This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"It's about power and it's about women and you just hate those two words in the same sentence, don't you?"
11945 members | you are not logged in | 20 October 2014




Tweet







January 03 2007

"It's the End of the World ... Again! Why Buffy Still Matters" 2007 Mini-Con Schedule Posted. A number of papers on a variety of interesting (and some possibly controversial?) topics are listed to be presented, with at least three looking to focus on Spike exclusively.

Registration is now open. Hope to see some of you there!

I'm gonna do my best to be there. :D
This sounds fantastic, I would love to be there, but I think I'm going to be in LA that week :(
One of the papers is titled "Gendered Biting"!

I want to go terribly.
Me, too, but I have to be at another conference in Phoenix, as a presenter. And I have serious interest in the papers on the failings of S6-7 and "A Girl is Dead." Anticipating interest in Tara, for a change.
Wiseblood, do you have any info. on whether a videotape might be made of the sessions and sold for charity or to fund further, maybe longer conventions of this type? I know we West Coasters have lucked out with the Browncoat Cruise but I love this scholarly analysis and would love to view it somehow. Thanks.
Hey look Im a presenter! Ok that was shameless wasnt it?

I am writing the paper entitled "The Moral, Ethical, and Feminist Failings of Seasons 6 and 7: How Joss Whedon's Message Died on top of a Tower." It should be great fun.

And Dana, if you ask nicely, I will send you my paper on the failings of seasons 6 and 7 when I am done.
I'm really looking forward to this one. I've been fortunate to hear several of these presenters before and they never fail to bring new insights to the table. And Dr. Wilcox, well . . . in one way or another, she (along with David Lavery) is the reason many of us came to the table in the first place.

And (shameless self-promotion) - mine's the Caleb paper. I'd love to hear what you think, so please - come if you can!
I'll second the request for a transcript or a video? Please? Because of how much I want it.

...please?
Grrr! Arrgh! Why is it on a workday? I work in Burlington, so near and yet so far!

I might be able to make it over for Rhonda Wilcox's session, and maybe dinner afterwards with any Whedonesque folk.
Slowly I'm working my wiles on Rhonda Wilcox, and she's moving Northward in her presentations. Now I've got to get her to cut West as well, and have her appear in Chicago so I can finally attend one of these things.
I talk pretty regularly with the class facilitators, and I think the logistics for a video or audio (or both) recording of Rhonda Wilcox's presentation are in the process of being discussed and/or worked out. There's definitely the intention of making it available somehow for peeps who can't catch her in the flesh. This is a small con, only one day, but the hope is that there's enough turnout to demonstrate sincere interest to the university so there can be another course in the future, maybe even for credit in the Women's & Gender Studies program. (There's also been a little discussion of another course like the current one that's more inclusive of Joss's other work, but so far as I know that's only in the speculation stages. I think the success of this con could positively influence that, however.)

Tonya J, I wouldn't know about selling video copies for charity and such (although that sounds like a good idea, if it could be done affordably and handled responsibly -- the budget for this con is nigh unto miniscule, and the facilitators are basically dealing with everything themselves), but if you know how to go about such things and would like to float the idea by the class facilitators, contact me. I'd be glad to put you in touch with them.

And W'esquers represent! jerryst3161 and mockingbird, I know ya'll will do this place proud :) My greatest difficulty is going to be picking from among all the juicy topics! Afterwards, it would be cool to hook up with folks for dinner and conversation; we've got some yummy Thai, Vietnamese and Indian joints around town...
The Plenary Presentation with Rhonda Wilcox is FREE and open to the Public

So someone could take a video, and put it on YouTube, I'm guessing. My envy of you, Wiseblood, for having this in your hometown greatly increased reading the schedule. Damn.
Btw in case people are wondering, Slayage.tv has a mirror site at www.slayageonline.com. Cheers to Maeve for letting me know.

My paper "You'll Never Post Online In This Fandom Again" will be delivered sometime before the end of the century.
Oh man, thanks Simon. I kept getting that stupid travel page when I tried to go there. Thanks man!
Will these papers appear online at some point ? Most sound good but i'm really interested in those on musical cues in S4, the emasculation of Spike and jerry's one on S6 and S7 failings (the last two mainly because I think there'll be plenty to disagree with ;).

Anyone going who could record audio/video or just take notes wins one of Simon's famous non-prizes and my eternal gratitude - well the bit of eternity that i'm around for anyway (I might be persuaded to throw in a mini mars-bar if the "winner" can pay P&P ;).
jerry: *** bats eyes, then uses bambi eyes*** Could you please, kind sir, send me a copy of your paper when it is done? Thanks!

All kidding aside, I am highly intrigued by your thesis, and would love to see how you present it. I have my own thoughts on the matter as well, as I am sure everyone here knows by now, but to see it finally brought public and allowed for debate will be good. I'd love a copy: dana.lawrence@palmer.edu, whenever it is ready. :-)

And Simon, my paper on "Compassionate Savioress of the World: Tara as a Representation of the Tibetan Boddhisattva Tara" will be ready about the same time as your paper. :-)
For those of us unable to attend, will the essays be on the slayage archive later?

And thanks for the new link to the site Simon, I thought Slayage had disapeared.
jerry, that paper title stood out the most to me...wish i could hear it! perhaps you can post it somewhere for all of us after you have presented it?
ut if you know how to go about such things and would like to float the idea by the class facilitators, contact me. I'd be glad to put you in touch with them.

