Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Joss Whedon is a misogynist homophobe

From the moment its theme in off-tune punk hit the air in 1997, television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer has inspired a fanatical following rivaled only by shows with pointy-eared aliens. The uninitiated see why after just a few episodes. Written and created by Hollywood outsider and relative unknown Joss Whedon, Buffy features a deep, intelligent, character-driven style of writing rarely seen on television. The show tackles dark, heavy themes seemingly without fear, approaching difficult issues in an intricate, innovative way more characteristic of Russian novel than American teledrama. The fan base flocks to the show because of the honest treatment of its recurrent themes—the peril of love, the failure of modern paternalism, the pains of despised childhood, and, more than anything, the untapped power of strong, complex women.

This last arguably is the theme central to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In a television genre known more for super-short miniskirts and big-breasted women in spandex, Buffy gives us an all-new form of girl power. It becomes clear within the first moments of the series opener that title character Buffy Summers kicks ass. A fifteen-year-old high school girl in a cheerleader’s body, Buffy is all brains and brawn. Though backed by a stuffy but lovable father figure, a hottie good-guy vampire with a non-beating heart of gold, and an idiot geek boy, Buffy quickly shows us she has everything she needs to handle the Big Bad all by herself. Maybe a little hacker help from mega-brain gal pal Willow in a pinch, but otherwise Buffy has it taken care of.

Yet this great and admirable strength hides Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s greatest weakness. Sure, the Buff’s all bad-ass on the surface, but scrape a few layers below and it soon becomes obvious that the slayer wears no clothes. Despite its Girl Power pretensions, despite all Whedon’s valiant efforts, Buffy is written by a guy, and it shows. The show’s rebellion against the patriarchy is built on a patriarchal foundation that, consciously or not, undermines many of the themes the show wanted us to think we were seeing. As strong as she is, Buffy’s girl power is unplugged time and again by hot guys with weird hair.

Consider Buffy’s overarching mythos. The deal is that into every generation, some mystical and mostly unexplored power calls forth a “slayer,” a young woman who’s job it is to protect the world from demons and dark things. Once called, the slayer is given great powers—supernatural strength, incredible stealth, and a bitchin’ wardrobe. Buffy suddenly has abs of steel and fists of fury. She’s faster than trains and leaps tall buildings and all that jazz. Buffy has everything mortal men dream of having.

Wow, the progressive is tempted to say. A girl superhero. How totally awesome! But wait. There’s a catch. The first failure of Whedon’s girl power is that Buffy has a watcher. In fact, all slayers everywhere have always had watchers. Slayers tend to be called young and die early, after all, and there’s a lot to learn in their short lives. They need somebody to guide them, to help explain their power, to help them understand just what it is they’re fighting.

This begs the question, though, why she needs to be “watched.” Why a “watcher” and not a “helper” or a “teacher”? And if she has to be watched, why must she be watched by a stuffy white guy like Rupert Giles? In fact, we meet several watchers in the course of the series, and all but three are stuffy, middle-aged white men, the very definition of Western paternalism. The only exceptions are a recurring Indian man who has no lines but looks tough, a snotty Brit woman who turns evil when offered supernatural powers of her own (season 3, “Revelations”), and a scared little blond woman who spends a few minutes trembling under the bemused eyes of the Cheney-like head watcher before being blown to bits (season 7, “Never Leave Me”).

All this seems to suggest, at least subconsciously, that girl power is fine and dandy as long as there’s a strong father figure around to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand. And it must be a father figure, because a mother just isn’t up to the job. She’ll either fall to the temptation of power and betray the good guys or be rendered useless and annoying by fear.

The end of the series seems to recognize this subtext, at least, and makes an attempt or two to correct it, though these corrections almost are more screwed than the original storyline. Through a series of visions and multi-dimensional travel, Buffy learns that slayer power first found its way to young girls in the early days of demonology, when a group of grumpy tribal chieftains—an African prequel to Europe’s stuffy white guys, perhaps?—force their mystical superpower on a fearful girl who would rather be left alone (season 7, “Get it Done”). In other words, the first slayer was metaphorically raped and forced to bear the burden of that rape, which we the viewers take pleasure in watching week after week. Instead of being the most recent of a glorious line of worthy warriors, Buffy is merely the latest victim of male arrogance. Rupert Giles and the other watchers are merely the latest perpetrators, always keeping watch over their slave girls.

In a final, last-ditch effort at redemption, Whedon briefly presents us in the second-to-last episode with the watcher of the watchers, an ancient, all-powerful female overlord who oversees the ignorant meddling of the stuffy male watchers. But what comes of this all-powerful woman? During a three-minute exposition speech about female liberation—in mid-sentence, in fact—this superwoman is killed, stabbed in the back by Caleb, the most unsubtle misogynist (“Look at me. I hate women. I’m eeeeeevil!”) in the history of television (season 7, “End of Days”).

WHAT GOOD IS GIRL POWER WHEN IT WON'T GET YOU DATES?

Of course, the watcher dynamic is only part of the problem with Buffy. We also have the title character’s horrendous taste in men.

A large part of the premise of the series is that Buffy is smarter than the rest of us. Each week, she manages to outwit demons and supernatural beasties who automatically assume she lacks in the brains department. And yet when it comes to Buffy’s personal life, she proves to be little more than the typical dumb, pretty blond who always falls for the bad boy.

First, there’s Angel, a vampire who represents everything Buffy fights against. Angel is different, though. Angel is special. Don’t let those bad-boy good looks and dark trench coats fool you. Angel has a soul.

The problem with Angel, though, is that his soul vanishes the moment he comes in contact with Buffy’s dirty parts. He sleeps with Buffy in the middle of season 2 and as a result transforms into a murderous creature without a conscience who effortlessly slaughters dozens (season 2, “Innocence”). That’s right: Buffy’s sex turns Angel evil, so that immediately afterward he spends half a season stalking Buffy and her family and friends, killing supercool teacher Jenny Calendar, and plotting the destruction of the world.

And yet, throughout this sequence, Buffy still maintains her tragic love for her tormenter. She is not the strong woman who learns to stand up for herself against the cruelty of an evil man. She becomes the classic abused enabler. “It’s not Angel’s fault he killed Miss Calendar,” she seems to say. “Maybe she broke her neck on a door knob. Maybe she fell down the stairs. And anyway, it’s my fault Angel lost his soul. The foul Buff muff made him do it.” In the end, Buffy forgives Angel his trespasses, despite the fact that her own friends are far less forgiving of her simply for leaving town (season 3, “Anne”) to take a much needed vacation (during which she leads a workers’ revolt against literal demon capitalists, vanquishing the elite with a literal hammer and sickle as weapons … but that’s another analysis).

There doesn’t seem to be much wrong with Riley, Buffy’s second boyfriend, at least not at first. He’s a nice enough guy, but he has severe inferiority issues. Buffy’s a superhero, after all, and after season four Riley is little more than a fired government agent, a pitiful human, a boy. Buffy makes the unpardonable sin of looking stronger than Riley, so Riley responds in season five by “cheating” with vampire women, then leaves town (season 5, “Into the Sky”). And in the end, in the Whedon narrative according to idiot boy Xander Harris, whose fault is this? Certainly not Riley’s. Riley goes off, jumps back into the secret agent biz, and marries a supermodel. Buffy is left to mope alone, presumably as punishment for her uppitiness.

