Sunday, December 11, 2011

what I learnt from seven seasons of Buffy 1/2

I began watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I had first arrived in Jinan (early August), and I did it properly. I began with the first episode of season one, and travelled through the saga in perfect chronology until the final episode of season 7. I like to think it’s a little sign of respect to the show. You know, because I’m an intense geek like that.

Anyways, I finished the whole thing in November and looking back now I realise that that is a heck of a lot of Buffy to watch in a relatively short period of time. I felt the usual amount of guilt that you get when you watch too much television, and I began to think about what I was gaining from all those hours of passive watching. So, duh, I decided to write about it to figure it out. So in case you’re interested, here’s what I learnt from Buffy:

I thought I should say ‘SPOILER ALERT’, but considering season 7 aired in 2003 it might be a little moot.

About girls: 

They rule. Girls rule. Girls are awesome in every way and totally rock so hardcore that I am so glad I am a girl and I’m not a lesbian but I love girls. Seriously though, what I actually loved about Buffy was that she was genuinely feminine. A lot of ‘strong girl’ roles represent the female lead in a very masculine way, associating their power and strength with inherently masculine personality traits. But Buffy celebrated the girl-ness. She was a girl growing into a woman in every single episode, and when you watch all seven seasons in a row like I did the transformation is clear and remarkable. I think one of my favourite parts was when she announced to an entire room full of male secret agents (when it was suggested that she change into a more practical outfit) that she had “patrolled in this halter top tons of times.” I laughed so hard because of the simple genuineness in her voice. Buffy’s physical appearance was a big part of who she was – not in a materialistic or shallow way, but in the very real way that every young woman’s image is an intrinsic part of who she is. Buffy complained about typical girl problems like boys and school and clothes whilst patrolling and staking vampires. If that isn’t a true representation of female empowerment then I don’t know what is.

Also, the fact that the ‘chosen one’ is always female – very cool. It’s like, well yeah, when an old shaman is deciding the fate of the world there is actually a 50/50 chance that the chosen warrior will be a chick or a dude. Why should you be surprised that it’s a chick? YOU SHOULDN’T BE SURPRISED. Shazam. Thanks Joss Whedon.

About boys: 

Needless to say, I totally fell for Angel and then Riley and then Spike. I think we’re supposed to. I guess I’m a little comforted to know that I responded in the predictable girl way. It helps that all three of them were ridiculously good-looking. I also love Xander in that totally platonic funny-guy/brother way. 

Angel:  I did think that Angel was too good to be true, to the point that he was almost boring for being so perfect. The biggest drawback is that he spends a lot of time just being silent and deep and reflective. I mean, he’s like one of the first ever emo representations in popular culture. He just sat around all day and moped about how guilty he felt. That high level of brooding is almost reminiscent of Mr. Darcy – you think it’s going to be deep and sexy but I bet it just gets boring.  Excellent body though. Excellent, excellent shoulder blades. Just saying. Oh yeah, I guess there’s also that thing about how YOU CAN’T HAVE SEX WITH HIM. Way to go there. What a waste of that perfect million-pack of abs. Like a celiac working in a bakery. I just couldn’t do it.

Riley: Alright, to begin with, Buffy Summers sure knows how to pick the fit guys. His guns were intense and I swear I saw a frame where his neck was almost bigger than his head. Riley also gets massive brownie points for being a secret agent – that is super cool, and a professor’s associate – even cooler! He was a little too whitebread for my liking – you know – with the blue jeans and the basketball and the generally high levels of predictability. I also felt like Riley was just too whipped. He was all the time going on those ‘I love strong women’ rants, and totally loved chicks-in-control and it was just too far. I felt like his character was forced, and when he came back with the new special-ops wife I ended up liking her way more than I ever liked him. He was never funny! I felt like he wasn’t too switched on, almost as if there was something missing there. He didn’t have any awesomeness. Although I suppose I’m supposed to thin that because that’s what Buffy thought… Fine. Whatever. There was also that time when he paid vampire skanks to suck his blood – I’m not setting any hard and fast rules here, but I think that kind of thing in general is a bit of a turn-off. 

