Origin Stories

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Vid
Title: Origin Stories
Creator: Gianduja Kiss
Date: 2008
Format: vid
Length: 3:47
Music: Coffee, by Aesop Rock
Genre:
Fandom: BTVS, Angel
Footage: BTVS, Angel
URL: for download, on YouTube
Screenshot of intro to Origin Stories

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Origin Stories is a Buffyverse vid. It was released with the tag line, "It's Nikki Wood's fucking coat." Commissioned and conceived by Thuvia Ptarth for Sweet Charity, the vid was made by Gianduja Kiss in 2008 and is about race and appropriation in the Buffyverse.

As aca-fan Henry Jenkins describes it, this commentary is "hung on the fact that Spike's trademark leather coat turns out to be a trophy taken from the body of Nikki Wood, whose son Robin Wood shows up in season seven to avenge her. The vid critiques not only the text, but also the fan response to it, both of which tended to privilege Spike's redemption arc over the stories of Buffy's minority characters."[1]

Origin Stories was immediately popular with Buffyverse fandom and widely recced by fans, reaching a wider audience within and outside fandom. This vid circulated widely through fandom in 2008 as part of a larger conversation about race in both source and fannish texts. In a 2010 interview with Francesca Coppa, the creator Gianduja Kiss described the reception "Origin Stories" received following its release.

The reception was really positive and really overwhelming. There were so many downloads when I first posted it that it blew my site bandwidth after just a few hours. And lots of people started posting long analyses and thoughts about the vid, which was just amazing. I hadn't anticipated any of that - I'm a Buffy fan, obviously, but I hadn't been all that active in the Buffy fandom community, so I hadn't realized how much of a hunger there was for this kind of critique.[2]

The vid was shown at Vividcon 2008, as part of 2008 Vids that Push the Envelope vidshow.[3] In 2010, Origin Stories returned to Vividcon as part of a vidshow on Race and Representation in Vidding.[4]

Backstory

The treatment of the few characters of colour in the Whedonverse is often used as an example of the underlying racism in the source material, and their treatment by fandom and fan creators is also an area of discussion. Immediately following Robin Wood's first appearance on BtVS, the Livejournal community deadbrowalking was created. Robin was the first major African American character on the show and as the name of this comm suggests, there was an expectation within fandom that Robin Wood would not survive long. Previous characters of colour in BtVS have been under-developed, stereotyped, and/or killed shortly after their first appearance. While Robin did survive the series finale, his storyline contributed to ongoing discussions about race in fandom. Initially presented as a possible minor antagonist, his quest to avenge his mother's murder put him at odds with some of the white main characters, who sought to protect her murderer.

Thuvia Ptarth's original concept was for a vid about Robin Wood and the other Slayers; his mother Nikki Wood, the First Slayer, the Chinese Slayer, and Dana. Thuvia sought to reframe the narrative to focus on Robin's story, from his perspective, and the "the untold story of the underappreciated vampire fighters".[5]

I wanted Robin as a symbol of his mother, because I can't tell you how frustrated I was, every time in S7 and in Angel S5 Spike would *put the coat back on as a symbol of self-reclamation and self-empowerment*. Because it was Nikki's coat first, and it was also the symbol of her murder, of Spike's power and coolness being appropriated from this black woman, and you have to forget that to cheer Spike on. I wanted people to watch this vid and not be able to forget that. But I didn't want it to be a vid about Spike.
So what I see linking Robin to the female Slayers, and especially the female Slayers of color, and especially the *black* female Slayers, isn't just that Nikki is his mother, but that his story, like Nikki's story, gets swept under by the master narrative of Spike's reformation. And I want the story to be uncovered and reconstructed again.[5]

Gianduja Kiss was interested in the concept, but highlight several obstacles to telling this story in vid format. This included a lack of source material. These "minor" characters weren't afforded much screentime in the series. When the Slayers did appear they were rarely the focal point of a scene, as their stories were not the focus of the narrative.