If Angel and Riley abuse Buffy’s girl power myths, though, Spike beats them wholly into submission. Perhaps Buffy’s cavorting with Spike in season six is understandable from a character standpoint. Buffy did die at the end of season 5, spend a summer hiatus in Heaven, and get pulled back into the hell of Sunnydale, after all. Unlike most of her friends, Spike seems willing to cut her some slack and understanding. But the series had spent seasons emphasizing Spike’s uselessness, his impotence. Although one of the show’s most admired characters, Spike is its most pathetic. His is a worthless life of self-torture and self-loathing. The idea that Buffy would stoop to that level for comfort rather than simply taking a break from guys is insulting at best.

And Buffy is not the only supposedly strong woman in the Buffyverse who lets her life be derailed by men not worth the effort. Cordelia and Anya both waste seasons on the arrogant boor Xander Harris, only to be left in shambles when he dumps them. And Willow Rosenberg falls to pieces after being cheated on then dumped by her werewolf boyfriend. She even goes so far as to turn lesbian because a boy broke up with her. The loss of a boy will do that to you, you know.

SORRY, GAY NOW

Which leads us to Whedon’s supposedly progressive views on sexuality. Despite Hollywood’s supposed liberal agenda, television was remarkably slow to accept homosexual characters. Melrose Place never used their gay housemate for anything more than a set piece. Ellen Degeneres lost her show when her character came out. Homosexuality is still anathema in the TV universe when Willow Rosenberg falls in love with Tara during Buffy’s season four.

Because of this, Whedon can’t completely embrace Willow’s sexuality. He has to couch it in metaphor, hide Willow’s exploration of sexuality behind her exploration of magic. Willow wants to become a witch, after all. Her relationship with Tara is as much about that shared desire as it is about finding her true self.

This leads to a stilted coming out, in that Willow never actually says who she is and what she’s become. Encounters between Willow and Tara are hidden behind special effects, glowing lights and sparkles and levitations that involve no touching or intimacy but inevitably lead to simulated orgasmic response. It is five or six episodes—an eternity in the Buffyverse—before we even see Willow and Tara kiss. We rarely see them hold hands. Only in the end do we see any real affection between the characters, but even then they can’t just be two people in love. They have to be LESBIANS! Everywhere they go, they have to dance and sing and hold up flags—“Hey, hey, look at us, we’re progressive, we’re open-minded lesbians, we’re all about the levitating oral, hey, hey, we’re lesbians!!!”

Willow’s coming out also seems to suggest a black and white view of sexuality. A woman is either gay or straight, and making a decision for one permanently flips the switch on the other. We had seen Willow attracted—sexually and otherwise—to both Xander and Oz. We know she liked men at one point. After Tara, though, that response evaporates completely. The series seems to suggest that she can’t make that choice anymore. She’s not allowed. Rather than liberated to be whatever she chooses, Willow is trapped in yet another societally imposed role. “Remember,” she’d say. “Gay now.”

Worse than this, though, is what Whedon does with his metaphor of magic and homosexuality. Over the course of season six, the metaphor changes, so that the magic once symbolizing Willow’s sexuality becomes something dangerous if embraced too much. It is as if Willow falls under the spell of some drug (read “magic” drug or “homosexual” drug) that eventually comes to rule her and slowly destroy her. In the end, the magic consumes her as she uses it to avenge her lover’s death at the hands of yet another misogynist (season 6, “Villains”). Willow uses her magic to flay a man alive—the true goal of lesbians in the Buffyverse?—then lash out and threaten to destroy the world. Willow’s magic eventually makes her the Big Bad of the year.

Is this really what Whedon means to say by tying magic to homosexuality? Is Whedon really suggesting that in the end, homosexuality consumes you, destroys you and threatens the stability of the world? Is this the statement of a true progressive?

GIRL POWER, ACTIVATE!!!

Even in the face of patronizing paternalists and bad boyfriend decisions, though, Buffy still is a strong, independent superwoman, right? Right?

Not really. What is Buffy without her superpowers—superpowers given to her by men, remember? We see the answer in the third season episode “Helpless.” In their infinite wisdom, the council of stuffy European watchers decides to strip Buffy’s powers and test her response. And what does Buffy become? She becomes yet another scared little girl unable to make her own way in a big bad world. She becomes a sobbing weakling, a pitiful, pathetic, simpering fool who runs to her bad boy lover for help. Buffy is strong when the men let her have their power, the show seems to say. When the men choose to remove it, Buffy is nothing.

This is what happens to girls without superpowers in Whedon’s world. They run and scream and hide and die. They spend their time like Cordelia or Harmony, worrying about clothes and hair until they’re attacked, when they come out screaming. Buffy’s sister, Dawn, is helpless until Spike or Xander comes to save her. Anya—a woman of strong character, at least—is useless in a fight without her demon powers, and in the show’s final episode is cleaved in half while protecting a pathetic, sniveling little boy who somehow still survives (season 7, “Chosen”).

In the end, Whedon tries to correct this, too, by spreading the slayer powers throughout the populace. Thousands of little girls around the world are potential slayers, after all. Their power lies dormant inside them, but Buffy changes that. All the potential slayers are made real and strong, represented in montage by a little girl on a softball field about to whack the hell out of a ball pitched by some slimy boy. The little girl smiles slyly in what we are meant to see as a moment of glory, a moment of empowerment (season 7, “Chosen”). Girls can be anything they want, we are supposed to think. They’re just as strong as the rest of us now.

Only they’re not. What is unspoken in this moment is the suggestion that equality isn’t possible in the real world. Women aren’t able to hold their own without supernatural interference. Yes, thousands of little girls suddenly have superpowers, but millions more do not. Millions are left weak and wanting, and we wonder what is to become of them? They’re worthless, the show seems to say. Without superpowers, they’re weak, doomed to live in fear. They’re still pitiful creatures in need of protection.

WHAT OF IT?

Of course, all this sums up the danger of heavy dependence on metaphor in literature and television, both to writers and to critics, as metaphor is open to a million interpretations. Did Whedon mean to imply that girls are weak and that unbridled homosexuality can destroy the world? Is Whedon really a homophobic misogynist? Surely not. He simply failed by not thinking through the implications of his work and everything it said—much the same way many feminists, male and female, have failed since the days of Gloria Steinem. For all its complexity, Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn’t dig far enough beneath the surface. The show spent too much time on one side of the issue, trying to look like it was saying the right thing but never actually saying what it meant to say.

Of course, the very fact that these questions exist point to the superiority of the series. One never debates the sociological ramifications of Laverne & Shirley, after all. Buffy the Vampire Slayer presented us with well-drawn characters and attempted the big issues, and for that alone it should be applauded. In the end, the problem may be that we’re asking too much of Buffy. The problem may be that we’re asking Buffy to save an entire gender all by herself, and that just isn’t fair to her. We should simplify things and just trust her to save everybody, male or female.

Update, February, 2009: I'm curious how the progressive Whedon fan would respond to this now that Whedon has created Dollhouse, a show about an organization that rents out super-hot mind-wiped sex slaves who have to be watched and continually rescued by men. Of course, we're only two episodes in. I'll reserve judgement until we see the whole ... though Wedon better hope the thing doesn't get cancelled first.


