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December 24 2013

The Legacy of the Slayer. The BBC discusses the fact that Buffy has an enduring legacy.

The central argument of the article is that most TV today is still lagging far behind our show.

Most might be, but not all are. Look at Lost Girl: Bo, Kenzi, Lauren, Tamsin are all leads in the show. Defiance is another with many strong female leads. Once Upon a Time.
Nikita definitely has strong female characters, whether they be a protagonist or antagonist, and in a lot of ways, it's one of the strongest and most well written shows I've seen since Buffy.
Honestly, I have loved a lot of television shows after BtVS, but nothing has ever made me so fervently obsessed as this show. It's still one of my favorite things ever.

(And right now, The Good Wife is not only one of the best shows on the air right now, but has great female characters: Alicia (the lead), Kalinda, and Diane.)

[ edited by dottikin on 2013-12-24 13:21 ]
I think the focus on this article is a little off. We have tonnes of 'strong female characters' on television right now. But it's the quality of writing that lacks. Once Upon A Time, for example, is an absolutely dreadful show - the few people I know who watch it say they watch it because it's terrible (and because Hook is hot). The plots don't make sense, it's very clear no planning has gone into the story arcs because they are contradictory and lead to dead ends. It's clear they just don't know what to do with the show, so they're throwing anything at the wall and hoping it sticks.

We have female characters in large supply, what we lack is good writers who make them interesting and anything more than the now token 'strong female character'.
My Christmas wish for the storytelling world is that we will see in coming years that generations of writers who grow up on Joss's work share a vision of equality.

Rewatched Amends last night. Beautiful.
Not to mention even amongst the shows that are mentioned: GoT (Margery/Cersei/Sansa/Lady Olenna), The Hunger Games (Roo, Johanna Mason, Mags), etc. do women even seem to be completely alone in what they're doing. About the most sensational thing Hunger Games does is make the female lead poor to below average socially which if you think about it, had it been written any other way Peeta would be a completely redundant character. I will buy that Joss's formula has never been successfully copied in total, but we probably have to ask ourselves if that is something we'd even want since every one of us would go "They're just redoing Buffy!"

Honestly, I'm a day 1 Buffy guy (by way of B5, Star Trek, Xena...) and this comes off to me as heavily revisionist, nostalgic (in a bad way), and dismissive Buffy's antecedents and grandkids. I wish it had more to say about how Buffy did change TV culture than pining for a very specific thing. If you haven't noticed the large shift in programming geared towards women action leads or co-leads and Joss's influence on that, no one can help you.

Different genre, but I just realized the other day when we were going through Disney films that the last time there was a human male lead in a Disney (not Pixar) film was over a decade ago. I found that shocking.

Honestly, I don't even think we have a writer or supply problem any more (at least no more than there have always been fewer great scripts than things produced). I think we have an embarrassment of riches and it actually takes work to find what's good. That was traditionally a problem people associated with programming with male leads. There were so many that there were plenty with bad story writing, questionable politics, and excessive cliches to stumble over and notice. At least they're still new and refreshing though.
Azzers - I've said something similar on other boards and got shouted down by people... yes, Buffy made a huge impact on how television is done today. But it's not the first 'strong female character' on television. I grew up watching The Avengers - Cathy Gale was possibly the first feminist on television, and Emma Peel was an amazon. Tara King... well, let's not talk about her. Buffy wasn't the first powerful female character.

I do disagree, though, that it's down to writing. I agree with you that there are now so many 'strong female characters' out there that it's hard to find good ones, that's an excellent point, but I do still think it comes down to writing. Seems like every show I turn on these days has 'strong female character' archetypes, but no personality or quality to them that's remotely interesting.
Slightly tangential, I think Chuck, the series and Sarah, the character, got it very right in terms of emulating and putting its own comedic spin on Joss's style.
Characters and writing in equal measure makes or breaks shows no question about it, populate a show with any number of strong female characters, if the writing isn't there the show falls to pieces.

