watcher dark

Oh noes! Question meme answers contained within.

Brutal honesty fannish question meme answers here! Not much brutality, I'm afraid. And despite my threats, I haven't found it hilarious to lie, so these are all straight answers.

One. violetisblue wants to know about Giles & Ethan. I have an iTunes playlist titled "Giles & Ethan". It starts with a track from Robert Fripp's Exposure, titled "You Burn Me Up I'm A Cigarette".

The relationship is important to me, so I have several versions of it existing in my head. In one of my versions, Giles and Ethan knew each other as schoolboys (see the Who crossover story for this depicted; see also "An Antique Roman"). In others, he meets Ethan after he drops out and heads to London to have his breakdown. And then there's my sentimental fave, "Breaking Glass", where Ethan is his first great love, met at university. Innocence slowly corrupted.

So, Ethan. Ethan is a mischief-maker, not an outright evil guy. None of his tricks are directly fatal to anybody, though they do cause messes. They're all about the exposure of internal realities. The costumes become real, the adults regressed to earlier selves, Giles's anger given expression as a Fyarl. However, he's also lackadaisical and more interested in his own skin than in other people's. Look at the expression on his face in "Band Candy" when Trick snaps the neck of one of his workers: he winces. Then he does nothing.

This moral flexibility is not going to sit well with Giles. Giles has a nasty case of survivor's guilt and he's been overcorrecting for the Eyghon mistake for twenty years. He's also got a lot of violence boiling below the surface, contained by that guilt and some self-esteem issues. He's willing to kill for the sake of humanity as a whole, when the stakes are apocalypse, but he'd never put up with the sort of casual collateral damage Ethan does. He can't bear the guilt.

Any encounter between Giles and Ethan is going to be explosive. And therefore interesting. Even if you don't assume they were lovers back in the Eyghon orgy days. And if you do assume that, and let that tension between them go sexual, kaboom! "They don't know who you are," Ethan says to Giles, and then proceeds to bait him into showing himself. And wow, the Giles-self that gets shown in "Halloween" is brutal.

I wish Ethan had showed up in BtVS canon a few more times. Not enough to ruin the character or overexpose it, but just enough to keep things fun. Let's let Ethan strip the mask off Giles (by making him wear one) again!

In all of my personal versions of the story, Giles rescued Ethan from the Initiative's prison shortly after he found out about it. Either that or Ethan escaped on his own and let Giles know. However it happened, Ethan did not stay stuck in prison. I'm going to write one of those rescues some day. It's going to be violent.

Two. Another commenter asks about Merlin and the recent claims (linked to by metafandomwank) that it's got "skeevy" issues. I am also asked for my take on the assertion that imperfect canon feeds fannish activity more than excellent canon.

The Merlin wank seemed to me to be a grieving SGA fan flailing in fear that writers are abandoning her now closed-canon fandom. This is a natural grief, and it's normal for people to lash out in surprising directions when expressing grief. It's a pity this fan chose to make up stuff about Merlin, a rather harmless show which she hadn't actually watched, to do so. Just an accident of the timing, I suspect. Merlin happens to be on the rise just now.

Merlin commits a number of sins, mainly in the area of plot holes that anachronistic trucks can be driven through. It exists in a blandified, cleaned-up fantasy medieval amusement park, where the streets are not filled with offal & starving kerns, where the tournament sand is not sticky with blood, and where signs are posted on the castle walls directing the literate visitor to the court physician's office. Religion is entirely absent. The noblemen don't rape the serving girls nightly, the commoner Merlin can talk back to royalty and live, and slavery doesn't exist. An historically accurate medieval England would feature completely callous sexism, classism, and religious prejudice.

But Merlin isn't that. It's some weird low-tech world with modern values in some places and non-modern ones in others, like 90% of crappy phat phantasy novels. This invites us to apply our own values to it. So how does it do? It's guilty of committing Dead Bro Walking, unless there are black knights other than Owain in the background. (Pellinore dies in that episode! Pellinore! WTF! What kicks off the blood feud with Lot's family now?) It made Nimue into a baddy, but also gives us her motivation. And it seems determined to give Morgana, source-canon-baddy in a big way, a good reason for going antagonistic... which she hasn't actually done yet. Either way, Morgana is a fascinating character, far more interesting than Arthur to me. Points for that. Now to a trickier one: Gwen-- the character we link with Guinevere, Arthur's future bride-- is a black servant. This suggests to me that show is poising itself to overturn class & race issues in an interesting way. Which it hasn't done yet, so it might fail with Gwen. Judgement reserved.

