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Posts tagged ‘television’

Old(er) Pop-Culture is Still Relevant — The Gilmore Girls

In my slightly less-than-enviable DVD collection I have a nice variety of shows (and some movies) that aired or were released in the ballpark of a decade ago. Seeing how I have limited access to current U.S. pop-culture in real-time (I am doing my catch-up, so watch for some last-season musings), I do oft enjoy doing frequent re-watches of these much-loved media gone past.

Sometimes I forget how it is still relevant, especially if you are willing to watch and mull it over through various points of view.

The Gilmore Girls, created and written by Daniel Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino was well known for its witty and quick-paced dialogue. It was well praised for its portrayal of single mom Lorelei Gilmore and her teenage daughter, Lorelei “Rory” Gilmore. It was mostly a clever depiction of their lives, centered mostly in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, just outside of Hartford.

More than that, though, the show was an incredibly astute look into the dynamics between three generations of mothers and daughters. Not just of Lorelei and Rory, of which I was able to incredibly relate. Naturally, as a single mother I reached out and embraced Lorelei as someone I could relate to and who I wanted to like, flaws and all. I wanted to raise a kid as wonderful as Rory, someone even as occasionally broken as Rory, but who was able to work through it, and who was able to come to a mother as someone she trusted for help.

The Gilmore Girls also portrayed a relationship between Lorelei and her own mother, Emily. A relationship of brokenness and loss. Emily and Lorelei, both hurting from the years of the cavity that was not having each other, mostly out of necessity — that point can’t be argued — but both not yet willing to admit it at the series’ inception.

The brilliance of the Gilmore Girls was that it was able to tell stories of women and show the way that they lived lives that yes, involved men, but didn’t center on them. It focused on the ways that women in familial settings interacted with and learned to grown up around and together. It demonstrated that there are different kinds of family, and that wounds can be healed, ripped open, licked clean, and healed again.

Was it a perfect representation? No. I think that as the show went on the fan insistence that Lorelei find her One True Love 4-Evah influenced the way the series took its turns. I think that fans wanted Rory to do the same. I think that when Sherman-Palladino left the show in the seventh and final season that there was a rush to wrap things up, and that the primary characters (some of the most intensely independent women) were treated poorly and the men in the principal roles were portrayed unfairly in order to tie up those ends. There are also some incredible issues of race and class to be examined that exist in the primary framework of the show’s concept that just can not be ignored, including the idea of the famous Interchangeable Asian Person.

But the Gilmore Girls gave me a bit of relevant pop culture that I was able to cling to during some important moments in my life. The flaws and cracks in mirror were some of my own as well as that of the writers’. It was refreshing to realize that I was not the only person in the world going through what I was, even if it was only to know that it was in the sense that it was a vague pop-culture connection.

Old(er) Pop-Culture is Still Relevant — The Gilmore Girls

In my slightly less-than-enviable DVD collection I have a nice variety of shows (and some movies) that aired or were released in the ballpark of a decade ago. Seeing how I have limited access to current U.S. pop-culture in real-time (I am doing my catch-up, so watch for some last-season musings), I do oft enjoy doing frequent re-watches of these much-loved media gone past.

Sometimes I forget how it is still relevant, especially if you are willing to watch and mull it over through various points of view.

The Gilmore Girls, created and written by Daniel Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino was well known for its witty and quick-paced dialogue. It was well praised for its portrayal of single mom Lorelei Gilmore and her teenage daughter, Lorelei “Rory” Gilmore. It was mostly a clever depiction of their lives, centered mostly in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, just outside of Hartford.

More than that, though, the show was an incredibly astute look into the dynamics between three generations of mothers and daughters. Not just of Lorelei and Rory, of which I was able to incredibly relate. Naturally, as a single mother I reached out and embraced Lorelei as someone I could relate to and who I wanted to like, flaws and all. I wanted to raise a kid as wonderful as Rory, someone even as occasionally broken as Rory, but who was able to work through it, and who was able to come to a mother as someone she trusted for help.