Oh, if only I did, I would surely give assistance. I was just throwing out ideas for memorializing these types of events.
I have not had a chance to look carefully at the list of what is being presented, but I should think something like this could be incredibly fun. Too bad it is way too far away...geographically.

jerryst3161 , I am working really hard to phrase this question as diplomatically as possible because I know this is a mine field and my question really does not have any ulterior motives. Having a background in literary and script analysis from both an actor and English Major point-of-view, I am just curious as to what your paper’s purpose actually is. No judgment on your academic work should be implied since I have not seen this, or to the best of my knowledge, any of your other papers.

By your title, your paper seems to be meant as a straightforward supporting document for a conclusion that has already been reached rather than being a paper in which you analyze a work to find a conclusion. Is that the case? Having only been involved with Whedon fandom on the internet for a couple years, I have wandered around reading and listening to various group’s opinions about seasons, writers and characters. Most seem to have come to very specific conclusions and have no further interest in any opinions that do not fit in with their own. As a result, the writings of these groups, whatever their opinions, do not usually contain more than a few related sets of assertions leading to the widely held conclusion of the group. Is your paper an attempt to bring something new to the viewpoint that seems to be summed-up by your title, or is it a compilation in an academic format of the conclusions that have been already put forward on the internet?
Dana you got it! BTW, for future reference, it was the Bambi eyes. :)

Ill see what I can do about posting it online too. Of course, its not close to being done, I have until March, so I know exactly what Simon and Dana face.

Newcj, basically my paper is a study of the themes, metaphors, and story of seasons 6 and 7, here is my abstract:

One of the most controversial episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer occurs in the sixth season when Spike attempts to rape Buffy in an attempt to prove that she loves him. Academic literature on the subject has mainly focused on Spike and the hero journey he undertakes, but within that literature, a pattern emerges that speaks to the moral, ethical, and feminist themes the show embraced in the final two seasons of the shows run. The final two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer presented us with themes regarding morality and feminism that seem antithetical to the foundation the show set forth in previous seasons, and what’s more, I contend that this new approach to the story is one of the critical points of contention when these seasons are brought forth for debate. By answering the three questions presented here, I hope to advance a position about the cultural impact these seasons had on fans, academia, and the show itself. First, I will critically examine both the cultural and internal impact of the attempted rape in “Seeing Red” (6-19). Second, I will critically examine the themes of feminism in seasons six and seven and reveal how these concepts are contrary to the themes present in the first five seasons. Finally, I will discuss the moral and ethical impact of the show’s themes as they pertain to the final two seasons, and I will bring these three questions together into a cogent position on the moral, feminist, and cultural impact of seasons six and seven. By doing so, I hope to reveal a flaw that pervades academic literature on the subject and a general failing of those two seasons that is neither insignificant nor easily washed away.

ETA: I havent heard the conclusion that Im going for in this paper before, so I would guess that its an attempt to bring something new to the table. Tara's death will also play a role in my thesis, though it is not studied like other papers have presented. But really the question I began this study with was this: Why is it that academic literature focuses directly on Spike in Seeing Red? Not SHOULD they have done so but why, and if you notice, I think the show embraced that idea too. From that, I deduced a parallel between the show and the fandom in general, and from that I deduced the three questions that will be the foundation of my thesis which I believe is completely new.

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-01-04 00:02 ]
newcj: though you were very careful in how you couched your question, I've been an academic for 27 years now, with many papers and books to my credit, and you have very slyly seemed to set up a situation where you are potentially attempting to dismiss Jerry's conclusions on the basis of him building his research around his conclusion; this is something scholars do not do, though they may enter into their scholarship with a belief as to what their research may show (for example, I study manipulation for back pain, and I believe it will help, though my research may show otherwise). In my world, this is a fairly hurtful suggestion and one that should be very carefully made, and I offer this comment in a friendly way.

Fandom is interesting. I don't expect everyone who offers an opinion to be able to provide academic support for it; some people just like what they like and don't like what they don't like and there is not a thing wrong with that- nor is there with someone trying to fit other's writings to their own heartfelt feelings about what they see on TV. I am sure there is an interesting paper in this, but here's the rub. I don't, for example, care much for S6 and S7, and I don't actually have to have any reason at all not to. I can hate it, not hate it, write about it, not write about it, whatever. If I write about it, I can share my writings with others, who may agree or not. I can have preconceptions about the show, the characters, whatever. Some people don't like Tara because she is gay. I think that is wrong, but that is their right. They don't have to like her, and they can look to someone else's writings for support for what they feel. If they share, they may get challenged.

When you say "By your title, your paper seems to be meant as a straightforward supporting document for a conclusion that has already been reached rather than being a paper in which you analyze a work to find a conclusion," how could Jerry have come to his conclusion without analyzing the work in some fashion? That would imply he did not watch it, but hates it going in. No, he watched it, and he came to understand, via some process, that he did not like it (if indeed he does not like it, simplifying issues here), and now is offering his reasons and rationales why he does not like it. It is one thing to be a Kitten, for example, but at least their bias is known, and that is why they gather together, right?

It may be that I am not understanding what you are suggesting with your post, so maybe you can clarify? *** bambi eyes, again***
Jerry, sounds like a very interesting paper. I love season six, passionately, nearly irrationally; my pick for the "best" season is probably season three or five, but my favourite has been six ever since I saw it. The fact that there is so much legitimate criticism of season six--all of it, in my opinion, defensible, but not without great difficulty--has always been hard for me to accept, not because the criticism is unfair or poorly done, but because I have a habit of taking criticism against, ahem, my favourite season as a criticism of me. I'm sure papers have been written on this, but territorialism and personal identification is a huge component of fandom, which might well explain why arguments get so heated. Or is this statement too obvious even to mention?
Thanks Jerryjerryst3161 . Though both can be valid, in academic papers I prefer new, so that will be good from my point of veiw...and what else really matters. ;-)

Dana5140 I was not being sly except to try to avoid suggestions like yours. The title "The Moral, Ethical, and Feminist Failings of Seasons 6 and 7: How Joss Whedon's Message Died on top of a Tower." seems to clearly state conclusions rather than questions to be looked at, comparisons to be made etc. I was simply trying to determine if the title was a reflection of the paper or simply a reflection of a title style I was not familiar with. It sounds like the latter.

