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Is Giles American?

WillowFromBuffy

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In many ways, Giles is the epitome of what we think of as "British." However, how British is he really?

When it comes to his values and his beliefs, Giles seems to be very American. He puts a great emphasis on individualism and self-efficacy. A lot of what he does and says brings forth association to the American transcendentalists, such as Emerson and Whitman. Like Thoreau, he loves a good hike. And he has probably read Rousseau. With his history with mind altering drug-magic, it is easy to think of the Beat poets. And just like Giles's group is shaken by the death of Randall, the beat poets were shaken by the killings of Lucien Carr's stalker and Burroughs's wife.

So, does Giles have some obvious British influences, or is he really truly an American?
 

TriBel

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When it comes to his values and his beliefs, Giles seems to be very American. He puts a great emphasis on individualism and self-efficacy.
As does English conservatism. Social conservatism is generally sceptical of social change, and believes in maintaining the status quo concerning social issues such as family life, sexual relations, and patriotism”. These are the core values. It’s an “ideology” but not an ideology in the simple sense of a political idea. It’s a mind-set that creates reality.

Individualism – where people take personal responsibility for their actions
Organic society – where people have positions in society and that everyone integrates and has obligations to the community
Human nature - They believe that humans are imperfect and cannot be changed
Order & Hierarchy – Essential to the continuation of society for there to be structure and leadership
Tradition – This refers to the beliefs, institutions, customs, and practices handed down from one generation to the next
Inequality – There is an acceptance that while this has negative connotations it is a necessity for society to progress

It’s a set of values that usually go under the banner of “paternalism”. I’d argue that these are the ideas Giles holds dear. He might deviate from them at certain points but I think they’re probably fundamental to his sense of self. They’re values not only inscribed in Giles but in the landscape of the place he inhabits (reference point - the opening scene of Lessons_.
With his history with mind altering drug-magic,
Umm...De Quincey? Coleridge? Barrett-Browning? Byron? Collins? Dickens? Dunno where English Lit would be without drugs!
Like Thoreau, he loves a good hike.
Check out the importance of the English Countryside (particularly the Wessex Giles is associated with) to constructions of Englishness.
So, does Giles have some obvious British influences, or is he really truly an American?
He's not even British...he's English.* :p Seriously, I get your point but look at Lessons. Giles – abandoned by his father (the WC), no longer needed by his surrogate daughter returns home to his mother – land. Here he can play the big-man, lord of the manor.

*I don't know much about the Welsh national identity. I love to connect him to Scotland and the Caledonian Antisyzygy but I can't. Ireland...I'm not going there. He's English.
 
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thetopher

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Actually many of Giles' characteristics are quintessentially English; he's easily one of the most emotionally buttoned-up character, his humor tends towards the dry and witty, sometimes sarcastic.
His taste in prog-rock and reliance on soothing tea are a lillte cliche in their English-ness but its emphasised none the less.


He puts a great emphasis on individualism and self-efficacy.
So do the English.

Like Thoreau, he loves a good hike
Many Brits are known like hiking (we call it rambling) and in fact the Watcher's council has its very own rambling retreat in the Cotswalds. Very English.
 

Faith 2019

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If Giles is a American, than England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are the 51st, 52nd, 53rd and 54th states. Wounder how @nightshade would feel about that.
 

TriBel

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In relation to hiking or rambling - there's this (below - Kirsty MacColl's dad!). The connotations would've been completely different if they'd shown Northern Moorland or the Lakes rather than the Somerset countryside we see in Lessons. Somerset (yeah...it says it's Wiltshire but, to the best of my knowledge, the Lessons segment was filmed at ASH's home, which is just outside Bath) is not only associated with (Hardy's) Wessex but it's at the centre of Arthurian legend (it's also the Land of the Summer people, which is quite nice). There's a timelessness about it that suits the theme of the episode. Moorland tends to be associated with the Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout by the working class (Ewan's song). In Lessons, Giles isn't rambling - he's patrolling fences.

 

thrasherpix

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What about when Giles leaves Buffy in season 6? His reasoning there struck me as very American (and what I consider a toxic side of that). Does his reasoning seem normal for someone British (or English, whatever)?

If so, then under what circumstances do people, at least close friends and those who have say a parent-adult child relationship, stick by each other? Or is it, much like the USA, everyone for himself, but you (at least everyone else) best be ready to sacrifice all for the state (and maybe church, both of which often get conflated with God)?

And TriBel, you seem to know history. At what point did this become normal?

I know much of Europe (and the world for that matter) once passed down estates and worked together (babysitters were typically relatives as opposed to employees) as opposed of "when you're 18 you're out the door, don't let the door hit you where the good lord split you, and please don't visit until it's time to put me in an old folks home." (With a reply of like, "Yeah, that's great, Mom and Dad, you're just free money for me, and if I can't have that then I've got no use for you, either.")

