deird1: Dawn upset with Buffy, with text "you don't have a sister" (Dawn sister)
[personal profile] deird1
I think I've figured out why I have such a big problem with what happens to Donna Noble: it's because of Dawn Summers.

I love Dawn. (This should be fairly obvious by now.) She's fun, snarky, intelligent, resourceful, compassionate, and occasionally a brat.

But the thing which makes me love her, no matter what, is the fact that she found out she wasn't real - and then decided she was anyway.

Dawn knows her memories didn't happen. She knows her life is a lie. But she puts that aside and decides to be a real person.

And every day, every time she thinks back to another thing that happened in her childhood, she will once again be hit by the fact that it didn't happen at all. And it will always hurt her.

That's why I wrote Up Late - because it's not just "my life didn't happen"; it's "me teasing Buffy didn't happen", and "my first day of school didn't happen", and "that time when I had a horrible cold and spent the day watching cartoons didn't happen", and on and on...

Every one of those memories is precious to her, because every one of them helps make her who she is. And Dawn decides that she is the person her memories made her; even if they never did.

A few weeks ago, on Whedonesque, I saw someone say that Dawn "isn't a real person, she's just a thing". And I had to shut down my computer and back away, because I got RAGEY BEYOND ALL REASON.

Dawn has always had to fight for her identity, and get hurt over and over by people (her mother, her sister, her friends) telling her that no, she's not real. She doesn't exist.

And nothing makes me more angry than people denying her reality - because they are hurting her. (Even if she is a fictional character, dammit! *is stubborn*)

She is, in fact, a person composed entirely of memory. And I love her to bits.

So... Donna.

She has a whole massive portion of her memory erased by the Doctor.

This leaves us with two possibilities. Either:
- Donna as a person no longer exists (because her memories don't either)
- Donna being a person has nothing to do with what memories she has

The first way, the Doctor has just killed Donna (and erased her soul - see: far too much meta on Fred Burkle and Illyria).

The second way, he's just said Dawn Summers isn't really real.

*fumes for a while*

*realises I still haven't finished this post*

*fumes some more anyway*

If you take away part of Donna's memories, you are taking away part of what makes her her - the part of identity that Dawn has fought for every day since she found out she needed to. You are saying that memories do not make Donna a person; so memories don't make anyone the person they are; so memories can't make Dawn who she is...

It squicks me. Horribly.

(Interestingly, I don't have the same problem with Connor - largely because of what happens when he gets all his memories back, and then decides which set of memories define him, which I see as very Dawnish. Or with Dollhouse - because Caroline without her memories isn't Caroline: she's Echo, who is someone else entirely.)

Questions? Comments?

Date: 2010-09-23 04:05 am (UTC)
next_to_normal: (Dawn)
From: [personal profile] next_to_normal
Ooh. I think I semi-agree with you, in a way that perhaps unifies Dawn and Donna and Connor and Echo.

Memories don't make you a person. They make you a specific person.

Memories are terribly important. They shape us into our individual personalities. If you change enough memories, it fundamentally changes who you are, which is why it's such an egregious act when they're taken away.

But memories are not ALL we are. Something essential remains: see Connor and Echo and the Scoobies in Tabula Rasa, all of whom retained characteristics that transcended their memories. Therefore, taking away your memories doesn't deny you personhood, because even if you take them all away, there is still something left, and that something makes you a person.

Dawn is a special case, because she really wasn't a person; she didn't exist before age 14. But even she is not just the sum of her memories - as you proved in Not, Now, where Dawn has a completely different set of memories, but is still Dawn. Dawn became a person as soon as the monks molded her into one. The set of memories she was given shape who she is, not what she is.

I don't think that diminishes Dawn claiming her memories as her own. Because it's still a crucial part of who she is, and she is deciding that her memories of being a person (even when she wasn't) matter more than what actually happened to her prior to becoming a person.

(For the record, I'm not totally convinced this is how memory works in RL, but I do think it is a unifying theory of memory in the Jossverse.)

Date: 2010-09-23 01:23 pm (UTC)
next_to_normal: (buffy happy)
From: [personal profile] next_to_normal
Yay! :)

Date: 2010-09-23 02:02 pm (UTC)
next_to_normal: (willow ooh)
From: [personal profile] next_to_normal
Oh, oh, I have more thoughts!

It's always been interesting to me that, as much as we talk about memory in the Buffyverse, the monks tampering with people's memories never seems to come up in the same context as Willow erasing Tara's memory (equated to rape) and Angel making the deal with W&H (equated to murder).

Obviously, from Dawn's perspective, what the monks did was awesome, because without it she wouldn't exist. And surely, from this side of the spell, Buffy thinks it's a positive change, because otherwise she wouldn't have this sister whom she loves so much. What she's gained is worth more than whatever she lost.

But I have to think - does Buffy ever wonder what really happened to her in those memories that include Dawn? What did she really do that day when Joyce rented the carousel for Dawn's birthday? What was she really like growing up as an only child? She's different now that she remembers having a sister - but what if only-child Buffy was better?

And the thing is, Buffy, like Donna, never got a choice as to whether she wanted her memories changed. The Doctor decided that what Donna would gain was worth more than what she'd lose, and did it over her protests.

Buffy never even had the chance to protest. I wonder what she would have chosen, if she HAD been given the choice. Would she have wanted a little sister? Would she have accepted it out of duty? Or would she have been too afraid of losing a part of herself, of becoming a different person?

That doesn't necessarily make what the monks did a bad thing. Unlike Donna, who seems lost and sad without her memories, Buffy and Dawn are both happy with the results. Of course, Wesley was happier without his memories, too, so I don't know. Is that better? Or did he deserve to remember what he'd done, no matter how badly it made him feel?

*is a memory geek*

Date: 2010-09-24 12:56 pm (UTC)
fulselden: General Iroh, playing earth-water-fire-air. (Default)
From: [personal profile] fulselden
This is pretty fascinating (also, hi!). It hadn't struck me quite how much Whedon seems to like playing with these kinds of memory-identity questions (yeah, I held off watching Dollhouse because so many aspects of it seems so problematic...). But of course it's there in Buffy and Angel and Firefly as well.

It's interesting, I guess, the extent to which Dawn's arrival is Buffy's second big transformation, after becoming the slayer. But while slayer-hood is to some degree a transparent metaphor for adolescence, Dawn getting abruptly retconned into her life is, well, about families and how you can't always choose them, I guess, but also about the nature of fiction - especially genre fiction, where you can pull this kind of thing off. Something they use very effectively in 'Normal Again'.

Which is obviously the direction Whedon's interests are still heading in. I mean, Dollhouse sounds as if it sacrifices a lot of thoughtfulness about character and worldbuilding to make these sweeping philosophical points about how identity is constituted. Which, hmm - actually kinda makes me want to watch it.

Not that I think they did as much as they could have done with this aspect of Dawn in the show - though given how long ago I watched it, I could be wrong. And ... people say Dawn is a 'thing'? Eeeeew.


deird1: Fred looking pretty and thoughful (Default)

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