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Buffy meta for month_of_meta. This is psychological in nature, but I'm pretty sure it's totally accessible to anybody without any background in psychology. My entire background in psychology culminates in my big psych final exam tomorrow afternoon for my one semester psych class, so none of this is too advanced.

This is a discussion of Buffy Summers, Xander Harris, and Willow Rosenberg and how their characters differ according to their parents' attachment styles and parenting styles. I'd absolutely love to hear anybody's thoughts on this, whether they're in regards to characterization or psychology or just how much you love these characters.
"What is Your Childhood Trauma?": Parenting and Attachment Styles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

          The Buffyverse isn’t really known for having an excess of good parents. Joyce Summers is, of course, a notable exception, but aside from Buffy and Dawn, almost every character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer either comes from a home with less satisfactory parents, or their home situation is never discussed. But, while we know that Tara’s family emotionally (and possibly physically) abused her and that Wesley’s father terrorized him, the true impact of parenting is clearest in the characters of Buffy Summers, Xander Harris, and Willow Rosenberg.
            In 1979, psychologist Mary Ainsworth did a study on “strange situations,” or how infants would react to situations without any parental figures, to identify different styles of attachment. These attachment styles concern the relationship between parent and child, most importantly in early childhood, and are divided into three types of attachment style: secure, avoidant, and resistant. While attachment styles are at their greatest importance in early childhood, it is unlikely that a parent would shift their attachment style in later childhood or adolescence, so analyzing the attachment styles of their parents during Buffy, Xander, and Willow’s adolescence serves as an effective indicator of the attachment styles of their parents during early childhood.                   

  • Secure

    • warm, nurturing, and present parental figure

    • children tend to have higher self-esteem and self-worth

    • 70% of parents

  • Avoidant

    • parents are cold, absent, or abusive

    • children tend to have low self-worth and feel unworthy in relationships

    • 20% of parents

  • Resistant (also called anxious/ambivalent)

    • parents are inconsistent, fluctuating between secure and avoidant styles

    • children tend have negative self-image and tend to be wary of forming new relationships, as they are unaccustomed to constancy in relationships

    • 10% of parents

  •           In addition to categorizing styles of attachment, psychologists have also divided parenting styles into three types: authoritarian, permissive, authoritarian. There is no direct link between attachment and parenting styles; a child raised with a resistant attachment style could have parents with an authoritative parenting style just as easily as parents with a permissive parenting style. Nonetheless, these three parenting styles all play a key role in shaping their children’s temperament and personality, for the rest of their lives.                          
  • Authoritarian

    • parents impose rules and expect unquestioning obedience

    • children typically have fewer social skills and lower self-esteem

  • Permissive

    • parents submit to child’s desires, and use few rules or punishments

    • children tend to be immature, with little impulse control

  • Authoritative

    • parents are demanding yet responsive; parents set and enforce rules, but allow discussion and adaption instead of unquestioning obedience

    • children tend to be the most well-adjusted, with the highest self-esteem, self-reliance, and social competence

