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March 26 2005

Good Girl, Bad Girl. Where have all the action heroines gone? Author compares heroines like Buffy to the current crop of butt kicking female characters.

Nicely sums up the reasons I haven't bothered with Catwoman, Electra, or Charlie's Angels II. Seems like a case of copycat syndrome. As if they blindly think, "Let's make a female superhero, audiences like them and hence it will be a success." And then they forget that it takes a real script to pull it off, not just ass-stomping babes with an attitude sporting domwear.
Want a successful female hero? Watch Whedon's work, of course, and maybe another like Xena. When will studios learn to trust the vision of a real artist??
"Both Catwoman (Halle Berry) and Elektra (Jennifer Garner) actually had to die and come back to life to work through their deep psychological issues."

Buffy: "Hey, I died twice!"

If this writer doesn't think Buffy didn't have her share of dysfunctionalism, she just wasn't watching. "When She Was Bad", "Ann", the whole of Season 6, coping (badly) with going to college, managing (badly) the SITs, over-parenting Dawn, and so on...she makes it sound like Buffy was alway in control, always ready to make the right (and, for her, easy) decision...not the Buffy the Vampire Slayer I remember (and continue to watch--wife and I are re-viewing Season 3 at the moment.)

Finally: "I need to believe that powerful women don't need to prove their strength by slaughtering their loved ones."

Well, yes, but..."Becoming Part 2", anybody?

Buffy is so much more than an action hero. Back in my skeptical days, I told people (guys) who tried to interest me in the show that all they were interested in was "a hot babe in tight pants who kicks ass." They assured me that, while that did indeed take place in Buffy that there was more, so much more than that. Boy, were they ever right, and was I ever wrong.

I get really chafed when Buffy gets pigeonholed as an action hero or a fantasy show. As I've said, over and over, it's art, and art of a very high order. It not only transcends the genre, it transcends the medium of television. It has become a new kind of literature, and you only have to watch its imitators, however good they may be, to realize how much higher and deeper and better it is.
What you said, Chris in Virginia. I couldn't agree more. Amid a zillion pale imitations, nothing comes close to touching the brilliance of the original.

I eagerly await the day there's a degree program in Whedonverse Studies at some university. We've all had years of intensive training in our chosen field already, but wouldn't it be neat to have a BWS (or better yet, a PhWS) to our credits? ;)
I agree, Buffy died...at least twice (wasn't she flat-lining when Dark Willow pulled the bullet out of her?), but she never completely lost her connection to the world or became a victim (she skated close to it in S6, which is what a lot of people objected to I think).
Catwoman & Elektra can fight but can't regain their humanity, which ultimately makes the stories two dimensional. How can anyone in the audience identify with or care about these characters?
I'm glad this writer was able to express what so many of us felt was missing in these failed films. I am very excited about Joss Whedon's 'Wonder Woman'!

PS Wiseblood, there are people doing their MA on Whedon's work already. They've had whole seminars at some colleges.
These interesting tidbits alway pop-up before I go to work. Damn, see you in 12 hours.
"... without impaling their boyfriends along the way."
But... Buffy did that.

" ... had to die and come back to life to work through their deep psychological issues."

Well, Buffy looked pretty calm and at peace to me when she decided to jump. Not only for Dawn's sake - but, as far as I could tell, it was well debated whether or not it was partly an escape for Buffy as well. Deep psychological issues? My mind is racing to all those visible times when Buffy wasn't exactly pleased with what she was doing, didn't want to be alive, the conversation that took place in "Conversations with Dead Things", etc.

"... and inevitably slay all of their demons."
When did that part happen?

I also agree with Chris inVirginia, on all points.

I know this article is supposed to be complimentary to Buffy but it made her look like one of those figures that "could do anything if you just fight through your problems to accomplish your goals!" because I don't know if that's any more realistic. It doesn't always happen that way. I sure hope Buffy didn't "inevitably slay all of" her demons. Some, wonderful! That's good, great! But all...?

Buffy failed sometimes. And that's what I appreciated most about it. She was flawed, imperfect, but could still succeed at times and this is what I could identify with. While I can't identify with a character that always fails, neither can I do the same with a character that always wins. I, for one, found a balance with Buffy's character.
Can anybody tell me what was so good about the first Charlie's Angels that distinguished it from CA2? The first 15 minutes were so bad you couldn't pay me to watch the rest. I don't see how the sequel could be much worse.

