Thursday, March 28, 2013

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Days 24-25

Day 24: Favorite Example Of 90s Special Effects
Day 25: Favorite Buffyverse Saying

These two are so small and pointless to expound upon so I'm going to just combine them.  So here we go, this is a short one, folks.

The Mayor's Ascension
Honorable Mentions go to Oz's werewolf transformations or any example of "vamp face".  

I mean the way his face just gets weirdly elongated and then he turns into a GIANT FREAKING SNAKE.  And everyone's reaction to it is hilarious, as well as...understandably alarmed.  I love "vamp face", though.  It's so absurd.  And no actor ever, ever pulls it off convincingly.

Looks like the Hellmouth is
officially closed for business.

There is another one in Cleveland.
Not to spoil the moment... 

 I don't really have a favorite recurring Buffy phrase--everyone picks "bored now"--but I like the Cleveland as another Hellmouth joke for two reasons.  One, it's an example of good writing because it can be subtly traced through the seasons up until this piece of dialogue that comes at the very end of the series finale "Chosen".  Two, I'm a PITTSBURGH girl.  Any hating on Cleveland is cool in my book.  

Wouldn't surprise me if it was a Hellmouth.

I'm going to replace Day 25 with another question that was in another one of the 30 Days of Buffy memes I found, so I'll get right on that today. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 23

Day 23: Two Characters You Wanted To Get Together But Never Did

Yeah, all of my favorite pairings are just completely out there.  Then again, this show put so many weird couples together that I don't think ANY pairing could really be "out there".  So here we go.  Flame away.

Giles and Anya
Honorable mention goes to Spike and Faith (oh come on, how hot would that be?)

I feel like Giles and Anya are the two most intelligent characters on this show.  Plus, they're my two favorites, so I'm a little biased.  But I honestly think they'd be adorable together.  Giles definitely appears to admire Anya's abilities when it comes to knowledge of the supernatural and often looks to her for expertise.  He also realizes her business acumen pretty much immediately.  For her part, Anya seems to take a genuine liking to Giles.  And I can't really say the age difference would be a difficult one to manage here--after all, Anya is over a thousand years old.

I mean, come on, Giles seems to be destined for perpetual romantic misery, and Xander and Anya didn't exactly work out because, mostly, he was too immature for her. And while Giles can often be made uncomfortable or joke about Anya's lack of social graces, he also appreciates her skills and knowledge in a way that Xander never really does.

Also, there are these things, from the season six finale "Grave":

What did you do? GILES
Contained her and her powers within
a binding field. It puts her in a
kind of stasis for the time--
You've cut your hair.
Buffy slides her arms around Giles. God, she's glad to see him. They hold each other for a moment, as Anya watches, longingly.

I'm blonde!
Giles peeks over at her. Huh?

ANYA (cont'd)
I colored my hair. Again. I'm
Giles recognizes her desire for attention.

Yes. I noticed.
And later:
ANYA (cont'd)
Giles? Giles. Don't die. Not yet.
I... There are... I need to tell
(tears start to flow)
Thanks a lot for coming. I mean, it
was nice of you to teleport all this

ANYA (cont'd)
Though, in retrospect, it might have
been better if you hadn't come and
given her all that magic that made
her ten times more powerful... that
would have been a plus.
She GASPS when Giles' hand comes up and touches hers. She looks at him and sees his eyes are slightly open and looking at her with affection.

(barely a whisper)
It's not over.
Yeeeah, sorry, I really love these two.  And I wish they would have gotten together.  they both definitely deserved better than they got.  
Feel free to disagree, I would love to hear all of my readers' wacky pairings as well!



Monday, March 25, 2013

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 22

Day 22: Character You Like That Everyone Else Hates

I thought about this for a really long time before I realized that the answer was incredibly obvious.  I did not want to get through this meme without writing about one character who I think exemplifies the anti-feminist tendencies of this show, at least from a female perspective.


I honestly believe that Faith is the most complex and interesting character in Buffy.  Sadly, her story arc doesn't get nearly as much time as it should on this show.  Faith as a person is a perfectly feminist character, but once again it's about framing.  So let's take a look.

Faith shows up at the beginning of Season 3 as the Slayer that was called after Kendra was killed.  She is instantly everything Buffy is not--dark-colored clothing to Buffy's cutesy little outfits, dark hair to Buffy's innocent blonde, and sexually promiscuous where Buffy has at this point been put in her place for having a sense of sexuality.  Even more, Faith ENJOYS slaying in a way that Buffy also does but refuses to admit it.  Faith is the Whore to Buffy's Madonna, so naturally she has to turn evil--her aggression and sexuality have to turn into something bad.

It's hinted that Faith has kind of a bad past, not knowing her father and having an abusive, alcoholic mother.  So, naturally, she dealt with this through being delinquent...and highly sexual.  Sex is not exactly a good thing on Buffy.