             The characters of Buffy Summers, Xander Harris, and Willow Rosenberg are all incredibly different. They have different personalities, different social styles, and, most importantly in this essay, different home lives. Buffy has a strong maternal figure, and was raised with a paternal figure as well, while it is heavily implied that Xander was raised in an abusive home, and Willow in a largely empty house. But, the question isn’t how did their home lives differ, but how present are the psychological ramifications of those differing home lives in their characterization.                                             
                First, let’s talk about Buffy. Of the three, she is clearly the most confident, the most socially well-adjusted, and the most self-reliant. Buffy is haunted by a number of other psychological phenomena (“a inferiority complex about [her] superiority complex” (7.07), depression, etc.), but she shows no signs of being adversely affected by Joyce and Hank Summers’s parenting. Joyce, and we can assume Hank to some extent, demonstrate what would be considered a secure style of attachment. Though we, as the audience, never see Joyce interact with an infant Buffy, we see Joyce display consistently caring and concerned behavior towards her daughter, maintaining a positive presence in Buffy’s life until her death in Season 5. Furthermore, in Buffy’s memories of her mother in “The Weight of the World,” Buffy remembers her mother holding an infant Dawn closely, only letting her go so that Buffy could hold her, which is a large element of a secure attachment style for infants (5.21). Buffy remembers her mother as being a warm, tactile, and present maternal figure, so one can assume that she would classify her relationship with her mother as “secure.” Buffy as a character generally adapts well to change, is confident in new settings, and is unafraid of establishing new interpersonal relationships, all hallmarks of a child raised with a secure attachment style, in an authoritative parenting style. Speaking of parenting styles, Joyce is a firm, but fair parent, making her a nearly textbook example of a mother with an authoritative parenting style. Joyce doesn’t understand Buffy’s duties as the Slayer for almost her entire presence on the show, and she and Buffy often have trouble relating due to their wildly differing worldviews and destinies, but regardless of any differences between the two characters, Joyce remains supportive and encouraging of her daughter. When Joyce learns of Buffy’s slaying, she initially lashes out in surprise, but once she adapts to the dissolution of her entire worldview, she remains a supportive parent, even going out on her own patrol once to bring Buffy a slaying snack, to demonstrate her support for her daughter (3.11). However supportive she is, Joyce is also unafraid to punish Buffy when she feels it is well deserved, as demonstrated when Joyce grounds Buffy, explaining that, “Young lady, you have to learn some responsibility, okay? Once and for all,” in “Bad Eggs” (2.13). This combination of support and discipline is the very definition of an authoritative parent, just as Buffy is a good example of a child possessing the traits symptomatic of an authoritative parenting style (i.e. well-adjusted, good self-esteem, social competence). Despite Joyce’s faults, she is a very competent mother, especially when you remember that in large part her haplessness was due to her ignorance of the supernatural, which should not define her as a character, seeing as those who were aware of the supernatural were a distinct minority.
                Xander, on the other hand, has none of the self-confidence and social grace that Buffy has. Xander constantly doubted himself and sold himself short, hiding behind humor to disguise the fact that he had very low self-confidence and self-worth. “It happens I'm good at a lot of things.  I help out with all kinds of . . . stuff.  I have skills . . . and . . . stratagems. I'm very . . . Help me out,” he stammered in “The Yoko Facto,” when attempting to prove that he was a useful member of the team after Spike implied that he wasn’t, proving that he does not see himself as a capable individual, he does not believe that his friends see him that way, and that the suggestion that others see him as incapable is very powerful to him (4.21). Xander’s parents are only briefly introduced as characters at Xander’s ill-fated wedding, but there are a number of implications that his family is violent and emotionally, and possibly physically, abusive, such as when it is revealed that Xander camps in his backyard on Christmas Eve to avoid his family’s characteristic drunken fights (3.10). Even more indicative of the tenor of this relationship, in “Restless,” the First Slayer manifests in the form of his father in order to terrify him, demonstrating that Xander’s parents almost definitely employed a resistant style of attachment and an authoritarian parenting style(4.22). Children raised with an avoidant method of attachment had a carer who was rejecting, who did not provide positive stimulus to them, simply ignored them, or outright abused them. Children who were raised without a positive and nurturing parental figure tend to characterize themselves as unacceptable and unworthy, much as Xander does, and they often second guess themselves and have trouble establishing and maintaining relationships. Xander considers himself to be lesser than his supernaturally inclined friends and he is generally shown to consider himself an unworthy partner in his romantic relationships as well, leaving Anya at the alter because he is convinced that he will be a poor and unworthy husband and father, much like his own was (6.16). Additionally, Xander’s key canon relationships are largely initiated through little successful, intended effort of his own, which cannot be seen more clearly than in his relationships with Cordelia and Anya. With Cordelia, he inadvertently started a relationship with her when the kissed in a near death situation in “What’s My Line?” and then established an official relationship with her only when Willow discovered them kissing in “Innocence.” Xander made no move to define their relationship until he destroys it, allowing Willow’s discovery of he and Cordelia kissing, Cordelia’s