Academia is huge. It is very likely that my own background, which is probably very different from yours or Jerryst3161's, is in areas where the conclusions rarely make up the title of the paper and it therefore raises questions for me. ...Questions that I hesitated to ask for the very reason that I am having to write this explanation.

It may be common in certain areas of study or it may be a particular style to have your conclusions make up your title when in fact the paper is an examination of questions. On the other hand there are certainly Meta studies, that are not considered bad scholorship, that compile work that has been done in a particular area specifically to draw or support conclusions. If I have read the original studies, I am not always interested in reading the meta analysis...although sometimes I am. I'm wacky that way, people who try to put me in a box are usually wrong.

I hope that answers your question.

Not in answer to anybody:
One of the interesting things about opinions, academic or otherwise concerning BtVS is the way that they reflect the background and interest of the analyst. Although one could say that about anything, it has seemed to me that the people interested in BtVS are unusually diverse as well as being extremely passionate and verbal. That combination seems to mean that in the case of BtVS, people who view things through different windows of interest passionately think through their opinions and then are very verbal about them.

I am still getting used to reading analysis of BtVS from a totally political viewpoint for instance, or for that matter from the point of view of a comic book fan. It can sometimes be very difficult to put aside my own reflexive analysis of everything as a view of the human experience first and foremost and everything else as secondary. I find it a good exercise to try to step behind the eyes of the analyst in these things and try to see from their perspective. I have found that I can only do it for a fairly short time before own inclinations distract me, but it is still interesting. On the other hand I did have a spontaneous mental flash of what Ats looked like when viewed as a superhero the other night after reading and viewing a bunch of the comics posts that have been on Whedonesque lately and then watching an Angel episode. I guess some of it is sinking in a little, but I think it will be a while before I have that happen while watching Ibsen...and that is probably a good thing. ;-)
newcj, in health care it is often the title alone that will grab someone's attention, the only means to get them to read your paper out of thousands published that month. Thus, it is common and expected that a title will reflect the conclusion of the paper, ie. Spinal manipulation is effective for treating low back pain, would be a fine title and might lead someone to read the abstract and then the paper. I was a medical editor for 18 years and am now a clinical researcher, so I bring that hard scientific perspective to my comments above. I am not writing as a cultural theorist, though that is where my personal interests lie. In the case of Jerry's title, I find it intriguing and not at all wrong; it tells you what the paper is going to be about, and as you can see has already generated substantial interest. It did its job.

I tend to view Buffy through the lens of gender theory, queer theory and also through a buddhist lens as well, reflecting my interest in Tara as a representation of boddhisattva Tara, compassionate savioress of the world, she who helps protect women. I have less interest in Buffy as viewed through other lens- political, musical, linguistic, etc. But all is fun to read.

I just wish that there was more scholarship on Tara, and you can see my well-known bias against S6 and S7 in my love of Tara.
I would would like to read both of these papers, please :-)

"The Moral, Ethical, and Feminist Failings of Seasons 6 and 7: How Joss Whedon's Message Died on top of a Tower.", and

"Compassionate Savioress of the World: Tara as a Representation of the Tibetan Boddhisattva Tara" (when it's ready)

I am doing ***Puss in Boots eyes*** not ***Bambi eyes*** if that helps.
Newcj, this one is for you. Its a small part of what im thinking, this isnt an excerpt mind you, but is a response to someone who thought the empowerment spell felt wrong somehow and that while Angel came out smelling like a hero, Buffy didnt. Couldnt it be a double standard within a male/female role dichotomy? Maybe but it ties in perfectly to what I will be arguing in the rest of the paper, and how I tie it all together. I wont give you my conclusion because thats giving away the ending, but you might be able to guess where I am going and where I think seasons 6 and 7 failed...

And Moley I will certainly send you a copy, the puss in boots eyes work too!



In the 1960's, radical feminism began to gain a stronger foot-hold within the liberalistic and social feminism of the time, and at its core, radical feminism is seen as an extreme sect of feminism. There are some who see it as undermining the core doctrines and ideologies of the feminist movement, while others see it as a movement to replace the misogynistic with misandric, and then there are some who maintain that equality means not the exclusion of men but the inclusion of men within a fair and just system. Still others see it as a necessary approach to the goal all feminist movements maintain, the betterment and equality of women through an undermining of the patriarchal system that oppresses women through dichotomies of power. Often times Ive further argued that seasons 1-5 and seasons 6 and 7 are two poles in a dichotomy that inherently inhabit the stories each present, and what's more, Ive argued that there is a shift in the feminist ideals of the show between seasons 5 and 6, whereby one set embraces the more liberalistic feminism of modern feminists and the other set embraces a more radical approach to feminism. I dont think its a surprise that in seasons 6 and 7 we are faced with the castration of the penis monster, the crushing of Warren's misogynistic magic orbs, and the defeat of a clearly misogynistic priest by splitting him in half from "head" to head, but what I think is truly interesting is the dichotomy presented between episodes such as Graduation Day P2, Primevil, and Checkpoint with episodes such as Doublemeat Palace, Seeing Red, End of Days, and Chosen. On the one hand, Primevil presents us with a scenario where gender roles are reversed and yet victory is the product of a joint effort between men and women alike, and in that sense, the same can be said of Grad Day P2 and Checkpoint. In particular, Checkpoint provides us not with a scenario where the evil is a misogynistic jerk and where the evil patriarchal system needs to be defeated in order to garner victory, it presents us a scenario where working together, men and women, on equal footing, can work together for the betterment of the world. On the other hand, DP, SR, EOD, and Chosen all present us with scenarios where the woman will overcome the man on her own, where Angel cant help Buffy defeat Caleb because this is something she needs to do alone in End of Days, and where the patriarchal system will be defeated through the power of women and the sharing of that power through the empowerment spell.

