Thursday, 8 December 2016

Heroine Fix: Have A Little Faith

(Warning: there are spoilers below for both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel)

It's the Christmas season, so it seems appropriate to talk about vampires and those who slay them.  For my final influential heroine of 2016, I'm going to take a look at Faith Lehane, the other Vampire Slayer, played by Eliza Dushku.

I'll admit that I was a latecomer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The first episode I saw was Bad Eggs in Season 2.  The show quickly hooked me and I enjoyed all of the characters (Willow and Buffy will get their own Heroine Fix in the future, promise.)

But none of them intrigued me quite as much as Faith, the Dark Slayer.  Admittedly, I have always been a sucker for a tortured hero with a dark streak (Batman, Wolverine, the Punisher), but this was one of the first female tortured heroes that I could recall.  I wanted to know more about Faith's background and why she hid her true self behind a mask of flippant sarcasm and defensiveness.

I watched her descent into the Dark Side with baited breath.  When she accidentally killed a human, mistaking him for a vampire, the pain on her face broke my heart.  Especially when she decided to hide it and blame Buffy for her error.  When she felt rejected by the Scoobies and joined the evil Major Wilkins, I was shouting at my TV.  Eliza Dushku did a fantastic job at showing Faith's ambiguity.  She was enjoying playing a role as an "evil" person, enjoying the freedom from responsibility and expectations, but couldn't enjoy what that role required her to do.

I knew that Faith wouldn't finish as a bad guy.  Even though she was stabbed and in a coma, I expected her back and scanned every episode's guest credits, waiting for the inevitable return.  When she returned in season four and tried to take over Buffy's body and life, I could see that she just couldn't keep the mask up.  Her true self was breaking through and she was either going to have to destroy her own heart or give up the persona she'd hidden behind.  When she begs to be killed because she's evil, it was another heart-breaking moment for me.

I wanted to capture that kind of character depth in my own writing.  I wanted to show a heroine who has done some terrible things but is still a good person at heart.  I wanted to show how tempting it can be to give up on the constant grind of trying to do the right thing in the face of overwhelming odds.  But it's not something which can be sustained and it ultimately leaves a person empty and damaged.

In my first book, Dani is a broken heroine.  She's struggling to find a balance between what she needs to do to live and what she can't do if she wants to live with herself.  Eliza Dushku and the character of Faith were a strong inspiration for how to achieve the balance of doing horrible things and showing the torture it causes to her soul.

Faith found her peace by accepting responsibility for her actions.  She went to prison and then broke out when the world needed another Slayer in the final season of Buffy.  She didn't lose her dark sense of humor or her quick thinking, but they became tempered by maturity.  She discovered that while responsibility might weigh her down, it also provided a foundation that lifted her up.

I find Faith's character arc much more interesting than Buffy's because she made so many of the wrong decisions but still found her way back to being a true hero.  Rather than a hero triumphing over overwhelming odds, Faith is a hero who reminds us that no matter how far we think we've fallen, we can still climb back up.

Heroine Fix will be back in the new year, on the second Thursday of each month.  Next year, I'll be looking at more contemporary heroines from books, television and movies.  For January, we'll have another trip to the Whedon-verse and look at one of the ladies in Firefly.  Happy Holidays and New Year!

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