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Meet the Author: Karin Schill

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Hey everyone, this month we have a special treat for you. I sat down with the lovely author of the book “Femininity & Masculinity: A Reception study about the construction of gender in four relationships on the TV-series Buffy & Angel”. Karin Schill is a Swedish journalist, with an interest in Sarah Michelle Gellar and Dallas, and who lives with a phantom named Dennis, no wait… dog, a dog named Dennis! Anyway, you can find a full version of the interview right below!

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Hello, Karin, how are you?

KS: I'm fine thanks. :)

Now you have written the book Femininity & Masculinity: - A Reception study about the construction of gender in four relationships on the TV-series Buffy & Angel – starting out with the big question… how did you come to write a book about Buffy? Was it planned or did it just happen?

KS: Well it wasn't planned to become a book. The whole thing started out as a thesis for my Media and Communications studies at the University. I was studying at a C-level (undergraduate) in the spring of 2003 and we needed to write a thesis to pass the course. It was supposed to have been like a 10 weeks course and they had expected us to complete the task by then. But well not me. lol I guess that's a problem when you chose to study something you are really interested in. The reason I decided to write about Buffy was because I am a fan myself!

Haha, I have actually been told by a teacher myself that you should never pick a topic that you are TRULY interested in yourself, because it easily becomes too big!

KS: That's exactly what happened.


The book aims to find if the characters have a tradition gender construction, a hybrid or a reversed one… have you studied in this field as well or how did you come this specific topic?

KS: Well previous to this I had studied psychology and a little sociology. I think I have always been interested in people in general. Also I am interested in women's rights. I am a firm believer in that we should have equal rights regarding what gender we belong to. But well I think what happened was that I was trying to find an angle for my study and I was interested in studying the relationships, since whenever I watch TV I always enjoy watching the characters relationships. Then my teacher advisor suggested I could do a gender study and recommended me to read a book about feminism. So I did and it was a real eye opener for me. I realized that up until that point I had always thought that men and women were equal. But after that I realized that we actually aren't in all fields and since I believe we should be I became a feminist. I also realized just how much our gender is shaped by society. It was actually a really interesting process and it has shaped what I studied after this too.

How interesting! What book did your teacher give you to read?

KS: Feminism by Lena Gemzöe. Also Feminist media studies by Lisbeth Van Zoonen

So for the project you connected with fans, how did that process look - how did you find and select fans to interview?

KS: Well being a fan myself I couldn't help but noticing that there were shipper wars going on between particular subculture groups within the fandom. Since I couldn't actually find any reception studies focusing on that and I was interested in learning how being a shipper affected a fans' interpretations of the shows I decided to interview the shippers of the different pairings that I was doing my semiotic analysis about.

I thought that the fans perspective would be a nice complement to my own analysis and would give my study a further depth.

I found the fans through I think four or five different yahoogroups that were for different shipper groups. I joined them and posted an introduction message asking for fans to interview. I got a lot of replies and couldn't interview everyone. So I tried to interview 3-4 people from every shipper group. One group had so many responses that I think I might have ended up interviewing more people from that particular group. But if memory serves me right those fans fulfilled some other criteria that I was looking for. The interviewees were also from different countries and of different ages and I interviewed both men and women. Albeit more women. I completed all my interviews in the spring of 2003. Right before Buffy went off the air.


So it was all fresh in everyone's minds then! Now you shared on Buffy-Boards that you got hooked on Buffy yourself by watching internet clips on a slow dial-up connection! Is that true?

KS: Yes that is in fact true. It was on a website called romance on BTVS, which was run by a girl named Meredith. It is no longer online. But she had videoclips and also some cast interview clips. It was that fansite that pulled me in. I guess you can say I have always been a sucker for the romance when I watch TV. Before then I had stumbled across some weird Buffy fanpages online where there were dripping images of blood and stuff and that never appealed to me. But the sites focusing on the couples had a completely different approach. I guess you could say I am mostly a soap opera girl. I love that kind of shows. So it was Buffy's soapier elements that first pulled me in.

Speaking of ships, do you have a favorite relationship on the show?

