Tara: Give her time. She'll get there.

By the next morning, Buffy is feeling the responsibility of living, being happy, being "okay", and being thankful to her friends for taking her out of heaven. This all not even 24 hours past her resurrection.

Buffy picks it up quickly, though. When the Scoobies are in the yard having their meeting about the ghost, Buffy feigns interest. She zones out a couple times when she's unable to keep up the guise, but she tries very hard to play along in making sure everyone feels okay.

Willow: How are you feeling? Are you okay?

Anya: It's all right if you're still plagued with nightmarish visions of Hell.

Buffy: I'm fine. I'm really...

In her effort to try to act like everything's okay, Buffy grasps onto the one thing she often does when she's in a crisis: her work. She hears there's a ghost and, when everybody else is looking to discuss how wonderful it is to have her back, she redirects everybody to trying to figure out what's going on.

Willow: You are. Buffy, we're so glad.

Xander: Yeah. This thing, this haunting thing, we'll fix it, and then we'll still have you back, which is...it's so important.

Willow: Yes.

Tara: It's wonderful.

Buffy: We should work and figure this thing out.

However, even at this early stage, the mask of normality isn't working. In the Magic Box, Buffy loses focus and decides to go patrolling by herself.

Buffy: No. I need to go. Um, I know you're worried. But I...I feel like I have to get out. Sorry.

And Buffy tellingly ends up in Spike's crypt. After a full day back to life, overwhelmed by responsibilities of friends and Slaying, she goes to the dead person. When she's feeling as if she can't connect to anything, she feels comfortable in the presence of someone who's also dead. It's notable that Buffy has spent so much of this episode looking in mirrors and staring at pictures in an attempt to ground herself to reality, and yet when she sees Spike, she finally notices and makes a connection with something.

Buffy: Your hand is hurt.

Spike: Same to you.

Buffy: Right

This establishes a pattern that will continue through a large part of the season. When everything else feels strange and alien and not quite right, she keeps finding familiarity with Spike. He quickly becomes the only thing she has to hold onto that reminds her of her death. And memories of her death are much more appealing than the world of the living.

The morning after Buffy kills the monster, she's putting all her effort towards her Mask of Okayness. She makes lunch for Dawn, and tries to act...perky. Dawn inadvertently heightens this pressure to be "okay", though.

Dawn: They care about you a lot. When you were gone...it was bad when you were gone. But it'll get better now. Now that they can see you being happy. That's all they want.

"All they want" is Buffy being happy, something Buffy is absolutely incapable of doing at this point. However, she knows why she was taken from heaven. It's because her friends needed her to be there for them, and Buffy doesn't want to disappoint them. So she'll go to great lengths to keep the mask on and fool everyone into thinking she's okay.

Directly after this, Buffy goes to the Scoobies and tells them that they rescued her from a hell dimension, and she thanks them for it. She does it because she's had the message driven home repeatedly in this episode that that's what they need to hear. Even here, Buffy is sacrificing her own interests and mental well-being to try to make things okay for the rest.

It's only when she's out with Spike that she can reveal the truth.

Spike: Say, aren't you leaving a hole in the middle of some soggy group hug?

Buffy: I wanted a little time alone.

Spike: Oh. Right then...

Buffy: That's okay. I can be alone with you here.

Why is this? Because his presence reminds her of her time in heaven. Because they both have wounds on their hands, and that's the first real connection she'd been able to make since being resurrected. Because Spike isn't badgering her with questions or appeals that she be "okay".

Note this exchange and the difference the dynamic takes between those with the other Scoobies:

Spike: Buff? Slayer? You okay?

Buffy: I'm here. I'm good.

Spike: Buffy, if you're in-- if you're in pain. Or if you need anything... If I can help you...

Buffy: You can't.

Spike: Well, I haven't been to a Hell dimension just of late, but I know a thing or two about torment -

Buffy: I was happy.

When Spike first asks if she's okay, much like the other Scoobies have done, she gives the party line that nothing's wrong. However, Spike doesn't make any insistence that things will be okay or that she'll be happy soon or anything like that. Instead, he offers up his help in any way, something none of the other Scoobies have done.

