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July 17 2006

Is Joss Whedon feminist enough? A timely blog entry in the wake of the widespread acclaim for Joss' 'Equality Now' speech? Who knows. But it's an interesting, well written critique and doesn't resort to the usual trite cliches.

There was a previous Whedonesque front page entry to this person's blog before, and we all had a nice discussion about Deadwood, Mamet and Joss.

>>Angel doesn't get to back to the earth from whence he came. Buffy does. (Someday Malcolm Reynolds will.) That fact says something about Joss, yes, but within his world it serves too as a song of Earth. What is lost and gained in death has nothing to do with body count.<<

Great find, Simon. Interesting, thoughtful points aside, this one's worth reading just for the sake of its writing.
Interesting read. The point about female characters dying in child-birth hadn't occurred to me but it's a good one (as the author notes Cordy didn't die but I think since she didn't actually wake up from the coma before death it's close enough).

Whether there's actually a point to be made is a bit contentious though. In Angel, the show most discussed (and with the biggest case to answer to), there's still arguably only one more main female character killed than male (male: Doyle, Wesley, Gunn, female: Cordelia, Fred, Darla, Lilah) which is not necessarily significant (and counting Lindsay - which seems fair enough if we're counting Lilah - makes it even).

I think the article makes a good point that the way the characters died is probably significant though. Doyle sacrificed himself and Wesley and Gunn both died in combat (yep, i'm assuming Gunn dies in NFA since, for me, to think otherwise is a bit unrealistic and makes his last actions less noble).

It seems like the male characters die in less passive ways than the women, less as victims more as 'actors' in their own lives in Angel compared to the other shows (BtVS where the female deaths are usually either sacrifices - Buffy - or in combat - Buffy, Anya, Kendra - and Serenifly where the deaths are of males).

I'm not too sure what (if anything) to read into this though. Are Joss/the other creators saying that Angel's world is a "man's world", that there isn't as much room for femininity ? Or is it just that with more male main characters, a traditionally male genre framework and (AFAIK) more men involved in the running/writing of the show a certain element of traditional male/female role fulfillment happens (a bit like the possible subconscious racism discussed a while back) ?
Then does Serenity "even the score," since the women all survive and (except for Zoe) even improve their lives after taking on the Reavers and the Alliance (Kaylee gets the boy, River stops hearing the voices of Miranda, Inara starts to think about career options other than companioning), but two of the men die (and neither one actually died "in battle" -- they both got ambushed -- although they both did heroic deeds in the minutes before their deaths)?

ETA: Reading this article more closely (it was a lot to take in), I guess the writer does say, the gender in the majority is the gender that gets killed off, except in the case of Angel. It is a very interesting article!

[ edited by billz on 2006-07-17 12:55 ]
You know what? If an artist wants to say something, he does. All this seraching for secret messages in the form of secret acts and simbolism, all this interpretation of an intelectual content trough habit, let us not forgett the triyng of interpreting an artists hidden soul in the revelations of his being, are all a bunch of crap. An idiotic way to impress the weak and a stupid way to impress oneself.
"Watching characters bury a 'loved one'... puts the audience in the position of grieving not for the departed but for the survivors... The goal of fictional death is to render the aftermath, in Joss's world - one of the unique strengths of his TV work is the accretive melancholy of his fictional worlds, showing the way the constant presence of death weighs on the surviving characters."

I think this passage (though I have edited it extensively, so please go read the whole thing) concisely explains the reason that I love it when Mr. Whedon kills off a character.

However, it also highlights to me that I don't consider the numbers of females vs. males killed as a statement of feminism or any other type of statement; though in the manner of the death I certainly find a more convincing argument. I am not completely convinced about feminism being demonstrated, or not, through the authorial choice of which characters to kill off.

I don't think I can bring myself to see any of the deaths of characters in Joss' shows as anything other than having an intention for us, the audience, to truly emote and share a universal experience with the characters and in doing so endear them to us and render them more human.

That said, there are some fantastic observations in this monologue, which will be on my favourites list for a while to come.

