June 2003 posts

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Watchers and what they believed (SPOLIERS FOR BTVS S7) -- cjc36, 05:21:44 06/01/03 Sun

So the Slayer is empowered by a demonic essence merged in the first Slayer by tribesmen, the ancestors of the modern Watcher's Council/Council of Watchers. What does this tell us about the Council? Did they still know this demonic essence thing? And if so, at the end of their existence, what did they actually believe in? Why did they still fight? Christian-esque icons repel vampires. Did the Council believe in any kind of 'mainstream' religion? Did they fight to merely preserve the Current (Human) World Order by molding the Slayer to fight the demons?

I had always imagined the Council to be a sort of 'white lodge,' something akin to a Masonic order/Knights Templars, etc. But what if they were more sinister? They employed killers and dirty-deeds men. They probably messed with global markets and played power broker behind the scenes and were the type of organization paranoid types rail about on shortwave radio.

Could they also have been pawns themselves, manipulated by the lovers of Chaos (The First and other related baddies) just like any so-called 'Big Bad?' Or just simply zealots. And all sorts of sins can be committed under the banner of righteousness. From dialog in S7, they knew about The First (and seemed to not wish to inform Buffy and Co. about it).

I guess I am asking What good were they? I do sort of regret the early- on S7 destruction of the Council. I wish to know more. The good/bad/not so pretty. But novels and 'tie-in' media will now have to suffice; I can't imagine Angel dealing much with The Council. They have their own stories to tell.

[> what good was the council? (spoilers BTVS S7) -- pilgrim, 15:44:40 06/01/03 Sun

Good questions. Mostly unanswerable, unfortunately.

I think the organization as an organization must have had its own traditions and in-house myths about its origins and purposes. Perhaps the council held knowledge about the FE and even knew about the apparent tie between the FE and the Slayer. But assuming that it held that information, it clearly didn't know what the information meant--how to use its knowledge to protect and maintain the slayer line. It was clueless (Giles said) and impotent. And as Buffy said, the good guys don't always communicate very well with each other. The council was the biggest culprit on this point--apparently it held onto information as a way of holding onto power. Not sharing. And so, moral of the story, the council goes kablooy.

Since Angel next season apparently is going to offer stories about powerful organizations and how (and whether)a firm's power corrupts the individuals who work for the firm, or even corrupts the firm's own purposes, we may get to explore your council questions in a different context.

But what good did the council do? It nurtured Giles, if nothing else, and it put Giles and Buffy together. Definitely a good thing.

Going on to talk a bit about Giles--
For me, the most unsatisfying ending of the series was the resolution of Giles and Buffy's relationship. This season had such promise in exploring the strains in the father/daughter and teacher/pupil relationship, as the daughter/pupil grows up and away from the father/teacher. And to a large extent the series lived up to that promise. ME pushed Buffy and Giles past their breaking points, and I think what the show did with both characters was bold and emotionally real.

Giles moves from his comfort zone--horseback riding on the green fields of Westbury and offering Willow sage advice--to a place where he has lost nearly everything he counts on and believes in. Council gone, friends dead, books blown apart. Understandably, he wigs out. His anger, confusion, fear, and grief push him to behave irrationally at times. Even when he tries to help as only he can (for example, he gets props for going all the way to England specifically for the purpose to find something to help Spike), he blows it by betraying Buffy. He makes flash cards depicting bloody and dying girls, showing his disturbed state of mind. He slashes the throat of a bringer apparently without a thought. He articulates his fear and desperation not by admitting that he is afraid and desparate, but by advising, indeed pushing Buffy to take up more of the burden. (Buffy does the same thing--she articulates her fear and desperation by ordering the potentials, Willow, and Spike to do more, get tougher, stop being stupid.)

Looking back on the season, all of this is great stuff. At the time I was watching the shows, however, I couldn't grok Giles because I kept waiting to see if he was really already dead, or a pawn of the FE, or was being used for some other plot twist. If we had been given some scenes, at least after Killer in Me, showing that this really was Giles, and that Giles really was suffering all of this anger and depression (perhaps during some discussion with Willow), I would have bought into his emotional ride completely. And his growing estrangement from Buffy would have had a much clearer emotional resonance for me.

I cheered the moment in Chosen when Giles told Buffy that her plan to share power was "bloody brilliant." Giles was back! He wasn't a pawn of the FE after all! But I felt cheated, too. I wanted ME to have hooked me into Giles' journey this season more completely. The moment when Giles throws over his dead past for a new and different future should have given me chills. And it didn't.

[> [> Great points about Giles. I agree. -- Sophist, 19:05:24 06/01/03 Sun

AICN spoilers for Angel -- Dandy, 09:01:55 06/01/03 Sun

Ain't It Cool News has posted info of a script sent to them regarding first season opener of Angel and Spike's first appearance.
Also, at Buffy Cross and Stake on the Angel board there is a thread started by Jake on Sunday morning about the AICN posting. The partial script is posted in this thread.
There is debate as to whether it is real or not.
What do you think?

Re: AICN spoilers for Angel -- Alison (back on spoilers and lovin it), 12:05:51 06/01/03 Sun

If it is the real script..wow. If not, if ME comes up with something remotely close to this good, I'll be happy.

url please? -- gillie (who forgot to bookmark AICN last time), 12:22:08 06/01/03 Sun

[> Here -- s'kat, 18:20:18 06/01/03 Sun

Try www.slayage.com - it has the article link posted.
You can also see it at www.bigbad.net and
at the Spoiler trollop board on conversebuffy as well as on Angel Soul Board and Buffy Cross and Stake.

The consensus is that it is a foiler - ie. fake. But go to the spoiler boards to discuss. Not here. This is the safe zone. ;-)

Not real and...this isn't spoiler board. Go to Spoiler Trollops -- s'kat (also back on spoilers), 13:02:22 06/01/03 Sun

While you did a good job of keeping anything concrete out
of your message - the temptation for others to add stuff, could inadvertently spoil people.

There are many people who come to this board who are spoilerphobes - ie, will avoid all spoilers no matter how minor, including casting spoilers. And two of them actually archive the board. So be nice to these poor souls and discuss it on the other boards.

I read the spoiler and nope, doesn't feel true to me. Aspects of it might be. But all the writers are on vacation right now, they aren't meeting until mid-June. They may have pitched a few ideas to WB to get it renewed, but most pitch meetings include about 20 some ideas and few if any of those get grabbed.

According to Fanforum the only two definite things at this point (outside of the publicized casting spoilers) is:

1. Filming is starting in July
2. They are building new sets for Angel on the Buffy lots.
3. We'll get a new Angel episode earlier this year than we did last year. Possibly mid-Sept.

That's it.


[> Sorry about that -- Dandy, 17:08:10 06/01/03 Sun

[> [> Don't worry - you didn't spoil anyone -- s'kat, 18:30:06 06/01/03 Sun

You did a very good job of keeping it out of your post.
I was just trying to keep anyone else from spitting it
out by mistake.

The policy as I understand it is we can talk about spoilers in shows that have already been seen as long as we put warnings and don't put spoilers in the subject line, so people can avoid. We can also do Well Known Casting Spoilers and Writer's spoilers and Episode Title spoilers.
But try to refrain from posting actual spoilers for episodes not seen yet.

I think it's all in the rules.

Don't worry, Rah is right, you didn't break any rules. I was merely doing a preemptive strike against someone who might accidentally.


[> As far as I know -- Rahael, 18:17:54 06/01/03 Sun

Spoilers aren't banned here.Wasn't that the whole thing about the warnings of "Well known casting spoilers" etc? There's a spoiler policy linked above. Moreover, Dandy's message featured no spoilers!

Rahael, unashamed spoiler trollop who doesn't go to any other boards. Not even the Spoiler trollop board.

[> [> Re: As far as I know -- s'kat, 18:25:19 06/01/03 Sun

Not banned. But this is more than a WKCS spoiler Rah, this is actual foilage (ie could be a fakeout not clear) for the first episode of S5 Ats. An outline/script has been leaked which may or may not be fake. And
those are banned here. Dandy didn't mention it in hir
message, but I was trying to keep others from doing so.
I was certainly tempted to go into spoiler hints.

If you want to read it - go to www.slayage.com - see AICN.

I remember stating things on the board last year about Angel losing his soul which was in Entertainment Weekly
and putting warnings in my post and getting blasted.
So was trying to keep people from feeling the pain this year.

[> [> [> Huh -- Rahael, 18:42:17 06/01/03 Sun

I can't remember the incident in which you got blasted for posting properly marked spoilers, but that really really irritates me when that happens.

Because the spoiler policy is very clear, and marked out in bold both for the Spoiled and the non spoiled. There shouldn't be any need for blasting anyone.

Of course, I can't link to it because Masq's site is down. Oh, the irony!

[> [> [> [> [>It's not important... -- s'kat, 19:10:18 06/01/03 Sun

It was last year sometime. And I might not have marked it well. But I do remember Masq telling me to try to not post
spoilers from episodes no one has seen yet. (ie Not aired any where in the world).

But hey, if the policy has changed? Let me know. ;-)More than happy to discuss this baby. Although I re-iterate,
I'm pretty sure it's fake, a great fake, but fake all the same.

Yep - I'm back on the dope, going to be full-fledged spoiler trollop for Angel this summer/fall. I want some certainity in my life dang-it!!

[> [> [> ">Oh yeah....now you went and hurt my Baby Spoiler Trollop feelings........;) -- Rufus, 19:09:38 06/01/03 Sun

BTW.....it's a foiler up at AICN

[> [> [> [> ">Am I right then Ruf? -- s'kat, 19:11:57 06/01/03 Sun

[> [> [> [> [>board space and spoilers -- Rufus, 20:00:12 06/01/03 Sun

The main reason I post the spoilers at the other board is to keep the board here from losing good posts too soon for people to reply to them. It's the one thing I hate about the Voy board....great threads get bumped for stuff that should be on the Trollop board. Then there is the problem of someone posting a spoiler with proper warnings only to have someone in the thread shove a spoiler in the message subject.

Someone posted the script section and it can be found on the Trollop board here.....Tr ollop Board

I think it's a foiler as it's just too soon for something that detailed to be floating around....people can make up their own minds.

MOLOJ has obtained a portion of Joss's wife's prenup.... -- Rochefort, 00:10:32 06/02/03 Mon

Some of our spies obtained this. Maybe it will help the resistance. It's only part of the document, so let me know if you find more.

Prenuptual Agreement of Mrs. Whedon

If I ever say "I love you" and you respond, "Love you, too. I'll call you," do not expect it to take me the rest of the year to stake you.

If I ever say "I love you" and you respond in falsetto "This isn't real...but I just wanna feel," you will feel me kick you in the crotch.

In the event that the marriage shall end, we shall each receive 50% of the assets. Unless you take your 50% to Los Angeles and hook up with some ditz we knew in highschool. Then I get all of it.

If I ever find a BOT in our house, even a bot of ME, and you tell me it was just to play checkers with, I'll put marzipan in YOUR pie-plate, buster.

If you ever make me run around on a field screaming "I love you" while you're leaving in a helicopter going "la la la la I can't hear you," I get everything!

Penises that have desieses from shumash tribes makes a cute line, but if it happens, you aren't getting any.

I do not know how to become a vengence demon. Leave me at the alter though, and I'll find a way.


But Joss also made her sign these... They get kind of creepy at the end; you can really tell he's losing it.

If you ever leave me you have to say: "Take a good look at this butt cause it's the last time you'll see it. Except when it's me walking away from you, and even then, I'll probably walk backwards" or I get everything.

Once a month you have to say "It's Joss. And he's wearing the coat."

If I ever get bored and say "Tonight we're having dinner with no dialogue" or "Tonight we're having MUSICAL sex" you have to go with it.

If I ever become a fish person, you have to stay with me and provide bath tub toys.

Ditto if I become a rat. I want those little tubes set up in a maze to run around in.

If no one wants to buy Fire Fly, you have to let me act out every damn episode in the living room. And clap.

Do not turn out to be a praying mantis who bites my head off during sex. I don't think you are, honey. But just in case.

Sometimes stare intently at your I-Mac and if you ever want me to go somewhere I don't want to go all you have to do is say "This is my determined face. You've seen it before. You know what it means" and I'll be putty in your hands.

"I do hereby understand that if Joss ever fails in sex that it is because of the chip."

Once in a while put on a tight sweater and prowl around the house going "ooooh, I'm going to stake you..."

Life is unpredictable. I gaurantee the major players in our mariage will not die, but if something happens to say, your mother in-law... well that's how it goes. Of course, if it didn't make us sad, I wouldn't be doing my job.

Do not love the scoobies in the basement! They must remain unloved. And in the basement! THEY ARE MINE! ALL MINE!

[> ">He's diabolical! Where do I sign up for MOLOJ? -- dub ;o), 08:41:13 06/02/03 Mon

OT X-men/Once and Future King query -- MsGiles, 04:08:16 06/02/03 Mon

I noticed a couple of references to TH White's The Once and Future King in X-Men2, and I wondered if anyone familiar with the graphic version of X-Men knows any background to this?

TOaFK is a version of the Morte D'Arthur, fantasy/historical in setting but modern in feel and and language (though with conscious archaisms). I wonder if there are some parallels with Buffy in it.

The first part of the book, The Sword in the Stone, is much lighter, and was published separately as a book for children. it's episodic, and uses humour and metaphor to describe the learning path of Wart, the future Arthur, as he is guided by Merlin through a series of magical situations (and animal incarnations. OK that doesn't happen to Buffy, could have been interesting though..).

As the book enters the adult part of the cycle, it becomes much darker in tone. In some ways the whole of Arthur's adulthood seems fraught by self doubt, mistakes, and appalling accident, and the happy scooby grail-seeking round table is torn apart by suspicion, lealousy and betrayal, particularly by the Lancelot/Guinevere affair. Morgan le Fay kills a unicorn in a manner distinctly reminiscent of Willow and the fawn (and of course she is a dark Arts specialist).

I read the book as a teenager and haven't re-read it recently (could be on the list) but the feeling that I got as the Wart's sunny (if fraught) childhood disappeared into the the pain and anxiety of adulthood seems very like the feeling I've had from S6, as Buffy and co move from dire but essentially solvable teenage challenges, into a much more difficult scenario where they try to cope with the adults they have become, with all their failings and weaknesses. I found the book very hard to read at the time, but it gave a lot of insight to the Morte d'Arthur when I finally got to read that.

I seem to remember seeing the book in a list recently (was it the 'Buffy' geek test?). Is it a Joss book? Why is it in X-Men? Anyone enlighten me?

Perfume (Book Melee time!)(tiny sp. 7.3) -- Tchaikovsky, 07:58:27 06/02/03 Mon

Hello everyone. I'm feeling very presumptuous at the moment. Strictly speaking I suppose it should be Sara's job to start off the Book Melee thread, but as I have an essay written, I'll have to hope the Boss will excuse me for posting this to incite argument. Here goes...


These quotes won't exactly be referred to as much as their thoughts touched upon in the following essay. I don't want to short-change the writers, but don't have any intention of discussing their apposite aphorisms in much detail, so include them here as a pretty little bibliography of inspiration. Forster, Suskind, KdS and Clarke. Quite a quartet.

'Only connect.'
-EM Forster's inscription to, and mantra throughout, 'Howard's End'

'Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic'
-Arthur C Clarke

'If your personality, cultural tastes or philosophical opinions don't fit with the mainstream, it's easy to make yourself feel good about it by believing that the mainstream is in itself inferior. That most people just aren't as intelligent, or refined, or sensitive, or moral as you are. It's a good way of keeping sane. When it becomes toxic, though, is when you don't just accept that the mainstream disagree with you, but that you start believing that they are, literally or metaphorically, cast into outer darkness for it. When you start believing that you're part of a tiny natural aristocracy.'
-KdS, in his super post about how The Trio is not an abandonment of the outsider.

'In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His story will be told here. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name- in contrast to other gifted abominations, de Sade's for instance, or Saint-Just, Fouche's, Bonaparte's, etc.- has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in hostory: to the fleeting realm of scent.
-The beginning of 'Perfume'


First, I'd like to thank Sara for her superb organisation of this Book Melee, which really appears to be getting off the ground in a big way now. Secondly, I'd like to write a bit about why I, (somewhat accidentally) got this book as the first subject. I only mentioned it because I'd just read it, and had only just read it because it was on a list of the 100 Greatest Books of the 20th Century, run by Waterstones in 1997. The list is still around here . Looking through them, it may not be the greatest list ever compiled, but my Father and I have between us now read more than 80 of them, with our ambition to finish them one day. This involves one of us reading the Proust of course! One thing about the list is that it has a tendency to be full of books that people took for English courses, (the Orwell, the Forster, the Woolf), and books that inspired films, (what other reason for the puzzlingly high 'Trainspotting', and the appearance of the severely mediocre 'Jurassic Park' and 'The Horse Whisperer'). So this book is a little bit of a bucking of the trend. Not only has it not spawned a major movie, or been on any reading list for compulsory perusal (except here of course!), but it also was originally written in a foreign translation, which is quite unusual for the list. It clearly has something a bit special going for it. The below is my attempt to explain why this book might have ended up on this list.