The Gilmore Girls also portrayed a relationship between Lorelei and her own mother, Emily. A relationship of brokenness and loss. Emily and Lorelei, both hurting from the years of the cavity that was not having each other, mostly out of necessity — that point can’t be argued — but both not yet willing to admit it at the series’ inception.

The brilliance of the Gilmore Girls was that it was able to tell stories of women and show the way that they lived lives that yes, involved men, but didn’t center on them. It focused on the ways that women in familial settings interacted with and learned to grown up around and together. It demonstrated that there are different kinds of family, and that wounds can be healed, ripped open, licked clean, and healed again.

Was it a perfect representation? No. I think that as the show went on the fan insistence that Lorelei find her One True Love 4-Evah influenced the way the series took its turns. I think that fans wanted Rory to do the same. I think that when Sherman-Palladino left the show in the seventh and final season that there was a rush to wrap things up, and that the primary characters (some of the most intensely independent women) were treated poorly and the men in the principal roles were portrayed unfairly in order to tie up those ends. There are also some incredible issues of race and class to be examined that exist in the primary framework of the show’s concept that just can not be ignored, including the idea of the famous Interchangeable Asian Person.

But the Gilmore Girls gave me a bit of relevant pop culture that I was able to cling to during some important moments in my life. The flaws and cracks in mirror were some of my own as well as that of the writers’. It was refreshing to realize that I was not the only person in the world going through what I was, even if it was only to know that it was in the sense that it was a vague pop-culture connection.

No Good Deed (Part I)…

 

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, a pale woman with blonde hair. She looks on with the beginning of a smile, as if a great weight has been lifted. A pale brunette woman (Eliza Dushku as Faith) is blurred in the background.

Final image from "Chosen", Season 7 and Series Finale

It happens to be that one of the thing that I adore about the shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel is that they have a knack for spinning out the long-lasting effects of the consequences of the actions of their characters. While Buffy certainly gets much credit for, if perhaps at some points too much, and Angel is not exactly drowning in, feminist messages, I think that the theme of visiting upon the importance of understanding that all actions, even actions taken under with the best of intentions, have long abiding consequences is an important one for anyone interested in social justice to understand. These consequences might not always be what we imagined or envisioned when we set out upon our mission, and they may not always be shiny, happy, results.

 

The concept that “No good deed goes unpunished” is certainly not lost on Whedon, or, it seems, any of the many writers who helped to bring these stories into fruition. We start as early as “Prophecy Girl” in S1 of Buffy, where Buffy herself, knowing full well that her prophesied fate was to meet the Master and die, embraced that destiny full on to avoid allowing anyone she had come to care about to have to go in for her. As noble as that was, the end result was an upset in the lineage of Slayers, awakening Kendra, a second Slayer, and changing the flow of the distribution of power. As Faith says at the end of S7, they were never meant to exist together in time, and perhaps that is why the dynamics between Faith and Buffy were always in a constant state of upheaval, even though in the end they were able to pull together and discover that they were able to work as a team after all.

In a similar vein, and following with the theme of “Buffy dies a lot”, bringing Buffy back from the dead in the beginning of S6 certainly had the best of intentions. After knowing one person who went to a hell dimension in a sacrifice to save the world (albeit, unwillingly), it wasn’t a far stretch for Willow to imagine that Buffy was in a similar predicament after her own sacrifice in “The Gift” at the end of S5. In an intended noble gesture, Buffy’s friends fiddle with dark powers they didn’t fully understand, wrenching Buffy back from what we later learn is Paradise where she was at peace. What they accomplish is the creation of a malevolent spirit who must destroy her to remain in the world, and, as we find out, awakening Buffy right where they left her — in her coffin under ground. Buffy as to dig herself out to a loud and harsh world where she thinks she is indeed in a hell dimension. Finally, in S7 we find out that this one act, intended to rescue a warrior from an untimely and unnatural death weakened the Slayer line enough to allow The First to act out and attempt to wipe it from time.

