Monday, November 20, 2000

She Stayed When We Were Finished

One week after the election that proved there are elections with no winners except weary election administrators, an interesting question arose. How can there be a pregnant chad if there was no penetration? And in the most surprising development yet, it turns out through what can only be described as a technical snafu, or bureaucratic glitch, it has been determined that we have somehow elected Rutherford B. Hayes to be our next President.

But seriously, enough of the blue material. Last Tuesday night proved to be a welcome night for anxiety ridden scared out of their wit TV observing dwellers. First was the calming appearance of a local election official/brand new media star who in her nowadays fading best gemutlichkeit voice- assured her biggest fans that what is going on down south in the clouding sunshine state can't happen in Minnesota. Our technology won't allow it. Wouldn't be prudent. She was a true shining star amidst all the muck.

And then later on in the evening we were treated to a very special Buffy/Angel crossover that more than lived up to that title. Both shows featured flashbacks (back to the days of a previous Rutherford B. Hayes presidency) that provided insight and definition to why the characters are as neurotic as they are. We learned Buffy has a death wish (all slayers do because no matter how many vampires they kill, the numbers are overwhelming and the odds constantly stacked against them; the fight is never ending so at some point why not give up?). We learned Spike in his human days was a sensitive poet (albeit not a very good one) who gained eternal life through an entirely accidental bumping into with Druscilla.

We also learned Angel and Darla have this weird dysfunctional partnership that asks multiple questions: Is it better to have a soul and eternal life but be tortured because the soul absorbs all the mistakes and hurt caused by life? Eternity can seem like a pretty long time for someone with unrelenting anguish and grief. Is it better to have eternal life and no soul and thus be free of any guilt of how our actions effect others whether we choose to deny it or not? Is it better to have a soul and be mortal or is it better to have never been born at all?

For those of us who are more and more convinced that Buffy is perhaps the most intriguing and well written show that has ever been aired on network television it indeed was an entertaining night. These aren't questions that get asked on other TV fare like Friends or Ally McBeal. Josh Whedon, the mastermind behind Buffy and Angel, is so adept at writing fluid storylines- we never quite know what direction the shows are going to go. This season we were introduced to Buffy's younger sister Dawn, who we never knew existed. The way she was worked seamlessly into the plot without the viewer feeling at all manipulated is just one example of how well the show works. As we delve deeper into the characters' past we are constantly rewarded. It is the most emotionally absorbing and observant show I've ever seen.

Thus far Buffy has had a rough year as she is learning more about parts of herself she never really knew existed. She has learned fighting inner demons can be much more challenging than fighting demons sent from the hellmouth.

Last week's episode ended with her finding out her mother is going to spend the night in the hospital. Her mother has downplayed not feeling well all season long. Buffy who has been worried is thus freaked out, her world falling apart at the seams. She kills vampires with her bare hands and has withstood a scarred heart from falling in love with the only spirit among the spiritless, but the prospect of losing her mother is more scary than she can possibly handle. So who appears to comfort her? The incapacitated villain Spike who having had his heart re-broken is headed over to Buffy's house, rifle in hand, intent on killing his tormentor. But seeing her tears he reaches out. She's hesitant over his sudden offer of friendship- but the offer seems sincere. Spike, the soulless demon- is still a poet inside.

It was a gentle but gripping scene. In a world of sadness sometimes it's those who we least expect things from who can get through and touch us most. A simple reaching out- a barrier breaking moment of tenderness and care can make all the difference in the world for one in despair. The real world as portrayed on TV can be beyond belief (see the election). Likewise fictional worlds created for TV can seem more real than reality itself. Great art expresses what you yourself can't put into words. Great art can also be the best at hearing the words of the unspoken heart.

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