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Recently I got involved in a discussion of anaross's Baby Blue (recommended, go read) on another board, and then today I was looking at the sign-ups for buffyx's Spuffy Kinkathon (Story kinks, you pervs, not the other kind!) There are all kinds of kinks listed, but the kink that showed up the most in both requests and "Please, God, not that!" was babyfic. It's a genre that almost no one is neutral about. You love it or you hate it, and a lot of times when you love it it's a guilty pleasure. People who admit to reading it or writing it usually include defensive disclaimers--"Please don't hate me!" When I wrote one recently, my express purpose was to write babyfic that didn't make readers barf, which implies that most babyfic does make readers barf. (Except, of course, for the legions of readers who love it.)

So what, I wonder, is the sinister attraction in making our favorite characters breed? Going, in fact, to ridiculous lengths to get them to do so? If the story involves one of the vampire characters, you literally have to invoke a miracle, either a canonical one like the Shanshu prophecy, or the intervention of the Powers That Be, or a purely invented spell or a prophecy or a something to explain why the cold dead seed suddenly ain't. Why go to all that trouble? (I'm not even going to go into mpreg. Not. Going. There.) And it the attraction is so powerful, why is it also so reviled a genre?

It's not just a matter of "This would make an interesting story." Most of the time, babyfic isn't particularly interesting to someone who's not invested in the ship being written about. Most of it boils down to X and Y have a baby, with or without magic assistance, and they are VERY VERY HAPPY, the End. The baby is a symbolic device which affirms that these two characters are meant for one another. The more miraculous the conception and birth, the better. Very often the baby possesses special powers of some kind, a further significator of the chosen couple's worth.

If you're not a fan of the ship in question, there's nothing for you in one of this type of babyfic. The sole purpose of the fic is to proclaim the rightness of the pairing. I wonder perhaps if this is one reason why baby Connor was so unpopular; his birth affirmed the rightness of a pairing (Angel/Darla) that had comparatively few fans, and a secondary pairing (Angel/Cordelia) which ME was only lackadaiscally promoting, whether due to their own fear off ticking off the B/A shippers or due to the mysterious problems with CC. There were a number of stories written at this point which tried to undo the Angel/Darla and Angel/Cordelia ties by postulating that Connor was 'really' Buffy's, and that Darla was merely an incubator, or that Angel would call upon Buffy, not Cordelia, to raise him.

(There was a corollary to this among B/S shippers in the brief fad for stories where Spike was assumed to be Dawn's 'father' in that she was obviously not a clone of Buffy, so the monks must have used someone else's DNA in addition to Buffy's to make her. I think there were a few stories where Angel played the same role. I've always thought that this was an intriguing basis for speculation, but that the logical male for the monks to use would have been Riley, as he was A) alive, and B) Buffy's current boyfriend. But logic has little to do with this kind of thing; for the monks to use Riley would not have affirmed the rightness of the chosen couple. (Unless you're one of the six B/R shippers out there.)

Of course there are baby stories which are (and yes, I know this is a subjective term) good stories. The aforementioned Baby Blue, Dutchbuffy's Crossing Shadow River, Yahtzee's I-95 (Am I getting that title right?) Those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head; there are others. But I would wager that a list of good baby stories would be shorter than the list of good examples of almost any other kind of story. And many of the good baby stories are not baby stories per se, they're stories which have babies in them. (Miss Murchison's Chiaroscuro series, Herself's Bittersweets series, etc.)

Part of the trouble with Jossverse baby stories in particular is that very few of the characters are particularly well-suited to be parents, or indeed, express any desire to be parents. About the only characters who could be said to actively want a family are Anya, who out and out tells Xander she'd like to have a child some day, and Angel. He mentions the importance of children several times to Buffy; he feels that his inability to give her any is a major stumbling block to their relationship. He is portrayed several times on AtS as getting along well with young children. When he finally does become a father in canon, he takes to it like a duck to water, and considers his relationship with his son the most important thing in his life.