KS: That is the million dollar question. Well obviously I am interested in the ships that I studied or else I wouldn't have selected them. I think they all have their different qualities that makes them interesting to watch. Like for instance Buffy & Angel were the star-crossed couple, Willow & Tara, they were a really good description of a lesbian couple. I think they were portrayed with dignity if you don't count the end. Buffy & Spike had a strong physical manifestation and he could get under her skin. She confided things in him that she couldn't tell anyone else. Cordy & Angel were more grown up and emerged from a friendship. I can't really pick one. But I can say that like a lot of people who were fans from the original broadcast, I first began liking couples like Buffy & Angel, Willow & Oz and Cordy & Xander so those couples makes me nostalgic. Buffy & Angel fascinated me the most though, because of the whole forbidden love aspect and the actors had really good chemistry. However upon rewatching I have found some of their story to be a bit cliche. Also the last time I saw Angel I found myself really enjoying Angel & Darla. I wish they had built more on that couple. Also I think Wes & Lilah probably had some similarities with Buffy & Spike in the sense that it was mostly about the sex to start with. Moreover I think the Angel & Cordy shippers were screwed over the most. Because their ship actually never developed into an official couple even though we thought they would during season three when I did the selection for my thesis.

That's a great answer. Angel & Cordelia certainly did get screwed over the most. Do you feel that writing the book caused you to discover something new about the relationships, characters or the shows in general?

KS: Yes. Very much so. I learnt to understand other perspectives but my own and it has enriched my viewing experience. Although it took me like maybe two years after my thesis was completed in 2008 until I could even look at the shows again. Because after watching some scenes over and over and over for my semiotic text analysis and checking every camera angle and what it signifies I found myself being fed up with them. It is only after my thesis has been completed that I have re-discovered my love for the shows. Also I can't stress this enough. It made me also realize that shipper wars are completely silly.

Haha, yet they are still around! That Buffy magic has us all in an emotional hold :)

KS: Well yes. It gets people very emotionally invested. I guess to see the silliness of the shipper wars you need to view them from a rational POV instead of emotional. Or realize that you can accomplish more when you are collaborating. I think a lot of the people who run the Saving Angel campaign were B/S or B/A shippers yet they put their shipper war aside for that in common fight to try and save the show and just look what we all accomplished together!


That is certainly true! Would you mind sharing a short quote or snippet from the book with us? To give people a feel of it. (This will be found below this article)

KS: Well let me see if I can find something. I can say the book is structured in four parts. The first one is called Research tools, that is basically an introduction and also a summary of some of the theories I've used for my study. The second part is my semiotic analysis, the third part is interviews with the fans and the final part is coda, which is discussions and my conclusions. For the interview study I start each new part with a quote from one of the fans that I have interviewed. I also have a lot of material which was cut from the thesis since it wasn't completely on topic. When I was offered to publish the book last year I added a chapter, which was not in the thesis, which was about the shippers. However I will share one of the unpublished bits with you if it's okay? It is from the interview study with fans.

Absolutely, we’d be happy to read it! In the mean time, I will ask you another million dollar question... now that some time has past and you've gotten back into the shows - do you have a favorite episode?

KS: Impossible to pick one!

There are just too many. I love Once More With Feeling. I first watched that back in February 2002 when I was visiting with fan friends in Switzerland and Germany. I wasn't that impressed then, since I made the mistake of comparing it to other musicals. But well it was never meant to be The Sound of Music or Grease. So once I began viewing it like a Buffy episode with singing in it, I realized how absolutely brilliant it is. I must say that I have a lot of respect for Joss Whedon and his work, even if I don't necessarily like how some of his plots ended. So well this is definitely a favorite episode and I love the soundtrack. On a funny sidenote, a few years ago I interviewed a bunch of High School kids about a spex they were doing, and in those they take famous melodies and exchange the lyrics. And well one of the songs they had used was "Rest in peace". Another favorite episode is The Body. I made the mistake of re-watching this on the day my paternal grandma had died. It was not a good idea as it made my own grief even more raw. This is one of the worst episode of the show. The absence of background music makes it so eerily silent. But it's a favorite simply because it's so brilliant. Hush is also a great episode. I like those experimental episodes.

I have more favorites too, I Will Remember You is a great stand alone episode for Buffy & Angel's romance. The ending gets to me. It makes me cry. Sarah's acting is just so powerful in that clip and it's so cruel with the clock being intercut into their goodbye.

Oh, The Body when you're in grief seems like a brutal episode to watch.

KS: Believe me it was. Don't watch it if you are in actual grief. It's too painful.