Suskind in this book achieves something a little bit magical. He tells a story in which there are no relationships of any strength, and no dialogue of any length. The focus is set on one person, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and a fairly comprehensive story of his unusual life. The reason for the isolation of Grenouille is his difference in sensory perception from everyone else he's ever met, and indeed from everyone we have ever met. It is not, like the Trio, that his experience of life comes with an inability to accept reality, and a tendency to hide in fantasy. His is not a life hiding in Tolkien, or becoming James Bond. Instead, his primary sense is that of smell, rather than the combination of vision and hearing which tends to inform all we know and understand about the world more deeply than the other three modes of awareness. Of course, as my grandfather used to tell me with a look of revelation in his eye, even on the 50th telling, smell is the most evocative of the senses. A certain combination of smells can effortlessly draw you back to somewhere you remember from decades ago, and not only that but it tends to be able to re-create the emotions you may have been feeling there. And yet our modus operandi as human beings is almost always to steer, observe, and react from sight. As we evolved, we developed the ability to speak, at which time, being self-aware and becoming inter- dependent, another sense, hearing, became important past its initial peripheral uses, to hear birdsong, and hum to oneself in the shower, and its crucial use in our early development, in helping us to hunt. Suskind here asks us to challenge all that we have come to know about our senses and their relative usefulness, asking- what if our primary mode of understanding of the world were olfactory? In answering this question, he creates a truly singular anti-hero, (if even that is not too strong a compliment, at times he is merely a villain), in Grenouille.

We see the whole of Grenouille's life, which has an important symmetry, starting in the streets of Paris, and ending there, a life later. Throughout the book, we are bombarded with descriptions that make the faint-hearted (that would be me), seem a little queasy. We are not exempted from the stench of Parisian life, but thrown into it, including various grotesque moments such as at the beginning, where Grenouille's umbilical cord is cut by his mother's fish knife. From this point onwards, we start to see what an exceptional wretch Grenouille is, and this is important. From early on, the leading character does not share the characteristics of the general populace, represented by his dead siblings. For unlike the 'several' other children that 'Grenouille's Mother' [never important enough to the story, indeed to Grenouille himself, for her own name] gave birth to in the Rue aux Fers, Grenouille both survives and screams. It is this exceptional stubbornness, the tendency always to do the hardest thing in order to be selfish, that remains a vital feature in understanding the man. For, while other babies lose their neediness for others, transmuting it into friendship, love, respect and mutual help, Grenouille's tendency is to react against the world and cushion himself in an external reality much different from anyone else's. It is as if being born in this centre of smell has left such a mark on him that he cannot disavow its importance, even while not smelling himself.

The characters that Grenouille meets along the way are as grotesquely portrayed as he is, but in their case they are almost all glorious failures, doing their best while being unextraordinary in an incredible time. Each has an inflated sense of his or her self-importance. We see them painted brightly, with a few rather haphazard yet endearing brushstrokes, backed up by Suskind's strength in internal monologue. Hence we have the wonderful holier-than-thou Father Terrier, who quite happily dismisses superstition in a display of intellectual superiority to himself, before being so thoroughly shaken by the lack of smell of the baby that he worries about a Devil Child. Whether Suskind postulates that religion is any more than superstition is an argument perhaps worth having, but certainly there is a suggestion that Terrier himself sub- consciously equates the two. After this, we have the stern Madame Gaillard, whose complete lack of smell seems to symbolise a loss of ability to feel others' emotion and even humanity, an interesting symbolism that I will return to later. Gaillard raises Grenouille without argument, but, like all the other figures, never accepts him or connects with him emotionally. Next we see the most elaborately painted minor character, that of Giuseppe Baldini, the former Italian perfume master. For the only time in the book, we twist away from Grenouille for a while, in order to pick up the aroma and feel of his perfume shop in Paris. Baldini is really a fraud, and beyond that, a very haughty one. Not only has he only concocted two notable perfumes in his life, those stolen from his father's recipes, but also he seems aghast that anyone should dare to be a better parfumier than himself. His complaints are rather the analogue of the establishment at the gauche-ness of the nouveau riche- it is not that other perfumers are any less deserving than Baldini, (indeed they are far more, in some cases), but that they have the temerity to try at all, not coming from a line of people with supposed genius in scent. Of course, Baldini himself is a dilettante. He has no real skill in scent, and long ago realised that he never would have. It is his blusterousness and vanity that keeps him going in life, until eventually he decides that his life is just too hard as a perfumer, and that he'll retire back to Italy. Enter Grenouille to transform his life.

The next pompous, glorious failure in the long list is the Marquis de la Taillade- Espinasse, who has decided he is a scientist, regardless of his inability to give any evidence to back up his metaphysics of fluidum vitae. The poison of the ground is dangerous, and that of the air wonderful, which is why we grow away from it, he postulates. It takes the charisma of Grenouille, arrayed with his new startling smell, to let his unsuccessful career take off, before Grenouille leaves again for the capital of scent, Graz. Finally, in Switzerland, he meets Richis' daughter by scent, and then outwits Richis himself, the successful businessman, by his almost magical ability to smell out movements. Richis is clever, and undone by only one thing, his inability to believe that the other player in business might be even subtler than himself. He takes all the necessary precautions to rid his daughter of the murderous pursuer except to check and throw out the seemingly irrelevant, slumbering fool in the barn outside his inn.

All of these people, who have paltry talents in their fields, have their ability to do what they do inflated by Grenouille, only for it to crash down upon them again the moment Grenouille leaves their lives. Grenouille's mother, finally able to give birth to a child, fulfilling her purpose to finally give birth to something, is so disinterested by her achievement that she is charged with attempted infanticide and beheaded. Terrier is given his first superstitious experience by Grenouille as a baby, and yet it may undermine all the rather pragmatic Christian faith that he has. Gaillard vindicates her ability to bring up any child by her care of Grenouille, but in vindicating what she does, Grenouille allows Gaillard to continue on her way of careful saving, resulting in the loss of her money due to hyperinflation many years later, and the loss of her only dream. Baldini, able at last to be a famous perfumer, stores Grenouille's recipes carefully, only for, as soon as he leaves, Baldini's house to collapse into the Seine, foreshortening his plans. Grenouille validates the Marquis' scientific argument, only to give him so much faith that he arrogantly strides up the Pyrenees and clearly kills himself. And Richis, while forced to even higher orders of planning by Grenouille's guile, ultimately loses the one thing he loves, his daughter.

Grenouille is both an initial blessing and a final curse on these people. One wonders whether Suskind is puzzling through, in these minor characters, the effect of someone exceptional on their lives. In Grenouille's case, he appears to validate their existence, by overcoming their flaws using his talent, only for everything to collapse, (literally in Baldini's case), when it becomes clear that Grenouille has imbued quite false and ridiculous things with a certain credibility- the fake science, the fake genius nose, the fake faith.


And so what of Grenouille himself? As I mentioned above, he is not exactly cutting himself off from the world to live in a fantasy land- it is just that his reality is based around a different perception than ours. However, he is clearly morally at fault for the sufferings of the families and the deaths of the girls that he killed. There's a rather gothic comparison to all those Potential Slayers. While Willow's flashy spells reveal Amanda, and the Watcher's Council's presumably ponderous methods isolate some others, here Grenouille sniffs out those girls whose aromas particularly match. It's gruesome, and it's deliberately passed with no judgement by Suskind, who, after his first paragraph above where he directly brands Grenouille 'abominable' and 'misanthropic' stays largely away from judging Grenouille, instead focussing on his story and his ideas. A crux of Grenouille's life is: how far can he be blamed for the murders he commits? I suspect that the most common answer, (certainly my immediate one) is that he is entirely responsible, is a despicable human being and died not a moment too soon. That's certainly a point. Yet, people (and I'm being very vague with law here, so excuse me), are in certain cases able to plead insanity or infirmity as an extenuating circumstance for their actions. In the case of Grenouille, what exactly does he believe he is doing?

First of all, it is made clear early in the book that Grenouille's speech and understanding of language, stretches only really to nouns, and of these, only concrete nouns. This is a very important point. Grenouille has no perception of love, (beyond the craving for that perfect smell of the adolescent girl), murder, betrayal or blackmail as concepts. He is an entirely selfish being. This result is a mix of his complete isolation throughout, and the way in which his other four senses don't seem to interest him at all. For while we function with vision as our primary source of information to the world outside us, the space in which we live being defined by the pictures in our head, we are also often swayed by noises, textures, tastes and smells in a way that Grenouille never seems to appreciate. We do not at any stage stop to see him appreciate a sunset or enjoy a Claret. So it is not only his extraordinarily vivid sense of smell, but also his disregard for his other senses that makes him what he is. Beyond that, the fact that his smell is entirely receptive is important. Grenouille, the ultimate connoisseur of smell, nevertheless gives out none of his own. What does this symbolise? An empty character, devoid of interest to others? A character so disinterested in communication that he comes across as not existing in the very medium in which he is most invested? In any case, it is another way of isolating Grenouille's character.

In a vacuum, what is morally right or wrong for someone to do? When we isolate ourselves completely, cutting ourselves off from the world, nothing any longer has a moral stigma. So in the almost-decade Grenouille spends, entirely isolated, in his cave in the Massif Centrale, he has no responsibility, and no rights. His life does not impinge on anyone else's in any way, and neither do theirs on him. And yet, this complete dislocation ultimately sours. Grenouille is overcome by a dual fear. First is his fear of drowning in his own stench, as he does in his reverie as he concocts all the smells he has stored in memory into the most beautiful juxtaposition. This symbolises the idea of the danger of extended self-examination above everything. Ultimately, it leads to a feeling of despair and drowning in oneself. And so Grenouille comes to, only to realise that in the real world, he has no scent at all. He is not at all examined by others. And this genuinely, and for the first time, annoys him. While working with Baldini, in a non-co-operative yet symbiotic relationship, all he was interested in was how to gain further knowledge of scent. Yet here he for the first time, understands how little he has interacted with the world, how even his scent, the one signature that Grenouille knows and understands in every other object, animal, vegetable or mineral, has no effect on others. It is a final acceptance that even he, even the most morally anarchistic (or simply nihilistic, disinterested, uncaring) person still craves acknowledgement. Grenouille will not play out the rest of his days in his cave.

And so he, not for the first time, but perhaps the most successfully of any character ever, decides to fashion other peoples' perceptions of him. Because now, he finally feels he needs a certain acknowledgement. He still has no interest in company, or communication, or certainly of anything deeper. But he needs a certain validation for his act. He sees how, with a limited palette in Montpellier, he is able to become a figure of delight. And yet he wishes to go even further. To gain a scent which can become the paragon of humanity's scent, the smell, neatly combined that will make everyone so proud to be human that they will instantly, without thinking in terms of morality or judgement or retribution, love humankind for what they are.

He does, and his own hanging devolves into an orgy, precipitated by the mixed distilled smells of thirty dead female adolescents. Grenouille has learnt to be the master of smell, yet learnt nothing about human kind, we might draw from this text. And yet, it is never that simple. Grenouille's ability, his extraordinary talent, allows him to transcend petty moral issues and to engage in mind control through his olfactory masterdom. And yet what does that achieve knowing that he cannot claim interaction, acknowledgement, except with his false perfume. It is not he as a person who has won the admiration, but his skill, a skill entirely inhuman, except through the pure joy of the perfect smells, and then only until flouted by the ignorance of morality that allows him to kill the girls.

It is not Suskind's intention, though, to paint Grenouille as guilty at the end- as guilty for his actions, for his way of escaping punishment, or for presenting himself as Messianic. For by the end of the book, Grenouille has learnt something hideous- that he still knows, in his heart, that underneath the playfulness, the lying and the counterfeit, that he doesn't smell at all. That he is unacknowledged. From the final section, part 4:

'From time to time he reached in his pocket and closed his hand around the little glass flacon of his perfume. The bottle was still almost full. He had used only a drop of it for his performance in Grasse. There was enough left to enslave the whole world. I f he wanted, he could be feted in Paris, not by tens of thousands, but by hundreds of thousands of people; or could walk out to Versailles and have the King kiss his feet; write the Pope a perfumed letter and reveal himself as the new Messiah; be anointed in Notre-Dame as Supreme Emperor before kings and emperors, or even as God come to earth- if there was such a thing as God having himself anointed'

He could do this, but it would be not for himself. He, the exceptional man, the freak, finally fails, and goes back to Paris, the stench of the Rue aux Fers, to die as ignorant and isolated from humanity as when he was born. We may not precisely sympathise with the mass-murderer, but we understand how he feels- to be unable to even find out if he could be rejected, because of his unique view on life. Grenouille's death is a tragedy, not a victory, and ultimately, in his despair at being unable to recognise his humanity, he becomes human after all.


Which leaves the style. Suskind writes in those long Teutonic sentences, almost begging that Word give him one of those green squiggly lines which tells him his sentence is too long. It allows a thought to perch, develop its awareness of its surroundings, and then plunge down into the lake to retrieve the fish. And the long sentences are symptomatic of the style of the novel. The Daily Telegraph reviewer calls it 'An ingenious and totally absorbing fantasy'. This took me a little aback. For, while Grenouille exhibits a talent that may in reality by impossible, the world into which he is drawn is very similar to our own, working within the same rules as 18th Century France. How fantastic is this book? Is it, like Germaine Greer claims for the winner of that Book of the Century 'Lord of the Rings', a book which allows an escape form reality? For me, not at all. For Grenouille is an archetype from whom we can learn. Not to isolate ourselves. Although he has a unique talent, his lack of communication, of love, of connection, leave him feeling empty, striving for acknowledgement. And he is almost human. Like Angel; a not- quite-human revealing so much of what humanity must been. There are flawed human beings in this novel, and no simple heroes or villains. To call the novel misogynist, while perhaps tempting due to the deaths of the girls with no consequences for the perpetrator, is overly simplistic, for the book has deliberate strains of complete misanthropy. A distaste for humanity that Grenouille's experience seeps through into the third person dialogue. A hatred of Paris and the stench that leaps through into the over-vivid, queasy-making descriptions. Grenouille is not like-able, but we may be able to sympathise with him.

The novel is more a fable than a fiction. Although we may accept on one level that Grenouille finds perfume-making, as Dawn might quip 'smellementary', the olfactory idea, while intoxicating, also acts as a vehicle for exploring interaction, or a lack of it, in the story. It's unique-ness, why it has struck so many people that it has been voted as the best thing written in the last century, (although, frankly, a touch surprising to me), is its singularity in involving a person who experiences through smelling, the nice, somewhat cariacaturised drawings of the flawed minor characters, and an enigmatic central character to whom we may relate, but cannot condone at any stage in his journey.

I'm dying to hear other people's thoughts. Thanks for reading so far in this little reflection, and for indulging me, (those of you who have), by buying and reading a book just on my questionable recommendation. Reading knowing there's so many people to argue with afterwards increases the fun!


[> Great essay! I have so much to say in response, but I don't have time...I'll do it later today. -- Rob, thread preservationist extraordinaire, 08:32:45 06/02/03 Mon

[> Nicely done, TCH -- dub ;o), 09:11:29 06/02/03 Mon

I haven't read the book in years, but you brought most of it right back to me. It still squicks me out!

dub ;o)

[> Thanks for getting us started! More later from me, too -- mamcu, 09:37:42 06/02/03 Mon

[> [> But for now, one shorter question: why a frog? -- mamcu, 09:58:48 06/02/03 Mon

Thanks, Tch., for an excellent essay. You've touched on so much that really matters. I want to comment on some of your points soon, but first here is one question and semi-answer of my own.

Grenouille means frog in French. This is such a common word that there's no doubt we're meant to understand it. So why is this the protagonists' name? I don't yet have that figured out, but here's where my thinking is right now.

Probably the most notable thing about frogs is their life cycle-egg, tadpole, frog. It's called metamorphosis. Literary hint? Maybe we're meant to be reminded of Kafka's Gregor Samsa, the man who woke to find himself transformed into a beetle. In that sense, we can also think about the frog's repulsiveness (nobody cuddles froggies on their laps!), so that Grenouille, at least without perfume, affects people as frogs do.

