Sacrificing Strangers and Saving Friends
Sacrifice was a key theme played out in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, dating back to even since before the series had its first dive into this issue during its first season finale. We discussed briefly last week how this theme seemed to tie in with a focus that surrounded the first five seasons of the show, ending with an action of sacrifice where Buffy gave her life to save her sister’s billing. Five years worth of work had paid off with a single climatic jump from a high-reaching rafter on out into the oblivion of all things sacrificial….And then we got screwed by her coming back to life. How poetic.
What we had there was basically the end result of a build-up stage dating back to Buffy’s first death experience and moving on into what would appear to be her last death experience during the duration of the show (unless you count the controversial Season Six death).
But sacrifice was played out in more ways than one at the last of Season Five. After all, Ben fell victim to the idea of sacrifice, even though it wasn’t his choice. But the question we pose today is…why? Why sacrifice Ben? Was it really necessary?
Well, the answer I will pose today is simple. No, it wasn’t necessary. What we had here was basically a case of not knowing who the victim was…and because we didn’t know who they were, their life didn’t seem to really matter at all. After all, if they’re not affiliated officially as a scoobie, their life isn’t worth spit. At least, when it comes to the minds of our main cast of characters, thats the way rationality seems to flow. So let’s dive right in, shall we?
The only real question worthy of answering today is whether or not the world would have been safe with the chance of Glory roaming about in it. Sure, she was a hell goddess. Sure, she had power beyond any known capable means of suppressing. But was she truly a danger to anyone after the events of Season Five? I would argue not. Look at the evidence for yourself, if you disagree.
First of all, we have the issue of the key. Glory’s master plan was to get back home. In fact, I believe even Buffy, herself, found this to be somewhat of a joke to understand…the idea that Glory, this powerfully evil big bad, was (in simplest terminology) looking for a way to get back to a place where she belonged. Finding a sense of belonging was a big focus in Season Five as well, if you haven’t already figured it out. However, after the events concerning Dawn and The Key failing…Glory’s chance of ever getting back home pretty much seemed to end.
What does this mean? Well, for one, it gets rid of any real motive Glory might have had for taking out the scooby gang. Without a motive, this hellgoddess is pretty much without any purpose of committing evil at all…a sitting duck. In fact, the only real evil thing she would have anymore would be the whole brain-sucking thing…and Willow found a way to counter that. And, by countering, Glory’s powers were drained. So…we have a hellgoddess without much power and without any real reason for messing with the scoobs other than revenge…and revenge, as we would later see in Season Six, doesn’t seem to last very long as a motive.
It became obvious by the end of Season Five that Willow was much stronger than Glory…especially with the hellgoddess’s power being drained by everyone’s favorite wicca. The redheaded heroine was able to counter just about everything Glory tried to throw at the team throughout the year. And by the end of the year, she was even able to reverse the goddess’s acts of sorcery.
Okay, all seems well and good just looking at motives and such…but let’s get into the second portion of why Glory wouldn’t commit evil. We’ve covered the whole having no motive thing and the whole having someone stronger than her roaming about thing (both of which would point toward Glory having a very short tenure of revenge if any at all…being as how she’d be easily killed off for trying such an act). So, let’s now turn to the very mind of Glory. Toward the end, we saw that the barrier separating Glory from Ben was beginning to fade. Glory, in lamest terms, started to develop a conscience. She started to feel bad about some of the things she had done. Could this have been a point toward Glory becoming more…human?
If it was, it would certainly justify the claim that Glory would perhaps need more of a motive for ever bothering the scoobs again. And, when you look at things more closely, the scoobs might have faired a whole hell of a lot better if they’d bothered to redeem Glory. Was it possible? If she had human qualities, the answer is yes. Just look at Anyanka, Willow, and Faith to get your answers in that regard. One was a vengeance demon, the other a revenge-seeking witch bent on world destruction (and damn well capable of it), and the last one a twisted superhero with a knack for killing people. All were redeemed…all had a conscience…all lived to see another day. Even when things appeared to be at their worst, the scoobie gang still gave everything they had into protecting these three. So what made Glory different? WAS Glory different? Again, if we’re going on human drive, then the answer is no…she wasn’t different. In fact, if you look very closely into the way certain scenes transpired, there was a very similar attitude displayed by Glory that seemed reminiscent of Faith in many instances. Hm…interesting…
So…taking this into account, it seems very possible that the scoobies could have redeemed Glory (even if it did require chaining the poor gal up in a cage for a few months). Glory understood reason and rationality, and she also began to display a conscience. She apparently was honorary to her word, as we found out through Ben who had a direct link up to the hellgoddess’s brain…and that’s gotta account for something. These things all add up to a possible world where Glory could have done much more good than harm. And, since the slayer was dead, having Glorificus as a goodguy would have done worlds better than having Buffybot as the sole protector of the universe. Not that I didn’t like Buffybot, but…well…Glory would have been better. Let’s just leave it at that.