Waiting in the wings is a great episode too, I love the group going to the ballet. There's a so funny cut scene of Wes and Fred dancing. Haha

I do believe Alexis Denisof would've have had a future in a ballet company, had he wanted to quit Angel ;)

KS: Lol. They were pretty good yes.

Do you follow the Buffy comics?

KS: No I don't. I have maybe read one of those comic books all together and I decided it was not my thing.

It’s not for everyone. Now before I let you go - what can you tell us about Karin Schill? What is a day of your life like? What do you like to have on your pizza? And is there anything about you we should know? :)

KS: Well I am a 35 year old woman. I am a journalist and I probably work too much. I completed my Master thesis in Film Studies two years ago. It was a star study about Sarah Michelle Gellar. The days in my life are somewhat different depending upon what I work with. I am right now in the middle of three different projects at work, one is editing trailers for a travel agency that I filmed in Peru and Bolivia last fall, one is editing a documentary about leprosy in India that was filmed in 2012 and the third one is a mini tv-series/movie called "Gatans Änglar" that I have produced and directed. It started in 2013 like a youth project so people between 15 and 30 have done all the steps of the production, written scripts, filmed, acted. I am right now in the editing process and just set a premiere date today! It is my second mini tv-series, as I also did a similar youth project that resulted in a mini tv-series/movie called "Sista Året." On a more personal note, my interests are travelling, watching movies, TV-shows, music, reading, making fan music videos, writing, collecting articles for scrapbooks and shopping. I love to spend time with my family and friends but I seem to work a lot. So right now most of my days are spent at the computer doing editing work. I take breaks to walk the dog and eat and such. Oh and I love classic movies and movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton and well my favorite TV show is Dallas. It is my number one fandom. For a few years between 2000-2004 it was a tie between Dallas, Buffy and Angel but after I rewatched Dallas in 2004-2005 and Buffy & Angel had wrapped I realized that I enjoyed Dallas more. Oh and as for my pizza topping, it is either a cheese, pineapple, ham or a spinich, mozarella cheese and tomato toping. It depends on my mood.

What an interesting career! And haha, Dallas over Buffy, can we expect your next book to be about Dallas then? :)

KS: Haha, no. I spent like 11 years of my life writing about Buffy/SMG. It's a very time consuming process. So I don't think I'll ever do that again. But I do hope to publish my findings from my star study about Sarah into a book or two some day. :)

If you ever do, let us know! As a final question - what show are you watching on TV right now?

I definitely will. Well the current shows I watch are: Bones and Empire. I just completed watching Necessary Roughness. Of course I watched the New Dallas, but it went off the air in 2014. I enjoy to watch shows on DVD. I have discovered old shows like I Dream of Jeannie, The Colbys, Walker Texas Ranger and Bewitched. I have also rewatched some shows I enjoyed before, like Buffy, Angel, Friends, Beverly Hills 90210 and Dynasty. I just began a re-watch of The Little House on the Prairie! Lol. I also watched Sarah's new shows, The Crazy Ones and Ringer. They both went off the air too soon

Well thank you so much for talking to me, and giving us a glimpse into the process of crafting an academic Buffy-study!

KS: You're welcome. :)



You can find Karin’s book from Scholar’s Press here and here:





Below you will find a sample from Karin's book
 
These are samples from Karin, they were cut from the actual book but brings up relevant issues and topics you guys might be interested in. Being from a first draft they do differ somewhat from the final result, and no final editing has been made on them, but that aside – please enjoy this treat!

From Karin Schill, owner of these texts;



How love is portrayed on the shows

Love on Buffy seems to equal disaster. Every person who has fallen in love, or loved someone, has had that person either turn on them, leave or die” – Kirk.

The fans all have quite different interpretations of how love is portrayed on the shows and bring up that the show deals with two different types of love which is the platonic love between friends and family as well as the romantic love in relationships. Moreover some of the fans distinguish between how love is portrayed on the different shows as Dave, Julia and Elizabeth are all of the opinion that love on Angel and love on Buffy are not the same thing. Love on Angel is portrayed as work between two people and there is a strong sense of family on Angel. In their opinion it has to do with a real lasting platonic love where everyone makes an effort to sustain it by sharing each other’s interests by for instance attending Cordy’s plays or Fred’s lectures. Love on Buffy on the other hand is often based on lust and sex. Even though there is a platonic family love based on having things in common on that show too but it is taken for granted. Julia is of the opinion that all love is taken for granted on Buffy and that the characters seem to believe that love will survive without nurturing it. She also express a dissatisfaction about how it is portrayed as normal and expected to have someone in your life all the time as she does not believe it works that way in real life.