This is what Buffy responds to. The combination of her instinctive relation to him and his reaction to her return prompts her to confide in him and reveal what she's really feeling. In doing so, she sets the standard of using Spike as her confidant which will continue through a great portion of the season (sometimes to destructive ends).

We saw at the beginning of the episode Buffy descending the stairs to Spike, coming down to his "level". He's not "beneath her" anymore, by her perspective.

And what of Dawn? In contrast to the previous season, Buffy doesn't pay much attention to her. Buffy's far too focused on her own issues, and can't spare the attention required to...notice Dawn. She leaves her at the Magic Box without a second thought, something that Dawn picks up on (and will eventually lead to Dawn acting out in great teenage fashion).

However, during the fight with the MOTW, Buffy does remember Dawn, and even yells at Anya and Xander to get Dawn away.

This particular monster is very specific in this episode. It is a direct result of Buffy's resurrection, and it takes great delight in taunting her about her present state. The MOTW is the death that Buffy was pulled from, and she doesn't want Dawn, who represents her reason to live, near it. Even though Buffy feels little connection to Dawn, she still instinctively knows to protect her when she needs to.

After this, Buffy puts an effort in trying to be there for Dawn, which is something she'll try to keep doing throughout the season. Unfortunately, she won't be able to keep this up effectively.

Next up: Flooded and Life Serial...whenever I get the time...

Buffy Came Back Wrong: Bargaining and Afterlife
Buffy Came Back Wrong: Flooded and Life Serial
Buffy Came Back Wrong: All the Way and Once More, With Feeling
Buffy Came Back Wrong: Tabula Rasa and Smashed
Buffy Came Back Wrong: Wrecked, Gone, and Doublemeat Palace
Buffy Came Back Wrong: Dead Things and Older and Far Away
Buffy Came Back Wrong: As You Were and Hell's Bells
Buffy Came Back Wrong: Normal Again, Entropy, and Seeing Red
Buffy Came Back Wrong: Villains, Two to Go, and Grave
All Entries


Comments

( 65 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 20th, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :)
timeofchange
Jul. 20th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC)
Oh yes.
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 20th, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
:)
tefnut_
Jul. 20th, 2009 11:29 am (UTC)
No, the hard part came afterward. When I found I couldn't carry out my plan, I totally fell apart. Because not only would I be around next month, I had to figure out how to live again and start taking care of everything that I had been neglecting. I'm fortunate in that I was able to swallow my pride and ask for help from family.
I've just interrupted my reading for now.
That's it. You've put your finger on it. I've never been able to put words on that feeling. Thanks. <3
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 20th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. It's actually a fine bit of irony that being absolutely suicidal is pretty pleasant, but deciding not to kill oneself is when the chaos starts.
ever_neutral
Jul. 20th, 2009 12:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks a heap for doing this. Depression is something that's damn near impossible to understand unless you've experienced it yourself, which I think is why it's so difficult to get into Buffy's head in S6. I have no doubt the rest of your posts on this will shed a lot of light on Buffy's mindset.
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 20th, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading. I think the general lack of understanding of depression contributes to a lot of the problems people have with Buffy's character in S6. Personally, I find it a masterful portrayal all around (from the writers and from SMG).
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hazel75
Jul. 20th, 2009 01:05 pm (UTC)
I'm going to enjoy this series.

The most annoying thing for depression-sufferers: Well-meaning friends who expect your happiness on demand.

Yeah, they want the one thing that is absolutely impossible right now. Poor Buffy.

When I found I couldn't carry out my plan, I totally fell apart. Because not only would I be around next month, I had to figure out how to live again and start taking care of everything that I had been neglecting.

I hadn't thought about this aspect ever and how difficult this could be. Thank you for sharing your experience and insights.
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 20th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading. :)
penny_lane_42
Jul. 20th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
This is going to be a brilliant and powerful project, I can already tell. Your own experiences allow for real insight. I'll be following this series with interest.