So, because of these weaknesses, there was additional emphasis placed on potential slayers and Kendra (to make up for the lack of footage), and Spike was given more prominence than untrue_accounts intended, and than I would have liked. [...] Spike thus became the narrative through-line for the three dead slayers - the Chinese slayer, Nikki, and Kendra. Even though Kendra hadn't been killed by Spike, the vid attributes responsibility to Spike by showing him kissing Dru immediately after Dru kills Kendra.[6]

A Story in Three Acts

Gianduja Kiss describes how they structured the vid into three acts.[6]

Act One: The Set-Up runs from the first chorus ("We don't need no walkie-talkies") through the second chorus. This act introduces the various characters. It depicts the creation of the first Slayer, and Robin's childhood. The first act also shows the Slayers, Potential Slayers and Robin as strong and powerful people. Spike is framed as an antagonist, shown fighting the Slayers. It also introduces Buffy and intentionally does not depict her as a powerful fighter. From Gianduja Kiss: Thuvia Ptarth "believed that the Buffy/Spike storyline was elevated above the other storylines, both by writers and by fans; visually, the easiest way to portray that was to turn Buffy-the-character into a stand-in for the writers and fans who had elevated Spike over Robin. So in this vid, she's never quite with the slayers and she's constantly choosing Spike over them."[6]

Act Two: Confrontation runs from the end of the second chorus through Robin's fight with Spike. We see characters introduced in Act One fight and die. The vid blames Spike, either explicitly or by association, and Buffy is portrayed as complicit.

The vid shows how Robin feels about this; his reactions are horrified and frustrated. Because this is his point of view, Spike is depicted as a monster, and Buffy literally gets into bed with the enemy. Robin's reactions here are meant to build to the moment when he will attack Spike in "Lies My Parents Told Me."

The section culminates with Buffy bestowing the amulet on Spike - textually, the greatest moment of Spike's elevation - followed by a shot of Robin on the lyric "Fuck you, peace" and then the scene where Spike kills Nikki.

At the "TAKE NO PRISONERS" bridge, we see the fight between Robin and Spike - which essentially replays the fights we earlier saw between Spike and the other slayers. Just as with those fights, Spike is initially depicted as being on the losing side; he eventually comes back to defeat Robin, just as he defeated the Chinese slayer, Nikki, and (by association) Kendra.[6]

Act Three: History Repeating focuses on a new Slayer, Dana. Her scenes are intercut to show her Slayer heritage. Unlike the other Slayers Spike has fought, Dana defeats him and reclaims Nikki's coat, but other characters intervene to stop her. Dana's defeat mirrors Robin's, and the last scene of the vid depicts Spike putting on Nikki's coat.

Reactions & Reviews

This is an angle of the Buffyverse I don't think I've ever seen covered before now. Really liked the rap. Your editing, specifically the time toggling, really meshed well with the dark gritty visuals.

It's good to see the ethnic diversity of the Buffyverse as well as the origin myths for the slayers. Love the way the slayer from Angel (whose name I've forgotten) takes Nikki's coat back from Spike. Back in the possession of a slayer. Cool!

Fantastic work[7]
Wow, that was wonderful. And it hurt.

Because yeah. It *was* Nikki Wood's fucking coat.

And I love the layers here: how Nikki was part of dual communities: part of a family and part of the line of Slayers--and her loss is felt by both of them, and the *injustice* of what happened to her is felt by both of them, and then that injustice is perpetuated against both of them, against Wood and against the Slayers before and after Nikki, who have to live with the loss, who have to live with the continuing danger of people who would take away their definitions of themselves. And the stuff embedded in here about gender and race--I like it a lot, the problematization of the aspect of the show where (white+male+monster) Spike's definition of himself, his story, takes place *at the expense* of Nikki's story, of Robin's story, of Dana's story, of Kendra's story; how Spike's the symptom of the larger pattern of Angel and Caleb and etc.

Or...something. I'm sort of groping for words here, but it's very clear in the vid, when I was watching it and going, "Yes, yes, connections all over the place, yes!"[8]

I loved it so much I can't even SAY. On a meta level, there's all the little tricks you did with slowing/speeding up the camera movement in different clips to match the music, and the stuttering zooms, like on "don't go warm up the barbecue--" it's subtle but it's really, really fascinating how it works with the stutter-stop rhythm of the song.