decision to dump him, and Cordelia’s choice to publically date him to shape the course of the relationship. Xander then, possibly subconsciously, sabotages their relationship when it has become rather serious, beginning an affair with Willow for no discernable reason on his part. Similarly, in his relationship with Anya, Anya initiates the relationship, follows through with it, and largely sustains it, until Xander, under threat of apocalypse in “The Gift” proposes to Anya, and then sabotages that relationship as well, by leaving Anya at the alter instead of speaking with her about his marital concerns. This type of behaviour, as well as patterns of low self-esteem and low self-worth such as what Xander feels, is characteristic of children raised with avoidant attachment styles, or by parents utilizing an authoritarian parenting style, indicating that the Harrises did, most likely, raise Xander with an avoidant attachment style and an authoritarian parenting style. Authoritarian parents expect unquestioning obedience when the give commands and can be quick to punish, as is characteristic of abusive parenting. Children raised with authoritarian parenting styles tend to have lower self-esteem and weaker social skills, just as Xander does. Since we, as viewers, never see Xander interact with his parents while he is still a child, or at least still living with them, much of our understanding of Xander’s childhood and relationship with his parents must be inferred, but, from those inferences, it can be concluded that Mr. and Mrs. Harris most likely employed an avoidant style of attachment and an authoritarian parenting style.
                   Willow’s mother shows up in one episode, “Gingerbread” in Season 3, and she is very obviously authoritarian, expecting Willow to immediately bow to her wishes, and completely detached from Willow and her life. This uneven fluctuation is characteristic of the resistant style of attachment, (also called anxious/ambivalent, to describe the random shifts between overbearing and detached parenting), which generally tends to produce children who, among other things, have trouble with interpersonal relationships, because they matured in an environment in which affection was random, and because they never knew whether to expect warmth or disinterest from their parental figures. Additionally, children raised with resistant styles of attachment have a negative self-image and can feel starved for attention, much like Willow is shown to feel. In the very first episode, when Buffy, who is new and possibly popular, sits down beside Willow, Willow’s response is to ask “Why?” in place of a greeting, which indicates that Willow views herself as somebody who others wouldn’t want to befriend (1.01). Willow also seems to have some abandonment issues, quite possibly stemming from her parents’ resistant style of attachment and the random withholding of affection that is part of that parenting style. In “Restless,” part of Willow’s nightmare features her being mocked for being uncool by those she considered friends, most importantly Oz and Tara, her two most significant romantic partners, who both visibly ignored her to laugh at her and flirt with each other, suggesting that one of Willow’s greatest fears is being rejected and denied love and affection by those she loves (4.22). The Rosenbergs’ parenting is curious in that it’s not traditional in any fashion, as they seemingly abandon Willow for periods of time, and play very little active role in her life. “Willow, you cut off your hair! Huh. That's a new look,” Sheila exclaims upon seeing her daughter in mid-January in the episode “Gingerbread,” to which Willow responds, “Yeah, it's just a sudden whim I had... in August,” indicating that either the Rosenbergs have just returned to Sunnydale for the first time in months, or that they have maintained their pattern of anxious/ambivalent attachment and Sheila is truly noticing her daughter for the first time in quite a while (3.11). But, despite their absence, it is apparent that they still maintain an authoritarian style of parenting. When Sheila Rosenberg suspects her daughter’s recently exposed interest in witchcraft is a cry for help she immediately grounds her instead of asking Willow to explain her interest, and, when Willow argues that she’s never misbehaved before, her mother’s immediate and angry to response to Willow is: “That's enough! Is that clear? Now, you will go to your room and stay there until I say otherwise. And we're gonna make some changes. I don't want you hanging out with those friends of yours. It's clear where this little obsession came from. You will not speak to Bunny Summers again,” (3.11). Her mother’s first response is to punish Willow for misdeeds and to become angry when Willow questions her punishment, which is a perfect example of an authoritarian parenting style. As previously discussed, children raised by authoritarian parents have lower self-esteem and weaker social skills than other children, much like Willow exhibits on numerous occasions when she questions her own value or acts in a socially awkward manner. In conclusion, it can be surmised that Willow’s parents utilized a resistant style of attachment and an authoritarian parenting style, which influenced Willow’s temperament development.
                 Of course, no individual, fictional or real, can attribute their personality to one sole cause. All three of these characters were affected by other factors, by friends, schoolmates, or sacred duties, and all three characters continued to change over the course of the series. This essay is not intended to explain Buffy, Xander, and Willow’s personalities and temperaments based entirely on one causal factor, but merely to examine how known psychological findings may have influenced these three characters’ characterization. Anybody who’s been exposed to Buffy the Vampire Slayer can agree that Buffy, Xander, and Willow are all complex, dynamic characters, so simply consider this a discussion of one aspect of those complex characters. That being said, it can be concluded from the characterizations of Buffy, Xander, and Willow, and their depicted relationships with their parents, that all three characters were influenced and shaped by their parents’ attachment and parenting styles.