Kirk, Angela and Sophie also express some dissatisfaction over how love is portrayed on the shows. Because although Angela loves the friendship love the Scoobies have for each other and how they stand by each other through thick and thin she does not like the show’s portrayal of relationships. “Relationships on Buffy always ends badly,” Angela explains and then goes on stating that she does not think that it is a fair portrayal of relationships as she thinks there is more evidence of love in real life than on the show. Because although everyone on the show has had at least one relationship based on love it never last. Kirk agrees as he is also of the opinion that love on Buffy is disappointing as it always equals disaster and Sophie says that love on the shows is too unrealistic. Since in real life she does not believe that people leave town to run from their problems or leaves someone so that they can be happy without them. Moreover she thinks that most everyone on the shows has low-self esteem and that it spills over in the relationships on the show.


Not everyone is dissatisfied with the portrayal of love on the shows however as Anna & Claudia, Katharine, Nicole, Melanie and Marieta all think love is portrayed realistically and appreciate the fact that the show covers a lot of levels. Anna & Claudia think the portrayal of love on the show is wonderful and amazing while Marieta, Anne Rose, Michaela and Lara think that it is shown as something that creates angst and pain and that never comes easy as it is often strained. So although Anne Rose says that the show can portray love as a good thing it is not really a happy portrayal as it is fleeting and accompanied by pain. Marieta likes it this way though as she thinks it is an honest portrayal and Melanie, Katharine and Nicole agree that the show stays true to real life since it shows a variety of couples that mirrors the diversity in real life. Melanie appreciates how Joss has used the characters and their traits to show the audience how the relationships functions while Nicole brings up some examples on how love is portrayed differently for different couples. Since for Willow & Tara it is something sensitive while for Buffy & Spike it is something which is accompanied by constant physical battles and Nicole likes this diversity as not all couples in real life are cute all the time. Katharine on the other hand loves that the shows demonstrate all the stages of love from the early tentative loves to how it grows into a relationship and then the difficulties the couples face before they part. Finally Vonnie concludes the topic by summing up that everything on the shows, whether it is Xander leaving Anya at the altar not to hurt her further on or Spike getting his soul back, is done because of love. So in some way she believes that love is something that actually embodies the whole shows.



How realistically the relationships on the shows are portrayed

“I would say that the relationships are quite realistic. This is because the show itself is like a metaphor and the relationships are portrayals of actual relationships between people only made much more grandiose and upscale. What makes them realistic is that they show people who encounter other people with whom they find something in common with, and attraction and then decide to pursue it. BA is realistic as it portrays how heartbreaking first love can be. WT is realistic of a lesbian relationship as it shows that two normal women/people can find and attraction...BS is not as realistic but it comes close it shows how when someone is depressed and desperate how low they stoop. AC is relatively realistic, however this relationship is greatly based on the circumstances these two people are in” – Marieta.


Interestingly the fandom is split in two camps where one camp think that the relationships on the shows are realistic while the other says that they are not that realistic. The fans opinions also seem to be correlating with their age since it is the oldest fans in the study that think that the relationships are not realistic while the younger have a larger tendency to think that they are. Julia, Anne Rose, Elizabeth and partly Angela all think that the relationships are not really that realistic. Elizabeth and Angela are however of the opinion that Willow & Tara’s relationship is the most realistic one on Buffy while Buffy & Angel and Buffy & Spike are more like fantasy ones. Angela explains that it is probably because Willow & Tara both are humans while Angel and Spike are vampires so there is always an element of unreal with them living unnaturally long and only being able to go out at night. Still Angela do think that Angel & Cordy’s relationship is fairly realistic despite everything and Elizabeth also thinks that the relationships on Angel are more realistic which she ascribes to that there are different writers on the two shows. Anne Rose does not agree however as although there are some relationships like that in real life she does not think that the majority are like that because the way Joss treats relationship on the show is over the top:


“Joss is an artificial influence he does not let couples stay together he creates reasons to break them up. I like joss, but thats how he handles relationships. Joss and the writers have said that they punish happiness, so these relationships are sort of doomed from the start. In real life people can choose whether to overcome an obstacle or not”



