Friday, August 3, 2012

Slayage 5 Recaplet: Day 2 (KR)

Welcome back!  Watcher Junior has decided to take a page out of NBC's playbook and present our Slayage coverage on time delay, so this post isn't late at all.

Since David has already written a fantastic post covering the Day 2 keynote by Jonathan Gray, Joss Whedon as Undead Author, I'll spare you my three pages worth of notes and leave you with this thought: What are we doing with Whedon?  Why do we so often invoke him while also claiming the death of the author?

Okay, now... page cut!

The first panel I attended on Saturday was The Intertextual Whedonverses (II).  Gert Magnusson was up first with Humour and Jokes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Magnusson compared the frequency and context of jokes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which is best known as a cult-TV supernatural melodrama) with those in Everybody Loves Raymond (a highly rated U.S. sitcom that ran for nine seasons and won 13 Emmy awards1... and I, personally, cannot stand).

Humor in a program primarily tells us about two things: The characters' relations to each other, and the audience's relation to the show.  Magnusson observed that the sitcom humor of Raymond works off of making the audience feel superior to the subjects of the program.  The characters aren't trying to be funny to each other — in fact, they're quite mean and often rely on gender role stereotypes.  In contrast, Buffy frequently uses affiliative humor.  The Scoobies use humor to put each other, and the audience, at ease.  It unites them.  "They're not telling jokes; they're joking."

Christine Jarvis presented The Reappearance of the Disappearing Heroine.  Considering Buffy and Bella.  Now, "Bella" is a loaded name at a conference where Buffy is queen, but please don't leave!  Jarvis explored an old romance genre trope she calls the "disappearing heroine."  This is when the heroine runs away, often into a perilous situation, to make the hero realize how precious she is.  It's a childish reaction, and perhaps an urge one may remember briefly feeling at the age of 14.  The disappearing heroine had nearly vanished from teen romance until Bella Swan took up the mantle.  This trope did show up in Buffy in the Season 3 premiere, Anne.  But the show did that thing it does and turned the disappearing heroine around on herself.  At the end of the episode, Buffy reclaims her identity.  "I'm Buffy.  The Vampire Slayer.  And you are...?"  She's her own hero and isn't solely defined by her relationship.  When Buffy returns to Sunnydale, her petulant behavior isn't rewarded.  In fact, her best friend, Willow, calls her out on it when Buffy tries to run away again in Dead Man's Party.

Bella Swan doesn't have a network of people to keep her in check.  Rather, she's constantly the center of love and concern, but without a base of reality that keeps her grounded.  Her self-destructive behavior is rewarded rather than chastised, even when that behavior threatens the safety of everyone she loves.  Jarvis asks why an audience is so openly embracing this "psychology that's likely to lead to disappointment."

The next presentation was co-presented by Laurel Bowman and Lauren Mayes: Death and the Maiden: Tragic Virgins in the Whedonverse.  This was all about imagery of the sacrificial virgin in the Whedonverse.  "Everyone loves to see a pretty girl get murdered on stage."  Bowman and Mayes talked about the mythological Iphigenia, who was sacrificed to appease an offended Artemis.  Her sacrifice was played out on stage in Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis.  This brought up the imagery of sacrificial virgins in the Whedonverse, most specifically Fred Burkle.  I'm going to just go cry now.

After lunch, I went to the Dr. Horrible and Cabin in the Woods panel.  I had been looking forward to this because I was impressed with how quickly Kristopher Karl Woofter pulled together his presentation Watchers in the Woods: Ludic Reflexivity as Horror Criticism in Cabin in the Woods.  He had warned me beforehand that it wasn't overly positive and asked that I please don't throw anything at him.  Although I didn't entirely agree with his arguments, it was a very good presentation and I did agree with a good portion of it.  Woofter began his presentation by saying that Cabin is the "most deeply cynical work from Whedon and Goddard" and that it upholds a frustrating tradition of genre snobbery.  But what he saw as a hate letter to the genre, I saw as a critique of its path with scattered love letters to its history.  But I digress.  His viewpoint is very much valid and I would love to read this as an article.

Where I agreed with Woofter was his comparison of Hadley and Sitterson to reality show runners.  He also drew on the parallels of Cabin and Dollhouse, saying that they both critique the exploitation of technology and surveillance.  Cabin, however, "doesn't know how to frame it's viewership."

I didn't even see how much I'd love the next presentation coming.  Leigh A. Clemons gave us "Everything I Ever Wanted?": The Faustian Bargain in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  I mean, I should have seen it coming.  I love Dr. Horrible.  I love Faust.  No-brainer, right?  So, Clemons went beyond noting that Dr. Horrible's deal with the devil was selling his soul for power and then facing the consequences for stepping outside his limitations.  What actually happens is a choice between Faustian bargains: Does he choose Christopher Marlowe's deal for knowledge and power, or does he choose Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's temptation for happiness?  He can't have both, and there's no escaping the consequences of a Faustian Bargain.  As we know, he went for power.  "Dr. Horrible completes his decent into Hell by joining the Evil League of Evil."

At the end of her presentation, Clemons brought my pet allegory into the mix when she alluded to the "Faustian bargain" that faced the WGA when they went on strike in 2007.  This dilemma was part of the inspiration behind Dr. Horrible and what made the web series so compelling to me in the first place.

Unfortunately, I missed a good part of Jim Wilson's presentation, "A Heinous Crime, a Show of Force": Billy Buddy, Bad Horse, and the Nature of Evil because I made a Faustian bargain with my lunch.2  However, the part I was around for drew comparisons between Herman Melville's Billy Budd and "Billy Buddy."  I would love to read what I missed!

This recaplet is significantly shorter than my first one, but I'm sure David has a lot to add.  I'll also let him recap the Featured Speakers session (as I was pretty ill and missed most of this as well — boo!).

1Outstanding Comedy Series (2003, 2005), Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (2002), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (2000, 2001), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (2002, 2003, 2005), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005), Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (2003).

2Sorry for that, but it's true.

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