Other characters have far more ambiguous attitudes. Xander is terrified of becoming a father. Giles is deeply ambivalent, at once loving Buffy like a daughter and trying to distance himself from truly playing a parental role with her, much less any of the other Scoobies. Buffy tells Angel that his infertility isn't an issue for her, and later, when forced to take on a parental role with Dawn, goes about it with a dutiful lack of enthusiasm, see-sawing from over-strictness to neglect. She does seem surprised and not unpleased to learn that a past Slayer had a child. The majority of the characters never address the issue at all.

The characters who do become parents in the course of the show, literally or symbolically, generally suffer for it, and/or make their children suffer. Joyce and Hank marry young, possibly because Joyce is pregnant with Buffy, although this is never made clear. They quickly grow apart, eventually ending in unhappy divorce. Joyce is the best parent on the show, and even she is portrayed as clueless about Buffy's life and unable to really accept her daughter's calling. Angel's son puts him through hell, and vice versa; eventually he realizes that Connor can only be happy and whole if he's not Angel's son at all. Giles betrays Buffy multiple times. Darla kills herself to give birth to Connor. Buffy hates the responsibility and drudgery of caring for Dawn. The only time parenthood is shown as rewarding or desirable is during Angel's brief relationship with baby Connor, and in Darla's deciding that Connor is worth her life.

The majority of babyfic seems to involve Buffy, which makes it doubly hard. It's up in the air as to how Willow or Anya or Tara might handle motherhood, but Buffy has already taken a stab at it, and the results weren't sterling. Buffy is a dutiful, responsible person. It's easy to imagine her taking on a baby if she's convinced that she has no option but to care for it. It's much harder to imagine her liking it, or being particularly good at it, given her general attitude towards taking care of Dawn. Yet there are scads of stories in which Buffy's attitude towards the unexpected arrival of a miracle baby is to be overjoyed, or at most worried for a bit over whether she can get the father to marry her and make an honest woman of her.

There are various ways to get around this problem in fic without simply ignoring it or bending the character out of all recognition. Set the story five, ten, fifteen years in the future, when Buffy's older and her biological clock is ticking. Make her partner the primary caretaker for the baby. Be really radical and have her give the baby up for adoption, or even abortion--though in practice, I've only seen this option used once, and it was in a Buffy-bashing story where the fact that she didn't want to be the barely-employed, single mother of a possibly demonic child made her a horrible person. (I'm the world's biggest Spike apologist, but a story where a soulless vampire who's cheerfully eaten thousands of tiny precious babies for hors d'oeurves lectures someone on the evils of abortion is, um, a trifle much.)

Or you can tackle it head on, and make Buffy a struggling, maybe even unhappy mother. This, of course, goes against all that a babyfic should be for many people who like babyfic. To make the parents less than blissfully happy is to cast doubt upon the correctness of them having had the child, which is to cast doubt on the validity of the pairing.

So what does all this add up to? Damned if I know. It does make me feel like I'm walking on eggshells when I get to the portion of my own personal story timeline which involves characters having kids. Have I made it believable that they could do so and be moderately successful at it? To what extent am I following the dictates of the story, and to what extent am I indulging some weird fannish obsession or thwarted maternal neurosis? From the inside, it's hard to say. Since the story's not finished yet, it remains to be seen if it all hangs together. And doesn't make people barf. *g*

Comments

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janetmiles
Jan. 24th, 2005 03:49 am (UTC)
If I may do so without asking you to Go There, what is "mpreg" in this context, please?
rahirah
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:00 am (UTC)
Male pregnancy. There's a whole subgenre of slash stories where one of the partners gets knocked up, uh, somehow. At least with BtVS/AtS fic it's a universe where magic works; I don't know how the hell they manage it in Starsky and Hutch fandom...
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rahirah
Jan. 25th, 2005 12:59 am (UTC)
I think that's one reason a lot of baby fic doesn't appeal to me--I don't think anyone should be allowed to breed before the age of twenty-five. *g*
shipperx
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:00 am (UTC)
I'm not a real fan of babyfic stories. However, as to Buffy as parent, I have to take the stance that the Buffy of Season 6 & 7 shouldn't be a "parent" to a fish much less a human (of quasi-human) child. That said, nothing says that Fanfic Buffy (unlike the show's Buffy) can't actually grow up and develop. She doeson't have to remain the incredibly broken creature that she was on the show. It's not necessarily easy to make her grow in a way that is organic, but then that's the challenge of writing fanfic. If it was too easy, I'm not sure I'd be interested in writing it... or in reading it.

