3) My favorite of the three entries is Buffy on the stairs in After Life. I like the way the cropping, frame and the text work together to close in around her, echoing her gesture. She's out of that coffin physically but psychologically is another matter altogether. I think the red on her knuckles is just enough, not overplayed. I did an entire series of this scene and oddly enough her hand looks more realistic, like raw meat, in the sized-down icons than it did on the tv screen or the larger caps.
I have a crazy stupid amount of love for Bargaining/Afterlife, which I tend to think of as a single unit (just as I lump the last three eps of S6 together - except with loads of seething hate.) The expression of shame on her face - not guilt, there is a degree of difference - her awkward posture and gestures, her silence, her bloodied knuckles, everything about her in that moment wrenches my heart no matter how many times I see it. I can barely even look at her then. So of course I made multiple versions of it. (Below)
This moment, and the scene before it with Dawn tenderly cleaning and dressing her in the bathroom, calls back to pre-Sunnydale "bitty Buffy" in Passions. She's standing before a mirror, listening to her parents argue in another room with a similar expression of shame - shame for who or what she inherently is, as opposed to "guilt" for something she has done. That's an emotion I know only too well. Once it slithers inside of you, it becomes such a constant that half the time you don't even recognize it; or you try to fight it, to make it go away; you indulge in excesses, you take actions that you feel guilty about afterwards, and thus more ashamed, so you do something else you feel guilty and ashamed about until the two are insparably intertwined with one another.
What must she think, what can she be thinking, in Bargaining and After Life? She's lived one of her greatest fears for the second time in the series (Nightmares, S1), crawling out of her own grave like the demons she has to kill, in this war she was drafted into as the lone soldier. Is she therefore unclean, monstrous? Was she rejected by Heaven, spat out from it because she was unworthy of it? Even after she knows the truth, might she ever wonder if the spell worked because Heaven let her go because she didn't deserve to be there after all?
I wish I had more icon space in my userpics for one of these. I submitted #3 because Ryan picked out, but I could have submitted any other instead in a heartbeat, with the exception of the last two. #14 has the same problem as #5 - my ability to manipulate text within and around an object in Photobucket is extremely limited. Or maybe I'm just lousy at it and/or the concept sucked to begin with. Your thoughts, Gentle Reader?
But I really didn't go into this intending to do Buffy or Dawn icons. No, really, I swear to you.
I wanted to stretch myself a bit and work with Willow. I had plans for images from Bargaining, Smashed, Anne, New Moon Rising and Wild at Heart; Willow by herself, with Tara and Oz...LOTSA ideas. Few came to fruition.
I really appreciate it when someone in fandom who doesn't particularly love Buffy nevertheless focuses on her in art or fic and gets her right, for all her wonderful and not-so-great qualities. (Likewise, I appreciate it when someone who considers themselves a "Bangel" or a "Spuffy" is nonetheless able to give the other guy and her relationship with them it's due, without feeling the need to deny or diminish one at the expense of the other.)
And I want to be able to do the same myself for other characters. Willow was the first character I identified with in the series, although I never felt in love with her the way I did with Buffy. That I identified more with Willow in the early seasons, when her self-esteem is lowest (barring S7) and more with Buffy in the late season when her self-confidence declines, probably says something about me I'm reluctant to fully contemplate. But I want to find that appreciation for Willow again. And there's a lot of folks on my flist who are Willow fans who help me remember the good and even great things about her character. But I didn't get excited by the images of Willow, even though I had the ideas, the way I did with Buffy and Dawn.
I really wish the Willow set had come out better. Maybe it's easier for me to work with a subject I have a lot of passion and emotional connection to. Give me time. kwritten captured exactly what I wanted and more with her entry #5. Check out her flawless post for her analysis of her Willow icon along with the rest of her icons for this challenge. (Then check out spikesredqueen's post with her entire set of beauties for this challenge including the second-place winner. So many choices and this is part of my pain, don'cha see?)
I nearly submitted #15 or 16, and I still like them both quite a bit. The ironic contrast of "fire" with the water from the shower, a llteral and symbolic "waterhose" in this image from Smashed is more interesting than my original plan to use a cap from Willow in Rack's den. If Buffy "wants the fire back" then Willow, by contrast, tries to control a conflagration that threatens to burn her up from the inside.
#17 - 21 OTOH are "meh" for me. I kind of like the composition of #17 in theory but this is a very important "point of no return" in Willow's arc - and I focus on her bosom? What am I,
a lezzie or something? (Oh. wait...) 19 & 20 are interesting mostly as bookends in terms of comparison with one another, with how much Willow has changed in three years, rather than interesting in and of themselves. The difference between Willow in Anne and Bargaining is enormous: the distance between "playacting" the role of a confident Slayer, putting on a "role" instead of a costume; and actually taking on the responsibility (and headaches) of leadership. The power is now "her's alone to wield" but it's still an impossible position for any one person regardless of who wields it.
