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March 03 2009

Defending Buffy to the Uninitiated. A good recap of why we loved the show in the first place.

Nice article, and I would forward it to friends... if it didn't have a few spoilers. :(

Of course, they're probably only spoilers if they THINK they're spoilers. But I don't wanna take the risk. :)
Nice. I'm glad I've never actually heard the "I won't watch it because the lead's a girl" argument, though.

I have however heard "I won't watch it because it's set in highschool and all the characters are teenagers and as such it can never be adult entertainment". But.. that's really a whole other argument.
I think maybe Jess d'Arbone needs a better boyfriend.
The only real spoiler is Angel's turning, and knowing what's coming hasn't stopped me enjoying re-watching season 2.

Nice essay.
That was a fun essay! Re. "the lead's a girl" ... it does sound dumb, but I get it a little more than I'd like. We're deep in The Wire right now (embarrassingly, I actually had a dream where Buffy and Willow found out that Stringer Bell was responsible for having Giles murdered) and it's amazing, but I'm really feeling the lack of ... well, "strong female characters." There are a couple of women in the ensemble, but it's a dude show. And it's a great show, but I miss the ladies. I had the same teensy issue with LOTR, which I also love. I wouldn't stubbornly refuse to watch a show that was all about guys, but I have to admit, it took me a long time to get to The Wire and I know the lack-of-ladies thing was a part of it. So I sort of sympathize with Jess d'Arbone's boyfriend... but he should still watch Buffy.
There are great women characters in The Wire! Kima? Rhonda Pearlman? Beadie? Snoop?

O.K.--it's a bit of a sausage-fest, I'll grant you (though Kima is definitely a fully-drawn character). It's funny, though, I can't imagine being more or less interested in a story because of the gender of the protaganists. But then, I've always enjoyed "chick flicks" as much as "guy" pictures.

But the author's boyfriend isn't objecting to Buffy because the cast's all (or predominantly) female. He's objecting because the hero is a heroine. That strikes me as rather more of a "woop woop pull up" sign.
Growing up, I never saw any shows with a female as the hero protagonist. There were shows with female protagonists to be sure, but they were never heroes in the traditional sense. I actually believed at one point that I could never identify with a female lead (despite the fact that I'm female) because I never really had. But then came along shows like The X-Files, Farscape, Dark Angel, Alias, and particularly Buffy that changed my mind forever. I've known many heroic women in real life that are just amazing. It's about time that pop culture has begun to reflect this.

[ edited by JossIzBoss on 2009-03-04 01:26 ]

[ edited by JossIzBoss on 2009-03-04 01:28 ]
Has no one considered that "Welcome to the Hellmouth" first aired 12 years ago today? 03/03/1997 :)
The lead's a girl, so the show's not worth watching? What kind of logical argument is that? I should think that would make the show more interesting to a male audience, not less.

Could someone please enlighten me? From a guy's perspective, what's the worst that could happen when watching a girl-as-lead show? You take the risk that once in a while all the girls sit around in their lingerie braiding each others hair? How could this be considered an actual problem for the average manly man viewer? Or am I too cynical?
Growing up, I never saw any shows with a female as the hero protagonist. There were shows with female protagonists to be sure, but they were never heroes in the traditional sense.

Is that entirely true? The Avengers, Policewoman, Cagney and Lacey, heck even Wonder Woman and Charlie's Angels did have "heroic" women. Admittedly, not in ways that any feminist could uncomplicatedly endorse, but didn't shows like that at least give you the idea of what a 'heroine' based show could be like?
I've heard the metaphor one. Except the person didn't get that it was metaphors, I think and just thought it looked stupid because it was about high school kids and I've just kinda given up because they are never gonna get it or Firefly because they don't like space stuff... except Doctor Who.

But never heard the but she's a girl one. Hmm. And I don't think I've heard the Just a Tv show one.
Whoa, the comments are coming fast and furious. Who would've thunk that Buffy still causes just an outburst (except from us of course)?!
snot monster -

I guess I wasn't thinking of what a heroine based show could be like, but rather was just not identifying with the ones that did exist during my formative years. I didn't watch all the television examples you mentioned, but I suppose I identified with the women of Charlie's Angels probably more than most shows. However, I identified with Steve Austin far more than Jamie Sommers as an example. As you say, all of these shows don't hold up completely as feminist examples. Maybe I didn't completely identify with these characters in the same way I couldn't identify with the traditional female roles (societal, not acting) and perceptions of femininity that were present when I was a child.
Actually, the "bionic woman" was a much better show than the "Six Million Dollar Man", but that's just my opinion :)
Madhatter -

I was so young when the two shows aired that I can't refute that statement. I only have vague recollections, but I remember liking both (and the bionic dog! ;).
Yeah, Max "a million". Silly concept that was. Well, what do you expect for 70's shows?
There are great women characters in The Wire! Kima? Rhonda Pearlman? Beadie? Snoop?

