This literally has not changed since I did my challenge all the way back in 2013, so there is absolute no reason to hide it behind the cut. Because it is Emma Caulfield’s Anya. Anya Anya Anya, from now until eternity.
There is something so refreshing about a character who always speaks her mind. Cordelia’s tendency in this arena kept her in my good graces throughout her three-season run, so when she left to join Angel in Los Angeles, I was curious as to how they were going to fill the Cordy-shaped void in the main cast. While they could have just gone with James Marsters’ Spike, I am forever happy the writers chose to bring Anya back into the mix. Her chemistry with Nicholas Brendan’s Xander was perfect, and she brought an ancient yet inexperienced point of view, knowing obscure occult trivia but lacking any knowledge of social graces or tact. I don’t really agree with her greedy capitalist leanings, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
Like Cordelia and Spike, Anya knew herself and was comfortable in that. (Well, ostensibly. But I’ll get to that in a minute.) That didn’t prevent her from developing a very distinct character arc, however. As she fought alongside the Slayer and her friends, Anya was forever changed, incapable of fully returning to her dispassionate view of people and the world they inhabited, and chose to ignore her natural instinct for self-preservation and embraced the insanity of fighting a losing battle. But the journey itself was fascinating to watch, from her attempts to regain her demonhood in Season Three all the way through the finale. And honestly, if anyone says the greatest BTVS monologue is anything other than Anya’s in “The Body,” they are either lying or very, very disillusioned.
But I don’t understand! I don’t understand how this all happens. I mean, I knew her and now … there’s just a body. And I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore. It’s stupid! It’s mortal and stupid! And Xander’s crying and not talking. And I was having fruit punch, and I thought, ‘Well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch. Not ever. And she’ll never have eggs, or yawn, or brush her hair, not ever.’ And no one will explain to me why.
Even just typing that brings tears to my eyes.
Anya was inspirational in other ways, though, such as her sexually-liberated nature and her nearly constant style changes. I didn’t just identify with her as a teenager/young adult; I wanted to be her, to be accepted for who I was, despite being kind of a weird, offbeat person. If a former demon could get a successful boyfriend, why couldn’t I?
And then, Joss Whedon happened. Back when I first did this challenge, I was incensed at how Whedon abruptly murdered Anya in the series finale, and five years later, I’m still not over it, especially considering all I’ve been through since I then. I’ve been in – and left – an abusive marriage and have been healing from that experience for the last two, almost three, years, just recently having glued many damaged pieces back together to create a sort of distorted version of my previous self. I’m learning to fight again. But if Whedon had his way, I’d probably be sliced up by a sword in my next scene or be shot by a stray bullet meant for Buffy. And yeah, fuck that. I didn’t sacrifice all that I have for that bullshit.
So much of Anya’s story was rooted in how she defined herself through others. She was never just Anya. Prior to her losing her demon powers, she lived as a personification of vengeance and had nothing to really latch onto once that was stolen from her, except Xander. And I so get that. After spending five years of my life being controlled and manipulated, I didn’t know what to do once I left his sphere of influence, so I naturally gravitated toward something that could help me define myself again. Much of Season Seven was Anya trying to become someone worthy of living, and not just because she was romantically linked to them. She was so much more than “Xander’s girl” or vengeance demon, and it offends me that her sendoff was Xander claiming her as his own. No. Just no. Whedon’s cred as a feminist icon has definitely waned in the public eye over the past few years, but how he handled Anya’s death in 2003 is what killed my adoration for him. It has yet to recover.
But Anya will forever live in me, and I’ll strive until the day I die to make her proud.