Written in 2002, before Seeing Red.
T/G parallels - Dealing with the Monster
First my thanks to The Board Mama for her tolerance of long posts and to the people who continue to encourage me. Continuing my analysis of the characters of BvTs, I've finally come to Tara, who for reasons described below I decided to analyze in comparison to Giles.
WARNING THERE MAY BE SPOILERS BELOW! UP TO HELLS BELLS.
(I will try not to reveal anything beyond Normal Again…)
We all have a monster inside us. We can either choose to ignore this part of ourselves, repress it, in some cases glory in it, or we can deal with it, embrace it and keep it in check. The problem with monsters is the more we attempt to ignore them, the more they have a way of surfacing at the worst possible times. As has been stated many times, demons and monsters in BvTs are used metaphorically to represent the characters emotional problems and fears. And all of the characters have monsters inside them, monsters they are struggling to deal with. Part of growing up is learning to deal with the monster inside yourself, but before you can deal with it, you have to acknowledge its existence.
How does this relate to Tara or Giles? Here we have a perfect example of two people who have managed to deal with their inner monsters and as a result have become fully integrated adults. They can be compared to another character, who has the opposite problem, Spike - who is not so much struggling with the monster, he clearly is one, has been for 100 years, very happy with it - thanks, no, he's struggling with the man inside the monster, which as Charcoal astutely pointed out has made Spike "insane" as far as vamps go. It may eventually break him out of the arrested adolescence that vampires represent, depending on how ambitious and creative the writers get. But Spike, believe it or not, is NOT the subject of this analysis. (Spike haters can now rejoice!) For once - I'm more interested in Tara and by comparison Giles.
Of the two characters, Tara has grown the most in the shortest time. She started out as a stuttering, insecure, geek who felt alone and isolated. As her brother states when he meets the Scooby Gang (SG) in FAMILY: "What, uh, all of you hang out? Wow. That's more people than you met in high school." Clearly Tara has always felt like the outsider. Tara reminds me of Willow Season1. When she is first introduced in Hush, she barely can talk and seems almost surprised that Willow takes an interest in her. Here's the scene at the Wicca Meeting in HUSH after Willow suggests trying spells:
wicca1: "You know certain stereotypes are not very empowering."
TARA: (sitting on floor): "I think that
wicca2: "one person's energy can suck the power from an
entire circle. no offense"
TARA: " Well, maybe we could uh."
wicca2: "Yeah, Tara. Guys.. quiet. do you have a suggestion?"
(Tara just shakes her head and looks down, but then she looks at Willow.)
Tara can barely get the words out. Does this remind you of anyone? Besides Willow? Giles. In just about every scene in Season 1-3, Giles stutters. He comes across as painfully shy almost stodgy at times, the veddy veddy proper English librarian, but then we see Ripper and Ripper is nothing at all like the Giles we know so well. Here's two scenes from Halloween, Season 2 Btvs, the first shows stuttering Giles and the second shows a calm deadly Ripper. The first occurs after Willow appears in Gile's office as literally a ghost.
Willow: Well, this is nothing. You should see what Cordelia was wearing. A-a, a unitard with cat things, like ears and stuff.
Giles: Good heavens. Uh, sh-sh-she became an actual feline?
Willow: No! She was the same old Cordelia. Just in a cat costume.
Giles: She didn't change.
Willow: No. Hold on... Partytown. She told us she got her outfit from Partytown.
Giles: A-a-and everyone who changed, they, they, they, they acquired their costumes where?
Willow: We all got ours at a new place. Ethan's.
Giles is stuttering and acts very befuddled. We can't imagine Giles being able to hurt a fly. That is until he shows up at Ethan's and Willow leaves him to find the others. (Edited for length.)
Ethan: Oh, and we all know that you are the champion of innocents and all things pure and good, Rupert. It's quite a little act you've got going here, old man.
Giles: It's no act. It's who I am.
Ethan: Who you are? The Watcher, sniveling, tweed-clad guardian of the Slayer and her kin? I think not. I know who you are, Rupert, and I know what you're capable of. But they don't, do they? They have no idea where you come from.
Giles: Break the spell, Ethan. Then leave this place and never come back.