Personally I'm looking forward to S2 of The Americans, Keri Russel going from old school KGB loyalist to a more complicated grey zone, now that's good writing :)

And yes despite my longstanding loyalty to Peta!Nikita I have to admit that the last episodes of MaggieQ!Nikita have been great, once again proving that when a show have an end date in sight quality can improve drastically.
The two female characters that I have taken to heart since Buffy finished are Sarah Lund and Birgitte Nyborg. That's down to the writing and the actresses themselves.
@dottikin I agree with you on both points. I can endlessly watch Buffy episodes and not get tired of them--which I cannot say about any of the other shows I have loved since--and The Good Wife is one of my favorite shows right now, because of the level of acting, the writing, but especially the major female characters.
Did someone say Amends? I'm not sure I've ever been moved by a television show as I was during that rooftop scene.

But yeah, I guess that's off topic.

Go Buffy.
To me the question is - and that is something I could never quite grasp - what exactly makes a (female) character a so-called "strong" one? Is it some MMA-background, the ability to handle a firearm, and - if possible - a supernatural power, or two, on top?
I don't think so. To me, a strong character is one that's believable. One, that doesn't act ridiculous for the sake of the ones they're surrounded by. One, that feels realistic. - And yes, I do think it comes all down to the writing. As a matter of fact, I fail to see how you can have bad written strong characters. How can they be strong when they are written badly? Due to the size of their muscles? Is that the required measurement?

In my opinion, a "strong" character doesn't need to be "strong". Actually, they might be rather weak. Just like people are (or seem to be) in real life. They can have troubles and issues - and might just not have the capability to overcome them. What shouldn't happen, though, is that all the superior characters are of one gender (or race, religion,...), while the inferior ones are of the other. And what makes a character less-than-strong is, if they only exist as some sort of accessory to another, more important (for the story) character. If a character simply exists to play a certain, rather confined role, it might not be a character at all, but lines with a face on top.

So, basically I think a strong character is simply a good one. It doesn't necessarily to be entertaining (while bad ones absolutely can be), but it needs a certain quality to it, that makes you believe you're actually watching a person and not just something on legs that's doing some stuff.


- Please pardon my wooden english. I rarely use it actively.
Sahjhan, your English is fine. Simon, I love Sarah Lund; which show is Birgitte Nyborg on? (Maybe it's one we don't get in the U.S.?) As to strong female characters, my guess is, 1) a character who is well-written and 2) is not entirely defined by her romantic/parental relationships. At least, that's how I'd define "strong." Azzers, not to be argumentative, but "Wreck-It-Ralph" is non-Pixar Disney and Ralph is definitely male :)
Thanks. - Nyborg is the main character of a danish political drama called "Borgen".
For me nothing will ever be as great as Buffy (for so very many reasons), but I agree that the article is unfair.

Shonda Rhimes' shows are never taken seriously enough, but they each have a number of strong female characters that yes, do spend a lot of their time concerned with their love lives (who doesn't), but are also committed professionals, with goals, female relationships and unique weaknesses.

My other favourite show of the moment - Parks and Recreation- is another show with a strong and complex female lead, and many relationships with men and women that don't only revolve around love.

Perhaps the criticism is true of a genre - I don't know the field well enough to say - but expanding the view definitely brings out more examples. "Girls", for whatever other criticisms of it, also well passes the Bechdel test.

We may indeed be far from where we would like to be in terms of portrayal of women on television, and not as far as we thought we'd be 10 years ago, but to say that no progress has been made is rather unfair.
One of the legacies of the Slayer is this community.

Merry Christmas all!
Merry Christmas!
And let us not forget Big Bang Theory, with 3 strong female leads. And Penny is always the voice of reason in the madness.
Merry Christmas, Happy post-Hannukah, Cool Yule and Outstanding Observance of the Season!
This year, Thanksgivvikuh! And I plan to be around for the next one, 79,000 years from now! :-)

Merry Christmas to all. :-)

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2013-12-28 14:43 ]
That is the best "Happy Holidays" I have ever seen Shapenew :)
A joyous Gurnenthar's Ascension to all and to all a good night!
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas!!!

Are any of you watching Scandal? Olivia Pope is the driving force of that show and she has guy and girl sidekicks. She's flawed but still a super hero.

I think Shonda Rhimes built herself a Buffy and put her in The West Wing.
Well, can't make promises for 79,000 years though I may still have leftovers in the frig then. 25 to 35 years tops, then I start hitting people over the head with my cane. Or throw my walker at them.