Author's Note, January, 2009: I wrote this article a few years back with the intention of making it the first of several semi-academic, mostly navel-gazing explorations of the Buffyverse and other pieces of pop culture. I wanted to do an in-depth look at Angel's Los Angeles, for instance, and compare it with the city as presented in other noir works, or I wanted to explain my belief that Buffy season 6 is the best character season of the series. You know, that sort of thing. But I never got around to any of that, and other projects occupied the limited space in my mind. I decided to leave this article where it was, though, because I liked it, and because it still generated the occassional response.

The thing is, I only remember this is here about once every three months or so and therefore don't check the comments much. When I do, I delete any spam, but leave everything else, whether it agrees or disagrees with my postulations. I welcome a good debate on this, and I welcome you to leave your comments for those who come after. And if you feel strongly enough about what I've written here that you want to discuss it with me in a timely fashion, drop me an email at vulpalasar@hotmail.com. As long as you have reasoned discussion rather than mere flame to offer, there's a good chance I'll get back to you.

Either way, thanks for dropping by.

35 Comments:

Blogger zezrie said...

Hmmmm I think I like this. Maybe tackle why Charmed suckes next please:P

8:39 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:43 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

Great post, well worth waiting for.

I think you nailed the misogynist take, bringing up things that I never noticed, but were definitely there.

I question Whedon's homophobia though. Here's why:

During one commentary (I believe it was the commentary on the Seth Green leaves episode), Whedon states that he was always going to turn a character gay. He simply didn't know if it was going to be Willow or Xander. And if you look at the first two seasons, either one could've gone that way. Both were awkward around the opposite sex, if interested at all. Both were nerds.

I believe ultimately, had Seth Green not departed as he did, Whedon would've turned Xander gay. Xander's history with women is a classic case of conflicted male in high school. He was not the aggressive one in either relationship (Anya or Cordelia). Both pursued him. He overcompensated by continually fixating on girls (the scene with Oz watching Cordelia in the pep rally comes to mind). I think it would've made a natural transition to have him turn gay, rather than Willow.

However, Seth Green left. At that point in the series, I don't believe Whedon had any intention of turning Willow gay, it was simply a U-turn in the road, despite the apparent foreshadowing in Doppelgangland. If you look, Xander had similar foreshadowing, though not as blatant in a few early episode. I think Whedon took advantage of Green's departure to play with that scenario more, especially since I believe that Doppelgangland was one of the most popular Buffy's at the time (everyone loved evil Willow, and I think that is also the reasoning behind Evil Willow at the end of Season 6).

I agree that having Willow "turn gay" because her boyfriend left was lame, at best.

I think that Willow's overuse of magic in S6 reflects more on the misogynistic angle than a homophobic angle. Wicca is the embrace of a feminine power, especially as portrayed in Buffy. Although Tara and Willow's relationship was shrouded in magic (because of, as you point out, the network's fear of homosexuals..but not Whedon's fear), I think Evil Willow was more a reflection of what happens when a woman gains too much power...along the same lines as the female watcher in S3, and also along the same line as Faith, who you did not bring up. Faith, who never had the strong paternal figure, went evil when she used too much of the power that she was given. And ultimately, if you want to take the line over to Angel, it is a man who has to stop her.

Those are my two cents. Can't wait to see what you think after you watch all of Angel :)

11:12 AM  
Blogger Bill S. said...

Great post: I agree with a lot of what you had to say.

Turning Willow exclusively homosexual really did not make much sense. Whedon has said that, given how Tara left, he did not want to give the impression that Willow's homosexuality was a temporary thing, cured by her girlfriend's murder. Personally I think they could have acknowledged that she still had some sort of an attraction to men without having her shouting "Straight now!"

Her constant declarations of sexuality have more to do with the nature of episodic television than anything else -- a notice for people just tuning into the show.

By the way, just to underscore the point Robin made about how either Xander or Willow could've ended up gay, I suddenly remember how Larry (the only openly gay man on the show) was trying to convince Xander to come out of the closet with a notice in the school paper. And also Xander's reaction to the new-and-improved Jonathon in "Superstar" -- getting turned on and rushging home to have sex with Anya. It's clear that, though he certainly identified as straight, he wasn't what I'd call a "Kinsey 0". It's sort of too bad that he wasn't written gay: it would have been interesting to have a gay guy on TV who was a total shemp. But if American television viewers were uncomfortable with lesbians, I suspect a gay guy would have been out of the question. So instead we just get characters coded gay, without making it overt, such as Andrew on this show, or Lorne over on Angel.

You should submit your essay to Slayage: I've seen essays on there that make a less compelling argument than you have here.

10:14 PM  
Blogger franericks98889656 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:28 AM  
Blogger mpugh1234 said...

The most obvious thing about all this girlpower is that you are powerless unless you are supermodel hot.

Same thing with alais, dark angel etc, etc

Whedon even had a different Willow in the unaired pilot, apparently not attractive enough so they brought in Aly.

6:36 PM  
Blogger YoMommaIsMyMomma said...

Your review sucks cow cock and I think you deserve to suck it as well. Give up on life and go get another. You worthless loser and fool.

7:06 AM  
Blogger kevinjones16432650 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:34 PM  
Blogger sink sink socks said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I think you cured me of my Whedon worship.

I've been really obsessive about the whole Buffy series since having watched all seven seasons on DVD in the space of a few months.

But now that you've pointed up the misogyny, I've been looking back over the series and seeing it all through the entire thing, and realizing that Whedon is a clever stealth-mysogynist. He doesn't write "strong female characters," he writes weak ones who owe their strength to white men.

And I think it really comes out with the whole Willow magic thing.

At first, magic was a way for Willow to find empowerment, which was nice. It was a new way for her to use her natural studiousness and intelligence to change the world around her and to protect herself.

Then, magic became a metaphor or her discovering her lesbian self, which I thought was fine. It led her to Tara, after all.

But then, what the hell was Joss Whedon doing? He transmuted the magic from Willow's lesbian self-empowerment to some kind of dark and dangerous drug addiction, effectively telling his audience that self-empowered women, especially lesbian ones, are a danger to themselves and everyone around them.

Don't forget, it was the love of man, too, that brought Willow back from the brink of destroying the world.

If I ever see Joss Whedon at a convention (big geek here) I might just ask him what he has against women.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Cyber said...

Frankly, I think you're out of line. While I've always enjoyed both Buffyverse series (serii?), I do see several subtle issues, a few of which you mentioned, which problematize the themes of feminism and the embracement of alternative sexualities. Regardless, it's fairly extreme to accuse Whedon of both misogyny and homophobia as a result.

One who fails, for instance, at providing a bullet-proof argument condemning racism is not thereby a racist. Just as well, one, like Whedon, who may not have succeeded at expressing social liberalism isn't as a result a bigot. That's far too harsh, and completely unmerited.

August Strindberg was a misogynist. The majority of his works can be perceived as attacks on women. Patrick Moore is a blatant misogynist. Just recently he said, quote: "The trouble is that the BBC now is run by women and it shows: soap operas, cooking, quizzes, kitchen-sink plays. You wouldn’t have had that in the golden days.”

Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church family are homophobes. They picket at the funerals of fallen soldiers and known-homosexuals with signs which read "God Hates Fags," "Thank God for AIDS," and "Fags Die, God Laughs."

