?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

So, about that Buffyverse worldbuilding

I've been complaining about Buffyverse worldbuilding since my first viewing of Prophecy Girl, if not earlier. Recently angearia called me on it and asked me just what I meant, and my response was so long I'm reposting it here for general edification. Or something.

First, to me "worldbuilding" means a couple of different things. It might be as small as setting details or as big as your central speculative premise. In settings with magic, it means that even if the source of your magic hasn't been defined or fully explained, any specific instance of magic will either A) make sense when put in the context of the larger magic use in the show, or B) have some internal mythlogic that "just makes sense."

The Buffyverse doesn't suggest any real structure to how its magic works. Or rather, magic seems to work in about a dozen different ways. (stormwreath has a really nice summary of magic in the Buffyverse, although he sees a lot more consistency in it than I do.) Tara and, in early S7, Giles say a little bit about the natural order and connecting with the earth, but clearly that's not always necessary. Sometimes the magic user calls on deities. Sometimes ingredients are used. Sometimes special phrasing is needed. Intent apparently isn't needed, or else we wouldn't have nearly so many spells go awry, and also Oz wouldn't have been able to participate in Angel's re-ensouling. And sometimes, like with Willow, you don't need anything but will.

So: no magical organizing principle in the Buffyverse. No consistent larger context in which to place any specific thing and make sense of it. No defined source of magic nor any explanation given for why some people would have more of a talent for it than others. No rules governing how it works nor - and this is the kicker for me - how it doesn't work. Without specific boundaries on what magic can do, it can do whatever the writers want it to do, which IMO strips it of most of storytelling power. To take any given magical scenario seriously, I pretty much have to ignore everything else I've ever seen on the show and accept whatever premises the story is working from at just that moment.

So much for option A: the magic in a specific instance makes sense in a larger context. On to option B: the magic in a specific instance, ah, "just makes sense."

Now, what "just makes sense" is going to vary a lot depending on the mythical currency of the culture you come from. In Western European culture, this currency includes the principle of three (wishes, guesses, whatever), the binding power of a contract, sympathetic magic (both "the part affects the whole" and "this thing is affected by this other somewhat like thing"; I gather that this principle is fairly universal, but I haven't read enough non-Western myth and fairy tales and such to say anything else), the significance of names, and other things that aren't coming to mind.

This is something Neil Gaiman is an absolutely master at, especially in Neverwhere. It's also something SPN generally does pretty well, since the writers are working directly from my culture's cultural currency: American urban legends and local mythology. I already half-know a lot of the stories SPN tells, even though I don't know the specifics. (OTOH, this makes it harder for the stories to feel fresh and puts even more of the load on long-term arcs and character work, especially between the leads, but that's a separate problem.)

For me, though, the very best kind of worldbuilding is one where the creator starts with a specific premise and works those implications out across the board. It's kind of like a really solid AU fic where some specific event is different and the author then explores the huge reach of the ripples of that one event. All the consequences are taken into account. (I said something to quinara once about wanting things to make sense, and she teasingly called me a monotheist. Which, yanno, I am. I expect the world to make sense on some level, even if it's not on one I understand. Fair warning. *g*)

All I've talked about here is magic in the Buffyverse, which is one of my major complaints, but evil and demons are two other topics I tend to grumble about a lot. The chip is another thing, not because its exact workings are not explained, but because they contradict themselves. (rahirah summarizes the contradictions here.) There's also the truly bizarre historical stuff (the Knights of Byzantium; the fact that every major mystical artifact in the world, of any culture, seems to be located in Sunnydale), the ret-conning (the origins of demons, Olaf's troll hammer suddenly becoming the hammer of a troll god, the surprise appearance of the Guardian), and the just plain sloppy phrasing (in particular the explanation for Glory's portal: Giles says it will be open "until the blood stops flowing," but that doesn't explain why some good bandages and a coagulant aid couldn't fix the problem, nor, more seriously, why Buffy's death could fix it, since Dawn is still bleeding after Buffy takes the swan dive).

Several folks have pointed out to me recently that BtVS isn't about monsters, but about the girl defeating them, and that the ironic dismissal of the monsters is part of the power of the story. I'm okay with that as long as the writers let ironic dismissal win the day, as in Prophecy Girl or Restless or The Zeppo. But often, as in Innocence or Becoming or The Gift, the monsters and the damage they do is real, and I can't take that seriously unless those monsters and their origins make sense to me. If they come across as fabrications so that the writers can artificially push the story where they want it go, that just feels like manipulation, and I resent my feelings being manipulated.

