Freudian Friday: Faith Lehane, Part 1

Today has to be Part 1 of 2, since a) a friend is picking me up shortly to go to a taxidermist in Podunk, Indiana to pick up some deer antlers (long story) and b) I’ve been wrangling with my doctor to get some pre-dentist-appointment antibiotics (longer story) and c) I’m leaving for St. Louis tonight. Tune in next Friday to see the rest!

So who is Faith, really? As Drew succinctly put it, “She’s a whole bundle of crazy.” Faith is arguably the most “broken” character on Buffy, the second Slayer called up after Kendra’s death in Season 2 and one of few the characters who moves fluidly from Buffy to Angel and back again. In Season 3, she shows up in Sunnydale after her Watcher dies, and inserts herself into Buffy’s life with a charm and aplomb that seduces first the Scoobies and then Buffy herself.

She rapidly shows herself to be unstable, beating vampires into a bloody pulp instead of just staking them, she lets her Slayer-power get to her head (“See, want, take.”), and eventually refuses to take responsibility for killing a civilian. She tries to blame Buffy for the death, and we’re eventually left wondering if Faith is crazy like a fox or just plain crazy.

After escaping the justice of the Watcher’s Council, she takes up with the villain of the season, Sunnydale’s Mayor Wilkins, who becomes a pseudo-father figure. Mayor Wilkins believes in her, spoils her, and gives her a chance: in their evil little world, he’s a nice guy and she’s the prodigal daughter come home. We don’t know much about Faith’s parents, other than she only talks about her mom’s death and she admits that Mayor Wilkins is more of a parent than she ever had. He’s the first person to love her unconditionally, even if that means encouraging her batsh*t crazy tendencies.

Faith dreams of a happier life.

Their little paradise doesn’t last long, though. Buffy beats Faith into a comatose pulp and kills the Mayor. Hooray?

It’s pretty obvious why Faith turns to the dark side. No one gives her a chance, and she’s never been taught that she can’t just take what she wants. When Mayor Wilkins waltzes in and loves her for herself and gives her everything she wants, it’s no surprise that she responds positively. If someone from the Watcher council had tried to accept her for what she is (a violent maniac?) and actually treated her with affection instead of judgment, she might have stayed good.

Faith as Buffy: "It's WRONG."

But that’s not the end of Faith’s tale. She wakes up from her coma in Season 4, and switches bodies with Buffy for two episodes. These episodes contain quite possibly the most disturbing parts of Faith’s character arc. Faith revels in living Buffy’s life, surrounding herself with friends, loved ones, and Buffy’s boyfriend: it is, presumably, the first time she’s ever really had a family. In her final battle with Buffy-Faith, she beats her own body to a pulp, saying, “You’re nothing! Disgusting! Murderous bitch! You’re nothing! You’re disgusting!”

Um… whoa. She disappears then, only to reappear on Angel with a convoluted plot to get him to kill her. I’m running out of time, though, so let’s just look at what we have so far.

Young, beautiful girl, abandoned by her parents, discovers she has a super power (so far, that’s a just a recipe for crazy), lets her power run amok, kills a guy, turns evil, is beaten almost to death by her foil, then takes over that foil’s life only to realize how much she hates her own.

We could just look at her as a foil for Buffy, who, at times, feels misunderstood and unappreciated by the people in her life, while Faith really has no one. But because Buffy is an awesome show, Faith is a fully realized character of her own, independent of Buffy and their character-juxtaposition.

Faith has to want something from Buffy other than revenge, though, if she stuck around to take over Buffy’s life. Forgiveness? Closure? Respect?

It’s hard to give feedback when we only have about three-quarters of her story here today, but what do you think, readers? Why is Faith so obsessed with Buffy? What is she really looking for in life?

3 thoughts on “Freudian Friday: Faith Lehane, Part 1

  1. I think it is important to note that not only did Faith have a traumatic childhood, but when she first got called as a Slayer, she watched her Watcher get tortured in front of her and killed by the sadistic vampire Kakistos. Presumably, she had a good relationship with that Watcher, but that event seems to have been one of the first major snap moments she had as a Slayer. She has gotten the shaft so many times that she begins to expect it and subconsciously encourage it by her behavior…then wonders why everyone is out to get her and resents it.
    She is a fascinating character…especially in the new seasons (comics).

    • That’s true, and I wish I’d had more time to go into the episode with Kakistos. I haven’t gotten too far in the new seasons/comics, but she does seem to be developing in an interesting direction!

  2. She wants love – secure, non-crazy, unconditional love; she wants people to choose her, to stick with her, to not abandon her by choice or by being killed (see Kakistos ep above); like many abused, she tries to trigger betrayal/abandonment pre-emptively by her behaviour because that gives her a modicum of control – sounds loopy but the logic goes, “You will betray me one day, you will abandon me one day, no matter how much you protest that you won’t, so I am going to make you reveal that truth, I am going to make that happen because that way, I am not waiting for the other boot to fall. I am in control.”
    Great show; great character.
    Freudian Friday indeed; I give you Batsh*t Saturday!

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