Grenouille also undergoes metamorphoses, one when he discovers his gift and his curse and changes from unformed (egg-like) monster to apprentice perfumer (tadpole?); another when he emerges from his cave and finds his "mission"-and in a sense, he's back to monster again.

I'm thinking there must be more to his name, but don't know much about frogs. Hope someone else can shed some light.

[> [> [> I would say he's reptilian -- Tchaikovsky, 10:04:38 06/02/03 Mon

...but I have in the back of my mind that frogs are amphibious, so that wouldn't quite work! Your points seem as good as any- I expect some other people will have thoughts on it, I'm drawing a blank for now.


[> [> [> [> I wonder... -- KdS, 12:32:45 06/02/03 Mon

If it was Grenouille in the original German version, because the thing I immediately thought of when I read the book is that "frog" is a derogatory term in UK English for a French person. Maybe the German version gave his name as the French literal translation of the German insult?

[> [> [> [> [>Having checked German Amazon -- Tchaikovsky, 12:53:03 06/02/03 Mon

at www.amazon.de, I find the review, (a very positive one, calling it a 'masterwork in the great European tradition'), referring to Jean- Baptiste Grenouille as in the English version. Although I suppose it can't be ruled out that the Germans call the Franzoesisch 'the frogs' as well, I suppose. What we need is a real-live genuine German...


[> [> [> [> My fanciful slant on this -- Rahael, 13:00:23 06/02/03 Mon

(Though I like all the proferred reasons)

The frog, who is actually an enchanted prince is a common theme that cropped up in my childhood readings - I wonder whether its present in European fairy stories? I must check my edition of Grimm!

Anyway, Grenouille's attempts to give himself the perfect, heavenly scent is akin to an attempt for the frog to transform into a Prince (which is what Taillard-Espinasse (sp?) does to him). There are many mentions of his unprepossessing appearance, and the transformation after he's been cleaned and dressed up - he looks into the mirror and realises that he looks perfectly normal.

Plus those two beautiful young women he pursues are reminscent of the princesses in the stories, and I always found something creepy about the frog who demanded entrance into the bedroom of the Princess, and demanded a kiss from an extremely unwilling woman before he could turn into a prince....

[> [> [> [> [>Ooh! I just did a quick google -- Rahael, 13:02:43 06/02/03 Mon

which seems to suggest that the story of the frog prince is Germanic in origin, and does indeed turn up in Grimm. Though I should actually still check my Grimm. Others here, I am sure, know there fairy tale histories better than I!

[> [> [> [> [>Neat idea! Acceptance -- mamcu, 08:24:09 06/03/03 Tue

And then we can even ask why the fairytale used a frog--still the idea of transformation and metamorphosis. But yes, he does become a prince, when he uses the scent made of princesses.

but the idea of the princess's kiss definitely relates to the idea of acceptance and love in TCH above and your post below.

[> [> [> [> [>Link to Frog Prince story -- mamcu, 08:44:47 06/03/03 Tue

This is even annotated, though it calls him the Frog King:


However, in this version, as in many, she does not kiss him. She throws him against a wall. However, after he becomes a prince she loves him and marries him, so the connection with acceptance is still there.

But the story is really a story about the Princess, often read symbolically as being about sexual maturity (the ugly frog becomes a handsome prince in the bedroom, symbolizing her loss of fear of men). Perfume tells it from the other perspective--the frog's- -and without the redeeming kiss or love.

[> [> [> "It had a simple smell, the sea," -- fresne, 07:35:47 06/10/03 Tue

Fluidity, melting, the sea that is never achieved.

I ponder the Grenouille, who did not go to sea as was his first dream. The sea that is the only smell that he does not divide or dissect, but leaves blended. A thing whole and entire and vast. The sea that can encompass for even strange limited frog the concept of endless.

For the boy with no scent, the sea, "which really was no smell, but a breath, an exhalation of breath, the end of all smells."

How useful the idea of some vaster greater thing into which you can dissolve. In a world where the king is a rank lion and the queen a goat, and the Grand Massif is a cold dissectible womb, and the vast incomprehension of the sea is never achieved.

Grenuouille never dissolves in it. Never mingles himself with its smell. Is never a frog and breaths in through his skin the air of the water. Instead, he learns the properties of fire and taking from the distillation of the water that we hold. Hides in the earth. Comprehends everything through the air. Instead, he is the tick. The spider. The angel with feathers picked from teeth.

[> A great start to the discussion! -- ponygirl, 09:40:05 06/02/03 Mon

Typically, I've left my copy of the book at home so my thoughts are a bit disorganized. It's interesting that you brought up Angel, because one of my thoughts while reading the book was that here was a perfect illustration of what it was to live without a soul (odd that I so often discuss a concept I'm not sure I believe in). Grenouille exists without a moral compass, without much in the way of desire except for his own basic survival and new scents. He is a predator of smell, but up until his first victim he doesn't make any sort of aesthetic judgment. Roses or manure, it doesn't matter as long as it has a smell. So what changes? What is it about his victims that causes him to understand beauty and what's more inspires him to both possess their essence and to recreate it? It isn't just their purity, it's defined later in the book as the ability to generate love in others. What is this quality? Is it their souls?

More later! Oh, and it was a great book!

[> Re: Perfume (Book Melee time!)(tiny sp. 7.3) -- Oil Can, 10:42:43 06/02/03 Mon


I am AMAZED that anyone else has heard of the book!!!

I read it several years ago and whenever I tell people that it is one of my all time favorites, they all tell me that they have never heard of it. And I am talking about voracious readers.

Your essay is brilliant.

[> Great Tch! That was wonderful. -- WickedBuffy (....a small piece of comment), 11:11:34 06/02/03 Mon

Let me warn you all right off - I'm not a scholar. I didn't even know what an "annotation" was until Rob explained it to me. I graduated college with a major in sociology/psychology. I'm not stupid, but I write in very simple language - mainly because I write for children. (Secretly because I adore Ray Bradbury's early writing style.) Basically, my words and thoughts seem to be fairly different from most the posts I read here - please read what I say for their content, not their style or form. Thanks. Now that that's out of the way!

One thing that I couldn't fit into understanding the writer was why each important person in Grenouille's life died after he left. Then I realized it wasn't based on Grenouille's leaving, it was because they had reached their ultimate goal or dream. His mother, bearing a live child. The tanner becoming famous and rich. Tch explains each of them best in his paragraphs 10-13, so I'm not going to repeat each one. The descriptions and summations are quite clear.

Looking back on each of them, they appeared to be more symbolic of Grenouille himself than anything else. And each ones final demise, after reaching some sought after dream, mirrored Grenouille's as well.

Each person mirrored a turning point in Grenouille's life. His mother's disinterest after she bears a live child mirrors each of Grenouille's steps thru the perfumery business. He would learn all the scents, then become disinterested with that and move on to distilling the scents. Distillation of scents was not enough, he wanted to distill the essence of things like rocks and air. And so on.

"Terrier is given his first superstitious experience by Grenouille as a baby, and yet it may undermine all the rather pragmatic Christian faith that he has..." Grenouille underwent several inner transformations which pulled the rug from under him. That you could recreate scents, then that there was another method of distilling essences, that he had no smell, that he could create smell... and so on.
"Gaillard vindicates her ability to bring up any child by her care of Grenouille, but in vindicating what she does, Grenouille allows Gaillard to..."
Grenouille believes he can distill any scent from anything.
Giuseppe Baldini's vanity of being the best parfumer ever.
Grenouille assurance that he is the best.

In some form, each of the major characters Grenouille stops at are smaller extensions of some part of him, his belief system, his emotional states, his inner transformations. But, unlike each of those characters who meet their demise after the change in their life, Grenouille survives and moves on. Those were small-minded goals - and Grenouille's ultimate goal was much greater than wealth or security or fame or faith - it was to be a god. When he reached the point where he could be - then he folds and fades away. His demise was reached climbing up each of the smaller deaths.

The one thing that validated the world for him was scent. In Grenouille's reality, it was what made everything real and concrete. But he could never be real in his own world because because he didn't have the that very validator. No genuine scent. He could manipulate people all he wanted, have anything he wanted, be anything he wanted - except for the sole treasure he needed.

[> [> Yes! -- Tchaikovsky, 12:44:38 06/02/03 Mon

That's a brilliant point WB- that all the characters Grenouille meets along the way have struggles representing his own struggles at the time. It's possibly one more reason why the minor characters, (except perhaps Baldini), never quite feel whole in themselves- they are aspects of Grenouille, rather like the Scooby Gang are sometimes aspects of Buffy, but more so

He could manipulate people all he wanted, have anything he wanted, be anything he wanted - except for the sole treasure he needed.

When you put it like that, it sounds a bit like a model for the tragic hero, the person who would be happy except for one flaw- Macbeth's ambition, Othello's distrust of Desdemona, Lear's vanity. Yet Grenouille is a darker character than any of these, because otherwise the three Shakesperian characters are somehow noble in a way Grenouille isn't- he's too cut off from society.

Anyway, I'm rambling, and I've said plenty already! Great post, and I thought your writing was clear and lucid- something I struggle with in my torturously long sentences!


[> [> [> Thanks, Tch! and again, thanks for the great jumping-off post! -- WickedBuffy, 18:09:57 06/03/03 Tue

[> Misanthropy -- Rahael, 12:46:45 06/02/03 Mon

I'm cheating because I got a sneak peak at TCH's great review and I kept my initial reactions to his essay to post on the thread. More thoughts later.

TCH rightly points out to a kind of misanthropy that pervades the novel.

Is Suskind a misanthrope, or is he simply being thought provoking? I think the misanthropy is a challenge to the reader.

Are we no better than Grenouille, to shun humanity because they smell? We smell of mortality, of life, of the dirt of the world, and yet, should we not be valued nevertheless? Should we not rise above the ultimately shallow concern of Grenouille for the most perfect, most beautiful scent in the world?

Could we not compare the human beings to the flowers that Suskind so beautifully describes? The limp, lifeless sludge that is left after the beautiful flowers have been macerated, are these not the adolescent girls? Grenouille has no care or thought or value for them. (the girls, and the flowers). Suskind challenges us - if you saw the world as Grenouille did, would you care more?

Obviously, a lot of the descriptions of Grenouille's society is satiric. But it also has a deeply ironic purpose, the irony directed toward the reader. Do you hate humanity? Consider it filthy and dirty and repugnant? Who could find this loveable? Who could have found Grenouille loveable as a child, before he became the monster?

And surely, the answer lies, as TCH points out, in love, in loving. Grenouille *does* smell. It's the
rage of Caliban looking at his own face in the glass. The limp flower sludge, discarded - those are the orphans that Paris society discards. When society learns to love the ugly, the filthy, it will redeem itself. As we get introduced to the stench of Paris, of humanity, of ourselves, can we accept it? Can we accept who we are, without being repulsed as Grenouille, a monster, does?

[> [> Ooh good post! -- ponygirl, 13:59:37 06/02/03 Mon

I was reminded of the three aspects of Eve Neil Gaiman presented in Sandman. Besides Lilith, and the more familiar apple-eating Eve, there was another attempt to create a companion for Adam. This woman was created from the inside out, bones, organs, fluids, skin. Having seen all of her component parts, Adam could only feel disgust when he looked at her, ultimately rejecting her.

Grenouille hates humanity, but not their smells, he makes no judgment on those. As a reader it's hard not to feel disgust from the many colourful descriptions of the stench (it was a few days before I wanted to eat cheese again), it's far easier to accept a vague concept of humanity, quite another to have our noses rubbed in living, breathing, stinking people. As you say the misanthropy is a challenge to us - can we accept all the parts of humanity and ourselves? Even the really stinky ones?

[> Some disjointed ramblings (but hopefully some good stuff!) -- Rob, 14:35:59 06/02/03 Mon

Perfume reminded me a great deal of a myth we've dealt with a great deal here lately, namely that of Orpheus. At first, it was only due to the manner in which Grenouille dies, torn apart by a pack of homeless people much as Orpheus in the end of one of the versions of the myth was torn apart by a pack of wild dogs. Then, I began to retrace the story and noticed many more parallels.

I found this version of the tale on-line at http://www.geocities.com/ailiathena/Myths/Orpheus.html:

"...Orpheus [was] the best musician that ever lived. One strum of his lyre, one note sung, and beasts would crawl to him, rocks would move to be closer, trees would leave their places to be near to him. They called him a sorcerer for his power..."

Grenouille's great powers in creating scents that could take control of other humans' passions and faculties is highly reminiscent of this. Like Orpheus, the son of the muse Calliope, Grenouille seems to have a similar divine inspiration. The major difference, however, is that, whereas Orpheus' powers are pure and heavenly, Grenouille is for all intents and purposes a soulless demon whose greatest aspirations are to use his powers not to inspire love and bring people to rapture, as Orpheus does, but to control these "base animals" and to make them grovel before him.

Orpheus falls head over heels in love with the beautiful dryad, Eurydice, the epitome of feminine beauty and youth, and is crushed by loss when she is killed by a venemous snake bite. In Perfume, Grenouille acts as both Orpheus and snake when he first discovers the most beautiful scent he has ever smelled in his life, in the form of a young virgin girl, and decides that he must possess it completely. He strangles the girl swiftly and spends what might be hours imbibing her scent, awkwardly and frantically running his nose over every inch of her body, taking in her smell before it fades away forever. Later he comes to regret the fact that he could not capture her scent to smell at his leisure whenever he might want to return to it and instead had to waste it in a moment of blind passion. Like Orpheus, who decides to descend into Hades, the Underworld, to bring his beloved Eurydice back to him, Grenouille prepares for the day when he will find a similar scent on another young girl and bottle it up for all eternity.

Let's return to the myth of Orpheus:

"With his lyre, Orpheus descended into the Underworld. A normal mortal would have perished any number of times, but Orpheus had his lyre and his voice and he charmed Cerberus - the three-headed monster dog of Hades who guarded the Underworld - into letting him pass. Facing Hades and his cold Queen Persephone he played for them his sorrow at the loss of his love. The heart that was frozen by Hades' abduction melted in Persphone's breast and a tear rolled down her cheek. Even Hades could not help weeping. They let Orpheus through to Eurydice, but warned him very carefully: Eurydice would follow him into the light of the world and once she entered the sunlight she would be changed from a shade back to a woman. But if Orpheus doubted, if he looked back to see her, she would be lost to him forever.
Orpheus heard and rejoiced. He turned and left the dark hall of Hades and began his ascent back to life. As he walked he rejoiced that his wife would soon be with him again. He listened closely for her footfall behind him, but a shade makes no noise. The closer to the light he got, the more he began to believe that Hades had tricked him to get him out of the Underworld, that Eurydice was not behind him. Only feet away from the light Orpheus lost faith and turned around. He saw Eurydice, but only for a moment as her shade was whisked back down among the other dead souls. She was gone. Orpheus tried again to enter the Underworld and demand her return, but one cannot enter twice the same way - and no other way was open to him. All that was left to him was death."

Like Orpheus, Grenouille is able to, for a fleeting moment, recapture his "love." He spends years learning how to be a skilled perfumist, and soon finds a girl with an even richer smell than the first. He does not rush to kill her however, but rather spends his time learning how to best capture the essences of smell, practicing on small animals, and then other young virgin girls. In the end he is able to best capture this girl's smell by blending and reinforcing it with the scents of the other girls, thus creating the most beautiful scent ever created, one that turns a crowd of otherwise upstanding citizens of the community into a Pan-inspired, sex-crazed orgy of writhing bodies. However, just as Orpheus looked back at Eurydice only to find her gone forever, Grenouille's feelings of elation at his accomplishment (turning into servants the very people who moments before were going to hang him for his crimes) quickly turn sour. The fact that he could so easily overpower the other humans sickens him; they are filthy, lowly creatures to him. Imagine them grovelling at the feet of the man who killed so many of their daughters! He leaves in disgust when the father of the last girl he murdered begs Grenouille to allow him to adopt him as his son.

There are various endings to the myth, but the most fitting one here is the one where "he played so mournfully [on his lyre] that his songs called for death, and that the animals who surrounded him tore him apart, weeping as they did." Grenouille, like Orpheus, uses his great gifts against himself in the end. One drop of the precious perfume he'd created caused the frenzy described above; now, he douses his entire body with the full bottle, whipping the people around him into such strong emotions, that like the animals he believes them to be, they rip him apart and finally devour him. Orpheus used his music to cause his own demise, overpowering the sensory input of the animals around him, just as Grenouille does. In one glorious moment, they each become the living embodiments of the highest form of their craft.