Great opening exploration.
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 20th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC)
I'm glad so many people are finding it interesting. I've just never seen anybody really dig in and explore Buffy's depression during S6.
eowyn_315
Jul. 20th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
I'm really glad you're doing this - I think it will be a very interesting series of posts.

One of the things that drives me crazy about s6 Buffy is the expectation people (and by that I mean viewers, though the Scoobies are culprits here as well) have that Buffy should just bounce back from being dead like it's no big deal. Thanks for sharing your experience - it puts it in real-life terms how hard it would be for her.

On a totally contrary note (and this is not to denigrate your personal take on it, because I think you recognize this on your own), I've also seen a lot of people take issue with Buffy's behavior in this season because "that's not how depression works" or "Buffy's not acting like a depressed person" - if Buffy's experience doesn't match theirs, then it means she's not really depressed. There's often no recognition that depression is different for everyone, and that just because Buffy isn't exhibiting classic signs A, B, and C, it doesn't means she's not struggling with depression.
shadowkat67
Jul. 20th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
I've also seen a lot of people take issue with Buffy's behavior in this season because "that's not how depression works" or "Buffy's not acting like a depressed person" - if Buffy's experience doesn't match theirs, then it means she's not really depressed. There's often no recognition that depression is different for everyone, and that just because Buffy isn't exhibiting classic signs A, B, and C, it doesn't means she's not struggling with depression.

People do this a lot I've noticed. Even with friends or novels or ...etc, they will state well that book or that movie doesn't work because it does not fit my experience of the situation. Or you weren't depressed because you did not do this, that, and the other thing.

What was marvelous about their exploration of the characters in S6, is we get to see how each character handles pain and depression differently. What their expectations are of each other based on their own experience and issues. I like to call S6 - six characters on the verge of a nervous breakdown or in different stages of one.

Willow, Xander, Anya, Tara - were desperate to have Buffy back and thought she was in hell. Their view is they rescued her. It never occurs to them that she was happier dead.
Or that she would have been. It's a good metaphor I think for one's family and friends...it's hard to understand why someone who is important to you, that you need and care for, doesn't want to be there. It's very hard to see the world through their eyes.
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katiebug78
Jul. 20th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
Oh awesome - I have never seen anyone take such a comprehensive and realistic look at Buffy's behaviour in S6 before (I was defending here again to someone just last week!) You have such a great way of analysing the show and getting into Buffy's head that this will be an awesome series of posts.

Something that I always wished they had changed, though - much as I totally adore the Buffybot, I always found it hard to really "miss" Buffy during the start of S6 because she was, in essence still there. I really wish that we hadn't had her in Bargaining Pt. 1 at all (until that great last shot of the life coming back into her, which just blew me away when I first saw it) as I think that as a viewer, I would have felt her absence more keenly. Just my own personal thing...

I will probably comment more on your particular points in future comments - for now, I basically agree with you!
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 20th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
Huh. Hadn't considered that about the bot, but I knew Buffy was coming back and didn't spend much time "missing" her (But I popped in the first S6 disc immediately after watching The Gift).

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)
(Deleted comment)
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 20th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
*hugs you*

I technically never made it to the "suicide attempt" stage. I just had a plan. I didn't even try to carry it out when it came down to the day, though.
louise39
Jul. 20th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
Your personal experience with depression add reality to this meta on the beginning episodes of Buffy's return to life.
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 20th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
:)
somewhereapart
Jul. 20th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
I love the depth of this post, and the way you really break down what she was likely feeling and why. I've always loved s6, although its been a while since I broke out the Buffy DVDs. I may have to dust them off again as you make these posts, because you brought up things that I had maybe noticed on some level before, but never really thought about or never really understood the reasoning behind it. I think your own experience definitely gives you a unique insight on her mental state in season 6, and I can't wait to see how you discuss this arc in future posts.
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 20th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
I'll admit I don't often rewatch S6, just because it is a bit painful to watch. But I've often felt the need to articulate my largely instinctual empathy with Buffy's situation. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I think that, despite the numerous problems with S6, the writers and SMG did an amazing job in their portrayal of depression, and I'm happy to showcase it.
mikeda
Jul. 20th, 2009 10:58 pm (UTC)
Good analysis.