The problem is that it's not always easy to find an author who takes the time to actually develop it. As you've noted, most of the time it's about putting the "Twu Wuv 4 Eva" cherry on top of a shipper sundae instead of developing the characters.
rahirah
Jan. 25th, 2005 01:03 am (UTC)
A lot of inexperienced authors don't write children all that well, either--that's a real skill. Either the kids are plot devices void of personality, or they're precocious, annoying Sitcom Children. It's a treat to find one that reads like a real child.
cornerofmadness
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:01 am (UTC)
I think you make a very good point. Baby fic isn't my favorite either and I really dislike going around the horn to make Angel and/or Spike reproduce again. That said I HAVE done it and hopefully it hasn't made anyone gag much. We already know Connor's a breeder so the few times I've gone there have been with him. And once with Giles in the past since that doesn't seem too unlikely and once with Willow.

So what does this leave me babbling about? I think you can make a case for it if need be. Personally if it's well done, I can buy it even if sometimes we're not dealing with ideal parents (since that can be worked into the fic too and give it some more complexity)
rahirah
Jan. 25th, 2005 01:06 am (UTC)
I think the ones that annoy me most are the ones where they don't even try to explain it--it's just poof! one of the vamps gets Buffy magically pregnant, for no particular reason.
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elsaf
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:04 am (UTC)
I'm not entirely convinced that Buffy's shortcomings in taking care of Dawn really translate into "she'd hate being a mother."

There's an extra problem with Dawn, in that Buffy had to suddenly convert her relationship from sibling to caretaker. We saw in S5 that Buffy went from resentful sibling to fiercely protective fairly quickly. And clearly, it went beyond simply "doing her job" in a sense of protecting the world by protecting the key. At the end, she was willing to let the world end, rather than do the "Slayer" thing and sacrifice Dawn.

There's a big difference, psychologically, between having to accept responsibility for a teenager, and becoming a parent to an infant. One of the things we know about Buffy is that she's really fierce about her calling -- protecting the world. I would hypothesize that she would transfer that to "protecting and caring for my child."

If I was seriously imagining baby-fic about Buffy (which I generally don't, because I'm not really into children) I would make the conflict that the father (whether it's Spike or some future paramour) finds himself frozen out, as she becomes entirely focused on being a Mom, just as her "mission" tended to get in the way of her relationships in the past.
rahirah
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:13 am (UTC)
I can easily see Buffy being a fiecely protective mother, but it's the day to day diaper-changing and feeding and, for versions of the characters that take off after S7, the ability to be emotionally open which I think she'd have a difficult time with. I think one of the more realistic treatments I've seen is Herself's Buffy in the demon diner story--she does love her daughter, but she feels trapped and stifled by the demands of motherhood at the same time. (Though she was also dealing with some other major traumas, which could be said to skew the results.)
(no subject) - willowgreen - Jan. 24th, 2005 08:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - quinara - Jan. 24th, 2005 12:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - herself_nyc - Jan. 24th, 2005 03:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
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rahirah
Jan. 25th, 2005 01:08 am (UTC)
Heh, yeah, I can see where other fandoms would have completely different yakes on the subject. *g*
appomattoxco
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:18 am (UTC)
Baby fic is my kink. I have no earthly idea why. I like kids but don't want any of my own. Though looking at your examples the ones I like best simply have babies in them. For me it's less about getting Buffy pregnant and more about making Spike or Giles or whoever a daddy. I think I would even like Riley. There is just something meltworthy about seeing a guy Gaga over a kid.

Seeing a fighter in the role of caretaker is potenially funny, touching or angst ridden. Most fic barely touches the surface of all this. Finding a good baby fic is hard but worth it.
revdorothyl
Jan. 24th, 2005 10:27 pm (UTC)
"Seeing a fighter in the role of caretaker is potenially funny, touching or angst ridden."

I agree, and I feel the attraction of turning the fierce fighter/warrior into a caring parent in movies, books, fanfics, etc..

