Okay, I'll admit - I feel a twinge of guilt, as the title of this post was also the title of quite a good paper at the Istanbul conference, but I'm going to ride the wave of my guilt.
Naturally, characters are created by authors. (By the way, are you following the writers' strike? You may want to check out this site. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog, already in progress . . .) To then have those characters question who they are provides a great way to delve into basic issues of identity, as well as providing some highly comic moments. This past week, we watched the Season Six episode "Tabula Rasa" (a summary can be found here) and boy! was there a lot to discuss in there, beginning with the doozy question - Who are we? Not just our names (very important to Whedon), but deep down, at the core - who are we?
Due to a spell going awry, our gang must craft their identities from scratch, figuring out not only who they are, but how they fit in with the others who are present. Some of these moments are delightfully funny - Spike and Giles constructing family bonds? Anya trapped in "cottontail hell"? And some of the moments are poignant - Buffy suddenly thinks being a "superhero" is cool, instead of a crushing burden. (Well, until she nearly gets her ribs kicked in.) Tara's realization that Willow is in too deep to see straight and that the only way to survive is to leave. The use of Michelle Branch's "Goodbye to You" to underscore the ways in which we are (sometimes) all alone - and the ways in which we will desperately clutch at something (or someone) to not feel that way.
Not to mention an actual "loan shark" and a debt measured in Siamese kittens - really, this episode has so many places to go.
The title "tabula rasa" means "blank slate." Willow recites that term several times during the casting of her spell. The idea goes back at least to Aristotle - although he wouldn't have used the Latin term, since he was Greek. Anyway . . . while Plato espoused the belief that a heavenly soul came down and animated the human body, Aristotle took the view that human were born empty and, as they gained experience and perception, their natures developed. John Locke comes into this discussion as well and social/behavioral scientists continue to debate the role of "nature vs. nurture" when it comes to the development of intelligence, personality, reaction to stress, etc. This link provides some useful information.
For our discussion, we ventured into the Uncharted Land of the Wallet (which borders the Dismal Swamp of the Unexplored Handbag). If you didn't know who you were - what could you construct from the items you carry with you? License, membership cards, pictures, credit cards, and so forth can only provide so many clues.
By the way, our gang is not suffering from amnesia nearly as much as a collective dissociative fugue state, which is a much scarier condition. Follow the link for some details.
As it typical of Whedon, at the end, a certain balance has been established, but all is definitely not well. Good may win, but this is a war with a body count. Giles has left for England, Tara has left Willow, Dawn feels abandoned, and Buffy - despite her friends' vows to spend more time with her; to ease her transition back into this world - is alone at the Bronze. Or maybe not so alone - Spike is there. And, at least for a moment or two, that'll do.
Next week is our last week (sob, rending of clothes, gnashing of teeth). We'll talk about what happens when stories get told; how they evolve with the telling. And with the "teller."
It's time to meet Andrew.