When Buffy and Willow, along with Faith and all the other Potentials decide to awaken all Slayer Potentials in order to give enough power to the Potentials in order to fight The First, they succeed in stopping it from succeeding. The idea is that the power of The Slayer should be shared, not doled out to one girl in each generation simply because a group of men generations ago were too weak to fight and resorted to horribly violating a girl. For a moment I am reminded that the violation of young women by men is about power, and in my mind, the power of a Slayer, in this series is intended, however well it is delivered, is about taking that power back. The speech Buffy gives in “Chosen” still makes me cry each time I watch it, because it has a lot of not-just-television relevance to it. But that act of incredible power, while allowing them to Save The World (again) had the consequence of giving Slayer powers to people who, due to circumstances beyond their control, were not capable of handling them, such as Dana.

Dana, we meet mid-season in S5 of Angel in “Damaged”, a very disturbing episode that I have written about before and should re-visit. She has been heavily abused by a serial killer as a child. This, in addition to the dreams and visions that potential Slayer experience throughout their lives, are presumed to have made her “insane”. When her Slayer potential is awakened by Willow’s spell, power that, arguably, she probably would never have received otherwise, she breaks out of the mental hospital where she is, and is unable to control her powers because of the way her mind is coping with that abuse. This episode is one of the most difficult for me to watch. But all the same, Buffy and Willow probably never envisioned a Slayer who was not ready to handle the powers given to her. I am not sure how I feel about the exploitation of an abused women with a disability to make this point. I strongly feel that Steven S. DeKnight and Drew Goddard could have perhaps found a better way to get this message across than continuing on with the Crazy Brunette meme, or perpetuating more harmful stereotypes about mental illness. But here it is, Dana, and this story of a woman who must now be forcibly sedated for her own good because of what Buffy and Willow did.

Tomorrow I hope to continue this discussion by analyzing instances on Angel where the consequences of their well-intentioned decisions went awry, but feel free to have at it in comments. I may be laggy in approving or responding to individual comments.

 

Liar

Anthony Stewart Head, as Rupert Giles, a pale British man in a suit, holding a syringe in front of his bespectacled face.One episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that perhaps has the hardest tug on the cockles of where my heart used to be, gentle readers, is Season 3’s “Helpless”. Perhaps I am just all maudlin right now, but there is a nice knapsack full of emotions which I think are worth exploring.

One of the most important principles I hold dear is honesty. It is the guiding principle of our home. It is certainly something I expect, though have often found myself not receiving from, my family members. I have fought to always provide it, even though frequently in my younger life the ability to lie convincingly became a survival skill. Funny how the things that help you often hurt you later in life.

Often times I have found myself on the wanting end of withheld information “for my own good”. You know, that tidbit that isn’t slid to you so that you weren’t distracted from exams or to ensure that you wouldn’t come running to the bedside of a sick relative. It is a fairly regular happenstance that someone will slip up and mention when Uncle So-and So was under anesthesia and had an allergic reaction to it casually in conversation when nattering on about something else that keeps me feeling good about being far from home.

I hate having information withheld from me. I hate it more when it is from people I love.

Even worse, are the times I know something is wrong. I can feel it. Everyone I know seems to be on eggshells. Papa seems tired more so than usual and hasn’t picked up The Kid for a hug today. The air crackle with fear as thick as morning fog on Whitefish Bay. Nothing is wrong and the pancakes are burned, but suddenly my grandfather comes home with a report of a heart that has been beating completely backwards in his chest for over seventy years and needs “corrective” surgery. And I didn’t know he had a surgery at all. No one wanted me to worry or distract me from my life. I suppose I should be grateful that none of these things has ever threatened my life directly, but it did threaten my chances of knowing that I might lose people who meant a great deal in forming me into the person I have become today.

Most of all it hurts when the people who lied to you are the people you trusted with the deepest parts of you.