In short, I'm not seeing the skeeve.

In re: fans preferring imperfect canon: Show me the perfect canonical source and maybe we can talk... But really, I think the existence of strong West Wing and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandoms is enough to disprove the notion that fans feed on crappy canonical texts. 'Cause dude, those two shows did not suck.

I do think it's interesting to ask what attracts fans to a canon text to start with. Broadly, it's easy to observe that fandoms are more likely to form around visual media canons than around text-only canons (I think Harry Potter fandom is supercharged by its movie incarnation), and that they're somewhat more likely to form around genre shows/movies than non-genre. What makes one genre TV show more interesting than another? I suspect the killer trait is likely to be incompleteness rather than imperfection. We need places to hang our stories. Ensemble casts with complex dynamics not fully explored by the canon. Sexual tensions left unexplored. The classic buddy UST dynamic. Fascinating and large worlds that go unexplored. Unanswered questions. Plotlines left unfinished.

Three. shitsu_tonka wants to know about Giles and Olivia. Is it out of character for Giles to invite Olivia to the dangerous Sunnydale? Do they have a future? And what's their past, anyway?

I'm not sure how much of a past they can have, given that Olivia is in her mid-twenties. Unless Giles met her very young. But they definitely have a past, as she says when she meets Buffy. An ex-girlfriend enjoying a brief rekindling of a relationship that ran its course? A relationship interrupted when he moved to the States? She calls Giles "Ripper", which is my signal that Ripper is just a flippin' nickname, not a multiple personality fragment. People he knew back home call him that. The end.

I also imagine that Giles went to meet her in a LA a few times as well as her zipping north to Sunnydale to enjoy the fabulous weather. She probably wanted to get away for a little bit to a resort town. Which Sunnydale once was, in my personal fanon. Just don't go out alone at night... In "Hush" she's pretty stressed out. Who can blame her? But this implies that she didn't run across anything weird on previous visits and the events of "Hush" are a shock.

When I write stories with her, I often use her to represent the opposite of Giles's life in Sunnydale. She's sophistication, civilization, adulthood, the life that isn't restricted to demon-fighting. The friendships he had before Sunnydale, perhaps. She's escape for him. And I suspect he's great sex for her. "Hush" is pretty clear that she's there to take him to bed.

I generally think that relationship is inconsistent characterization for Giles. It's difficult to reconcile his behavior with Jenny Calendar with his behavior with Olivia. The general tack seems to be to say that he behaves differently when he's in love, but I'm not entirely convinced. I'm more likely to take her as an unusual thing in his life, with a strong previous relationship to explain his relaxation with her.

Do they have a future? No. Giles's life is the fight against evil. Anybody he hooks up with long-term has got to be comfortable with that. Because my answer to the question of how Giles checks out is: He dies fighting demons, sword in hand, doing what he thinks matters most. He's at peace when he goes. And given that this is the Buffyverse, where heaven exists, he goes to a peaceful reward.

Four. What's my favorite ASH ship and why? Giles/Buffy.

They hit my mentor/student ship kink so hard it's knocked into next week.

Union of opposites. People drawn together by shared (sucky) destinies. Snark and spark and no live happily ever afters, but never boring. (At least, I hope it's not boring when I write it.)

The only competition B/G gets in my head is from other BtVS ships. I had no idea ASH existed before I watched BtVS. I've since watched a bunch of stuff he's in, but the only other shippy-show for me is Merlin, where the Uther/Morgana subtext vibrates in a dangerous way. But I don't love Uther or Morgana the way I love Giles and Buffy both. Maybe after a few more years of Merlin I might. But I doubt it. Giles & Buffy came along at the right point of my life for a fannish love affair.

Five. myhrmaid asks about Giles and his relationship with his father. The TV show gives us nothing, other than the dry facts that Giles's father was a Watcher, and he gave the ten-year-old Giles a tiresome speech about responsibility and sacrifice. Semi-canonical sources: Giles's father is a typical Whedon bad father figure in the Buffy Origins comic; and he's dead and replaced by a shape-shifting demon in one of the tie-in novels that I own but haven't actually read. I'll stick with the actual show canon and jump off to...

To a good father, for once, because Whedon's pattern bores & annoys me. And because Giles has to have learned how to be a decent human being from somebody; why not his parents?

