Posts Tagged ‘Buffy’
We all know: I love Joss Whedon. I love his writing. I love his shows. I think he’s great at creating captavating television. But he has some major problems — all of his shows show a lack of diversity, a problematic understanding of female sexuality, and more. But the problem I want to talk about today is ableism. Ableism seems to be a prevalent theme throughout his shows. (A note before I start looking at his shows: I’m not going to remember every single episode of his that I’ve watched. I’m sure there are some exceptions to what I’m about to say, but they are most likely the exceptions that prove the rule.)
So, let’s start with Buffy. Buffy is a show that is based around a woman with super-human abilities. Not only is she able-bodied, she’s more-than-able-bodied. And so are many of the people around her — Willow and Tara are witches, Anya is an ex-demon. The show often features language such as “I’m so mentally challenged” and the like when they do not have any mental disabilities. Doing this diminishes the importance of disabilities for the people that live with them and what those people go through on a daily basis.
On top of all of this, the demons and people who aren’t demons that they fight are often portrayed as “crazy” or mentally impaired in some way. The case that I am thinking of specifically (because I just watched it) is “Out of Mind, Out of Sight.” In this episode, a girl is ignored so much that she actually becomes invisible. She then goes around seeking revenge on Cordelia and her friends, who she sees as the cause of her problems. She’s portrayed as crazy, and therefore mentally unstable, but it is really just a result of the social context in which she lives.
Firefly is one of Joss’ shows that was cancelled much too soon — after only half a season on Fox — and was later made into a movie, Serenity. River was tortured by the Alliance in order to use her “special abilities.” She has psychic abilities and the Alliance wanted to use those in a sort of army. Her brother, Simon, rescued her from the Alliance and, because he’s a doctor, tried to bring her back to health. You see, her torture left her mentally unstable, and with a combination of psychic abilities, she could be pretty dangerous at times. While many of the serious plot line revolved around River, her mental unstability was often used to lighten the mood. It was kind of like “look what silly thing River will do next” time on Firefly at some points.
And then there’s Dollhouse. Oh, Dollhouse. The storyline of Dollhouse revolves around perfect bodies. An Active has to have a perfect body in order to be wanted for engagements, and the Dollhouse makes money off engagements, so they aren’t going to keep anyone around who doesn’t have that perfect body. As soon as Whiskey has her face cut by Alpha, she is made into Dr. Saunders so that she never leaves the Dollhouse because she’s broken — no ones going to want an Active that’s deformed. But when Victor has his face cut up by Alpha, he gets his face fixed…but that’s a story for a whole other post.
TV isn’t usually the place where we see a lot of people with disabilities. It’s not as if Joss Whedon’s shows are any different from other shows in the number of people with disabilities that are regularly featured. But Joss has had a reputation of creating shows that revolve around the promotion of the able body in ways that other shows don’t. His shows value the able body not by only showing people without disabilities, but by centering shows around what able bodies can (and should) do. As well as using disabilities as a way to lighten the mood.
A couple weeks ago I wrote a post on the feminist aspects of the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer for Feminist Flashback Friday. While I got many positive responses to the post and supporters of the show, I also got some comments about why I didn’t address any of the problematic aspects of the show. To clear that up, the purpose of the post for Feminist Flashback Friday was to sing the praises of the show. I’m not denying that there are not problematic aspects of the show (as this post will prove), it just wasn’t the purpose of the post. In this post, however, I plan on bring up some of these promblematic aspects of my beloved Buffy.
One of the biggest problems that I see is the punishment that characters face for having sex. The most straight-forward example of this is Buffy and Angel. When Buffy and Angel have sex for the first (and last) time, Angel experiences a moment of pure happiness and is punished by having his soul taken away again. Having his soul taken away is obviously a punishment for sex — the two are very much connected. Additionally, after Buffy tries to end her relationship with Spike, he tries to rape her. His reasoning? Because she had sex with him already, so she should want to have sex with him again. Have sex, be punished with rape for later refusing it. Moving away from Buffy, let’s look at Dawn’s first date. While Dawn didn’t have sex with him, she was moving away from the “innocence” of childhood into the realm of sexuality. And then her date turns out to be a vampire. Don’t start exploring your sexuality because your date will be a vampire.
Tara is killed by Warren right after having sex with Willow. Tara and Willow had been having sex for a while by this point, but punishment for sex does not have to come immediately. Another example that was offered to me was Faith. When Faith was first introduced, she was a promiscuous party-girl. Then she turned evil. When Buffy’s mom started dating again, she’s dating a crazy robot who tries to kill everyone. While Buffy is full of powerful and strong women, it is also full of a fear of female sexuality. Women who express or try to express their sexuality are punished in some way, usually in death (or threat of death) of themselves or a loved one.
