exactly that

Posts tagged ‘dying pisses Buffy off’

The Hellmouth Presents: Dead Guys On Ice

a pale woman with blonde hair in a grey tank to with her arms cross across her midd, and a darker complexioned woman with black hair in a purple long-sleeved shirt in the same pose stand back to back. The both have their "serious business" faces on. They are Sara Michelle-Gellar as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Bianca Lawson as Kendra the Vampire Slayer.In the way you would expect a two-part episode to be, Buffy, Season 2’s “What’s My Line” parts I and II have a lot to unpack in them.

In the beginning of Part I it is Career Week at Sunnydale High, and Principal Snyder, in all of his infinite glory has decided that his project of the week is to make sure that Buffy participates. Of course, like we have seen already, the future planning portion of life as a Slayer is filled with many things: doubt, cloudiness, uncertainty, and possibly (another) death. How is a girl supposed to plan a career around all of that?

Even Giles seems a bit grumped out that Buffy isn’t as studious or book smart as he would like, and as expected, Buffy gets a little up in his card catalog about that. She reminds him just how he could get another Slayer that might be more to his liking: She could die and he could just watch the next one.

Buffy is painfully aware of both the fragility of her current situation and the what is to come. And what most people write off as whininess (something that irks me to NO END), I see as a well deserved side effect of the bitter pill of being very self-aware. Buffy fully understands that every time she goes out into that graveyard she could never come back, and that she only need to slip once and the burden she carries on her shoulders would slip to the next person. While, yes, she is “The Chosen One”, she is but a tool of The Powers That Be (even if we haven’t met them yet) and a person the Watchers’ Council only care about for the moment; the next moment she could be dead and their biggest concern could be the next Chosen One. I imagine being both So Important and at the same time Hardly At All is an odd balance on a fantastical fulcrum.

So, while Buffy is whinging trying to imagine balancing her duties with a future she can’t grasp, Angel offers to take her ice skating to help her forget about being cosmically chosen for a bit. During all of this we see that Buffy has been stalked by the Order of Taraka, magically imbued badass assassins and Angel has been stalked by… a mysterious Black Girl who rides in the cargo bay of airplanes and beats up on preppy looking white boys, and who accidentally sees Buffy kissing Angel, clearly misunderstanding their Cosmically Forbidden Romance for, well, sexay vampire love because who would… OH NEVERMIND!

This dark and curious stranger with the deadly moves gets the jump on our Vampy Heart-throb, (NO NOT HIM! STOP LOOKING AT ME EDWARD!), and when Buffy can’t find him, she comes all forlorn to his bed for a nap.

Where she is jumped! By none other than…

Kendra, the Vampire Slayer.

As much as I love Joss Whedon, he has a problem with non-white people in his shows, and Kendra is only my first taste of many. I loved the idea he went with here, of Buffy dying for only a minute, and that being long enough to awaken the next Potential, but there were so many faily things to unpack with Kendra’s character.

First off, is the back story of Kendra being whisked off by her parents to nobly give her as a babe to her Watcher to be raised, because some faraway exotic tribe would have some greater sense of duty, as opposed to clueless Joyce Summers, who can never be told. Why would Kendra’s parents be more in-the-know? Because they are closer to The First? Remember how exotic and savage she was?

Everything about Kendra was exotic, from her accent to her “only shirt”, to her not being permitted to talk to boys. She was raised in a funny culture far away with funny customs, and WOW IS SHE ODD, AMIRITE? But don’t forget she IS HOT! Whooo! You can even talk to her in any language! Buffy does this, using “amigo”, or other words ending in “o” as if that makes them easier to understand because Kendra has dark skin and a funny accent, she must understand this funny language you ARE MAKING UP!

In many ways, she was constructed as the anti-Buffy. It is hard to convince me that it is a coincidence that a non-white woman was chosen for this role. The dark to the light, the unemotional, perfect form, well-learned, no-shades of grey Slayer that Kendra is. I felt that she was to be the Yin to Buffy’s Yang (if you knew that in Mandarin one means, almost literally “sun” or is part of many words meaning “light” and the other the same in many words meaning dark, it gets even more interesting a comparison).

Even at the end of the episode, Kendra gets a moment to be a wise woman to Buffy, letting her know that being a Slayer isn’t just a job that she does or is fired from. She has wise words for her to set Buffy back on her way (but don’t forget to NOT hug her, because Kendra is a BAMF, and do not touch her, HELL-O). Oh, and ha ha! Buffy explains to her to make sure to use the seats on the plane! Oh that funny Kendra! We’ll see her again. The exotification of Kendra the Vampire Slayer isn’t over.

Another interesting thing I feel I need to discuss is the torture turn made-for-TV-sexy-time that keeps turning up in everything. OK, it isn’t like I am watching reels and reels of Cinemax after 10 PM or, but after watching what the Mord’Sith do in Legend of the Seeker, and reading more about it in The Sword of Truth series (of which I should blog soon), now I am watching on Buffy what Drusilla is doing to Angel (pouring holy water on him as he is restrained w/ his hands tied above his head, etc) as an hor d’orve to the ritual that will restore her to full power and, I am a little overloaded w/ this imagery right now.

Is there no other way to make the point that these people enjoy inflicting pain on beings who are morally good? None?

Practically every representation of Vampire sex is violent (See: Breaking Dawn, True Blood, the entire Darla story arc on Angel, or even “The Fanged Four”). It is always angry and/or it always hurts someone or destroys buildings or furniture.

Every representation of pain for pleasure is advanced by an “evil” entity onto a “good” entity.

It is kind of ridiculous.

