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March 08 2017

The villains on 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' showed just how pervasive misogyny can be. Alyssa Rosenberg explains how the villains of Buffy are "a field guide to misogyny."

Excellent article, especially the parts about the Mayor and the Trio.
I just have one complaint: the author missed the opportunity to include in this an exploration of the season 2 Big Bad, aka blatant metaphor of an everyday bad/abusive boyfriend.
TimeTravellingBunny, I thought the very same thing. I find it a glaring omission. I tweeted the author asking her about it and this was our exchange:

Me: Is there a reason you left out Angelus?

AR: I think of him as in a separate category from the Big Bads, given his ongoing role in the series.

Me: Not Angel, I mean Angelus, Angel's evil alter-ego. Hew was the Big Bad of season 2.

AR: I don't separate the two.

I guess I can understand not wanting to separate the two characters, since Angelus being the evil part of Angel that he has to learn to control is a very compelling story.

But not thinking of Angelus as the Big Bad of season 2 completely ignores the misogyny of how he relates to Buffy in season 2. The boyfriend turning into an asshole after you sleep with him. The Buffy/Angelus fight at the end of the season where he asks her what is left after she loses everything, and she says "me". I think that's all plays a compelling role in the case Alyssa Rosenberg was making in the article, and it feels so weird to me that she left that out.
I don't separate the two characters either, but that's no reason to exclude him from the list of Big Bads. If he wasn't the Big Bad, who was? Dark Willow was certainly a villain, too, and I don't separate her from regular Willow.
"But not thinking of Angelus as the Big Bad of season 2 completely ignores the misogyny of how he relates to Buffy in season 2."


I don't quite get that. I'd think that if Angel/us were to be gay, a freshly de-souled Angelus would treat his (now) former boyfriend pretty much the same way, that Angelus treated Buffy. He's a mentally challenged prick, but I see no particular hatred towards women.

Quite honestly, the only instances of misogyny I ever recognized on the show were Tara's rotten family and of course Caleb. The Council of Watchers comes close, but I'd argue that they're less hateful towards women and more interested in keeping the key to their illusion of power in check - which simply happens to be a woman.
Then there's Warren, a rapist and murderer. But even here I don't see misogyny. I see a psychopath who takes what he wants - with no regard for others. Sexually, he's attracted to women, so they're getting the short end of the stick, but I never felt like he held particular disregard towards the female gender. In the very least I'd say he's a far cry from "Angel"'s Billy (who appears to be misogynist, even though it's unclear whether his power actually allows him to cause anything else than male-to-female violence).
Warren wasn't misogynistic?

"Baby, get on your knees"

"Women - all mind games"

"That almost hurt kitten!"

"What's the matter baby? Never fought a real man before?"

"Look at me, crying like a girl"


Um, his power to hurt Buffy was also a set of mystical "orbs." And she smashed them, just after he called her a "bitch." I'd say it was pretty obvious what the writers were going for there.

When Willow turns into Warren and he begins to take over her she also says that she's turning into a "misogynistic man."
Sahjhan, the whole Watcher's Council is entirely misogynistic. It's not an accident that the Slayer just happens to be female every time.

As to the rest of your comments, if you don't see the misogyny then I think you are completely missing the point of Buffy.
vampmogs:

"Women - all mind games"

We can agree on that one, because it's a negative (and untrue) generalization about women. The others sound more like figures of speech to me, quite honestly. Some of them might be questionable if put under a microscope, but I'd rather file them under "megalomania" ("Get on your knees", "I'm a real man [and more of a man than anything you've faced before]", ...). The phrase "Crying like a [little] girl" is something that I personally don't like very much and try not to use any longer, but it's also rather common and I truly doubt that everybody who uses it is a misogynist.
The way I look at it, Warren actually recognized Buffy as the alpha of his world. So in order to obtain that very position, which - in his mind - was rightfully his, he had to belittle her and put himself over. She was also of sexual interest to him, so of course that aspect further coloured his comments.

I think there's very little evidence of Warren showing a general contempt towards women. Treating one - or even several -women badly or talking condescending to them doesn't necessarily make you a misogynist. It might just as well mean that you're simply a bastard.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there's no chance that Warren was misogynistic. In the very least there's a good chance the writers intended him to be. I merely think that the evidence doesn't support the case. Treating someone bad doesn't automatically mean that you hate everything that person stands for and represents.

Warren clearly had issues. Mind-controling a person you used to be in a relationship with, raping them, killing them and afterwards making an innocent believe it is them who did the latter is...well... But I'm not sure I want to name those issues. I think there's not enough information to put a label on them. Some labels, maybe. But not all of them. And I don't think there's enough information to conclude a decisive difference in the value, Warren bestows upon women versus the value he bestows upon men.


electricspacegirl:

It's not an accident, I agree. But it's also something that was put in place aeons ago and I don't think that every generation of watchers that came after the first ones is automatically in that category. There's also no indication that changing the spell was ever on the table. Even Willow kept it female-only when she managed to tamper with the magic of the slayer.
If we further think about it, it actually makes little sense for the slayer to always be a woman or girl, since men tend to have greater physical attributes (see comparisons in athletic competitions like running, jumping, throwing or weight-lifting) that would come handy in a fight. So maybe there was a magical reason for the spell being cast that way. I don't know. The mythology aspect was never one of the show's strong points.

And yes, maybe I do miss the point. It's just that I don't see misogyny whenever a woman gets treated badly. I need to see a clear distinction in the treatment of women and men (e.g. Tara's family) and/or repeated derogatory statements towards women in general (e.g. Caleb) in order to call it that. I also don't really care about the intentions of an author - it's what they actually show me that matters to me.

I'll admit, though, that "metaphor for this and that"-aspect of "Buffy" never quite resonated with me. So maybe these elements are too subtle for me to pick up on.


[There might be some slips in this posting. It's late.]
This is a really good article.

Just chiming in here about the Watchers' Council. In my opinion it's absolutely misogynistic in the way it's structured. The whole Watcher tradition is based on locating female power and controlling it. They have a rigid hierarchy of authority vs obedience, education vs ignorance. It's classic oppression and it's based on the assumption that no matter who she is, the slayer cannot be trusted to control her own power.

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