Perfume was a truly beautiful and unusual book. I admire the author for his uncompromising vision, and his insistence on creating a book whose protagonist is evil. We do not at any point truly empathize or feel for him, and any time we feel that we might be starting to do so, we are cruelly reminded of just what an awful being Grenouille is. As TCH said, he's not an anti-hero. He's a villain.

The book's structure is very interesting, too, particularly in how most of the text is focused on the people surrounding Grenouille rather than Grenouille himself. With the exception of the first and last murders, his time spent by himself in the cave, and his final act, we mostly see him through the perspective of those whose lives he touches. It's an interesting method, because it wisely keeps the reader at arm's length. This is not a character in whose thoughts we would like to dwell for extended periods of time.

The translation was also very beautiful, with absolutely breathtaking prose at times, particularly in the long descriptions of smell and perfume-making. I must confess that at times, my mind wandered, however, during those longer passages. I really had to force myself to concentrate on the words during some of the more drawn-out sensory descriptions, particularly during Grenouille's time in the cave, and his dreams of smell.

I was entranced by the main concept of the book, that smell is the most important sense; that when we petty humans perceive something as beautiful or ordinary for example, we really believe so because of the smell, even though we don't realize it. The fact that this is a man who "speaks" the language of smell was a fascinating conceit.

My favorite portion of the novel was the one immediately following his 10 year stay in the cave, namely where he is taken under the wing of Taillade-Espinasse, because this was the most blatantly satirical portion of the book. I enjoyed the hypocrisy of the "scientist" and how Grenouille was able to manipulate his faulty theories to the best of his advantage. This portion called to mind for me scenes from both "A Clockwork Orange," and, funnily enough, Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein," where a scientist parades in front of a group of intellectuals, a man who they claim to have transformed from a monster. Another thing that came to mind was T. Coraghessan Boyle's biting satire, "The Road to Wellville," where the kooky Dr. Kellogg demonstrates how he has been able to turn a savage wolf into a vegetarian. What he does not tell his audience is that the wolf that rejects the meat had been starved and slowly trained into rejecting meat, and that this has made the poor animal weak and sickly. To give the wolf its beautiful looks, Dr. Kellogg has him powdered and manicured. This is similar to how Taillade-Espinasse has Grenouille manicured, bathed, and cleaned up, has his wardrobe changed, has his hair cut and has make-up applied to him, before presenting him again to the audience.

Wish I had a good way to wrap all this up or a really deep point to make here. But hopefully some of these ramblings will add to the discussion.


[> [> "Hopefully some of these ramblings will add to the discussion." -- Tchaikovsky, 15:05:54 06/02/03 Mon

You betcha. Great post, Rob. I love the comparison with Orpheus. Grenouille has become the analogue of the Greek Episode Title bloke, the master of the Symphony of Smell, who can lure people or send them away at will. And the further parallels are interesting. Orpheus, the extraordinary freak, is on the side of Good, ostensibly- as a Greek Hero, we always imagie him as well-intentioned. Of course, the re- interpretations of his myth might beg to differ, (as the poem 'Eurydice' by Duffy I posted the other day testifies). Grenouille, the extraordinary freak, is not precisely on the side of evil so much as the side of self-interest, to the point of self-absorption and isolation. Unlike Orpheus? The man who for his pains went down to Hell, broke the laws of the universe for his aching love? Or actually rather like him after all? Perhaps the extraordinary geniuses are more alike than Orpheus would admit to. Or perhaps it's simpler- that underlying the Greek myth and Suskind's novel lie characters- who while exceptional- are deeply human.


[> [> Actually, brilliant Rob. -- dub ;o), 15:39:35 06/02/03 Mon

Orpheus and Grenouille:

In one glorious moment, they each become the living embodiments of the highest form of their craft.

And then they are killed precisely because of their ability to reach the highest form of their craft. What more is there to live for?

That pretty much sums it up, Rob. Beatifully done.

dub ;o)

[> [> [> Why, thank you. Come to think of it this also reminds me a lot of... -- Rob, 18:29:20 06/02/03 Mon

...the end of the Broadway show, "Pippin," where the lead character is encouraged to light himself on fire, in order to, for one shining moment, be remembered as the most beautiful thing in the world.


[> [> [> [> "Think About the Sun"... -- Rob, 21:32:58 06/02/03 Mon

Here are the lyrics from the final song from "Pippin," which perfectly sums up what I was going for re: Orpheus and Grenouille both acheiving the highest forms of their art and consequently being destroyed by it at the same time. Pippin throughout the play has tried numerous ways of having a meaningful life; he wants to be remembered. At the end, the narrator and his entourage break down the fourth wall, appear to Pippin, and encourage him to light himself on fire. For one brief, shining moment, they tell him, he will be the most beautiful, unusual thing in the world; he will glow from the inside out; he will become the flame itself, in a burst of glory--:

The Leading Player:
Think about the sun, Pippin.
Think about her golden glance.
How she lights the world up.
Well, now it's your chance.
With the Guardian of Splendor
Inviting you to dance.
Pippin, think about the sun.

Players: (Adlib, whispering, beckoning PIPPIN to the fire-box) Now, Pippin... come on, Pippin... it's ready...

Leading Player: Now Pippin... it's time.

Pippin: Look, it's just that if this isn't it... I'm going to have a tough time trying something else...

A Player: Pippin, you lack a certain amout of poise...

Another Player: Think of the radiance...

Another Player: Remember the beauty...

Another Player: Admiring glances...

Another Player: Thunderous applause...

Another Player: Think of the word-of-mouth...

Leading Player: Think about your life, Pippin

Fastrada: Days are tame and nights the same.

Leading Player: Now, think about the beauty

Leading Player and Fastrada: In one perfect flame

Leading Player, Fastrada, and All: And the angels of the morning

All (except Leading Player): Are calling out your name

Leading Player: Think about the...

Think about your life, Pippin
Think about the dreams you planned
Think about the moment
That's so close at hand
When the power and the glory
Are there at your command
Pippin, think about your life.

Think about the sun, Pippin,
Think about her golden glance
How she lights the world up
Well, now it's your chance
With the Guardians of Splendor
Inviting you to dance
Pippin, think about the sun

Think about your life, Pippin
Think about the dreams you planned
Think about the moment
That's so close at hand
When the power and the glory
Are there at your command

The power and the glory
Are there at your command

The power and the glory
Are there at your command
Pippin, think about your life...


Ironically, in the end, Pippin does think about his life, and settles for a comparatively ordinary existence, marrying a farmer's widow, and spending the rest of his days raising her young son with her, and tending to the fields.


[> [> [> [> [>Great Stuff, Rob! -- dub ;o), 22:57:02 06/02/03 Mon

The Guardians of Splendor particularly caught my eye. I think WickedBuffy makes reference below to a line in Perfume about Grenouille's "splendor." Not a word we use much in everyday conversation any more. Don't know if we ever did, really. Well, "Splendor in the Grass," I guess, but that was almost before my time, so certainly before yours. What the heck does splendor (Cdn. splendour) really mean, anyway?

And thanks for the note below...now if I could only spell.


[> [> [> [> [>Loved Pippin!!!!! Very interesting ideas Rob! -- Sara, who will be humming all day now, 05:00:19 06/03/03 Tue

[> [> [> [> [>True creation -- ponygirl, 08:59:35 06/04/03 Wed

Interesting comparisons Rob! (And mamcu too!) However I think in Grenouille's case we are dealing with something emptier. His art is not that of Orpheus, Grenouille strips the essence of others. He captures and concentrates scents, he does not truly create. And for what purpose? So many times Grenouille compares himself to a god and talks of ruling others. Yet he has complete contempt for everyone else. He wants to be loved and accepted but realizes he hates the people he has so easily tricked. There is nothing inside him, nothing to produce a smell or essence of his self. I think at the end while he may be demonstrating the pinnacle of what he could achieve, he is also demonstrating the futility of it. What is the point of moving people to love if you cannot feel that love yourself?

[> [> [> [> [> [> You made me stumble on an epitaph for Grenouille -- Tchaikovsky, 09:46:53 06/04/03 Wed

From Eliot, as most quotable things are:

'There will be time to murder and create'

Seems to sum him up quite well. The poem itself is very sensuous, but in a more rounded way than Grenoulle- we get the fog-cat that 'rubs its back upon the window-panes', and 'the taking of a toast and tea', and '"how his hair has grown thin"'. This middle-aged, slightly desperate man notices things that seem to comfort or alarm him in all his senses. He's the unextraordinary to Grenouille's extraordinary. I wonder who is happier.


[> [> [> [> [> [> [> He really is a Hollow Man -- mamcu, 20:29:21 06/04/03 Wed

[> [> [> [> Sort of like Spike at end of Chosen? -- mamcu, 09:30:58 06/03/03 Tue

[> [> [> [> [>Exactly! Didn't even think of that! -- Rob, 09:37:35 06/03/03 Tue

[> [> [> Btw, I love your addition there, dub! -- Rob, 21:39:50 06/02/03 Mon

[> [> Wonderful post! -- mamcu, 08:53:51 06/03/03 Tue

[> [> Artist or politican? -- mamcu, 09:57:22 06/05/03 Thu

I was really excited by the comparison to Orpheus, because I was beginning to see Grenouille as a metaphor for an artist--taking the life from others to create something that he lacks himself. I thought about the movie "Picasso" and how some creators seem to fuel their creation by destroying other people.

But then I recalled a recent encounter with a nationally known politician--one I actually like--and how empty he seemed as a person, how much he seemed to be relating to everyone as a potential--voter, I guess, or source of something. That's oversimplification, but in some ways it seems to work. Just as Grenouille has no scent, many politicans seem to have no self; just as he is hardly aware that he destroys them to extract their scents, so politicians are willing to destroy people to extract the power from them--or maybe what they want is not just power but validation that they exist, since to themselves they seem to have no self.

Maybe this is stretching the comparison?

[> Re: Perfume (Book Melee time!) -- Sara, 18:36:10 06/02/03 Mon

Tch - what a great start! I didn't really love this book, but it makes this melee even better - I think it's even more interesting to see what people get out of book I didn't connect with, than it is when I like it. My thoughts about it are somewhat chaotic but I'm going to throw 'em out here and see if any make some sense by the time I'm done typing -

I found that Grenouille as a character had no real odor, in a literary sense. I never really understood why he did anything, the character's coldness gave him have no reality for me. It's funny, I didn't find the book upsetting or off-putting in any way, which is good, I find I truly cannot read books about serial killers, but this didn't bother me in the least. No one seemed real, and if the characters were meant to be symbolic (or perhaps even metaphoric) I just wasn't getting it.

I really liked WickedBuffy's take on the fate of those whose lives intersected with Grenouille. I think I'm going to connect it up with Rahael's misanthropy comment - each character's death was showing the pointlessness, crassness and futility of people's goals and dreams. I finished the book with a extremely strong feeling that Susskind does not like people. There is no real humanity in any of the characters - the hero/villian is a true cipher, the girls/victims are empty shells whose existence is shown only as an object of yearning. Even Richis' emotion is inaccessible, when his love for his daughter is described it's a statement with no real power. Susskind writes more convincingly of his momentary uncomfortable desire for her, his satisfaction at using her to further his own ambitions, and his elation when he was sure he had beat his opponent. Was his despair that of a father who lost a child, or was it a businessman who lost an opportunity, or even a competitor who lost a battle?

It's hard to picture the person writing this as having any love for humanity, especially after the orgy scene, when people are so easily controlled through their own sensuality. However, I always take my impressions of authors with a grain of salt - I'd love to have a discussion someday on how unlike their own words and insights an author can be. Tolstoy and Salinger spring to mind immediately. But I'm rambling off topic, I'll try to bring my rambling back on topic now!

I do love the frog turning into a prince as an image for Grenouille, it does seem to fit. I did find the landscape of the book much more evocative than the characters. The smells and sights seemed alive in a way that the people were not.

I can't wait to see what the rest of the melee has to say! So far this is fabulous!!!!!!!

[> [> Haven't finished yet, but printing all these posts off for when I do! -- s'kat, 19:59:29 06/02/03 Mon

Sorry slow reader and real life interferred this week.
Hope to get it read by Friday...and will maybe post something assuming this thread hasn't been archived by then.

Thanks for the cool stuff!

sk (I said I was highly unreliable, ;-) )

[> [> [> If the thread is archived... -- Sara, 20:30:58 06/02/03 Mon

start a new one! Can't wait to read your take on it - don't let a silly thing like archival or real life get in the way. I hope real life is starting to behave itself for you! Me, I'm just updating my resume tonight 'cause my new boss is making me paranoid (which unfortunately is not a real difficult task...) You never know when real life is gonna be a pain in whatever part of anatomy you wish to point to!

[> [> [> [> Re: If the thread is archived... -- s'kat, 20:46:34 06/02/03 Mon

Well...I'm on p. 141 so..almost there. Halfway through
roughly. Read a good section at the laundramat this morning.
The Perfumer just died and Grenouille has found his way to volcano, discovering it's the smell of humanity that he can't stand.

Hopefully will finish before Friday.

Good luck with the boss. I hope and pray he/she/it does not become anything remotely like my new boss did. Believe me
this is not an economy to hunt for work in. First two interviews in over three months. ugh.

[> [> [> [> [>Not to worry -- Sara, 21:15:07 06/02/03 Mon

He may not be the boss for me, but he isn't going to turn into a monster, like yours did. I'm just a great believer in the pre-emptive job hunt strike. I may not even change, but your experience has shown me that I'd better check out my options.

[> [> So how far is our third person 'infected' by Grenouille? -- Tchaikovsky, 06:44:15 06/03/03 Tue

Several of your comments above made me think about how much the speaker of the novel is not the author himself- it's not transparently his ideas about Grenouille.

When I first read Pride and Prejudice, I didn't get the joke in the first line. I dismissed "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife" as an anachronism. In reality, Austen doesn't believe this, she's allowing her narrative to become infected by Mrs Bennet or some other rather overbearing speaker. From this perspective...:

No one seemed real

There is no real humanity in any of the characters

Susskind writes more convincingly of his momentary uncomfortable desire for her, his satisfaction at using her to further his own ambitions, and his elation when he was sure he had
beat his opponent

The smells and sights seemed alive in a way that the people were not.

These all seem to reflect some aspect of Grenouille's perspective on life. He's not interested in the characters of the girls- they are all no more than minor aspects in his masterplan. Grenouille never understands humanity, and thus he never imbues the people he meets with any. Richis is the person who comes closest to 'beating' Grenouille- and to do this he has to deny his humanity, and act only very carefully, logically, in a business like manner. And of course, Grenouille is much more enraptured by smells than characters.

I am not suggesting that the speaker is Grenouille, recounting himself to his greater glory, or even someone sympathetic to him created by Suskind. It's worth noting that the first paragraph of the novel dismisses him almost cursorily as 'an abomination'. I don't believe we are expected to go along with this argument for an objective word for Grenouille without at least questioning it in the back of our mind. The assertion is too cursorial for me.

I agree with your points about the book, but I didn't consider them failings as much as aspects, woven through the narrative, of Grenouille's character coming out. Not quite 'free indirect speech' but getting there.


[> Mass-murderer to mass-murdered -- WickedBuffy, 21:07:26 06/02/03 Mon

"We see the whole of Grenouille's life, which has an important symmetry..." Tch.

The symmetry of this book keeps unveiling itself to me as I read each Meleer's post, then thumb back through the book to reread a section or two. That and how many times Grenouille is called villian.

"A murder had been the start of this spendor - if he was at all aware of the fact, it was a matter of total indifference to him.Already he could not recall how the girl from the rue des Marais had looked, not her face, not her body. He had preserved the best part of her and made it his own: the principle of her scent."

Suskind marks this killing as the beginning of Grenouille's self- appointed destiny, which requires many murders to be fulfilled, ironically naming it a "splendor". We see Grenouille as a conscienceless, wicked immoral villian because he has killed to sate his all-consuming desire to possess the the most incredible scent on earth - into heaven. It's like a drug to him, his initial taste of it created pure bliss, happiness to the extent of feeling not just reborn, but lifted from one plane of existence to a higher one. For the first time, he felt he truly lived and had a greater purpose. Each step he took thereafter was the right one, because no matter what the means were, the end was all that mattered.

Mirrored by these feelings much later: "awe to desire, amazement to rapture", "...did not feel the tiniest bite of conscience", "...hearts were definitely light...", "...delightful, bright flutterings in thier dark souls...", "...a delicate, virginal glow of happiness". Feelings very, very much like Grenouille's own as he murdered the young girls and reviled in the scent stripped from their bodies, sated with the smell of the shorn hair.

But these were the mob of people who tore Grenouille to pieces. Who ripped him apart with teeth, hands and axes and cleavers. Skinning him alive and crushing his very bones. While he was still alive. They too wanted to have "a spark from that wonderful fire." They were driven to murder to consume what they desired and make it "their own".