So Faith goes to work for the Mayor--she was SO DESPERATE for that replacement father figure that she needed to go be evil about it--and, long story short, ends up in a coma.  When she wakes up she finds a spell to take over Buffy's body, because she obviously should so desperately WANT to be the good girl. But let's save that for a minute.

When Faith does come back in the Season 4 episode "This Year's Girl", she finds Buffy and talks to her.  Faith points out that Buffy tried to kill her for Angel, over a guy that Buffy had seen as "the love of her life."  But when Faith came back, Angel was long gone and Buffy was with Riley, an entirely different guy.  Then Willow calls Faith a bitch a few times, which is always charming.

In Season 3, the turning point of Faith into "evil" territory is when she accidentally kills a man that she thought was a vampire.  The whole Scooby Gang frets over her, pointing out that she must feel completely different now that she's taken a human life.  And it's clear that Faith does change--she's more lost than ever but deal with it in an unhealthy way.  In this she quickly becomes the Bad Guy.  Something that was clearly going to happen from Day 1 of her appearance because the good, sweet, nearly-virginal heroine of the show was put off by her aggressive, frank, sexual ways.

In "This Year's Girl", Faith takes over Buffy's body.  In the second part of the two-part episode, "Who Are You", we see her imitate Buffy in private, mocking Buffy's sense of right and wrong.  She even does it to Spike here (keep in mind, the dialogue is tagged as "Faith" but it's Faith in Buffy's body):

Gah! You know why I really hate
you, Summers?

I'm a stuck up tight-ass with no
sense of fun?
He's sort of stopped by that one…

Wuh-yeah, that… covers a lot of it…

'Cause I could do anything I want
and instead I just pout and whine
and feel the burden of slayerness? I
mean, I could be rich, I could be
famous, I could have anything.
(her tone becomes
intimate, hypnotic)
Even you, Spike. I could ride you at
a gallop till your legs buckled and
your eyes rolled up, I've got muscles
you've never even dreamed of, I could
squeeze you till you popped like warm
champagne and you'd beg me to hurt
you just a little bit more and you
know why I don't?
Spike, as aroused as he is confused, takes a moment. Before he can answer:

FAITH (cont'd)
(mock serious)
Because it's wrong.
Later in this episode, Faith rapes Riley.  Yes, I realize "rapes" is a surprisingly strong word, but it's true: she is not the person he consents to have sex with, Buffy is, but it's Faith in her body pulling the strings.  And Riley reacts in a way that would imply he felt violated by it as well.  But before they have sex, Faith asks Riley this:
What do you want to do with this

body? What nasty little desire have
you been itching to try out? Am I a
bad girl? Do you wanna hurt me?
 This is two things: One, she's trying to soil Buffy's body in some way, as well as trying to screw with Buffy for screwing with her whole life.  Second, I think we're supposed to see Faith as having low self-esteem that is manifested by her aggressive sexuality.  I don't necessarily see this as the case--Faith may be misguided and emotionally stunted but I take umbrage at the notion that all women who choose to be promiscuous are doing it out of some phantom lack of self-esteem.  
Faith shows up on Angel and some truly interesting things happen there, but I'm going to save that for when I actually cover that series.  She comes back to Sunnydale in season 7 of Buffy to fight The First Evil and, while she is still Buffy's foil, she is "reformed" now.  
Faith got the short end of the stick in a lot of ways.  He character arc should have gotten more time to develop and I have always had a hard time seeing her as a real villain--just a complex person with a lot of weight on her shoulders.  My frustrations with Faith never stemmed from disliking her, I realized upon rewatch.  My frustrations came from the lack of exploration her character was allowed that made it APPEAR we were supposed to dislike her in a black-or-white, good-and-evil kind of way.  She scorns Buffy's good-girl nature in a way that she legitimately should, and her jealousy stems from the fact that Buffy is continuously rewarded while Faith cannot find a proper place in the world no matter her methodology or morals.  
In the end, I ended up liking Faith a lot more than a lot of the characters you're actually supposed to like.  She feels like a whole person, someone with real issues who never gets to truly bring them to the surface unless she's fighting.  It's easy to identify with Faith--except for, you know, the murders and stuff--because everyone knows a person like her, to some degree.  
I've got another couple hard prompts coming up so be prepared for some out-of-left-field posts.  That's all I can say.      

Friday, March 22, 2013

The MRAs Invaded My Blog!

Happy Return-From-Spring-Break everyone!  Tomorrow I will be returning to 30 Days of Buffy but for right now I figured we'd have some extra fun!

So on my last post a comment was posted by a guy who proclaimed he was BOYCOTTING AMERICAN WOMEN because of how awful they are.  I'll invite you to go look at that comment because, hey, no one will ever accuse me of deleting discussion from the opposition!  But he did post a list of "facts" that I'd like to debunk one by one, because a lot of them regard things I would have liked to talk about anyway.