Ethan: Why should I? What's in the bargain for me?
Giles: You get to live. (Giles then punches him in the gut with a left, making him double over, and follows up with a right to the face).
There's a little of the old monster in Giles after all, isn't there? He may not be the harmless Watcher we've all come to know and love. In this scene he reminds me a little of our friend Spike. But what of Tara? Where's her monster? Tara, remember is a witch. In HUSH, she helps Willow push a soda machine in front of a door. Something that Willow wasn't able to do without her. And like Giles, Tara appears to hide this part of herself beneath a geeky, stuttering exterior. In Goodbye Iowa, Season 4, we get our first indication that there may be a dark side to Tara. Willow wants to do a spell to locate demonic energy and Tara appears to be just a tad nervous. This is what happens: (edited for length and emphasis):
Willow: When the potion mixes and Thespia's called it creates this mist over the parts where the demons are. I-It even makes different colors for different breeds.You ready? (Tara nods. Willow pours some of the powdered contents of the bowl into Tara's palm, then pours some into her own hand from a second bowl. Willow blows the powder out of her hand over the square. Tara blows over her hand, not disturbing her powder, and leans toward her bed to dump the potion underneath it. Willow still has her eyes closed and
did not see this.)
Tara gets rid of the powder and disrupts the spell. And we have no idea why until she is forced to do something similar in FAMILY (Season 5).In Family, Tara's family shows up and insists she return with them , basically becoming the surrogate mother/slave. They tell her that she will be revealed as a disgusting demon by the time she reaches 20 just like her mother was. The witch inside her is a demon and this is the part of Tara that she has been struggling to hide beneath a geeky exterior. (Interesting side note - Willow is doing the reverse - Willow is trying to hide the geek beneath the monster, so is Spike for that matter. Both Willow and Spike are ashamed of the inner geek, they can't imagine anyone loving it. So they allow the monster to surface and remain in control. Unlike Giles and Tara - they prefer the monster. It protects them, empowers them. The geek is what scares them. The geek is weak. Buffy and Xander on the other hand, fear the monster and attempt to ignore it or repress it, acting as if it does not exist. But as seen in both HB's and Dead Things, this does not keep the monster from surfacing on occassion. I don't want to spend too much time examining how Willow is like Spike or Buffy and Xander are alike in this way - that will have to wait for another analysis. But it is interesting to compare to Tara and Giles who do the complete opposite, they hide their monsters beneath the geeky exterior yet remain very aware of them. The awareness is what distinguishes them from B/X.) Here's the scene from Family, it is between Tara and her father and it makes it clear, that like Giles - Tara knows magic has a dark side and she knows she's capable of it:
MR. MACLAY: You can't control what's going to happen. You have evil inside of you and it will come out. And letting yourself work all this magic is only going to make it worse. Where do you think that power comes from?
TARA: It ... it doesn't feel evil ... sir.
MR. MACLAY: Evil never does. ……(edited for length)Your family loves you, Tara, no matter what. How do you think your friends are going to feel when they see your true face?
This motivates poor Tara to do a spell that will hide demons from her friends. Tara wants to hide the part of her that she believes is a demon, the part her family insists will surface when she turns 21 due to her use of magic. Notice that it is the use of magic that leads to "evil". Her family looks at life in black and white. And yes, magic can lead to that. Giles knows this well, he had a similar experience in his twenties - due to magic he created a demon that killed his friends. He believed he vanquished it, but it returns years later in The Dark Age and seeks to destroy him by possessing his lover Jenny, it attacks from within. This forces Giles to revel the Ripper side of himself and confess to Buffy and his charges what he once was, he almost loses Jenny in the process. Here's Giles scene from the Dark Age. (Jenny is possessed by the Demon Eyghon who wishes to kill and possess Giles, in essence bringing the monster inside Giles completely out):
Jenny: (gets off) God, you just don't change, do you? (paces)
Jenny: It's not right, it wouldn't be proper, people might get hurt. You're like a woman, Ripper. You cry at every funeral. You never had the strength for me. You don't deserve me. But guess what? You've got me. Under your skin.
