Slayage in the silences May25

Slayage in the silences...

Arguably, faerie stories work in one of two ways. They can gesture to things in the world around us, or they can gesture to things in the world beyond us. Indeed, the key ingredient to a good faerie tale is that it gestures without giving away too much. It does not explain, but rather invites—connections, conversations, and arguments. It invites us to ignore the arbitrary division between the real and imagined; fantasy and reality are of a piece and in the best instances both point toward truth. The episode “Hush,” a masterpiece of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer canon, uses faerie marvelously. At the heart of the episode is the legend of the mysterious gentlemen, who steal everyone’s voices in a town or village, and then collect the hearts of their victims in the silence. The reason they need the hearts and what will happen when they collect the allotted seven remains unexplained, as does the rule central to the narrative: the gentlemen cannot be defeated by weapons, but only by a scream produced by a real human voice. Ranged about this Grimm-like tale are “real-world” problems toward which it gestures. Various characters are in the middle of crises of communication. Buffy and Riley are romantically attracted to each other, but are too awkward around each other to articulate anything except meaningless small talk. Tara sees in Willow a kindred spirit interested in real magic rather than Wiccan tea and bake sales, but she is too shy to speak up or initiate friendship. Xander and Anya, whose relationship at this point is primarily physical, are beginning to realize that there might be more to a functional relationship than sex—perhaps honest communication is necessary. What can save us from the silences and evasions that can...