In episode 14, season 3 of BTVS the audience is tantalised with Buffy being a bad girl, for once enjoying all the pleasures being a slayer can bring; ‘the power of it, and how much fun it could be and how intoxicating it could be and how dangerous it could be’ (Joss Whedon Season 3 DVD extra features).
Faith’s character is the catalyst for this “life for a slayer is very simple” storyline and entices Buffy to “want, take, have”. Buffy flirts with the idea of being bad and literally follows the slayer substitute’s lead into mayhem and murder.
It’s exciting for the audience to see the wonderfully delicious and sexy side to this do-gooder who always gets to save the guy, and the world. And as the writers explore what happens when she makes some different choices they foreshadow further bad Buffy behaviour in later seasons.
Buffy’s bad side is simply an extension of her fundamental character, she is determined, passionate, a fierce warrior with sexy dancing and outfits. As her and Faith embark on a rampage of theft and unplanned slayage the scoobies at first disapprove, then worry. The audience might do the same: is this a new direction for the character? Do we like it?
Clearly not as, sadly for some, Buffy’s bad streak doesn’t last. Faith’s efforts to create a mate end when Buffy discovers that being bad can have dire consequences. Consequences it turns out only Buffy can recognise. While Buffy’s extension of character easily springs back to the good, Faith’s fundamental flaws make her unable to show remorse. Faith is the authentic bad girl here; her character is steeped in the vulnerable, broken, outsider, compounded by her realisation that she will always be inferior to, in her words “Saint Buffy”.
The convention of the bad girl character is that they always get their just desserts, no going back. Fortunately the BTVS writing team enjoy subverting the conventional and so instead of the usual death scene Faith is offered a choice, an opportunity for redemption.
Unfortunately for Buffy, her brief flirtation with ‘want, take, have’ only serves to reinforce that in her job, being bad is not an option. But it was great while it lasted.
Sinead is a serious fan of great adventures in real life and in fiction and thinks that it is impossible to watch too much genre TV. She works as a coach, designing courses and training for leadership teams in education and business. The rest of her time is spent cycling and running around the beautiful Lake District in England and one day she might do another triathlon.