In my case, at least, I suspect that the fascination has more to do with my leftover anxieties as an insecure infant/child, than with my own frustrated maternal instincts (or even my desire to see my OTP validated by a genetic bonding).

For those of us who wanted to idealize our parents (at the developmental stage when that would have been appropriate and healthy) but instead found ourselves having to protect our parents from our own childish neediness or the world's disapproval, or whatever else . . . well, there's something deeply satisfying about the notion of making up that childhood lack by taking people who are already strong and gifted (if far from flawless) and turning them into parents -- the parents we perhaps wish we'd had. Parents who were strong enough to fight back all our childhood monsters (and not in a cliched "My Mommy or Daddy can beat up your mommy or daddy" kind of way, either), and survive to still be there for us the next time we needed them.

Of course (*embarrassed cough*) -- those could just be my personal issues, and no one elses!
(no subject) - appomattoxco - Jan. 25th, 2005 12:37 am (UTC) - Expand
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shadowlass
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:22 am (UTC)
Be really radical and have her give the baby up for adoption, or even abortion--though in practice, I've only seen this option used once, and it was in a Buffy-bashing story where the fact that she didn't want to be the barely-employed, single mother of a possibly demonic child made her a horrible person.

You know, I read a very odd story in which Buffy got an abortion. It was set mid- to late-season six. The baby was Warren's. He'd drugged her and taken advantage of her, but she didn't seem inclined to do anything about it. She did reflect that at least he was better endowed than Spike, and gave better head.

It really was terribly bizarre.
rahirah
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:28 am (UTC)
OK, that beats mine for weirdness any day... if only for the idea that Warren would bother to give one of his sex toys head at all.
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spiralleds
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:24 am (UTC)
Good food for thought. Given the percetage of people who have children at some point in their lives, it's logical that future fics need to address it, but boy o boy, the results are hit or miss.

The baby is a symbolic device which affirms that these two characters are meant for one another. The more miraculous the conception and birth, the better. Very often the baby possesses special powers of some kind, a further significator of the chosen couple's worth.

This is a long and glorious tradition in soap operas, not to mention Greek mythology, as well. In soap tradition, if there are two possible father's of a baby, it's always the "true love" who turns out to be the biological father. I'm can't recall a single child born on a soap that was born under normal, boring conditions. Again, if the mother is trying to claim the father is one person, but it's really another and the other is the destined true love, then it's those two who will be trapped in some isolated setting where the unaware biological father has to be the midwife, thereby bonding with the mother and child.


I'm inclined to give Buffy the benefit of the doubt about children. I could imagin her being a good to great mom. There's a radical difference between being 20 years old and suddenly thrust into mothering your sister and being bit a older and mothering a child, especially and infant.

I have a friend who makes Buffy seem emotive. She has a good relationship with her younger sister, but they were at complete cross-purposes when E. was in her late teens/early 20s. I think she would have sucked at parenting her sister if she'd been trust into that role. Later, E and her husband got pregnant and she had it all planned out so she missed the minimal time at her job, had the child care divied out between several family members and day care, etc. Then she gave birth and a maternal instinct she had scoffed at kicked in with a passion. She loves being a mom and is a good one.

That all said, if a baby exists in a fic to tell a larger story, I don't mind. But if, as you so nicely summarized, it's to prove two characters "were always meant to be," then gah.

Anyway, thanks, this was fun to think about.
rahirah
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:30 am (UTC)
I'm inclined to give Buffy the benefit of the doubt about children. I could imagin her being a good to great mom. There's a radical difference between being 20 years old and suddenly thrust into mothering your sister and being bit a older and mothering a child, especially and infant.

