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January 06 2010

'Sexual Rhetoric in the Works of Joss Whedon'. This collection of essays will be out later on this year. Topics include "the role of virginity, lesbianism and homoeroticism in the shows and the comics, the nature of masculinity and femininity and gender stereotypes, an exploration of sexual binaries, and a ranking of the Buffy characters on the Kinsey scale of sexuality".

It's available for pre-order at

Well, I'm definitely interested. I hope it will be as good as "Why Buffy matters". I'm in the middle of it, and it's fascinating.
Apart from Angel/Spike I never really saw much homoeroticism in the Buffy universe (and we know that one was a bit more than just eroticism =p). The Kinsey scale rankings has me interested, I wonder if Season Eight will be taken into account?
Count me in.
Sounds very interesting.

Matt, good question about season 8. I really hope it will be counted, as so many more essays could be written about sexuality in that season alone. But if this took about a year to come out I'm not sure they would include season 8.

[ edited by 13 on 2010-01-06 14:16 ]
Well the topics do cover the comics so I imaagine season 8 will get a look in.
Yeah it could be the non-canonical earlier comics as well but it'd be strange if "season 8" wasn't mentioned, given the Buffy/Satsu kerfuffle.

Bit pricey for me, if it turns up in the library I may have a look.
Well if it includes the novel I wonder how they will include Spike's experience with the sea monster in the Wisdom of War. Heh.
Glad to see a new book of essays. All of the books I've read on the Buffyverse (and there have been many) have covered a lot of interesting subjects, and it looks like this one will too.
"and a ranking of the Buffy characters on the Kinsey scale of sexuality"

Heh, that part will either be really good for a laugh, or an interesting take by the author. Either way, it'll get viewers discussing when the rankings for each character are posted about.

Yeah, I don't know that there's much homoeroticism in Joss' work(the male kind--maybe it's unnecessary to specify that, since the book sounds like it's going to separate the girl/girl kind into the "lesbianism" category). There're certainly lines that're ripe for slash fan-ficcers and there're many intentional jokes in the show that touch on male/male without being homoerotic (the "male rape is a funny kind of threat!" device is one Joss has used at least three or four times across Firefly, Dr. Horrible, and somewhere within Buffy/Angel--hey, I'm not bitching, I laughed at at least one of them, despite having gotten real tired of writers--usually male--relying on this old laugh-quick-fix that, were it used on a female character, would get almost no laughs and be viewed as pretty reprehensible joke material).

There was Larry. I know he was sorta used as a punchline for "Phases" (though it was a fun/cute twist at the time), but he had been introduced in "Halloween" (yeah, had to look that up, I knew it was one of the early Season 2 eps though) and they did right by him by featuring him in four more episodes (he got "I'm so out even my grandma's setting me up with guys!" in "Anne", he got to be a prominent part of the alternate universe Scooby Gang in "The Wish", I can't remember what he did/said/thought in "Earshot", and he got to fight and die in "Graduation Day Part 2"). So not as disposable as some of the less recurring but maybe better-remembered guest actors and a nice mini-arc for a barely-there character.

And of course, the Angel/Spike of "The Girl in Question" that Matt already mentioned.

Andrew is either bi or gay (most overtly toward dudes when it was revealed toward the end of Season 6 that he had been promised by Warren--or had deluded himself into thinking--that they'd "be together" after all was said and done). I think you could make a better case for Lorne being bi than Andrew though (although as people often bring up, Lorne threw complimentary lines at everyone and beyond that didn't get many hintful lines toward this subject. And being of another species, we don't know what his standards of beauty were compared to the average human's. He threw a lot of love Cordelia's way, then on the other end of things, if his Pylean mother is any indication of what most female Pyleans look like...but seeing as he feels/reads what people sing, he probably sees beauty in most people/demons. Just not sure what he prefers physically, is all. And that's cool, because we don't need to be let in on the sex lives--or lack thereof--of every character).

Likely some examples I'm forgetting. I know there're a lot of little throwaways, like that dude in the interview clips in "Man on the Street". Loved that.

Hopefully the book becomes an examination of what is in Joss' works, rather than what the author wishes was included. I don't fault Joss for not featuring more male/male material and for not creating such a relationship for dudes that's on the scale of Willow/Tara. He can't cover everything and it's a hard sell to the networks sometimes (especially for Buffy & Angel back on The WB). If he had wanted to have a main character gay/bi dude (or couple), he probably would have been able to get one on his two Fox shows. All the more reason to try cable next time.

It would be welcome to see in a Joss show or comic, but there're tons of other places I can go (okay, only really a few on TV, but as far as other mediums are concerned) if I want well-written gay/bi dudes.
Be interesting to see if there was a section on fanfic.
Fanfic doesn't differ substantially from fandom to fandom, does it? You can find all possible types of smut written for every popular setting, and male/male pairings are popular throughout.

Larry was probably my favorite very-minor character in Buffy. Every scene with him was handled very well, and it's one of those rare-ish moments where you can glimpse that there are real people and things going on outside the Scooby Gang and their immediate adversaries.
I don't see "Homoeroticism" as meaning realistic depictions of m/m relationships. It's about perceiving possibilities...