I guess you can see where I'm getting at. Placing Whedon in the same camp as these bigots is beyond irrational, and frankly, stupid. I find it sad that you and the other commenters here would revoke their favouring of Whedon's work because his characters didn't fulfill your overanalytical interpretation admirably. If anything else, accuse him of flawed writing if you must, but not bigotry. That's just ludicrous and, quite honestly, arrogant.

8:08 PM  
Blogger IsabellaWilliams said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Controversyz said...

I think you're stretching. By that I mean, I think you are looking for what you want to find.

First lets look at how the power begins - African men and a demon. Then there are watchers. Big deal. Much like real history, Buffy history was patriarchal. Big surprise. So you think perhaps Joss should have had women create the first slayer? Perhaps all watchers should have been women? Somehow Joss' characters escaped human history? How plausible would that have been - seriously. This is not an example of misogyny. This is an example of how Joss used human history to create the Slayer/Watcher history.

Speaking of watchers, there was Giles, who was not able to 'control' his slayer in any way - not exactly alpha male. Then there was Wesley - even worse, until he found his balls on Angel. There was Buffy's first watcher Merrick, also male, who was killed. There was Faith's first watcher who was female, and killed - unfortunately we do not learn her name. Faith's second watcher Gwendolyn Post is power hungry, intimidating, and intelligent. Gile's grandmother is also a watcher. The blond you refer to - Lydia - who wrote her thesis on Spike was NOT a watcher. Finally, there is Quentin Travers, the head watcher - who Buffy handily takes down with the mighty forces of her brain in the episode "Checkpoint". In fact, Buffy quit the council in Season 3 and had no use for even Giles in Season 4, and permitted THEM to work for HER in Season 5. Buffy overcame the council, what is more empowering than that?

Now, you said, all this seems to suggest girl power is fine so long as there is a strong father figure around to make sure it doesn't get out of hand. This is entirley incorrect as I've just shown. First of all, Giles was a watcher before he was a 'father figure'. It was his 'love' for Buffy that rendered him an inept watcher according to the council. Having a 'Father Figure' doesn't diminish Buffy's independance, nor does it make the show misogynist. Being a feminist does not require you to demean the importance of fathers.

Moving on, you claim that Buffy's ill fated relationships are proof that the series is misogynist, where in reality, her choices make her human. Sure she has superpowers, but they don't include super guy picking abilities. Buffy's first relationship in her new school is friendship with Xander. Her second is with Angel which began as friendship and developed into something romantic. Neither one of these choices were bad necessarily.

Angel 'changes' after having a happy with Buffy. Yeah, that never happens in real life - guys don't 'change' once they get what they want. This is what Joss was exploring; Yes Buffy still loved him, or at least the Angel he used to be. Humans don't suddenly turn their feelings off like a switch - to expect Buffy to behave any differently is to expect her to be emotionally flippant - and then you'd have complained about that as well. The fact is, Buffy rose above her personal desire for the old Angel and killed him for the greater good. Oh, and FYI - Angel was a demon when he killed Jenny. This means he was in fact a different person. Buffy wasn't an enabler and she didn't forgive his trespasses. She KILLED the demon Angelus. Plus - If you'd paid attention to the following season you'd have learned that Buffy continued to have conflicting emotions for Angel, and was never able to fully trust him again.

Your emboldened sentence 'What Good is Girl Power When it Won't Get You Dates' just shows your ignorance. Superpowers don't help you mature, become responsible and patient and understanding. They don't give you special insight on boys nor do they take away the desire to love and be loved. Having superpowers doesn't make you strong all the time - Buffy is human. You seem bent on pulling moments of weakness from the 7 seasons without seeing how that weakness is balanced. I was going to contradict the rest of your 'bad relationships, goes for guys with bad hair' bits but your analysis is really so poorly thought through that I think I'll skip it and go to the next one.

Ah yes, Willow becomes a lesbian because Oz cheats on her and dumps her. Again, you've obviously not been paying attention. There was an incredible amount of in your face foreshadowing that Willow was gay, you'd have to be an idiot not to have seen it. The most obvious example is the episode Dopplegangland - Willow's doppleganger is a lesbian. This happens in season 3, long before Oz meets Veruca, and longer before Willow meets Tara. Willow didn't all of a sudden become gay.

You seem to have a problem with the notion that once Willow realizes her proclivity for females, she no longer is attracted to males. How many lesbians have you ever met? Nearly all of the lesbians I've known have fallen for, persued and have had sex with men before realizing and/or accepting their sexuality. This is quite human, normal and reasonable for Willow.

Your assertion that the lesbianism was hidden by special affects or that magic was a metaphor for lesbianism is just wrong. Magic was a metaphor for drugs and addiction. The only time magic was used as a metaphor for gay sex was when Spike intentionally substituted one for the other with hopes to create conflict. In no other way is magic ever used as a metaphor for lesbianism. In fact, Joss' treatment of their relationship was very well received by the gay community. He didn't exploit it or make it all about sex, rather he focused on the emotional intimacy between the two women.

You claim that without her superpowers Buffy is nothing, and you cite the episode Helpless. What your analysis does not include is that she still managed to kick ass and save the day - without her powers. That episode was integral to Buffy's character growth. If you hadn't noticed, Buffy on numerous occasions didn't want those powers, and wondered what it would be like to be normal. It was in this episode that she decided that those powers had become a part of who she was, she wanted the responsibility, she knew what went bump in the night and she wanted to do something about it. Her 'imposed' powers also became her 'chosen' powers.

"This is what happens to girls without superpowers in Whedon’s world. They run and scream and hide and die." You couldn't be more wrong.

Willow had NO powers and jumped into the fray and fought the good fight along with Buffy. Joyce managed to beat Spike off of Buffy with an axe, so she doesn't run and hide from danger either. Cordelia did her share of demon fighting without powers. Although come to think of it, debating this point is ridiculous. Being willing and able to fight physically is not what makes a strong female character. Being afraid and asking for help doesn't make a weak female character.

The more I write this the more I think you must be male - short sighted and a bit misogynist yourself.

I'm done.

3:44 PM  
Blogger poster98 said...

Cyber and Controversy already answered very well. The thing with your "review" is that it's not a review. It's just your interpretations, and opinions and none of them. are facts. Opinions are just opinions, and yours are biasis. Fine, you see what you want to see in "Buffy", if you have nothing more interesting to do, it's your right. On the other hand, claiming : "Joss Whedon is a misogynistic homophobe" is not opinion, it's diffamation. And you can be sued for that, you're warned.
I'd just want to answer to those who claim that Buffy is not feminist because it's a girl with superpower. Fine, let's have buffy with no power, solving mysteries in her school. Wait a minute. That's not buffy, that's veronica mars. You just miss the point that's it's a series about vampires and stuff, do you understand ? What would you say of a series like "Heroes". It doesn't upset you that a man can have superpower ? Do you think it brings the idea that every men are weak without superpower ?
"The most obvious thing about all this girlpower is that you are powerless unless you are supermodel hot."
A supermodel hot ? Before I watch Buffy, I thought SMG was just so-so. Not ugly, just average. Now, I think she's actually cute. But that's not the point. So you say it's sexist because the girl is not ugly, that's it ? And what do you think about series like Angel or Lost or Prison Break ? Are the men ugly ? And what about gay series like Dante's cove where the guys are always super bodybuilder ? It has NOTHING to do with the fact of being a girl, a man, gay or not. People want to see beautiful faces and beautiful asses. If everybody on tv were uglies, you just wouldn't watch it. Be sincere. Don't blame the tv, blame the tv spectators. It's tv, it's something you watch, not something you read. And it's all about beauty. SMG was not chosen because she was a "supermodel" but because she was perfect for the role. Just like Allyson Haniggan. People need to read "I'm the hero" on the hero's face, "I'm the mysterious guy" on the mysterious guy face. It's sad but true. And whedon, has played with the usuals clichés a lot... To counterbalance them. In horror film, it's always the blond girl who's naive, stupid, helpless, and get killed first. Here, it's totally the other way. A lot of things could be said about the bad guys (who don't look like bad guys), about Xander, Willow, and so on... But it does not worth it. You fail to understand that tv is not reality. Reality has his own clichés and TV his own codes. Buffy is just a fantastic tv series, one of the best. But obviously, for you, the fact that the main character is a teenage girl makes a difference. You're the one who's sexist.

