research

The effect of killing somebody

Frontline documentary on "The Soldier's Heart". Here's some material on the effect of killing somebody on a soldier, and what has to be done to prepare a soldier to kill somebody else.

Useful material when writing Giles and Buffy, I think. Buffy can dehumanize her enemies, literally, by classing them as demons. But they sure look human. What does her calling do to her? What should Giles be doing to help her cope? Is the Council any better than the US military at admitting that killing has an effect on its soldiers? Did it train Giles, or is he figuring it out on the job? Or is he not figuring it out because he's experiencing it himself? Or what?
Was that rhetorical? I'm thinking any organization with a "wetworks" division is well aware of the psychological ramifications of killing, demon or otherwise.
My assumption, then, is that they would offer lots of training to their watchers on how to help the slayers cope. Remember Giles told Buffy it wasn't the first time someone had gotten accidently killed when Faith killed that guy.

On the other hand, the Council is a bit of a paradox in that they're really good at organization type stuff, but they suck at human type stuff, so maybe they wouldn't care how the slayer felt. They don't expect her to live long, anyway. I would think their only concern is that the Slayer doesn't go rogue like Faith did...which means they need a plan to help the Slayer cope...it just goes round and round.
Well, the US military is just starting to figure it out, so perhaps the Council is even slower. Or perhaps they rely on the fact that the Slayer dies so quickly it doesn't have an effect. Or perhaps that's one of the jobs Watchers explicitly have. Or... perhaps any of a zillion things the series never depicted.
Interesting material. I think with Randall, you have a classic reaction similar to what these soldiers are going through-- he did something he'd been trained for, in the heat of a real battle, and what he was killing was as much demon as human. And I believe he had to have gotten appropriate treatment after the fact, or he would never have been made Watcher to the Slayer.

Ben's death is trickier. I get an almost Abraham and Isaac vibe there-- something that pains and touches him deeply, but which he is willing to do to save the world, and to spare Buffy the consequences of doing it herself. He doesn't distance himself at all from it, and he shows himself fully aware of what the personal consequences to himself will be as he does it. I also get a euthanasia/ mercy killing vibe here-- he chooses to do something which really must be done, but he does with compassion, and he is present emotionally as he does it. He suffers a death right alongside Ben. And the implication is, it's not the first time he's done it.

Does that make him a psychopath?

I think it makes him someone the writers did not think through, but it also gives us an enormous scope to wrestle with all this-- much as I believe Giles must have done, if he's the kind of ethical, decent man we instinctively feel he must be, given all the other things we know about him.

Then too, a persona like Ripper might be a convenient place to put all that darkness-- and a plausible reaction to repeated psychic stress like that. Wonder if Travers had a similar defense mechanism?
I bet Travers' defense mechanism was bureaucracy. Don't think of the Slayer as a person. Think of her as an interchangeable cog. Recall what he says in "Helpless", and what Giles says in "Bargaining part 1" about what the Watcher's job is.

The telling gesture in the killing of Ben was the glasses: Giles talks to Ben with them off (the she's not like us, she's a hero speech) then puts them on to smother him. He's a Watcher when he kills Ben, acting rationally and coldly. Holding to that oath he swore to protect the sorry world, which (exactly as he said) requires him to think & do things others shouldn't have to.

The killing was so personal. Bare hands. Defenseless person. It had to be done. But... bare hands. I like your comment about Ripper as a persona to deal with all that darkness. I feel a story tickling at the back of my brain...

I also think Buffy is a case of post-traumatic stress disorder waiting to happen. Blood and death, every night of her life. People she saves, people she can't save. The people she missed saving by five minutes. Every vamp she stakes represents a human being she failed to save.
I think you're right about Travers. But wouldn't it be interesting if there were a reason why he hid behind that bureaucracy, other than the "we've always done it that way" mindset?

I'd missed that glasses detail-- thanks for that. And I'm glad you see the personalness of that killing, and the implications of it. I'd love to see what you do with that darkness in another story. In your infinite spare time, of course.

I was thinking of the persona to deal with trauma because I've had a real life experience with someone who developed several to deal with severe childhood abuse. I met one of these personalities one evening quite suddenly and-- I had never felt uncomfortable with this guy. But the persona who suddenly began speaking to me-- it was like talking to a possessing entity-- for real. Scary as hell. But later, he told me that this persona had always taken over for him in moments of extreme danger or stress. And talking about some of these memories apparently triggered something for him.

I think you're right about Buffy, to an extent. Lots of people continue to be able to function under traumatic conditions, though some develop increasingly dysfunctional ways to cope (remind you of anyone we know?) It'd be interesting to see what happened to her after she went to Rome, (assuming a canon as laid out by Angel S5, not the new comic, which will probably blow right past the whole issue. I'm excited about new canon ideas, but honestly....)
Something just occurred to me-- maybe looking at how spies are trained to do what they do might be a better parallel to how Giles deals with killing in the line of duty. I was just thinking of Barbara Hambly's former spy character, James Asher, in Those Who Hunt the Night. He did something terrible in the course of his duties, and he left the Service as a result. He strikes me as much the same kind of man as Giles-- decent, ethical, believes strongly in the value and importance of what he does. Only, unlike Asher, Giles really can't leave when it makes him someone he hates. He has a duty, to his Slayer and to the world. Much higher stakes.

I highly recommend both of Hambly's vampire books, btw-- interesting characters and world. And she wrestles with how vampirism could be real, in reasonable and convincing ways.