True, elsaf brought this up as well. So many babyfics are set when Buffy is still in her late teens, though.
(no subject) - fenchurche - Jan. 24th, 2005 04:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rahirah - Jan. 25th, 2005 01:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spiralleds - Jan. 24th, 2005 04:48 am (UTC) - Expand
True Love & Kids in Greek Myth? - sillymagpie - Jan. 24th, 2005 06:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: True Love & Kids in Greek Myth? - spiralleds - Jan. 24th, 2005 04:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
mzzgoddessblue
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:36 am (UTC)
very very interesting piece. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I dont' normally read babyfic, and to tell the truth, I can't fully explain why. I'll start it, and then someone gets pregnant or has the child whatever, and suddenly, it's all squick. I don't know if it's more that I want to remember Buffy and Co as they were, or if I feel that adding the "pregnant and married and happily ever after" is just not Buffy (as in the tv show, not the character in particular). Most babyfics i've started to read are too Mills and Boon-ish. Of course, it could simply be because I''m only finiding bad babyfics. There are good and bad slash, good and bad het, and just plain good and bad fics. What I can't stand are the overly emotional, squicky, feel good, soapie type ones - which the babyfics I've seen are.
Having said that, the only character I could ever possibly see having a baby/children and enjoying it, would be Tara.
rahirah
Jan. 25th, 2005 01:24 am (UTC)
I think a good writer could take almost any of the characters and get them to a place where they'd make halfway decent parents--but most writers of generic extruded babyfic aren't looking to do that, I think.
fenchurche
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:52 am (UTC)
(There was a corollary to this among B/S shippers in the brief fad for stories where Spike was assumed to be Dawn's 'father' in that she was obviously not a clone of Buffy, so the monks must have used someone else's DNA in addition to Buffy's to make her. I think there were a few stories where Angel played the same role. I've always thought that this was an intriguing basis for speculation, but that the logical male for the monks to use would have been Riley, as he was A) alive, and B) Buffy's current boyfriend.

I always really liked the idea I read in a fic (which, unfortunately, I don't remember the title of) that Dawn's "father" was actually Faith... Dawn having been made from "the Slayer" and since there were two of them...
skipthedemon
Jan. 24th, 2005 06:58 am (UTC)
That....actually makes a wierd kind of sense, given the SLayer dreams during "Graduation" and "Restless". If you happen to remmeber where to find that fic, I'd be interested in reading it.
(no subject) - rahirah - Jan. 25th, 2005 01:25 am (UTC) - Expand
spicklething
Jan. 24th, 2005 04:56 am (UTC)
Defininitely an interesting topic.

I like and hate babyfic. The bits of babyfic I like need to meet the simple requirement that the pregnancy/progeny is something instrumental to futhering a plot, story, or character exploration. The Bittersweets universe that Herself wrote is a good example of effective use of pregancy/progeny. It furthered many plotlines and kept me intrigued as a reader.

What I abhor is the idealized family and the fantasy that some writers live out via Spike and Buffy where they have the miracle child and have this perfect June and Cleaver relationship. For me, that isn't Spike and Buffy. That's a Harlequin romance with the name changed. It's contrived and loses my interest immediately.

That said, I love the challenge writing a babyfic would bring? Can the writer stay true to character. Will said baby bring out the strengths and weakness of the parent? And most importantly, how does this child affect the whedonverse around it?
rahirah
Jan. 25th, 2005 01:27 am (UTC)
I think that's probably the secret to writing good babyfic--forget it's babyfic, and treat it like any other story.
thedeadlyhook
Jan. 24th, 2005 05:09 am (UTC)
Most of it boils down to X and Y have a baby, with or without magic assistance, and they are VERY VERY HAPPY, the End. The baby is a symbolic device which affirms that these two characters are meant for one another.

Huh. That's very interesting. I hadn't thought of it that way before, but of course, yes, that is indeed the core to a lot of baby stories I've seen out there, the magical affirmation of rightness. (Your read on the Angel/Darla and Angel/Cordy problems with Connor is, I think, spot-on - I remember being very annoyed at the time the way Angel never even seemed to think of mentioning the existence of Connor to Buffy.) I guess I'd only really registered that I have short patience for the VERY VERY HAPPY part and hadn't analyzed further. Like you said, with S/B especially, you're already straining to imagine them as parents, but to go the extra step and suggest that baby makes everything perfect crosses the line into the kind of thinking that leads to a lot of children of divorced parents in the real world, and usually where I get off the bus.

