Oh, My Goddess! Canon and Characterization

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Title: Oh, My Goddess! Canon and Characterization
Creator: Diana
Date(s): 2000
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Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
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Oh, My Goddess! Canon and Characterization is a 2000 essay by Diana.

Excerpts

I cannot recall any instance where Willow has said, "Oh my Goddess!" as an exclamation to a situation. That is not to say she has never said it. If I scoured the show transcripts, I might find it in one or two episodes (and someone is free to point me to those, if they like). Possibly. In fact, the few references I've remembered Willow making to a belief system of any sort always pointed to her Jewish background.

Although, one could argue that she was referring to herself as Jewish in the cultural sense. This is easily supported by what we know about her parents seeming lack of involvement in her life, and also by the very analytical thoroughness of her upbringing (see "Gingerbread"). Conversely, it could also be argued (per "The Body") that Willow's family did indeed embrace a part of their religious heritage through the practice of lighting a menorah during Chanukah.

Yes, Willow is a practicing witch, spells and all. And she has obviously been exposed to alternative deities, demons and systems of belief. But at no time, do I recall hearing her espouse any of these beliefs as her own.

I just can't recall ever hearing her say that.

Which is why it seems so out of place to read her saying it in story after story. It almost reads like a beacon of inexperience, or of someone who wants to create their own Willow character.

Why would they want to do that, I wonder, when the one they've been given is so complete and wonderful in her own way?

There have, so far, been five seasons of character development on this show. Five. That's a truckload more than a two-hour movie. And several more than many other popular shows about which slash/fan fiction is written. Joss Whedon has, in my opinion, made character development an art form, allowing his creations to grow and flourish, age, display all of their wonderfulness and flaws, get hurt and hurt others, even those they love.

With all this material to work with, I am left to wonder what show some writers are watching.

This is not to say that I am not adverse to the use of fanon, unless that fanon is wildly off base. I understand why some writers would want to fill in those unnamed details (such as the identity of Spike's sire, pre-season five), which would only make their stories richer. I can also understand why some of those details become as real to readers and writers as the ones we are given on the show. Where I draw the line is when speculation about a character becomes so overused that it is now regular practice to remind new writers that such a detail has never been proven on the show (or, in the case of Spike's sire, has been disproved by the show).

This is why I try to avoid using fanon at all in my stories. If I wanted to create a story in which someone is acting against the nature of what I've been watching for five years, I would have good reason as supported by the events of the story. If it's an important part of the events taking place in my story, then I will break my character out of, ahem, character. But if my desire is to create a story in which something happens to the characters as we know them, then I know I have a rich and varied history of characterization from which to draw. Nothing need be made up on it's own. I guess what it boils down to is, those are the stories that impress me.

References