Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I May Be Dead, But I'm Still Pretty; On Buffy And Growing Up a Babe.

By Anči

Die Patriarchy!

This weekend, my boyfriend and I finished watching the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer-- it was his first viewing, and very likely my... 20th? (not really, but suffice to say, I've re-watched the show more than a few times..)
 It only took a few episodes to remind me how clever and profound the series truly is. Almost 20 years after Joss Whedon's feminist opus premiered, it still resonates just as deeply with its viewers. (the same of which, can hardly be said of most shows that old.)
Another thing that struck me, is that even after all the Girl Power type shows i've watched since my introduction to Buffy, (from Lost Girl, to Veronica Mars..) none of the sexy slayer's descendants come close to diminishing the luster and power of the original chosen one. Buffy simply stands alone-- a gem, surrounded by copycats and wannabes.

I only discovered Buffy in college, but I genuinely wish I had stumbled upon it during high school, when I was at my loneliest, and least empowered. Seeing a heroine like Buffy, bravely taking on her demons--quite literally--in a suburban high school setting, would have given me someone to relate to. I think I would have felt stronger, seeing an outsider like Buffy represented as such a complex, resolute badass; when I was feeling so weak and impotent.
What makes Buffy so unique, compared to all her TV peers like say, Bo from "Lost Girl" is that she has a dynamic inner life,  not to mention a complicated set of motivations that go far beyond the standard  hot-girl-seeks-hot-guy. She has integrity and character, and is a fiercely loyal friend to her band of equally well-developed sidekicks: Xander, Willow, and Giles. (all of whom are deserving of  an analyses of their own, but maybe i'll get to them in a future post...)

Throughout the series our plucky protagonist gets dumped and played by jerky (and occasionally demonic) boyfriends, but never lets the ensuing heartbreak get in the way of her most pressing gig-- that of being the Slayer.  (Unlike her inferior counterpart Bella from those ridiculous twilight movies, who if memory serves me correctly, tried to drown herself when the sparkly guy went away.) More importantly, Buffy never takes shit from men in her life-- even and especially when she happens to be in love with them.
Even and especially if it means ending up alone. (Whereas Carrie Bradshaw always found her way back to shitty, abusive Big, and my beloved Veronica Mars always found her way back to shitty abusive Logan. And no, don't say he loves her. He's still shitty.)

 I wish I had internalized Buffy's brand of conviction throughout my own tumultuous teenage years... but sadly, I was of the variety of girl who would fall apart at every rejection--romantic, or social. And the idea that someone like me could not only overcome obstacles like betrayal, and abandonment, but also continue 'slaying' her own forces of darkness despite such adversity, just didn't occur to me.
It wasn't that Buffy didn't suffer heartbreaks just like any other person. On the contrary, she was pretty prone to falling into deep depressions-- most unnervingly, after hooking up with one cute college boy, only to be brushed off and discarded immediately thereafter. Of course it's understandable that such a brutal sendoff would leave our slayer feeling hurt and confused; even plunging her into a temporary spiral of anxiety and self-doubt. But the key here was, that at no point did this crisis disorient or displace Buffy's deeply held convictions about her purpose on earth....which is kinda the whole point of "not taking shit" from someone, and which is a distinction I couldn't wrap my head around at that age. I simply didn't understand that while depression wasn't necessarily a sign of weakness, (but rather a healthy, normal reaction to crushing disappointment,) losing oneself as a result, was.
 As far as I was concerned, I would never escape the black hole of my adolescent angst, because I didn't appreciate that there were still fights to be had. Fights and struggles, that were actually worthy of my time and attention; setbacks and obstacles that would shape me into a stronger more compassionate, competent woman. And what all of that comprehension boils down to, is having a sense of self-- which Buffy undeniably did.

But now for a few stray observations on the very last episode of season 1 (which is currently freshest in my mind:) Trust me guys, this is sexy stuff!
So here we see a beautiful Buffy dressed in a white prom dress (a deliberate choice of color) getting ready for her final confrontation with The Master. (A deliberate choice of moniker.)  Awesomely enough, this Master, AKA the leader of the Vampires, is meant to be an obvious metaphor for The Patriarchy. He is the ultimate oppressive force in Buffy's life, and as such, suffers from the same delusions of grandeur harbored by most patriarchs of his creepy ilk.
 In this case, the master unwisely bets on the the slayer's demise, once he "impresses" upon her several (unimpressive) inches of pointy yellow teeth.  Surely, it's a violation  no woman could recover from, he reasons. [it even says so in his holy book!] But like most women who have been penetrated against their will, Buffy doesn't stay down for long. With the help of two of her friends, she gets up;  her billowy white dress filthy from the fight... (so much symbolism, guyssss!)

and by the end of the episode she has tracked down and slayed her vampire, in an epic moment of reverse-penetration. (Who needs penis envy when we have stakes?)

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