In the eleventh episode of the first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Cordelia is the catalyst for a series of brutal attacks at Sunnydale. Also CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT OH MY GOD. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
(Just a heads up: We sort of have to talk about bullying and loneliness below, but if you’re one of the people who don’t watch Buffy and only read my reviews, just be warned if you’re not up to reading about this sort of stuff.)
Loneliness can do some terrible things to a person, and I know that as someone who had to deal with the pervasive nature of it all throughout my public schooling experience. “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” certainly takes that to an extreme, but the episode works so well because it’s such an emotional and affectionate take on something quite a few of us had to deal with growing up. (And, of course, many of us still experience it, too, and I certainly do often.)
High school, simply put, can be a brutal thing for anyone, and what this episode does best is show us that even those at the top of the social change are not the perfect, emotionally stable people we imagine them to be. First, however, I need to do something. Allow me this moment:
OH MY GOD WE FINALLY GOT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT FOR CORDELIA AND OH MY GOD IT WAS WORTH SITTING THROUGH TEN EPISODES BEFORE WE ARRIVED HERE AHHHHHHHHHH SOMEONE HOLD ME ON THE ASTRAL PLANE.
Okay. I’ll be fine now.
When I think about it, this is the saddest episode of Buffy so far, and that sadness isn’t played as a joke. The cold open not only hinted that this story would focus more on Cordelia than anyone else, but it had that raw, depressing moment where Buffy tried to be nice to Cordelia, and she brushed her off rudely. My mind instantly went to one place: trying to gain the acceptance of the people who bullied me. That might be something that’s strange or confusing to some of you, and I get that. Why would you want to be friends with someone who was so violent and rude to you? For me, it was never necessarily about that. It wasn’t that I wanted that person on my side so much as me wanting to just feel….well, wanted by that person. I think that more often than not, this is what I felt by people who bullied me for years: they were impossibly cool and accepted by most of the school population. I didn’t care what others thought: I just wanted that guy or girl to think I was awesome, as if their validation was some greater commentary on myself.
In hindsight, of course that’s a ludicrous concept, and I’m sure things would have been easier if I’d known this back then. I didn’t though. I was the smart, bookworm kid who all the teachers loved and most of the students despised. The non-nerdy kids used me to do their homework or to get ahead, and then ignored me and picked on me ruthlessly once anyone else was around. No, honestly, it was just as ridiculous as it is here in “Out of Mind, Out of Sight.” That scene at the end where Cordelia stops being awesome to the group and insults them as she walks away with Mitch? Yeah, it was literally the same for me, so the scene wasn’t ridiculous at all. That happened to me often, by the way.
So why give in to that? Why allow someone to be nice to be when they needed something and rude to me when other people might consider us to be friends? Because I was lonely. When the other nerds won’t accept you because you don’t study like they do and because you like loud music and going to shows and dying your hair strange colors, you get lonely. When the kids who listen to hardcore and punk rock think you’re faking everything you’re doing, calling you a poser and a fraud and other words I’d rather not type here, you get lonely. When your church makes you feel like an outsider, and you don’t live with your family, and the people you do live with have made it clear that you’ll always be nothing more than a guest, you get lonely. And when you know you like dudes and the whole society around you tells you that you’re not supposed to do that, so you suppress it all and you never tell anyone that you like them because you don’t want to get beat up again after school, the loneliness is probably the worst.
This is why I did foolish things, like letting people I thought were my friends copy all my answers for AP History and then go home and feel vacant because none of them wanted to hang out with me outside of our study sessions. It’s why I played nice, it’s why I never stood up for myself, and it’s why I stayed quiet. I’ve spoken to a few people I went to high school with in the last couple years, and most were shocked that people treated me so poorly. It’s strange because I was good in school and I was involved with a lot of sports and clubs and my name got around a lot. I won things, I did speech class, and I was an honor student. People generally knew who I was, but I wasn’t popular like Cordelia was here.
However, what I related to (and still do) was her brilliantly-written line where she opens up to Buffy and tells her that even when she’s surrounded by people, she still feels alone. They don’t truly know her, she explains. That was a powerful thing to see in this episode, and it’s my favorite part. Because while a lot of people at my high school knew who I was and spoke to me and such, not a single one of them really knew much about my life aside from an extremely select few. Even then, it wasn’t until I was nearing nineteen and already graduating that I found even one person I could actually tell the secrets I’d been holding in for over a decade. LOL I SWEAR I WILL NOT MAKE EVERY REVIEW ABOUT ME BEING A BIG OL’ GAY, Y’ALL. But that’s an important thing to acknowledge here! Having to stay in the closet for so long and never being able to experience a date or a kiss or holding hands between classes once meant that no matter how many people I was around, I always felt alone.
You know, it never really went away. I’m okay with it now. Honestly! I enjoy being alone, and even some days I like feeling lonely. It’s because I’m comfortable with myself and that makes me feel better being in a solitary in environment. But you know what? If I had seen this in 1997, to see a character as popular as Cordelia saying that even in a crowd of people, she feels utterly alone, I might have felt a little better about my predicament. That’s a powerful message to send to someone struggling with that sort of experience.
OTHER MOMENTS I LOVED
- Research Xander. He is so cute when he researches!
- CLEA DUVALL. She’s in everything I love, I swear. She was on Heroes and in Zodiac and Carnivale and I thought she was on The X-Files? Apparently not, though.
- The unexpected appearance of Angel in a largely non-mythology episode. What the hell does the Codex say about Buffy???
- Hey! Look! A reference to and use of The Merchant of Venice that isn’t completely fucking terrible! Take that, Stephenie Meyer!
- The general creepiness of this episode is fantastic, especially since we genuinely don’t know what’s going on for so long.
- Principal Snyder’s obsession with not getting sued. WE HAD A PRINCIPAL LIKE THAT ONCE!!!
- “Have a nice summer!” is truly a death sentence. SERIOUSLY. Oh god, this show is painfully accurate sometimes.
- The bad science is so clever that I don’t care about it. It’s such a rad idea that someone who is no longer perceived in any way slips out of reality. THIS IS HOW TO PULL OFF BAD SCIENCE.
- CORDELIA CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. Oh my god, I want her to join the group so goddamn bad now. SHE’S SO CLOSE. I mean, she just witnessed an invisible girl attack her. She’s like…one attack away from being pulled in! I WILL CELEBRATE THE DAY.
- I love open-ended conclusions to monster-of-the-week stories, and sticking Marcie in some sort of assassination program for the federal government was so silly that I didn’t want to waste a drop of energy hating it.
OH GOD THE SEASON FINALE IS TOMORROW OH MY GOD