And like Grenouille, their happiness at getting what they wanted made any other moralities irrelevant. They were "uncommonly proud", just as Grenouille had been, sating desire. And with as much conviction as Grenouille had in his "higher destiny" that led him to do these things for his version of love, these thirty-plus people were resolute that "For the first time, they had done something out of love."

Who is not a villian in this tale, then? A man who murders several dozen people quickly, mercifully and coldly? or several dozen people who murder one man slowly, tortureously and passionately? (And eat him.) All motivated by "pure love". Indifferent to what they had done, because of what they got from it?

[> [> Ok! An Italic Demon attacked the end of my post. Sorry it looks odd.
-- WickedBuffy, 21:17:08 06/02/03 Mon

[> Re: Perfume (Book Melee time!) -- KdS, 03:42:44 06/03/03 Tue

It's interesting to think about the connections between Grenouille's focus on smell and his near-sociopathic personality. Humans tend to think of ourselves as having an inferior sense of smell, and being less influenced by it, than many other animals, but certain psychological studies show that we are subconsciously influenced by scent in our response to people and situations.

TCH implied (sorry if I read him wrong) that Grenouille's focus on smell as opposed to sight or sound alienates him from other people because humans usually communicate in sight and sound. But this isn't necessarily true, as human odour does change subtly with emotional state, so he shouldn't have been entirely cut off from empathy with other humans. What is possible is that his own lack of odour was the reason for the isolation - that because he had no conception of how emotion made him smell, he never learned to read those emotions in other people.

You can also wonder whether the subconscious or conscious revulsion of others because of his lack of scent was responsible for his alienation since birth. Suskind often implies in his writing that Grenouille was "born evil", but it seems to me that it's reiterated so strongly that we're invited to doubt it. However, the fact that when Grenouille meets the red-haired girl in the Marais his immediate response is to kill her, rather than attempt any other form of contact, goes well beyond social ineptness IMHO.

[> [> Born evil or born into evil? -- WickedBuffy, 10:37:09 06/03/03 Tue

I was wondering about that "born evil" thread Suskind carried throughout the book, also. It's as if he wanted to make solidly sure that no one doubted it, or saw him as an anti-hero or even human. Yet Suskind also makes sure we understand Grenouille's reasons for this and that - which were understandably human.

Especially when Grenouille's first cry, the one that saved him under the fish stall, was described as a cry against love and for life. Illustrating what a survivor he was, and making sure the reader understood it wasn't a human choice. It was a reaction a plant might have, "a bean".

"He was an abdomination from the start. He decided in favor of lifeour of sheer spite and sheer malice."

Then Suskind goes on to describe Grenouille's childhood where other children acted as regular children, but Grenouille himself is called "an ugly little tick". I'm very sensitive to the treatment of children, personally, but at that point in the book, when the other children tried to kill Grenouille, it didn't raise a bit of defense for him in me.

Kds said "Suskind often implies in his writing that Grenouille was "born evil", but it seems to me that it's reiterated so strongly that we're invited to doubt it."

I think one thing that intrigued me the most about the story was that back and forth feeling I had through it, and even now, afterwards - regarding Grenouille. Victim of society and his unique physiology? Or inhumane creature wrapped in human skin. Siskind seems to enjoy pulling us back and forth through the question. Victim? Instigator?

If Madame Gaillard couldn't smell, but did have empathy and a loving heart, would that have made any difference in Grenouille's path? If he had been born into a rich family? If Spike hadn't met Buffy, would he have still found his own way to a soul? If Liam didn't turn vamp, would he have still become a champion? How much is inate and how much is circumstance?

Is a vampire just a different kind of human, with rules and urges dictated by a unique physiology, beyond their control? Is Grenouille just a different kind of human, with rules and urges dictated by a unique physiology beyond his control?

[> [> [> Exactly what I've been ruminating on! -- dub ;o), 11:13:23 06/03/03 Tue

Is a vampire just a different kind of human, with rules and urges dictated by a unique physiology, beyond their control? Is Grenouille just a different kind of human, with rules and urges dictated by a unique physiology beyond his control?

The question is, I think, are they human at all? In the case of vampires, even ones with souls, the answer is no. This is the basis of my oft-stated contention that vampires are incapable of "murdering" humans because by its very definition murder involves the willful slaughter of one human being by another human being. I place vampires in the category of non-human predators along with big sharks, bears, etc. Sharks and bears certainly kill and eat people occasionally, but we don't consider them to have murdered anyone.

Now in the case of Grenouille this would not seem to apply. Surely he is human? Certainly born of human parents in any case. Initially there are two things that define him as unique; his lack of odour and his sense of smell. Is it possible that these are the same phenomenon--that his lack of odour is responsible for his highly developed sense of smell? (Forgive me if this is stated by Suskind as I haven't read the book in many, many years.) Perhaps having no odour of his own to interfere with his perception of other odours is what has sharpened his olfactory sense.

And what could have caused this unique combination of characteristics in an individual? I need Darby to help me out on this one...is it possible to create such an individual by tweaking DNA? What I'm getting at is, how drastic does a naturally-occuring genetic adaptation have to be before the individual is considered to be mutated?

If Grenouille can be considered a mutant I would then place him in the same category as vampires and sharks; non-human predator. As such the rules of human behaviour don't apply. It doesn't change the eventual violent outcome of his life. Man-eating tigers need to be hunted down and killed eventually. What it does change is how we view his lack of empathy for his victims, his almost complete lack of human response in any situation.

I should stop rambling as I'm too far away from the text to really discuss these things. One question, though: was the implication at the end of the book that Grenouille had committed suicide by dousing himself with his elixir?

dub **spending way too much time thinking about this**

[> [> [> [> It's hard NOT to ruminate on it, isn't it? -- WickedBuffy, 11:30:28 06/03/03 Tue

"One question, though: was the implication at the end of the book that Grenouille had committed suicide by dousing himself with his elixir?"

I think so. One of the last thoughts we are allowed to hear him thinking is:

".. if he could not smell himself and thus never know who the hell he was, to hell with it, with the world, with himself, with his perfume."

He also realized that while he desired the scent from the girls, and took that from them - everyone else woud beleive it's actually him that they want. And the only way he got the scent from the girls was to kill them.

Then he goes on to the arcades of the charnel house and waits for midnight.

He was born a devil in other peoples perceptions because he didn't have a scent and pushed away. He dies an angel, enveloped by the same kind of people, because of the scent he know gives off.

[> [> [> [> The meaning of human or vampire or smell-less being -- mamcu, 13:04:41 06/03/03 Tue

Since none of us are REALLY vampires, and smell-less beings who also are master perfumers are quite rare, the fact that this novel resonates for us--and Spike, Angel, etc, for that matter--must mean that these creatures mean something human in their inhumanity.

So how are we monstrous? Are we vampires in our excessive needs for attention and love, if not blood? Are people who absorb energy from other people a little more common than creatures with no reflections?

And Grenouille. I think he must relate to something less rare, if not universal. To be hyper-acutely aware of something in others that you totally lack in yourself--what is that? The fog that arises in his cave and just before his death and causes him such despair (the sense of his own scentlessness)...it reminded me of the theories of alienation that floated around during mid-20th century, that something about modern life makes us really not have a self--and thus become overly sensitized to the "super-self" that appears in leaders, celebrities, etc.

Well, maybe stretching it. But otherwise, how can we relate to these creatures?

[> [> [> [> [>One theory why we relate and alienate simultaneously. -- WickedBuffy, 14:35:25 06/03/03 Tue

"So how are we monstrous? Are we vampires in our excessive needs for attention and love, if not blood? Are people who absorb energy from other people a little more common than creatures with no reflections?"mamcu

When you think about it, whole fields of therapy are based on toning down peoples excessive needs for something. We would call it an "addiction" or "codependency", though. And for some people, it does become a "to be or not to be" question if it's not sated. (Psychologically). Love, drugs, shopping whatever - when it reaches a monstrous point and is noticed, someone steps in to adjust it. Kindly or not so kindly. But it *is* noticed as not "normal" somehow.

We don't usually consider it monstrous unless it's practically killing someone. The sociopathic killer who needs a certain type of victim, the ritual murderer who needs a certain form to the violence. Those society will call monsters.

Maybe that's why vampires who don't drink human blood seem less like monsters than the ones who do - they've pulled in their need. And look how people reacted to good ol' Clem when it was discovered he *does* eat kittens!

And sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be nicer to run into a blood vampire and not so many energy vampires. One isn't real and I would avoid, though. The other is real and I avoid as much as humanly possible.

Maybe "humanness" isn't a line in the sand. It's a spectrum. Grenouille would be closer to one far end, Angel (be in the " vampires are human camp for a moment) more towards the middle and my grandmother at the other far end. But all contained in the group.

And perhaps some of us swing abit towards this end or that, and others sweep nearly end to end, and others barel move from their spot. We can relate because we are actually in the same group, a common thread of understanding binds us all.

I guess the spectrum analogy could also look like the weights that Blind Justice holds up, because it does take another point of view to judge and morally assign where each person is.

I've obviously had too much ice tea and am going into a caffeine coma....

[> [> [> [> [> [> The extremes -- mamcu, 18:44:18 06/03/03 Tue

Maybe "humanness" isn't a line in the sand. It's a spectrum. Grenouille would be closer to one far end, Angel (be in the " vampires are human camp for a moment) more towards the middle and my grandmother at the other far end. But all contained in the group.

I'd really agree with this, as a description of humanity--yet I'd still want to explore why we find the ones at the draining end to be such a compelling image. We love the givers, in real life, want to be with them--yet all of us, here, are also drawn to the pictures of the takers, and in fact even have trouble when they begin to be less on the negative end.

Not that I have any more of an answer, now. Just trying to figure out the question.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Personally, sameness bores me. So I'm drawn to my opposite - something to be explored. An adventure. -- WickedBuffy, 19:27:01 06/03/03 Tue

I know my mother wouldn't read Perfume, though she devours books. She would find it too far out of her personal comfort zone to want to read about someone like Grenouille.

And I am bored reading the books she loves - I find them too predictable and similar to what I already know. Not just from reading, but the characters she likes are too much like myself, my family, my surroundings, what I'm accustomed to.

Which probably explains why she's been married for nearly 50 years and I'm not. She wouldn't give a "taker" a second thought - I fall all over myself trying to understand them.

I guess what I'm saying is I don't think everyone is drawn at times to the opposite end, but some people are. I only know my reason for it - in characters from books and from life.

Do you think there is a similar reason for everyone? or that each persons reasons for being drawn to an end is different? (Like mine might be different than yours, etc.)

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Anti heros and the Glamour of the bad -- Sara, 19:37:37 06/04/03 Wed

I think to some extent that there's something glamourous and compelling about the dark side when you're viewing it from a distance. Whats unpleasant right in front of you, seems exotic when you're only hearing or reading about it. For example, I almost never drink, it makes me feel sick and depressed. Since I'm not drinking along, I don't really feel comfortable around people that are drunk. I don't mind them, I'm just not comfortable. Yet I love stories about wild youth, wild weekends, wild anything. Hearing about it later is fun, being there isn't. I actually may have only restated your question, mamcu, but do I get points for using so many more words?

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Not so much dark but empty -- mamcu, 20:15:00 06/04/03 Wed

Totally agree, Sara. We all love the baddies who live out our evil impulses for us. But I'm still curious about the specific thing about characters like Grenouille and also vampires in general. It's not just that they're bad, but that they sort of aren't there. Their emptiness is what sets them apart. So why do we like that?

Still restating the question myself!

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Fascination with Vampires -- Sara, 05:06:56 06/05/03 Thu

It's a great question, mamcu. I have always been fascinated by vampires of all kinds. As a kid I quit Girl Scouts just to be home in time to watch "Dark Shadows". One of my favorite comic books was a really funny one called "Goldberg, the Vampire" about a good vampire detective. But I'm not sure why they're such an interesting monster to me. I think there's something about being the monster version of you, immortality, perhaps even the feeding off of the life force of others to survive, that just draws me in. I don't know but vampires are my favorite kind of horror story. It is certainly monsters with personality are far more interesting to me than monsters without. I think thats why I didn't enjoy "Perfume" that much. Grenouille seemed very empty to me, he didn't seem to have much personality. I think satire is one of the hardest things for me to "get".

[> [> [> [> [> [> Humanity (Social and political commentary in Perfume) -- Rahael, 15:15:10 06/04/03 Wed

Just in passing, again, wish I could write more fully. I don't know if I would define humanity as a spectrum. Perhaps human beings wish to define others in a spectrum, but at the end of the day, what does 'being' human mean? We do talk about the quality of 'humane-ness', but we all agree that inhumanity can be a common attribute of being human.

The challenge of characters such as Angel or Grenouille is that they ask us, "what does it mean to be a human, what does it consist of, and how do we define our lives and experiences". (For example HOlland Manners telling Angel that he was never more human than the day he shut the door on the lawyers)

I think it is interesting that one the main themes of the book is that smell is human. That others suspect that Grenouille is not human because he doesn't smell. Not because they are conscious of it, but unconscious and their behaviour is affected by this in ways they wouldn't realise. I think this is why one must eventually put Suskind closer to the 'environmental' camp. Surely Grenouille himself cannot place himself within society, because he subconsciously affects others, and himself. Someone with the sense of smell he has must have subconcsiously known he was different, not only by the way other people treat him.

Grenouille isn't born evil, he's an object lesson in what happens to one who regards himself, and is indeed treated by others as belonging outside of what they define as the spectrum of humanity.

In contrast to other humans in the book who define humanity by smell, Grenouille, who is possessed of no scent, is dispassionate about humans - he is interested in the scent. For him, it is not uniquely associated with the person - it can be detached and taken away, in his mind, or in strips of treated cloth. But when he puts on his fiendishly beautiful scent, the other humans so associate him with that scent, they must consume him, every part of him.

I think one of the things I most enjoyed about the book was its satirical eye. Most of the scenes (apart from the murders committed by Grenouille) are very funny and keenly observed. The final scene too has a sly humour. I regarded it as a horror-comedy. Also, I think in one sense, Suskind captures what is frequently echoed in contemporary observations of early modern society - the cities which were now expanding, able to sustain their own populations. People crowded together, living in insanitary conditions, in volatile economic, social and political circumstances. There was a fear of the mob, a fear of old social boundaries breaking, the sudden and very obvious changes a traditional society was undergoing. We see this with Taillard-Espinasse too, the new spirit of inquiry abroad. Everything suddenly is changing, even the old values are breaking up.

I found this reflected in Grenouille's distaste for the company of other humans, and his need to be alone. The book describes a lot of trade activity, a lot about people's economic life, and I think there's quite a bit of pointed historical commentary about a society going through change. A mobile, thriving, expanding society with money to buy scent to prettify life, and able to cast off its orphans and try and find ways to 'grow away from the earth' and towards celestial things.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Rahael, you created a new word! -- dub ;o), 17:21:51 06/04/03 Wed

I quite enjoyed this post even though you dashed it off in passing. I'm thinking particularly about the idea of Grenouille being an object lesson in regarding oneself as other, as outside humanity. Perhaps that is more to the point than being treated as belonging outside the spectrum of humanity by others.

I did get a chuckle, though, and believe me I'm not poking fun at you in the least--my own rate of typos lately has been burgeoning. It was this bit:

People crowded together, living in insanitary conditions, in volatile economic, social and political circumstances.

Insanitary conditions would be the conditions that lead to insanity, I assume? I think I'm currently living in insanitary conditions myself!

dub ;o)

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Heh!! -- Rahael, 17:27:21 06/04/03 Wed

I think it kind of works! It's unsanitory and insanitory! Cleanliness is next to good mental health...or something.

(is anyone thinking about all the 'smelly Spike' jokes at the beginning of S7 all of a sudden?)

Obviously, I meant to invent that word. Thanks for noticing ;)

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> I think insanitary and unsanitary are both OK -- MsGiles, 05:58:44 06/05/03 Thu

I've always used insanitary, so I looked it up in a panic.
I found this article about it at
http://www.freep.com/n ews/groceries/qcalls28.htm
It says 'Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 10th Edition defines insanitary as "Unclean enough to endanger health; contaminated." It and the Oxford English Dictionary recognize insanitary and unsanitary as words first used in the early 1870s.'
Phew! But the insanity pun is still good!