I had to give up on the Willow idea because it just wasn't working. I felt like I was "dissing" her in some way, and that wasn't what I wanted. What I wanted to depict was how hard she was trying, how much she was trying to bring to the fight with almost zero guidance, how she was bringing everything she had to bear "to the table". I absolutely believe that she thought she was doing the right thing when she resurrected Buffy; she had no reason to think Buffy wasn't in Hell, suffering endless centuries of torment the way Angel had after Buffy killed him. (I'm not arguing right or wrong here, and I don't deny other motivations but as much as I want to throttle Willow sometimes, I can't get into the Willow-hate any more than I can the Dawn/Buffy/Joyce/Kennedy/misc female character hate. But I can't get into the Glory-hate either, so take that as you will.)
And is it a surprise that it all goes awry, that her moral compass doesn't point true north? No. Look at her parents, at their benign neglect, at the way they encourage her intelligence and achievement but discourage her from asking too many questions: live up to your potential but don't go beyond it. And by "parents" I don't just mean Sheila and Ira Rosenberg. Rupert Giles had decades of history and experience with the demon world and magic (if we ignore the Witch in S1). He could have steered Willow to mentors to groom her, train her; he certainly could have payed more attention to her - to all the SG, for that matter. How much Xander might have blossomed from the encouragement of an interested adult male role model, which he so very desperately needed, we can only speculate.
In both Anne and Bargaining we see the one parental figure of the group - Giles - absorbed in his pain, his guilt and grief, and in both episodes the SG - young children from dysfunctional homes, every one of them - are more or less left to their own devices. He doesn't abandon Buffy and Dawn only in S6; he abandons all of his "children" - but then again he'd always been "blind" all along, perhaps willfully so. Willow's accusations in Something Blue and Grave are not without merit - and will be echoed by Spike in Touched.
Before you think I hate Giles (which I don't), I'm also aware of that his upbringing was perhaps not at all unlike Willow's, or Buffy and Dawn's for that matter. He came from an educated family that took care of his physical needs to the exclusion of his emotional ones. They attempted to control him and raised him to be a Watcher as his father was, without regard for the boy's own needs or desires. We learn very little about his family but what we do hear from him, and his own personality, suggest a detachment or distance from his parents, as with Willow to her own. It's not the physical abuse we associate with the Harris or Maclay families but rather an emotional rather than physical "abandonment". (Let's set aside for a moment the fact that the show stereotypically assigns certain types of abuse or neglect to certain socio-economic strata.) And so the abandoned child abandons their own children who abandons their children in turn and so on...until someone finally breaks the cycle.
So it's also no suprise, IMO, that Willow is uttery unprepared for what she "unearths" when she resurrects Buffy; she is not prepared to play the part of "sire" to her "childe", who is left to her own defenses. And the cycle continues.....
Another disappointing failure IMO. Ryan liked the first one more than I did; I think Willow looks like an elf - maybe a missing character from LoTR? Everyone has feelings about this scene in All The Way and it's aftermath, and so do I. One of which is that this arguement, like many others in this series, are so much more incredibly believable as actual arguements than what I've seen on most tv shows. And holy cheese on a cracker do I know arguements, inside and out: the sudden snap of rage, the irrationality, everything spiralling out of control and all parties bunkering down in their positions, everyone talking and nobody listening.
Two girls from abusive and/or controlling families who have never seen or experienced anything resembling a happy, healthy functional love relationship between partners (children learn what they are modeled); both with pedantic or conservative streaks in them, by nature and nuture - it's no wonder things start to "fall apart" rather rapidily between them, not once but twice in the series. Especially when initial haze of infatuation and romance or, in S6, the "second honeymoon", wears off and the real power struggles begin. You cannot have two people occupying the same position of power within a relationship at all times or, if it's possible, I've yet to see it.
See, I can see all the things that go wrong in their relationship, and all that is wrong in Buffy and Spike's, in S6, I can see it all and not condone the worst of it - but I understand every bit of it. It's painful to watch it all play out and it should be. It was painful to watch as a child in my family, and painful to live it now. Because on some level I see myself, my mom and her husbands, and my own relationship with my partner* in all four of those characters and both those relationships although the dynamics differ in each case. I honestly wish I didn't understand. So what, then, do I do with it? "Keep trying" is the only answer I've got.
(That said - Tara and WIllow are very different dynamics than Buffy and Spike. Please do not tell me they are exactly the same, or that Tara is somehow partly responsible for Willow's actions in S6. I have a lot of tolerance for diverse opinions but that's a line in the sand for me and I will take away the tea and cookies. So just don't go there, okay? Great. Thank you. Have a cookie?)
THE ALSO-RANS: Some of the other icons I almost submitted - I really like all of these, but again I have an emotional attachment so YMMV.
