• Thank you for visiting Buffy-Boards. You obviously have exceptional taste. We just want you to know that:
    1. You really should register so you can chat with us!
    2. Twelve thousand people can't be wrong.
    3. Buffy-Boards loves you.
    4. See 1 through 3.
    Come on, register already!

Buffy - an instrument of patriarchy?

Taake

Raise your hand if... EW
Staff member
Joined
Jan 1, 2010
Messages
15,663
Age
33
Location
Stockholm, Swe
Black Thorn
This is inspired by an essay by Deneka C. MacDonald called "Buffy the vampire slayer and designer peer pressure for teens" that is mainly against Buffy as a feminist character. Firstly I will list the claims of this essay with quotations, subsequently my responses to them and hopefully this will encourage you to list your answers to these claims as well.

*Please note that the essay deals primarily, and clearly states that it does, with the first two seasons (but also mentions episodes one episode each from season 3 and 4) and later seasons are thusly not relevant to the topic so in answers please limit your thoughts to early Buffy the vampire slayer.


Eight points from the essay

1. The essayist calls Buffy "an instrument of patriarchy" because in season 1 and 2 Buffy may be 'the chosen one' but she does not 'choose' to be the Slayer, in fact she is often pushed or forced by Giles (father-figure/male authority) to accept and act upon her role. She is also called "iconic eye candy, a Cosmopolitan vampire killer" because while she seems empowered she is, in the early series - disempowered, only wielding the appearance of power, in part because of the adult/teen relationship between her and Giles, but also because she stereotypically caters to persuade the audience to 'buy into' acceptable images of "the body and beauty."

2. It claims that Buffy only embodies a patriarichally approved sort of female physical power in that she isn't allowed to get 'mad' at the vampires she's slaying or the men who manipulate her to slay. "She calmly, professionally, and 'femininely' hunts the villains of the program, thus combining aspects of a career woman with those of a sexualized (and fetishied) icon."

3. It sees Buffy's "feminist" message as dangerous because of her lack of studious interest because "it promotes a patriarchal ideal of strong Woman". An example is given in the meeting of Buffy and Owen in "Never kill a boy on the first date" (1.5) where they meet at the library, to his great surprise, which she daintly laughs off and then love-smitten is unable to focus on anything else Giles has to say, even asking "does this outfit make me look fat?" It also sees a problem in Buffy's friend Willow, booksmart and considerably less 'sexualized' or pretty, and that she more or less mostly highlights Buffy's beauty.

4. Buffy's beauty is considered "oppressive" because it's an unrealistic image for young women to live up to, and her form of dress as "sexualized".

5. It claims that Buffy, an archetype of sexuality, embodies "the patriarchal fear of female sexual power and she therefore must, and does, lose in the game of love." Obviously it condemns the "Angel goes bad" after sex plotline but also the fact that Buffy kills him and when he comes back to life holds that over his head. The author claims that Buffy becomes an 'evil' because (as all powerful women) she is capable "of spiritual neutering and emasculating"


6. The essay also deals with Buffy's behavior in "Bad Girls" but clearly confuses it with "Beer bad" because while it starts by saying that the episodes underlying motif is Buffy falling under the pressures of being the Slayer and submits to peer pressure, it continues to state that "to push the moralism of the episode, Buffy becomes possessed and regresses to a cave woman when her beer is spiked (...)".
The essayist is bothered by Buffy's alcohol intake because it "pushes her further into the forbidden masculine territory" and consequently she loses her beauty and strenghtens the idea that women who drink are not attractive (by becoming 'cave Buffy')


7. The essayist also treats the problem of Sarah Michelle Gellar as a young actress "“ modeling for Maybelline, acting in movies such as "I know what you did last summer" (heroine more concerned with her hair than being murdered), "Scream 2" (girl too dumb to go downstairs) and "Cruel Intentions" (a sexual predator ultimately sold out by the male hero, disempowered and publicly humiliated) "“ and claims that "it is difficult to watch Gellar as the wholesome Buffy after these apperances."

8. Finally it concludes by claiming that "Women do not need to deny being sexy in order to be powerful, nor should 'aesthetically pleasing' women be denied social or political strenght, but the deliberate promotion of an emotionally vulnerable visual icon as representative of 'sexy' or 'strong' remains problematic." (my bolds)



My thoughts on these eight points​
1. I understand the idea of Buffy being an "instrument of patriarchy" in the sense that many female media roles still are "“ they are invented and formed under circumstances that still mainly allow for a patriarichal subtext (as it is the subtext of society) "“ but more to the point, yes, the fact is that Buffy, at the start of the series, does resist her 'destiny' of being a Slayer. She has personal reasons (she has already seen her life fall apart because of the actions demanded by her and presumably has seen her first watcher die, though this is not mentioned in the series) rather than idealogical reasons. She does not oppose the killing of vampires she'd just rather not be the one doing it because "“ as the text states "“ she did not chose to be chosen.