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Oh good! -- Rahael, 11:09:21 06/06/03 Fri

I realised that I've always used 'insanitory', and then put this down to my idiosyncratic grasp of English, where I use most words unconsciously, because they just feel 'right'. Mostly in the context of books I read. But I do get lots of words quite wrong. Yesterday for instance, I realised that I've been thinking of the word 'abstruse' as 'abtruse' for all my life.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> What if the person next to you had no scent? -- WickedBuffy, 20:22:57 06/04/03 Wed

"I don't know if I would define humanity as a spectrum. Perhaps human beings wish to define others in a spectrum..." Raphael

Yes! That's what I meant at the end of my post when I said:
" I guess the spectrum analogy could also look like the weights that Blind Justice holds up, because it does take another point of view to judge and morally assign where each person is."

" We do talk about the quality of 'humane-ness', but we all agree that inhumanity can be a common attribute of being human." R

I agree. Inhumanity is included in the spectrum. I haven't heard the word "unhuman" used to describe Grenouille yet, by any of us. (I think, whap me if I'm wrong.) But other characters in the book did see him as unhuman, as a devil.

They considered him that based on his lack of scent. But we readers are privy to all his murders and don't call him that.

Why? If Grenouille were alive today, I wonder if we really could sense the non-scent of him - and it would make us feel uncomfortable. Our consciousness only picks up about 10% of our environment - so much more is going on than we are aware of tracking with our senses. Would a person lacking a scent really have such a large impact on us?

I wonder if anything does exist that really has no scent.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: What if the person next to you had no scent? -- dub ;o), 20:46:25 06/04/03 Wed

I wonder if anything does exist that really has no scent.

I don't know, but I know at least one person who has no sense of smell, owing to chemotherapy. I don't know that it really bothers her all that much, but she also has no sense of taste and that drives her crazy.


[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Some confusion in a few posts on this thread -- KdS, 03:21:55 06/05/03 Thu

Our actual sense of taste is very crude and limited to only five sensations: sweetness, saltness, bitterness, sourness and (recently discovered) umami (soy sauce/sodium glutamate). Everything subtler is actually the result of our sense of smell acting on the vapours rising up from our mouth (why your sense of taste is destroyed if you have a congested nose).

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> About Grenouilles food .... -- WickedBuffy, 08:12:15 06/05/03 Thu

A good part of Grenouilles survival was because he would eat anything - it didn't matter how horrid it was.

"He had no sense of sensual gratification.... he had no need for creature comforts either."

I wonder if this was because taste was mostly scent, and since there were really no scents that turned him away, it didn't matter what was put in front of him. He simply eat to survive.

Not so sure what his immunity to the fatality of the diseases were, though. Any ideas why Suskind emphasized that, also? The only time he nearly succumbed to an illness, it was because he believed there was no other way to distill scent - his dream was shattered. It was his will that allowed the disease to slowly destroy him. And when he was told there were more ways to distill, his will recuperated him.

[> Quick note about the Perfume being made into a movie -- WickedBuffy, 10:58:41 06/03/03 Tue

I don't know how they are going to pull it off, since it's based on scent, unless it's all narrated. But if anyone can do it, Scott can!

from a movie stock page:

"Based on a French book by Patrick Suskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is about a perfume maker's apprentice, who has a unique talent for capturing scents with perfection. His obsession turns to murder when he seeks to bottle the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Caroline Thompson adapts the screenplay. Ridley Scott is attached to direct for Constantin Films. "

[> [> I don't know... -- Rob, 11:03:47 06/03/03 Tue

I honestly don't see how they could possibly visually represent Grenouille's ability to dissect and identify scents, nor make the long introspective sections, such as Grenouille's stay in the cave, interesting. How, for example, to stage the dream where Grenouille finds himself being suffocated by the scents? I can't think of any way besides oversimplification or too much narration.


[> [> [> Maybe that's why it's still in "development" -- WickedBuffy, 14:39:39 06/03/03 Tue

Very true, Rob. I don't see how they could even come CLOSE to pulling it off. But, better books than this one have been totally destroyed by moviemakers.

I sure would have loved to hear the spiel that sold backers on the whole idea, though! That person deserves some kind of award.

[> [> [> [> LOL! I don't even wanna know how they'd plan on staging the final scene! -- Rob, 15:20:56 06/03/03 Tue

[> [> [> [> [>ugh!! It will be the exact opposite of the refrigerator scene in the movie "Six and a Half Weeks" -- WickedBuffy (okok I have no idea how to make a half sign), 16:42:53 06/03/03 Tue

errrr was it nine and a half?

...the one with Kim Bassinger and that rude guy.

well, at least I can remember the real important parts.

[> [> [> I agree, although -- Tchaikovsky, 05:40:40 06/04/03 Wed

Ridley Scott is a talented director. It would require a quite nuanced and terrifying performance from the actor playing Grenouille. You could have all sorts of fun playing with filling in characters from actors in the Buffyverse:

-Grenouille; James Marsters
-Grenouille's Mother;
-Terrier; Harris Yulin
-Gaillard; Kristine Sutherland
-Baldini; Anthony Stewart Head
-Taillade-Espinasse; Alexis Denisof
-Richis; David Boreanaz
-Richis' daughter; Michelle Trachtenberg

I'd watch it.


[> So many wonderful posts and points in this thread -- Rahael, 13:04:20 06/03/03 Tue

but first I have to go help my dad write his paper.

Feeling virtuous now.


[> [> Agreeing with Rah -- Caroline, 15:35:28 06/03/03 Tue

Thanks all for such a wonderful discussion.

[> [> This is so much fun that... -- Sara, 19:53:52 06/04/03 Wed

I wish I had more to say! But I am loving reading everyone's comments and it's making the book a much more interesting experience. Keep talking everybody!

[> Perfume was one of Kurt Cobains favorite books. Even based a song on it. -- WickedBuffy, 20:46:39 06/04/03 Wed

No, I'm not a Nirvana groupie - just thought it was interesting someone famous wrote a song based on the book! I have no idea what parts if it mean. Maybe someone else does?

Scentless Apprentice
Kurt Cobain/Nirvana

"Like most babies smell like butter
His smell smelled like no other
He was born scentless and senseless
He was born a scentless apprentice

Go away - get away, get a-way

Every wet nurse refused to feed him
Electrolytes smell like semen
I promise not to sell your perfumed secrets
There are countless formulas for pressing flowers

Go away - get away, get a-way

I lie in the soll and fertilize mushrooms
Leaking out gas fumes are made into perfume
You can't fire me because I quit!
Throw me in the fire and I won't throw a fit

Go away - get away, get away, get away, get away, get away, get a- way"

[> [> Wow! That's so cool! -- Rob, 20:59:16 06/04/03 Wed

[> Re: Perfume (Book Melee time!)(tiny sp. 7.3) (my thoughts) -- Oz-Like, 21:54:31 06/04/03 Wed

I have to say it was an amazing book in terms of language and atmosphere. The aroma's come alive.

And yet, while I sat there reading it, some part of me was in rebellion. To me, one of the major themes of the book was about love - and the fact that it is an illusion, a scent, an aroma. It is an exterior, having to do with impressions. Our Anti-hero recognizes that he can be loved or hated depending upon his scent.

But what he also recognizes is that love is more than anything about possession. He catches the scent of the girl that he wants..and he realizes that he doesn't want "her".. He wants instead some part of her. He wants to possess some aspect of her. to literally, keep it in a jar. But he also knows that everyone else is REALLY doing the same thing, but they are too blind to see it.. (er to smell it?) .

I thought perhaps as the story was drawing to the close that the girl's father would salvage the human race. Would he see beyond his nose, and be able to enact justice and in that way, to stand for the proposition that human beings are more than their exterior and that love is deeper than that? But we had hints that he was just as corrupted as everyone else. He treats his daughter like a possession after all. He wants to marry her off to gain position, feels lust towards her because she is so beautiful.

And sure enough, he too is deceived by the disguise of Grenouille. He is as superficial as everyone else. And he now wants to possess Grenouille the way he used to possess his own daughter. He wants to make him his son. Its interesting to see how Grenouille wishes for something better, wishes perhaps to be really seen. If he had been loved at birth, perhaps he too would have had a scent..but it would have been as unreal as that belonging to the rest of the world.

The final scene is the ultimate proof of this world vision - that love is all about possession. The crowd is acting out of this vision of human love, and what could be more complete possession than consumption.

So here it was..an amazing book. And yet, its not what I believe about the world truly. I enjoy reading experiences like that, because they do make me think and feel and articulate my own vision.

[> [> Wow Oz-like! That's huge. Itt never even crossed my mind 'til I read your post. -- WickedBuffy ::gonna think on it::, 22:33:24 06/05/03 Thu

[> Oooh, it's back! -- Tchaikovsky, 03:41:59 06/05/03 Thu

Just preserving here- the number of wonderful points in all the posts is almost unnerving- I'm worried that if I miss even one post I might miss a superb insight. Hooray for the Book Melee.


[> This was good! Is there another book lined up? -- MsGiles, 06:22:23 06/06/03 Fri

[> [> Next Book - "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis -- Sara, 08:19:08 06/06/03 Fri

In about 2 weeks we'll discuss Screwtape and I'm sure there will be fun had by all! After that we'll do Stars My Destination and our fourth book will be Winter's Tale. This is so much fun!

[> [> [> OK, you won by 111 seconds ;-) -- Tchaikovsky, 08:24:15 06/06/03 Fri

[> [> Get out your CS Lewis -- Tchaikovsky, 08:20:59 06/06/03 Fri

'The Screwtape Letters' is the next book to be Meleed, with the date currently set for the 16th of June. It's short, so no-one has an excuse not to read it! And as an added bonus, I will be right in the middle of a raging sequence of horrible maths exams, so there will be no dissertation set to start the thing off! Or at least not from me...


[> [> [> I can't find it -- s'kat, 09:11:27 06/07/03 Sat

If I can find it...I'll read it. It is not in any book store I've been too. Is it out of print?


[> [> [> [> No, I just found it in a new reprint under "The C.S. Lewis Library" label... -- Rob, 10:16:13 06/07/03 Sat

Searching my bookstore, I was told it could be in the literature, science-fiction/fantasty, or religion sections. Finally found it in Religion, in a trade paperback for only $10. Short book, HUGE print. Makes the reading go even faster.


[> [> [> [> [>The ISBN # is 0-06-065293-4 -- Rob, 10:33:55 06/07/03 Sat

[> [> [> [> It's labeled to be filed under Religion, S'kat! -- Haecceity (Back from vacation and reading furiously), 22:47:13 06/07/03 Sat

[> [> Next Book: The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester -- Vickie, 18:44:10 06/08/03 Sun

At least, I'm almost sure that's what Sara told me. Screwtape is after that.

Heck, they're short. Read them both!

[> [> [> I'm wrong! Forget it! -- Vickie, 18:54:03 06/08/03 Sun

[> The Book Melee Affects Social Circles! -- Haecceity, 23:10:43 06/07/03 Sat

...At least my very small social circle:)

I was in the bookshop this afternoon to pick up The Stars My Destination (as you tricky folks slipped it before Winter's Tale, which I've almost finished), and happened to grab the last copy off the shelf, just ahead of this fellow who looked a bit disappointed. I offered to give him the book, but he said, "That's okay, it's just for this...online thing, it's not that important." He seemed a little embarrassed, so of course I barged right in, "Is it for ATPo?" Totally gobsmacked, this guy. Then he looked around furtively and whispered, "Are you a Buffy fan too?"

That's right, folks, a lurker! We went to the counter to see if they carried any more copies and the guy there was all, "What's the deal with this book? We've had to restock twice the last week!" One of the other clerks came over and asked (again in a whisper), "Is this for ATPo? I ordered six more copies, they'll be in tomorrow. Do you have Screwtape and Winter's Tale yet?" That's right, another lurker!

Just another reminder that that corner in Istanbul is going to be teeming with ATPo folks!


[> [> Wow -- Tchaikovsky, 02:02:01 06/08/03 Sun

I did read an article in the Guardian over here in Britain, talking about the 100 books which had been named in the Big Read, as set up by the BBC, and how their sales had gone up about 30%. But apparently the books which had rocketed the most included 'Perfume'. I did think for a split-second, 'Maybe this is our doing', but then dismissed it. Perhaps AtPo has a wider reach than I imagine...


[> [> How delightful!! -- Rahael, 07:23:08 06/08/03 Sun

[> [> Two people in the same store? What are the odds?!? -- Rob (whose head is filling up with world-domination plans), 12:01:42 06/08/03 Sun

[> [> [> Technically, three. And those are just the ones we know of:) -- Haecceity, 14:09:31 06/08/03 Sun

[> [> Which store? -- d'Herblay, 17:59:37 06/08/03 Sun

I want to run by there tomorrow!

[> [> [> More on store possibilities -- d'Herblay, 21:31:24 06/08/03 Sun

I ask because Rah has reminded me that Haec is in San Francisco, where I am for another day, and bookstores are an integral part of my San Francisco trips. My instinct said that a bookstore as cool as the one Haec describes has to be City Lights, but my mother has pointed out that the 19th Ave. Borders is right next to SFSU. It would be really neat were the bookstore in question the 19th Ave. Borders, as that is where I picked up Masq when I drove her to the San Jose meet last year. It would be like a center of mystical convergence or something.

[> [> [> [> City Lights it is! 19th Ave Borders was out of stock when I checked -- Haecceity, 22:34:45 06/08/03 Sun

Though I rather like the idea of a center of mystical convergence (well- stocked with books!) so close by :)

Ironic that just when the Bay Area ATPo folks got together I had to be in Chicago for work, thus missing *both* board shindigs! :(


[> [> [> [> Haecceity is in SF! -- Masq, 08:47:21 06/09/03 Mon

Where were you for the board meet last week? Now we'll just have to have another one.... ; )

[> [> [> [> [>Just not on the day in question :) -- Haecceity, 19:27:25 06/09/03 Mon

I had to go to Chicago for a work thing, then extended my trip up to lake country for a little much-needed vacation.

My consultant-like job is fun sometimes, but this summer looks to be a veritable sea of cross-country pond-jumper flights ('cause I'm running with the metaphor-mix) to a lot of boring meetings and conventions.

Now if only the ATPo meetings required qualitative research analysis services...


[> [> We should at least take over the world -- mamcu, 18:12:16 06/08/03 Sun

or all parts of our known dimension(s) with this many people being with us!

[> [> That is so cool! -- ponygirl, 09:03:14 06/09/03 Mon

When I went to pick up Perfume and Screwtape I noticed that both times they were displayed on the employees' picks table, making me wonder if some Chapters/Indigo staffers were doing their book club reading!

[> [> [> Unfortunately, not in Houston. -- Arethusa, 15:25:17 06/09/03 Mon

Nobody else was looking for Screwtape and Stars/Destination at the Borders in Montrose-I asked. Texans need to dine out less and read more, darnnit!

The top 25 dramatic scenes from BtVS -- Sophist, 10:38:17 06/02/03 Mon

I can't resist making lists. Here's my current list of the top 25 dramatic scenes in BtVS. An hour from now they'll be in different order.

1. Beneath You: "Can we rest?"

2. Passion: Giles discovers Jenny's body

3. The Body: "Mom? Mommy?"

4. Becoming 2: Buffy sends Angel to Hell: "Close your eyes."

5. Becoming 2: Buffy leaves Sunnydale: "The winter here is cold and bitter..."

6. The Gift: Buffy dives off the tower: "The hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it. Live. For me."

7. Dead Things: Crypt scene

8. WaH: Oz leaves Willow: "In my whole life, I've never loved anyone else."

9. PG: "I'm 16 years old. I don't want to die."

10. Smashed: B/S bring down the house.

11. TR: "Goodbye to you"

12. Passion: Angel watches Buffy and Willow learn of Jenny's death

13. OMWF: Walk through the fire

14. Innocence: "That was then. This is now."

15. Afterlife: "Every night I save you."

16. Becoming 1: Buffy runs through the school corridors: "No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does."

17. GD 1: B/F fight

18. The Body: Anya's speech

19. The Body: Dawn learns Joyce is dead

20. Dead Things: "Please don't forgive me."

21. Normal Again: "Thank you." And the camera pans out the door of the asylum.

22. Intervention: "What you did for me and Dawn? That was real."

23. Angel: Buffy kisses Angel "goodbye".

24. The Prom: "I can't breathe."

25. Passion: "I can't do this without you."

Metaphor and the Literal -- lunasea, 13:52:22 06/02/03 Mon

I have to admit this is one of my favorite things about the two series. They are both Dawson's Creek/Party of Five and Demons/Rocket Launchers. It deals with some fairly heavy or even mundane issues, but it also uses metaphors in the form of the supernatural. Most myth is just the metaphor. Most drama is just the literal. Buffy takes both worlds and collides them into each other creating an amazing universe.