I don't even know what to say here, actually, especially about #24. Do I NEED to? (And at this point you are no doubt screaming "NO! STOP THE MADNESS!" Sorry, too late.) Basically, what I said above about the After Life set? All that. I'm especially pleased by the emotional impact of #24-25 as well as the final result. #25 is one of my favorite icons of any I've ever made. I even made a version of it without the text and it works just as well. I really bumped up the saturation brightness and toned down the saturation for a very different look from the original cap. #26 OTOH I only had to manipulate slightly - I believe the scene is of the demons and a chained-up Buffybot from Buffy's distorted POV. I think if you squint hard enough you might still be able to see Buffybot just left of center.
Also what I said about Willow being unprepared to look after her "childe" applies here - and not that she possibly could be, given her upbringing and her distant parents! No one was prepared. Not even my beloved "perfect, saintly" Tara; the person who saw that Faith wasn't Buffy in Season 4 without having met either one of them, never notices that anything is amiss in S6 until she's all but smacked in the face with it, twice (OAFA, Dead Things.) But I hurt so much for Buffy anyway. Watching her scream and cry, then claw her way out of her own coffin - an experience she's already lived through once - is one of the most horrifying things I've ever seen in any tv show or movie, bar none.
Yes, I did a Spuffy icon. Permission to scoop your jaws off the floor granted. (Sexual or romantic "shipping" really isn't the primary lens by which I view this series, just one many.) I hate that episode but oh god that scene - and again, her face! So raw, so painful...things can't possibly continue the way they have and she knows it; deep inside she knows. Another one I almost submitted, and am really happy with the result.
I enjoy manipulating photographs until they look like drawings, paintings, or perhaps book illustrations/covers from the first half of the 20th century. The best way to achieve that look in Photobucket, I find, is to continually push saturation, light and contrast to eliminate some of the fine details and focus on outlines. I didn't realize the framing device overlapped the bottom of "we become" until after I finished them, but I'm not terribly bothered by it because it suits the idea of being diminished by one's own actions. (And oh god my heart is twisting again. Those beautiful, foolish children dragging themselves and one another to Hell. Ugh.)
FINALLY, THE "MEH" GROUP, aka "They were never contenders".
Ryan said #30 didn't quite work. He was not wrong. Although my reasons for thinking that probably differ from his - thematically for him, aesthetically for me. Sarah looks gorgeous in the original screencap, from Flooded; her profile reminds me portrait paintings of Italian women from the 15th century, such as Domenico Ghirlandaio's Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni, c. 1488. When I sized it down her face just looked odd to me (esp around the mouth and cheeks) and the outline of her face is pixelated. Too bad.
#36 is Dawn leading Buffybot around at the school fair in Bargaining. In that episode I'm really struck by the fact that Buffybot essentially "extends" S5's theme of illness, incapacity, and how the burdens of caretaking in families fall disproportionately to women. Earlier in the episode Willow has to prevent Buffybot from walking into a wall because her "circuitry" is damaged, which is a very interesting metaphor for someone who is mentally or neurologically incapacitated, such as someone suffering from Alzheimer's or brain damage - the role Tara took on in S5. This is obvious in the original cap but the meaning was lost when I cropped the image.
Also, #32? Just to be clear, I don't "ship" Buffy/Giles. (You know that, right?) To me (and, um, a little thing called "canon") they are absolutely father-daughter....and speaking of, have you read il_mio_capitano
's harsh, tender, stunning re-write of Tabula Rasa, "Holding On"
? If not, you simply must. It's probably one of my all-time favorite BtVS fanfics.
Whenever I do an icon from Anne it's always a nod to norwie2010
- and this shot of Buffy in Anne has already been "done" a hundred times before. But I love it anyway - just as I love that entire episode; it's one of my favorites to play with image-wise. I brightened the cap quite a lot, bumped up saturation and the colors emerged beautifully, as did the light framing Buffy's hair and arm. The passivity implied by the lyrics, however, contradicts the action in the image.And the Anne was is - "not my best work" is an understatement. But her expression of disbelief is fantastic, and she's a great "minor" character - what an arc! She starts out dependent on her boyfriend, constantly redefining her identity according to what other people want, and makes the transition to confident, powerful person in her own right in a way that poor Anya never does, IMO. Another idea to return to later. kwritten also did an Anne icon (not submitted to the challenge) that's a 1000 times better than this - But I want to return to the idea because she has an amazing arc, and the way she more than lives up to Buffy's confidence in her is a key moment in the series long theme of "sharing power".
And that's it, kids! If you got this far, congratulate yourselves - I do! - have some more cookies and stretch your legs a bit, and join me again for the next episode of RedSatinDoll Blathers Incessantly.
******************************************************************Oh, one more thing: Just to be absolutely 100% clear: In terms of my sweetie and myself, there is NO physical violence or violation, nothing on the level of what happened to my mom or happens in Season 6. None whatsoever. It's a lot of arguements, harsh words and anger that we apologize for later; a dull grey haze of mutual mediocrity and power struggles some days, brightened and punctuated by moments of mutual love, respect and moments of deep love. Seesawing back and forth between resentment and affection in equal intensity.
Now that that's settled: Have some cake?