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May. 6th, 2013 09:10 am (UTC)
This was really interesting, I know very little about psychology, but I found this really well argued and quite fascintating.
May. 7th, 2013 03:56 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you found it interesting!
May. 6th, 2013 12:33 pm (UTC)
Interesting read! I studied the "strange situations" experiment a couple of years ago and I like how you managed to combine your knowledge with the different characters' analysis in your meta.
I agree on everything, except maybe about Buffy and her father. I think she has big daddy issues but I don't know if they develops after the divorce or even before.
I think that Joyce is a little ambivalent in the first seasons, when she doesn't know about Buffy's mission and she basically doesn't have real comunication with her daughter. Rewatching "Becoming" I found interesting Buffy's line about Joyce, when she said that she didn't saw the clear truth (I think she says something about her dresses dirty with blood and dust)
I think that the relationship between Buffy and Joyce is interesting and complex. And I think that Joyce becomes a better mom after she knows about Buffy's true nature.
Nice job on Xander - I've always thought that it's really interesting in his relationships with Faith, Anya and Cordelia. In "Hells Bells" Xander ruins his wedding because he sees his future version of himself unhappy and frustrated as his father. (And finally we see his father and mother and how disfuctional they are)
Lovely job about Willow. <3
May. 7th, 2013 04:00 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I interpreted Buffy's daddy issues to generally stem from the divorce, mostly because her artificial memory of Dawn coming home from the hospital features her dad in a positive light, but I definitely agree that their relationship was less than ideal. As for Joyce, I personally viewed her as a good mother even before season 3. She didn't always communicate well with her daughter, but she was definitely a supportive presence, especially in moments like the end of the episode "Innocence," when she comforts Buffy after Angel lost his soul, even though she has no idea what's going on in Buffy's life. She was definitely oblivious, but I think in large part that was representative of the generational gap that exists between most parents and their children.
May. 6th, 2013 03:04 pm (UTC)
What a fascinating essay.