While the author here views Giles' guidance and authority as patriarichal pressure and manipulation of the young girl I would rather highlight Buffy's continued resistance to this pressure. She submits to being the Slayer "“ but under her terms. She still wants to shop, still wants to be a cheerleader and still wants to have a social life. I imagine that the essayist would paint these as "patriarchal stereotypic traits of femininty" but the fact is that Buffy is a young girl and to some young girls these things matter, just as for most young girls it matters to be 'normal' and for most young people having to have a secret identity and constantly put your life at risk is a high cost to ask for. Her constant resistant to her given role is a stake of empowerment in and of itself.

In this sense I think the character of Buffy navigates just fine in the conformity that feminism is forced into on Television.

2. It is true that a lot of Buffy's slayings are rather perfunctory and emotionless, more like violence thrown in for color than anything that actually jars or upsets the character. A lot of the time it is like a mundane task that just needs to be done before you can move on to something more interesting. But Buffy does get mad (although admittedly she gets to live out that emotion a lot more in later seasons), while your average run-of-the-mill vamp doesn't get her blood boiling characters like Angelus and Spike certainly do and while she may not pummel Giles' to the ground in her fury she doesn't calmly submit to him. I do understand the complaint however, there isn't much "hell hath no fury" over the earlier seasons (cf the slaying of 8 vampires in "Into the woods" 5.10), and perhaps that was because likeability for the character was a factor that needed to be catered to. Perhaps Buffy was 'reeled in' to be more appropriately feminine. I'm not sure but I personally enjoyed her flippant attitude to Slaying "“ she would kill vampires like someone else might file their nails, it was part of what made her both cool and different. She didn't get overly emotional, she got the job done (consequently had she been overly emotional would not later feminist writers have held this against her?) and then went to hang out with her friends, or sometimes while hanging out with her friends.

3. No, Buffy's not a book-worm and Willow is. Does this have to mean that all 'pretty' girls are like Buffy (while Willow is a bit frumpy in the first season I refuse to acknowledge her as anything but a pretty girl as well, be it not as text book pretty as Buffy) and that all bookish girls are unattractive/nerdy? No. Personally I think that Buffy being interested in school at this point would have been incongrous with her character, she grows into her apetite for learning, like a lot of us had to do. Her disinterest in studying is hardly an uncommon trait for teenagers, which the show was geared towards, and makes her easy to identify with from that point of view. I'm not saying that there aren't teenagers interested in studies, I'm just saying that Buffy not being so doesn't make her the icon of ditzy blondes everywhere or an upholder of anti-feminist ideals. Also I think that rather than being there to 'highlight Buffy's beauty' Willow often serves the part of highlighting the flaw that is Buffy's lack of interest in school. That said I would also like to add that in this fictional world of nightly patrols Buffy hardly has a lot of either time or energy left over for studying and the fact that she keeps trying says more than her marked lack of motivation.

As for the "does this outfit make me look fat?" comment I suppose there isn't much to say in it's defense "“ it's shallow and vain "“ but then, what teen (faced with infatuation you desperately want to be reciprocated) hasn't been a little bit shallow and vain? Also it's framing is clearly intent as a bit of comic relief, and while granted it does not prove a positive role model for young women, it makes Buffy a little bit more human to the viewer because it exposes her to be insecure.

4. Are Buffy's good looks oppressive? Is she sexualized? Yes and yes, to certain extents. Firstly the majority of people on TV and film have looks that under the given standards could be deemed 'oppressive' as most of them present ideals impossible to reach, no one wakes up with perfect hair and make up fully applied... but to wholly discard these things as 'oppressive' is to underestimate the audience. We know these things aren't real and that much is utterly unrealistic and thus not really something we try to achieve on a daily basis. Certainly body and fashion trends are emulated, and ideals of the media can be harmful, which makes me feel that the essayist has a point but that she perhaps puts too much emphasis on it and thusly, herself, ignores a lot of the character's and show's depth and messages because she is too busy obsessing over the length of Buffy's skirts. (In season 1-2 I do think these are too short quite often, especially paired with the high boots she often wore.) It's a flaw of TV in general, sexualizing young girls, but I (others may feel differently obviously) think that Buffy the vampire slayer isn't all that bad. I rarely find Buffy over-sexualized, I always found her fashion sense more quirky than sexy truth be told, and while her beauty is often on display it, again, kind of comes with the territory of television in general. I'm all for diversifying ideals of beauty on TV, but I'm not going to judge a character or show soley because the actress 'looks good'.


5. I kind of think that most fictional protagonist, especially of a series, are more or less doomed to "lose in the game of love", for simple storytelling reasons. Happy couples aren't that interesting to watch at the end of the day (unless there is plausible conflict within the pairing) so to my mind that has more to do with storytelling than Buffy's strong female sexuality.

