Buffy and Giles: Not So Opposites Attract.
written by Gileswench

So I was glancing at the Yahoo headlines yesterday and a story caught my eye. The results of a long-term study had come in, and, according to the findings thereof, the most important indicator of marital happiness was not shared morals or interests, but similarity of personality.


With this in mind, I started mulling over my favorite fictional UC couple of all time, and I came to some interesting conclusions.

Over and over again, I've heard/read it argued that Buffy and Giles can't work because they have nothing in common. I always wondered if these people were watching the same show I was, but I could see a certain amount of their point. Giles is middle-aged, Buffy is very young. Giles is in love with his books, Buffy doesn't want to see the math. Giles loves classical music and classic rock, Buffy is into the sort of alternative angst rock one hears at The Bronze. Giles covers his body in layer after layer of neutral-colored clothing, Buffy exposes a lot of skin and loves bright colors. Giles prefers quiet and either solitude or the company of a few select people, Buffy likes a party and is gregarious. Giles is not only English, but a throwback to the days of the Empire on which the sun never set, Buffy is about as SoCal as you can get without spontaneously combusting from it.

Opposites, right?

Not really.

These differences are all surface things. If you look a little closer, you find quite a few key similarities underneath. When you think about it, Buffy and Giles have quite a bit in common in terms of base personality. You know, the sort of thing the study indicated was the most important key to married happiness.

You don't believe me? Let's take a look at who they are and what they have in common.

Distance: Buffy and Giles both keep people a bit at arm's length. They use different methods to achieve this distance, but the concept remains the same. Giles hides his nose in a book and avoids answering personal questions. Buffy covers her reserve with mindless chatter and a seemingly open attitude that doesn't actually reveal much of anything. Both are shy of commitment and slow to let anyone in too closely.

Devotion: Once the commitment is made, however, nothing will shake it. No matter how each is used, abused, ignored, or treated as a handy receptacle for blame from their nearest and dearest, they don't let go. No betrayal, no cruelty will sway them from their chosen friend/lover. The people they have hurt the most are each other, and yet, in the end, in spite of mistakes and outright viciousness on all sides over a period of seven years, the original Scoobies - including Watcher and Slayer - stand together at the edge of the remains of the Hellmouth. Time and again, Buffy and Giles are given opportunities to wash their hands of one another, and more than enough reason to take that chance. They don't. Even at their lowest ebb, they never entirely let go of each other.

Guilt: Buffy and Giles are the king and queen of guilt. They're the sin eaters of the Scoobies. Over and over again, when blame is passed around, these are the two it sticks to. On the show and in fandom, the general wisdom is that if something has gone wrong, either Buffy or Giles is entirely to blame for the whole fiasco, no matter who else contributed what to the mess. What's more, both willingly take the blame on themselves. Who carries the bigger cross? It's really a toss up. Buffy is a little more inclined to fight it overtly, but not by much. Even when it gets to the point where everybody gangs up to throw her out of her own home in S7, it never occurs to her to point out that it's HER HOUSE and if they all hate her so much, they could do the leaving. She walks off into the night, taking her guilt and her pain with her.

Physical Retreat from Emotional Hurt: This is not the first time one of them leaves physically to deal with an emotional problem, either. After killing Angel, Buffy runs away. Giles runs away from the Council as a young man. After Randall dies, Giles runs back to the safe cocoon of the Watcher's Council. When Buffy is ripped from Heaven by her friends, she doesn't leave town, but she does briefly consider suicide before anyone finds her, and does her best to avoid her friends for some time. When Buffy is dead, Giles goes back to England... and does his damnedest to leave without anyone being there to see him off. After the events of Tabula Rasa, he manages the feat of leaving without a word.

Anger and violence: Part of this is their training, but both react to loss, fear, and confusion with anger and violence, or by shutting down entirely emotionally. Grief is only dealt with later, if at all. When Angelus kills Jenny, Giles' first reaction after pure numb shock is to go after his love's killer with a flaming baseball bat. When Buffy learns of Giles' part in the Cruciamentum, she threatens to kill him, even in her weakened state. In reaction to her grief at being ripped out of Heaven, she begins a violent and mutually abusive relationship with Spike, punishing herself for her anger and despair. And it isn't just in times of grief or extreme emotional desperation that they turn to violence as a solution. Giles physically attacks both Principal Snyder and Spike on Buffy's behalf. Cave Buffy hits Parker Abrams over the head with a tree branch in retaliation for his seduction and consequent betrayal. These are two scary people in a lot of ways. They know all the best ways to cause both pain and damage, and neither is shy about using their fists to solve a problem.

Ruthlessness: Both have deliberately tried to take human lives. Interestingly enough, Giles is the one who succeeds while Buffy fails. Buffy does, however, do her best to kill Faith so that Angel can drain her and continue to 'live'. Giles carefully and methodically executes Ben so that Glory can never come back and terrorize the world again. Giles is willing to sacrifice Dawn to save the world, knowing full well that if he does, Buffy will make good on her threat to kill him. And who could forget Buffy putting a sword through Angel's gut and sending him to Hell in order to stop Acathla from sucking the entire world there? Both are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, whatever the emotional cost.

Protectiveness: Both Buffy and Giles are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect those they love. Giles turns his back on centuries of tradition and on his calling to save Buffy during the Cruciamentum. Buffy is willing to sacrifice, quite literally, the entire world to protect Dawn. Buffy and Giles' argument over who would face the Master to save the other is only ended by Buffy knocking Giles unconscious in order to keep him safely out of the fight. Both are willing to put their own lives on the line to keep a friend or a lover alive and well.