There really is that dichotomy there, I think, but to make a cogent position, there is a manner in which to tie all this together into a plausible conclusion. Why does the empowerment spell feel wrong? Before I get there, let me give some really obvious history: seasons 6 and 7 occurred after 9/11 in 2001, they occurred in a world changed by the terror attacks of that day, and in the State of the Union of that year, the President of the United States declared that you were either with us or with the terrorists. Though I cant say that the polarization of America began on that day, it certainly gained a new and powerful footing within the politics of America on that day, suddenly we were all members of red states or blue states, suddenly we were all either liberals or conservatives, but more than that, we were then all either extremists or not. Politicians won landslide victories by claiming not the middle of the spectrum, but the extreme poles of the spectrum, more and more the liberal conservative or the conservative liberal were removed from the legislature, the judiciary, and an all out war on the middle began in earnest within the country. And suddenly there was little room for the those who occupied the middle ground. Why? Because we were fighting extremists. So we did so by becoming extremists.

In the culture of our time, its no surprise that literature and television, art forms that for centuries were affected by the politics and changing times of the culture they inhabit, began to see extremist views within the boundaries of Hollywood. Movements like HUAC and the actions of the Hollywood 10, show us that Hollywood is not immune from the effects of the political and social, and for Buffy the tonal shift became apparent as not simply a by-product of its shift from The WB to UPN, but as more a reflection of the world at large (who didnt seen a parallel between season 7 of Buffy and the lead up to the Iraqi war?). Of course, it wasnt limited to the feminism of the show, it reached beyond to include the morality, ethics, and fundamental nature of the characters themselves. So what does that all mean? It means that the polarization of the country was felt even with television and art, it means that the fandoms of many shows were effected, and in the case of BTVS, it meant that the polarization of the fandom (something that had occurred before seasons 6 and 7 mind you) truly began in earnest, as now we see the Spuffy vs Bangel debate, the hatred of certain actors over others, the division of the artist vs the actor, a hatred of Spike over a love of Spike, and more than anything else, we see the divide between those who hate the final seasons and those who love them, with very few who inhabit the middle. Everyone falls into categories, everyone has their own opinion, but its more than that too, its the extremism of the positions that makes it clear that there are those who became just as polarized within the Buffy fandom as did the rest of the country. Suddenly it wasnt only blue state vs red state, it was Spike vs Angel, it wasnt only liberal vs conservative, it was Joss vs Sarah, and it wasnt only extremist vs not, it was hatred vs love of seasons 6 and 7. We all seem to fall into categories.

The empowerment spell isnt wrong to some because of Buffy's motivations, its because the feminism and presentation of gender roles that enveloped seasons 6 and 7 made it feel, to some, like the traditional girls nature to nurture was no longer in the hands of the woman. As much as we talk about season 7, there are many who would argue that Buffy took on the traditional roles of the male patriarchal system, and when that happens (without resolution to destroy that idea), the empowerment spell feels wrong because Buffy wasnt the traditional girl anymore. She was the traditional man, and when we consider that possibility, its clear why the empowerment spell may have felt wrong to some. In that sense, there isnt a double standard about gender roles when it comes to Angel and Buffy, its that the polarization of Buffy didnt occur with Angel to bring about these feelings, and hence, to some, Angel's ending felt better than Buffy's. And to me, its a product of the polarization and antipathy the final two seasons presented to the viewer, and its cultural impact on the shows fans. Of course, the sphere doesnt only include Buffy, it includes, Tara, Spike, and others.

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-01-04 02:48 ]
There is another aspect here, Jerry. That is simply that in ashow that claims to be dedicated to empowering women, the empowerment spell fails to do just that, because it does not give agency to the girls who are empowered; it empowers them without asking their permission. And as we later see, in the case of Dana (great name there, btw) this may not always be to the good. When Willow activates the potentials, she does so without seeking their okay to do so; she removes choice from them, and denies thema gency and freedom to act. This flies in the face of feminist ideals of empowerment. I think this is often overlooked in critiques of S7, which slide more toward making a correlation between Buffy's use of power metaphors and Bush's comments regarding the Iraq invasion. There is more here than meets the eye.

