So Buffyverse Appreciation, AmIRight?
I guess I’m going to (a bit late) try to elaborate on why I love these damn characters.
Anya starts her journey in the Buffyverse as a one-episode baddie. A somewhat simplistic character at the start, the idea of Miss Anya, someone who’s been around even longer than Angel, suddenly being forced into the role of high school senior is the kind of stuff that ‘Buffy’ lives in.
What makes Anya’s character immediately likable is her sense of humor, much of which stems from a complete disregard for social mores and tact. Cordelia’s funny, irreverent remarks moved into the 9:00 p.m. slot and ‘Buffy’ enters Anya to fill the void. She immediately falls for Xander, despite spending 1000-ish years torturing men, all of whom she decided were evil. As Xander’s selflessness and kindness begin to penetrate Anya’s already-made-up mind, Anya begins to grow. Her love for Xander shines above her social awkwardness and knack for socially inappropriate commentary and her character grows from a self-interested, to Xander-interested, to people-interested person.
After her relationship with Xander ends in tears and vengeance and Anya tries to resume her career as a demon avenging wronged women, it seems as though Xander has proved her earlier thesis: that there are no good men. However, as Anya tries to get back into the swing of hurting people, she realizes that she no longer has a taste for it and that furthermore, after 1120 years of working for other people, she doesn’t even know what she believes or who she is. Having identified herself through her relationships, Anya begins, in the show’s last season, a journey of self-discovery, finding the nuances between good and bad, forgivable and unforgivable, and reasons to love her own skin.
Each of our characters arguably has this moment, but Anya’s seems to stick out (maybe it’s the mass murder of frat boys). Beneath the murder and demons and veiny face, there is something that many women (and men!) can identify with: trying to become what their partner wanted, what their mentor (parents?) wanted… judging yourself through someone else’s eyes instead of your own, and because of that, being unable to love yourself. After all, love isn’t generated through someone else, it comes from within ourselves.
In ‘Buffy’s final season, Anya discovers her own values. She’s no longer stuck in anger, stuck in someone else’s eyes, but settles in her own skin and decides what her own values are. Anya discovers what selflessness is after feeling self-less for so long. Not only does she discover her own identity, but she can love so far beyond it that she can see the greater good.
Anya is no longer giving herself to someone else for a sense of validation. She is no longer doing the will of others to quell the anger and hurt in herself after the original betrayal that drove Aud to curse her unfaithful lover and begin a career in vengeance… Anya gives herself to her values, which she discovers for herself only when she allows herself to be herself, in her own skin, normal, human, and hurting. She addresses her pain and discovers who she is after it. She discovers values more important than self and finally lets the pain breathe.
Her story goes to show that there is good in all of us, that redemption is a real thing and that we can all come back from being the kind of person we wish we weren’t, from the break-up that we thought would break us, and discover what we believe makes this life worth living and what is worth fighting for.