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Willow's reaction in Fear Itself

r2dh2

Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain
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Whenever I watch "Fear Itself," I always have the feeling that Willow over-reacts when Buffy asks them to leave the enchanted frat-house. I understand that she doesn't like Buffy's response but jumps too quickly to tell Buffy off. What are your thoughts?
 

Athene

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I couldn't really understand what Willow was angry about, "I'm not your sidekick!"
Who ever thought that Willow was Buffy's sidekick?
 

Priceless

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They're all being put under pressure, their worst fears are coming true, and I think this is Willow's reaction to that pressure. She hits out at those closest to her. I also think that now they're at college, and Willow is killing it, enjoying herself and doing well, she might be thinking that she doesn't want to be seen as a sidekick anymore, and that she's taking centre stage in her own life.

It might be undeserved on Buffy's part and an over reaction on Willow's, but this is where we begin to see the change in direction of her character.
 

Faded90

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Willow does have a habit of projecting her insecurities on people though. She does this in this episode, the ‘I’m not your sidekick’ nobody has ever said that she is just a sidekick certainly Buffy hasn’t

It’s the same in Yoko Factor whenthe argument becomes about ‘you have a problem with me and Tara!’ Nobody had a problem with her and Tara and nobody has given her any reason to think they do. Even Spike’s manipulations ‘apparently you’re into the new thing and not doing computers anymore’ could be about magic but she puts it straight to ‘they have a problem with me and Tara!’
 

DeadlyDuo

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Even Spike’s manipulations ‘apparently you’re into the new thing and not doing computers anymore’ could be about magic but she puts it straight to ‘they have a problem with me and Tara!’
To be fair to Willow, Spike did insinuate that it was her lesbianism. She was already worried about what her friends thought and if you add Spike's insinuation to that, since he was directly targeting the scoobies anxieties, then her accusation made sense especially as the scoobies had been growing apart with Buffy spending most her time with Riley and Willow spending most her time with Tara whilst Xander was stuck in his parents' basement.
 

WillowFromBuffy

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It is important to remember the conversation in the lunch hall. Willow feels Buffy and Oz are too quick to criticize and to worry, while at the same time not taking much of an interest or being very supportive.

Two season later, Buffy will call Willow her "big gun", but here, she really doesn't acknowledge the utility of magic.
 
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But Buffy isn't criticising or worrying in the lunch hall, she thinks the conversation is a 'share my pain' conversation not an 'encouragement' conversation. She says supportive things that a person worried needs to hear. And Oz isn't criticising and he is being supportive - he's worried about her tapping into something too powerful to control and she turns that into a betrayal. When of course it isn't - telling someone to stop if you think they'll get hurt, especially when they don't want to hear it, is an act of love. She calls him 'Brutus' for his pains.

But in the end - Oz is right. Willow can't control her magic- and I don't mean just in this episode. If she'd just listened to the people who loved her instead of seeing unjustified criticism and betrayal ... she might never have repeatedly removed Tara's memories and Warren might still have skin.
 

r2dh2

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All of you are right. Thanks for the comments!

It is important to remember the conversation in the lunch hall. Willow feels Buffy and Oz are too quick to criticize and to worry, while at the same time not taking much of an interest or being very supportive.
I had forgotten the lunch conversation at the beginning of the episode, it totally shows us where their minds are at when thinking about magic and Willow.

I couldn't really understand what Willow was angry about, "I'm not your sidekick!"
Who ever thought that Willow was Buffy's sidekick?
I assumed that the sidekick comment comes as a response to Buffy telling them to leave the house because she cannot be worrying about them, or something like that. And correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the trope sidekick, right? A secondary character that occasionally gets into trouble when trying to help and has to be rescued by the hero? And yes, since they stepped into the house, their worst fears started becoming “real” -- like in the case of Xander and feeling invisible, there are a couple of times where others repeat what he had just said.

It’s the same in Yoko Factor whenthe argument becomes about ‘you have a problem with me and Tara!’ Nobody had a problem with her and Tara and nobody has given her any reason to think they do. Even Spike’s manipulations ‘apparently you’re into the new thing and not doing computers anymore’ could be about magic but she puts it straight to ‘they have a problem with me and Tara!’
The comment in the Yoko Factor comes from New Moon Raising, where Buffy is visibly flustered and uncomfortable (for a few seconds) when Willow reveals that Tara and she are more than friends. Willow does realize that coming out shocks Buffy and asks her why she keeps calling her "Will".

They're all being put under pressure, their worst fears are coming true, and I think this is Willow's reaction to that pressure. She hits out at those closest to her. I also think that now they're at college, and Willow is killing it, enjoying herself and doing well, she might be thinking that she doesn't want to be seen as a sidekick anymore, and that she's taking centre stage in her own life.

