One of my daily reads on my Friends Page is "My Buffyholism is Showing" and there is a very interesting post by gabrielleabelle. The topic is the viewpoints that fans general argue from in discussions of the Buffyverse.
Gabrielleabelle breaks it down as "What Happens vs. How It's Done". It isn't a long article, so I would recommend reading it real quick before we get jump past the cut:
My reply was to say basically that I'm a "How It's Done" sort of guy. I wanted to expand on this just a little bit. For me, it is almost never about what a character actually does or why they did it, although these can be enjoyable elements of the story telling, and I would never argue they aren't important to a narrative - after all, they are the story.
What I mean when I call myself a "How It's Done" person, or state that I don't generally care about the what is that for me there are certain things that are a must for me to enjoy a tale (and let's try to stick with the Buffyverse here just for simplicity's sake).
A) A character's choices must match what I feel is in line with what I've seen of them before, or there must be a real reason why the character is acting 'outside their parameters'. Now, I will freely admit here that this can be largely subjective, but I think there are things that nearly all of the fans can agree on. Things like how Dawn throwing Buffy out of her own house, after she'd literally leaped to her death to save her was a ridiculous contrivance in the storytelling.
The thing for me was not that Dawn took that action (though I hated it, there are also other story developments I hated because they hurt, but respected because they made sense - like Angelus killing Jenny [yes, a lot of my arguments return to this point]), but that she took this action without any character-logic behind the decision. I could easily accept the Potentials turning on Buffy - they don't know her and her arguments of returning to the winery seemed suicidal on the surface. I could understand everyone, Dawn included, refusing to follow Buffy back to the vineyard because of the losses they just took on some vague idea that there was something Caleb might be protecting... somewhere....
I couldn't buy Dawn throwing Buffy out. But it was because of how the scene played out. So, what could have made this right for me? It's really a very simple thing... Dawn, Xander and Willow could have easily told Buffy that she was sounding obsessive in light of what just happened. Xan could have done that yelling thing at her that he does sometimes and heatedly told her they weren't going back without a tank... and Dawn could then have told Buffy that she thought she needed to "get some perspective - maybe you need to go take a walk and cool off - think about this rationally".
There. Fixed. Dawn doesn't throw Buffy out, she just sort of does by suggesting that Buffy needs to leave at that moment, for a temporary time and for a reason - to allow Buffy to think things through and allow everyone to cool off.
So you see - same thing happens - Buffy leaves after being "tossed out", but because of the way it is done I would swallow it whole. The rest of the episode would play out the same way as well, with Buffy choosing not to go back immediately, but to feel hurt and abandoned by the Scoobies not following her and Faith stepping up (which I also had problems with because of the way that very short idea played out).
B) The logic of the story has to support a character's actions or POV. Now, this is usually something that Buffy gets completely right for all of its major characters. Even when you hate a character's actions or dialog or attitude and even though you vehemently disagree - you can understand why they did what they did/said. Let's look at Xander's controversial decision (which I always thought was arguing a mountain out of a molehill) to relay that Willow told Buffy to kick Angel's ass in Becoming II.
Personally, I feel like Xan made the correct call under the circumstances - but others passionately argue this is a betrayal. But if you think through the story logic: what is happening, what is at stake, how Buffy reacted to Angelus before, what the chances are of Willow having success in her weakened state with such a huge spell... the arc of the story, the previous episode... all of these things justify the character making this choice. Even if you disagree with it - even if you hate it - you can see why Xander would choose not to tell Buffy that Willow was attempting the curse again, with things looking so desperate.
Again, I care more about the way this choice was reached over Xander's actual choice.
A bad example is Giles' timing in leaving Sunnydale "permanently" once Buffy came back from Heaven. (Yes, ignore that there were real world reasons for this just for the sake of argument.) We know that Giles thinks Buffy is too dependent on him and he is keeping her from growing into adulthood by doing everything for her. The logic of the story is not flawed - and yet, Giles' actions don't make sense because of the timing - our story logic would indicate that Giles, of all people, would never willingly leave Buffy in the obvious state that she is in and her trauma of returning - not just from the dead - but from HEAVEN.
There is a disconnect between what the story logic suggests (Giles understands that Buffy is too dependent, but he can't leave until he knows that she isn't obsessed/depressed/numbed by what she has lost) and what Giles does (hops on the next plane out right after learning the extent of what Willow has done to her).
I would have zero problem with Giles firmly telling Buffy that she has to step up to take care of Dawn, despite what she is going through - that she has to grow up, because sometimes life is very hard and even though she is struggling, adults have responsibilities that don't stop because we're sad, or hurt, or angry, or depressed. I'd have him tell her that dealing with life while suffering through these difficult emotions actually helps us to move through them and out the other side of them. I would even accept Giles leaving her (the what), but not at the time he does under the conditions he does (the how). ASH had made it clear that he wanted to spend more time in England, so a better motivation and story needed to be constructed for this eventuality, rather than what we received. Giles could have received a summons he couldn't ignore from the Council... he could have told Buffy that he interrupted a personal crisis to be by her side, but he can no longer ignore it... he could have left Sunnydale to consult the Coven in Devon about what Willow had wrought and how to help Buffy....
Even, as much as it pains me because ASH was so good, choosing to leave before Buffy sings that she was actually in Heaven.