I didn't want to detract from the annotation thread and I was wondering if anyone else wanted to talk about about anything that had to really exist simultaneously on a metaphorical and a literal level. I'm not talking about Buffy or Angel has a problem so they create a demon/bad to symbolize this. I am talking about Buffy or Angel themselves or anything else someone sees on the shows, especially AtS, since that is what we are left with at this point.

The dichotomy of Angel/Angelus can be seen as the angel/devil that sits on all our shoulders. When vamped, the devil gets a bit more violent and nastier. Also when vamped, the angel takes flight. All that the creature is left with is the big mean devil with no counter-balance. (please, leave the Spike debate for some place else) Have we ever seen a vamp in conflict with themselves because they want to do good for goodness sake? They don't have that angel prodding them onto goodness.

Angel is resouled and the angel returns. It is seen that Angel is the angel, but really the angel is his conscience. Angel is the creature in the middle of the fight. Angel isn't the metaphorical angel. He is all of us, with this battle being heightened by him being a demon. It is also heightened by the battle between the Senior Partner/Wolfram and Hart and The Powers that Be who both are trying to influence Angel.

They aren't trying to remove the devil or the angel. If the Senior Partners wanted Angel's soul, they would have it. They have powerful magick at their disposal. The PTB's don't want Angel human either. As human he was released from his fidelity. Both are interested in the epic struggle that his (formerly) unique condition causes.

There are several episodes that really deal with this dichotomy represented by Angelus. The first is "Eternity." Angel has been drugged and thinks he has reached his moment of perfect happiness. This happiness is artificial and doesn't cause Angel to actually lose his soul. It is like giving someone a glass of bitters and telling them it is alcohol. They proceed to think they are actually getting drunk and act accordingly. It can be said from this episode that Angelus is the real Angel and that Angel just supresses him. That is one view and supports Rufus' position of Angel suffering from MPD/DID.

In "Eternity" Angel tells Rebecca "This isn't about the way the studio or the network or your fans see you -- it's about how you see yourself. Your own reflection has been corrupted into something unrecognizable." Angel isn't written that differently from Buffy. The supernatural situation mirrors what is going on with the characters. This episode also includes Cordy's horrendous acting ability and Wes' feelings of inadequacy. It is all about how we see ourselves.

When Angel thinks he has lost his soul, he doesn't act like the "real" him. He acts like he thinks he should. Not should as in morally should. Should as in how would he act under those circumstances. Until she tells him what is in the drink, he doesn't change. It is knowing this that causes him to act differently. He has been given bitters, but thinks it is the real thing and acts accordingly. He wants to be called Angelus, something that differed from the times we saw him on Buffy. His portrayal was just the tiniest bit off, almost a heightened Angelus, not the guy we saw Season 2. It was Angel's view of Angelus.

Angel doesn't see himself as the angel. He admits to Faith in "Orpheus" that he isn't perfect and that he has made mistakes. The demon is the devil and the conscience is the angel. Angelus has no angel and is different from Angel who has both. He doesn't disavow the devil and knows that he is weak, meaning that he gives into the devil sometimes. He is working on becoming stronger and telling the devil to sod off. Doesn't mean he always succeeds. Just means that he keeps trying. He just isn't Angelus, who can only listen to the devil.

Just how I see my favorite character. How do you think the metaphorical battle between good and evil that manifests itself as Angel literally plays out? What other characters are like this? Darla would be an interesting one to discuss metaphysically. So would Dru. Anyone want to start a Connor discussion? Any ideas or predictions about Lorne? We might even venture into a discussion about magick and Willow. There is some speculation that Giles may make an appearance next season (then again, there is speculation that everyone will make an appearance next season). His metaphor is about the patriarchy. What would this contribute to the story of AtS? I don't see Joss just letting characters appear for old time's sake. How does Giles' dabling in magick contribute to his metaphor?

So what do you want to talk about?

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"Chosen" Revisited, with Spoilers - - Darby, 13:58:24 06/02/03 Mon

Okay, I can't totally ignore the questionable turns of seasonal continuity, although most have already been covered, but mostly I'm looking at this as a standalone BtVS episode - I'm hoping to do more of a seasonal wrap-up later...

Okay, so why exactly did Buffy and Angel make with the megasmoochies - their last meeting obviously didn't go well (back between S6/S3 episodes), and since Angel moved to LA they've been pretty standoffish. We know he's coming from some pretty intense stuff, so, um, maybe he sees a chance for a brief escape, and she...basks...help me out here-? It sure isn't a chance to share her burden...well, it is, but then she...yeeks!

We all knew that Caleb was getting back up, but they did it quickly enough that it wasn't too tedious, and the quick smackdown, although not the subtlest imagery in the world, sorta worked. Is it really empowering to slice the Bad Guy's noogies off?

Sara thinks, and I agree, that the credits should have at least included Anthony Stewart Head and should have been special. Heck, if they could put Amber Benson in just to kill her off, or do an close-to-new one for Superstar, this was doable. Shots from the 1st through current season might have been fun, too.

Ironic that there's an ad for Legally Blonde 2 in the first break - you just know that Reese has the career SMG covets (probably thinks she would have had if she hadn't been stuck on tv).

For a place that likes to avoid cliches (that's the official line), one last run of "he hears the part of the conversation to make him mad, then leaves and misses the part that would put it in perspective" was really unnecessary.

The "ringing" of the Scythe seems much more obvious on the 2nd watch than the first, whatever it means.

Angel, being the mature fellow that he is, of course would withdraw to establish the second front if Buffy asks - it's not like he has a history with the First, or unanswered questions about his return from Hell, or would mind that Buffy has decided that it's her fight alone...wait a minute. And the second front will be in LA why, exactly? What, no good eatin' for UberVamps anywhere else on the west coast?

The Buffy & Angel-discuss-Spike scene sets the tone for this episode - bits and pieces of characters and interactions extracted from various points in the history of the show, regardless of whether those characters still exist. Fun in a nostalgic sort of way, and only vaguely disturbing. The folks who tuned back in for the finale after being away for a while had a much more satisfying experience than we who had stuck through - who knew?

The "fat grandchildren with Spike" line was a little odd, moreso when you realize that recently-dispatched Jasmine was Angel's grandchild - not fat, but I would expect in real continuity a tender subject for him still.

How many alternatives to "cookie dough" do you figure they went through? Joss was forcing the script to the "eat me" faux pas, obviously, so the choices would have been limited. Angel's resistance of the analogy was funny, too.

Apparently, the word "champion" is a communicable disease. Angel passed the meme to BtVS, so the show needed to be put down before it spread further.

The First refers to "What you are. How you'll die." as "alone." I guess it didn't really know what she was, or what was to come - how she'd live. Of course, pretty much everything can be wedged into Restless imagery, but the phrasing seems purposeful.

2nd ad break, Eliza's new slice-and-dice movie. This does not seem like a promising career move, but it's so hard to tell nowadays.

What happened to Pod Person Giles? I was getting used to PPG! Did this new guy drop out of an alternative universe where there is no Head family in Bath?

In the retrospect of knowing what the Scoobs are planning, when Buffy gathers everyone together, why would Willow immediately know that the spell was going to require a total loss of control (and, since she seemed to be merely a conduit in the spell, does that make any sense)? Was it all to set up the "pierced tongue" reference?

With a few tweaks, this all might have made sense - if the Wolfram and Hart file was said to have information on the scythe, if all of the Potentials had been shown to have a certain resonance with it, if there was information in the pyramid. The actual plan to make with the mojo could have been set up organically. As it is, this seems a leap of logic equivalent to "she's part of me, our blood is the same." Actually, it makes less sense than that, but it should make more.

What the heck was the choice that the Potentials made? Did some of them stay at home and get sucked into the crater? They certainly didn't choose whether to be in on the power boost, it went out everywhere!

So if we put boxes in front of the sewer access, UberVamps can't, y'know, push 'em back? Oh, they won't know that the boxes are blocking vents to the...smelly...sewers...ummmmm...

Gotta admit that having someone come out of 3 years in prison with a little "street" in their snaps is not all that far-fetched. Yo, Faith!

Buffy and Spike face each other across the basement. It's there for a reason, and they hadn't gotten to the makeup sex yet. Who knows, maybe she digs his shiny trinket, or it's a way of powering it up. I guess they did whatever you need them to have done.

So instead of defending the stairs up - through the Seal or up from the basement - the plan is to set the weakest links at distant points to fight UberVamps who are now mysteriously armed? Hey, it fits in with all of the other plans this season! They didn't even designate a half- dozen Potentials to cover the cavern stairs. And couldn't they have blown up the school's exit points, exposing them to daylight, to save the world?

Hallway split-up scene for reWatchers - pay attention to Anya, there's a lot going on there. Emma plays her terrified and covering it, but you can see past the cover if you look.

The Original Four discuss the mall. Really fun, as long as you don't think about it.

Do you think Xander or Willow have any idea whether their folks are still in town? Will they wonder later?

Step 1 - power up all the Potentials. Step 2 - See what the Bauble does to Spike. Step 3 - Secure the Seal Room. Step 4 - Open the Seal. Step 5 - Crap, I dropped my note cards! Ah, let's go, I can remember this without them...

In the Mines of Mordor - um, the UberVamp caverns, the lighting is by torches, but across the way is an alcove that very much looks daylit, with teeny UberShadows scurrying about. Maybe this was leftover Lord of the Rings CGI.

So, the first UberVamp was, like, their Goliath, right, and this was a cavern full of Davids (but dumber), right? With, um, swords, which are needed in a cavern full of vampires for...ummmm... And the hundreds-to- one odds were just to make things interesting.

There are folks out there - Eliza Dushku appears to be one, if one of her recent interviews is accurate - that think that every female in the world got the Slayer power. It is a bit confusing, but it is just Potentials. My son thinks we should have seen someone standing in a wheelchair - it would have been a nice visual. But where did all of this power come from? What happened to consequences, and balance, and magic following laws of physics?

The battle in the cavern is okay but a bit muddy. The battle upstairs, between humans (Andrew and Anya??? Talk about plotting all for message and not for logic!) and hordes of super-vamps, just negates everything we've been told and shown since the beginning. Guess with some training, the Sunnydale cops should have been able to keep the night streets safe without a Slayer.

I'm still trying to figure out what the Christ-on-the-cross wound was supposed to mean. Buffy pitches onto her nose (that's a major put-down from an abdominal wound) but soon thereafter it's all forgotten as she rises to the occasion. One unfortunate implication is that Buffy is still a Goliath among Slayers, able to do and survive much worse than the run-of-the-mill girls, which defeats the whole "normal through shared abnormality" thing.

The Anya deathstroke is very disturbing in slo-mo, but the Bringer knives aren't really long enough to do that. Yech, though. Didn't anybody factor Bringers into this plan?

There may be a connection between the scythe's ringing and the activation of Spike's amulet - maybe.

I'm sorry, there is NO WAY that Xander would have left that school without Anya. None. Zero. Nada. Zeppo - er, zippo. Or been in any condition except Spike's at the end of The Gift later.

What's the deal with the burning hands???

Stop Joss before he CGI's again! Too much, too fake!

For anyone who knows - is this how coastal California towns work, you clear the city limits and you're in a flat expanse of desert? That always seemed a little odd. And I guess Evil Mojo has kept anyone from driving into Sunnydale for the last month...

The ending was way too jokey for the circumstances, but Buffy closed the season as she spent it, with her arms folded. Hey, at least she was smiling.

The Grrr Arrgh guy was lame, there are so many better ways to do the very last one. What would you have had him do? I'd vote for getting hit with a shaft of light and going up in a skeletal poof, but with the same old guy-on-a-stick movement pattern.

Tha-tha-tha-that's all, Slayer lovers!

[> I sense negativity.... -- happymundi, 14:25:31 06/02/03 Mon

An important reminder that all episodes are good until proven bad. And that no episodes may be proven bad through invalid criticism, which includes all valid criticism. And absolutely no satire, unless one's name ends in Twain, Swift, Voltaire, Queenan, Phoenix, or 'herblay. Please make a note of this.

Peace out.

-happy m :)

[> [> Shania Twain is a satirist? -- Darby, who actually toned down the negativity, 15:02:51 06/02/03 Mon

[> Re: "Chosen" Revisited, with Spoilers -- Jenny's Love, 15:22:48 06/02/03 Mon

Just letting you know you have my agreement with every one of your criticisms. That said, I loved 'Chosen'. If I could change it, Anya would have either lived or Xander would have carried her body out of the school, and it could have easily been two hours with special credits and images from the past--felt a little like they tried too hard to cram it into an hour. Overall, as I've said, if we actually let logical inconsistencies and plot holes diminish our love of the best show ever, then Buffy would indeed have not a fan in the world.

[> [> Re: "Chosen" Revisited, with Spoilers -- Jenny's Love, 15:45:18 06/02/03 Mon

I would only change one thing really-Anya's death-about 'Chosen' as it is. However, overall, there are obviously many things that could have been done aside from plot points not really tied up. One thing is in a more epic finale, we could have revisited departed characters--Jenny, Kendra, Joyce, Oz, Tara, Riley, etc. I realize that Amber declined and Seth declined or couldn't work it out, but still...sniff sniff. It just all seemed so hurried. WAIT, I KNOW!--I have no clue where Robia LaMorte is these days, but WHY OH WHY did they not have her back as the First this year. She could have appeared to Giles or instead of it having assumed Buffy's appearance for the last five episodes, Jenny could have been it's regular appearance (and frankly, before this season when we only had 'Amends' to go on, I think Jenny was the one who was thought of as the First since she was the character it appeared as in 'Amends' that everyone really knew. (P.S., it's been FOREVER since I've seen 'Amends'-did the First appear as Buffy in it?)

[> [> [> Seth Green -- lunasea, 16:03:18 06/02/03 Mon

Oz wasn't in the finale because Seth Green was never asked. Joss couldn't find the money, so it was never even brought up to the actor.

[> [> [> Amber wasn't asked for the final either -- Dochawk, 17:21:10 06/02/03 Mon

Amber was asked to appear in one episode, Conversations with Dead People. She felt she didn't want Tara's last appearance to be as an evil being even though most fans would know it was the first not Tara. ME implied there was something about money, but it wasn't for the finale. Joss stated that he had an interesting subarc for him, but couldn't afford him, I don't think it was for the finale though.

[> [> [> Robia LaMorte -- lenair, 10:23:51 06/03/03 Tue

Robia LaMorte is very religious, and she was quite uncomfortable appearing as the "ultimate evil" in "Amends." I do not think she would have been willing to do that again.

The First did not appear as Buffy in "Amends."

[> One gem (sp 7.22) -- Tchaikovsky, 15:41:57 06/02/03 Mon

Do you think Xander or Willow have any idea whether their folks are still in town? Will they wonder later?

That's something I really never considered. It would be too flippant to suggest that Xander and Willow wouldn't really care less if their parents got sucked into hell, wouldn't it? I mean, just because Willow's mother has ignored her for the previous 7 years except to lock her up and burn her at the stake for being a witch, and Xander's parents' bickeing finally made him decide not to get married to Anya?
Starting to wonder whether the omission was deliberate...

Seriously, now, I imagine they moved out in the general rush of 'Empty Places'. Not that anybody mentioned it. It is Season Seven you know. Was. Off to sob again...


[> [> i was wondering about this from the other end -- anom, 20:51:31 06/02/03 Mon

Assuming Xander's & Willow's parents did leave town, would they really have left their children behind? They may not be good parents, but they're not that bad. Were there long offscreen arguments about it? Did X & W just lie to their parents--even urge them to leave town, assuring them they'd follow suit shortly? Hmm...that works for me....

[> Cheerfully spackling (Spoilers through Chosen) -- Sophist, 16:59:37 06/02/03 Mon

their last meeting obviously didn't go well

We don't know how their last meeting went. Buffy never talked about it. Their penultimate meeting came in Forever, when they were very comfortable together.

For a place that likes to avoid cliches (that's the official line), one last run of "he hears the part of the conversation to make him mad, then leaves and misses the part that would put it in perspective" was really unnecessary

Every Shakespeare comedy and tragedy that I can remember off the top of my head (most) uses this cliche or a close variant. At least JW had B/A move outside where Spike couldn't follow. And nobody died as a result.

And the second front will be in LA why, exactly? What, no good eatin' for UberVamps anywhere else on the west coast?

Where else could Angel have the necessary resources?

it's not like he has a history with the First, or unanswered questions about his return from Hell, or would mind that Buffy has decided that it's her fight alone

Given the ubiquity of the FE, Angel won't lack for opportunities. In any case, Buffy wasn't confronting the First its ownself, but its agents. Angel can do lots of that.

What the heck was the choice that the Potentials made?