All that said, I do not always hate Buffyverse worldbuilding; one thing I really enjoyed early on was all the different uses the writers had for Angel's vampirism. The moment where he kisses Buffy in "Angel" and her cross burns his chest? That was a perfect confluence of worldbuilding and theme. Angel being unable to resuscitate Buffy after she's drowned would have been another such moment, except that David Boreanaz is not exactly subtle about his breathing and anyway breathing is a semi-voluntary action. It was a nice thought, though. I also liked the bit in "The Dark Age" where Angel destroys Eyghon and in "I Only Have Eyes For You" when his being a vampire breaks the cycle of the haunting. Those are all places where the plot and the theme were direct outgrowths of worldbuilding that was already in place; the three worked in tandem, and nothing had to be invented on the spur of the moment. In non-Angel examples, the idea of Buffy and Dawn's blood being enough alike to allow a substitute was a very nice idea, although I wish they'd been a bit more explicit about how that worked.

One more extra-Buffyverse example of worldbuilding that works, and I'll call it quits. According to the Battlestar Galactica rules, the consciousness of a Cylon who dies in one body is downloaded into a new identical body. In an episode I watched recently, the Cylon half of a Cylon-human couple has deep personal reasons for wanting to get onto a Cylon ship. So, in a beautifully acted and truly affecting scene, she convinces her human spouse to shoot her dead. And he does.

If there is any such thing as a perfect scene, this was it. Long-term plot and three and a half seasons of character development led to this moment in which the human's - and our - whole intuition about how the world works comes smack against a bit of worldbuilding that has been hanging about since S1. The writers worked with the worldbuilding instead of against it. No manipulation. Just, yeah, perfect.

Comments

( 65 comments — Leave a comment )
quinara
Mar. 17th, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
I still like the magic not making sense (:P), but, yes, Buffyverse worldbuilding definitely buys the ability to make anything possible at the cost of being have those exquisite moments where everything just has to go a certain way. (Not that the finales don't try to create them, but they have a tendency to go a bit flat, because in the end it's usually about the McGuffins.) But that's Joss's writing: he far prefers keeping things secret/throwing around big reveals to laying everything in place and then stepping back as it goes boom. Sometimes it works and sometimes it... Works less well.
angearia
Mar. 17th, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
I still like the magic not making sense

Yeah, I think this is the sticking point for me. I like the magic not making sense. However, in other worldbuilding aspects it does bother me and like you say, the MacGuffin may or may not go boom.

The magic as an example of poor worldbuilding doesn't resonate as strongly for me because that's not my problem with the worldbuilding.

I also think extensive worldbuilding can become bulky and debilitating to a series. The mythos becomes its own monster -- that's part of my problem with Season 3 & 4 of BSG. The mythos began to suffocate.
(no subject) - quinara - Mar. 17th, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - angearia - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - deird1 - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - angearia - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - angearia - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rahirah - Mar. 17th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 17th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ever_neutral - Mar. 17th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lettered - Mar. 18th, 2011 02:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rahirah - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eowyn_315 - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - deird1 - Mar. 17th, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eowyn_315 - Mar. 19th, 2011 12:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - deird1 - Mar. 19th, 2011 01:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 17th, 2011 07:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - quinara - Mar. 17th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
deird1
Mar. 17th, 2011 07:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, their worldbuilding pretty much sucks.

Thankfully, it tends to rank fairly low on my list of storytelling priorities...



(On the other hand, AtLA has utterly brilliant worldbuilding. I'll just leave that thought there.)
snickfic
Mar. 17th, 2011 07:49 pm (UTC)
Alas, worldbuilding's pretty high on my priority list. Mostly I manage to love BtVS in spite of it, but I've been reminded lately about just how much it lacks.
(no subject) - lettered - Mar. 18th, 2011 02:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 18th, 2011 02:08 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - deird1 - Mar. 18th, 2011 03:18 am (UTC) - Expand
eowyn_315
Mar. 17th, 2011 08:15 pm (UTC)
Yeah, worldbuilding is not exactly one of Joss' strong suits. Which drives me batty, though in somewhat different ways than it does you. :) For example, the inconsistencies with the chip make me nuts, whereas inconsistent use of magic not so much. As long as each individual spell stands on its own (though, granted, not all of them do), I can buy that magic in the Buffyverse is a patchwork of rules. I don't need everything to have one unifying logical explanation, because I can fill in the blanks myself (on the purpose of souls, for instance, where there are a few interesting theories).