I always felt like the show could have done a better job explaining what was going on with Willow's parents. Surely someone would notice if they were absent to that degree. IDK It felt like lazy writing to me at time. I completely agree with your assessment, though, of how their disinterest affected Willow.
May. 7th, 2013 04:02 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I feel like fuzzy parenting was one of the show's bigger blind spots, and not just with Willow. We knew next to nothing about Cordelia's parents other than they were rich and Oz never even mentioned his, while Riley and Faith's families are only mentioned tangentially at best. It was a weird choice on the writer's part, IMO.
May. 7th, 2013 06:19 pm (UTC)
*nods nods*

Especially since family of choice is one of the major themes of the entire Buffyverse, you'd think that family of origin would be more fleshed out to make the contrast more stark.
May. 12th, 2013 02:13 pm (UTC)
Hi! Here via month_of_meta
Surely someone would notice if they were absent to that degree.

I don't know... I have to make a disclaimer here that there are entire seasons of the show I haven't seen, but stuff like class and a child's achievement and behaviour can make a huge social difference between what (emotional or physical) neglect on the parents' part gets handwaved by society. I had friends growing up who knew a kid who hardly saw his parents - the guy lived on fancy Marks & Spencer ready meals. And it was sad and you have to figure it had a long-term effect, but as long as he was getting to school, passing exams and not getting into trouble, I can imagine the issue going unnoticed. But a kid from a less well-off background who is noticably struggling or acting up would be a much bigger alarm bell, and other people (the school, neighbours, friends' parents) would feel much more entitled to intervene or ask questions.

With kids themselves, I can imagine that in childhood Xander, coming from a dysfunctional family, might have viewed Willow's life as idyllic because relatively unencumbered by any chaotic adult presence. As he got older I can imagine his being [edit: MORE aware, not "unaware"] of Willow not necessarily being okay with her parents' indifference, but I see him being the kind of guy who'd think, "Well, it is what it is; at least we've got each other [and later, Buffy]."

But yeah, when such a long-running show is so laissez-faire about defining the home lives of its characters, it definitely makes you ask some big questions...

Edited at 2013-05-12 02:15 pm (UTC)
May. 12th, 2013 11:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi! Here via month_of_meta
*nods nods*

I think you're right about Xander's reaction to Willow's home life. I'm certain he would have preferred indifference to the kind of dysfunction we see on the show (and have imagined for him in fanfic).

I also agree that class and her intelligence are probably factors in Willow not raising red flags for her teachers. If her parents were always standoffish in the neighborhood and she doesn't mention their whereabouts, it's possible that people might not have realized the extent to which they are absent.
Aug. 8th, 2015 07:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi! Here via month_of_meta
I think you're right about Xander's reaction to Willow's home life. I'm certain he would have preferred indifference to the kind of dysfunction we see on the show (and have imagined for him in fanfic).

Very late to the discussion, but I wanna comment on this. During S5 and after Joyce's death, Willow declares that she's going to visit her mother. Xander wants to visit Willow's mother as well - "I'm not going to my folks. Those guys are scary," he says to Willow.
Aug. 9th, 2015 04:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi! Here via month_of_meta
Hi! :)

Poor Xander. Willow's parents seem so neglectful and dismissive to me, but they are a step above what he's got to deal with.
Aug. 9th, 2015 07:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi! Here via month_of_meta
I guess living with the constant screaming, yelling and breaking of plates, he'd welcome silence with open arms. Now Xander's "I like the quiet" has a brand new meaning.

Found the scene from the episode Forever:

XANDER: You going home?
WILLOW: I'm gonna stop by my mom's first. Been doing that a lot lately.
XANDER: Yeah. I actually might stop by your mom's too. (she looks at him) Well, I'm not going to *my* place. Those people are scary.

Aug. 10th, 2015 12:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi! Here via month_of_meta
Ooooh, thanks for finding the scene.

May. 20th, 2013 04:56 am (UTC)
Re: Hi! Here via month_of_meta
I find the lack of mentions of home lives of a number of characters (notably Oz and Cordelia, but that's because I'm always upset about the lack of development and screen time for Oz and Cordelia) really problematic in a lot of ways, but I think it may have actually been an intentional move, now that I think about it. One of the big themes of the show is "found family," and that you get to choose your family, and I think that the problematic home lives of almost every character served as a means to further enforce that theme. Everybody's crappy families served as a contrast to their excellent group of friends, and that drove home the message that you choose your own family.
May. 6th, 2013 09:38 pm (UTC)
Interesting! And definitely fits with stuff like Willow's mum picking her clothes in S1 and yet not noticing much else.
May. 7th, 2013 04:04 am (UTC)
Thank you! I think that's what makes the show so interesting, the fact that the characterization is so well-constructed and consistent (espcially with Willow, IMO) and more or less psychologically relevant.
May. 7th, 2013 03:30 pm (UTC)
I agree with most of this :)

I do feel like Buffy had some major daddy issues following the divorce, when her dad basically emotionally divorced her too, not just her mom, gradually getting to the point where he disappeared from her life :( I think this influenced all of her relationships with men from that point on in a negative way... combined with her Slayer-ness and her increasing realization of how alone it really made her, I think she projected a fear of abandonment learned with her father onto every guy she was ever with, except possibly Riley, who then did abandon her, both emotionally and physically...