Giles later explains to Buffy how young and foolish he was. "I was twenty-one, studying history at Oxford. And, of course, the occult by night. I hated it. The tedious grind of study, the... overwhelming pressure of my destiny. I dropped out, I went to London...
(exhales) I fell in with the worst crowd that would have me. We practiced magicks. Small stuff for pleasure or gain. And Ethan and I discovered something... bigger. One of us would, um... (nervously pours a drink) go into a deep sleep, and the others would, uh, summon him. It was an extraordinary high! (smiles nervously) God, we were fools.
One of us, Randall, he lost control. Eyghon took him whole. We tried to exorcise the demon from Randall, but it killed him. No. We killed him. We thought we were free of the demon after that." Interesting speech. Notice two similarities to Tara - one, Giles was 21 when this happened, and two it came about because of magicks. (Another interesting point - Giles was bored, study was tedious, he wanted to have fun, he was tired of the whole destiny thing, so he took the easy way out. Remind you of anyone? Willow? Buffy? End of digression.)
Now let's look at Tara's scene at the end of Family. Tara has cast a spell on the SG so they can't see demons. As Tara tells her cousin Beth: "It was just so they wouldn't see. So-so-so they wouldn't see the demon part of me." She like Giles has tried to hide. Giles does it by not telling the gang about Ethan or the Eygon demon until it's almost too late. Tara does it by casting what she believes is a harmless spell. A bunch of Lei-ach demons attack them, but the SG is losing because they can't see them, until Tara returns and quickly undoes her spell. What happens next is interesting: (I apologize for the length but it's important. Edited both for length and emphasis).
TARA: I'm sorry. I'm s-s-so sorry. (sniffling) I was, I was trying to hide. I didn't want you to see ... what I am.
BUFFY: What do you mean, what you are?
MR. MACLAY: (OS) Demon. The women in our family... (Everyone looks up at him) have demon in them. Her mother had it. That's where the magic comes from. GILES: You cast a spell on us, to keep us from seeing your ... demon side. That's why we couldn't see our attackers.
BUFFY: Nearly got us killed.
TARA: I'll go. (scrambles to her feet. To Buffy) I'm very sorry.
WILLOW: Wait! Go? I, she just did a spell that went wrong. It-it was just a mistake.
MR. MACLAY: That's not the point and it's not your concern. She belongs with us. We know how to control her ... problem.
WILLOW: Tara ... look at me. (Tara does.) I, I trusted you more than anyone in my life. Was all that just a lie?
TARA: (teary) No!
WILLOW: Well, do you wanna leave?
MR. MACLAY: It's not your decision, young lady.
WILLOW: (sharply to him) I know that! (more softly, to Tara) Do you wanna leave?
MR. MACLAY: You're going to do what's right, Tara. Now, I'm taking you out of here before somebody *does* get killed. (Tara wipes her face on her sleeve) The girl belongs with her family. I hope that's clear to the rest of you.
BUFFY: It is. You want her, Mr. Maclay? You can go ahead and take her. You just gotta go through me. You wanna take Tara out of here against her will? You gotta come through me.
DAWN: And me!
MR. MACLAY: Is this a joke? (steps down one of the stairs) I'm not gonna be threatened by two little girls.
GILES: you're not just dealing with, uh, two little girls.
XANDER: You're dealing with all of us.
MR. MACLAY: This is insane. You people have no right to interfere with Tara's affairs. *We* ... are her blood kin! Who the hell are you? (Shot of Giles, Dawn, Buffy, Willow, Tara, Xander, and Anya all standing together in a group, with Spike in the background.)
BUFFY: We're family.
Interesting. The moment Tara confesses what she's done - they forgive her. They forgive her for having a monster inside. She is accepted as part of their family. Giles has the same reaction when he confesses his sins in The Dark Age, Buffy tells him to forgive himself. Jenny eventually does. As a result neither Giles nor Tara are afraid of the rejection that their monsters will cause. They see the danger, but are no longer ashamed of what they are. Why? Because they've forgiven themselves and having accepted the danger that resides in them, are able to exert some sort of control over it. Tara like Giles uses magic sparingly. They both have a deep respect for the damage it can do, because it has almost destroyed them both in the past. The difference between Tara /Giles and Willow, is they were never trying to hide the "geek", they were trying to hide the "monster". A monster both have on occasion associated with magic. Here's a scene from Flooded and Tabula Rasa showing exactly how Giles and Tara feel about magic and Willow's inappropriate use of it. First in Flooded, Willow has just finished telling Giles how she brought Buffy back and this is what he tells her, (again edited for length and emphasis): "The magicks you channeled are more ferocious and primal than anything you can hope to understand, (even more angry) and you are lucky to be alive, you rank, arrogant amateur!"