[ edited by sumrandom on 2006-07-17 13:24 ]
It's a very well-written article, but it doesn't convince me that with Angel, Joss was lesst han feminist.

Angel just seems to show that we live in a man's world--particularly so in Angel's Los Angeles--where even though the women are strong, and brave, and loved by all the people around them, they are beaten down.
there's still arguably only one more main female character killed than male (male: Doyle, Wesley, Gunn, female: Cordelia, Fred, Darla, Lilah) which is not necessarily significant (and counting Lindsay - which seems fair enough if we're counting Lilah - makes it even)

For the male characters on Angel, you should probably include:
Angel (although he died on Buffy)
Gavin (while digging through toilet paper)
Connor (the false prophecy turned out to be true)

Does Darla count as three? Once on Buffy, died->vampire, then dusted.
Interesting article. Thank you Simon.

But as Buffy complains at one point that for vampires: 'sex and death, and love and pain, it's all the same damn thing to you.' - we might want to consider all four of these themes and not simply focus on the circumstances of a character's death.

Joss does warn his audience to brace themselves whenever his characters seem to be at their happiest - Willow and Tara back together in "Seeing Red" - Dawn enjoying a moment with school friends in "The Body"...
He also touches on the notion of the writer "punishing" his characters in his commentary on S2's Innocence - in the specific context of the stereotypical blond girl in horror films usually being killed as "punishment" for having underage sex. He doesn't do that to Buffy, but admits to "torturing her" through the pain inflicted by Angelus and comments on horrifying himself at the ease with which he found he could write Angelus's first speech to Buffy.
Interesting stuff. A lot of these points have already been made by Jennifer Crusie in her essay in Five Seasons of Angel and in Jes Battis' Blood Relations: Chosen Families In Buffy The Vampire Slayer And Angel.

[ edited by Maeve on 2006-07-17 16:33 ]
"Watching characters bury a 'loved one'... puts the audience in the position of grieving not for the departed but for the survivors... The goal of fictional death is to render the aftermath, in Joss's world - one of the unique strengths of his TV work is the accretive melancholy of his fictional worlds, showing the way the constant presence of death weighs on the surviving characters."


A little off topic but this sentence really resonated with me. It points out why The Gift and The Body worked so well, and Chosen did not.

In Chosen, with the mall jokes, no one seemed to care.
Very thought-provoking material which I'll have to mull over even more in coming days, but what I'm stuck on the most right now is the last word in the title to his blog post: Enough?. I wish the author had done more to flesh out what he thinks could have been done with the shows to support that question. I understand he thinks there's an imbalance in how misery was meted out but isn't that how life is, no matter Buffy or Angel's destinies? Random, merciless, never knowing what is just around the bend, or to quote Dorothy Parker: "What fresh Hell is this?"

If this guy had a newsletter, I'd subscribe, but I don't think there's any definitive answer.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2006-07-17 17:25 ]
I think the author used the word "enough" as an attention-grabber, and I think he acknowledges it early on. The question of the blog post is short and pithy, exactly what you need to catch a reader's attention. If he wrote a long, academic sounding title such as "Complicating gender themes using the death-in-combat motif: an analysis of 'A Hole in the Wall,'" (even though I'd read it) people would be turned off. This guy is an excellent writer, and he knows that an interesting title helps a boat load.

Personally, I love this article, especially since I've always believed Angel's women were the least well formed of any of them. The only character I liked was Fred/Illyria, which is complicated by the facts that a) Amy Acker was a little inconsistent with Fred's characterization b) If you pay close enough attention, evidence indicates that Illyria was actually a MALE demon (if you listen to Illyria's guide- Knox was his name I think- he calls Illyria "the KING"). I like the idea that gender numbers matter (and from a TV marketing perspective, gender numbers REALLY matter), and the death in child-bearing observation was AWESOME. I don't know if I agree with the distinction between the men as warriors and the women dying as victims, especially with the author's comments on Wesley beheading Lilah (plus: while Wesley is KIA, I've always felt he is more a victim of his own problems, and that's what dooms him; also, Lindsey doesn't die in combat, he is shot in the back by Lorne).

