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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"Love keeps her up when she ought to fall down, tells ya she's hurtin' 'fore she keens, makes her home."
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January 09 2010

"I keep talking about trying to invite Whedon to come to an editorial-board meeting." So says Gail Collins of The New York Times (home to a number of Buffy fans) in some snippets from an interview conducted by Emily Nussbaum of New York magazine.

Gail Collins must be from at least close to my generation, 'cause I had the same "everything is Westerns and cowboys" experience myself as a young girl. We females got rescued from the railroad tracks, or left at home while the posse went out after the bank robber, or married off for our Daddy's land (or we were "dancehall" girls - even less integral, and even more expendable.)

I made do with girls/women like Penny of Sky King - and Dale Evans, but she was kindof a dip - and had the occasional TV lift with Emma Peel and Honey West.

But mostly we had to do what the under-depicted female always had to do - choose to to identify with the powerful and active (the men) or the passive and disempowered (the women).

I generally chose to identify with the male heroes of TV (I had a cowgirl outfit, supplemented with the cooler guns and holsters from the boys' toys) - and indeed, the heroes in most of the novels I read - but there was often something missing: aspects of myself not shown in the men I was viewing and identifying with. (And I was lucky - I had parents that let me play with whatever toys I wanted, regardless of their "gender" - and let me read and watch whatever took my interest.)

Indeed, the feminine was not usually shown to be a part of any male characters (and vice versa) or only in men viewed as "weak" - usually rendering the heroes/charcters I had for identification as depleted, partial human beings. This is also true for the boys and men themselves viewing male heroes and other characters they could identify with - they were shown that a real man had few characteristics associated with the feminine, and they absorbed the same lessons we did, in reverse.

Of course, this wasn't the case with characters in art from more alternative or fringe or marginal culture, and of course really great literature often showed the tragic results of this masculine/feminine split (see Dicken's Dombey and Son for a superb example) but it was mostly true for mainstream popular culture. This was just one of the reasons I mainly eschewed popular culture however and whenever possible... until Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Buffy was a whole new bag - so I'd had to wait until I turned 40 to see myself on TV (without twisting myself to fit inside a limitedly-written male - or female - character.) Not as Buffy herself, only - but in the host of female characters - slayers and Scoobies and villains and potentials - never before on TV drawn so well and so fully and so movingly as in BtVS. (All that, and they were funny, too.)

That was huge - and it's why Joss won my eternal allegiance.

(Here endeth today's looooong and unprovoked rant. I wasn't even plied with excessive coffee. I have no excuse except that Emily and Gail set me off. ; >)
No excuse needed. Good rant.
I'm from QuoterGal's generation. Had similar experiences (and similar response to Dale Evans--even Buttermilk sounded bland when compared with Trigger). I won't launch into an autobiography, but Buffy was a breath of fresh air when I discovered it during its last season.
Quotergal - I too feel similar things, I am, however, of a slightly younger generation! I actually found reading literature quite difficult unless there was a "way in".

Buffy came about in the UK in 1996, the same year as the Spice Girls (okay, don't totally dismiss the spirit of the times). I know we had Mrs Thatcher here and in general we had very good female characterisation on the Telly Box, but until Buffy I didn't see a me out there (and I don't mean necessarily Buffy herself).

What the women did in Buffy is question and not in a way "Oh it's so not fair" or "I'm not supposed to do this, I'm a woman" sort of way....they question the world without that filter there at all.
Great insights, everyone. I've felt what you (and Nussbaum and Collins) have felt, and this is in part why Buffy as a show has touched me at the profoundest level.

I love this post.

I also love that Krugman is a big Buffy fan. That tickles me extra-much.
Wow, QuoterGal. That was powerful and moving. And can I say as a member of a much younger generation, who didn't get into TV at all until I was a little older, and then spent my later teenage years watching characters like Buffy and Veronica Mars, Aeryn Sun and Kara Thrace (and who had always had a surplus of fantastic female heroes in books I read), that I'm in awe of those of you who had to struggle through without those heroes. And that I'm so glad that you finally found them.

I have a lot of issues with Joss's portrayals of gender, but I will always be thankful to him for his dedication to the idea that women's stories can be just as moving and important and satisfying as men's. That's huge, and a lesson our culture still needs to learn.

I love this whole thread.
Ok. I am in my sixties and as I type this I have on my "What would Buffy do?" necklace. I love her.
Though I was glad that b!X found & posted this little nugget of a gem, I thought my rant would disappear quickly and alone into the ether.

Glad others of you expressed that you'd felt the same way - and that the very much younger Lirazel has not had to feel the same way.

I'm almost inclined to feel a little hopeful because of that. ; >
lt's refreshing to see a person who is close to my age who expresses herself with such eloquence and honestly l'm in my fifties and sometimes l get lost in translation when l am on this website but all in all, l enjoy this website and the people on it.
Wow, great post QG. Really, really well put (as always).
As for me, as a guy in my late 20's obviously my experiences differ greatly but I will say that aside from GI Joe and Brisco County Jr. I didn't really watch or care for shows with "superheroes" until Buffy (though I definitely read my fair share of comics) since, as QG mentions, the men tended to have certain characteristics and I didn't necessarily identify with them. I have always been more of a sidekick guy as opposed to an alpha male (thankfully that has actually worked out for the better for me, I think, as that personality has definitely attracted similar minded people for friendships and relationships).
I think that my love of BtVS wasn't because Buffy was a girl/woman (as a 16 year old male I didn't really notice the fact that, aside from Dana Scully, there weren't really any strong female characters on the shows that I, at least, was watching) but because she was flawed, and she made mistakes, and there were consequences, and life was HARD, and she soldiered on and tried to do the right thing anyway, and depended on her friends, and tried to be the best PERSON she could be (and she saved the world, a lot). Beside the saving the world, all those other characteristics I was able to and still do identify with which is why, like Joss, Buffy is my hero.
What a great thread! QG, that was an eloquent comment - as always, but more so.:)
I'm a bit older than you and had the same experiences, growing up.

I didn't discover BtS until re-runs on TNT/FX, shortly after the final season ended. Most everyone I know thought I'd lost my mind, because I was immediately addicted and went through two eps a night, five nights a week (late night, here in Hawaii) straight through all seven seasons.

I know that BtS has a special resonance for those younger women (and men) who grew up with it. But for those of us women who had no female heroes to relate to, growing up and in our youth, there is a different kind of resonance. And it is sweet.

Paul Krugman is a big fan! I know, someone beat me to mentioning it, but that just made my day. Worlds collide, there is order in the chaos.
Paul Krugman is a Buffy fan! This makes my day.

QG great post. Your comments about the Westerns of the time are right on. If you look at some of the movies though, such as "The Searchers" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" you see the damage that the myth of the great male hero actually does to the men who follow it. I think we are close to the same age - I remember Sky King and Penny. However, I was more into comic books, and even though they were mostly male heroes there were female heroes too, who really did get to be heroic. BatWOMAN (not Batgirl, that came later), Supergirl, even the supporting women such as Lois Lane or Vicki Vale were smart, brave career women. At the time I was reading them, Lois far from always having to be rescued, was the smartest character around, constantly out-smarting the bad guys, and not infrequently saving Superman.
Oops Shey, another colliding world. We need to get Joss to get Krugman to do a cameo on his next show!

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