I think that one additional factor is that Buffy wasn't exactly a happy perky Slayer even BEFORE she died. She was thoroughly weary and emotionally battered by the end of S5. And if she had survived she might well have crashed into a serious bout of depression anyway (probably not quite as bad as the one she actually suffered, but still not pleasant).

(I've sometimes suggested, not entirely seriously, that Buffy's problem in S6 isn't that she came back "wrong", it's that she came back exactly the way she left.)

And yes, Buffy in S6 is clawing her way out of depression while repeatedly being hit by new emotional blows. It's kind of remarkable that it doesn't that her THAT much longer to recover than in her previous bout of depression between S2 and S3.

(I see the end of AYW as being roughly equivalent to the end of "Anne" in terms of her recovery. Similarly, "Normal Again" roughly corresponds to "Dead Man's Party". And then she gets a trial by fire. Almost literally.)
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 21st, 2009 12:05 am (UTC)
Very true. The emotional toil of later S5 can be easy to overlook because it's accompanied by Grand External Plot, as opposed to S6 which is wholly an exploration of the internal conflicts that come with that emotional state.

I mean, hell, Buffy had a catatonic meltdown in S5. It's likely that, even without the death/resurrection, she would have had a depressive episode. Teasing her with some time in heaven only to yoink it away just exacerbates the problems that were already there and adds a new level to the angst.

(I see the end of AYW as being roughly equivalent to the end of "Anne" in terms of her recovery. Similarly, "Normal Again" roughly corresponds to "Dead Man's Party". And then she gets a trial by fire. Almost literally.)

Huh. Interesting comparison. I can get behind that.
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lavastar
Jul. 20th, 2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
Oh oh oh. *jumps around excitedly* This is going to be fun!

It's a brill analysis, and sadly something I didn't quite ever get - especially with the later stuff, about how she treats Spike, like you said in the comments - even though I was pretty depressed at one time. *shakes head*

I think the friends-not-understanding thing is quite interesting, now that I think about it - and to take it a bit further, it's like their blind insistence that she was in a hell dimension correlates to people's tendency to not believe that their friend is really depressed; because it's their normally-perky friend, because then it could happen to them, because they don't have enough problems in their life, because they don't act a certain way - whatever. It's kind of heartbreaking how it's at once not the Scoobies' fault - how could they know - and also completely their fault - because they should try to understand and think of their friend before their own emotional needs.

Hmmph. I'll stop the chatter now, and just reaffirm that my excitement for this is large.
angearia
Jul. 20th, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC)
it's like their blind insistence that she was in a hell dimension correlates to people's tendency to not believe that their friend is really depressed

Yes, that's a great insight. I've met people who flat-out deny that depression exists. Sigh.
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angearia
Jul. 20th, 2009 11:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks for doing this. It was incredibly insightful. And I so admire your honesty.

This Mask of Okayness is formed because she quickly finds out that everybody wants her to be okay. We see quickly that the Scoobies were invested primarily in getting Buffy back. They didn't at all consider the effects and ramifications of doing so.

It hurts how the Scoobies just keep on expecting so much of Buffy. And how awful to realize that they never offer a way to make it better, only expectations and burdens. But this Mask of Okayness has always been something Buffy carries with her. Heh, I even wrote a short Buffy portrait called Mirror Mask that revolves around how she works so hard to hide her pain and spare her friends. How any fan can view Buffy as ultimately selfish is beyond me. She can be self-absorbed, but damn - she's always sacrificing her self for others.


And from people outside of depression, they say suicide is the ultimate selfish act. I can remember being in the web of suicidal thoughts and feelings and then on top of that, feeling guilty for feeling this way. Like wanting to die is equivalent to wanting everyone to pay attention only to you. Suicide is wanting to surrender. Depression is the most acute emotional pain within a landscape of emptiness inside you. The emptiness is the pain.