Anne Rose explains how Joss is the main reason why the relationships are unrealistic. Because well in her opinion it is wrong to constantly have the couples breaking up and how Xander, Anya, Angel, Hank Summers and Giles all left is all too much for her to stomach as that is not how it works in real life. The only one who is dedicated to make relationships work is Spike in her opinion. Moreover she also thinks that the friendships on the show can be unrealistic too as it was wrong of Angel to fire his friends. Yet despite all of this she does think that there are some realistic relationships and those are Buffy & Dawn who were typical sisters that teased each other and yet loved and took care of each other. Buffy’s relationships with Hank and Giles, which shows the typical bad and good father and daughter relationships. Spike & Dru and Angel & Darla’s typically happily and unhappily married couples although Angel & Darla was also a bit like a marriage of convenience as they did not really had feelings for each other. Anya & Spike having a rebound fling was also realistic and so were Hank & Joyce that represented the typically divorced couple where he had abandoned the relationship. Yet realism is sometimes thrown out the window in order to make a point. The most clear example is how Xander left Anya at the altar and his clueless comments about wanting to marry her some day later on as how can he expect her to accept some day after what he did. So the way everyone leaves their partners for their own good is not realistic. Kirk agrees with Anne Rose about this since although he does think that the relationships in general are pretty realistic he does not like how Joss is under the impression that no one can ever really be happy and survive. Because in real life some relationships does work out. So Joss negative attitude towards relationships is really upsetting because he can not see a point with the audience investing a lot of time and interest in two characters getting together when everyone knows from the start that it will just end with them breaking up.


The majority of the fans do not seem to have a problem with that however as Marieta, Lara, Dave, Katharine, Sophie, Vonnie, Michaela, Nicole, Melanie, Anna & Claudia all think that the relationships in general are fairly realistic. They think that the reason for it is because it shows so many real life issues such as how people have sex, complications and what happens when they break up or gets dumped. The fans thinks that the characters react in the same way as people in those situations would in real life. Unlike Anne Rose, the younger fans are of the opinion that Xander’s fear of marrying Anya is realistic as not a lot of people that age are ready to commit. Pairings like Anya & Xander and Willow & Tara were perceived as realistic since those pairings shared all the normal couple stuff together like domestic chores and such. Some fans also points out that the show often tells their stories by using metaphors. Michaela thinks that the shows are realistic given its nature even though she is not worried personally that her boyfriend might lose his soul.


There are also some mixed opinions about which relationships that are realistic and not realistic. Sophie and Katharine’s opinions contrast each other since Sophie think that Cordy & Xander is the most realistic couple of them all as they started out hating each other then liking each other and then he cheated on her. She does think it seems like a typical High School relationship whereas Willow & Oz and Buffy & Angel were unrealistic for the same reason Anne Rose mentioned, that is that the men walked out of the relationship. In real life she does not think people does that. Katharine on the other hand think that Buffy & Angel, Willow & Tara as well as Buffy & Spike’s relationships are all believable in the way they developed and occurred whereas she do not think Cordy & Angel are realistic. Because the relationship has always been purely platonic so she has a problem with them falling in love. Moreover she also has a problem with identifying with the relationships as she has never had such a deep or intense relationship in real life.


But Dave does identify with the relationships. He thinks that Cordy & Angel, Cordy & Xander, Anya & Xander as well as partly Buffy & Angel’s relationship have a realistic bone to them as he can identify with all of those relationships. Dave explains that just like Angel and Cordy he and Lara started out as friends so that is the one relationship they are most like. Still they do tend to have a lot of Buffy & Angel drama at times since just like them they can get carried away with their fights until they fight about things so ridiculous that he just laugh it off. His fiancée Lara does not agree with him though as she cannot identify with the Buffy & Angel relationship at all since she discharge it as the most unrealistic of the pairings. Lara motivates her opinion by saying that it is a fantasy deal and it is ridiculous with their forever love kind of thing since she does not believe two people can be apart for almost five years, be with other people and still be madly in love with each other. She does also identify with the relationships of Cordy & Xander and Cordy & Angel and maybe even Buffy & Riley because they are all healthy, normal relationships. Moreover she also describes Dave as a mixture between Xander and Angel which is interesting as it correlates with Dave’s own perception of how he relates to the characters.
 
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Karin Schill

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Just thought that I'd let you know that there is now a Kindle edition available of this book as well:


I've painted the new frontcover myself. :)
 
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