It might be undeserved on Buffy's part and an over reaction on Willow's, but this is where we begin to see the change in direction of her character.
This got me thinking how this episode marks the beginning of the change of Willow… pretty much for the rest of the show. I was wondering if her costume is also meant to symbolize more? She dresses as Joan of Arc and her explanation is that she chose the costume because she was almost burned at the stake just too. But more generally, Joan of Arc was the heroine in her story and was also considered a saint (central figure in my reading of the story), which would be compatible with Willow’s claim that she is not Buffy’s sidekick? Or am I overreaching with my interpretation?

(By the way and off-topic: In "Tabula Rasa", Buffy adopt the name Joan. Is it ever explained why? I see it as callback to "Fear itself" and Willow's costume. I think that it is a metaphorical way of showing that Willow was indeed pursuing to be as powerful and as central as Buffy, and since this episode happens at the beginning of season 6, it's a foreshadow of what's to come. Then again, maybe I am overthinking it. Any thoughts?)

Also, this is really the first time that Willow openly expresses desire for a more central role, am I right?In S3 Willow starts her journey towards magic, but before "Fear Itself" I don’t recall her openly wanting/asking to be a protagonist in the story too – which I absolutely love, as I re-watch it, I’m loving Willow’s desire to be more than a secondary character, and her arc is (mostly) pretty awesome!

But Buffy isn't criticising or worrying in the lunch hall, she thinks the conversation is a 'share my pain' conversation not an 'encouragement' conversation. She says supportive things that a person worried needs to hear. And Oz isn't criticising and he is being supportive - he's worried about her tapping into something too powerful to control and she turns that into a betrayal. When of course it isn't - telling someone to stop if you think they'll get hurt, especially when they don't want to hear it, is an act of love. She calls him 'Brutus' for his pains.

But in the end - Oz is right. Willow can't control her magic- and I don't mean just in this episode. If she'd just listened to the people who loved her instead of seeing unjustified criticism and betrayal ... she might never have repeatedly removed Tara's memories and Warren might still have skin.
This is true. But the more interesting story comes from Willow not listening to them and suffering the consequences of pursuing her desires -- which is somewhat analogous to Buffy's journey in S6 and S7, where she drifts away from her friends, albeit for a very different reason (I think). The way I see it, she wants to be powerful herself and to be defined in her own terms (not simply as Buffy's cheerleader). She sees magic as her conduit for achieving this independence, but she slowly loses perspective and falls into her own darkness. Her quest for power is transformed into an addition.
 

Priceless

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This got me thinking how this episode marks the beginning of the change of Willow… pretty much for the rest of the show. I was wondering if her costume is also meant to symbolize more? She dresses as Joan of Arc and her explanation is that she chose the costume because she was almost burned at the stake just too. But more generally, Joan of Arc was the heroine in her story and was also considered a saint (central figure in my reading of the story), which would be compatible with Willow’s claim that she is not Buffy’s sidekick? Or am I overreaching with my interpretation?
I would totally buy into Joan of Arc being Willows hero and symbolising how she has started to view herself. She's had a lowkey sense of being misunderstood and mistreated since season 1, and her talent at magic (as well as doing so well in in college, having a cool boyfriend etc) is giving her a false view of her own importance and sense of power.

(By the way and off-topic: In "Tabula Rasa", Buffy adopt the name Joan. Is it ever explained why? I see it as callback to "Fear itself" and Willow's costume. I think that it is a metaphorical way of showing that Willow was indeed pursuing to be as powerful and as central as Buffy, and since this episode happens at the beginning of season 6, it's a foreshadow of what's to come. Then again, maybe I am overthinking it. Any thoughts?)
Such a good question! Dawn say the name Joan is blah, and it is. There are very few young Joans around. I have thought it was Buffy's need for the normal and ordinary, which she has always yearned for. But it definitely could be a callback to Willow's Joan of Arc and Buffy choosing a name that she believes to denote ordinariness when actually we know it's a name that contains extraordinary power, it is the name of a young girl chosen by God to be his warrior on earth, just like Buffy. So in this sense, like everything in Tabula Rasa, nothing is what it may seem to be.
 
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TriBel

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it is the name of a young girl chosen by God to be his warrior on earth, just like Buffy.
Catholicism was wasted on me...shoulda listened more carefully to the nuns.

Joan (as in Maid of New Orleans) was chosen by God (in Heaven) and by God's representative on Earth (the King - we're still in the era of divine rule).