That said, I think the attraction to write babyfic, at least for the really good ones I've read - all the ones you've mentioned, plus I'd add nautibitz's Heart Don't Lie, a mystical babyfic story which really addicted me and to which I'm desperately looking forward to an update - would be more that idea of growth and change on the part of the characters, of pushing them forward, mistakes and all, to another stage on their developmental journey. I think Buffy is a particularly popular candidate because she is (or was, anyway, until her development became stunted in Seasons 6-7) a growing character, gaining knowledge and experience with each passing year. So I guess I've always seen baby stories as part of that urge to explore Buffy's growth, another stage to her life. Which, as in the case of "Heart Don't Lie," can be both touching and funny - Buffy trying to cope with this new adjustment in her life. herself_nyc's future babyfic in Bittersweets really fits this pattern too, of being more about Buffy's growth than anything else, I think.

Or you can tackle it head on, and make Buffy a struggling, maybe even unhappy mother. This, of course, goes against all that a babyfic should be for many people who like babyfic. To make the parents less than blissfully happy is to cast doubt upon the correctness of them having had the child, which is to cast doubt on the validity of the pairing.

But still, that makes it an interesting story, no? Characters in conflict? Seeing Buffy struggle with her feelings about motherhood would seem a great tool for tackling her feelings about life, the universe, and everything - maybe actually that's why it comes up so much, come to think of it. People I've known who've had babies - not all, but some - do tend to feel pretty transformed by the experience, like they've seen God, and often come at life completely differently once they've bred. Biological imperatives work in mysterious ways...

It does make me feel like I'm walking on eggshells when I get to the portion of my own personal story timeline which involves characters having kids. Have I made it believable that they could do so and be moderately successful at it?

In your universe, I have no problem believeing this could come up and S/B could be decent parents. In fact, hadn't you done that little snippet where they're at Disneyland or some such where they are? I'd thought that was a strikingly charming picture, somehow...
rahirah
Jan. 25th, 2005 01:36 am (UTC)
In your universe, I have no problem believeing this could come up and S/B could be decent parents. In fact, hadn't you done that little snippet where they're at Disneyland or some such where they are?

Yeah, though you could say it's cheating because I skipped the part about them getting that way. *g* But I know how it happens--the resolution of POM sets up the events that make it possible, and "In A Yellow Wood" and "Over the River and Through the Woods" cover some of Buffy's fears and misgivings about the whole thing, and why she decides to go ahead with it.

I think in my case I come at it from a different angle. I've always been irritated with stories that end with the couple getting together, and then you skip twenty years and move on to their children. I love Bujold, but I was always grumpy that she never wrote another book about Aral and Cordelia after Miles was born. People's lives don't end when they grow up and marry and have kids.
denny_dc
Jan. 24th, 2005 05:18 am (UTC)
Read your post after signing up for buffyx's spuffykinkathon and also noticed that there were quite a few baby kinkers. Just wanted to chime in and say I enjoy baby fics that are well-written that use the baby as a plot point to further an intriguing story about Buffy and/or Buffy/Spike. But writing one? Wow! Don't know about that...if I get a babykink story from buffyx's ficathon, I'll have to reread this thread and use it as source material on what to avoid.
rahirah
Jan. 25th, 2005 01:37 am (UTC)
Good luck with that. I thought about signing up, but I know I don't have the time. :P
enname
Jan. 24th, 2005 06:19 am (UTC)
I generally dislike baby-fic (excepting your's, which I say doesn't count so much as it hangs off so much non baby-fic) but mostly because in all the S/B stuff I have attempted to read the introduction of the baby (not the pregnancy) tends to lead to some hardcore Buffy bashing. The dynamic where you have Spike + child ranged against Buffy as the 'evil parent' makes me want to hit things almost as much as schmoopy 'they belong together' fluff. It seems a misreading of not only Buffy, but to some extent Spike. Oh and the other reason is a distinct disliking of how the children are characterised themselves ... watery much? Not to mention the fact that I read the ship, for the ship ... and it always seems to go flying out the window in favour of nappies, which I can get myself by having children.
rahirah
Jan. 25th, 2005 01:42 am (UTC)
That's interesting--I haven't run across any stories in the Buffy-as-evil-stepmother mold, but that would seem to subvert the usual affirm-the-ship babyfic. I wonder when this kind of story started to come into vogue?
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