Self-sacrifice: While Buffy's swan dive off Glory's tower is the most obvious example, both Buffy and Giles spend their lives in sacrifice for others. Both give their lives so that others may walk in safety without fear. Fate determined it would be this way, but both have made the conscious decision to follow their fates. In the rare instances where one has some form of choice, it is ultimately discarded. Neither can or will walk away from the responsibility, though both long to. In fact, when faced with the possibility of walking away, Buffy is inclined to panic and Giles to despair. No man of Giles' intelligence, experience, and talent ought to have spent more than a year moping around his apartment because he didn't feel useful. And in Helpless, Buffy is nearly frantic at the idea that she might be losing her powers permanently. Self-sacrifice is a way of life for both.

Responsibility: When Buffy said: 'I am the law', many fans thought she was being arrogant and nasty, but the fact is, that's exactly what she is. The Slayer is there to rid the world of scary things that go bump in the night without fear or favor. Blind justice. That's what it's all about. Buffy takes this mantle, not always happily, but willingly. And Giles, who is faced with the responsibility of preparing her for this task, does so no matter how much he'd rather keep her safe. When Buffy tries to quit in Prophecy Girl, he suits up to go take on the Master himself, and argues fiercely with Buffy for the right to do so. Both howl and shake their fists at fate, but both ultimately follow it not because they are forced to, but because it's the right thing to do. And when Buffy is faced, suddenly, with raising her sister alone, she takes up that responsibility to the best of her ability, too. She drops out of college to do it. Eventually, she takes a dead-end job in order to support herself and Dawn. She has a responsibility to Dawn, and faces it with as little self-pity as possible.

Rebellion: Yes, they both ultimately take responsibility and sacrifice themselves and take the blame for everything that goes wrong, but along the way both Buffy and Giles take time out to flip the bird at the world. Both have run away from their responsibilities. Both have indulged in self-destructive behavior in order to avoid responsibility and convince themselves of their independence. Both have gotten badly burned doing so.

Sexual Prowess: Joyce compares Giles to a stevedore - a dockworker known for exceptional strength and stamina - when thinking of her chocolate-drugged one-night stand with him. Parker Abrams says of Buffy: "the word is 'stamina'." They both love and desire sex. They're both really good at sex.

Sexual Repression: Despite their strong sexual appetites, however, both spend a great deal of time sublimating or ignoring their desires. Even after Angel's return from Hell, Buffy continues her relationship with him, knowing full well that she doesn't dare go beyond kissing him. Giles could easily decide in mid-season 4 that he'd rather go off with Olivia, but he continues to stay in Sunnydale, knowing that both his life expectancy and his sexual outlets will be severely limited by this move. Fan opinion is heavily divided on whether Giles and Jenny ever consummated their relationship sexually, but we do know they didn't hop into bed on their first date, despite a clear mutual sexual attraction. Even though Buffy's relationship with Riley seems largely based, on her part at least, on sexual attraction, they don't hop straight into bed together, either.

Decorating Choices: Don't laugh. Have you ever tried to live with someone whose taste in decor is the polar opposite of yours? It's no picnic. If you look at their most personal spaces, however, you'll find this is a hurdle Buffy and Giles leap with ease. Her bedroom and his apartment share a similar color scheme (hers: ivory, beige, pale sage green, peach; his: deeper sage green, brown, orange), and both prefer fairly simple, old-fashioned furniture. Her Susan Seddon Boulet poster and his crystal hanging in the kitchen passthrough mesh perfectly, while her colorful butterflies have a similar sensibility to his shadow puppet hanging on the wall. Her bulletin board and his dartboard make sense together. In short, while Buffy likes the girlie end of the spectrum and Giles the more manly one, it's the same spectrum.

Optimism: How do they know things will be better? Because they have to be. In spite of everything, Buffy and Giles both believe that things will improve. They both dream of a more normal life and strive for it in the midst of enough angst and misery to keep the average soap opera heroine wallowing in a pool of her own tears for the next fifty years. Whether it's Buffy ditching patrol to go to a party or Giles having an affair with a beautiful woman who clearly doesn't understand that vampires and werewolves and poltergeists are real, both indulge their dreams of normality.

Humor: From scathing sarcasm to ridiculous flights of whimsy, both face much of their lives with a flippant attitude in their hearts. Neither smiles or laughs enough, but both can consistently find the funny in an absurd cosmos. Even in their darkest hours, Buffy and Giles can find, at minimum, a bit of gallows humor to keep them going. Both also use humor as emotional armor. It's no accident that Buffy puns her way through battles or that Giles makes jokes when it looks like someone might get too sentimental.

Romanticism: Yes, I know, these two are very repressed and they don't give their hearts easily. That's true. But there's more to romanticism than hearts and roses. Giles' smelly knowledge speech is very romantic at heart. Buffy's romanticism comes out in actions like protecting Spike once he's got his soul. She's sure it makes a difference though I, for one, couldn't see it. Neither of these is about being in love, but both are highly romantic concepts. Despite the bleakness of their lives, both feel strongly about certain things whether they can be backed up with facts or not.

Destiny: They're fated to the world, to the darkness, and to each other. With all the chances they had to walk away from one another permanently, the most either has taken is a sabbatical. Whatever the emergency, the first thing either wants is the other. He considers her a miracle, and when she returned from the grave, the first spark of emotion she showed was a longing for him.

All in all, these two sound an awful lot alike to me.

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