Happy belated Christmas and I'm wishing a wonderful 2014 for everyone!
It's nice that they're praising Buffy, but I would prefer if it wasn't in an article which is unjustly dismissive of so many other great shows, films and books - and which is full of factual errors and statements that suggest that the author isn't familiar at all with any of the fictional works he's dismissive. The examples the author gives are the worst she could possibly have found:

"So often now, a "strong woman" in a TV show or a movie will be almost entirely isolated from other women - from Katniss Everdene trying to survive the Hunger Games to Sandra Bullock's character in Gravity, from Carrie Mathison in Homeland to Daenerys Targaryan in Game of Thrones - female friendship, let alone having conversations with several women, seems utterly impossible for many of today's female characters."

Let's look at the fictional works mentioned here:

The Hunger Games - The comment about Katniss Everdeen (whose name is misspelled) makes it seem that the author hasn't even watched the first movie, let alone the second, let alone read the books, but has only read the synopsis of the first movie. Katniss has no relationships with other women?! Her entire arc is largely defined by her relationship with her sister Prim! The Hunger Games passed the Bechdel test in its first few minutes. Being in the games doesn't mean she's isolated from other women - her alliance and friendship with Rue in the first book/movie is of great importance, and in Catching Fire she has alliances and interesting relationships with Johanna (is there anyone who thinks she is not a strong female character in every sense of the word?), Mags and Wiress; the movie even expanded on her interesting dynamic with Effie. And that's without even getting into Mockingjay, and the importance of President Coin's character and the dynamic between her and Katniss, not to mention many other women with important functions in the story (Paylor, Cressida, Lyme, Tigris) in addition to Katniss' friendship with Johanna, her relationships with her sister and mother.

Gravity - Yes, Bullock's character is isolated from other women. But Bullock's character is also isolated from men, with the exception of Clooney's character, for a part of the movie. Most of the time, she's isolated from the entirety of human race, since she's alone in space. That's the whole point of her story! There are just two characters who actually appear on screen, and complaining that they weren't both women and listing that as an example of "failing the Bechdel test" is really stretching it.

Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire - Really? That's the worst example she could have possibly picked. It's not even true that Daenerys does not have female friendships - as a matter of fact, almost all of her closest friends are female (her handmaidens Irri, Jhiqui and Doreah, and the freed slave Missandei), but more importantly: if anyone thinks that Daenerys is the only strong female character in GoT, the problem is in them, rather than the show. Well, the show has its problems and isn't nearly as good with female characters as the book series it is based on (which started at the same time as Buffy, in 1996, so it doesn't even make sense to talk about it as an example of "Buffy's legacy"), where about half of the POV characters are female and which offers an incredible range of interesting, fully fleshed and complex female characters who are strong in different ways (something that the showrunners don't quite seem to understand, preferring to marginalize Catelyn and try to stereotype Brienne as a badass chick, Arya as a lovable tomboy and Sansa as an airhead damsel, when they are not focusing on poorly developed original characters who are there just to get naked). But even with its flaws, it still has a lot of prominent and rather well or even really well developed female characters, several of whom are on the same (or almost the same) level of importance as Daenerys. Yes, she stands out as the only ruling monarch (from season 2 onwards) whose power does not derive from regency, but that's not the only way to have power. Nobody would argue that the kings are the only important male characters in the story (as a matter of fact, they are supporting characters).

"Think of Harry, Ron and Hermione, or Aidan, George and Annie in Being Human, or The Doctor, Rory and Amy in Doctor Who, or Walter, Peter and Olivia in Fringe. "

Aidan, George and Annie?! Which show is the author talking about? It can't be the North American version of Being Human, which I haven't seen, but whose characters are called Aidan, Josh and Sally. And it can't be the original UK version, because its three original main characters are called George, Annie - and John Mitchell, who was played by Aidan Turner. If this is the version referenced, then the author obviously did not watch anything beyond season 1 - since the character of Nina, who was introduced in season 2, became a regular in season 2.

It's incredible that BBC has published such a poorly researched article. I really wish BBC had a comments section.

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