Before anything else I guess I should explain what MRAs are. They are Men's Rights Activists, men who believe that now that women have apparently taken over the world, men must fight back to reclaim their rights.  I would hate to direct you, my wonderful readers, to anything that will really make your head explode.  So I will follow this link (to the bowels of Reddit Hell) with these two fun links.  This one is to the topics page about MRAs.  This one is to an awesome site making fun of MRAs.

Okay, now to the meat of this post. 

1. False rape accusations (it has been proven that up to 80 percent of rape accusations are FALSE)

Oh man, we're really starting off with a doozy!  Remember, he's saying that this is one of the reasons he will never date American women.  Because they all like to lie about rape.  This is especially important to remember after the verdict of the Steubenville rape case came down last Sunday.  Now LET ME TELL YOU HOW NOT TRUE THIS IS.

These statistics are coming from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Now, those stats may seem irrelevant to this question but let me put them in context.  After attempting to research the actual rate of false reports of rape, many realize there is no actual number.  This is because--as you can see in this depressing infographic--the rate of rapes that are even investigated is so frighteningly low it's hard to know whether or not claims are false.  And while the FBI reports that about 8% of rapes claims are "unfounded", that does not mean the same thing as falsified--it means that not sufficient evidence could be found one way or another.  And, considering how terribly rape is investigated, that is not surprising.  Still, after looking around at a few reputable sources in America, no estimate is even remotely close to 80%.

Now here's why this is misogynistic (as if I have to explain this):  You see that graph up there?  Yeah, guys like this are the reason that graph looks that way.  It assumes that women are all liars and whores, and completely dismisses the experience of rape survivors.  And yes, this is misogynistic--there are male victims of rape but rape is a VERY gendered crime, if not in reality then at least as far as our culture is concerned.  Assuming that every woman who claims she has been raped is constantly lying is a form of victim-blaming, and it's not okay.  But holy shit, 80%.  This guy really doesn't want to be taken seriously!

2. False domestic violence (DV) charges (same as above, and up to 40 percent of domestic violence victims are MALE, with their female partners INITIATING the violence)
 Hey, I saw this one just a couple weeks ago while researching my Domestic Violence post!  On an MRA web site!  Okay, let's break this down, because the way this was written literally makes no sense.

The rate of fake domestic violence charges is (apparently) as high as fake rape charges, thus 80%
Up to 40% of DV victims are male, with their female partners initiating the violence.

Okay.  First of all, THERE ARE A LOT OF MALE VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.  In fact, many sources corroborate that statistic.  That, in itself, is not misogynistic--women can also be terrible people.  However, there is no indication in any of the many studies I read that those 40% were all assaulted by female partners.  Just as the statistics for women do not take into account their female intimate partners.

But let's throw that all out the window, because this:

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 1998 and 2002:
  • Of the almost 3.5 million violent crimes committed against family members, 49% of these were crimes against spouses.
  • 84% of spouse abuse victims were females, and 86% of victims of dating partner abuse at were female.
  • Males were 83% of spouse murderers and 75% of dating partner murderers
 I cannot dispute the claims about false accusations of domestic violence, but I can say that 1 in 4 women are likely to be the victims of domestic violence in their lifetimes and that is another one of the most underreported crimes out there.  So take from that what you will.

 3. False sexual harassment charges
There is no context to this.  The only thing that I can say is that SEXUAL HARASSMENT EXISTS.  Sorry that you can't slap your female coworkers' asses allll daaay loooong these days, dudes, but them's the breaks.  You thinking the ladies are being uptight bitches doesn't make you being gross okay.

4. Financial destruction of men in divorce courts through alimony and support payments (women get up to 95 percent of their ex-husband's income and savings, as well as the house, car, etc)
I'm not going to look up stats for this one because, frankly, I partially agree with it.  Because it's sexist!

Alimony is one of those things that is a gift with a price.  Women receive alimony because men are seen as the breadwinners in married couples' households, thus divorce women are assumed incapable of taking care of themselves.  In a world where women still make less money than men that is not entirely untrue, but it is still objectionable that the default is to give the woman a bunch of money because clearly she is incapable of making it herself.  Child custody is another thing that gets kind of screwed up in the process of being well-meaning.  Women are EXPECTED to take care of their children, so they very frequently end up with full custody.  Which, again, is doing a disservice to both women and men because gender roles exist.  Unfortunately, child support kind of is a different story.

No, you probably shouldn't have to support your spouse after a divorce because of some antiquated notion that they have become reliant on you for income.  However, a child is a whole different story--the parent who does not spend as much time/money with the child is still responsible for its wellbeing, and thus SHOULD contribute to that.  It's not to say that the support-paying parent should be the father, because we're working under the ideal model of the mother not being the default parent.