My poem Be Mine which I wrote as a Dollhouse fic is actually hugely influenced by my own feelings. I see being an Active on Dollhouse as similar to wanting to commit suicide of self. I honestly should take away the moniker that it's a Dollhouse fic. Because it's not really - it's original poetry. Which just makes it more interesting in a meta sense that I'd hidden the suicidal tendencies behind yet another mask.

I don't think I would have talked about this if you hadn't been so fearlessly honest already.
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 21st, 2009 12:18 am (UTC)
But this Mask of Okayness has always been something Buffy carries with her.

Good point. Buffy's kinda falling into old habits here. It's just especially harmful at this point due to the intense depression she's going through.

And from people outside of depression, they say suicide is the ultimate selfish act. I can remember being in the web of suicidal thoughts and feelings and then on top of that, feeling guilty for feeling this way. Like wanting to die is equivalent to wanting everyone to pay attention only to you. Suicide is wanting to surrender. Depression is the most acute emotional pain within a landscape of emptiness inside you. The emptiness is the pain.

Yes.

I'll admit I felt no guilt during my bout of suicidal intentions there. I thought I would be doing everybody a favor. I had some debt, my parents kept having to give me money. I felt I'd already screwed up my life beyond any repair. I wasn't any fun for my friends anymore. I was taking up valuable living space on this earth that someone better than me could have. It made logical sense to me that the best course of action would be to take myself out of the world.

But my thoughts were pretty twisty at the time.

You might have seen it before, but I'd found this site helpful in the past when I'd had thoughts of suicide (which is something I'd previously flirted with. I've only had one serious instance of actively planning the act though).

I don't think I would have talked about this if you hadn't been so fearlessly honest already.

*hugs you*
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beloved_77
Jul. 21st, 2009 01:04 am (UTC)
: stands and applauds:

Thank you for taking on this cumbersome--yet terribly important--project. Season 6 happens to be my favorite season. The raw, naked vulnerability of each character speaks to me, particularly so with Buffy. I, too, have suffered from depression and can relate to Buffy’s experience with it. I know what it’s like when everyone looks to you to be the strong one and how painfully difficult it is to hold everything outside you up when everything inside you is tumbling down.

I have, on more occasions that I care to think about, tried to explain Buffy’s depression to people who just. don’t. get it. There are viewers who try to understand Buffy’s behavior even if they themselves have never had a similar experience. But there are others who do nothing but point their fingers at her in blame for absolutely everything that went wrong, from the full-copper repipe to Spike’s broken heart to Crackhead Willow. They either can’t understand or don’t want to understand.

I can see how it would be difficult to comprehend Buffy’s emotional state if one has not been through it oneself or seen it second hand from someone else. For me, I see her actions and hear her words, and I say, “Oh, obviously she’s depressed,” waving my hand in a dismissive manner and going about my day. I’ve totally been there; I’ve totally done that. Hell, I’ve seen a good chunk of my family and friends go there and do that, too :-P It’s easy for me to recognize, whereas some viewers don’t have up-close-and-personal experience.

I wholeheartedly agree that some of Buffy’s behavior was completely reprehensible, but, you are right: it was not malicious. She did not intend to take it out on everyone around her. She was disconnected from life itself, and in her torrid emotional state, could not lasso the pain and control it. Is it an excuse? No. It’s simply an explanation, and when I have an explanation for someone’s behavior, I find that I can begin to better understand them.

Could she have dealt with her depression sooner and more easily? Yes, but not without therapy, not without medications, not without the love and support of your family and friends. Did Buffy have any of that? A resounding “Nuh-uh!” Her mother was dead, her father MIA, her sister just as needy as she, her friends too wrapped up in their own lives to notice her emotional decline; and the one person who could have helped her, who could have noticed her pain, who could have been there to show her how to deal with life in a positive way, abandoned her. Just got up, and left. Believe me, I’m all for tough love; but it has a time and a place. And, Giles, coming back from the dead is not an appropriate time for the sink-or-swim method :-P

It’s no wonder she ends up turning to Spike. Not only can he relate to being dead, but he sees her pain and offers his help. He has no expectations of her (at least, not at first). He simply wants to help her go on living. He doesn’t do it in the best possible way at all times, but that’s a-whole-nother topic :-P
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 21st, 2009 02:34 am (UTC)
I wholeheartedly agree that some of Buffy’s behavior was completely reprehensible, but, you are right: it was not malicious. She did not intend to take it out on everyone around her. She was disconnected from life itself, and in her torrid emotional state, could not lasso the pain and control it. Is it an excuse? No. It’s simply an explanation, and when I have an explanation for someone’s behavior, I find that I can begin to better understand them.