Now let's look at what Tara says after Willow suggests doing a forgetting spell to erase Buffy's memories of heaven. From Tabula Rasa, also edited for length and emphasis: " I can't believe that we are talking about this again. You know how powerful magic is, how dangerous. You could hurt someone, you ... you could hurt yourself."
Both chided Willow on her use of magic, saying almost the same thing. She could hurt someone - like they once did. They are talking from experience. They know what magic can do and they know it should not be used to hide. As Tara puts it: "When things get rough, you ... you don't even consider the options. You just ... you just do a spell. It's not good for you, Willow. And it's not what magic is for." Giles has tried time and again to tell Willow the same thing. They've learned something the others haven't that there is a monster inside and it desperately wants to take the short-cut, it wants to take without asking, it wants to control things, it wants to have fun, it does not want to work or risk rejection. But look what happens when you do take the risk? When you stop hiding? Giles did and he eventually won Jenny back. Tara does and she gains a Family. They both became stronger people.
Tara if you notice is stuttering less. She's become more confident. When she first met Willow, she was a mess. And Willow didn't help, keeping their relationship in the closet. But once Willow took a risk and brought Tara out of the closet, Tara began to blossom. As Tara sings in OMWF: " I lived my life in shadow, Never the sun on my face. It didn't seem so sad, though, I figured that was my place
Now I'm bathed in light, Something just isn't right, I'm under your spell, How else could it be, Anyone would notice me?, It's magic, I can tell, How you set me free, Brought me out so easily." Except for one tiny thing - Tara at this point is still defining herself by who she is with. Giles stopped doing that a long time ago. From Giles' point of view, who you are with is not important to your friends or family. In Hush when Olivia comes to visit, he introduces her to the gang but he really doesn't care what they think any more than he truly cares what they think of his relationship with Jenny. Now to give Tara credit - she doesn't care what the others think about her being with Willow. Willow cared. Tara was fairly open about it. Tara's just felt insecure when she was separated from Willow that is up until Season 6
In both Dead Things and Older and Far Away, we see a confident, secure Tara. She has almost taken over Giles' role in the group. She provides advice without judgment. I think the reason she can do this, is because she's been forgiven herself, she's moved past certain things. I think Glory's brain-sucking made a lasting impression on Tara. Before Glory arrived, it was made clear in Checkpoint that Tara was incredibly afraid of "brain-sucking" as she puts it in Bloodties:
"At least vampires just kill you." So of course Tara has to confront this fear head on, when Glory finds her and offers her a choice between being brain-sucked or revealing the "key's" whereabouts. Here's the scene:
GLORY: Think about it. You think your hand hurts? Imagine what you'd feel with my fingers wiggling in your brain. (Tara looks very scared) It doesn't kill you. What it does ... is make you feel like you're in a noisy little dark room ... (Glory frowns and fidgets uncomfortably) naked and ashamed ... and there are things in the dark that need to hurt you because you're bad ... little pinching things that go in your ears ... (Tara begins to cry) and crawl on the inside of your skull. And you know ... that if the noise and the crawling would stop ... that you could remember how to get out. (Glory contemplates this as Tara continues to cry quietly. Then Glory turns to look at Tara again. ) But you never, ever will. (Glory squeezes her hand again and Tara gives another cry of pain.) Who ... is ... the key? (Tara forces herself to stop crying and look Glory in the eye, saying nothing.)