But I DO need it to not explicitly contradict itself. If there's NO logical explanation I can come up with, then that throws me out of the story. It's the sloppiness that gets me - especially because, as a writer, I have to wonder, is it really THAT HARD to remember what you said before? I don't think it is. I think Joss is just lazy about the details.

Also, WORD on that Helo/Sharon scene being utterly perfect. :)
snickfic
Mar. 17th, 2011 08:30 pm (UTC)
Yeah, explicit contradictions are even worse than just holey explanations, and the chip's one of the worse things for that. Fortunately, the specifics of the chip don't actually matter much most of the time.

It's the sloppiness that gets me - especially because, as a writer, I have to wonder, is it really THAT HARD to remember what you said before? I don't think it is.

I might resent it a little less if it didn't feel the writers were regularly flaunting how little they care about consistency here (which is weird, considering how detail-oriented they are about so many other things in this show).
(no subject) - eowyn_315 - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
gryfndor_godess
Mar. 17th, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC)
Very nice post. The lack of world-building usually doesn't bug me too much when it comes to BtVS because I love the characters so much, but specific aspects annoy me because they waste so much potential conflict/angst/thematic storytelling:

a) The hand-waving about what a soul actually means. Who has one? Does Clem? Does Anya when she's a vengeance demon? If demons don't have souls, does anything separate the good ones from the bad ones or is it each demon's individual choice? In addition to the moral quandaries the soul brings up in relation to good demons like Clem, I think a clearer definition also would have shut up some of the S7 Spuffy haters. I would really have liked a conversation between Buffy and Dawn or Xander about why she trusts Spike with his soul. It's not because he is bound to be a good person or because he can't do awful things or because he didn't know the difference btw right and wrong before but because the soul gives him a maturity/impulse control that would stop him from acting on his more violent, vampiric instincts, like rape (or however you view the soul; obviously mileage will vary).

b) I agree with everything you said about the magic, but the part that bothers me the most is how it gets turned into a scapegoat for Darth Willow. They don't set up any rules for it from the get-go, and that way they can take advantage of it to give a truly crappy character arc.

c) This is more of an AtS problem, but what the heck are the PTB and why should I give a crap? Why do they exist in LA and not in Sunnydale? I'm glad that they're not in Sunnydale b/c they're awful, but what is up with such a big discrepancy in the Buffyverse? And what is with Whistler in BtVS S2?

d) The Guardian.

e) The chip.

I'm sure there are others, but those are the specific problems that jump to mind.

Helo/Athena! <3
deird1
Mar. 17th, 2011 08:30 pm (UTC)
but what the heck are the PTB and why should I give a crap?

Heh. I was thinking that the whole time I was watching the show...
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - deird1 - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gryfndor_godess - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 17th, 2011 08:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lettered - Mar. 18th, 2011 02:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gryfndor_godess - Mar. 18th, 2011 06:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lettered - Mar. 18th, 2011 12:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - menomegirl - Mar. 21st, 2011 07:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 21st, 2011 12:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
norwie2010
Mar. 17th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
Magic is, basically, wishfulfillment. Who says there are "rules" to wishfulfillment?

For me, BtVS treats magic exactly as it has to be treated (excluding comic hubris a la froggifying Twangel) - no rules, but consequences.

Because, if magic has it's set of rules, it is just another layer of physics - and if that's true, then i don't need magic in the first place (i could use physics).

I come to this from the historical perspective of mythology/literature:

The idea, that magic is just another set of physics, including laws and strict, logical structure is a rather new one (in terms of the history of the written word we know of) and one, that ultimatly leads to escapsim.

Magic as wishfulfillment in contrast goes back to the "origins" of magic - making the impossible happen because someone wills-wishes it.

In BtVS, this just works fine for me. It is more important why someone wishes for something or what the consequneces are, than it is
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<i<how</i>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

Magic is, basically, wishfulfillment. Who says there are "rules" to wishfulfillment?

For me, BtVS treats magic exactly as it has to be treated (excluding comic hubris a la froggifying Twangel) - no rules, but consequences.