I understand the role of the Mord’Sith in Legend of the Seeker, how they are created, how they are “bonded”, how they become redeemed, and even, possibly, how they are supposed to be meant to be read as “strong female characters”, and I will blog about that and the representation in both the books and the TV series later. I won’t engage in an in-depth discussion of them here, only a cosmetic one about how they apply to my point over-all.

I also understand the relationship and history between Dru and Angel; I understand what Angelus did to Drusilla when he created her (OH LOOK ANOTHER POST TOPIC!), but there is quite a bit of triggery sexy-time vampire relationship in this episode (and other times). It is dark, it is disturbing at some points (enough so that I will send some viewers away to refill a water bottle or for a bathroom break), I get what is going on here: Dru is having her revenge. But is this the way this type of sex play is always meant to be? Pain inflicted by the one in power, and always painful, never enjoyable for the one receiving it? I find that hard to believe, and yet it is always depicted as such. Especially in fantasy series like this.

Of course non-fantasy series’ seldom, if ever do it better (thinking legal/cop dramas, or even CSI with its “Lady Heather” arcs that made me so uncomfortable, as if she was a spectacle).

I think Joss does it just about as well as anyone else here, which I think is not well at all.

If anyone wants to discuss this, feel free; the idea of pain for pleasure as part of a healthy sex life is a little out of my AOE, and I don’t want to do it an injustice. But I get disturbed by the way it seems to turn up always displayed as a negative thing. Something that is always enacted by the depraved (those without souls, those tortured since early childhood, etc.). I don’t buy that it is the only way to depict such a thing.

Previous Summer of Buffy blogging conveniently archived.

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When She Was Bad

When Buffy Season 1 ended with “Prophecy Girl” we saw a lot of things happen.

The Hellmouth actually opened, for the first of what will be many times (I really hope that isn’t too much of a spoiler for many of you), Cordelia drove her car through the school, and Buffy faced The Master and died. For a minute or two (Hey! It’s TV!).

Also through the miracle of TV, Xander (who can never do what he is told, ever, and it always works out to a convenient plot device) and Angel showed up just in time to revive her and send her on her way to be the prettiest Not Zombie ever (that was The Guy’s thing, OK).

So when Season 2 picks up and Buffy is returning from a summer with her dad we have a whole new Slayer who comes back as a whole new, shall we say, snarkier Buffy with a better haircut.

So here’s the part where Joss is gonna get some shit from me: Buffy is so incredibly obviously dealing with Some Issues. She is having flashbacks while training. She is having some really shit-tastic nighmares where Giles tries to choke her to death while her best friends watch, Giles actually being The Master in a Giles mask. To me the most disturbing part of the dream is that Buffy dreams that her friends are asking how she is doing… something that isn’t happening in real life, and that in a way she dreams that Giles allowed her to die, which I think she might actually believe…

So she is lashing out at her friends. Full scale snark at Xander and Willow and Giles. She mocks Willow —  something she dropped Cordelia faster than Kid drops food under the table on a clean floor for doing. She pulls Xander out onto the dance floor at The Bronze and proceeds to do what was henceforth known as her “sexydance” that made both Angel and Willow jealous. In fact, if you mention Season 2 Ep. 1 “When She Was Bad” to some vaguely familiar with Buffy, the first thing they remember is “sexydance”. She romps about with a new personae that manages to get Cordelia to pull her aside and ask if she was running for “Bitch of the Year”.

If Cordelia is up in your shit about your “Joan Collins ‘tude”, then it is time for a deep inward assessment.

But what no one did was try to actually talk to Buffy, which is what bothered me about the writing of this episode.

See, Buffy died, and I am pretty sure that upset her a bit. I know it might peeve me a bit, if I was 16 and had to deal with that. That might have been something she had to work through a bit, the way she felt about dying. So, instead of anyone talking to her about how that felt, Joss wrote everyone doing the logical thing and talking about her. Instead, it kind of felt like her friends just … got annoyed with her and didn’t try to understand what she was dealing with. Sure, Buffy was behaving in all the wrong ways, but her friends weren’t exactly the pillars of strength she needed to get through her situation, either. But, of course we will see that this becomes a theme.

The only person who tries to reach out to her is Angel, the one person most closely associated with the thing that has caused all of this pain, and the one person most likely to elicit the most harsh reaction from Buffy. She brushes him off, is harsh with him, even though we see peeks of her emotionally reaching out to him at the same time (cue heart wrenching music to imply the Cosmically Forbidden Relationship)… Angel is the personification of all that went wrong with her life. The Slaying, the Vampires, and ultimately death. He couldn’t even save her life before or after her death…

The harsh reality of the weight of her responsibility, the painful truth that even her life is fragile hangs on her weary shoulders even as life doesn’t stop to allow her to mourn her own death. Buffy is obviously angry, hurting, and possibly confused about her future. We see this theme again throughout the series, as she has to decide if she should bother planning a future in her life: career, love, even just graduating or getting through tomorrow. The fragility of her role in the world crashed into her path of vision, and she had to face that in the 60 seconds of clinical death (and later with the appearance of another Chosen One).

This stings close to home for people who deal with real life depression, over loss in their lives, or any of the other reasons that mental illness comes crashing down or tries to suffocate us. Often, the people around us give up trying to support us, and withdraw, leaving us to lash out or sometimes give up.

Perhaps Joss didn’t fail as much as I first said.

Perhaps, in Buffy, he has attempted to personify the utter helplessness and angst that people in a deep depression sometimes feel. Perhaps, he has done a perfect job of showing what it feels like to not be able to yell out exactly what is going on inside, how it feels to have suffered what you have suffered because no one really can truly empathize, no one can truly feel your pain

Perhaps.

If only defeating your demons was as simple as smashing a set of bones with a giant mallet.

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