I think it has a point of the fear of female sexual power but it saddens me to see Buffy narrowed down to an 'evil' because of the power she wields over Angel in the end. It's like she's damned if she does (girly, love-struck and doe-eyed, beds him) and she damned if she doesn't (won't give into her urges again, in a simplified version of description). She can't win here. She's a bad role model for going to bed with a guy who turns evil (which has in fact happened to a lot of young girls minus the consequent bloodbath, usually the scenario looks more like her one-nigth stand with Parker of season 4) and she's evil for being a strong woman with power over this same guy in the end. This kind of analysis completely ingores any kind of emotional factors of the situation. It doesn't take into account if she loved him or whether or not she wants to 'emasculate' her former lover "“ it only makes her seem like a bitch who can and even to this feminist essayist the idea of that is clearly terrifying.

Personally I oppose the imagery of her 'emasculating' Angel but even if she does, it's clearly an overexaggerated role not very different from the 'damsel in distress' female characters have for so long carried like a ball in chain around their necks. Isn't it time to see the reverse? Except further more... must a strong female equate emasculation? Must it really?And if so, is not that the problem on a bigger scale?


6. I have a lot of problems here. When did drinking become "male territory"? But more interestingly, what the essayist is bothered by here is the exact opposite of what bothes me in the same episode - this so called "loss of beauty" that Buffy suffers by becoming 'cave Buffy'. In my opinion the disagreable part of the episode is the fact that while the possessed college boys turn into actual cavemen, Buffy looks a lot more like 'Buffy after Burning Man' rather than a cavewoman. She's Buffy with a bad hair day and a hang-over. There is no "loss of beauty" at all. Also I think it's a bit rich to claim that the episode strengthens the image that women who drink are unattractive because it does, just as much if not more because of the hideous transformation of the boys, give just as much to the idea that men are equally unattractive when they drink.

7. This just pissed me off. Gellar is an actress and should be able to chose roles as she desires and obviously as an actor the less "wholesome" roles would be appealing to her because it will demonstrate range and hopefully avoid typecasting. To claim that it's hard to view her as Buffy because she has played other roles unlike to it is a cheap shot. How many actors/actresses have not played conflicting characters? The struggle here is personal to the author and severely limiting in theory to the acting profession in general.

8. It starts out good and falls flat. "But the deliberate promotion of an emotionally vulnerable visual icon as representative of 'sexy' or 'strong' remains problematic."
Certainly it remains problematic (e.g. Ally McBeal), fostering much discussion, but that is not a negative. A visual icon, "sexy" and/or "strong", should in my book be encouraged to be emotionally vulnerable. Whether the vulnerability or emotions are to your personal tastes is a different matter. If you don't like Buffy's vulnerability perhaps you like Ally's or someone elses... to expect one character to fit all parties is unreasonable but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't inhabit different personalities, annoying to some, loveable to others. The essayist herself is clearly bothered by Buffy's lack of passionate anger (an emotion mind you) while hunting vampires, which logically then would make her point that it's okay for a female character to be 'mad' but not to be 'vulnerable'... Even Xena (a far more passionate warrior) has moments of emotional vulnerability, otherwise she would be utterly disinteresting as a character in the long run, not to mention a charicature. Emotional vulnerability is problematic but that does not mean that it shouldn't be encouraged or that it excludes from a visual icon such as Buffy the ability of being sexy and strong "“ not in spite of it "“ but because of it!


What do you, fellow Buffy-Boarders, think of tis essay? What thoughts did it bring to your minds? Please share.
/Taake

(the essay is included in "Femme fatalities; representations of strong women in the media" by Rikke Schubart and Anne Gjelsvik, Nordicom, 2004)
 
AnthonyCordova
AnthonyCordova
[No message]

thetopher

Member of the Church Of Faith
Joined
Dec 23, 2013
Messages
10,075
Location
The Moot, England
Sineya
Joss really can't win can he?
If you give a heroine supposedly 'feminine characteristics', interest in fashion/appearance, worries about being popular, 'ditzy', then she is dismissed as a characature, but if she has depth and emotional complexity (i.e- makes mistakes and learns from them) then she's a 'bad role-model' and should be dismissed out of hand.

The first few traits aren't female characteristics, they're Buffy characteristics, they're actually part of her character, saying otherwise is really very patronising. And since when should female characters be 'protected' because otherwise they could set a bad example. Screw that, trust your audience, let them see falliable characters who fall and then get up, the strongest characters on the show come from this premise, imo.

Buffy is always fighting patriachy- The Order of Aurelius, The Watcher's Council, The Mayor, The Intiative, are all male dominated organisations/bad guys that she fights against. It's one of the themes of the show, rebellion, graduation, becoming your own person.
It's true that this much isn't apparent in the first couple of seasons, still Buffy is always fighting against ignorant authority- Snyder mainly, and against people who just percieve her as a 'troublemaker' or 'just a girl'. They do that at their peril.