Word. Pretty much every character does some truly horrible stuff in S6. And none of it is excusable. However, it's all understandable given the situation their in. I'd actually put Willow's overall behavior higher up on the "reprehensible" spectrum than Buffy's, because Willow was often motivated by arrogance and a need to control others, whereas Buffy was motivated by her depression.

Agreed so hard on Giles. God, I hate him leaving. It makes me want to yell at him harshly. I don't think it's out of character, as Giles had made attempts to leave before. But it makes him look really insensitive and apathetic (and he even admits that he should have stayed when he returns by the end of the season).

He simply wants to help her go on living. He doesn’t do it in the best possible way at all times, but that’s a-whole-nother topic :-P

Heh. Yeah. He feels the burden of being the confidant. Being in love with her, but not being able to do anything about it. And when he finally tells Buffy how much it bothers him to be in that role in OMWF, their relationship takes a turn for the bad.

Oh, S6, you deliciously messy season of angsty darkness...
ladyofthelog
Jul. 21st, 2009 08:26 am (UTC)
Awesome analysis. I'm really looking forward to your continuation throughout S6.

Thanks for sharing your story. Season 6 is my favorite season, and I've had trouble explaining why to others who have not experienced depression. It's both painful and healing to watch.
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 21st, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
S6 definitely has some execution problems, primarily with Willow's arc. But Buffy's arc is pretty sound, and it is very cathartic to watch. I know most people recognize that Buffy was depressed, but I've felt such an urge to specify what that means in the story, and the repercussions of it.
gwtwscarlett
Jul. 21st, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
Amazingly insightful post.

You're really right with the friends being burdens- their need to have a cool, perky friend, and their attempts to bring you out into the world just making you see how different you are from them. Been there on the balcony a few times, just without the hot blonde undead guy.

An ep by ep analysis of the whole season will be the best!
gabrielleabelle
Jul. 21st, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it. :)

Friends can be the hardest things to deal with sometimes. Because they truly do mean well, but they just don't get it. And they end up making things worse without meaning to.
auroramama
Aug. 2nd, 2009 01:11 pm (UTC)
buffy came back wrong
There comes a time when you're no longer so depressed that living your life is utterly, safely beyond you. You feel a responsibility to get back to living, since it's no longer impossible, and everyone else is doing it. But you can't yet remember what it felt like to enjoy living, to desire it and take comfort from it. You can't even imagine that other people enjoy living, that they spontaneously want to do things, and receive pleasure from doing so. You imagine that life is constant exhausting effort, an endless pushing the stone uphill, for everyone. The only difference, you think, is that you're so pathetic, self-indulgent, or weak that you can't put your game face on and just do it like everyone else in the world is doing.

It's not about wanting or not wanting to get better. Better is a meaningless word, and so is wanting.

Um, yeah. This is fine work and a pleasure to read. Thanks for taking this on.
gabrielleabelle
Aug. 2nd, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
Re: buffy came back wrong
Yes. Very well-said. :)
lyra500
Dec. 22nd, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
I'm going to try and work my way through this series of posts before launching straight into your 22nd Dec. post but what I have read so far is very interesting. I have flirted with depression of sorts, though I'm not convinced its true depression, but the pressure of university really used to get to me sometimes. This series of reviews looking at S6 from the perspective of Buffy's depression make for really interesting reading. I'm not sure my own experiences relate well to Buffy's, but I recently saw a television programme where professional sports men and women talked about having depression and the continued stigma because of the way the media and fans treat the issue. The series is called 'Inside Sport' and the episode was called 'Mind Games - Depression in Sport'. Its no longer available on the BBC website, unfortunately, but one of the things I really related to that is a common theme between what the sports people said and what I felt and what you have said here, is that people don't see or believe that there is anything wrong with you or that it is even a real illness. If they can't see the plaster cast on your broken leg, they're not convinced you're hurting. So many people suffer in silence with this, I greatly admire you for being so open and talking about what is obviously something really personal for you, as well as putting a level of insight that seems to pass by so many viewers and fan writers & readers.
gabrielleabelle
Dec. 22nd, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'm glad that you're finding it interesting. :)
treadingthedark
Nov. 9th, 2010 02:16 am (UTC)
Excellent post. I feel like I got not just a new insight into Buffy, but a new insight into depression as well.

