Buffy: We Can Slay It

11 Apr

I’ve been considering doing a throwback post, taking something of the of the past and reevaluating it through a feminist lens.  For some of you this may be a throwback but for me, my past was void of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her female empowerment. Granted  I was six when it first aired so I guess it was good parenting that prevented me from watching it but even then I wish I had joined in the Sarah Michelle Geller craze.  I remember people raving about Buffy and her slaying but I jut never really go into it, primarily because I used to be a good ol’ scaredy cat and even the not so special effects of the 90’s would have scared the pants off of me.

But I am proud to announce that I am officially a member of the Buffy fan club.  I have recently become obsessed (thank goodness for Netflix) but am only halfway through season two and am thoroughly excited to watch all 7 seasons.Buffy is an excellent female role model for women of all ages she exhibits independence, rejection of gender roles and confidence in her identity through her battling of literal and symbolic demons.  Writer Joss Whedon announced in the first mission statement for the show, Buffy is about “the joy of female power: having it, using it, sharing it” and holy crap has she shared it with me.

I don’t even know where to start except stating the fact that I dream of being Buffy to the extent that, let’s just say I know what my halloween costume is going to be this year.  The show so far contains wonderful yet subtle attacks on patriarchy.  It’s not a coincidence that most of the forces of evil take on the male form, granted there are a fair share of female antagonists but what says f&%$ you like plunging a phallic shaped weapon into the chest of a evil male vampire.  Buffy spends her slaying hours symbolically taking back what has been taken from so many of us women.  Not that she’s a man hating vampire slayer but even the men that she surrounds herself with do not dictate her actions and have absolutely no power over her.  Even her watcher, Giles, or vampire boyfriend, Angel, display personal weaknesses that render them subordinate to Buffy.

 She also has an amazing ability of ignoring the boundaries that are socially applied to gender.  One minute she’s displaying characteristics associated with masculinity while trying to balance being a 16 year old girl in a social world where femininity is expected of her. She lives her life on a gender spectrum rather than restricted to one side which is amazing to see a heroine completely devoid of the of the patriarchal values that dictate the media.  Buffy is the farthest thing from gentile and passive because she doesn’t take crap from anyone, speaks her mind and does exactly what she wants. Another thing interestingly portrayed in a different light is the idea of virginity which usually is seen as a marker of a female’s virtue but oddly enough after her first time with Angel, he is the one that ultimately loses his purity.  There are so many ways this wonderfully feminist 90’s TV show kicks misogyny in the nuts, to put it eloquently.

When you think about it, I would have to say that Buffy was the beginning of the vampire craze and it definitely has gone down hill since.  I can’t help but compare it to all the other vampire shows or movies and Buffy is definitely my feminist pick.  She may have her love affairs with vampires but she never let’s their supernatural abilities to dictate the power levels in their relationship which is more than I can say for Sookie, Elena and Bella. These are some of the few vampire flicks that I have watched and I have to say that Buffy wins hands down.

In True Blood, Sookie has her feminist tendencies with her ability to hear thoughts but ultimately she let’s the men in her life dictate her actions and she succumbs to the beauty and thrill of subordination. Elena in Vampire Diaries has the classic love triangle to cope with but focuses all her attention on her choice which is presented as a “make it or break it” decision.  Last and certainly least, is Bella who is an obvious victim of interpersonal violence which spurs her love for Edward to the point that she goes off the deep end when he leaves her.  All three of these female characters are presented as weak, vulnerable and dependent where as Buffy is strong, aware, knowledgeable and self-sufficient which eliminates all chances of her succumbing to patriarchal expectations and allowing a man to define her. Any other Buffy fans out there? (Please no spoilers)

4 Responses to “Buffy: We Can Slay It”

  1. alisonaurelia 04/12/2013 at 4:01 pm #

    great post! I don’t know if you intended to appraise this genre of tv shows as far as gender representation or not, but regardless, it was a great post assessing Sookie, Twilight and Buffy and what they represent, respectively.

  2. parklena 04/15/2013 at 2:24 am #

    I absolutely adore Buffy! I watched it when it first appeared on TV as a kid (yeah, no parental censoring for me) and have been hooked since. I’ve fallen more in love with it as I’ve gotten older and seen just how strong Buffy is compared to other female protagonists. Joss Whedon is amazing at how he doesn’t leave women floundering to other male characters.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of the seasons! A word of warning: keep a box of tissues nearby.

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