Also, Darkness- I'm not sure what you're trying to say with your comment that when an artist means something, he just says it, and it's worthless to go beyond that. The thing is, you can't look at a script as an artistic expression and just focus on the dialogue (if that's what you mean). That's like looking at a painting and just focusing on the use of the color read. I'm positive that Joss Whedon uses all the elements available in his medium to make his point, so it's completely reasonable to look at Angel not just from the dialogue/narrative standpoint, but to go into deeper levels of storytelling and positioning. Joss Whedon is very smart, and I think everything he does is deliberate. I don't think the similarities between Cordelia's, Darlah's, and Fred's deaths were lost on him.

Peace y'all!
Another thing (this is why posting from work is bound to get in the way of ordering your thoughts properly) I noticed is that there is no mention of Glory or Buffy's second death, presumably because it didn't fit into the author's thesis (I got all that about an attention grabbing title, thanks BoltRider, but it just seems as though there's still an implication in there that's not addressed) of the c**k-swinging male characters causing the deaths of the women around them. Buffy died to defeat Glory and save Dawn, to give her a chance at life. I'm not saying it's wrong he didn't mention it, but I think his writing is cogent and thoughtful enough that I'd like to see him explore it.
Simon - good link and interesting, thoughtful article. I'm still processing my thoughts and will post those later. However, I wanted to briefly respond to Xane's comments about Chosen's ending.

Xane, The main characters in BtVS usually joked after a big battle ( e.g., Prophecy Girl, Graduation Day, Part 2). People often use humor in serious situations. It's a means of coping. They'd just come out of a major battle where they were hopelessly outnumbered and fully expected to die. However, they not only came out alive but victorious as well, after months of stress and fear. They have to have been feeling pretty high about that - a huge post-battle adrenaline high. My take on the mall jokes is that they were reacting to having won and lived ("We won! "Hey, I'm alive!"). They hadn't had time to process the whole experience, including the deaths. Once the relief at winning and the adrenaline wore off, they would deal with the deaths then. I think they did feel the losses, hence the lameness of and half-hearted attempt at the jokes. I know that many others felt the jokes were disrespectful, but I've always viewed the jokes as an outlet of intense emotion.

Also, I think that Joss wanted to end the show on a high, hopeful note, emphasing the beginning of a future. Ending on a mourning shot wouldn't have accomplished that objective.
I thought the joking was fine. It was a common theme for Buffy and friends to use. As long as they four survived, anything was possible. Joss wanted her to be happy at the end and hopeful. I loved the ending. I thought the happiness in Buffy's face, the joking and the silent gratitude for those who sacraficed so they could live was perfect and fitting.

Buffy, The scoobies,Faith and the remaining potentials would not have mourned one death over anyone else. All the people who died that day, died in battle and died to stop the hellmouth. The all had a part for the survivors to be alive. But death happens in this verse and Buffy has learned to process it in different ways and move on so she can continue her life. I would say a quiet dinner and glasses held up to the survivors would probably been done at some point. Then rebuilding and the moving on we found out about on Angel. I am sure they all remember every death that has happened to them since they began and each and everyone has had meaning.

I never saw Angel has less of a feminist show. Sure it's main hero was a big strapping guy who could beat the hell out of the bad guy. But it's best bad guy was was smart, sexy and knew what she wanted without depending on a man. Lilah's love for Wes did not cripple her evil work or make her into a simpering twit. Same with evil Darla.

Cordy before she became a glo-worm home for evil spirits, was strong independant. In many ways not only was she the most sain of the group, she also was the most self reliant. Then you have Faith who not only hit bottom on Angel, but climbed up and out of her particular well of dispair. She was stong enough to try and find peace and stay locked away. Then when the time came she was again capable enoguh to help not only her hero but make amends with Wes too.