12:32 PM  
Blogger emoore said...

I'm sorry I just can't agree with you. You've obviously thought quite a while about what you've written but there are several flaws in your theory.
The first slayer was raped but she over came that to fight demons and then give Buffy perhaps her most important message "death if your gift" a message that helped Buffy save her sister, save the world and finally find peace (even if she was later denied said peace)
As has already been pointed out by the end of the season 5 the watchers counsel work for Buffy and by season eight (the comic) Buffy pretty much runs the watchers counsel.
And you claim a mother figure is not enough. Joyce coped pretty well considering she was told your daughter is a slayer, someone who will lead a bloody life and die young. Then when Joyce dies the still very young Buffy cares for her sister, then when Buffy dies its Tara and Willow who take on the huge and difficult task of caring for this understandably scarred child.
And by the by Willow says she will always love Oz and imagines years from now finding him again.
Anya is an amazingly strong person, she lives for 1,100 years as a demon and then manages to readjust to being human again, she copes with being injured, Joyce's death (her speech for me was the most heartbreaking part of the body) and becomes a successful business woman who wins at the stock markets (she tripled the money she earned at the magic shop).
And finally the most powerful person on the show ever is female, Willow as Buffy says is more powerful then any of the original Watchers. I think this should also be pointed out. It is Buffy who says Willow is so powerful. Buffy is comfortable enough with her own power that she has no problem with other people being as powerful or more powerful than herself. And through Willow's power they turn what was forced upon the first slayer into a wonderful gift. They have claimed the Slayer's power as their own and made it something to be proud of.
Buffy was a wonderful show and not at all sexist. And part of that was allowing Buffy to mess up, to make the wrong choice because that is what humans do and Buffy is a human. A very powerful human but still human.

3:53 PM  
Blogger emoore said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:53 PM  
Blogger bernard n. shull said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Skytteflickan88 said...

I disagree with you so much.

You ask; ”Why call them watcher's, why not helpers or teachers?” I say ”Who cares?” It's just a name.

And say you that all watcher's are middle-aged stuffy men, unless they are

"are a recurring Indian man who has no lines but looks tough, a snotty Brit woman who turns evil when offered supernatural powers of her own (season 3, “Revelations”), and a scared little blond woman who spends a few minutes trembling under the bemused eyes of the Cheney-like head watcher before being blown to bits (season 7, “Never Leave Me”).

Did you know that Whedon didn't first plan for Giles to be a brit? But Anthony Head auditioned and got the part. Perhaps Whedon thought; ”Why not make him wear tweed and be stuffy, that we could joke about for ages”. And Whedon might have chosen a male watcher for Buffy, because he had Buffy, Willow & Cordelia, and wanted another guy, other than Xander & Angel, to even up the numbers.


"In other words, the first slayer was metaphorically raped and forced to bear the burden of that rape, which we the viewers take pleasure in watching week after week.”
Are you trying to make us fans sound like perverts, or are you just born rude and can't stop yourself? That was completely unnessacary. I doubt that the average Buffy-fan saw that seen in Get It Done and unbuttoned their pants. And I for one was glad that Buffy quit the council in season 3, so that those stuffy white middle-aged men couldn't control her anymore.


I really don't understand your standpoint here;

”She is not the strong woman who learns to stand up for herself against the cruelty of an evil man. She becomes the classic abused enabler.”
Yes, she was weak atfirst, because she still loved him. Are you telling me that men who lose their loved ones are indifferent jerks? And may I remind you, in the spirit of girl-power, that in the end of season 2, Buffy finds her inner strength and kills her loved one? Did you expect her to love one day, then hate and be ready to kill the next. The girl needed time, which any male would too. I bet Joss took the oppotunity to make Buffy weak, because a lot of women go through that in high school. he tried to relate to his audience.

And come on, I'm no Spuffy-fan but can you blame her for wanting sex as comfort?

Xander wasn't all that bad either. If you think he's an arrogant boor, I can't convince you otherwise, but I have to say that he made Cordelia & Anya happy most of the time. He let fear and weakness rule him and destroy realtionships, sure, but I doubt that Joss aimed to just make the women victims in relationships. Do you remember how Buffy shut riley out(unintentianlly, but still), how Cordy choose Groo over Angel, and how Nina left Angel?(I assume that you've seen Angel).


”He has to couch it in metaphor, hide Willow’s exploration of sexuality behind her exploration of magic. Willow wants to become a witch, after all. Her relationship with Tara is as much about that shared desire as it is about finding her true self.” Hide? Why do think he's hiding? He's using it as a methaphor, that's it. And yes, they had the magics in common, shared desire. Have you never seen people hook up at work, mainly because they share so much in common?

And about Willow&Tara having to hide intimacy, do you really think that can't be the Networks doing? Why say; ”Joss is a coward” when the logical reasoning is ”If Joss gets too naughty, they will be cancelled”?

And about that they're LESBIANS, not LOVERS... isn't it often like that? Sunnydale is a small town, Willow was raised by strict Jews and you saw Tara's family. Can't they just be certain to call themselves lesbians because it's a bit off were they're from? They feel it different because it actually is different to them and the people around them?

About you complaining about Buffy rinning for men's help in Helpless. Yes, she ran to her boyfriend and her watcher for help, because they have knowledge. If Buffy needs to know about her slayer powers, she shouldn't go to Cordelia or Willow, she should go to Giles, who knows about the slayer-stuff. And no wonder that she is ”a sobbing weakling, a pitiful, pathetic, simpering fool”. She has been superstrong for three years and is suddenly helpless and her mom is being kidnapped. true, a man might have handeled it differently, but Joss didn't re-write the world. It is a paternal would Buffy lives in, and no matter how strong she gets, she has been raised to believe that men know and do better. Joss can't just ignore that fact, he had to be realistic. perhaps you were rasied by very strong women figures, but most of us have grown up in a paternal world.


”Only they’re not. What is unspoken in this moment is the suggestion that equality isn’t possible in the real world. Women aren’t able to hold their own without supernatural interference. Yes, thousands of little girls suddenly have superpowers, but millions more do not. Millions are left weak and wanting, and we wonder what is to become of them? They’re worthless, the show seems to say. Without superpowers, they’re weak, doomed to live in fear. They’re still pitiful creatures in need of protection.” I have to say, you're the first person I've encounter who have seen the end of season 7 that way. And you keep speaking of ”the show” as if it's a mind of it's own. You're filled with hatred and loathing for a man you've never met and whose motives you can only theorize about. Shouldn't you try to look at this from another angle. I mean sure, why didn't all women in the world get this power? Maybe because Joss feelt sorry for all the men. We would get a maternal societey instead of paternal. And about these scenes with women gaining power, I seriously doubt Joss wrote them because he wanted to laugh in the still ordinary women's faces. I think he wanted to enpower the audience. Or maybe he did it to please his wife. I don't know, and neither do you. Don't call him on his motives unless you know them. You are very negative.