As for Xander, I think his is a textbook example, exactly as you described...

And with Willow, something interesting I thought about when watching the episodes toward the end of Season 5 - I think Willow's mother, as authoritarian parents generally do, regularly discounted Willow's feelings, dismissive and disrespectful of them, when she did take the time to listen to them - and the source of Willow and Tara's first big fight, right before the Glory mind-suck incident, was when Willow got the impression from Tara's words that Tara was suggesting their relationship was "just a phase" she was going through and she'd change her mind later on.

To me, this seems to be a potential sore spot for Willow because that's how her mother seemed to view her - like a case study from a text book, not like an actual person with individual thoughts/feelings/personality. I think it hurt Willow to be so belittled and reduced in that way, and when she felt like Tara was doing the same thing to her, it caused that big fight between them.

But anyway, yeah, this is very thought-provoking and interesting and in my opinion, pretty much spot on :)
May. 8th, 2013 04:00 am (UTC)
Thank you! I think you definitely raise some interesting points about Buffy and her abandonment issues, and I agree. I think her father exhibited a secure style of attachment when Buffy was younger, but that the divorce did adversely affect her as well, leaving her with some abandonment issues. Plus, Angel, Riley, and Giles all leaving her probably didn't help.
May. 7th, 2013 04:57 pm (UTC)
This is a great start! There's a ton more interesting psychology to dive into in the show, not that I'm any expert.

I do think that Buffy's relationship with her dad changed from Secure in early childhood (as far as we know — I'd say the Ice Capades tradition shows warmth) — to Avoidant (absent) sometime in her teens, which goes some way in explaining that while she's relatively well-adjusted, there are things she's insecure about.

Faith's childhood was clearly horrible, and even though we never see or hear anything about it, we can extrapolate a whole lot.

I think with Willow, there is an interesting mix going on. While there is some evidence of authoritarian parenting, as you point out, there is also a lot of de facto permissiveness, due to their just not paying attention. This is a possible explanation for why Willow has such poor impulse control — she has an easy time sneaking around and exerting her will on others through magic without considering the consequences, for instance.

I urge you to read this meta:

Giles and the Wild Woman by norwie2010, especially the Willow discussion the author has with local_max.
May. 8th, 2013 04:03 am (UTC)
Thank you!

That's such an interesting point at about Willow's parents. I was largely considering her parents only in their demonstrated roles on the show, but I think the idea that their extended absences would result in permissive parenting makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider Willow's addictive personality and impulse control. Thanks for pointing that out!</p>

And thanks for the meta recommendation! I'll be sure to check that out.

May. 8th, 2013 12:09 am (UTC)
Hi, can we link this at metanewsfandom?
May. 8th, 2013 02:24 am (UTC)
May. 8th, 2013 04:03 am (UTC)
Here from the herald. Nice post and I pretty much agree with the definitions you've laid out -- I don't have any psych background though I've read up on different things before. I've been in a few discussions, too, in which Willow as an adapted child (or gifted in the "Drama of the Gifted Child") sense has come up, and I think that fits a lot. On Willow in particular, I think we get the impression that her father was also highly authoritarian when he was present (presumably not very often) -- "Ira Rosenberg's only daughter nailing crucifixes to her bedroom window?" Her parents are also fairly absent from each other's lives, and she says in one early episode that her parents never fight openly, "but sometimes they glare." As you point out, Willow is deeply insecure and believes that any traces of affection can vanish at any moment, perhaps in part due to the resistant parenting style from her parents; in addition, the absolute lack of conflict in her house growing up makes even small disagreements seem impossible to cope with (c.f. her "it's the end of the world" reaction to the Tara fight in "Tough Love"). I think the resistant or anxious/ambivalent styles explains a lot of why she anticipates being abandoned for someone better almost as a matter of course -- she takes Buffy (& Xander) "leaving her" for Faith extremely badly.

