Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Nobody Messes with My Boyfriend!"

Pop Matters seems to have its comments turned off on its Whedon articles. I wonder why? So, this is my commentary on the article, Women Who Hate Women: Female Competition in 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' by Faye Murray & Holly Golding.

First, interesting article on this issue. Right now, they've got Willow-Buffy and Tara-everybody as positive models of female solidarity, contrasted with Buffy-Faith, Cordelia-everybody and Anya-everybody. For additional models of female friendships unmarked by male competition, we also have Echo-Sierra (Dollhouse) and Kaylee-Inara (Firefly). While their article is on the Buffyverse, the site's series is on Whedon, so I think a mention of that might have been appropriate. I think I agree with their last paragraph more than an earlier declaration that "Buffy presents us with a world where female friendship can only exist where women aren’t competing for men."

Second, the Sharon Ross article looks like a good article to pick up. Good find!

Third, while the prevalence of such commentary is ultimately subjective, I can at least indicate a few additional quotes dealing with this issue: "Buffy’s taunts to male villains revolve around their impending defeat, inadequacies as villains and relative lack of strength ... rather than personal observations about their attractiveness."

Buffy remarks on the Master's "fruit punch mouth" in her final battle with him in "Prophecy Girl." In the pilot, during her first combat with vampires, she remarks "Okay, first of all, what's with the outfit? Live in the now, okay? You look like DeBarge!" In "Something Blue," Buffy mocks Spike by calling him "flaccid." She also does a lot of work with her facial expressions with Adam and the Trio.

As for being bitchy about appearances, Spike takes the cake. (Although Anya and Cordelia have incisive comments on attire as well.) There's an excellent article on camp and Spike in Slayage: Cynthea Masson and Marni Stanley, “Queer Eye of that Vampire Guy: Spike and the Aesthetics of Camp."

Not only is Spike moved to attempt suicide after being given clown pants to wear, he also has this narration in the third episode of Angel: (falsetto)"How can I thank you, you mysterious, black-clad hunk of a night thing? (low voice) No need, little lady, your tears of gratitude are enough for me. You see, I was once a badass vampire, but love and a pesky curse defanged me. Now I'm just a big, fluffy puppy with bad teeth. (Rachel steps closer to Angel, and Angel steps back warding her off with his hands) No, not the hair! Never the hair! (high voice) But there must be someway I can show my appreciation. (low voice) No, helping those in need's my job, - and working up a load of sexual tension, and prancing away like a magnificent poof is truly thanks enough! (high voice) I understand. I have a nephew who is gay, so... (low voice) Say no more. Evil's still afoot! And I'm almost out of that Nancy-boy hair-gel that I like so much. Quickly, to the Angel-mobile, away!"

Fourth, "Once again, this ability to maintain friendships with the other women on the show can be attributed to her sexuality; as a lesbian she poses no sexual threat to the heterosexual female characters and therefore presents no competition when it comes to dating and attracting male attention." Can you tell me why this has nothing to do with Tara's personality? Otherwise, I think you run the risk of assuming what you need to prove, here.

Ultimately, letting a text be open to interpretation rather explicitly contesting every problematic element activates viewers to perform active readings of media products. Such texts teach the tools of media criticism essential to feminism and thus promote progressive politics by encouraging viewers to read against the grain. That's to be preferred, to my mind, to works whose explicitness teach readers to follow along with the text. What a text does should not be forgotten in the face of what it depicts. The balancing act referenced in the last paragraph is the best choice on artistic and social grounds, I'd argue.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spotlight on Joss Whedon

Pop Matters is doing a special on Joss Whedon this week, with pieces on the movie, his "unproduced" Alien: Resurrection script, the biblical studies perspective, and a general defense of the body of work. Take a look! The link is in the blog post title.