Way OT but we just finished watching the final season... I did enjoy all of those characters (and I have never seen ANYTHING like Snoop on television!) but they felt ... minor-ish, to me. Kima I never really connected with. The Sopranos was a "sausage-fest" (!) too, but characters like Carmela and Adriana were just so rich. Anyway, I loved The Wire but I've realized over the years that I really do connect more strongly or maybe just more easily with stories that feature women prominently. The first movie I ever saw in the cinema was Star Wars and I was all about Princess Leia. I don't think most people feel that way and I'm not sure why I do, but there we are.

But this, yes:

He's objecting because the hero is a heroine. That strikes me as rather more of a "woop woop pull up" sign
I almost feel as though essays like this aren't necessary because I don't think Buffy has ever needed to be defended. Much like the blog about Dollhouse on the front page as of this writing, it's an adult series, requiring an adult perspective, the show speaks for itself. It also starts to sound to my ear of being apologists, when there is nothing to apologize for. I think the show title more than anything else is what has proved to be offputting, because it puts an image of "kiddie show" into some folk's minds. But I've never been one to let a title or a strange-looking book cover keep me from satisfying my curiosity and forming my own opinion of something. Buffy is unique and always will be and it's a damn shame there are people who still stick their noses up at it. Hey, of all the old chestnuts out there that illustrate my point, this one keeps sticking: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." Oh well. Their loss.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2009-03-04 07:00 ]
(embarrassingly, I actually had a dream where Buffy and Willow found out that Stringer Bell was responsible for having Giles murdered)

Embarrassing? I would pay good money for a dream like that. Buffy & Will could team up with Omar!
Poor Omar! Rest in peace, my friend.
The "because she's a girl" thing is weird, but I like hearing these Buffy justifications because I've been introducing a friend to the show lately & trying to puzzle out why I like it so much better than other shows. She is enjoying BTVS, but she doesn't really understand why I like it more than, for example, True Blood. (And I do like True Blood.) There's something about that mythic element, the hero's journey, etc., combined with lots of clever, funny dialog that is just magic for me.

I'm even having a hard time getting through The Wire. I enjoy it while I'm watching it--it's obviously very well written & the acting is amazing, but when I'm not watching it, I have trouble convincing myself to put the next disc in. It's just so gritty and real. I've committed myself to finishing Season 1 at least though, just because I've heard so much about its greatness that I feel like I should. (I sound like one of those people who feel "obligated" to watch Dollhouse, huh?)
Tonya J, I think you're wrong. Just last week I had a conversation how somebody watched one episode of Buffy, the asylum one (Normal Again), and based on that episode he decided that it's not worth it to watch the series and 'well, didn't that episode pretty much sum up the whole Buffy series?'.

Also, a couple of other friends, though they mostly like the same stuff I do, and I've said several times that Buffy is the best series ever, they still haven't bothered to start watching. I guess they kind of doubt whether they'll really like it etc. etc. So yes, it still does need at least some defending.
jcs: The Wire just gets better and better with each season. The first season is like a prologue, and then each subsequent season peels off another layer of the city. I understand that it can be heavy going but it would be a terrible shame to stop after the first season because then you'll never really get a glimpse of what makes it so great.
I don't think a person should have to justify their fandom choices to anyone. See, if I was dating a guy chauvinistic enough not to watch a show because it was a 'chick' show, I'd deem him as not being worthy of it, or me, anyway.

Now, tell me again, why am I single?!
Eerikki, eh. You're fully free to think I'm wrong, but in my experience the only anger I've felt over Buffy is when people who know me either find out I watch it, or when the topic comes up in a general way without them knowing, become dismissive, sometimes to the point of spleen (i.e. My God, how could anyone watch anything so juvenile, stupid, worthless, unartistic ... etc. etc.). That's a diss to me, not the show, because they obviously never watched it and don't know a damn thing about it. They have an idea of what they think it is. Like I said, their loss. Becoming defensive is apologizing and I do not apologize for what I enjoy or love.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2009-03-04 14:47 ]
Good essay.

I guess almost all of us have had to defend both the show and our selfes for watching it. And Tonya J, you are so right, being defansive is apologizing and we shouldent have to apologize for something like Buffy.

