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September 23 2007

From Suburban Heroines to Serious Superchicks. Australian television's women are getting better, stronger, faster.

"Joss Whedon, Buffy's creator, is credited with remaking the whole idea of the heroine. Buffy didn't need a bloke to guide or control her. She wasn't butch, she wasn't tough in the traditional sense. She liked pretty clothes. Her heart could be broken. But boy, could she kick arse. And you can see her influence in everyone from Veronica Mars and Claire Bennett of Heroes to Desperate Housewives' Bree Van de Kamp: pretty, feminine, with complex personal lives, but with a powerful sense of themselves and the smarts to rise to any challenge."

I like how my country can't write a news article without the words 'bloody' or 'arse' every few lines, often written by the journalist.
Personally, Bree reminds me more of Glory.
Oh, as usual, dear...

It's so much more than this...it's all about all of the relationships, and how each character grows and reacts to the others...if it were all about "the heroine", why would we care so desperately about all of the other characters?

And Buffy, even being the Chosen One, did in fact need "the bloke"...figuratively speaking, to beat Adam, and others, too...

It's called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", yes, but it's so, so much more than that.

Bored now with the "re-invented the heroine" thing...Joss re-invented TV and made it literature, and art, and literature and art of a high order.

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2007-09-23 04:05 ]
What happened to harder?
Bored now with the "re-invented the heroine" thing...Joss re-invented TV and made it literature, and art, and literature and art of a high order.

Sorry, but Joss Whedon didn't do this. I love the man, but he is not the person who made TV an art form. He was proceeded by many extraordinary writers and directors in elevating TV to the place it is now. He certainly added to television's extraordinary reputation, but he didn't reinvent it all by himself.
Sue Turnbull lectures at my Uni! So much prouder of my University now. Haha
Chris inVirginia : I think you're setting up a false dichotomy here. It surely can be both - the two are not mutually exclusive - and that of itself is surely an important aspect of Joss' influence. I'm also inclined to agree with crossoverman in thinking that there is other 'tv as literature' out there and has been for some time. To the extent that the article suggests that Buffy was all about the female _audience_ I'm with you though - the writer seems to be mixing two different arguments.

On a different point - as someone living in Melbourne I'm often chuffed to see how the journalists at the Age are quick to make Buffy references. I think it's in part because they've got a number of local academics they can call on. (escapist_dream are you taking one of Sue Turnbull's courses ?) and a sympahetic venue with acmi which has put on lots of Buffy events. I remember how gutted I was when Angel ended and I couldn't go to the forum for fear of spoilers. I'd come late to the show via dvds and stayed away from tv to maximise enjoyment of s4 which I'd still not seen.

This morning, when I saw the link here before picking up the 'paper' paper, I assumed it had come from the 'preview and tv' section but, no, it was in 'news extra' accompanied by Women outside of the box . My take : it was brought forward having been intended for next week or later, in more focused form, to coincide with the new Australian series 'Rainshadow' and got inserted to fill space that would have gone to politics if the Federal election had been called this week.
Meredith Grey? Fuggedaboutit.
crossoverman, we'll just have to agree to disagree, I suppose.
Dana, Grey may not be your ideal strong woman, but she makes her own idiotic choices all by herself without help from anybody. Kinda like the rest of us mere mortal women living on our own in the world.
This article says Joss is part of a postfeminist generation. I doubt he would agree.
crossoverman, we'll just have to agree to disagree, I suppose.

To the extent that you have made no argument, I guess we'll have to.

But "Twin Peaks", "Homicide Life on the Street" and "Babylon 5" all preceed Buffy the Vampire Slayer in terms of airdate and all were at various levels, literature and art of a high order. And all three of those shows were informed by television that came before them - they didn't spring fully-formed in a medium untouched by art before they aired.

Certainly, though, the 90s radically changed the way television was produced and perceived. Buffy coming in the late 90s rode in on the coattails of many creative series that expanded how television is written, constructed and executed. The genius of Whedon, of course, was he also managed to create probably the greatest high school drama in television history (debatable: there is also "My So-Called Life") - as well as making an incredible genre series. "Twin Peaks" and "Buffy" are comparable because of their combination of traditional realistic dramatic elements with the supernatural.

His great triumph of the series was putting a complicated, complex female character at the centre - something that is much harder to find in television historically. This is changing now, but there are few series prior to Buffy that had a female lead character (particularly for seven full years). Yes, the ensemble is very important - but Buffy is the key to the drama. Every episode informs us about her, whether or not it's also about Willow and Xander or Spike and Angel or Dawn and Giles.

I don't really see the point in the notion that Joss Whedon single-handedly changed television - even though he produced some brilliant television, "Buffy" being in my top five. "Twin Peaks" (my #1) is often still called the show that changed television - and in a way, it did. But it was also built on other television traditions and informed by earlier works that consisted of great writing and great characters.
Didn't mean to be flip, crossoverman, sorry.

I simply happen to disagree with you...especially on Twin Peaks...it was different, even daring, one might say, but I don't think it was on anywhere near the artistic level of Buffy.

And, well, yes, the show is called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", not "Buffy and Her Friends", so of course she's at the heart of the show. I don't think I said otherwise. Also, there have been many, many shows with a female lead throughout TV's history. Leaving aside such obvious triumphs as the Mary Tyler Moore show (which spawned two other woman-centric shows), in the genre area, you've got Wonder Woman, Xena, the Bionic Woman all pre-dating Buffy. None of them remotely as interesting as Buffy, and, of course, not anywhere near the quality, but it's simply incorrect to say that Buffy is the first show to feature a woman as its main character.

The way I've often made my case for Buffy is typically in a bar, with a beer glass in front of me...I point to the top of the glass and say, here's where you find what are generally considered to be the best that TV has offerred...and I name a few shows, allowing that whether one likes them or not, the consensus is that they're among the best. Then, the large middle of the glass, where most of the rest of TV dwells, and then, finally, to the bottom, where one finds "My Mother the Car" and suchlike. I then point to the ceiling, and say, Buffy's about a mile above the roof...it's really that good.

I believe that. It's not just really great TV, it's somehow something transcendent.

One man's opinion, of course. It's just that I don't think anything else I've ever seen on TV comes even remotely close to the depth and brilliance of Buffy. Not saying there hasn't been good and occasionally great stuff, just that nothing has ever even approached it.

There's an excellent essay in "Seven Seasons of Buffy" by Jacqueline Lichtenberg that makes the case for Buffy being not only great TV, but also Great Literature, and she does it far better than I'd ever be able to.

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