Where did I go? A farewell to the Buffybot

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Title: Where did I go? A farewell to the Buffybot
Creator: mcjulie
Date(s): October 2012
Medium: online
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Topic: Depression, grief, character analysis
External Links: Livejournal, Archived version
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Where did I go? A farewell to the Buffybot is a Buffyverse meta essay by mcjulie. It compares and discusses the characters of Buffy Summers and the Buffybot.

In 2013, the essay was nominated for a No Rest For the Wicked Award for best meta essay.[1]

Excerpts

I think this is because the two halves of the story reflect on each other. Just as Buffy is coping with the accumulated emotional weight of grief and combat fatigue, the ‘bot appears -- a pseudo-Buffy good enough to fool her friends and slay a few vampires, but eternally sunny and angst-free. With her mother so recently dead, the ‘bot’s cheery disposition strikes her friends as odd, but they put her strange behavior -- including her romantic relationship with Spike -- down to an idiosyncratic part of the mourning process.
On the opposite end of coping strategies, people who are depressed or grieving often put on an “I’m Fine” mask when they deal with the world. Sometimes this mask is brittle and fragile and false-seeming, while other times it’s so effective that nobody notices it’s a mask. Sometimes it seems that people ought to notice it’s false, but they don’t -- maybe because they don’t want to. The I’m Fine mask exists for the comfort of other people, after all. One way to regard the ‘bot is that she is Buffy’s I’m Fine mask. That's why she appears when the real Buffy has removed herself in an attempt to deal with her emotional turmoil.
After real Buffy is revived, her I’m Fine mask is destroyed when the Buffybot is literally ripped to pieces in front of her. And we, the audience, are sad to see her go -- because we also got something we wanted out of the Buffybot: pure entertainment.

Comments

Lovely analysis, kinda fix my horrible day in the fandom. I've never thought at Buffybot in a proper analytical way, but in her final scene, when she asks "Where did I go?", I always feel a deep sadness. In a way, for me that was also Buffy's voice, she was asking where she went, when she lost herself (in the depression) when she lost her life. (Where people go when they die?) [2]
For me, the Buffybot also symbolizes a theme that was explored in S4 - technology vs magic. Modern technology was mostly aligned with the patriarchy (the Initiative) but still included women who aligned themselves with it (Maggie Walsh); magic was aligned with feminine power (Willow) but could be used by both genders and the uniting spell included Xander and Giles. We saw that either form could be used for the good or misused, and by either gender. It was intention and application that was the issue. Buffybot seems to me a continuation of that. as she is technology misused, in this case created by Warren at Spike's request; here the patriarchy is symbolized by individual men rather than institutions, so we're sliding away from a systemic patriarchial structure and more towards "misogyny that is a result of said paradigm". [3]
I also think of Buffybot as a "redo" of Adam from S4 - she's the Pinocchio character, or the Frankenstein's monster, who makes other characters more aware of their own humanity in contrast to her, who questions what it means to be alive - the existential "Who am l?". She asks innocent, but logical existential questions that make Giles and Willow uncomfortable, and her mere presence is unbearable to Spike. Adam asked existential questions that were meant to be very profound, but in execution he was a crashing bore as a character and a Big Bad. The questions he asked are expressed so much better by Buffybot in part because she doesn't voice them but implies them. She is handicapped in contrast to Adam in that no part of her was ever human to begin with, so she isn't sentient, and yet, in her conversations with Willow ("Why doesn't Spike like me anymore?" - which is almost heartbreaking in it's own right) and before her death ("Where did I go...No, not me...the other Buffy?") there's a sense that this robot is doing what should be impossible - developing a sense of self-awareness. And this self-awareness, this sense of self, of "know thyself" is one that is utterly lost to Buffy, Willow, Spike in fact to all of the Scoobies this entire season.[4]

References

  1. wicked-awards, on LiveJournal
  2. LiveJournal comment, Archived version, posted by kikimay on October 16th, 2012.
  3. Livejournal comment, Archived version, posted by red_satin_doll on October 16, 2012
  4. Livejournal comment, Archived version, posted by red_satin_doll on October 16, 2012