So, while you're right in theory, Mr. MRA Douche, it's not for the reasons you think.

5. Emotional destruction of men by ex-wives who have stolen their children from them and forbidden the fathers from having custody or contact with their own children
If anyone can actually explain to me that this happens legally I will gladly respond to it.  Until then...WUT?

 6. Divorced dads who commit suicide as a result
There's no number here to prove or disprove so I will say this: this probably does happen.  I read a few articles, and they concluded that divorce and middle age are frequent causes of suicide for men.  However, there are no stats on what is being presented here at all.

-25 percent of American women take psychiatric drugs for mental illnesses. 
This one just pisses me off.  So this is a reason to avoid them?  Anyway, it's bullshit and misleading--about half of the U.S. population will, at some point in their lifetimes, exhibit symptoms that would qualify them for a DSM diagnosis of some kind.  And while women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression (not necessarily BE depressed, but be DIAGNOSED with depression), men are far more likely to have schizophrenia and substance abuse problems.

And it saddens me that any population--women, men, any race, any class--should be "boycotted" because of general statistics about that group's mental health.  Being medicated for mental health issues or even just HAVING them does not make a person bad, or crazy--it's INCREDIBLY common.

-25 percent of women under the age of 30 have at least one STD. 
There are a million reasons for this.  First of all, that rate ain't all that different for men--in fact, one in two adults (regardless of gender) will contract an STD at some point.  Second, us ladies?  We get tested for HPV.  The fellas don't.  Thirdly, it is anatomically easier for women to contract STDs than it is for men.  Also, we are more likely to be screened for STDs than men are.  Since there is no context here (about men vs. women) it's a pretty easy stat to knock down.

-85 percent of divorces in America are INITIATED by women, thus women are responsible for the vast majority of divorces. 

Uhhh, that is a faulty syllogism, dude.  Women being the first person to say "I want a divorce" or being the first ones to fill out legal documents does not mean the divorce is their fault.  It takes two to tango, right?  Like, women aren't all out of the blue saying "I want a divorce!" because they realize every problem in their marriage is their fault.  Also, according to this here paper, about two thirds of initial filings are by women, not 85%.  Still, this shows a lack of personal responsibility.  Divorce really sucks, don't get me wrong, but you have to at least admit that if you're in an equal marriage you both have some fault for "causing" a divorce, right?

-70 percent of criminals in America were raised by single mothers, thus feminism is responsible for most crime in America. 
Two things about this made me laugh:  One, that is an even faultier syllogism than the last one.  And two, when you type "criminals raised by single mothers" into Google, the first results are all headlines about Ann Coulter, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney planting foot firmly in mouth by blaming single mothers for crime in America.  I'm not going to say anymore about this because this article says it better than I ever could.  Also, feminism does not advocate single motherhood exclusively, just that single motherhood should be an option for women.  So wrong on all counts.

 -The majority of child molestation, child abuse, and child murder in America is done by WOMEN.
"The majority" is a very vague estimation, so let's just go in with the assumption that this guy is talking the bare minimum, meaning 51%.  The APA can go ahead and rule out women committing the majority of sexual abuse right off the bat--according to them, women are the perpetrators in about 14% of cases of sexual abuse in boys and about 6% of sexual abuse in girls.  It is very hard to find statistics on child murder in the U.S., at least child murder stats that are isolated to victims whose parents killed them, so I can't refute that. 

Over 50 percent of American women are single, without a boyfriend or husband; so the fact is most American men no longer want to marry American women. Let these worthless American women grow old living alone with their 10 cats.
I'm not sure how you could know this at any given time, seeing as people are going into and breaking up relationships every day.  According to this handy chart in 2010 over half of women were married, so...I'm not sure how this could be true.  It does not give statistics on whether people have unmarried partners.  Also, it's important to add that men's numbers were higher in the "Never Married" category and lower in the "Married" category.

And Chaz and I intend on having our ten cats together.  And one hedgehog.

This guy wraps up by saying how prejudiced it is when he gets shouted down for telling men to marry East Asian women/.  This fetishization of different cultures because the women within them are stereotypically--not in reality!--subservient is pretty gross.  Marry whomever you want, but if your qualification for marrying them is that they are of a specific race, that's pretty gross, dude.

So in conclusion, you're misogynistic and gross.  I don't think American women--or really any women--enjoy those qualities, so...your boycott may be externally imposed.
Also this:

Back to Buffy later today!  Yay!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 21

First of all, I want to thank the folks at for including my posts in their roundup of Buffy stuff around the Web.  I am in some amazing company!  You should check out their front page for tons of great links to fanfic, fandom discussion and news.  Welcome all of you that came from there!  

Day 21: Favorite Xander-Centric Episode

You guys realize how much it pains me to write anything that has the word "Favorite" and "Xander" right next to each other, right?

Okay.  I can do this.  Favorite Xander episode.

