People seem to have mixed feelings about the Buffyverse’s potential Slayers, and it’s something I understand. As a group, they’re not always the most inspiring characters. They serve their purpose, but as individuals I… don’t always know whether or not to like them.
There wasn’t really enough time to get to know each of them individually, so I wound up forming opinions based on silly things: I liked Molly (Clara Bryant) purely because I enjoyed listening to her Cockney accent, and was sad when she died and I didn’t get to hear it anymore. I didn’t like Chloe (LaLaine) because she was, well, played by LaLaine, who I knew from Lizzie McGuire; that, and she whined. I wasn’t too upset when the First got to her, and I may or may not have applauded what Buffy said about her being susceptible and therefore too weak (an example of my writer’s callousness, where I can detach from what’s going on just long enough to acknowledge that it does make a logical kind of sense). I liked Vi (Felicia Day) because she was played by Felicia Day. I liked Amanda (Sarah Hagan) because she was quirky and awkward, and I was sad when she died. I liked Rona (Indigo) sometimes, and sometimes I didn’t.
I had strange mixed feelings about Kennedy (Iyari Limon). As much as I wasn’t keen on the idea of Willow (Alyson Hannigan) rebounding so soon after Tara (Amber Benson), I’ve always been the kind of person that listens to what makes characters happy before I listen to what I’d like, and Willow needed all the happy she could get. Half of the time, Kennedy said things that sort of made sense. She wasn’t terribly sentimental or hesitant about her destiny. Sometimes she seemed to act like she was already at her destiny, though, like she knew it all. Which annoyed me somewhat. But as much as her personality grated, she could fight pretty decently.
Once they stopped whining as a collective and after the whole “Empty Places” mess that made me want to slap everyone (even Willow, even Giles [Anthony Stewart Head]) the potentials did pretty well. They kicked some serious ass, and they made it out somewhat all right. Smaller numbers, yeah, but they weren’t all outrageously dead. And bless Vi’s heart with her toughness on the bus, man.
But the issue is really Willow’s spell to activate them. To activate all the potential Slayers, every girl in the world with the capability to be a Slayer. I’ve heard arguments from both sides about this and why it is or isn’t good. But I tend to side with the good, I think.
First off, there’s the obvious bonus of Willow being able to perform such a kickass magick and have it be such a positive thing. The part of me that cries in my heart when my eyes won’t cry at fiction did so, happily, upon seeing her fall over after the spell and proclaim that it was “nifty.” It was just exactly what babygirl needed, proof that her power wasn’t always destructive.
But more importantly is how it affects the Slayer lineage and mythology. They’re changing the game. That’s always been Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) game. She’s never done Slayer things like she’s supposed to. How many other Slayers had fired their Watcher and broken up with the Council? How many other Slayers had co-existed with another Slayer before? The answer is not many, if any at all. She’s adapting the lineage to a modern day, where there need to be multiple Slayers doing whatever they can to keep the world safe.
If Willow hadn’t activated the Slayers, the world would probably have been screwed, and in the immediate sense, it’s important to acknowledge that. And, quite frankly, though some people have seen it as hitting the feminist “every woman is powerful” message too hard, I don’t think so. Every woman is powerful, but it’s not as if the show ever said that the only way a woman could be powerful was to be a Slayer. It’s said multiple times that Willow is more powerful than any of them, using magicks, and we’re shown how important everyone else’s less flashy efforts are, too.
For one thing, with Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg). It was around the season six finale that I started to not hate her. And it was the episode “Potential” that proved a very good point to me. Finally, Dawnie is being useful. She spends all of season seven trying to fight and research and help however she can, and that’s freakin’ awesome. And Xander (Nicholas Brendon), god bless him, although knowing what I know about the season eight comics made this scene a little different for me.
“They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawnie. To be the one who isn’t chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody’s watching me. I saw you last night. I see you working here today. You’re not special, you’re extraordinary.”
There’s as much power in working quietly and helping in the background as there is in fighting demons hands-on. Or Anya (Emma Caulfield) and the way she comes to the conclusion that she loves humans and she’ll go down fighting for them. And she does. Bravely, selflessly, upsettingly.
I don’t think that activating all the potentials is feminist overkill. I think it’s simply a means of enabling characters to feel and be more powerful and more effective, like they can do it. It’s not just the Slayers that prove their strength in the finale, it’s everyone. Willow with her magicks, Anya with her sacrifice, Xander and Dawn and Giles and Andrew (Tom Lenk) and everyone with their fighting and things even not infused with Slayer strength. Buffy’s grown as a leader, Faith’s (Eliza Dushku) grown as a woman and a positive force. Everyone’s grown, and so what if there’s a bunch of Slayers in the world now? That just means more people who’ll fight the good fight. More people who can learn about their own power and hopefully help others around them find power too.
God, I need to read the season eight comics now.
–your fangirl heroine.