BtVS & AtS + life lessons, part 2 [part 1]
#everyone who reduces Whedon shows to ‘fetishization of kickass females’ or whatever#are just completely missing the point#were we even watching the same shows?#because yes he is most known for his kick-ass ladies#but there were single moms and quiet shy girls and nerdy bookish types and ‘sluts’ and popular girls#not to mention a whole range of guys#the point of these shows are these messages here#a show about a vampire or a vampire hunter or people who get memory implants to be anyone someone else wants#shouldn’t be applicable to all of us#but they fucking are#Joss takes fiction to the next level#he puts it into this ridiculous situation#but at the end of the day he pulls out a real meaning we should all learn (tags via sonicmetennant)
Reporter: So, why do you write these strong female characters?
Joss Whedon: Because you’re still asking me that question.
The question should be “Why do you write seemingly strong women and then punish them for that strength?” I see a lot of characters in this set who got shit on by Joss not to mention at least one actress he fired for the crime of getting pregnant.
A friend of mine likes to challenge “Joss Whedon, Feminist” acolytes to name a female character on Buffy who doesn’t die or go crazy.
I feel like this game could be expanded to find lead female characters who don’t die, go crazy, or lose a loved one in a gruesome way as part of their suffering. Bonus points if they get to the end without anyone threatening to rape them or trying to rape them. There has to be at least one right?
If we include those, we may as well be playing bingo. Joss Whedon’s female characters’ punishments: collect them all!
Who gets mind wiped? Who gets beaten? Who watches everything she ever loved burn? It’s a game for all ages! Bonus points for the ones who die without ever having gotten to live!
I might have feelings about Kendra. A lot of them.
Goddamit, and now I feel compelled to do an actual tally of his original female characters, albeit offhand and from memory. So:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy - two deaths, one rape threat, one attempted rape, two sexual assaults, one dead parent.
Willow - one rape threat, two breaks with sanity, one dead girlfriend.
Cordelia - damselled about a billion times, one attempted forced marriage.
Anya - one rape threat, dead.
Tara - dead.
Kendra - dead.
Faith - multiple breaks with sanity.
Ms Calender - dead.
Joyce - dead.
Dawn - one attempted forced marriage, one dead parent.
Darla - dead.
Drusilla - multiple breaks with sanity.[I don’t know enough about angel, I cut this part]
Kaylee - one rape threat.
River - multiple breaks with sanity.
Zoe - one dead husband.
Inara - one threat of sexual assault.[I don’t know enough about doll house, I cut this part]
I should probably leave this hornet’s nest alone. But I’m pissed off right now, because today I learned people think Joss Whedon is sexist for putting his female characters through the wringer.
As if a fundamental part of the hero’s journey isn’t suffering, having loved ones die, or dying themselves. As if he doesn’t do that to EVERYONE he writes. Here are some of his male characters’ trials, in the same form as above (and this is just the stuff I remember off the top of my head):
Giles - one dead lover/dear friend, brutally tortured at least once
Xander - one threat of sexual assault, implied childhood abuse, at least one break with reality (that made him leave Anya at the altar), one dead lover, loses an eye
Spike - sexually assaulted by his mother, attempted forced marriage (the same spell that got Buffy), brutally tortured, at least one break with sanity, one death
Riley - turned into a meat puppet by
Angel - tortured in hell, at least one death, lots of other stuff I don’t remember because Angel bores me
Wash - brutally tortured, dead
Mal - brutally tortured
Book - dead
And what do I see when I look at the female characters listed above?
Buffy - survives the series with a hopeful heart, comes up with a plan to break an explicitly patriarchal tradition, saves the world a lot, allowed to be flawed and messy and still strong
Willow - survives the series, finds love again after the death of her soulmate, grows from an awkward high school girl to a junkie to the most powerful witch in history
Dawn - survives the series, grows from an annoying little sister to a competent young woman
Faith - survives the series, seemingly a “bad girl” stereotype who actually has depth and a compelling misled-by-evil-(and-love) —> redemption arc
Cordelia - seemingly a “shallow girl” stereotype who actually has depth and comes through when her friends need her despite being out of her element
Anya - a former monster who switches sides, finds and loses love but consciously steps away from deadly coping mechanisms, can run a store better than Giles, illuminates humanity in compelling ways
Tara - shy and unassuming, wise and compassionate and forgiving. She can’t beat up monsters, but that’s okay, she’s still part of the team.
For fuck’s sake. It’s supernatural genre television, not tiptoeing through fields of daisies. People will die. People will be threatened. Sometimes it will happen as a plot device. If you write a lot of female characters (I saw something earlier like the percentage of women in primetime shows is like 17%, which Whedon obviously blows out of the water), a lot of them are going to have horrible things happen to them.
But what Whedon does that’s so different from most is he writes female characters as people. He doesn’t portray stereotypical femininity and strength as mutually exclusive. He shows that physical strength isn’t the only “real” strength they can have. He gives them diverse personalities and shows how they’re all powerful and weak in their own way. He lets them grow and evolve organically. He lets them be compelling villains. He lets them be sympathetic victims. He lets them be fearless warriors for good. Sometimes all three. He lets them make horrible mistakes and successfully atone for them. He shows them suffering for plot-related reasons, doesn’t shy away from the after-effects (versus, say, Deanna Troi in TNG - so much of the stuff that happened to her was gratuitous) and shows them getting back up.