"Hell's Bells"
No honorable mentions because I hate Xander.  I realize that I just scared SO many readers away, but you can refer to this post to understand.

This is the episode where Xander leaves Anya at the altar.  And you know what?  It's one of the few times that I really feel for Xander.  I also hate him because he is an ass here, too, but at least I understand why.

So, quick plot summary.  Before he can go to wait for Anya at the altar, Xander is accosted by a man who claims to be an older version of him from the future. Xander-from-the-future shows Present Xander a bunch of visions of him making Anya's life and their future kids' lives miserable after he marries her.  When they get back to present Xander runs off and Anya finds out, finding the man who claimed to be Future Xander.  Future Xander then reveals himself to be a man Anya(nka) turned into a demon during her vengeance days--and this is his revenge on her.  Willow finds Xander and brings him back, and Anya tells him over and over again that it was a trick and the future visions weren't real.  But Xander, despite knowing this, tells her he can't marry her.  And that's that.

I used to hate Xander for not marrying Anya. But I do think this was probably the bravest he ever was--he ADR an adult decision. Should he have made it before he even proposed? Yes. But the realization that he would save them pain in the long run if he hurt her in the short run is a surprisingly mature one.

I also like that this episode gives even more of a sense of Xander's background. We see his crazy, alcoholic father, his guilt-tripping mother and the rest of his dysfunctional family. For once, in comparison, Xander looks like the good guy.

I think I like this episode too because we see the rest of the Scoobies' affection for Anya. None of them were really good friends with her--they don't act like it anyway--but they seem truly supportive of her, both in the good moments and the bad moments of the wedding.

Xander is still an asshole. He's an asshole for doing this, too. But at least he is, for once, a contrite asshole. I like that the writers leave it up to the audience to decide just how horrible Xander is here--he is framed as being a coward but also being responsible at the same time.

There are also great Spike/Buffy and Willow/Tara exchanges in this episode that I really like...

Okay, this was pretty disjointed, but it was hard enough to write so give me some credit.

On a slightly related more, Pandora has been shockingly intuitive while I write these posts. For example, while I was writing the Spike post the other day "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails came on. Today it was "Best Thing I Never Had" by Beyonce. Weird!

I apparently skipped a prompt accidentally so I'm going to do that one next. Have a lovely Saturday!

Friday, March 8, 2013

20 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 20

Day 21: Best Willow-Centric Episode

...yikes, this is a tough one.   There are a lot of good Willow-centric episodes (Tabula Rasa, I would argue, is a Willow episode) and a lot of terrible ones (I, Robot, You Jane anyone?).  But I went with the first one that came to mind because, well, I freaking love this episode.

Something Blue
Honorable mentions go to "Villains" (yeah, as boring as Warren is and as much as Willow is the bad guy it's pretty satisfying seeing him flayed)

"Something Blue" comes midway through Season 4 after Willow is dealing with Oz leaving (a true tragedy).  So, to cope, she tries drinking and after she is basically told by her friends that OMG she is going to DIE if she has a beer she resorts to magic.  So she casts a spell that will cause everything she says to come true.  Unintentional hijinks ensue!
Also Spike is chained to a bathtub watching Passions. 

First of all, I want to point out this line from the beginning of the episode which goes a long way to proving the point I was making in my Spike post yesterday:

But then I can't help thinking, isn't
that where the fire comes from?
Can a nice safe relationship be that
intense? It's nuts, but part of me
believes that real love and passion
have to go hand in hand with
lots of pain and fighting-
Now A VAMP leaps out in front of them. With barely time to GROWL, Buffy STAKES him, POOF. They continue on, unphased, same tone of voice...
BUFFY (cont'd)
I wonder where I get that from?
She sees love as violence, too!  And this is a full season before "Fools For Love"!  But I'm getting off track now.
Willow makes several things happen entirely inadvertently in this episode that are hilarious.  But most importantly she magically makes Buffy and Spike fall in love and get engaged in the span of a second.  this is the first look we get at a Spike/Buffy relationship, and guess what?  Even when it's cheesy and magically created it doesn't work.  That's all I'm saying.  
Okay, I really need to get off of that.  Willow.  Willow.
So this is one of the first episode where we see Willow's magic gets out of control.  Again, this won't become truly important for a long ways down the road but it's nice to see that development.  We also get to see the spark she has for vengeance, which will also be very important much later.
This is the first time we get to see Willow truly heartbroken, too.  Sure, she pined over Xander but they eventually resolved that whole issue with the least illicit affair ever in history.  Here she entirely devastated by Oz's departure and we see her turn to magic to deal with her problems.  This will pretty much be her M.O. for the rest of the show, if not her life.
Some people have told me this is not a Willow-centric episode.  And to that I say this: does she cause everything that happens plot-wise?  Then it's centered around her.  And her emotional struggle to get over Oz and to make her friends pay attention to her--Buffy and Xander are ASSHOLES, by the way, after all of the whinging and moaning she had to hear from you two about your failed relationships you need to STFU and give girlfriend some support.  
Plus there are just so many great comedy moments in this episode.  Unfortunately this also marks the real beginning of the Riley/Buffy relationship.  Also, a question about continuity here:  Buffy runs into Riley when she's under the spell and tells him she's engaged to a guy named Spike.  doesn't he eventually become suspicious after he meets Spike and realizes "hey, that's the guy she said she was engaged to that one time!"?  Or does that happen and I just forgot about it?
Okay, I'm going to get the second one done for today now.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 19