Xander: There is nothing to say here aside from re-mentioning the fact that Xander is probably the best character in the entire show. He is super funny, and so loyal (always one of my favourite characteristics in any several-series show) to his friends. His pathological ability to attract wack women never ceased to amuse me, and he was essential the rock of the trio. I must admit, my love and appreciation for Xander slowly died towards the end of the story and when he finally left Anya at the altar there was no going back. Even when he saved Willow and averted the end of the world, I just didn’t feel it (read: love for Xander) like I should have. As he grew older some of the loveability just wore off. I think the harsh realities of a Slayer-centered world were just too much for him. I do sympathise with him for having to just watch all the time without any super powers, and the little speech he gives to Dawn about it is really beautiful. It goes without saying that Xander is, after all, the main source of humor in the show and that is a tough gig in sci-fi. Nobody does the one-liner as well as Xander can, and the eyepatch is totally excellent.
Spike: Where to begin on Spike… I guess I’m going to start by saying that I don’t really know how I feel about him. The flashbacks to his Victorian-era poetry were just heartbreaking (and inadvertently hilarious) but he did a lot of really fucked up stuff through the centuries right into the twenty-first. I’m not sure how Buffy can still have feelings for him even after the attempted rape scene, and I think it’s very unrealistic that she could ever actually trust him again. Soul or no soul. In fact, I find it hard to believe that he ever really loved Buffy because then why didn’t he try to get his soul back earlier? 
He takes pride in killing two previous Slayers. When he thought his chip was broken, he went straight away to try and kill and drink a person. For christ’s sake – he plays poker with kittens as chips! So the question remains, why do we all still love Spike so much? Is it because he represents that eternal potential for redemption? Is it because of his scathing wit and achingly dry sense of spot-on humor? (Oh man he is SO funny.) Is it because he dies as a martyr/champion to save them all? I don’t really dig guys who paint their nails and I’m not generally a fan of bleached hair, but I’m the first to admit that he rocks the look. I suppose it must be that horrible and inherent thing inside us girls that just loves being able to help a sick puppy. There is also a big part of Spike that promises a Heathcliff-level of gothic and all-encompassing (but frightening) love. If Spike loves you he’s going to burn the world down for you. It’s classic and its honestly a little weird. Definitely not the kind of guy you want your daughter to bring home, although I dig the fact that he got along with Joyce. That was a nice touch.

About siblings:

HOLY CRAP I HATE DAWN SO SO MUCH. I am just SO relieved that I don’t have any younger siblings. If Dawn is anything to go by at all, I wouldn’t wish a younger sibling on my worst enemy. I’m so sure I would have let her die every single one of the times she went out and nearly got herself killed. She’s selfish and whiney and doesn’t appear to have any discernable distinctively good characteristics at all. She also seems to be really dumb. I just, well, it panics me to think about what I would do if I had a sibling like that. Maybe strangle her. I cannot be the only one who hates her this much? I just wish she wasn’t even in the series at all. Yeah I just said that.

About body shapes:

What the hell is it with the nineties!? Every girl in that show was seriously thin – I think it’s the only aspect of the whole thing I really don’t like. I understand that the Slayer would be fit, and Faith had an (almost) normal-sized albeit intensely fit body, but Anya and Willow and Dawn and Cordelia were all total waifs. Thank god for Tara. I fucking love that girl! But not in a lesbian way. Not that there is anything wrong with that. You know. Whatever.

About the 1990's:

Every thing that every single one of us wore was completely disgusting and should have been burned. Especially the platform thongs. Excellent music. Terrible hairstyles. Their lack of constant internet and mobile phone use should not have been a suprise to me, but still was.

About highschool:

Highschool is so super duper shit that even mass demon attacks don’t even make it into the year book. Yes, that homophobic jock is actually gay. Yes, that bitch cheerleader is actually troubled and poor. Yes, the geeks end up ruling the world and kicking ass. Yes, librarians are always awesome. No guy you went out with in highschool would ever be ‘forever’ and chances are that  teacher you had the hots for was actually a mantis. I’m officially glad Australian schools have a uniform (so that I didn’t need an excuse to wear sack-like clothes instead of mini-skirts and halter tops every day) and I’m happy that we brought our own lunches because yes - the cafeteria lady does actual try to kill everyone with rat poison. All in all, watching those first few seasons of Buffy just made me think that maybe everyone hated highschool as much as I did. Or at least almost as much as I did.

About God:

On earth he goes by the name of Joss Whedon.

About super powers:

So if you’re still reading this, then cool. Either you’re really interested in my opinions (unlikely) or you’re really interested in Buffy (very likely). This last point (about super powers) is what I wanted to speak about most of all, and it’s a silly theory that’s been floating around in my head for a while now… It’s about young people these days and what we’re born into and the choices we make. I’ll start writing it up first thing in the morning, so only read it if you're curious about the things that go on in my brain. It's not really a lot about Buffy as such.

To be continued. Duh.

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