Everyone wants to see pretty people on television, its not just a 'male thing', girls who watch the show have DB, and NB (who is way too good looking to be a nerd), or for the more diserning viewer Tony Head.
Female viewers can take away plenty of 'good' and 'empowered' things away from Buffy the character, not just her nice clothes or make-up, she's a genuine role-model.

As for SMG other acting roles, she played a bad girl before Buffy, in some soap or other. I saw her in 'IKWYDLS' and thought she was okay, a pretty good scream queen. And I saw her in 'Cruel Intentions', where I thought she was very good (does the author realise that that film is a moidern remake of 'Dangerous Liasons'?- you really can't read that much into the plot.)
 
Taake
Taake
[No message]
chasesummers
chasesummers
perfect!

EVIL UU

Scooby
Joined
Mar 7, 2011
Messages
1,755
You know what pisses me off the most about feminists trying to talk about Buffy? Simple. They don't know the script. They don't understand the themes explored in the show. They don't get the references nor the works that inspired BtVS. No, they just make shit up spewing ridiculous amounts of nonsense to promote their bullshit ideology. Basically, piss off feminists! Women's rights activists, you're OK, probably too busy solving actual problems to care about pop culture but whatever, if you're into Buffy you're welcome.

Anyway, usually I don't talk with ideologists ( and people who use the word problematic ) but I'll just add some thoughts to what [MENTION=9799]Taake[/MENTION] ( kudos to you by the way! ) said just 'cause my bullshit detector is about to explode here.

First of all, is Buffy a feminist character? Like, who cares? She's an interesting character. She's entertaining. Hell, she's the lead character of one of the most progressive TV shows ever, isn't that enough? She's a fearless young woman who slays vampires, OK? Alright, let's roll.

The essayist calls Buffy "an instrument of patriarchy" because in season 1 and 2 Buffy may be 'the chosen one' but she does not 'choose' to be the Slayer
Bollocks! And it's not just bollocks, it's misogynistic bollocks. Typical feminist women-hating bullshit. A notion that women do not make their own decisions, like presumably men, a notion that women are not responsible for their own faith, that their environment is. Bollocks! Being the slayer is Buffy's damn choice. It's her choice to hunt. It's her choice to face the Master knowing what will happen to her. Her bloody choice. Yes, there are circumstances, instincts, prophecies and shit and so what? Buffy still makes her own decisions.

she isn't allowed to get 'mad' at the vampires she's slaying
No, she just tortures them, sets them on fire, beats them into a pulp ( instead of just immediately staking ) for fun not to mention loses her shit demolishing their dens. What show did you watch?

or the men who manipulate her to slay
No, she just tells them to shove it and throws swords at them. Seriously, Buffy outright ignores most of Giles' instructions.

It also sees a problem in Buffy's friend Willow, booksmart and considerably less 'sexualized' or pretty, and that she more or less mostly highlights Buffy's beauty.
What am I even reading?

OK, some cold, hard truth here. Buffy is not the most attractive woman of BtVS. Among the rest of the characters she is just average. Why? So every average chick out there can easily identify with her. Jesus, that's like casting 101. She's not in the same league as people who look like Angel or Spike, OK? Next to Miss Hannigan and Miss Carpenter she's like 6 out of 10 at best. Have you even seen Willow's abdominal muscles? Now that's hotness.

Willow considerably less 'sexualized'
Willow's actually more sexualized than Buffy. Two 16 year old girls, which one of them is dressed more like a sexual fantasy? Come on, we're talking here tights, mini skirts and sneakers. Red hair. Freckles, OK? Willow's clothing is basically a fetish.

And most importantly, why is being sexualized wrong? Explain this to me! Why? Why is it problematic? ( I really hate that word ) Give me a rational explanation that does not involve your petty insecurities and jealousy. Why is it not OK to portray beautiful people in a sexually appealing way? I've asked this question before. Not a single person ever bitching about oversexualized characters has provided me with a satisfying answer. Yes, I don't like forced tasteless titillating fan service as well, simply not my cup of tea but I don't think that there's anything wrong about it and it's not like it's present in BtVS anyway. So what's the problem here?

Buffy's beauty is considered “oppressive” because it's an unrealistic image for young women to live up to, and her form of dress as “sexualized”.
Bollocks! There is nothing unrealistic about Buffy's looks. She looks like every healthy young person. Unrealistic image, Jesus, what a load of crap. Don't overeat and work out for at least those recommended 180 minutes a week, there, you look like Buffy. Beauty is easy. See, I don't get this line of thought. She's supposed to be what, ugly to be a feminist character? She is a lead character in a TV show, news flash, humans do not like to watch unattractive humans. You know why? Here's why:



Buffy, an archetype of sexuality
Yeah, sure, the character with like the lowest libido in the franchise who spends most of the show not being in a sexual relationship. Question. How many times does Buffy get laid between "Welcome to HellMouth" ( episode 1 ) and "Living Conditions" ( episode 58 )?

