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16 May 2003 @ 01:46 pm
Rooting for the underdog again: Regarding Marti Noxon  
There is a woman who gets bashed and vilified even more than Buffy herself in the fandom, and I'm not talking about SMG. No, I'm thinking of the writer who wrote nearly as many episodes as Joss himself and has, no matter whether you like her or not, been elementary in shaping the show for most of its run: Marti Noxon.
So, before I take off to Italy for 11 days, and in view of the show's imminent end, I'd like to pay tribute to Marti, without whom BTVS would have been lacking many of its interesting and/or enjoyable aspects.
For starters, she's responsible for practically all the kinkier sexual subtext - or not so sub-text, going all the way back to her very first episode, "What's My Line II", in which we see Drusilla playing S/M games with Angel who gets to taunt Spike about being too tame for Dru. It was Marti who had Faith exchange S/M allusions with Angel in "Consequences", to say nothing of Faith almost raping and strangling Xander earlier in the same episode. (I could go on about fannish double standards for Faith and Spike here, but I won't, not now.) Marti gave us VampWillow with her penchant for torturing chained Angel for kinks, Oz and Veruca having scratchy, wild werewolf sex, and, naturally, Buffy and Spike having erotic but dysfunctional sex in season 6. It didn't surprise me to learn Marti was an uncredited co-writer of the Angel episode "Dear Boy" and responsible for the broadcast version of the crucial Darla/Angel confrontation at the end. (Compare it with the shooting script version by David Greenwalt (at Psyche's), and the difference is rather pointed - in favour of Marti, I might add.)
Which leads me to the next point: it's not just the edgier sexuality; she's excellent with the emotions as well. Said scene between Darla and Angel is an excellent example; there's so much anger and lust and resentment and familiarity in only a few words. And of course, she's the queen of break-up scenes: Buffy and Angel in "The Prom", Willow and Oz in "Wild at Heart" ("All my life, I never loved anything else"), Willow and Oz, again, in "New Moon Rising". At the same time, she can do the quiet, relationship-building moments as well: Tara and Willow in "New Moon Rising", especially the final scene, Willow's simple "I am", and the beautiful image of blowing out the candle, Xander telling Anya he's in love with her (and why) in "Into the Woods". My personal favourite of Marti's "quiet" relationship scenes would the Buffy/Angel encounter in "Forever"; I'm not a B/A'shipper, but I found it deeply touching, and utterly believable.
Willow is a character whom Marti (mostly) excels writing about; in addition to "Wild at Heart" and "New Moon Rising", I'd like to point to the arrival of Darth Rosenberg in "Villains" and the Willow scenes in "Conversations with dead People" which (as was revealed recently in the Succubus Club interviews) were in fact written by Marti. (And then, of course, there's VampWillow in "The Wish", our very first indication of Willow's darker side.) Considering it was Marti who voted for Amber Benson to play Tara when Joss first had doubts, I think it's safe to say Ms. Rosenberg and her love life might have turned out quite differently if not for Marti.
Writing a follow-up to such an outstanding classic as "The Body" was is not an assignment I'd wish on anybody, but Marti handled it with aplomb. "Forever" is, in my opinion, one of the all-time best episodes of the show. It gave us the days after Joyce's loss just as "The Body" gave us the immediate hours, showed us Buffy struggling to keep it all together and finally breaking down in the arms of her sister (still one of the best Buffy/Dawn scenes ever), gave us Giles quietly mourning for Joyce by listening to the Eric Clapton record they had heard together in "Band Candy", showed us Willow's continuing penchant for quick magical fixes in difficult emotional situations by her careless behaviour towards Dawn, and reaffirmed the friendship between Dawn and Spike, an important element of the fifth season.
Lastly, though she is primarily a "dark" writer, Marti can do humour as well. "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" (which it occurs to me includes yet another Marti break-up scene - Cordy and Xander) is certainly the funniest episode of season 2. "Buffy vs Dracula" is the best tongue-in-cheek take on Dracula I've ever seen, managing to include all the stock elements - castle, arrival via coffin with earth, Renfield(=Xander), three "brides" indulging themselves with one of our heroes, Dracula arriving in enthralled victim's bedroom, etc. - and putting a Buffy twist on them. Buffy's line to Dracula, re: his identity - "you're sure about that? 'Cause I've fought plenty of pimply fanboys who called themselves Lestat" - remains one of my favourites, and the twist on the usual scene which ends the Hammer film versions of Dracula (i.e. after the Count is destroyed, the heroes depart and we see the dust reassembling for another sequel), Buffy outwaiting Dracula's various reassemblings until he takes his misty self away, had me in stitches as well. And then there's the Buffybot - brought to hilarious life by Jane Espenson in "Intervention", true, but Marti's use of her in "Bargaining" retains the comedy while adding pathos as well.
So, glitches like Willow-as-addict in "Wrecked" notwithstanding, I'm grateful for Marti's contributions to the Buffyverse and wish her the best for the future.
 