[ edited by rkayn on 2005-03-26 19:54 ]
Good article, but this writer must have slept through the 7 years of Buffy. Although it was very complementary of the show, it all boils down to what Chris inVirginia said, "Buffy is so much more than an action hero".

I don't know about you guys, but the whole time I was reading this article, I kept thinking, "just you wait until Wonder Woman!".
Actually you'd died a whole load of times but we lost count after two.

Hey Simon, those other times shouldn't count since they were either dreams or alternate realitys. So techniqally, she died twice.
Correct, BufSlyAngel (and the Buffy quotation was, of course, from OMWF), but it was interesting to see how many images of Buffy's "death" we've seen...I was surprised--nice one, Simon.

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2005-03-26 22:04 ]
Aah Simon! I think that article may pull up the age old debate of Did Buffy die in Villians? (even though it was not even mentioned (pfft) in the article!

So did she die?

I think so
Apocalypse, I would have to think that she didn't die, because Willow's magic would have been of no use to save her as it would have been a natural, as opposed to supernatural death.

She couldn't save Tara (although she certainly tried), but she was able to save Buffy, leading me to conclude that while Buffy certainly *could* have died of that bullet wound, but did not, because Willow got to her in time. Her magic could save a person hovering near death, but not after death.

With Tara, the death was immediate, so she had not chance to save her.

But you are certainly right--that definitely was a near miss. ("Near miss" has always struck me as a misnomer--wouldn't a "near miss" be a "hit"?...but I digress...)
I don't think the article is denying Buffy died, just that dying didn't make her a superhero. Nor do I think that they are denying Buffy didn't kill her boyfriend, but she didn't do it to prove her strength. She did both of those things because she had to.
Good thing she didn't see "House of Flying Daggers", awesome drama but Hero's ending is tame compared to it. Just like the lesbian-death/tragic ending cliche, I think she better just get used to it unfortunately, until there are new people at the helm of Hollywood.
I thought House Of Flying Daggers was a chinese production, not hollywood.
Chris InVirginia: Yes, she missed a few points (that Buffy died, and killed her boyfriend), but I think the article was excellent and insightful. I don't think it tried to pigeonhole Buffy at all, I think it held Buffy up as an example of what a multi-dimensional strong female character SHOULD be. And she's right, lots of the female action heroines are not well-fleshed out characters or are only physically strong, and not emotionally. She's not saying that Buffy didn't have emotional trauma or issues or flaws, but that she fought through them and worked on them. She didn't require some huge Deus Ex Machina to fix things for her (or a man to do it for that matter). She simply relied on her friends' and her own personal strength.

I think the article was brilliant, and I hope the author is looking forward to WonderWoman as much as I suddenly am.
Er... in Villains, I thought Willow did bring someone back, just not who she thought she did. I though it was a Joss-y twist that she, trying to save Tara's life, accidentally saved Buffy's (but left her with a mortal wound in her chest), and that she then saved Buffy Again when she was in the hospital. And she had more power when she saved Buffy later because she'd been powering up, and losing Tara gave her all the good rage mojo.
Have to disagree, Pixxelpuss. Nothing I saw in the eposode indicated that.
This article appears to me as an off-the-cuff opinion piece, which is all good and well, but let's not treat it as though it were a dissertation. I found myself alternately wanting to yell at the author and to praise her.

For example, this is one of my favorite lessons of Buffy the show (as opposed to Buffy the movie):
pretty and powerful are not mutually exclusive.


I also wanted to kiss (but not really) the UC-SC prof who said:

Hollywood needs to understand that you can have strong women while still having equality between the sexes.


I guess my problem was that this assertion:
The doms may kick and punch like heroines, but they're really victims.
was mostly unsupported. Sure, they are victims of bad writing and costuming, but that's not what I thought she was getting at. I haven't seen the movies, so maybe there's a leap to be made there if I had - but I felt overall this piece was scratching the surface of good ideas without delving too deeply.

Which, again, taken as an opinion piece is fine, but let's not call it a treatise.

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