[ edited by Donna Troy on 2006-07-17 18:51 ]
I thought it was an interesting idea that Fred was pushed into the damsel in distress role by the boys, even though she had long grown out of it. But the writer neglects to mention that it was Knox's view of her as a strong, intelligent woman (very anti-DiD traits) that led her to be chosen as Illyria's vessel. It was really the acknowledgement of a strong female character that lead said character to fall into the archetypal role of the beautiful but helpless tragic female sacrifice. It's not a reversal that works particularly well IMHO, but then again, I always thought that "A Hole In The World" was one of the weakest episodes in the Buffyverse.
That was delicous - well written, interesting and just kind of fun to read. I could see it in a book of essays easily. I sort of wonder if some of the pregnancy issues the writer was talking about were reflections of Joss's own RL fears. Pregnancy and childbirth are kind of scary - there are no absolutes or guarantees invoved with the whole process. I hope I'm not sliding into nosey speculation but if I was a writer, a man and had a pregnant wife then perhaps some of my fears might fall into my writing.
Nice observation Ruthless. I agree.
I wanted to add in that I think this article was much more accurate in presenting examples to back up his/her points than the last "talk among yourselves"/debate link, about racism. Because of that, I am thinking much more seriously about the ideas raised than I did with the racism article. Good job, Mr. or Ms. Blogger! :-)
All this seraching for secret messages in the form of secret acts and simbolism, all this interpretation of an intelectual content trough habit, let us not forgett the triyng of interpreting an artists hidden soul in the revelations of his being, are all a bunch of crap. An idiotic way to impress the weak and a stupid way to impress oneself.
Not really. There's definite value in looking at the cultural and social motivations behind a persons work - the invisible forces that move someone to write it down, demand it to be acted out. While we can never know the motivations that build up over the years, we can certainly attempt to unravel some of them.

Most successful artists, of all stripes, encourage that sort of look into what forces are at work.

Granted, this is not to say that you should toss out authorial intent, or presume that there is no value in author-statements about the work... only that we all bring lots of subconscious to our writings, not to mention blatant references that tickle the author pink when someone gets the allusion to, say, the heroe's journey or the person taking the role of the oricle - just to name two things that have come up in Whedon's work.
I just want to say, Joss Whedon is 19.4222% less feminist than is legally required. Bad, bad Joss! He should also stop showing 'emotion' before I go all John Preston on his ass. (10 to anybody who gets the reference. Who isn't Kurt Wimmer).
gossi - I thought you meant Prescott. Now that would be frightening.
I'll go you one better. I conflated it and at first thought he meant John McClane (I hadn't remembered that character's actual last name at the moment Gossi posted). Then I realized, thankfully, I was wrong. "Yippie-ki-yay, Mother#$#($#*(!" That would be so wrong.
All this seraching for secret messages in the form of secret acts and simbolism, all this interpretation of an intelectual content trough habit, let us not forgett the triyng of interpreting an artists hidden soul in the revelations of his being, are all a bunch of crap. An idiotic way to impress the weak and a stupid way to impress oneself.

See, I'd say that any artist who ignores useful tools like symbolism and subtext, and instead lays everything out bare on the surface so that even a five year old could clearly see every minute thought and intention at first glance is creating a bunch of crap. JUST telling a story or JUST making a point without going any deeper is certainly very boring, and certainly not art.

There is a reason that fantasy, sci-fi, and horror (the genres that Joss primarily works in) are referred to as speculative fiction. The best works explore something far deeper than sum events of the story, often by focusing on or exaggerating some aspect of the human condition in order to examine it more closely.

Of course, maybe I'm just saying all this to impress myself, but it takes a lot more than that to impress me :)
Why is it that Angel's cock-waving heroes end up costing the women around them their lives?

Maybe because, were the situations reversed, such losses might not be countenanced, such missteps made, such torture deserved and sustained. Angel doesn't get to go back to the earth from whence he came.


