Tag Archives: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In every generation, one girl is chosen to fight the forces of darkness…and piss off her predecessors

 

“Individuals must now choose the kind of life they want to live.”

Angela McRobbie

In my admittedly limited studies of feminism, gender and sexuality*, there are a few patterns I see over and over. One of these is the conflict between older feminists and younger feminists.  Generally, second wave feminists (those who fought for the ERA, reproductive rights, equal pay, etc.)…

…do not get along with third wave feminists (younger feminists who include sex-positive, global, or LGBTQ activists in their fight).

Why is that? Third wavers sometimes view their founding mothers as stodgy, racist and elitist. Conversely, second wavers sometimes think of their daughters’ generations as spoiled, slutty, lazy and ungrateful. Since I think of myself as a blend between these two groups, I just want to say that both the Betty Friedans and the Tavi Gevinsons of the world have good points and glaring blind spots. But I digress…

I think McRobbie is one of the few feminist scholars who sees these tensions but does not outright attack either group (although there is a slant towards the second wave).  She describes that the media, peer pressure and ideological institutions all “invoke hostility to assumed feminist positions from the past, in order to endorse a new regime of sexual meanings based on female consent, equality, participation and pleasure.” As McRobbie sees it, the world is training us to see the second wavers as man-hating lesbians and to believe that Lady Gaga and her sparkling lady parts are the height of female empowerment. Really, this means that pseudo-feminism and the third wave have become intertwined and blurred. The older generations recognize this, but still feel that sexual agency might be a teensy bit indecent for ladies. And younger generations wish their moms and grandmas would just leave them alone so they can read Gossip Girl in peace.

Whoosh. Did you get all that? To bring it back to the quote at the beginning of this post, young women (like myself) need to find what makes them uniquely happy and liberated and go for it, traditional feminism be damned. Since, as McRobbie claims, “young womanhood currently exists within the realm of public debate,” there is a lot of pressure and opinions swirling around our heads. Can we be political while still being likable? Is it okay to wear clothes that accentuate our hips and breasts? How can we be taken seriously? Am I allowed to think about relationships constantly if I still get a 4.0? Am I selling out if I love Hillary Clinton but still sing along to Katy Perry in my car?

No matter what you do, somebody gets pissed off.

Which brings me to my petite, blonde hero: hail Buffy Summers, the slayer of vampires.

After watching all seven seasons of this show, I have come to the conclusion that Buffy’s character inhabits the tensions and pressures of young feminists. First, Buffy clashes with the Council, Giles (her Watcher), and another slayer, Kendra. Apparently there is some ancient rule book on how to turn bloodsuckers into ashes. You are not supposed to tell anyone your secret; social lives are off limits; you can’t date, marry or have kids; you aren’t allowed to let anyone help you fight the good fight; etc. etc. etc..

Buffy considers that path for about one episode and then just does whatever feels right to her.  She and her fellow Scoobies work together, contribute different skills and create their own family. Willow brings the smarts and the witchcraft; Xander brings the comic relief; Angel brings the brooding sex appeal; Spike*brings the hilarious bitchery; Cordelia brings the fashion; Giles brings the bespectacled, British common sense.  Together, as Milly Williamson points out, they embrace their “socially marginal identities, speaking from and for the experience of outsiderdom.”

You see, Buffy is an Outside Girl because of her vocation and because she doesn’t fit neatly with second or third wavers. She just does what makes her comfortable. Buffy fights demons in halter tops, has sexual relationships with two different vampires, and shares the weight of the world with her friends and mother. Even when they try, no one can tell her what kind of slayer–or feminist–she is allowed to be. Buffy might be “chosen,” but she is  also an individual.

*American Women’s History class; Introduction to Women’s Studies class; Gail Collins’ book; Jezebel; Leslie Knope; Tina Fey; Joss Whedon’s awesomeness

**Nice Segue: I can’t decide which evil, bitchy pop culture villain I love more, Loki or Spike. Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

(Image #1 courtesy of ew.com; #2 courtesy of thegreatkh.blogspot.com; #3 courtesy of the-unpopular-opinions.tumblr.com)

Class, catalysts, and California

“We used to be friends a long time ago.”

The Dandy Warhols

These lyrics are straight from the Veronica Mars theme song, but they could also be considered the official Outside Girls’ anthem. When these women choose to leave their social situation, they often make a break with their close friends. While the song’s melancholy tone strikes the perfect chord (as breaking up with your friends is harder than breaking up with your lover), it also highlights the divide between past and present. While some Outside Girls leave their role for a change of pace, others leave after a trauma. Which brings me to this posts’s not-so-golden girl: Veronica Mars of her eponymous series:

Before discussing the nature of Veronica’s decision to walk away, I have to mention one of the underlying themes of the series: class.  This outside girl’s hometown is Neptune, Calif., where “your parents are either millionaires, or your parents work for the millionaires.” Veronica is part of the latter group; her father is the town’s sheriff.  Since her best friend and first boyfriend are children of the one percent, Veronica initially feels as though she fits in with the rich side of Neptune. However, when Sheriff Keith Mars goes after a well-liked millionaire for murdering his daughter (Veronica’s best friend, Lilly Kane), Veronica’s class divide is the least of her problems.

Suddenly she is shunned by her old friends, her father is fired, her mother walks out on the family, and Veronica is raped at a party.  As creator Rob Thomas aptly describes, “I thought, well wouldn’t it be interesting if somebody had gotten so far down that she just didn’t give a fuck anymore, that [high school] pressure didn’t mean much to her?”

Veronica’s decision to simply not care about what her peers, community and old friends think of her anymore is actually what sets her free. Yes, her downfall from rich-and-powerful-adjacent to cynic who no longer trusts anyone is the catalyst for her outside status. But her own agency and strength is what allows her to embrace her new found knowledge and skills in order to become Neptune’s newest pint-sized P.I. In fact, Judy Fitzwater argues that Veronica is “reborn” after her personal tragedies and characterizes Veronica as “fearless, both book and street smart, and incredibly savvy, strong enough to stand on her own.” Veronica has changed and her old friends  have not. She is jaded and sad, but her outside status allows her to see (and to punish) the immorality and casual cruelty that plagues those with trust funds.

Veronica Mars is famous for a lot: the critical acclaim/low ratings combo, the Logan vs. every other guy debate, Veronica’s quick wit, the Buffy comparisons, and the upcoming movie. But I think it lives as an Outside Girl text because it depicts how a girl who was kicked when she was down got back up again. Veronica did not choose for Lilly to die, for her mom to abandon her, for her father to be fired, to be raped or to be shunned by her former social circle. But she did choose to not be defeated by any of that. Veronica learns that “sooner or later, the people you love let you down.” Cynical? Yes. But it’s honest, real and is proof that Veronica embraces her isolation and turns it into her most valued trait: her sleuthing smarts. I’m sure the March 14 movie release will be further proof of that.

(Image #1 courtesy of badassdigest.com; #2 courtesy of money.cnn.com)