I'm sure that a part of Joss thinks that "men are better" but most of us have that part, because we've been raised that way. And I'm sure that a lot of the decisions on the show have been made because the network is scared of being to progressive. But most of all, I'm sure that you can't read Joss mind, only guess what he's thinking. So come on off your high horses and realize that you know very little, but have a lot of certainly valid theories. After all, it's not only women we have seen being wimps on the show.

If you ever want to leave a response or discuss Buffy with me and other fans, I'm at slayalive.com a lot, as member Skytteflickan88

Have a good day, and try not to judge too much.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Skytteflickan88 said...

Btw, I found you post interesting, and will link to it in this thread. Hope that's okay.

http://www.slayalive.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=shows&thread=3389

1:39 PM  
Blogger Alexiness said...

Wow... I'm surpised at the amount of comments that agreed with your entry. To me, you are just looking for a reason to call Joss Whedon a "misogynist homophobe".

12:32 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

though this comes ages after the post, thanks for making it. when I try to make these arguments, it goes poorly.

I do love the 'you obviously weren't paying attention' argument, BTW. Obviously, if we just watched CLOSER, all the misogyny and misandry will vanish!

4:51 PM  
Blogger Spurky said...

Wow. It's interesting how two people can watch the same show and come up with totally opposite interpretations of it. I firnly believe that Joss Whedon is a misandrist rather than a misogynist, and will illustrate this by addressing each of your points.

First of all, the Watcher thing. You seem to have missed the point of the Watchers Council. Apart from Giles, every Watcher in the show was time and time again shown as a controlling, pretentious douchebag. Not once did these stuffy white guys actually prove to be useful to the fight against evil. All they did was drag our heroes down. Even Giles was eventually rejected by Buffy. The controlling male power over the strong female protagonists is time and time again shown as a hindrance. This is a common fault I often find in feminist readings of literature or film. They point out features that they find offensive without pausing to note whether it was protrayed in a positive or negative light. The flashback sequence in which Buffy confronts the first Watchers was never an effort to crrect anything. In fact, it was an extremely unsubtle extension of what went on before. The Shadow Men are shown as weak and cowardly, like most men in the series, hiding behind women who do all the hard work for them. Buffy even says "You're just men" before she beats the crap out of them. You write as if Whedon expects us to applaud the Watchers for their actions rather than reviling them. This is absolutely not the case. There's a reason Buffy refuses their offer of more power. The power offered by men was shown as a dark, corrupting thing.

You briefly mention Caleb, an extremely blanatly characterized misogynist. The main villain of the previous season (Warren Mears) was also overtly misogynistic. This is a recurring trait among the males of the show. Those that aren't psychotic woman haters are either monsters hiding behind a thin nice guy veil (Angel, Spike) or useless, sniveling cowards (Xander, Andrew). There is not one male character portrayed as having the kind of strenght Buffy has, be it physical strength of strength of character. Xander is the worst offender. He is the only male member of Buffy's gang and also the only one without some kind of superpowers or special skills. 90% of the main characters are strong, intelligent women with superowers and then there's the useless boy whose only job is to provide sarcastic colour commentary or get kidnapped by powerful female villains (Ms. French, Lyssa).

In the sixth season, the principal villains were a trio of weak nerdy men, their leader an overt misogynist. They sat on the sidelines scheming and trying to upset Buffy's life, but when it came to a fight they were knocked down like tenpins by characters like Buffy or Willow. The next season introduced Caleb, ine of the only characters I have ever been personally offended by. Here is a man who hates women so much that he devotes his life to killing as many of them as possible, only to be gruesomely castrated and cut in half by Buffy. Every one of Caleb's character traits was designed to be both as masculine and as detestable as possible. 'Here is man' Joss Whedon seems to say 'Hate him!'

6:59 AM  
Blogger Spurky said...

CONTINUED

As for your interpretation of Buffy's boyfriends, I completely disagree. Angel turning evil after Buffy had sex with him was not, as you seem to suggest, some kind of corruption by her vagina. It was a case of 'woman opens her heart to a man only to find that he isn't trustworthy', another recurring theme in Buffy's lifestory. The aforementioned Xander has relationships with two smart, independent women (Cordelia and Anya), leaving both of them and breaking their hearts, showing how unreliable men truly are *sarcastic eyeroll*. There is not one relationship in the show which failed through the fault of a woman. In every messy breakup (and they are all messy) men are to blame. The most poignant case of this is the Riley situation. He couldn' stand that she was stronger than him and became entangled in vampiric prostitution. The only character who blamed Buffy for the whole thing was Xander, the unreliable powerless albatross around Buffy's neck.

Your criticism of Buffy's continual excuse-making for Angel is another case of seeing only the events and not the was they are portrayed. All of Buffy's inner circle encourage her to kill Angel and the fact that she still holds attachment to the traitorous male is repeatedly shown to be a weakness, which she overcomes by symbolically impaling him. Angel later returns, having been humbled by Buffy's girlpower and completely in her thrall, actually spending several episodes chained to a wall, his life totally in Buffy's hands (a situation later repeated with Spike). From then on, their relationship is romantic but celibate. Angel eventually leaves because he realizes his continued presence was a burden to Buffy. 'Cos that's all men are 'yknow.

As for Spike, well at first he was nothing but another psychotic male, but then the military puts a chip in his head, preventing him from harming any living thing. The symbolic castration is not very subtle. Many characters even refer to him as a 'neutered vampire'. You mention Spike's life of self-loathing, but that's not quite accurate. For most of his life, he was immensely satisfied with himself. The self-loathing only settled in when he fell head over heels in love with Buffy. For most of seasons 5 and 6 he was totally enamoured with her to the point of changing every aspect of his personality. I could go on and on about how a strong (albeit evil) male is rendered helpless by the charms of an alluring girl, but the reall point of the Buffy/Spike relationship is to show the corrupting influence of men on strong women. The beginning of Buffy's dalliance with Spike is also the beginning of her self-doubt and self-disgust. Spike's influence on Buffy poisons her life, culminating in his attempted rape after she breaks up with him. This was one of the stupidest scenes in the entire show, not only because it completely contradicted Spike's character at this point, but because it was one of the most in-your-face 'Grarrr men are evil' moments in any tv show ever.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Spurky said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Spurky said...

Joss apparently realizes he has gone too far with Spike, and gives him a soul in season 7, making him one of the good guys again. Spike is from that point on the only good male in the whole show, because season 7 is when Joss Whedon's hatred of his own manhood really gets into swing. The main plotline of this season concerns Buffy gathering an army of slayers (read: women) in order to battle the evil woman-hater Caleb and his minions the Bringers (all male) and the Turok-Han (all male).
[It should be noted for fairness' sake that Caleb is not the principal villain of season 7, but rather a shape-shifting entity caled The First which appears as both men and women. Nonetheless, Caleb is the most visible opponent for Buffy and her Slayer army, and he is the one she spends most of her time fighting and takes the most joy in killing.]
The male vs. female overtones of the story pervade every episode of season 7, and it's obvious who we're supposed to be going for. Every time someone mentions the consequences of losing the upcoming battle, they never say "People are going to die." It's always "Girls are going to die."
The most offensive moment for me was when Robin Wood asked Buffy to help him maintain the rapidly disintegrating order in Sunnydale High, stating emphatically that he couldn't do it because "I'm just a guy." The whole thing left a very sour taste in my mouth.

