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May 21 2014

The Problem of Evil in Spooky Stories. Sci-fi author John Wright discusses Christianity vs. vampires, using Buffy as his primary example.

I'm very mixed with what I agree with and what I don't in this article. I will say however that I DO agree pop culture has probably gone a bit over the deep end in terms of organizational cynicism and perhaps a bit too much into the idolatry of self... but I do think that's our culture these days.

But I do think that's a large part of the fact our culture really hasn't seen real hard times in quite a while. Sure we've had blips, but we're a long way away from a world war, major pandemic, or 1 in 4 being out of a job. Those are the kinds of things that tend to reset how much import people put into themselves as individuals historically. It's also where people tend to put faith in organizations as well... when the problems get too big for one person to handle and they do get handled. Shows like Buffy are fun in that the show never lets the problem be "too big" that a small group can't fix it. That's the fun and the fiction of it.

[ edited by azzers on 2014-05-21 01:28 ]
Ummm ... he might have a point buried somewhere in here. But the mere fact that one of his examples of a supernatural story idea is "devils" summoned by "Red Indian Medicine Men" makes me kinda not care what his point is. That's racist, yo.

Granted, Buffy got pretty damn racist in the Thanksgiving episode. But at least it had won me over with its feminist charms before that (admittedly pretty bad) misstep. This guy ... well, he seems not to be a big fan of feminism, either. I find myself not really caring how the article concludes, at this point.

However, I do like that he links to George Orwell's review of "That Hideous Strength." I am fascinated to discover that such a review exists! I think I'll go read that instead. :-)
I was not familiar with him before this. Looked him up on amazon, and one of his novels opens with a conversation that uses pseudo-science to back up a gender-essentialist view of human nature. I am very not impressed.

(Also, the dialogue is clunky.)
I thought the thankgiving episode was the oposite of racist. In fact, to me, it was a beautifully complex exploration of the matter.
It's probably in the eye of the beholder, Darkness, though if the eye in question is in fact Native American, it's also probably worth conceding the point.

Wright is occasionally funny here (I rather like the idea of a squad of rocket-deacons), but he's also just plain wrong about a lot of things, particularly gender. However, I haven't been reading enough people who disagree with me, so I pushed through to the end. He does have some points about the sexy vampire huntresses who are Fighting Patriarchal Stereotypes and Proving Women Are Strong by being just like the guys, with brute force etc. I'd point out to him, however, that BtVS features Willow and Tara, who have power of their own form, and I'd also point out that the real reason Buffy's the heroine is because she makes friends. A Buffy that was just brute force would be dead pretty fast. So Wright's wrong about that, too. I'm not sure where Wright stopped watching BtVS; if he stopped watching in S4 or so I'll cut him some slack for his mistake, but if he saw "Fool for Love" then he's got no excuse at all.

What is most off-putting, however, is Wright's smugness and arrogance. I much prefer Joss's response to the Christian, which you can find on YouTube under "Joss Whedon: Atheist & Absurdist." Joss points out that in Angel he laid out his core philosophy (There's no big win, etc.) and then immediately contradicted it (Angel got into Kate's apartment). Joss put his most cherished belief out there and then said, basically, "But I might be wrong." And that is one of the reasons why I love the man so much.
I thought "Pangs" started out with good intentions, but ended with ethnic stereotypes. Like, the discussions early on (Buffy and Willow's comments about Thanksgiving, Anya's blase attitude toward ritual sacrifice with pie) were well-written, and problematized the holiday in a positive way.

But the *one* Native American character wasn't really a character at all, just a hodgepodge of ethnic stereotypes .... and then he ends up being killed so that the white people can enjoy their pie in peace. I think the writers started out with good intentions ... but I have tried (and failed) to see anything good about how that storyline played out. :-/

I love BtVS with a great and passionate love, but it did not always do everything well, and that particular episode is a low point, IMO.
As far as the Wright article ... I agree wiht everything you said, ManEnoughtoAdmitIt. Women characters who are "strong" merely because they kick ass (while looking sexy) are not usually very empowering, or very interesting. But Buffy isn't like that at all. She's strong because of her emotions, because of her ability to connect with other people, because she breaks the rules. She's strong because when she's stuck between two bad choices, she finds the third choice that nobody else even saw. She's strong because she has the courage to walk straight into the jaws of hell even *without* superpowers, and find a way to defeat the bad guy and save the person she loves with nothing but her brain and her guts to fall back on. If Wright thinks that Buffy is merely a hot girl who's as strong as the guys, he reallllly wasn't paying attention!
If posters could play the ball and not the man, then that would be lovely.
Shouldn't the header be Roman Catholicism vs vampires?
I would have found a lot more to agree with in this article if it hadn't been solidly based in the "war on Christianity"/"persecuted Christian" fraud. As is, it's drek.
I like his idea that the Watcher's Council is the same as the one in Highlander. Hey, the Buffyverse has an immortal too!
Comming from a poltical and philsophical postition very close to this guy's, it's an annoying article to wade through.

While I'm not familair with nor itnerested in the movies he's referencing, but the Buffyverse certainly doesn't encourage the kind of guyism he describes. And hs knowledge of BtVS and Angel is very superficial, at least as shown.
As for his other examples: A lot of classic horror films employ plain crosses, which Protestants have no trouble carrying. The idea that a religious symbol only protects from evil things if the person holding it and/or
laying it down has faith in what it stands for is a very old idea. Bringing Lovecraft intop a discuswsion of other fantasy or horror universes is always a a bad idea;HPL himself always implied his creatures, with a veyr few exceptions,were uktimdstly natural beasts, and who uses a cross against a bear? jumping from Schreck to Boreanaz is ridculous enough, since it ignores the long line of men (most of them very good-looking) who plasyed vampires betweenthem Et bloody cetera, pun intended.

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2014-05-21 15:30 ]
Sorry, Simon. I tried to convert my snippiness into praise of Joss, but clearly it didn't work 100%.
Also note that, contra his claim that modern versions of vampire stories don't use crucifixes, crosses ARE harmful to vampires throughout the Buffyverse, and she manages to kill one with holy water. Now there is a difference between a crucifix and a plain cross, and the writer's argument is that Catholicism IS the true religion so if only a crucifix is an accepted symbol then a plain cross shouldn't have any power, but a quick google search shows that among Catholics there is a diversity of belief and many believe that a plain cross is just as much a powerful symbol of Jesus as the crucifix.

Bottom line, most people writing and reading supernatural stories these days just aren't all that religious, and with a couple of prominent exceptions (Twilight) aren't writing as a means of promoting their religion.
erendis, I'm curious which novel did you look at?
He stopped watching Buffy when Buffy and Spike became BFF's. Which they never really did. That was a much more complicated situation.
I stopped reading this article when he said Buffy and Cordy both went to heaven. That was never stated. Cordy supposedly ascended - while alive - to become a higher being (which may have been entirely fake), and Buffy died and went into a state of formless bliss she described as heaven. Those are two distinctly different things.

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