And though British history for the most part hasn't been something I looked too closely at, it's my understanding that family names and where that fit them into society was once very important at least back in Victorian times, which I would presume would make them clannish (and thus obligated to each other, as well as very busybody to make sure they didn't do anything to tarnish the family surname they shared, like marry someone from a family that would lower their own status). My understanding was that this was the norm for about anyone who actually had a stable home life, though of course historians tend to focus on the best (or worst) so that what gets shown as normal was only so for the middle to upper class.


I'd also like to mention how an aunt decided to "teach" me how to swim by putting a life preserver on me (a thick one around my waist!) when I was 4 years old and threw me out into a lake (from a dock). I screamed terrified for her to come get me so she left (took a smoke break because she realized I was just going to cry for her if I saw her). I did eventually figure out how to peddle myself back to the dock, though I almost drowned (if I got too horizontal then the thick life preserver would flip me over so that I had to kick really hard to get my head back above water). They considered this good child rearing. (Though it's funny, they try to make me so self-reliant and independent, but by the time it succeeded so that I pretty much ignored their authority by the time I was 13 for the most part, seeing punishment as just an obstacle to get around, they were perplexed even though they made me that self-reliant, as opposed to obedient and dependent on them for survival, let alone care. Go figure.) Thankfully this doesn't go over well today (though I do think it's gone too far in the other direction rather than finding a sane balance), but I understand that it wouldn't have been seen as too abnormal in previous generations.

Would this have been seen as okay in British society or would they be scandalized if that happened? (If scandalized, what about in say the 1970s?)


Adding a bit more (because mods don't like it when it's divided into different posts), how would these sisters be seen in English society? Of course these are exaggerated for comedic effect, but plenty of Americans can relate to one or the other (and there are a great many other possibilities as well, and plenty of siblings either hate each other or ignore each other as much as possible while growing up). This is over by 1:20 (then it goes to a different story):


(It may seem the women in white are mother/daughter but they're actually adult sister/teen sister.)

Human nature - They believe that humans are imperfect and cannot be changed
Could you explain this more? I'm just not sure what that means.

Here in the US, there is a belief by many conservatives that humans are basically evil and thus a strong and harsh government to keep order by fear (in a harsh but fair way anyway, at least for those they view as part of society rather than the "other" within it who really should know their place through fear), therefore trying to curb crime by alleviating poverty is pointless to them, for example. (Strangely, this typically doesn't apply to the super rich who should be treated as saints and role models despite the perfidy of human nature...) In contrast, many liberals put the emphasis on society saying that if people are treated in bad ways by poverty and oppression then that will bring out the worst in them. Conservatives value retributive justice while liberals typically value rehabilitative justice. This is an oversimplification, of course, but I share it in case this is pretty much what you mean.

It's just that about everyone sees humanity as being flawed. How they try to check those flaws as a society (and sometimes what's a flaw and what isn't) is what's different. So of course everyone is imperfect.

And of course societies change. I'd think the Old Testament should inform many people who think the "nuclear family" we typically use in the west was very different back then, as were the standards of justice that was far beneath what the Enlightenment brought us. Very few conservatives would still promote actual slavery though it's endorsed by the Bible and was the world tradition since recorded history, so that's changed as well. So human nature can indeed be changed...to an extent.

Even Nazi Germany tried to hide many of its horrid practices, even from its own people. For much of human history they wouldn't have bothered (I've often thought of Imperial Japan as being medieval in their values given what they actually bragged of, only going to try to destroy the evidence when their war crimes tribunal began after WW2).

(I'm not trying to start a political argument here, I'm just trying to understand what you're saying.)
 

DeadlyDuo

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Is Giles American? No.
Has Giles become Americanised during his time in Sunnydale? Possibly. I think Buffy does have an influence on all those around her and it would be difficult to live in another country for years and somehow not adapt in some form.
 

telperion66

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In seasons one and two of Buffy in particular, Giles' quintessential "Englishness" lends so much to the show. Especially in his relationship with Buffy. To have this typical, normal American high-school girl bouncing off of his quirky and English demeanour, accent and all, is a true delight and works so well.

As for him being American, you may have a point, but I've never been able to see into that dimension of his character. I've merely revelled in how much he brings to the show in terms of energy and balance during the first two seasons.

He tapers off in season three for me in terms of what he brings; I feel he fades badly during the later seasons, ironically because he seemingly becomes a lot less British, interesting and of value to the show overall, episode to episode.
 

WillowFromBuffy

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As does English conservatism. Social conservatism is generally sceptical of social change, and believes in maintaining the status quo concerning social issues such as family life, sexual relations, and patriotism”. These are the core values. It’s an “ideology” but not an ideology in the simple sense of a political idea. It’s a mind-set that creates reality.