ONCE!!!

60 episodes, one sexual intercourse and she's supposed to be an archetype of sexuality? Are you shitting me? This is dumblr-level dumb. Seriously, was this drivel really printed?

Bloody hell, I'm done. Thanks, [MENTION=9799]Taake[/MENTION], I needed a good rage.
 
Last edited:
Kean
Kean
[No message]
R
Robb Stark
Epic post
The Bronze
The Bronze
Hotness is a matter of taste, it's Buffy for me. But this is a superb post
Ethan Reigns
Ethan Reigns
Outstanding analysis.
chasesummers
chasesummers
Amazing post! ;)

Xin Rong

Killed by Dissertation
Joined
Sep 10, 2004
Messages
2,221
Age
31
Location
Bolton
I always love Joss's explanation of this type of criticism. I am paraphrasing as I don't remember the exact quote. Buffy is a mix of a real girl, of her time, and a feminist ideal, she's not perfect for a feminist, but she's the best they could get away with at the time.

My personal stance, is that 'feminists', and I use that term loosely as it's such a multifacted philosophy,that there's no such thing as a standard feminist viewpoint, seem to criticise Buffy for its realism. Buffy was supposed to be a valley girl who became a slayer, and she was supposed to be a typical valley girl, but the point is that she is and she isn't that specific type of girl. She rises to the occasion, I've got a strong background in feminist criticism, and to be honest I think you can't please the radicals, if Buffy had been a male hating, male killing, bra burning extremist then they would complain...

And I agree with the above points, these types of essays tend to adopt a sausage factory approach, they go in wanting to criticise and naturally find something to criticise, which is too Procrustean to be taken seriously IMO
 
Kean
Kean
It is so frustrating when crap like this gets traction and the worthwhile work and activism gets lost in the din of stupidity.
chasesummers
chasesummers
[No message]

Kean

Professional Bangel
Joined
Nov 13, 2007
Messages
11,943
Age
31
Location
Ireland
Sineya
You know what, I'm a feminist. Academically, professionally and in my personal life, I am a feminist. I am a feminist and this article is bull crap.

I think elements of Buffy and Whedon's work are incredibly problematic (that was for you [MENTION=1603]Evil[/MENTION]l UU :p) but what is going on in this article is inexcusably bad research and a righteous indignation pointed at the wrong place. How do you write an article about Buffy in 2011 and make your argument based on the first two seasons only? Already you have laid the groundwork for people to refute your argument. That is poor, shoddy work.

Becoming a slayer may not have been Buffy's choice initially but she chooses it over and over again. In fact, she molds the role to suit who she is as a person. She pushes back against the overtly patriarchal constructs of the role i.e. she has her own autonomy, she takes advice from Giles but ultimately every big decision made is made by her alone, she refuses to accept that being a slayer means a certain type of life for her; she has friends, she socialises, she has relationships. The fact of the matter is that Buffy is the poster woman for choosing a career over the more traditional roles attributed to women in society. She has the power to choose love, to choose family, to put slaying behind her. But that isn't who she is. She is the slayer. She is the slayer in a way that Faith isn't, in a way the Kendra for all her rules, never was. Fighting, saving people, that's who Buffy Summers is. She has picked it over EVERYTHING at every chance she has had to choose.

Since we have known her, Buffy has pushed back against patriarchy.

I can't even be bothered to continue to each point because it is so bloody clear that the author has not watched or lived with this show the way you really should have before you go around writing articles. If you can't even get the contents of episodes right, you need to sit the feck down and shut up.

How did this even get published?
 
Taake
Taake
[No message]
Lyri
Lyri
[No message]
thetopher
thetopher
[No message]
Xin Rong
Xin Rong
If you write anything controversil, whether it's tripe or not, it'll get published. It is these kind of articles that detriment the true spirit of feminism

The Bronze

Rogue Demon Hunter
Joined
Jul 11, 2013
Messages
2,832
Age
33
Location
Essex
Black Thorn
Dear God. Absolute garbage. I can not believe it was written and presumably there is more of it. So glad to see it getting torn apart fantastically by everyone so far. Instead of wasting time writing this nonsense why doesn't the author make the perfect feminist show for us all to enjoy. They can create the feminist icon of our times, can't be that hard. There's a big hole in the TV world where Buffy used to be.

"Feminist the Vampire Slayer" - Our hero does everything perfectly. She has no individual character traits but behaves exactly how a female character should to stick it to the man!
 

