Monday, March 25, 2013

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 22

Day 22: Character You Like That Everyone Else Hates

I thought about this for a really long time before I realized that the answer was incredibly obvious.  I did not want to get through this meme without writing about one character who I think exemplifies the anti-feminist tendencies of this show, at least from a female perspective.

Faith

I honestly believe that Faith is the most complex and interesting character in Buffy.  Sadly, her story arc doesn't get nearly as much time as it should on this show.  Faith as a person is a perfectly feminist character, but once again it's about framing.  So let's take a look.

Faith shows up at the beginning of Season 3 as the Slayer that was called after Kendra was killed.  She is instantly everything Buffy is not--dark-colored clothing to Buffy's cutesy little outfits, dark hair to Buffy's innocent blonde, and sexually promiscuous where Buffy has at this point been put in her place for having a sense of sexuality.  Even more, Faith ENJOYS slaying in a way that Buffy also does but refuses to admit it.  Faith is the Whore to Buffy's Madonna, so naturally she has to turn evil--her aggression and sexuality have to turn into something bad.

It's hinted that Faith has kind of a bad past, not knowing her father and having an abusive, alcoholic mother.  So, naturally, she dealt with this through being delinquent...and highly sexual.  Sex is not exactly a good thing on Buffy.

So Faith goes to work for the Mayor--she was SO DESPERATE for that replacement father figure that she needed to go be evil about it--and, long story short, ends up in a coma.  When she wakes up she finds a spell to take over Buffy's body, because she obviously should so desperately WANT to be the good girl. But let's save that for a minute.

When Faith does come back in the Season 4 episode "This Year's Girl", she finds Buffy and talks to her.  Faith points out that Buffy tried to kill her for Angel, over a guy that Buffy had seen as "the love of her life."  But when Faith came back, Angel was long gone and Buffy was with Riley, an entirely different guy.  Then Willow calls Faith a bitch a few times, which is always charming.

In Season 3, the turning point of Faith into "evil" territory is when she accidentally kills a man that she thought was a vampire.  The whole Scooby Gang frets over her, pointing out that she must feel completely different now that she's taken a human life.  And it's clear that Faith does change--she's more lost than ever but deal with it in an unhealthy way.  In this she quickly becomes the Bad Guy.  Something that was clearly going to happen from Day 1 of her appearance because the good, sweet, nearly-virginal heroine of the show was put off by her aggressive, frank, sexual ways.

In "This Year's Girl", Faith takes over Buffy's body.  In the second part of the two-part episode, "Who Are You", we see her imitate Buffy in private, mocking Buffy's sense of right and wrong.  She even does it to Spike here (keep in mind, the dialogue is tagged as "Faith" but it's Faith in Buffy's body):

SPIKE
Gah! You know why I really hate
you, Summers?

FAITH
I'm a stuck up tight-ass with no
sense of fun?
He's sort of stopped by that one…

SPIKE
Wuh-yeah, that… covers a lot of it…

FAITH
'Cause I could do anything I want
and instead I just pout and whine
and feel the burden of slayerness? I
mean, I could be rich, I could be
famous, I could have anything.
Anyone.
(her tone becomes
intimate, hypnotic)
Even you, Spike. I could ride you at
a gallop till your legs buckled and
your eyes rolled up, I've got muscles
you've never even dreamed of, I could
squeeze you till you popped like warm
champagne and you'd beg me to hurt
you just a little bit more and you
know why I don't?
Spike, as aroused as he is confused, takes a moment. Before he can answer:

FAITH (cont'd)
(mock serious)
Because it's wrong.
 
Later in this episode, Faith rapes Riley.  Yes, I realize "rapes" is a surprisingly strong word, but it's true: she is not the person he consents to have sex with, Buffy is, but it's Faith in her body pulling the strings.  And Riley reacts in a way that would imply he felt violated by it as well.  But before they have sex, Faith asks Riley this:
 FAITH
What do you want to do with this

body? What nasty little desire have
you been itching to try out? Am I a
bad girl? Do you wanna hurt me?
 This is two things: One, she's trying to soil Buffy's body in some way, as well as trying to screw with Buffy for screwing with her whole life.  Second, I think we're supposed to see Faith as having low self-esteem that is manifested by her aggressive sexuality.  I don't necessarily see this as the case--Faith may be misguided and emotionally stunted but I take umbrage at the notion that all women who choose to be promiscuous are doing it out of some phantom lack of self-esteem.  
Faith shows up on Angel and some truly interesting things happen there, but I'm going to save that for when I actually cover that series.  She comes back to Sunnydale in season 7 of Buffy to fight The First Evil and, while she is still Buffy's foil, she is "reformed" now.  
Faith got the short end of the stick in a lot of ways.  He character arc should have gotten more time to develop and I have always had a hard time seeing her as a real villain--just a complex person with a lot of weight on her shoulders.  My frustrations with Faith never stemmed from disliking her, I realized upon rewatch.  My frustrations came from the lack of exploration her character was allowed that made it APPEAR we were supposed to dislike her in a black-or-white, good-and-evil kind of way.  She scorns Buffy's good-girl nature in a way that she legitimately should, and her jealousy stems from the fact that Buffy is continuously rewarded while Faith cannot find a proper place in the world no matter her methodology or morals.  
In the end, I ended up liking Faith a lot more than a lot of the characters you're actually supposed to like.  She feels like a whole person, someone with real issues who never gets to truly bring them to the surface unless she's fighting.  It's easy to identify with Faith--except for, you know, the murders and stuff--because everyone knows a person like her, to some degree.  
I've got another couple hard prompts coming up so be prepared for some out-of-left-field posts.  That's all I can say.      

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