Anyway, that's my two cents' worth. I'm not saying it's any more valid that your interpretation, but there we go.
Oh, and as for the homophobia thing, I more or less agree with you, although saying Willow turned gay because a guy dumped her is just about as oversimplified as a statement can get without being a deliberate falsehood.

7:02 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Part the First

Apologies for commenting on this five years later. I found your post when looking for an interview with Joss about the rape seen in “Seeing Red.” I appreciate your unique interpretation of the Buffyverse, and while I can see a lot of where your argument comes from, I would like an opportunity to dispel it. Your first argument was that feminism does not work in the Buffy universe because it is built on a patriarchal foundation. I believe that the patriarchal backdrop of the show actually makes it stronger rather than weaker. I think that the feminism would show through less if it were presented in a world without patriarchy. Without something to fight against, the universe would have presented a message that there cannot be strong women within our current society, and that strong women can only exist in a social context that does not actually exist yet.

Most of your argument was constructed around the men who support and work with Buffy in her world. It makes very little sense to me to say that the presence of strong male characters negates the strength of the female characters. If anything, the fact that Buffy has strong male characters who support her, respect her, and largely do not feel emasculated by her (save for Riley) is an amazing statement about how men and women should be able to relate.

Let’s start with the Watchers: From the beginning, Buffy and Giles’s relationship transcends an archetypal father/daughter relationship. She challenges him, disobeys him, and they both have to grow to earn each others’ respect and trust. She demonstrates on multiple occasions that she does not always need him, and their relationship becomes more of a partnership than anything else, both giving each other orders and always discussing tactics. Generally when they disagree, Buffy ends up with the last say. As for the other Watchers, they are presented in a critical light from the moment they are introduced (partly why, I believe, they are portrayed as white, male bureaucrats). They do not earn Buffy’s trust and as such, she quits the Watchers’ council in season three, and when they make demands for her to prove herself in season five, she turns it on them and it is SHE who gets GILES his job back. In fact, Buffy helps Giles throughout the series as much as he helps her, dispelling the archetype of what you claim their relationship is. The theme, then, is that girl power CAN exist with male father figures, but that everyone involved must trust, respect, and prove themselves. The end of the series very much deals with this issue, as you note, in ‘Get it Done’ as well as with Buffy’s decision to change the rules. Yes, the shamans did rape that girl, but it is presented as such and dealt with accordingly. However, Buffy’s constant challenge of the counsel’s authority, and the fact that the audience thrives on that challenge, means that we, the audience do not necessarily take pleasure in the violation of the original slayer, but that we take pleasure in the fight against that violation. Also, Buffy does not at all turn into “sobbing weakling, a pitiful, pathetic, simpering fool” when the men choose to remove her powers. Of course she gets scared, as anyone would in a situation that takes them out of their comfort zone, but she proves herself even without her powers and is certainly not “nothing” as you claim.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Part the Second


Your next argument has to do with the men that Buffy has romantic encounters. Most of your arguments about them are very simplistic, and seem to be that the fact that Buffy has emotions makes her weaker. First of all, Whedon makes it very clear that Buffy’s sex does not turn Angel evil, but that it is a strong enough expression of love to break a curse that relies on him remaining unhappy. Buffy retains her love for the man who loved her, not the demon who took over, and the fact that she cannot immediately kill him does not make her weak; any person in that position with any life inside them would feel the same conflict. Riley is a tool and was weaker than Buffy in every way, not just physically. Whedon’s narrative about that situation is not that it is Riley’s fault, but certainly not that it was Buffy’s. Xander points out to her that the relationship is unbalanced, sure, but based on the broader arch of the relationship, it is revealed that Buffy cannot love him the way she wants to because she is just too good for him. And yes, she mopes when he leaves, but she only mopes for a few episodes and then moves on to more important things, whereas it is revealed upon Riley’s return that it took him a year to get over her. People mope when relationships end, but that is not any sort of misogynistic or antifeminist blip in the story. You also mention that other girls are left and cheated on, but men in the story are hurt and cheated on just as much. Buffy hurts Spike just as much or more than he hurts her, and as you said, the extenuating circumstances of Buffy’s life at the time provide context for this mutually-abusive relationship. Willow cheats on Oz before he cheats on her, and his leaving (in fact, every man’s leaving in the show) has far more complexity and context than just “girl gets left.” Yes people get heartbroken in Buffy, and because it is female-centric show, you see a lot of women getting their hearts broken. But this does not make them weak, and we also see men getting their hearts broken and we see the complexities of relationships. Most of the break-ups are unique, complicated, and are not merely someone “getting left,” but people having to come to terms with the fact that sometimes love is not enough when two people are not compatible.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Part the Third

Now for the homophobia: saying that Willow turns gay because she gets dumped is extremely simplistic. She discovers her sexuality over falling in love with someone, not because she is a scorned woman. Additionally, I really like the way they do a “stilted” (as you say) coming out. They present it as something that “just is,” not something that needs to be made a fuss over. Her sexuality is natural, rather than something that needs to be set apart. She isn’t portrayed as “different” from the heterosexual characters, she just happens to love another woman. Joss essentially says “yes she’s with a woman, lets move on, get over it, its not a big deal.” I do wholly agree with you that her sexuality is portrayed as too black and white. She clearly had legitimate feelings for men in the past, and while I am glad that she does not just go back to being straight (the college phase thing) but I believe that her sexuality could have been presented as more complex.

As for the magic/lesbian metaphor: Yes, it does start that way, most likely as a way for Whedon to simply be ALLOWED to do it, in the context of the network he was writing for. He knew that he couldn’t just stick a gay character in and get away with it, but he didn’t let that stop him and the magic worked as a cover at first. However, he CLEARLY separates the two as the relationship and Willow’s power progress. Yes, it starts out as something that brings them together because it is a shared interest. Most people who form relationships begin by bonding over some mutual interest and it is a convenient cloak for things like lesbian sex, but only at the beginning. Tara leaves Willow because she was doing too much magic, and because magic was NOT their relationship. Buffy and Tara both communicate to Willow that it is her that Tara loves, not her power, and Tara only returns when Willow stops doing magic. (As for the dancing and singing, everyone was dancing and singing in that episode. The dancing and singing was not a “hey hey we’re lesbians!” sign, but just what the episode was about.) The last time they have sex, Willow finally understands that their love is just as strong without the magic, and it is her grief, not her gay-ness, that makes her relapse when Tara is murdered. The magic then becomes a metaphor for drug use, not homosexuality. Additionally, while Kennedy was super-annoying, their gay love did not present any harm.

About the other female characters: Anya and Cordelia are both extremely strong female characters and are not in anyway lessened by the fact that they have bad experiences with Xander. I like that Cordelia is “into clothes.” It proves that a woman does not need to be physically strong or have superpowers in order to be a strong female character. She can be stereotypically feminine in some ways, and this is also true of Kayleigh on Firefly. Anya is one of the strongest characters, male or female, in fiction and remains so after she loses her powers. Dawn is a waste of space and only works as an interesting plot device and a catalyst for growth in the other characters, so I’ll give you that one.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

And finally...

