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Branwen has thoughts and feelings.

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Sorting Buffy Summers

I like sorting characters from other fandoms - a lot. I’ve been debating doing these in blog posts rather than in various threads, and… well, now I am. I use the sortinghatchats system - +here’s (M to be safe) a link to their ‘basics’ post. To briefly summarize, though, they sort everyone on two different (and equally important) aspects of their personality: the first (your “primary” house) is why you do things, where the second (your “secondary” house) is how you do things. And now I’m going to sort Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.   Primary (the “why”) At first glance, Buffy looks like a bit of a Hufflepuff primary. From sortinghatchats: Hufflepuff Primaries value people. They value community, bond to groups, and they make their decisions off of who is in the most need and who is the most vulnerable and who they can help. They value fairness because every person is a person and feel best when they give everyone a fair chance. Buffy doesn’t always have the luxury of putting individuals first - she’s often grappling with an impending apocalypse - but each person she’s too late to save takes its toll on her, and you can see that as it weighs down on her throughout the seasons. She also does end up finding a community-of-sorts in the Scoobies, which is a vital (if occasionally contentious) part of her life and survival throughout the series. Ultimately, though, Hufflepuff isn’t quite right. Buffy isn’t “loyal before she’s right” - when she thinks that she’s right, she’s willing to tear down everything and everyone that gets in the way, regardless of her attachment to them. And, apart from that very small group of friends, Buffy often seems actively uncomfortable with the concept of being part of a broader community - she rebels against the Council on multiple occasions, she doesn’t last long in the Initiative, and while she takes on the potentials in season seven, she’s clearly not particularly comfortable with that aspect of it. Buffy can train them; she can’t bond with them. That’s because Buffy is, at her core, a Gryffindor primary. From sortinghatchats again: Gryffindor Primaries trust their moral intuitions. They feel what’s right in their gut, and that matters and guides them. If they don’t listen to and act on that, it feels immoral. Her decisions are guided by what her gut says is right and wrong. Her moral compass evolves over time - there are decisions she makes earlier in the series that are clearly very different from decisions she’d make later on - but it’s always her guiding force - and no matter what trauma she faces, it tends to remain steady, and no matter how much she loves someone, it doesn’t override her sense of right and wrong.  She’s devastated about killing Angel at the end of season two and struggles with it throughout the third season, but she never regrets it. She’s haunted by it because it hurt her, not because she questions that it was the right thing to do. In ‘Sleeper’ in season 7, she says: “I killed Angel. Do you even remember that? I would've given up everything I had to be with - I loved him more than I will ever love anything in this life and I put a sword through his heart because I had to.” In ‘Lies My Parents Told Me’ (also season 7), she refuses to give ground when Giles and Wood want to kill Spike, to the extent that she was far more concerned about Spike’s well-being than Wood’s. There are a lot of layers to Buffy’s relationship with Spike, but ultimately, I take her at her word: she believes that keeping Spike around is the right thing to do. Now he has a soul, and she’s willing to forgive him because she thinks that now he has the capacity to move past his selfishness. If there’s one thing that Buffy struggles to forgive, it’s selfishness. She’s more angry at Giles for leaving her in season six than she was with him for poisoning her in season three, and she can’t live with herself when she feels like she’s being selfish. In season one’s ‘Prophecy Girl,’ she briefly quits when she hears that she’s prophecized to die - but she clearly feels guilty about it, and when she talks to Willow after the murders on the school campus, she changes her mind. She’s sixteen, and she willingly walks to her death. She’s got a reputation as being fairly straight-laced, but I think a lot of that is about not wanting to be selfish - and on the occasions where she’s not sure what right and wrong are, she tends to collapse into despair, even (especially?) when she’s the only one aware of her lapse. In season 5’s ‘The Weight of the World,’ she short-circuits into an endless loop when Dawn is taken by Glory because she’d had one moment of wishing that the fight with Glory was over and Dawn was dead, because she was so overwhelmed and so tired. For Buffy, this lapse into selfishness was overwhelming and self-defining. Even her depression in season six ties into this - part of it is clearly being