Because, if magic has it's set of rules, it is just another layer of physics - and if that's true, then i don't need magic in the first place (i could use physics).

I come to this from the historical perspective of mythology/literature:

The idea, that magic is just another set of physics, including laws and strict, logical structure is a rather new one (in terms of the history of the written word we know of) and one, that ultimatly leads to escapsim.

Magic as wishfulfillment in contrast goes back to the "origins" of magic - making the impossible happen because someone wills-wishes it.

In BtVS, this just works fine for me. It is more important <i>why</i> someone wishes for something or what the consequneces are, than it is <i<how</i> that works (or doesn't - see Willow most of the time).

The same is true for all the "macguffins" (chips, souls, scythes, guardians, blood, etc) though i'm right there with you that it becomes somewhat tiresome to watch one macguffin after another fall flat because it seems contrived and lazy writings (not all of them do: i think "souls" work just fine the way they are presented).

"Monsters" are a different monster alltogether, because they switch around meaning all the time (half of season 6, Spike isn't even a character - he's just metaphor).

On AtS and "powers that be":

I never considered AtS and BtVS to inhabit the same "universe" - they are two different genres of literature (comedy vs. tragedy), which means that they naturally use different metaphors and motifs. AtS is, to BtVS, a "could have happened that way" tell-tale (and vice versa). The characters crossing over are probably the most prominent example of that: Buffy on AtS becomes "bitchy ex" and Angel on BtVS becomes "teenage dream". Willow in BtVS season 7 is insecure, frightened ex-witch, while on the same timeframe in AtS she's all-powerful cynical uberwitch (including kokes about murdered Warren, whom gets his own episode in BtVS season 7, dealing with Willow's guilt!). It doesn't add up. The crossing over character stops being a character and becomes a mere plot device when crossing over.

Which leads to my conclusion that AtS and BtVS are not really the same story, or even in the same ballpark. Thus, elegantly nullifying any argument one could have about the "powers that be": Different universe.

norwie2010
Mar. 17th, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
I fucked up - sorry...
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 17th, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - norwie2010 - Mar. 17th, 2011 10:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 19th, 2011 01:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
lettered
Mar. 18th, 2011 02:53 am (UTC)
I agree again that the world building is not that great. For the most part I just tend not to care, except for the instance I outlined above. And that has less to do with world-building and more to do with the themes the show chose to tackle. I really only care when shitty world-building makes it so that the character points the author is trying to get across don't work as well as they should.

I have a post about my utter lack of caring that I've actually been trying to formulate. I like how in fanfiction, you can just do stuff like, "What if Buffy hadn't come to Sunnydale?" and you don't have to have the set-up of Cordy making a wish, Anya, vengeance demons, etc. It can just exist as an AU--though, like you said, I like my AUs to be consistent once whatever element is changed.

Both magic and the final frontier allow fiction--especially tv shows because they are episodic--to give us these types of stories. Usually the explanations are flimsy: magic! aliens! pollen! But I don't care. What I care about are the results.

That said, I don't mean these things as points for debate. I think this is a matter of taste--some people love new worlds and I just want character stuff. In short, I totally agree with your opinions re: BtVS consistency.

Btw, as has been said many time before, to me the number one problem with the inconsistency of magic in Buffyverse is the way homosexuality basically is the same as substance abuse, if you're keeping track of your metaphors. Which I was, because as little as I care about world-building I care a whole lot about metaphor. Ugh. Evil Willow. I actually think that could have been such a super cool character arc if it had been done better.
snickfic
Mar. 19th, 2011 01:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I tend to care about worldbuilding in its own right, in addition to whatever it contributes to the story and the characters. I've enjoyed a lot of SF that I never would have managed to read otherwise.

But thinking again about caring about the premise vs. caring about the results, I came up with an example where this is really true for me: the Buffy/Faith bodyswap. I am in general pretty much death on bodyswaps; it's not a trope that pings for me at all, and so often it's played for humiliation and characters making idiots of themselves. Yet the B/F bodyswap takes the trope and uses it in such interesting ways, to say so much about the characters, especially Faith. I think I love the storyline a little bit more for the fact that it was able to do that with a trope that's such an anti-kink for me.

homosexuality basically is the same as substance abuse, if you're keeping track of your metaphors.