Icarium

Scooby
Joined
Feb 27, 2009
Messages
1,621
I am loath to defend Joss's hilariously undeserved reputation as uber-feminist but this "essay", or at least the parts quoted of it, is such nonsense that I seriously suspect the author only skimmed certain episodes and watched no more than 10% of the show.

Bollocks! And it's not just bollocks, it's misogynistic bollocks. Typical feminist women-hating bullshit. A notion that women do not make their own decisions, like presumably men, a notion that women are not responsible for their own faith, that their environment is. Bollocks! Being the slayer is Buffy's damn choice. It's her choice to hunt. It's her choice to face the Master knowing what will happen to her. Her bloody choice. Yes, there are circumstances, instincts, prophecies and shit and so what? Buffy still makes her own decisions.
Not to mention that the idea that Giles "forces" Buffy to do anything is preposterous. Had Giles been female and Buffy male, I bet the same "analyst" would claim that Buffy blatantly disregarded the authority of women and was a symbol of the oppressive patriarchy. :)

Of course, the show itself tried to sell the notion that men forced Slayerhood on the Slayers in S7 but since we are talking about the early seasons and nothing of the First Slayer story made a lick of sense we can safely ignore it.

Seriously, Buffy outright ignores most of Giles' instructions.
In Prophecy Girl she even punched him in the face and knocked him out. Again, switch the genders and the same critics would be all aghast at Male!Buffy's actions.

Willow's actually more sexualized than Buffy. Two 16 year old girls, which one of them is dressed more like a sexual fantasy? Come on, we're talking here tights, mini skirts and sneakers. Red hair. Freckles, OK? Willow's clothing is basically a fetish.
When has Willow worn mini skirts? Do you mean Halloween which was the exception?

3. It sees Buffy's “feminist” message as dangerous because of her lack of studious interest because “it promotes a patriarchal ideal of strong Woman”.
I guess the writer missed the fact that all three main female characters got into very prestigious universities, while the main male character did not get into any college and the most important secondary male character of Buffy's age even had to repeat a class because because he was brilliant but lazy. Mind you, I would have preferred if Buffy and Cordelia's academic success was portrayed a little bit better but still, just how studious do the female characters have to be to fit the requirements of the essay's author?

but the deliberate promotion of an emotionally vulnerable visual icon as representative of 'sexy' or 'strong' remains problematic.” (my bolds)
Hold, on - Buffy is blamed both for being "emotionally vulnerable" and for being hunting vampires "calmly and professionally". Both can't really be true, can they?
 
Taake
Taake
[No message]

Tome

Berktwad
Joined
Dec 14, 2009
Messages
2,869
Age
34
Location
Canada
Black Thorn
This is the kind of essay that just reminds me of how you can practically find issues or faults in anything.

EVIL UU, I don't agree with everything you said, but you got one thing right. Buffy was a great character. Yes, she fitted some stereotypes, but so does pretty much every character - male or female - in any tv show. Also, I believe that the lines like ''does this outfit make me look fat?'' were inserted to actually make fun of the ridiculously vain and shallow female characters we saw all the time. *cough* Cordelia *cough* (Ermmm, I still love you Cordy!) Because at the bottom of it, the Buffster was everything BUT vain and shallow. She was a true hero.

Anyhow, I'll conclude by commenting on one of the quotes Taake posted:
''The essayist is bothered by Buffy's alcohol intake because it "pushes her further into the forbidden masculine territory" and consequently she loses her beauty and strenghtens the idea that women who drink are not attractive (by becoming 'cave Buffy')''
WHAT WAS THAT WOMAN SMOKING?! If anything, it made Buffy more attractive. ;) ''BUFFY STRONG! BUFFY WANT BEER!'' *swoons*
 