yanked out of heaven, but I think that part of it is that she’s grappling with the consequences of doing something that she comes to see as selfish. She robbed the world of a slayer and comes back to a hellish nightmare because she couldn’t deal with losing her sister. She felt like she was doing the right thing in the moment - but she’s less convinced of that when she comes back, and it’s really only after she finds her purpose again that she gets back to herself. And, while her depression in season 6 exists independent of Spike and is a major contributing factor in their relationship in the first place, she’s also wrecked with guilt about their relationship - and it’s not a coincidence that her depression starts to alleviate shortly after she ends things with him, despite ‘Seeing Red,’ Tara being murdered, and Willow turning evil, committing murder, and trying to destroy the world. In ‘Dead Things,’ she beats him bloody and tells him, “There is nothing good or clean in you. You are dead inside! You can't feel anything real!” (She was clearly talking to herself as much as him, but it pretty clearly applied to both of them.) When she ends it with him in ‘As You Were,’ though, what she says is very different - and seems much closer to the truth. “I can't love you. I'm just ... being weak, and selfish... and it's killing me.” While part of her self-loathing is that she thinks that having sex with Spike is wrong because he doesn’t have a soul, part of it is that she’s using him - and that’s wrong. Buffy is all about right and wrong. She’s a Gryffindor primary through and through.   Secondary (the “how”) Buffy is a Gryffindor seconary too. From sortinghatchats again: Gryffindor Secondaries charge. They meet the world head-on and challenge it to do its worst. Gryffindor Secondaries are honest, brash, and bold in pursuit of things they care about. Known for their bravery, it is almost a moral matter to stay true to themselves in any situation that they’re in.  While she’s certainly resourceful, she’s also all about addressing her problem in the most straightforward way possible. In season 2’s ‘When She Was Bad,’ Giles buries the Master in consecrated earth; when Buffy has nightmares about the Master coming back, she takes a sledgehammer to his bones. When Lily/Anne comes to her because Ricky is missing in Season 3’s ‘Anne,’ Buffy breaks into the offices to find information and even comments that she “sucks at undercover.” In season 4’s ‘Something Blue,’ she tells Willow while they’re patrolling, “part of me believes that real love and passion have to go hand in hand with pain and fighting.” Her friends can see this tendency, too. Early on, it takes the form of jokes - in season 2’s ‘Inca Mummy Girl,’ Buffy protests that she doesn’t “always use violence!” Xander’s response? “The important thing is you believe that.” The implications start to get darker as the series progresses, though, including in season 6’s ‘Grave,’ when Willow is about to destroy the world. She sinks Buffy and Dawn into the earth and conjures monsters for Buffy to fight, because she thinks that Buffy “should go out fighting.” Willow’s speaking from experience here, too - Buffy’s devastated to the point of catatonia in ‘The Weight of the World’ because she feels that her moment of selfishness killed her sister - and because she was sure that Glory would beat her. If Buffy doesn’t see a way to address the problem head on, she shuts down. On the rare occasions that she tries to dissemble or change her tone, she does a poor job of it - it doesn’t come naturally, and more importantly, it feels wrong. Buffy is at her best when she’s attacking everything the world throws at her, not trying to hide who she is because her classmates or family can’t know the truth. She’s also a born leader. That’s not just a Slayer thing - characters throughout the series explicitly remark on how unusual it is to have a Slayer with such a big group of people who both know her secret and actively support her. While some of them do either have or develop connections to that world independently of her, most of them join the Scoobies because they want to, not because they have to. And, while her relationships with both Angel and Spike range from a little warped to downright toxic depending on the season, that tendency is true of them as well; she pulls Angel out of the depression he’d been in since getting his soul back, and love for her causes an unsouled Spike to turn his back on his sire after more than a century of devotion, not break under torture to protect her sister, and ultimately even seek out a way to win his soul back. Buffy inspires people without really meaning to, and they’ll follow her into hell because of it - literally, in the case of Spike, Faith, and the potentials.   Summary Buffy is a Gryffindor primary who will do what’s right even when she knows that it will destroy her afterward, and she uses her Gryffindor secondary to face the problems head-on and to lead a consistent core group of people through fire and back.

abhorsen.

abhorsen.