Moley, some day, some day... I will describe how Tara becomes mother to the force of universal chaos (Dawn as Key), lover and consort to the most powerful woman in the world (Willow) and willing to give up that relation in order to save that woman she loves, confessor to the protector of the universe (Buffy, confessing to Tara about her affair with Spike and Tara not judging her, the only one to do so), etc. and how she helps free us from the 8 temptations, etc. White Tara takes on the suffering of women to save them; Green Tara fights for them.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2007-01-04 05:57 ]
It only removes the agency of the empowered slayers if they are forced to use their newly gained slayer abilities to fight evil. If the numbers are enough that those who'd prefer to pass on the whole deal are able to it still gives them a choice as to what to do about their new found powers.
Well, that's a little finesse there, helcat; it still does not give them agency with regard to whether or not they gain power- they have no choice in that whatsoever, and that power will alter their lives in ways we cannot know. No matter what, no matter whether we have power or not, we always have choice about what to do, so that really changes nothing in that regard.
I remember when this came up before and I (eventually) plumped on the side of 'on balance they have more choices now than before so there was a net empowerment' but, yeah, the lack of consent angle has always bothered me (not that I blame Buffy, it was total war in the worst way and she made a tough choice but I would love to see the issue addressed in the comics since surely some of the awakened Slayers will have doubts about what's happened to them after all the dust settles ?).

(I don't think helcat's point is 'finessing' things though, in fact, in earlier discussions it was the line of argument that changed my mind from 'the slayer empowerment was morally inconsistent and pretty hard to defend philosophically' - note, but still probably necessary and largely positive - to my current thinking)

That sounds pretty interesting jerryst3161 though I already disagree ;), for instance about 'General Buffy' not being 'destroyed'. Surely pointing out that her autocratic, isolationist approach was wrong is the entire painful gist of 'Empty Places' when even her oldest, most loyal friends won't follow her ? Then, in 'Touched', Buffy goes alone to face Caleb and wins the first victory the good guys have seen in many episodes by strictly not adhering to the stereotypically male approach to power (i.e. she avoids confrontation, wins not through brute force but by speed and agility - both physical and mental, and generally seems to be much more her quippy, sarcastic old self. In other words she succeeds by using her strengths rather than trying to appropriate those of the male patriarchy).

(and Angel's ending was appropriate to that show in a way that the 'simple' idealism of Buffy's ending wouldn't have been but I remember at the time a lot of people feeling Angel had 'gone dark' by allowing Drogyn to be killed - and putting him in that position in the first place - and had to some extent lost his hero status so I think there're also issues there)

...and Chosen all present us with scenarios where the woman will overcome the man on her own...

This made me smile because i've personally defended the idea that Buffy and the other Potentials would've eventually won the final battle without Spike's help after people mention that 'Chosen's message is not a feminist one because Buffy 'needed a guy to win her battles for her'. Seeing it flipped around is kinda cool and refreshing ;).

(if I do *cross-eyes* at you can I have a copy too ? ;)
Hey, saje, I sort of disagree with you on the new slayers having more choices; they just have different choices, is all. There is no way to know if they have more choices, since that is an abstract and we have no way of assessing what choices they do and did have. I am not being pedantic here, just trying to support my contention.

You're taking a very utilitarian perspective, ie. the greatest good argument. Which gets back to my point regarding agency; it might have helped Buffy win the battle, but at a cost with regard to each individual life affected. The new slayers are therefore pawns in the battle, expendable. And none have had time to come to grips with what they have become; they were activated at best only weeks before the war starts. Where is this any different, really, from (using my own era) those kids whose draft numbers were under 50 getting drafted and sent to Viet Nam and used as cannon fodder, while those over 50 did not? Those under #50 had no choice in the matter; they lacked agency, and they became pawns.

There's no right answer here. I recently beame the Human Protections Administrator at the college where I work, and ethical issues interest me greatly. My own view of S7, which I find the weakest season of Buffy, is that it relied far too heavily on war/Bush metaphors, either knowingly or unknowingly, wtih Buffy parrotting the Bush line regarding our invasion of Iraq- "I'm the decider." S7 was supposed to be a return to the roots of the show, but I think it failed in that regard. I realize that many will vehemently disagree with me, but that, combined with the loss of Tara, a weakened and sidelined Willow, a series of new and unknown and unintersting slayerettes, Andrew, bad writing (I mean, Buffy thrown out of her own house?), and a poor choice of a new lover for Willow (and all that entailed) truly reduced my viewing pleasure. But that's me.
People who were drafted were forced to fight a war. Buffy empowered slayers everywhere to allow those who were there to fight her war--who presumably agreed to fight--but she didn't force others to.

If you take slayer power as a metaphor for political power, then what Buffy has really done is not draft potentials all around the world, but give them strength. I see it more as something like giving women the right to vote, or (perhaps a better analogy) to enter the workforce, in a society where such right did not exist: the possibility is there for a woman to use her power, now, but she is not forced to. Inevitably, any power that's given to someone leads to increased responsibility. So, for example, Dana breaking from the pressures of her newfound slayerhood could be taken as women cracking from the pressure of high-power, high-stress jobs, which they are unused to and which are essentially male-dominated. Give the powerless power, and some will not know what to do with it: it seems a regrettable but necessary trade-off.

As saje said, with regards to the Buffy/Bush metaphors, I think the season tried to show the problem with the autocratic "I am the decider" line of logic, with her being thrown out of her house and eventually sharing power rather than hoarding it, the way she had been doing. This what I think the writers were going for. I think that the execution was too muddled for that to come all the way through, though; Buffy asking "what do you think?" to her close gang and saying "this is the part where you have a choice" doesn't actually show the choice very clearly. We see a kinder, gentler Buffy in "Chosen", but that's mostly because the plot was manipulated to allow that. I like the empowerment spell and Spike's sacrifice thematically, but it's contrived on a textual level. I'm a big fan of season six, but I think that season seven is the weakest season, though still not without its strengths.
Well, the way I see it Dana5140, the new slayers can still do everything they could before (including lead a normal life if they so choose, note i'm going with the 'sufficient numbers so they don't have to fight' line of thought) and they can now also do other, superhuman things so it seems fairly clear cut (to me ;) that they have _more_ choices as well as different ones.