Day 19: Favorite Spike-Centric Episode

This is tough.  James Marsters just does a damn good job playing Spike, during both comedy and dramatic episodes.  And the writers really take advantage of it.  I thought of three right off the top of my head but decided to go with my first instinct.
"Fools For Love"
Honorable mentions go to "Lies My Parents Told Me" (a great flashback/exposition episode for Spike) and "School Hard" (his first appearance with some great one-liners)

Again, a quick synopsis. This episode comes in the middle of Season 5.  At the start, Buffy is injured by a run-of-the-mill vampire while out on patrol and it really shakes her up.  She decides to go to the only person she knows who was there for the death of a Slayer to try and get some answers about how Slayers are killed.  That person is Spike, a vampire who killed two Slayers over his demonic tenure.  

This is the first episode that we really get to see Spike's feelings for Buffy.  And they start the way they will continue for the rest of the series, for the most part--his love for her is steeped in both tenderness and violence, never a good combination.  Passion, for Spike, is tied to physical fighting and pain.  The episode follows the inner conflict in Spike that is flitting around under the surface--he can't decide whether he wants to kill her or screw her.  This is somewhat resolved in the end of the episode when Spike goes to find Buffy, toting a shotgun and promising to kill her, but finds her sitting on her front porch crying because her mother is sick.  Instead of shooting her on the spot he sits down beside her to comfort her.  A lot of people would see this as the end of his internal conflict, but it isn't--their relationship is violence and passion for the rest of the series, in a typically unhealthy way.

This episode is also Spike's origin story.  We get to see who he was before he was a vampire--a sensitive, ineffectual poet who has been spurned by the object of his affections.  He is sired by Drusilla, a woman who he perhaps sees as a new object of affection and validation.  And then he goes on to commit violence against women as a vampire.  In fact, he is obsessed with the idea of bagging a Slayer.  

He kills two of them--one is a young Chinese woman during the Boxer Rebellion and one is an African-American woman in New York City--and genuinely enjoys it.  Again, violence mixed with passion.  The two are inextricable in Spike's mind.  This is also indicated by the fact that he throws Drusilla up against the wall of a burning building to have sex with her just after draining the Chinese Slayer.  He also says something unsettling while showing Buffy the fight he had with the African-American Slayer, Nikki Wood:

The first one was all business.
But the second - now she had
a touch of your style...
She was cunning, resourceful,
and oh, did I mention? Hot. I
could have danced all night with
that one.

He found this Slayer attractive and is satisfied by fighting her. He even refers to their deadly exchange of blows as "dancing".  Buffy notices his confusion when he is talking about killing his first Slayer, too, pointing out that he got off on it.  

Maybe, in some way, this makes Spike the ultimate "Nice Guy".  He was rejected by a woman in life so he goes on to violently get off on the death of women after his death.  I think it's more complicated than that, though.

I think this episode tells us more about Spike than any other one.  And it becomes the genesis of the Spike-Buffy relationship, a sort of "Eureka" moment for Spike, whether conscious or unconscious.  While I don't necessarily LIKE the messages of this episode, I think it gives a lot of perspective--as the Season 7 episode "Lies My Parents Told Me" also does--and it does not endorse this behavior from Spike.  We see Buffy repulsed by it, especially after they fight and he tries to kiss her.  At this point in her life, before her mother dies and Riley leaves and she dies herself, she has no intention or even notion of wanting to be with Spike.  And her disgust and shock is a good indication to the audience that what Spike did--and what he is trying to do--is not okay.  A complex subject and character handled fairly well by the writers.

Also, "Effulgent".  I laugh every time.    

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 18

Day 18: Character Who Didn't Get Enough Screentime

There are some pretty obvious answers for this one, and it's hard for me to choose just one.  But I'm going to write, as usual, on the choice that I think I can expound upon most.

Honorable mentions go to Maggie Walsh (what an interesting villain, if her story arc hadn't disappeared), Clem (I'd love to know THAT backstory), D'Hoffryn (he was amusing and a nifty villain) and Olivia (I really wish we'd gotten to see the trajectory of hers and Giles' relationship)

Halfrek, if you'll recall, was Anyanka's best friend and fellow vengeance demon.  She makes a number of appearances beginning in Season 6 and into early Season 7 where she is destroyed by D'Hoffryn.  We get to see her in flashbacks about Anya--most notably during the Russian Revolution--but we don't generally get to learn too much about Halfrek.