I've twice in two very different storylines (one of which you haven't seen) postulated that he married a much-younger Potential. In the Giles/Jenny "Watcher's Child" story, we see him at Giles's wedding and I hint at an affectionate relationship, though he's prickly and difficult. And we see the same man with a much younger Giles in "The Co-conspirators", the one about Giles's grandmother buying him his first guitar. In the story I'm working on now, set when Giles is 21 or so, Giles's father does something that earns that affection visible to Buffy twenty years later. I see this version of Giles's dad as having his own fund of snark & sarcasm, which can make him difficult to get near.

In the "Breaking Glass" storyline, there's a strong bond between them, and his father's death hits Giles hard. In that one, for various reasons, Giles's parents are divorced and his family split. He went to the Watcher half of the family, where he was raised amongst a mess of books & weaponry. Then, years later, he finds something his father left behind...

And you'll get some of yet another take on him in the Big Bang story I'm working on now. Ooh. This one will be fun, because we'll get to see Giles's dad directly in action with his Slayer. I'm not going to tip my hand further, though.

One of the attractions of Giles to a fan writer is how much is left incomplete in his story. (See previous comments about what makes a canon text interesting.) There's enough of Giles the character to win our affection, but we have almost nothing of his background. We can write his origin story a million times.

Six. psychoadept wants rambling about Giles & kink. I think I've rambled about this specific detail before, but Liberty N. Justice's "Sleep To Dream" got me thinking about this. In this story-- worth popping out to read right now-- Giles submits to Jenny Calendar. These two lines in particular: And then Friday night came and for a few cherished hours, he was hers to do with what she would. Tormented and safe, Rupert Giles let go of all control.

I don't pick up all the details of LNJ's characterization (it's definitely early-seasons stammering Giles there) but I thought wow, yes, that's how he reacted to Jenny. But he's not a trembling submissive with anybody else, really... except Buffy, who has him wrapped around her little finger whether she deserves it or not. Though he might answer that she always deserves it, because she's the Slayer and she's risen up to confront a completely unfair destiny.

This is a cliche, but I think there's truth at the heart of it, that people with stressful lives enjoy ceding control now and then. Altered states are one way to do that. Sex, pain, drugs. Bondage is of course explicitly about control. It can also be about permission issues, but Giles doesn't have those (at least not in my head). Let's give him a moment of rest and safety, a moment of having somebody pay attention to him, focus on his needs, and let him get it all out. Give the man a hug and a cookie, as somebody said the other day, though the hug is a bit weird here.

Then there's the lurking pleasure I feel in overturning common fan interpretations of a character. Giles has had a long turn as an ultra-dom, and I wanted a change of pace. Boredom is a powerful motivator for me, and I love trying out alternative answers to questions. That includes my own answers, and I enjoyed changing up on myself when I wrote "Duty" for the anon kink meme (Giles topping Buffy).

I'll admit right now that I'm not too worried about sticking with canon characterization in Blackmail, though I think I alter Buffy far more than Giles. T&P is about consent issues and is way more srsbznz than Blackmail.
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Excellent post, and thank you for answering my questions. Oh, the eternal mystery of Giles and the fun we all have trying to fill in the blanks.
First comment:

I suspect the killer trait is likely to be incompleteness rather than imperfection.

I agree about incompleteness. Also, inconsistency seems to invite fannish speculation. My own experience is that the bizarre holes in logic/continuity in Jossverse shows (less so in Firefly) make it easier to play around in that universe because there are so many gaps where one can slip in with alternate theories. Also, Joss's tendency to rewrite his own canon... Babylon 5, on the other hand, I find it difficult to write fic for because the story is so well-crafted as to seem inevitable.
Second comment:

Ripper is just a flippin' nickname, not a multiple personality fragment. People he knew back home call him that. The end.

I really feel like it's more than *just* a nickname. Certainly not to the degree of multiple personalities, but there are certain behaviors that define "Ripper". I can think of four examples off the top of my head when he is clearly Ripper: with Principal Snyder in Dead Man's Party, with Ethan in both the Dark Age and Halloween, and with Spike in I Was Made To Love You. Ripper is who he is when he sheds all the tweed and decorum and goes for the throat, literally or figuratively. (Band Candy wasn't really Ripper, that's a whole nother can of worms. Killing Ben to kill Glory, also not Ripper.)

But it seemed clear to me that Olivia knew... a less extreme version of the Ripper side of his personality. Certainly there are implications in her calling him that that he was still using the persona in aspects of his life up until he went to Sunnydale. I always imagined that it was something he did when he need a break. Olivia clearly knew nothing of his real work, so he must have maintained certain friends outside the Council with whom he expressed a different side of himself (nothing so extreme or dangerous as the Eyghon days), and she was part of that crowd.
Like antennapedia, I violently dislike the Serious Disorder explanation people. The very idea bothers me. Might be fun as an AU, but really, no.