Also, don’t you dare pretend Joyce’s death can be reduced to part of some anti-feminist pattern (for three separate characters, no less. And the fact that Buffy even had a parent in the first place is unusual for the hero archetype). That kind of thing actually happens in the real world, it was handled with incredible sensitivity and realism, and watching Buffy and Dawn go through the grieving process is something many people relate to intensely. It’s fantastic writing. It’s good conflict. It’s good television.
If anyone is writing off Joss’ female characters, it’s you. It’s the people who act like these characters are little more than a list of tragic and biased casualties, and fuck everything else they accomplish.
^*slow claps it out*
If you think Joss Whedon is sexist you’re wrong. Sorry.
IM SO GLAD SOMEONE EXPLAINED ALL THIS BC I THINK IT IS BEAUTIFUL
thank you, this was wonderful to read. The struggles these ladies went through were not written because they’re female, they were written because they’re human. And a lot of the conflicts taught me how to use my strength to survive them. The shows aren’t perfect, no show is, but they’re anything but sexist.
Some of you may have heard the hilarious news. I thought this would be a good time to weigh in. to answer some obvious questions: No, we had no idea this was coming. Yes, we will finish out the season. No, I don’t think the WB is doing the right thing. Yes, I’m grateful they did it early enough for my people to find other jobs.
Yes, my heart is breaking.
When Buffy ended, I was tapped out and ready to send it off. When Firefly got the axe, I went into a state of denial so huge it may very well cause a movie. But Angel… we really were starting to feel like we were on top, hitting our stride — and then we strode right into the Pit of Snakes ‘n’ Lava. I’m so into these characters, these actors, the situations we’re building… you wanna know how I feel? Watch the first act of “The Body.”
As far as TV movies or whatever, I’m not thinking that far ahead. I actually hope my actors and writers are all too busy. We always planned this season finale to be a great capper to the season and the show in general. (And a great platform for a new season, of course.) We’ll proceed ahead as planned.
I’ve never made mainstream TV very well. I like surprises, and TV isn’t about surprises, unless the surprise is who gets voted off of something. I’ve been lucky to sneak this strange, strange show over the airwaves for as long as I have. I don’t FEEL lucky, but I understand that I am.
Thanks all for your support, your community, and your perfectly sane devotion. It’s meant a lot. I regret nothing (except the string of grisley murders in the 80’s — what was THAT all about?) Remember the words of the poet:
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the road less traveled by and they CANCELLED MY FRIKKIN’ SHOW. I totally shoulda took the road that had all those people on it. Damn."
See you soon.
- Joss Whedon on Angel’s cancellation, February 14th 2004 (X)
So, you remember way back in April you and Roommate said there was A Thing with people shipping Angel vs Spike with Buffy, and you had a theory that it was affected by whether they watched it as it aired or later in rapid succession? What was it again? Spike is getting his creeper on in season 5, and I can't see how people, at least at this point, were all for his obsession-crush.
Okay, so here is my theory….
People who watched Buffy as it aired had a 7 year relationship with that show and the characters. There was three years of Buffy and Angel in a relationship, and lets just be honest Buffy was still hung up on Angel for most of season 4. So when Spike entered the picture with confusing lovey feelings for Buffy, a lot of fans reacted poorly because :
1) They were emotionally invested in Buffy being with Angel
2) Spike’s crush was never particularly healthy for a lot of reasons
3) And in their view, Buffy was a ‘good’ girl, a hero
4) and hence Joss and Co were tarnishing that by having her be with Spike.
Now there were always people who liked Buffy and Spike together as it aired — I was one of them because I think the two actors have amazing chemistry. But just because I liked the ship didn’t mean that I thought it was super healthy. A lot of fans at the time also romanticized the Buffy/Angel ship and ignored that Angel also had his own share of problematic creepiness (the paternalism, the inability to have sex with her, general noncomunicativeness, etc). Because they romanticized the ship so much and Buffy as a character so much they had her up on a VERY high pedestal. It didn’t help that one of the writers, David Fury, was active in promoting that view of hero=good girl=/=wanting a bad boy=bad girl. He antagonized the shit out of a lot of people.
And then Season 6 came and Joss and Co knocked her off that pedestal with a wrecking ball. I won’t spoil it for you if you’re only in 5, but sufficient to say Buffy is working on a LOT in Season 6 emotionally and does not always make good choices. LOTS of Buffy fans back in the day LOATHED Season 6. VIOLENTLY. The fandom was very polarized and people were Very Angry.
But here is my theory…… people who watch the show on dvd/netflix later don’t have all that bullshit ^
Because they watch the show all in a row, they don’t have years of investment. They don’t have Buffy on as high of a pedestal and they are not as super invested in Buffy being with Angel. So when Spike comes into the picture, they are usually supportive of that plot point (again, not saying it’s healthy, but they are not throwing hissy fits or quitting the show over it or saying that ship violates the entire purpose of the show).
I’ve found that most people who watch it now really like Season 6. It’s not always everyone’s favorite, but it doesn’t inspire a level of vitriol and it isn’t as polarizing as it is when it first aired. And hence people who watch it now are not so violently opposed to the Buffy/Spike ship as people were when it aired.
Let me know what you think of Spike by the end of The Gift. It’s one of my favorite episodes and I’ve easily seen it 100X
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