See, the author seems to be saying, (and I've always thought)
that the manly heroes of Angel were really kind of incompetent.
**ducks flying rotten tomatoes**
Angel was set up as a subversion of the traditional hero who rescued the damsel in distress. In the very first show, he fails. And the beat goes on, through the last hopeless, glorious battle. The point was that he kept trying, against incredible odds and suffering from unimaginable loss. Loved this article!
"One of the most prolific gay writers of recent decades, John Preston helped elevate pornographic fiction into a genre viewed as having literary merit..." = one of the most common search results for "John Preston" at Yahoo...

[ edited by April on 2006-07-17 20:56 ]
I've a different take on this article, which I thoroughly enjoyed. To me, this begins to address an issue I have been grappling with for some time. It is not feminism, for I believe Joss to be very much a feminist; it is, rather, how he treats death.

I am well aware that Joss uses death to ratchet up tension in the audience, with the comment so often made that he wants no one to feel safe, that each person could die. In fact, the apotheosis of that happens in Serenity in the final fight scene, where we are not sure that anyone will survive, that already Wash and Book are gone- and Kaylee injured, and Simon, and Zoe, and River at true risk, and Mal fighting The Operative.

But I have found death to become a tactic, a point I have tried to argue before. I think it has become predictable, and that Joss tends to kill those people whose death will hurt the audience: Tara, she of sublime sweetness and strength; Wash, he of feelings of insecurity with his warrior woman; Fred, another sweet person; Motormouth from Fray, a true innocent.

In this argument, the writer seems to be trying to tie in the deaths that Joss writes to a feminist reading. I don't think it works. I think Joss chooses those to die in order to cause pain in the audience. Every now and again he succeeds a bit too much; witness Tara. But when I can predict who will die, as I did for both Book and Wash; then Joss has become predictable- which I do not mean as a tautology here, mind you, just that I know he will kill people, and I can figure out who it will be.

Anyone want to bet me that in Wonder Woman someone close to WW or to some other major character will die, but not until that person's essential goodness and love for someone else is known? Like Jenny, Fred, Motormouth, Joyce, Anya, Darla, Lilah, etc, and most of all Tara?

Not to be, y'know, predictable or anything. :-)
Dana5140: I agree that for Joss death is a tool to accomplish a job, but like the Simpsons, sometimes a pattern can be enjoyable.

To me Wash's death wasn't too predictable. Going off of Joss's pattern I would have guessed that he would kill Kaylee just after she and Simon got together.

But Wash's death seemed incredibly random to me. In retrospect there were characters that were off limits to kill, like Jayne, but at the time I believed that any one of them could have died. Jayne would not be killed off because there would be no emotional feedback because of the way his character was defined. Come to think of it, I would have said the same thing about Wesley in Season 3 of Buffy.

I love this topic, but of course I'm a person who thinks Harry will be killed "The Gift" style in book 7 .

[ edited by Caleb on 2006-07-17 23:35 ]

[ edited by Caleb on 2006-07-17 23:38 ]
Joss tends to kill those people whose death will hurt the audience.

The sudden, shocking, how-could-they-kill off-so-and-so moment is now almost a cliche of a Joss Whedon show. Indeed, if I remember correctly, Joss wanted to put Jessie in the title credits of BtVS just for the purpose of giving the audience the false comfort that this character would not -- could not -- die. (With Tara in Seeing Red in S6, Joss finally got his wish, putting Amber Benson in the title sequence only to kill her off in the same ep!)

The only agenda I see here is a dramatic one: watching characters you love either die unexpectedly or deal with an unexpected death makes for darn good drama.
>>Pregnancy and childbirth are kind of scary - there are no absolutes or guarantees invoved with the whole process.<<

Then again, pregnancy and childbirth can also be highly intoxicating -- and for me, Darla's death is a powerful climax. It is self-sacrifice, sure, but it is also a victory of love and hope, the way birth is supposed to be.
Joss tends to kill those people whose death will hurt the audience.