Thanks.
gabrielleabelle
Nov. 9th, 2010 10:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading. :)
samandriel
Nov. 12th, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
Okay, I know this is a bit old, but I recently found you through TVTropes, of all places, and when I find new blogs, especially ones as interesting as yours, I feel "the need to read". :P

Anyway, I feel that this series (I've only read this one so far) is going to be fascinating and also sort-of sobering for me, in part because I have struggled with depression. BUT. I've never thought of Buffy as being depressed. Abstractly, yes, but not explicitly. And I love me some meta, especially when there's solid and interesting analysis going on. :)

My final point, before this becomes a novel, is this: You say that the exchange between Buffy and Spike where the "I can be alone with you here" line is, is an example of Spike being a reminder of being at peace and/or dead. Do you stick by this? I'm only asking because, at the time, it struck me as a "You're not enough of a person for it to bother me if you're here or not". In retrospect, your point makes sense, and especially the point of Buffy being cruel without thought also plays here. Do you think it might be a little of both? (I'm not trying to pick an argument, mind, just trying to get another person's read on the dialog.)

Thanks for this! I look forward to reading more.

gabrielleabelle
Nov. 13th, 2010 03:47 am (UTC)
Oh! Where exactly was I linked on TVTropes? I know another entry of mine has a link there, but I wasn't aware that this meta had...

Anyway, I'm glad you're enjoying it! I actually have most of the series completed (I need to do the Dark Willow eps, and that's it). They're all listed under the 'buffy came back wrong' tag and are lengthy.

You say that the exchange between Buffy and Spike where the "I can be alone with you here" line is, is an example of Spike being a reminder of being at peace and/or dead. Do you stick by this?

I think for Buffy, it's definitely about Spike being so analogous with death for her. That's so soon after her resurrection, she's really not thinking clearly at all. She only starts dehumanizing Spike after they start their affair.

However, I do think Spike might have taken it as a dismissive, dehumanizing comment. His response isn't very appreciative. I think a lot of the Buffy/Spike conflict in S6 is due to missed signals, especially later in the season.
tx_cronopio
Apr. 5th, 2011 12:22 am (UTC)
wonderful! Thanks for this, and I look forward to the future installments. adding you so I don't miss them.

ETA:oops, sorry. Didn't realize this was an old post. Hell, I'm adding you anyway :)

Edited at 2011-04-05 12:23 am (UTC)
gabrielleabelle
Apr. 5th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC)
Hi! This project is actually complete. :) All the entries are under this tag.

Adding is still quite welcome, though. :)
pingback_bot
Apr. 5th, 2011 06:35 am (UTC)
Bargaining to Grave
User jetwolf referenced to your post from Bargaining to Grave saying: [...] ted in character analysis, depression and/or Buffy Summers. “Buffy Came Back Wrong” [...]
chimmykins
Apr. 5th, 2011 11:59 am (UTC)
Wonderfully written. I look forward to reading the other entries. :)
I like that you referenced your own experiences.
gabrielleabelle
Apr. 5th, 2011 12:49 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed! The series is actually finished now. You can go to the Buffy Came Back Wrong tag to see all the entries. :)
(Deleted comment)
gabrielleabelle
Apr. 7th, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
Re: Go, back me up a little!
Thanks for reading. All my writing is backed up off LJ, so no worries there. :)
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