Huh. I've seen lots of complaints about the lesbian romance ending tragically, but I don't think I'd ever seen quite that train of thought before. I assume you're talking about how Willow's lesbianism and her magic are so closely tied together in S4, but then the magic (and hence the lesbianism, presumably) leads to Dark Willow in S6. It makes sense now that you mention it. I now feel just a bit more justified in disliking the magic/lesbian/woman power metaphor to begin with; it always felt very obvious and unsubtle to me. But again, I'm more concerned about magic as an element of reality in the fictional universe than about magic as a metaphor for, well, anything.

Very interesting thoughts. Thanks for dropping in! :)
(no subject) - lettered - Mar. 19th, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
shapinglight
Mar. 18th, 2011 07:15 am (UTC)
I don't think worldbuilding matters that much to Joss. In BtVS/AtS, that doesn't bother me that much, but it's a big reason why I could never get through Firefly. Nothing in that 'verse makes any kind of sense to me.
snickfic
Mar. 19th, 2011 01:25 pm (UTC)
I don't think worldbuilding matters that much to Joss.

I've come to that conclusion, too. It's a very frustrating conclusion.

For whatever reason - maybe because there just aren't many episodes of it - I don't mind the worldbuilding on Firefly so much. I think it's that I'm charmed enough by the flavor of Western in Space that I forgive the logistical difficulties, at least short-term. Charm covers over a multitude of sins with me, which I suppose is a total betrayal of everything I've said above, but then again I suspect part of the reason I'm so hard on BtVS is that I don't find anything particularly charming about the BtVS setting (suburban California) or speculative elements (my deepest beliefs about vampires directly contradict the Buffyverse vampires, the magic is unappealing, and the demons are just goofy). This in contrast to occasional tidbits at W&H on Ats, which made no more sense than anything on BtVS but were just cool, you know? Like Lilah's password tarantula.

All of which is basically me defending the fact that I like Firefly even though it makes no sense. :)
(no subject) - shapinglight - Mar. 19th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 19th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shapinglight - Mar. 19th, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 19th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shapinglight - Mar. 19th, 2011 04:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Mar. 19th, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
genericmarn
Mar. 18th, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
Magic and Souls
Interesting conversation. The question of souls (and, by extension, magic) in the Buffyverse was the thing that started me searching for explanations in the fandom in the first place.

For me, everything snapped into place when I found out that Joss is an atheist. Of *course* there's no one organizing principle for magic, or souls. Why would there be? Joss' imaginary world is just a slightly more arbitrary version of the real world.

Look at the way magic works sometimes, or not others, or not in the way the actors expect. Sounds much like the way people experience prayer. Believers swear by the power of prayer; skeptics point out how prayers don't always seem to be answered.

Personally, I think he's making a point, and that's why he's proud of the inconsistencies.
snickfic
Mar. 19th, 2011 04:01 am (UTC)
Re: Magic and Souls
I see some pretty fundamental differences between magic in the Buffyverse vs. prayer in the real world, and they're actually why souls in the Buffyverse are such a sticky point for me, whereas I have no expectations of a show like House coming to any final conclusion about prayer.

In the Buffyverse, magic is a manipulative force, like an application of physics. Its results are generally replicable; otherwise there'd be no spellbooks. I do this thing, this other thing happens. Often the process between step one and step two apparently involves some action by an invoked deity, but by and large it's just this process that happens. That is how the characters experience magic in the story. And note that souls are just one more element of that; you can curse a vampire with a soul, you can take his soul away, you can store his soul in a shiny orb. Souls in the Buffyverse aren't suggested as having any mystical significance or any bearing on religious questions; at most, their effect is related to psychology and personal ethics.

This, versus the idea of prayer, which immediately brings up huge philosophical and theological questions that humanity as a whole has never reached consensus about. Individual humans have a wide range of experience with prayer and its results, but generally its results are seen as depending on the will of a being beyond full human understanding, and those results are not replicable. There is genuine mystery as to how prayer works and how it's meant to be done, if it does indeed work and is meant to be done at all.

With magic in the Buffyverse, there is no question. Hand Xander a book and have him spout some Latin, and voila! Magic. No real mystery to it, except for the tools to manipulate it and the rules governing it change with the storyline. It's not that there's some great in-story mystical unknown for why things work this way sometimes and that way other times; it's that it works however the writers want it to work at the moment.