 

Sorting Barry Allen

I like sorting characters from other fandoms - a lot. I’ve been debating doing these in blog posts rather than in various threads, and… well, now I am. I use the sortinghatchats system - +here’s (M to be safe) a link to their ‘basics’ post. To briefly summarize, though, they sort everyone on two different (and equally important) aspects of their personality: the first (your “primary” house) is why you do things, where the second (your “secondary” house) is how you do things. And now I’m going to sort the Arrowverse’s Barry Allen.   Primary (the “why”) Barry is a little tough to sort, because he can look like a lot of different things. The only primary he doesn't look much like is Ravenclaw’s. I’ve second-guessed myself a fair amount as I’ve gone through the series, so I’m going to just look at the other three houses one by one. Slytherin Primaries prioritize individual loyalties and find their moral core in protecting and caring for the people they are closest to. They often construct a morality system to deal with situations that are not addressed by their loyalty system. It’s probably the easiest to pick out when Barry has shown a Slytherin side: they’re some of the most significant decisions he’s made, and they’ve had lasting consequences. Changing the timeline to save his parents and his fixation on saving Iris to the exclusion of almost everything else (both in season three) were both motivated by his individual loyalties. However, the key here is that Barry isn’t truly comfortable with the selfish choices that he’s made. He feels an enormous amount of guilt over them. A Slytherin primary wouldn’t be wrecked with guilt over Flashpoint the way Barry is, for example. It’s also important that, even at his lowest and most unhappy, Barry doesn’t look anything like a petrified Slytherin primary. He never stops caring about the people in his inner circle, and even when he cuts himself off from them at the beginning of season two, it’s not because having people close to him is dangerous to him - he’s (somewhat justifiably) afraid that it’s dangerous for them. I think Barry fits better with one of the ‘felt’ houses - i.e., Gryffindor or Hufflepuff, which can look quite a bit alike. They trust their guts; they don’t need to pick feelings apart to know that they’re real. But Gryffindors are also idealists, where Hufflepuffs are loyalists. For Gryffindors, the impact their actions have on people helps shape what they think is right and what they think is wrong, but there’s a bigger picture; for Hufflepuffs, people are the big picture. The end result is often the same, but how they get there isn’t. Let’s look at Hufflepuff first. Hufflepuff Primaries value people. They value community, bond to groups, and they make their decisions off of who is in the most need and who is the most vulnerable and who they can help. They value fairness because every person is a person and feel best when they give everyone a fair chance. This looks a lot more like Barry than Slytherin does. He forms strong bonds with his team at STAR Labs very quickly, and his focus is invariably on saving people who are vulnerable. He wants the world to be fair, and he embodies that when he doesn’t just give members of his team second chances - he dismisses their apologies as unnecessary. He does it for Cisco when he reveals Barry’s identity to Leonard Snart to save his brother. He does it when Harry steals Barry’s speed to save his daughter. He does it when Caitlin turns into Killer Frost and helps Savitar. Hufflepuff could fit Barry - but it’s not the best fit for him. Gryffindor Primaries trust their moral intuitions. They feel what’s right in their gut, and that matters and guides them. If they don’t listen to and act on that, it feels immoral. Barry is a forgiving person, but that doesn’t automatically make him a Hufflepuff. A Hufflepuff might forgive or help someone they dislike because people have inherent worth. That’s not Barry - he’ll forgive people because he believes they’re better than their mistakes and have the right approach inside of them, not because they have innate worth. It’s not just about his friends, either - he forgives Leonard Snart because he believes that Snart is better than that. People who he doesn’t see the capacity to change in are locked up in the pipeline. Barry is also more than willing to sacrifice social harmony when if conflicts with doing what’s right. He'd certainly prefer for the people around him to get along and agree with him, but Barry doesn’t need them to get along or agree with him. That’s a pattern established in the very first episode, and it runs throughout the series: if Barry thinks that something is right, he’ll do it, and screw what anyone else says. “I’m sorry, but you can’t talk me out of this” or “I’ve made up my mind” are used over and over and over again - and for Barry, social harmony is collateral damage that he doesn’t hesitate to accept if it means that he’s doing The Right Thing. A Hufflepuff would care about preserving it; a Gryffindor wouldn’t. And while Barry’s attachment to his ever-expanding team at STAR Labs is significant, the nature of that attachment points at a Gryffindor primary, too. His core identity doesn’t revolve around STAR Labs - it revolves around being the Flash. He doesn’t seek out a new community to get involved with in Flashpoint until it becomes intrinsically connected to doing the right thing. And, in the original timeline, his passion for his ideals drags the team out of a thick malaise and brings people together to work toward his vision. That’s far more characteristic of a Gryffindor primary than a Hufflepuff primary. Throughout the first season, Barry has a decision to make over (and over, and over): should he break his father out of jail? He wants to, but he doesn’t. Part of that is knowing that his father wouldn’t want that, but part of it is that Barry feels like it would be <i>wrong.