Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thoughts On Season Two of Buffy The Vampire Slayer

As I mentioned last week, I am watching all seven seasons of Buffy for a project that I am currently engaged in.  Yesterday afternoon I finished season two.  First, let me say that this season they gave Whedon a budget to work with and the special effects are much better than the first season, though I seriously doubt that Buffy hit anyone with a single punch or her over used roundhouse kick. I seriously do not buy Sarah Michelle Gellar as the ass kicking type, though she is supposed to inspire shivers of girl power.

This season I learned that going to a frat house with older boys will lead to trouble.  See that girls, if you are attacked, it is all your fault for putting yourself in that position in the first place.  Good girls never date or are attracted to older men.  This is once again played out in Buffy’s relationship with the ever so musty Angel.  It is no accident that the moment that she decides to sleep with him, that he lost his soul.  Are you paying attention kids, there is a cost to teenage sex, no matter how much you lurve him. The very fact that Angel’s first act as a non feeling vampire is to slut shame the hell out of Buffy is telling.

Angel would then go on to stalk Buffy for the rest of the season.  The fact that he had lost his soul was enough for Buffy to empathize with him for much of the season, though he was clearly violent and a threat to her friends. This screamed of the old, he just can’t help himself mode that we often see attached to violent male behaviour in this genre. Excusing it in no way makes it healthy. I know that some believe that Buffy was redeemed because she finally got the guts to knife him at the end of the season, but from what I have heard, her pinning for him continues into the next season.  Stalking is illegal for a reason, and to justify this with the claim that he is just not himself, belies the fact that in many of these cases, real harm and even death occurs.  A more pro woman attitude would have been for Buffy to reject him outright, than to continue to express feelings of love for an entire season.

This season we finally say some melanin, though it certainly did not last long.  First we had a mummy who was an Incan princess that was sacrificed by her people. All that she wanted to do was lead the life that she was denied, but because killing others was the only way that this life could be maintained, she was quickly dispatched.  Only White girls deprived of their youth get to be viewed with sympathy. We were then introduced to Kendra Young, another vampire slayer.  She only showed up when there was really big trouble on the horizon, and quickly met her death at the hands of Spike’s true love.  It’s amazing that Buffy manages to kill all of these vampires, and yet the Black slayer is easy work for a vampire.  On top of everything else Kendra had the most awful fake accent I have heard in a longtime. I highly believe that this constitutes exoticism, thereby othering her amongst the White characters. On a show in which finding a person of colour, is like looking for the one grain of pepper in a salt shaker, I must say that I was hardly surprised that these characters quickly met their end, which of course makes it that much more ironic that Buffy is often labelled a feminist show.

Speaking of empowering women, Xander was not happy with Cordelia’s decision to break up with him. He could have gone all angsty teenage boy, but instead he decided to have a witch cast a spell so that she would fall madly in love with him, thus giving him the opportunity to dump her.  What a great way to promote female agency.  Unfortunately for Xander, his little spell does not work and all the women in the town quickly become violently obsessed with him.  Buffy and Willow both present themselves to Xander for sex, and being the gentleman that he is, he turns them down realizing that they are not really consenting to sex.  I would have found this positive, if it did not originate with Xander attempting to force Cordelia to love him in the first place.  In the end, Buffy lets poor guilty Xander off the hook by letting him know that she appreciated that he didn’t take advantage of her.  Ummm, what the flying fuck.  Why the hell does a woman need to thank a man for not raping her?

Finally, we have Spike resigned to a wheelchair for a large part of the season. Even though he is a vamp, I found myself empathizing with him in large part due to the way that  Angel treated him.  I really do believe that this is something that Whedon did well on, though I have a problem with a hyper able bodied being constructed as disabled.  The truth of the matter is that many function with the myth that we are universally kind to the disabled, and this is anything but true. Angel was not disablist because he is a vampire who has lost his soul, but because we live in a disablist culture. I will however take away points from Whedon for have Spike just stand up one day.  Heaven forbid a disabled character be allowed to exist on a show that seems to just celebrate hyper able bodies.

Season two had a total of 21 episodes, and yet there was still no significant character development. Buffy remained the same self absorbed person that she was in season one, with enough spunky agency to have people declare her a feminist hero. Xander continued to be awkward and unsure of himself, which is completely ridiculous considering the response of his fellow classmates when he joined the swim team for an episode.  I certainly don’t remember any geeks in high school looking like him.  Cordelia despite gaining the confidence to have a public relationship with Xander (remember you have to ignore that he attempted to coerce her through magic), remained only slight more self absorbed than Buffy.  Willow who has emerged as my favorite character, did gain the confidence to let go of her feelings fox Xander and embrace OZ, though she basically still functions as sidekick for Buffy outside of that. At this time, I still don’t understand why people have become such huge fans of this series, but I will continue to watch with the hope that the reason will reveal itself soon.

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