I'm looking at it from a Doylist perspective here, the perspective of someone looking at the bones of a story rather than something observing an actual series of events, but I'm looking at it from that perspective precisely because the in-story events feel so arbitrary and artificial to me, and at that point I start looking from outside the story and saying, "Hey, the writers wrote magic this way in this ep and that way in that ep not because it was consistent with, well, anything, but because it was convenient." And I hate that. To me, that's cheap, lazy storytelling.

All of which would be my argument to Joss, if ever I had occasion to have such a conversation with him. I realize you weren't actually arguing this perspective, just that Joss might hold it, but writing all this out helped me articulate some stuff I hadn't been able to before; I hope you don't mind me spewing it all on you. :)
Re: Magic and Souls - antennapedia - Mar. 21st, 2011 02:07 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Magic and Souls - snickfic - Mar. 21st, 2011 03:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Mar. 22nd, 2011 12:11 am (UTC)
Just had to make a comment on this topic that also relates to all (TV) fandoms.
I don't think that any creator/writer(s) actually do any world building beyond the basic concept stage. I think the most they do is state "wouldn't this be cool" then describe the most basic conditions that allow the cool thing to exist.
For BtVS its; female teen is a vampire slayer. Its cool b/c it’s a GIRL killing vampires. Then the creator/writer(s) then have to figure out how to get vamps into the picture; so demons exist (vampire = demon) which then has to allow magic to exist alongside it (demons are magical/power).
Since they don’t really create a world at all, they just think of "neat" things they can do with their basic concept and run with it. Why waste time figuring things out, when we can just recon or wave the magic pixie wand over a contradiction and ignore it.
Oh, Buffy has a vamp for a boyfriend (they started this from the beginning, but didn't flesh it out completely), but didn't figure out the whole what is a soul, how did he get a soul (re-souled with his previous one, is it a new one, where did it come from et c.) and that curse of complete happiness or whatever (Cordy in AtS?, anyone). They just run with an idea and make it up as they go along.
I think they just wave a magic wand over their writing and say, "it sounds good", "it'll look great" and "this is soo cooool" and sadly “the viewers won’t care”.

My list:
a.) Magic - I'm more flexible but would like less contradictions or just have a character explain magic in S1 (probably Giles as he supposedly studied magic or its history).
How I'd explain it - Talent to do magic exists (don't have to explain how you get it, where it comes from) just that its a gift one's born with and let it go at that (it's MAGIC!), those without Talent or with a little Talent can use evocation of a god to boost a spell (word/herb); certain herb are basically magical (minor amount) and when mixed (its chemistry people) together in certain ratios will do certain things; spells can be herb base or word base or a combo of both and can be used by those with a basic amount of Talent (but works best with Talent); and then those with a massive amount of Talent can just use their own will (maybe god-like connotations... might make a neat story concept or explanation of Darth-Willow) and of course 'power corrupts, but absolute power (like Willow) corrupts absolutely (to Darth-Willow)'.
b.) parental figures - Buffy's dad gets dropped quickly - easier on the writing staff then have to deal with on off screen character, Willow's and Zand's parents (where are they). Why do they not care that their kids are never around or are hanging with an older man who is no relation to them at odd hours. (In real life this would have Giles being investigated for being a pedo.)
c.) Giles
as watcher - goes from an incompetent boob in S1 with no skills (Buffy ignores his advice and just slices and dices and it works) to Riper, who clashed with authority figures and knew magic back in the old days) Why did they send Giles to a slayer who has little training and no background in the occult? If I was sending a Watcher to a Slayer who had little to no background that lived on the Hellmouth (which is another problem for me), I’d send an ex-Ranger/MI-6 guy who could kick ass or a mage/magician.
and
stand in parental figure (who would really allow underage CHILDREN to fight vampires without ANY skill to do so - should have at least given them guns, hand to hand/sword training or MADE them stay at home).
d.) Watchers as a group/organization - how it works, why things happened or not, the education they get, possible government (Britain or USA) allies (Giles lost his job and somehow stayed in the country with a work permit/green card?). I mean if Giles didn't have books on something why couldn't he just call the Council and have them look it up. I mean isn't there more than three of them in the world (the thing with the Bringers, people). Why don’t they have mages or seers who could tell when, hello, end of the world coming up.

tbc
snickfic
Mar. 22nd, 2011 01:22 am (UTC)
I don't think that any creator/writer(s) actually do any world building beyond the basic concept stage. I think the most they do is state "wouldn't this be cool" then describe the most basic conditions that allow the cool thing to exist.

