Riley, Ultimatums, My Absence and No Comments

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I am one of the few Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans who really digs Riley, Buffy's cornfed Iowa boyfriend who is also a member of this covert military operation, the "Initiative." Most people find him too wholesome and bland, but I think he's physically hot, dryly funny, decent to women, and very appealing.

Spike, Sunday's guest blogger, became my friend when he and I collaborated on a presentation on BtVS. He worked on Buffy and labor; I worked on Buffy and sex. He has been helping me thinking out some of the ideas I wanted to develop for the paper I'm presenting this weekend at Slayage 2. Blog Spike (as opposed to BtVS Spike) and I both like Riley but disagreed about how we felt about his departure from the show.

As you might have noticed, I'm not exactly developing lots of original ideas in my entries this week--too busy. As another time-saving blogging technique, I'm posting an (almost unedited) email I sent Blog Spike about Riley and what was going on when he left Buffy in Season Five--it's both topical (to me, anyway) and something I can just cut and paste.

I would love to hear from any other Riley fans out there, if any more read my blog. Unfortunately I got up this morning to find I'd received over almost 500 junk comments in six hours, so I'm turning off all comments until I get back. At that point, I'll try to figure out some better way of filtering out the crap comments from the legitimate ones.


When I was home for Christmas, I ended up going on this dreadful drive out in the desert with my parents, my brother and his family. It was a Sunday afternoon and we had driven less than a mile when my brother up in this HORRIBLE cd of little kids singing the Articles of Faith (13 statements of belief for the Mormon church) set to music. It was cloying and gross, and I was revolted to be confronted with so overt a method of socializing little kids into swallowing all that codswollop. I took a deep breath; I listened for a few moments, and then I said, "If you want to listen to this, that's fine. But I can't listen to it. If this is what's going to be playing in the cd player, please take me home before we go any further, because I cannot and will not listen to this."

And Brother said, "Well, uh... OK." And he took the cd out and put in a cd of silly lyrics set to classical music.

My six-year-old nephew asked, "Why are listening to this? I wanted to listen to the cd I got today at church."

"Holly asked us to change it," Brother said. "We're going to listen to this."

"But I wanted to listen to my NEW cd," Nephew said.

"You can listen to that when we get home," Brother said. "You like this cd anyway."

I don't see how that was inappropriate. I suppose in a way I said, "Choose between me or this music," but I didn't frame it that way: I took the responsibility for the choice, and said, "I am choosing between you and music I find acceptable: I will not be miserable for the next three hours, even if I get to be miserable in your company."

Choices can be offered in ways that are more or less manipulative, but I really sort of hate people who get their shorts all in a twist when faced with a legitimate but unpleasant choice and start whining about having to deal with "ultimatums." You can't have everything you want; you often have to choose between things you'd really like to have; you often have to accommodate other people's needs and concerns. I despise people who don't realize that and try to weasel out of these choices. Everything costs.

One thing that drives me crazy about Buffy is the extent to which people tell small, stupid, unconvincing lies. "What's wrong with Mom?" Dawn asks; "The doctors don't know yet," Buffy replies, although she's just been told it's a brain tumor. Oh, so uncertainty and ignorance is preferable to the certainty and information that will have to be dealt with eventually?

Last night I watched "Into the Woods," the episode you mention, and my reaction to it is almost entirely opposite of yours. [Riley wants to know what it feels like to be bitten by a vampire, so he hires "cheap vampire trulls" to suck blood from his arm.] I think it's silly and childish of Riley to go get the suck jobs, but I have no problem understanding why he's so hurt that Buffy doesn't confide in him or even keep him in the loop about her mother's illness, that she pretty much treats him like a big sex toy. She isn't fair to Riley; she doesn't really love him; she has neither enough courage to be honest with herself about her feelings for him nor enough respect for him to be forthcoming with him any more than she does with Dawn, and he is smart enough to know this.

I don't see Riley as issuing an ultimatum, as much as he is telling Buffy that he is dealing with an unacceptable situation and he will move to find an acceptable one if she won't change things. And OK, maybe that IS an ultimatum, but nonetheless, his position seems pretty justified, and I really can't stand that Buffy acts like she shouldn't have to treat Riley as anything more than (as Xander rightly observes) a "convenient" boyfriend. OK, yeah, Riley did this gross, unacceptable thing, but she claims to be upset by it because he could have gotten himself killed and because she's too busy dealing with her mom's illness to worry about protecting him, rather than saying it's a profound betrayal and infidelity--so that the matter IS an affront to her convenience, not her heart. And Riley is always aware of what she thinks and feels about her, while she never bothers to pay much attention to what he thinks and feels about her. Why should Riley stay when Buffy thinks so little of him, and thinks of him so little?

I see Buffy in the situation as whiny, selfish, self-indulgent and unreasonable, and that episode is the one where I start to really sort of hate her. By the end of Season Five I just can't stand her, and that's beginning of the change. The only thing that made Riley's departure OK was that it allowed for more Spike--I loved the plot developments when he feel in love Buffy.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on May 25, 2006 7:32 AM.

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