(that said, previously, someone - maybe Haunt ? - brought up the point about government regulation of Slayers to control them and someone else - only it may also have been Haunt cos I can't remember ;) - talked about whether they'd be allowed to compete at athletics since the playing field wouldn't be level. These are great questions that i'd also really like to see addressed in the comics and surely make it clear that the mass-empowerment wasn't a totally clear cut positive act, even if that was almost definitely the intention)

I am adopting a Utilitarian approach, sometimes it's useful (even if it's also, IMO, fundamentally flawed as a working system) mainly because I think that, unfortunately, sometimes you have to choose between 'evils' and try (if you're right thinking) to follow the path that leads to most good or, at worst, least harm.

In Buffy's case the only strategy she could see to win an imminent and inevitable war for the entire Earth, maybe existence (and the lives of everyone in it) was the mass empowerment of the Potentials. Was it a morally grey decision ? Almost definitely, IMO. Did she abuse the free-will of the Slayers-in-waiting ? Yep, but surely not as much as dying would have (and if she'd lost we'd all be dead, that was The First's ultimate aim).

It's interesting to me also that you choose Vietnam as your conscription example when, IMO, WWII is a much closer parallel. Buffy's war was very plainly about good vs evil, very clearly a war worth fighting and, moreover, one that needed to be fought and in those circumstances I think conscription is a necessary evil. It does raise an interesting question though about the duties inherent in citizenship and our part of the 'social contract' (and to go back to Bush, whether and how many freedoms we should give up in a so-called war on terror, even when the terror's a fantastical one).

I like WilliamTheB's comparison to women in the workplace, especially because it includes a lot of extra pressures, much as the new slayers might feel (e.g. now that women can have careers, there's sometimes pressure on them even from other women to not choose housewife as their life path since it's seen as taking a step backwards which, it seems to me, also applies to someone with slayer powers who chooses not to exercise them for the common good).

(totally agree with you though Dana, in these situations there's no real correct answer, we just have to try and muddle through making the best moral decisions we can)
I agree, WilliamTheB, that the primary aim of the empowerment spell was to make true slayers of the potentials who were there in the hellmouth, for the short term goal of winning that particular battle. However, I also share your concerns, Dana5140, about the lack of agency for the wider group of potentials.

Ultimately I think the spell was a very satisfying way to end the series because it shifted the paradigm. There were to be no more Buffy the Vampire Slayer shows and in a sense there didn't need to be, because the Buffyverse had changed. Of course now there are going to be Season 8 comics (hurray) and the 'new world' will have to be addressed. Both Buffy and Angel as shows stressed the repercussions of any spell, and it will be fascinating to see what Joss and the other writers do with the repercussions of the empowerment spell. I'm sure the questions about agency highlighted through Dana in Angel will be further addressed. I've always wondered in particular about the impact on the younger potentials as represented by the baseball-playing girl.
And it appears that this is one of the issues Joss intends to investigate, since he has stated that one focus of the new comic is to look at certain of the new slayers and feature one or two of them. Which, I have to say, is not my interest. I just don't much care about these new slayers, from a fan persepctive; I don't know them, I am not invested in them, and I do not experience the program through them. That falls to Willow, in my case.

Once activated, how many slayers said no? We do not know. How many are there? We do not know. What kind of agency do they have? We get glimpses- the abused girl standing up to her abuser indicates her growing agency, her ability to act. But I am not sure I comfortable with the work metaphor you both offer.

I agree that Buffy forced no one to help her fight The First. However, I also have to note that she created the situation where there were people, young women, available to help her. That did not exist prior to Willow's spell. And I have serious problems with Willow's spell for other reasons- I think that spell is viewed as wiping the slate clean of her transgressions during S6, especially after Tara died. In fact, my recollection of the shooting script sort of refers to this. But Willow murdered 2 people, and nearly accomplished what the First was trying to do, end the world (and I think we can argue if The First really wants to end all life- for without life there can be no good, and therefore there can be no evil, which he thrives on)- does this one single spell provide absolution for those crimes? Are the cosmic scales balanced? I never felt they did, and I was troubled by Kennedy's comment "You are a goddess." Was that literal? Was that figurative? Is Willow now the most powerful woman on earth? If so, what does that mean? This was nother problem I have with S7.
Aw, just for me? Thanks for the post, Jerry. (Take note folks, no eyes were involved…but then I didn’t get a copy of the paper... Oh well, the eyes thing isn’t really me anyway. ;-) ) It was a very interesting and informative, though necessarily quick read because I am at work. I want to read it over again before I comment on it directly. It does make my thoughts (below) from last night and this morning seem even more relevant in that it seems you might be putting forth an interestingly non-polarizing analysis but are using a polarizing title. Here is what I wrote before reading your post about the thoughts that lead you to write your paper:

“I realized a few hours after I got home and the work-induced haze lifted from my brain, (Beware kiddies, your brain can also atrophy while working as a cog in the corporate machine.) that I had not even mentioned the most obvious reason for my questions and one that should probably be mentioned from a strictly informational point of view.