Even so…it’s obvious Giles didn’t know Glory had a conscience in the end. Had he, things might have turned out differently. The old man surely thought he was making the right decision by killing Ben…but maybe he should have been a bit more hesitant before jumping to conclusions. He did, after all, seem more hesitant when dealing with people he knew…such as Faith and Willow. It’s very possible he could have found information pertaining to The Key and the effects it would have on Glory had he just been a bit more perceptive during his research hours. But he didn’t…and he killed an innocent man for it. Well, I’m just glad it’s on his head and not mine or Chao-Ahn’s.
Some people didn’t like Ben. That’s understandable. Anytime a new character is introduced, there are always going to be those who hate them and those who love them and then those who are doomed to be indifferent toward everything about them. But regardless of whether you liked him or hated him, I think we could all agree that Ben didn’t deserve to die the way he did. Maybe there should have been a bit more effort placed upon the shoulders of the scoobs in coming up with an alternative plan or a few ways of keeping that action from the front ranks of decision options.
Ben did, after all, attempt to save Dawn. He did this time and time again. And then, in the very end, he saw that he was going to be screwed either way things played out. He did the last option he had to stay alive…to seek self-preservation. Did he want to kill Dawn? Of course not. He had a chance to do so numerous times. He could have stopped Glory’s plans way earlier (which would have guaranteed him life) by killing the kid. But he didn’t. He couldn’t. Instead, Ben saved not only the life of Dawn Summers, but also the life of Rupert Giles.
Yes, that’s right. We all remember him rushing to the emergency calling of helping the old watcher after Buffy and her team tried to escape Sunnydale. He went right inside, despite the number of knights hanging around outside of the magickal barrier. He knew it was risky…but he took that risk. And he took that risk to save another person outside of himself. He placed his own needs on hold and went in to help out a complete stranger. There is so much we could learn from a character such as Ben.
But even so, where Ben did not fail Giles, Giles surely did fail Ben. Saving the life of the man who later murder him, Ben showed us that he perhaps was a more compassionate being than Giles. For instance, he didn’t know Dawn at all…but still tried to get her to safety numerous times (despite how much it jeopardized his own life). Meanwhile, Giles wanted to sacrifice Dawn to selfishly save HIS friend (Buffy) almost immediately after discovering what was going on. Eventually Ben did indeed turn over Dawn…but it was only in a desperate attempt to stay alive. One that I regret to say many human beings would have taken much earlier than Ben had. In fact, Ben perhaps held out longer than most would have. Glory even said that to Dawn…and I do believe she was correct in that assessment. Was Ben a hero? Well, if he wasn’t despite that one minor character flaw of humanity, a hero is truly a nonexistent and fictional being. Flawless people, after all, are nonexistent.
And thinking about Ben’s last action, it’s easy to judge him for that and that alone. But I refuse to. It seems pretty obvious other members of the cast would have done the exact same thing. Giles, for instance, would have perhaps done that deed earlier…especially if he’d never met Dawn as he doesn’t seem to care as much when he doesn’t know the person being sacrificed.
It’s interesting that Buffy is accused of this so often. She is accused of not caring about people unless they are scoobies. It’s interesting because Giles showed many signs of this as well. Could it be that Giles’s philosophy carried down to his slayer? They did spend numerous hours together training, and Buffy did think of Giles as a father figure. So this seems very likely, indeed.
Giles is a very complicated man. On one hand, he seems to believe that certain people shouldn’t ever sacrifice themselves, and on the other hand he seems to think that other persons SHOULD sacrifice themselves willingly and without question. It’s interesting that the people Giles seems to think are worthy of being sacrificed are the ones he doesn’t have any strong personal bonds with as opposed to the ones he seems to think are never worthy of sacrifice. Notice how differently Giles viewed the idea of Buffy dying between Season One and Season Five, for instance.
As soon as Giles personally had found Buffy to be more likeable, he seemed to care more about her than the world. This is the case with other characters he has viewed, as well. Giles didn’t seem to aid Wesley’s point-of-view in Season Three, for instance, when the options were Willow’s life or an apocalypse which would cost everyone their lives. The man has no rationality when it comes to people he loves. However, he seems to have all the assertiveness in the world when its people he hasn’t created personal bonds with (even people who have saved his own life…and perhaps shouldn’t have in retrospect). It doesn’t matter if you’re good or evil, cause if Giles doesn’t know ya…you ain’t worth savin.
And that’s the message of the article this week. No, Giles wasn’t a hero. And it’s a sad fact that he even knew this and admitted this when he killed Ben mercilessly. It’s sad because he never once tried to improve himself in that regard. Not before, and surely not after. The world might have been a whole lot safer with Glory patrolling the streets rather than a robot, but in the twisted world that is Giles’s mind…no rationality shalt ever pass freely. That’s all from me this week. See you again next Monday. Take care, all.