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Our next guest post comes from Lady Business regular, Memory Scarlett. Memory writes about books, television, and more at her blog, In the Forest of Stories. You can also find her moaning about her taco addiction and her various fictional preoccupations on Twitter as @xicanti. She’s currently trying not to dive straight into an epic BTVS rewatch; when she loses the battle, Twitter will be the first to know.

Glory, seated in chair with stick

I love a good villain as much as the next person, but I usually draw a blank when people ask me about my favourites. So many of the evil folks I latch onto are really antiheroes; the sort of characters who could just as easily switch sides, if they thought it might be to their advantage. They do ghastly things, but since they can also be sympathetic there’s always that small hope they’ll recognize the error of their ways and, like, stop being evil. It’s rare for me to get truly excited about an out-and-out villain.

Glory, the antagonist of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s stellar fifth season, is the exception. She is an unequivocal villain, and I love her to death.

Prior to Glory’s arrival in Sunnydale, the Scooby Gang deals with an assortment of down-to-earth villains including vampires who want to eat all the humans; unsouled ex-lovers with psychological torment on their minds; immortal sorcerers who lust after demonic levels of power; and governmental agencies bent on scientifically qualifying magic. They’re great villains, yeah, and they pose a real threat to the Scoobies, but not a one of ‘em is on the same level as Glory. She might deign to wrinkle her nose at them, or shoot a snarky comment their way if they’re particularly lucky, but that’s about as far as Glory would ever involve herself with that sort of rabble.

Because Glory is a god. Literally. And she’s not just any old god--she’s a mad, banished hell god determined to return to her realm at any cost.

She’s the worst, and that makes her the best.

I’ve seen Glory referred to as the purest of the Buffy villains because all she really wants is to go home. If that means she’s gotta cause a big ruckus along the way and ultimately suck the rest of the world into hell along with her… well, that’s the cost of doing business. It ain’t like it’s personal. She just acts according to her nature.

I don’t entirely buy into this reading because Glory, for all her tantrums about the vile, human world that has become her prison, clearly enjoys herself. Yeah, she’d rather be elsewhere, but she might as well have some fun while she’s stuck here. And hey, she’s evil, so her fun needn’t be limited by pesky little things like “other peoples’ feelings” or “moral behavior.”

Glory jumps around singing, 'Fun, fun, fun!'

Like, why should she totally ignore what this world has to offer while she’s on the hunt for the mystical key that can take her home? Why shouldn’t she treat herself to a fabulous penthouse apartment packed with every luxury life has to offer? Her closet bursts with designer dresses and fabulous shoes that look amazing on her. Her hair is all kinds of right. She revels in bubble baths as she downs champagne brought to her by blindfolded minions (because her amazing body ain’t for everyone’s eyes). Said minions are never allowed to address her with the same superlative twice and must resort to increasingly strange comparisons as they struggle to verbally encompass her amazingness.

Glory herself revels in wordplay as she interacts with the world around her. Her evil often manifests as an outward pleasantness; a bright, bubbly enthusiasm that never entirely fades, even when she’s screaming threats or sucking someone’s mental capacities out through their ears. Glory seems like a pleasant, somewhat hyper young woman, until you realize she wants to rip your liver out and feed it to you.


Glory jumps forward a couple of times.

Every interaction she engages in, every verbal exchange and physical threat, becomes all the more menacing because Glory acts in the full knowledge that she is indestructible. She can do whatever the hell she wants because there are no consequences.

Well, no consequences except her continued stay in this ghastly world.

Glory rages against her condition, for this reason and others, but she also has a lot of fun. That, in turn, makes her fun to watch--at least until she threatens one of the Scoobies, or destroys someone’s mind, or engages in a spot of recreational torture. She’s fun, but she’s unabashedly evil and fucking terrifying, and the viewer can’t forget it for long.

She’s also mad; another reason for her abrupt rages, and one that renders her fascinating on any number of levels. Glory’s madness is so grounded that it’s possible to read it as simply a godly worldview, but the veneer can crumble away in a heartbeat. Forced into a world where she doesn’t belong and which is slowly eroding her mental faculties, Glory isn’t terribly good at keeping it together. Not even her nasty habit of sucking out peoples’ sanity can help her maintain her grip on things for very long.

Madness renders Glory even more unpredictable, and you’ll recall she was already a hell god with no moral compass.

Glory says, 'I'm crazy? Honey, I'm the original one-eyed chicklet in the kingdom of the blind.'

Her madness also ties in with the ancient notion of ecstasy. Before it was a drug, ecstasy was a form of religious madness in which worshippers sought to become one with their god. Glory doesn’t have visible worshippers apart from her minions, but her very presence forces a form of ecstasy upon everyone she meets. Her banishment comes complete with a clause that prevents anyone from tracking down the vulnerable body she shares with a bona fide mortal, and the result is short term memory loss for any human who witnesses her change. (Vampires are exempt. Lucky ducks.) There’s no way to remain entirely sane around Glory, no matter how well you protect yourself.

Furthermore, she literally becomes one with a series of hapless individuals when she devours their sanity in service to her continued mental wellbeing (assuming “wellbeing” is the right word”). They retain consciousness, but the core of who they are melds with Glory. It’s ecstasy made real in the most destructive way possible.

Glory isn’t frightening simply because she’s a mad god who wants to suck the world into her own personal hell dimension; she’s terrifying because she can inflict her madness on anyone at any time. She doesn’t even have to touch you. If you witness her change, you will lose a small part of yourself, and you’ll never even know it’s gone.

Basically, she’s my ultimate villain: entertaining, squee-worthy, gorgeous, vicious, selfish, and utterly terrifying. It’s wrong to love her, but I just can’t help it. She’d be hell in real life--literally--but I can’t think of another villain I’ve enjoyed watching more, or who sparks such genuine fear in my wee heart. When it comes to evil folks, Glory is my very favourite.

Date: 2015-04-21 04:13 pm (UTC)
anaraine: A smoky crop of Faith with her head turned to the side, with the text "this girl is on fire". ([btvs] this girl is on fire)
From: [personal profile] anaraine
What a fun post. I feel a sudden desire to rewatch s5 of Buffy...

Date: 2015-04-22 07:06 am (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (BtVS: Death is my gift)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
What a great post. Glory really raised the stakes, and that was one reason why BtVS S5 is so fantastic.


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