Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Do we have to be introspective now?"

-Giles, What's My Line, Part I

I criticize because I care.

Season 2 of Buffy is proving to be as good, if not better, than Season 1 (I'm only actually halfway through so far). The dialogue is fantastic! While chatting with Samarra (who may need therapy to get over my presumptuous challenging of the love of her TV-watching life), I told her that the thing is that this show does hold up to criticism far more than most. It is amazingly cool to see a young girl out patrolling in the dark by herself to keep everyone else safe. It's cool to see her kick ass.

The Halloween episode was interesting. Perhaps the most feminist of the episodes so far, in my opinion.
Buffy: Musta been wonderful. Put on some fantabulous gown and go to a ball like a princess, and have horses and servants, and yet more gowns.

Willow: Yeah. Still, I think I prefer being able to vote.
And the reason behind the dress choice was to impress Angel, but his response is not what Buffy expects - he likes her just the way she is:
Angel: I don't get it, Buffy. Why'd you think I'd like you better dressed that way?
Buffy: I just wanted to be a real girl for once. The kind of fancy girl you liked when you were my age.
Angel: Oh, ho.
Buffy: What?
Angel: I hated the girls back then. Especially the noble women.
Buffy: You did.
Angel: They were just incredibly dull. Simpering morons, the lot of them. I always wished I could meet someone... exciting. Interesting.
In my earlier comment about Buffy and Willow and their clothes choices, it wasn't Buffy I was thinking about. Samarra said: The thing about Buffy's outfits are that they are sexy. Yes, she does kind of dress a little too sexy for school. However. You can choose to be cynical and assume it's to attract the male viewers, or you can think of it as Buffy choosing to dress as she pleases, and not letting the whole "slut" thing stop her (derogatory comments about female sexuality). She's sexy and a woman and she's not afraid to show it. I agree with a lot of that. I mean, I'd be hard pressed to be commenting about Buffy's clothes choices, considering that the only time I'm not in a low-cut, cleavage-baring shirt is when I'm teaching, basically. I do think that her clothes are chosen to attract male viewers. I think the male gaze and its implications are as applicable to Buffy's clothing choice as they are to mine. It's an important issue to analyze, but it wasn't her wardrobe I was thinking about at all. It was Willow's.

Willow dresses exactly like a female geek "should". I should know, I was one. And in the Halloween episode, we have that requisite moment when Willow becomes "empowered" by dressing in clothes that are sexy. I don't personally think wearing sexy clothing translates as empowerment. Or as feminism. I am not judging when I say that. Women can choose to do whatever they want to do. However, every choice a woman makes isn't necessarily a feminist choice. Doesn't make it wrong to make a choice that isn't particularly feminist either. I can understand that there is a personal power that comes from being able to play the game and play it well. Learning to dress well, put on makeup well, do all these girly things - they are skills. But empowering feminist choices? To say that is to skim over an awful lot of looking at why and for whom. Those are important questions. It does nothing to examine the society that drives her to feel that she must look a certain way, that she is more valuable if she looks a certain way.

I'm not calling any the characters on the show a slut for their clothing choices or their actions. But Xander is.
Cordelia: I can't even believe you. You dragged me out of bed for a ride? What am I, mass transportation?
Xander: That's what a lot of the guys say, but it's just locker room talk. I wouldn't pay it any mind.
What we should make of that, I don't know. I like Zander's character in general. But I think that his character says and does an awful lot of unfeminist things. Can we think of a show as feminist in spirit if only the female characters reflect that? I think it would be nice to see male characters acting and speaking in ways that don't devalue women as well as seeing strong female characters. A show wouldn't be a-ok on the racism front with me if, for example, all the characters of colour were strong and empowered but all the white characters were making racist comments.

The characters seem fairly nicely split. There are the smart ones (Giles, Ms. Callender, Willow) and the ones made out to be a bit on the dumb side (Buffy, Zander, Cordelia.) So, the airhead is a girl. But her dialogue has obviously been done to make fun of her ditziness on purpose - and it seems to me that its making fun of the shallowness, but not necessarily the girl. She is ultimately portrayed as caring and concerned, when the shit hits the fan. But in amongst that great dialogue (kinda makes me think of the Gilmore Girls, the quick delivery and smart lines), are some very questionable attitudes. A fair amount of it seems done with that self-awareness, as a comment on the attitude itself (lots of Cordelia's lines, for example) but not always. Like Xander's quote later in the post.

I can see that Buffy and Giles' relationship is going to change already - there are hints of it in The Dark Age, where Buffy and the others have to take over the researching and planning for Giles and guide him to the solution. Also in the suggestions that he ignored the Slayer's Rulebook in order to work with Buffy's style and play to her strengths.

It's a great show. I am going to try and plow through as many of them as possible before I have to leave. And I'm enjoying them immensely. I'm also enjoying criticizing them, sure, but what makes that fun is that the show can take it.

There was one pesky question at the back of my mind while watching the two-parter with the job fair - what exactly is it that Angel does to keep himself in black leather jackets and bags of blood?


Film News said...


I think you picked the worst time to start attacking Buffy. Read my blog.

Xander is just joking. He's trying to get under Cordelia's skin. They both nit pick at each other, and Cordelia makes some entirely sexist comments herself about men, that I think you need to pay attention to as well.

Willow. I know you were talking about Willow. My comment about Buffy was in response my thinking that you said that Buffy dressed slutty. I also never considered Willow's hallowe'en costume to be subtextually empowering. I actually found it annoying that Buffy was trying to get her to dress in a way she wasn't comfortable with. Empowerment in my mind is being able to dress and be the way you want. Just wait till the Inca Mummy Girl episode.

Each of the characters represents a social norm in relation to feminism (IMO). Xander represents the goofy nerdy guy who struggles with what his male peers tell him, and doing what he knows is right. I think he is the perfect representation of that kind of guy.

I disagree with some of your points about feminism, and this is why I disagree with some of your criticism of the show.

Angel: he's a vampire with a soul. He needs blood to survive. He wears a black leather coat cause he's brooding over his murderous past. Plus I'm sure there's a wardrobe choice in there about making him look uber dark and handsome.

I'm going to go buy a suitcase now.

Amanda said...

See, I don't think Xander's jokes are acceptable. There are some things you just shouldn't say, even to get under someone's skin. And it hasn't stopped since they've been together either.

I've seen Inca Girl - that one came before Halloween. The Eskimo suit is what you're referring to.

The line about Angel was a joke. Where does he get the money, basically.

And, I can't read your blog just yet. Too many spoilers, I think. I'll get there.