Language is one of my fields and the use of language is something that I cannot help but pay attention to, even when I am in my brain-dead work mode. (Ok, I’ll stop about work.) Decades ago, one of the few things that caught my attention in my 9th grade public speaking course and has always been of interest to me, was the discussion on the uses of “emotionally charged language”. Words in that category should generally be used consciously and for a specific purpose. When used in titles, they are a very strong signal as to the desired audience and usually the tone of the piece. Political and religious communications will often use them to galvanize the core constituents/faithful. In many cases it will also serve to anger those in the opposition enough to say or do something that will further galvanize their loyal base creating a win/win situation -- if you are not interested in converting the undecideds. If, on the other hand, one is going for the people who have not made a decision, then the use of emotionally charged language is more risky. In popular literature people like Al Franken are a good example of using emotionally charged language in a title. A title like 'Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations' is aimed at delighting people who are liberal Democrats, (and/or who don’t like Rush Limbaugh,) angering hard-core Republicans and getting publicity from both. Because it is also humorous, the publishers can be hopeful some people in the middle who are tolerant of political humor would also buy it. Without the humor, anyone who is not interested in partisan political fighting would almost certainly avoid it.

’The Moral, Ethical, and Feminist Failings of Seasons 6 and 7: How Joss Whedon's Message Died on top of a Tower.’

In the case of Jerry’s title, in context, the word “failings” is emotionally charged as is the use of “died” in the last sentence. One would assume, therefore, that the audience is meant to be polarized. As such that was part of what made me curious as to the nature and purpose of the paper. If Jerry was looking for the broadest audience possible or to convert the undecided, the title would usually either ask an interesting question to be answered (which is sometimes a way of sneaking in the emotionally charged language while holding on to the larger audience) or state the conclusion without emotionally charged language. Lame, off the cuff while I’m at work examples include: “Moral, Ethical and Feminist Changes in BtVS Seasons 6 & 7: Did Joss Whedon’s Message Die on Top of a Tower?” An inflammatory subject is used to catch attention, but with a discussion implied and a certainty of what the conclusion is only available if you read the paper or come to the presentation. “Dueling messages: The Reversal of the Moral, Ethical and Feminist Stance in Seasons 6 & 7 of BtVS” The conclusion is stated without emotionally charged language, thereby implying an open invitation to a broad audience, though in a less catchy way.”

After reading your posts, I am especially curious what made you choose to go in the direction you did with your title. (Geez, I’m such a language nerd.)

I’ll leave my own opinions on S6 & 7 within the context of your post for later, though I am in agreement with the points WilliamTheB makes above.

I am drawning a blank. Willow murdered *two* people? Who did Willow kill besides Warren? ...Not that only murdering 1 makes it okay...
I have to agree Dana5140, that I'm much more interested in reading about the scoobies than about the potentials in the comics, too. And, yes, I find Kennedy's 'You are a Goddess' unsettling. I'd always taken it literally - hence the capitalisation! For me, Willow should never be able to loose her culpability for Warren's murder.

I feel I should say that I really like the later seasons of Buffy. Season 6 is probably my favourite season. It had never occured to me to see the later seasons as changing the depiction of feminism until I read jerryst3161's posts above. I've always seen them as primarily about Buffy learning to accept her responsibilities as an independent adult. One, thing which I do keep wondering however, is how much does the order in which you saw the seasons matter? I only saw Buffy on DVD (I belong to the 'no show with a title like that can be relevant to me' camp. Opps!). I saw seasons 5-7 and then the earlier seasons as my girlfriend didn't think I'd stick with it if we started with season 1! Maybe I just wasn't as aware of any potential change of direction with the later seasons when I watched them, so they didn't grate.

newcj, what you say about language use is fascinating. As a history PhD student who regularly has to submit paper titles up to nine months in advance I'd hazard a guess that there may also be a very practical reason why some of the titles in the schedule, unlike jerryst3161's, are more neutral:the authors themselves didn't know quite what their conclusions would be at the time of submission. I often submit very generic titles about topics which I know I will have worked on by the time of the conference, but about which I couldn't use emotionally charged language if I tried!
Willow also killed Rack. She drained him of his power and left him dead. People often forget that because Rack was a pusher and evil.

newcj, many years ago, Arnold Relman, then editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, wrote an influential editorial entitled "The editor's right to be provocative." The idea was that one could go ahead and raise issues, take stances, that were not popular, that would garner attention and engender debate. You are, it seems to me, asking Jerry to be dispassionate in his paper and in his titling. I see no reason he has to be. There is no rule that a cultural theory paper be written in any particular way, that a writer cannot present his or her beliefs, that they have to even be fair. What is fair here, anyway? Jerry believes what he believes and has written a paper to discuss those beliefs. Anyone can like it or not. And sure, he chose an "emotionally charged" title, and obviously for effect. But so what? I just am not sure why this bothers you so- had he written one that lauded S6 and 7 rather than apparently decried it, I'd have likely seen my blood pressure rise a little, but then I would go and read the darned thing and prepare to gird my loins for battle (and if he had, would this have engaged you as much?). Which in my case means academic debate, since that is the world I live in- arguing issues, always friendly like, but standing up for my beliefs. despite his title, his conclusion remains the same conclusion, right? So why not be clear about it up front?
And Willow very nearly killed Giles, and sent the fireball after Jonathan and Andrew that was intended to bury them.

I agree that Willow never paid the price for her season six transgressions, not really, and that's the number one thing I'm looking for in the comics. The season started off with these issues up in the air and Willow having learned something--her sympathy for Anya, her and Xander discussing power/control metaphors, Andrew's fear of her, and of course CWDP. Then they introduced Kennedy and apparently thought that getting another significant other, one who has never seen her dark side, was the solution to her pathological attachment to Tara which led her to wipe her memory and try to destroy the world when she was gone.

I never got Kennedy's "goddess" line either, or Willow's "Oh. My. Goddess" which apparently Joss lifted from a "Charmed" episode title.

