Freudian Friday: Faith Lehane, Part 2

Angel knows what it is to hate yourself more than anything in the world.

If you recall, when we left our dubious heroine last Friday, Faith had gone slightly round the twist and, hating herself, committed to a suicide-by-Angel assassination plot. In a touching moment, Angel offers her the forgiveness she needs (if not necessarily from him), and she agrees to turn herself over to the police. For the rest of the series, it seems Faith is seeking redemption, often coming close to throwing her life away in an effort to save others.

She returns to Sunnydale in the final (television) season of Buffy to join in the battle against the First. For the most part, she causes few problems, and most of them are “problems” only from Buffy’s point of view. Buffy, trying to prepare the Potential Slayers for the almost inevitable painful death that awaits them, treats the Slayers with a cold detachment, while Faith tries to help them keep their spirits up and embrace their potential.

When the Potentials vote Buffy out, Faith leads them into a trap. Although my instincts are constantly to side with Buffy (I mean, come on! She’s the true Slayer!), Faith never sought to replace Buffy or even to undermine her. Faith is who she is, and she and Buffy are two sides of the same coin: the “I fight because I can and must” Slayer and the “I fight because I can and want to” Slayer. And Faith nearly dies in the trap with the Potentials.

And as much as I will side with Buffy (I have a strongly ingrained sense of responsibility myself), she doesn’t always treat Faith fairly. After Faith kills a civilian, Buffy keeps it a secret until it starts eating away at Buffy herself, and it’s too late for Faith by then. Instead of helping Faith, Buffy rats her out. She also never fully trusts Faith again, even though Faith saves the love of Buffy’s life more than once. I have to look at it from Faith’s side: she admired Buffy, even envied her, and Faith gets to see firsthand the revulsion that do-gooder Buffy has for Faith. Faith feels that disgust and turns it against herself rather than her upbringing and actions. The low-points where, as Buffy, she beats herself up, and later tries to get Angel to kill her, are the climax of Faith’s education in hating herself.

We could argue that she’s just being selfish, trying to “buy” redemption with reckless attempts to make her life more worthwhile, but I don’t think that’s the case. After getting a taste of how it feels to have a life full of love and true worth to those around you, she realizes how much her devil-may-care attitude was hurting people she cares about–and herself.

Faith suffered abuse and horrible trauma in her past, and she watched people she cared about die. A girl she briefly called friend killed her father figure. She saw a Watcher she cared for die brutally at the hands of a monster, and felt she failed to protect that Watcher. By the time we meet her, she’s pushing people away and trying to control her life in the only way she knows how: by destroying it.

 

Angel’s treatment of her makes her realize that she can’t always drive people away. Sometimes others are willing to love us more than we love ourselves, and we have a responsibility to those people, to live up to that love and to protect it.

I could probably write a thesis about the Faith-Buffy relationship, but I won’t do that here. Instead, I’ll turn it over to you readers: How does Faith turn her rage into remorse? How does she decide to turn her life around? Will she ever forgive herself? Is she trustworthy? What’s your favorite aspect of this truly nuanced character?

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?