And the clips! It seems like 90% of this vid is totally new-- like I've never seen any of these clips in vids before. (And the ones that I have, were probably in Woobie Spike vids.) No one's been telling this story-- but you are. (And untrue_accounts, I guess!) And, oh my GOD, yes. This is a story that needed to be told, like *this*. Especially-- I mean, especially ALL of it, but I think *especially* the Spike/Wood bits-- those are the parts that really punch me in the gut-- "one little weatherman," and "barbecue" and "take no prisoners", and just WOW. [...] [9]
This is one of those vids that makes you go back to the source and really see it in a... not new, exactly, but focused way. And it really made me look at all the white slayers at the end and wonder where all the CoCs were when they all "woke up." Fabulous job, from Mely's song choice through the realization of it. It will take multiple reviewings and listenings, but I'm very affected by it.[10]
I've seen this recced in several places-and with good reason! I absolutely loved the way it tackled some of the nastier race and gender issues in BTVS. I never know how to review videos, but I do know what I loved visually and this just...worked.[11]
I must have watched this vid at least half a dozen times since I downloaded it a couple of days ago, and it never fails to pack a punch. What difference it makes to revisit these familiar clips (and look! Some clips that have not been used in gazillion vids already!) after the steady exposure to the feminist reading of the text and cultural appropriation discussion in the past two years. The way the vid reinterprets the text is just brilliant -- like the famous clip of Spike "taking back" his coat in that S7 episode. OF COURSE he's not taking back what's his; he's *stealing* back what doesn't belong to him. My favourite bit in the entire vid is probably the John Darnielle section featuring Dana from "Damages". I love that episode, but the last scene -- one with Spike and Angel talking about their pasts, powerful as it is -- makes this agains all about Spike and Angel, with Dana's trauma being used to facilitate their moral awakening. The vid gives the story back to her (and to Nikki and the Chinese slayer), and I really love that more than I can say. (God, I'd forgotten that she took the coat back.) [...] [12]
It's such a great example of what fandom can do with even the failures of a show, the way you show us all those slayers who are condemned to only be seen through the perspective of the main characters from another side, in and of themselves. The images of the First Slayer throughout were especially powerful for me, highlighting the origins of what becomes the white/suburban/Euro vampire story and how she also had nothing like autonomy. I think it was in rydra_wong's rec that she talked about how you've vidded intersectionality here -- that just sums it up really succinctly. From the hints of buried counternarratives we see on the show you've made something radical, new and amazing. I still have a lot more viewings to go before I see even half of what's in there, I think.[13]
So, I'm a big Spike fan. He's one of my favorite characters, and Spuffy is one of my favorite ships. This video takes a decidedly negative view of Spike. (it also has a unflattering view of Buffy as well) Despite that, I adore this vid. It's a brilliant look at how the narrative of many of the POC characters in BtVS are ignored, often in favor of Spike's narrative (hello, white dude.) I don't think the potentials bits really make sense (a plot the vidders apparently added b/c of lack of footage) but in general the concept and execution of this is fantastic. A great thinky vid- in the end, as they point out, "It's Nikki Wood's fucking coat."[14]
This vid has been so widely discussed that most of you have probably seen it already, but I just stumbled across it for the first time. Its focus is the neglected stories of BtVS; Robin and Nikki Wood, Kendra, the First Slayer, and others whose points of view were increasingly ignored in the show's final seasons. It manages to be a pretty devastating critique of the gender and race issues in season seven of Buffy, while never being manipulative or dishonest. By far one of the best argument vids I've ever seen.[15]

Related and Inspired

References

  1. ^ DIY Media 2010: Fan Vids (Part Two), Archived version, a 2010 blog post by Henry Jenkins. Accessed October 10, 2020.
  2. ^ DIY Media 2010: Fan Vids (Part Three), An Interview with Giandujakiss. November 29, 2010.
  3. ^ Vividcon 2008: 2008 Vids That Push the Envelope
  4. ^ Vividcon 2010: 2010 Race and Representation in Vidding
  5. ^ a b Three Origin Stories by Thuvia Ptarth, March 2 2008
  6. ^ a b c d Origin Stories: The Backstory by Gianduja Kiss, Mar 2 2008.
  7. ^ Comment by charmax on original post, Feb 2008
  8. ^ Comment by LJ user minnow1212, Feb 2008
  9. ^ Comment by liviapenn, Feb 2008
  10. ^ Comment by elynross, Feb 2008
  11. ^ Comment by ishtar79, Feb 2008
  12. ^ Comment by vonniek, Feb 2008
  13. ^ Comment by heyiya, Feb 2008.
  14. ^ Favorite Fanvids! (for future reference) rec list by redcirce, Jan 2011
  15. ^ Origin Stories (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) rec by bsgvidrecs, Aug 2009.
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