Today marks the end of Second Grade for The Kid, and as I promised her a while ago it also marks our kickoff for the Summer of Buffy. This is an idea inspired by my friend, Brave Sir Robin, and it seemed like such a great idea that we have decided to rock it here. Plus, due to some conversations here and there, it will give me a chance to re-evaluate some themes, characters and other fun stuff.
Jumping right in.
While Buffy was revolutionary for television during it’s time, what happened to Buffy Anne Summers is not, IMO, uncommon. Buffy has not chosen this path as a slayer. She, however shallow it might seem to some, just wanted to be on the cheerleading team, have some friends and graduate high school, but a destiny she couldn’t have imagined was dropped into her lovely lap. I wrote a while back that there seems to be this understanding that the weight of the world must hang on the shoulders of a woman in order to convince her to take up her duties. She didn’t ask to be the Slayer, in fact, she tried that at the point we show up in Ep. 01, “Welcome to the Hellmouth”. All that got her was kicked out of her school (also we find later that it caused her parents divorce) and sent packing to Sunnydale.
So when she tried to avoid the destiny she blamed for ruining her life it just kept crashing down harder. Giles, the librarian, is sent by the Watchers Council to train her, and a mysterious stranger (Angel!) follows her to make sure she knows what Epic Doom is in store for all of the new friends she has made. Nothing like having a bunch of dudes give you major guilt trips to force you into doing something you don’t want to do that has hurt you before, that will probably re-victimize you again. In this arena, Buffy, the Slayer, is given no respect or authority for being The Slayer. If fact, it is used to put her in a position of less-than for quite some time until she takes that authority back (but we haven’t gotten there yet, so we will talk about that later).
The ancient destiny to which Buffy was born stripped Buffy of her autonomy. She tried to outrun it, but instead it sent her running straight into the Hellmouth where she would be most needed and where she would spend the next seven years fighting for her life (losing that fight twice) and for the lives of those closest to her. It seeped into every aspect of her life and impacted every facet of every relationship she had, the ones to which she was able to divulge her secrets and the ones to which she was not.
This stripping of her autonomy is frustrating, to the character of Buffy for sure, and to the critical viewer (myself included) as we see it chip away at pieces of her childhood, hurting her in ways that allowing her to reveal her secret would resolve, and then having her secret revealed when she most didn’t want it. While it speaks a great deal to me about the voice of a woman in our world — something I think is something that Joss Whedon wanted to intentionally bring to light — it also makes me hurt as a woman who as a teen had her choices removed from her constantly because she was undervalued and deemed to have no rights to make them, and who was a young woman subjected to abuse through the removal of her autonomy. That is something that Whedon could not possibly understand, as much of an ally as he wanted to be when he created Buffy, and however much of an ally he is trying now to be (how successful he is at that is still debatable). He is not a woman who has had his autonomy taken and his experiences erased.
Joss Whedon gave amazing life and depth to Buffy, made her real and believable, but there was a depth to her pain that was so real that it stung so much — a little too much for some, and I sometimes question that. Was it too far? Was it just far enough to make people outside of that experience understand it a bit more? Possibly, but maybe it also just reinforced the idea that even extraordinary women should be hurt if it is in the name of The Greater Good.
For anyone who wants to and has access to the entirety of Buffy, we will be viewing it over the duration of the summer. We will probably do it in chunks, and discuss it in those chunks as story arch permits, pausing to address particular episodes and/or character analysis along the way. Feel free to join us!