Buffy was "chosen" as the slayer but Buffy also "chose" to be the Slayer (in defiance of Joyce's wishes). In short, and skipping over 100 years of psychoanalytic theory/post-structuralist feminism, Buffy rejected the mother for the father (Joyce is rejected for Giles who's the father/king in this analogy). This process (rejection by and of the mother) is at the root of Buffy's biggest fear (did she love Joyce enough? Did Joyce know it? Did Joyce love her? See Intervention. Imaginary or otherwise - it's Fear Itself). The God she's following is a patriarchal god; a masculine God (the Watchers Council). It (and Giles) don't necessarily serve her (or women's) best interests (which is why she changes the rules). Are the Slayers martyrs, sacrificed for the cause? She doesn't come to an awareness of this until S7...I'm not sure whether it's entirely conscious (it can't be - full consciousness isn't really possible without madness or death - see Normal. It's also why S7 lacks coherence. Some of her actions are unconscious).

On the other hand, Willow rejects the King (Giles beginning of S6), then goes into battle against him, finally identifying with an archaic (dark) Goddess (end of S6. Wasn't Oz once the God to Willow's Joan?). Tara/Terra = Gaia is also an archaic Goddess but her function is more speculative, more utopic (I'm guessing she's behind the White Goddess of S7. It's interesting we see the return of "Joyce" in S12 but Tara is never resurrected). Tara, I think, represents "women's time", which is a hypothetical future...I'd have to read "Women's Time" again.

In short, you have two Joans - each the antithesis of the other; each fighting for a different monarch, each "worshipping" a different deity...one coded male, the other female. Despite the improvement in Buffy/Willow's relationship, I'd argue they're never fully reconciled (in theory, I don't think they can be reconciled without confronting an existential void. S7 is a one-off and, interestingly, ends with an actual void). In S12 (a return to S7), we have Willow going all Gynocentric with her Women's Centre, while Buffy lets Giles and Andrew take control of the Watchers Council. It literally goes back to being Androcentric (Andrew" is derived from the Greek Andreas, itself related to Ancient Greek: andros, "man" (as opposed to "woman"), thus meaning "manly" and, as consequence, "brave", "strong", "courageous", and "warrior". I absolutely love this!). Willow and Buffy are Joans who are poles apart.
Or am I overreaching with my interpretation?
Pfffft.... 😄...no.

Yeah...I could tidy this up...it'd take me 10,000 words and a lot of boring academic references but I'd probably stand by most of it (and it wouldn't sound any saner). Have I mentioned recently just how clever BtVS is from 1-12 (and how much I hate S12)?
 
Priceless
Priceless
Buffy and Willow are never close again, post season 7

r2dh2

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... and her talent at magic (as well as doing so well in in college, having a cool boyfriend etc) is giving her a false view of her own importance and sense of power.
But, is this true? Is it a "false" view? I mean, Willow might not be Joan of Arc in the sense that she isn’t the chosen one, but in some respects I think that she’s even more impressive because she chooses to be powerful, chooses to teach herself magic and chooses to stay in Sunnydale fighting evil (although giving up an Ivy-league education might not have been the best choice). And she ends up being the most powerful member of the group.

Throughout the seven seasons, we are focused on Buffy and her challenges and struggles, but she has Giles guiding her or, at the very least, supporting her the first 5 seasons. We cheer her for choosing individuality (unlike Kendra), for choosing responsibility (unlike Faith), for choosing sacrifice, for choosing family and friends, and so on… At the end of the series (I haven’t read the comics), Buffy changes history because she not only rejects the Watcher’s Council (the "patriarchy") but changes forever the rules of the game by sharing her power with all the potentials (her needs and wants are finally recognized and taken into account). However, this is only possible because of Willow. So, Buffy is indeed Joan of Arc (the chosen one), but she has an army and defeats the First thanks to Willow.

Now, unlike Buffy, Willow follows her path into magic mostly on her own, getting help here and there from different people, but does that without a guiding figure like Giles, and most of the time this happens off-screen. She's bound to screw up more often. Her only guided “training” happens between S6 and S7, after she reaches rock bottom. But we don’t really know much about that.

I think that I’m simply enjoying her story a lot more this time around. I’m still thinking about it, but in my head it starts to tie nicely into our recent discussion of the definition of power and strength and feminine versus masculine, and more generally into the themes of destiny versus choices…
 

Priceless

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But, is this true? Is it a "false" view?
No, it really isn't 😃 I didn't phrase it very well . . . I think I meant Willow became over confident because everything seemed to be finally going in her favour. Which is pretty understandable, as we can all get carried away and Willow has a lot to be confident about.
 
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