Fuffy Baith

2017 (and 2016) Cutest BB member
Joined
Mar 14, 2014
Messages
3,996
Age
31
Location
CA
Sineya
Yea the author has no idea what shes talking about. I hate when people judge Buffy without even watching the whole series. And if she has seen the whole series then she is skewing the facts to fit her belief. I pretty much disagree with everything.
She calmly, professionally, and 'femininely' hunts the villains of the program,
I agree that some of Buffy's slaying outfits might not be appropriate for slaying, but that's just Buffy. I suppose the flipside to this would be Faith's style of slaying and we saw how well that worked out. So I'm not seeing a problem here. Buffy has slayed hundreds of vampires it just becomes routine. And we have seen Buffy let lose of vamps and demons before. Again no big deal to me.
It also sees a problem in Buffy's friend Willow, booksmart and considerably less 'sexualized' or pretty, and that she more or less mostly highlights Buffy's beauty.
Is she trying to say that Willow is unattractive? Willow is totally adorable. She doesn't have to dress sexually to be good looking. She is just shy and awkward around boys, but that doesn't mean they don't find her attractive, they just don't notice her, which is different.
Buffy's beauty is considered "oppressive" because it's an unrealistic image for young women to live up to, and her form of dress as "sexualized"
This is crazy. Look, I don't want to spend a hour looking at unattractive people, I can do that at work. If I'm going to watch a show or a movie I want to watch good looking people. Yea they throw in average looking people here and there to make it seem more realistic, but I'm watching a fictional show about vampires so realism is out the window, mine as well watch hot people. I would say if anything Cordelia fits this image, not Buffy. Yes Buffy is attractive and can be hot and sexy when she wants to but that's never what the show or character is about. Does making her ugly give more meaning when she has to sacrifice Angel? No. Besides Buffy is not the only attractive person on the show. She's probably 2nd or 3rd in my opinion.
consequently she loses her beauty and strenghtens the idea that women who drink are not attractive (by becoming 'cave Buffy')
Well cave Buffy doesn't really look any different from normal Buffy, just some dirt and messy hair. I think cave Buffy is totally adorable anyways. Besides I think the message was that beer makes men act stupid, Buffy is just a funny side plot.
"it is difficult to watch Gellar as the wholesome Buffy after these apperances."
I personally don't agree, but I have a friend who refuses to watch 'Bones' because it might ruin her view of 'Angel'. I have no problem separating actors and their roles in movies and shows. A good actor makes you forget it them and all you see is their character anyways. I love SMG in 'Cruel Intentions'. Does not ruin Buffy for me.
 

VisionBoy

Scooby
Joined
Nov 29, 2014
Messages
1,072
Age
27
Sineya
Buffy's beauty is considered "oppressive" because it's an unrealistic image for young women to live up to
It really pisses me off when certain "feminists" attack female characters for being attractive. "Woohoo, go women... oh but only the ones who look the way we think is right!" One of the main points of Buffy was that she goes against the stereotypes of pretty blonde girls. But I guess the point of her character doesn't matter since the actress playing her is too attractive. How dare SMG expect to be a role model being so slim and pretty? :rolleyes:

Honestly, a lot of this writer's views just seem straight up misogynistic to me; I don't care how feminist they think they are. I mean seriously, Buffy drinking makes her masculine? Willow is just there to highlight Buffy's beauty?

They can sod off!
 
Last edited:

AnthonyCordova

Earth Invasion Taskforce Unlimited
Joined
Feb 18, 2014
Messages
1,978
Location
Denver, Colorado
Sineya
I looked briefly for the original article online and could not find a version I could read for free. So while I have disagreements with the author's points as she has been represented in this thread, I have to add that I would have to read the original article myself to make sure I didn't misunderstand her position. Context and many other factors might change the meaning or thrust of certain points in small but important ways.

I think these kinds of discussions are good (i.e. the essay by the original author and the discussion that emerges afterwards as a result) if for no other reason than it helps us clarify our positions and thoughts on the issues at hand. I wouldn't completely dismiss some of the original author's points either by the way, but essays like this often inspire me to clarify for myself why exactly I disagree and feel the need to defend the show on those counts and others, and that is helpful. Many people have versions of feminism compatible with the author (as represented here). Specifically, this wouldn't be the first Buffy Studies article I've read that took this kind of critical feminist stance towards the show either. What's going on here? I like the idea of using this type of scholarship as an opportunity to get out into the open our conflicting expectations and definitions of femininity, masculinity, the relationship between the two, and everything else. And what's interesting to me is that, in the end, the argument becomes less about Buffy the show and more about ourselves, because what is really happening here is a debate (socially, academically, and this thread as well) about how we understand and define feminism, about how we expect feminism to be expressed, and so on. As with most debates of this nature, the show (and the subsequent scholarship people write) becomes a vehicle to express our own personal points of view on these critical topics. Behind her academic analysis and criticism of the show in terms of feminism, behind the scholarly and objective appearance of the language, in the end MacDonald is really just articulating her own fleshed out personal beliefs and perspectives on the topic. So the article becomes (and says) just as much about herself as it does about the topic. Nietzsche made a point in the general spirit of this (in a far more profound and felicitous way of course) and it stuck with me ever since. And that goes for all things of this nature, and for everyone, not just MacDonald. I find it helpful to bear that in mind when I read this type of thing.

Taake, I found your response very thoughtful and I thought you clearly identified the important points of difference between your position and the original author as you understand it.

I really want to avoid writing an essay-long response, as tempting as it is. But I do want to add just a few brief comments.