Part II of my thoughts on this. I would say that this is only partly true. Perhaps it's more accurate to say, Joss tends to kill characters when it serves a legitimate dramatic purpose. And oftentimes, I think Joss is as much motivated by drama as he is by his desire to flout dramatic conventions -- in other words, to offer a wicked little surprise or twist. The example I gave in Part I of my post (above) illustrates this perfectly. The audience couldn't have been too pained to see Jessie (un)dead in The Harvest, given that we barely got to know him! Yet, his death served several legitimate dramatic purposes: it showed the audience that becoming a vampire is not cool; Xander changes from an ordinary teen into a demon-slaying Scoobie; the fight against "the forces of darkness" is not all kickboxing moves and quips -- Xander had to kill his best friend. At the same time, Joss was able to subvert the convention that some characters are safe from harm.

Examples of other deaths that served dramatic purposes other than to hurt the audience: Tina in City Of (AtS, S1) and Lindsey in Not Fade Away (AtS, S5). With Tina, we learn that Angel will not always save the day. With Lindsey, we see what has happened to Lorne, once a wisecracking crooner, now a coldblooded killer. And in both examples, the deaths came as surprises.
I have sometimes wondered if Lorne became so embittered by what he promised to do, he drank himself into oblivion and then an early grave in some backwater California town like Barstow or maybe even Death Valley.
1sbt- yes, you are correct, but this does not really address my point. Some deaths are inevitable, for in a propgram about vampires, you really have to have them. But for a main character like Tara, that is different from Jesse- and with Jesse the point had been made anyway. No matter how you cut, each death advances the plot, right? But some HURT, while others did not. Jenny Calendar's hurt. Joyce's did. Tara's hurt so much that 4 years later people still argue about it. Some call it brilliant; I call it predictable.

Here, let me explain- in Harry Potter 7, I am right now telling you that Hagrid will die. Has to happen. Harry will not. I could explain why, but just keep this in mind for a year from now, if you will. :-) It was easy to call Wash's death, and Book was a given- his story was never going to be told; that was obvious. If you are not going to tell, Ebert's law of economy of character tells you that there is no reason to keep the character- thus, Book was going to be gone. His death did not hurt, since we understand that from a hero journey perspective for Mal. But Wash? Why Wash? Because Wash was the least of most, he was smitten by Zoe, he was in love, he was inecure of his ability, and he had every character trait Joss ues in his women before he kills them. Certain characters would not get killed- Mal, River, Inara, Zoe Jayne, and Kaylee. I could have argued in part for Simon, though I felt that his death would diminish whatever River accomplished. Thus, at the end, it was Book and Wash.

I would prefer a completely unpredictable Joss- but death is his gift...
Funny you say that Dana. My sister and I came up with the same theory about Hagrid last night!
Dana5140, if I understand your comments correctly, you are saying that you found Tara's death predictable because hers was the most painful, whereas Wash's death was predictable because his was the least. What about your earlier point, though, that Joss "chooses those to die in order to cause pain in the audience"? For me, the only thing predictable is that Joss will kill a character, even a beloved one like Tara, to serve the needs of character development or plot. The biggest shock of all was the death of Buffy at the end of The Gift. Maybe I'm blind to the obvious, but I didn't see that one coming at all.
some interesting stuff here...but it seems a bit scattered. i'd like to see more...i've noticed the prego/death routine on angel, as well as the apparently disproportionate amount of female deaths, and mentioned it on another board once. i find it even more interesting that Cordy was thrice impregnated by demons, and once more intended for such a pregnancy (with Groo). She joked about it a couple times if i recall...but it seems like an odd storyline to reuse so often. Added with the trio of prego/deaths (if you include fred's) one might think Mr. Whedon has something against motherhood. sounds like there is a good paper to be written here!
Dana5140: Well, maybe Joss's brand is more for people like me who are kinda dim when it comes to this :)

Though I still don't think that Wash attained the level where it became obvious what would happen. With a character like Fred, sure, but Wash was not obvious to me.
When I say Wash was the least, I did not mean to imply that he did not matter, nor that his death would not hurt. My thesis rests on the idea that these deaths do hurt, and with wash, like Fred, he had been built over many episodes to be a kind of lovable person- Zoe is lots of things, but loveable, in the sense I mean here, is not one of them. So Wash, as this kind and caring person, was like Fred, was like Tara. was anyone really completely surprised when Fred died? I was not- because I had come to see her as akin to Tara, though I think Tara was a special case. And still do.