“Helpless” sets us up for another fun year of celebrating Buffy’s natality (here’s a hint: they always turn out exactly as planned and no one ever dies *nod nod*). Buffy is excitedly discussing with anyone who will listen about the ice show her absent father takes her to every year. He must be more absent than I have come to expect, because I don’t remember him taking her to ice shows the last two years. Wev.

Any time she becomes excited about something it seems that Buffy becomes determined to redouble her Slayer Training efforts, and she begins studying the various uses of crystals and gems with their respective properties. Part of what I love about the show is the special relationship between Buffy and Giles, the one that proves that the influence of a father (not that it is necessary) can come from a place not of blood, but of love and intention and devotion. Through his work and commitment, Buffy has come to trust Giles, possibly more than any single person we see her interact with ever, with her life. When her father fails to come through, Buffy even tries to convince him that Ice Shows aren’t as cartoon-y as everyone thins they are, hoping to get him to take the hint. (If someone were free, they’d take their daughter, or student, or their Slayer…)

Over several scenes, we see that Buffy is a little off her game. To put it in Buffy’s terms, her game has left the country. She comes to Giles, scared, asking for help in figuring out why the thing she which she always thought she wanted to happen is now happening. But even she knows that this is something for concern, because Buffy puts her life in harm’s way every day, and her powers have become a lifeline. When Giles tap dances around this, when he skirts the issue, when he seems less concerned than Buffy, who verges on tears whenever she chances her voice to talk about it, we wonder how Giles can be so calm. We know he loves Buffy like his own kin.

Which is why when she is told to meditate upon a specific crystal during her studies, and we see Giles pull out a syringe to inject Buffy with some mysterious fluid while she is entranced in the flaw deep within, it is alarming indeed. Logical conclusions made through TeeVee magic tell us that he is the cause of this mojo that has afflicted Buffy. We, the viewer are let in on the deed that Giles has committed as we watch Buff struggle with what has been not only done to her, but withheld from her as well. Giles has been intentionally aloof, and now we know why.

The scenes at the Sunnydale Arms show us that, once again, our beloved Watchers’ Council is back in the action inflicting archaic testing and rites upon Buffy when they have spent most of her life “watching” from afar. When a slayer reaches her 18th birthday she is to be tested on her abilities without her…um, abilities, and they seem to feel that the best way to do this is to trick her, without giving her any clue what is happening to her. Sending a scared woman into a boarded up house with a supercharged vampire, in this case one who was turned as a patient from a psychiatric facility, and I am sure I don’t need to go into the deep issues packed up in Whedon’s decision to go that route (how it feeds a stereotype of how people with mental illness are all dangerous, how it exotifies mental hospitals and the people in them who are quite possibly and very likely not dangerous at all) so I am not going to, is rather messed up. Giving her any hint of the test before her invalidates it. And it has been done this way for centuries, so it must be the right way, nevermind, you, that it is rare for a slayer to reach her 18th birthday.

But Giles not only knew, he did this to her. And we watched with wide eyes as Buffy’s trust and autonomy were violated.

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, a pale woman in a lavendar shirt and denim ovealls with blonde hair. She is in a dark room with plaster walls, covered in tiny Poloroid photos.Predictably, because this is television, like a good plot voucher, the vampire breaks free and kills one of his attendants, changing the rules up and eventually kidnapping Buffy’s mother, giving Giles the opportunity to slink out from between his rock and hard place. As honorable as it is that Giles finally fessed up to his actions, it was only after the colloquial shit hit the fan that he came clean, inciting Buffy’s ire, breaking her heart (If you touch me, I will kill you…), and imbuing her with enough righteous indignation to realize the talents she still possessed. Lest ye misunderstand: Buffy’s anger is what drove her, not Giles’ actions. Through no good deed of Giles did Buffy realize that she was still resourceful, but I believe through her own desperate inner searching. In fact, it is only after, in an odd moment of kindness, Cordelia has driven Buffy home and she realizes that her mother is gone, that she rises to the occasion.