According to the Buffy Wiki--which I checked because sometimes things fall through my memory--Halfrek avenged children whose parents had abandoned or abused them, which is interesting in itself.  Like Anyanka's wheelhouse of avenging scorned women, it's a pretty typically feminine role to take on.  But at the same time, Halfrek has the same lack of empathy towards men that we see in Anya following her transformation into a human in season 3.  Being a demon will do that to you, I'm sure.

Halfrek is also the woman that Spike was in love with before he became a vampire--back then she was Cecily Addams/Underwood (the surnames change depending on the episode, whether "Fools for Love" or "Lies My Parents Told Me").  This just adds a whole new "it's a small world!" feel to the buffyverse and also makes Halfrek responsible for a lot of the events that made Buffy's relationships--and struggles--possible.

I would have really liked to have gotten to see more of Halfrek's backstory.  I wonder how she came into the vengeance fold, and what her life has been like since she became a demon.  Maybe I just find the whole idea of the vengeance demons interesting because I think they speak to a dark but very present part of human nature. 

I also really like the Halfrek-Anya friendship dynamic.  I think Halfrek gives a good contrast to Anya's continual evolution into humanity.  And maybe this makes her death appropriate--Anya did sacrifice herself to be killed, but by killing Halfrek, D'Hoffryn not only allowed her to suffer with that guilt and live on but also symbolically killed the friend that held beliefs similar to Anya's former demon self.

I think it would have been neat to see Halfrek interact more with the Scoobies, especially Spike and Willow.  And more flashbacks to hers and Anya's past together would have been interesting, too.

We're going into a few posts now that are going to require a LOT of quoting from transcripts.  I should have done this earlier and it will be especially important, but all transcripts I use come from  Back soon with a few of my favorite episodes. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Victim-Blaming Domestic Violence Victims Is Never Acceptable

Thursday night Chaz and I were watching the news when the video of a New Hampshire state representative named Mark Warden came on.  What he had to say absolutely floored me.  I still can't understand why this isn't just as big a story as Todd Akin or Richard Murdock's rape comments were, so I'm going to put it out there for those of you who haven't heard.

According to several articles, the comments were made at a committee meeting to discuss a bill in the New Hampshire House of Representatives to "reduce a charge of simple assault from a misdemeanor crime to a simple violation."  Mr. Warden made the following remarks:

"Some people could make the argument that a lot of people like being in abusive relationships. It's a love-hate relationship. It's very, very common for people to stick around with somebody they love who also abuses him or her," said Rep. Mark Warden, a Republican who represents Deering, Goffstown and Weare, during a meeting of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, according to a video provided by Granite State Progress, a liberal advocacy group.
According to the video, Warden added, "Is the solution to those kind of dysfunctional relationships going to be more government, another law? I'd say no. People are always free to leave." (Source.)

It's time I lay some cards on the table, readers.  I have never experienced a physically abusive relationship but I have been in an emotionally abusive one.  I would never equate the two--the experiences of those who have suffered domestic violence are undoubtedly much more severe and horrible.  But the psychology is similar.  This man should consider himself lucky that he is able to make such flippant statements about abusive relationships.  That means he has never experienced one firsthand and doesn't understand just how off base he is.

The fact of the matter is that abusers have plenty of psychological methods at their disposal to make their victims stay with them.  Things like gaslighting, like obliterating the self esteem of their partner, like making their partner dependent on them for affection, support, money, or a place to live.  It is rarely as simple as "you can leave at any time".  While it may seem simple to a person standing outside of the relationship looking in to say "how can you do this to yourself and not leave?" it is nearly impossible to see the forest for the trees when you're standing in the middle of it.

This concerns me because I worry that many of the trends I see lately indicate a normalizing of abusive relationships.  I'm sure you've heard of this little book called 50 Shades of Grey?  Yeah, it's a bit of a phenomenon.  And yes, it normalizes and trivializes abusive relationships, even glorifies them.  For more info on that, I'm going to refer you to the amazing Jenny Trout who writes extensively--and at time hilariously--about the 50 Shades trilogy on her blog.  Are these symptoms of a larger problem?  Of a culture turning to the point where we don't see abusive relationships as a problem, we glorify them?  Or simply shrug and tell victims that it's their own fault they don't get out?

I want to emphasize that I'm not expressing an opinion about the legal aspect of this.  That's another issue for another day.  I'm talking about a cultural perception that abuse victims can just so easily walk out and be done with an abusive relationship.  I'm not trying to disempower the men and women who have been through that, but we have to remember that it is incredibly difficult to do.  Especially for low income people who will have no means of financial support without their abuser, or those who have been isolated from family and friends by their abuser (a common tactic) and have no support network.