Donna Troy- great minds think alike! ;-)
>>Uh...I just want to say, Joss Whedon is 19.4222% less feminist than is legally required. Bad, bad Joss! He should also stop showing 'emotion' before I go all John Preston on his ass. (10 to anybody who gets the reference. Who isn't Kurt Wimmer)<<.


Uh...I will take a shot and say you refer to the supposed Matrix clone "Equilibrium" - which I personally liked quite a bit - in your comment, gossi. Now then...where's me ten quid?

;)

Now...to the topic at hand....I think this is a facinating blog article, but I wonder if it doesn't reinforce what Joss said in his Equality Now award speech about being asked the same question repeatedly. The author makes a detailed and generally well-constructed argument about the disparate nature of feminism in Buffy, Angel and Serenifly...but shouldn't we be asking "Why aren't other writers MORE feminist?" Cuz I find it funny that were debating Joss's pro-female power POV as being sufficient enough or not when you have others who are not as...enlightened.

And on the matter of character deaths in Joss' works? Well...I wonder if any one of us were asked during Buffy's first episode "Which secondary character is gonna bite it to set the dramatic tension?" that we would have tapped Jesse? Cuz ya got seemingly meek and geeky Willow and the jester-like Xander versus Jesse's more sedate characteristics...so death bets would have been skewed from the get-go. Instead of killing off the usual cliche of the goofball or the geek with all the answers, Joss has the most normal of this trio of potential Buffy buddies get seduced, sired and staked in one episode!

If ya ask me (and I know you didn't *wink*), I wonder if Joss ain't getting a kick at the mental gymnastics we go through when reading these articles...cuz I don't he even considers the possiblity of being used as source of scholarship. But then again...maybe that's the point:P
I guess my real question is this: can someone truly be a feminist to a different degree than someone else? Isnt that an either or question?

When answering that question, I think we have to think about other questions that are analogous to the situation we see here. How about this one, are Islamic extremists more Muslim than other Muslims? In other words, are extremists more entrenched in their ideas, and thus, considered more of what they claim to be? How about this one, are militant feminists more feminist than modern feminists? Can these labels really be the products of degrees?

Oh and I dont have the answer to that, I just wanted to pose the question...
yamsham: I've been noticing the same re: the prego/death routine on Angel for some time now, and it's not just death. Pregnancy has never been a joyous event in the Buffyverse. In addition to Cordy's various impregnations and the others mentioned by the blogger, there is also the pregnant woman who goes before the tribunal--her life and her unborn child's life are threatened and her friend killed. Also, there's the mother of the Fell Brethren's little bundle of joy, who feels she has to give up her (I think unplanned for) baby to demons to avoid financial disaster and overwhelming family stress. IIRC, the few impregnations that may have resulted from consensual contact, were "accidents." I'm not sure about Joss having an issue with motherhood, but he does seem to have an issue with the consequences of sex without protection. Perhaps he's attempting to install a dose of "yay for birth control" into his audience? Or perhaps he's got personal issues re: the oh-so-common pregancy scare/abortion scenario? Although, that's not really any of our business (which has never stopped biographers/lit. critiquers).
Jerryst's question is almost unanswerable. Having studied religion critically for 4 years, it's impossible to measure how much a person commits mentally to an ideology, because the motivations behind an individual's actions are hard to determine and quantify. The reason two Jews might keep Kosher, for example, could be totally different. One could keep Kosher because he or she feels it reflects a respect towards the older traditions, or because it makes him or her feel Jewish by doing something Christians don't (my personal take on Kashrut), or becase pork makes him or her sick. How do you choose one answer and call it more or less Jewish, especially considering that Jewish ideology has changed throughout history? So while someone can commit more or less energy to a cause (ie. I believe in feminist principles, however I don't march or raise money or do anything like that), it's hard to say that that person is more or less a believer in the ideology behind the cause.