To follow Buffy into the Hellmouth.

So instead of defending the stairs up - through the Seal or up from the basement - the plan is to set the weakest links at distant points to fight UberVamps who are now mysteriously armed?

The plan was to protect Spike until the amulet did its thing. If that didn't work, little else mattered.

And couldn't they have blown up the school's exit points, exposing them to daylight, to save the world?

And after sunset?

What happened to consequences, and balance, and magic following laws of physics?

Basic entropy -- energy was concentrated, now it's dispersed.

I'm sorry, there is NO WAY that Xander would have left that school without Anya. None. Zero. Nada. Zeppo - er, zippo. Or been in any condition except Spike's at the end of The Gift later.

Clearly you don't share my view of Xander.

For anyone who knows - is this how coastal California towns work, you clear the city limits and you're in a flat expanse of desert?

Absolutely possible. Of course, in Santa Barbara there's the small matter of the coastal mountains in the way. In LA, if it were 150 years ago, that's just what you'd have seen.

And I guess Evil Mojo has kept anyone from driving into Sunnydale for the last month...

Time frames are always dubious in the Buffyverse, but the elapsed time from Touched to Chosen is just a few days.

[> [> Coupla points (Spoilers through Chosen) -- Darby, 10:04:11 06/03/03 Tue

We don't know how their last meeting went. Buffy never talked about it.

I was reading into that "lost episode" from the moods each character was in on their returns to their respective shows, but it was a reach.

Every Shakespeare comedy and tragedy that I can remember off the top of my head (most) uses this cliche or a close variant.

Sara asks, "Ah, but was it a cliche when Shakespeare used it?" It probably was - he liked playing with cliches. It's not inherently bad, I'm just really tired of this one.

Where else could Angel have the necessary resources?

My point was that the whole idea was kind of silly - if there's going to be a second front, it would have to be just outside Sunnydale to be effective, and really it was clear that either the first front succeeded or nothing mattered.

Given the ubiquity of the FE, Angel won't lack for opportunities. In any case, Buffy wasn't confronting the First its ownself, but its agents. Angel can do lots of that.

That's if you believe the First's PR, but the reality was that this was the first shot Angel would have had against it since Amends. Or might have again.

The plan was to protect Spike until the amulet did its thing.

I saw no evidence that they were protecting Spike, or that they were really depending on the amulet to work at all. There was no reason to see it as the deus ex helios.

And after sunset?

That would have been a problem anyway, but initially those were the only paths out without daylight - why not restrict the exits to none by making them all daylit?

Basic entropy -- energy was concentrated, now it's dispersed.

But you've forgotten the feminist subtext - Buffy shared her power without diminishing it at all. All the girls became full Slayers. And I think I may have addressed my own quibble - if the battle is between the Metaphor and the Logic, I know which way Joss is going.

Clearly you don't share my view of Xander.

Not here, but I'm curious as to how you see this - in the Buffyverse, where death is much less certain, why wouldn't Xander make sure? He didn't see her die.

On the others, it just bothers me that Sunnydale is so disconnected from the world, but I guess that's what makes the Buffyverse a very different critter from the Angelverse.

[> [> [> Re: Coupla points (Spoilers through Chosen) -- Sophist, 11:09:46 06/03/03 Tue

"Ah, but was it a cliche when Shakespeare used it?"

I'm sure it was a cliche to Gilgamesh.

if there's going to be a second front, it would have to be just outside Sunnydale to be effective, and really it was clear that either the first front succeeded or nothing mattered.

I'm not so sure. The FE's plan, to the extent I understood it, was for the Ubers to overrun the world:

I will overrun this earth.

You know how many people have said
that to me?

I do, since they all had a small part
of me in them. Whereas I have all of
me in me, so I like my chances
somewhat better. And when my army
outnumbers the humans on this earth
the scales will tip and I will be
made flesh.

Given this as a plan, holding a reserve in LA seems as sensible as any. Given the geography of the area, and pretending we're dealing with real armies here, the natural route from Santa Barbara would be south towards LA.

I saw no evidence that they were protecting Spike, or that they were really depending on the amulet to work at all.

Since I can't see what other plan Buffy might have had, I have to assume it was the one we saw. That requires protecting Spike.

why not restrict the exits to none by making them all daylit?

They already blew up the school in S3. Repeats are tacky.

Buffy shared her power without diminishing it at all.

Still the same as entropy -- energy is neither created nor destroyed.

My understanding was that the Scythe tapped a well of "reserve" Slayer power. That's how Buffy and Faith could remain strong.

why wouldn't Xander make sure? He didn't see her die.

He had his own life to consider. Also, Dawn was pulling him out. He couldn't stay without risking her as well.

I was not at all surprised that Xander wouldn't stay to look for Anya. I was a little surprised he didn't stay for Buffy.

it just bothers me that Sunnydale is so disconnected from the world, but I guess that's what makes the Buffyverse a very different critter from the Angelverse.

I don't get this. The plotline of AtS this season involves complete absurdities in its treatment of the real world (Apocalypse Nowish, e.g.). I don't see Chosen as requiring any greater suspension of disbelief than, say, Hush or Amends.

[> [> [> [> Re: Coupla points (Spoilers through Chosen) -- shambleau, 12:31:24 06/03/03 Tue

Mostly agree with Sophist's spackling. Once, on another board, I did a scene-by-scene analysis of Passion. It was in response to the constant criticisms of the inconsistencies in Season six. People were saying that they didn't mind the darkness, no, really, it was the poor execution. Back in the day, ME didn't mess up like that. Yet I came up with a list for Passion as long as Darby's for the last few eps of this year. It wasn't hard, either.

If you are unhappy with the show, you can find the inconsistencies damning, but they have always been there. Me, I just keep my spackle handy.

[> [> [> [> Re: Coupla points (Spoilers through Chosen) -- dream, 12:46:57 06/03/03 Tue

I saw no evidence that they were protecting Spike, or that they were really depending on the amulet to work at all.

Since I can't see what other plan Buffy might have had, I have to assume it was the one we saw. That requires protecting Spike.

I liked Chosen, though I did think that it worked far better in terms of character and message than in terms of plot. I like the idea that the plan was all about the amulet from the beginning - I would feel better about Spike being so at the center of things if Buffy had planned it that way. Unfortunately, we weren't shown that at all. All we were shown was that Buffy and the Potentials would get all fired up and fight thousands of super-hard-to-kill vampires, with their fingers crossed that Spike's amulet might do something helpful. If that was the plan, Buffy far overestimated the abilities of her troups. That's a depressing note to end on, so I would rather believe your suggestion. The problem with the episode, as I saw it, was that that wasn't made clear.

As for the whole "overheard just a part of the conversation" thing, I thought there was a point to that. Remember last year, how no one communicated? At the beginning of this year, can't remember the name of the episode, but Spike realizes he might have been killing again - and he calls Buffy on the phone. It was a great moment, an indication that patterns of non-communication had been broken. I certainly expected him to hide the truth; he didn't. Though I did think the overheard conversation bit in EoD/Chosen was a little silly, the end of episode build-up, followed by the direct conversation between Spike and Buffy in the next episode, did serve to reinforce the change. Buffy is not disconnected any more. When those sorts of things happen (and in real life, they do, as contrived as the cliche may seem), she talks about them. As failures of communication have been a problem of Buffy's for just about ever (remember her trying to read Angel's mind in Earshot rather than simply asking him what had happened with Faith, or her entire relationship with Joyce in the first two seasons), it was important to address that issue in the final episode. It could have been a little better done, I think, but it was okay.

[> [> [> Power (Spoilers through Chosen) -- heywhynot, 12:38:51 06/03/03 Tue

There was no violation of the 1st Law of Thermodynamics. There is no Slayer Energy. The Shadowmen activated the first Slayer by using demon essence to unlock her hidden potential. When she died the demon essence went to another potential, unlocking her talents. This kept going on and on. Finally you have Buffy called, who doesn't follow the traditions of the slayers before her and makes friends, develops a father/daughter relationship with her Watcher. When she dies, there are people (specifically Xander) there to revive her. The demon essence though had moved on to Kendra, activating her. Buffy on the other hand had her talents/abitlies unlocked already, so she kept her slayer abilities. This explains why Buffy was not half as powerful or "normal" when she came back. When Kendra died, the demon essence went to Faith, activating her potential. Once activated, the girls stay active. Whatever was holding the talents back is gone/removed. It isn't something mystical that gives them abilities, something mystical activates their abilities.

What Willow did was activate all girls with potential, giving them access to their abilities. Who knows maybe something mystical in the past prior to the Shadowmen kept the girls abilities hidden. We don't know if Willow's spell activates all girls forever or if only this generation will have all potentials active. The energy is not spread as their is no slayer energy, ie no violation of the 1st Law.

The power everyone talked about in the final season was not that of physical power studied by physicists, but rather conceptual power (political, economic, etc). This power is really a manipulation of fear. This is the power of the First. Buffy tried leading in such a manner, it is not her style though as it separates you from others as you elevate yourself. It is wielding power. Buffy in the end decides to overcome fear, to empower.

[> [> [> [> I like your explanation even better than my own. -- Sophist, 13:45:41 06/03/03 Tue

[> [> [> [> I agree almost whole-heartedly -- Finn Mac Cool, 14:05:44 06/03/03 Tue

It's still my personal belief that the demon cloud was the original source of Slayer essence and that it just got passed down to many potentials, with only one being active at a time. However, as soon as Buffy talked about making them all Slayers, my mind immediatly went to "Potential" with the speech about the Slayer power being inside all of them and just needing to tap into it.

[> [> [> [> On second thought, is this consistent with GiD? -- Sophist, 15:19:59 06/03/03 Tue

[> [> [> [> [>Re: On second thought, is this consistent with GiD? -- heywhynot, 18:35:45 06/03/03 Tue

It is hard to say. The Shadowmen used the demon to create the first slayer. They took a girl with potential in the tribe and used the demon to access the girl's talents. Evidently though the spirit of the demon is still contained. Maybe there is more abilities that have yet to be tapped. Given the Shadowmen seemed controlling it is well within reason they made the Slayer strong enough to fight off the dangers in the world around her but not too strong. The Shadowmen, in their worldview strength (ie power in their minds) is held by the few. When Buffy comes to them they seek to increase her strength as they see it as the only way to save the world. Buffy eventually sees that to save the world once needs to empower others.

[> [> [> [> Fray, again -- mamcu, 08:49:18 06/04/03 Wed

We don't know if Willow's spell activates all girls forever or if only this generation will have all potentials active.

But in Fray we learn that no Slayers have been called for a long time (200 years? don't have Fray with me here at work!) until Fray because of the defeat of all demons in the 21st century. Thus it appears Willow's work did not empower all potential Slayers forever-- just those needed at the time.

[> [> [> [> [>From what I heard . . . -- Finn Mac Cool, 14:03:57 06/04/03 Wed

There was a line staying "there were still girls with powers, but, since there were no demons, none of them were Called" or something like that. This implies that there were still Slayers but that, without any demons or vampires around, none of them were told about the grand Slayer destiny or called to battle.

[> Preserving this thread -- Masq, 09:30:03 06/03/03 Tue

I think over this weekend, I'll allow posting to archived threads. Should save some Masq-is-out-of-town grief!

[> Re: "Chosen" Revisited, with Spoilers -- CW, 10:02:30 06/03/03 Tue

Caleb getting up again - It is a little ridiculous just how many fans were mildly griping about the way Buffy dispatched him without making sure he wasn't coming back in the episode before. When Joss starts relying on cliches, it is time for him to move on to other projects.

I could discuss more of the points Darby brings up but it all goes back to the same thing. Buffy has been more of a chore for Joss than a joy for years. I guess we should feel lucky the last two seasons were as good as they were.

I really got the feeling especially after reading Joss' interviews after the season, that Joss hated writing Chosen. It's a fun ep. but nothing more. I don't think it will ever make many top ten lists. We used to be thrilled that things on BTVS were planned out years in advance. I don't think anything more than a vague outline was ever done for the last two seasons.

Frankly, "Angel" has been even worse for me. Season four was almost incomprehensible from one episode to the next. Hopefully, with fewer projects to work on this year, ME will make some serious effort to make Angel hang together better, whether by having a less aimless season arc, or by having stand-alone eps that at least have the charcters acting consistantly most of the time.

[> [> Re: Angel: Season 4 -- Wendywho, 12:41:50 06/03/03 Tue

Having just watched all 22 episodes over last weekend, I was surprised to see just how tightly written season 4 actually was.

[> Arrrggghhh!!!! -- Caroline, 11:30:43 06/03/03 Tue

I come back to the board after a self-imposed break to avoid some of the more negative postings on the BtVS, esp. Chosen and what do I find? Another negative post!!! Oh well. C'est la vie.

I'd like to respond to a couple of points:

It does feel really good to hurt a guys noogies, particularly when he deserves it.

The cookie dough line - remember last scene of lessons when Warren says that girls are useless for anything unless you are baking?

Previous eps had made a big deal out of everyone leaving town - remember Clem in the VW bug?

The choice the potentials made was whether they would go to the hellmouth and fight. As an aside, I also think that the choice was about getting full slayer power but that point was more oblique.

The actions of the first evil and the creation of the uber-vamps was in itself an act that caused an imbalance. The consequence, the balancing, was good fighting back - the activation of slayer powers, the effects of the amulet, etc.

Putting files cabinets etc in front of sewer access is designed to slow the ubies down. Putting the weakest links upstairs protecting the sewer access fighting just a few ubies who make it through the slayer line makes a whole lot more sense that putting them in the hellmouth where they face many more ubies!

I'm not sure what the Christ on the cross wound is that you are referring to. If you are referring to Buffy being sliced in the abdomen, that's not the same as the Christ wound. The wound Christ suffered was to the left side, under the ribs and up into the heart. Buffy suffered her wound on the right side and in the lower abdomen. I don't see a Christ reference there.

The burning hands harks back to both the hand and fire imagery that we have been treated to for the last 2 season, reaching its height in OMWF where Buffy sings 'I touch the fire and it freezes me, I look into it but it's black, why can't I feel, my skin should crack and peel, I want the fire back.' Buffy feels the fire and in that joining of hands with Spike, the fire burns and purifies and imho, makes many things clear to both of them - see the looks of wonder and realization on both their faces as their hands are joined and burning.

Perhaps only Xander was too jokey for my taste at the end but that is the typical scoobie response to victory. Buffy seemed to be removed from it all - the smile that didn't quite reach her eyes, gazing out into the distance with other thoughts on her mind.

[> [> The Choice of the Potentials -- Rhysdux, 21:06:25 06/04/03 Wed

Caro said:

"The choice the potentials made was whether they would go to the hellmouth and fight. As an aside, I also think that the choice was about getting full slayer power but that point was more oblique."

Perhaps the choice was about whether the Potentials would go to the Hellmouth and fight. (I'm kind of surprised that none of them refused, given their previous lack of success, but maybe Buffy really inspired them with her last speech.)

However, I don't see how they could have chosen to get full Slayer power. Judging from the montage shown when Willow was mystically redistributing Slayer power to all Potentials, girls all over the world were affected, not just the thirty or so gathered at the Hellmouth. This would seem to indicate that the only choice involving Slayer power was made by Willow, when she agreed to go along with Buffy's plan and activate all Potentials everywhere.

Did Willow err in conforming to Buffy's plan? I don't know. It was a decision rooted in desperation, and certainly it seemed to be the best thing that they could do--even though thirty-odd Slayers against hundreds of thousands of UberVamps should have been grossly unequal odds.

And I understand the metaphor that ME was trying to communicate--that girls could empower each other and, in so doing, grow strong enough battle and defeat their own monsters, their private demons. The metaphor isn't a bad one. But choice--on a literal and dramatic level--isn't part of the equation for most of those receiving the power.

This says something interesting about choice and free will. Just as the Shadowmen had their shaman imbue the First Slayer with the essence of a demon, so does Buffy have her "shamaness" Willow activate the abilities of all girls everywhere who could tap into that power. Buffy's decision was the same as that of the Shadowmen--that choosing power for others was essential if the human race was to survive. Yes, both the Shadowmen and Willow granted immense power to those receiving it, but neither the First Slayer nor the Potentials who were not in Sunnydale had any say about whether they WANTED to receive this power, or whether they would have chosen to receive it if someone had asked.

Buffy ultimately doesn't break the pattern of the Shadowmen. She does exactly what they did, only on a much larger scale.

[> Credits -- Dochawk, 12:58:36 06/03/03 Tue

I think I want to give a longer reply to some of this, but putting ASH in the credits has to do with how he is paid and SAG regulations, so it may just not have been worth the effort (and I doubt ASH cared).

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