I have not watched Dollhouse so I cannot comment. However, Firefly has some of the strongest female characters in TV/film/literary history, arguably much stronger than the Buffy characters because none of them have super powers (save for River, sort of, but they communicate that she was already somewhat super before the government experiments). Additionally, the Firefly women are extremely diverse, proving that all types of women can be strong, not just those who perform manly tasks like shooting guns and beating people up. Zoe, of course does fall in that mode and fights just as well as the captain without any superpowers, and definitely “wears the pants” in her marriage, to a man equally strong of character even if he lacks in the gun skills. Kayleigh can be sweet and feminine and still be strong and sexually empowered regardless of how she comes across on the surface.

I have now yammered on for far too long. My aim is not to change your opinions, and I appreciate your pointing out problems you saw with the show. I would just like to challenge and reinterpret some of the things that you mentioned.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Morda898 said...

I think you're truly grasping at straws here. Joss Whedon is an uber feminist. We look at all his work and we know this is true. The only reason people are discussing Joss' possible misogynistic angle is because he is such an uber feminist. You're digging way, way, way too deep to find a conclusion that isn't there. Buffy was designed to be the ultimate feminist show and, even if it isn't 100% feminist at all times, I know for an unwavering fact that the show is feminist. I started watching Buffy when I was fifteen, and I went in without any view of feminism and I came out of it with an incredibly powerful feminist/equalitist view on life. I mean I am an uber feminist and it's all because of Joss. So you can make your evaluations that Buffy is OH MY GOD IN FACT MISOGYNISTIC HOLY SHIT but I know for a fact that it isn't because it literally turned me into a feminist.

Buffy is about overcoming patriarichal systems. Yes the Watcher's Council is mainly stuffy old men but the idea is that throughout the course of the series Buffy and Giles (The most visceral representation of the Council) reconcile their differences and evolve from slayer and watcher to two parts of the same coin. They both truly love and respect one another. And then, of course, Buffy completely surpasses and overcomes the Watcher's Council and leads the potentials solo. The fact that men raped the female populace into being slayers and then Buffy completely obliterating this system in the finale by naturally giving her power to thousands of woman as opposed to being forced into one girl having lots of power and to be the slave of men is as feminist as it gets.

Your piece on "Helpless" is not up for interpretation. You're simply wrong. The muscle relaxant that Giles uses makes Buffy weaker than an average human - It doesn't just take her powers away. She doesn't go running to Angel for help, in fact she denies his help. And, as soon as her mum is put in danger, she rushes off to save her - weak or not. Also, you mention that Joss only shows strong women with superpowers, but Buffy saves the day, herself and her mother without powers and only uses her intelligence.

Buffy is a feminist show. And not just Buffy but Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Serenity and his comic books. Cordelia, Fred, Willow, Anya, Tara, Joyce, Zoe, River, Inara (Completely in control of her sexuality), Kaylee, Echo, Adelle, Melaka Fray, Faith, Emma Frost, Shadowcat, Agent Brand. They're all incredibly strong characters and they're all women!! SHOCK AWE!

So basically what I'm saying is that you're just wrong. I mean, contrary to this comment, I don't like telling people their views but in this case I feel that the only reason you're trying to make Joss a misogynist is because he's so famous for being a feminist. A Radical feminist at that!

(And don't even get me started on you saying that he's a gay basher. That is just NOT true!!)

10:11 AM  
Blogger Morda898 said...

I think you're truly grasping at straws here. Joss Whedon is an uber feminist. We look at all his work and we know this is true. The only reason people are discussing Joss' possible misogynistic angle is because he is such an uber feminist. You're digging way, way, way too deep to find a conclusion that isn't there. Buffy was designed to be the ultimate feminist show and, even if it isn't 100% feminist at all times, I know for an unwavering fact that the show is feminist. I started watching Buffy when I was fifteen, and I went in without any view of feminism and I came out of it with an incredibly powerful feminist/equalitist view on life. I mean I am an uber feminist and it's all because of Joss. So you can make your evaluations that Buffy is OH MY GOD IN FACT MISOGYNISTIC HOLY SHIT but I know for a fact that it isn't because it literally turned me into a feminist.

Buffy is about overcoming patriarichal systems. Yes the Watcher's Council is mainly stuffy old men but the idea is that throughout the course of the series Buffy and Giles (The most visceral representation of the Council) reconcile their differences and evolve from slayer and watcher to two parts of the same coin. They both truly love and respect one another. And then, of course, Buffy completely surpasses and overcomes the Watcher's Council and leads the potentials solo. The fact that men raped the female populace into being slayers and then Buffy completely obliterating this system in the finale by naturally giving her power to thousands of woman as opposed to being forced into one girl having lots of power and to be the slave of men is as feminist as it gets.

Your piece on "Helpless" is not up for interpretation. You're simply wrong. The muscle relaxant that Giles uses makes Buffy weaker than an average human - It doesn't just take her powers away. She doesn't go running to Angel for help, in fact she denies his help. And, as soon as her mum is put in danger, she rushes off to save her - weak or not. Also, you mention that Joss only shows strong women with superpowers, but Buffy saves the day, herself and her mother without powers and only uses her intelligence.

Buffy is a feminist show. And not just Buffy but Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Serenity and his comic books. Cordelia, Fred, Willow, Anya, Tara, Joyce, Zoe, River, Inara (Completely in control of her sexuality), Kaylee, Echo, Adelle, Melaka Fray, Faith, Emma Frost, Shadowcat, Agent Brand. They're all incredibly strong characters and they're all women!! SHOCK AWE!

So basically what I'm saying is that you're just wrong. I mean, contrary to this comment, I don't like telling people their views but in this case I feel that the only reason you're trying to make Joss a misogynist is because he's so famous for being a feminist. A Radical feminist at that!

(And don't even get me started on you saying that he's a gay basher. That is just NOT true!!)

10:11 AM  
Blogger Adélia Braga said...

When Buffy was on, I was in my early teens, so all these things just went right past me. Now I've been watching the show again and all the things that I didn't see before are just screaming at me on the screen! I guess you really have to be old enough to catch some underlying concepts and realize how obnoxious they are.

Well, after reading everything you just said (and thanking you for the insights), I have one thing to say: I knew I couldn't be the only one to see it! :)

1:01 PM  
Blogger SofaJay^_^ said...

A couple of things to say:
Buffy rebelled against both the early guys that created the First Slayer AND the Watchers and succeeded in both situations. Also, the magic I think represented Willow and Tara's love. The love was what consumed and destroyed her when Tara died. I stopped reading after that.

5:32 PM  
Blogger nswebb said...

in regard to your comment

"A woman is either gay or straight, and making a decision for one permanently flips the switch on the other. We had seen Willow attracted—sexually and otherwise—to both Xander and Oz. We know she liked men at one point. After Tara, though, that response evaporates completely. The series seems to suggest that she can’t make that choice anymore. She’s not allowed."

No, she actually did have to make that choice with Tara when Oz returned and tested her emotions. And the episode makes it clear that she is initially torn but ultimately makes a choice.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Sivetoblake said...

everybody has such well thought out points just wanted to say that

11:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home