Saturday, February 9, 2013

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 1

Day 1: Favorite Episode

Okay, I cheated a little on this one.  I picked a two-parter.  But I love this episode and it perfectly encapsulates what I want to talk about here.  Sooo...

3x21 and 3x22 Graduation Day (Part 1 and 2)

Others include...God, a lot of them.  Here are other picks from every season:  "Nightmares", "Passion", "Band Candy", "Hush" and "Fear Itself", "Fool for Love", "Tabula Rasa" and "Selfless"

There are two things at work here that I really like.  One, we have the fight between Faith and Buffy that we've been working up to all season.  Second, we have the entire graduating class of Sunnydale High banding together to kick some ass.

First, I want to talk about Buffy and Faith.  For those not familiar with the Madonna/whore dichotomy, let me talk about that for a second.  It was a tenet within theories of sex essentialism that became popularized in the early 20th century.  The idea is simple: there are two types of women in the world and every woman can be separated into them.  Madonnas are feminine, nurturing, caring, motherly, protective, and virtuous.  Whores are masculine, aggressive, strong-willed, and sexually liberated.  I think you know where I'm going with this.

Buffy is a Madonna.  She had sex one time and got punished for it, and she has remained chaste besides.  She is protective, and it's clear in episodes like "Bad Girls" and "Faith, Hope and Trick" that she acts like she doesn't enjoy the rush she gets from slaying when she really does.  She's even blonde, dresses in a feminine manner a lot of the time, and is the Good Slayer for the second half of the third season.  Faith, on the other hand, is open with how much she enjoys slaying.  She is sexually aggressive and open about promiscuity.  She dresses in a more masculine fashion (when the Mayor buys her a pink dress she declares it not her style).  She's dark-haired and often dresses in dark clothes. Faith is supposed to be the embodiment of the Whore stereotype.  I think the writer does a good job of making both of these characters more complex and refuting the dichotomy, but we'll get to that in a later post.

Buffy crosses over to the Dark Side a bit here, though.  After Angel is shot with a poison dart and can only be cured by drinking the blood of a slayer, she decides to go kill Faith.  Remember that earlier in this season there was a lot of talk in the Scooby Gang about how terrible taking a human life is and how it "changes you forever".  And yet, Buffy goes to kill Faith and in the end stabs her in the stomach.  Buffy became violent, aggressive, and dark--and crosses over from Madonna.  Then she goes to Angel and gets him to drink her blood in a scene that is one of the clearest sexual metaphors in this entire show.  Buffy disputes the dichotomy completely in one episode--she attempts to kill Faith, but still saves all of Sunnydale in just the next episode.

The Mayor is a great villain.  And watching him go down is still one of the most enjoyable experiences of the entire show.  The whole graduating class gets together to defeat the Mayor!  Cordelia even gets to dust a vampire!  The school gets blown up!  And Buffy uses her near murder of Faith as a weapon to do good.  Thus begging the question: is it truly possible to be a Madonna and a Whore at the same time?

Though I still think Oz had a great idea with his chase-the-Mayor-with-hummus plan.  

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