</i> The other key is to look at Barry not just at his best, but at his worst. Barry at his worst doesn’t really look much like a burned Puff primary - he never really sees having a community as inherently unsafe, nor does he ever try to shrink it, with the possible exception of stepping away from it in the beginning of season two. However, Barry at his worst looks a lot like a Gryffindor primary who’s starting to strip - he’s never at his most anguished than he is when he doesn’t know what’s right. It’s true that some of his alter-egos do look a bit like burned Puffs - both Savitar and future!Barry in season three have stepped away from their communities in ways that are a little more characteristic of a burned Hufflepuff than a stripped Gryffindor. However, there’s too much about their journeys and internal struggles that we just don’t see to sway me. It’s entirely possible that future!Barry’s experience surrounding Iris’s death involved something that shook his faith in his ability to tell right from wrong, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see a Gryffindor primary in that position wall themselves off. Similarly, if Savitar was truly ostracized from the group, I can absolutely see his feelings about right and wrong becoming warped. We don’t get to know future!Barry or Savitar well enough to puzzle that out, and their characterization isn’t inconsistent with Gryffindor, so I’m going to stick with my original conclusion: Barry Allen is a Gryffindor primary.   Secondary (the “how”) His secondary is a lot more straightforward. His team at STAR Labs improvises and plans, and he works hard to improve his speed, but none of that is who Barry is. Charging is who Barry is. Inspiring is who Barry is. And that's all Gryffindor secondary. Gryffindor Secondaries charge. They meet the world head-on and challenge it to do its worst. Gryffindor Secondaries are honest, brash, and bold in pursuit of things they care about. Known for their bravery, it is almost a moral matter to stay true to themselves in any situation that they’re in. “Brash” is perhaps a bit harsh, but as “Wells” once pointed out, he’s a bit of a show-off. His pure glee at being mugged in S1 E7 and at helping Joe and Eddie fight criminals after Eddie finds out that he’s the Flash speaks to that. Whether something’s seen as possible doesn’t really enter the equation - Barry’s sentiment is always “I have to try.” Sometimes that involves using his powers - he does what his team thinks is impossible that against both of the Margon brothers - but it doesn’t always involve it. His unsuccessful appeal to Abra Kadabra’s better nature in season three to learn who Savitar is a great example of how he uses it in a verbal capacity as well as a physical one. He even (briefly) manages to break through to Savitar himself. His attempts don’t always fail, either - they’re often quite successful. He inspires the people around him with his hope, optimism, and sincerity. Eobard Thawne came back in time to kill Barry, but while his initial motivation in creating the Flash was clearly just to get back to his own time, he clearly comes to feel genuine affection toward Barry, leaving him both STAR Labs and a taped confession for Nora Allen’s murder. Barry pulls Caitlin back from the brink of becoming Killer Frost in episode 7 of season three because he trusts her. Future!Barry was broken by Iris’s death; Present!Barry inspires him to reconnect with the team members and become the Flash again when he goes off to fight Mirror Master and Top, because it’s The Right Thing To Do. “I heard what you said, and you were right.” Barry doesn’t just inspire the people around him to be better, either - he also inspires them to be honest. He tells them how he feels and what he knows: he’s honest about he remembers from the night his mother died, he’s honest about his feelings for Iris, he’s honest about Flashpoint. It causes him clear distress when he hides things from people - Barry’s default state is being an open book. While he can accept that it’s not always possible, he doesn’t like it, because he often isn’t deciding to tell people things so much as being too earnest not to tell them. It being a “moral matter” to stay true to himself is a perfect description of where his struggle comes from in S1 after he discovers that “Wells” was involved in his mother’s murder. Joe can fake it. Barry can’t. If he tells you that he’s going to do something, he will do it. He tells his father he’ll free him from prison, and he does. He promises to go back for the real Jay (twice!), and he does. He promises to save Iris, and he does (albeit with assistance from HR). Yes, he’s saving people he cares about (or identifies with) - but it’s often clear that Barry’s motivated by the principle as much as the practical implications. He doesn’t break promises because that’s just not what you do. In summary: Barry is a Gryffindor primary and a Gryffindor secondary.

