Saturday, May 4, 2013

Thirty Days of Buffy, Day 4: Favorite Female Character

I thought about this and decided that today and Day 17's character are the one and the same, so I'm going to have to figure out what to do for Day 17. 
Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins, everybody.
Andrew: You are the perfect woman.
Anya: I've often thought so.

Only Cordelia even comes close to being as awesome as Anya. Originally a vengeance demon, Anya goes through one of the most interesting transformations of all the characters in BtVS. Living for so long as an immortal being, she never really sheds her otherness - she is not bothered by gruesome things (like when she's eating popcorn in amusement during Giles' gory slideshow in "Hush") but cannot understand human behavior in any way (conversations in "End of Days" and "The Body" are perfect examples). She's both an infant and an elder, both helpless and powerful, which is such a great dichotomy. 
God, even the animated gif makes me cry.
I don't think there's a single thing that I don't like about her. She's just as honest, if not more, as Cordelia, as well-informed as Giles, as experienced and brutal as Spike. She's the only character who consistently changes her appearance, just because she can, and nearly no one (save herself on, like, one occasion) makes note of it, while when Buffy cuts her hair, it's this big thing (and yeah, I do get that it was in an attempt to deal with her crippling depression, but still). She has the absolute best lines ever.
Yes. Yes, you do.
She's one of the most sexually open characters in the show who isn't punished for her love of sex, at least through demonic ways; the rest of the gang feels off put by her frankness about sex and it's viewed as abnormal, but I blame that on Whedon, who still adheres to the idea that women who enjoy sex outside of his ideal situation are odd or wrong for doing so (see Faith, depicted as being evil, imbalanced, and therefore sexually promiscuous). Even her appropriated love of patriotic capitalism - based solely on her love of money, which was hilariously discovered when playing Life with Dawn and Xander - is adorable.
What I'm sure many parents of non-plastic stick children wish they could do.
What I find incredibly sad about her character is her sendoff. I don't know what Emma Caulfield's response was to her character's death, but if I was her, I'd be pissed off. Anya's arc was a realization of who she was, and the final battle did not really provide closure. It was just, "Okay, SLASH, you're dead?" 

Her identity was always confirmed by an outside source. As a demon who doled out punishment to men, she was defined by her job: she was vengeance. 
Notice she says "what" and not "who."
I think this is why she latched onto Xander as much as she did. With no supernatural abilities or direction, she was looking for something to tell her who and what she was, and her role as Xander's girlfriend was a way for her to figure out what it meant to be human. When he left her in "Hells Bells," she was again tossed to the wind. She returned to what she knew: vengeance. But this time, the humanity she had learned from Seasons Three through Six left her feeling empty, and she found herself once again stripped over her powers.  Only now, she had this knowledge of the reasons she felt empty, and yet she still rejects Xander's attempts to comfort her ("Selfless"), but not before asking this very, very sad question. 
You just break my heart, Anya. Right in two.
People have told me that she had indeed completed her arc, based on her conversation with Andrew in "End of Days," as follows: 
Anya: There was this other apocalypse this one time. And, well, I took off. But this time, I don't ... I don't know.
Andrew: Well, what's different?
Anya: Well, I guess I was kinda new to being around humans before. And now I've seen a lot more, gotten to know people, seen what they're capable of and I guess I just realize how amazingly ... screwed up they all are. I mean, really, really screwed up in a monumental fashion.
Andrew: Oh.
Anya: And they have no purpose that unites them, so they just drift around, blundering through life until they die. Which they know is coming, yet every single one of them is surprised when it happens to them. They're incapable of thinking about what they want beyond the moment. They kill each other, which is clearly insane, and yet, here's the thing. When it's something that really matters, they fight. I mean, they're lame morons for fighting. But they do. They never ... they never quit. And so I guess I will keep fighting, too. 

Which okay, yes. She's decided to keep fighting. But why? Because she now identifies as being human? Or because she admires humans? It's not really clear that she's completely her own person. I'm not saying that her dying was the incorrect way to finish the character's story, but to just have a sword slice through her and then to have Andrew lie that she was protecting him? And Xander's "That's my girl" statement was just like, wait, what? So she's still defined as Xander's property, which is how she viewed herself from Seasons Four on? Ugh. Fuck you, Whedon. Anya deserved way better than that. 
No comment needed.
But anyway, when I first watched BtVS, I really related to Willow in a lot of ways: kind of shy, nerdy, interested in the Wiccan religion, didn't date until I was a senior in high school (and that was a doozy). As the series went on, she kept getting further and further away from who I was, and not just in the "I don't have a girlfriend" kind of way. I can't really explain it. Then in stepped Anya, who was like a shiny spirit animal to my soul. All of her awkwardness and yet her confidence in that awkwardness and willingness to say exactly what she was thinking because she didn't know any other way to do it? Yep, that was me, in a nutshell. 
Ha.
Plus, in high school, I'd been fighting this identity that my classmates wouldn't let me leave behind. I went to an academy, where I saw the same people from fourth grade until graduation. When I headed to college, I had this freedom to be ... me. It's just that I'd spent so much time trying to separate myself from who people thought I was to who I actually was. It was all very confusing. And so I pretty much did what Anya did: whoever I was dating kind of dictated what parts of my personality, whether or not they actually existed, surfaced. It wasn't until I was 26 or 27 that I finally recognized what I was doing and said, "You know what? Fuck it. I am not doing this any longer."
See: one of the last guys I dated named Eddie, who waited for a month for me to break up with him because he realized I wasn't the trophy girl he always wanted.
Anya was just on the verge of getting to this point. ALMOST. THERE. And then Joss fucking killed her. And it crushed me. I wanted Anya to crest over that last hill to join me in a place where we both could know ourselves and determine our actions based upon our own intuition, as opposed to reacting to someone else. I haven't forgiven Joss for this one (I could even handle Wash's death in Serenity), and I don't think I ever will. 
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