How incredibly brave, Tara has managed in that one scene to show tremendous growth and maturity. She knows what is about to happen but she chooses to endure it without a word. I think this is part of the reason, Tara is so confident in Season 6. She has gone into the darkest, blackest place imaginable and came out intact. So when Buffy tells Tara in Dead Things that she's sleeping with Spike. Tara does not tell Buffy what she might have told her last season before Glory brain-sucked her- "you're nuts", instead she calmly reassures Buffy. :
TARA: (concerned) Do you love him? I-It's okay if you do. He's done a lot of good, and, and he does love you. A-and Buffy, it's okay if you don't. You're going through a really hard time, and you're...
BUFFY: (still tearful) What? Using him? What's okay about that?
TARA: It's not that simple.
I have a feeling Giles would have said the same thing. Both Giles and Tara know first hand that life is not simple. Giles after all forgave Buffy for sleeping with Angel way back in Innocence. "Do you want me to wag my finger at you and tell you that you acted rashly? You did. A-and I can. I know that you loved him. And... he... has proven more than once that he loved you. You couldn't have known what would happen. The coming months a-are gonna, are gonna be hard... I, I suspect on all of us, but... if it's
guilt you're looking for, Buffy, I'm, I'm not your man. All you will get from me is, is my support. And my respect." Both Tara and Giles say basically the same thing. Life is not simple and we do not define you by whom you are with or whom you love. We support and respect you for making your own difficult choices.
Tara/Giles have looked in the mirror and stared their monster in the eye. They've faced their deepest darkest fears and come out intact. No one left. They are okay. They know human beings aren't perfect, they aren't. But this does not make them pushovers. They will leave the person they love if they have to, particularly if they feel their presence is either enabling bad behavior or preventing the person from growing. As they sing in their duet in OMWF:
Giles/Tara : Believe me, I don't wanna go, And it'll grieve me 'cause I love you so But we both know
Giles: Wish I could say the right words, To lead you through this land, Wish I could play the father And take you by the hand
TARA: Wish I could trust that it was just this once, But I must do what I must
I can't adjust to this disgust,We're done and I just
Giles/ Tara:Wish I could stay
They believe that staying and allowing the bad behavior to continue is the worst thing they can do. Giles and Tara leave because they know that sometimes you have to face your monster alone. Giles feels he is allowing Buffy to cling to her childhood, to ignore her monster, to stay arrested in that period between life and death, forever a child. While Tara believes that staying only enables Willow to continue to use the monster to hide the geek. It is ironic really - Willow believes Tara would hate the geek, but it's not the geek Tara fears, it's the monster that Willow refuses to acknowledge, the monster she sees Willow becoming. It's the reverse of Tara's old dilemma; Tara was afraid of the monster.
Giles has a similar problem with Buffy. He sees her running from herself just as he ran when he was in his twenties. He knows that as long as he stays she can rely on him to take care of all those pesky adult duties, like disciplining Dawn and money. He has to leave for her to learn how to manage these things on her own and along the way, hopefully, learn to deal with her inner monster.
It's odd, but in leaving both Giles and Tara appeared to have brought out the worst in Buffy and Willow. Willow jumped into dark magic and Buffy jumped into dark sex with Spike. (Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the sex, I have problems with how she chose to do it. Dishonestly and somewhat abusively, to the extent that I was routing for poor abused Spike.) But both have somehow managed to work their way through it without Giles or Tara's presence. In fact there's evidence that Willow and Buffy would have gone this route even if Giles and Tara had stayed, they certainly were in OMWF and Tabula Rasa. So Giles may have been right - his leaving forced Buffy to come face to face with her inner monster and Tara's leaving forced Willow to admit she had a problem with magic. Note the difference: Buffy saw the monster, all Willow has seen is an addiction. Now that Tara is slowly moving back towards Willow, a stronger more confident person, more secure in herself, we can only wonder about Willow. Has Willow faced her monster? Or has Willow shrugged it off as an addiction? The test is if Willow can survive without Tara, if Willow can be an independent and secure person on her own as Tara has now become. Can Willow follow Tara's example? Face her inner geek and tuck the monster away? Perhaps Tara is coming back a little too soon? We'll only know for sure - if Tara does what Giles did and really leaves.
Well sorry it was so long. Yes, I believe I'm actually getting longer. Oh well. Hope it adds to the discussion. Thank you again for reading. Looking forward to your comments as always…