alchemise: season 1 Buffy, text "change the world" (BtVS: change the world)
posted by [personal profile] alchemise at 05:25pm on 30/07/2009 under , ,
Title: Scarlet Ribbons
Vidder: [profile] aycheb
Fandom: Buffy & Angel

Commentary By: [personal profile] alchemise

I'm coming at this commentary as an avid vid watcher, but I'm not a vidder. So my focus is mostly on issues of narrative, metaphor, and lyric interpretation. Wonderfully, [profile] aycheb's vid is incredibly rich in those areas. This is the type of vid that rewards multiple viewings, as more of the subtleties of the story being told are revealed on every rewatch. This is particularly awesome, because it meant that a vid I loved the first time I saw it kept getting more complex and powerful the more I watched and thought about it.

I peeked in to say goodnight

The First Slayer watches over Buffy, while she sleeps. I get the impression she did this for all the Slayers who came after her. The First Slayer is a mother figure here, but one stripped of power. All she can do is sort of pass on what she knows, through dreams and visions, but otherwise she cannot act to help these girls or change the way things are. The First Slayer breaks my heart.


And I heard my child in prayer

I love how the lyrics of Buffy's prayer indicate something new, something different about her. On the show, it was always important that her having friends set her apart from previous Slayers. She sought connections. She demanded them. Buffy was at her best when she stood alongside others.

"And for me some scarlet ribbons
Scarlet ribbons for my hair"

Buffy rejects the fate of the previous Slayers. She doesn't want to be alone, to be the Chosen One.


All the stores were closed and shuttered
All the streets were dark and bare

The awful endless, repeated loop of Slayers being Chosen, fighting, and dying. Buffy just another one of them in the Wishverse. All those girls, like Dana, hurt when they were children, when they were only Potential Slayers, never Chosen. The path of the Slayer is painful and alone, as it always has been. They were forged and used by others, to fight the battles that men could not.


In our town, no scarlet ribbons

Faith, Kendra, Nicki, Buffy, the Chinese Slayer (did we ever even learn her name?). Slayers fighting alone.

Scarlet ribbons for her hair

And then dying alone.


Thru the night my heart was aching
Just before the dawn was breaking

It's too much. The Slayers break. Their agency is further taken from them, as they are locked away, casualties of a fight they were forced into and could only sacrifice themselves for.

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I peeped in and on her pillow
On her pillow lying there

Again, the First Slayer watching, sharing the visions that connect each Slayer to the next. They're bound together by their shared fate, all those Chosen Ones, from the First Slayer down to Buffy. It all feels so inevitable, that this is the way it's always been for Slayers and this is the way it always will be.

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Lovely ribbons, scarlet ribbons

But now something is different. Things change with Buffy. There are two Slayers at once. And if there can be two, if neither has to be the Chosen One, maybe there can be more. Maybe Slayers don't have to be alone.


Scarlet ribbons for her hair

Ok, this part always makes me start crying. There's such amazing possibility here, a completely new way of being for the Slayers. Instead of one girl, fighting and dying, they can be an army, standing together. Not as a weapon to be used by others, but now fighting on their own terms. Suddenly there's a chance that has never existed before.

I love this sequence both for the possibility these Slayers represent - they are the way the world can be - and for the reality of what they're doing here. They're bringing Dana in, as one of them, to be cared for as best they can. I adore how, as much as I love Angel and company, this scene sells the fact that this group of women are the rightful caretakers of one of their own.

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If I live to be a hundred

Now it all changes. What was true, what was inevitable for all those Slayers to come before no longer has to be. The fate of the First Slayer does not have to be shared by all of her descendants.


I will never know from where

Finally, the First Slayer can leave. She had been like a ghost who couldn't rest. But now the Slayers no longer have only her message to guide them, because she's no longer the only thing connecting them. They have each other now. Maybe all that hurt and pain can finally begin to heal.

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Came those ribbons, scarlet ribbons

The blood still connects them all, makes them all the same, but now it is BY CHOICE. There is now no longer any such thing as a Potential Slayer, those girls who maybe fate would pick to be a warrior. Now there are only these girls and women, bound by blood, all with the same power.


Scarlet ribbons for her hair

The Slayers reclaim their agency; their power and strength a matter of their choosing, in both taking up and utilizing it. This strength belongs to them, it is a part of them, but they are no longer alone. I love the interspersed shots here of Buffy and Kendra fighting together. This all started with a single accident, a loophole in the rules - two Slayers alive at the same time. Now these women have made that possibility into something so much greater, as all the Potential everywhere awaken and lay claim to what is theirs.



POV of the First Slayer
One thing I find really unique (and awesome) about this vid is the POV from the First Slayer. She looks upon all those girls, who rarely live long enough to become women, who follow in her footsteps. All those Slayers who are Chosen Ones, not of their own volition, but as the continuing result of that original violation of the First Slayer, when she was bound and made into a weapon.

The First Slayer begins this story and watches what happens to all those girls who become like her. All she can do is watch. Until, finally, things change. This is a story of change, of Slayers rejecting what was forced upon them - to fight and die alone - and embracing the power they have - to be Slayers by their own choice and stand together.

The Story of the Slayers
Another thing that really strikes me about this vid is the way it is exclusively about Slayers. We, the audience, know that Buffy's friends are just off-screen (or sometimes partially on-screen), helping her, but they are not the purpose of the story here.

The same holds true with the Watchers. They are, in many ways, the main villain of the vid; they set everything in motion by forcing the First Slayer to take on demonic powers. They are the ones wielding the Slayers as weapons throughout history. But because this is the Slayer's story, we don't need to actually see the Watchers to know they are there. We see enough of what they did to the First Slayer through the shadow box. This is the story of the Slayers breaking free and claiming themselves and each other. I think that message is emphasized by the lack of Watchers.

Blood Metaphor
I like the dual purpose blood serves here, as the scarlet ribbons. It makes the Slayers Chosen, makes them into Slayers, but previously, always alone. Their blood gave them potential, but only the one chosen by fate would actually be able to use that power.

Now, it is still what ties them together. They are still Chosen, by some outside, unknown force, but now it's all of them at once, no longer alone. I see an embracing here of that which sets them apart. It used to be chance whether or not they could ever use the power inside them. Now they all have that chance, to do with as they will.

Scarlet Ribbons
I find this song incredibly creepy, especially Sinead O'Connor's wonderful cover, but the vid gives us a different reading. The whole gift of scarlet ribbons from an unknown stranger who the mother never discovers is subverted here. The gift - the blood connection between all Slayers - becomes something the girl went and claimed for herself and then shares with others like her.

This is a rejection of the way things used to be. The girls are made into Slayers, it is chosen for them, but no longer under the control of an outside group - the same outside group that forced them to be this way in the first place, that wrote this awful destiny for them so long ago. I think the scarlet ribbons finally do truly become a gift. The Slayers take what was forced upon them and claim it as their own, as what binds them together, instead of what makes them stand alone. The Slayers now have the power and control to stand on their own, because they are now able to stand together.


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