I tell you, ex-con vamps must have a lot of cash to blow on Poloroids.

Long Episode Synopsis is Long.

Apart from the glaring truth that lying hurts and liars kind of suck (even though we all do it and we try not to), there are serious issues with violation of autonomy here, which might even me a more important rule to me than honesty, but really they are inextricably linked in many ways. The person who knows Buffy better than anyone in the whole world should have known what a clear violation of their relationship that was, how invaded her person would break that trust. In fact, he did know, and instead of fighting against protocol that he knew was wrong, he did it anyway. He allowed people detached from Buffy’s life to make calls and enforce rules upon her body, and then insist that he lie about it to her. Then, they wanted his aid in luring her into direct danger.

In the end Buffy learns the Important Lesson that she was meant to learn in that her powers are not everything and that she is clever and resourceful beyond her supernatural abilities, but, is it any wonder that Buffy’s mistrust of the Council is so vehement? And while her relationship with Giles does manage to mend, I am of a mind that it has more to do with TeeVee magic than actual good writing of the mind of a young woman whose whole world was violated to such a degree.

The Cosmically Forbidden Romance…

a pale woman with dark hair in a white robe and a pale man with dark hair in a blue shirt and tan vest, the man is kissing the woman on the forehead.This is one of my favorite (and by favorite, I mean, really, I love a good romance story or sub-story, but do they ALL have to have apocalyptic consequences?) TV Tropes. The forbidden fruit.

Angel stalks into Buffy’s life in S1 Ep. 01 “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, and I don’t know how initial viewers reacted to him, because while I probably would have liked a show like Buffy if it had been on my radar it just really wasn’t at the time. I don’t know if anyone else was as creeped as I was by Angel, and given that I knew who he was, because I came into the Buffyverse via Angel the Series, that is saying something.

I am just saying that skulking around in shadows and giving cryptic warnings to a scared 16 year-old girl might not be the best way to warm her to your affections, even if you know that harboring those affections might be a bad idea. Other things to remember might include getting the words “hey, cupcake, I used to be an evil bloodsucking hellbeast, but now I’m a cuddly bloodsucking hellbeast thanks to a really old, sucky, curse”, (and I might be able to get “suck” into this sentence one more time if I try!) before you get your tonsil-hockey on. Just sayin’.

But still, Forbidden Romance or no, Buffy still managed to have what that Other Vampire Romance Story about a teenage girl and her vampire sweetheart had in it (OK, more than “a” thing): conflict. Real conflict. Beyond the “I shouldn’t like you but I can’t help it” thing.

But I am digressing again…

What is it about what we can’t/shouldn’t have that makes it instantly the Most SEXXAY Thing Evah?

Moving ahead in my Buffy Blogging a bit, those of us who have seen Buffy before (I know there are some of you who haven’t seen it yet, and it’s OK, I don’t judge you, I haven’t seen a single episode of Dr. Who and I am not ashamed…), eventually Buffy and Angel get it on and Hell On Earth breaks out. OK, well, Buffy has to kill her boyfriend in the World’s Worst Teenage Sex Metaphor Evah. But some of us want it. I am willing to bet if I Google it, there is a world of Fandom out there devoted to it. So, why are we drawn to it? Why is it that something that shouldn’t be makes for incredible storytelling, or at least makes fans scream for more of it?

But this is bigger than Buffy. (BIGGER THAN BUFFY!!??!?!?!11!?)

There is the (I really don’t want to spoil it for you peeps) Angel/Cordelia arch…which had all the makings of destroying the world again, when the need arose to tear out Angel’s soul in order to defeat The Beast…and that was just a dream (it’s a damned good thing it is only Perfect Happiness, huh?). Because the idea of having Cordelia, after the near miss of everything he wanted when she was, as s.e. put it, fucking RAPTURED when he was kidnapped by his son, we get the suspense of the forbidden love that we found ourselves cheering for. But there was something strangely enticing and perhaps even erotic about the thought of Angel achieving that moment of bliss, that thing that he had tormented himself without for years (and perhaps the things that finally got him to stop fucking brooding over Buffy…but I was anti-Angel/Buffy *ducks*)…that he could have it even if it meant unleashing evil in the world… To hell with the World, thinks the viewer, because we need to see this!