What I wouldn't give for a real conversation between Willow and Spike, or Willow and Faith about redemption and all that, or some revelatory scenes between Willow and any of the other Scoobies (Buffy, Xander, Giles, Dawn, Anya) after Kennedy and the other potentials arrived. There were a few really late in the game (W/X in "Empty Places" and W/G in "End of Days") but too little, too late. Really, the closest we got to a consoling, "I now understand that darkness inside you" after midway through the season was her scene with Wes in "Orpheus."
I realize this is no longer likely to be seen but:

1-I realize Buffy was never meant to be PErfect Heroine but she was I felt, meant by joss to be seen as mainly positive. Which is why it puzzles me, given Joss's own poltics, why he would draw so many parallels between her and our current POTUS. Then again,a s I've said beforer, he was cretaively tired by then.

2-I see the point in the empowerment of multiple world-wide SLayers was involuntary and so depresonalizing. But it was essentially (from their individual points of view) a mostly positive change which ameliorates it. I personally find the main female-empowerment aspect to the EMpowerment Spell is that, in eliminating the one-girl-in-all-the-world uniqueness, it means then that the previousr equirement to abandon normal lifestyle an dlife expectancy both no longer applies. And so that limtiation is taken off Slayer abilities.

3-I agree that that one thing can't be seen as accomplishing Willow's full redemption from what went before. Then again, redemtion isn't meant to eb easy in the Jossverse and presumbaly it's a continuing process for her as for Angel and Spike.
As for outright punishments, well, in my own AU after Tara is resurrected she soves a good one into Willow's labanza....

4-As to DarkWillow's misdeeds, well, most fot ehm weren't irreversibly accomplished. The ones thatw ere, yes, by my ehtics Willow was wrong, flat out. But also, by those same standards, neither Warren nor Rhack received anything they didn't deserve, so to me *they* are not the agggrieved parties in any legitimate way.
"This made me smile because i've personally defended the idea that Buffy and the other Potentials would've eventually won the final battle without Spike's help after people mention that 'Chosen's message is not a feminist one because Buffy 'needed a guy to win her battles for her'. Seeing it flipped around is kinda cool and refreshing ;)."

LOL, not if Spike is the woman and Buffy is the man. Reversed gender roles and all that...

Newcj, I chose the title because it relates directly to my conclusion, and honestly, I dont care if its inflammatory. Thats not a dig at you I promise, just the goodness truth. Its almost a sentence directly from my conclusion, so in that sense, its just a manner in which to tell people what the paper will be. If they are inflammed, good, because I want people to think anyway...
I find you can get people to think without being inflammatory. Oftentimes more thinking happens when people don't start out on the defensive.
But helcat, we're not talking the Iraq war here, it's just some cultural musings. What is there to be defensive about? Liking S6 and 7 and opposed to not liking it? Thinking Joss made a mistake in his writing? It's just fun! :-)
So if it's all so unimportant and trivial why do we need 'inflammatory' papers on the issue? I enjoy discussing the show, if I didn't I wouldn't do it so much. Personally I prefer it in a non-confrontational manner that's all. Maybe I've been around the fandom too long where someone's preferences in storyline/character become fuel for attacks on their moral views of the world. I'm not saying Jerry is planning to do that in the slightest but after that kind of experience within this very fandom I prefer a less 'inflammatory' approach all round. That's all.
I don't really see a problem. It seems an appropriate title to me, particularly since Jerry's essay will (from the abstract and the first few paragraphs) talk about the polarized fan reaction to seasons six and seven. And I don't think the title is inflammatory: if the title was "Why fans of Season Six and Seven are wrong and stupid," or "Why Joss Whedon and his writing staff are idiots" then certainly the title would be inappropriate and inflammatory. Describing the flaws of the season is fair game, to me, even if I don't personally agree. It makes me want to read the paper, so it accomplished its job.

Here's inflammatory, IMHO: there is one review I read of Buffy season five, somewhere, where the author said something along the lines of, "Now, when asking people about their favourite Buffy season, some usually say two or four, and there are some frightening people I'd rather not talk to who say six or seven, but most say three or five." (emphasis mine) I understand that the author was probably joking, but it still seemed unnecessarily vicious towards fans who didn't share his view.
"Newcj, I chose the title because it relates directly to my conclusion, and honestly, I dont care if its inflammatory. Thats not a dig at you I promise, just the goodness truth. Its almost a sentence directly from my conclusion, so in that sense, its just a manner in which to tell people what the paper will be. If they are inflammed, good, because I want people to think anyway..."

Jerry, I don't take it as a dig. I asked and I appreciate you answering honestly because I was truly interested in your motivation and intention and whether the title matched you intended result. Thanks.

To be clear Dana, no where did I suggest or mean to suggest Jerry should have a different title or that his paper should have a different tone. I went out of my way to explain my interest in the subject of language and how it is used. Gaining insight and information was always my intent, not trying to influence anyone. When I am trying to influence someone, I state my opinion and the reasons. That is not what I was doing. I am not part of any fandom wars. I have never been a part of any fandom wars. I never want to be a part of any fandom wars. Even though they turn me off, I do not even want to be the idiot person who tries to stop a fandom war. To be honest I am not even a real member of the fandom and doubt I ever will be. I love BtVS, I am slightly addicted to Whedonesque and I am extremely fond of many of its individual members, but I am not fond of groups or the effect people have on each other in large groups. So no, as I said before, please don't imagine some secret agenda, it just makes me tired.
No agenda considered, implied or even marginally thought of. I like language as well, but maybe come at it differently than you, what with being an editor in a bioscientific field and all. :-)

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.



joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home