So I've come to realise that an offensive is a much better alternative ; )
That approach have given me a few enemies, but also a lot of newly converted Buffy fans.
jcs I have to agree with dzr - The Wire really does keep getting better. But each season is slow to start. They don't try to hook you right away, but they build their story slowly and it's always so very worthwhile. The first half of S1 didn't grip me. I thought the writing and acting was good so I kept watching, but by the end of the season my husband and I turned to each other and went, "uh, what the hell, let's buy the whole series. It's worth owning." By the fifth season, things in the first season are starting to pay off in ways you'd never imagine. It's a beautiful piece of work. (We just finished last night).

As for defending Buffy, I'm with Tonya J. It's not for everyone, but I think people who would really enjoy it will find their way to it eventually, and if they don't, that's OK too. It's a great show that has enjoyed a phenomenal critical response and you find die-hard fans all over the place.

I've come to most television shows late, and I usually start watching because a number of people have said they loved the show. But I think getting any pushier than that (trying to "convert" someone, arguing at length, or pushing them to watch something) is bound to end up meeting a kind of reactive resistance. If I say a show doesn't sound like my thing and meet a really indignant response, that would probably put me off, but if the other person just shrugs and says "wow, I just loved it" that is going to stay with me. If I hear it a few more times, I may check it out.
I almost feel as though essays like this aren't necessary because I don't think Buffy has ever needed to be defended.


Normally you would be right but these are exceptional times. The fandom is feeling very defensive at the moment and it does no harm to go back to basics and show why we love Joss stuff.
I enjoyed this essay. And yeah, sometimes you do need to explain your love.
It comes up.

I can see though where Normal Again would be an off-putting first episode.
I recently sucked in a half-dozen young guys into the whole verse, the episode they first stumbled across because I was watching, Lie to Me.
catherine: As you've just finished season five of The Wire you might be interested in this interview with David Simon.

I like this quote:


The main theme is not the fabulist and what he is perpetrating. That's the overt plot. The main theme is that, with the exception of the bookends -- at the beginning, the excellent effort at adversarial journalism that begins the piece in episode one and the genuine piece of narrative journalism that concludes it, with Bubbles -- it's a newspaper that is so eviscerated, so worn, so devoid of veterans, so consumed by the wrong things, and so denied the ability to replenish itself that it singularly misses every single story in the season.

I am not endorsing, but I do understand the "don't want to watch a show with a heroine" complaint coming from some (male, mostly) viewers.

The hero/ine of a work is primarily a figure for identification. The audience members see themselves in the hero/ine's place. Many people (especially, but not exclusively men) find it easier to identify with a male character than a female one. [insert lengthy explanation of sexism, ideology, male privilege, etc.]

Thus, people are less drawn to shows with heroines (as opposed to shows with heroes or with female characters who are not heroines).

Again, I'm not endorsing the view, just explaining it.
missb : notsayingawordnotsayingawordnotsayingaword
The fandom is feeling very defensive at the moment and it does no harm to go back to basics and show why we love Joss stuff.

Can we call it a love-in then and not a defense-in? 'Cause I'd be down with Buffy love beads, incense, drive-in marathon of episodes, and the whole schlemiel.
Thank you dzr! That was a fantastic read!
Poor Omar! Rest in peace, my friend.

Michael K Williams, man (the guy who played Omar). He's up there with Alexis Denisof in my "why the hell isn't this guy a HUGE star" list.

I agree with everyone here who says there's just no point in really pushing someone to watch something. If you're forced to watch something all you'll do is nit pick. It's interesting, BtVS is incredibly important to me, but I'm very leery of recommending it to people. A lot of my friends have fallen in love with it independently, but there's only a few that I've tried to proselytize to about it: and not very often successfully.

Some people just can't buy fantasy settings in contemporary fiction and see that you can be saying something serious about life in such a setting. It's odd, because these are people who have no trouble with Hamlet's ghost, Macbeth's witches, Dante's spirits, Rabelais's giants, Pope's Rosicrucian sprites, Mary Shelley's monster etc. etc.--but try to tell them how great Buffy is or that Terry Pratchett is the best English satirist since Swift and their eyes will glaze over.
I've given up the proselytizing, it's just frustrating. The only thing that really bothers me still is the inevitable eye roll by one person I really care about (who happens to be my sister and is way smarter than that, but ..... well, go figure).

I've resorted to the condescending "well, either you get it or you don't", in response to being condescended to by someone who's watched maybe two eps and puts their fingers in their ears (metaphorically) ;) when I try to explain that you have to give it more of a serious chance than the casual, out of context, "caught an episode or two, a year apart".

I don't need the frustration and have at least one person in my life who totally gets it, and shares my love for all things Joss. For more than that, I have Whedonesque, a place where not only Joss but The Wire is appreciated. :)
It's easier when you have absolutely no repsect for anyone's opinions on anything to begin with, but that doesn't work for everyone.

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