My problem is not with Giles' leaving Buffy for her own good, my problem is with the story not justifying his choice to leave Buffy for her own good because of its timing/circumstances....
C) Actions must have consequences. This is another thing that Buffy nearly always gets right. But, there are exceptions that makes me not like a story development, because a plot point is introduced and then not dealt properly with. Now, sometimes this is because it only looks out of place retroactively, so you really can't blame it too much on the writers/creators (or, you can if you think that ideas that don't fit into continuity should just not be done).
Let's take a look at Buffy's stay in an institution. In 'Normal, Again' we find out that Joyce and Hank had Buffy briefly committed to a psychiatric ward when she first started talking about vampires. On its own, this really isn't a problem in story mechanics within the episode. But in retrospect, this revelation doesn't have the consequences we should have seen in other episodes. Particularly, this development should have been hinted at in "The Witch" when Buffy mentions vampires, in "Becoming" when Buffy tells Joyce about being the Slayer and in "Dead Man's Party" when Buffy rails against her mother, at least.
Forgiving fans overlook this because Joss, etc. couldn't have foreseen back in S1, 2 or even 3 that they were going to decide that Buffy had broached her calling and what was happening in her life and had been placed for a short time in a hospital for it. This only became a 'fact' of her life in S6. Now, the more unforgiving fan will say that they shouldn't have broached the possibility that Joyce was told something about Buffy's calling so late in the series, if they never bothered to established or even hinted at the fact before. We receive a 'new fact' that has repercussions on the main character's history, which should have impacted these previous episodes.
Since I'm forgiving, I can just glance past this sort of ... mild inconsistency for the sake of character development.
But, there are other things which are more problematic for me. The biggie, is of course, the attempted rape of Buffy by Spike. I find this extremely disturbing because BTVS- the show - glides over this with the same brevity and "let's just forget about this and move on" as with Xander's suggestion of the same action in The Pack.
There, it was justified - Xander wasn't in his right mind due to possession, but more, everyone thought that he didn't even remember what had happened until much later. And, it is very strongly implied that Buffy was in control at that encounter the entire time (if no other reason than that she wasn't traumatized - she jokes with Willow over it and mentions hitting him with a desk as the solution). The entire vibe was played differently during this brief "I'm menacing you, but I'm just not a serious threat".
The same, in fact, could be stated about - uh, what's his name, the school jock on the swim team - was Gage the guy in the car with her? Anyway, the way the scene was shot during the uncomfortable sexual harassment, it was played as not a serious danger to Buffy. She very easily defuses the situation by driving his face into the steering wheel with her Slayer strength.
In both Xander and Gage's(?) case - it isn't presented as if this assault may actually go ahead. I would understand, by the way, anyone who thinks that this in and of itself is taken too lightly and shouldn't have been brought up even as a development if it wasn't going to be dealt with seriously. But that is a whole other discussion - right now, I want to talk about how the scene is executed and in those instances it was with a "Buffy isn't in real danger here" tone.
The Seeing Red scene, however, is completely different. Buffy is presented as Spike yanks at her robe as really being in danger of being raped by the preternaturally strong vampire. She's hurt, she's already upset and Spike is actually on top of her and yanking at her clothing. This is serious business ... a serious depiction of his intent to assault her.
But the only thing we get as dealing with this event, which clearly scares Buffy despite her Slayer strength (because Spike is more than strong enough to go through with the act if Buffy hadn't gotten the leverage she needed to throw him off), is some veiled hints that they both haven't forgotten it and Dawn's threat if, vaguely worded, "you'll wake up on fire if you hurt my sister again".
His actions in the bathroom are never directly referenced as haunting to her or him. And, yes, I understand he was a soulless vampire during the attempt - months later, he is now souled, and ergo a different person. But, what I'm saying is that for the audience, it had to have adequate consequences to make that scene worth our being subjected to it. The "how it is done" afterward was not forthright or honest and therefore shouldn't have been approached in the first place because "how it is done" during the attempt itself is so serious and traumatic.
I'm generally against rape as a story device anyway, because it has a checkered history in the visual arts. But I'm not against it completely because the attempt did not violate A) in that it wasn't out of character for Spike, a demon, to turn to assault, nor B) because the prior story developments justified Spike's actions. Please don't send me hate mail, either, I'm not using 'justify' as in Buffy had this coming or Spike had the right to assault her. I'm saying that with their violent sexual history, it was in character for a soulless demon to be confused that this was another one of their usual encounters in which they would argue and then resort to violent sex. The prior story mechanics adequately explained why this might occur and the filming of the scene was not used as fodder for titillation, but to make the audience feel the horror of what Spike is attempting.
It does, to me, fail in C) however. Spike suffered more consequences when he admitted to his attraction to Buffy in S5, then he suffers here. Buffy herself suffered more consequences when she sent Angel to Hell, and Faith more when she killed Finch accidentally then Spike has ever been shown to suffer due to this action. And, considering "William's" personality, and the controversial nature of the attempted rape, it is simply unforgivable to me that there were not adequate consequences shown to deal with the aftermath of this. They fail in the 'how it was done' for me, but I don't completely object to 'what happens', even in this extreme circumstance.
So, this is my view of 'what happens' vs. 'how it is done'. You can see why I couldn't post this long-ass reply in the original post's comment section. In fact, this turned out even longer than I expected - since I wasn't going to bring up Seeing Red at all.