I love the observation about Xander letting everything just...happen in the Cordelia relationship. He really does seem like someone who exerts no control over his life and doesn't really expect that he has any control. He also never shows any romantic interest in Willow until after the possibility of a relationship is essentially gone -- actually making a move on Willow would require some kind of confidence/commitment/something, and so he can't make any kind of a move or see her that way until it's clear that it can't go anywhere. I think he might pursue Buffy to the extent he does partly because he knows she won't reciprocate. (Not to discount his very real and very different feelings for Willow and Buffy.)

I'm not so sure that Buffy is not affected by parents -- as kikimay and rebcake said above, her father's departure left a big mark on her. And this is lampshaded pretty strongly in "Nightmares," where after all Buffy's nightmare version of her father is her own creation (via Billy's making nightmares come true). What's interesting is that Buffy's father specifically rejects her because of the way she changed after becoming the slayer; and that core idea -- that her slayerness and all that entails (being kicked out of school etc.) is the thing that separates her from others and lead to them rejecting her -- seems to play out through the rest of her story, superiority-inferiority complex and all. I do think that in that sense Buffy does have something of a bedrock of belief in herself that others lack -- Buffy doesn't really doubt that Buffy the normal girl is worth loving the way Willow and Xander doubt that anything about them is worthwhile, and Buffy doesn't seem to doubt that her father *used* to love her. However, Buffy does have parental issues about her father's leaving related to the question of whether her slayer side effectively poisons the rest of her identity. The revelation/retcon about her parents putting her in a mental institution at the moment she confessed to being a slayer underlines this even further. Joyce's kicking Buffy out of the house (though she instantly regretted it) upon Buffy revealing her slayer half plays into this too.
May. 8th, 2013 04:41 am (UTC)
I think the thing about Buffy's relationship with her father is that, in her most formative years, her father maintained a much more positive presence in her life, similar to his presence in her flashbacks in "The Weight of the World," but he detached from her later. I think it's very difficult to analyze early teenage Buffy (i.e. Buffy just after she got called, before her parents divorced and pre-show) because there were so many different factors at work in her life: her parents divorce, being called as a Slayer, learning that monsters exist, leaving her hometown, etc. The fact that all of those things happened all at once muck up the works in a sense, because it becomes very hard to differentiate between those factors, for both the viewer and, presumably, for Buffy. I think your point that Buffy linked her slayer-ness to being worthy of rejection due to her father makes a lot of sense and I agree with it, but I don't necessarily think that her father was an entirely negative influence in Buffy's life. Attachment styles have their greatest impact on children in early childhood, and, judging from Buffy's recollections of her father, Hank was a more securely attached figure when she was younger, so I think at one point he positively influenced Buffy's development. So, I agree that his leaving certainly adversely affected Buffy, but I think Hank most likely had a positive effect on Buffy, as well.
May. 8th, 2013 05:34 am (UTC)
I think all that is true. It is even probable that Hank's influence on her life was more for good than bad. Hank does seem a decent sort in his two early appearances, too -- genuinely concerned about Buffy and sad that he can't quite communicate with her; it's somewhat a shame that the divorce (and his later near-complete exit from her life) keep him and Buffy alienated.
May. 12th, 2013 02:32 pm (UTC)
I love how you apply the academic theory. Like I said above, I'm not so familiar with some seasons, but it really illuminates the characters for me based on what I do know. And it shows the strength of a canon when you can find this much psychological truth in the way the characters grow and develop.
May. 20th, 2013 04:53 am (UTC)
Sorry for the late reply! RL got in the way...

Thank you, and I'm glad you enjoyed the meta! I personally think that the psychological complexity of the characters is one of the show's strongest features, because it helps establish them as interesting individuals, instead of just stock characters.
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