Rep. Mark Wadern apologized, naturally.  He claims that his words were taken out of context.  I have to say that there is no context that I can dream up that would not make his statements reprehensible.  No matter what, he comes off as entirely ignorant, clueless, and not at all compassionate. 

If this has become normal in our culture it's time to meet it with a tidal wave of backlash.  Victims of domestic abuse have enough problems without having people tell them they like being in abusive relationships and that they don't need support because they can just leave.  And keep in mind, this is not just a women's issue.  There are plenty of men that are the victims of domestic abuse and violence as well, and because of societal norms that dictate men should be strong and emotionless they are even more silenced.

Please be on the lookout for this kind of rhetoric and shoot it down when you see it.  People's lives may be at stake because of these thought processes.  

Also, for some further reading on this topic, check out this piece at the Huffington Post.  Really interesting stuff. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

30 Days of Buffy and Femiism Day 17

Day 17: Character You Relate To The Most

This is the worst prompt ever.  I do not relate to any of these characters exactly because every time I think I do there's the whole part where I don't have super strength or magical powers.  Plus I'm admittedly terrible at self-assessment.  So I'm going to go ahead and just take an aspect from each of the major characters that I think I relate to.  Yes, even Xander.

Buffy--I'd say her ability to soldier on through anything--including several versions of the apocalypse--would be what I hope I can relate to.
Willow--While I relate to Willow's nerdiness and lack of real social life in high school I cannot relate to the obsession with grades or perfection, I just never had it. 
Xander--I totally understand that feeling that all of your friends are off doing great things and you're kind of stuck.  I think everyone can at some point or another.  This is literally the only way in which I am like Xander.
Anya/Cordelia--I'm doing them both as one because my answer is the same and Anya was really a Cordelia replacement.  They both just say whatever comes into their head, whether or not it will make everything awkward.  I have this same tendency.
Angel--Okay, I really don't relate to Angel at all.  I don't think most people--outside of teenagers with a lot of dark eye makeup who listen to My Chemical Romance--can relate to Angel.
Spike--Uhhh...he smokes?
Giles--I would be happy to relate to Giles.  In his pants.
Jenny Calendar--Mix of smart and kind of badass.  That's what I imagine I'm like, I don't think it's necessarily so.
Dawn--I am often the one without the big flashy talent that gets put to the wayside even though I do have purpose.
Oz--I'm secretly a werewolf.

Okay, that didn't really work out so well, but this was a stupid question, so I'm calling it done.  Onto way, way better prompts! 

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 16

Day 16: Episode You Like That Everyone Else Hates

Being relatively new to the Buffy fandom, I'm not in touch with what is universally liked or disliked.  So I searched the Web for lists of the worst Buffy episodes, and I came across one episode I like quite a lot.  This episode appeared on almost every "Worst Of" list, and I just don't get it.

Where The Wild Things Are
Honorable Mentions to "Beer Bad" (this appears almost universally as the worst episode of the whole series, I don't get it at all), "Doublemeat Palace" (there was some plot in this episode and it was also a nice return to the Season 1 campy Monster-of-the-Week format), and "Gingerbread" (this appeared on a list or two and I was baffled by it.  It's one of my favorites)

I will admit that I'm biased here for one reason: this episode has Mrs. Landingham from The West Wing in it.  Even if it's a brief appearance, it's awesome.

A quick synopsis for those who don't have every episode title memorized: the gang goes to a party at Riley's frat house.  It is obviously haunted.  Riley and Buffy go off to have some undoubtedly boring sex in Riley's room.  Their passion (I laugh at the notion) fuels the ghosts in the house to do all kinds of wacky things, like make people have orgasms by touching a wall and make other people rip all of their hair out.  Then the gang (excluding Buffy and Riley, who are still locked in their Abercrombie-and-Ftich-catalogue-esque entanglement) go and find the woman who used to own the house.  She turns out to be the former director of an orphanage who was also crazy religious and used to punish her charges when they had impure thoughts or were too vain or, I guess, breathed the wrong way.  For some reason, the solution here is to go get Riley and Buffy to stop making the freakishly good-looking breast with two backs.  So that's the story.

I like this episode because it doesn't mind portraying the shaming of sex in a negative light.  The one-off villain is actually kind of interesting in a way I wish Caleb would have been interesting.  She honestly believes that by abusing teenagers she was doing the right thing for their souls and doesn't get it when Giles gives her a thorough dressing-down for what she did.  Also, this is the episode that finally allows Anya and Xander to have a conversation about their relationship.  And also, Giles sings Behind Blue Eyes.  How can anyone's least favorite episode be one in which that happens?

So yeah, for my least favorite season there are a lot of good one-off episodes and I still think this is one of them.  Sure, it's got Riley in it a lot, but every episode has flaws, right?