Another problematic aspect of Buffy is the lack of diversity and the demonization of people of color. All of the main characters are white. A majority of the vampires and other demons are white or portrayed as being white. There is very little diversity even in the minor characters. When people of color show up, they are often being portrayed as demons. I can’t remember every demon that showed up on Buffy, but one example that I can think of is the episode “Once More With Feeling,” (I love this episode, just thought I’d say). In “Once More With Feeling” the main demon is imagined to be a person of color who is there to take Dawn, a 16-year-old girl, as his bride and kills people by burning them from the inside out. When people of color are in episodes of Buffy and aren’t portrayed as demons, they are often the first ones to die in that episode.
The main think about Buffy though that bothers me is the fear of female sexuality and punishment for sex, as discussed above. The strength of the women portrayed in the show is diminished because they are not fully sexually empowered. Showing punishment for sex implies an implicit fear of female sexuality within the show.
To continue reading about the problematic (and good) parts of Buffy and other Joss Whedon creations, please look at meloukhia’s series at this ain’t livin’ on Feminism and Joss Whedon. Get ready for the season premiere of Dollhouse with her feminist analysis of the show and be prepared for my episode-by-episode analysis of the second season.
Ever since I started blogging I have wanted to write a post dedicated to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is probably one of my all time favorite shows…and I just started watching it this past winter! This probably isn’t that much of a flashback or a history lesson for many of you…but Buffy is in the past, so it’s ok for a Feminist Flashback Friday, right? Even if it’s not, it’s going to be…
For those of you who don’t know, the show revolves around the “chosen one,” the slayer, who at this point in time is Buffy Summers. Buffy spends every episode fighting “the big bad,” whether it is vampires or some other form of demon. She has her crew of “scoobies” that help her out and occasionally get into trouble. My favorite of the Scoobies is Willow who has some special powers of her own: she’s a witch. There’s just so much that happens over the seven seasons that I’m not even going to attempt to summarize right now, so this is the best I can do right now.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is all about strong women. Buffy herself is supernaturally, physically strong because of her status as the slayer. But she is emotionally strong as well. Sure, she has her breakdowns and times that she no longer wants to be the slayer, but overall she is a strong women, physically, emotionally, and mentally. And it’s great to see a female action hero that was so sucessful. Buffy kicked ass on a weekly basis.
Willow was a strong woman as well. She went from a shy bookworm to a powerful, confident witch throughout the show. And she’s the one example that I can think of in a mainstream, network show of a successful transition from straight to a lesbian. I don’t know if “successful transition” is the right phrase, but there have been so many shows that make a character a lesbian for a couple shows and then she’s straight again. But with Willow, she realized her sexual identity when she met Tara and she stuck with it. Yes, she did go crazy at one point, but all that did was to show how powerful and strong she actually was when it came to her magical powers.
And then there’s Anya, who was a vengence demon who lost her powers (then regained them later). Even when she didn’t have her supernatural powers, she was one of the key Scoobies. While it takes her a while to adjust to not having powers, she becomes one of the strong members of the team.
There are also some recurring minor strong women in the show. There’s Faith, the slayer-turned-evil. Glory, who was a demon god bent on getting back to her hell.
Oh Xander. One of the two men in the Scoobies (yes, I do count Giles). He goes through a lot of identity crisis’, especially in the later seasons, because he is surrounded by such powerful women and he doesn’t really have a lot to offer. Buffy’s the slayer, Willow and Tara are powerful witches, and Anya is an ex-demon. Some definite woman-power there.
One other thing that I like about Buffy is that it’s not super focused on romantic relationships. Buffy’s romantic relationships definitely play a big role in the show, but she’s not relationship-centric. When Angel goes evil and when he leaves, Buffy does have a really hard time and falls apart a little bit, but then she learns that it’s ok to be a strong woman on her own. Xander and Anya’s relationship and Willow and Tara’s relationship are key to the show as well. But in all of the relationships, each of the people are independent and strong on their own and have a pretty healthy relationship because of that (the only exception I can think of is Buffy and Spike, but that’s a whole other story).
To me, one of the undertones of the show is about being the best person that you can be, no matter what your powers. While the characters themselves are probably not feminist, I think that the show is. Buffy the Vampire Slayer portrays strong women as they are. Sure some of their strength comes from supernatural powers, but the strength that I am most concerned about is their mental and emotional strength.
What Buffy has is something that is severely lacking from television today. It has great writing, great acting, and strong women. Where are shows like this today? It’s not like Buffy was made all that long ago. Where did it go? Well, right now I am jonesing for a Buffy fix, so I think I am going to go watch an episode over on Hulu.
So, how many of you watched Buffy when it was on or have since picked it up, like me? Any thoughts about the feminist value of the show?