On to death and Joss: I see two main reasons behind the character deaths we've seen:

1) Becauase it builds realism. People die all the time, especially in wars. The last two we've seen (Iraq and... uh... Iraq again) have barely counted as wars (especially Desert Storm), and lots of people still died. People have to die or the stories aren't believable. The fact that Joss is such a good writer that we care about every character (for the most part) that dies adds to the realism, because in reality every person has a backstory and loved ones and every person who dies is missed by someone (I really belive that). Just like in Stephen King, the Grand Battle will always claim lives, and to suggest otherwise is foolish and unbelievable

2) Because for a number of marketing reasons, only certain characters can die. The main character is untouchable (Buffy was only killed off in "The Gift" because Joss knew he'd be bringing her back). Seconds-in-command, especially when they're opposite gender to the main character (Buffy/Xander, Malcolm/Zoe) are also untouchable, because they and the leads are the characters the fans will most relate to. I actually thought one of Angel's many weaknesses was its willingness to kill off so many women (plus no clear second-in-command, and thus much of their viewer's interests (SOME women would abandon the show without characters to relate to, since Angel and Wesley are no feminists; and SOME men would quit without as many attractive women on the show). Beyond that, it depends on the role the character plays. Spike couldn't be killed on Angel because everyone would ask "well why'd you bring him back in the first place?" Simon and River couldn't be killed because they were the main causes in the the Shinyverse (Fire-ty? Sereni-fly?), and all subsequent plots are due to their presence. Willow couldn't die because she wasn't an inherently tragic character (unlike Tara) and had already suffered enough. Dawn (despite all wishes to the contrary) for the same reasons as Spike. I honestly thought Joss might kill Kayle a half hour into the series, but she was unkillable after she survived that moment. If you look at the marketability of certain characters and combine that with the narrative value of certain characters, you wind up with a smaller list of potential victims than you think. After that, it's can be anything from contract negotiations (Tara stayed dead because she couldn't make it back for a ressurection episode in season 7; Ron Glass had massive reservations about doing Serenity in the first place) to Joss getting off on enraging the audience (and trust me, he does; it means he's done his job in making you care about his work), to a character just becoming unessecary (Jonathan and Anya, for instance). Sometimes, it's random (Anya vs. Andrew, Robin Wood, any one Potential, Faith). But as much as we want to see Joss as having total creative control, it takes a crew and a network to make a TV show and there are always other forces at work than simply a writer's artistic vision when it comes to killing off a character.

Thanks to anyone who read this whole post.
BoltRider: You're welcome. :) Enjoyed your post (maybe because I agree with most of it). I'm curious though, how is Tara an inherently tragic character? Do you mean because of her family? Shyness? Goodness? Sorry to be a bear of little brain.
Sorry, the idea reflects an oberservation of mine drawn from lots of sources of fiction. Occasionally you meet a character who is nervous and sad all of the time (Tara fits this persona until the sixth season, where she stabilizes but then dies). They never feel part of anything. They interact with people as if they know ahead of time that the relationship won't last (look at the ways Tara interacted with everyone, including Willow, in seasons 4 and 5). Tara is an example of this. She stutters. She seems uncomfortable constantly. She gets tortured and driven mad by Glory. Watching her makes you feel sad for her (seriously, I watched Seasons 5 and 6 in a very short time, felt miserable the whole time, and her plight was one of the reasons). And then she dies, rather arbitrarily. It seems to me that there's a correlation between the lives of these characters who never fit in and their deaths (Tara doesn't even die a hero like Anya). To me, one of the reasons these characters act this way in life is because they are on some level aware of their impending deaths. Tara was like this. She was subconsciously aware that she wasn't going to live much longer, and it affected every aspect of her life. This is the inherent tragedy of Tara: the knowledge of her death dooms her to an unhappy life. This even meets some of the classical notions of tragedy. Hope that makes sense narnia.

Oh, and yes, I've seen that season 5 episode with Tara's family, and I still think my point works, possibly more so, because Tara still perceives a distance between her and the Scoobies that in reality isn't there anymore.

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