 
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( Read 21 commentsDear Sir Or Madam )
caille on May 16th, 2003 01:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I don't have to think Marti Noxon does everything right, either - I respect her and admire her work. What's more, I've been mightily sick of the gratuitous Noxon-bashing for a long time. By "gratuitous", I don't mean simply disagreeing with her choices or disliking her style. I mean people saying nasty shit about her motivation, like she wrote x-plot line since she couldn't get James to have sex with her, or the reason she fucked everything up was because she went and got herself pregnant, and everyone knows that pregnant women can't employ logic...

I exaggerate a lot, but this is not one of those times. I've read sentiments like the preceding on a number of occasions. It especially angers me since that stuff has been said mostly by women. Now, I don't think the Sisterhood requires us twitter "Oh, darling, that was divine!" at each other, no matter what. But when the criticism is unleashed, it had better not reek of hormonal subtext, or I will get very cranky.

And did y'all know Marti Noxon has received death threats? That's right. We've all seen the "I wish somebody would beat Noxious to a pulp and dump her in Buffy-bitch's empty grave" type of nonsense posted on various boards, but I'm talking about people who've actually written to her or ME and said "I hate you and I wish you'd die".

Hmmm. I suspect this would be a good "time-out" point.

Sorry to fling this vitriol around, but obviously it's been weighing on me. It's one thing to say, "I dislike Marti Noxon's writing style. I think she is an inadequate executive producer. Here's why..." It's a whole 'nother thing to say everything up to, but not quite including, "stupid cunt".

Ya know?

Selena, honey, you can delete this if you like. No hard feelings if you do. (Watch me take some deep breaths and struggle womanfully to regain my la-la-la California persona....)
Melycoffeeandink on May 16th, 2003 03:36 pm (UTC)
What's more, I've been mightily sick of the gratuitous Noxon-bashing for a long time.

No shit. The nastiness and in particular the profound misogyny that often comes out in Marti-bashing makes me incredibly unhappy and angry.

Selena, thank you for this. Although I disagree with your ITW selection, I've always tried to be careful to say that although Noxon has written two episodes I can't stand, she's also written some of my absolute favorites, and will always have a special place in my heart as the writer of the episode that hooked me on Buffy, "Consequences."
Selenaselenak on May 17th, 2003 12:27 pm (UTC)
So with you, sisters
As you say, Caille: there is a difference between criticizing Marti's work and the often disturbing kind of personal attacks which are all too common where she's concerned. I think the one which made me most furious was when someone wished she'd lose her baby when she was pregnant.
(Just compare this behaviour with the fannish reaction to Doug Petrie. He was first admired for his Faith episodes and "Fool for Love". Then he wrote "As You Were" AND simultaneously his comments on the season 4 and 5 DVDs showed he's a big Riley fan. "As You Were" was quickly called one of the worst Buffy eps ever, and a lot of Spike fans stopped seeing D.P. as their champion. But I didn't see any personal attacks on him; what rants I read concerned AYW mostly, sometimes "Weight of the World" as well, but nowhere was the nastiness seemingly reserved for Marti.)
Melymbrosia, ITW isn't one of my favourite episodes, either (Two words: Helicopter. Run), but it does contain two of my favourite scenes: the one I mentioned, Xander and Anya near the end, and earlier the scene between Riley and Spike. And yay for "Consequences". Great, great episode.
Melycoffeeandink on May 17th, 2003 01:57 pm (UTC)
Re: So with you, sisters
I have, unfortunately, seen personal attacks on Doug Petrie as well--but not of the viciousness or frequency of those offered for Noxon.

I think ITW, alas, was ill-served by Noxon as director as well as writer--pacing seems to be a problem for a lot of the ME writers in their first directorial stints, and ITW is very slow, and the helicopter run and Xander's speech still make me seethe with rage. Some of the lead-up to Buffy discovering Riley with the vamps is quite good, though, and I do really like Buffy killing Riley's vamp girl in retribution. Very Wishverse Buffy.

"The Wish," "Consequences," "Bargaining 1," and "Villains" are among my favorite BtVS episodes, and Noxon has written many more that I think are quite good.