Individualism – where people take personal responsibility for their actions
Organic society – where people have positions in society and that everyone integrates and has obligations to the community
Human nature - They believe that humans are imperfect and cannot be changed
Order & Hierarchy – Essential to the continuation of society for there to be structure and leadership
Tradition – This refers to the beliefs, institutions, customs, and practices handed down from one generation to the next
Inequality – There is an acceptance that while this has negative connotations it is a necessity for society to progress

It’s a set of values that usually go under the banner of “paternalism”. I’d argue that these are the ideas Giles holds dear. He might deviate from them at certain points but I think they’re probably fundamental to his sense of self. They’re values not only inscribed in Giles but in the landscape of the place he inhabits (reference point - the opening scene of Lessons_.
Yes, but I think Giles's belief in individualism goes beyond conservatism. He truly believes that making it on your own builds character. Most conservatives give lip service about the poor needing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, while they support the lavish lifestyles of their own children.

Giles seems to believe in individualism the way the Transcendentalists and pedagogues such as John Dewey does.
Umm...De Quincey? Coleridge? Barrett-Browning? Byron? Collins? Dickens? Dunno where English Lit would be without drugs!
I'll give you Byron. And Coleridge is interesting, because he writes about women howling for their demon lovers.

But the Beat Poets just fit better. It is closer in time. The Beat Poets kicked off the post-war counter culture, which Giles was a part of. And the combination of collective experimentation with drugs, sex and tragic death. Then there is the fact that Giles was a uni drop out at the time. And ... sport jackets.

And there are so many references to the Beat poets across BtVS. Willow has a picture of Ginsberg, and she fights Moloch, who appears in Howl. Xander reads On the Road. Buffy mentions Burroughs murdering his wife. The writers must have been fans, seeing that they reference them so often.
Check out the importance of the English Countryside (particularly the Wessex Giles is associated with) to constructions of Englishness.
I was thinking of "Lovers Walk" rather than "Lessons." "Hiking" in Britain seems to be mostly sauntering across the moors or posh people hunting on their estates. In "Lovers Walk," Giles looks like he's looking to set up as a prospector in the Yukon. Where in England would you need so much equipment? There's not much wild nature in Britain.
He's not even British...he's English.* :p Seriously, I get your point but look at Lessons. Giles – abandoned by his father (the WC), no longer needed by his surrogate daughter returns home to his mother – land. Here he can play the big-man, lord of the manor.

*I don't know much about the Welsh national identity. I love to connect him to Scotland and the Caledonian Antisyzygy but I can't. Ireland...I'm not going there. He's English.
Well, the English are really the only ones who call themselves British, aren't they? As you say, all the other nations favour their national identity over their collective British one.
What about when Giles leaves Buffy in season 6? His reasoning there struck me as very American (and what I consider a toxic side of that). Does his reasoning seem normal for someone British (or English, whatever)?

If so, then under what circumstances do people, at least close friends and those who have say a parent-adult child relationship, stick by each other? Or is it, much like the USA, everyone for himself, but you (at least everyone else) best be ready to sacrifice all for the state (and maybe church, both of which often get conflated with God)?
Giles reasoning in S6 is part of what I am talking about, but he expresses the same ideas in episodes such as "I Only Have Eyes for You," "The Freshman," "A New Man," and "Buffy v Dracula."

I don't see it as toxic. It is definitely not selfishness. He just has a genuine belief in the virtue of self efficacy. The spell in "OMWF" works like a kinda magic truth serum, and Giles sings that he needs to go, even though he wishes he could stay. He believes staying to help Buffy carry her burdens only hurts her in the long run.
 
Bluebird
Bluebird
Britain is shorthand for England (see every thread about Giles) so it's the same as not calling myself French, cos I'm not French lol

Dora

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Giles starts off as typical upper middle class English, been to the right schools etc , obviously old money , he does become Americanised more in the later seasons, doesn't travis say so ?
I think a lot of difference between the Americans and English is a sort of confidence , a reserve ? I have in the past cruised on American cruise ships with passengers from the US , here is something that demonstrates it for me , if there is something on stage for instant that requires audience participation the Brits sit there praying don't pick me please don't pick me , while the Yanks are jumping up pleading to be picked ,
Also you are officially allowed to be Scotts , Welsh and Irish in the UK but not English we are classed as white British there are parts of the country where the flying of the flag of St george is not allowed ( upsets some people who have immigrated here ) at Sport events we sing the national anthem the other three nation that make up the UK have their own
As for becoming the 51st or the 53 ? state, not a bad idea....better than being in the EU
 

DeadlyDuo

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Giles sings that he needs to go, even though he wishes he could stay. He believes staying to help Buffy carry her burdens only hurts her in the long run.
Considering that Xander participates in the "what the hell is going on?" song, yet it's later revealed that he was the cause of OMWF (and even if he didn't know exactly what was going to happen, the dances and songs would've given him a clue that he caused it), I wouldn't count the singing as gospel.

Also Giles sang BEFORE he knew Buffy was ripped out of heaven. After that revelation, the decent thing would be to stay around a bit longer. Yes, Buffy would have to one day stand on her own two feet without a safety net, but to abandon her after learning her resurrection dragged her out of heaven and that she now "live in hell because [she's] been expelled from heaven" is not the time to do it. He could've at least helped her try and get her life back on track and get things organised.
 
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