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March 24 2003

Ghoul power: Buffy sticks it to the system. Qualified feminist praise for the show but the writer says it fails to address certain issues.

I despise the Green Left Weekly, but I actually agree with most of this article. My world is askew.
The show makes it clear that Faith's working-class roots make her incapable of wielding power responsibly.

Yes of course it does.
Bah. Simplistic, erroneous and bad, starting from "Buffy ... is a strong woman in every sense." No she's not. "Joss Whedon, the show's creator, has stated that one goal of the show is to use entertainment to popularise feminism." No he hasn't. In fact, he's repeatedly stated that he wants nothing to do with popularizing simple feminism, as it's currently marketed, and the quote the author provides only echoes that: "If I can make teenage boys comfortable with a girl who takes charge of the situation, without their knowing that's what's happening, it's better than sitting down and selling them on feminism."

Then she goes off into "Buffy is young, white, blonde, beautiful and she has become progressively (even alarmingly) thinner with each season." So, in order to be a true feminist hero, Buffy must be a silver-haired Portuguese hag with an overbite? "Kendra shares the fate of most characters of colour on the show, who if they are not the musical guests, are either innocent victims or are evil." Besides Hinton Battle, has Buffy had any other black "musical guests" that I'm missing?

This reminds me of a woman's studies class I once took, in which one day the discussion (about portrayal of women in the media) veered towards television. I put in my obligatory Buffy-rocks! diatribe, and was rebutted by the arch-feminist of the class, a young, white, blonde, thin, beautiful girl named Laura. Laura said something to the effect of "Well, whatever feminist success characters like Buffy and Xena may engender, it's all displaced into this fictive, fantastic, mythological world. In the end, they're just fighting vampires and demons." And I'm thinking, "As opposed to what exactly? Men??"
Oh how I hate "isms"! while I have no quarrel with feminists or any other group, why is it that everything has to be co-opted? Since when is Buffy a "conciously 'feminist' show"? Yes, it revolves an apparently strong female main character, but we've seen her screw up, we've seen her define herself through the men she dates, and we've seen her stand alone and fall.

To me BtVS is not a feminist show, nor does it promote feminism in any particular way. It's a show, on tv, made for entertainment, not for use as a political soap box. If that were the case then there is no way the show would have lasted 7 years!

Grr Arghh! *grin*
Well, I'd argue that within contemporary popular culture, having a show with characters as strong and complex as Buffy and Willow does indeed make a feminist statement.

And I think that Joss' comments about feminism (at least the ones I've read) have been critical of certain schools of thought within it, but I think he'd certainly agree (and indeed, he has stated this) that Buffy is indeed predicated on a feminist concept and repeatedly intentionally subverts the expectations of women. Just think back to the very first scene of the show -- Darla turning a sexist horror movie convention on its ear. From Joss' season one and two DVD commentaries, we know that he has considered and values the feminist politics of his storytelling. The most interesting entertainment, which Buffy certainly is, contains ideas and is about more than simple diversion. There's a lot of (feminist) thought under all of the humor and drama.

As for Buffy's appearance, I think it was also very consciously constructed, and not gratuitous at all, some of those season one outfits notwithstanding. She's the height of what's considered the feminine ideal in mainstream U.S. culture, and it's precisely that she fits that profile but that makes her power subversive. The way Buffy looks (and hell, her silly name) at first gives the viewer every reason to expect her to be nothing formidable, which only makes it more thrilling that she can kick pretty much everyone's ass. That's intentional, too.

But I could go on for days about this. This is what happens when you're simultaneously obsessed with Buffy and have a Master's in women's studies.
Wow... The Green Left Weekly... Not this crap again.
Umm, they feel the need to psychoanaylize everything... Buffy isn't a racist show. I can't believe people think the writers sit down and say, "Let's see how we can make black people and working-class people look bad." More likely they're saying, "Alright, we're about to get shoved with Friends as the-next-all-white-show, we have to hire a black actor." So they do, but it's a one-shot part. If black people are considered expendable by the show, so are tons of white people. What about the mayor? He was a middle-aged white guy in a business suit. And still, unable to defeat Buffy! (gasp!) And Glory, blonde and pretty as could be. It seems to me like the article writer also has not seen Buffy in the past four years, since they seem to have missed lesbian Willow, Principal Wood, and the return of a still-strong Faith.
They're reading too much into the show. As the femminazis always do... Buffy is a femminist show, but thank God it's not politically correct... That would suck.
True, there are no fat people in the Buffy-verse. There is an element of Baywatch to Joss Whedon's TV shows ( a very small element I hope ), insofar as all of the girls are beautiful. Prettier than Baywatch actually, because they aren't weak dumb blondes with big chests, they are beautiful women of varying looks (though mostly skinny). So though not directly confronting the issue Whedon "endorses" people can be beautiful without being cookie cutter model types. But yeah, they probably all could a stand a burger or two.

Kendra was weird 'cause she was distant and 100% serious all the time, not 'cause she was dark skinned. Buffy was afraid was encroaching on her "Giles/Fatherfigure territory". Buffy's superiority or luck probably hinge on her being the lead heroine ... not on her light skin. Whedon's character are expendable. If they die without warning it keeps the uncertainty of the world afloat, this makes the show more exciting. I assume by this Principal Wood, Jr. Slayer Rona, Angel's Gunn, Firefly's Book and Zoe, (other dark skinned characters) just simple have not out grown their utility. Evidently Ms. Calendar, Lila, Tara, Darla, Joyce Summers, and Doyle had a different sort of circumstances to their deaths.

