I got into Buffy rather recently. I fucking love it.
Some thoughts. The whole fandom seems to be enamoured with Joyce. Such a sweet good mom, everyone says. And sometimes, I kinda hate her. Maybe I have crazy good parents, so I see that it's bullshit? I don't know.
I don't think one can fault her on the mistakes she made during most of season one and two, when she was in the dark about slaying stuff. And she did have some genuinely great moments, like when she tried to cover Buffy from the police after she thought her daughter had murdered Ted.
I don't even really fault her for telling Buffy not to come back to the house in Becoming. She'd just had a very rude awakening, and she was practically having a breakdown. But I do hate the way she behaves in season 3.
Kicking her daughter out of the house was something she didn't mean to do, but she did it. Yet, she never actually faces up to the consequences. In Anne, she tells Giles she blames him for Buffy's disappearance. She's right to complain that this grown man was having a whole relationship with her teenaged daughter behind her back , that's fair. But Giles was the one that offered Buffy unfailing support, the one that flat out told her he respected her choices and decisions. Joyce told her never to come back. She withdrew all support, meaning it or not. Suck it up, woman, live with it, don't blame other people for your failings.
And when Buffy comes back... boy, loads of people have complained about the way the Scoobies behave. They are right. And, hey, I know exactly what they were going through. My best friend went missing when we were fourteen, and I know precisely what it is to wonder about them all the time, to be scared about what they might be going through, to wake up in the middle of the night, crying because you have repetitive dreams that you find them and you keep waking up and realizing that it was just a dream. So I know how much it hurts. Still doesn't excuse their selfish behaviour or callousness.
But her mother acts like she was the victim. She acts as if Buffy was an irresponsible, unfeeling, selfish child that she is graciously conceding a second chance. I feel like Buffy is the one giving her mother a second chance, a chance to get used to the idea of slaying, to come to terms with reality. In the end, and with time, Joyce will get it. She won't get it fully until there's Dawn, a younger daughter who effectively replaces Buffy as her 'baby'. Only having a younger child to protect forces Joyce to respect her daughter as an adult.
But in early season 3, she just doesn't get it. She insists on seeing Buffy as a child that needs discipline instead of the young woman who did a lot of growing up when she wasn't looking. And hey, not blaming her for that. Most people do their growing precisely when mom and dad are not around, when we can't play our parts as children and have to step up and do the adult thing. But Joyce refuses to see what's right in front of her, what Buffy flat out tells her in Band Candy. At seventeen, she had a job and a flat. If that's not showing that you are able to take care of yourself, then I don't know what does. Acting like you are the only injured party, the only one in the right, when it's your daughter that's giving you the chance to be her mother again?
Honestly, I don't know how Buffy copes with all the limits and restrictions her mother tries to impose (like refusing to let her daughter get a driver license , even though, as Buffy points out, she didn't need one to run away last time). And in the show, it is played out for laughs, with a funny aesop about how she's a silly kid that needs adults. I think that what's acknowledged as the season progresses, and the show, too, that what she needs from her mother is love and unconditional support. It takes Joyce far, far too long to see that. Her behaviour in early season 3 brings more damage than healing. Yet, this is never acknowledged or talked about, Joyce never apologizes or admits that she might have been a little wrong.
But then she dies. And she becomes the sainted mother who never did anything wrong. Which of course she should be for her daughters, because that's just how we cope with death. But why for everyone else? The rest of the cast, most of the fandom? It's not an unheard opinion, I'm not saying anything new, but it is unpopular. Am I judging her too harshly?
Other parents in the Buffyverse are awful, and by comparison Joyce is a saint. But she's still not perfect. And while every other characters' flaws are highlighted and lampshaded, Joyce's are forgotten, hidden, never given any closure.
I guess I would've just liked to see a little recognition of that.
(I am currently rewatching Season 3, so that's where the rant comes from)