In Legend of the Seeker, we have Richard and Kahlan, the Seeker and Mother Confessor, who despite all the Warnings! that they can no possibly be together have gone and fallen in love w/ each other, and the writers of the TV series could not bludgeon us upside the head w/ this theme any more. But the setup was transparent: Man Seeker, Woman Confessor whose power is to touch people and make them fall in love with her, and who can conjure the truth out of everything. She is seriously badass, and despite the stiff acting (by other actors) at times, she is one of the best written female characters on a TV show I have seen in a while. But she and Richard can never be, because it would A) distract from his Mission to Save the World, and B) ’cause Kahlan to lose control of her powers and strip him of his soul, which would cause Richard to be useless for his Mission to Save the World. (This is resolved later, but for the point where I am now, it fits). But for some reason, in spite of this, or maybe partly because of this, Richard and Kahlan can not seem to stay out of situations where they find themselves falling more and more in love with each other. And even w/ the cudgel of bad writing* hitting me episode after episode, I know that there are people who find this shit hot. (OK, it’s a little hot). People obviously want it, because people keep writing it into their television series.

Anakin and Padme were doomed from the beginning, and while I have some WAY creepy feelings about the way that relationship was framed from the beginning, what with her being practically an adult and him being a child and it just being awkward and all…I still feel that you got the feeling (even if you were not familiar with the decades-old lore that was Darth Vader’s fall) that shit was Not Right here and that they were not going to be OK even though you were supposed to pull for them. That love was not going to conquer all or whatever the Power Ballads told us. It was against Jedi teaching. It was probably against good form for the Senate. But yet, in a secret way you have to admit that part of you cheered them on and hoped it would happen. We wanted it, evil outcome and all. And all the “Imperial March” strands woven into the score couldn’t keep us from holding our collective breath whenever they got close enough to touch.

Leo and Piper on Charmed. The White Lighter and his witch were forbidden by the Elders from being romantically involved, and doubly so when the prophecy told of the child that would be Wyatt. The Elders even tried to stop them from getting married in secret. In fact, one could argue that every relationship that happened on Charmed was in some way Cosmically Forbidden, as there was this running theme of Powerful Women charged with Protecting the World (AKA San Francisco) weren’t allowed to have any kind of regular lives a la Buffy. Cole (played by Julian McMahon) , the half demon, Jason (played by Eric Dane) the really powerful newspaper mogul, Richard, the Magic Addict…all of these were doomed relationships that seemed meant to tell them that they just should not be able to balance work and life…but Piper’s story was the special one, as she moved into the Mother stage of life on top of being the Elder sister. Her Extra Special Doomed Relationship was always the Cautionary Tale, taken away for disobeying, taken away so as not to be a distraction…you get the idea.

There are others that come to mind, though not all of them TV/Movie related. Joscelin and Ph├Ędre, the Casseline Brother and the anguissette, who aren’t really cosmically forbidden, but are really just so oddly paired that it frustrates the story…in a really good way, and Imri and Sidonie for that matter.

Any others that you can think of, dearest readers?

Discuss away!

*Um, it is a really good show. I feel like the writing is kind of shoddy at times, but the story is really great, and I really love this show. I plan to write more about it in depth later. But I love this show, bad writing and all.

If the Apocalypse Comes, Beep Me

Buffy, S1, Ep. 05 “Never Kill A Boy On the First Date” of my Summer (Season of for my Southern Hemisphere readers!) of Buffy blog-a-thon.

I am not going to blog every episode that I watch, and I hope that is OK with all of you, because I think that many of you would get very bored. I know I would.