I think in a lot of cases this is exactly right. Worldbuilding just isn't something that gets a lot of emphasis in TV, so even though you have lots of speculative stuff going on, a lot of it just gets tossed into the story a piece at a time without a lot of thought for how it affects the other pieces. I wonder if that's partly just the nature of television, where it sounds like things are extremely high-pressure and where long-term thinking might be harder than in other circumstances. And yet, writers clearly take the time to think long-term about, say, character arcs; I wish they'd put some of the same effort into the founding principles of their world.

I don't think it's universal, though. I have the impression that Babylon 5 handled its long-term worldbuilding pretty well (although if the ten episodes I saw were anything to judge by, their individual episode plots might have thrown a wrench in now and then). BSG has its good moments (although more than its fair share of bad moments as well). Veronica Mars isn't SF/F at all, but the incredibly tightly plotted first season is proof of how TV writers can make all the elements work together if they're paying enough attention.

So I think it largely comes down to writers just not caring very much.

I totally agree with most of your list; I wish that the writers had given a whole lot more thought to some of those things, especially to do with magic and the Watchers' Council.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 22nd, 2011 12:13 am (UTC)
the rest

d.) Watchers as a group/organization - how it works, why things happened or not, the education they get, possible government (Britain or USA) allies (Giles lost his job and somehow stayed in the country with a work permit/green card?). I mean if Giles didn't have books on something why couldn't he just call the Council and have them look it up. I mean isn't there more than three of them in the world (the thing with the Bringers, people). Why don’t they have mages or seers who could tell when, hello, end of the world coming up.
e.) Jenny – I mean the woman KNEW about the Curse and did nothing. She knew that they would have sex (hormones) and that Angel would become Angelus and go on a killing spree just for the fun of it.
f.) and Hello…. The Curse – what moron thought of cursing someone good (or with a soul) into losing it and turning evil without telling the person cursed. It would make sense if they told Angel that if he was ever experienced true happiness he’d loose his soul and return to his evil ways (oh the angst that would create). I mean you would have a couple episodes where he’s attracted to Buffy but is afraid of being too happy and go on a killing spree. OR not telling him and allowing him to become evil again so he can kill innocent people, which makes no sense at all (that's why they cursed him in the first place).
g.) Angel x Buffy – Am I the only person who’s a bit concerned that an older (100+ years) man goes after an underage girl. Can you say jailbait? I could understand if he looked like he was in high school, but he’s older before he ever was turned. The Edward x Bella from Twilight arguments apply here.
h.) Sunnydale – yes, the sleepy little town became anything the writers needed for the current script then vanished into the mists, much like Brigadoon.
i.) Hellmouth – how could no one know it existed and that it existed in Sunnydale. I’m pretty sure that there are later references in the series about there always existing a Hellmouth or at
j.) chip - how it worked, and WHY have a chip at all??? why allow a "monster" to exist when you could get rid of it. Is it cruel to manipulate a thinking being to do something against its will (they are not evil as a default just choose it- the whole nice or “good” demons)? allow the being to starve? or is it better to kill those that are "evil"/"against us" then to restrict their abilities. I mean this is a whole sub-genre that could take entire episodes.
k.) Spike - I'm sorry NO ONE who attempts rape should be then allowed to be considered a good guy or allowed to get away with it with a simpering ‘he didn't know better. He was a demon’
and
l.) yes the whole soul in relation to vampires; what are demons, another sentient being with powers and culture vs Demons as the root of all evil (some of the “good” demons contradicting the whole creation myth Giles tells Buffy in S1E1).

In fact now that I’m thinking of them, there are tonnes more that I could list but won’t.
~Ann
helgatwb
Mar. 21st, 2012 04:40 pm (UTC)
One point: Angel wouldn't be able to do rescue breathing for Buffy because he doesn't use oxygen. He may suck air into his lungs and be able to blow it out, but that isn't the point of rescue breathing. The point is to get some CO2 in the victim's lungs to trigger a reflexive exhale, which will trigger a reflexive inhale. Angel doesn't use oxygen, nor does he produce CO2.
snickfic
Mar. 21st, 2012 09:53 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I did not know this. Then again, I learned in my first aid class that the potential usefulness of artificial respiration is minimal. But complaining about the depiction of CPR in film and TV is like shooting fish in a barrel, so... :)
( 65 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

October 2018
S M T W T F S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com