“When She Was Bad” (Buffy, Season 2)


I had forgotten just how much I liked the soundtrack in this series. When I rewatched this first episode of season 2, I was struck by the improved camera-work. The scene of Buffy dancing with Xander at the Bronze was quite well done, with Willow and Angel both framed in the background.

So, after a summer away in L.A., Buffy returns to Sunnydale. Her father described her as seeming “distant” all summer, while Willow spelled out Buffy’s behavioural change more explicitly for Giles. (Unfortunately, Xander heard Willow stutter the ‘H’ and thought she was talking about Buffy being a “bitcah”.) Even Cordelia calls Buffy out on her personality pathology, while Cibo Matto performs “Sugar Water” at the Bronze.

The following discussion is purely for theoretical and entertainment purposes.

Buffy’s problem is simple: she was killed by the Master and then she finds out that his bones were stolen for a resurrection ritual.  She never had a chance to express her grief.

In 5-phase terminology, this is a clear case of metal, with its inward-moving, constrictive qi overacting on the outward expression of wood. LU controlling LV, in other words. To support this diagnosis, I would point out that the very physical activity Buffy engages in with a sledgehammer at the end of the episode clearly allows LV yang to express itself through the tendons (and put all the Master’s effort at Bone Marrow washing and breathing to nought).  This finally allows the LU qi to release itself from the self-contained, closed network of the 5-phase cycle as grief.

In other words, I’m arguing that the emotions are the lass of qi from its internal circulation within the body. Grief allows the exterior release of metal’s dynamic, just as anger siphons off the LV qi. Otherwise, anger would too readily damage the heart through overwhelming it with too much yang qi. In the case of grief, if it is transferred to the Kidneys all at once, it may damage the person’s sense of self and their ability to express themselves in the world. In Buffy’s case, the excess metal energy when to constraining Wood, leading to her bitchiness throughout the episode.

The 5-phase treatment with acupuncture would be very simple: LV-8, KD-10 (note how this combination not only tonifies the child via tonifying the mother, it gives the Kidneys additional resources to cope with an influx of LU qi); LU-9 would then be dispersed. I would not think of using Luo vessels in this case, since Buffy’s grief isn’t simply repressed; it is impacting the overall qi dynamic of her body and life. Since it has already affected another organ, why not address the two together through a five phase treatment?

In the case of herbal prescriptions, I would use Sang Ye as the emperor herb. Sang Ye releases the exterior. When the exterior is clear, what is on the interior can come out. Sang Ye also goes to the Liver and Lung channels, which we have already identified as being imbalanced. In fact, I would be prone to add Sang Ye to those cases of grief which is present, known, and yet unable to quite resolve itself. (I would distinguish this grief from that caused by disappointment — use Pang Da Hai or Ku Shen — on the one hand, and depression — use Xuan Shen — on the other.)

The formula I might think of using is a combination of Sang Xing Tang and Sang Ju Yin. Interestingly, this formula is traditionally used at the start of the school year. Perhaps Buffy was simply psychologising her corporal ills (i.e. warm-dryness injuring the Lungs) or she simply wasn’t somatising her emotions well enough. I see benefits in describing pathology in either direction.

I would use Sang Xing Tang as the base, removing Dan Dou Chi and adding Jie Geng. The combination of Xing Ren and Jie Geng will help clear the throat, and allow Buffy to talk about what is going on with her (without getting all uppity in the process). A little Bo He will help the process along. The Sha Shen in Sang Xing Tang will help disperse any phlegm which might keep Buffy from seeing what is going on with her, while the moistening Li Pi and Zhe Bei Mu will provide the moisture necessary for grief to be expressed in tears. Lung dryness, after all, can be thought of as grief without water.

The above discussion is for entertainment and theory only.  Please find a qualified practitioner if you or a loved one believe Asian medicine may help resolve grief or chronic irritability at one’s colleagues.   (It may be that they are trying to give you the grief you need to express.)

Happy Slayage!

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