What is America’s obsession with vampires? I’ll admit, I’ve fallen into this obsession. It all started with Buffy, which I only started watching earlier this year, and now I’m into True Blood as well. There’s also Twilight, which I have a weird fascination with as I’ve talked about before. As much as I love these vampire shows (Buffy and True Blood, that is), why is America obsessed with them? And why am I obsessed with them? (My obsession might have something to do with my obsession with pop culture and TV shows in general, but maybe it’s something more too since America seems obsessed with them as well.)
I loved Buffy because the character was a strong woman who saved the world on numerous occasions which is such a rare occurrence in media today. Even though Buffy had the help of many strong men, she was the one in charge and the one who ultimately would save the day. True Blood centers around a strong female character, Sookie Stackhouse, and her relationship with a vampire, Bill. While Sookie often needs rescuing, she can stand up for herself. My weird obsession with Twilight has more to do with my lack of understanding for the obsession with the phenomenon. Bella is not strong, cannot stand up for herself, and constantly needs to be saved by Edward. And Edward is basically a creepy stalker. I prefer Buffy and True Blood because of the strong female characters, where as Twilight is a feminist nightmare. But why does America like vampires?
In the New York Times article “A Trend With Teeth,” Ruth La Ferla examines the appeal of vampires. She states,
The vampire’s attraction is “all about the titillation of imagining the monsters we could be if we just let ourselves go,” suggested Rick Owens, a fashion bellwether whose goth-tinged collections sometimes evoke the undead. “We’re all fascinated with corruption, the more glamorous the better” and, he added, with the idea of “devouring, consuming, possessing someone we desire.”
Dodai from Jezebel wrote a similar, yet feminist, article titled “Women Play Mostly Supporting Role Within Male-Dominated “Trend”“. To explain America’s fascination with vampires, she proposes,
But in a new interview with True Blood series creator Alan Ball, he says: “Vampires are sex. Vampires basically arose in our time as a metaphor for sex. I mean, vampires are sort of the ultimate Romantic rock star, bad boy or girl fantasy.”
So, if vampires are all about sex, it’s no surprise that America has an obsession with them. Especially with the ‘abstinence porn’ that is Twilight. This series is all about sexual control, in a very sexualized way.
But why do we always see male vampires? Buffy had Angel and Spike. Twilight has Edward. True Blood has Bill and Eric. One of the few exceptions is the newly made vampire Jessica in True Blood, who is a whiny teenager who is still learning to control her impulses. There is also Drusilla in Buffy who is very mentally disturbed.
Why is it always the men that embody sex, dominate women, and possess others? Why can’t women be in these powerful roles? And why is it that when women are vampires, as in Jessica and Drusilla, they are in some way less than the male vampires, whether through age and experience or mental capability?
“Bloodsucking is a boys world,” according to the Jezebel article. It then goes on to describe the online phenomenon that was the video of Buffy ‘dusting’ Edward.
Jonathan McIntosh, who created the clip, says: More than just a showdown between The Slayer and the Sparkly Vampire, it’s also a humorous visualization of the metaphorical battle between two opposing visions of gender roles in the 21ist century […] In the end the only reasonable response was to have Buffy stake Edward – not because she didn’t find him sexy, not because he was too sensitive or too eager to share his feelings – but simply because he was possessive, manipulative, and stalkery.
I guess that what we need to combat the male domination of the vampire world is digitally created video of two different shows mashed together.
I wonder if a show or movie centering around a female vampire will ever be as popular as Buffy, Twilight, or True Blood? Sure there are powerful female characters in two out of three of those, but they are not vampires. When will women be able to embody sex and sexuality like men as vampires?
I LOVE Joss Whedon. He gave us great things like Buffy, Firefly, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog. He’s awkwardly amazing and amazingly awkward. I was perusing the Bitch Magazine Blog the other day and came across this amazing video of Joss Whedon’s speech at an Equality Now event.
In this speech, Whedon offers his many answers that he gives when asked: “Why do you always write such strong women characters?” Sometimes he attributed it to people in his life such as his mother, his father and step-father, and his wife. My favorite answer, though, was his last.
Because equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity, we need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who’s confronted with it. We need equality, kinda now.
Joss Whedon is amazing. We need more writers like him in Hollywood to get some more strong women in entertainment. I can’t remember a female character as strong, both physically and mentally, and human (kind of) as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Thank you for these characters, Joss.
Many of you who know me know that I LOVE Buffy and that I have a weird fascination with the Twilight series (for many reasons, some feminist, some just pure curiosity in pop culture). I found this video that is a great mash up of both Buffy and Edward Cullen from Twilight. It shows the creepiness (i.e. sexist and controlling) of Edward in a more obvious way than in the actual Twilight movie. Now, I can tell the creepiness of Edward in the movie, but it is way more obvious when Buffy stands up to him.
The video is not great quality because it is just clips from Buffy episodes and Twilight (and some from Harry Potter), but it is really entertaining. Thank you to the blog The American Virgin to introducing me to the video.