On #1, I really liked your response. I would also like to offer as a potential criticism of the author's position that she must be careful to not conflate the context of the situation with the response to the situation. In other words, the context might be one thing (e.g. patriarchal...maybe) but that does not mean that the person or character working from within that context suffers from the same problems as the context itself. Does that make sense? So for just one example from #1, yes, the slayer never gets to choose to be the slayer, and yes it was men who created the slayer line (S7 though, I'm sorry) and the watcher's council are mostly men, etc. But it's not fair to define Buffy the character a certain way with regard to feminism for reasons that only have to do with her context (on second glance, a lot of the listed problems in #1 seem to fall into this problem, at least potentially, depending on how careless the author was in the original paper). What really matters is what Buffy's response to that context is (and I liked the way you pointed some of those things out along those lines in your response). And you have to take into account the context in relation to the response, insofar as the context oftentimes provides the parameters and limitations of what the response can be. It's only then that you can really fairly assess Buffy the character as anti-feminist or not, if you ask me. Well, after that and after figuring out what definition and understanding of feminism the people around you are working with.

#2 I feel tempted to argue #2 is an expression of the author's personal and subjective vision of how "feminist physical power" must express itself, and I would challenge it with my own version that is different. And again it brings me to the larger point of, "what exactly is your version of feminism anyway, because I think I disagree" etc. I liked your points in response.

#3 My initial response was to ask myself the question if there is something wrong with presenting a character with flaws (or in this case and in this discussion, presenting a character that is not a complete feminist ideal like Buffy, at least on the author's terms) to begin with and then allow them to grow and watch them find success in their situation as they grow in their own particular way to meet their challenges. Of course, for me to argue this point persuasively I would need recourse to all 7 seasons of Buffy on television and beyond. But even using the examples furnished by the original author, "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date" was early season 1...slaying was still new and Buffy was a sophomore in high school (once again, consider context). She still resisted Giles (as you pointed out) and fought to maintain a normal life of her own, on her own terms. Sometimes the point of a television show is to have the characters start as one thing and end up different as somebody else later. So, using an early S1 episode as an example is unfair to me, because the show is establishing the very young Buffy the character as one set of things first, with the intention that she will unavoidably grow and change over the course of the show. And she does. Everyone does from such a young age. I mean, her understanding of relationships already changes a great deal from this episode to the S2 evolving relationship with Angel. They are definitely not the same person (i.e. Buffy early S1 and Buffy mid to late S2) already. And taking a few steps back, it's unfair to say Buffy is an anti-feminist character based solely on S1 examples, for obvious reasons. If Buffy behaved about men in late seasons in the same way she does boys early S1, than there might be some issues. As it stands, using only early examples is being too selective. And like I said, I would argue there are already big changes in Buffy with regard to her attitude towards men from S1 to S2...and even more beyond that.

#4. I agree with a lot of your commentary. I would also add that I sometimes find the big deal made over beauty and oppression amusing. Different cultures have radically different attitudes towards this topic (and any other topic of course). As an example, the ancient Greeks had no trouble at all with regard to the issue of beauty, and certainly would never have felt oppressed by it. They celebrated beauty in others but it didn't challenge their sense of self if they themselves did not look the same or were not appreciated the same way by others. Sometimes I feel (modern) western culture makes too much of this difference. That's not to say that, within our modern context, there are not problems and issues with how we define beauty and portray beauty in pop culture, because there are, but appreciating the difference in cultural understanding across time and place helps bring some perspective and eliminates the very culturally-subjective nature of many ways of looking at things. Modern western people tend to think their problems as they understand them are meta-problems or something; they assume the way they contextualize their problems are the way all humans contextualize their problems regardless of time and place. Anyway, without getting into it I would say I don't find the beauty of Buffy oppressive at all, and I think many honest viewers who love the show (many of them women) would agree that "oppressed" would not be the best word to use. But I'm not going to get into it and write a book about my thoughts on that, not here. Modern westerners have hang-ups over beauty, sex, guilt, shame etc. and that's all I will say, especially Americans. And yes I'm as much a westerner (and American as apple pie, so to speak) as anyone.

#5 is actually kind of interesting to me actually. I don't know how far I would take MacDonald's argument, but it is an interesting observation, because the plot of S2 kind of plays into it almost too neatly (unconscious counter-mechanics at work for Joss Whedon, who was so conscious of the issue to begin with?). You said Buffy was characterized as "evil" by MacDonald and other things, so I would really rather read the original article and see for myself exactly how she phrases things and contextualizes her argument before I could comment on these points further. Depending on how she puts things, I might give her some credit on this one.

I'd more or less pass on the final 3 points. You spoke about emotional "vulnerability" in your response to #8 and I liked it. I wanted to add that emotional vulnerability is rather central to the human condition and the human experience, and as a result nearly everyone has to deal with the issue in some fashion or other. It's one of those unavoidable things. The topic of emotional vulnerability is wrapped up in our concept and sense of self, our sense of other people, our relationships with other people, the relationship between our sense of self and other peoples sense of self, of what one feels is permissible to share or disclose and what one feels one must withhold, and much more. To say that displaying emotional vulnerability is somehow anti-feminist is to not only be unfair...but completely inhuman also. If that is what the author intended to say, explicitly or otherwise, than I would think that the author's academic and personal understanding of feminism distorts her understanding of the human experience.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom