I love comic books. Everything about the medium appeals to me, from the artwork to the word bubbles to the compulsion-friendly serial format. It's not something I can say I've loved ever since I was a kid, but that's fairly characteristic of me, too: about a year and a half ago I discovered Buffy. My interest when it actually aired was minimal.
So, seeing Season 8 appear as a comic series should have been a dream come true. And in some ways, sure, it's pretty thrilling. I had to slough my penny-pinching habit of reading them by spending an hour at the bookstore cafe and then putting the graphic novel back on the shelf, because I just couldn't wait for the next one to be published. I have #24 here in my hands, and I'll probably have the rest before long. The art is gorgeous, the dialogue is genuine Jossian gold, and Centaur!Dawn is possibly the coolest thing ever done with Michelle Trachtenberg's likeness.
But thinking of this story as canon makes me cringe. I have no doubt that the writers know the characters and know them well, but I don't at all get the feeling that they care about them.
Buffy/Satsu is the easiest example, so I'm just going to go with that. Plus, Issue #24 has four pages of fan letters about it, which is what got me started on this train of thought. (I always read the letters in comic books. I love them. Dunno why. If I comment on one of your stories it means I've almost definitely read everyone else's comments too. It's a thing.) Full range of reactions, as you'd expect, and you've probably heard or can guess all of them yourself.
My own feelings about what fictional characters do really have just one requirement. If it's true to the character, that's reason enough to write it. If it isn't, writing it is a crime. (Yeah, actually I am that serious about fiction. I mostly try to conceal it.) If putting a straight girl in bed with another girl is a statement, I say to hell with it.
But I don't think that's what happened here. As a development I'm not crazy about it, but frankly, sexual experimentation really isn't out of character for Buffy (my theory is that she'll try almost anything once), and the theory of universal bisexuality does have some weight to it.
What I don't like is that it only happened after we've already seen seven+ years of her love life. She knew she was straight; the tryst with Satsu happened because she was lonely. Very, very understandable. Especially since every romantic or sexual relationship she's had since Angel has been for the exact same reason. (If you challenge, I'll defend!) I pity the girl. I empathize with the girl. But how many more times are we going to see her paired with someone she doesn't love?
Up until this point, Buffy learned something from each of her failed romances. From Angel she learned that she couldn't hold out for a future that could never be, no matter how true her feelings. Through Riley we saw her accept that the imbalance between them wasn't right. After Spike, it looked like she was done with basing a relationship on lust without love. The three of them could not be any more different from each other (unless, say, one of them was a wom-- ohhhh). You'd think she might have figured out what she wanted by now, and moved on to figuring out how to get it.
Buffy has stopped learning. In fact, she's regressing. As a fan of her character, literature in general, and humanity, I'm disappointed. Willow, it appears, has also stopped learning, since we can't count on her to hold onto her S7 magic recovery. (Let's not talk about Kennedy. I won't be fair.) Faith is back to being treated as a loose cannon. Xander got another love interest iced, and aside from the kidney punch of one character getting that treatment twice, I think it's kind of vulgar to bring in a love story just to make a buffer between two other love stories. Xander/Dawn is probably the only romantic subplot I do like (and I totally called it!), but from what I hear...they're pulling Buffy into that too. Sweet Mother of Mayhem.
Here's a few lines from one of those letters in Issue #24:
And, yeah, it would have been obvious to do the Xander thing, but it would have been better. Xander deserves Buff just like every nice guy dreaming of his hot best friend deserves her love.
And here's my response: No, he doesn't. No, they don't. Women are not awards who are bestowed on guys, no matter how nice they might be. Love is a complicated mixture of compatibility, attraction, rational choices, reckless passion, and pure mystery, and if the hot best friend has any integrity, she knows better than to sacrifice all of those components in exchange for mere dogged loyalty. If she lacks that integrity, well, nice guy, you really do deserve better.
Yeah, so I gave the 'eh' to most of those letters, but that one really ticked me off. Rooting for Xander makes perfect sense. Xander rocks. But don't say that he 'deserves' Buffy because you want the nice guy to get the girl. Xander did get the girl. He left her at the altar.
Buffy gets or she doesn't get, but she doesn't get gotten. Why? Because she's the main character, because she's the icon of an independent woman, and because we care enough to want to see her with a forever lover and believe in her ability to make it happen.
I hope Joss Whedon does too.