"Spin The Bottle" came up on TNT yesterday morning. Wherein Cordy chastised Wesley & Gunn: "Hey. Hey, you two want to stop the homo-erotic buddy cop session long enough to explain this."

In "Chosen" Buffy sees Spike attacking a punching bag adorned with a crude drawing of Angel's face. "You know, one of these days I'm just gonna put you 2 in a room and let you wrestle it out.... There could be oil of some kind involved."

In one of the later episodes of Buffy, a girl with demonic boyfriend problems meets the gang. Upon learning a bit of their history, she asks "Have any of you not slept together?" Spike & Xander share a nervous glance.

Getting back to Angel, there's the whole Angel/Lindsey thing. Darla definitely caught on.

About Lorne? His Pylean anatomy was certainly "different." So we don't know what he could actually do. But he was definitely all about perceiving possibilities...
Cool! It sounds similar to the wonderful book Sex and the Slayer by Jana Riess. I myself wrote a paper in college on how masculinity is portrayed on BtVS. :)

[ edited by fortunateizzi on 2010-01-06 21:43 ]
While this isn't homoeroticism per se, I was struck by the scene where Angel literally tucks Lorne into bed on the office couch at the end of "Life of the Party." It's an explicit tenderness of a kind we rarely see Angel show anyone other than baby Connor.
I don't see "Homoeroticism" as meaning realistic depictions of m/m relationships. It's about perceiving possibilities...

Yeah, I quickly veered from homoeroticism to actual on-screen content (lines, characters). But the term could refer to anything obviously ripe for slashing, dudes (or women) actually kissing/screwing or simply interacting in a heated fashion, and/or what you said. Viewer perception.

fortunateizzi said:
I myself wrote a paper in college on how masculinity is portrayed on BtVS.

Would that paper happen to be in an easily shareable Word file (maybe copy/pastable to the appropriate forum at ? Would definitely read it.

Has there been much written on masculinity in the Buffyverse (or just specifically Buffy) over the years ? Seem to recall snippets of it in interviews with Joss and a few other Mutant Enemy writers over the years, the columnist would throw 'em that kind of question or two in between asking them about the strong female characters, their favorite episodes, what inspires them, etc. But have there been any full-on, thorough, well-written articles online or essays in some of the non-fiction Buffy books about the various portrayals of masculinity in BtVS ?

Just as an off-the-cuff remark and without thinking about it too hard, I'd sum up Buffy's portrayal of dudes as "having an identity crisis". Definitely not a negative, it's what made Xander and a couple of the other main dudes interesting/sometimes relatable.

[ edited by Kris on 2010-01-06 22:02 ]
A discussion of Buffyverse characters and their position on the Kinsey scale:

Just as an off-the-cuff remark and without thinking about it too hard, I'd sum up Buffy's portrayal of dudes as "having an identity crisis".

That rings true to me too Kris, it felt contemporary in that the men on Buffy had to deal with the same sort of thing that guys are dealing with everyday, which is to say possibly having been raised with one set of values and cultural indicators which are now no longer applicable (or not without modification at least). Oz maybe represented that through the BtVS metaphorical lens (an eminently civilised man with a literal bestial side) and in some ways Ballard on 'Dollhouse' is sort of that identity crisis made more explicit IMO (in that he's a very traditional male representation - stoic, laconic, tough etc. - who's somewhat caught between what he wants and what he knows he should want).

By and large though, Buffy wasn't really about masculinity except insofar as it touched on The Message (with e.g. Ted or the Watchers Council) and that's exactly as it should be IMO.

[ edited by Saje on 2010-01-06 22:59 ]
Shapenew, I just finished my season 5 rewatch and had the same thought. Angel may as well have kissed Lorne on the forehead and sang him a lullaby. You said it right, it was a tenderness. In a season where Angel was constantly grumpy and shouting/arguing with everyone, including his inner circle, it certainly stood out as a compassionate gesture.
CrazyKidBen, I agree, although given what Lorne said he thought of Angel's singing, maybe a lullaby wouldn't have been such a good idea :)
I'd agree with that completely Saje. I'm actually rewatching Buffy as we speak (both because there's nothing else I want to watch and... Hey... why can't I watch Buffy?) and it is striking how intentionally little it tries to examine the male role or psyche.

But at the same time, we later had Angel which I do believe was not really an attempt to correct it, rather it simply gave the writers an opportunity to play in the same sandbox without The Message needing to be the driving force.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-01-07 03:02 ]
I can confirm that the book definitely includes content on Season 8, since at least my essay deals with it. ;)
I wouldn't mind if people started correctly including quotes around the word "rabid" when referring to Joss's fanbase. Quotes are so often incorrectly applied as emphasis, and almost as frequently omitted from figurative or metaphorical terms where they would actually be correct.

However, I must concede that the thought of people viewing WB in the late 90s and thereby catching rabies from a television show is diverting.
The book is now available and does address the homoeroticism in the Whedonverse -- at least, my essay on desire does! Hope you enjoy it!

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