Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Sacrificial Virgin in the Whedonverses: It's RAW!

Two of the few panels that Kristen and I attended together at Slayage 5 were the Saturday panels, which she covered last week. Since she has a great recap, I won't repeat her, but I do want to make a few observations.

First, Kristen does watch Everybody Loves Raymond many nights, even though she hates it, as its syndicated reruns are on the CW at 11:30 pm between Friends and 30 Rock, both of which she loves. I never thought that TV flow in scheduling matters, with the advent of the remote control and video on demand like Hulu and Netflix, but we are living proof that flow still matters. Of course, she's the quintessential distracted viewer during that time block (because she dislikes the show) and I bet her twitter logs would prove that!

Second, I too adored the Christine Jarvis presentation, "The Reappearance of the Disappearing Heroine: Considering Buffy and Bella." She ends her discussion of runaway heroines by asking why audiences embrace a "psychology that's likely to end in disappointment," noting that running away serves as a passive aggressive tactic by the voiceless to force loved ones to declare their emotions, punish disappointing lovers, and get missing validation. This childish "they'll miss me when I'm gone" trope was on the wane in romance literature. Buffy's running away is not endorsed by the text the way that Bella's is, esp. in "Dead Man's Party" and in the fact that her missing lover is not available to be entangled by this kind of emotional blackmail, as she sent him to Hell. Of course, one could look at Buffy as directing her covert anger towards her parental figures (Joyce and Giles) and Bella's being the classic romantic entanglement.

Jarvis, in the Q&A, noted that some readers might embrace Bella's choice because, like the romance readers studied by Janice Radway, they are themselves running away through the act of losing themselves in a book, playing hooky from being other-directed care-givers as they indulge in me-time. Of course, viewers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer do the same thing. The question then becomes whether the audience is finding themselves in a story or losing themselves in a romance and hoping to be found by a significant other who goes looking for them (and finds them curled up on the couch). Since one of the dominant audiences of the Twilight series were mothers who endorsed its premise of "True Love Waits", I really want to know whether they endorsed Edward and Bella's running away or shook their heads from a place of wisdom. The few readers of Twilight at Emerson College have been quite critical readers of the series, so I have my hopes.

Third, I found Laurel Bowman and Lauren Mayes' presentation, "Death and the Maiden: Tragic Virgins in the Whedonverses" to be very intellectually stimulating. They note that sacrificial virgins litter Whedon's work: Buffy (Prophecy Girl), Kendra (Innocence), Dawn (The Gift), the entire Slayer institution, Fred (by her mentor and in Pylea), River (essentially a Cassandra whose task is to get people to listen to her message, eventually revealed in Serenity), and Connor sacrifices a girl for Jasmine. These sacrifices must be of marriageable age but unattached; be sacrificed by a male who they trust and feel affection for, usually a father; and must be to benefit a male community and/or birth family, not for their own self-interest. And there's usually an outfit involved, and some bondage if you're a bad sacrifice and stick up for yourself.

So, isn't Angel an inversion of the sacrificial virgin in season two? He's certainly virginal as Angel (not Angelus!); at the very least his amnesia renders him innocent. He's sacrificed for the good of the community by a trusted figure he feels more than affection for. He's in a special black outfit which is an inversion of Buffy's white formal gown from the first season finale.

Lastly, Kristopher Woofter, a WJ board member, presented a memorable paper starting the academic study of The Cabin in the Woods. He's arguing that while Whedon and Goddard may want us to read the film as "a hate letter" to torture porn, it may be more accurate to read it as a critique of reality television, with the scientists hosting a reality show for the entertainment of the Elder Gods, who, like us, demand ever-more baroque sadism of the contestants. (I can just see Cthulhu shouting, "It's raw!") Or is the audience more like the scientists, betting on the outcome of the reality contest? And he sided with me on my debate with Kristen over whether the film should have shown what happened to the bird as they entered the secluded terrible place of the mountain cabin. Anyway, I really want to see this published in time for a Whedon class that I'd like to run next fall at Emerson College.

Next time: Wow, there's a lot of dismemberment in the Whedonverses!

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!