abhorsen.

abhorsen.

 

On Straws, Environmentalism, and Ableism

If you've seen something along these lines on my facebook, sorry - I was thinking about it, and I was like, you know what this would make a blog post. So here we are. There's been a lot of attention paid to the impact plastic straws have on the environment lately, and I know a lot of people who have become pretty active in pushing back against how the waste they generate. That's not a bad thing in and of itself; many people don't use straws, and throwing out unused or unnecessary straws is definitely not good for the environment and should be avoided when possible. However. It is not okay to go around telling restaurants that they should no longer carry straws, or shaming people for using straws, or dismissing the fact that some people need straws to drink - and there's a growing trend toward taking it to that extreme. My mom needed a straw to drink before the ALS progressed to her not being able to drink on her own, and there were at least a couple events we went to where there weren't straws and so she literally couldn't drink. It was upsetting, and trying to get her water in other ways was nowhere near as safe as her being able to control what she was drinking through a straw. (It's really, really hard to tip just the right amount of water into someone's mouth at just the right pace, especially when their disability impacts things like breathing. When the straw stopped being an option because she didn't have the breath to suck the liquid up and we had to hold up the cup for her, there were multiple times when she inhaled the water - including one incident that resulted in an exhausting trip to the hospital.) My mom is not the only person in that situation. There are a lot of people who literally cannot drink or struggle to drink without straws because of disabilities or other health issues. Shaming them for needing straws is shaming them for being disabled. A lot of people don't realize this. I get that - it's not something I would have been so aware of if I hadn't seen it with my mom. But once you're aware of the issue, please, please call out the ableism when you see it. Not being to access water (or other liquids) - especially when it happens all the time because no one carries straws anymore - is really, really dangerous, and it's not an exaggeration to say that it can lead to serious health complications and even death. Reusable straws are an option - but they're not always a good option, either for individuals to carry with them or for restaurants/other events to use them like they use utensils. Ineffective. Metal, wood, and glass can be too hard (or cold) to be viable solutions for some people, and a lot of the reusable straws on the market - especially the ones that are most durable, which are also probably the most desirable for both individuals and companies - are metal/wood/glass.
  Price point. Reusable straws are often much, much more expensive.