In Season one I really like some of the episodes that seem to try to focus on Buffy in her early attempts to grasp onto what she has laid out in her mind as a “normal” high school life. Buffy really wants to be a regular teenager, and the way that her mind swings like a pendulum from Very Serious Shop Talk to what many would consider frivolous teen girl concerns really brings home sharp reminder that we have a non-traditional superhero in a young girl who is still coming to terms with what is being asked of her cosmically, supernaturally (in terms of remembering not to throw students around all willy-nilly all of the time), and yes, socially when she can’t just drop everything and indulge in the everyday teenage after-school antics of what many consider the stereotypical U.S. teen girl. Sure, maybe Buffy has realized through the spectacular guilt trips that have been laid at her feet that she must accept her duties as The Slayer, but she hasn’t quite fully accepted that she must give up most of her “normal” (can we just pretend that when I say “her teenage life” or “her high school life” or something related that this is what I mean so I don’t have to keep using the quotes, KTHX?) teenage life as well or risk more lives in the process.

To say that dating is going to be a huge issue for Buffy in the years to come would be wildly understating the obvious themes that arise, and this is that first introduction of the complications that arise. We meet sweet Owen, the really nice, cute boy from her Math class that loves Emily Dickinson and Buffy is just twitterpated to the point of laughing at his clever Soylent Green jokes about cafeteria food. And make no mistake that it is a great opportunity to shine the spotlight on classic girl on girl competition over the (oh of course) oblivious boy as Buffy and Cordelia have a nice insult fest including everything from slamming each other on weight and ableism. Oh, yes, Joss was way ahead of his time all the time, or maybe he was just accurate in the way we expect some high school kids to treat each other when adults aren’t paying attention…except that I know that they can be better than that from personal experience…

Insert lots of extreme sarcasm and patronizing from Giles about how Buffy just shouldn’t go flitting about recklessly dating boys due to her “unique condition”, glanced by Buffy’s “then I won’t wear my button that says ‘I’m the Slayer, Ask me how!'”, which always makes me laugh. On one hand I loathe the meme about men controlling or attempting to control the lives of women, especially in presumed powerful positions, and on the other, I love that Buffy has been written to not tolerate that bullshit, nope, not having it, no how.

Even when Angel (in all of his cute, younger David Boreanaz awkwardness days — but vampires don’t age!) shows up to make Buffy blush a little (I SAW THAT) and put another layer of twisty guilt and shame on Buffy’s date night, Buffy gets good and indignant, and even hauls off w/ a “Bite me!” ( then *shoots accidental knowing look*). (Can we get these two a crypt already?)

Buffy is just trying to balance a job and a social life here, or work/home if you need to relate it to the personal/political — but I hate doing that because I never get it right — the way that it just Never Works Out (hope I didn’t spoil that for you) just doesn’t show anything in the neighborhood about anything similar to that balance being positive for women who want to achieve that balance. Not even if you boyfriend is equally as supernaturally awesome as you are. What we do wind up with is Buffy kicking it into action when she think her date dies, and a boy who becomes a thrill chaser because he thinks his life is pretty dull…

And we know where this goes. With the kind of music that I used to listen to bring on the kind of cry that cleanses, and with Giles giving the grand speech about sacrifices to try to share experiences (as if giving up a future as a fighter pilot is somehow equivalent to giving up every experience up to and possibly including your life). At least it is better than a helicopter flying away…but I am getting ahead of myself…

Stepping away from Teh Serious for a now (mild spoiler ahead), into what I can only comment on having watched all of Buffy and Angel go down, the ritual that goes down during this episode is pretty much the same that is used to bring Darla back in a box in Angel S1, and I believe it shows up a couple of times elsewhere as well. It seems to be your standard Vampy Resurrection ritural. I don’t know if that was intentional, but it was certainly notable and amusing to me.

Anyhow, some things to think about.

Seize the Moment, Because Tomorrow You Might Be Dead

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!

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