I agree with you that it isn't "just a nick that people back home use". It's very related - to a type of behaviour, which olivia actively refers to. But where we disagree is on the type of behaviour. In my humble opinion, gathered casually at three in the morning, based on old memories, the idea of Ripper isn't decidedly assigned to violent or cold behaviours or moods. I think it's a nick given to him when he was, so to speak, an ass. When he pretended he was in Pink Floyd. When he was bragging to impress girls. When he was drunk and danced on a table with no pants on. *Also* when he summoned demons. One might label it "young and stupid". Some will label it "cool". Giles will cringe at most of those people.

I think him stating "the Ripper is gone" - whenever he said it - was more along the lines of "I've grown up", or more precisely, "I'm in control now". Ethan laughing at him for losing it, for showing his violent side, isn't just about the violence, it's about "not an innocent in tweed, are you". It's about, "you haven't changed all that much, and you can't turn your spots".

That does bring up the question of when exactly Giles stopped acting like an ass, considering Olivia's age. Three possibilities: One, Giles was an ass not until the early 70s but until about 1990... Two, Olivia is WAY WAY older than she looks/is. Three, might just be TPTB never gave it as much thought as the rest of us.
Re Olivia, my personal belief is that they were sex-buddies with an on-and-off status, especially after he moved. He must have had many friends who weren't watchers *or* witches - presumably he had jobs, it's very possible he worked at a museum at one point, people meet people in all sorts of places. It's just that it was still in "the cringe zone" time period ;)
That's a pretty good theory. And doesn't Willow say in the pilot that he used to work at a museum in Britain before? Implication is that he was sent there to be Buffy's Watcher, abandoning a bunch of stuff in England. Relationships might well have been one of the things he had to abandon.
She says so, that's what is said about "the new librarian". It could be true, it could also be some kind of a cover, as ceruleancat theorised once. Moving must've been big, yes, although to me it seems he tried his best not to be too close to anyone for most of his adult life. Sad, but you know, married to his job much. His real, destiny-prescribed job. Also, you mentioned his father - think about the huge family house; who ran it when he was in the States. There are many things to consider. Who fed the horsies?
Third comment:

To a good father, for once, because Whedon's pattern bores & annoys me. And because Giles has to have learned how to be a decent human being from somebody; why not his parents?

So with you on the Whedon father problem. Ugh. Granted, I occasionally drag Roger through the muck, but the theme gets a little old. (On a completely unrelated topic: am I the only one who found it very weird that Wes' and Fred's dads are both named Roger?)

I've also always thought that Giles had a good relationship with his family, especially his dad. There's not a lot to go on, but the thing that springs to mind as evidence is his line about forgiveness, which always sounded to me like he was speaking from personal experience.
With Roger, well, we've got a big concrete specific sin to consider, that results in real psychological problems in the adult Wesley. But the random character assassination of Hank Summers seems more like laziness than a writer trying to do something thoughtful with Buffy. And it keeps happening, possibly to make Whedon's point about chosen families being good things. Get old after a while, and I want a counterexample.
And with B5, the holes we'd normally want to fill in are filled in by the official novels and other tie-in bits, some of them written by JMS himself. I'd love to write the story of Sinclair on Minbar... oh. Wait. JMS wrote it already. So yeah, not a lot of incomplete spots.
Mmmm. I always like to see Olivia discussed. I, too, (like another commenter) think she's way older than mid 20s. [There was a fic I read where the writer put her in her teens - even underage. OMG, I'm blind, but what was that writer's excuse?]

I actually don't see any inconsistency in Giles's nervous, stumbling behaviour with Jenny vs his apparent ease with Olivia.

First of all, there's the matter of when he met Jenny. He's been leading a presumably celibate life. He's surrounded by teens who make him feel old and awkward. He's repressed the parts of his personality that used to give him oodles of self-confidence which we never see except when they're laid bare by the Band Candy.

In contrast, Olivia re-enters his life when he's no longer a high school librarian. Buffy and Willow are attending college. And he has a history with her, one that they both find fluid enough for them to reconnect very easily. When Olivia shows up, Giles forgets that he's supposed to be old and gross. I'm sure that it's a relief for him to be acknowledged as a sensual, sexual man. It's about bloody time, too.

I think Giles has learned how to compartmentalize his entire life and it's not often that he gets to open the pleasure box.
I think Olivia's age comes from the actress's age at the time. It would make more sense for Giles's situation if the character were older, but we're given almost no information to go on.

I very much like your compartmentalization theory!