Faith was not capable of wielding power responsibly ... I thought Whedon suggested this was more related to her lack of stable figures in her life in contrast to Buffy's "scoobies" and Mother. This was also suggested by the episode that same season "The Wish", which showed how Buffy might be without these circumstances of community support. Besides Xander has been a carpenter since the beginning of season 5, and is still a very much a featured character.

You can cite specific examples of most anything within the show and blow out of proportion to the whole in order to "prove" your point (Isn't this what people do with Christian texts all the time?). At the end of the day, Buffy is a television show primarily for entertainment purposes. It is not supposed to portray anyone's ideal vision of feminism (except maybe Whedon's, if that even). I think the shifts in the plot are more related to the characters emotional states than their skin color or socioeconomic-status as they should be. You can look in the sub-text for fault if you want, but I think Buffy, despite its, faults has done a great deal to open up peoples' minds to view the world differently, and has been of the best shows on television for the past 7 years.
I think this article brings up many interesting ideas, but it overlooks another more provocative issue in the "Whedon-verse". Joss Whedon's biased portrayal of green people on Angel.

Throughout his career of writing and producing, Whedon has only had one featured character on any of his shows who is green. Even though Lorne has been on Angel regularly for the past two years, he has only recently become a member of the cast. Lorne is depicted as a outsider from a primary green community who prefers living in L.A.. This alone is offensive, Lorne was only deemed good enough to be a featured character because he seems to prefer the company of non-green people.

The one time Whedon decided to let his characters visit the green community was replete with racist slurs and stereotypes. First all of the green people were depicted as Conan-type hunter simpletons with much strength but very inept intellects. Lorne is a little more eloquent but not very strong suggesting that green people may be strong or smart, but never both. Lorne's mother was played by an old mean bearded man, suggesting that green women aren't as attractive, nice, or feminine as other women. Whedon himself got in on the act too. Instead of casting an actual green person, he himself played Lorne's bother by dawning "green-faced" makeup. He then proceeded to make fun of the way green people dance. While in the green peoples' community, Cordelia was made Queen, the green people's priests were of a more Caucasian hue, the strongest in the community is a character known as the Groosalugg (also Caucasian colored), who eventually rules the entire community. Thus perpetuating the stereotype that green people are not fit to rule themselves or hold high office. This theme continued through the series when Lorne was unable to keep his nightclub open, and left his steady job in Las Vegas, suggesting that green people are not capable of running their own business or being dependable employees. Now Lorne only seems to answer phones at Angel Inc., which seems to state that green peoples' position is to be subservient to others.

Another green character who occasionally made appearances on Angel was Merle, the informant. From the beginning Merle was depicted as a seedy low-life who schemed, lived in an underground hole in the wall, and was only interested in money. Merle was a very popular whipping boy for the entire cast of characters it seemed to be acceptable to bully or terrorize this defenseless green man, from bad characters like Wolfram & Hart lawyers to good characters like the lead Angel. Whedon seems to consider most green characters, was disposable. At the beginning of the 2001 - 2002 season Merle was brutally killed off. Even in this savage brutal act, Whedon seemed to still be suggesting an element of comedy ... continually commenting that no one really like Merle anyway. Indirectly promoting violence against green people.

While the author of the article Ghoul power questions Whedon's commitment to feminism and social status, I think more attention should be paid to his truly racist and degrading depiction of green people.
Hmmm, why must one character be assumed to be representative of it's entire socio economic ethnic group and gender. This would suggest a belief that people should not be judged as individuals but as cliches.

If you have several characters from the same socio economic and/or ethnic group and gender then they are portrayed the same way, then you can put forward a case of representation.

However, the writer then needs a bit of a brain to go with it. Kendra, Olivia (Giles' girlfiend), Trick, and Wood are not interchangeable characters although all are black,(the author's supposition that Buffy is portrayed as intellectually superior to Kendra suggests her own personal prejudices as in the series Kendra is portrayed as the academic (intellectual)whereas Buffy is presented as the emotive and experienced slayer, to ignore experience and chance as reasons for survival is careless at best, and remember Buffy was killed by vampires twice, in Prophcey girl and the Wish).

Tara, Xander, and Faith are all from working class backgrounds, yet are not portrayed the same way.

Giles, The Mayor, Spike, Joyce, Angel, Darla, Dru, caucasians above the age of 35, interchangeable? I think not.

Argue that there are disproportianately high proportion of petite women (there is a case, the non petite and beautiful Amber Benson was almost rejected for the role of Tara because she was not the petite body type they were looking for, and now they have Kennedy), but don't have a point and then warp the facts to try to prove it. Facts first, then conclusions. Either that or become a politician.
ascii, I think you're onto something. In fact, this outrageous bias against green people seems to pervade the entire media! There are how many white characters on Friends, but have you ever seen a single green person on that show? Let's not even talk about the movies. The Grinch? Come now. Even though he ended up with a heart of gold, he has to deny his allegedly fundamental, miserly "green" nature. We should form an interest group!
I would join the interest group! It's an important cause that I would support. Some of my best friends are green people.
"It's not easy... being green."

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