That's a problem for individuals because people with disabilities are disproportionately poor, because disabilities are expensive. Healthcare is often incredibly expensive, accessibility isn't a priority, and just getting around can be prohibitively exhausting and also not at all cost effective.

That's also a problem for places that serve food. Some restaurants probably could afford to provide them, but many - especially places that are less formal or primarily to-go (i.e., cheaper) - would not. If we're talking about a one-time event, that's even more true, because no one is going to spend $30 on reusable straws for one event.
  Sanitation. Reusable straws aren't that hard to clean if you have the physical ability to do so, but they're still harder to clean that silverware. That's an additional barrier for people who don't have the physical ability to do so for their own personal straws, and it also makes using someone else's reusable straw problematic; there's no guarantee that it's been cleaned properly, which is particularly a concern if you have a vulnerable immune system - which many disabled people who need straws do. Beyond that... straws don't exist in a vacuum. Disabled people are often less able to minimize waste than abled people, and the answer can't be to tell disabled people to just be more like abled people - they can't be. That's the point. The onus for saving the planet has to rest on the people who can do it, not thrown at the feet of people who can't - and if people can't accept disabled people sometimes needing disposable straws, it's not going to stop there. Absolutely ask people if they need straws. Advertise reusable straws. But people need to use a little empathy, too, because they can reduce waste without shaming people for needing a little more than they do.

abhorsen.

abhorsen.

 

On depression and reaching out

Content warning for mention of suicide Click the spoiler tag to read the post. I don't talk about suicide in any depth, but I do mention it in the broader context of depression and little things individuals can do to help people who are depressed. I also want to mention that we all have shit to grapple with; these are just things I wanted to mention that could be good to do if you can do them. I'm not in any way advocating giving more of yourself than you want and/or are able to give; once it starts to take a toll on you, it's not a little thing for you anymore, either.
   

abhorsen.

abhorsen.

 

On jerkbrains and thank yous

So as some of you know, I sometimes battle with depression. And depression can be a lying liar from liarsville that whispers lies in your ears. I have this thing where I simultaneously have really good self-esteem and absolute shit self-esteem. When people dislike me, my reaction is usually "What the hell is wrong with you?" But when people do like me, my reaction is usually "But you wouldn't if you knew the real me!" I assume that people will be attracted to me because my hair is awesome, but I also get super pessimistic about prospective relationships, and will even tell people that I'm into them without giving them a chance to respond, because it genuinely doesn't occur to me that it could be reciprocal. (Then I realize three years later that it totally was and they literally tried to tell me that it was. Oops.) I'm being rash and peculiar again. My point is, I'm a vain and sentimental enigma wrapped in a number of pop culture references. So to combat the sweet nothings that depression metaphorically whispers in my ears and my sporadically low self-esteem, I have a folder on my computer. It's titled, 'Hi, Self. You don't actually suck.' And in it, I put evidence that I don't actually suck, to try to interrupt the spiral of negativity that my jerk-brain sometimes triggers. It doesn't solve it, but it helps. Anyway. I pretty much just want to thank HPFT, because I was going through it recently (read: today :P) and realized that quite a lot of stuff in the folder is stuff that you guys have given me - little threads on twitter, the OoM/archive opening threads, reviews, recs... etc etc etc. I first joined this community six years ago, and I'm so thankful I stumbled across it - no matter how shitty the world looks, there are so many pockets of fundamentally good-hearted people who care about banding together and supporting the people around them, and that's a really lovely thing.   I feel so privileged to be one of you, and I hope I give y'all as much as you give me. Because there's not actually a cure for jerkbrains... but friends can help a lot. Thanks. <3 P.S. If you struggle with the medical condition formally known in the medical community as jerkbrain, I strongly recommend making a folder like that, because it will probably help.

abhorsen.

abhorsen.

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